Monday, November 25, 2013

Duck Amuck

If you’re more or less the same age as I am, you probably grew up on a generous diet of Warner Bros. cartoons and their prolific third wall-breaking. Tiny Toons, Animaniacs, Histeria! and Freakazoid! all went as meta as they could, considering their target demographic and that group’s still-forming brains, but it’s important to appreciate how far back this tradition goes in Warner Bros. animation. The short “Duck Amuck” demonstrates that the trend of breaking through frames of reference and just generally having fun working within and escaping out of animation.

Please watch it in its entirety:



I enjoy how it’s funny while menacing and also as surreal as hell — or, in short, everything a cartoon should be. What a fun break from the work-a-day misery of a Monday immediately before a holiday weekend, no?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

I Don’t Have a Pleasant Speaking Voice...

But that didn’t stop me from responding “Yeah, why the hell not?” to a request to guest on a podcast. Now, instead of just reading my words on a screen and imagining how garbled and nasal my voice sounds, you can find out for sure!


Click here to listen if your idea of a good time is hearing me and two other guys go on and on about subjects including but not limited to old video game commercials, bitcoins, the perversions of Reddit, hyena women, bull men and why American Horror Story is like fantasy football.

Also, while we’re on the subject of status updates, I’ll point out that I’ve started a Facebook page for Back of the Cereal Box — you know, because that’s where all the hip, young kids are nowadays. I realize this should have happened years ago, but I’m doing it now just to limit the amount of times I push my blog content on people who know me but maybe don’t find my nerdish leanings all that endearing. If you’d rather see Back of the Cereal Box content in your Facebook feed, just like my page to follow along.

This will be all.

King Dong

Did you know that Jessica Lange made her movie debut in the 1978 remake of King Kong? I think that makes for an appropriate beginning for an actress who is now muttering about retirement as she’s found success once again in genre work with American Horror Story. However, to me, that will never be the most notable thing about this version of King Kong. No, it it will be how much these film still makes King Kong’s finger look like a giant black penis pointing directly at Lange’s lady parts.



It’s. Just. So. Hard. Not. To. See.

I know there’s a great deal of academic discussion about King Kong and its underlying themes of racism and colonialism, and I’d imagine that a few people have tried to unpack the sexual imagery of King Kong in general or this scene in particular, but a Google search turned up nothing but people conjecturing about how big King Kong’s penis would be, and I decided that I hated the internet and closed that tab.

Coming in a distant third as far as notable things about this version of King Kong is the fact that Lange’s character is named Dwan. Not Dwayne. Dwan. An attractive would-be actress character named Dwan. It’s been forever since I’ve seen this movie. Do they explain that name? Did they think “Dawn” was already taken?

Dwan aside, it’s really hard to get past that giant King Kong penis finger. That, I suppose, may be the point.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Taking a Page from Super Mario Bros. 2

I write about Super Mario Bros. 2 a lot, I realize, especially considering that the game is now twenty-five years old. I suppose that results from the combination of it being especially surreal, even by Super Mario standards, and me having encountered it at the perfect age to be asking “Hey, why is that?” I actually still ask “Why is that?” fairly often. One of the things that had always bugged me about the game is its level structure. Super Mario Bros. makes sense: four sets of levels each composing a world, and eight world altogether. It’s all tidy and even. Super Mario Bros. 2 isn’t so easy: It has seven worlds, but an irregular number of stages.

The first world has three levels.


The desert world has three.


The ice world has three.


But the last world — the one on the clouds — only has two.


Granted they’re longer than most other levels, and harder too, but it should probably surprise most first-time players that it’s the second level that ends with a fight against the biggest of the big bads. There is no surprise third level.

“Hey, why is that?”

The answer, apparently, lies in the source material: Doki Doki Panic, the Japanese NES game that was remade into the American sequel we call Super Mario Bros. 2. In Doki Doki Panic, the four heroes are an Arabian family trying to rescue two children, Piki and Poki, who were sucked into a magical storybook. Also, there’s a pet monkey, but the monkey doesn’t get to do anything, which anyone can tell you is a lost opportunity on Nintendo’s part.


Watch the dramatic kidnapping (plus listen to a weirdly off-key version of a tune that should be familiar to anyone who beat Super Mario Bros. 2).


It doesn’t show it in the intro, but the storybook motif explains the missing final level, at least according to this page: In the scuffle, the final page of the book accidentally gets destroyed. Yep, the final level is missing because the ending of the book got removed. You, the player, has to go through the game and beat the big bad, essentially re-writing the lost ending.

Weird, right? And possibly a little meta? Especially when you look back on those stage intro screens I posted above and you realize that they retain that “page of a book” motif? They literally look like stacks of paper.

I’m assuming this backstory comes from the instruction booklet, which I (a) don’t have aside from this snippet and (b) couldn’t read anyway because it’s in Japanese. Can anyone with such access and a functional understanding of Japanese verify? The Mario Wiki, being a wiki made by and for crazed fans, isn’t so hot with the documentation and citation.



Previous times Super Mario Bros. 2 made me question things:

Friday, November 22, 2013

Another Twenty Free Movie Titles

To start out this follow-up to “Twenty Free Movie Titles” and “Twenty More Free Movie Titles,” I’d like to express my great disappointment that the title I wanted to kick this list off turned out to be a real movie. Yes, they actually made a movie called I Dismember Mama, and while it’s not a more horrific re-telling of I Remember Mama (mine was), it did beat me to the punch with that title.


Here are the other nineteen, plus one I just made up on the spot to replace I Dismember Mama.

It’s a Two-Way Street... of Terror

Vlad the Impala

Broken English & Shattered Femurs

One Long Splapfight

The Disappointing Adventures of Lazy Susan

Wandalust

Midwife Crisis

The Wrath of Connie Sellecca

They Cried “Hogwash!”

Not Until My Farts Get Better 
(Working title: Doctor’s Orders)

The Revenge of Mister Meter Maid

Phenomanal

Matrimayhem

Uh Oh! No More Grandmas!

Auntie Christ

Stab Until There’s Nothing Left!

Huggy the Misunderstood Snake

Hats Dropping, Pants Popping

Duck Duck DEATH!

The Adventures of Bi-dra, the Bisexual Hyrda

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Music They Play in Hell

To say that popular music has changed over the last century is only profound on the level of “Most humans have two elbows” and “That fat dog is fat.” But even knowing that, it can still feel jarring to hear a chart-topper from some past decade and then to realize just how much mainstream tastes have shifted. Even the biggest proponent of “Well, it was a different time and place” and “You have to consider the context” must sometimes stop in his tracks and let loose with a “Holy shit, people listened to this?”

I first heard “If I Knew You Were Coming” back when I was a little kid and my brother received a series of vintage sports bloopers tapes for Christmas. Every goddamn one of them used the song, and even as kids we could tell that the song sucked. It became a game: racing for the remote to fast-forward through the sequence just so we could hear as little of the song as possible. Here (hear), listen why:


This version, sung by Eileen Barton, hit number one on the Billboard charts back in 1950. Today, I can’t imagine another use for this song other than something you’d try hard not to hear.

Pressing questions:
  • Was this a song that dumb teenagers made popular, much to the annoyance of grown-ups who could tell that it was actually annoying? Or was it an actual mainstream hit?
  • Is this something people danced to? If so, how did they dance to this — just bobbing around on their heels with a big dumb grin on their face that says “No, this is fun”?
  • Did people actually play this song when guests arrived? Was it like the “Happy Birthday” song of having friends over?
  • Is it awkward that she talks about how she would have hired a band when she clearly is being backed by band?
  • Is the lyric “I don’t know where you came from / Because I don’t know where you’ve been” more or less stupid than Billy Corgan’s “What I choose is my choice”?
  • Does she sound like Tress MacNeille to anyone else but me? Or does she just sound like Lindsey Naegle?
  • The subtext is that the cake would have been poisoned, right?

“Hotchadoo, hotchadoo, hotchadoo.” [Dances off stage.]

EDIT: The sexual implications of “If I knew you were coming” and spreading mats have just been brought to my attention. Ew.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Long Tongue of the Etymologist (or — A Collection of Unrelated Trivia Bits)

Occasionally, I come across a bit of information that’s not exactly tweetable, not exactly bloggable. Such info-nuggets get dropped into the cyber-junk folder that is my Google doc that I titled “whatever maybe????” No, really — that’s what I call it. 

These are their stories. Well, no, here are two anteaters first. (Anteaters are unrelated to trivia but still.)

via me; see a larger version
If I had to guess the origin of the word skosh, “a little bit,” I’d say Yiddish, just based on the sound. I’d be wrong, because it comes from Japanese. Yay, wars!

Maleficent’s horned headdress is apparently called an atora, though the internet doesn’t seem to be clear on why it’s called that. It could have something to do with the fact that a British brand of shredded beef once used that name, adapted from the Spanish word toro, “bull.”

ol’ bullhead
Cyndi Lauper wrote “Time After Time” after seeing the movie of the same name, and I think that is neat.

If you’ve ever wondered why west-of-the-Mississippi radio and TV station call letters start with “K” while their east-of-the-Mississippi counterparts start with “W,” know two things: That’s not exactly how it works, boundary-wise, and although we know who assigned those letters, we have no idea why they got picked over any other letter.

When Ricky Ricardo sang about Babalu, he was actually singing about Babalu Aye, an African god of earth, infectious disease and healing. No, really.

Eagleheart was right, more or less: bezoars are actually things that exist. Protip: Don’t do a Google image search for them.

Why use the word twin when you could use the synonym twyndyllyng instead? It is allegedly the longest English word without a vowel, though any sane person can see why that is not true.

There is a crab whose scientific name is Graspus graspus, which alone is pretty good, but even better is the fact that its common English name is Sally Lightfoot, which sounds like someone your mom was friends with in the 70s.

Just based on how it sounds, you might guess that narwhal means “northern whale,” etymologically speaking. Nope. It acuially means “corpse whale.”

In similarly horrible realizations, the word mastodon means exactly what the etymologically-inclined might guess it means: “breast-tooth” — “so called from the nipple-like projections on the crowns of the extinct mammal’s fossil molars.”

the crab called sally lightfoot, via
The bassoon is known in Italy as the fagotto… obviously.

Aguascalientes — literally “hot waters” — is one of the states that comprise the E.E.U.U., or the United States of Mexico. This state name uses agua, which comes from the Latin word for water, aqua. Weirdly, the word for people from this state is hidrocálido, which uses a form of the Greek root for water, hydro. No one knowledgeable about Mexican culture or language has yet been able to explain to be why this is the case.

We’re not sure, but Bugs Bunny may be the reason that nimrod became an insult.

The French word for “werewolf” is loup-garou, which awkwardly translates as “wolf-manwolf.”

Though I guessed many, many posts ago that the Mega Man robo-dog Rush might have been named for the prog rock band of the same name, that is apparently not the case. Mega Man’s creator, Keiji Inafune, explained a few months back that the name results from an old Capcom game, Rush & Crash, plus the fact that the Japanese pronunciation of rush, “rasshu,” sounds a lot like the Japanese pronunciation of Lassie, “rasshi.”

This is all. Please enjoy! Link dumps, previously:

Monday, November 18, 2013

Batman: Knight of Varying Color

Don’t let Christopher Nolan mislead you: There’s room for everyone in Gotham, where you like to think of Batman as that menacing gargoyle, perched atop a roof and silhouetted by a flash of lightning, or as Adam West, blue-suited and smirking and surrounding by pop art onomatopoeia. As proof of this, please examine these two takes on Batmania — completely unlike each other but both valid takes on the subject matter.

Batman: The Hypercolor Knight

This one comes from Teen Titans Go!, Cartoon Network’s spin-off to the original Teen Titans series that skews kiddier but doesn’t quite veer into the nursery, Muppet Babies-style. Last week, Robin returned to the Batcave, and Dan Hipp’s art direction showed how awesome it can look with some color to it.

teen titans go batcave dan hipp
click for a larger, more spectacular version
There’s not a single, uncharged black in the entire room, aside from Robin. That may be telling.

Batman: The Monochrome Knight

And then there’s this: “Silent Knight, Unholy Knight,” the second installment of the Batman: Black & White series. It re-imagines Batman as a silent film, complete with title cards.

Silent Knight, Unholy Knight -- Batman: Black & White

Silent Knight, Unholy Knight -- Batman: Black & White

Silent Knight, Unholy Knight -- Batman: Black & White

Just don’t put nipples on the Batsuit.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Disappointing Adventures of Leather Boy

My go-to in any discussion of awful superhero characters had always been Cocaine, a DC character who hails from Colombia and whose powers all stem from cocaine and whose name seems pretty obvious now that you know his backstory. And I stand by his suckiness, but I think we’ve got a solid Plan B: the Marvel character Leather Boy.

via
Leather Boy (real name, tragically: Gene Lorrene) applies for membership to the Great Lakes Avengers — a Milwaukee-based spin-off to the Avengers, which itself kind of sounds like a joke. He’s rejected, however, because he lacks any superpowers. You see, he’s not Leather Boy so much as a leather boy, ball gag and all, and he only applies because he mistakes the Great Lakes Avengers for an S&M fetish group. (An easy mistake to make, given the language that would go into such a classified ad, no?)

Leather Boy comes back years later, however, still smarting over the fact that he wasn’t allowed into the group in spite of everything I just relayed to you in the previous paragraph. Now wearing a leather fetish version of Doctor Doom’s costume, Leather Boy unleashes his rage on Monkey Joe — who, weirdly, is not a monkey but a squirrel who happens to be the sidekick of Squirrel Girl, whom Leather Boy felt didn’t deserve membership for reasons that should be fairly obvious. He kills Monkey Joe.

via
In the end, he is apprehended by Big Bertha, who sits on him. Bertha, by the way, has the superpower to increase her weight dramatically, though she can only return to her regular size by making herself throw up.

via
“In spite of all this, I still love comic books.” — me, reminding myself.

Superheroes, previously:

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Wallpaper for the Adventurous

No, I’m not going to make a habit of posting vintage wallpaper on this blog. I’m sure there’s already a blog for that. But I will post this: wallpaper I stumbled onto last summer. It dates back at least to the ’60s, and it represents everything that I think being a boy meant back then.


Do as you will with it.

Friday, November 15, 2013

With “It” Being a Lusty, Snaggletoothed Trashmouth

And then I realized that Amy Sedaris as Hurshe Heartshe on The Heart, She Holler looks more or less like a real-life, human version of Lil from Squidbillies, sloppy lines and all. I can’t tell if it’s a result of Adult Swim cross-promotion or just that there’s a certain aesthetic for that sloppy truckstop waitress who clearly puts a great deal of effort into looking like a slopcrundle.


Points for Lil, however: the Hedwig-esque hairdo.

Who Wore It Better? — previously:

Thursday, November 14, 2013

How Super Mario 3D World Will Let You Kill God

Back in September, I wrote here about how I’m excited for a new Mario game in a way that I haven’t been since I was a kid. This week, Nintendo surprised fans with an additional reason to await Super Mario 3D World: an unlockable fifth character, Rosalina.


Okay, so you’re all, “Hey, I played the hell out of Mario Kart 64 and I don’t remember no Rosalina in there.” To which I’d explain that Rosalina is a relatively new addition to the series, having debuted in 2007 in Super Mario Galaxy. She’s subsequently showed up in the Mario Kart games as another Princess Peach-like alternative to Princess Peach. If Peach is Barbie and Daisy is Midge, Rosalina is the cosmic-powered, space princess version of Barbie that would never exist in the Barbie universe because it doesn’t get that weird. And you’d be all “Okay, yeah, whatever, I actually have to be somewhere else right now…?”

rosalina playable

What’s notable about Super Mario 3D World is that it’s part of the “main” Mario series — that is, not a tennis game and not an RPG — and it has Peach as a playable character for the first time since Super Mario Bros. 2 was released in 1988. But by adding Rosalina to the roster of playable characters, Nintendo has done something interesting: Peach is no longer the girl but just a girl — one of the female characters you can play as, not the only choice. This has never happened before in the history of Mario games — the hop-and-bop, grab-the-coin games where you save a princess at the end only this time you’re not saving the princess because for once she’s on the other side of the jail cell door.

But that’s not all.

In making Rosalina playable, Nintendo has allowed you to play as God, more or less. As it’s explained by the Game Overthinker, the Galaxy games explain that Rosalina is Lady Galactus, Creator of Worlds, whose job is creating, nurturing and controlling the galaxy. Basically, she’s responsible for all existence everywhere. So what is a seemingly omnipotent cosmic mother giantess doing hopping and bopping and coin-grabbing? Couldn’t she just blink the bad guys out of existence? I can only guess that she’s slumming it — seeing how the normal live, like a certain monarch who thought it would be a lark to play peasant. It doesn’t have to make sense. She’s God. She gets to do what she wants.

Funny side-affect of this, however: If you play as Rosalina and play badly, you get to kill God. That’s deep. Have fun with that, kids!

BTW, the game also includes a uniquely Luigi-centric version of the arcade game Mario Bros. It’s Luigi vs. Luigi.

luigi-bros-super-mario-3d-world

If we’re considering names for the palette swapped, alternate Luigi, can I suggest 2uigi?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Lena (the) Hyena

Like most children of the 80s, I was emotionally scarred by Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. And yeah, I don’t know what the creators were thinking with the whole Judge Doom reveal at the end either, aside from possibly fulfilling their part of some sort of dark pact with the American nightlight industry. It truly was a messed-up thing to unleash upon our young psyches. But as horrifying as Judge Doom was, it’s not the scene that haunted me. Now this may be one of those moments where I’m revealing more than I realize, but the scene that actually gave me nightmares starred a different scary toon: Lena Hyena.


If you don’t remember, Lena shows up in a scene in which Eddie is trekking through Toon Town in search of Jessica Rabbit. Eddie thinks he’s found her, but the sexy silhouette proves misleading: He’s actually just found Lena, a hag-faced anti-Jessica who reacts to Eddie’s presence with an unbridled lady lust not often seen in children’s cartoons. Eddie, of course, wants no part of her — really, no part — but Lena pursues him anyway. Something about her lusty, pop-eyed wild takes bothered me to the point that I had dreams about her chasing me down, making kissy-faces and showing me her weird lady underwear. Ahem.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Oh, the Horrors of Etymology

In the same way that kicking over a rock allows you to see what squiggly, slimy things may be hiding beneath it, tracking down the etymology of words so often takes you into weird parts of history that you may never see otherwise. For example, today I looked up the etymology of the word barber. It goes back to the Latin barba, “beard,” it turns out, but the entry also offers this grim look into early healthcare: “Originally also regular practitioners of surgery, they were restricted to haircutting and dentistry under Henry VIII.”

isaac koedijck, “barber-surgeon tending a peasant’s foot,” via wikimedia
And I even knew that already, but seeing it laid out like that — plainly, matter-of-factly, as if it were no big deal that the same guy who cuts your hair should also cut your skin and dig teeth out of your gums — gave me a shiver. “Yeah, you’re your problem here is that you have too much blood. Here, sit down. This will take a while, because I will have to cut you open a lot.”

“It Gives Me the Scary Creeps” — The Bold Experiment in Confusion That Is The Visitor

Last week, I watched a Cinefamily screening of The Visitor, a 1979 film-like thing that stars John Huston, Shelley Winters, Glen Ford, Sam Peckinpah and the original Django for no reason that I can tell. It’s a good cast, yes, but the film itself is the kind of mess that results when the director gets fired and then the producer is threatened at gunpoint to not only hire the director back but also give him carte blanche to complete the film in whatever fashion his whackadoodle brain chooses. (That’s the story related to the audience at the beginning of the screening, allegedly shared by the original screenwriter.) At the time The Visitor hit American cinemas, critics accused it of ripping off both The Omen and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, but I can’t imagine director Michael J. Paradise saw either of these films nor any other film ever, because this thing defies description — and not in a good way.

Check out the Drafthouse Films trailer:


And here’s a fan-made trailer:


Both prepare you for the kind of surreal, flashy Italian horror movie that I usually go nuts for, but what the trailers don’t tell you is that The Visitor is kind of a piece of shit. After the first half-hour, the visuals can no longer make up for a plot that herka-jerks from a confusing beginning to confusing ending. You wonder what’s going on, then you stop wondering, and then you’re just sitting there, watching characters act without explanation or any clear motive. I stopped caring how weird it got — and yeah, I’m surprised that I just typed that too — because the film’s weirdness never outmatched its suckiness.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

With “It” Being Eyes That Have Seen It All

Should Bjork ever locate the mythical Ice Crystals of Jólasveinn and achieve full use of her snow elf powers, she’d surely master the art of shapeshifting. And were she to transform into an animal that conveyed her full Bjorkiness, that animal would surely be the gerenuk, the African gazelle known for standing on its hind legs and appearing magical. Why, you may ask, would the single most famous Icelander become a animal that inhabits the dry scrub of East Africa? Because of this:


The smirk. The dark eyes. The glint suggesting that both are actually trickster spirits masquerading as earth creatures. Actually, I’m not sure that gerenuk isn’t already Bjork in disguise.

By the way, if you haven’t heard the album Bjork recorded when she was eleven years old, you’re missing out. A sample:


Who Wore It Better? — previously:

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Considerably North of the Tiki Room

This is the wallpaper in the former Fred Harvey Restaurant at L.A.’s Union Station. There’s nothing in particular I can say to convince you why it’s nice to look at, but maybe if you just look at it, you’ll see the appeal yourself. Click for the larger version if you must.


Because parrots.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

A Raccoon Eating Grapes Whilst Sitting at the Dinner Table

It is as I say. Dina tells me that the man is saying "Are you done eating the grapes? No, there's one left." Fascinating.


What I wish the man was actually saying: "And here is the place card for our special guest, Mister Mitts. DO NOT REACH ACROSS MISTER MITTS'S FOOD. HE DOES NOT LIKE THAT."

Monday, November 04, 2013

Steven Universe Is Beautiful, and Here Are 40 Reasons Why

I watched the first episode of the new Cartoon Network series Steven Universe, which premieres tonight at 8, and I’m happy to report that I loved it. Steven Universe could become a big deal for Cartoon Network. I hope it does, at least. It looks beautiful. It reminded me of Ponyo in the way it smooshes goofy and serious together onto a colorful landscape, and the character design suggests a world that Osamu Tezuka might have dreamed up — lanky Pearl in particular.

In case you need convincing about how great Steven Universe looks, here are 40 stills from the pilot that show off the majesty and hint at what it may be capable of.

Steven Universe pilot screengrabs stills












Saturday, November 02, 2013

The End of the Game

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve re-encountered some half-remembered childhood thing as an adult and reacted with horror and amusement at what the younger me had actually seen without realizing it. Today, it’s the Capcom arcade game Black Tiger, the promotional art for which was what you see below.

via
It’s not just that the artist chose to emphasize the hero’s butt. No, it’s that the artist clearly relished the opportunity to depict an idealized, Mount Olympus bottom that’s just barely covered by a flap of loincloth in a way that’s almost teasing.

— “Hey, what if we just showed the barbarian hero character’s whole naked butt, for no reason?”
— “Well, you can’t actually see his butt in the game.”
— “Yeah, but gay kids.”
— “Oh, all right.”

That’s how I imagine it, at least. For the record, barbarian warriors and homoeroticism have gone hand-in-hand (or dick-in-hand) since the days of the first pixelated loincloth. It’s also worth mentioning that there’s an alternate version of the Black Tiger arcade flyer that skews slightly less homoerotic by virtue of a more substantial buttflap, though the tagline “The more you play, more exciting it gets!” kind of sounds like an ESL endorsement for masturbation.

via
Guess which one I remember!

Here’s the game in action. Please enjoy the relatively little amount of butt the game has to offer, regardless of what that first flyer might indicate.


Sexy video games, previously: