Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Cotton Candy Up in Here (or — What Tumblr Did for Me in 2014)

The past two years, I’ve posted my most popular Tumblr posts here on my big boy blog. I’m not sure why, really, aside from advertising the fact that have a little side-project running concurrently to what I have here. (It’s also updated more often, in case vintage homoeroticism is more your thing than pop culture articles and stories about my backyard.) Here, then, are my ten most popular Tumblr posts from 2014.

First, at 1464 notes as of midday on January 31, 2014, it’s a gif of raining mushrooms.

mushroom gif

Is it because of the Mario connection? Or because mushrooms look penile? Or do people on Tumblr just like mushrooms?

Second, this artwork from a video game I’ve never played (and I’m willing to bet most video gamers in the English-speaking world also haven’t played). A beautiful Japanese nightmare.


Third, the SNL “County Roses” sketch, which I posted on Tumblr just to redirect people to my blog post about how great it is.



Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Simpsons Yellow vs. Lego Yellow

Sometimes you’re doing the dishes and it occurs to you that you have two childhood loves that have continued into adulthood — The Simpsons and Legos — and both use bright yellow as its default skin color.  Just maybe if you looked up the official Pantone color selections, you could find out if these yellows were actually the same.

 They are, I’m pretty sure.


The default Lego minifigure color is referred to by the company as Bright Yellow and that corresponds with a happy, cheddary egg yolk color known as Pantone 116 C. (It’s also the hexadecimal code FECB00, which I am choosing to pronounce as “feckboo.”) I can’t find anything especially official for The Simpsons color guides, but at least these two sites identify Springfield Caucasian as Pantone 116 C as well. This site, however, only refers to it as Pantone 116, which could be a slightly larger range of yellows. That might explain why Lego Homer and Classic Homer don’t appear exactly the same in last season’s Lego episode.


But until I find otherwise from something official and Simpsons-y, I think Simpsons skin yellow and Lego skin yellow are one in the same. By the way, the idea popped into my head after I saw the official Nintendo character guide from 1993, which also identifies the proper, official colors for Mario and friends. Mario and Pauline have different skin tones. Weird, right?

Friday, December 26, 2014

Frequently Asked Questions About Smash Bros.

Someone recently pointed out to me that the new Smash Bros. at its most frantic looks to lifelong gamers the way early home console video games must have looked to our parents: a boggling flurry of colors and shapes that just doesn’t make any sense. It’s true. In spite of a life playing video games, I still feel my eyes glazing over when I play Smash Bros. Suddenly, I’m watching someone else’s character as I calmly trot my guy off a ledge.

See for yourself.



Here, then, are the frequeenly asked questions about Smash Bros., based off a grow play session comprised of people who grew up playing video games but still could not keep up.

Wait, who am I?

Wait, who’s killing me?

Did I just die?

Why did I just die?

Wait, why did they make it so Wario could be basically identical colors to Mario? How is that fair?

What did I just do? Am I winning?

Wait, is that Pac-Man?

Really, Pac-Man?

Is Pac-Man still a thing?

Really?

Can you play as Rampage?

Can you play as Dixie Kong?

Can you play as Ms. Pac-Man?

Why isn’t Bowser bigger?

Why are there two Kirbys?

Why did my Kirby just fall asleep?

Why didn’t I know that Nintendo owns Pokémon?

Why can’t I ride Yoshi?

Who is shooting me?

Wait, are all my lives gone?

Closing thought: Video games have given us an opportunity to speak the sentence “I died” heretofore unseen in human history.


Monday, December 22, 2014

I Didn’t Like SNL’s Serial Sketch

I think I’m missing a certain humor gene.

My friend Ryan, who lives in Michigan for some reason, texted me around 9 p.m. to tell me that Saturday Night Live was doing a Serial parody. Ryan and I had talked earlier about Serial, in particular that boneheaded tweet that Best Buy had posted about payphones. Ryan thought that the Serial-related tweet that Sesame Street posted was okay.


That Slate article agreed, but I wasn’t into it. Even if Sesame Street historically pushes puns and makes fun of current trends regardless of whether they’re kid friendly, this was a dumb little throwaway joke. To me, it only existed to make people say, “Hey! It’s that thing I know! In that other thing I know! I’m in on this!” But the 5,000-something Twitter users to retweeted it clearly liked it.

I feel similarly about SNL’s Serial sketch, which has Sarah Koenig investigating Santa Claus. On a technical level, it’s spot-on, if you can overlook the awkwardness of transforming a podcast into something that suddenly has a a video element. But the sketch didn’t make me laugh. Again, all the people who introed it on Facebook with “LOL!” felt differently. Here’s the sketch, in case you didn’t see it already because you’re that rare bird who has only a casual relationship with Serial.


Cecily Strong’s Koenig is pretty good, and Aidy Bryant takes Christina Gutierrez’s inexplicable sing-song speech patterns to weird, new heights, but I didn’t get much out of the sketch even though I’ve spent the last twelve weeks turning the Serial story over and over in my head. Now, I realize there are worse problems than having an SNL sketch not work for you, but as I keep seeing the sketch on social media — including a post from an L.A. NPR station that dubbed the parody “brilliant” — I keep wondering why I didn’t like it. Maybe it just wasn’t that funny. Maybe it just wasn’t funny to me.

Or maybe it’s that that girl is still dead.

I know, that’s so self-righteous of me, if not full-blown hypocritical, considering how much mileage I’ve gotten out of a certain person who was devoured by raccoons. But I honestly think it’s awkward and a little tacky to take all the trappings of Serial and lay them over a silly Christmas story. When I was watching the sketch, I thought about Adnan, the convicted murderer who is maybe innocent and we still don’t really know what happened there, watching the Santa Claus-as-Adnan character and thinking, “Oh, that’s me. Huh.” I thought about Hae Min Lee’s little brother explaining on Reddit the difference between a soapy crime drama and a shitty thing that actually happened and actually ruined a few people’s lives.

I’m not saying that Serial, as a pop cultural property, should be off-limits. Law & Order ripped straight from the headlines, as we were told, for years without too much blowback. Besides, this same SNL had a Weekend Update joke about the podcast that I liked. (Seriously, there is a white person out there who thinks he knows a lot about Baltimore just from The Wire and Serial.) The Funny or Die Serial parody even offered commentary on one of the fundamental problems of treating the subject matter like a fictional narrative: real-life situations often don’t have tidy, satisfying endings. But I had similar weird feelings about the Black Dahlia character in the first season of American Horror Story, and I’m thinking there’s a line that exists somewhere in my head that I don’t want pop culture to cross, because then the actual tragedy creeps in and that’s all I can think about.

And that’s probably the most selfish part of all: I want to enjoy my entertainment without the threat of real-life tragedy diminishing my pleasure and making me feel the slightest bit opportunistic.

For what it’s worth, the SNL sketch that worked best for me this week starred raccoons but didn’t make me think of the horrible thing that happened in my neighborhood. It was also the strangest and the least rooted in any kind of relevance or reality.



Cecily said “I get to yum-yum garbage”! Now that’s funny.


Friday, December 19, 2014

I Don’t Want to Live in Your Marshmallow World

Hi. Do you know this song “Marshmallow World”? Because I didn’t up until a few weeks ago. Here, it sounds like this.



I am one of those annoying people who actively enjoys Christmas and its various trappings — the food, the pagan gobbledygook we hang all over our houses and even the dumb songs. Now, there are not often new Christmas carols. People try, but it’s hard to write a song that people will actually be singing a year from now, to say nothing of a full decade. We tell the song-writers, “No, who needs your dumb garbage song when we have, like, a hundred other Christmas carols that we already know the words to?”

This year, however, I have heard “Marshmallow World” repeatedly — in a commercial, in a viral video, at the grocery store and twice at the same mall. I had never noticed it before. I initially thought it was maybe one of those new garbage songs, but it’s apparently been around since Bing Crosby recorded the first version in 1950. It’s possible that everyone else knows about this song and I’m just oblivious, but even if there’s not a concentrated push for “Marshmallow World,” I want to go on the record saying it sucks.

I realize the importance of secular holiday songs, but songs about winter are dumb because everyone knows it’s the season in which you’re most likely to die wearing a scarf. Snow makes most things worse. Also, when it snows, it doesn’t look like marshmallows. If you’re comparing snow to food, then shaved coconut or frosting make more sense. Marshmallows are uniform in size, whereas snow does not come in standardized units. As it stands now, “Marshmallow World” sounds like the worst set of levels from Super Mario Bros. 3. Finally, the line “It’s a yum-yummy world made for sweethearts” is offensively dumb. People who talk about how bad songwriting has gotten today need to remember that as long as words have been put to music, people have been half-assing it and saying “Well, this fits. Let’s just keep these crap lyrics until we think of something better” and then never thinking of anything better.

Please, stop with your non-Parson Brown-starring odes to the glimmering magic of a winter landscape.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Dancinest Hemisphere of All!

Twenty-five years later, The Simpsons still teaches me about the worst of pop culture from before I was born.

Remember, if you will, Hooray for Everything, the group of “clean-cut young go-getters” that perform during the halftime show in the episode “Bart vs. Thanksgiving.” You only hear a few seconds of their song, but Homer seems to enjoy it enough.



I have had those few seconds of that stupid song in my head ever since. It’s my go-to mental example of the kind of insipid, crowd-pleaser pop you might have heard at a halftime show back in the day. I figured that’s what the Simpsons staff had in mind when they wrote it. But then last night, I caught the end of an FXX rerun of “Goin’ to Praiseland,” the 2001 episode in which Ned Flanders opens a Christian-themed amusement park. Even though the episode’s guest star is Shawn Colvin, that same terrible song plays over the end credits, and you hear more of it than you do in “Bart vs. Thanksgiving.”

“Surely, they just had more of the song left over from when they first wrote it back in 1990,” I told myself. “Surely, no actual song could be so terribly catchy but also so terrible. Surely.”

Then I Shazamed it. It’s real, though I doubt I’m the only my age who had only experienced it via The Simpsons. The song is “Get Dancin’” by a band I’d never heard of, because I would have remembered a name as bad as Disco-Tex and the Sex-O-Lettes. In its entirely,  “Get Dancin’” is even dumber and brighter and bouncier and more annoying than I could have even imagined. It’s worse than “The Hustle.” Hell, it’s seven minutes long.



And now you have it in your head.

That’s not the only appearance of Hooray for Everything on The Simpsons, by the way. They perform a worse cover of a more recognizable song in “Selma’s Choice.”



I’d like to think that the same expert in terrible, impossibly upbeat pop music was responsible for introducing me to Lesley Gore’s “Sunshine, Rainbows and Lollipops” in “Marge on the Lam.” And maybe Homer singing “Yummy, Yummy, Yummy”? And maybe Homer singing “Spanish Flea”?



I was equally surprised to learn that the lyrics Homer was singing weren’t made up for the show, that “Spanish Flea” even had lyrics, and that a recording group ever thought their name should be The Doodletown Pipers.



Someone clearly knew their shit. And their shit was shit music.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

An Open Letter to a Skunk

Dear Mr. Skunk,

First, I would like to apologize for the circumstances of our meeting a few nights back. You see, I didn’t expect to run into anyone when I was taking out my garbage, to say nothing of finding someone hiding behind my trash receptacle. I feel I surprised you as well. The noise you made sounded like a surprised one, at least.

Now that we have been properly acquainted, however, I must ask you to stop digging.

You seem keen on dotting my backyard with small holes — sometimes dozens in a single night. They are small and shallow, none of them big enough to fit a golf ball. I do not understand why you do this, but please understand that your hobby is making a mess of my yard. There is dirt where I do not want dirt. You have uprooted plants. For what, I ask?

What are you looking for?

What do you think you’ve buried just an inch below the soil surface?

Why do you think these lost articles are hidden beneath my groundcover?

Why do you hate my groundcover?

Why are you bad at hiding things?

Are you attempting to bury something and then rethinking the proposition moments later, only to start another abortive burial several inches to the side?

Why do you return to the same spot to dig up a hole that you have dug — and I have un-dug — just days later? Do you think the contents of the earth will change that much in such a short time?

At the very least, do something practical with the hole, please. When the neighborhood cats dig holes in my yard, they do so for the purposes of shitting. I do not condone this — and, in fact, they have suffered reprisals for their instance on doing this — but at least I understand why they’re doing it. There’s nothing in your holes. No shit to speak of. I’m not saying “Shit in a hole or stop digging,” but at least I could relate to that logic, you know?

Whatever your motivation, this must end. I’ve researched online measures I could take to deter you, but I don’t think either of us want it to come to this.


You have a floofy tail that reminds me of my border collie. I want to like you, but you’re not making it easy.

Happy holidays. Please stop.

Drew Mackie

Previous coverage of the “Shit that happens in my backyard” beat:

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

What Do You Do With a Dying Monarch?

At first I thought it was a leaf caught in the wind, but when it landed in my hand, I could see that it was moving too regularly. No, it was a monarch butterfly that had either run out of time or seen some serious action. Its wings were smashed. A few of its legs had been lopped off. It was broken. It seemed to move with great difficulty.

But it was moving, at least.



My first reaction was to just squish its little head, to save it from the pain, but I couldn’t do that. I’m honestly unsure that butterflies can feel pain. Besides, looking into its big eyes, I felt like it wasn’t my place. However, I also couldn’t leave it alone. So I just stood there, watching him beat his wings as he rested in my hand.

I put the butterfly on a cement paver — yes, that cement paver, actually — and just sat next to it. It didn’t care or probably even know, I realize. I’m totally projecting that it wanted me there. I would have wanted someone there.





I took some videos of what happened. That seemed important. Sometimes it was looking directly at me.



I’d never gotten so close to a butterfly for so long. I’d never gotten such a close look at one. You’d think it would look alien, but butterflies are more people-y than other insects; their proportions make them easier to anthropomorphize in your head.



Sometimes it seemed like it was struggling to do something. I couldn't tell what.



And then it eventually stopped struggling.



I put it on an orange kalanchoe when it stopped moving. Last I checked, it was still there.

So what spiritually devastating thing happened to you today?

Thursday, December 04, 2014

She Everywhere 2: Return to the Raccoon House

Earlier this year, I thrilled dozens with the story of how I learned that a woman in my neighborhood was apparently devoured by raccoons. Yes, the devouring happened posthumously, but that adverbs saps a bit of the power from the phrase “devoured by raccoons,” doesn’t it?


Today I present to you a new chapter in the “She Everywhere” saga that involves avocados and more hyper-local urban legends.

For most of the end of summer, I was tearing out my front lawn to replace it with plants that require less water. One day, when I was barefoot and covered in dirt, a nice gay couple pulled up. Both the guys were about my age, and they came bearing a grocery bag of avocados, because that’s how you make a grand, neighborly gesture in California. They explained that they’d seen me working in the yard and wanted to welcome me to the neighborhood. I asked where they lived and they said they lived just nearby — “in a house around the corner.”

“Is it the white one with all the plants in front?”

They said that it was. And at that moment, I knew I was talking to the very “two guys, no wifes” that had moved into the Raccoon House. I didn’t say anything about it. There’s no graceful way to ask that one: “So is it true that the previous owner was ripped to shreds in your backyard?”

They left, and those avocados sat on the counter for about a week before I got hungry enough to try produce that was maybe-possibly-probably fertilized by spinster corpse. They were damn good avocados, I’m happy to report. That’s a lesson to all you backyard farmers out there: If you want tasty avocados, kill an unmarried woman.

Our houses being so close to each other, we’ve had reason to say hi a few more times, and eventually they had me over for drinks. Remember when I said there was no graceful way to inquire about the on-site death? Well, when I drink, I get less graceful, and it didn’t take long for a question about the previous owner to segue into this crazy story I’d heard about the property.

And this is where it gets awkward.

The one guy said he’d never heard anything like that. The other guy nodded and said, “Yeah, actually, the lady who lived here before also died here.” I asked if the story about the yard was true, and he said to his understanding, no. What actually happened was even worse. According to him, the previous owner was a hoarder who’d let the house fall into a state of disrepair. She did die on the property, but not in the backyard: she died inside. But the house was in such a state that it wasn’t secure from the various outside elements, and though the animals did eventually get to her, they got to her inside the house — not in the backyard.

I shifted uncomfortably in my seat.

The first guy wanted to know why he hadn’t been informed of the circumstances of the vacancy, and the other guy explained that he assumed he’d rather not know. Which he did now. Because I brought it up.

I suppose the moral of this chapter might be that I am a terrible guest, but the story isn’t over yet. Even the “she everywhere inside the house” version of the story didn’t come from the realtor. That’s just what a neighbor said. Apparently, unless the on-site death resulted from murder or suicide, the seller isn’t required to divulge details to the buyer. At least Two Guys, No Wifes didn’t get them, anyway, just that someone had died, with no mention of the role of raccoons.

