Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Same Actor, Same Role, Different Language

Gérard Depardieu played what is essentially the same role in the 1991 French movie Mon père, ce héros and its 1994 remake, My Father the Hero. And Penelope Cruz played what is essentially the same role in the 1997 Spanish film Abre los ojos and its 2001 remake, Vanilla Sky. These are the only two incidents I can think of in which an actor appeared in the same role in both a movie and its remake, barring those appearing in short films that were ultimately allowed to grow to feature-length ones. Can anyone else think of actors who have done this? I’m sure I’ve heard of others and I’m sure there are many I’ve never heard of. Please inform me if you know of any.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Driving With Your Lights Off, on a Wet Road at Night

The thought crossed my mind. Despite waking up late today, I accomplished a lot. However, some part of my brain wanted me to accomplish one thing more.

The circumstances were as ideal as they ever could be for this sort of activity. Before you call me stupid or reckless, understand that this impulse, which I have named in the title of this post, struck while I drove a completely deserted and very straight stretch of private road. The only unnatural source of light came from my car. If another car had been coming, I would have seen its lights a half-mile away — unless, of course, it too had had its lights off, in which case the resulting accident would have been just punishment, baffling and statistically improbable though it might have been. And I was only inclined to let the car creep forward slowly — so that the speedometer wouldn’t even register any motion, so that turtles and rocks would have still had time to roll out of my vehicle’s way, so that I could have easily just not been moving at all. So, yes, I suppose this feat would have indeed been stupid and reckless, but little more so than chewing too quickly, given the circumstances.

I can’t explain why my brain had this impulse. Perhaps it manifested simply because, despite the aforementioned relative safety, driving with my lights off on a wet road at night would have satisfied a deep, unnurtured need for danger, even if only tiny, cough drop-sized danger. (“One danger unit, please.”) Or maybe my brain inexplicably processed how this set of circumstances might never be allotted to me again — not only with the fresh rain on the road but also with the sudden appearance of a nearly full moon. (“Brain, aren’t there more useful calculations you should be making?”) Or maybe instead the impulse resulted from my aesthetic-minded ridges, which noted that the slick road would reflect the moon in a way I’d never seen before and may never again. It would look like driving on a river. Or on glass. Or on silver. Or, because the moon was not visible within the frame of my windshield, like the road itself was the only source of light in the world. (“…” (There would be no words, I’m sure.))

I guess I’ll never understand how my brain works.

There was a deer there too.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

At the Bottom of Night

Sleepy time for the Chrono Trigger crew in a poster I received with my copy of the game.

chrono2

For the diehards: the other poster.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Timberdrake

A promo poster that arrived with my copy of Secret of Evermore

evermore

If only the game had been as good as this stained glass design. Oh well — nostalgia nonetheless. Again, excuse the pinholes and tears, as this too spent some time on my bedroom wall.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

(2,000) Additional Days of Things

How I entertained myself during a moderately stressful afternoon of Christmas shopping and parking lot-navigating:
  • 500 Days of Slumber, starring Cozy Deflannelle and Snoozeph Nodoff Napitt
  • 500 Days of Slobber, starring Drooley Deslobelle and Jospit Globbed-on Salivitt
  • 500 Days of Mumblers, starring Zooshmininry Desmininnmnelle and Joslemph Gordumnnun Leshminitt
  • 500 Days of Flubber, starring Gooey Deslimelle and Josdrip Gorblob Bloviatte
Clearly, I missed my true calling: writing movie parodies for Mad magazine.

Monday, December 21, 2009

True Story

Having worked at a bookstore, I know how easily this kind of booboo can happen. But that doesn’t mean I won’t make fun of the Santa Barbara Barnes & Noble for implying that The Time Traveler’s Wife is nonfiction.

noteworhty_non_fiction

Also non-fiction, according to the display: Gregory Maguire’s Wicked.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

My Mother Has a Band Called Helicopter

Links of note. Probably the last one of the year.

Ghosts of capitalism past: a photo gallery of abandoned shopping malls.

The A.V. Club’s 2009 Year in Band Names.

Crazy freaky Japanese mermaid illustrations.

From Tofutti Break, one of my single favorite images of all time. (Turn your eyes to the right to see it.)

Estonia does The Simpsons.

Two lengthy but worthwhile reads from Wikipedia: a list of band name etymologies and a list of brand name etymologies.

Another sort of Wiki-interesting: the page on spite houses.

Days after I learned the word escabeche from Top Chef, I was pointed toward this cool little post on the speculated etymological connections between this escabeche, ceviche and other fish dishes.

“Bowie Stationelle.”

And from the DVD set for the second season of Look Around You, an amazing little short titled “Birds of Britain.”



If you want, follow my Google Reader shared clips here.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

With Their Noses High in the Air

It being so close to Christmas — and this post likely being the last word-of-the-week one before December 25 comes and goes — you’d think I’d try to find something holiday-related to put up. No such luck. I won’t be regurgitating the story behind mistletoe or nog or poinsettia. Instead, I’ll just be sharing with you a word that I just recently learned and thought was cool, if only as a means of saying three syllables what might otherwise need more.
nosism (NOS-iz-em) — noun: the use of we in referring to oneself
Also known as the royal we, the editorial we or the stuck-up jerkass we, the use of the this plural pronoun by an entity that’s more on the singular side — that is, too wee to be a we — seems like something you’d do to make yourself seem more powerful. The opinion of just a me is one thing, but the shared opinion of an us is a bit more threatening.

This is why nosism might be practiced by monarchs or the monarch-minded, since they would have reason to keep up the appearance of being authoritative or, as the Wikipedia page on pluralis majestatis notes, speaking on behalf of the whole country. And this is also why a newspaper editorial might be written in the plural first person, even if the text itself is typed out by just one guy: to give what’s written the weight of the entire editorial board. The trouble is, of course, that anyone with a brain is wise to this practice, so rather than making the we-speaker seem like a bigger deal, he just seems like a bigger dick, especially when taken out of the royal and newspaper contexts. It’s also noted on the Wikipedia page that we can also be used in an educational sense — “If we add three plus three, we get six.” — and a patronizing one — “How are we feeling today?” as a doctor might ask —

As noted on A.Word.A.Day, nosism comes from the Latin nos, meaning “we.” Whee.

Previous words of the week:
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Friday, December 18, 2009

Questions Posed to the Hard-to-Shop-for Gift Recipient

“You have Netflix already, right?”

“Oh, well, have you already purchased that coat you had your eye on?”

“Model train set? Yes?”

“Okay then, do you already own heirloom chickens, by any chance?”

“And would you have any interest in owning a vintage cricket uniform?”

“Are you lacking at all in the ninja star department?”

“Why would you think these are strange questions for me to be asking?”

“Well, now that that’s behind us, have you ever felt like your life would be better if Toni Basil choreographed a hip hopera based on your life?”

“What about pickles? Do you like pickles? Because I am pretty close to just buying you an economy jar of Vlasic dill spears? Is that what you want? A gallon of dill spears?”

The Heart of Christmas Spirit

I follow this TV blog, The Live Feed, which occasionally breaks news about shows I watch. Today, however, they have a post featuring the CW network’s “OMG Moment of the Year,” and I, lacking anything better to do, decided to see what that could be. I mean, it’s the CW, so the options are limited — Tyra Banks deciding to host an entire episode of America’s Next Top Model in an angry baby voice? The new Melrose Place drowning the entire cast in the swimming pool? Anyone realizing that Smallville is somehow still on?

The OMG Moment of the Year comes from none of these shows, however, but instead one I have never watched: One Tree Hill. Questionable source notwithstanding, I was pretty impressed.



Holy shit, right? Is this what every episode is like? Why doesn’t someone stop that awful dog who eats human hearts? And were they able to get the heart back?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Second Truth From the Left

Scanned: The poster of Secret of Mana.



A thought: What the hell was the secret being referred to in the game’s title?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Who Put the “P” in the P-Wing?

Like many kids, I played Super Mario Bros. 3 until my fingers hurt. During all that time spent drooling in front of a television sent, fingers a-twiddling, I had an opportunity to think. One of the things that has bugged me about that game is a very special item called the P-Wing that allowed Mario to fly over a given stage, avoiding injury and the certain death that bottomless pits bring. But why was it called P-Wing? What does that “P” stand for?

These are questions that seemed quite pressing to a child. Now, as a 27-year-old, I’ve finally gotten the answer. (Though I kind of forgot I was looking for this answer for roughly seventeen years. So there’s that.)

Wii.com has a regular feature called Iwata Asks, in which Nintendo president Satoru Iwata talks to the people who develop Nintendo games and has them walk him through the history of a given franchise or staple video game element. It’s basically as close to director’s commentary as video games can get. The release of New Super Mario Bros. Wii last month prompted a discussion on the history of the Mario franchise that yielded some cool tidbits, including that Mario’s creator, Shigeru Miyamoto, initially wanted to call him Mr. Video and that the Goombas — those ambulatory mushrooms, quietly villainous and so easily stomped — are, in fact, shitakes.

(That latter bit might be kind of a “no duh” to anyone with eyes and a basic understanding of what mushrooms look like, but the Japanese name for the critter translates more or less to “chestnut people,” leading some to think they were chestnuts with legs. Chestnuts with legs! The insanity of it!)

I might not have even had a look at these interviews had I not seen a tip-off at game blog Destructoid, which noted that the P-Wing was to Super Mario Bros. 3 what a new function called the Super Guide is to New Super Mario Bros. Wii: a means of helping unskilled players clear difficult levels and proceeding with the game. For the former, it allowed them to flit right over the hard parts. For the latter, it allows the computer to play through the level, demonstrating how to clear obstacles.

Destructoid didn’t note it, but the article also answered how the P-Wing, this item for baby players with clumsy little starfish hands got its name. Nintendo veteran Toshihiko Nakago is explaining the physics of flying in Super Mario Bros. 3 — which, by the way, involves a raccoon tail and ears, just like we now use today — and how normally Mario would need to get a good running start before he could take off.
I’m not sure who came up with the name, but we all referred to this as “the runway.” So at that point, we looked again at the maps and completely reworked the levels so that Mario would have places where he could take off from. In the end, we made it so that if you got an item called the P-Wing, which was the Koopa Paratroopa’s wing, you could fly through the whole level.
So there you go. The item — a wing with an otherwise mysterious “P” on it — comes from the Paratroopa enemy, hence the initial. The Koopa Paratroopa — a winged turtle whose name is a pretty obvious pun on paratrooper — has been airborne ever since the original Super Mario Bros., and it’s his wing that makes the P-Wing-powered Mario so ready for flight… even though he’s still flying with raccoon parts.


The funny thing about the “P” behind the P-Wing is that it’s probably a coincidence that this explanation of its name ended up working out sensibly in English. In Japan, the Paratroopa is called Patapata, which comes from the Japanese onomatopoeia for a pattering noise — usually of feet but apparently in this case for the flapping of wings. It just so happens, then, that the Japanese and English names for this thing happen to start with the same letter. The rest of the characters’ Japanese and English names don’t, by the way, and those translating the original game clearly didn’t take initial letters into account when they dreamed up English-friendly names for the characters.

Regardless, that settles that about that “P.” Eight-year-old me would be so satisfied. Current me: slightly less so, I suppose, but happy nonetheless.

So… What, then, does the “P” on the balloon power-up in Super Mario World stand for?

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

This Place Is Death

A photo:

muck and bones

Horrifying, I know. I found this photo — my own, on my own Flickr account, taken about five years ago — bookmarked on my browser under the title “This Place Is Death,” for reasons I don’t understand. The title is shared with an episode of Lost. No other clues.

Happy holidays!

God Bless Vespuccia

A few years ago, I saw the play Pentecost, which features a lot of characters going on in different languages and, often, talking about language itself. At one point, while being held hostage, three characters talk about how life would be different if the continent of America had taken after Amerigo Vespucci’s last name and not his first. It would make sense, really, for the continent that I’m currently typing this post on to be called Vespuccia, since historically people have things named after their last names. In the play, the characters briefly imagine how life would have been different with a more traditionally named continent, with people singing “God Bless Vespuccia” and “I Wish They All Could Be Vespuccian Girls.”

But why the hell did this landmass get named after his first name?

According to this news article and a wealth of other historical resources, German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller was the first person we know of to use America in description of any chunk of the New World. He chose Vespucci’s first name, presumably, because it rendered into a feminine Latin-style word more easily than did the dude’s last name. “Europe and Asia have received names of women,” Waldseemüller wrote. “I see no reason why we should not call this other part Amerige, that is to say the land of Americus, or America, after the sagacious discoverer.”

waldseemüller’s claim to fame — and possibly vespucci’s

Of course, what Waldseemüller didn’t know at the time was that Vespucci would not be remembered at the discoverer of the New World but as the person who helped explore South America — specifically what is now Brazil. (By the way, the two women from whom Europe and Asia allegedly got their names, by the way, are Europa, who in Greek mythology was abducted by Zeus in the form of a bull, and Hesione, a seemingly minor character in Greek mythology who happened to be married to Prometheus. There’s a lot of speculation that Asia actually got its name from other sources, some of it pretty damn sure that the source is actually Akkadian.)

Although the Vespucci-Waldseemüller story is the widely accepted one for explaining how America got its name, other theories exist — some plausible, some not, and some placing the coinage of the word at long before Columbus or Vespucci ever sailed across the sea.

Here, then, are a few of them:
  • According to what are described here as “fanciful theories,” the name is alleged by some to have come from the arrival of Eric the Red’s son at a land of “wheatfields and vines” in the mid-thirteenth century. A Scandinavian word amt meant “district” and combined with Eric the Red’s name to form Amteric, or “The Land of Eric.”
  • The same site notes that others — Christian white supremacists, according to the author — advocate that America got its name from Norse sailors arriving at the coast beginning in the eleventh century. They called the land Ommerike, meaning “the farthest outland.” The author, however, goes on to note that the Norsemen’s adventures to the New World weren’t known beyond their “teeny, fancy hat-shape part of Europe” until much later in history. (What I’ve written of Scandinavia in that last sentence may not represent the author’s original intention.)
  • An 1888 article in The American Geographic Society of New York discusses the possibility that the name could come from Amerique Mountains, a gold-rich area in Nicaragua that both Columbus and Vespucci allegedly visited.
  • Finally, as this BBC article notes, still others claim the name comes from a Welsh-descended Briton named Richard Amerike (also Richard Ameryk, or, in a less Anglicized form, Richard ap Meurig). Wikipedia notes that Amerike may have financed the John Cabot’s voyage to the New World, which resulted in the discovery of Newfoundland.
Regardless, the theory that ties the name to Vespucci is the one that most people stand behind. I, for one, am at least glad that Vespucci’s first name was what it was, for had it been Giuseppe or Guido, we Americans could have found ourselves living in Giuseppia or Guidopolis. As for Amerigo itself, the Online Etymology Dictionary traces it back to the Gothic Amalrich, “work-ruler,” the Old English form of which appears as the last names Emmerich and Emery. The Wikipedia page on Vespucci ties Amerigo to the medieval Latin Emericus, the German Heinrich and the English Henry, though, notably, these claims are marked with that famous superscript “citation needed,” so make of that what you will.

In any case, alternate theories about the origin of America — even ones that aren’t generally accepted as being correct — make for fun reading for onomastics wonks like me. I can only guess that the multitude of educated guesses as to where America might result from the notion that it came from someone’s first name just seems strange, even if that explanation is the one that the majority of people educated in this matters agree to be correct. (I mean, Waldseemüller did put Vespucci’s portrait in the 1507 map, so he at least seemed pretty sure of what he was doing.) I’m glad that it worked out how it did, because the notion of singing “Vespuccia the Beautiful” just doesn’t sit right.

Etymology, previously:

Monday, December 14, 2009

Moon Sammy

It may be the yuletide, but there's fairly little Christmasy about the ways people have recently been finding my blog.
Of note, roughly a third of search terms that led to this blog in the past week and a half involved Top Chef judge Gail Simmons — and often some part of her body and the desire to determine how big or attractive said part is. Some outliers:
Something else I learned in this round up of search terms? Some people actually do use Bing. Who knew?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

I Love Tina Tina Shanooz

Saturday Night Live last night continued its trend of leaving the goofiest but most creative sketch for last. This week, it was “New Doorbell,” which, unless I’m mistaken, is the first sketch Jenny Slate has led since she said accidently said fuck during the season premiere. Happy to see her getting the screen to herself once again. Here’s the sketch:



Why I like this sketch:
  • For one, it’s good to know that Slate can lead a sketch without blurting profanities.
  • For another, this sketch reminds me of In Living Color, especially if a Fly Girl were to have hijacked the stage and tried out her own sketch. Or if some entrepreneuse Fly Girl hijacked the stage and tried pitching her new personalized doorbell company.
  • A simple concept well executed, with a character we have not seen before.
  • Girl’s name is Tina Tina Shanooz.
  • I feel as though I must have met women like Tina Tina, though I’m pretty sure I haven’t.
  • The sketch began with Nasim Pedrad as the woman answering her door and then jumped to Slate as Tina Tina, allowing me to differentiate one from the other, finally.
  • Slate’s character kind of reminds me of Amy Poehler’s impression of Rosie Perez, and that’s a good thing.
Last week’s episode also ended with the weirdest of the night’s sketches — and considerably weirder than Tina Tina Shanooz, though maybe not as funny. Though seeing Blake Lively lose her shit on the line “WAUGH! Potato chip thief!” stuck with me.



Points for “Potato Chip”:
  • It gave Lively more to do than most of this episode’s sketches did.
  • And it really reminded me of a sketch that I would have seen in a rerun of one of the SNLs from the first seven seasons of the show, though perhaps that’s just all the wood grain.
  • The line “This did not end the way I imagined it, in my undry dreams. So I shall collect my hemorrhoid donut and bid you adieu.”
“Potato Chip” wasn’t the highlight of the Blake Lively episode. No, that would be the sketch that referenced someone named DJ Deuce Groan. But I still liked it. Hey SNL, maybe more like this instead of sketches where Kristen Wiig in a sweater can’t handle surprises?

If Her Daddy’s Poor, Just Do What You Feel

While every blog operating on the Gregorian calendar may be busily compiling end-of-year countdowns for the best, worst or otherwise most memorable things of the past decade, I have instead to offer you all something else as we rocket at breakneck speed toward a year that doesn’t look like it has eyes in its center. Yes, I’m choosing to inflict upon you all something that I’ve bouncing around my head for some time now: Drew Mackie’s three catchiest yet most annoying pop songs in the history of recorded music.

Mungo Jerry, “In the Summertime”



Melanie, “Brand New Key”



David Dundas, “Jeans On”



(Personally speaking, Dundas is probably the most notable of these three, as he later went on to do the score to Withnail and I, although I doubt that many people walk away from that movie talking about the score. In any case, the opening to “Jeans On” was sampled in “Sho Nuff,” a Fatboy Slim song that I encountered back when I thought it was cool to encounter Fatboy Slim.)

Simply put, once I hear one of these, I won’t be able to not hear it for days. They’re irritating, for sure, but I will stop short of calling them outright bad, as they each have a staying power that has to be respected. Whether it’s deceptively good songwriting or something accidental about the beats that bored into the brain wrinkles, these will not leave you soon. I’m interested to hear if any readers have a similar interactions with any of these lingering wonders.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Mega Man Reclaims His Masculinity

Disclaimer: No, I won’t be exclusively writing about old video games, new retro-style video games, or specifically Mega Man 10. However, it just occurred to me that I got something to say.

Coming off the giddy high of learning that an evil sheep robot will feature prominently in the upcoming exercise in eight-bit nostalgia that is Mega Man 10, I have come across additional information that I like a little less. It’s being reported on various gaming blogs that another one of the game’s eight bosses will be a fairly uninspired robot named Commando Man. (Lamely military-themed. Does not derive power from shedding his underwear.) Also, unlike Mega Man 9, which broke decades-old gender barriers by pitting Mega Man against a mass of pixels that we players were told was supposed to be female on some level, Mega Man 10 will feature no female villains. “So what?” asks the practical gamer. “Pixels is pixels and it doesn’t make a lick of difference in the long run.” And Mr. Practical Gamer would be correct. However, thinking about this news in light of what I know about the production of Mega Man 9 makes for an interesting look into the brains of the people who make these games (dudes, mostly), the people who play them (again, mostly dudes), and the process of deciding what the former group thinks the latter will enjoy.

As I wrote about earlier on this blog, another Mega Man 9 boss, Hornet Man, was initially conceived of as also being a ladybot, Honey Woman, until the production team decided that two female Robot Masters would just be too big a departure for loyal Mega Man fans. The result of this was Honey Woman getting morphed into Hornet Man and Splash Woman — a mermaid-tailed robot whose attacks included singing — the sole do-badder who would have to squat instead of stand. (If robots urinated, that is. And since Splash Woman lives underwater, I’d imagine she’d just do it wherever she wanted, the slob.) I find this line of logic a little strange. Veteran gamers, who grew up controlling Mega Man and pew-pew-pewing through level after level, were delighted to have a new, old-style game to play through. The realization that two of the game’s bosses were gynoids instead of androids wouldn’t have exactly made them throw their controllers to the ground and stamp them into little pieces in disgust.

So there’s that. But there’s also the odd decision on the part of the Mega Man creative team to pigeonhole how these female robots would function and appear. Roughly half of the series’ bosses have names that imply some degree of badassness — Tornado Man, Shadow Man, Blizzard Man, Napalm Man, Knight Man. The rest range between slightly odd — Spring Man, Dust Man, Magnet Man, Time Man — to vaguely pornographic — Hard Man, Wood Man, Plug Man, Top Man — to fairly wussy-sounding — Plant Man, Crystal Man, Ring Man, Bubble Man.

Note that the two female Robot Masters, Splash Woman and the nixed Honey Woman, fall squarely into that last category, with honey being about as innocuous a substance as you could find and a splash being second only to dewdrops and fine mist in terms of dinkiness. I mean, in the universe of these games, robots can and are made to do anything, so there’s no reason the female-looking ones couldn’t be made to be as fierce as the male-looking ones. For example, the series has never had a Tsunami Man, so there’s no reason the designers couldn’t have made Splash Woman a little more imposing by avoiding Daryl Hannah references and calling her Tsunami Woman. Instead, the final product seeks to remind anyone looking at her that she’s not only a girl but the girl — at least so far, at least for the bad guys.

See?

splash woman says “tee hee”

It’s not surprising, given that the majority of the video games I grew up playing had female characters designed and named to seem sweet, small, pretty or otherwise benevolent. But it’s interesting to think about, especially in the sense that while current video games are getting more progressive, as far as sexual politics, this throwback Mega Man game still goes for some of the old stereotypes.

So, then, since this seems to be the pattern that the female Robot Masters should follow, here are my predictions for the villainesses that may appear in future retro-style Mega Man games:
  • Bunny Woman (fires carrots, procreates profusely)
  • Lipstick Woman (traps you in slicks of caked-on make-up)
  • Stove Woman (hefty, yells at you for treading into the kitchen, is made of pastries)
  • Waitress Woman (throws dishes, spills drinks on you, cries when you ask to see her manager)
  • Scented Candle Woman (weaker but pleasant-smelling version of previous fire-based bosses Heat Man, Flame Man, Burner Man, etc.)
  • Flower Woman (is not a robot but is actually human woman selling flowers; tragic case of mistaken identity)
  • Hysterical Woman (follows no discernable pattern, cannot be defeated)

Blue and Different Kind of Blue, for Fancy People

Word of the week! Times two! Words of the week, if you’d rather! And both of them chromatically themed! And in the same one-sixth of the spectrum, no less!


Beyond the sixteen members of your typical Crayola starter set, there exists a more sophisticated set of colors and corresponding vocabulary. Unfortunately, most of these words are of use only to artists, interior decorators, people who want to sound smart and people who’d rather bystanders didn’t understand what they’re talking about. Appropriate though incarnadine, ponceau or minium may be to describe a given shade of red, these words overshoot the intersection of accuracy and pomposity and land square in Asshole Territory. However, in case the appropriate situation comes along, I’m offering you these two fancy terms, both of which refer to specific shades of blue. Consider this the third in a growing series of color-related words of the week, behind sinople and zinnober.

First:

perse (PURS) — adjective: dark blue or grayish purple.
According to the American Heritage Dictionary, the word comes from the Middle English pers, which in turn comes through Old French from the Medieval Latin Persicus, meaning “Persian.” The word came to me, however, after I read Cintra Wilson’s September 23 Critical Shopper article, in which Wilson reviewed Maxfield, a high-end vintage shop on Melrose that has ties to the Perse family. As she always does, Wilson finished the article with three squibs set off with verbally related kickers — in this case Perse, Purse and Perverse. Wilson meant the family Perse, but her use of the word nonetheless led me to learn that it would also be a color. (It actually led me to learn a lot of fancy color words, thanks to this list, which appeared on the resulting Google search.) I’d guess that the Perse family is more likely to have ties to what we now call Iran than the color, but I’d guess that the Perses know the chromatic sense of their name, given that they’ve trafficked in fashion retail for so long.

Second:

pavonated — (PAV-on-ay-tid) — adjective: 1. peacock blue. 2. like or colored like a peacock.
Finding much about perse was tough, but pavonated was even tougher. Pavonated, like pavonine, comes from the Latin pavo, meaning “peacock.” (Never would have expected that I would have reason to use pavonine more than once on this blog.) Pavonated apparently originated as a heraldic term referring to a peacock close — with close referring to a bird depicted with its wings at the sides of his body instead of distended, as if in flight. (The same website that defines a peacock close also notes, however, that close should only refer to birds that might be depicted in flight, such as an eagle or falcon, and not the ones that more often strut around on their legs, so peacock close is apparently bad usage.) At some point, the term apparently lost its associations with the bird itself and instead came to imply bird’s color. Oddly, it seems to only exist as an past tense participle adjective — that is, as something that looks like a verb but isn’t. The verb to pavonate doesn’t seem to be have been used enough to appear in any dictionaries known to Google. Not unheard of, given current English words like disgruntled.

So there you go: two obscure but potentially handy words to describe shades of blue you may encounter. Use them wisely.

Previous words of the week:
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Friday, December 11, 2009

Feed Your Family Bugs for Christmas

This Christmas, why give your loved ones presents they’ll just forget in a week? Why give your wife a diamond ring she’ll just end up throwing in the gutter? Why give your children toys they’ll just trade for drugs? No, make this Christmas one to remember by giving the important people in your life bugs — specifically those holiday time favorites, honeypot ants, those magical insects so gorged with food that their abdomens swell, rendering them crawling Tupperware containers filled to the brim with sweet, sweet candy.


Ah, yes — picture the looks on your family members’ faces as they partake in a tradition beloved by the Australian Aboriginal people: biting into the unnaturally enlarged midsection of these unfortunate creatures (which are used by other members of their species essentially as dessert carts) and savoring the sugary goo that flows out. Honeypot ants make for a memorable addition to any holiday gathering. Your children will say, “Christmas was never as good as when you fed us bugs.” Chocolate fudge what? Gingerbread men who? In the Australian outback, these ants would normally spend their days regurgitating their delectable stores for other members of their colony, but think of how much those in your human colony will appreciate stealing this precious, life-giving fluid and eating it as treats, when they’re already full of so much other food.

Remember: This Christmas, make your family eat bugs.

(Totally serious on this one. Proof below.)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Our Heroine, Alabaster Purelove

I’m probably two weeks late with this, but since it’s been bouncing around in my head a bit and since the pop culture juggernaut that is Twilight isn’t going away anytime soon, I figured I might as well post it. A disclaimer: I have never read or watched or really experienced any aspect of Twilight aside from commercials for it and the SNL parody of it, “Firelight.” And I’m happy to leave my exposure there. However, being a person who stares at screens of various sorts, I do know a little about Twilight — about enough to know that the heroine’s name is Bella Swan.

This, in and of itself, is a warning sign enough that I should stay away. I hate that anyone — much less a grown woman — would name their heroine something that sounds so much like the kind of name invented by a ten-year-old girl who wears pink and strives for all things superficially pretty, or as it shall be spoken in this context, “pwetty.” It’s just so goddamn obvious. (“Bella means “beautiful” and swans are beautiful so her name means “beautiful swan” and that is both beautiful and pwetty.”) To me, someone who would like to think that both fictional and real-life things are named for sound but subtle reasons, calling this character Bella Swan is the equivalent of having her first spoken line of dialogue be “Hey you, the twelve-year-old reading this book, I’m supposed to be beautiful and appealing.” I can’t focus my rage on Stephenie Meyer alone, as I had similar problems with Mirabelle Buttersfield, the protagonist of Steve Martin’s book Shopgirl. Perhaps I am allergic to the word part bella, and perhaps if someone writes a book about a winsome lass named Bellabella Bellabelsten, I’d drop dead right there.

Upon thinking about this name a bit more, I considered that there may be an additional level of meaning to it. (Can’t confirm this, as I’ve not read Meyer’s writing and don’t know if she traffics in levels of meaning.) Swans are often thought to symbolize beauty, but in particular they are thought to have beautiful necks. A woman who might have an attractively slender neck might be called swan-like. (Her homelier necky counterpart, on the other hand, would be derided as giraffe-like.) Given that Twilight is about vampires, who often go for the neck, it could be that Meyer thought to name her character so as to underscore the fact that she is appealing to these bloodsuckers. However, even this is just a little too on-the-head for me, too direct, too obvious and too frustrating, though I suppose I shouldn’t complain too much, as no one has forced me at gunpoint to read or watch Twilight and I’m not technically obligated to think about it.

I may love the subtly significant more than the bits that beat you over your head with their meaning, but that doesn’t mean I can’t find humor in someone naming something in an obvious and therefore terrible manner. Here, then, is a list of names that Meyer may want to consider for theoretically appealing heroines in her future novels:
  • Melanie Ravenslock
  • Regina Regalston
  • Dulchezza “Dulcie” von Marzipan
  • Mariposa D’Ethereal
  • Stella McTwinkle
  • Ginger Spice
  • Loyalty the Dog-Faced Girl
  • Dyslexia S. Drawkcab
  • Virginia Tightclam
  • Popular Winsalot

The Frayed Color of Ice

Notable links, brightening what is likely a meteorologically fierce Thursday.

The history of hello.

Polyamory is wrong — but purely on a linguistic level.

Crazy person names Winona Ryder and Depeche Mode frontman are named in a lawsuit filed against World of Warcraft.

Pregnancy bump-hiding tactics on How I Met Your Mother.

“Elmer in Drag”: See Ren & Stimpy creator John K’s attempt at concept art for the Tiny Toons character Elmyra. Freaky stuff.

The Telegraph: “Baby flamingos ‘scared of pink.’”

“Gaming archeologists” restore nudity censored from the American release of the Game Boy title Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, specifically to a hippo and a mermaid.

Also for hardcore Nintendo folks: Critical Gaming Network’s evaluation of New Super Mario Bros. Wii in comparison to previous two-dimensional side-scrolling titles according to various series staples. It’s quite in-depth. Here’s the list of entries so far.
Because “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” apparently isn’t a universally understood proverb, those tasked with translating Kubrick’s The Shining had to find something else to put on Jack Torrance’s pages of crazy person typing. Horror blog Final Girl shows what the translators chose, thankfully translated into English.

Wikipedia’s list of speculated names for otherwise nameless characters appearing in the Bible.

A most disturbing dishwasher ad form 1966.

A neat history of Dr. X — an obscure Disney character along the lines of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit — which in turn led me to look up the surprisingly freaky 1933 Disney short “The Mad Doctor.”



And, finally, the original Jetsons version of “Eep Opp Ork Ah-Ah (And That Means ‘I Love You’).” I have to say that I find the back-up singers immensely appealing, even it’s strange to hear the song being sung by a band other than The Violent Femmes.



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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Refinance Your Home or Rot in the Street! Your Choice!

I am baffled by the use of the mug shot-looking photo of Mr. Scary in this ad for home refinancing from LowerMyBills.com.


Is the ad implying that not taking this refinancing offer will render you homeless and therefore hairy-faced? Is it saying that you passing on this offer will literally make you lose your shirt?

Source: Weather.com

The Sheep Man Cometh

In what I can only imagine is an effort by legendary video game company to make a nod to my New Zealand heritage — and mine alone — a new sequel to the Mega Man series was announced today, and it will feature among its line-up of evil robot bosses a contraption named Sheep Man.


In true Mega Man style, the weapon you win for defeating Sheep Man is also sheep-themed: something called Thunder Wool.

Those who have kept up with this blog for a while might remember my excitement in June of 2008 when Capcom announced Mega Man 9, a deliberately retro, straight-to-WiiWare installment of the old Nintendo Entertainment System series. The big news then was that the creators decided to make one of the eight Robot Masters female — or as close to female as a robot can get. The result stuck Splash Woman at the end of a list that began with Fire Man, Ice Man, and Elec Man and ran the gamut of every such-and-such-themed robot you could think of. Remarkable though this may have been at the time, today’s news is much bigger. Sheep trumps woman. New Zealand heritage and all.

The announcement — which appeared in Nintendo Power magazine, another fondly remembered part of my childhood that I’m pleased to hear is still around — was accompanied by purposefully off-model concept art. I assume the ram-horned monstrosity in the left corner is supposed to be another interpretation of Sheep Man.


Of course, nothing could be as disturbing as the other sheep-man-hybrid that has appeared on this blog. I’m happy to reintroduce the world to him.


Feel weird about it.

Sheep, previously:
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Places Even Adult Swim Shouldn’t Venture

Can you prescribe Nomolesterol to a TV show?

I watched last Sunday’s Venture Bros. and enjoyed it very much. I’ve been enjoying the show ever since the pilot, “The Terrible Secret of Turtle Bay.” However, upon watching this week’s, “The Better Man,” I had to think for a bit about what it was, exactly, that I liked so much. Then I realized: no pedophilia jokes.

Seriously, Venture Bros. has to take the prize for the most pedophilia jokes — specifically pederasty jokes — featured on any show in history ever. I, of course, have not seen every TV show ever made, but I have seen a lot of them. Even if I’m overstating my case here, anyone who regularly watches the show has to admit that it has packed more pedophilia jokes into its four short seasons that most shows could, would or should ever hope to. I mean, I’ve never watched Dallas, but I know it ran for fourteen seasons and I’ll bet it declined to find comedy in molestation more often than not. Dallas fans, please correct me if this is not the case.

You may be asking questions now. Perhaps it’s “Drew, what is this Adventure Bros.?” If that’s the question, I’d like you to close this tab and go back to editing the Facts of Life Wikipedia page. Perhaps, however, the question is “Drew, I watch the show pretty often and I’ve never noticed anything like what you’re talking about.” That’s not exactly a question, but I’ll answer it anyway. Simply put, the show references some sort of sexual activity between men and teen boys or teen-seeming men a lot more often than, well, any other show I can think of. And although I enjoy the show, I have to say that this peculiar theme is a little off-putting, especially this season with the promotion to lead character status of Sgt. Hatred — a reformed supervillain currently surviving as the title characters’ bodyguard as well as a recovering pedophile. I find myself asking, “What is up with the writing on this show?” While roundly very good, the writing — the vast majority of which is done by Doc Hammer and Christopher McCulloch, who also do voices for the show — seems to dwell on the theme of pedophilia unusually often.

sgt. hatred, courtesy of the venture bros. wiki

It’s not that such a theme is entirely out-of-place in the Venture Bros. universe. One of the show’s primary inspirations is the 1960s cartoon adventure show Jonny Quest, which itself featured quite a bit of homoeroticism — most of it inadvertent, I’m guessing, and most of it between Jonny’s dad, Dr. Quest, and the family bodyguard, Race Bannon. (Before Venture Bros. came along, this element was parodied in the pilot by another Adult Swim series, Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law. In it, Harvey represents Dr. Quest in a custody battle with Bannon over Johnny and Hadji. Is funny.) Another big inspiration: comic book superheroes. And that element is there, too, as Fredric Wertham noted in Seduction of the Innocent. Batman does have a tendency, after all, to dress teenage boys in short-shorts and force them to hang out with him in an insolated cave.

I suppose someone could argue that Venture Bros. explores all manner of relationships between male characters and more than a few of them would get sexual. In a way, it deals with relationships between men in a way that’s similar to what Buffy the Vampire Slayer did with relationships between women — and at the end of Buffy, it had addressed just about every way one woman can interact with another, including the sexual ways. However, a sexual relationship between two consenting adults is different from one between an adult and a teenager, and it’s the portrayal or insinuation of the latter that sets Venture Bros. apart from other shows and certainly other cartoons. Aside from Jonny Quest and superhero riffs, the first instance I can remember occurs in the episode “Past Tense,” which introduces Colonel Gentleman, a Sean Connery-sounding, Allan Quatermain-acting member of the Team Venture from two generations previous. He resides in Tangiers, with an eager-to-please boyservant named Kiki, who is in turn modeled after a similarly named, real-life lover of William S. Burroughs. As the series progressed, the audience learns that Col. Gentlemen is quite the libertine and, at least during his younger days, would have sex with anything that walked. Not sure if the historical basis or the later development of Gentleman as sexually omnivorous helps the matter any, but, really, he’s a minor character in the grand scheme of the show.

Aside from a touchy-feely Caligula in “Escape to the House of Mummies, Part II” — to which, notably, there is no part one — the next major instance of a character whose eyes seem set on abnormal sex would be Sgt. Hatred, who debuts in the second season, appears as a villain in the third and as a kida-sorta hero in the fourth. Especially once he enters the Venture household as a replacement for family bodyguard Brock Samson, Sgt. Hatred’s struggles with his urges become regular plot and joke fodder — his alleged deprogramming, his failed relationship with a woman named Princess Tinyfeet, and most recently his temptation toward Master Billy Quizboy, a now-37-year-old former boy genius whose body has retained the basic shape and appearance of a prepubescent.

Turning a pathetic sexual deviant into somewhat of a relatable character is maybe the most daring feat Venture Bros. has attempted. You feel bad for Sgt. Hatred because he means well, but he’s overall a miserable person with fairly monstrous tendencies. I mean, on one hand, pedophilia is a thing that happens and that ruins people’s lives, so I guess someone could argue that it’s noble of the show’s writers to introduce this concept to an over-to-top universe. On the other hand, Hatred’s placement alongside so many other comic book-style evil-doers — whose nefarious plans rarely end up causing much harm to the show’s main cast, often killing off only red shirts and other background types — makes his pedophilia seem less awful than it would actually be in real life.

Light-hearted though treatment of his affliction might be, making audiences feel sympathy for such a social outsider might have been the writers’ intent. According to the character’s Wikipedia page, Venture Bros. creators Hammer and Jackson Publick note in the DVD commentary for the episode “The Buddy System” that they once observed “a man with a crew cut at Starbucks, who appeared to be looking at foot-specific pornography on his laptop without regard for the comfort of those sitting around him. The man’s intense demeanor, coupled with his blatant disregard for sexual mores, inspired Jackson and Hammer to create Hatred. They view him as a sympathetic character and state that despite his urges, Hatred realizes that his attraction to minors is wrong and is attempting to keep them in check — an aspect of his personality that they view as redeeming and sympathetic.” Even someone opposed to any kind of amnesty towards people who prey on the underaged would have to admit that it would require a good deal of skill to write a character who has this trait but who also manages to be dramatically interesting. And if that’s honestly what the writers were going for, then they’re welcome to do that. I mean, it’s their show and all.

However, even in the midst of this newest season that has focused so much on Hatred’s pedophilia, the show still went for a completely unrelated pedophilia-themed episode that used the same themes just for laughs. In “Handsome Ransom,” Hank Venture ends up becoming the new sidekick to the superhero Captain Sunshine, who like Superman is powered by the sun but who like Batman keeps company with youthful heroes-in-training. Hank’s superhero sidekick name is even Wonderboy, which seems like a pretty clear reference to Batman’s sidekick, Robin the Boy Wonder. Throughout the episode, an oblivious Captain Sunshine behaves in a way that makes everyone, Hank included, think that he has sex or wants to have sex with his sidekicks in addition to housing them and training them in the arts of superheroism. However, throughout the course of the episode, whenever Captain Sunshine seems like he’s making a move toward Hank, the following action is always something much more innocent. Thus, it’s a setup for a joke, the punchline being “Ha! You thought this was about pedophilia! But it’s not!” Which is kind of mean-spirited, given the show’s theoretically noble attempt to address Hatred’s plight and its history of man-on-man subtext.

In the end, I really don’t know what to make of this strange tendency to a show I otherwise find to be thoroughly clever and entertaining. I go back to my initial reaction: “What is up with the writing on this show?” Does someone find this subject especially compelling? Is there a humor in all this that I’m too uptight to get? And, finally, one that I debated whether I should even say but feel is justified: Is someone trying to work out some personal issue out in all this?

For what it’s worth, I feel I should note that the show doesn’t portray all gay men to be pedophiles. There’s quite a few gay guys on the show whose sexuality isn’t used to set-up pedophilia jokes. Among them: The Alchemist (a sassy magician), Holy Diver and Mile High (former OSI agents, now a couple with a tendency to bible-beat), and King Gorilla (an incarcerated, sentient ape who seems to be a parody of DC comics ape-villain Monsieur Mallah, who’s also gay).

I don’t expect that I’ll ever get a satisfying answer about why the show’s writers chose to dwell on this particular theme, but I still think it’s worth putting out there, even if only for the chance that doing so will make someone else stop and say “Hey, that is weird. Now I also wonder why they do that.” Not that anyone would actually say it in those words, but still. Venture Bros. is an outstanding show in so many ways. I only wish I understood why the powers that be chose to make it additionally outstanding in this way. If anyone reading this has any insights one way or the other, I’d love to hear them.

Reservations and questions notwithstanding, Go Team Venture.