Tuesday, July 31, 2007

"Petting"

They're using metaphors to make up for what the Mattel god denied them.


[ Source: Didn't You Hear... ]

The Fate of Spider-Pig?

This is my belated review of The Simpsons Movie.

Fanboy ranting aside, I must say that The Simpsons Movie marked one of the better movie-going experiences I've had in a while. In addition to the Marge Simpson mask that I left the theater with, I can happily report that the film gave me a good 80 minutes of laughter — plus one moment of genuine concern when Julie Kavner surpassed the usual limitations of cartoon voice acting and, for a moment, really made me think Marge had decided to leave Homer forever.

I'm writing this now, when most of my readership has gone out and seen The Simpsons Movie, in hopes that I'd hear what you all thought. Though it amounted to as much as I could have hoped for from such a film, I have a few small critiques:
  • The lack of Mr. Burns. Easily my favorite character on the show, Mr. Burns's unabashed evil is something I look forward to. He has perhaps an even smaller role than even Flanders, which is a bit of a shame.
  • Other marginalized characters: Agnes Skinner, Moe, Apu, Patty and Selma, Groundskeeper Willy, Kirk Van Houten, Mrs. Krabappel, and Santa's Little Helper.
  • General focus on the Simpson family at the expense of the supporting characters. I realize that though I've laughed more at Homer than anyone else, the supporting roles make the show — especially the ones I perceive as either "predators" or "prey." And some of the ones who received airtime instead? Very strange. Lindsay Naegle? Really?
  • Total absence of Rainier Wolfcastle, as near as I can tell. Of course, President Arnold Schwarzenegger is basically the same character. But… you know.
  • And what, for the love of God, happened to poor Spider-Pig (a.k.a. Harry Plopper)? Did he die with the collapse of the Simpsons' home? I need closure on the character whose theme song has been stuck in my head all weekend.
  • Lamely, I read somewhere that the movie's creators tried to work in every character who has every been depicted as a resident of Springfield and therefore tried to catch as many non-speaking background characters as possible. Is it just me, then, or did I see Astrid Weller — Isabella Rossellini's character from the episode in which Homer makes outsider art — at a disproportionately high frequency?
Ralph Wiggum, however, appeared in precisely the amount he needed to. And Dr. Nick Riviera joining the likes of Maude Flanders, Bleeding Gums Murphy, Snowball II and Bea Simmons? A very welcome touch.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Mario Athletic

Some pretty cool stuff, I suppose, in this high-speed clip of some Super Mario World acrobatics.


The Return of Jumpman

He shall jump again. And die again. And probably swing a hammer again.



There's an awesome article up on ArcadeShop.com about one of the better Mario-related fan projects I've come across — a homebrewed sequel titled Donkey Kong 2: The Return of Jumpman. Jeff Kulczycki of ROMHACK has apparently gone through the considerable effort of creating a full-on sequel to the original arcade Donkey Kong, complete with four new levels. From what little is glimpsed in the screenshots, the game plays more or less like the original game, just with more bells and whistles. The best part: The revamped ROM goes on sale on August 20 at ArcadeShop.com.

Some screens of the new levels:


the foundry

the mixer (note the "pies" from the original game)

the crane

and the incinerator

In short: too cool.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Small Feet, Big Steps

We took Dante to the beach near the Bacara today. Nothing could better describe the afternoon that the following photos.



You may notice the large black birds in the last few frames of the slideshow. (Well, technically, the last two are me, shirtless, attempting to wash sand off Dante at the showers and getting my torso clawed in the process. But the birds are damn close to the end, let me tell you.) The birds, which Spencer thinks may be cormorants of some sort, squatted on rocks at the edge of the beach, looking juts a little like unpleasant old women, perhaps those who cluster together and do sinister things in Greek mythology. They didn't seem the least bit intimidated by my presence and only set out for the ocean when they felt hungry.

Despite their shiny wings, the cormorants — or possible pseudo-cormorants — walked to water instead of flying. Their gait struck me as rather odd, so I shot a video of one returning back to the rocks. Here it is, in three installments.







Don't get me wrong. Dante was by far the start of the outing. But there's something just slightly creepy in the way that those birds walked, almost as if they were poorly mimicking how humans move.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Where the Bloodbath Happens

Until I saw them without international martial artists hopping around in front of them and clobbering each other, I never realized how beautiful these backgrounds to old Capcom fighting games really were.

In order: Dan's Thailand stage from Street Fighter Zero 2, B.B. Hood's wartorn ghetto stage from DarkStalkers 3 and Ryu's dojo from Street Fighter II.




[ More: The Sigil of Slateman ]

Friday, July 27, 2007

My Own Private Boing Boing

I nearly forgot. In order to relay information to readers without actually having to post, I've started a Google Reader account, which provides me with a public page to display items I choose to share — that is, posts that I re-post without actually posting them. Does that make sense?

In any case, do look at the link — or even subscribe to the feed, if you like — if you're interested in reading some of what I've been reading.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The The (Not the Band)

Not to gloat, but I have a pass to see The Simpsons Movie tomorrow — that is, a full day earlier than the general public. In looking at film's title on the ticket itself, however, I noticed its verbal awkwardness.

Being the translation of the TV show The Simpsons into a film, it poses a problem. The "the" at the beginning of the show's title — which, in my experience, is more often pronounced, as opposed to just saying "I'm watching Simpsons" — has to vanish. Though it's technically correct if you're speaking the title as it's used on the show, you should probably refrain from calling it The The Simpsons Movie, even if it is The Movie version of The Simpsons. And you sure as hell can't say The Simpsons Show Movie or The Movie Version of The Simpsons or even The Simpsons' Movie. I guess you could just treat the title The Simpsons like it's a unit, modifying Movie, but even then I think it's curious that the internal italics of the original TV show title get absorbed by the italics of the movie title when the TV show is ostensibly being referenced in the movie title.

It would have been so much easier if they just called if The Simpsons: Viva Rock Vegas.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Pre-Paid Envelope of Shame

With a heavy heart, I pushed my current three Netflix rentals into the mailbox. You see, I have not watched them. They have sat on my desk for a full month, two of the discs never even having been removed from their protective sleeves. In theory, I would have happily watched any of these films, yet somehow none sparked any interest in me once they actually arrived. "Hey, how about another episode of Twin Peaks?" came so much more easily.

Goodbye, The Fountain. Your association with Darren Aronofsky apparently wasn't enough to help me through the first thirty minutes, whereupon I asked myself "What the fuck is going on?" Then, with you still playing, I took a shower and before I returned and popped out the DVD partway through some emotional delivery by a bald Rachel Weisz. Eventually, I settled on watching Cartoon Network.

Goodbye, The Painted Veil. Though I love Naomi Watts and would probably pay admission price to see her perform in any role, I never felt like allotting the time or emotional energy needed to slog through her trip to the disease-ridden Far East. I blame Edward Norton's infuriating neutral face, which I always read as "Aw shucks" no matter what accent he's speaking in. Oh, and also that I didn't want to catch weird Asian diseases somehow.

Goodbye, Sherrybaby. Though it's an established fact that Maggie Gyllenhaal is good, I don't want to see her lose her heroin baby. Or whatever this movie was about. I'll just assumed the baby comes back to her through a time machine.

I suppose I can tack them onto the bottom of the queue and revisit them in the three years it will take me to watch 276 more movies.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Some Things, Apparently, Cannot Be a Band Name

Figured I should probably post which bands names were, in fact, fake. They are as follows:
  • Onion Knight (a relic from my childhood playing Final Fantasy)
  • The Show-Me State (my disguising of a real band, The Maple State)
  • The Missing Ellsworth Arm (my Peyton Place reference)
  • Vilma (my attempted substitute for Milke)
  • Hattie Naggasoulou (my attempted substitute for Josephine Oniyama)
  • Cats Don't Dance (a Disney knock-off animated movie)
  • TwoKnights (pure Drew)
  • Industrial Soap Dispenser (nickname for Spencer)
  • Curse de Alley (a CD Aly burned for me)
  • Joe, Paige & Audrey (minor characters from Ellen, if I remember correctly)
  • Malo Malo (the Latin joke)
  • Bamboo Shoots (my joke on The Friendly Fires)
  • The Concentric Circles (probably is actually a real band, just not on this album)
  • Bindhi & Benday (as someone pointed out, a joke I like making)
  • Chikorita (a Pokemon)
  • The Blueheads (The Bluetones plus the Lemonheads)
  • Blankedy-Blank (should be a band, really)
  • Cuddle Mobster (pure Drew)
  • The Resurrected Grandma (again, pure Drew)
And these are the real ones:
  • PenKnifeLoveLife
  • Flood of Red
  • Jack Afro
  • The Fleas
  • The Friendly Fires
  • The Permissive Society
  • The Wombats
  • Texas Radio Band
  • Granby Row
  • Milke
  • 52 Teenagers
  • The Great Northwestern Hoboes
  • Josephine Oniyama
  • The Mono Effect
  • Driving By Night
  • Sally Suicide
  • Bricolage
  • New World Record
  • Lesser Panda

Anything Can Be a Band Name!

As part of my pursuit to hunt down songs new, rare, endangered, potentially dangerous, possibly fanged, and undeniably exquisite, I found a phenomenal 54-track album titled Unsigned and In the City 2006. I recognized exactly one of the featured artists, yet I can safely report that the album was well worth the ten bucks it cost to download on iTunes. In fact, I'm enjoying it vastly more than the new Spoon or White Stripes albums I downloaded last week. There's something about the freshness of a new band and the manner in which escapes the kind of expectations you attached to a group you already know… It's hard to put into words, but perhaps best explained by having you recall the joy you feel when you come across a new band with the. greatest. band name. ever. You know? The two work similarly, at least inside my head.

In any case, the band names glimpsed on this CD's tracklist are roundly good. I've decided to list some of them below, along with a number of fakes, and have the brave venture guesses which ones are real and which ones phony.

Or, you know, you could always just Google them.

Anyway.
  • Onion Knight
  • The Blueheads
  • Blankedy-Blank
  • PenKnifeLoveLife
  • Flood of Red
  • Cats Don't Dance
  • The Show-Me State
  • The Missing Ellsworth Arm
  • Arms Bend Back
  • The Friendly Fires
  • Vilma
  • Jack Afro
  • The Fleas
  • The Permissive Society
  • The Wombats
  • Texas Radio Band
  • Hattie Nagahana
  • Joe, Paige & Audrey
  • Granby Row
  • Milke
  • Malo Malo
  • Bamboo Shoots
  • Curse de Alley
  • Cuddle Mobster
  • 52 Teenagers
  • The Concentric Circles
  • Two Knight
  • The Great Northwestern Hoboes
  • Bindhi & Benday
  • Chikorita
  • Josephine Oniyama
  • The Mono Effect
  • Driving By Night
  • Industrial Soap Dispenser
  • Sally Suicide
  • Bricolage
  • New World Record
  • Lesser Panda
EDIT 8.19.2007: I finally posted the answers, backdated for proximity's sake.

The Can-Do Girl

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Moe, the girl who survived a kangaroo attack in Sydney and whose Independence Day arrival back in California was celebrated by me with eye-puss fireworks, has asked me to burn her CDs of music I listened to during the period in which she was gone. I have made three CDs, each burned by theme. These are the CDs. They represent what I've been listening to listening to for the last year and a half or so.
MOE CAN DANCE
  1. Bees - "Chicken Payback"
  2. Chromeo - "Needy Girl"
  3. Le Tigre - "I'm So Excited"
  4. Stephen Malkmus - "Kindling for the Master"
  5. Orange Juice - "Blokes on 45"
  6. Stellastarr* - "My Coco"
  7. Grand National - "Cherry Tree"
  8. The Slits - "I Heard It Through the Grapevine"
  9. Goldfrapp - "Satin Chic"
  10. The Greens Keepers - "Lotion"
  11. DataRock - "Computer Camp Love"
  12. Professor Murder - "Free Stress Test"
  13. CSS - "Let's Make Love and Listen to Death From Above"
  14. CSS - "Music Is My Hot, Hot Sex"
  15. April March - "Chick Habit"
  16. Of Montreal - "A Sentence of Sorts in Kongsvinger"
  17. Architecture in Helsinki - "Do the Whirlwind"
  18. Apples in Stereo - "Same Old Drag"
  19. I Am the World Trade Center - "Love Tragedy"
MOE CAN THINK
  1. Animal Collective - "Leaf House"
  2. The Magnetic Fields - "When My Boy Walks Down the Street"
  3. RJD2 - "Smoke and Mirrors"
  4. Eisley - "Telescope Eyes"
  5. Andrew Bird - "Skin Is, My"
  6. Teenage Fanclub - "Cells"
  7. Belle and Sebastian - "Meat and Potatoes"
  8. Mike Doughty - "I Hear the Bells"
  9. The Presets - "The Girl and the Sea"
  10. Neko Case - "Margaret vs. Pauline"
  11. Mates of State - "Along for Ride"
  12. The Knife - "Heartbeats"
  13. The Ditty Bops - "Short Stacks"
  14. Bill Callahan - "A Man Needs a Woman or a Man to Be a Man"
  15. Menomena - "Wet and Rusting"
  16. Klaxons - "Gravity's Rainbow"
  17. The Decemberists - "Mariner's Revenge Song"
  18. The Good, The Bad and the Queen - "History Song"
  19. The Polyphonic Spree - "Lithium"
MOE CAN ROCK
  1. The Fiery Furnaces - "I Lost My Dog"
  2. Louis XIV - "God Killed the Queen"
  3. Spoon - "I Turn My Camera On"
  4. The Coral - "Pass It On"
  5. The Replacements - "Alex Chilton"
  6. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - "Me and Mia"
  7. Need New Body - "Show Me Your Heart"
  8. Aqueduct - "Growing Up With GNR"
  9. Nada Surf - "Indochine"
  10. Bishop Allen - "Empire City"
  11. The New Pornographers - "The Jessica Numbers"
  12. The New Pornographers - "High Art, Local News"
  13. The Marbles - "Magic"
  14. The Features - "The Idea of Growing Old"
  15. Dogs Die in Hot Cars - "Lounger"
  16. Dogs Die in Hot Cars - "Godhopping"
  17. The Decemberists - "The Sporting Line"
  18. M. Ward - "Right in the Head"
  19. Cold War Kids - "Hang Me Up to Dry"
  20. Amy Winehouse - "You Know I'm No Good"
  21. The White Stripes - "Icky Thump"

Fumio Yamaguchi

So many disappointed people using the internet nowadays.

Orange Smile

Hannah leaves good thank-you notes, it turns out.

hannah2

And then the back:

hannah1

Sunday, July 22, 2007

"You Cannot Beat Us"

Oh, Jesus.



Bowser has looked scary before, but never this disturbing. I only know what the YouTube clip tells me: "It was aired in Australia or something." And that's reporting I'm not going to question.

Heavy-Handed Symbolism

It's bad when it starts to sound like a book.

Art imitates life, at least most of the time, but when my life started sounding like something I might read in a book — a book I wouldn't especially enjoy — I realized I had made some mistakes.
"Drew toiled away as an editor at a newspaper, where he spent his days reading what other people did — some other person's actions recorded into a news story which in turn reported who died, who arrested whom, who was elected, who was interviewed. On occasion, he'd edit a story that someone else wrote about something a third party wrote at a different newspaper. It wore on Drew, but he himself never left the office. No, he was held prisoner by his leather desk chair, his flat screen monitor and the humming overhead fluorescent lights. Somehow, their power combined to trap him in his windowless corner, his eyes darting from side-to-side until they stung."
And so the book would have read, this book that I wouldn't have liked, not only because I don't need a retread of how my working day plays out but also because where the book would be going next would just make me want to put out my eye with a freshly sharpened No. 2 pencil.
"It was at that point, then, that Drew realized that his work as an editor did more than earn him a paycheck; it came to define his very existence. For when the workday ended, he made no more effort to enjoy the world around him than he did while on the clock. He'd merely go to his house and perform a slightly more casual version of his job, reading the writing of others and only occasionally jotting down anything himself. Even more seldom would he actually offer anything of value, anything that gave insight into himself or the world he lived in, which day by day grew smaller and smaller. Drew wasn't living life. Drew had no story to write. Drew was merely reading and editing reports of the lives of others."
What a shitty book!

