Thursday, January 31, 2013

Surprise! It’s Onomatopoeia!

Some sound words are obviously onomatopoetic — whack, pow, pretty much anything you’d see during a fight scene on the Adam West Batman show. But here is a list of words that you may be surprised to learn are imitative in origin. Or possibly are. Or partly are. Or at one point were.
The jury is still out on whangdoodle, but you have to admit that that is the noise that whangdoodles make, more or less. And yes, there’s more etymological wonderment in my previous posts.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

St. Bartholomew, a.k.a. Captain Flaps

Hi. Do you work in the leather industry? Are you perhaps a butcher, a bookbinder or a purveyor of Florentine cheeses? If you said yes to any of these, then the saint to whom you should be praying is Bartholomew. And he’s not just any saint. He’s one of the twelve apostles that formed Jesus’s famed gang of bachelors. But this post isn’t so much about St. Bart’s biography as it is about the last sentence of his biography: He was skinned alive, or at least that’s what the most popular story says and that’s consequently how St. Bart is portrayed in art.

Have a look. Please note some artists make the odd but strategic decision to depict him holding his skin but also still wearing his skin. (Drawin’ guts is hard.)

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I really want St. Bartholomew to also be the patron saint of footie pajamas.

Previous saintly oddness:

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Revenge of the Reverse Toilet

Not that I’m going to make a habit of blogging about bidets, but I’ve already posted about them once today, so why not twice?


I suppose most of you haven’t wasted energy wondering about where we get that word from, and perhaps many of you thought that a better use of your brain juice was trying to figure out how to use this mysterious bathroom presence. That’s fair. I wondered, however, and I found out. Bidet, according to Etymonline, is of uncertain origin, but we know at least that it was previously French for “pony” or “small horse.” That is all.

So the next time you’re abroad and in a fancy evacuation chamber, don’t think of the bidet as an intimidating bathroom appliance. Think of it as a pony! A porcelain bathroom pony! That wants to shoot a high-pressure stream of water into your butt.

There, now don’t you feel better?

Beyonce in the Bathroom

I realize that I'm about six years late on this one, but give a break to a guy who doesn't listen to Top 40 music and appreciate my astonishment at learning that Beyonce's second solo album was titled B'Day. This is why we have editors. This is why people who work with words should probably get a second, third or fourth opinion before an assemblage of text is finalized and then printed several million times.


Because no one with an understanding of spoken English would look at that album title and pronounce it as "Bee Day." No, that would be rendered as B Day or B. Day or maybe even B-Day, in the style of V-Day or D-Day. As it stands now, the instinctive way most people would pronounce B'Day, I'd guess, is more like g'day, which is what Australians say to each other in the morning. And that's hilarious, because it sounds pretty much exactly like bidet, which is not a glamorous pop star's music album but a bathroom fixture you use to unsoil the filthiest parts of your body.

But how is it possible that no one involved in the creative process behind this album raised their hand and pointed out that that B'Day would be pronounced like those European anti-toilets? Or was that the point the whole time?

This, I'd wager, is worse than the difference between "Paint It Black" and "Paint It, Black."

Friday, January 25, 2013

Yeah, the Day the Fucking Angels Cried

I couldn’t tell you why I was driving west across Los Angeles the day Whitney Houston died, because I lived in Brentwood then and, as a result, most of my existence in this city revolved around Brentwood and its whole fogged-in, J. Crew aesthetic. Now I live in Los Feliz, where I don’t feel so very awkward and out-of-place, and it’s surprising how much of a difference it makes to move from one neighborhood to another. Anyway, some business drew me east of the west side that day, and I was driving right by the Beverly Hilton less than two hours after Whitney Houston drowned in her hotel bathtub there. I didn’t realize it at the time. I don’t think the general public knew at that point.


A short aside: Whitney Houston is not a major figure in my life. I never listened to her music, and I never saw a single movie she appeared in — no, not even The Bodyguard. I only remember her for that one Christmas episode of Saturday Night Live that Rosie O’Donnell hosted. Houston was the musical guest and I think she sang Christmas songs. She also appeared in a Mary Katherine Gallagher sketch alongside O’Donnell and Penny Marshall. Given the rumors about Whitney Houston, that seems noteworthy. I suppose my lack of love for Houston should underscore the fact that my job at the time — writing for the kind of people for whom Fergie and Kat Von D rank as famous celebrities — was not a great fit for me. As a result of this fact, Whitney Houston’s death didn’t strike me as more of a tragedy than would the death of any other person I didn’t know and didn’t have an attachment toward her. Her death was sad in the same way that that it’s sad when anyone anywhere dies young, minus the fact that she lived large and maybe hastened the end with drugs.


Anyway, traffic poked along that evening, and it had started to rain. Trapped in my non-moving car, I had an opportunity to witness this glorious end-of-day period where the transition from late afternoon to evening was accentuated by those late-in-the-day colors you only see when it’s raining. I took some photos, and you can see them throughout this post.

Uncharacteristic rain notwithstanding, I can’t imagine a more representative snapshot of Los Angeles — palm trees, traffic, brake lights, sunset hues and, just beyond the frame of the photos, the corpse of a famous person whose life was ruined by celebrity. She died naked and floating in a hotel bathtub of questionable cleanliness.


I like the idea of showing people these photos and then explaining the context and then telling them, “I like to think that the raindrops where the angels crying because they’d lost one of their own.” And then I’d examine their faces and see how they react: with earnest tears, because this troubled woman truly was an angel in their perspective, or with eye rolls, because they see the shuddering, shit-gobbling sentimentalism in this statement — because they reject the culture that my old job pushed.


Having said all that, I do think my photos capture something. And I’m glad I no longer have to pretend like the Grammys aren’t an artless, meaningless exercise.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

“I’m Reba!” (The Strangest of Lennay Kekua Stories)

Full disclosure: This is not really a post about Reba McEntire.


With what I’ve written here lately about Nancy Cartwright getting eaten by cartoons and the weirdness between Sharon Stone and Wes Craven, I seem to be creating a little series out of the weird parallels between people and the creative things that make them famous. And I know that over-reading is a bad habit to develop, but here I go again.

Yesterday, the woman who was recently surprised to learn about her side career as Lennay Kekua came forward in an interview with the Today show that more or less amounted to “Hey. Yeah. This was messed up.” Her real name is Diane O’Meara, and may Diane’s story be a lesson to us all that watching college football maybe may be useful under very specific circumstances. When I learned Lennay’s real name, the reaction I had (but which probably 99.99 percent of the world did not have) was this: “Why did the guys who wrote the Deadspin article give this woman the pseudonym ‘Reba’?” No, I don’t know why either. That’s just how my head works, and I’m convinced anyone creating a given narrative names characters for a reason, whether consciously or unconsciously. So I tweeted this thought. It got a response from one of the guys who wrote the Deadspin piece. He said the name came from one of my favorite SNL Digital Shorts, of all places.



You should watch this, if you’ve never seen it, but here’s the joke: Andy Samberg thinks he’s hooking up with Reba McEntire, but it’s actually some random black guy wearing a red wig, but that fact is obvious to everyone but Andy.

Keeping in mind Kenan Thompson’s penis, I asked the Deadspin guy if that “Reba” was a nod to the fact that the person acting as Lennay was (most likely, apparently) a dude. He said this:


So whatever, but re-watching the SNL clip — you know, for the hundredth time, because I still think it’s funny — I’m getting a little more out of these Kenan lines: “I’m a guy too,” “Your friends are smart,” and “Hanging like my nuts.” And for the first and only time, right now, Andy Samberg and Manti Te’o are as one.

Speaking of creating narratives and inventing characters, who the fuck would pick “Lennay” as the name for the character they want to seem unremarkably real and existent and totally not fake? And spell it that way? Did he think that, like, “Lisa” was taken?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

33 Weirdly Fascinating Wikipedia Pages on Basic Concepts

In the same way that you often don’t appreciate the town you live in until you’re showing visitors around, some of the most fundamental concepts can be surprisingly interesting when you hear them explained in depth.
And yes, half the fun is seeing what images get chosen to represent these concepts. Of course, if anyone else has stumbled upon a seemingly banal subject which has a rather extensive Wikipedia page, I’m all ears.

Monday, January 21, 2013

A Short Story About Sharon Stone and Wes Craven

I ended up on the Wikipedia page for Wes Craven today as a result of one of those aimless Wiki-walkabouts that teach you stuff you didn’t need to know. I got to this page wholly independently of the previous entry here on Craven collaborator Kevin Williamson, but this little nothing fits in well with that Williamson-style pop culture mishmash narrative.

wes craven, john milton, sharon stone now, mimi craven then
Craven has been married three times, first to Bonnie Broecker — mother to Jessica Craven, who formerly sang with The Chapin Sisters — and after that to Mimi Craven. This actress is probably most familiar to Wes Craven fans for roles in A Nightmare on Elm Street and Swamp Thing and to non-Craven fans for playing Russell Dalrymple’s bored, beautiful date on the Seinfeld episode “The Watch.” Mimi and Wes Craven divorced in 1987.

According to Wikipedia, director Jos Eszterhas’s 2001 book American Rhapsody alleges that the Cravens divorced as a result of Mimi’s affair with Sharon Stone, whom Craven directed in the 1981 film Deadly Blessing, and that Stone sent Wes Craven a bouquet of black roses upon the finalization of the split. That’s quite a story, and I’m kind of surprised I’d never heard it before. Though Wikipedia says that Wes Craven has never remarked about the lesbian affair rumors, he does edge around the topic in a 2011 interview with the New York Times. Upon being asked whether his marriage ended because his wife had an affair with Sharon Stone, Craven says this:
The marriage did not end for that reason. Sharon and Mimi had a very close friendship for many years. And dead black roses were sent to me. I called my ex-wife and asked her if she had done it. She didn’t exactly say she had but did say the reason that I deserved them was because I had once referred to her as a stewardess rather than a flight attendant. It’s as absurd as that.
Craven also adds that the black roses “might have been Sharon’s idea, but that would only be speculation.”

And I suppose that’s as classy a way you can answer a rather awkward question like this one. But here’s a thing that occurred to me, a guy who’s seen Wes Craven’s Scream, like, a million times: Regardless of whether the affair rumor is true or who sent Wes Craven black rose, Scream mentions Sharon Stone repeatedly. Even in a script that makes a point of packing in the highest possible number of pop culture references per page, Stone comes up more often than other celebrities. First, Tatum argues that the killer could easily be female, using Basic Instinct as evidence. Second, Gale Weathers mentions that instead of reporting from Woodsboro, she should “be in New York, covering the Sharon Stone stalker.” And finally when Sidney learns the motive behind the murders — her mom had an affair with her boyfriend’s dad, thus ending their marriage — the killer explains, “That woman was a slut-bag whore who flashed her shit all over town like she was Sharon Stone or something.” (Cue Matthew Lillard’s character, doing some impression I’ve never been able to place: “Let’s face it, Sidney: You mother was no Sharon Stone.”)

Now, I realize that Kevin Williamson wrote the script to Scream, not Wes Craven, but the director is still responsible for the whole movie. And if you’re constructing a narrative about some bad blood between Wes Craven and Sharon Stone — existing either because she stole his wife or because she’s simply his ex-wife’s buddy (non-sexual sense) — and how this blood leaks out in a way the general public gets to see, these Scream references make for interesting footnotes. If he wanted to, Craven could have said, “By the way, can we make these Sharon Stone references into Demi Moore references? Long story.”

I feel like it’s also worth mentioning that the catalyst for the whole Scream series — and for everyone from Drew Barrymore to Emma Roberts getting bumped off onscreen — is a nasty relationship between a director and a would-be actress. At the end of the third movie, you find out that things went south for Sidney’s mom following ambiguous badness between her and John Milton, a horror movie director who serves as a stand-in for Craven himself, though not in any awful sex crime ways. Obviously, I can’t say on my own what it means or if it means anything, but it makes for an interesting parallel for the life of a director best-known for a series of movies about Hollywood, actors and the give-and-take between movies and real life.

In conclusion, I would like to point out that Googling around to write this also landed me on this page, which Sharon Stone can never, ever see.

(Image sources: Wes Craven, John Milton, Mimi Craven, Sharon Stone.)

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Return to the Kevin Williamson School of Character Naming

Back in 2010, I wrote a post titled “The Kevin Williamson School of Character Naming,” in which I talked about how the scribe behind Scream and Dawson’s Creek has a few peculiar tics when it comes to deciding what he’s going to call his characters. Basically, he populates his works with an unusually high number of characters whose last names end in -er (Casey Becker, Joey Potter, etc.), and to a lesser extend characters whose last names end in -s (Randy Meeks, Gale Weathers), whose names end in -y (Tatum Riley, Dawson Leery) or who have a boy’s name despite being female (Andie McPhee, Sam Price). It’s just something he does.

So when I found out that Williamson had written the new Kevin Bacon series The Following, I had to look at the name of the characters. So what have we got? Kevin Bacon plays Agent Ryan Hardy, Natalie Zea plays Claire Matthews, Annie Parisse plays Debra Parker and Maggie Grace plays Sarah Fuller. So he’s still doing it.

This proves nothing, of course, and a lot of writers probably have similar habits, but I’m somehow just fascinated to look a given person’s body of written work and say, “Oh, see? He does this one particular thing again and again.” I wonder if this is something other Kevin Williamson fans have picked up on.

