Saturday, June 29, 2013

A Rather Busy Day for Satan

Most Americans with a passing interest in language probably already clicked through the dialogue maps posted recently by North Carolina State. They should have, anyway. These maps are damn cool. Colored splotches show you what regions of the U.S. say what, and for this flat-accented Californian who’s used to hearing people on TV talk like me, it’s helpful to be reminded how differently my fellow Americans can speak. (“That’s what they call soda over there? Oh my god, they’re so weird.”) But of all the dialectical breakdowns featured in the study, this one grabbed my attention most: “What do you call it when rain falls while the sun is shining?”

sunshower the devil is beating his wife

The map would seem to be accurate: I’m in that yellowish southern California splotch that would say “other.” (Obviously, the answer is “You’re on vacation in Hawaii, because this never happens anywhere else.”) I had never heard the expression sunshower, and while that seems like a sensible enough name for this type of weather, the superior term just in terms of batshit, backwoodsy folksiness has to be The devil is beating his wife, which I’d also never heard before (a-cuz California) and which has to be one of the more head-scratchy English idioms I’ve ever heard.

So what’s the deal? Here are the three theories I found online:
  • It could be just that unexpected raindrops are happening because they’re Mrs. Devil’s tears, according to this message board post.
  • According to this post on the same thread, it could also mean essentially “a mixed blessing” — to have rain during sun is a mix of bad and good, in the way that beating your wife is bad but maybe it’s not so awful when the wife in question is married to the devil. #controversial
  • And then there’s the theory I like best: Posted unsourced on Wikipedia, it states that rain during sunshine is a rare, beautiful thing, and because the devil hates anything good, he’s taking his anger out on his wife.
This Word Detective post also attempted to find the origin to this expression and came up with nothing conclusive, though the author does note that similar phrases exists outside the Southern U.S. For  example, Hungarian has The devil is getting married, and German has The devil is having a parish fair. And this guide to English translated into idiomatic French offers Le diable bat sa femme et marie sa fille (“The devil is beating his wife and marrying his daughter”) as the equivalent of It rains and shines at the same time, so way to go France for upping the ante by wedging incest into a discussion of a pleasant meteorological phenomenon.

According to Wikipedia, those who use these “devil” phrases are in the minority. Most idioms describing this kind of weather describe it as being some kind of special animal party. Among others:
  • In South Africa, a monkey’s wedding
  • In India and Japan, a fox’s wedding
  • In Korea, a male tiger gets married to a fox
  • In Morocco and France, a wolf’s wedding
  • In parts of Africa, a leopard’s wedding
  • In Kenya, a hyena’s wedding
  • In Bulgaria, a bear’s wedding
  • In northern Iran, a jackal’s wedding
  • And in El Salvador, just to be difficult, it’s a deer is giving birth
All of which, of course, are far cuter than domestic violence, devil-related or not.

Friday, June 28, 2013

The First High Five

This was a big week for fans of samesies, but while many Californians took to the streets to celebrate the Supreme Court, I observed this momentous occasion by working at home and then falling asleep watching Comedy Central. It’s for this reason that I’m presenting a bit of gay history today. It may not affect as many people as does California catching up to that glittering bastion of liberality we call Iowa, but it’s a pretty good story nonetheless. Also, I just learned it yesterday, and it’s one of the best things I’ve learned in a long time.

Last April, pro basketball player Jason Collins announced he was gay, prompting many media outlets to decree that he was the first to come out while being a member of a major American sports team. Some, however, noted that this wasn’t the case: In particular, the San Francisco Chronicle noted that Glenn Burke, who joined the Dodgers as an outfielder in 1976, was out to his teammates.

glenn burke dodgers baseball card

Burke’s sexuality wasn’t exactly known to the public, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort on Burke’s part. From The Atlantic:
Burke made no secret of his sexual orientation to the Dodgers front office, his teammates, or friends in either league. He also talked freely with sportswriters, though all of them ended up shaking their heads and telling him they couldn't writethat in their papers. Burke was so open about his sexuality that the Dodgers tried to talk him into participating in a sham marriage. (He wrote in his autobiography that the team offered him $75,000 to go along with the ruse.) He refused. In a bit of irony that would seem farcical if it wasn't so tragic, one of the Dodgers who tried to talk Burke into getting "married," was his manager, Tommy Lasorda, whose son Tom Jr. died from AIDS complications in 1991. To this day, Lasorda Sr. refuses to acknowledge his son's homosexuality.
The Atlantic notes that Burke came out in a bigger way in a 1982 interview. He died from AIDS-related causes in 1995. This story itself seems worth telling, or at least worth telling if you’re anyone who cares about the various Jackie Robinsons of the world, but there’s actually an even more surprising footnote to Burke’s short baseball career: He may have invented the high five.

I know, I know. It’s weird to think of a word in which people didn’t slap palms as congratulations for a feat of athletic awesomeness, a perfectly barbed put-down, a righteous belch or “yeah, I hit that,” but we didn’t always have this gesture. In the way that it can be tough to determine exactly when a slang phrase enters the lexicon, we also can’t be sure exactly when high-fiving went mainstream, but Glenn Burke and Dusty Baker seem to get credit for giving the first on-the-record high five on Oct. 2, 1977, just after Burke hit his thirtieth home run. This ESPN.com article, notably written just a few days before Collins came out, does a fantastic job telling the story:
It was a wild, triumphant moment and a good omen as the Dodgers headed to the playoffs. Burke, waiting on deck, thrust his hand enthusiastically over his head to greet his friend at the plate. Baker, not knowing what to do, smacked it. “His hand was up in the air, and he was arching way back,” says Baker, now 62 and managing the Reds. “So I reached up and hit his hand. It seemed like the thing to do.”
The article, which goes on to describe the ambiguous relationship Burke shared with Tommy Lasorda’s son, says that the high five went “ricocheting around the world” from there, in spite of the fact that the game wasn’t televised. And there you have it. Yes, it does seem strange that the high five was born only a few years before I was, and yes, it’s entirely possible that someone else in the history of the world slapped someone else’s palms in a victorious fashion. But if they did, we don’t know about it. We do know about Glenn Burke, who along with Dusty Baker invented something that would live on, even when Burke himself or mainstream awareness of his athletic career or his status as the Jackie Robinson of gay baseball (“gaysball”) did not.

Does this mean that high fives in the early seasons of That ’70s Show were anachronistic? Yes, I suppose so. Does this not tie in nicely with what I posted on Wednesday? Yes, it really does. And does this also mean that any and all high fives are tacit endorsements of the gay agenda? Well, obviously.

Now That’s Interesting!, previously:

Monday, June 24, 2013

Twenty More Free Movie Titles

I’m embarrassed to admit that none of the previous twenty are currently in production that I know of, but I really feel that this batch hasl a lot more box office potential.

Nothing But Shrieking Accusations

Orphans vs. Robots

Yvonne the Terrible

Golden Fingers, Silver Tongues, Lead Feet

Too Many Torso Heaps!

Not That Kind of Fiddler

Til Meth Do Us Part

The Lanai Where He Lied

Game, Set, Match, Apocalypse

Who the Hell Destroyed My Bathroom?

Prognosis: Hilarious

Fops vs. Dandies

Turkish Delight, Portuguese Danger

The Safety Scissors That Dripped Blood

Did Somebody Say “Secret Family”?

The Butler Did Me

The Slow Unzippering of a Mild-Mannered Schoolteacher

Pew Pew Pew! You’re Dead! I’m Shooting You!

Fresno Face

Not Buried Deep Enough, Apparently

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Strangest Phone Call I’ve Ever Received (or — LIZARD PEOPLE!)

Weeks and weeks ago, my desk phone rang.

sleestaks land of the lost sid and marty 1974
via
I realize that as far as narrative set-ups go, that opening sentence doesn’t exactly rank alongside “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins,” but you maybe don’t understand that my job has me working online only, essentially. I’ve never told a single person about my office line, and it only rings when someone inside my office calls my extension as a result of the misguided belief that doing so would get information to me more quickly than just emailing. So in the context of my life, “My desk phone rang” is basically “The ghost came out of the alien’s mouth, and Jesus was also there.”

Like I said, the phone rang one evening when I was still at work. It was an outside line. I reacted calmly.
Me: Hello?

Angry woman: Yeah, hi. Did you prank call Monique?
An aside: I actually know a Monique. We lived together during college. We haven’t talked in years, but she remains one of my favorite people to play pranks on. I landed a few good ones, back in the day, some of them documented on this very blog, but she lives in San Francisco now and it’s very hard to justify the airfare up there just to wallpaper her house in Insane Clown Posse posters. (Have I gone soft?)
Me: Excuse me?

Angry woman: Did you prank call Monique at work today? She thinks you did, and she’s really upset about it.

Me: No. No, I didn’t. I’ve been busy all day.

Angry woman: Well she says you did. And she was so upset by it that she had to come home.

Me: I’m so sorry. But I didn’t do it.

Angry woman: She had to take a nap, she was so upset.
Another aside: Since emerging from toddlerhood, I don’t know that I’ve been so upset I’ve needed to take a nap. Just saying.
Me: I’m sorry, but who is this?

Angry woman: This is Monique’s roommate. I’m calling you because she’s too upset.

Me: Well, I’m sorry she’s upset. But I have no idea why she’d think it was me. We haven’t talked in a really long time.

Angry woman: Monique said you were the first person she thought of.

Me: I don’t know why she would.
Aside No. 3: Okay, that was a lie. I do know why she would. Because of all that stuff I did in college, that’s why. But I honestly hadn’t called her, and I was kind of annoyed at this woman calling to accuse me all the way from the 415 area code, which, if you don’t know, means San Francisco.
Me: What did the prank caller say?

Angry woman: Monique said that her phone rang at work, and the woman on the other end of the line was all “Hi, do we have your correct name? Do we have your correct title? How long have you had your current position?” All normal job stuff. And eventually the woman asked her, “And can you tell us about the lizard people?”
Aside No. 4: At this point, I started laughing, because lizard people. Lizard people. I feel like that didn’t make me seem less guilty to Monique’s weirdly dutiful roommate.
Angry woman: It’s not funny.

Me: I’m sorry. “Lizard people”?

Angry woman: That’s what Monique asked, and the woman on the other line was all, “You know, the lizard people. They look like people but they’re actually lizards who eat people and the come from inside the earth.”
Aside No. 5: This is an actual thing, by the way. Not that they necessarily exist — what am I, a lizardologist? — but that people think lizard people control the world, kind of like a scaly, literally cold-blooded Illuminati. As I heard the story, my brain jumped to three conclusions successively: first that Monique had gotten into some hard drugs, second that she was involved in a cult, and third (where I settled) that the San Francisco equivalent of me had realized how much fun it is to screw with Monique and gotten her so good that it had ended her day early.
Me: [more laughter] 
Angry woman: And Monique said she had no idea what the woman was talking about, but the woman insisted. And she kept asking questions about the lizard people, and Monique kept saying no. But then the women started to get irate, and she was like, “Listen bitch, you better tell us about the fucking lizard people or we’re fucking coming for you!”

Me: [still more laughter, in spite of the considerably raised stakes] 
Angry woman: And Monique started crying and all of a sudden there was a man’s voice in the background was all “It’s the wrong one! It’s the wrong one! Hang up the phone!” And Monique said he sounded mentally disabled. But the woman did hang up the phone, and that was the end of the phone call, and Monique came home after that.

Me: [laughing even yet]

Angry woman: And when she got home, she said she thought it was you who’d done this. I can’t remember her being this upset, so I wanted to call and tell you that what you did was too far.

Me: Okay, but I swear I did not call her. I can’t believe this actually happened.

Angry woman: [lowering her voice after a brief pause] Between you and me, I think it’s hard to believe too. I felt like I had to call, but I’m a little worried about Monique.

Me: Wait, really? I mean, it’s a really weird story.

Angry woman: I’m going to talk to her when she gets up. Can you do me a favor and not tell anyone about this?

Me: I guess, but —

Angry woman: [hangs up]
This is where the story ends, officially. I don’t have anything more to say that will convince you that this phone call was strange. (If you do not think it seemed strange, then you are a very interesting person and I’d like to learn more about you over coffee.) There are some bits to consider, however, in surmising why what happened happened:
  • In complete defiance of the angry woman’s final request, I texted Jill, who lived with Monique and me in college and whom I knew to be at a wedding with some other college friends, to ask if she’d spoken to Monique lately. Her response: “She’s right here.” They were all at the wedding together. When I asked if they had all gone in on this prank as a group — that is, calling me at my office and accusing me of having pranked Monique, in some sort of Inception-like reverse prank — they swore they hadn’t. I hope they’re telling the truth. They were in Key West, and I’d like to think they had better ways to spend their time than reverse-pranking me at work. That said, I’m still not convinced it wasn’t them, and the whole while I’ve been writing this post, admitting how much this incident got to me, I’ve been wondering if I’m setting myself up for a Nelson Muntz-style “ha ha.”
  • I didn’t recognize the voice of the woman who called me.
  • I wish I had asked how she got my number. She just got me by surprise, and I consequently didn’t think to ask.
  • No, the dialogue is not verbatim. But trust me: It’s pretty damn close to what happened.
  • The office phone keeps a record of incoming phone numbers. When I called back, it went to voicemail — no outgoing message, just the automated one telling me what number I called, as if I were calling on a phone that didn’t automatically store that info and also it’s 1989 still. Eventually, I called back again and left a message begging for resolution. No response.
  • The conversation described to me by the angry woman played out weirdly similarly to the one I had — both called at work by a woman, both asked strange questions, both ending with a weird turn and an abrupt hang-up.
  • If this had been a prank, you have to admit it’s a weird one to pull.
  • I’m 99 percent sure that the angry woman never called me by name.
  • She always referred to her roommate as Monique. Like everyone else in college, however, I have always called her Moe.
  • It was unusual for me to still be at work that late.
  • It is entirely possible that the angry woman dialed a wrong number and reached a guy who happened to know a prank-prone woman named Monique.
  • Finally, the lizard people will probably come for me now. Goodbye, life where I was not always running from lizard people!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Blue Skies and Broken Hearts — Next Twelve Exits

It’s not because I’m a diehard Ataris fan. In fact, I don’t think I could hum a single song by The Ataris even if you put a gun to my head. I actually don’t think that I even realized that this neon blue trailer park sign had any pop culture relevance outside of just looking old and cool. But on January 9, 2006, I trekked out to it to take a photo, just because I liked it just because I thought maybe I could do something with the photo.

blue skies trailer park santa barbara

I never did. In the end, really, all the photo expedition did was get a certain someone’s shoes unpleasantly muddy. (No, not mine.) So seven years later, here you go: Here’s the sign that ruined what I imagine were nice shoes.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Things I Didn’t Get Around to Blogging About

Sorry guys. It’s been a rough few months. This is as far as I can take the following stray thoughts. It may be as far as they ought to be taken.
  • The default “Caucasian” skin for both Legos and The Simpsons is the exact same shade of yellow. (meaningful?)
  • The weirdly high number of redheaded women on The Office
  • Unless I’m mistaken, you are not legally obligated to give your food truck a pun name. Also, most of the good puns are used up by now.
  • Good name for a spring break-centered horror movie: Muerto Rico
  • Who the hell let whodunit become a word?
  • Perfect Strangers reconceived as a Skinemax porn (you would not have to change the title)
  • Rhoda Morgenstern was the first Jewish person I ever encountered, and I’ve compared every Jewish person I met to her. (Is that anti-Semitic?)
  • Good name for a linguistically savvy drag queen = Rosetta Stone
  • Good name for a Golden Girls-inspired drag queen = Veranda Lanai.
  • It’s inconceivable but somewhere, somehow, a person in the world is scrolling through their iPhone and saying, “You know, I really feel like listening to a Black Eyed Peas song. I feel I have not heard them enough in my life so far.”
  • Squatters’ rights = finders, keepers? Or squatter’s rights > finders, keepers
  • Horses poop while walking. Impressive? Efficient? Rude? All of these?
  • Behind the Candelabra is a stupid title because it’s super easy to see behind a candelabra. You just look at them. They’re spindly. You don’t need, like, special access to get around them. Only the smallest of humans can hide behind a candelabra. (Maybe missed the time window on this one?)
  • Word that is not used enough despite obvious comedic potential: assayer
  • Bumper sticker that every public media fundraiser should have = “MAJOR DONORS give me MAJOR BONERS”
  • Samantha Mathis (who is this person?)
  • Why does English have the term o-ring?
  • Why does autocorrect know the word cockrocket? Whom have I been texting that to?
You know how you can collect a bunch of soap shards and mash them into a ball and then you’re like “Oh, hey, new soap”? That’s kind of what I was hoping I’d do here and magically make content.

Yeah, sorry.

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Tree of Life

Note: I am reposting this from my Tumblr. It usually works the other way around, with the Tumblr serving as a means to promote this blog, but this one hastily-written Tumblr post actually resulted in more reaction than what my blog posts here do, so I said why not? Perhaps I stumbled into something that meant something to someone.

The man who made this illustration passed away this week.


Hiro Isono, the man who created promotional illustrations for the Secret of Mana games (including this one and this one), did something that not many artists working for video game companies can do: Rather than just drawing from the game itself, he envisioned the essence of the it, that spirit of adventure and all that, and in doing so he created an entryway into a colorful, new world. It helps that these games had a big impact on me, but I actually think the art stands up on its own. Why else make art than to dream up something up that doesn't already exist in real life and make the viewer wish so badly that it were real?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Encyclopedia Drew and the Bad Balloon

A short update.

Since I last reported on the evil balloon roommate I now have in my apartment, the situation has worsened. It’s now floating lower than it had before, so it’s basically aimed at my junk at any given moment. It’s still moving around the house, just more sluggishly. I suppose its declining health prompted what’s happened as I type this. See for yourself:


Literally, it’s sitting in the chair. And not just any chair. It’s sitting in the one seat that has a view of me working at my computer. As I type this, it’s pointed toward me, and I honestly feel like I’m being watched. No lie: I had an itch in my noise and I declined to scratch it because I felt like someone was looking at me.

I’m not kidding about this. If I stop blogging, that means the balloon got me and my soul is now trapped in the balloon and you have to come break into my apartment and pop the balloon so I can be at peace.

Help?

Saturday, June 08, 2013

The Rustling Terror

Trigger warning: If you suffer from globophobia, this post may be very disturbing. I do not suffer from this hilarious psychological condition, and this is still kind of creeping me out.

When my friend Michelle gave me a mylar balloon for my birthday last week, I realized that I’d never been given one before. I had a childhood full of the regular, stretchy, imminently pop-able balloons, but never their hardier, metallic counterparts. (They’re the humanoid robots of the balloon world, these things. They’re Robert fucking Patrick.) I should probably note that what Michelle gave me was also no mere circular balloon. No, it was the mylar Taj Mahal. Observe:


It’s large. In fact, I joked to Michelle that the balloon will make it feel like I have a roommate. It may be bigger than some of the children to whom its helium-filled brothers are given. It also differs from most balloons in that it has points — a head and arms, if you like.

Have I ever mention that my apartment is drafty? Well, it is. Perhaps you can see where this is going.

The first time: So I’m in the kitchen, washing dishes and I hear this peculiar scraping noise. Scraaaape. Scraaaape. Scraaaape — pauses in between and then the noise for a few seconds at a time. I stopped washing to hear the noise better. Scraaaape. It was getting closer. So I dried my hands and stepped into the dining room to immediately come face-to-face with the birthday balloon. I jumped. Were it a horror movie, it would have been punctuated by a blast of music.

The second time: I’m reading in bed. Straying over the top of the page for a second, my eye catches movement down in the darkened hallway. At the other end of the hall is the dining room, empty but illuminated enough by the streetlights outside that I can make out the silhouette of the balloon pass by the doorway… very… slowly. It makes little crinkly noises as it moves around my apartment.

The third (and final) time: I won’t even try and build up suspense with this one. A few nights later, I woke up and the balloon was in my bedroom, right by bed, kind of like it was looking over me. I know I said something out loud — maybe “Oh Christ” or maybe just “nope” — and I immediately locked it in the closet.

I’d just pop the ballon now, but I’m worried doing that will release the ghost that’s maybe causing all this creepiness and who is perhaps better off trapped in a mylar prison. Seems logical, right? This is the wisdom you get with age.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

An Hilariously Outdated Racism Set to Music

First up, yeah, this is a racist thing. It’s not a product of its time. I mean, it is, but that’s not an excuse that makes this song any less embarrassing. Titled “You Bring Out the Savage in Me,” the song initially appeared in the 1935 British comedy Oh, Daddy!, and the cringe-worthy thing about it is that it mashes together this  ambiguously defined but essentially non-white group into the same category as unevolved, primordial man — and all to make a metaphor for horniness. That offensiveness aside, this song still has value because it’s helpful to watch it in 2013 and say “Oh, holy shit — this was ever okay?”

Here’s the song, as sung by Frances Day:


Please note her Marie Antoinette-looking white feather headdress, the back-up dancers’ black afro wigs (which kind of read as Gilly wigs in this context), the dancers’ faux grass skirts, and the dancers’ peculiar aversion to eye contact.

But here’s the catch with “You Bring Out the Savage in Me.” It was also performed by the African-American jazz singer Valaida Snow. I can’t decide if this song being performed by a black woman makes it better, in the sense of thumbing her nose at the attitudes it represents, or worse, in the sense of embracing them. (I’d post a video here, but none seems to exist online. There’s this, but it is totally not Valaida Snow singing the song in question. In fact, it’s so not Valaida Snow that it’s almost funny.) And before you make up your mind, check out the lyrics:
Way back in another generation
Long before our present civilization
One of my ancestors lived in a cave
Though to look at me you’d never know it
Since we’ve met I’m starting to show it
Here’s my excuse every time I misbehave
My blood boils with a tropic heat
And the rhythm of my heart is a tom-tom beat
For you bring out the savage in me
Your primitive words reach my ears
With the passage of a hundred million years
For you bring out the savage in me
Oh, all that madness and in
How was I to know
What was sleeping within me?
Just like Tarzan, you’ll be my ape-man
And I’m getting so ferocious you can’t escape, man
You’ll find out how wild I can be
Because you wake up the savage in me
Thoughts?

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

The Grim Specter of Death (a Birthday Post from Drew!)

Yesterday, I turned thirty-one, and I treated this birthday as a non-event, since the big three-oh didn’t mean the end of the world any more than 2012 meant the end of the world. I had the day off work, and I tried to spend my time doing the things I always want to do — happy-making, me-centric stuff, with less of a focus on what I have and haven’t accomplished one year further into my life. Please keep that in mind when I show you the painting I can’t stop looking at, and understand that no, this is not a plea for help in my battle against the grinding passage of time.

“the white peacock,” via wikipedia, via the vienna academy of fine arts
I find this beautiful. You may find it horrifying — it’s five dead birds and a dead rabbit, after all — but I think it helps to look at how lovingly and carefully these animals were painted. Click on the photo for the bigger version, and you’ll see individual feathers and hairs. But they’re not realistic depictions of hunted prey. As this sporting journal article notes, they’re idealized: You can’t see any puncture wounds, and they simply seem to have died in an immaculate state. (Spencer notes that the painter’s name was Jan Weenix, and maybe the animals just heard his name and died laughing.) The article goes on to say that such game pieces “weren’t commemorating a specific hunt, or morality tales on blood sports, or demonstrations of putting food on the table,” but instead were “status symbols for the bourgeois painting-purchasing class to hang in their country estates,” which makes me think of them as the seventeenth-century equivalent of those knock-off vintage booze posters you see in every home wanting to suggest some vague notion of old-timey class. That doesn’t bother me. I’m just looking at the painting in 2013 — in my thirty-first year, apparently — and appreciating it as a depiction of ordinary objects, rendered with a level of care that makes them seem like more than what they were, if they ever existed in the first place. (Do white peacocks exist?)

I suppose there are worse ways to begin a new year than appreciating something for what it is.