Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Cake Mix

The best of February 2007, according to the Back of the Cereal Box.

Tricia on the News

I'm currently watching the last "Lost" of sweeps. This episode, a Hurley-centric affair, is titled "Tricia Tanaka Is Dead." In the first flashback of the opening credits, we see Hurley (Jorge Garcia) shortly after he won the lottery. He's standing outside a chicken restaurant where he used to work, only he's now standing there as the owner. He's also being interviewed by an Asian woman who is quickly becoming frustrated at the fact that Hurley's life as a multimillionaire has been less than peachy. Then, in true Hurley bad mojo fashion, a meteor crashes into the restaurant. Kaboom. Hence the title, I'm guessing.

The character strikes me because she's the third female on-the-scene news reporter I can think of named "Tricia" or some variant thereof who has appeared on a popular television show. First off: Trisha Thoon (Stacey Grenrock-Woods) of "Arrested Development," whom I mentioned in a post just a few days ago. Second: Tricia Takanawa, better known as "Asian reporter Tricia Takanawa," from "Family Guy." Now this Tricia, whom I will refer to as "Short-Lived Tricia."

And, in all this Hurley wonderful, not a sign of Cynthia Watros, as Libby or any other ghost from the past.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

You Are a Dog

From Dina:

Monday, February 26, 2007

The Urban Milkwoman Project

I’d loved the British sketch comedy series “Smack the Pony” since Spencer introduced me to it. The show revolves around various unrelated sketches staring four actresses

In short, “Smack the Pony” is the best thing ever. You should like it, if only to jump on a trend that hasn’t really taken hold in the U.S. yet, at least as far as I'm aware of. This British show consists of unrelated sketches featuring some combination of four actresses: Fiona Allen, Doon Mackichan, Sally Phillips and, later, Sarah Alexander. One often re-visited idea on “Smack the Pony,” however, is phony dating videos. They work a little like the “Lowered Expectations” skits on “Mad TV,” only way funnier.

Here’s an example, featuring Fiona, Doon, then Sally, in that order.


A while back, I had the idea to take the more plausible and verbally funny sketches and turn them into Craigslist ads in cities I don’t live in. Today, that dream came true, and now my little plan is unleashed upon the lonely men of New York’s West Village.

The sketch, of which I could not find a script or video online, features Doon — whom I think I like best, on account of her resemblance to Laura Elena Harring.

The text of her speech — and the Craigslist ad I posted tonight — reads as follows.
I’m Kate. I’m 29 years old. The most obvious thing about me is that I always face north. It’s not a religious thing. Not a medical thing. It’s just a geographical habit. But that’s not all. I also like the cinema, especially at theatres where the screen faces almost directly due south. I also like plays. I’ve seen certain aspects of several good plays recently. I’m quite romantic. I’d like to meet a man who can hold my hand, especially when I’m crossing the road. And I’m not really a party animal. Meeting people is sort of hit-and-miss, really. I just want to meet a nice friendly man who faces south — or doesn’t mind facing south — especially for talking and kissing purposes, etc. And it would be great if he has his own car, at least until I get my license back. Maybe someone who can tell me what a sunset looks like.
In addition, roommate Aly ("Kate") was kind enough to lend her likeness, facing away from the camera.


And here’s the link for the ad itself. Keep with me for the results

Pontiff No Return

Live news reporting from Nate, our Back of the Cereal Box man-on-the-street.


From his cell phone to your face. To his credit, that's pretty good clarity for a cell phone taking photos of newsprint.

Neither "Fourth" Nor "Town"

Odd.

No sooner than the day I read Stevi's excellent explanation of the brand names of the various Gap affiliates — The Gap itself, Old Navy and Banana Republic among them — I find out that the newest offshoot, Forth & Towne, is closing — at its new Santa Barbara location and nationwide. Very strange. Apparently there's no market in America for fashionable mom-wear.

American moms, please revert to light jeans that pooch up in front.

If there's any upside in this, it's that something I have at least some interest in might move into Paseo Nuevo in its place. That, plus the idea that I'll never again have to write "Forth & Towne," which I think looks doubly misspelled.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

A Boy and His Wii

Because I’ve owned a NES, a Game Boy, a Super NES, a different kind of Game Boy, a Nintendo 64, a Game Boy Advance, a Gamecube and a Nintendo DS, it like the idea of me getting a Wii was more a matter of when than if. That knock-off I picked up, the Fintendo Pii, did not prove an adequate substitute. Upon close inspection, all that abomination did was produce a small yellow puddle that quickly soaked through its cardboard frame. Thus, I sent away for the real deal. Saturday morning, it arrived.

wii 1

It made me happy.

wii 2

I immediately felt close to it.

wii 3

I read its name over and over, as if it were something that actually sounded like a good thing.

wii on my face

Look! Wii all over my face!

wii in my mouth

Wii in my mouth.

It should be clear from these photos that “Wii and Me” bonded instantly. As I type this, I’m all sore from going too many rounds with Wii Sports boxing as my new alterego, Driiw.

driiw

I can’t believe I took the time to write this, when I could have been playing simulated tennis.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Punch Fight

Today I was sent the following video. It made me feel fuzzy. And sleepy. And, being that I had a full day of work ahead of me, slightly jealous.


As an antidote, I felt I could have watched a complementary video on the same subject as the first.


It's good to promote two opposing views on a subject. That's balanced journalisms.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Fucking the Subjunctive

A few days back, George wrote on I’m Not One to Blog, But… about the origins of the phrase God bless you. Though the accuracy of his history seems to range between “fudged” and “delightfully embellished,” as near as I can tell, the post reminded me of an extensive conversation I once had with Vicky, a now long-time-ago Nexus copy cat, about whether English could entirely drop the subjunctive mood from English.

Though I wasn’t offended by her idea, I responded with two words: “Fuck you.”

She laughed.

For those for whom grammar falls into that gray category of shoulda-kinda-learned (a mental place that often houses the multiplication tables beyond twelve, central African geography and the reason we celebrate Cinco de Mayo), the subjunctive mood is a form that verbs take in English, similar to how verbs have tenses and voices and all that, only it is nearly invisible and undetectable in most speech and writing. Americans typically only learn about it when they start taking foreign language classes because the mood factors into Spanish or French a lot more.

Generally, verbs take the subjunctive in following situations:
  • When wishing (I wish I were taller rather than the indicative I wish I was taller)
  • When stating a condition contrary to fact (If I were taller, then I could see down her shirt.)
  • When someone is commanding, suggesting or recommending (I demand that the leering, tall man leave, rather than I demand that the leering, tall man leaves, as it would be spoken in a more typical sentence.)
Stuff like that. There are others, but I don’t want a grammar lesson to foil my attempt at being interesting. That last form I gave for which I gave an example is the most important here, so don’t forget it. Raise your eyes slightly and re-read it if you feel you have to.

You may have noticed that a quality many forms of the subjunctive have is that they sound like normal sentences with the wrong choice of verb implemented in them. Since the pronoun I is a singular, nominative pronoun, it might seem more correct to use was with it, since the two usually go together. (I was tired. I was running. I was technically a woman until the softball accident.) In fact, saying If I was taller actually doesn’t sound all that incorrect. Anybody listening would understand your meaning so well that it seems one could, in fact, do away with the subjunctive altogether and make everyone’s life more grammatically correct and therefore easier.

This is what Vicky said. And to an extent, I agreed with her.

This silly mood has been rendered a peculiarity in English so much so that it’s all but banished to the back of grammar textbooks, where teachers can’t get to it in the allotted duration of a school year. However, even if people are less and less conscious of how and why it works, they will still use it. For whatever reason, I argued to Vicky, so many of English’s little verbal groups put their verbs in the subjunctive. My old writing teacher called them “set phrases.” I call them “word buddies” or “gangs of words.” They’re little chunks of language that, for whatever reason, persist over time in a certain sequence. Wikipedia offers the following as examples:
  • if need be
  • so be it
  • be that as it may
  • far be it from me
  • truth be told
All of these are phrases any English speaker should be familiar with because they’re spoken so often that they’re ingrained into our brains. As we speak, these centuries-old synapses fire from our brains into our tongues and then out comes these word buddies — staid but in perfectly grammatical subjunctive mood. I’d imagine most people never stop and think about how awkward these phrases sound if the listener doesn’t understand the subjunctive mood. Seriously? “If need be”? Why not “If need is”? Why would that verb even be in that sentence without a good reason?

The best examples of word buddies, however, has to be the jussive subjunctive — the form of it used when the speaker is invoking a supernatural power. God bless you, for example. You’re not saying “Hey, God! Go bless that guy!” or “God, bless him.” You’re saying “May God bless you,” only the “may” gets dropped. (Apparently people are too busy ordering around God’s benevolence to be polite. Nice one, Christians.) Or, you know, there’s also “fuck you.”

What’s that? Oh. Fuck you. You. Fuck you.

Rude, yes. But grammatically correct and understandable when you consider that that all-too-common phrase is spoken in the subjunctive.

Think about it. You’ve doubtlessly said it before. You may hear it on an almost daily basis, depending on what kind of asshole you are. But when you look at the phrase fuck you grammatically, it’s not immediately clear what sentiment the phrase is trying to express — you know, aside from hatred. I doubt the desired meaning is Fuck yourself, as that insult exists in its own right. Why would the self get dropped? It seems too important to be chopped off the end. And I don’t think you’re saying “I’m going to fuck you,” because that’s not necessarily insulting, depending on how and to whom it is spoken. Despite its ambiguity, however, fuck you always manages to convey the right emotion. Noting that fuck you and bless you are structured similarly and used in practically identical grammatical contexts — if opposite social contexts — it seems reasonable to conclude that the blasphemous one is another example of the jussive subjunctive mood.

“No! God doesn’t fuck people!” you may say.

That’s true. With the exception of Mary, God stays out of mortal business. Knowing, however, that the rest of those musty word buddies — bethatasitmay, and all those other set phrases that might as well be one word, given how we use them — originate from an older period of English in which the subjunctive was commonplace, think about the superstitions people back then had. About fucking. And supernatural entities.

That’s right. The Devil fucks you.

It seems plausible to me that far from being a command or a request, fuck you is actually a invocation of the Devil or his underlings to fly into you bedroom and ravage your privates in your sleep. Literally, fuck you could be May the Devil savage you in your sleep. And that, I have to admit, is probably the worst curse I could ever think to hurl at somebody.

Thus, grammar once again saves the day, by proving that an often-used insult is an entirely proper construction with a rich social history, that a rarely used and little understood aspect of English is alive and well on the lips of drivers throughout southern California, and that you’ve probably invoked engorged demons into the lives of your enemies.

Fuck you. Bless you. It’s all the same. Thank grammar!

And sleep with you knees together tonight.

Open Casket Caricature

Something I was happy to learn today: The space between my eyebrows is exactly the same width of a Gillette Mach 3 razor. Guess how I learned that?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Honorific Title of "Mister"

As of 10:09 p.m. tonight, the Back of the Cereal Box will be officially four years old. It's a presidential term. It's high school. It's college for the nose-to-the-grindstoney. And it boggles me that I could have nurtured this silly little URL from the early "Trendburger" days into something that I'm actually proud of and something that I've been able to actually trick other people into reading.

During past milestones, I've attempted to encapsulate the celebrated time period with something witty or at least a quick summary of events. Now that the drop-down archive directory and the tagging feature have made reading old content easier than ever, though, I don't feel the need. Anything I have to say is as accessible now as it was the day I first wrote it: a click or two and you're there. In lieu of profundity, I've decided to offer my perspective on what I think the ten best posts I've written are.

In no particular order:
  • "Creature From the San Andreas Fault," which showcases one of my favorite memories from all of college and also one of the most creative things I've ever taken part in.
  • "Remembering Sanam," because it still makes me laugh.
  • "The Untold Coolness of Shirley the Loon," if only for the fact that I managed to write more on the smallest bits of pop culture minutiae than even the Wikipedia entry on the subject.
  • "Godspeed, Captain Pinchy!" which represents probably my best effort at turning something that happened to me into some kind of coherent narrative. It may not be the sterling example of creative nonfiction that I thought it was when I first wrote it, but hey — anything that features Glenn, Cory and Marcy as protagonists has to have some value.
  • "Hiding in the Shadows of 'A Prairie Home Companion,'" which represents the only time I've managed to say everything I wanted to about a movie.
  • "Cold-Blooded Old Times," or my attempt at an autobiography divided by an attempt to explain the merchandising behind Round Table Pizza.
  • "To Quote Wally Exactly," my attempt at explaining myself in something other than words.
  • "Opera and Truck Pulls," which goes further to describe my hometown than anything else I could ever say.
  • "Nudge," the best audience participation post I've had so far.
  • And finally, "My One Complain Against Santa Barbara," which I wrote at work as an antidote for writer's block and I feel it deserves adoration.
Thanks all for readers. In my opinion, 1,650 posts in 1,462 days isn't bad. Let's hear it for four more years.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Line of Lines

Amazing. Simply amazing. I'm apparently not allowed to embed the video, so for the love of God just click the link.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Pajamas

Aly brings my attention to the fact that we and any other willing Santa Barbarans could soon be living in a full-on Hobbit house. Also apparently known as "The Whale" — or so the Craigslist posting says — the Mission Canyon-area house boasts a lap pool and "elevator service," the last of which we're hoping means a tiny man who pressed the up and down buttons for you and not just regularly scheduled elevator maintenance.





It's an affordable $5,000 a month. How fast can round up a dozen of us to split it?

Spiders Hate Lasagna Mondays

"Garfield" isn't the most innovative comic strip. This is not news. But the Garfield Randomizer helps prove that assessment true. Evidence:

garfield_dada

[ source: Zack Klein ]

Vlem

How people have been finding my blog lately.

Bisexual Chocolate

Spencer sent me a link to this blog, This Place Is Dead Anyway, in which the author discusses the inherent gendering of Almond Joy and Mounds. Essentially, one had a nut while the other is called Mounds. Mounds, for God's sake. Spencer says it sounds like something I would write. I think he may be right.

Muffin in the Rain

Pretty much everybody agrees that the rendition of Lois Lane on the cover of this Superman comic looks remarkably like Kristen.


Compare for yourself with Kristen celebrating New Years. (Happy 2004!)


Or Kristen frightened and in a tree.

damsel in a tree

Or Kristen feeding wallabies.

feeding the wallabies 2

If you can't conclude that the new Lois Lane looks like Kristen, then can we at least agree that I have access to a lot of unusual pictures of Kristen?

Naming Conventions in "Arrested Development"

Having completed the third DVD set of “Arrested Development” a few weeks back, I’m pleased to say that I’m still picking up little throw-away jokes. For example, in the second-to-last episode, “Exit Strategy,” Gary Cole plays a CIA agent-posing-as-a-taxi cab driver named Richard Shaw. His name is a callback to the joke in the same episode about Buster wanting to hire “the only rickshaw in Iraq.” Cute, no?

I remember reading a review of that movie “The Baxter” that noted that Peter Dinklage’s character therein was named “Benson Hedges.” The review cited the name — which references Benson & Hedges, a brand of cigarettes that I suspect most Americans aren’t too familiar with — had been created in an “Arrested Development”-like style. Ever since then, I’ve wondered exactly what criteria constitute an “Arrested Development”-like name. The names of the minor characters — and some of the central ones — are unusual in a way that leads me to think there’s an ulterior motive for that specific arrangement of words, much in the way most of the conspicuous groups words are a pun or at least a reference to something else from the show. Some are explained outright — like Hel-Loh “Annyong” Bluth — or at least commented on — like George Michael sharing his name with the singer. But most are left hanging, all tempting and sexy for the bored English major.

I can get nothing from “Michael Bluth,” but GOB’s name seems to be poking fun at our current president. Television Without Pity forums on “Arrested” feature a theory that George W. Bush’s brother, Jeb Bush, is actually named “John Ellis Bush,” his nickname being derived from the first three letters of his name just as “George Oscar Bluth” adds up to “GOB.” (Though the show refers to the character as “GOB” with almost perfect consistency, the pilot does indeed specify that his full name is George Oscar Bluth. The same episode also spells out Buster’s full name as Byron Bluth, only to never mention it again. Weird.) Like the Bushes, the Bluth family has a patriarch named “George” and an eldest son named also named “George.” It’s a bit odd, I guess, that this possible parody of the Bushes would conflate George W. Bush and Jeb Bush into the same character, but the similarities are striking nonetheless. Given that the show ultimately details the Bluth family’s heavy involvement with Saddam Hussein, I think the GOB-Jeb parallel is plausible.

The writers didn’t hide any inherent puns in Maeby or Lucille’s names, but they did eventually spin storylines around both. Specifically, a major plot point for all three seasons is the confusion about whether Maeby is biologically related to the rest of the Bluths. In short, it’s a big maybe. And season two gives a throwaway joke to Lucille’s name with the warning to Buster that the part of the ocean he’s chosen to escape from his mother into is inhabited by a “loose seal.”

Here’s as much as I put together for the minor characters whose names I think mean something.

Oddly like how the show pokes fun at Tobias’s apparently gay tendencies, so it does with Barry Zuckerkorn (Henry Winkler), who plays the Bluth family lawyer for most of the series run. Taken literally, Barry’s last name could mean “horn sucker,” as “korn” and “corn” mean “horn” in most contexts. So essentially, his name could be Barry Dicksucker… Barry’s replacement in the final season, Bob Loblaw (Scott Baio), has the name that’s most obviously explained. The show squeezes a lot out of its resemblance to “blah blah blah,” the best being the mention of Bob Loblaw’s Law Blog. I can’t figure out why the writers named his daughter, Hope Loblaw, though… Another lawyer character, Maggie Lizer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), makes a joke about her own name. “Maggie lies her ass off,” she says of her reputation as a notorious liar before she proceeds to prove the remark true by continually lying through out all three episodes she appears in… The Spanish soap opera actress, Marta Estrella, appears in three different story arcs, and played by a different actress in each one. It seems too obvious that her name is Spanish for “star” and she is a Spanish star. However, her name also makes me think of Starla (Mo Collins). GOB dates with both Marta and Starla, only to have one of his brothers end up forming a more serious relationship with either woman afterwards. But that’s as far as I can take it… Amy Poehler’s character — whose name is never spoken and who is referred to in the credits only as “Wife of GOB” — could be a play on the wife of the Biblical Job. The episode that introduces Wife of GOB makes a point of describing her as someone who goads GOB in more and more daring stunts. In the Bible, Job’s wife — who also lacks a name — pushes Job to renounce God as when He repeatedly screws poor Job over. That’s about all she does really… Unlike most characters’ surnames, Stan and Sally Sitwell’s (Ed Begley Jr. and Christine Taylor) actually registers on Google as one that real people have. That may be the end of it, even though the writers eventually found a way to pun it with “Standpoor,” a mysterious corporation that begins purchasing shares of the Bluth Corporation at one point in the series. The Bluths deduce that Stan must be trying to commandeer the company only to later realize that “Standpoor” is the business set up by Lucille Austero (Liza Minelli), who suffers from vertigo… “Austero” itself just seems to be a cognate for “austere,” which wouldn’t seem to have any meaning for Lucille Austero, who lives about as extravagantly as Lucille No. 1… Larry Mittleman ("Super Dave" Osbourne), acts as the surrogate for George Sr. while he's under house arrest, seems like a no-duh pun on "middleman." Johnny Bark (Clint Howard), the environmental activist who tries to prevent the Bluths from cutting down a certain tree, seems like a pretty obvious one… Agents Cummings and Freeling, two FBI types investigating the Bluths wouldn’t have to seem much in common except for the structure of their names, but the fact that the actors playing them (Michael Blieden and Matt Price) were also the male leads in “Melvin Goes to Dinner” makes me think the characters were written to be connected, maybe in a more direct way than I can figure out… Lindsay has a brief infatuation with Moses Taylor (Rob Corddry), a firearms enthusiast and actor known for playing a detective named “Frank Wrench,” the name of whom would seem to be a play on Dick Spanner, the name of a robot detective featured in a “Thunderbirds”-esque puppet show in Britain. The Brits, for the uninitiated, call wrenches “spanners.” I can’t figure out anything with “Moses Taylor, though.

This leaves the following as unexplained, as far as I know.
  • Ann Paul Veal (Mae Whitman), whose middle name seems to be especially trying to get at some kind of joke that’s so far completely lost on me.
  • Trisha Thoon (Stacey Grenrock-Woods), the oddly-named news reporter who shows up repeatedly in the first season.
  • Kitty Sanchez (Judy Greer), whose last name isn’t introduced until well after her introduction to the show. I can’t for the life of me figure out why they would have picked “Sanchez” as a last name for a character played by a white woman.
  • Phil Gunty (Bob Odenkirk), the relationship counselor that Tobias and Lindsay visit together.
  • Stefan Gentles (James Lipton), the prison warden, whose name just sounds so dirty.
  • Cindi Lightballoon (Jane Lynch), the FBI mole who accidentally falls in love with George Sr., probably confounds me more than any other character on the show. Granted, a lot of “Arrested Development” characters have names that sound like the writers just looked up, saw an object and assigned that noun as a surname. This one, to me, stands out.
  • Jan Eagleman (Carrie Preston), the third lawyer the Bluths hire. She seems like she suffers from the same syndrome that apparently affects Cindi Lightballoon, but since all the other lawyers are named for a reason, I’d guess this character is too.
  • James Alan Spangler (Sam Pancake), Barry’s gay secretary.
  • Gene Parmesan (Martin Mull), Lucille’s private eye.
  • And J. Walter Weatherman, Rita Leeds, Steve Holt, Earl Milford, Wayne Jarvis and Jessie Bowers, none of whose names sound particularly unusual but by virtue of being on “Arrested Development” could easily be hiding some little in-joke that I’m not aware of.
So what makes for an "Arrested Development"-style name? If you take two nouns and stick them together, that seems to get you in the ballpark. Like now — I looked up at saw my computer speaker and a water bottle. I'd be Drew Speakerbottle. Or just a funny-sounding word that may or may not be an actual last name — like "Gunty" or "Thoon." Or just a pun. So, I guess I don't know what the hell the guy who review "The Baxter" meant when he tried to characterize the names of characters on the show in any one kind of way.

Now, at least, the list is there and Google-ready. Maybe you all reading this — or other people with too much time on their hands searching for origins for names on "Arrested Development" — can figure these out.

EDIT: Roommate Aly points out that Moses Taylor is probably a reference to NRA bigwig Charleton Heston, who played Moses in "The Ten Commandments."

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Mean Ol' Future Blob

Tell me I’m not the only one who remembers these: the “Zack of All Trades” shorts. They’re the animated interstitials in which a black man who magically floated out of a radio encouraged young children to think about their careers. In one, he battles his apparent, The Future Blob, who represents the terrorizing prospect of nebulous career plans.


I’ve had the lyrics “It’s the Blob! It’s the Blob! / ‘I am the Future Blob!’” running through my head for weeks now, and it only occurred to me to check for the source on YouTube when I was nowhere near a computer. Finally, I had the means to look it up. What you’re watching above this little bit of text reached far back into my brain and pulled out memories that rightly should have been shuffled out long ago. These shorts, which I believe first ran as part of Schoolhouse Rock, were re-run with a lot of other retro shorts during ABC’s Saturday morning cartoon line-up in the late 90s, the only period in my life when by body was physically able to get up early on the weekend. Turns out Zack’s vocals were provided by the late Luther Vandross, of all people. This particular short apparently encouraged the young and aimless to look into careers in such high-paying jobs as “seamstress” and “pattern maker.” Exactly how many happy-go-lucky rolling-skaters ended up throwing their lives away in such a manner would require a lot of depressing research into unfortunate Generation Xers, I’d guess. But while “The Future Blob” was easily the most memorable entry in the “Zack of All Trades” series, YouTube offers a few others that I vaguely recall.

This one, “Jack and Jill,” which seems to rip off the basic chorus of “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover”


And this one would seem to speak solely to little white boys and little black girls, which would make sense as everybody knows that all people who aren’t white boys or black girls have no business watching Saturday morning cartoons.


Lesson learned, Zack. Little black girls can grow up to be chefs, engineers, journalists or astronomers. Little white boys, however, can get jobs like painter, “computer whiz,” carpenter or “show biz.” Again, I’d hate to think that anybody would align their career paths towards fictional jobs like “computer whiz” or “show biz” — or any other jobs they might have implemented for the sake of a rhyme. (Why force “computer whiz” and “show biz” into the song when “engineer” and “astronomer” are both real jobs and barely even rhyme?) Also, I have to admit that Zack gives a more promising future to Jenny, the little black girl, than Kenny, the little white boy.

Golden Hour on the Miracle Mile

For those strong enough to live in Los Angeles, I’d imagine the power fades from the names of the things there. “Sunset Boulevard,” for example. Associations with the movie aside, the very name of this street brings to such a perfect image to mind — a wide street, stretching into the great, red end of the day. I can’t quite reconcile my mental Sunset Boulevard with the real thing. I doubt that the folks who live anywhere near Sunset stop and think about that disconnect. All this is being said by a person who will never live in LA. Mike Doughty, everybody’s favorite neo beatnik, described this southern California mess once as “exits to freeways twisted like knots on the fingers,” and I’d have to agree that I can rarely see past it as anything more than this. For all the good this strange, sprawling thing to the south can offer me, I’m put off by the fear I’ll tumble down some large crack in the sidewalk.

I managed to keep balance this weekend, however, when I braved the strangeness of it all. As I mentioned earlier, my friends pulled some strings and got two of my photographs into a charity show at Bonhams & Butterfields. It’s with no small amount of awe that I consider that Drew From Hollister had something some might consider artwork shown in a space on Sunset Boulevard. Again, for all I know, Los Angelinos might think art in a charity show on Sunset might be as big an accomplishment as eating a sandwich without choking to death. But it meant something to me.

By the time I got to the show Friday night, one of the two photos had already sold. For reasons I will never understand, some attendee snatched up “Donkey Ears” twenty minutes in. I’m happy they did, of course, but I can’t help wonder what they might have seen in a photo I thought would only have significance to the person who took the picture. My best guest: Somebody bought a motel and needs to decorate it, pronto. From what I saw, “Orange and First Rain” didn’t get picked up, which I’m also find with, since the fact that it was still hanging on the wall allowed me to get a photo of me standing next to it.

getart07 024

Photo credit goes to Hillary, who also managed to get me into the show in a way I didn’t expect.

drew_sandwich_legs

Here’s a detail. If you’re confused, I’m standing on a giant PB&J, looking at the disembodied legs of some poor girl.

drew_sandwich_legs2

In all, I’m glad I went — and not just because I saw my name on a sticker. LA becomes a lot more manageable when the right people are there to guide me around and tell me what not to lick. I still don’t think I’ll be heading south again in the immediate future, though. The more I think about it, I feel like I’m better off staying an outsider who occasionally works up the courage to venture down and then be satisfied with himself when he does it without dying. Sunset Boulevard may be littered with trash — human and otherwise — but I’d rather be painfully aware of the difference between the idea of it and the reality of it than just getting used to the way it is. Spencer reminded me that LA isn’t inherently bad, exactly, just a lot more difficult when compared to a “little jewel box of a town” like Santa Barbara. LA is more like a trash heap. Like most trash heaps, there’s some good shit buried inside, but you just have to dig for it. To a small extent, I did that this weekend. I saw LACMA for the first time, for example, and whiled away a good twenty minutes lost among a netsuke exhibit that was entirely more interesting that any explanation I could give could make it seem.

I dug. I’ll dig again later. For the moment, maybe I’ll stay in Santa Barbara and maybe watch “Sunset Boulevard” again.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Where the Sidewalk Ends

I’d like to think that I’m as fierce a defender of the right to free speech as anyone could find, yet I’ve never really protested anything in the loud, public way the activist-minded often do. I’ve believe that, as a journalist, I can do more good as an individual by writing about the protest than I ever could by joining the mob and submitting to groupthink. Truthfully, I probably harbor some slight disdain for protests, what with the chanting and claptrap. Especially with protests promoting liberal causes, I find myself turned off by the atmosphere and secretly wanting to tell people to stop trying to net every aspect of liberal politics — peace on earth, civil rights, closing the gap between the rich and poor, protection for immigrants, a woman’s right to choose, gay marriage, banning big business, banning oil, saving the trees, saving the whales and so forth — into one drawn out, garbled yell. And for God’s sake, leave your fucking bongo drums at home. Yet, when the time comes, I can silence these feelings and just report on the event as it happens, like it should.

Today I drove to UCSB to cover an anti-war protest. I imagined this event would be a slam-dunk — go, snag some quotes from the speakers, get a few color quotes from bystanders, head to the office to type it up. Instead, I found myself trailing behind a legitimately large group of students — downright massive by the standards of UCSB political activism — as they marched through campus, over the new roundabout at the east entrance and down Highway 217. And I mean directly down. The middle. The sides. In front of cars. They effectively shut down traffic in that sector of campus, at least while they remained there. I stood at the brink of mob, where they stopped near the exit of Sandspit Road at Goleta Beach, where they were met by a cluster of CHP dudes sporting riot gear. I watched them stand their ground and then I followed them back to campus, where they harangued the official-types in Cheadle Hall.

I don’t want to blow my objectivity here, and I honestly feel like I can suppress the impulse to opine one way or they other, but lying in bed now and looking back on what happened today, I can honestly say what happened — for good and for bad — left an impression on me. It wasn’t like other protests I’d seen before. Watching those kids walk and yell together reminded me that, no matter what the message, a group of people can find strength in unity. It was something. Something something. It was news and that’s why I was there, but somehow the events of today add up to a whole that I didn’t expect.

Having known myself for about twenty-four years now, I feel I can safely proclaim that I’m not going to be marching in protests any time soon. Nonetheless, I’m thinking what I did today more than I usually do on other days. And I’d imagine I’m not the only one.

protests 076

protests 082

protests 094

protests 093

protests 097

protests 110

protests 100

protests 090

For the interested, check out the rest of my Flickr set on today's protest, as well as the article I wrote for Independent.com.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Be My Melon Rind?

Again, I find myself struggling to stay afloat in a sea of pink candy hearts and other terrors. And, again, I refer back to my Valentine's Day post from 2005 to perfectly encapsulate my feelings on the holiday.
Dear Valentine,

On this special day, I wish you love and romance and sweet giggles and gushes of twinkle-fairy kisses from heaven. I'd like nothing more in the whole, wonderful world than to take you to a dewy meadow blooming with love blossoms and feed you bonbons that I made myself with love and beauty and corn starch and love. I'd stuff you so full you'd be plump with candy heart goodness, then you'd vomitgasm into my mouth and all over my face with rainbows — except instead of normal rainbows, they'd be just red and pink and purple, because those are the only true colors of love.

Then I'd pull your heart from your chest with tongs of love and squish it against mine, with a schloppy-squooshy noise that can only be the true noise of true love.

Truly.

Engorged,
Drew

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Teenaged Detective, Weeping Ghost

Short because I'm exhausted. Today, two worlds of pop culture collided in a way I never expected. Specifically, "Veronica Mars" featured Mario Kart. And that nearly turned a bad day good.

A Picture of Me Imitating a Walrus

I could have gotten lip splinters.

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Punctuation Round-Up, Part Three

In retrospect, this little series should probably be called “The Punctuation Etymology Round-Up,” but there’s something to be said for tradition.

[ Ask a Simple Question ]

I’m completely boggled by the idea of writing in English without the punctuation marks that we’re accustomed to using. The question mark, for example, is one of those squiggles that makes written language understandable. It’s funny how we don’t think twice how a little loopy fragment has come to be so widely understood as the written form of a raise in intonation at the end of a sentence, but the question mark is one of the few bits of punctuation that can convey meaning independently of words. Think about it: A cartoon character who has a question mark suddenly appear over his head is immediately understood to be confused, or at least inquisitive.

A little research shows that it’s not such a foreign concept. By far, the most commonly believed origin for the question mark is the Latin word quaesto, meaning “question.” Various sources cite that the word — sometimes abbreviated “Qo,” sometimes with the “Q” being placed above the “o” — was used as a suffix after interrogative questions. The Q-o stack was eventually stylized — or slurred, if you will — into what we call the question mark.


If you compare the two images, you can kind of see it, especially if you picture the tail of the “Q” being bent down into the bottom leg of the question mark’s top half. Well, that plus the bottom-left quarter of the “Q” vanishing. I like this theory of the question mark simply meaning “question,” since it would seem to make sense, providing the assertion is true. But thought most people think this is probably how this particular punctuation came about, a lot of people also say that no one knows for sure. This is especially odd, since the question mark is fairly new, as far as punctuation marks go.

Various other theories include that the question mark arose from a tilted, tilde-like squiggle coming out from a dot that Eats, Shoots & Leaves author Lynne Truss credits to Alcuin of York. Another recent book, Why Cats Paint, alleges that the mark was originated by Egyptians, who modeled it after a sitting cat, viewed from the back. In this theory, the dot is the cat’s anus. I have to assume that this theory is bunkum since Why Cats Paint is essentially a humor book, but the Wikipedia article on the question marks notes it nonetheless. (I’d guess that this inclusion speaks less to the cat’s anus theory and more to the fact that the Wikipedia is often written by idiots.)
[ An Excited, Erect Point ]
The theories about where the question mark came from may abound, but people seem far more certain about the exclamation point. The only theory I could find online about where we got the stick-with-the-ball-underneath or “yelling mark” posits that it came from the Latin io, meaning “joy.” I’m not sure if it was tacked onto the end of sentences the same way quaesto was, though frankly the idea of people shouting “joy” for no reason after sentences is pretty funny. (“Marcus, there’s an angry gladiator behind you. Joy.”) A slightly different explanation for the symbol has it coming from the “I” in io being placed above a full stop, though I’m not sure the Romans even used full stops.


All I really found of interest about the exclamation mark aside from its origin is the sheer number of alternate names for the symbol, depending on whether it’s being used grammatically, mathematically, in typesetting jargon or in some form of computer science. Wikipedia lists “screamer,” “bang,” “gasper,” “startler” and “dog’s cock,” the last being a fitting, if improbable, complement to the “cat’s anus” explanation for the question mark.
[ The Chandler Mark ]
The exclamation mark has a slight edge over the question mark in terms of versatility. The Wikipedia article notes that British writing sometimes employs an exclamation point inside parentheses to imply sarcasm. I’d represent this with an example enclosed in parentheses here, but it’s next to impossible to properly do that, since it would make it look like I was showing an exclamation point inside two pair of parentheses. I suppose I could set it off by itself, though.


Like that. There, I think that worked.

During a previous Etymology Round-Up, Bri pointed out that the French sometimes use the similar irony mark, or point d’ironie.


It’s just what it sounds like, and as a result I can see why it’s never caught on. Irony, when written well, doesn’t need to be specified as irony. The example the Wikipedia gives is “If love is blind, why is lingerie so popular?” (Just mentally flip the end punctuation in that quote around for the full effect.)

While this punctuation bit has never been formally adopted by typesetters, it looks exactly like a backwards question mark used in Arabic. The blog Ultrasparky notes that it might be really bad form, however, to employ Arabic punctuation to signify the occasion in which someone is expressing the opposite of what they mean, though he admits that such a punctuation could help those on message boards and chat rooms understand when people are speaking facetiously.
[ Short and Simple ]
The proper name for the paragraph mark — that backwards "P" or retarded pi sign, depending on how you look at it — is the pilcrow.

That's all I can give on the subject today. For those that made it this far, feel free to look at the original Etymology Round-Up — in which I talk about the long-lost letter thorn, the ampersand and the interrobang — or the second one — in which I talk at great length about the weird history of the dollar sign.

What a Guy / Makes You Cry / And I Did

Friday’s effort on the Indy’s SB Media Blog got me a shout-out on BlogaBarbara, which features Santa Barbara news and commentary. More specifically, more recently, BlogaBarbara has featured a lot of posts on “the mess at the News-Press” as well. BlogaBarbara has been a minor obsession of mine — not only for its good content but also because its author writes under a pen name, “Sara de la Guerra.” No one I’ve talked to has ever said with certainty who Sara is, though a few people have made some educated guesses. I almost thought I had figured out this mystery blogger’s identity when the text of the post referring to me shared a few verbal similarities with a comment that appeared beneath my SB Media Blog post, but I apparently neglected to notice that the shout-out post was not submitted by Sara, as “she” explained in a comment: “A reminder that this was a community post written by someone else…”

Damn.

I'm not the only one who's interested in who keeps the blog. During a recent hearing with the National Labor Relations Board — in which various lawyers disputed the the validity of the News-Press employees' vote on whether to unionize — News-Press owner Wendy McCaw subpoenaed Google in an effort to determine who runs the blog after an allegedly threatening comment appeared on BlogaBarbara. My motives are more benign. If I could ask Sara de la Guerra anything, I'd want to know why he or she chose to spell the pseudonym "Sara" and not "Sarah." Unless that's a clue, of course.

This is all very interesting to me. Anyway, I thought for a moment I was being clever. For now, the mystery continues.

Lazy D's Family Tradition

A message thread on the official Coachella forums titled "The Return of Coachella Hot or Not" has apparently posted a picture that came from my site. It should surprise no one that the photo in question is the one of Neko Case in which you can see her nipples.


The answer? "Hot," I would suppose.

What’s Wrong With Muriel Puce?

Good friend and sometime Cereal Box reader Lauren did me a total solid last week and asked for use of two of my photos in Get:Art, a fundraiser for Project Angel Food, a Los Angeles nonprofit that delivers meals to people with terminal illnesses. I like Lauren and am all for helping those with horrible diseases, so I was happy to donate the follow images for her to frame, place on a wall and sell as a means of raising money.

donkey ears

orange and first rain

They’re apparently priced at $100 or so each, which I’m kind of astounded by. It’s the highest monetary value anybody’s ever put on my artistic efforts. It’s also the first time anything I’ve ever done has been exhibited in any kind of art-ish forum, so hurray for that. I might just have to head down south — if not just for this, then for Hilly’s submission, which I’m told implements some image of me into a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Do the Whirlwind

Fucking amazing.


[ source: Paul Robertson's Journal, via Kotaku ]

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Here's to You, Helen Lovejoy

A nice touch in “Little Big Girl,” tonight’s otherwise so-so episode of The Simpsons: Helen Lovejoy’s old hair. In the episode, Bart gets a driver’s license and, shortly thereafter, stars in a partial reenactment of the show’s opening credits. Instead of following the chalkboard gag with his escape from Springfield Elementary on a skateboard, he does so in a car. This little meta-parody also includes the scene form the beginning in which Bart normally zips up the street, past such Springfield personalities as Moe, Bleeding Gums Murphy, Helen Lovejoy. For the recreation in this episode, the animators gave Helen Lovejoy the red hair that she sported early in the series but now no longer does — except of course in this one part of the opening sequence. I wonder if Helen’s hair eventually became darker in an effort to make her more easily distinguishable from Maude Flanders, whom she was often paired with before Maude’s untimely demise.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Who's Laughing Now, Alex Kidd?

I recently stumbled upon a note that early versions of the Sega Master System title Alex Kidd in Shinobi World featured a first-level boss named Mari-Oh. Intended to be a parody of Nintendo's Mario, much as Shinobi World is a parody of the popular Sega series Shinoboi, this boss was renamed "Kabuto" for the final release. However, the character retained some of Mario's qualities, namely fighting with fireballs and shrinking after taking damage.

Here are the only images of Mari-Oh I could find.





More than a passing resemblance, I think — especially to Mario's sprite in Super Mario Bros. 3.

Terrorist Betty

That horrible, horrible Ugly Betty strikes again — this time at UCSB. When will someone put a stop to her?

Friday, February 09, 2007

An Open Letter to Mark Batalla

Dear Mark,

Upon having read today’s letter to the editor criticizing your tenure as art director at the Daily Nexus, I have to say that you are, in fact, the worst person I have ever had the displeasure of knowing. To hear that you have prevented an earnest comedienne from unleashing her potential upon her university peers saddens — nay, disgusts — me and should rightly do the same to anybody with an appreciation of either comedy or artistic doodlery. This woman has taken to snowmen in the way that Gary Larson popularized cows and frumpy hausfraus. And to think that you have attempted to stifle her creative voice, you who sit in his ivory tower of an artist’s chair and cast down upon others with derision and spite. Oh, Mr. Batalla, if I could but break free of the shackles of this foe we call linear time and travel back to the moment of your birth, I would do everything within my power to cram your squealing infantile form back inside, so that your reign of terror would never be wrought upon our fair planet. You, sir, have done a unfathomable disservice to yourself, the Daily Nexus readership, your peers and — perhaps most of all — the snowmen. Upon your hour of reckoning, you, Mark Batalla, will surely have much to answer for.

With the same slow burn as the guilt that no doubt must be eating away at your soul,
Drew

Thirty-Three to Six

Because boss man Matt was otherwise occupied today, I got to play man-on-the-scene and cover the protests by the recently fired Santa Barbara News-Press employees outside their former office today. The article went up on the Independent's SB Media Blog, as did my videos of the event. They're low-quality, I'll admit, as I am no videographer, but here they are nonetheless.
This last one was, unfortunately, filmed sideways. I can't figure out how to fix it. As I said on the entry on the SB Media Blog, "head-tilting is recommended."

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Time Meant Nothing / Never Would Again

From Kristen: the art of Rosemarie Fiore, who takes time-lapse photos of first-generation arcade games. Even freaking Qix looks good.

Log / Funny Shaped Rock / Shadow / Seaweed

Though it's apparently been up since 2005, I just discovered a photo project that Madeleine Sorapure — new media maven and my former writing teacher during my UCSB days — in which she found the letters of the alphabet in materials around Hendry's Beach. Or, as she calls it, Hendry's Alphabet. What I call it: