Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Future Perfect, Round Two

Hi all.

You may recall that last week — or a paltry two posts ago, if you want to get snippy about my productivity — I asked you to read an article I wrote about Danny Heller, a painter here in L.A., in hopes that it would get enough sexy clicks to warrant being made into a short-form documentary. If it gets made, the world will get to learn a little more about the talented guy who makes paintings of midcentury modern architecture. They look like this:

(via danyhellerart.com)
Well, now this might actually happen, thanks to people like you and maybe thanks solely to people like you, for all I know: My piece and another article are facing off, head-to-head, and the one that gets the most votes will become the subject of the next documentary. In short, I’d like your votes, please. You can vote for my piece once a day, and the voting runs through Sunday. So please, if you have a spare second, can you click on over to the voting page and toss a vote my way? (That is, Danny’s way, since my name doesn’t appear on the voting page?)

Please click here and vote when you can.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Apricots, Loquats, Kumquats and at Least Two Other Fruits

The assumption: The words loquat, kumquat and apricot all refer to small fruits. The end syllables must share an etymological connection. Right?

Nope. But arriving at that answer was educational. You know, as reading the extracurriculars often are.

According to Etymonline, the syllable in loquat and kumquat is the same, even though the former is a stonefruit and the latter a citrus. (Linguistics, I guess, don’t care about no fruit breedin’ or nothing.) In Cantonese, kwat means “orange” — the fruit, presumably, and not the color, though loquats and kumquats are similar shades of yellowish-orange. Kumquat, in fact, means “golden orange.” Loquat, however, means “rush orange,” and I’m assuming that “rush” isn’t in the sense of hurrying but rather the grassy kind of plants in which the princess found Baby Moses, though not being present at the fruit-naming ceremony, I can’t be sure. Cantonese-speakers, what say you?

So while those two words from the Sino-Tibetan language family, apricot is Indo-European. However, the path it took to the form we know now is long and meandering. Etymonline lays it out: It entered English in the 1550s as abrecock, which came from the Catalan abercoc, which is related to the Portuguese albricoque, which in turn came from the Arabic al-birquq, which came from the Byzantine Greek berikokkia, which finally goes back to the Latin malum precoquum, which means “early-ripening fruit” on account of ancient peoples thinking it was an type of peach that got ripe sooner than others. And that precoquum also gives us the word precocious. See? Meandering — from Point A to Point B like a drunk guy trying to find a bathroom.

Two random notes, however: First, in looking up apricot, I found the Etymonline entry for gingko, which is a Japanese word drawn from the Chinese ying-hing, “silver apricot.” Second, the same search also pulled up aubergine, the fancy British name for eggplant, which, as you may know, is a fascination of mine on account of them being nasty. Of the two etymologies provided, one says that aubergine — a diminutive of auberge, “a kind of peach” — comes from the Spanish alberchigo, which also means “apricot.”

Cots and quats, I tell you.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Epitome of California Beauty (or — A Request for Two Clicks)

Hi there.

I haven’t written in a bit, I realize. I’ve been busy with work that keeps me writing in other places, and please understand that’s a good thing, since those places pay immensely better than this one does. In fact, one of them allowed me to produce an article that I’m actually rather proud of. It’s about the guy who made this painting:

(via dannyhellerart.com)
The painting depicts a house in Palm Springs, and while it’s not photorealism, exactly, it exhibits a level of detail that approaches that mind-bogglingly intricate style. The artist, Danny Heller, makes paintings of midcentury modern architecture — particularly of such buildings standing in Palm Springs — and he does so very well. And while that’s intriguing to me on its own, I find Danny’s art interesting because he represents a phenomenon among twenty- and thirty-year-old Americans with a particular aesthetic sense: He’s into a style of buildings whose heyday arrived and left long before he was born. Why is it that you have these children of the 1980s making googoo eyes at buildings our grandparents might have lived in? Or, even more strangely, buildings they might have dismissed back in the day as being angular, awkwardly futuristic and rather stark compared to what all else might have been fashionable in the day?

These are the subjects I explore in the article. You should read it. I welcome your feedback. I look forward to how the clever minds who might read my blog could further the conversation I began.

But here’s the thing: I also would just like you to click. See, the way articles work on the website hosting my piece, the most clicked-upon, most-Facebook-liked articles get put in the running to become a short-form documentary, and that documentary may even run on TV. So I am asking you, loyal readers of Back of the Cereal Box, to hit that link (step one) and click the Facebook button at the top of the article (step two), all in an effort to have this be the most heavily trafficked, most “liked” post this week.

Thanks in advance for any help you can offer.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Finally, an Answer to a Long-Lingering Question

“Oh, so this is how I’m going to die.” This is how it passed through my brain, not with surprise or even relief but with a casualness I found rather surprising.

Here’s the scene: I’m walking to the grocery store because I needed brown rice, and I needed brown rice because my life is so decidedly non-rock star that the success of my night hinged around my dinner including brown rice. And it wasn’t even the good grocery store: It was the Ralphs where all the produce looks sad. When I bought plums there, I also bought an army of fruit flies that hung around wine bottles and toilet rims like weird party guests. Even worse, the most direct path to the shitty Ralphs takes me by this restaurant with extensive patio seating full of happy, chatty social people whose dinners probably don’t revolve around brown rice.

Also, Maria Bamford was there — not in the restaurant area but walking the opposite direction and talking on the phone. I recognized her voice before I recognized her, and I’m actually not 100 percent sure it actually was her, seeing how blond, neurotic, vaguely theatrical women are the lifeblood of Los Angeles, but oh, let’s just say it was her, because “Wow, that was Maria Bamford” was the last thing I thought before “Oh, so this is how I’m going to die.”

Just a few steps away from Maybe Maria Bamford, I stopped in my tracks and watched a motorcycle swerve off the street, up a driveway and onto the sidewalk, where it sped toward me. The motorcycle was not close, exactly, and this fact is important, because as it tore down the sidewalk, I didn’t leap out of the way. I didn’t even step out of the way. I just stood there and thought, “Oh, so this is how I’m going to die.” And the form of death I was envisioning — hell, presuming — wasn’t even me getting struck by some drunk motorcyclist who mistook the sidewalk for a neat mini-road that he’d previously not noticed. No, my immediate inclination was that this dude on the bike was coming specifically for me.

I can only guess that my mental state resulted from a lifetime of watching movies about people who lead lives more exciting than mine. But even considering that, I’m surprised by my logic in this situation. I’ve been awaiting death about since I gained sentience. If it wasn’t a murderer who’d kidnap me out of the grocery store, then it was a steep, paved hill combined with a faulty bicycle. If it wasn’t armed home invasion robbers, then it was silent, skulking mountain lions. If it wasn’t nuclear holocaust, then it was killer bees. If it wasn’t an airbag-related suffocation, then it was a masked serial killer. If it wasn’t a terrorist attack, it was the pathogen of the week. If it wasn’t a spree shooter, it was getting trapped in a Costco during a major earthquake. And if it wasn’t any of those, it was a Final Destination-style freak accident, and thank God Final Destination finally gave me a simple shorthand for the kind of surprising, Rube Goldbergian deaths that I’ve been envisioning (and avoiding, I should like to point out) since middle school. Yet after all this time and all these worries, my reaction to a potentially life-threatening situation is to dumbly stand there and accept doom.

To conclude the story, no, I didn’t die. The man on the bike slowed down a bit and veered to the side. He even did that cool thing where the bike skids to a stop and the driver has to lean way over. He flipped up the visor on his helmet.

Him: “I thought you’d move.”

His voice, by the way, was a particular voice that I would say belonged to a vivacious party host in a movie set in New Orleans.

Me: “Um.”

Him: “Where is Ambrose?”

Me: “Um. Who is Ambrose?”

Him: “It’s a street.”

Me: “Um.”

Him: “I must have passed it.”

And then he fired up his bike, popped his visor down and sped back onto the street, cutting gingerly through cars as he sped away in the direction he came.

Oh, and I totally got my brown rice. I’m not sure how much of this Maybe Maria Bamford saw.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Egg, Yam, Plant

Maybe it’s not surprising that Mae Whitman would return to the Bluthverse for the revived Arrested Development, but it’s welcome news, and I was happy to read it on Splitsider today. I was more impressed, however, with the footnote to the article:
It’s interesting that her name is the same as the character that George Michael really loved. Is this why the role was recast and Alessandra Torresani was replaced?
That is interesting to me, the guy who made a big list of Arrested Development name puns and name meta jokes but who didn’t recall that Maeby’s name is actually Mae. Did that ever come up again after the pilot?

(via fanpop)
And yeah, it is odd that they’d end up making a love triangle for George Michael involving a character named Mae and an actress named Mae. I don’t know why Torresani got replaced, and the fact that this other actress happened to have the right name probably didn’t get her the job. The fact that she was already friends with Alia Shawkat, however...

(via the bluth company)
Torresani, meanwhile, still looks a lot like Whitman, to the point that you can really see that the casting people had a specific type in mind when they were looking for their Annhog. If the revived Arrested ever needs a less biblically inclined Veal sister, I have a suggestion. Speaking of the Veal family, ever wonder why Ann has that last name? It’s another joke about her being heavy and boring: anvil, as someone pointed out in a comment on by Arrested names post. Which, again, doy, “I just got that.” I an still finding punchlines to jokes set up almost ten years ago.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Beware Defective Verbs

Here’s a thing I learned this week: Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve been using a defective word all this time. Beware. No, I mean the word itself, beware. It’s defective.

Wiktionary notes that beware, as a modern English verb, isn’t doing all that it could do, because we can only use it in the imperative (“Men, beware women with one long fingernail.”) and the infinitive (“I thought I told you to beware that fingernail chick.”) We haven’t been able to conjugate it properly for generations, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say “He bewares the dog” or “I am bewaring the Ides of March.” But I’d never realized that until this week. That’s probably because modern English allows us to say “He is being aware of the dog” and “I am being wary of the Ides of March.”

As far as English defective verbs go, beware is odd in that it isn’t modal. The other defective verbs are auxiliary verbs such as can (it’s present tense only), could (future tense only), may (future tense only), must (which, according to Wikipedia, once had the past tense mote but no longer does), ought (once the past tense of owe) and might (once the past tense of may). In fact, aside from impersonal verbs that you can conjugate but just don’t have reason to except in poetic contexts (“It’s raining” but rarely “I rain”), the one non-modal defective I found listed anywhere was quoth, which I’m willing to bet most people alive today have only ever heard in “Quoth the raven, ‘Nevermore.’” As Wikipedia notes, it’s actually the past tense of the extinct quethe, “to say,” and which also survives in the form of the word bequeath.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

28 Awesomely Insulting Words for Describing the Body Shapes of People You Don’t Like

Recently, the OED tweeted out a word that may prove helpful in the book you’re writing about that person you hate: napiform, “having the form, shape or appearance of a turnip.” It reminded me of a similarly specific word that you could use to describe someone’s shape in an unflattering manner: fabiform, “bean-shaped.”

Surely, there must be multitudes of words you could use to insult people’s appearance without them realizing, right?

Yes. Oh yes.
  • aciform, “needled-shaped” — I stepped back lest my torso suffer another attack by his accusing, aciform fingers.
  • campaniform, “bell-shaped” — “Had I only been born in the antebellum South,” Lois cried out, “my campaniform torso could work to my advantage for once!”
  • cancriform, “crab-shaped” — The more literate of the yoga instructors would mock her cancriform stance between classes.
  • corniform, “horn-shaped” — What the children mocked as being corniform tufts of hair turned out to be actual horns growing from Martin’s skull… but they’d realize this far too late.
  • cucumiform, “cucumber-shaped” — But you really had to search if you wanted to find the spot where Abigail was surprisingly, secretly cucumiform.
  • cymbiform, “boat-shaped” — Again, she reminded her husband that she’d prefer he not reference her giant boat feet as such but instead to speak of them as being cymbiform, as it sounded more melodious.
  • digitiform, “finger-shaped” — “But wait!” he protested, “Not only is it digitiform, but I can also grip a pencil with it, and that’s worth something!”
  • doliform, “barrel-shaped” — Ironically, his doliform body proved unable to float.
  • ensiform, “sword-shaped” — Plump, candy-stuck fingers but a surprisingly ensiform tongue.
  • galliform, “chicken-shaped” — One hoped that her feathered hat marked her decision to embrace her galliform features.
  • flabelliform, “fan-shaped” — He had no hands, merely pink flabelliform growths with which he pawed at world as it passed by.
  • gelatiniform, “gelatin-shaped” — Not only was she secretly gelatiniform inside her girdle, she was also full of orange slices and marshmallows.
  • ginglyform, “hinge-shaped” — Nothing about him could be said to be round or smooth; in fact, his every joint seemed to be as awkwardly ginglyform as his elbows.
  • hamiform, “hook-shaped” — One day, Edward was certain he’d meet a woman malformed enough to accept his hamiform gift.
  • hippocrepiform, “horseshoe-shaped” — As the salesclerk arrived with yet another set of pumps, he began to wonder if a hippcrepiform pairing might better suit her foot shape.
  • juliform, “millipede-shaped” — With hair winding around her neck in shining but sinisterly juliform curls
  • lachrymiform, “tear-shaped” — Melinda’s teardrop pendant only underscored her overall lachrymiform body.
  • medusiform, “jellyfish-shaped” — Vibrant, flowing fabric stretched over her undeniably wide frame, ultimately giving her a medusaform appearance when a floriform one was intended.
  • mummiform, “mummy-shaped” — Yet another pair of TOMS Shoes gave some unwitting do-gooder tragically mummiform feet.
  • oviform, “egg-shaped” — As a result of his oviform curse, my younger brother was unable to stop himself from rolling down the hill and into traffic.
  • scrotiform, “scrotum-shaped” — As the professor continued his lecture, I was hypnotized by the by the pendulous, scrotiform growth on his chin.
  • semipenniform, “halfway feather-shaped” — Despite her best efforts, the would-be Farrah could style her hair to look only semipenniform.
  • serpentiform, “snake-shaped” — He was, tragically, serpentiform in all the wrong places but unpleasingly squat in the one area that mattered.
  • squamiform, “scale-shaped” — Beneath his collar, we could spy squamiform dry patches that nicely matched his generally iguana-like appearance.
  • unguiform, “claw-shaped” — Nadine’s repeated trips to nail salon resulted in increasingly unguiform constructions that she secretly enjoyed.
  • ursiform, “bear-shaped” — The ursiform stripper had to work the hardest of all yet had little to show for her efforts.
  • vermiform, “worm-shaped” — A hawk-like woman and her conspicuously vermiform husband
  • vulviform, “vulva-shaped” — To the delight of all sitting behind her, the result of her painstakingly pinned, tucked and rolled hairdo was an obscenely vulviform structure.
And now that you’ve reached the end of the list, let me just say that I pity your enemies. Good luck on those memoirs!

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

That Is, Indeed, Bonkers

In the hierarchy of Disney weekday afternoon cartoons that we 80s children grew up watching, DuckTales occupies the top spot. It’s the web-footed king, and this is undebatable.

Below that, you may find Darkwing Duck and Chip ’n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers, and below those are TaleSpin, Goof Troop and Gummi Bears. And then there’s Bonkers, a strange cartoon starring no established Disney characters and airing late in the lives of the original DuckTales crowd, thus preventing us from wholeheartedly embracing it the way our younger selves might have.

(via)
(A bouncing-here-and-there-and-everywhere aside: People my age tend to love Gummi Bears, but if most went back and watched it now, we’d see that it’s more on par with Snorks and Pound Puppies than it is with the rest of the Disney Afternoon programming block. I mean, really: It was a show inspired by candy. That’s more of a stretch, plotwise, than Battleship.)

But this is about Bonkers. I never liked Bonkers. Even as a kid, I thought it was grating, and the theme song may quickly lead you to the same conclusion.


That doesn’t mean there aren’t a few bits here. First, even though it came out six years later, Bonkers was very obviously inspired by Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, what with Los Angeles crime being committed and investigated by humans and the cartoons who live alongside humans. (On Bonkers, the humans themselves were animated, so the distinction wasn’t so clear. But still.) Even beyond that, it was a very meta show. We’re told, that this cartoon bobcat joins the police as a result of the end of his career as an animated star. And though the show was conceived of as being about an out-of-work cartoon actor, Disney purportedly went back and filmed Bonkers shorts showing his “acting days” in retroactive promotion of the show.

For example, I remember watching 3 Ninjas in theaters, seeing this Bonkers cartoon beforehand and thinking “Wait, who the hell is this guy?”


He wasn’t anyone. He hadn’t become a thing yet. And he basically never would, despite Disney’s best efforts. But eventually he’d resort to being a cop on an afternoon cartoon show.

If you’re talking about Bonkers in the scope of TV and cartoons, however, the thing that most bears mentioning is this: It seeminlgly got retooled, mid-series run. Much like a sitcom that revolves around a successful lead character but whose supporting cast gets cut — Dawnn Lewis, you were the best thing about Hanging’ With Mr. Cooper!Bonkers lost its entire supporting cast, even though it’s a cartoon and therefore would have been more accommodating to tweaking and refocusing than a live-action show would have. But yeah, halfway through the series, Bonkers’s slovenly, Sipowicz-y partner, Lucky Piquel, joins the FBI and leaves the show, and when he goes to Quantico he takes not only his wife and daughter but also most of Bonkers’s cartoon friends. Then for the remainder of the episodes, Bonkers is partnered with an attractive female cop, Miranda, and his supporting cast consists of the characters who appeared in his original animated shorts.

I’d always wondered what prompted a cartoon show to “recast” all its entire supporting players. This week, I found out.

(via)
As this blog illustrates with the above clipping, Lucky Piquel wasn’t the original partner featured in the show’s concept art; Miranda was. According to the [citation needed]-plagued story being spun on Wikipedia, Miranda showed up late in the series because when the original Bonkers episodes were finished, higher-ups at Disney didn’t think it worked and ultimately called a new creative team in to fix it. Their solution was Lucky Piquel, and these episodes ended up comprising the “main” series, with the Miranda episodes getting tacked onto the end even though they were filmed first and even though the featured an older character model for Bonkers. In fact, according to Wikipedia, only nineteen of the Miranda episodes made it to air, meaning that someone somewhere is sitting on a whole stash of unaired Bonkers that no one wants to see.

In order to explain Lucky’s exit and Miranda’s entrance, a transition episode was filmed, but even that’s complicated and weird. It dealt with a firebomber, a post-Oklahoma City, post-9/11, Disney stopped airing the episode, so all seven of the kids who were trying to watch the series run of Bonkers, beginning to end, would have had no explanation for why the show’s cast would suddenly change from one episode to the next.

I mean, not that the actual explanation makes it all seem more logical.

Anyway, that, my friends, is why Bonkers is weird.

... Because the world needed to know, that’s why.

Lesser-known Disney, previously: