Monday, September 30, 2013

When She Was Still Spordelia

In the third season of Buffy, Sarah Michelle Gellar has this one scene in which she recalls her life before her character’s vampire-staking days: “Before I was the Slayer I was… well, I don’t want to say shallow but… Let’s say a certain person who shall remain nameless — we'll just call her Spordelia — looked like a classical philosopher next to me.” That’s a description to keep in mind when you watch the 1989 pilot for Girl Talk, which basically plays like a slumber party filmed before a studio audience, sponsored by Tiger Beat, fueled by Fun Dip and held in D.J. Tanner’s bedroom. Girl Talk co-stars Soleil Moon Fry and a girl named inexplicably named Russell.


It’s bizarre to watch baby-voiced SMG prattle on and on about cute boys, especially given the pop culture pedestal we now place Buffy on, and I can’t help but be reminded of a similarly bizarre clip of a 1991-era Jenny Lewis talk about hanging out with her friends in Westwood and then participate in a montage where she tries on a series of increasingly funny hats. (Yes, you should hit that link and watch it.)

Here, maybe you should watch Girl Talk now:


A short viewing guide:

0:03 — The theme song only lasts ninety-some seconds, but you’d be forgiven for thinking it plays nine hours. It also runs through your head with the violence of a ricocheting bullet. Sample lyrics: “School! That’s cool! / It’s the place to be! / All your friends are there / And the talk is free!”

1:31 — The announcer makes the mistake of introducing SMG as Sarah Gellar. I assume he was never heard from again.

1:43 — Please note that poor Russell (left) is dressed like a preteen version of Dorothy Zbornak.


4:30 — In case you didn’t realize that Soleil Moon Frye was THE. SHIT. at the time this episode was filmed, no worries: Russell and Sarah get to introduce her as the extra special, much more famous host of the show.

4:42 — The wisdom of Punky Brewster: “I think my favorite part of school is talking to my friends… especially the boys.” Hooray for education!

6:24 — Again, school is great because that’s where you get to talk to your friends about clothes, music and boys.

this is why you're bad at math

7:23 — So one of the things written into the show is that the girls all have crushes on a guy named Neil Tardio, who in real life is a director and the first husband of Tea Leoni. I hope his mention in this episode is how Neal and Tea fell in love. I would also like to think that her legal name was Tea Tardio for a period. Also also? The mention of that oh-so-sexy name Tardio prompts Russell to make this face:


7:34 — Then this happens:


But then you find out that the heartthrob they have visit the show for the first episode isn’t Kirk Cameron or Corey Haim or Chad Allen or any of the others you’d have reason to feel weird about today. No, it’s one you probably don’t have feelings about: Brian Robbins from Head of the Class. He causes much girl-screaming, I’ll give him that. Also, upon his entrance to the stage, SMG stage-faints and remains unconscious for the remainder of the interview.

10:12 — Robbins on shooting two episodes of Head of the Class in Russia: “The people were really interesting, kind of a little depressing. I think they should forget about things like glasnost and perestroika and all that and just paint the place. I mean, a nice shade of blue or something like that.”

13:50 — I have no idea who Safire is, but I’d like to think it’s the woman who wrote Precious, during her peppier teen years.


15:35 — The show also features comedy skits, like this one where Russell and Sarah play lab partners. Sarah is studious and quiet, while Russell blathers on stupidly. In the end, Russell is praised for being wonderful, while Sarah is condemned for attempting science. Hooray for education! The weirdest bit of dialogue: the bizarre brag of “Remember the guy who played the father on The Brady Bunch? Well, his real-life daughter used to go here!” Though for the record, Robert Reed did actually have a daughter. How stoked she must have been to have been included in Girl Talk.

17:20 — After having promised a performance by New Kids on the Block the whole episode, you find out that it’s only Jordan and Jonathan, appearing via a pre-taped interview. Here is how the Girl Talk hosts do “looking interested” when the gay one talks:


21:07 — Jonathan Knight’s advice to kids today about peer pressure: “I would say just be yourself. When people offer you drugs, if you don’t want them, just say no. And the final outcome will be that they’ll just pay more respect to you because you’re being yourself. They’ll respect you for that.”

21:40 — And finally this:


All in all, it’s still better than watching proto-Kathryn Merteuil on Swans Crossing.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Super Mario Bros. 2, Part Two: The Sequel: Return to Subcon

I’m basing my choice more on nostalgia than anything else, I realize, but Super Mario Bros. 2 remains my favorite video game — not just of the eight-bit era but of all the eras of hopping and bopping.


I’ve probably written about it here more than any other video game, and its look — peculiarly Arabian, and an odd fit even among the always-surreal Super Mario games — grabbed ahold of me in a way no other game aesthetics ever did. Unfortunately, the rest of the world doesn’t agree, and it rarely gets the love from fans or industry types that the first, third and fourth Super Mario games get. That’s slowly changed in recent years, what with a quietly Super Mario Bros. 2-themed track in the newest Mario Kart game and Donkey Kong Country Returns concept art that shows the develops had planned a major shout-out, at least in the early stages.


But Super Mario Bros. 2 may yet get a second moment in the spotlight — in the form of Super Mario 3D World, an upcoming Wii U title that features Mario, Luigi, Peach and Toad as equally playable characters for the first time since Mario 2 was released in 1988. (Yep, Peach hasn’t gotten a chance to star in a regular, platforming, non-sports, non-RPG, non-kart-racing Mario game in twenty-five years. In a 2009 interview, Shigeru Miyamoto blamed the prohibitively complicated nature of animating her dress as she moves about.) I did always like playing as Peach, especially in a “real” Mario game, as opposed to just a spin-off, and there’s something awesome about the idea of her getting to do everything Mario can.


In heels, no less, Ginger Rogers-style.


So far, however, Nintendo hasn’t specifically stated that Super Mario 3D World was intended as a big Mario 2 callback, but I’m starting to think it is, for one specific reason: this image.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

An Open Letter to E.G. Daily

Dear Elizabeth,

Can I call you Elizabeth? “E.G.” sounds so formal in this context, like maybe you wrote The Outsiders or something. Anyway, I’m a fan — of Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure and The Powerpuff Girls, like a good nerd should be — and I was a surprised as anyone to hear that you’re now a contestant on The Voice.

Here, I found a clip in case you don’t know what I’m talking about, which would be weird.


As would the other aspiring singers on the show, I’m sure you could greatly benefit from The Voice’s multicultural panel of mentors (one blond Latina, one black supervillain, one guy to appeal to liberal white women, one guy to appeal to conservative white women). But I must object to your being on the show, not because you’re too famous to be in the running but because in 1987 you released a perfect song that no current singer — you or anyone else — can hope to top. Of course, I speak of “Mind Over Matter,” the “montage” song from the film Summer School.

Here, again, I found the video in case you don’t know what I’m talking about, though that would also be weird.


It’s essentially everyone’s favorite song, and every song released from 1987 on has been a failure in its own right and in comparison to “Mind Over Matter.” (Fact.) Allow me to enumerate the reasons why this song will never be beaten:
  1. Inspiring yet danceable.
  2. The best use of a singer’s natural rasp that I can think of.
  3. It’s literally the best montage song ever. You could play this over a smattering of scenes of characters doing anything — working out, building above-ground pool, trying on a series of increasingly extravagant hats, anything — and it would work There should be more montages in movies because of this song.
  4. Slant rhymes such as “Sometimes it feels like we’re losing altitude / But I have a winner’s attitude” bravely belted off as if they were actual rhymes.
  5. If you close your eyes, it actually sounds like Buttercup from Powerpuff Girls is singing the song.
  6. The hat you wear in the video.
  7. The fact that the video features the power cast of Mark Harmon, Kirstie Alley, Courtney Thorne Smith and Alotta Fagina from Austin Powers.
  8. Layered pro-education, anti-education message.
  9. The dog that eats the peanut butter around the 3:35 mark.
I think I’ve proven my point. As you said in your song, “we’ll never let dreams die young,” but then again the Summer School kids probably didn’t pass that test because you made them dance around the room instead of filling out the bubbles.

I thank you for your time. Also, how on earth did you pick Blake Shelton over Cee Lo?

Best wishes,
Drew Mackie

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Stubbornness of a Mule (Against Telepathic Attacks)

If you don’t follow comics, just know that Vixen is a DC superhero who is to animals what Swamp Thing is to plants, more or less, just without looking like barf. In fact, Vixen works as a fashion model when she’s not fighting crime, and her current appearance would seem to owe more than a small debt to Die Another Day-era Halle Berry.

Vixen Justice League J.G. Jones
justice league vixen art by j.g. jones
You might also say that Vixen is DC’s answer to both Marvel’s Storm and Misty Knight. While both those characters debuted in 1975, six years before Vixen sprung onto the DC scene, Vixen gets the honor of being the most prominent black female character in this particular universe, inching just ahead of Bumblebee, who preceded Vixen as DC’s first black female superhero in 1976. But easily my favorite aspect of Vixen’s existence has to be Wikipedia’s list of her powers and the animals from which she draws them. It takes a certain kind of dedicated Wikipedia dork to list all these off, with no heed for whether the level of specificity was appropriate or “encyclopedic” enough or even whether the information was being presented clearly. I actually don’t expect the list to remain on the page forever, but I’m glad it exists as it does now. Here it is, just as I found it:
In these comics, Vixen has used the following skills:
  • The flight of a hawk
  • The ability to breathe under water like a fish
  • The swimming ability and sonar of a dolphin
  • The speed of a cheetah
  • Tapped into the aggression, physical and mental abilities of Gorilla Grodd
  • The echolocation of a bat
  • The wall crawling of a spider, similar to Spider-Man
  • The jumps of a cricket
  • The constriction of an anaconda
  • The sensitive trichromatic color vision of a salamander
  • The strength of a bull elephant (about 12 tons)
  • The strength of a rhinoceros beetle (about 65 tons)
  • The hearing and sense of smell of a wolf
  • The agility of a spider monkey
  • The electrical absorption and debilitating shock of an electric eel
  • Accelerate the regenerative abilities of reptiles and earthworms
  • The ability to spit venom like a spitting cobra
  • The body armor of an abalone (which proved strong enough to withstand a punch from Superman)
  • The nocturnal vision of a cat
  • The speed of a mantis shrimp to catch a bullet
  • The kick of a horse
  • The protective hide of a rhinoceros
  • The danger sense of seagulls and terns
  • The rage of a lion
  • The eyesight of an eagle
  • The cold adaptation Methanococcoides burtonii
  • The heat tolerance of a Pompeii worm
  • The stubbornness of a mule (against telepathic attacks and mind control inflicted by Brainiac)
  • The digging abilities of a badger
There’s also a follow-up paragraph that for some reason didn’t merit inclusion in the bullet points because whatever:
Vixen's first appearance DC comics
vixen’s debut in action comics #521
She used the bioluminescence of a hatchet fish and an angler fish to produce light from her hand and to create a laser-like beam from her head. She has even been shown to be able to channel the powers of extinct animals (such as the saber-toothed tiger and the triceratops), domesticated animals (like the Doberman Pinscher), and even mystical beasts (like dragons).
And that is cool, though I can’t help myself from imagining new possibilities — the swift kick of the ostrich, the piercing yap of the Pekinese, the shellfish-cracking ability of the sea otter, the time efficiency of the horse that poops while walking.

You may be wondering about the appropriateness of giving the DC universe’s most prominent black female character a set of powers derived form the animal world. It is kind of weird, honestly, and there’s an awkward sense of needing to connect Vixen to the African savannah in order to justify her race that probably made sense to her creators at the time they dreamed her up but now lands somewhere between hokey and racist, kind of like how wrong it seems in retrospect that the one black Spice Girl had to wear animal prints and make herself the “wild” one of the group. At the very least, I’m thankful that the African totem that gives Vixen her powers can emulate all animals and not just the ones treading around Mother Africa.

Whatever the implications of her powers, Vixen endured. So long as we’re discussing superheroes that made it or not, can we please also discuss Arm-Fall-Off Boy?

Superheroes, previously:

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Running Down a Dream

It makes sense, I think, that when I think about whole new worlds, I think about them in pixels. Here’s to new horizons — clunky, blocky, new horizons.

modified via
Pixel art, previously:

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Dialing 9 Like Some Kind of Idiot

This is how the conversation happened, more or less. I'm sure of it.

— "Should we have everyone in the building dial 9 to get an outside line, like you do in every other building ever?"
— No! Let's have them dial 8 here, just so they feel stupid whenever they dial 9 out of habit!"
— [evil laughter]

This has to be how things work, generally speaking.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Here’s to Eating Your Emotions

You may know that I have a Tumblr that I treat as an online granny unit to this blog. It holds the stuff I don’t know what to do with — oh, like this and this and this, and anything else I can’t seem to thread into at least a two-paragraph post — as well as Instagram photos and desperate attempts to get a few more pageviews on Back of the Cereal Box. Sometimes, interesting things happen on Tumblr — on non-porn Tumblr, even — and at the end of last year I made a list of which of my posts actually took off in 2012. At this point, I’m guesses that last year’s most popular post may well end up becoming this year’s as well.


I mean, for good reason. It’s a spot-on illustration of word kummerspeck, a word-of-the-week I posted nearly a year ago.

At the time I posted the end-of-the-year post, I guessed that the Tumblr post would get 30,000 notes by April. It didn’t, but tonight I checked in on it.


By the time I post this, it will probably inch past 40,000 notes. This isn’t bragging, exactly, just my befuddlement at more people than there are in my hometown interacting with a single piece of content. How weird.

An upside to this? Now we know the opposite of women laughing alone with salad.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Your Ugliest Colors

Though I must admit I picked a beautiful-sounding, beautiful-meaning
word to end on
, six months have passed since I last wrote a word-of-the-week post. Here, then, is a new one for you: a rather cute-sounding word whose only associations are incongruously vile.
bilirubin (bill-i-ROO-bin) — noun: a reddish-yellow water insoluble pigment occurring especially in bile and blood and causing jaundice if accumulated in excess.
Despite the fact that it sounds like a Robin Goodfellow-type who skips through the forest whistling a jaunty tune, bilirubin refers to something far less pleasant. What the above Merriam-Webster definition doesn’t make clear is helped along by Wikipedia, whose first paragraph plainly states that it’s what makes aging bruises turn sallow, what lends the “straw-yellow color” to urine, what turns feces brown and what paints jaundice victims yellow. See? The full range of foul — piss, shit, bile and pain. How there was never a punk singer named Billy Rubin, I’ll never know.


The word literally means “red bile,” with bili- being a German word part referring to bile and -rubin coming from the Latin ruber, “red.” And yes, there’s also a bile pigment biliverdin, and yes, it’s the one responsible for when your bruise turns greenish.

The human body is revoltingly beautiful.

Previous words of the week after the jump.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Girls Just Want to Have Fun, But Only Because a Guy Says So

In terms of blowing childhood associations with iconically ’80s works out of the neon turquoise water, this one ranks alongside the gay reading of Top Gun: “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” was actually not a Cyndi Lauper original but a cover of a 1979 song written and performed by Robert Hazard four years before the release of She’s So Unusual. And while people generally regard that the Lauper version as a feminist anthem, if not at the very least a girls’ party anthem, the original makes a very different statement... by which I mean it makes the exact same statement, but a dude saying it makes it sound more like a condemnation than an affirming celebration of ladyfun.

Listen for yourself:


Yeah, it wasn’t originally about women going out and living it up so much as it was about, as this blogger points out, “a guy who spends so much time crushing loose vag that his parents begin to worry.” Lauper changed the lyrics and then flopped the verses so that the narrator interacts with her mother first and father second. As a result, Lauper’s version tells a story about girls doing what they want, while Hazard’s story is about doing what he wants to girls. A very representative comparison: “I want to be the one to walk in the sun” in Lauper’s version versus “All my girls have got to walk in the sun” in Hazard’s.

As sung by Hazard, the lyrics aren’t easy to understand, but here’s my best stab at them:
The phone rings in the middle of the night
My father says, “My boy, what do you want with your life?”
Father dear, you are the fortunate one
Girls just want to have fun

Come home with the morning light
My mother says, “My boy, you’ve got to start living right”
Don’t worry, mother dear, you’re still number one
Girls just want to have fun
These girls just want to have fun

That’s all they really want
Some fun
When the working day is done
Yeah, girls just want to have fun

Some guys take a beautiful girl
They try to hide them away from the rest of the world
All my girls have got to walk in the sun
Because girls just want to have fun
Yeah, girls just want to have fun

I know your love for him
Is deep as day is long
I know you’d never be the thing to do him wrong
But when I knock at the door
[Unintelligible – “I’m close now to liquid cum”?]
It wasn’t important
Because girls just want to have fun
Yeah, girls just want to have fun

That’s all they really want
Some fun
When the working day is done
Yeah, girls just want to have fun
I like how much harder Hazard’s version sounds, honestly, but it’s very red universe/blue universe to encounter this familiar thing in such a different state. Hazard went on to record “Escalator of Life,” which I love, while Lauper is currently an Oscar away from EGOTing. Such is life.

Overanalyzing lyrics, previously:

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Kathy Santoni: The Africa Adventure

(The long and short of it? This is one of the weirdest pop cultural connections I’ve made in my life.)

Those of you who also cling to memories of childhood television may remember Kathy Santoni as D.J. Tanner’s friend but sometimes rival on Full House. Kathy started out as a mentioned-but-unseen character in the style of Maris Crane from Frasier, but she eventually appeared on the show. This fact actually lost me a bet once in college, because these were the things we discussed in college and because I also completely forgot about the episode where D.J. starts going to junior high and realized that she is a stupid baby because she doesn’t wear make-up and doesn’t have yabbos like Kathy Santoni, who blossomed into womanhood over the summer break and now dresses like dancer from The Grind.

Here’s a photo if you, like me, need your memory jogged:

this is what reads as hot on abc family tv in 1989. feel weird about it.
Kathy appeared four more times after that first 1989 episode, and I don’t remember any of those either, but IMDb says that Anne Marie McEvoy played her in each appearance. Not that I need a reason to bring up Kathy Santoni, but she’s relevant as a result of something I blogged about a few days ago: the 1992 video game Ghost Lion, which features the amazingly, horrifyingly early-90s, Lisa Frankensteiny box art you see here:

Nintendo NES Ghost Lion box art
i will never get tired of posting this, btw
Ghost Lion, it turns out, has one more thing going for it aside from the tragic time capsule that is the box art. Someone on Tumblr pointed out that the game was based on a movie — a Japanese movie, in fact, that used Western actors but that was filmed in Egypt. I checked IMDb. Nothing. I did some rudimentary Googling. Nothing. Finally, at long last, I turned up a VHS cover.


The movie exists. Based on this page, either the title was Pyramid in the Distance: Legend of the White Lion or that is just a literal translation of the Japanese title. (In Japan, the video game Ghost Lion was titled Legend of the White Lion.) It doesn’t appear the movie was ever released in the U.S., even though it was filmed in English and featured American audience-friendly Anne Marie McEvoy in the lead role of Maria, the girl who ventures through Egypt on some search for her parents that may or may not involve a white lion. The movie doesn’t show up on her IMDb page, but nonetheless, yeah — the girl with lime green stretch pants and stripper hair on the box art of the video game is, kinda sorta, Anne Marie McEvoy, or at least a version of her, which means she has the unique honor of doing something that only major action film stars and professional athletes ever get a chance to do: play as herself in a video game. And that’s pretty good for an actress whose second-best role after Kathy Santoni on four episodes of Full House is a supporting turn in Children of the Corn.

kathy santoni again, in a sense — via
It just strikes me as peculiar that the film doesn’t show up on IMDb at all. The director, Mataichiro Yamamoto, doesn’t even have a directing credit on IMDb, although he is credited with producing some better-known stuff such as Lone Wolf and Cub and Azumi.

I don’t know why there’s so little information about the film online — or at least on the English internet. But even without anything further, I’m pretty stoked on this as being a means of making Kathy Santoni relevant, if just for a moment. Middling reviews of the video game Ghost Lion notwithstanding, I’d be curious to see how the game plays. I’d also be curious to know how Andrea Barber feels about Anne Marie McEvoy getting to be playable in a video game so long before Kimmie Gibbler made her eight-bit debut. Surely, some me-minded game programmer can make that happen, no?


Video games footnotes, previously:

Sunday, September 08, 2013

The Phanto of Paradise

So long as I’m making some effort to convince the world that I can arrange shapes on a flat plane in a way that pleases the eye, and that’s apparently my game plan this weekend, there’s this sickly colored little tribute I made to Super Mario Bros. 2 and its stripey hills and sinister masks. It doesn’t mean anything.


I made this a few months ago, by the way. I liked it, and though I posted on my Tumblr it never made it onto this blog. I feel like it should. So now it has. Now everything is different.

Credit to sprites from here, here and here.

Pixel art, previously:

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Falling to Pieces Two Hundred Feet Above Burbank

To hear myself say it makes my eyes roll back so hard that they recede into my brain and then I don’t have eyes anymore, because holy high school diary, but where other people might have thought of this one window as broken, I found it beautiful. The cobweb pattern of cracks made it better than the others, at least if you ignore the danger it posed to anyone walking on the sidewalk below.







Not too many other people will see this window, I’m wagering, because it will soon be gone. What I saw was fleeting. That, I suppose, makes it even more beautiful. I would say that this could be a testament to the power of embracing your imperfections, but I can’t get past the fact that this beautiful but broken window will just be replaced with one that’s less interesting to look at.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Nothing But the Appreciation of Obscure Album Art That Is Both Wonderful and Terrible

(see title.)


(and if you must know, the android sisters sound exactly as you would guess, though perhaps more creepily sexual.)

(no, i don't know why either.)

(happy friday.)

Thursday, September 05, 2013

On Bukkake

I know, I know — that post title, right? How dare I title something I wrote with that when Joyce Carol Oates' On Bukkake remains the definitive text on the subject?

Know that I'm only writing this to inform you of one simple but nonetheless notable fact: the word bukkake may not always mean what you think. Now if bukkake doesn't mean anything to you, please do not Google it, especially if you're at your work computer. Please also do not inquire about the subject at your local library. Also, please don't go to the Wikipedia page for bukkake, because it's somehow even worse to see the whole explosive process explained in matter-of-fact language and diagrams. It's just one of those things you don't know about until you do, at which point you can never forget what it means and you occasionally wonder, "Wait, how did I learn what bukkake was?"

The word calls to mind some rather vivid imagery, too, and that's what makes the other meaning so strange: It's food — udon, in fact. And I know because a coworker recently wrote about ordering bukkake udon from a Japanese restaurant in Los Angeles's Little Tokyo.

Here's the photo:

courtesy kcet food
Surprisingly tame, right? Compared to how you might have imagined bukkake udon, this looks rather savory, I think. (And that's savory in the sense of polite behavior, though I imagine it also tasted savory.) So why must this dish share its name with a sex act? Per my understanding, it's unlike the majority of udon dishes — which arrive soup-style, with the noodles floating in broth — in that the diner is served the noodles and topping and then required to pour the broth-like sauce over it immediately before eating. (Do I have that right? Please straighten out my understanding of the various bukkakes if not.) In case that doesn't make the connection clear enough, know that the word bukkake means "the act of splashing" in Japanese and comes from the verb bukkakeru, "to splash with (a liquid rudely)." Fair warning: that link may well be NSFW, depending on whether you work for squares.

So there you go. Now you know. May all your future bukkakes be the kind you ordered. Just be specific with your server.

Food written about in an unappetizing fashion, previously: