Friday, June 30, 2006

The Capital of Scandinavia

Something I just remembered.

For those of you who don't watch "Lost" with the level of scrutiny I do, the show features a fictional, sinister corporation called the Hanso Foundation. We don't know exactly what it does or why it's sinister yet, but this entity is at the heart of this online "Lost"-related mystery game. In the vein of the Evan Chan murder mystery that preceded the release of "A.I." a few years back, this game has players playing on mysterious websites, searching for hidden links and the like. All of the sites purported to be real but representing fictional people and organizations. It’s all very engrossing.

Anyway, I found this a while back and thought it was very odd.
[ link: Hanso Foundation Careers, powered by Monster ]
You can apply for a job with the Hanso Foundation. Lord knows why you would, if you know anything about the game, but you can so do in a variety of locations. Denmark, Iceland, South Korea, Tanzania — and Santa Barbara. (Scroll down in the menu marked “Location search” to see it.)

For the life of me, I can’t figure out how they thought to put Santa Barbara on the list, but it’s kind of neat that they did.

A Little Something Extra

Recently, I read a newspaper article on a roadside bombing in Iraq that contained the phrase “additional death.” Like “ATM machine” and “irregardless,” “additional death” is a term that I find somewhat troubling. Foremost, it seems redundant. There’s death over here, and then way over there there’s additional death. Not that the additionally dead are any less death that the primarily dead. The “additional death” is just verbally separated from the primary unit of life-ending, if that makes any sense. Really, it shouldn’t. Death is death. I’m not even quite sure how additional death can occur as a separate entity from death, but it apparently can.

I suppose if Regis Philbin exploded on camera — instantly dying in the process — and his bone chunks struck Kelly Ripa at point-black range, Kelly would be the additional death, seeing as how she died completely as a result of Regis’ initial death. But I can’t imagine that this or other Rube Goldbergian, “Final Destination”-type accidents happen often enough to necessitate the popularity of the phrase. (If they did, life as a news writer would be infinitely more entertaining, I’m sure.)

Instead, I feel like the writers who use this phrase might do so in an effort to make the situation described seem especially tragic — and, consequently, more important. A last-ditch effort at pulling your heartstrings — or at least increasing the given story’s appeal to the reader’s morbid curiosity. For example: “Not only was there a death, but there was also an additional death” sounds way sadder than “Two people died.” Granted, it also takes more words to communicate the information, but I suppose you have to imagine that the reader is choking back sobs as they make their way through the story.

Furthermore, I feel like the phrase “additional death” cheapens the life of the newly, additionally dead. My ghost would be so pissed to read the news article about my death and find that mine was labeled an “additional death,” as if my demise — somehow lacking in innate tragedy on its own — merely decided to piggyback on the sadness of whoever died immediately before me. (Let’s say, oh, I don’t know — Kelly Ripa.) I’m a person. I’m not a subunit of somebody else, and in the end I feel like my demise should be weighted equally with that of anybody else’s, no matter how many people died immediately before me. Like during the O.J. Simpson trial, when news articles always referred to the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and her male companion, as if Ron Goldman was some unimportant appendix to the woman and who only died as a result of being momentarily connected to her. Which is what happened, I’ll admit. But still.

It just all seems a little tasteless.
[ link: lots of additional death ]

"No" Means Something

A girl was wearing a t-shirt today. It read “No Means No.” This reminded me of an extended joke that Spencer and I had some time back about that same rather inane but nonetheless effective phrase and what might be the funniest twist on it. In short:
  • No Means Maybe
  • No Means Not Again
  • No Means Meh
  • No Means Nitrous Oxide
  • No Means Buy Me Dinner First
  • No Means I’m Gay
  • No Means Not With You
  • No Means You're Ugly
  • No Means Oh No You Didn’t
  • No Means I Wish a Muthafucka Would
With all apologies to women's rights.

Rejection, Part Two

I sent another submission to McSweeney's online branch. Much in the same manner as the first one, this second list was rejected. Only this time it took about three weeks longer to be rejected, so my hopes had a chance to ratchet up a notch or two.

So since Timothy McSweeney's Internet Tendency doesn't want it, I guess I will just put it here.
Celebrity Band Projects That Never Were
  • Rob Lowe and the Forgotten Scandals
  • Anderson Cooper and the Enchanted DNA
  • Kate Moss and the Parallel Lines
  • Kind of Like Tony Danza
  • Susan Saradon and the Withers
  • Lisa Rinna and the Duckbills
  • Gretchen Mol and the Unexplained Disappearances
  • Lara Flynn Boyle and the Gradual Disappearances
  • Ticking Time Bomb with Robert Downey Jr.
  • Sean Connery and the Staggers
  • Anne Heche and the Ambivalents
  • Cynthia Watros and the Short End of the Stick
  • Dratch!
  • Kevin Spacey and the Blind Items
  • Shelley Long and the Wretched Despairs
  • The Sean Hayes Sidesteppers
I so just showed them. In retrospect, however, I can see why it was rejected. It's a little clever, in a snarky Defamer kind of way, but it's really not that funny. Or that weird. And funny and weird seem to be the big selling points with the McSweeney's lists. My revenge on McSweeney's: I'm just going to try again.
[ link: a previously rejected submission ]

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Just Like the Morton's Salt Girl

Excuse the downpour of bloggery. Take what you can get.

So on my birthday — which, admittedly, was nearly a month ago — I took Spencer and Holly up to Seven Falls. Spencer had never been before. Holly had tried and, being unable to find it, declared it mythical. We found it and had a good time, despite a swarm of hundreds of ladybugs — literally hundreds, angry and biting, no less. And Holly took some pictures to prove that we were there.

Here's me, straddling a tree and looking like an asshole. It was my birthday, okay?



Here are Spencer and I, doing a reasonable impression of frat guys, what with the head rag and all. (It was hot. The temperature.)



And here's me with a butterfly on my head.



In the process of overcoming one of the larger rocks in our path, Holly cracked the very fancypants phone that took these pictures. To that, I say "Thank you, Holly's phone. Through your death, I have achieved long-lasting birthday memories."

The ladybug brigade, I'm sad to say, was not photographed.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Love You Like I Love Myself

If a word doesn’t already exist for the phenomenon of cartoon couples looking like male-female fraternal twins, then the Germans aren’t on top of their game. A few examples:

Porky Pig and Petunia Pig



The entire Disney crew (Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy et al.) but most notably supporting characters Clarabelle Cow and Horace Horsecollar, who look related despite the fact that they're different species



Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man



Chief Wiggum and his wife, Sarah



Kirk and Luann Van Houten



Mort and Muriel Goldman


And Toad and Toadette



Just to name a few.

As you can see, animators have been creating love interests for pre-existing characters and routinely making these sweethearts look like they share way too much DNA to be dating — or worse, mating. They really do look like brother and sister, all of these folks. It’s interesting that cartoonists would want to make these characters — most of them intended for young audiences — look like they’re committing incest. However, it’s more probable that the resemblance stems from (a) the animators’ lazy reluctance to create an entirely new model for a second-tier character and (b) the fact that having the characters look alike helps to tie them together. You see Daisy Duck waltz onto the scene, and even if you’ve never seen a Disney cartoon before, you know straight away that she’s involved with Donald in some way.

It’s like the Skeeter Syndome. As the people who made “Muppet Babies” clearly realized, a dearth of female characters can easily be remedied by making a female twist on a male character. That’s how the show got Skeeter, the girl counterpart to Scooter, who had existed in the regular, non-animated “Muppet Show” for years. (Granted, Skeeter was Scooter’s twin, not his love interest, but the idea still holds water.) In the end, any given group of characters gets to even out the gender ratio, but at the expense of looking like a bunch of inbreeders. And it’s been happening, apparently, since cartoon characters have been around.

An interesting note, however, is Kirk and Luann Van Houten. Since they’re on a show that seems to be conscious of trends on TV shows — especially animated shows — they’re resemblance could be intentional. How else could somebody explain why Milhouse is the way he is? What’s more, “The Simpsons” has featured both Kirk’s dad and Luann’s mom, who are on opposite sides of the family but nonetheless bear the resemblance. The twist comes in that the Van Houtens have been divorced for nearly as long as the show has featured them as a married couple. This, to me, is an interesting twist on the whole look-alike couple, and the kind of twist on a standard formula that once made “The Simpsons” a good show. The ones who look like they must belong together actually don’t and now hate each other.

And as for the Goldmans from “Family Guy,” I can only guess that they — being the awkward, bespectacled parents of an equally awkward, bespectacled son — are a Van Houten family knock-off, at least in a broad sense. But hey — “Family Guy” has to owe something to “The Simpsons,” right?

Die Wunderkammer

Speaking of Mushnam, sometime back she posted about having created an alternate blog as a way of cataloguing the collection of random, amusing images she's collected over the years. It's a quick little tour, but a fun one. That, and it's a nifty use for a blog that I had never thought of.
[ link: Mushnam's untitled blog of graphic wonderment ]
Small, unrelated note: I've just realized that Blogger's decidedly subpar spellchecker doesn't recognize the word "blog." And that, my friends, is total ass.

Is a Haircut / Is Not a Haircut

Need a haircut? Don't have money to get one? Then check out this post on the Music for Maniacs blog regarding some nifty holophonic sound recordings.
[ source: Mushnam ]

The Devil Wears a Crucifix

Aside from leaving that ingratiating KT Tunstall song in my head, “The Devil Wears Prada” left little for me to chew on. Critics have lauded Meryl Streep for her performance, though I fail to see how simply being a heinous bitch is that difficult makes for that difficult of a role. I’ve lived and worked with people who did as good of a job, and no one nominated them for any award. Anne Hathaway, as I suspected, played a likable, plucky heroine, though I secretly wished her character’s transformation from a drab nobody to a fashionista could have included some wardrobe selections from her “Brokeback Mountain” character. In all, decent but not especially memorable.

However, as I often do after I see a movie, read a book, hear a name, think a thought or eat a sandwich, I eventually crawled over to the related Wikipedia entry. This gave me something wonderful for my English major brain to work with. The two main characters in the book and the film, Andrea Sachs and Miranda Priestly, both seem to be non-Jewish Jews. No, not in the George Constanza way, in which he and his family exhibit all the traits of a stereotypical Jew save for the fact that they are actually Italian Catholic. In a backstory thing that is apparently explained more in the novel The Devil Wears Prada, Andrea comes from a Jewish family. Her surname, after all, is “Sachs.” Her family, however, does not apparently practice any Jewish traditions. Furthermore, one of the story elements dropped in the film version of the story indicated that Miranda Priestly was raised Jewish, with the last name “Princhek,” but revised her personal history to fit in better with the WASPy types she’d be working alongside in the fashion industry. Most notably, her chosen surname is “Priestly,” which has more Christian meaning than I initially thought about.

The Wikipedia article further states that, at one point in the novel, Andrea evokes her Jewish identity by considering walking backwards from Wintour’s office in the manner that faithful Jews apparently move away from the Wailing Wall. Perhaps most provocatively, the article notes that the character who romances Andrea and threatens to lead her permanently into the world of high fashion — and thus, away from her roots — is named “Christian.”

In the end, all this religious-themed speculation into the novel and the film yields a different reading of their shared title. Upon casual reading, "The Devil Wears Prada" — or, to be nitpicky, The Devil Wears Prada as well — seems to name a devil in the casual since, as in "Oh, you devil!" or something benign like that. The devil in question initially appears to be one that is only capitalized by virtue of being in a title. However, these Judeo-Christian elements combine to provide an alternate reading that may indicate the other kind: the devil with a capital "D."

This, to me, is very interesting, since I nearly dismissed this film as fluff. That’s not to say that it isn’t fluff, really, but it at least has a cleverly embedded theme that I did not pick up on my own. A little subversive, too. Does “The Devil Wears Prada” suggest a correlation between Christianity and commercialism? Or is it simply that becoming accepted by elite society forces you to abandon any non-mainstream qualities?

It’s something, anyway.

Monday, June 26, 2006

At Least You're Not Born on Hairy Vetchling Day

In the spirit of the great Egyptian king Ankhenaten — the ruler who switched the empire’s political capitol to Amarna and overhauled the national religion to worship a solar disc in lieu of Ra, the longstanding deity primo — and other such botched attempts at renovation, I present to you something that I only recently learned of: the French Revolutionary calendar. See, Ankhenaten’s new religion failed, and immediately upon his death, his successor moved the capital back to Thebes and the solar disc was abolished, despite all the king’s efforts.

I enjoy this, the idea that no matter how hard you work for something, it can be undone easily the moment you leave town.

As I understand it, the French Revolutionary calendar was the result of the revolutionaries’ desire to burn the establishment to the ground and start over. Apparently, the rebellion included the the destruction of the seven-day week. The changes included the following:
  • Twelve new months, each divided into three ten-day weeks
  • The ten days were called “Primidi,” “Duodi,” and so forth in a numerical fashion
  • A period called the “Franciade” that occurred at the end of the twelve-month schedule, to make up for the extra days that would otherwise force the calendar off-schedule
  • A wacky base-ten invention called “decimal time” to replace our base-six clock
The months were divided into seasonal units, as follows, beginning in the calendar start at the autumnal equinox. As the Wikipedia explains it:
  1. Vendémiaire (from Latin vindemia, “vintage”)
  2. Brumaire (from French brume, “mist”)
  3. Frimaire (From French frimas, “frost”)
  4. Nivôse (from Latin nivosus, “snowy”)
  5. Pluviôse (from Latin pluviosus, “rainy”)
  6. Ventôse (from Latin ventosus, “windy”)
  7. Germinal (from Latin germen, “seed”)
  8. Floréal (from Latin flos, “flower”)
  9. Prairial (from French prairie, “meadow”)
  10. Messidor (from Latin messis, “harvest”)
  11. Thermidor (from Greek thermos, “hot”)
  12. Fructidor (from Latin fructus, “fruit”)
(Wikipedia also notes that Britons mocked the months by calling them Wheezy, Sneezy and Freezy; Slippy, Drippy and Nippy; Showery, Flowery and Bowery; Wheaty, Heaty and Sweety. Ha.)

Even better, in lieu of the Catholic calendar of saints, the French Revolutionary Calendar attached everyday objects to the days of the year. Every tenth day was named in honor of a household object, while every fifth days (excluding multiples of ten) was named for an animal. The remaining ones were plants and minerals. This is where is gets fun. For example, my birthday is June 4. On the FRC, this would correspond to the 16th day of Prairial, or "Oeillet," Carnation Day.

Happy Carnation Day, me!

Conversely, other holidays on the Gregorian calendar are worse off. Christmas, for example, is the 5th day of Nivôse, “Chien” — Dog Day. So decorate your Dog Day tree. Halloween would be the 10th day of Brumaire, Plough Day, which sounds just as fun as the holiday currently celebrated on that day. Don’t get drunk on St. Patrick’s Day, because that’s now Ventôse 27th, Forest Day. And our friends in Mexico can join us in celebration of the 17th day of Floréal instead of Cinco de Mayo. And we’ll all call it “Pimprenelle” — or Salad Burnet Day!

The program was abandoned by Napoleon in 1806, though it still crops in randomly — for example, in the name of the dish Lobster Thermidor. I think the whole thing is funny, really. Come on, French people. The whole Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday thing is not worth rebelling against. Norse gods are not the man. It’s still good for a laugh, however. So I encourage everyone to go see what lame mascot they get affixed to their birthday by checking out this handy-dandy table.

And please, have a great Shallot Day!

[ source: Prance Closer ]

EDIT: As Nate and Spence have now both pointed out to me, my day is, in fact, Carnation Day — not Quail Day. The correction has been made above. It turns out I'm bad at reading the French Revolutionary Calendar. But as I said before, at least I'm not born on Hairy Vetchling Day.

King of the Resume

Totally true. I'm at work so I have to be fast, but I just met a man who has worked in a circus as a human torch, a lion tamer and Jesus. No shit.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Whither the Blue-Haired One?

In an effort to back up the hard copies of my clips with soft copies, I headed back into that womb of a college newspaper office to use the scanner. While there, I stumbled onto one of the many pieces of office clutter I added to the wall: a surreal, dadaist cartoon that I drew of my assistants at the time, Daniel and Kristina. I can't imagine why I thought this was a good idea, but I can only imagine it had something to do with copy being slow that night. Fucking copy.

Yeah, I scanned it.

It's large, so I decided the best way to show it one the website would be to just link to it and have it open in its own window.
[ click it! click it now! ]
In retrospect, Daniel looks like Hobbes and Kristina like Angelica from "Rugrats." The resemblance wasn't intentional, but it's nonetheless there. For those of you adverse to clicking links, the story tells of Angelica-Kristina and Hobbes-Daniel going on an adventure in a soda factory, which is also a forest where it's snowing. Or something. The two promptly become lost in an abyss of newspaper clippings. Finland is recalled fondly. Following that, they climb some skyscrapers, whereupon Kristina develops lobster claws. In the last panel, the two are on the moon. Kristina's feet are in Howard Hughes-style Kleenex boxes. Daniel, who has devolved into a large single-celled organism, again recalls Finland fondly.

I don't care what anybody says. It takes a certain talent to be truly nonsensical.

The whole image has also been posted on my Flickr account. I'm interested to see what kind of attention it draws.

[ my legs are weak but resolute ]

The Land Monster Speaks

gimmehamz69: blargh!
kidicarus222: hi?
gimmehamz69: you die, you little shit
kidicarus222: who is this?
gimmehamz69: im like dina's best friend. i think you read my blog
kidicarus222: oh. you.
gimmehamz69: lets get a few things straight. indian men prize my girthy beauty
kidicarus222: oh really. like, all indian men?
gimmehamz69: no, stupid. these two guys who run the refrigerator repair shop where i answer the phones. they tell me i'm like a sack of beautiful potatoes, wrapped in an exquisite indian tapestry
kidicarus222: they tell you that to your face?
gimmehamz69: hey, it makes a paycheck
gimmehamz69: i just thought i'd let you know that you beefed big time when you ripped on me
kidicarus222: "beefed"?
gimmehamz69: shut up!
gimmehamz69: none of your words, kid dicks-r-us
gimmehamz69: you need to take back what you said about me
kidicarus222: you mean that you were wrong about me liking zelda and triangles?
kidicarus222: because you were basically wrong
gimmehamz69: no, that i'm a land monster and that i type like i have sticky chicken grease on my fingers
kidicarus222: i didn't say that
kidicarus222: the second part
gimmehamz69: shut up!
kidicarus222: stop telling me to shut up. i'm still going to type
kidicarus222: i never said you had greasy fingers
gimmehamz69: oh.
gimmehamz69: really?
kidicarus222: really
gimmehamz69: shit.
gimmehamz69: okay, sorry. that must have been the other guy that wrote the defamatory post about me
kidicarus222: serious?
gimmehamz69: shut up!
gimmehamz69: if you must know, you're not the only guy who wrote about me recently
gimmehamz69: this clown from minneapolis has been writing about me
kidicarus222: you're famous
gimmehamz69: he's like a senator or something. he put it on his official website and used me as an example of why women shouldn't be allowed to use the internet
kidicarus222: that's rough
gimmehamz69: this has been a really bad week
gimmehamz69: dina's not talking to me, since i bit her and all. but it's her fault. she totally lunged at me first
kidicarus222: yeah, i heard about that
gimmehamz69: the doctor said it might grow back
kidicarus222: they've been doing some great work with plastic surgery
gimmehamz69: also, i have some heavy flow issues
kidicarus222: yeah. i really have to go.
kidicarus222: if you want me to take the stuff down, i won't, since it's all true
kidicarus222: why did you think i'm lame, anyway?
gimmehamz69: oh. i saw the pictures of you on dina's flickr account. total dick.
kidicarus222: that's a little rash.
gimmehamz69: yeah, well i don't like skinny guys
gimmehamz69: anyway, chinese food's here. those dumpings ain't getting any more deep-fried
gimmehamz69: but you watch your back, skinny man

Anyway, that's where the feud stands right now. If you'd like to see what the Land Monster wrote about me on her site, check out the post that addresses these very matters from her own, warped perspective.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Go-Go, Joanie, Izzy and Bets

I can't stop watching this. Why can't I stop watching it?


And just for the sake of further documenting weirdness, here are the lyrics to the "Maude" theme.
Lady Godiva was a freedom rider
She didn't care if the whole world looked.
Joan of Arc with the Lord to guide her
She was a sister who really cooked.

Isadora was the first bra burner
And you're glad she showed up.
And when the country was falling apart
Betsy Ross got it all sewed up.

And then there's Maude.
And then there's Maude.
And then there's Maude.
And then there's Maude.
And then there's Maude.
And then there's Maude.
And then there's that old compromisin', enterprisin', anything but tranquilizin' —
Right on, Maude!
I'm not sure what's worse: referring to Joan of Arc as "a sister who really cooked" or using the line "And then there's Maude" six times.

[
where have you gone, dave grusin? ]

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Hiding in the Shadows of "A Prairie Home Companion"

Before I speak critically about the film version of Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion,” I should note that I’ve had limited interaction with it and its creator. For example, my first awareness of Keillor as a person was a throwaway reference to him on the episode of “The Simpsons” in which Marge goes on a “Thelma and Louise”-style road trip with her neighbor, Ruth Powers. Near the beginning of this episode, the family is watching PBS and listening to a monologue by a soft-spoken, bespectacled man.

The man intones: “Well, sir, it has been an uneventful week in Badger Falls, where the women are robust, the men are pink-cheeked, and the children are pink-cheeked and robust.” The studio audience erupts into laughter, but the Simpson family is puzzled. “What the hell is so funny?” Homer asks angrily. The man on the TV continues: “At the Apple Biscuit café — where the smiles are free, don’t you know — Sven Inqvist studied the menu, then finally ordered the same thing he has every day.” Again, the audience laughs. Confused, Bart offers, “Maybe it’s the TV.” Homer stomps over to the box and hits it a few times. “Stupid TV. Be more funny!”

The episode first aired on November 5, 1993. I was eleven years old. I had no idea who Garrison Keillor was, and the bit always puzzled me — somewhat in the manner the faux-Keillor puzzled the Simpson family — until the advent of the internet finally allowed me to look up exactly what was being mocked. At the time, Keillor had been broadcasting “A Prairie Home Companion” for nearly twenty years.

With that in mind, I sat through a showing of the filmic “A Prairie Home Companion” this weekend, partly out of my respect for director Robert Altman but mostly just because my curiosity at how such a seemingly cheesy slice of Americana like “APHC” could have possibly lasted as long as it has. To anyone casually watching the movie, Keillor’s baby would seem just that: hokey — and charming only in the sense of a time capsule that reveals what was common place a lifetime ago but now is pleasantly obsolete and familiarly dysfunctional.

But there’s something else here, a Lynchian boogeyman hiding in the shadows of this Country Bear Jamboree. It’s very unsettling and almost nightmarish when contrasted to the movie’s initially saccharine attitude. I’m glad it’s there, because without it I wouldn’t have understood what such a great cast would be doing hamming it up in a movie like this. It’s bothering me and this film wouldn’t have warranted this post otherwise.

“APHC” takes some liberties from the source material, of course. While Garrison Keillor indeed hosts a radio show that he tapes in front of a live studio audience, the performers in the movie are a mix of ones from real-life and celebrities posing as their castmates. Furthermore, the premise of the film is that the show featured in it — a single performance which encompasses the whole length of the movie, more or less — is the final one. A rich businessman has bought the theater and will shortly demolish it, thusly ending “APHC” forever.

Filmed in quasi-real time, “APHC” moves at a quick pace, as the various performers and backstage workers scuttle around the theater, preparing for whichever act is scheduled next. People chatter — sometimes to the point of making the dialogue hard to understand — but we get some insight into who these characters are. Yolanda Johnson (Meryl Streep) is the dimmer half of a two-sister country-gospel duet that once was a family act. Yolanda’s sullen daughter Lola (LiLo) writes suicidal poetry. She looks twenty but acts like a fifteen-year-old. The two cowboys Dusty and Lefty (Woody Harrelson and John C. Reilly) are rough around the edges, but likeable, exactly like you’d expect them to be. Oh, and Maya Rudolph is there, too, looking like her real-life pregnancy made work on the set unbearable.

But that’s really all we get as far as character development. A lot of the main cast — Lily Tomlin and Kevin Kline in particular — don’t really get to change their characters any over the course of the film. Even worse, those who have the ability to give a commanding performance seem purposely muted. Tomlin, notably, is better known as a comedienne than anything else, so one must wonder what tempted Altman and Keillor to have her only singing and spouting some of the less funny lines. Why should poor LiLo, already busy enough doing an earnest impression of what she thinks a disaffected, creative type might be like, play the only character to undergo any kind of spiritual change? And why cast Maya Rudolph — an adept comedienne with a strong singing voice — as Molly, the harried, pregnant stage manager, standing sullenly and with nary a joke or jingle to deliver?

The film, which I suppose is a musical comedy, works well, but only if your idea of good music and comedy falls along the same lines as that of your older, Southerner, religiouser grandparents, who still tell the same jokes people used to make the Depression seem a little less depressing. (Good jokes were hard to come by in that economy, you see. Most people buried all the good jokes in coffee cans in the back yard.) To get into what the characters are into, a viewer must peel back seven decades of cynicism and buy into the fact that entertainment used to mean something different than what it means today — most necessarily during the song “Bad Jokes,” which Harrelson and Reilly’s characters sing in a way that made me cringe in the theater.

So superficially, the movie is a green apple lollipop — sweet but insubstantial, attempting something down-home but only achieving something that mocks it. But like I said before, there’s something awful hidden beneath all the “aw shucks” nostalgia. Much in the way David Lynch likes to contrast American kitsch against the most horrendous, unseen evils and the basest instincts of the human mind, Keillor very slyly slips the vilest of black humor into “APHC.” For example, Virginia Madsen plays a character listed in the credits as “The Dangerous Woman.” In a snow-white trench coat, she walks around the backstage area of the film’s setting like some kind of beautiful zombie. Kevin Kline — whose pratfalls and brain-dead delivery are more embarrassing than anything — plays Guy Noir, the irritatingly named gumshoe who acts as security for the show. The two play this cat-and-mouse game through the first half of the movie, with him suspecting her of being some femme fatale and her easily eluding him and speaking to the rest of the backstage crew as if she had no understanding of how humans relate.

In the absolute best scene in the film, the Dangerous Woman corners Keillor and explains that she is, in fact, Asphodel, the Angel of Death. She was once human, but died in an automobile accident while listening to Keillor’s show decades ago when a joke about penguins sent her into hysterics and her car flipping into a ditch. The angel, whose memory of her human existence seems only partly intact, asks Keillor to remind her what the joke was. The joke, as Keillor recalls it, goes like this:

So two penguins are on an iceberg and one says to the other, “Did you know it looks like you’re wearing a tuxedo?” To this the other penguin responds “What makes you think I’m not?”

Madsen’s character is not impressed. As the punch line registers in her head, she replies to it with, simply, “That’s not funny.” Keillor admits it’s not, and then the angel goes about her business, just a little resentful that such a lame joke caused her to die. The scene is strange, awkwardly paced, and slightly cavalier in the manner it addresses death. It struck me as funny for all the reasons the rest of the movie wasn’t. And I loved it. For me, this scene turned the movie on its head and sent it going in a very different direction than it was headed before.

Asphodel eventually embraces Chuck Akers (L.Q. Jones), an aged PHC performer. Visibly stricken by Asphodel’s touch, Akers dies alone in his dressing room shortly thereafter. The death upsets the cast as news of it spreads from one performer to the other, but Keillor seems oddly unmoved. Streep’s character begs him to give a eulogy at the close of the show, but as Keillor has previously refused to discuss the show’s imminent end before the studio audience, he also declines to speak about this longtime performer’s passing.

In the film’s final scenes, Kline’s character devises a plan to save “APHC.” Knowing that his lady in the white trench coat is both the Angel of Death and a fan of the long-running show, he asks her to speak with The Axeman (Tommy Lee Jones), the studio suit responsible for the theater’s demolition. She does, and advises him of an alternate route out of town. We see him pulling away in his limo, with Asphodel riding invisibly beside him. Guy Noir tells us in a voiceover that The Axeman does in fact die. Nonetheless, the corporation he represents still destroys the theater and “APHC” ends forever. Despite the cast’s collective wishes and efforts — even the orchestrated death of a business-driven but ostensibly innocent man — the beloved Minnesota fixture ends.

The film closes with a scene at a diner — apparently a famous St. Paul landmark — where we see that the woman who had previously worked as a backstage make-up artist is now a waitress. Keillor, Tomlin, Streep and Kline are seated at a booth, discussing the possibility of a reunion tour. Various unimportant matters are discussed. But then the camera reveals that Madsen’s character — still dressed in white — is watching the former cast mates from outside. In her eerily serene state once again, she strolls to the front door and opens it. She pauses for a moment — and the four actors seated at the booth notice her, presumably recognizing her — and then she walks toward them. The last shot of the movie is the breast of her white trench coat gliding toward the camera, first whiting out the frame then quickly blacking it out.

It’s contrast that would make Lynch a very happy audience member. Black and white, life and death, a supernatural being descending upon four jovial, unsuspecting yokels. I can only imagine that Keillor wrote this ending to underscore the darker themes that permeate his work — themes that also account for odd plot points like Keillor and Yolanda’s apparently aborted relationship or that the absentee father of Molly’s baby may be someone from the show. Sadness and misery lurk side-by-side with the sunny stage grins of “APHC,” and I think they do so in service of a very intentional function.

Seriously, would a man truly devote his life’s work to re-creating a bygone era of entertainment because he loved it? Or is he mocking it, if only a little bit? By extension, could one say that by mocking this depiction of America Keillor is also criticizing the people that made it? Why would anybody write the Angel of Death into a film in which he and his real-life friends and colleagues play themselves other than to remind them — and us — that death and destruction and loss and sadness are very much a part of the American existence, even when you’re playing a high-spirited country jam on stage before an adoring audience?

“Tonight’s show is sponsored by Beebop-a-Reebop Rhubarb Pie.” This brand doesn’t exist, though Keillor has been shilling it for decades. Like Beebop-a-Reebop Rhubarb Pie, I think the happy, idyllic — and, so far, endless — existence of “A Prairie Home Companion” hearkens back to a reality that honestly never existed. He’s tried to make it real for thirty-two years — and he’s always found an audience willing to believe it. But even when he’s trying his hardest, the dark side of it all seeps through.

I guess that’s what’s hiding in the shadows here. It’s another contrast — between what we want to be there and what really is.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Blathers Said So

Amazing but true. Those little bugs that we called "roly polies" as children — known as "pill bugs" to some Americans but which are more properly called "woodlice," it turns out — are not insects. They are, in fact, terrestrial crustaceans more closely related to crabs and crayfish than anything else that was crawling around our backyards.



[ source: Animal Crossing, actually, while I was in New Zealand ]

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Team Me

megaDan28: haha
megaDan28: nice work
megaDan28: she does sound kinda fat

Reach Out in the Darkness (And You Will Find a Friend)

Small problem.

Dina's friend with the unwieldy Indian name is linking to my blog. She's also alleging that I'm "kinda lame" and that I like Zelda and triangles. For the record, I kind of like the Legend of Zelda games and I could give a shit about triangles. She hit the nail on the head about me being lame, though.

Go check out this girl's page, if you like. Just a warning: by the way she writes, I'm guessing she's fat. Like, really, really fat.
[ link: Blog of the Land Monster ]
(CTRL+F for "Drew" to see the link, lazy browsers. Though you might as well. Looking at the page for too long will probably make you fat.)

Friday, June 16, 2006

Death and Blonde Bitches Come in Threes

Remember that song "Three Marlenas"?



I don't know what's up with MySpace lately, but Monica(s) need(s) to chill out.

Oh, and happy Bloomsday, all.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Attractive Li'l Honey Pie and the Ill-Fated Venture on Public Transportation of Doom

During the golden technological age when Audiogalaxy was my personal cultural savior and mp3s flowed freely from one dorm network to the next, I encountered a slew of bands heretofore unknown to me. The music I was listening to surpassed what I had listened to in high school — and the bands had these unusual names that, to me, spoke of their members’ creativity. Neutral Milk Hotel. The Clinic. Olivia Tremor Control. Belle and Sebastian. The Apples in Stereo. What was new then still directs what I seek out today, and for that I’m very grateful.

However, in the pursuit of a breadth-over-depth survey of the indie music I’d been missing out on, I came upon a then little-known band with a name I couldn’t stand. Little of what I downloaded from this particular band stayed on the hard drive very long, and the only track whose title I can actually remember was called “Fake Frowns.”

The band in question, for those of you who only have experienced Transatlanticism and Plans, is Death Cab for Cutie. I actually still can’t stand the name, though I feel better about the band’s music. In any case, the only question I wanted answered more than “Who would name a band that, anyway?” was “Where the hell did they get that name?” The question went unanswered and generally disregarded until the last year, when that damn show made everyone with a desire for indie credibility like Death Cab — and made Death Cab a huge success.

Just a few days ago — or months ago, depending on whom you ask — Spencer pointed me in the direction of an answer. “Death Cab for Cutie” was a song long before it was a band. Written by Vivian Stanshall and initially performed by the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band in 1967, it is best known for having been featured in Beatles film “Magical Mystery Tour.” To a striptease, no less. I was a little amused to find that the title is quite literal — the lyrics tell the story of a woman, Cutie, who dies in an ill-fated taxi cab ride. Apparently Stanshall, the Bonzo Band’s lead vocalist, sang it in an Elvis Presley style in mockery of 50s sob songs.

The final step in determining just where this annoying and now-omnipresent string of words comes from goes back even farther to a book — a collection Richard Hoggart’s essays on British popular culture called The Uses of Literacy. In this book, Hoggart discusses “sex and violence novels” and provides faux titles that represent the genre’s tendency towards a very specific kind of phrasing. Among the other examples — many of which I like better than “Death Cab for Cutie” — are “Sweetie, Take it Hot,” “The Lady Takes a Dive,” “Aim Low, Angel” and “Sweetheart, Curves Can Kill.” The original Death Cab, by the way, was hyphenated. I must admit I like “Death-Cab for Cutie” least of all.
[ link ]
The funny part of all this is that I’d bet the song’s title makes it nigh impossible to download on most systems, since the band of the same name is vastly more popular. Or not. I’m actually not going to try, but I’d like to hear if anyone has luck with it. If it’s as hard as I imagine, you all will just end up downloading Plans again anyway. More power to you.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Strutting With Pride

I spent some long-overdue time on the Wikipedia today and ended up on the entry for "walk of shame." I'd almost forgotten that a Wednesday Hump by Kate Rice — the resident Humper when I worked at the Nexus opinion desk — is cited as an information source for the article. On an article that I could have very well wrote the headline for.

That makes me happy.

No Explanation

This.

Not safe for work. Also, make sure your speakers are on when you open it. What I need to know: Who made this? And why can't I stop watching it?

Toadiko

Ways people have been finding my blog this year.

Otherwise Known as "Puppy"

In the tradition of Jilly Jill's MySpace profile, I've made one for Kristen's beloved, besmeared bedtime buddy. (She was okay with it.)
[ link: become DogBaby's friend today! ]
And don't forget that today is June 14 — Flag Day! It's like Independence Day, but without all the fun parts! And only flags! Because the actual July 4 apparently can't come quickly enough! Flag Day!

A Crested Booka

Not to propagate racism but only because the study of it fascinates me, the Wikipedia offers a page titled "list of ethnic slurs." Most notable one I hadn't heard before: "ABCD," which is right near the top of the "A" section. Even more surprising: A version of "ABCD" actually goes all the way to "Z."

[ source: Prance Closer ]

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Yeap

In light of the previous post, I figure now would be a good time to mention something I read on Ain't It Cool News. They're making an American version of "Battle Royale." Could be good. Could be trash. The bad news: Neal H. Moritz, the guy who had his paws on such teensploitation slashers as "I Know What You Did Last Summer" and "Urban Legends," is producing.

Cross your fingers.

Monday, June 12, 2006

He Also Made False Teeth

I've newly rediscovered my love for the video for The Avalanches' "Frontier Psychiatrist."


Sunday, June 11, 2006

Angry Up the Blood

Because it's what I do when I'm in Hollister, I picked up a copy of Entertainment Weekly yesterday. Good news: new, streamlined layout and the elimination of Jim Mullen's Hot Sheet. Bad news: the introduction of Scott Brown's Hit List in its place. For those of you unfamiliar with Jim Mullen, he wrote a regular piece for EW. A column only in the sense that it was a vertical bar running down the far side of one page, the Hot Sheet made trite observations about Hollywood happenings that someone who sat through an episode of "Access Hollywood" might mentally make on the drive to work the following morning, then immediately self-censor, push to the back of their mind and never think of again. But like I said, it was in the magazine, every week for years and years. And he got paid for it, the rotten fuck. Anyway, it finally got the boot, but Scott Brown's Hit List could just as easily be mistaken for it. It looks the same, and it occupies roughly the same spot in the magazine that the Hot Sheet did. To Scott Brown's credit, the Hit List is about a half-step funnier than the Hot Sheet ever was on a good day.

That's not a lot, but it's something.

For example, one of the better bits in this week's Hot List goes like this. Headline: "Jane Fonda roasted." Text: "...for approximately the last thirty years." Not bad. I could hear it coming out of Tina Fey's mouth, so that's a step in the right direction at least.

The section that really got my attention, however, is this week's cover story: "The 25 Most Controversial Movies of All Time." Here are the films that EW's staff picked, followed by my frank assessment of said movies.

Number One: "The Passion of the Christ"
What I say: I'll buy it. Daring, divisive, all that stuff. Still what bothers me most about this movie, even after having read the title so many times since it was released, is the presence of the second "the." "The Christ." As in, "Jesus the Christ," like "Barney the Talking Dinosaur."
Number Two: "A Clockwork Orange"
What I say: I guess. It wasn't all that shocking to me when I saw it in high school, but we live in jaded times. According to EW, it was the first-ever movie to earn an X rating. Copycat crimes in Britain effectively got it banned until 2000. I didn't know this, but I suppose that's reason enough.
Number Three : "Fahrenheit 9/11"
Number Four: "Deep Throat"
Number Five: "JFK"
What I say: Saw it. Saw it. Need to see it. No real surprises here.
Number Six: "The Last Temptation of Christ"
What I say: Seriously?! Like, not that it's surprising it's on the list, but this film's status as a target for controversy has generally baffled me. I guess the logic here depends on how you would answer the answer the question represented by the acronym "WWJD?" Basic plot: Jesus imagines what life marrying Mary Magdalene might be like, then ultimately decides to die on the cross anyway. In short, God wins, Satan loses and the Bible still gets written the way it always was.
Number Seven: "Birth of a Nation"
What I say: More racist than "Song of the South"? Wow. Apparently making a movie that glorifies the Ku Klux Klan and depicts African Americans as "childlike, conniving or rabid sex fiends" doesn't fly, even in 1915. Haven't seen it. Probably won't.
Number Eight: "Natural Born Killers"
Number Nine: "Last Tango in Paris"
Number Ten: "Baby Doll"
What I say: (A) Over-rated tripe. (B) Butter scene! Butter scene! Butter scene! (C) Catholics said it was bad, which led it to pick up four Oscar nominations. Take that, funny hat brigade.
Number Eleven: "The Message"
What I say: This movie had somehow escaped my cultural awareness completely. Apparently to Muslims what "The Ten Commandments" is to Jews, though in total violation of that Muslim rule that prohibits images of Mohammed. And instead of one image, it made millions of them, then showed them in a flickery fashion so as to simulate movement, like cinemas are wont to do. Muslims rioted and even took hostages in Washington D.C. A two-day siege left a reporter dead and Marion Barry with a bullet inside him.

The funny thing about this list is that this film — the first one so far to be directly credited with inciting murder — pops up at only number eleven. As far as I know, "Passion of the Christ" didn't cause anybody to die. You'd think the death alone would have rocketed "The Message" to the top slot. But I don't work at EW, so what do I know?

The EW article also notes that the director — Moustapha Akkad, who later went on to help finance and produce the "Halloween" movies — died the al-Quaeda bombings of those hotels in Jordan last year.
Number Twelve: "The Deer Hunter"
What I say: I haven't seen it, though I've been meaning to. The point of controversy here is that the depictions of torture in Vietnamese POW camps was unrealistic. Like, there was torture. Just not this kind of torture. Seems like a petty distinction to me.
Number Thirteen: "The Da Vinci Code"
What I say: Meh.
Number Fourteen: "The Warriors"
What I say: The plot, in a nutshell, details some gang wars in New York City. Accused of glorifying violence, director Walter Hill was blamed for a few incidents of real-life violence, including the stabbing of a Massachusetts teenager. Even so, the only disciplinary action taken against the film was the pulling of print and TV advertisements. This seems like a fairly light punishment, especially considering the extent of free advertising "The Warriors" would have gotten from all the controversy.
Number Fifteen: "Triumph of the Will"
What I say: Yikes. Pretty, pretty movie. Ugly, ugly content. Looks like it was done on a set with extensively choreographed marching scenes. The fact that Leni Riefenstahl — the only female director to appear on this list, notably — filmed this live is all the more remarkable. On the other hand, the event being depicted is the Nazi march at Nuremberg. Considering the association with Hitler's politics, I think it's remarkable that Reifenstahl did as well with her post-WWII career as she did.
Number Sixteen: "United 93"
What I say: I will see this. The fact that I haven't yet has more to do with the fact that the Santa Barbara moviegoing experience is fairly limited, and less with the fact that I don't have the guts. (Though, I must mention that guts were a slight issue.) I guess the deal here is that people either think America isn't ready for a movie like this or that America should own up to what actually happened on 9/11. Every review I read went to great effort to mention how tasteful "United 93" was. I think the bigger issue will be not this movie, but Oliver Stone's "World Trade Center," which should be coming out this summer. Stone, by the way, has two movies on this list already — and he's the only director with that dubious honor.
Number Seventeen: "Freaks"
What I say: Saw it. With Jill. In DC. It made us both uncomfortable, even for a movie made in 1932. The big beef with "Freaks," as near as I understand it is the use of actual freaks to play the freaks. Seems like an economical decision on Tod Browning's part, but I suppose a pinhead might not have the wherewithal to realize he was being exploited. And when I say pinhead, I mean a literal pinhead.
Number Eighteen: "I Am Curious (Yellow)"
What I say: I am indifferent (Drew).
Number Nineteen: "Basic Instinct"
What I say: The NC-17 rating, I suppose, was a big deal. We don't see many of these. According to EW, however, the film drew protests from gay rights activists who objected to the relationship between Sharon Stone's character and that of her girlfriend, who is killed partway into the movie. If you take the view that Stone's character is a lesbian — and not just a pansexual opportunist, like I think of her — then the whole film can come off as a slam against man-hating lesbians.
Number Twenty: "Cannibal Holocaust"
What I say: Probably the only movie on this list that I've seen and most people haven't. The controversy, as EW puts it, is pretty damn lame. First off, this movie is the unsaid inspiration for the "Blair Witch Project" — people get lost in wilderness, bad things happen, cinéma vérité and all that. At some point, director Ruggero Deddato was faced with charges unless he could prove that the stars were, in fact, not dead. Then he did just that. And then it was okay.
Number Twenty-One: "Bonnie and Clyde"
What I say: The controversy, according to EW, is that the ending was violent and that upset people. Goes without saying that the ending was also historically accurate and, if you see the movie, well deserved. It's Bonnie and Clyde. Bad guys. Even anti-heroes get their comeuppance. Would people have been happier if Bonnie and Clyde survived and shot more people?
Number Twenty-Two: "Do the Right Thing"
What I say: Haven't seen it. Apparently people got upset because the movie could have incited riots. Then it didn't.
Number Twenty-Three: "Kids"
What I say: Finally, a movie whose spot on the list is deserved — and neither too high or too low. "Kids" doesn't seem nearly so bad now, but it's worth another look just to see young Rosario Dawson and Chloe Sevigny.
Number Twenty-four: "Caligula"
What I say: Should be higher. Netflix sent me this movie on mistake and Glenn and Cory and Tristan and I had trouble looking away. Honestly, some of the foulest things I've ever seen. I can't believe the response to this lavish porn couldn't be higher. Helen Mirren, you should know better.
Number Twenty-five: "Aladdin"
What I say: Huh? You've got to be kidding. I actually remember the uproar that arose when "Aladdin" hit theaters. The opening song, which described the Arabian kingdom of Agrobah, contained the lyric "where they cut off your hand / if they don't like your face." Arab-Americans got upset, understandably, but Disney promptly redubbed the lyric with "where the land is immense / and the heat is intense," which sucks but isn't going to offend anybody.
So that's it, as far EW puts it. I kind of feel like the list is a little lacking, however. Where's any mention of movies like "Brown Bunny" — which contained an unsimulated scene of Chloe Sevigny performing fellatio on Vincent Gallo and nearly ruined both their careers — or "Showgirls" — which showcased Elizabeth Berkley's fall from grace amidst all the tit and beaver shots. And that's not the half of it. I found this guy — an Australian blogger going by the name "Kamikaze Camel" — who has a post responding to a list of the most controversial movies published in The Guardian. Among the films picked for this list are the following:
  • "Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom," which I detailed in an earlier post, "The Antechamber of Hell." This movie repulsed Italian audiences — which had previously adored director Pier Paolo Pasolini — with scenes of rape, sodomy, shit-eating and death by mutilation. In fact, Pasolini made the movie to be deliberately offensive.
  • "Crash," but not the one that took the Best Picture Oscar last year. That's a whole different controversy. This "Crash," directed by David Cronenberg, features James Spader and Holly Hunter as sickos who get their jollies from car accidents. Sex and car accident gore, together — or as this other blogger calls it, "autoerotica."
  • "The Devils," which features enough Satanic imagery to piss anybody off.
  • "Pretty Baby," in which a New Orelans whore auctions off the virginity of her teenaged daughter, played by a too-young Brook Shields.
  • "Straw Dogs," about which I know nothing but which allegedly features gratuitous violence that irked some people. Or something.
And more:
  • "The Tin Drum," which was illegal to possess in Oklahoma, as legislators decided it was child pornography.
  • "Citizen Kane," which was almost not released because it portrayed William Randolph Hearst so poorly.
  • "Taxi Driver." Really, have you seen it? Child prostitution and vigilantism.
  • "Pink Flamingos," which features a transvestite eating dog feces and people kidnapping babies to sell them to lesbian couples.
  • "Powder," and just about every other film released by director Victor Salva following his arrest for child molestation. Seriously, if you've seen this movie, think about it in terms of pedophilia. It's horrifying.
  • "Cruising," an Al Pacino vehicle which featured him as an undercover cop trying to catch a serial killer stalking gay men.
  • "I Spit on Your Grave," for brutal violence done by and against women.
  • "Last House on the Left," for the same reasons.
  • "Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs," a Merrie Melodies short featuring mammies, pickaninnies and all manner of offensive African-American stereotypes.
  • And finally "Battle Royale," the content of which has made it hard to legally release in certain territories, according to rumors. True or not, the movie is fairly disturbing.
So what have I learned? Not that Entertainment Weekly is fallible. I already knew that. My earlier rant against Jim Mullen is proof enough. I suppose the lesson here is that there's no accounting for taste. Even a room full of film majors or the people I make slog through my Netflix queue with me wouldn't agree on what offended us most, much less what offended other people most.

I like that movies can get such a huge reaction in people, though not particularly the kinds that result in death. It's validating, in a way, to see that the these things I like really do matter — and that people who make movies know this and use it to say something. Oh, and it's really funny watching people get offended.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Not a Kiwi Pop Tart

And while I'm on the subject of ear candy, I'm going to do something that may surprise people who know me. I'm going give my hearty approval for pop singer Rhianna's inescapable club hit, "S.O.S."

I know.

I know. Stop it. Just hear me out here.

Rhianna and those in her crowd aren't the kind of musicmakers I usually recommend to anybody. By and large, I feel like that kind of music these people make serves only to be blasted at clubs, whereby the sound waves agitate the human brain and endumben it, thus pushing the owner of the brain to buy tube tops, eat Del Taco and buy more crappy music. But this song is an exception.

Initially, I hated it. I can specifically remember hearing "S.O.S." for the first time. KrisDina and I were driving through New Zealand in our first rental: the yellow Volkswagen Polo. We had just gotten the radio to work and stumbled upon we initially thought was some backwoods Kiwi pop tart's attempt to cover "Tainted Love" and trip over her own clunky shoes in the process. Really, who was this dumb girl? Never mind my own personal associations with the original song, who did she think she was that she could take the beat to "Tainted Love" — one of the most easily recognized beats in one of the best-known songs of the 80s — and put her own spin on it? Fuck her.

We rolled the dial to something else.

Then I got home and went to a bar. Doesn't matter which bar. Wander into any bar on State Street and you can hear Rhianna and her little ditty bop. But somehow, after hearing this again and again, something clicked and I started to like it. And I'm not sure it's just a matter of this being catchy as hell. I honestly feel like Rhianna and whoever write this song have done something culturally interesting.

in 1981, Soft Cell's Marc Almond juiced up Gloria Jones' 1964 soul single, "Tainted Love," and gave it the beat we all know and love. And get stuck in our heads. And occasionally drummed on our desks with our pencils when we were bored in class. I'm not clear whether Soft Cell's version was a crossover hit or a niche favorite, but regardless the song became tattooed in the collective memory of my entire generation. Thank you, Napster. Thank you, theme parties. Thank you, Time-Life Awesome Eighties compilations. And thank you, Spike Jonze-directed Levis ad with the EKG machine that beeped in synch with the song. I doubt I could throw a rock on the UCSB campus without hitting someone who couldn't at least sing the refrain. Nonetheless, the same group of kids have taken to this liberal sampling of the original hit. And when I get past the popularity of "S.O.S." and really listen to it, it's honestly not that bad of a song. It makes that famous "Tainted Love" beat a little more danceable — and additionally referencing "Tiny Dancer" in the process.

During one of my last quarters in college, I took a class on Italian film and literature that featured an adaptation of "The Decameron" by Pier Paolo Pasolini. Dr. Amberson explained that the film was a particularly good one because Pasolini had taken a fundamental text that most Italians would be familiar with — somewhat in the manner than English speakers should have some idea what "The Canterbury Tales" was, though even more so — and dispatched huge chunks of it. He removed two of the work's narrative frames and chopped up the various vignettes. But despite the egotistical re-working, the film worked.

I know it sounds ridiculous to compare ol' P.P. Pasolini to the same girl I had just moments ago referred to as a Kiwi pop tart, but the feat is similar. Rhianna had done what I would have bet no entertainer could do — an upstart especially — and blatantly repackaged a well-known song only to receive praise and popularity for it. She's won me over, at least. More than anything, I wonder if Gloria Jones has heard the song. Maybe she hates being covered then sampled, maybe she's okay with it. Either way, I'm sure she can't think about Rhianna — a young, pretty singer with a throaty voice making the first smash hit of her musical career — and see herself, just over forty years ago.

There's something interesting here, I swear.

The Parent Remix

I like burning CDs for people. Even better, I like people asking me to burn them CDs. It's a way for be to communicate some part of myself to someone else in a way I couldn't just by having a conversation with them. It's like this blog — or yelling at people on the sidewalk when I'm driving my car. So when my mom asked me if I could burn her a CD — see, she was getting tired of the CDs I helped her burn three years ago — I took the job very seriously.

I actually started while I was on vacation. While train and plane and rental car took me over and around the geography of the Great Down Under, I had my head buried in my iPod. "Hey, iPod," I said. "List all the songs you have alphabetically so I might scroll through them, one-by-one, and listen to each so that I might find some appropriate for my mother's ears. And then I will employ your heretofore under-utilized On-The-Go feature to add these songs to a playlist that I might one day burn to an iridescent disc."

And that's what happened.

I finally reached the end of the alphabet two or three days ago. (It was the Cranberries' "Zombie," by the way.) I picked over the songs that didn't belong and I ended up with two whole CDs. A little whitewashed, sure, but this is my mother I'm talking about. Not one for daring, risky sounds, my mom. Thus, you'll have to forgive me for being yet another person putting James Blunt into musical rotation. All in all, they're mishmashes of the more genial pop songs to come out in the past few years, the "Garden State" soundtrack and the most mom-friendly I could find from the alt country subgenre — that being the only classification of music I listen to that my mom could actually be able to stand.

"Mom Mix 1"
  1. The Rolling Stones - "She's a Rainbow"
  2. Ben Folds - "Landed"
  3. Damien Rice - "The Blower's Daughter"
  4. Cake - "Let Me Go"
  5. Loretta Lynn and Jack White - "Portland, Oregon"
  6. Mozella - "Can't Stop"
  7. Ben Folds Five - "Brick"
  8. The Postal Service - "Such Great Heights"
  9. Suzi Quatro - "Stumblin' In"
  10. Aimee Mann - "Video"
  11. Kinks - "Picture Book"
  12. Holly Golightly - "Walk a Mile in My Shoes"
  13. Jon Brion - "Knock Yourself Out"
  14. Johnny Cash - "One"
  15. When in Rome - "The Promise"
  16. Cathy Dennis - "Waterloo Sunset"
  17. Chris Isaak - "I Believe"
  18. The Cure - "Friday I'm in Love"
  19. Electric Light Orchestra - "Livin' Thing"
  20. Loretta Lynn - "High on a Mountain Top"
  21. The Rolling Stones - "Ruby Tuesday"
And then there's "Mom Mix 2"
  1. Elliott Smith - "Memory Lane"
  2. James Blunt - "You're Beautiful"
  3. Johnny Cash and Don Henley - "Desperado"
  4. Loretta Lynn - "Van Lear Rose"
  5. Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins - "Rise Up With Fists!"
  6. Chris Isaak - "Please"
  7. Madness - "It Must Be Love"
  8. The Polyphonic Spree - "Hold Me Now"
  9. Nick Drake - "One of These Things First"
  10. Roy Orbison - "I Drove All Night"
  11. The Postal Service - "Nothing Better"
  12. Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins - "The Charging Sky"
  13. Simon and Garfunkel - "The Only Living Boy in New York"
  14. Yo La Tengo - "Here Comes My Baby"
  15. Ryan Adams - "Where the Stars Go Blue"
  16. Van Morrison - "Everyone"
  17. Shawn Colvin - "You and the Mona Lisa"
  18. Ben Folds Five - "Annie Waits"
  19. Cake - "Tougher Than It Is"
I don't know what I like better: making my mother listen to a band called "Madness" or putting Johnny Cash and When in Rome back-to-back on a mix.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Mr. and Mrs. Snow Dragon

So I played through Super Princess Peach, a game that caught for two reasons: It’s a standard, two-dimensional Super Mario Bros.-style platformer the likes of which we just don’t see all that much these days and it also happens to offer Peach, that doily of a monarch, in the role of crusading hero. It’s not great. It seems like Nintendo envisioned a “game for girls” and made it a lot easier than a game that might have been intended for the more typical video game audience, dudes.

One note worth noting, however: the boss of the sixth world.


Its name is, unfortunately, Blizzaurus, this snow-loving dragon and, like the rest of the game’s lesser big bads, it’s none to hard to put the heat to it. When Peach has thwacked the thing enough, however, layers of frosty, frisky monster melt away to revel — (dramatic pause) — a lady.

And not just any lady, neither: a fairy.


In a game that mostly seems to endorse female stereotypes, good ol’ gender-bending Blizzaurus stands up as a nice little twist. So thanks for that, Nintendo.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Speedy Marie

MissJill7: her wedding is on saturday night in san jose somewhere
kidicarus222: take me or i will cause a huge scene
MissJill7: excellent...obviously that would be why i would bring you
kidicarus222: please, show up to the wedding in your own bridal gown
MissJill7: and then i'll announce i'm preggers
kidicarus222: during the vows
kidicarus222: start yelling it
kidicarus222: then step into all their wedding pictures
MissJill7: yes and yes
kidicarus222: and eat the cake
kidicarus222: then start crying
MissJill7: i'd like to tell you that that would be the first time i did that, but alas, i got really wasted at a wedding last summer
MissJill7: no, i'll shove the cake in both of their faces during the first dance
MissJill7: and then i'll proceed to "get things started" with the elaine dance
kidicarus222: when they have the first dance, start dancing by yourself and slide into the camera shot
kidicarus222: and make everybody uncomfortable
MissJill7: well i'm going to need to start practicing

What Did I See? / Can I Believe?

Almost forgot. Saw this yesterday and liked it very much, lame as that sounds.



Where the hell were you on my special day, MySpace? Flickr? Fucking Gmail?

[ what i saw that night was real and not just fantasy ]

I Lived Alone / My Mind Was Blank

So I meant to be productive this morning, but Old Roommate Daniel and his New Spouse Maggi dropped by with their puppy in tow. She’s five pounds of adorable if I ever saw it. (The puppy.) Pictures were taken. That being done, I decided it was time to get my backlog of photos up on my Flickr account.

The dog parade was exactly what you'd expect a bunch of dogs in costumes to be like: bliss. Pure fucking bliss. I took lots of pictures, but none that I like all that much. It's hard to capture the movement of a big parade into a little camera, you know. You can see all the dog show pics here. And as a special shout-out to a reader: Bri, if you're reading this then I strongly suggest you look at this photo.

The sole standout from the dog parade pictures, I think, is this one:



And here's the best of the rest of the weekend. I can't explain exactly why this one appeals to me so much, but it does.



The best of possible weather on State Street. When it works out, it can't be beat. And then of course you have Spencer and Betsy walking a good twenty paces in front of me.



And finally, the aforementioned puppy, Penny. Don't get lost in her eyes, which at this stage of development are a good eight times bigger than any other organ in her body. In the first picture, she's chewing on the brown stuffed bunny I found and rescued from the trash. (I cleaned it.)



And then in this picture, she's licking the bunny's bottom. Yeah, she's that kind of girl, that Penny.



Be sure to see the rest of the new photos at my Flickr account.

[ I needed time to think to get the memories from my mind. ]

Cindy Electronium

All of my photos from Vegas were taken in the hotel room. And there weren't all that many of those. However, I'm really taken with these three of Aly.







I call them "Neon Aly," "Astral Aly" and "Gold Aly," respectively.

Monday, June 05, 2006

You Make Me Want to Hara-Kiri

So as I write this, Ashlee Simpson's voice is bouncing around the hills of Santa Barbara. I can hear it from my bedroom. To me, this is too funny: a bunch of people who spent a lot of money for prime Santa Barbara real estate but who live unfortunately close to the Santa Barbara Bowl and thusly cannot escape the range of this stupid girl, who can’t sing and has the stage presence of a bucket of pig meat.

I can just imagine some retired Santa Barbara businessman leaning out his window in an effort to hear better. He shakes his head after a few verses. “That girl must be having a bad night.” No, Mr. J. Alfred Pennypacker. No. Everything you’re hearing is pre-recorded. And she was probably having a good day when she pre-recorded.

Thanks, Ashlee, for getting the greater chunk of this side of State Street to close their windows and, just maybe, in an effort to drown out your warbles, converse and consequently reconnect with their loved ones.

Scary, Even for Muppets

One of the joys of having around someone who wasn’t raised with American popular culture is that they are frequently baffled by it. For example, a lot of animated TV shows today — “Family Guy” and “South Park” foremost among them — reference the popular culture of the past thirty years at the rate of approximately one per every six frames of animation. Go ahead. Check yourself.

That being said, Spencer and I were watching an episode of “Drawn Together” a while back. (And don’t knock it — it’s funnier than you think and now available for download on iTunes at the reasonable price of $1.99 per episode.) Anyhow, they episode involved the housemates starting a suicide hotline. When the phone rings for the first time, the shot goes to a close-up of the phone surrounded by the housemates’ faces, each contorted into wide-mouth versions of their normal selves. The housemates jabber nonsensically and imitate the sound of the ringing phone.

Here’s a screengrab in case my description doesn’t do the scene justice:


(Why they’re all wearing lingerie is another story entirely. Ask later.)

Spencer was baffled, but to anybody weaned on PBS as a child, this is an obvious parody of the Yip-Yips, those weird, floppy alien characters from “Sesame Street.” If you’ll remember, each skit featuring the Yip-Yips concerned them sniffing around some common household object — a telephone, a grandfather clock, whatever — and being initially frightened by it. They speak very little, occasionally saying the name of the thing they’re encountering, and filling the rest of their dialogue with “yip-yip-yip-yip-yip-yip-yip-yip.” (Hence the name.) I almost didn’t remember the Yip-Yips, actually. My memory was jogged shortly, of course, but I had almost forgotten these odd characters.

We went, of course, to the Wikipedia to investigate. Sure enough, the site offers a healthy profile on these pop culture footnotes, including a full list of the various objects the Yip-Yips have encountered. (I could have sworn there was one where they meet a dog, but I guess I could be wrong about that.)

Most helpfully, the Wikipedia page offers an image of the Yip-Yips, in all their glorious weirdness. Funny that I almost forgot these alien characters existed, because seeing their misshapen mouths and raggy bodies, I realize that I used to be terrified of these things and would run out of the room whenever I saw them while watching one of the various Beta taps that my mom had recorded “Sesame Street” on for me. (Of course, the episodes with the Yip-Yips were the ones that got recorded.) They’re truly frightening creatures, even for Muppets. Whoever thought they’d be appropriate aides in the education of young children was certainly a sick, sick person


The Wikipedia page also reminded me that the aliens had a tendency to cover their eyes with their bottom lips when frightened. And that, even when done by a horrifying monster, is a little cute, I have to admit.

My Name Is Zoom and I Live on the Moon

It’s a holdover state of mind from my childhood, but today it retains a small bit of the truth that it did on June 5, 1987. The saddest sentence I can say is “It isn’t my birthday anymore.”

Now hold that thought.

In case you haven’t been keeping up, I went to Las Vegas last week with Spencer and some other newly-minted 21-year-olds. Short-term win: I scored a $138 jackpot on a single spin on a penny slot. Long-term loss: I’m as sick as a sick fuck on St. Sick’s day. God surely is punishing me for heading to Las Vegas again — the third time in three years — and I think Sin City and I need to look a permanent separation.

But that was last weekend. Fill in the following weekdays with a combination of finishing my bookstore job, more or less, starting my new one and fighting the mucous menace that is currently residing inside my throat. You’ll get a rough approximation of what the recent past has been like. Thus, no posts. Thus, no Vegas pictures up yet. Thus, a lack of Drew in general.

This poses an especially awkward problem for The Back of the Cereal Box. You see, Now I feel like I’m backlogged on updates and that I have to give some grand reason for the delay — like some especially magnificent feat of bloggery or something — in order to once again initiate the regular flow of lesser posts that generally populate this site.

It’s not going to happen.

For whatever reason, I can’t muster much will to write, though I will sure try. In lieu of any magnificent feat of bloggery, I will merely recap my birthday weekend.

On Friday night, the stuff that’s been coming out of my head started doing so in shades of green or orange, depending on its mood. We stayed in in order to wake up on time for the dog parade, which I’ve managed to miss every year I’ve lived in Santa Barbara, regardless of my undying love for dogs. We did, in fact, make it to the parade. I have pictures. They will be up by the end of the week, I swear. We filled the rest of the afternoon up with two gifts — a new Mario Party game and a chin-up bar, because that, in a sense, is who I am — then we added alcohol and continued playing with Mario Party and the chin-up bar. Some bruising occurred. I went out that night with a group of people that I just recently realized make up my present group of friends. We managed to evade hangovers Sunday morning and made it up to Seven Falls. Neither Spencer nor Holly had ever been there before. We were attacked by a swarm of ladybugs. Hundreds. Literally hundreds. They even bit me, the little bastards. Holly took pictures. With her phone. Then she cracked her phone.

Now I’m home, trying to pick away at the heaping pile of work I have in my imaginary inbox and failing. I’m still sick, but all the better for successfully putting another birthday behind me. Fun, stress, drunkenness. All that.

Here’s to more productive blogging in my twenty-fourth year. And here’s to another year of inhaling, exhaling, blinking, circulating, jaw-clicking and constant fingernail growth, with all of it ultimately leading to another fast-paced, minorly stressful but overall successful birthday on June 4, 2007.

Oh, and a big thank-you to everybody who wished me a happy birthday.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Cat Girl (With Dog)

From the Big Dog Parade:

confused girl with dog

A dramatic interpretation:

"No, Madison. It's a dog show. Dog show. You can't dress up as a cat. Because i say so, that's why. Well then fine! Wear your dumb cat costume. Act like a cat for all i care. You'll just look stupid and everybody will ask 'What is wrong with that dumb little girl in the cat costume?' Is that what you want, Madison? Do you want to embarrass Mommy?"

More Dog Parade photos to come.