Now I wonder how difficult it would be to get those details — literal gory details, for the first time since I quit my job at the newspaper.

Now I also wonder why anyone invites me anywhere, really.

Previous funny stories about awful things:

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Baffling Concept of Kiss Cams

Because you may never spend quite so much time reflecting on why the Kiss Cam is a strange institution until you have to explain it to someone who is not from the United States and has never watched an American sports game. What follows is an edited, cleaned-up version of this conversation.

The Man From Another Place: What is a Kiss Cam?

Me: It's this thing where they point a camera at a couple at a sports event, and the couple is displayed on the big TV screen that everyone in the stadium can see.

MFAP: Is that an American creation?

Me: Probably? I actually have no idea if other countries have it.

MFAP: How do people know how it works?

Me: You just do. Like, it's been going on for a while, and when you see yourself up there it will actually put the words "Kiss Cam" on the screen so you know to kiss.

MFAP: It's weird if it's American because Americans don't like sex.

Me: That's kind of true. We have a hang-up about displays of sex, yeah.

MFAP: So why do people do it?

Me: Well, it's not sexy, exactly. It's usually to show that you love the person next to you.

MFAP: Oh, so it's like the kind of kiss you'd give your grandmother.

Me: Actually, not always. Some people really go at it.

MFAP: And what do the other people watching the game do?

Me: They cheer.

MFAP: What happens if the people onscreen don't kiss?

Me: The crowd might boo at them.

MFAP: Because they're not putting on a show for everyone?

Me: I guess? I've never really thought about it.

MFAP: They boo because the people aren't in a relationship?

Me: Basically. There's no way to communicate, "No, we're brother and sister."

MFAP: I feel like Americans shouldn't like Kiss Cams, then.

Me: Yeah, it might make more sense if it was a punch cam, and you have to physically assault the person next to you in the stands.

MFAP: How does the camera man know that he's showing a couple and not just friends?

Me: I have no idea.

MFAP: What happens if they put a man and woman who aren't in a relationship on the Kiss Cam? What if they were brother and sister?

Me: They'd probably get booed, I guess.

MFAP: Do they ever put same-sex couples on the Kiss Cam?

Me: No? I don't know. I haven't been to a sports game in a while. Maybe they do now.

MFAP: It would seem like gay people would be mad if they never got featured on the Kiss Cam.

Me: This is probably a thing somewhere.

MFAP: Now I feel like I understand the Kiss Cam better. Thanks!

Me: See, now I don't.


Monday, November 24, 2014

Last Decade on Murder, She Wrote

In lieu of a real post updating my life’s accomplishments, challenges and complications, I present to you a list of the random, before-they-were-famous guest stars on Murder, She Wrote. Revel in clothes and hairstyles that haven’t traveled well to 2014.


Kate Mulgrew as a glamorous actress with a dead body guard.


George Clooney as a good-looking guy who maybe doesn’t get enough sleep.


Charlotte Rae as a soured socialite.


Robert Reed as creepy Alex Trebek (apparently).


Billy Zane as a guy living it up while he still has a good head of hair.


Megan Mullaly as a high-minded lawyer who dresses like Diane Chambers. Really, her outfits steal the episode. I can’t imagine what the tactic was in dressing her in this manner, but for god’s sakes, lookit.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

How to Destroy Your Toe

I have ten toes, like normal. I used to think I had nice-looking feet, as far as guy feet go, but that’s not really the case anymore. Now I have one big toe with one little toenail.


This is the story of how I did this thing to myself.

This summer, I moved into a house, and the house had several trees that badly needed pruning. I found a guy to do this, and he eventually brought in his team of dudes to shape the trees as well as do some other work that I couldn’t do myself. This situation caused some feelings of insecurity for me. I’ve generally tried to do all the house chores myself, but I lacked the tools to trim trees, to say nothing of the know-how.

When the workers got to my house, the head tree-trimming dude pointed out that the cement paver path that runs through my yard would make it difficult to push wheelbarrows in and out of the yard.

“Can they be moved?” he asked.

“Oh, yeah. I’ve moved them myself before.”

He seemed surprise by this. “You moved these yourself?”

“Yeah, I can move them. It’s actually pretty easy.” (This was a lie. It actually isn’t easy.)

“Oh, okay, then. I was going to sic the guys on it, but yeah, it would be helpful if you could get these out of the way before we get started.”

And so I felt better, because here was something I could do, to be helpful and to demonstrate that I had agency and man-strength enough to move these cement squares that the foreman presumed were too heavy. As the workers start hauling in the sharp, lobster claw-looking tools they use to chop branches, I started prying up the pavers, then rolling them end-over-end and out of the way.

Did I mention I wasn’t wearing shoes at the time?

Yeah, you see where this is going.

I rolled the final paver out of the way — not easily, I should admit, because they’re heavy as hell — and when I finally got it where I wanted it, I let it drop. And it fell corner-first onto my right toe.

I didn’t make any noise. I didn’t give any reaction at all, I don’t think. I just picked up that one side of paver and slid my foot out from beneath it and then hobbled inside, leaving a trail of blood behind me. It didn’t gush blood. It wasn’t like getting punched in the nose. But it bled for about an hour — after I washed it and poured rubbing alcohol on it and swaddled it in paper towels. And so there I sat — on my couch, with an ice pack resting on my discolored, leaking toe as I watched Hallmark Channel reruns of Golden Girls and tried very hard to concentrate on anything other than how badly my toe hurt.

There’s irony here. I injured myself because I’d wanted to prove that I was strong enough, and I only ended up sitting on my couch, watching Bea Arthur waltzing around in a weird cape dress as I tried not to cry. (I also am not strong enough to wear a cape dress.)

Subsequently, the toe manifested all manner of colors — from red to yellow to purple to black to clear, when it just stopped existing. It’s coming back, slowly, but now my big toe is more skin than toenail, so it just kind of looks like Melissa Gorga. The good news is that I will eventually have a proper toenail again. I just need to wait, and meanwhile every time I glance down at my bare feet I have this horribly asymmetry to remind me that pride truly does goeth before the fall — of the cement paver, directly onto my toe.

The bad side, of course, is that this probably won’t prevent me from hurting myself, physically or otherwise, in an effort to prove my worth as an able-bodied human.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Country Roses: A Lesser-Known SNL Sketch You Should Probably Watch

Here is the latest in an ongoing series of bygone Saturday Night Live sketches that haven’t gotten their due. “Country Roses” comes from a 2004 episode hosted by Jennifer Aniston, and it’s a faux commercial for a compilation of old country songs performed by female artists. It’s amazing, and one of the better all-female sketches in the show’s history. Tragically, it’s hard to find online. There are still chunks of SNL’s recent past that just do not exist online in glossy, hi-def format, so I had to yank this couple from a Russian YouTube wannabe that seemed darkened back alley-level sketchy.

But because I love you — yes, you — I’ve made it just a little more accessible. Enjoy.



Despite being relatively forgotten, this episode has introduced a lot of key phrases to my vocabulary, including “Ain’t nothing cuter than a fat country baby eatin’ peaches off a hardwood floor,” “When I told my husband to take out the trash, I sure as hell didn’t mean you,” and “Mama, why are there snowflakes?”

I hope Dana Jean Harley makes as lasting an impression on you.

Fun fact, BTW: Since I originally saw this sketch, I found out that the first performer featured in it, Lynn Anderson, used to be friends with my parents. I actually own the record single of her singing “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden,” though that’s not the most spectacular piece of Lynn Anderson history that I own. That, of course, would be this.


And you have to admit, it’s a glorious thing.

Weird SNL sketches, previously:

Monday, November 03, 2014

That One Bizarrely Twin Peaks-y Episode of Darkwing Duck

Seeing how last month was bookended by posts about the second coming of Twin Peaks and unusually scary sitcom episodes, this seems like a logical place to kick off November.


Nearly a year after the last episode of Twin Peaks aired, the Disney cartoon Darkwing Duck aired an episode inspired by the David Lynch series. Given how cartoon production works, I’d imagine that this episode “Twin Beaks” was conceived at the height of Twin Peaks mania — and a point when the Darkwing showrunners figured Twin Peaks was a shoe-in for a third season. As it stood in 1992, however, “Twin Beaks” arrived a little late to ride the Twin Peaks bandwagon, as the wagon’s wheels had fallen off long beforehand.

Its lateness probably didn’t make much of a difference to its target audience — kids like me, just ten years old at the time — didn’t get the references, and just reacted with, “Oh, okay, This episode is a little weird. Yay, cartoons!” I had only the scantest awareness of Twin Peaks at the time, as I was forbidden from watching it. All I ever saw was the bits advertised on ABC. In fact, I didn’t actually watch Twin Peaks until college, after the religious experience of watching Mulholland Drive in the theater. When I finally did, I thought about this Darkwing Duck episode and how all of its weirdness made sense — or as much sense as you can make when you’re springboarding off David Lynch.

Today, I’m impressed this episode got made. It’s defiantly weird, even for a cartoon like Darkwing Duck, which skewed edgier than most Disney fare, and there’s something noble in doing a genre parody that will fly over the heads of most of the people who watch it. In case you have never seen it — or in case you just remembered it as that inexplicable Darkwing Duck with the strummy guitar for no apparent reason — I’ve made a condensed version of it, with all the Twin Peaks-y moments and a rough semblance of the plot. It’s like Cliffs Notes — for nostalgia! Because this is how we live now!


Highlights and notes after the jump.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

This Tree Bears Deadly Fruit

Things don’t tomorrow travel from my Tumblr to this blog, but I am making an exception for this. Can we talk about the loaded symbolism of this comic book cover for a moment?


On second thought... let’s not.

DC’s Unexpected, May 1972. Cover art by Nick Cardy. Originally posted by Rainy Day Recess.

Also, while on the subject, Unexpected, December 1867. Cover art by Jack Sparling.


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A Scary Horror Movie Scene in Which Nothing Explicitly Scary Happens

If pressed to name the scariest movie scene I’ve ever seen, I’d probably go with one in Lost Highway that introduces Robert Blake’s menacingly grinning character. Lost Highway isn’t technically a horror film, but David Lynch delves into the mystical, otherworldly, soul-shattering stuff often enough that it doesn’t need to be. It’s scary just as a neo-noir art film.

Dario Argento’s 1980 film Inferno features a completely G-rated scene that has always unnerved me and that I would like to offer for your consideration.

Give it a spin. It’s fairly brief.



Some context: Inferno is Argento’s sequel to Suspiria, which pits an American ballerina against a coven of German witches hiding in a dance academy. Much of Inferno concerns American music student Mark Elliot leaving Rome for New York to help his sister, who believes her apartment building may home to a second cluster of witches. The above scene takes place early in the film, before he arrives in New York.

Inferno is not as visually spectacular as Suspiria — and if you don’t know how beautiful the latter movie is, please have a look at this post, which offers a few dozen stills of the movie in all its color-saturated glory — but it has some good scary moments. The classroom scene, however, is the one that has stuck with me most, and for just one reason: It is the movie scene that best re-creates what it’s like to have a dream, at least for the kinds of dreams I have.

I have nightmares every now and then, but more often than not, I have these less outwardly scary dreams in which I’m trapped in a familiar setting where events are unfolding in an unrealistic manner that causes me gradual, increasing concern. The Inferno scene has Mark in an innocuous enough environment, a college lecture hall, but as he listens to the music, it becomes increasingly apparent that something is wrong.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Graveyard Hyperbole

You might suspect a little hyperbole when reading the marker for Mickey Rooney’s resting place in the walls of the new Hollywood Forever mausoleum.


However, just a few slots about Rooney on the mausoleum totem pole-o’-eternal peace is another man, whose chief claim to fame seems to be coin-collecting and whose marker is the ballsiest in the entire graveyard.


It’s hard to read, stretching toward the heavens and above everyone else’s graves, so here’s a close-up look at that text.



Yep, “The Greatest Man the World has been blessed with.” Suck on that, everyone else in Hollywood Forever and also Mickey Rooney. For what it’s worth, it has prompted me to remember this guy... if only for his epitaph.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Appropriate Appositions for Meghan Trainor

Apposition: a grammatical construction in which two elements, normally noun phrases, are placed side by side, with one element serving to identify the other in a different way.


Examples:

Meghan Trainor, that girl you remember from your freshman year English class

Meghan Trainor, your old babysitter

Meghan Trainor, your older brother’s date for junior prom, if you’re remembering correctly

Meghan Trainor, manga enthusiast

Meghan Trainor, someone who subleased from your friend Casey

Meghan Trainor, owner of an excitable dog named Peaches

Meghan Trainor, that girl who did a weird version of “Janie’s Got a Gun” at your middle school talent show

Meghan Trainor, assistant manager

Meghan Trainor, the person from whom you bought a used box spring back in 2006

Meghan Trainor, someone who maybe added the “h” to her first name in a hesitant attempt at a show business name

Meghan Trainor, mother of four

Meghan Trainor, the assistant pastry engineer at that bakery that was opened up a few years back by your mom’s friend, Mrs. Rosen

Meghan Trainor, the one who was trying to start a dace party at the bar last night

Meghan Trainor, fanfictioneer

Meghan Trainor, barrista

Meghan Trainor, barrista

Meghan Trainor, barrista

Friday, October 24, 2014

Why Sexy Is Stupid

Maybe you’ve done that exercise where you write or say the same word over and over, around a hundred times or so, until you start to find the word strange. It’s kind of like stumbling over the oddness of words like judicial or comfortable while stoned, only you can do this entirely sober. You’re actually inducing jamais vu, déjà vu’s contrarian stepsister. Whereas déjà vu has you imagining that an unfamiliar thing is familiar, jamais vu tricks you into finding the peculiar in something you’re certain you have experienced before.

I experienced this world recently when I had to complete a writing assignment that had me using and re-using the word sexy. In doing so, I realized two things: for one, I don’t use the word sexy very often, and for another, I hate it.

Not to jump back to getting stoned and talking about words, but have you ever noticed what a weird, stupid word sexy is? It’s just the word sex — you know, doin’ it — plus the adjective suffix -y, meaning “related to” or “associated with” or something thereabouts. So at least etymologically, the word sexy just means sex-ish or sex-related. In practice, this makes the word sound rather odd.

For example:


“Hey, what did you think of Sofia Vergara’s dress at the Golden Globes?”

“IT WAS SEXISH. IT WAS RED AND HAD PLACES FOR HER SEX CHARACTERISTICS, SO IT MADE ME THINK OF SEX. I LIKE SOFIA VERGARA’S SEXLIKE COPULATION GARMENT.”

See how that’s weird? Do you agree with me that it’s odd how this clunky, obvious word won out when English had a wide variety of more poetic words to describe the sexually appealing? (Among them: sultry, fetching, seductive, flashy, dazzling, sensuous, dishy, alluring, beguiling, bewitching, intoxicating, enrapturing, enchanting, charming and foxy. I’m leaving off toothsome no matter what the Merriam-Webster thesaurus says.)

In practice, we use sexy to mean more often “sexually attractive” than “sex-related” or “sex-adjacent,” but even that seems strange to me. In the United States, we have so many hang-ups with sex that we feel awkward saying the word, hence the gradual replacement of sex in the “male or female” sense with the grammatically rooted (and therefore decidedly unsexy) gender. Now we talk about people having gender rather than having sex, just so we don’t make anyone feel uncomfortable by reminding them of the primary process of human reproductive and nighttime-enjoyment. And yet sexy has nonetheless become our go-to for describing visual appeal that it’s even crossed over to a generic sense of “is a thing that is good,” as in “a sexy idea” or “this season’s sexiest new car.” To me, this is baffling.

According to Etymonline, sexy has been in use since 1905 and was first documented as meaning “sexually attractive” in 1923 — in reference to Rudolph Valentino.

For example:


“Well, hey there, Mabel. Did you get an eyeful of Valentino on the beach?”

“I’ll say, Ida. That Rudy’s so swell he makes me think about sex. He’s got it, and by ‘it’ I sure mean sex-relatedness. I could see his sex-parts in those trunks, and I enjoyed that, because of the sex. Peckers!”

Etymonline also notes, however, that in this sense sexy replaced the now-discarded word sexful, which is just the most awful thing ever.

For example:

“I am full of sex. I need to let some out. Interested?”

So yes, there are worse alternatives to sexy.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Facial Hair Dysmorphia

My name is Drew, and I feel insecure about my facial hair.


Let me describe for you a cycle that’s been going on for most of my post-pubescent life. Facial hair grows in, and stubble approaches beard status. About a week in, however, I begin to notice imperfections. “Oh, these few hairs don’t lie flat, and it looks patchy over yonder, and hey — have these two sides always been so asymmetrical?” I trim in an attempt to even it out. This maybe lasts a day or so, because when I’m next standing in front of the bathroom mirror, I realize that my attempts to fix the problem only made it worse. Of course, this only prompts me to try again to fix it, and in the end I end up buzzing it all away, back down to stubble, whereupon the cycle begins again.

(And no, clean-shaven is not an option for me. When I shave it off, I think I look like a kid play-acting as a grown-up. It creeps me out.)

Based on that description, you might think I’m critical of facial hair in general, but here’s the thing: I can’t remember the last time I saw some else’s stubble, beard, near-beard or whatever and had anything other than a positive reaction to it. Goatees excepted, I think facial hair better looks better than no facial hair, and I give everyone else a pass that I don’t give myself. At 32 years old, I’m basically good with the way I look and the way my body goes about its processes, but this one in particular I cannot accept. That’s maybe just how most people operate, saving their harshest judgment for themselves, but I’ve gradually become aware of the fact that I focus this harshness specifically on my facial hair.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

With “It” Being Gray Skin and Vision-Obscuring Hair

Gwen Stefani has a new album coming out. This is news that some people will receive enthusiastically, I’d guess. Available data sets lead me to believe it will not significantly affect my life, but I can offer you the following side-by-side.


Am I the only one to see this? It’s the first thing I thought of. And as I keep seeing Stefani’s album cover on social media, it continues to be my only reaction to it.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Foul Horror of the Zombie Sandy Duncan

Presented below is the middle third of the Hogan Family episode “Nightmare on Oak Street,” which horrified me and other unknowing youths who had tuned in expecting to see anything other than the zombie Sandy Duncan.


Yes, Jason Bateman also becomes a zombie, but that’s not what lingered with me: It’s the shot of Sandy Duncan’s ghoul face when she lowers the newspaper.


Looking at it now, it’s hardly scarier than any background alien on Star Trek: The Next Generation, or that show that I resented because it meant the end of weekday cartoons and therefore refused to watch. But at the time this episode aired, I was five years old and had never seen anything actually scary. Zombie Sandy Duncan was, at the time, the scariest thing I’d ever seen, and her horrible face became the thing I would absolutely try not to think about when I was in bed, in the dark, all alone. But I would. To this day, I’ve never been able to hear Sandy Duncan’s name without immediately jumping to this mental image.

All this got dredged up for a piece I did for People on the inexplicably scary episodes that classic sitcoms would sometimes do. As an adult, I get it: Writers like to experiment, to meddle in other genres. But I can still remember the stress of being a child, watching Hogan’s Family and wondering why it wasn’t the experience I wanted. I wonder if current family sitcoms are screwing with kids’ heads in a similar fashion.

And then there’s an awkwardness. This episode aired on November 23, 1987. On September 21, 1987, the show introduced Sandy Duncan’s character, who moved in to care for the boys after their mom, Valerie Harper’s character, died in a car accident. That’s what motivated the name change from Valerie to The Hogan Family. Even considering the behind-the-scenes scuffle that prompted Harper to leave a show that was literally named after her, doesn’t it seem odd that they’d follow up the mom’s death so soon after with an episode with walking corpses?

In conclusion and in summary, the theme song to this show is awesome and I never get tired of it and it pops into my head probably once a week, completely unprovoked and I just today found it that it was sung by Roberta Flack.


And to that point, I add only this: the image of “dippity-dooed” serial killer Blair, from the equally confounding slasher movie episode of The Facts of Life.

facts of life slasher movie blair serial killer

Just in case you never revisited it after its original broadcast and need assurance that yes, this is another strange thing that actually happened, and no, you did not make this up.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Pinker Than Shepherd’s Delight

I’d barely been speeding. Here is a selection from the conversation that I had with the CHP officer who pulled me over.
Officer: So what were you listening to?

Me: I… excuse me?

Officer: When you sped past, you looked like you were listening to your jam. I was wondering what that jam was.

Me: Oh, it was just some dumb song.

Officer: Whose song was it?

Me: It… was a band that calls itself Marina and the Diamonds.

Officer: They sound pretty hardcore.

Me: They’re really not. Just a dumb pop band.

Officer: What was the song called?

Me: “Froot.” It was called “Froot.”

Officer: So if I were to look up Marina and the Diamonds and this song “Froot,” I would be able to listen to whatever you were listening to.

Me: Yes. But it’s not “Fruit.” It’s “Froot.” F-R-O-O-T.

Officer: That’s not how you spell “fruit.”

Me: Yeah, but that’s how she spells it.

Officer: She being Marina?

Me: Yes, sir.
In the end, I was allowed to proceed without a ticket, since my unblemished record and immaculately clean car made me seem like the kind of guy who only needs a warning to correct his bad behavior. Or maybe he just pitied me. Or maybe I just seemed especially harmless.

This, by the way, is the song that led me into a criminal lifestyle. It looks like Pac-Man at a gay rave.



Yes, I did learn all the lyrics. No, that will not get me anywhere. But hey — no ticket.

Previous stories which I allege to be funny:

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Let’s Go Ride a Bike

Hey. I’ve made a new mix of the music I’m listening to this month. Album art below. It’s mostly newer stuff. I hope you enjoy.


If you’d like to listen or download — just right-click any song you like to save — you’ll need the password. I’m happy to give it. Just email me or tweet me or whatever and I’ll hook you up.

And here’s the September mix, in case you want to further take in my own personal soundtrack. The same password will get you into both.

Monday, October 13, 2014

My Murder, She Wrote Conspiracy Theory [Developing]

Without realizing it, I started powering through Netflix’s entire series run of Murder, She Wrote in conjunction with the series’ thirtieth anniversary. I watch an episode or two whenever I have work that doesn’t require too much attention, and as I move ahead through the series, I’ve begun to develop a theory that, much like the theories of evolution or gravity, is impossible for any rational mind to dispute. And no, this is nothing as simple as the trite “What if Jessica Fletcher is actually the killer?” theory. No, this is much deeper than that.


Jessica Fletcher has a seemingly inexhaustible supply of nieces and nephews, all spread across the country and working in every industry imaginable.


Each of these young relatives are, per Jessica Fletcher, incapable of murder but nonetheless associated with murders.


It’s possible that each of these supposed nieces and nephews are actually just Jessica Fletcher’s murder operatives that she's manipulating under the guise of being their kindly, childless aunt.


She used to be an English teacher — so better to brainwash young people into becoming murder drones, obviously.


Jessica Fletcher’s brothers and sisters are seen rarely. I assume she has killed them all in order to raise their children as her murder drones.


People probably suspect Jessica Fletcher of being a murderous mastermind, but they still invite her places because they’re scared of angering her.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Time I Hit a Cat in the Butt With an Orange

I recently finished building a raised wooden planter, and the kale and other leafy greens are just beginning to sprout. To me, it represents the promise of fresh vegetables during the winter months. To the neighborhood stray cats, however, it’s simply fresh, soft dirt that’s not yet cluttered by plants. In other words, it’s a free shitter that I made just for them.

artisanal cat toilet, made from reclaimed wood
I’m trying various deterrents, but the bolder cats don’t care. And while I was in the yard yesterday afternoon, I saw one pawing at the dirt. This rotten dick of cat, who’s the color of rainclouds and who saunters around like a goddamn mafia don, I knew he was not digging for treasure. I yelled at him, but that only prompted him to raise his tail and squat while looking directly at me. Enraged by this willful act of defiance, I did the only thing I could think to do: I grabbed a mostly decomposed orange that had fallen into the yard and slung it in the cat’s general direction.

To cat-lovers, this probably makes me sound like some sort of feline-stomping monster, but I swear to you that my only goal was to hit the wall nearby and scare the intruder away. This did not happen. For one, I have terrible aim. And for another, the cat saw the citric missile coming and turned around to run away. In doing so, he aligned his little kitty asshole right into the orange’s path, and with a spectacular splatter in impacted right on target — squarely onto his asterisk.

He flipped onto his back and then just lied there, with a “what the fuck?” expression on his face in place of the usual “fuck you” one. I felt weirdly embarrassed. Later, I saw him cleaning pulp off his feline... person.

I’d just like to acknowledge that mistakes were made all around.

It’s neither here nor there, but I’d also acknowledge that I built the planter with my own two man-hands. Well, and a saw. And nails. If you have to pick between the two feats, please only credit me for making the planter.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Melanie Griffith Had a Lion

A 1971 photo essay documented Melanie Griffith’s life at home with her unusual pet: Neil, an African lion that Griffith’s family adopted from famed Satanist Anton Lavey. The pictures went viral today, and while my first reaction was to give Melanie Griffith a hug — “Oh, you never had a chance at being normal, did you?” — my second reaction was to improve upon a photo of the family maid attempting to do her job around this considerable obstacle of an animal.


You’re welcome, internet!

“Here, look at this image,” previously:

Thursday, October 09, 2014

The Purported Plagiarism of Bobby Orlando (A Dance Party)

Let me tell you about Bobby Orlando.


In short, he helped shape the music of the ’80s. Orlando is one of the guys credited with inventing the evocatively named “Hi-NRG” sound that helped the dance beats of the ’70s bleed into the synth we associate with the ’80s. Though American, Bobby Orlando’s take on dance music influenced the Euro disco and italo disco genres with which I’m so fascinated. More than a few write-ups on the guy accuse him of some pretty nasty homophobia, and that’s especially interesting because a lot of the music he made got major play in gay clubs. He also worked with Pet Shop Boys and Divine, however, and a schmoe like me who’s just reading second-hand reports about him can’t weigh in on this apparently contradiction one way or the other. However, there are other online rumblings about vague misdeeds too — like this one, claiming to be from singer Roni Griffith herself — and one of the most frequent allegations is plagiarism.

I found out about this earlier this summer when I posted about the odd similarity between Roni Griffith’s “Desire” and The Flirts’ “Passion.” The latter nearly sounds like a cover of the former, but it’s just different enough that “rip-off” seems like a more appropriate term.


However, given that Orlando masterminded both songs as well as both artists, it gets trickier. Did he plagiarize himself? Or was Griffith’s version simply a beta version of the song he finalized a year later?

One reader left a comment on that post that put the similarity in a larger perspective.
Bobby Orlando was notorious for actively working to mimic songs that were hits; Divine's "Love Reaction" is basically just "Blue Monday" redux; The Flirts "On the Beach" sounds like Soft Cell/B-52's collaboration that never was. So there's something strangely reassuring that he would cannibalize his own hits, as well.
And this prompted me to look around online and try to find every instance I could find of someone claiming that a Bobby Orlando creation ripped off some other song. All the results are below, but do take this all the salt you feel appropriate. I’ve been writing online long enough to know that I don’t understand music well enough on a technical level to say “Hey! This ripped off that!” with any authority. This is just what other people online have put together, and I thought they made for interesting side-by-sides. (Special thanks to My Year of Mixtapes for posting the biggest list.)

New Order’s “Blue Monday” (1983) and Divine’s “Love Reaction” (1983)


I’m actually not sure if 1983 is the right year for the Divine track. The version posted above is a re-working of the song. I think this is the original. Regardless, New Order responded to the Divine song live in concert.

The B-52s’ “Private Idaho” (1980) and Barbie and the Kens’ “Just a Gigolo” (1981)


The B-52s’ “Rock Lobster” (1978) and The Flirts’ “On the Beach” (1983)


Blondie’s “Call Me” (1980) and Roni Griffith’s “Hot Lover” (1981)