Ethel Gets Eaten — Nancy Cartwright and the Twilight Zone Movie

Today, I want to talk about Nancy Cartwright, the actress famous for two things: providing the voice of Bart Simpson and being a Scientologist. That may seem like a short list of accomplishments, but when you consider how well-known Bart Simpson is and how many people have spent hours and hours watching him, you realize that Cartwright wields more power in Hollywood than a great many actors with more recognizable faces. However, I’m not so much concerned with Bart as I am with Nancy’s career before The Simpsons, specifically her film debut in 1983’s The Twilight Zone: The Movie.

Now, of course, when you’re talking about this movie, it’s hard not to think about it being the Hollywood production that killed Jennifer Jason Leigh’s dad and two child actors in a horrific helicopter accident. But put that aside for a moment and focus on the third segment of the film, “It’s a Good Life.” Directed by Gremlins guy Joe Dante, this segment is a remake of the famously creepy Twilight Zone episode of the same name, which featured Billy Mumy as Anthony, a child who holds an entire town hostage with his power to bend reality however to suit his own selfish, childish purposes. (Cloris Leachman stars as his tormented mother. If you have never seen it, do so. It’s great television.) In the movie version, Anthony is played by Jeremy Licht, the actor best-known for being one of the non-Jason Bateman Hogan Family sons. Nancy Cartwright plays Ethel, a character introduced as being Anthony’s sister, though she’s probably not; like everyone else in the “family,” she was probably beamed there by Anthony’s strange powers. Ethel’s none too happy about being Anthony’s captive, and she looks like a surly Tina Yothers.


One of the major departures from the original “It’s a Good Life” is the recurrent theme of old cartoons. Now, if you ever stop and think about old cartoons or if you ever watch them drunk and alone on some lonely weekend night, you’ll realize they’re actually quite creepy. Not sure what I mean? Watch this profoundly unsettling 1931 cartoon “Bimbo’s Initiation” and you’ll quickly understand.



It’s that fast-paced, dream-like atmosphere they sometimes have, where very surreal, scary things are taken at face value by the characters they’re subjected upon, and no one on either side of the screen seems to stop and question how bizarre it all is. These are the cartoons that Anthony makes his family watch. At one point, Kathleen Quinlan’s character happens across Sara, who seems to be entranced by them.



In truth, Sara (randomly played by Runaways frontwoman Cherie Currie) has no mouth — presumably because Anthony blinked it out of existence when she said something he didn’t like. Later, Anthony forces his uncle to perform a magic trick. When the uncle pulls the rabbit out of the hat, however, it’s a horrifying, three-dimensional version of a cartoon character, Tex Avery-style wild takes and all. Be warned: This is something that terrified me when I saw it as a kid, and it still unnerves me today.



Finally, the situation becomes unbearable for Ethel, and she tells Anthony off. Consequently, Anthony blinks Ethel into the cartoon world, where everything has a face and none of the faces look happy to see her. It’s nightmarish, and of course, it doesn’t end well, and the rest of the family helplessly watches from the living room and she dies onscreen.



(Excuse the low-quality footage, but reflect for a second that by watching the above clip, you’re watching a handheld camera pointed at a TV screen showing characters watching a TV screen, and you’re watching it all on a computer screen.)

Now — my big conclusion.

Isn’t it weirdly prophetic that Nancy Cartwright’s film debut would have her playing a character who literally gets consumed by a cartoon universe, and then she went on to be identified solely with voicing a single cartoon character? One of the most popular cartoon characters of all time? A character who’s easily better recognized than she is? Is it not especially interesting that Bart Simpson would eventually star in a later reworking of “It’s a Good Life”? Specifically that one “Treehouse of Horror” segment where superpowered Bart turns Homer into a living jack-in-the-box?

These are things I think about.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Name’s Bonerz — Peter Bonerz

So here is Suzanne Pleshette’s backside with the name Peter Bonerz displayed beneath.


This resulted from one of those harmonic cosmic coincidences that had me in the right place at the right time — specifically walking through my room as an episode of The Bob Newhart Show was playing when my spider sense told me that something hilarious was happening immediately nearby. I had never heard of Peter Bonerz before, though he apparently played Dr. Jerry Robinson on 142 episodes of The Bob Newhart Show, in addition to directing episodes of it. Furthermore, he has helmed episodes of many of the noteworthy sitcoms of the past forty years, from Mary Tyler Moore to Friends, and he worked as recently as 2011, when he directed two episodes of $#*! My Dad Says. And yet I was tragically aware of his existence all this time, which it too bad, because he’s done quite a lot with his life for a guy whose last name is Bonerz — not just Boner but Bonerz, with the pluralizing “z” you only see when something terrible is happening.

Peter Bonerz, I salute you. With my hand, of course.

