Monday, June 30, 2008

Son of “But Seriously, Folks”

Best of June 2008, according to Back of the Cereal Box.
And, because I worry that not enough of you may have seen its first posting, here again is "Mirror Image," which I endorse as one of the best SNL sketches I've seen in years.



Enjoy!

Stuck in an Elf Village

After I posted the bit about Coldplay, Creaky Boards and Legend of Zelda in which I marveled at the strangeness of a non-electronic rock band actually crediting video game music for having inspired a song, I realized that I had forgotten something I had read in Rolling Stone just a week ago: Harmony-happy rock band Fleet Foxes credited the game Final Fantasy alongside Simon & Garfunkel and Beach Boys bootlegs as having influences their sound. Said band frontman Robin Pecknold:
Those Japanese games had these dense and mysterious soundscapes... A song would just loop the whole time you were in an elf village or whatever. It was catchy and mysterious — that sounds like good music to me.
Final Fantasy. Fleet Foxes. It’s at least alliterative. That’s always a good start. Again, as with the relationship between Creaky Boards and Legend of Zelda, the influence isn’t as pronounced as you might expect, but, in the end, that’s a good thing.



In general, the songs don’t work in a way that you might end up humming them, but they’re lush and evocative of something grand and sweeping. It’s hard to use the term “soundscape” without sounding a little pretentious, but then again it’s hard not to sound pretentious while raving about how a childhood favorite has resurfaced in a cool new band. The songs also could serve well as background music to something else — not unlike what you might hear in Final Fantasy. For those of you for whom Final Fantasy wasn’t part of your formative years, this all means nothing. You still might like Fleet Foxes anyway, provided similarities to the aforementioned bands and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young aren’t a turn-off. For those of you with even a basic knowledge of Black and White Mages, I urge you to check the band out, especially the tracks “Quiet Houses” and “Ragged Wood,” which reminded me most of those looping old melodies.

The only Fleet Foxes track I could find attach to a YouTube video was “White Winter Hymnal,” which is also good. Enjoy!


EDIT: Since this went up and since Fleet Foxes sort of blew up in terms of popularity, YouTube clips for “Quiet Houses” and “Ragged Wood” have made it online.


Sunday, June 29, 2008

Humoresque of a Little Dog

Quite a few of you eventually offered to play the music suggestion game that I talked up in this post, and I will now deliver the goods. Can’t promise you’ll like the results, but what songs I’ve collected represent a cross-section of things that matched what you suggested and things I felt you might actually like to hear.

One exception to the rules, which now feel I should have clarified in the initial post. I’m not making the songs available for free, because I don’t readily have the means to do so. I felt a much better way of making the results immediately ready for the listening would be to post them in a Muxtape, which you’ll see below. (You can listen to the music as much as you want. If you’d like to buy them, you can do so fairly easily through the Amazon.com MP3 store. It’s cheaper than iTunes, generally, and the files downloaded are yours to do whatever you like with. That is, unlike iTunes, it won’t prevent you from burning them to multiple CDs. This seems like a reasonable compromise, no?) And below the Muxtape itself are my explanations for why I picked the songs I did.




“Wishful Thinking,” by The Ditty Bops

At George’s suggestion of “flannel cakes,” I was a taken off guard, mostly because I’ve never had a flannel cake in my life. Still haven’t. Lucky me, however, because the word consists of two nouns for which I have very specific associations: “flannel,” which brings to mind a rustic outdoorsiness, and “cake,” which taste good. Thus, I’ve picked something upbeat, sweet, and fairly country.

“Run Joey Run,” by David Geddes

First off, I had to resist the urge to put something by Lesley Gore for the suggestion “a sweet sixteen birthday party gone bad.” The song I chose does not have anything to do with birthdays, specifically, but instead does a good job of taking the innocence of the American teen and turning it into something awful, if in a clichéd way. But I guess a sweet sixteen gone bad is itself a cliché, thanks to Lesley Gore. “Run Joey Run,” by the way, is one of my favorite bad songs ever.

“I Can Smell the Leaves,” by Olivia Tremor Control

This was as best as I could do with Erin’s extremely specific suggestion of “having a picnic on a sunny day in a warm, grassy field without bugs, on top of a superfuzzy mustard yellow blanket, on which you make out with someone very attractive (yet intellectual) all afternoon and you never, ever, ever get sunburnt.” For me, this Olivia Tremor Control song has also brought to mind thoughts of a sort of peaceful, quiet euphoria in the middle of a busy world. Erin’s suggestion seemed to hint more at a late springtime scene than an autumn one, though, and this song is definitely an autumn song. Still, I think it works.

“Friday’s Child,” by Nancy Sinatra

Regina’s suggestion — “A woman who looks 20 years older than her actual age, smoking a cigar, swilling Lagavulin from the bottle as she tries to teach Latin phrases to her stubborn parrot” — probably made for the hardest out of the bunch. Really, I couldn’t decide whether the whole thing seemed funny or sad. I decided to go for what stood out most: a woman aged beyond her time, along with a general sense of smoky bluesiness. As for the Latin and the parrot, you’ll have to use your imagination. The song does repeat itself a lot, I guess, but in English and not Latin. Oh well.

“Kid,” by Green Apple Quick Step

A bit of background: I’ve had this song since early in high school, as I picked it up on the soundtrack to I Know What You Did Last Summer, which was actually a pretty good album, despite its association with a decidedly B-grade movie. As for this song in particular, I feel like I’ve listened it all the way through only four or five times, but I’ve always had a soft spot for it, even though it’s by no means a great song. I feel it matches Sara’s suggestion of “a song that reminds you of one of those days where it's too hot to really do anything, so you just throw on your grungiest shirt and flip-flops to go buy lime popsicles from 7-Eleven” well enough because it mentions of waking up late, throwing on old clothes, buying lottery tickets, and the sheer joy of wandering around your house aimlessly because you have nothing to do. That last one I associate with summer — or lime popsicle season, if you will — because that’s when the younger me had days to do just that.

“Over and Over,” by Hot Chip

A bit literal, I admit, but I can defend this match for Ellerby’s suggestion of “a really fun roll over car accident.” The song starts simple enough but builds, getting noisier and more cacophonic as it goes, and I’d like to think that represents a car rolling down a cliff, crunching a little more with every spin. Also, the song is called “Over and Over” and it uses that phrase, for lack of a better phrasing, over and over.

“The Sun Is Forever,” by Elf Power

For whatever reason, I had this song in mind immediately upon reading Plover’s suggestion of “an unripe persimmon.” Don’t know why. Perhaps because both song and suggestion reference orange round things — a persimmon and a setting sun — even if an unripe persimmon probably isn’t orange or even necessarily round. In any case, this is what you get: an abstract response to an abstract suggestion.

“Ice Cold Lemonade,” by Death by Chocolate

Whether the CHOCOLATE BABY’s suggestion — “you like CHOCOLATE BABY? then google CHOCOLATE BABY for best prices for CHOCOLATE BABY” — was meant to be included in this music game or not, I decided a natural fit would have to be a song from this rather group, whose underlying silliness doesn’t prevent them from being fun.

“One Million Miles Away,” by J. Ralph

A song that may be familiar to you all from a Volkswagen commercial from the late 90s, “One Million Miles” away fit the bill for Euphoria’s suggest of “an antique pewter and bronze colored song, one that you'd keep in a curio cabinet full of unusual things like animal bones, cones of hand spun wool yarn, Indian incense burners, feathers from exotic and/or extinct birds, occult books and other unusual things. You'd listen to it while having a tea party in full Rocco costume and the tea set you're using is hand made from Indonesia. Oh yes, and there's delicious finger foods to be had as well.” It’s fancy, but a bit strange. It’s even likable, if you can overcome the immediate associations with Volkswagen.

“The Philadelphia Grand Jury,” by The Fiery Furnaces

I damn near picked The Avalanches’ “Frontier Psychiatry” for this one, but changed my mind, mostly out of fear of putting it back-to-back with another song that was better known right at the start of my college experience. Don't want to date myself. This Fiery Furnaces song works for the anonymous suggestion of “something something like warioware,” because, like WarioWare, it’s weird as hell and changes from one thing to another at a moment’s notice.

“Murder in the Red Barn,” by Tom Waits

This song hold a special place for me as the first Tom Waits song I ever heard. It also reminds me a great deal of a short story we might have read in Prof. Waid’s Southern Lit class.

“Imitation of the Sky,” by Bryan Scary and the Shredding Tears

I’m not sure what an “astro-crag” is, but this song pretty well covers Tharpe-Tharpe’s suggestion of that thing “covered with pop-rocks, and honey and they are causing friction and creating sparks.” I’d like to think of “Imitation of the Sky” as a lost Elton John song, covered by a dream duo of Brendon Small and Jake Shears.

(This last song marks the end of the first Muxtape, which could only fit twelve in total. For the rest, see the additional Muxtape below.)




“Diode,” by Andy Votel

An abstract one, again, but I feel it works since the song starts out very mellow and then quickens about 90 seconds in. That’s where — in accordance with Dina’s suggestion — that I think the realization that you’re not alone in the hot tub and there’s strange toe in your mouth happens.

“Cave of Time,” by Keiichi Suzuki

A weird one, I know. For Goofy’s suggestion of “falling thu the space-time vortex,” I bravely avoided both Angelo Badalamenti’s “Falling” and Funki Porcini’s “50,000 Ft. Freefall” and instead opted for this odd duck of a soundtrack chunk, which begins with what always struck me as a crude sample of the beginning of “All You Need Is Love” and gets stranger from there. Apologies if it’s offensively weird.

“Venus,” by Air

Yes, I realize that the lyrics initially specify the planet Venus and not the Roman goddess of love and sex. Despite that initial flaw, I feel like this song fits Pedro’s suggestion of a theme song for the mistress archetype, especially if you decide that the narrator is either being insincere or naïve when he talks about being together forever with the woman being addressed. Because, after all, mistresses don’t last. They either get dumped or become wife number two. Aside from the lyrics, I think this song makes for a nice accompaniment for the image of a beautiful girl walking through a room, in slow motion and soft focus. As for notions of her freedom, note that the lyrics give her all the power: The narrator is totally smitten with her, but for all we know, she could have other plans other than to hang around. Having someone hanging on your every word and action? That’s definitely a type of freedom.

“Japanese Boy,” by Aneka

Simply put, Sanam’s suggestion of “breast grime” is a private reference to a person that I think she and I both regard as one of the sorrier creatures to stalk the planet. I didn’t want to associate any songs that I actually like with this person, so I simply picked the one song that stands out as the worst song in my entire music library. Annoying, lingering, and ultimately offensive, “Japanese Boy” is truly a song that should not have been. Fitting.

And just because I didn’t want to end the playlist with that one, I tagged one song onto the end, only because it’s something I’ve been enjoying lately quite a bit. I feel like everyone else should give it a shot too.

So that’s it. How did I do?

A Nurse or a Cop or a Dragon

Maria applies to be a mentor.



Will she get it?

Will she?

Will?

W?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Lengthy Unicorns?

Just a quick post for this week's unusual word. In fact, the fun of this post is mostly derived from pictures of bugs. So it goes.
longicorn (LON-ji-korn) — noun: a biological family of beetles with especially long antennae
I thought this one was worth noting because, as Erin McKean states in Weird and Wonderful Words, the existence of "longicorn" proves that even if a word sounds entirely made up, it can still be real and have a perfectly valid etymology. (The etymology is quite simple: the Latin longus, "long," plus the cornu, "horn.") I looked up the Wikipedia page for the longicorn family and was horribly disappointed to learn that many of the members of this family actually have antennae that are quite short, which is really the stupidest thing ever.

Now here's a bunch of pictures of goofy bugs that all look like they're wearing those dinglebob headbands!

Meet the Rosalia longicorn!


And the Red Milkweed beetle!


And the Cactus longhorn beetle!


The Asian long-horned beetle!


And finally the Valley elderberry longhorn beetle!


The rest of the longicorn family I more or less found repugnant.

Previous words-o'-the-week:

Coldplay, Hotly Contested

As I proclaim in my sidebar mission statement, this blog began as a means to document the intersections of strange bits of pop culture — either with each other or with my life. Thus, when I heard Coldplay was meeting both a plagiarism accusation and Legend of Zelda head-on, I knew I had to jump on it and write about it here. In case you haven't already heard, Brooklyn rock band Creaky Boards is politely claiming that Coldplay's "Viva la Vida" bears a few too many similarities to one of their songs, which, appropriately enough, is titled "The Songs I Didn't Write." This video spells it out neatly enough.



It's all very interesting, and I have to admit that the two songs sound very similar.

There's a second factor, however, in all this and, to me, a more interesting pop culture foot note than the alleged rip off: the random tie to Legend of Zelda. Without this element, I probably wouldn't have even written this post, as I generally could give a shit about what Coldplay does. (I side with Chuck Klosterman's and his summation of the British band: "a mediocre photocopy of Travis, who sound like a mediocre photocopy of Radiohead," and whose first big single "brilliantly informed us that the stars in the sky are, in fact, yellow." Klosterman also calls the Coldplay the single shittiest fucking band he's ever heard in his entire fucking life, but I feel that's taking it a step too far, given that Crazytown existed.) As I first learned in this post on The Girl Gamer and found to be echoed in other articles on the matter, Creaky Boards frontman Andrew Hoepfner admits that, in the first place, his his initial inspiration for the "Songs I Didn't Write" came from another song melody was the Great Fairy theme from the Legend of Zelda games. Perhaps that's why he's only politely complaining about Coldplay.

Here's that Zelda music:



The funny part here is that I'm not sure I hear the resemblance, at least not as strongly as I can hear a connection between "Viva la Vida" and "Songs I Didn't Write." But Hoepfner owned up to the Legend of Zelda connection, so I guess it must be the case. Still, I'm take aback that any serious musician would openly credit video game music as simple as this as inspiration. I mean, it's bound to happen, given how may video games people my age have played, and I should be the last one to be shocked. Nonetheless, I am.

Am I alone on this one? Or is this all as strange as I'm making it out to be?

The Robot Master Random Generator

In response to my news about Mega Man 9, the keeper of the blog Crummy has posted a nifty doodad he's calling Mega Man MMVIII. It supposes that the 2,008th sequel couldn't possibly feature any halfway decent Robot Master bosses and consequently creates new ones by affixing random nouns and adjectives onto "man" or, less often, "woman." Here's what I got.


For those of you who haven't previously played a Mega Man game, understand that each game begins with a stage selection screen like the one above, with Mega Man's face in the middle of a three-by-three grid of the game's bosses. I'm most amused by the less-than-terrifying Badinage Man and Humbleness Man, but I have to point out that I think we all know a Kerbside Woman.

Crummy, by the way, was the site responsible for the Eater of Meaning.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Birdo Unitard

Technically, it's not supposed to be a Birdo unitard, I'm fairly positive, but I'm hard-pressed to say what else it could be.


Good to know I'm not the only one seeing Birdo in places she shouldn't be.

[ Source: Sailors Fighting in the Dancehall ]

Speaking of Robots

Something rather cool that arrived along with the new Futurama movie, The Beast With a Billion Backs: the below postcard.


Bender is great, but him made up like the robot from Metropolis makes him even greater. Happy me. I think I might have the original poster somewhere. (You can see a web version of it here.) And I think The Beast With a Billion Backs should be seen by anyone who'd like a story in which an alien has sex with the population of the entire universe.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Mega Surprise

I like video games, and I like being surprised. That's why today brought good news on both fronts with the revelation that a beloved childhood past time, the Mega Man series, will return to the consoles of Nintendo loyalists in the form of Mega Man 9 — a new sequel to the original series that began in 1987, in the earliest days of the Nintendo Entertainment System. Surprise number one: a new installment of a series that hasn't been officially updated since 1996.


Even more notable that merely continuing the series, however, publisher Capcom has chosen to do so in an unusual way: with the graphic style of those antiquated, first-generation NES games and not in the flashy way that newer systems are capable of. Thus, surprise number two: decidedly retro graphics. It's an odd move, but for a lifer like me, it's a welcome one in that it further supports my belief that game designers have wisely chosen to capitalize on the gaming nostalgia and mine the past twenty years of blips and bleeps.

For comparison's sake:

Mega Man 3: an oldie but goodie

Mega Man 8: sporting a bit more detail

Mega Man 9: looks old, is new, makes drew happy

The retrotastic look, however, doesn't mean the game doesn't take the series forward, if only by a small step. For those who never played through a Mega Man game, the formula is simple: As the titular hero, you shoot and hop through eight levels, each of which end with a duel with a Robot Master end boss. Throughout each of the games, the Robot Master has a unique name and schtick to match. Despite the uniqueness of each, the Robot Masters share one common trait, which can be easily guessed by reading a list of them. Here is that list: Cut Man, Guts Man, Elec Man, Bomb Man, Ice Man, Fire Man, Metal Man, Air Man, Bubble Man, Quick Man, Flash Man, Crash Man, Heat Man, Wood Man, Needle Man, Gemini Man, Hard Man, Magnet Man, Top Man, Snake Man, Spark Man, Shadow Man, Bright Man, Toad Man, Drill Man, Pharaoh Man, Ring Man, Dust Man, Dive Man, Skull Man, Gravity Man, Wave Man, Stone Man, Gyro Man, Star Man, Charge Man, Napalm Man, Crystal Man, Blizzard Man, Centaur Man, Flame Man, Knight Man, Plant Man, Tomahawk Man, Wind Man, Yamato Man, Freeze Man, Junk Man, Burst Man, Cloud Man, Spring Man, Slash Man, Shade Man, Turbo Man, Tengu Man, Astro Man, Sword Man, Cloud Man, Search Man, Grenade Man, Frost Man, Aqua Man, Dynamo Man, Cold Man, Ground Man, Pirate Man, Burner Man, Magic Man, Oil Man, and Time Man. Quite a list, even if I’d be hard pressed to explain the difference between Fire Man, Heat Man and Flame Man. Did you spot the overriding similarity? If you did, know that it would appear to no longer be the case. According to what blogs are saying about Mega Man 9, the list of Robot Master includes one important difference. It reads as follows: Magma Man, Galaxy Man, Jewel Man, Concrete Man, Hornet Man, Plug Man, Tornado Man, and Splash Woman. Yes, a gynoid. A Fembot. A female Robot Master. Splash Woman might seem like a relatively unremarkable addition in the context of the seventy-some preceding her, but her presence is nonetheless a sign that the people who make video games have at least begun to acknowledge that they’ve been excluding an element for the past twenty years. Surprise number three: a move towards gender equality, even if it remains to be seen how intimidating some robot named Splash Woman could be.

I'll simply state surprise number four: Capcom will release Mega Man 9 for specifically for the Wii Virtual Console, meaning that I can obtain this pseudo-lost wonder the moment it becomes available.

Finally, I should note that news of the new "old" Mega Man comes not from the gaming blogs that usually tell me of such things nowadays, but from good ol' Nintendo Power, a magazine I read as a child but I figured had become irrelevant by now. (Well, to get technical about it, I heard it from the websites, which in turn heard it from Nintendo Power. But still.) Surprise number five: Nintendo Power not only exists but actually scoops the world of web media occasionally.

[ Source: Rockman Perfect Memories, the BBPS ]

¡Spanish Exclamation!

This is how I began my morning:



I've actually never played Sega's Samba de Amigo and do not know exactly how one plays the game, but, nonetheless, watching this trailer for the apparently upcoming new installment of the series made blood surge up through my neck and into a space behind my eyes, in a manner not unlike one that would result from riding a roller coaster or doing uppers. Not sure whether I'd consider this physical response good or bad.

[ Source: Like, everywhere in the gameblog world, including Joystiq, GayGamer and The Tanooki ]

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Fresh Out of the Toaster

An open letter to pop tart Katy Perry:
Dear Katy, You’re from Santa Barbara, as I learned from Aly’s recent interview with you. How neat. Can I advise you to shut your mouth when taking your next publicity photo? It would help to end comparisons between you and a blow-up sex doll. Also, it would help me to believe that you’re a better human being than your songs “U R So Gay” and “I Kissed a Girl” would indicate.

Less like this, okay?


Thanks.

Sincerely,

The world

Looking Quite Bloofer Today

Back when I was a kid and I fanatically read The Far Side, my piano teacher had one of the retrospectives in which Gary Larson explains some of the nutso logic that led him to draw the comics he did. One Far Side, which I can’t find anywhere online, featured a meeting between two destined lovers, Elephant Man and Buffalo Gal, with the former referencing the famed deformocelebrity and the latter the woman from the folk song “Buffalo Gal, Won’t You Come Out Tonight?” Anyway, Larson just explained that the two names suggested that the characters would be compatible, in that weird Far Side way, thus the meeting of the two.

Okay, okay, I know. It was the 90s. This is what we thought was funny back then.

But I had reason to think of this comic last week at work, when various factors led me to verify a statement made by one of our columnists by looking up the Wikipedia page for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. That, of course, resulted in me looking up several other related pages, as that’s what Wikipedia was designed for. I ended up on the page for Lucy Westenra, the character whose encounter with Dracula ends rather badly. When I read Dracula in high school, I noted its odd use of the term “bloofer lady,” which children characters use to describe what is eventually revealed to be the vampire of Lucy, who stalks the countryside after her death and preys upon villagers. In the context of the story, I just assumed that “bloofer lady” was some regional British term for “boogeyman” to the point where that assumption sat, unattended and mostly useless in the back of my mind, as a sort of female counterpart for “boogeyman.” “Bloofer Lady, meet Boogeyman. You’ll hit it off, I think.” A nice matching pair, I think, not unlike Elephant Man and Buffalo Gal.

Not the case, necessarily. People disagree on the subject, but the prevailing interpretation of the phrase is that “bloofer lady” is garbled childspeak for “beautiful lady.” Some annotated versions of the book postulate that, in any case.

Votes in favor of “bloofer” meaning “beautiful”:
  • English Forums.com
  • The Valve, which posits that it came from Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend, which uses the word “boofer lady” to apparently mean “beautiful lady”
  • EduQnA.com, which also offers the less plausible interpretation of it being a garbled version of “bloodsucker”
  • And this site, which features fan art of Bloodsucker Lucy
None of these being anything close to official sources, of course. None of the dictionaries I checked had anything to say about “bloofer,” one way or the other. And while most people who have anything to say on the subject side with the “beautiful” definition, they do so cautiously, often saying that people ultimately don’t know for sure. And seeing as how Stoker published Dracula in 1897, I feel like we won’t get any surer about “bloofer” in the years to come.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Phantom of the Stupid Hat

Best Week Ever posted a countdown of the ten best silly hats from Ladies' Day at Royal Ascot. The following photo took the number two spot, though it's easily my favorite.


Unspeakably terrifying, but also hilarious, in that the Crazy British Lisa Kudrow's facial impression would seem to indicate that she has no idea what her hat actually looks like. How Best Week Ever puts it: It looks like she’s being chased by the Ringwraiths from Lord of the Rings. And this poor woman… look how happy she is!!! She has no idea the four whoresmen of the apocalypse are hot on her tail! Look how happy she is to see you… she’s all “Hi Bahsil! What? Behind me you say? Ghosts? Oh Bahsil, you ol’ –” THUD. El morte.

Ms. Lefevre

I recently stumbled on this clip again, after having first seen it on George's blog some time ago. I have to say: Even keeping in mind that any rock star will shed a few personas during the course of their career, it weirds me out to see Neko Case looking young and happy. Because that's not how I like to think of her.



The band is Maow. The year is 1996. The song is "Ms. Lefevre." And the sense of deja vu your feeling probably stems from the fact that you've watched an episode of Smack the Pony.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Mirror Image

Easily one of the better SNL sketches from this past year, and one that somehow slipped past me when the Amy Adams-hosted episode aired earlier this year. It's a simple but brilliant concept: Twin girls attempt to do have the work in life by pretending to be one person, but then one of them gets fat.



Ha ha. Hagley.

Death, Cars and the Power of Names

A thought upon seeing Death Proof for the third time.

As I said in my first blogged essay on the film, the first set of girls — Syndey Poitier, Jordan Ladd and Vanessa Ferlito’s characters, plus Rose McGowan, depending on how you look at it — function in a significantly different way than do the second set — Tracie Thoms, Rosario Dawson, and Zoe Bell, plus Mary Elizabeth Winstead, depending on how you look at it, and I’m not just talking about how the fact that the second group survives the film. In essence, the first group are the film’s Marion Cranes — the flighty ladies ultimately doomed by their inability to act as adults. The second group act more sensibly and manage to defeat the film’s big bad, so I’ll call them the Lila Cranes.

left to right: Marion Crane, Marion Crane and Marion Crane

Seeing the film for a third time has helped me notice a strange trend in the first half, with the Marions. There’s some strange goings-on with these characters’ names. Maybe it’s unintentional on Quentin Tarantino’s part, but the fact his other films have included some names that indicate that he does, in fact, name his characters for a reason make me think he could have planned this out. Fun with names abound in Tarantino films, by the way. In Kill Bill alone, there’s a staggering amount of “letter play” going on, with this name and that name referencing individual letters: Beatrix (B), Bill (B), their daughter BB, Bill’s brother Budd (another B), O-ren (O), Jeanie Bell (G), Elle Driver (L), Karen Kim (a double K), Gogo Yubari (a double G), and two axed characters, Yuki Yubari (a double Y) and L.F. O’Boyle. Aside from that, a lot of the characters have more than one name. Uma Thurman’s character alone goes variously by The Bride, Beatrix Kiddo, Black Mamba and Arlene Machiavelli and is damn near buried under a gravestone marked Paula Schulz.

But back to Death Proof.

Back when I took classes, I can remember literature professors speaking more than once of an old superstition about wariness about telling strangers your name. Knowing a person’s name, in various senses, gives others a certain power over that person. You can call them out, curse them out, Google them ad nauseam, file a lawsuit against them, stalk them on MySpace or, at the very least, tell everybody you know that So-and-So isn’t the superstar he or she claims to be.

I’ve talked up the point too much by now, but I feel like it’s worth pointing out that the three main Marions — who, again, meet bad ends — each encounter some odd business with men and their names. (I’m only picking the three, because they’re the only real main characters in the first part. Lana Franks, who dies in the big crash scene midway through the scene, basically has three lines and only serves to drive the Marions into certain death. Pam (McGowan), who gets more than three lines, is clearly excluded from the main group.) Julia (Poitier), for example, is almost universally known as Jungle Julia, the name she uses as a DJ. The only person who ever uses her full name is Pam, who’s known Julia since childhood and freely divulges that Julia wasn’t always the statuesque beauty she is today. (Or was, given that she’s dead now.) There’s a big difference between Jungle Julia and Julia Lucai, and there’s a big difference between knock-out and a gangly junior high schooler. With Arlene (Ferlito), a fake name manages to simultaneously protect her and put her in danger. Julia, as part of her radio show, announces that her friend will be visiting from out of town and encourages men to approach her, buy her a drink and recite a passage from “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” Only Julia tells her listeners that this friend is named “Butterfly,” which manages to protect her identity a little bit. And finally there’s Shanna (Ladd), who takes offense to a bar dude accidentally calling her “Shauna.” She’s protective of her name, a rightly so. “Now there is one thing every girl in the whole world whose name is ‘Shanna’ has in common with each other: We all hate the name ‘Shauna.’ And we really hate when people call us ‘Shawna.’ Remember it’s Shanna Banana, not Shauna Banahnah.”

It’s all a moot point, this name protectiveness, I guess, because, as I said, they all die. The women in the second half of Death Proof don’t, and no one seems to talk about their names all that much. Maybe that’s intentional and maybe it’s not, but there’s a lot that Tarantino wrote to parallel between the film’s two halves — bad things happening on birthdays, lousy Hollywood boyfriends, nasty business with legs — and other elements that don’t, in an apparent effort to contrast the second group against the first group.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Doppeltexters

Should a term exist for words which, when being entered in a text message, require the same numbers to be entered? Surely, if you’ve texted before, you’ve experienced the embarrassment of sending a message with one word being accidentally substituted for its own number twin. With a few mere slips of the finger, “Call me ASAP, OK?” can be “Ball on bras, OK?” Awkward. Confusing. Potentially a source of ridicule. “Take care” can be “Take barf.” “Whose car are you using” becomes “Whore bar ape you Trini?”Like I said, confusing.

In the spirit of “aptronym” — the awesome coinage used to denote people whose names provide an accurate description of them, like a man named Baker who makes pastries for a living, or a the “popular” girl whose last name happens to be Mattressback — I feel a word should exist for these kinds of words, though something far less lame than “text twin” or “SMS sibling.” However, I feel like “numerotextogemini” won’t catch on.

Text-alike?

Digitwin?

Doppeltexter?

Synonumer — literally “same number”?

Or, like, nothing? Because this is a ridiculous concept that doesn’t necessitate a name, since so few people will ever need to refer to it?

Dancing Starfish

Maria introduces a new character to her repertoire: a psychopath who murders single women in their late 30s and their companion dogs.



Yes, I'm not happy about watching a Halloween episode in June either, but we take what we can get. (Well, I do. You're just along for the ride. Thanks for riding, by the way.) Also, please realize that I'm pre-writing these posts and will continue to do so until I run out of Maria Bamford Show episodes. Given that Super Deluxe may officially go kaput any time now, the linked video may ultimately be dead.

Oh, God. You could be looking at a dead link.

How eerie.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Isle of Forfeit

Trying to sleep in this weather is a joke, and a goddamned sick one at that. I know, I know. Poor Santa Barbara, who gets ideal weather for ten months of the year and then cries like a baby when the temperatures creep past 90 degrees. We’re spoiled, the lot of us, I’ll admit. However, know that my house lacks air conditioning or any effective source of moving air around. Attempting slumber in these conditions is basically a hopeless endeavor and only results in simultaneous reclining and sweating.

The worst part, by far: my realization today that use of my bed during this weather essentially makes whole of it — the sheet, the mattress pad, the pillows — one giant Stridex pad, soaking my endocrinal leavings for however long I touch it.

Nothing more dismal than knowing that your day will end with you climbing into a giant, sticky used Stridex pad.

Urkelgrew

Search terms that led to this blog and, also, led to people using said terms being fairly disappointed.
And some follow-ups from me:
  1. Yes, until they converted. They're quite devout now.
  2. Just. No.
  3. He's forever in my heart.
  4. Wouldn't it be easier just to throw your personal photos in the garbage?
  5. Why you search in question form? Stupid.
  6. Aside from their names, I'm guessing.
  7. Samara grew up on Moesko Island. She made everything bad. She got tossed in the well, and everything got better.

The Queen of Sea Cows

Apologies, foremost. After a two week delay, the barely begun series on strange and therefore fun words is back on track. Blame Philadelphia. And then forgetfulness. In that order.

I think I’ve gotten a good one for this a week — the kind of word that you’ll soon be effortlessly slipping into friendly conversation, inter-office communiques, and letters to dear mother.
kakopygian (kak-o-PY-jee-an) — adjective: possessing an ugly set of buttocks
More often spelled “cacopygian,” I’m noticing, but Depraved and Insulting English spells it with the “k,” which I enjoy because it makes the word look all the more unpleasant. And the sound? Terrible. You start with the phlegm bubble that is “kak” and then it goes downhill from there, into something that sounds like the adjectival form of “pigeon.” The “butt” component of this week’s word comes from the Greek pyge, which is a good root to know and which is translated by verbanauts variously as “ass,” “rump,” “buttocks,” and “tail,” with each result relating directly to how proper he or she might be. That root gives us other fun words as well, including dasypygal (“having hairy buttocks”), steatopygous (“having fat buttocks”), callipygian (“having attractive buttocks”), and even a piscine genus Pygopristis, (meaning “saw-rumped”). A different edition of Depraved and Insulting English even offers unipygic, which, meaning “having only one ass cheek,” would seem to be the most useful of all.

If you’re not up to your ears in asses yet, there’s a speech credited to Leon Chesley posted here that focuses on the verbal possibilities the pyge root offers us. And if you’d like to hear more of my thoughts on the matter of butts, then read an old column I wrote for the Nexus so long ago on the subject of people using the word “ass” as a substitute for “self” — a linguistic trend that has some odd implications.

That’s all I have to say on the matter. I’m just glad I got through an entire post about fanny words without making a horrible pun.

The end.



Dammit.

Past words of the week:

Friday, June 20, 2008

Not as Dead as Steven's Pool Party

I’d like to think that I’m better synchronized with the pop culture zeitgeist than the next aging hipster. I had reason to grasp onto this belief a little more tightly today when I read a Hollywood Reporter article about Robert Smigel’s attempt to reboot The Match Game only a weeks after I spent a day engrossed in all things Match Game after that Saturday Night Live parody of it. What makes this reinvented game show more interesting than, say, that new version of Hollywood Squares — which made all those people stab themselves in the brain, with garden trowels, through the mouth — is that Smigel has the good sense to get genuinely cool people to sit in as celebrity panelists: Norm MacDonald, Sarah Silverman, Rashida Jones, Scott Thompson, Niecy Nash, among others. Not completely out of rum-soaked has-been territory, but at least in a better sort of neighborhood.

Bonus credibility: Completely separate from the hipster comedy Match Game, that “It’s a Match” sketch became more relevant to me in the past week when I bought a DVD set of the first few episodes of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. The show is weird, in good ways and in bad ways, but that’s a discussion that deserves its own post. More to the point here is that MH2 stars Debralee Scott — Sarah Annette Boob herself. I honestly didn’t expect I’d ever have first-hand experience with this person so soon after learning she existed.

Ha ha. “Boob.” Unusual but appropriate surname.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Don't Delay! Act Now! Third Urgent Suggestion!

It has come to my attention that some of your regulars have not yet offered a suggestion for the abstract music suggestion game, especially the four of you who participated in the first go-around and did such a good job with it. (Meg H., Bri, Pedro, Dina — I'm looking at you.) I'm aiming to post responses on Monday. If you have any inclination to play, please do so now. Click the link back to the post and leave a comment.

Do it!

[ The post in question: "Dark Socks Beneath My Goody Two Shoes" ]

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Antenna, by Tall Deb

A bit more abstract this time.

antenna by tall deb

My interpretation: Antenna is an album by Swedish space rock quartet Tall Deb. Everyone thought the band's lead singer was, in fact, Tall Deb, mostly because the six-foot-four Scandinavian beauty towers over her male bandmates. However, her name is and always has been Jamilla, and the name "Tall Deb" references a minor villainous character in the 1974 cult classic Dune Buggy Massacre at Red Sands High. Antenna, the newest sonic venture by Tall Deb, features songs inspired by the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) project.

Previous menu sign rearrangements:

Chet Desmond and the Beer at Jackie's Cafe

Consider this a sequel of sorts to the post about Flying Omelette's catalogue of video game oddities. In its list of alcohol-related content in games that should have been as dry as Utah, Flying Omelette does point out the strangeness of Jackie's Cafe, a location in the video game Earthbound. Upon close inspection, Earthbound's programmers clearly designed Jackie's Cafe to be a bar: the spot still features a collection of booze bottles on the back shelf as well as a character who looks a lot more like a bartender than a barista. I suppose I would have noticed this immediately had I played the game when I was older.

outside: C-A-F-E, plain as day

inside: boozy barflies... drinking coffee?

Aside from that small difference between the Japanese version of the game and its apparently teetotaling American counterpart, I noted something even more interesting about Jackie's, for it serves as gateway of sorts into Moonside, a backwards version of the world in which the rest of the game takes place. After entering and exiting the bar for the first time, the characters encounter Mr. Everdred, a character from earlier in the game. True to big city life, Everdred has been konked on the head and left lying in the street.


In classic last moment gasps, the seriously injured Everdred babbles about an evil statue and then implores the player's characters to head back into Jackie's and check the shelf — a request even a novice player would interpret as the method of best advancing the plot.



Upon checking the shelf out, the screen flashes white and the heroes find themselves in the weirdoland that is Moonside, where flashing neon outlines of buildings replace the structures themselves and where people speak in crazy backwards talk — "left" is "right," "yes" is "no," among a few other things. (Yes, I'm thinking of the Chuck Klosterman opposites discussion again.) Also, strange enemies like ambulatory gasoline pumps and floating Salvador Dali paintings populate the streets.



Like I said, major weird, though I suppose not all that much weirder than the rest of the game, which also has the heroes fighting a demonic circus tent or a pile of barf.

(A quick aside: Jackie's Cafe isn't the only instance of alcohol being replaced with something more family-friendly. At one point, an obvious drunkard says his condition results from having consumed too much cappucino. The proof:


I think the game's referencing itself, and making fun of its own awkward, poorly imposed censorship. You have to like that.)

What struck me as even more notable about Moonside, especially in the sense of pop culture intersections, was the manner in which these events parallel those in the opening segment of the Twin Peaks movie, Fire Walk With Me. Strip away Earthbound's purposefully 8-bit-esque graphics and occasional puerile sense of humor and you'd be left with a rather surreal plot about evil lurking in a contemporary American setting. In Fire Walk With Me, Agent Chet Desmond — the Agent Cooper stand-in played by Chris Isaak — investigate the murder of diner waitress Teresa Banks, a sort of proto-Laura Palmer. Teresa's body turns up noticeably missing a certain ring she was known to wear in her livelier days. At the very end of his segment of the film and before the film changes to focus specifically on Laura, Chet finally finds the ring beneath Teresa's trailer and reaches out to grab it. Just as he does, the screen flashes white — to a reality in which Agent Desmond has vanished, presumably away from the normal world and to Twin Peaks's flip side, where red velvet curtains serve as walls and creepy midgets speak backwards and malicious dopplegangers attempt to overtake their good-intentioned twins.

The kicker for all this is that Earthbound's Moonside trip had already risen to prominence, at least in my mind, to the point that it served as the inspiration for "The Freaky Tiki," my final project for Dr. Sorapure's Flash animation class. Essentially an abstract music video, the project detailed strange goings-on in a city — including glowing buildings — that ultimately prove to be the product of an evil statue. The tiki at the end of the video represents my best effort at re-creating the statue Everdread mentions in the game. The funny part is that I don't think I ever processed the similarity between the Moonside sequence and Fire Walk With Me, despite the fact that I actually use a quote from David Lynch in the video itself — "I want to dream when I go to a film." — and that the video used Funki Porcini's very Lynchy song "Sixteen Megatons."

The video in question is below. I just yesterday managed to upload it to YouTube, a processed that involved converting a .swf into a .avi — just as fun as it sounds, and less productive than you'd think, as the conversion eliminated the video's soundtrack. In other words, you'll have to imagine what "Sixteen Megatons" sounds like. (I'll fix this problem when I figure out how.)



My own experience with Moonside notwithstanding, I suppose it's worth it to guess whether the Earthbound creators had Fire Walk With Me in mind when creating Moonside. I say it's possible. Earthbound came out two years after Fire Walk With Me, but, more importantly, the game boasts a much higher level of pop culture awareness than the average game. For example, the game references The Beatles more the once — directly at least once, indirectly by including music that sounds like Beatles' songs, and finally in this manner:


The range of references includes things as varied as War of the Worlds...


... and the Apollo Theater.


So at least the game covers enough ground of the pop culture landscape that a Twin Peaks reference wouldn't be completely implausible.

All images from FlyingOmelette.com, save for the ones I got from this YouTube clip.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Teeny, Overcompensating John

I'm inclined to believe that the below video was created in earnest, as Texas state law forbids placement of tongue in cheek. (The penalty, of course, is death.)



Rough to work on Senator John Cornyn's political committee and be the one responsible for turning into a meme. Further menos puntos: The “Big John” song makes me instantly think of the Saturday Night Live commercial for Big Brawn feminine napkins.



And, also, I'd rather watch the SNL spot.

Spokespearsons

First, if you’re going to announce “official” spokespersons on any matter, much less one as divisive as gay marriage, it would probably be in your best interest to spell “spokespersons” correctly in the subject line of the email.


As it stands, “spokespearsons” brings to mind either tubby, pear-shaped individuals representing ProtectMarriage.com and standing in stark contrast to their fitter counterparts and whatever organization is lobbying in favor of man-on-man marriage and woman-on-woman weddings. Well, either that or freakish Frankenstein-like human-pear hybrids.

Second, if you’re going to accidentally write “spokespearsons,” it’s in your best interest not to have done it in all capital letters, as doing so implies that the organization is screaming their typo to the world. Well, either that or screaming “We don’t know what we’re doing!”

Good luck on that ballot measure, guys.

Grand Theft Auto: Isla Vista

A quick one from a few weeks ago that I feel I should post before I forget about it.

Spencer took a class from Prof. Waid this quarter, and, in one of her characteristic lecture tangents, she mentioned how she saw an ad for the new(ish) Grand Theft Auto and mistakenly read the title as Grand Theft Auto I.V. Of course, it's actually Grand Theft Auto IV, but looking at the logo, I can see how someone accustomed to seeing the abbreviation for “Isla Vista” might do a double-take.


Waid’s misreading made me think, if just for a moment, about what Grand Theft Auto I.V. would be like. In short: terrible. The vast majority of such a game would involve trying to drive down Del Playa at 11 p.m. on a Friday, never accelerating past five miles per hour and only being able to honk your horn as a means of motivating pedestrians to move out of your way. When you get to where you’re going, you must chose between dinging your car in an attempt to parallel park or just having to leave your car on Camino Lindo.

Just terrible.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Sick, Sad World (of Video Games)

In the spirit of the "Legend of Cloudbush" post — which noted, among other things, the fact that the background clouds in the original Super Mario Bros are nothing but re-colored background bushes — I'm taking this opportunity to share with you the best of the video game oddities presented at the too-cool website Flying Omelette.

Despite Nintendo's strict policy against the depiction of sex or nudity in video games, a few things snuck past — some blatant, some not. For example, in the game Breath of Fire 2, there exists a big bad by the name of Deathevan. (Yes, I know. It sounds like the screen name that your high school friend Evan used during his goth phase.) Flying Omelette points out that the character sports a pan pipe of worm-like horrors emerging from his lower abdomen that evokes peens of an H.R. Giger aesthetic. Yikes. I dub thee "penis dentata," awful thing.


It's not all so grotesque, however. My beloved Kid Icarus boasts two instances of nudity, even in Nintendo's early days. First, the background of the game's final level features some Venus De Milo clones, as armless and full-busomed as the actual statue. More surprisingly, the game's manual depicts artwork for a minor harpy enemy — called "Syren" probably for the same reasons that the game's goddess damsel is called "Palutena" instead of "Parthena" — that has some very exposed breasts, nipples and all.


Another game that sucked away my valuable childhood hours, Secret of Mana, snuck in the nude female form through the presence of a minor enemy: a floating, spell-casting book saddled with the unusual name of "National Scar." The name makes a lot more sense knowing that the book occasionally flips to a two-pages spread featuring a said nudity. That's "National Scar" in the sense of the National Enquirer or some other such tabloid rag.


It's perhaps as much of a stretch as the Mario Kart penis rock, but the game Yoshi's Island has a stage with a background feature that looks suspiciously like a the torso of a bikini bottom-clad female torso. Funny, but pretty benign, and I'd imagine resulting from a programmer who didn't want his sense of mischief to get him fired. "What are you talking about? I don't see it. If you see it, then you're the pervert."


And, continuing the theme of risque elements in video games only as a result of her previous associations with less-than-normal sex, Flying Omelette's extensive Switched at Birth pages posit where Nintendo might have been inspired to create Birdo: the Snowths, the snout-mouthed whatchamacallit Muppets best known as the back-up singers in the "Mahna Mahna" sketch.


The newer Muppet Show redid the "Mahna Mahna" sketch, apparently, with Sandra Bullock. The below screenshot of said remake depicts the Snowths looking vaguely more Birdo-like. Who knew the Birdo-Snowth relationship was so profound?


This has been your foray into the sexual undercurrent of modern video games.

All images from the good people at FlyingOmelette.com, execpt for the one of dancing Sandra Bullock.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Fear of Doing Something Awful

High points: Shitting on the Shroud of Turin and feeding a retarded person to his or her family. In other words, you may want to watch this out of earshot of coworkers, parents and any possible nuns or monks that may be hanging around your computer.



Happy Sunday!

Floodgates Open to the Sound of the Rainbow

Simple though it may be, this animation that graphically represents the music with colored dots and lines, compels me to keep watching.



Reason I looked the song up to begin with: I heard that this song, Bach's "Toccatta and Fugue," is the theme to Donkey Kong Jr. No matter how hard I try to mentally replace those organ notes with blips and bleeps, I don't quite hear it.

Bonus visualization: Debussy's "Clare de Lune."


Friday, June 13, 2008

Name That Egg-Spitter

Yep, Birdo again. You may well be asking, “Why Birdo again, you weirdo?” Oh, that’s easy: a combo of debatable gender and occasional associations with unusual sex. Yeah, she’s fun.


Here’s what I mean.

First off, most countries that have reason to know Birdo don’t call her Birdo. (I’m willing to bet that not all Americans call her Birdo, either, mostly because her name sounds fairly nonsensical, given that she’s neither a bird nor a male deserving a name ending in “o,” and that that pink thing works just as easily as a means of referring to her.) In Japan, she’s called Catherine, which is especially weird because most female characters in Mario games don’t get the kind of name that women in the real world get. (Case in point: Princess Eclair.) However, the name is Catherine, at least over there. To complicate matters, however, she’s also called “Cassie” sometimes, possibly because Japanese people think that Cassie works as a nickname for Catherine.

Completely independent of that confusion, however, is Birdo’s introduction in the United States under multiple names. The American instruction manual introduces Birdo as being a boy who likes to think he’s a girl and likes being called “Birdetta.” Even aside from the Birdo/Birdetta disparity, however, a translation error on the part of the people who remade Doki Doki Panic as Super Mario Bros. 2 lists Birdo as Ostro in the end credits. So right there, that’s five possible names for one character.


This mix-up kinda-sorta makes some foreshadowing, however. In the game, Ostro is actually a separate character: an ostrich baddie that often lets other monsters ride on its back. That should sound familiar. In short, Birdo is a bipedal dinosaur who attacks foes with eggs, has indeterminate gender and was once associated with a beast of burden. For the Nintendo fans who read this blog — both of you — that should sound familiar. Yoshi, a more popular Mario character, is dinosaur who walks on two legs, attacks foes with eggs (though they don’t come from his mouth), has indeterminate gender (in that he’s a male character who lays eggs), and is a beast of burden (his debut game, Super Mario World had him giving Mario rides on his back, which he still does from time to time). However, Birdo’s debut occurred four years before the release of Super Mario World in 1991, so despite Yoshi’s popularity, it would seem that Birdo influenced him — not the other way around. Regardless of who came first, Birdo exists in latter-day Mario games as Yoshi’s female counterpart and default partner for various sporting events. Funny how that works.

Whether as a result of the Ostro mistake or not, Birdo’s association with birds — ostriches in particular — lingered. As if her name weren’t already confused enough, the character is known in Italian translations of Mario games as Strutzi, which this page conjectures is derived from the Italian struzzo, meaning “ostrich.” Why this one false name of hers would persist is beyond me, but it has — and in, of all places, the one nation where named like “Mario” and “Luigi” would make the most sense.

An oddly complicated history for a thoroughly confusing character.

Mario characters with complicated names, previously: