Friday, August 31, 2007

Bee Suit

The best of July and August 2007, according to the Back of the Cereal Box. I combined these two months into one post since July was a little content-shy.
And a bonus retro post: "Bad Barfly," in which I present evidence of me being a bad bar customer who failed to insult an offending bartender.

Since U Put UR Finger Up My Nose

First off, I like women. I'm the first to call someone — male or female — on making a statement that exhibits some kind of ingrained misogyny. I routinely end up formulating a feminist slant on all manner of pop culture obscurity. And most of the people I call friends happen to be female.

However, there's something in the DNA of those with the double-X chromosome that — godammit — makes them automatically thrust their hands into the hair during the chorus of Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone." I don't understand it. I can't explain it. And for the most part, I've kept my distance from the recordings of Kelly Clarkson as a result. However, being stuck tonight at a club that happened to be featuring a cover band that happened to play its versions of Top 40 hits made me and Kelly meet in a more physically intimate environment than I ever hoped to.

In short, I'm not the kind of guy who can readily identify the various radio hits that the majority of people my age seem to love. Standing in crowd before the band, I had no idea that it was playing "Since U Been Gone" until the all-to-familiar chorus. (The verses are utterly unremarkable.) Once the singer belted out that chorus, however, I knew I was in deep shit, as the female patrons of the bar started waving their hands in unison in a way that made me think I was at some kind of poppy Nazi rally. I tried to wait it out, hoping somehow that this band would pick something less physically motivating for their next cover, but when the chorus returned for a second go-around and the dress-clad starting with the arm-flailing and hopping-in-place such that the whole floor shook, my brain told me that I'd best back away from the stage and get another drink. I turned around just in time to have some drunken Kelly Clarkson fan — who, yes, was jumping and throwing her hands in the air — jam her ring finger directly up my nose.

I stopped walking. She stopped dancing. For a moment, we stood there, facing each other in horror as her digit probed the depths of my nasal cavity. I don't know what kind of facial expression I made, but hers read as that of a person who suddenly found their finger in something warm and moist when she didn't expect to do so. I put my hands up in a sort of "I surrender" pose, and she, looking more and more disgusted by the millisecond, decided to yank her finger out at an angle perpendicular to the direction my nostril runs. Essentially, she fishhooked me. It hurt like a motherfucker. I seriously hope she didn't bruise the fucking cartilage, because I haven't felt such a sharp, sudden pain like that since I prematurely pulled out a loose tooth.

I'm sure she felt as embarrassed as I did, though slightly less pained and slightly more mucous-y. Needless to say, what she did effectively ended my night — everyone standing behind us saw this disgraceful incident, you see — and I hightailed it to the back of the bar.

Kelly Clarkson, clearly, is to blame. She's the one who sang this terrible, text message-grammar-level song, and I hate her for it. My curse on her is this: May your every subsequent hit be a somber ballad, the likes of which motivate your fans to simply sway sympathetically and hug themselves in an effort to feel your pain.

And to the dumb girl who jammed her finger up my nose: Fuck you. In the first place, I don't know where your finger has been. Secondly, the fact that you love Kelly Clarkson does not give you the right to thrust parts of your body however and wherever you chose. I won't begrudge you the right to enjoy the music you love, but the minute your enjoyment infringes on my right not to be nasally violated, you've taken your music too damn far. My curse on you is this: I hope somebody yanks something out of one of your orifices at the wrong fucking angle…every day for the rest of your life.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Have You Seen This Bird?

Well, have you?


There's a cool post up on a Disney nostalgia blog called Passport to Dreams. It details the Orange Bird, probably one of the rarer Disney characters to ever grace the Happiest Place on Earth. The Orange Bird, according to the post, was once the mascot of the Florida Citrus Growers, who sponsored Disney World's Sunshine Pavilion. Disney has since released the apparently once-beloved Orange Bird from its employ, though the post's author notes that the character would seem based on its resemblance to other "super deformed," big-headed, Japanese-spawn mascots like Hello Kitty.

Always heartening to see other people dwell on pop culture minutiae.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Batman Takes on Southern California Traffic

Nearly monochrome proof of the Batmobile's presence on Route 57.


At least it kind of looks like the Batmobile, though I couldn't say from which era. If you squint and look in the bottom lefthand corner, you can make out the Batman insignia on the hubcap.

When I was on that highway, I only saw people yelling horrible things at me.

Accidental Polygamy — Ain't It a Trip!

My greatest accomplishment tonight would have to be convincing Jill to download the Nancy Wilson version of "I've Never Been to Me" on grounds that made think of her so much that I nearly cried — false — and also that it encapsulates everything about her as a woman — mostly false. Those are pretty much direct quotes, too.

Personally, I'm amused by how much Wilson sounds like Maya Rudolph's Charli Coffee. If you haven't heard it before and you share my fascination with terrible ideas that somehow were allowed to become reality, then by all means check it out yourself. It's on iTunes.

Portions of Foxes and the Lagomorphic Vases

Before houses conquered the expanses of great, wild nothing in the grassy "neighborhood" of my childhood, I would go walking, with a stick in hand and with no more pressing goal than seeing some creek, some valley, some literal hole-in-the-ground that had previous escaped my detection and — to my small brain — the detection of any other human who could truly appreciate it. Once, on one of these journeys, I came across an unusual bush I had never seen before. No taller than a soccer ball, flat-bottomed and round-topped, this bush stood out against the dry grass by virtue of being a reddish-gold. (Outside of autumn and poison oak, red does not figure largely into the palette of rural, central California.) The bush had spiky, thin leaves one might associate with an evergreen or some hearty cactus, yet it still looked soft. A second bush was growing a few yards away, I soon saw. Curious and intent on being the first to observe these plant specimens — which had seemingly sprouted up overnight and which I'm sure I intended to dub "Drewshrubs" — I approached them. A few steps away from the first, however, a canine head shot from around one side and bushy tail from around the other. Within moments, a similar head and tail appeared around the second bush. Before I could process what I was watching, both bushes had leapt onto their paws and darted into the distance.

Since that day, I've never stepped closer to wild foxes. Whenever I see one trotting about now, I think "There goes another one of those bushes."

Monday morning, when I awoke before dawn to make the drive from Hollister in time for work in Santa Barbara, I groggily walked around the new additions that have so radically changed the house I grew up in. These include a new window that faces out onto the side lawn. Looking through this window and onto this part of the yard newly visible from inside the house, I saw what initially looked like three brown vases arranged symmetrically on the lawn. Each of the three had narrow bases, bulging midsections and odd tops that tapered thinner and thinner before forming tips at the end. In my sleepy state, I had to consider what I was looking at for a moment before I realized that the vases were actually three hares enjoying a good, motionless sit at the start of their day. They looked a lot less like inanimate objects when the dog rounded the corner and chased the three in different directions. Vases, it turns out, can move pretty quickly when properly motivated.

As I pulled out of my parents' driveway and down the hill, I saw one brown hare sitting on the other side of the fence — again motionless and again, I'd guess, looking like a jar if a half-awake person not wearing glasses saw it from behind.

I'd like to think vase mimicry is a common hare hobby. Apparently mistaking woodland creatures for inanimate objects is my hobby.

Portions of Foxes are headlining a show downtown on Saturday, with The Lagomorphic Vases opening. I know the bands from way back and can totally get you tickets.

Dina's Issues, My Issues

From Dina, a card that perfectly describes my feelings toward her.

dina_mensturates

I guess she wanted me to post it here. She certainly doesn't post much on her regular blog anymore. Hey Dina — why not put this up on the MyThings blog?

Not to be outdone, Spencer soon followed up with his choice of card to send me.

ap_52

The results speak for themselves.

Precious Hamburgers?

Maybe I know nothing about fashion, but what exactly about this model's pose would lead anyone to want to buy this dress?


And really? Her hair? That doesn't read as "I'm pretty in my dress." It reads as "Someone slapped me for being pigeon-toed. And then they took my picture."

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Unipede

From Nate. Save the money you might spend while high on seeing Balls of Fury and just watch this again.

Monday, August 27, 2007

What Happened at My Brother's Bachelor Party

Starting on the Right Foot

I never thought I'd be such a fan of a blog titled "El Toilet," but it really keeps delivering the goods. Die Wunderkammer lives on.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Pulling My Mahogany

From Spencer comes the tale of a Wikipedia, which, in turn, tells the tale of Harvey Stanley Hyde Blackburn, who earned every one of his four names by tricking doctors, friends and the entire Australian army by hiding the fact that he only had one leg.


After his left foot was crushed in a railroad accident, Blackburn was fitted with a wooden prosthetic from the knee down. Having already been enlisted at the time of the accident, Blackburn did not tell his superiors that he was now an amputee because he still wanted to serve. He then fooled his doctor with what he later called a "one-in-a-million ruse" — after telling the examiner that he was "shy," he took his pants off only his right leg. After his still-intact leg was given a once-over, Blackburn distracted the doctor with questions long enough that he could present the good leg again. The doctor didn't notice and Blackburn was told he was fit for service. Eventually, the medical staff realized the trick, but Blackburn protested to the point where the doctors agreed he could serve. He did so throughout World War I.

Stories like this amuse, especially when the come with good epilogues. Blackburn applied again for service in World War II, but was rejected. He lived to be 90 years old. His leg now at the Australian War Museum in Canberra.

As it should be.

[ More: Blackburn's Wikipedia page ]

The Token Wasters

My love of video games sometimes outweighs my ability to play them. That's why websites like Pixel Heroes appeal to me — all the satisfaction of seeing how gnarly the last boss is without having to actually put in the time and effort. And not just for those commonplace American games either — for the crazy-as-hell Japanese ones, which all have crazy-as-hell Japanese names.

A sample:

Dracula X

Valis 2

Abadox

Cho Aniki

Sylphia

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Nine Faces of Drew

Dina has bombarded me with wonderment lately. The most recent example of this has to be the St. Andrews Face Transformer, which makes you look goofy in ways you don't normally look goofy. For example, here are Dina's results.


I was sure to tell her that the fifth one makes her look remarkably like Zach Braff.

Here are the weirdos I look like:

Baby Drew


Child Drew


Old Man Drew


Afro-Caribbean Drew


Lady Drew
(or, apparently, lesbian pre-op FTM Drew)


West Asian Drew


Ape-Man Drew


Modigliani Drew


Botticelli Drew


Perhaps I shouldn't have picked a photo in which I'm not sporting stubble.

Crockabeagle

Normally, I'm against buying clothes for dogs. This, however, changes my mind.


[ Source: Bitperbit, via El Toilet ]

Thursday, August 23, 2007

He's a Bicycle, She's a Baha'i

Yet another word-of-the-day from Wordsmith that leads me to believe that someone their has dirty sense of humor.
bissextile (by-SEKS-til)

adjective: Of or pertaining to the leap year or the extra day in the leap year.

noun: Leap year.

[From Latin bisextilis annus (leap year), from Latin bissextus (February 29: leap day), from bi- (two) + sextus (sixth), from the fact that the sixth day before the Calends of March (February 24) appeared twice every leap year.]
Also: previous speculations into Wordsmith's alluded-to perversions.

On Vaginoplasty

Tooling around on the Independent website today, I noted once again what a web traffic draw Starshine's column on vaginoplasty is.


Please understand, I didn't put this particular column up online. Aly did. And when she did, she chose a particularly sensual photo of an orchid that I took as the piece's lead image. As a result, someone can Google "drew mxxxxx vaginoplasty" and get not one but multiple hits. Isn't that swell? (I can only imagine that Aly planned this.)

Two conclusions resulted from this:

One: It also occurred to me that if I just changed my bylines to Vaginoplasty Mxxxxx, I'd exponentially increase the amount of people who see my work.

And two: "Vaginoplasty," to me, is an inherently funny word. As an added bonus, it becomes funnier — probably in the same proportion as Vaginoplasty Mxxxxx's readership would rise — when you add an adjective in front of it. Try it.

Accidental vaginoplasty.

Exceptional vaginoplasty.

Standard vaginoplasty.

Uninspired vaginoplasty.

Uneven vaginoplasty.

Partial vaginoplasty.

Humorous vaginoplasty.

Outdoor vaginoplasty.

Undesirable vaginoplasty.

Discounted vaginoplasty.

Romanian vaginoplasty.

Infamous vaginoplasty.

Surprising vaginoplasty.

Ethical vaginoplasty.

Confounding vaginoplasty.

Stern vaginoplasty.

Alien vaginoplasty.

Free-wheeling vaginoplasty.

Backwards vaginoplasty.

Upside-down vaginoplasty.

Marvelous, marvelous vaginoplasty.

Uncanny vaginoplasty.

Inhuman vaginoplasty.

Destined vaginoplasty.

Praiseworthy vaginoplasty.

(Sometimes I think I do my best work when I'm waiting for other people to do theirs.)

Sodas That Should Not Have Been

I've been meaning to get this up for a while now: a simple link to a series of articles at X-Entertainment on bygone soft drinks — those that were widely distributed and then yanked due to customer revulsion as well as those that never made it past test markets. Crystal Pepsi, Coke II, Strawberry Burst Pepsi, Surge, Pepsi Blue, Pepsi Fire and, of course, Orbitz.


What a freakish, partially digested, suspended animation abortion of a beverage. I actually think I have some Orbitz somewhere in my closet at home. Clearly, I realized how short-lived the product would be and thought to hold onto a couple for kitsch value. And is it odd to anyone else how the online travel company just kind of swooped in and stole that brand name? Am I the only one who thinks about gelatinous balls suspended in sugar water when I see their ads on TV?

The same guy who wrote the dead sodas article has also written separate entries on rarities like Pepsi Holiday Spice, Mountain Dew Pitch Black, and the Jones Soda Holiday Pack. I was surprised to learn that in addition to the infamous Turkey and Gravy flavor, the pack also includes Cranberry Sauce, Mashed Potatoes, Fruitcake, and Green Been Casserole.

Somehow, these little bits have slipped past my pop culture awareness. Little, Orbitz-like bitz.

Hiding Your Dinner From God

From Spencer, a random and moderately disgusting item of food trivia: The Ortolan Bunting, despite being a protected species in France, is a culinary delicacy. The details of eating in strain believability.


The eating of the bird, from The Stranger:
You catch the ortolan with a net spread up in the forest canopy. Take it alive. Take it home. Poke out its eyes and put it in a small cage. Force-feed it oats and millet and figs until it has swollen to four times its normal size. Drown it in brandy. Roast it whole, in an oven at high heat, for six to eight minutes. Bring it to the table. Place a cloth—a napkin will do—over your head to hide your cruelty from the sight of God. Put the whole bird into your mouth, with only the beak protruding from your lips. Bite. Put the beak on your plate and begin chewing, gently. You will taste three things: First, the sweetness of the flesh and fat. This is God. Then, the bitterness of the guts will begin to overwhelm you. This is the suffering of Jesus. Finally, as your teeth break the small, delicate bones and they begin to lacerate your gums, you will taste the salt of your own blood, mingling with the richness of the fat and the bitterness of the organs. This is the Holy Spirit, the mystery of the Trinity—three united as one. It is cruel. And beautiful. According to Claude Souvenir, chewing the ortolan takes approximately 15 minutes.
The bolding is mine, to maximize the creepiness and weirdness.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Boonies? The Sticks? Or Just Butt Fuck Egypt?

What's your Walkscore?


This site performs the nifty function of telling you whether you live in a city or not. (Yes, we need websites to tell us these things nowadays.) I apparently do. My address gets me the very respectable score of 86, out of a possible 100. Santa Barbara may have its faults, but pedestrian accessibility is not one of them. I can't imagine too many other cities in California so well suited for foot traffic, in fact.

Conversely, the address of the house I grew up in gives me a score of zero. Worse: the distance to things like restaurants, bars, grocery stores, movie theaters and the like are calculated as the crow flies. Thus, when it identifies the nearest such place — which, at thirteen miles away, is deemed "unwalkable — it neglects to mention that several hills and rattlesnake-filled gulches would separate you from this destination. The road you'd walk along to get there would actually
take much, much longer.

A good try, Walkscore.com.

Psychedelic Incest Prom

Apparently David Lynch has been on more minds than just mine lately. Jill sent me a link to an article on McSweeney's that she correctly noted as being something I would like: David Lynch's Tips for a Great Prom.

A selection:
Picking and Presenting the Right Corsage

This is crucial for many reasons, none of which I can go into. Select a corsage that comes in an oddly anachronistic box. Arrive at your date's house and present the corsage first. Then greet her mother and father warmly and promise you'll have their daughter home before midnight. Laugh together about this, even though you have no idea what exactly you're laughing about, nor why the father's entire head has turned a very unnatural purple color and is ballooning in size. Don't spend any time trying to figure out what's happening, however. After the father excuses himself, your date will descend the staircase very slowly. Pin the corsage on in the same slow motion. Be careful here not to stare too long at the flower once it's pinned on your date, as you may get a brief glimpse of your own yawning face aged 20 years and wearing brazenly applied clown makeup for a reason that is not yet clear to you. Bid the mother good night. "Gosh," you might want to say to yourself, "maybe the yellow corsage would have been better."

The Irony

Stumbling across blogs like this amuses me. The one and only entry — which went up in May of this year — begins with the sentence "So finally i have decided to get off my lazy ass and finally start a blog." Funny, that.

The Salmon Dance

I'm not the biggest Chemical Bros. fan in the world, but I'll admit that they've made some worthwhile contributions to popular culture in the years they've been cobbling together bleeps, blips and samples of bleeps and blips. Not among the least of them would be the song featured in the below video, which I find delightful.

Also: fun salmon facts!

[ Source: (un)social-commentary ]

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Cows and Bees on My Street

Or, if you will, the week in Itunes. The most played songs this week:
  1. Devo - "Gut Feeling"
  2. The Envelopes - "Audrey in the Country"
  3. The Beta Band - "Assessment"
  4. Bobby Womack - "Across 110th Street"
  5. Klaxons - "Golden Skans"
  6. Bill Callahan - "Diamond Dancer"
  7. Professor Murder - "The Mountain"
  8. Them - "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue"
  9. The Zombies - "Just Out of Reach"
  10. 19010 Fruitgum Company - "Indian Giver"
And what I've most recently listened to:

Shanghaied

The below advertisement originally appeared in GQ magazine, apparently back when ad designers didn't care about pissing off Chinese people. Note the font. Note the model. Note her clothes. And then check below for the text.

shanghaied


The text reads as follows:
Ah, the lure of the Orient. How many American consumers have fallen prey to it in search of the cheap pair of pants that Hong Kong is famous for. Well, at BP Britches, an all-American maker of young men's britches, we say, "Look homeward, Joe," because the bargains are stateside. When you buy BP Britches brand, you get American integrity, not Hong Kong hype, you get honest American construction and materials, not a chop chop Hong Kong quickie.

Also, Joe, with us you get fashion that is current and pure Americana instead of a look with a Hong Kong slant. And best of all, when you buy BP Britches your dollars fight America's inflation rather than contributing to it. So, before you spend your money somewhere you shouldn't, compare BP Britches to the Hong Kong cheapie and you'll know whose pants you want to get into.
Wow. Oh my god wow. I'm not sure what's worse: "chop chop Hong Kong quickie" or the remark about fashion with a "Hong Kong slant." You know, because we "roundeyes" like to think that Chinese people have the ocular slant.

And then there's the weird line at the end: "You'll know whose pants you want to get into." But these are men's pants, right? So they're making a joke about getting into somebody's pants when the previous text has already confirmed that we're only speaking of men's pants here. Does BP Britches hate the conniving Dragon Lady so much that they want me to fool around with guys? Is good old-fashioned American homoerotica preferable to Cino-American miscegenation? Because that's what I'm getting. I think.

And let's talk about the woman for a moment. I know the ad implies that this deceptively beautiful woman might lead a guy to think he's getting a good deal — you know, because she's totally a hooker — but much in the manner that Hong Kong slacks are shoddily constructed, so too is this Hong Kong Hattie. Take her back to your hotel, give her one good thrust and BOING! — her seams pop open and her wang flops out. The next thing you know, her one hundred brothers flood into the room, karate chop you senseless, and spirit your pants away to the Seamstress of Wind and Ghosts, who will badly mimic your desirable American fashion into — you guessed it — another chop chop Hong Kong quickie, made of paper and spit.

And that, Joe, is why you don't buy Chinese pants.

Strange, strange advertisement.

Smiling Despite

When I first saw the below photo — some accidentally hilarious snapshot that's no doubt made the rounds on the internet for some time now — I thought it was funny, though I couldn't put my finger on what seemed strangely familiar about it.


Then I remembered a slide ID I had to learn back in Art 1A.


This photo, by Weegee, depicts a drowned man at Coney Island. Despite the grim situation, however, the woman in the photo's center is smiling. It's not a genuine smile, I don't think, but more of the kind of automatic facial expression that people so often make when you stick a camera in front of them. Given the woman's proximity to the recently deceased, I'd bet she's either a relation of his or part of the rescue crew. In either case, it's totally inappropriate for her to be grinning — unless, of course, she really didn't care for him and she's not afraid to let everybody know about it.

The top photo reminds me of the Weegee in the sense of people being programmed to perform a certain way when being photographed — smiling or throwing your arms around your friends in order to make it clear to anyone who sees the photo that you are, in fact, a group. In the bottom photo, the contrast between the men's genuine reactions and the woman's artificial one makes for art. In the top, the result is three girls determined to blankly hug and smile for a photo regardless of what's happening around them — namely the pooling of freshly spilt beer. Just as the Coney Island woman probably didn't anticipate how strange she would look if she smiled for the photo, the girl in the middle clearly threw her arms around her friends without realizing that putting her arm at that angle would spill her beer and make her look foolish.

Strange what people will do in a photo.

[ Source: El Toilet ]

Marriage, Bomano Style

Some of the notable shared clips from my public Google reader page.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Strange What Love Does

Try as I might, I can't review Inland Empire without inserting myself into it. Call me selfish or egocentric, or accept that the movie asks so much of the viewer that he or she becomes as important to the film as the people who made it.


I first heard about Inland Empire more than two years ago. I posted about it, and even then I eagerly anticipated the day I'd be able to pick it apart. Its technical release date falls in 2006, but only because David Lynch debuted it then at the Venice Film Festival. It vanished — in a very Lynchian manner, I might add — after a rather narrow theatrical release in early 2007 and I've been waiting all the while for its DVD arrival to finally see it. Now, more than two years after I blogged about my first awareness of it, I have seen Inland Empire. And I don't know what to make of it.

Perhaps that's exactly what Lynch would have wanted, though he never would have said so in an interview. The film — so devoid of typical narrative structure that it precludes spoilers — wafts through my head like some kind of disorienting smoke. I don't know whether I'm coming or going, and I'm not sure exactly who star Laura Dern was playing throughout most of it. That's not a bad thing, mind you — I'm one of the bigger Lynch fans I know and I fully prepared myself to finish Inland Empire while scratching my head.

Here's the best I can do for a semblance of a plot: Laura Dern's character makes a movie, On High in Blue Tomorrows, about an affair that ends badly. The film, in a sense, is a remake, but only because the Polish actors who originally tried to perform in it died horrifically before shooting completed. Soon, Dern no longer seems to play the actress in the movie but the character from On High in Blue Tomorrows herself. The character, Sue, devolves tragically until we see her walking the streets of Hollywood with other prostitutes, who just happen to break into a choreographed dance to "The Loco-Motion" at a moment's notice. Polish characters — not the actors who died but perhaps the real-life people on whom the Polish version of On High in Blue Tomorrows were based — appear, though the time period they exist in is left unstated. It's psychological and spiritual and at any given point, and various characters may not be people at all, but ghosts or manifestations of emotions or maybe just members of the film crew — because, after all, this movie is about making a movie, and that narrative frame can collapse or rebuild itself in a split second.


Oh, and then there are the rabbits — that is, Rabbits, a series of short films that Lynch posted a few years ago on his website and which appear in truncated format in this film. Voiced by Naomi Watts and Laura Elena Harring, the stars of the thematically similar Mulholland Drive, these lagomorphic characters exist on the set of a macabre sitcom — complete with canned laughter — and may or may not be the animal reincarnations that evil-doers suffer in some religions. Or maybe they're more benevolent than that, and their nonsensical dialogues form a play that those in purgatory must watch until their redemption.

To be honest, I think I'd have to watch this movie again in order to truly understand it. That's such a given for a Lynch film, but it's never been more true than with Inland Empire. Reading message boards and other reviews about it, I wonder if I missed a lot — like minor characters from the end of the movie appearing as background figures earlier on, like one actor playing multiple roles, like certain set pieces and items of clothing signifying one thing or another in different contexts. Since its release in 2001, Lynch's last film, Mulholland Drive, has come to epitomize subtle, non-linear and downright bizarre cinema. It's my favorite movie, and I credit it with helping me to better understand avant garde art and literature better than any professor or textbook ever did. But even Mulholland Drive can't hold a candle to the impenetrable Inland Empire.

What I can say: It's definitely very Lynchian, with supporting roles by regulars Grace Zabriskie and Harry Dean Stanton. It makes curious use of cameos by the likes of Natassja Kinksi, William H. Macy, Ben Harper, Beck (in an unexpected musical cameo), Harring (out of her rabbit costume) and even Bellina Logan, an actress who appeared prominently as Louie, Ben Horne's concierge, in an episode of Twin Peaks to the point that a person who only saw that one episode might well assume she was a series regular. (Major trivia: Logan played Beany Thorn — the best friend of Dern's character in Wild at Heart — but had her scenes cut. In Inland Empire, she plays Dern's buddy once again.) The use of "The Loco-Motion" to disturbing effect is vintage Lynch. And all the usual fusions of happy-go-lucky kitsch culture and the depths of depravity that mark Lynch's every other effort appear here again..

As may reviews have noted, Inland Empire stands apart from Lynch's previous efforts by virtue of it being shot on digital video rather than film — and not high-end digital, either. Lynch reportedly used the midrange Sony DSR-PD150 for the project. The effect is, on the whole, positive. At the expense of clarity, Inland Empire's colors look amazing; the reds pop and the blacks envelop everything around them in perfect synchronicity with Lynch's style. I can't tell whether the effect was intention or not, but Lynch's trademark long shots had me staring at an almost motionless face for minutes on end in some scenes. When the film cut to a different shot, the image of the face — now burnt into my eyes — would fade in a ghostly manner in the blackness of the following scene.

As far as the DVD release goes, the second disc bonus features didn't help me figure out exactly what Lynch wanted me to walk away from this movie with. The deleted scenes — drawn-out but interesting — were really just more of the same vague and sometimes frustrating material that marked the rest of the movie. Perhaps most unexpectedly, the disc includes a twenty-minute segment of Lynch explaining how to properly cook quinoa. Lynch, in turns out, really, really likes quinoa. (Better than garmanbozia.)

When I think about it, I'm glad I watched Inland Empire. I know I'll have to watch it again in order to properly understand it. And I'm glad that I didn't drag anybody I know — that is, anybody who doesn't share my adoration for Lynch — down to L.A. to go see it in theaters, as I'm pretty sure whoever I picked to go would have murdered me after sitting through three hours of such a confusing film.

In short: rating pending. Beautiful, mysterious, haunting, to be sure. Good? Yes. On par with the likes of Mulholland Drive, Blue Velvet or Fire Walk With Me, however? I just don't have the experience yet to say.


Sunday, August 19, 2007

Unlocking the Santa Barbara Blogosphere

Not long ago, Blogger.com finally made one small change that, in my opinion, vastly improves its whole system: now users can search for blogs by city. Though Blogger had always asked users to enter in the city they live in into their general user info, that city name previously just sat as dead text on the user profile. Now, that city name is clickable and yields a list of all the Blogger users who claim to reside in the city clicked. For example, I can now see that there are about 1,200 Santa Barbara residents who have Blogger profiles. I honestly can't imagine why Blogger didn't implement this feature years ago. I'm sure I'm not alone in wanting to know who else in the neighborhood might have a blog.

Anyway, I waded through the first 400 or so results and looked into the blogs kept by people who seemed promising either on account of a good profile picture or by what they listed at their interests. Here are some of the blogs I found. (That is, I had to nix a lot of blogs that have never been updated, been updated once and then forgotten or not updated since 2005.) In any case, this only represents the ones that grabbed me of the one-third of listed blogs that I looked through.
  • "The Lucky Hippo" — that's both the blog's name and the author's pseudonym. Whoever keeps this lists their profession as "writer/editor/mook," so for all I know he could be someone I work with. Then again, he could just as easily work at the other paper…. The Lucky Hippo has been up since May of this year.
  • User Ronald Rutherford keeps several blogs, including one for movie reviews — on which he has most recently reviewed Factory Girl — and another for his conservative view on economics.
  • Writer Kyle Imberlin stocks his blog, Metaphor, with the usual blog-appropriate musings on life.
  • Aguayo Shed is where blogger Noelle Aguayo began blogging about her soon-to-be-born baby and now concentrates on family life.
  • Westmont employee Janice — a.k.a. Montecito Mama — also writes about family issues on her blog.
  • At A Blog in Time…, you can follow the progress of blogger Jen, who identifies herself as a happily married, Hapkido practicing ovarian cancer survivor. She seems to be training to be a bodybuilder of some sort.
  • Mary Stanley blogs regularly about fiber art — hers and others' — at Art Spirit.
  • I was surprised to find the blog AMCD in Santa Barbara. Started only this month and kept by someone identified only as Melinda, this blog showed up rather early in the results. It also is written in an Asian language that I can't identify. Call me ignorant, but I didn't expect to see locals blogging in languages besides Spanish and English. I'm happy to be proven wrong.
  • Not to be outdone, international student Tobias Grunick blogs in both German and English at Tobi's News Channel.
  • Rochelle, a Westmont student, records her experiences with Teach for America in Chicago at Where You Lead Me, I Will Follow.
  • You can read about the travels and subsequent meals of Kristin at Miss Adventure.
  • UCSB's philosophy department runs its own blog, I found. A neat idea that I don't remember any departments doing while I was at UCSB. This one dates back to September of 2005.
  • Ang is a Santa Barbara blogger who attends dive schools, works with marine animals and seems to have an affinity for all things oceanic. His or her blog is titled, appropriately, above | below.
  • Bruce Caron started his blog, Light Blue Blog, just to focus on the lightblueline project.
  • Photographer Ricky Mia posts his work at his personal blog. There's some nice work up here.
  • Art and doodlings by blogger Jarad go up at I Heart My Penis. He's been hearting his penis since 2005. Don't worry — the images there don't actually show him penis-hearting.
  • I'm maybe most impressed with Santa Barbara blogger eightyone81, whose blog Toilets Worldwide showcases photos of commodes he's come across during his travels. The same blogger keeps the similarly-themed Rock Balance Blog as well as a non-rock, non-toilet photo repository, Jonas Jungblut Photo.
  • School Board member Nancy Harter kept a blog for as long as it took to put up one entry. The entry, like the blog itself, was designed to help her win a spot on the school board back in 2004. According to profile, it's been checked out nine times since its inception.
  • Self-described "incorrigible nudist" Art Skyclad writes about his naked, dangly adventures at Skyclad Tales. As you might imagine, it's not at all safe for work.
  • Brett Austin blogs the Zaca Fire, iPhone photos and his status as a toxophilite over at his blog.
  • And late in the list, I stumbled across the profile of a blogger who should be very familiar to those in-the-know about Santa Barbara blogs: Sara de la Guerra. While I don't need to explain what BlogaBarbara is about, I think those who read postings there would be amused to see what appears to be Sara's aborted secondary blog, Library Etiquette.
That's what I found, anyway. I think the results are generated randomly, so anybody who searches Blogger for "Santa Barbara" might find another hundred different worthwhile blogs. Then, of course, there's Goleta, Isla Vista, Montecito and Carp. Personally, I'm just happy to see that people in the community are using any form of blogging to express themselves. I think it would be great if locals continue to share their contributions to the online world and even greater if we all have a means of keeping tabs on what they're writing.

Disco Ball of Deceit

I've been robbed, specifically of a meaningless snapshot I took of a disco ball that had somehow wandered into my room during my senior year of college. I uploaded the photo on Flickr some time ago. Then Google Alerts told me that this blog had used the picture — credited to me — in a post titled "Sucky." Of course, I had to look.

disco ball

The post title was not, after all, a judgment on my photography. But there my photo was nonetheless.

So I click it to see how much attention this particular photo had drawn since I uploaded it and it takes me to the photo page — on someone else's account. This makes me unhappy. Not that I'm territorial about my stuff or anything. I don't think my photos are all that good, and anybody who'd like to use them is welcome to. However, I'm boggled by the notion that someone would take a photo from Flickr and then re-upload it to Flickr with my screenname tagged onto it. You know, in case anybody searches Flickr for photos of "kidicarus222."

Confused, I did what I always do in these situations: I left a snotty comment.
Hi. I think this is my photo. Why did you upload it yourself? I would have let you use it for whatever you want had you asked.

Synesthetic Appreciation of Electric Light Orchestra

While most posts here concentrate on one or two of my obsessions — words, video games, maybe possibly words-in-video games — some rare posts mash my interests together and into some kind of wonderful lumpy pudding of interest.

This is that pudding, people.

A blog I've been reading for some time now, Scrubbles, posted on video accompaniment to the music of Electric Light Orchestra. (For the record, that's two points right off the bat: ELO and music videos.) Not that songs as vibrant as Electric Light Orchestra's need to add a visual element or anything, but two ELO songs have been famously paired with animated sequences. They're fun.



Above, you see the Don Bluth segment from Xanadu. During the song, "Don't Walk Away," Michael Beck and Olivia Newton-John's characters transform into fish and birds styled in the signature look of the same cartoon studio that gave us The Secret of NIMH. After, they transform back into boring humans and you end up waiting for them to stop talking and start singing again. In all, the animated segment makes about as much sense as the rest of the movie. To my peers, it may be most familiar as a cultural reference from the Futurama episode with the holophoner, in which Fry and Leela become otters in a romantic fantasy sequence.



But back to ELO. The Scrubbles post goes on to give a heads-up for a second, even better clip.



The bunny girl riding the flying sword? Not a clue. Not a fucking clue. And while I don't know my Japanese animation all that well, I noticed that she is clearly kicking ass alongside the likes of Star Wars and Transformers characters. And Superman, for some reason. According to Scrubbles, the clip — which features ELO's "Twilight" and apparently does so without the band's permission — was part of the opening ceremonies of Daicon IV, a 1983 sci-fi convention held in Osaka. To me, this combination of sight and sound so perfectly represents what I picture in my head when I listen to ELO that it's scary.

So let's see. That's bygone pop music, music videos, inexplicable Japanese culture, appropriation of pop culture icons into places they don't really belong, bad movies, Don Bluth, Adult Swim, otters, and anthropomorphosized bunny women. You can't much more up my alley than this.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Big Hair or Big Head?

As of last night, Super Mario Bros. damsel Peach was announced as a playable fighter in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Below, she appears rendered far more realistically than she usually does in her home series.


Is it just me, or does the lady's head appear to be abnormally large? Sure, it has to be big in order to accommodate those giant eyes, but I worry for her safety when she's engaging in physical combat with what amounts to a casaba melon balanced atop a celery stick. Don't forget how the Elephant Man died, folks.

A Question of Blogging Etiquette

Like any space, real or imagined, in which humans interact with each other, the blogosphere demands that its contributors follow a certain set of rules. For example, you're expected not to leave comments on strangers' blogs that merely say "Nice blog," followed by a URL leading back to your little piece of the web. Anybody with a clue in their head will see that you're shamelessly trying to plug your blog and will likely ignore you or, worse, delete your comment. I've banished such comments before. They're insulting.

Currently, I'm looking into whether a certain feature I currently have on Back of the Cereal Box may be violating an less understood rule about blogging. In short, I have an element down a ways on my sidebar on the right side of this page. Titled "Recent Links to Me," this feature posts a list of five URLs — the last five websites who have linked to me. I thought this was a fairly innocent experimentation with my blog template that would allow my readers to quickly see who was talking about me. But now I'm wondering if this feature could be viewed as being in bad taste.

As far as I know, the most widely acknowledged system for ranking the popularity of blogs is Technorati. I've been working with Technorati for more than a year in an effort to use it to my advantage. The popularity ranking is determined, as near as I can tell, by who links to you, with the power of those links being weighted by all those blogs' respective popularity.

(For example, a link from some guy who just started his blog yesterday wouldn't get me as much of a bump as a link from something like Boing Boing, unless I'm mistaken. For comparison's sake, my ranking currently sits just below 50. I share this level of popularity with an estimated 124,000 other blogs. A brand new blog would have a rank of zero, and would share that with an estimated two million other blogs. Engadget — the most popular blog in the blogosphere, as of today — has a Technorati ranking of 30,235, plus whatever small bump it will get when I publish this post and add one more link.)

Thus, having people link to you is a good thing. (Duh.) Reading online, however, has taught me that many bloggers perhaps rightfully think that these popularity-boosting links should happen organically. When you force it, it's in bad taste.

Now, regarding my "Recent Links to Me" list, by posting the URLs of people who have been linking me, I'm also linking to them. After all, a link is a link. So whenever anybody's site links to me, I automatically link back. Thus, not only does their action benefit me, but it instantaneously benefit them.

Could this constitute the type of link farming that people hate so much?

I didn't think it did, but when I did some quick searches to find other blogs that have this system I did, I actually found very few. This surprised me. It seemed like anybody with a blog would want to post who has been linking them, and if that system was automated, that was all the better. Right? Then why did Google searches for phrases like "recent link to me," "link to my blog," "links to this blog," "inbound links" and such turn up so few blogs? I found a handful. While I only searched a few Google pages in to any one search, I feel I looked enough to be able to ascertain whether their was an abundance of this kind of thing.

To give the best example I can, the blogs I found include the following:
At nOnoscience, the "recent links" feature is noted as being "powered by who link here." I googled that, and in line with apparent ESL nature of the search term, I found a few more blogs that were mostly not in English.
(And yes, I acknowledge that by posting these links I'm potentially getting myself six links right back and that they might, in the long run, affect the status of my Technorati ranking in a bad way. If worst comes to worst and I'm punished severely by the link police, I'll just remove the above links.)

I can't help but notice that these blogs aren't the high-profile types who I think would normally want to share with their readers who else might be reading them. Perhaps the truly successful blogs — that is, the ones who already get links and, thus, visitors, without having to particularly try — don't need to do this. I don't know. Maybe the more trafficked blogs are subject to greater scrutiny and therefore wouldn't want to risk being shamed for trying to get as many links as possible. Then again, maybe this practice is just fairly little known.

I'm not sure I can answer this one on my own. So, then, I pose this question to my readers: Is this little "Recent Links to Me" box in bad taste? Is this bad linking?

The Wrong Job

Worse than the Woman in the Refrigerator and the Lady in the Radiator.


[ Source: El Toilet ]

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Inus, Dorcas and At-Sign

Two recent linkworthy posts on unusual names:
  • Mother Tongue Annoyances on the tragedy of the female given name "Dorcas" and the allegedly existent name "Inus." (Surprise: The latter rhymes with "penis.")
  • The Syndey Morning Herald on a Chinese couple who want to name their son "@." They defended their choice before the Chinese government by saying the symbol is almost universally understood and, when pronounced by a Chinese person, sounds like ai ta, or "love him."

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Zaca Fire — Just for Laughs?

Doubtlessly, I'm not the only one who thought to snap a cell phone photo of the Megaton Thunderhead from Hell, who towered over the top of the mountains for the better part of afternoon. Scary stuff. Even if the head of this cloud monster looked like the fluffy cumulus cotton balls you might see in Hawaii, its belly was pulsing with the destructive purple energy of a wildfire. It's since sunk back down, trailing, I'm told, up into Visalia.

Here's my photodocumentation. Please excuse the dark ridge at the bottom. I believe it's my finger.


Though the Megaton Thunderhead from Hell apparently signified less of a catastrophe than one might have thought, I couldn't help be amused once again by the accidentally hilarious fusions of news text and image that popped up on a Google news search for Zaca Fire info.


Indeed, KEYT. Indeed.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Disposable Weathercock

(In which I attempt to make sense of why the current top Technorati search keywords are what they are, then get bored of that and decide to falsely link them together for my own amusement. This week's dishonorables, as of the time I write this drivel, include Ron Paul, Noelia, Frank Rich, Johanna Cardona, the Gnomedex, Galilea Montijo, descargar, the iPhone, something called "melayu" and, once again, Paris Hilton. There's also an entry for "utube," which fucking has to be different than "youtube" because we can't have sunk so low that people no longer have time to write out "youtube.")

Ahem.

U.S. Presidential hopeful Ron Paul tops this week's list, despite the fact that anyone else whose name even remotely sounds like "Ron Paul" would make for better reading. (Sean Paul, Pope John Paul II and Ron Popeil leap to mind.) Ron Paul, who apparently hasn't realized that someone with a name like "Ron Paul" is probably better suited for truck deliveries than anything involving the title "president," did, however, make a surprise splash into pop culture this week with what unfocused blog reading has taught me is a sex tape scandal with current Puerto Rican popstar Noelia, daughter of bygone and angry-about-it Puerto Rican popstar Yolandita Monge. News of Ron Paul and Noelia's affair broke into mainstream media by, of all sources, Frank Rich of the New York Times, who opined with his trademark acerbity that "the Noelia incident marked Paul's worst performance to date, especially in respect to lighter fare such as Law & Order indentured servant Mariska Hargitay and Colombian telejornalista nymphomaniac Johanna Cardona." (The latter watched the ignominy of her infamous phone sex scandal vanish shortly after her appearance on the Gnomedex, an online visual catalogue of women who resemble gnomes. The once-beautiful Cardona, of course, devolved into gnome-hood following yet another high-profile disgrace: a sulphuric acid catfight with Mexican-born, Manx-raised cup-flipping queen Galilea Montijo.) The Ron Paul-Noelia video — known among Latin perv circles as Descargar, the Spanish for "to unload", which may give you some indication as to Noelia's fate in the clip's climax — displaced last week's top sex scandal video, which depicted armed felon Paris Hilton's one night stand with mythical four-pronged horse-dragon Melayu. Needless to say, both incidents were recorded by Food & Wine magazine's Gail Simmons on a video-ready iPhone from a darkened closet and are instantly viewable on utube, the new video network site for people morally opposed to the three-letter variation of English's second person singular pronoun, which Congress is expected to officially ban next week.

Oh, and there was a baby salamander there, too.


My predictions for next week's top Technorati key terms: zaca fire, lawsuit, calfire, hey — remember santa barbara?, apocalypse, paris hilton, iphone, paris hilton's iphone

My Mentos Moment

Given that I live in a beach town, you'd think I'd own sunscreen. And given that I I'd just been invited to step out to the beach with the amassed group of college friends in Santa Barbara this weekend — code name: "Reunionsauce" — you'd think I would have brought that sunscreen with me. However, with mere moments before the train of cars was to deliver the group to East Beach, I stood sunscreenless, in apparent invitation of the sunnier side of cancer.

"Hold on, I'll check if they sell sunscreen at the liquor store down the street," I said.

That's the usual plan for this neighborhood. If lacking any necessary item, check this one particular liquor store, where the nice Syrians who work behind the counter will happily point you in the direction of said thing. Lightbulbs, tea bags, batteries, Mr. Clean, marinara sauce, condoms, cheapie sunglasses, Ben & Jerry's, scouring pads, notepads, corn pads and, of course, alcohol. On occasion, however, the store may lack a product — possibly because it is out of stock or possibly because the owners aren't familiar enough with American culture to know what it is. (When I bought mustard, for example, I had to explain to the owner what I planned to do with it. "Like ketchup?" he asked. "Even better," I promised him. I also once had to tell him what Gas-X did.) So I go in and ask for sunscreen, which, after some explanation, Mr. Counter Man recognizes as something that exists but he says he have it. "We probably should," he said. I thank him and leave, preparing to bare my skin to the elements.

As I walk down the sidewalk, however, I hear someone shout. I turn around and see that it's the guy who was standing behind me in line, who I only noticed before because he had the kind of surfery blond hair you'd see on villainous preps in 80s movies. And those are the kinds of things I notice. This guy, now sporting shades, is driving his royal blue convertible the same direction as I'm walking, with his rockstar girlfriend in the passenger seat. He repeats what he said earlier: "Dude, do you need sunscreen?" And mutter out that I do. Then, without having even hardly slowed his car, he whips a bottle of sunscreen that spins through the air and gracefully lands exactly where my hand is in the impossible way that should only happen in commercials. And then he speeds away before I can even thank him.

I can't actually believe that it happened, not so much because other people aren't allowed to be so movie magical smooth but more that my awkwardness usually brings even the flawless down a notch or so. And to give an example of that tendency, I'm going to add the following epilogue to this story.

Yes, Joe Cool did technically toss a bottle of sunscreen into my hand. And I did use it to prevent my face from taking on a tomato-like appearance. However, my associates and I examined the bottle during the car ride, principally to make sure allegedly Bullfrog-brand sun goop was just that and not, in fact, goopified poison. We noted that the bottle specified the sunscreen as a kid's product, which struck as strange because the guy who tossed the bottle couldn't have been more than a year older than me. We came to the conclusion that he and Rockstar Girlfriend were actually child murderers who in giving me the bottle had actually shed the last remaining shred of evidence from their latest "project." Now it has my fingerprints all over it. I'm screwed and the fashionable murderers are probably halfway to Mexico as I type this.

Oh, and Sanam and Aemon were among those visiting. I'm not clear why they came here, but I think they may have been married in Isla Vista.

The Things We Lug

Sometimes I put Hannah's weekend articles up on the Independent's website. Sometimes Aly does. In an off week, I generally won't read what Hannah has written until somebody reminds me that it's worth the time it takes to scan my eyes over it. In lieu of her regular Saturday travel piece, Hannah this week wrote an essay about the prospect of evacuating her house to escape the now 85,000-acre Zaca Fire. In a sense, an evacuation article is a very specific kind of travel piece, I'd like to think. Aly put it up. As Spencer has reminded me, Hannah did a bang-up job.

For your perusal: "The Things We Lug."

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Whatever Happened to Space Xena?

Remember back in 2005 when scientists found those two new celestial bodies? And they called one Ceres? And they called the other one Xena? And for a little while people were saying we might get eleven planets in our solar system?

But then, horrifically, they decided instead that not only were Ceres and Xena not planets, but Pluto wasn't anymore either?

Remember that?

ol' what's-her-name

Well, I do. And I thought of that recently and decided to find out exactly what became of the "Xena" nickname, since I couldn't remember. Fittingly, for something that had a shot — however small — at being named a planet but was ultimately demoted down to "dwarf planet," Xena eventually took the name "Eris," after goddess of spite and discord. It's no "Xena," but it at least beats "2003 UB313," the name it was initially known by International Astronomical Union while its members sorted out the various taxonomical rules that govern the naming of space rocks. Reading up on the subject on the Wikipedia, I found that the astro-researchers who initially found Eris nicknamed the body after the titular character from Xena: Warrior Princess for the following reasons:
We chose it since it started with an X ("Planet X”). It sounds mythological (OK, so it’s TV mythology, but Pluto is named after a cartoon, right?). And (this part is actually true) we’ve been working to get more female deities out there (i.e. Sedna). Also at the time the TV show was still on TV, which shows you how long we’ve been searching!

spite, as always, wins out

Interesting. (Sedna, by the way, is another would-be planet that may one day qualify for dwarf planet status, depending on how the International Astronomical Union chooses to define the term. She takes her name from an Inuit goddess.) Before the official designation, Persephone was also tossed around as a possible official name for the tenth planet, in reference to its proximity to Pluto's, but Eris was ultimately selected, as the Wikipedia puts it, in reference to "the discord in the astronomical community caused by the debate over the object's (and Pluto's) nature."

"Persephone" actually topped the list of reader submissions printed by New Scientist back in the day. That list also included "Xena," as well as "Galileo," "Rupert" (after A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy), "Titan," "Nibiru" (a Babylonian goddess), "Cerberus," "Loki," "Bob," some variation on the number ten. (The best: "Bolero," which was so adeptly used in Bo Derek's Ten.)

lucy, in the sky, without laws

Easily the best thing I learned in all this research into this, however, has to be the epilogue that gives poor Xena another shot at astronomical celebrity. Shortly after Eris herself was discovered, so too was a moon that orbited her. While the satellite had been initially nicknamed "Gabrielle," after Xena's sidekick on the show, it eventually earned the name "Dysnomia." In mythology, Dysnomia is Eris's daughter and the Greek representation of lawlessness.

That is, like Lucy Lawless, the actress who played Xena.

That pseudo-Greek heroine made in into the sky after all.

EDIT: And then another time I bitched about celestial names.