It's a book that does not deserve to be written, much less read. But as I drove home last Friday night, I realized the comparison was apt. Had I read a book about a boring, unsatisfied character who spent his days editing the stories of others because he had no story of his own to write, I would have accused the author of implementing some heavy-handed symbolism. But it's not symbolism, really, because this proposed scenario is accurate, and those cute little tricks authors use to further convey their story's meaning don't work in the world beyond the written page. Yes, I said it. I'm no atheist, but I don't believe life unfolds using literary devices like foreshadowing, callbacks, rising action, falling action or symbolism. I really am an editor and I am jealous of the people whose articles I edit, as they're going out and existing in the world and I'm merely sitting at my desk, existing in my office, perhaps waiting for the occasional email or phone call to be returned from someone interesting but never really doing much myself. And I really hadn't been writing about myself or anything that I could even attempt to make interesting.

Then I drove home.

Solo drives home are sacred to me, in the same sense that long showers and darkened movie theaters are. It's in spaces like these that I can filter out the distractions of "I wonder if he's updated his blog" and "Sure, I'll check my email again" and "I wonder if someone voted that I was hot or not" and really think, provided I've already shouted myself hoarse from "singing" along to the hits of New Order. Just me, my thoughts and a small number of stimuli that keep me too busy to get bored but idle enough for my mind to wander. It was during one of these drives a few months ago that I realized how much joy video games had once brought into my life and that putting a joystick in my hand might put a smile on my face. Shortly thereafter, the Wii arrived and brought with it a chance to toy with exciting new and nostalgic old technologies. Ask the roommates. If I'm not whipping a Wiimote around, I'm Dixie Kong again, for the first time since before high school. (Unlike ten-year-old Drew, however, I play in moderation. That helps.)

The Friday drive prompted me to solve my current symbolism problem in a similar ways. First — and this one relates right back to my sacred space problem — is to start going to the movies again. I haven't been since Paris, Je Taime, even though there's little in the world that makes me happier than stepping into a movie, even if it's one I don't particularly enjoy. It's almost better that way — talking about what a colossal failure it was makes for a better story anyway. If movie-watching is my religion, than a multiplex is my cathedral.

Second, I need to get back into music. I mean, I still listen to it, but there was a period early in college where I had taste in music that was a good five steps ahead of that of my peers. Some bangs-and-glasses hipster would be going on about some band and I could turn and tell them, "Oh, I had their album in pre-release. I got it through the paper. And did you know they're playing here? Tickets are sold out." I was a terrible snob about it. It was awful. But it was also so much fun, you know? Anyway, That's not so much the case anymore. When Moe got back from New Zealand, she asked me to burn her some CDs, "to hear what everyone was listening to while I was gone." Everyone — as in, the populace. The populace! Clearly, my tastes have grown generic. On that note, I'm making a promise to myself to get back into the swing of new and cool music and once again be that guy who hears about stuff before the unwashed masses do, just for the satisfaction of knowing I picked correctly. (I'm also going to cut back on the music snobbery, I'd wager aging hipsters stand a better chance at being decked than their young counterparts.)

Finally, in order to become an interesting protagonist, I need to do something. Change. Interact with other people. Advance the plot in a way that other characters won't. That's a rule that would seem to apply to literature and life both. I've been sedentary for too long here in Santa Barbara, both in the sense of not leaving the city often enough and not making the time I spend here any more worth anyone's attention. Now, when Spencer and Aly suggest that we head north or south — or even east, for that matter — I won't cop out with "I'm really burnt out from the work week," the excuse that's become my personal motto. A great deal exists between Los Angeles and San Francisco that I haven't seen and that I should see or should at least give a second look. And as more and more former regulars flee Santa Barbara to bigger cities, I have more reason — and means — to make a weekend of such a trip.

That's the plan, at least for the moment. Get out and do rather than sit home not. If all else fails, I'll just drive home and re-think it. At least then I could write about that.

Monday, July 16, 2007

It's-a Death

Call me morbid, but I get a kick out of seeing Mario's great many Super Mario 64-era deaths.



The best: being near death, shot out a cannon, and drowning upon impact with the water. Those Italian-accented blub-blub-blubs just sound so funny.

Qterplix Herself

I am glad my New York friends get to do New York things.

rachel_dratch

Tomorrow I hope Sanam gets a brusque, foreign cab driver, stars in a Broadway show and then hits a home run for the Yankees.

Blogger Yuckwhoa

A spam email that just showed up in my inbox bore the title "BOGR YQO." In my elementary school days, this phrase was sometimes used a code for "Fuck you." If you spell the original curse in all capitals, the letters can be fairly neatly disguised into "BOGR YQO." I even remember it being spoken as an in-lieu-of curse, as "Bogger Yuckwhoa." The email itself, however, was blank. A Google search of for the phrase yields nothing the likes of which I remember. Now I'm trying to find if this phrase meant something to clever, falsely polite children everywhere or if it was limited to strange kids growing up in Hollister.

Anyone?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Theme of Top Man

Two emails I just sent that are proof I should not write to long-lost friends when I am tired. The first one was to Dave, to whom I have not spoken in some time. He knows why.
Hey.

I signed onto MySpace because my email told me I had a message there from "Dave." I guess I forgot for a second that you're too cool to have your own space and, thus, deleted your profile. Needless to say, it wasn't you. The Dave in question did have exciting information about a place for me to meet exciting "girlz" in my area. I'd recommend you contact him, but his profile has probably been obliterated by the MySpace police already.

I guess what I'm asking is this: do YOU know where I can meet exciting girlz in my neighborhood?

Happy lobsters,
Drew
The second one ran with the subject line "Hi Meghan."
Hi Meghan (see email subject).

I thought of you three times recently. Once when Marcy and Moe and Taryn and a lot of other people were in town for the 4th. Don't feel bad for not showing up. It was nice to see Marcy and Adam. Moe is freckly now. Also, Katie was there and when I hugged her hello a bee that had apparently been sitting on my shoulder stung her on the cheek. Just like old times! Anyway, the whole thing was a mess for me, since I had an eye infection that started oozing that morning and I had to get antibiotics from urgent care. Don't get me wrong. Urgent care is great. It's just that the particular antibiotics they put me on came with the proviso that I shouldn't drink alcohol or be in the sun. You know, because nobody wants to be drunk and in the sun on Independence Day.

The second time I thought of you happened when I hired a new intern. Her name is Sheena. It's really weird, but she could totally be your sister. Only her name is too unusual. She's like a perfect combination of you and my friend Erika. Do you know Erika? Erika with brown hair? Did you and Erika somehow have a miracle baby together and name her Sheena and make her work for me at the paper? Because that would explain a lot.

Finally, I thought of you because I recently discovered a song that you should download. It's called "Lotion" and it's by The Greenskeepers. It's really catchy, if a little dark, but you of all people would get a kick out of it. You should really download it right now. It was on the Grey's Anatomy soundtrack, I think, or at least featured on the show, so it shouldn't be too hard to find.

In case you're wondering why I CCed Jill in this email, it's because I had initially wanted to email her as well, but now I am tired as today has been long and very trying. So instead of writing her an email, I'm sending her this one. Do you think Jill will like this? I think she will. I mean, she'd probably rather I had written her her own email, but like I said, I'm tired.

Bye, Meghan! Hope to hear from you soon! You're like a hundred times cooler than Jill.

Love,
Drew
As the letter implies, I did not, in fact, write Jill an email.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Who Needs the Kwik-E-Mart?

El Barto lives, and that makes me happy.


Worth the click, especially if you have any love for The Simpsons.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Japanese Horror Movie Hair

Having seen The Ring, The Grudge and Pulse in both their Japanese and American incarnations, I've noticed that the Japanese practitioners of filmic fright tend to make liberal use of flowing black hair to ratchet up the scary. In the shower, in darkened hallways, in bed — everywhere the cast of a given Japanese horror movie goes, they see black hair snaking around, foretelling their own imminent demise. A new film — known variously as Ekusute, Exte or Extensions — has fun with this motif. It centers on haunted hair that terrorizes the Japanese salon-going public. The heroine: Yuko, a hairdresser, played by Chiaki Kuriyama of Battle Royale and Kill Bill fame. I really wanted this film to be a comedy, but there's apparently playing it straight. Too bad. At the very least, I'm happy to see somebody else has noticed that this is a trend.

The Legend of Zelda... Fitzgerald?

News to me: Shigeru Miyamoto named the titular princess of the Legend of Zelda games after Zelda Fitzgerald.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Encyclopedia Drew and the Case of the Troublesome Tang

If you pick up a copy of this week's Independent, you might notice an item in the news briefs section that mentions the horrible sulfur stench that's been so tenaciously clinging the area around East Cabrillo Boulevard. (The same subject is addressed in a longer IndyNewsFlash item that went up on Tuesday, in case you're interested.) When the article came across my desk in an earlier form, the reporter had referred to the stink — which, it turns out, is emanating from stagnant water at the bird refuge being steamed up by last week's heat wave — as being a "problematic pong." Confused, I asked three nearby editors if they were familiar with this word — independent from the prefixes "ping," "beer" and "early video game sensation" and instead to mean "a bad smell." No one had, though we could all guess what it meant given its context.

I went to the dictionary and found olfactory sense of "pong" missing from the abridged Webster — that version being the one you don't have to pay for — as well as from the American Heritage Dictionary. Dictionary.com had it, finally, defining it as I imagined it might be and giving its origin as "obscure."

Good to know it exists, I decided, and curious how it somehow escaped my notice for twenty-five years, but I felt it should be substituted with something the average newspaper-reader would know. Statistically, if four people who work at the paper had never heard of it, four randoms who just read said publication might not either. Worse yet, I worried it might be mistaken for a typo for "pond," since it was a body of water that made the stink to begin with.

Though everyone concerned agreed that the alliteration of "problematic pong" should be preserved, but I lost the ultimate vote and the chosen replacement was "troublesome tang." I am not particularly happy about this, in part because I felt "offending odor" worked just as well but also that olfactory sensations are not the first one might associate with the word "tang." Add to that the infinitely worse pairing with "troublesome," and I at least get an immediate mental picture that's very disturbing. Of course, if one really did have a troublesome tang, bad smells might a major factor in that trouble. I just hope I wouldn't have to print a news story about it.

In any case, if you read the brief and wondered why the hell that phrase in particular was chosen, I thought I'd offer an explanation.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Jewel-Encrusted Taj Mahal of Fax Machines

Keeping in line with my lifelong pattern of procrastinating, I waited until the last minute to send some important documents in to some important people at important desks a few months back. I caught myself, however, and realized that in light of my self-fucking-over, I had no choice but to fax them in before the deadline. This posed a problem in that I have no fax machine.

After stumbling around online, I discovered eFax, a website that allows you to upload documents and fax them to a given number straight from your computer. This worked out conveniently for me, as my paperwork could squeak past the deadline while not revealing to the people at the important desks that I neither own nor had access to a fax machine. (You know, because I live in the town with dirt roads that doesn't know about that technology yet.) The service also cost $16. At the moment, I didn’t mind. As time passed, I continued to procrastinate and continually failed to cancel the service.

Last night, while checking over my credit card bill, I saw again that I had been billed for my eFax membership — which, now that I work in a real office, I have no use for as I can stealthily fax any document I chose. Sometimes, I just fax scratch paper and doodles of puppies to numbers I make up just to see if they go through. (Sometimes they do!) My stinginess finally triumphing over my laziness, I looked around on the eFax website for a way to cancel the service. No exaggeration: after ten minutes of looking over every conceivable page for a way to save $16 a month, I learned that site's only method for unsubscribing was through a chat room maintained by the company that owns eFax. Awkward, no? I figure the company is betting that people too lazy to buy a fax would also be too lazy to figure out how to stop paying for the online pseudo-fax.

Begrudgingly, I entered a chat room, for the first time since junior high. Below is a reproduction of the conversation that took place.

efax_sux1

Okay, fine. I lied right off the bat. I was anticipating that awful kind of haggling where the company you're quitting tries to bribe you into sticking with them, even though you don't want to. Like "Oh, if you stay with us, we'll send you a fruit basket." I admit I initially felt bad about lying to Stanley K, but I wanted to head off any kind of groveling and help us both keep our dignity.

efax_sux2

Oh! Don't feel sorry, Stanley! For all you know, my parents bought me a fax machine that's as big as a house and encrusted with jewels. It's, like, the Taj Majal of fax machines.

Also, you want my pin? In a chat room? Isn't that the kind of thing you never, ever give out in a chat room, because then internet barbarians will sack your life and make your join weird clubs and buy cars and lap dances with your credit card?

But then I figured I might as well — I am canceling this thing after all.

efax_sux3

Um, Stanley? There's not actually a number that corresponds to the lie I gave you about the jewel-encrusted Taj Mahal fax-o-matic. Perhaps they should look into remedying that. I chose option two, which was technically lying again and also lying even inside the parameters of the first lie, since I never actually said I personally bought the replacement fax machine.

Also: What the fuck, Stanley? Weren't you listening when I said why I wanted out? You even expressed sorrow that I was leaving.

This was my first indication that Stanley was (a) not really invested in my well-being, (b) personally invested but forced to follow a pre-written script of questions and answers, or (c) less of an actual human and more of an automated system programmed to simulate a person who was not really invested in my well-being.

Stanley's next question asked for the last four digits of my credit card number, which again creeped me out a little, even if you'd have to be pretty shrewd to do any damage with only four ending numbers of anyone's credit card. Despite my ungrounded trepidation, I typed them in.

efax_sux4

Yes, I blacked the number out. Apparently though I kind of trust Stanley, I don't trust you people at all.

Also, What's that, Stanley? Whoops. Wrong number. That's weird. "Perhaps I signed up with my debit card instead of my credit card," I thought.

Apparently, that too was wrong. Very odd. I expected Stanley to ask me for the rest of the numbers, to see if any of them might be in the four-digit combo he might have been looking at.

efax_sux5

Stanley got pushy, as you can see. I raced through all the records I could find. The membership info, the credit card bill. Everything. They all said that the numbers I was giving Stanley should be right.

He was insistent, the little prick. I became frustrated.

Me: WHY?! WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS STANLEY? You seemed so nice and caring when you thought my parents having bought me a fax machine was bad, for some reason. WHY ARE YOU BEING SUCH A JERK?

efax_sux6

He would have none of it.

Me: No, actually, there's literally nothing else you could do for me other than cancel my service. Who cares if I happened to be an ID thief? What would I have to gain from canceling Drew Mackie's eFax service other than saving him $16 a month? And no, thank you, our session hasn't been the least bit helpful, unless people named Stanley think accusing innocent people of being liars qualifies as help. And fuck you anyway, Stanley. Give me one good reason why I shouldn't be able to quickly cancel my online pseudo-fax service at 1 a.m. Pacific Standard Time. I don't care where you are. COMPLY!

...

After a brief talk down, I decided to call the number. Preparing for an equally complicated phone menu, I was happily surprised to get a cheerful, thickly accented Indian lady who introduced herself as Natalie. I told the same lie again about getting the magical fax machine present. She seemed cool with it, even though she still asked me if getting three free months of eFax would entice me to stay on board. No, Natalie, neither I nor anybody else should have to send that many faxes.

Ultimately victorious but still weirded out and annoyed, I went to bed, not sure if I was being karmically punished more for my laziness or the fiction of the jewel-encrusted Taj Mahal fax machine.

Oh, and eFax can suck it.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A Frog in the Salad Back

Because, you see, there's a frog in the salad bag.

Chocolate Milk Computer

My renewed blogging effort will include more stories about myself, I've decided. For whatever reason, you're getting this one today.

A few years back at one of the Daily Nexus's summer retreats, I ended up speaking with one of the new Artsweek editors. Keeping in mind that a Nexus weekend retreat consists of a beach house and the kind of drinking that leads to — at best — meandering, pointless sentences and — at worst — meandering, pointless sex , I was in no state to interact with other humans. Talk we did, however. Whatever she said — I remember the texture of the floor beneath me but not her actual words — I interpreted it as "My mother can't tell the difference between her computer and chocolate milk." Astounded, I told this new editor that her mother must be the dumbest person on the fact of the earth. Literally — to be lump chocolate milk and a computer into the same mental category requires a dried Wasabi pea brain. I went on and on, explaining the idiocy of this girl's mother before she stomped away, apparently offended that I stated the obvious by commending her mother for having evaded natural selection so far.

The next morning — following Excedrin and coffee, I'd imagine — someone who had been party to that conversation approached me and asked about its rather bad end. What had actually transpired, it turns out, is that the Artsweek editor had said that her mother often said "Yoohoo" when she meant "Yahoo," as in the search engine. How many drinks it took to warp that into "My mother can't tell the difference between her computer and chocolate milk," I guess I'll never know. To this day, I'm still delighted at the idea of a college student having an embarrassingly stupid mother who tried to drink her computer and check her email in a frosty choco-dairy treat.

The girl didn't last long. By the end of that fall quarter, she decided the school paper wasn't for her and I never saw her again. I don't know if my drunken accusations had anything to do with her premature departure, but I'd like to think she had to leave college to care for her mom after a horrible accident involving the family PC and a bottle of Hershey's syrup.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Mexican Breakfast

I had never heard of the song "Walk It Out" until I saw the below YouTube clip. I also had no clue who either Gwen Verdon or Bob Fosse were. But my ignorance didn't stop me from appreciating its wonderful mishmash of pop culture.



Amazingly, the clip wasn't altered to match the new song. In addition to matching the beat and lyrics surprisingly well, the new song is about exactly the same length as the original. For comparison's sake, here's the original.



As you can see in both versions, the original track is titled "Mexican Breakfast." Whatever that's supposed to mean, it makes me think of some awful euphemism for a sex act, like "Dirty Sanchez" or "Rusty Trombone." As in, "And then when she was getting out the shower, he gave her a Mexican Breakfast. She totally had to take another shower."

Wiki-Wacky

My simultaneous fascination with and revulsion to the Wikipedia should be no surprise to longtime readers. I love the idea of so much information being collected in one place, and the site makes for some top-notch procrastination. (Example: I look up Katharine Hepburn to find out whether she's related to Audrey, jump from there to a page on venereal disease, and then from there to Venus (mythology) to the category page for sexuality in Ancient Rome to Priapus to a page for a low budget movie I've never heard of called Scarecrow Gone Wild.) However, I can't help but become frustrated that a page exists for something called Scarecrow Gone Wild in an encyclopedic work and that if I chose to edit the page, my work would likely be undone by some low-functioning, home-schooled twelve-year-old in Kansas who watches the page and started the page and filled it with his unique take on punctuation. ("Scare Crow gone Wild is good movie, it was released in 2005.")

Sigh.

What I'm getting at is that I still use the Wikipedia, but I don't contribute anymore. Recently, I've come across a wonderful new term that helps express one of my two frustrations with the site: Wikigroaning. Coined by Something Awful in a June 5 article, the word refers to the act of exposing the Wikipedia's lameness by contrasting one article with a similarly themed article that is longer despite being completely more frivolous. For example, Something Awful offers this as the first comparison:


I don't care how many Star Wars fans exist, it's laughable that this social construction that figured so importantly into hundreds of years of western history would merit less of an explanation than a fictional class of warriors from a movie series that has existed only since 1977. I'm not surprised that the Jedi Knight page is longer. I just think it sucks.

While the original article on Wikigroaning and its sequel, Wikigroaning II: The New Batch, cite a great many showdowns in the article length-versus-inherent frivolity battle, I decided to try a few of my own.

And now let's all let out a collective guttural noise expressing our frustration with the Wikipedia. And, following that, let's all go there and see what other articles jump out at us as being excessively long.

Milton Thunderstamp

Interesting ways people have been finding my blog lately.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Too Many Springfields

Interesting note. Though this article from the Ventura County Star and others like it note that fourteen different Springfields are currently vying to be the one that hosts the premiere of The Simpsons Movie, Wikipedia states that the United States has exactly 34 states containing a place named "Springfield."


That's including the West Springfields and North Springfields and the like, as well as Springfield Townships. As for modifier-free Springfields, there's twenty-three. (In Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri, Ohio, Oregon, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin, to be specific.) And there's another three in Canada, even.

This website showcases the various American Springfields as represented by old-timey postcards, and I like that.

My Elastic Eye

So of course the moment I take a blogging hiatus something interesting happens to me. I'm actually lucky I can actually type this at all, considering that my left eye stood a good chance of pussing over, spreading to its mate and blinding me to the fact that my entire face had quickly become a pulsating mass of shiny orange goop. Yes, I'm choosing to mark my return to blogging with a story of the eye infection from outer space and how it ruined my Fourth of July.

A brackets break:
[ Just so you all now, this post discusses the various awful things that can drip from faceholes. If you're squeamish, stop reading. In fact, I may henceforth only discuss dripping faceholes on this blog, so go ahead and delete the bookmark, drop my URL from your Blogroll and forget I ever existed. Furthermore, I may use the adjectival form of "pus" to describe my former condition. In print, that looks like this: "pussy." I realize that assembly of letters more often forms a different — and one would hope unrelated — word, but please understand my intentions. When I refer to my "pussy face," I'm trying to relate that my eye is oozing and not that my face resembles a vagina. Because it doesn't. ]
For the past month, my left lower eyelid has been sporting a fashionable red bump. I call it my pussy problem. (Read it right, kids.) I like it. It's such a conversation starter. Co-workers don't hesitate from asking after it. "Is it a pimple?" "It looks like a stye." "Maybe something bit you." Or, as I understood them: "Why don't you wash your goddamn face?" and "What's wrong with your body that your glands don't work?" and "You associate with vermin and I therefore won't associate with you." Not content to just be a bump, however, the entity — a small demon or elf, I'm guessing — continued to morph into all manner of embarrassments. First, it scabbed over. Then it flaked. Then it leaked small globs that dried onto the ends of my eyelids. Then it made my eyes bloodshot. The last of these was particularly hurtful — not physically, but psychologically, as everybody who saw Knocked Up now thinks that one only gets pink eye from having slept on a farted-on pillow and therefore having ingested fecal matter.

Another brackets break:
[ At this point in the story, you might wonder why I didn't seek medical help early into my ordeal. Ha. That's the kick in the shitter, let me tell you. While I happily signed onto the Independent's healthcare plan the moment I racked up enough months in order to qualify for it, I've found navigating the medical bureaucracy to be exactly as difficult as the stereotype implies. Damn it, Michael Moore, you were right. The doctor I requested as my primary physician refuses to return my calls. I won't say my healthcare plan's name, but let's say it rhymes with SchmealthNet, and I'm now not sure that the "net" mentioned in the name refers to any kind of protective network of doctors. Instead, I'd guess it's the kind of net that one uses to capture rabid dogs or crazy people and lock them in a cage so they can die in isolation. ]
The morning of Independence Day — which this year was marked by a wonderful reunion of college friends, some of whom haven't set foot on State Street since graduation — I walked in to the bathroom and noticed that my upper eyelid now appeared puffy and red. "Gracious! The horrible face disease has overtaken another section of the battleground that is my face," I said to myself. Perhaps foolishly, I pressed the upper lid to see if it felt tender and inflamed. It did. However, the cause of the puffiness was not just the inflammation, but also that a reservoir of orange puss has accumulated there overnight. (At this point, the situation took on the name "the puffy pussy problem." Again, please read it correctly.) Upon the pressure from my finger, it gooshed out, besmearing my eye and horrifying me in ways I haven't known since my nosehair incident.

Panicked, I called the nearest urgent care center, explained that my eye was going to fall out and left, so pleased to have been able to see a doctor that I didn't realize my shirt was inside-out. I've been to this particular facility before — for yet another emergency that involved my head's contact with cement in a sudden and surprising fashion — and had high hopes. The pretty Russian doctor lady, however, only explained that I should probably see an ophthalmologist as soon as possible and that her help would be limited to a prescription of a simple antibiotic. On top of the fact that scoring an appointment with an eye doctor through my healthcare plan seemed about as likely as getting one with a alchemist, the antibiotic I received came with the following stipulations: "You should stay out of the sun as much as possible and avoid alcohol." Since I received this information on the morning of the Fourth of July, she might as well have told me that the medicine would cause me to instantly die if I saw fireworks.

I made the feeblest attempts at meeting my college friends — who, of course, were drinking on the beach — and as a result ended up throwing up at a restaurant. Because, you know, I didn't have enough fluid escaping my body already. The friends left town, I stayed in and sulked.

In the end, Spencer helped me get a referral for someone who could actually help me. Ironically, he prescribed an antiseptic balm. Essentially, I'm fighting goop with goop now. My eye will stay in my face, presumably seeing things and hopefully aiding me in future blogging efforts, which I'm resuming as of today.

A third and final brackets break:
[ Yes, the blog is back on. Sorry for the delay, but I needed to escape from work stress and I think I've done that now. I'm back, and I brought Brenis with me. And yes, I see in irony in restarting this thing on July 8, 2007 instead of the previous day. Rather than striking on the most numerologically auspicious in recent pop culture memory — seven-seven-seven — I chose the day after, which should be the numerological equivalent of a slot machine result of diamond-diamond-lemon. I have some semblance of a game plan and a renewed zest for polluting the web with my meandering, typo-ridden sentences. Suck it, Lady Luck. ]
Oh. Um, hi. Well. That's the end. I hadn't thought of writing any more.