I swear, this is better than the time that the password on Password was “vibrator” and Elizabeth Montgomery didn’t bat an eye.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Yanked Up From the Ground

After the fact, I know, but here it is anyway: I closed 2012 by watching the little-remembered film version of Play It as It Lays. I enjoyed it even if it cast a shadow over the end of the year.

via


It’s not a film you’d watch to feel happy, but it’s beautiful, in the way a windy, dusty day in a bad corner of California can still seem beautiful. I keep thinking about it — the notion of Maria Wyeth still playing even though she knows there’s no way to win, even though it’s raining on a cemented-over backyard, where nothing will grow. And it’s in that sense of a foiled harvest that the film uses a certain word — a word I had to look up, because I hadn’t heard it before.

It’s my first word of 2013.
deracinate (dee-RASS-en-ate) — verb: 1. uproot 2. to remove or separate from a native environment or culture; especially: to remove the racial or ethnic characteristics or influences from.
From the French déraciner, meaning about the same and coming from the Late Latin radicina, the diminutive of radix, which Etymonline points out is also the word that gives us radish. It’s one of those inherently beautiful words, I say, even if it means something awful. The metaphorical meaning might let you forget that a plant, when uprooted, can’t survive. Humans do, however. Or at least Maria, that stubborn Southern California radish, manages to survive.

It’s a good word. Thanks for that, Joanie.

It seems that Play It as It Lays is so poorly remembered, in fact, that good images from it are hard to find online. But I do have this:

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Yes, that’s Anthony Perkins’s head, unceremoniously cropped into the bottom corner. Honestly, it’s probably the least indicative frame possible, lacing Tuesday Weld and all, but I can attest that it’s from the movie.

That’s it.

Previous words of the week after the jump.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Reassessing a Childhood Love for Gladiators

“Do you like movies about gladiators?” I laughed about this line without realizing that as a kid I fucking loved gladiators — anything from the whole sword-and-sandal genre, really, barbarians in particular. Conan, Red Sonja, more so Conan than Red Sonja, for reasons clearer now. The love extended to video games, too, and the Golden Axe games consumed a good share of my childhood hours. (Quarters, too, in some cases.) That’s defensible: They’re good games. Still, looking back on the box art, I feel other factors may be at play.

Please note, fore example, what’s taking the focus away from Tyris’s sideboob: speedo peen.


Armored speedo peen, no less, and now that I think about it, it’s very clear what our sword-swinging hero was mostly concerned with protecting based on the skin he’s showing.

And then there’s the box art for the Genesis sequel. The adult me can’t help but notice that someone put time and effort into suggesting a non-dwarf-sized package on the hero on the left.


The character’s name, in case you’re unfamiliar, is Gillius Thunderhead, and no, I’m not joking.

I’m just going to think about that for a bit.



Well, consciously process it, at least, for once, for a change. And remember:


Gay issues (more or less) in video games, previously:

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Softer Side of a Gangland Legend

Yes, this is really a photo of Mickey Cohen, posing with a dog in a photo that he autographed for his girlfriend, Barbara.

Via L.A. Examiner Collection, via USC Libratries, via KCET
Surely, no man who loves a dog that much could be evil. Right? Based on this picture and given the choice of tangling with Cohen or Sean Penn, I think I'd pick Cohen. The dog appears to be a different one than his bulldog, Mickey Cohen Jr. I presume that the Barbara is the Barbara Darnell pictured here. You have to wonder if Barbara was to the seedier side of life as Amber and Crystal are now.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Fake Jimmy Fallon and the Existential Implications of the “Fart So Loud” Song

In the 30 Rock universe, there is no Saturday Night Live. TGS is the stand-in for SNL. However, Jimmy Fallon has played himself on 30 Rock, and since Jimmy Fallon only got to host his own talk show because he got famous from being on SNL, the 30 Rock version of Jimmy Fallon, if you want to get technical about it and I obviously do, has to have some alternate backstory where he got famous through a means other than SNL.

Besides, wasn’t Josh the 30 Rock universe stand-in for Jimmy Fallon anyway?



See, and you though this song was just about farting.

You have to wonder, though, since the 30 Rock universe lacks the actor Alec Baldwin — on account of the fact that otherwise that the celebrity paradox rule stating that his character would never be able to get anything done because everyone would be telling him, “Wow, you look exactly like Alec Baldwin!” — does that mean that all the other Baldwins also don’t exist? Does this mean that the 30 Rock-verse never got The Usual Suspects? Is my fanfic inaccurate if I have Toofer making a Keyser Soze joke?

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Cyril Ponds

This is a round-up of odd search terms that have recently been leading people to my blog  — an overdue update in a long-neglected series.

