Monday, April 30, 2007

Winged Shell

The best of April, 2007, according to the Back of the Cereal Box:
And a bonus retro out-of-the-blue link: "The Attack of Your Butt," in which I copy-and-pasted a column I wrote for the Nexus on the high frequency of people using the word "ass" to mean "self."

Mario in Your Lunchbox

If you've ever wanted to turn the tables on Mario and his mushroom-munching tendencies. now's your chance.







Or, I guess you could be just like Mario and devour the poor little mushroom folk.




And then for some reason K.K. Slider was there too. Who knew?


[ Source: Girlsgate, via QJ.net ]

Friday, April 27, 2007

The Power of the Press Pass

Unless I end up feeling less exhausted than I estimate, this will be the last post until after Coachella. Did I mention that I'm going for free this year? And have a photo pass? Yes, a busy weekend for me and Bjork.

Casino Paradise

Seventy-six, seventy-seven, seventy-eight, seventy-nine, eighty.

Seventy-six.

strange little sapling

Seventy-seven.

pink bird 2

Seventy-eight.

fording the river

Seventy-nine.

broccoli spiral

Eighty.

astral girl aly

Seventy-six: Sapling at Whitehaven Beach. Seventy-seven: Unidentified pink bird at the Billabong Wildlife Preserve. Seventy-eight: Roadside splashing somewhere near Tully, Queensland. Seventy-nine: Broccoli spiral, in my bedroom. Eighty: Astral Girl Aly, at theHOTEL in Vegas.

Samara's Revenge

More weirdness regarding SNL's digital shorts. Back in early February, I posed the short from the Drew Barrymore-hosted episode. "Body Fusion" was an intentionally low-grade, vaguely pornographic 80s-style workout video. It made me laugh.

Just recently, Spencer was re-watching it on YouTube, only the version he was looking at ended with weirdly familiar-sounding screaming.

You watch it!



Despite both versions — the above one and the one in the original post — being allegedly from NBC, this one has a scene from "The Ring" spliced in. It's kind of weird and it puts me out of the humor of the sketch. Apparently it's the original, "director's cut" of the short. Very, very strange, I say.

Also: Great, another way for people looking up information from "The Ring" to find my blog.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Wendy the Melted Lady

I'm so proud of my paper for running this cover.

"My Charlie Brown Christmas"

Always amazing what Wikipedia can tell you. Well looking to see if this current season of Scrubs would be the last, I found this: a never-aired redubbing of A Charlie Brown Christmas with the voices of the cast of Scrubs.

Pretty cool actually. And no, this couldn't wait until December 2007.


Fording the River

Best comment ever on a YouTube clip of KrisDina and I braving a flooded roadway in Australia.

fording_river

And did I ever post that video here? Not so sure I did.

Let's All Drink to the Death of a Peep

What do you do with a package of Peeps two weeks past Easter? You certainly don't eat the little guys. By virtue of having sat on the kitchen counter for so long, they're practically part of the family. No, eating them would be barbaric. The only solution, of course, would be to microwave the fuckers, just to what truth lies in that urban legend about that magic hot box making Peeps expand to ten times their original size.

The innocent victim:

peep project 1

peep project 2

peep project 5

Round and round he goes, pulsating and mutating like some kind of puss-swelling sore.



The aftermath:

microwaved peep

microwaved peep 2

I conclude that the Peep does not become ten times larger in the microwave, but that the process of testing the theory is completely worth the time it takes. The resulting smell was 75 percent delicious. I felt 10 percent bad for the little guy, but had I a Graham cracker handy, I probably would have eaten him.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Donkey Kong, Less Interactive

In an apparent sequel to a previous Super Mario Bros.-themed art installation at UC Santa Cruz, students formed the likenesses of original Donkey Kong sprites out of post-it notes. A UCSC community LiveJournal account has the details.




They've even posted a YouTube clip documenting its construction.


Here's some shots of the previous project.



Landslide Limbo

Seventy-one, seventy-two, seventy-three, seventy-four, seventy-five.

Seventy-one.

statue in the light

Seventy-two.

little pickle cactus patch

Seventy-three.

backlit toilet paper

Seventy-four.

luna park 3

Seventy-five:

drew and the frog 3

Seventy-one: Statue in the Sydney Botanical Garden. Seventy-two: Little pickle cactus patch.
Seventy-three: Backlit toilet paper in the Sydney Opera House men's room. Seventy-four: Lights at Luna Park. Seventy-five: Tree frog at Judy's house.

The Smoky Haze Around "420"

I nearly forgot. My 420-appropriate installment of my Five-Dollar Words column went up, appropriately on March 20. I've decided to go ahead and post the text of all future columns here.

Really, what's the Independent going to do? Sue me?
A High-Falutin Expression

This is my column for April 20, 2007. Those interested in its subject matter herein either already know the etymology behind the expression "420" or are doing something they enjoy more than sitting at a computer.

Indeed, today is Christmas for potheads—and, I'd imagine, a day for the people who normally wouldn't partake in the wacky tobacky to indulge. Unlike April Fool's Day or New Year's Eve—when the pranksters and all-night partiers take a step back to allow for amateur hour—this day tends to be one that the aficionados relish. For example, it's the only day I know of in which you can head to Isla Vista and watch a scheduled, promoted joint-rolling contest.

Aside from being a day when I can guarantee to smell a certain kind of smoke that, since my graduation from college, has become oddly nostalgic, this unofficial holiday intrigues me because the origins of its emblematic narcotic number are so obscure. Given what some studies claim long-term marijuana use does to the brain, I suppose it's possible that everyone who would have reason to know has forgotten. Nonetheless, most sources estimate it came into use in American English sometime in the 1970s. That's not long ago, even considering the relatively short lifespan of most slang, but apparently long enough that no one can say with certainty why we use it the way we do.

Mathematically, I'm told that the number 420 is the sum of four consecutive primes—101 and 103 and 107 and 109. It is also "a zero of the Mertens function and is sparsely totient." That last bit means nothing to my small English major brain and I suspect it doesn't have anything to do with people lighting up across the country today.

Urban legends abound, of course. Snopes.com, a website that specializes in investigating such friend-of-a-friend stories—and often debunks them—quickly dispels the ways in which we didn't pick up this expression. We're sure it's not that 420 is the penal code section for marijuana use in any given state. It's not police radio code for pot smoking. The number of chemical compounds in marijuana does not total 420. And April 20 (or 4/20, written in shorthand) is not the date on which drugged out celebs like Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin all happened to die.

The date comes close to commemorating LSD inventor Albert Hofmann's first intentional trip on the psychedelic substance on April 19, 1943. That day is sometimes referred to as "Bicycle Day," in celebration of Dr. Hofmann's trippy ride home from the lab. But "419" is no "420," and LSD is not today's recreational drug of choice.

The story most commonly accepted traces "420" back to San Rafael, California, of all places. According to this particular urban legend, a group of high school students calling themselves "The Waldos" would meet at 4:20 p.m. to get high at the feet of a local statue of Louis Pasteur. Not knowing anyone from San Rafael—much less a person who attended San Rafael High School in the early '70s—I can't personally disprove this story. (Though, for the record, any online mention of the statue beyond the context of other articles exploring the origin of 420 is hiding from even the all-seeing eye of Google.) How an inside joke among these kids ever grew into a national phenomenon boggles my mind—an entirely sober mind, I should add—but Snopes is often looked to as the authority on these matters and I'm inclined to agree with their theories.

After all, every slang expression has to start somewhere.

The origin as a specific time, however, would account for its standard pronunciation as "four-twenty" and never "four hundred and twenty." (Squares be warned.) In that sense, the term makes me think of the nursery rhyme, "Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie." Again, there's no real connection, although if you do plan on getting especially high today, I recommend you go read that poem and then tell all your friends about how totally weird and messed-up it is—you know, when you really think about it.

Today, just the mention of "420"—even out of the context of pot—is enough to elicit snickers from teenagers and adults-in-the-know alike. A classic example: A high school math teacher asks the class to flip to the back of their textbook to page "four-twenty" and some kid repeats the phrase emphatically. Everyone laughs—even the kids who aren't sure why that number is important—and the teacher pretends like he or she didn't hear it. It's second only to "69" in that respect.

Beyond just being the so-called "international time to smoke pot," "420" has become synonymous with the act itself. A quick search online will yield dozens of sites hawking hats, posters, stickers, and all manner of knick-knacks bearing the number, often superimposed on the cannabis leaf itself. The record label 4:20 Records has gained some renown for specializing in—what else?—reggae and stoner rock. The phrase "420 friendly" has even gained usage in classified ads seeking marijuana-tolerant roommates. (That last bit, by the way, comes from the Wikipedia entry for "420," which has understandably been locked from editing until everyone regains their senses.)

Widespread though its usage might be, "420" doesn't seem to carry the same connotation outside North America. England, for example, has its share of cannabis enthusiasts, but a relative lack of 420 festivals by virtue of the way the English write their dates. Over there, today is 20 April, 2007, and so-called "20/4" festivals are few and far between. This strikes me as even more odd than the popularity of "420" in the United States, as I'd imagine people wanting a national pot holiday would gladly preserve the spirit of the occasion and just invert the order of the numbers in its name.

On that note, my head is spinning—though, notably, only at the speed this number and this activity have become firmly enmeshed in not just cannabis culture, but pop culture as well. I hope those who feel inclined to do so enjoy their April 20 and snicker at those who think it's just another day. As for myself, I feel oddly compelled to listen to "25 or 6 to 4" and wonder what that could possibly mean.

The Shadows of Quick-Moving Animals

By sleeping less, I’ve been dreaming more. Don’t look for the logic in that. I haven’t.

I had a particularly notable dream last night that has prompted me to record it here. Not only did it seem to have benefited from a competent art director but the plot — which made markedly more sense than most of my dreams — actually involved a narrative frame.

The dream began with two people discussing what was a clearly story they knew well. The action quickly shifted to the characters being discussed in the story itself, though regrettably without starwipes or shimmery, blurry transitions I enjoy. The story described people who lived near the ocean. At the edge of the horizon was an island about which little was known, save that people standing on the coast could see shadowy shapes dancing there all day. Eventually, one of the people living near the coast decided to investigate the strange island for himself. Upon arriving there — presumably by boat, thought the dream glossed over this part — the man was greeted by one of the figures. Standing eight feet tall and being shaped basically like a human with rabbit ears, the creature explained that the island was inhabited by “the shadows of quick-moving animals” — foxes, mice, birds and apparently rabbits — because the animals who once owned them moved too quickly for the shadows to keep up. (How they ended up on the island and why they ended walking upright and growing so tall were, again, not explained.) The man asked to see the rest of the shadows, and the rabbit-shadow led him there. The shadows, however, were furious with the rabbit-shadow for letting an outsider in and demanded that both the man and the rabbit be punished. Because the shadows’ only joy in life was dancing around a large bonfire — hence why the people on the mainland could see the creatures’ bodies magnified by the firelight — the pair were ordered to travel to the dangerous, far side of the island from which the wind blew. Their task: to stop the wind from imperiling the bonfire that gave them so much joy. The man and the rabbit-shadow left and tried in vain to stop the wind. After a long time, they gave up and returned to the campfire to ask forgiveness. When they got there, they found that the bonfire had been extinguished and the rest of the shadows had crushed into black, glass-like fragments on the ground. The rabbit-shadow explained that a slow-moving bear-shadow must have killed them.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Nate Finally Makes It Home

More proof that Nate's life is spinning wildly out of control: his photo texts don't even make sense.

A Real Ardil 22 — Tomatoes, Desmond and Usage Creep

Tomato Nation has an interesting post up in which a reader asks whether Lost writers correctly used the expression "Catch 22" in last week's episode. As it was titled "Catch 22," one would hope it would have.

The installment centered on Desmond having a psychic vision about his lady love—Penelope, a missus who’s been waiting for her sea-faring mister nearly as long as her Homeric namesake did. Though Desmond foresees Penelope parachuting onto the island, the happy reunion only comes after Charlie's bloody death by neck wound on the walk to fetch her. Desmond, who has been predicting Charlie's death for some time now, worries that altering the future and sparing Charlie will result in not seeing Penelope—or, worse, catching her as she falls from the sky but finding that she has died. (You never know how the future will re-write itself, but it's a sure bet that it will punish the person who altered it.) It's clearly a tough choice, but is it a Catch 22 as the expression is strictly used?

Sarah Bunting and her various sources agree that it’s not. A true Catch 22 should involve a situation in which a person cannot solve a problem without overcoming an obstacle inherent in the original problem. As Bunting puts it, you can’t cure your debilitating disease without getting health insurance to afford the treatment, yet you can’t get a job that would grant you health insurance because you have a debilitating disease. Strictly speaking, Desmond’s problem is more a Sophie’s Choice, which Bunting also mentions in her post. True, Desmond can’t apparently rescue Penelope without letting Charlie die. But for all he knows, letting Charlie live won’t prevent Penelope from arriving safely. Also, he’s not bound from taking any action by the problem. The episode continues to advance despite his confoundedness. Ultimately, he just has to pick one over the other. (For the non-Losers among us, Desmond saves Charlie and the woman who falls from the sky is beautiful, Portuguese and named Naomi. Curse you, fates!)

The phenomenon I find really interesting here, however, is the notion of usage creep, or the tendency for words and phrases to take on different meanings over time, generally moving from a specific definition to a broader one. (Less commonly, the reverse happens — like “wench,” which used to denote any old girl but now implies the kind who serves you beer then screws you in the men’s room and steals your wallet at some point in the middle.) The notion of “Catch 22” meaning “a no-win situation” or “a tough choice” is fairly frequent now, just as is usage of “ironic” to mean “coincidental” or “random” to mean whatever the hell they want.

Usage creep isn’t necessarily a bad thing. (I must admit, however, that using “electrocuted” to mean “shocked” annoys me a little. Etymologically, the word should imply death, as it’s a rather tasteless portmanteau for “electric” and “execute.”) Words shift over time and it’s rather egocentric to think that the definition we’re accustomed to using for a given word must be the right one from this moment in time forward. (For those of you keeping track, we’re in the timeline fragment in which Desmond let Charlie live, by the way.) On the other hand, I’d wager that part of the reason language changed so much is many cultures only began writing their words down fairly recently. Making a near-permanent record on a piece of paper should help to lock the meaning and spelling for longer.

But this raises an interesting question — and yes I said “question,” not “Catch 22,” “Sophie’s Choice,” “paradox” or anything else. When, then, do we give in to the natural evolution of word’s definition to something new and when to we pull out the dictionary and wave it in somebody’s face like a jerk?

And it's with a small chuckle that as I write this I'm drinking green tea that is actually purple in color.

His Phallic Nose

I stumbled across this old bit of promotional art for Pac-Man, back when his Japanese called him "Puck Man." The "puck" — which apparently stemmed from the onomatopoetic paku paku paku noise he makes as he gobbles dots — was rightfully switched out in favor of "pac" for the American release, as us rowdy types would have no doubt had a field day with the name.


Looking at this art, however, I think I'm more disturbed by the coincidence of the name "Puck Man" and the penis-like protrusion sticking off his face. I'm guessing the shortening of the Pac-Man's nose was in furtherance of the effort to de-pornify him.

International Association of Bed Jumpers

In case you ever worried that people weren't being creative with their blogs, let me introduce you to BedJump.com, a fantastic compilation of photos depicting people staying at various hotels of the world — and jumping on the bed.

Evidence:




I'm so doing this.

That is, the moment I have the money to stay in a hotel.

[ Source: Prance Closer ]

Monday, April 23, 2007

Turkey Baster and a Container of Dannon

My house recently had the pleasure to puppysit Little Penny, who hasn't had the joy of Drew in her life since she was certifiably extra adorable. Although the stint granted me the dog fix I so sorely needed, it also reminded me of why I'm still not grown up enough to own my own.

Anyway, adorable puppy photos:

penny the puppy 5

penny the puppy 4

penny the puppy 7

penny the puppy 3

penny the puppy 2

penny the puppy 1

And, of course, the compulsory video clips:





Mario's Lost Bytes

My online stumbling has led me to Unseen 64, a truly righteous site that compiles images from beta versions of famous video games. Sure, half the text is in Italian, but that shouldn't stop you from taking a look. After all, doesn't Mario speak Italian? Screenshots from not-ready-for-prime-time versions of various Mario games are always a trip, as any true gamer can't help marvel at what could have been.

First up, Super Mario 64. Not too much here, besides a slightly different looking Bowser and a primitive power meter.



Next: Mario Kart 64, or as it was known in pre-production, Mario Kart R. I'd nearly forgotten that the original line-up for the game included Kamek — or, possibly, a generic Magikoopa — at the expense of the Donkey Kong County-modeled D.K. In a sense, I suppose this character was an upgrade from the playable Koopa Troopa in the first Mario Kart. Also changed: the portraits of the top four spots are staring straight ahead instead of to the side.




Originally, the first sequel to Super Mario RPG was fittingly titled Mario RPG 2. Note that the Mario depicted in these early screenshots isn't the 2-D wonder we came to know and love in Paper Mario. He's cartoonier, with bigger eyes. Of note, the original game seemed more populated by characters from Yoshi's Island, including Poochy the dog and Nep-Enut, the big blue water monster. And see the "GF" watermark in the corner of these? I'm guessing that means they were initially property of the now-defunct Diehard Gamefan magazine, which was one of the better gaming publications ever put to print.





The differences between the beta version of Luigi's Mansion and the final version basically amount to a few cosmetic changes, the site notes. For example, check out the way cartoony take on dejected Luigi outside the mansion.


A canceled title for the Nintendo 64DD that was later pushed to the Gamecube before its second cacellation, Stage Debut used an superevolved version of the Game Boy Camera to put the player's face on in-game action. I'm not sure exactly what kind of action that would have been, but this article theorizes that some of the ideas that never came into fruition for Stage Debut may have been reconstituted for various Mii Channel functions. As you can see, Mario characters showed up alongside Nintendo executives and folks from Animal Crossing and Pikmin. And then they all danced together.




The below screenshot represents all that came of a proposed sequel to Donkey Kong '94, which itself was an update the original Donkey Kong gameplay. Apparently the game would have included a mode in which players could compose their own stages to send Mario through. Sound cool — though apparently not cool enough to get the game actually made.


I know very little about Balloon Trip, the working title for the game that eventually become Yoshi Touch & Go. But here are some screens all the same.



As The Mushroom Kingdom noted in one of their "Lost Bytes" specials, creators of Yoshi's Island initially envisioned three additional transformations for the title character: a propeller plane, a tree and a mushroom. The plane? That makes sense. The other two, though — I can't imagine how they would have worked in the game.



And finally, the biggest surprise of all: Super Mario World. The screenshots below must have been from a markedly early version of the game, as they little resemble the Super NES launch title we've all come to know and love.


The map screen seems to be more inspired by Super Mario Bros. 3 than the final product was. Note the Toad Houses dotting the landscape. You won't see them in Super Mario World. It's simplified, and a lot smaller looking, if the brown-scale map shown in the title screen is any indication.


Another huge change would be the presence of the Raccoon Leaf and corresponding ears and tail. I'd guess the programmers eventually decided to switch out this Super Mario Bros. 3 power-up for the Super Cape, which allowed Mario better control in the air.


See the Koopa Troopa? If you'll remember, Super Mario World marked the first game in which these turtle baddies walked on their hind legs. I wonder what prompted the change.


Another Super Mario Bros. 3 remnant: the bouncy note blocks, seen in the below screen of The Big Boo.