Before I get into it, a brief note: I can no longer post links to Google search results, as I used to back in the day. Google Analytics does not offer that service, and I fear that Google results have become more personalized than universal. Thus, if you want to find out how these search results ended up leading to my blog, you have to do the fingerwork yourself. But good luck.

Search results after the jump. But first, gaze upon these noble dogs.

Via.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Questions Raised by Christmas Tree Stands Left on Street Corners

You know you can re-use those, right?

Are you just that fucking rich, that you can treat yourself to a fresh Christmas tree stand every year?

Have you just given up on Christmas?

Have you held onto Christmas but abandoned the central tree aspect of the holiday?

Did you abandon the tree aspect for some dumb hippie reason?

Are you growing your own Christmas tree?

Have you rejected Jesus?

Have you selected Jesus at the exclusion of the pagan-derived aspects of this particular holiday?

Was one of your Christmas presents a Christmas tree stand that was just infinitely better than the standard-looking one you have now disposed of?

What, then, was the difference between your fancy Christmas tree stand and this one, which looks like the one my parents use and has yet to falter in its role as a tree stabilizer?

Where can I obtain such a superior Christmas tree stand?

Do you think that someone walking by will see this and say, “You know, I’ve never been a Christmas tree person before, but if I can have this for free, I’m making the switch”?

Did something awful happen to this Christmas tree stand that you can’t have it in the house anymore?

No, really — did something, like, really really awful happen at your Christmas? Like, specifically in the under-tree area?

Do you now celebrate Festivus?

Don’t you think the tree stand could also support the metal Festivus pole?

But seriously — you do know you can re-use those, right?

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Speculative Headlines for the Inevitable Article Declaring That Downton Abbey Has Jumped the Shark

Mark my words: One day you will see one or more of the following in print, depending on which route to self-destruction Downton Abbey chooses.

Downton Shabby

Downton Flabby

Downton Crappy

Downton Blabby

Downton Badly

Downton Assy

Downton Gassy

Downton Stabby

And I think we can all agree that Downton Stabby would make for the best series finale, no?


Lady Edith says “[unintelligible, pained noise].”

Saturday, January 05, 2013

The Problem With “The Name Game”

Maybe you also watch American Horror Story, the TV show that asks the question “What the fuck?” and then, in lieu of an answer, simply diverts the viewer in the direction of a different “What the fuck?” moment. And perhaps you watched the most recent episode, in which creator Ryan Murphy drew on his other horror series, Glee, by having Jessica Lange’s character perform the 1964 song “The Name Game,” along with a choreographed dance by the insane asylum residents.

No, I’m not kidding. This really was something that happened on a TV show where, in addition, aliens impregnate dead ladies, Anne Frank is a kickass Nazi fighter, the farmer from Babe turned Chloe Sevigny into a pulsating STD monster and, most incredibly all, Zachary Quinto put a baby inside Sarah Paulson. In the context of the episode, the song wasn’t wholly out of place, for it tied in nicely with two plot points: Lange’s character getting electroshocked to the point that she didn’t know her name and a priest invoking the name of Christ to force the devil out of a possessed person.

Watch it if you need to, or if you haven’t realized what “Name Game” song I’m talking about.



Yeah, it’s the “banana-fana-fo-fana” song. And it’s been in my head ever since I watched the episode, which means I’ve been forced to think about “The Name Game,” which I don’t think is fair.

My conclusion: It’s kind of a shitty game.

Okay, so in the lyrics, the singer — in the original version, Shirley Ellis, who also co-wrote the song — brags, “I bet you I can make a rhyme / Out of anybody’s name” and “There isn’t any name that I can’t rhyme.” Now, if you’re going to do that and act like it’s both clever and fun, you kind of have to try harder than just inventing new words and being all, “Bam! Rhymed that one! I’m on fire. Look at me go!” You kind of have to wonder if Ellis understands why rhyming poetry is hard and why poets, when they’re hung up on a hard-to-rhyme word, don’t just stick banna-fana it and say bobsequious, feffulgent and mee-mi-mo-momphaloskepsis. You kind of have to wonder if Ellis, if presented with the whole “nothing rhymes with orange” problem, wouldn’t just shout “Borange! Forange! Morange!” and then swivel dance out of the room.

Beyond all that cheating, the song really sucks for long names. Basically, the more multisyllabic the name, the harder it is to use in “The Name Game.” No one plays “The Name Game” with an Iphigenia. If they do, they call her “Iffy,” which is the right sort of nickname for the weirdo stuck with that name. That the less said of Chuck, Tucker and Mitch, the better.

I will say this in favor of the “The Name Game,” however. In the American Horror Story version, one person really got a kick out of her name being used, and that was Pepper the Pinhead.


Then again, she is a pinhead.

In closing, is it weird to think that people liked this song the same year that the world discovered The Beatles?

It’s Funny Because It’s Old, previously:
Also there was the other time I had a problem with American Horror Story.

EDIT: Guys, I totally underestimated the number of names that do not work politely with this song. From the Wikipedia page, overlong and needlessly detailed, per usual:


I would like to shake the hand of the person who tried to banana-fana a brand of harmonicas, I really would.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

The Twilight Zone Lousy Plot Generator

Though I love The Twilight Zone, I’m the first to admit that the series ran some horrible episodes — entertaining, yes, but still horrible. These include the ones where you can see the twist coming a mile away — “They’re obviously toys, duh” — and the ones where the twist is unpredictable, shocking to the point of making the whole plot seem incoherent — “This mysterious town is actually the model village that goes with a train set… owned by a giant alien child… who speaks English!”


And that’s why I designed this Twilight Zone Lousy Plot Generator, because it’s basically that easy to construct a bad episode of this show. Just pick a numeral between 1 and 9 and then do that four more times. Read the plot points associated with those numbers in order. Voila — you’ve just invented a bad Twilight Zone episode.

The set up.
  1. A young schoolteacher is driving late at night on an isolated road…
  2. A big city businessman gets laid off from his job and takes the early train home…
  3. A beautiful seductress meets her lover in her Manhattan apartment while her husband is at work…
  4. A young boy cruelly mocks a hobo he passes on the street…
  5. A mousy secretary worries that no one respects her opinion, and vows to make something of herself one day…
  6. One honest man is the only person in town to defend the local eccentric, whom everyone suspects of being a witch…
  7. A bearded, haggard man stumbles over the dusty horizon alone…
  8. An aged actress clings to the memory of her late husband, and longs for the days when they were together…
  9. A harried adman tires of the rat race and steps out of the office one day, to walk the streets and collect his thoughts…
Escalation.
  1. And then wakes up to find he/she’s suddenly someone else, married with children and moving to a new home…
  2. Only to return home to find that his/her family has lost their money. In fact, in this flip-flopped house, those who were once servants are now served by the once-wealthy family members…
  3. Only to find later that an unexplained run of good luck has driven all his/her neighbors and friends to jealousy…
  4. Later, over lunch at a roadside diner, his/her sister flaunts her high-flying, fancy-free lifestyle, creating feelings of envy…
  5. And eventually wanders to a lush, Eden-like paradise where his/her every wish is granted and where they meet their ideal mate…
  6. When an old gypsy woman approaches him/her and asks for one wish, no matter how outlandish…
  7. When he/she encounters a stranger whose antiquated style of dress and manner of speaking suggest that he’s from a long-passed time period…
  8. But then is shocked to find his/her home invaded by a stranger claiming to be a vampire…
  9. Only to eventually attend a party where the guests — all of them guilty of thumbing their noses at one social more or another — get picked off, one by one, by a killer…
And then it gets weird.
  1. But then they arrive in a town that’s inexplicably populated by rabbits…
  2. And then he/she realizes that there was truth in the seemingly incoherent ramblings of that person in the first act, whom everyone dismissed as a loon…
  3. No one believes him/her that this isn’t the way it’s supposed to be…
  4. And then there’s the shocking realization that he/she’s inherited a great deal of money…
  5. But then it turns out that the whole situation is a product of the protagonist’s superpowered imagination…
  6. Inexplicably, he/she then wakes up horribly disfigured…
  7. Then there’s a knock at the door. Who comes in but a man looking exactly like and claiming to be George Washington…
  8. But then it turns out that every other human is a ghost of someone who previously happened upon this cursed locale…
  9. However, all of that is rendered moot when the radios start broadcasting the news: a nuke strike is imminent!
And finally, the shocking twist!
  1. And then you find out that they were all mannequins the whole time.
  2. Because then he/she learns that the waitress who appeared in the opening scene is actually the Devil, and they accidentally made a deal with him.
  3. But in the end, it turns out they’re all characters in a play that the writer eventually tires of and abandons. They’re lost forever in a crinkled-up sheet of typewriter paper.
  4. And then it turns out they were on Mars the whole time!
  5. But then it turns out that what the protagonist believed to be an impediment is actually considered by this episode’s universe to be a virtue, proving that social advantages and disadvantages are merely a result of one’s perspective.
  6. Wait no. They were dead the whole time.
  7. But in the end, the protagonist realizes that he/she is actually an alien who came to study earth and then contracted amnesia. Memories restored, he/she returns to the mothership, to the awe of everyone else in the neighborhood.
  8. It was all a dream… dreamt by Hitler himself!
  9. And they get on the flying saucer, believing that a brighter future awaits them but oblivious to the awful truth.
And the lesson you’re supposed to learn is…
  1. Don’t be racist, stupid.
  2. Be charitable, stupid.
  3. Beware communists, stupid.
  4. Live in the present, stupid.
  5. Be careful what you wish for, for all wishes are rooted in greed, stupid.
  6. Don’t drink and drive, stupid.
  7. People who ask for help are actually angels in disguise, stupid.
  8. Nonexistent. There’s no moral on this one — just feel weird about stuff.
  9. The most terrifying monsters are ourselves. Stupid.
And yes, by the way, I did watch the New Year’s Day Twilight Zone marathon. It’s one of my favorite holiday traditions.


Well, that and this.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Feast! Fight! Be Manly! (or — What Tumblr Did for Me in 2012)

This is going to make me sound like I’ve let all this social media turn his brain into a kitten gif, but I think of my Tumblr as an extension of what I do here on this blog. Believe it or not, I consider what I write here to be the product of more fleshed-out ideas; El Comfortador, however, is where I toss half-baked, malformed stuff — mostly pictures — that I don’t have a use for otherwise but I imagine at least one other person would want to look at. Most often, someone does.

Think of it this way: Back of the Cereal Box is my home where I live with my Protestant wife and our lovely children. El Comfortador is the dirty shack in the back where I keep my one-legged mistress, whom I found on a beach. Two side of the same coin, both vital to being a happy, successful person.

One-legged beach women aside — “Saraghina, you GET BACK IN YOUR SHACK! I WILL SEE YOU LATER! Go on, hop away!” — there’s a lot of thematic overlap between by blog and my Tumblr, and I feel like someone who likes what I write here at Back of the Cereal Box would also get a kick out of, say, this tam o’ shanter-wearing Scottish terrier or this stunningly terrible album cover or barbarians, even if the occasional recycled Back of the Cereal Box image shows up. (Hey, Tumblr pays off in clicks — better than Twitter or Google Plus, in my experience.) Tumblr has actually shaped my blog, to an extent, as I’ve written a post or two about something I saw while scrolling through the junk drawer that is my Tumblr dashboard. And I even put up this visual index page on this blog as a way of getting eyes on old content, and only after the fact did I realize that it’s basically just a poor man’s Tumblr page.

All this, I guess, is to explain why I’m putting up a list of my most popular Tumblr posts here on Back of the Cereal Box, not that you care and not that I really need a reason to, because here is where I’m the boss. (“Saraghina, do you hear that? Here is where I’M THE BOSS!”) But I don’t think that I’m actually admitted before that Tumblr has become a part of what I do and not just some dumb little side-project. I did not anticipate that happening.

Here are my best-performing Tumblr posts from 2012. Since the numbers will change, it wasn’t worth it to note them. Just click the images to see whatever they’re at now.


At this rate, it will probably get 30,000 notes by April. And to think: I only put it on Tumblr to get click-throughs to my blog — specifically the word-of-the-week post for kummerspeck. It worked.


An illustration from a 1960s car ad that I scanned and put on Tumblr. Curiously, it’s not even the prettiest car ad graphic I posted.


The sweet tribute to her late mother that Maya Rudolph made when she hosted Saturday Night Live in February. In all honestly, I just stuck together photos that Jules Klausner had reposted. Please note that Maya had to wear a bra.


Just a promo photo of January Jones as Betty Draper. And I only used it because the premiere of the new Mad Men season reminded me that another word of the week, iracund, was a magically wonderful word for describing Betty.


It’s Katharine Hepburn riding a skateboard. I don’t think it requires explanation.


Subtitles by me. This is what Tumblr thinks is funny.


I’d been sent this photo by someone who knew that I would like to see what the personification of cool looked like. I don’t know where it came from, but I have a feeling it’s made its rounds on the internet.


People really enjoy looking at old video game graphics, the artistic merit of which I still wonder about.


It’s an old piece of pro-contraception propaganda, and it’s a reminder that Tumblr can be a handy way to get eyes on old content.


Old + foreign + intended for children + anthropomorphic animals = Tumblr win.

Does it feel weird to take Tumblr seriously? Yeah kinda. But at the very least, I look back on these ten images and realize that they’re actually a decent representation of me, my interests and what I did last year. And what I did last year is look at women who were fashionable in previous generations, mostly. At least Tumblr has taught me that I was not the only one.

EDIT: Oh yeah, no one liked this awesome illustration. What the fuck?


It’s a lion wearing a crown, people. Who can resist that?