Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Two Peyton Lists

If you’re like me and still smarting from the loss of Don Draper and company, then the name Peyton List probably calls to mind the actress who played Jane Siegel Sterling on Mad Men. Jane was the weird fusion of Joan and Betty who was briefly Don’s secretary before becoming Roger’s wife. However, if you’re too young for Mad Men or one of those adults who gets off on Disney sitcoms — and you are sick, you sicko — then the name Peyton list calls to mind an entirely different actress, who stars on the Disney Channel sitcom Jessie, which for all I know is about, like, four diverse kids who open a hotel so their band can perform songs or some garbage.

peyton list (left) and peyton list 
Regardless of which one is your primary reference for the name, you should probably know that there are two, just so you don’t read that Peyton List is starring in some new movie and then end up leaving the theater in huff when you find out that it was actually the other one, the one you find emphatically inferior.

To me, a Hollywood-adjacent Los Angeles person, this is very confusing. I was under the impression that the Screen Actors Guilt has strict rules about letting two working actors share the same name, hence why I learned as child to distinguish between Vanessa Williams and the arguably more famous but nonetheless initial-saddled Vanessa L. Williams, hence why Michael Keaton (née Michael Douglas) had to adopt a screen name. And the nearest I can find to anyone noticing this oddity online is this Access Hollywood article, the gist of which is “OMG, younger Peyton. Someone else has your name. Isn’t that ridonk?” and which dismisses the existence of two actresses with the same name with one sentence: “The acting union SAG-AFTRA makes every effort to discourage actors from using the same name but somehow this one slid through.”

The two Peyton Lists also create an awkward situation on Wikipedia, where they’re identified as “Peyton List (actress, born 1986)” and “Peyton List (actress, born 1998),” meaning that they both have their birth year crammed right into their URL and that the Mad Men actress, at only 28 years old, gets to be “old Peyton” literally for the rest of her career. And I don’t doubt for a second that either could end up at an audition only to have the casting director say, “Oh, I’m so sorry. We thought we were getting the other one.”

Not that I’m all that concerned for either, necessarily. No, this is just one of those pop culture mysteries in which something was allowed to happen that conflicts with my understanding of how Hollywood words, like how Law & Order: Los Angeles just didn’t work.

Miscellaneous notes:
  • In case you’re wondering what became of Old Peyton List, she’s currently playing a villain on The Flash and camping it up Julie Newmar-style opposite Wentworth Miller, who’s playing Captain Cold. I love her in this role and am hoping she sticks around.
  • You might think a CW superhero show is a step down for a Mad Men alumna. You might be right, but Old Peyton has decent genre cred: She was previously on The Tomorrow People and Flash Forward as well as having played Lucy Lane on Smallville.
  • Best of all, however, is the fact that on The Flash, she’s playing Captain Cold’s sister, who in the comics is a villain in her own right who wields a pair of magic ice skates that create their own ice, allowing her to skate anywhere. The magic ice skates will probably not appear on the show, but she has inherit the comic book supervillain name: Golden Glider.
  • Finally, there’s a weird Mad Men coincidence: Captain Cold’s real name is Leonard Snart, presumably because the word snart had no meaning when the character was created back in 1957. His sister’s name is Lisa, so that means Old Peyton plays a character named Lisa Snart, which I can barely speak out loud without laughing. Simultaneously, Mad Men January Jones, was appearing on The Last Man on Earth, playing a character named Melissa Shart, presumably because Will Forte knew exactly what that word means. Yep: Lisa Snart and Melissa Shart. Sometimes, the universe just gives you a gift.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Buying a Plunger Is the Worst Thing Ever

Buying a plunger is the worst thing ever because there’s no way to shop for one without telling everyone else who can see you that you have broken your toilet. People don’t just casually shop for plungers. You only go buy one when something horrible has happened to the inner workings of the most valuable chunk of porcelain in your home.

Buying a plunger is the worst thing ever because no one seeing you carry it to the register will assume that you tried to flush a variety of counter wipes that aren’t meant to go in the toilet. No, everyone who sees you buying the plunger will assume that you have a terrible diet and, on top of that, poor judgment of when to pull the chain. They don’t know. They don’t want to know. They just assume.

Buying a plunger is the worst thing ever because you look like a fool for not having already owned one. Seriously, how did you not? It’s an item whose usefulness is easy to overlook but impossible to ignore completely, lest you tempt fate itself. “There’s never going to be a time when a plunger is all that stands between me and a colossal deluge of filth-water rendering my home unsanitary.” That’s what you might as well be saying when you don’t own a plunger. The hubris!

Buying a plunger is the worst thing ever because your reluctance to do so will make you search the house looking for where one might have been hidden. Clearly, if the plunger is not in the bathroom, it simply is not. But you’ll find yourself looking in all manner of out-of-the-way places in hopes that you, perhaps drunkenly, thought to stow it in the cabinet where you keep grocery totes or the shed where you keep lawn implements. You so dread the idea of buying a plunger that you check the shelf of paint cans in the garage, just because you can hallucinate that you saw one there once. You didn’t. There is no plunger.

Buying a plunger is the worst thing ever because it’s impossible to disguise. If you were buying, say, especially narrow condoms to fit your grotesque pencil-dick, you could bury the package beneath other items in you basket. However, this is not an option when you’re buying a plunger, which is large and impossible to hide and flagrantly plunger-shaped at all times.

Buying a plunger is the worst thing ever because the closest place to buy one near your broken toilet house happens to be the grocery store, and on this particular morning the store is oddly populated with handsome shoppers, including this guy who you’ve decided is a bearded, Silver Lake version of the Little Red-Haired Girl from Peanuts. He is dressed nicely. You are wearing cut-offs and a shirt that has paint stains and a hoodie with a hole in one elbow. And you are buying a plunger. You can’t do it, however. You can’t just walk to the register, plunger in hand, so you wander around the store buying an impossible collection of other items — gluten-free bread, cannellini beans, a candle, fish soup that you can heat simply by dropping the package in boiling water, just in case you are camping and you need fish soup — all in an effort to seem like the customer you know doesn’t exist, the kind who goes out for a carefree day of shopping and decides, “Oh! A plunger? Well, I’ve never, but is today the day? Why yes! I think I will buy this plunger, just on a whim. Look at me, a plunger-owner!”

Buying a plunger is the worst thing ever because it ends up costing you twenty-five dollars more than it should have, cannellini beans and all.


But hey — you do have a plunger now, and every time you see it, it will remind you that your bearded Little Red-Haired Girl thinks you the type of guy who breaks his toilet.

A funny story, previously:

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Music for the Opening Credits of an Early ’90s Movie About Los Angeles

I have a song I listen to when I’m driving through Los Angeles around sunset (though not necessarily around Sunset), and I remember for a second that these streets I dread are also the streets I’d seen a thousand times in the movies and TV shows I grew up watching. Ask me if I want to drive near Hollywood Boulevard around rush hour, and I’d reflexively say, “Oh, God. Fuck. Christ. No.” But were I to actually find myself there, stuck in traffic either as a result of my own poor planning or someone else’s, I might take a moment and say, “Holy hell, I actually live here,” and bask in that for a moment, traffic be damned. People willingly come here on vacation, just to see this junky stuff that I take for granted and go out of my way to avoid. That’s worth remembering.

Anyway, this one song is the instrumental version of a Giorgio Moroder collaboration with Human League frontman Philip Oakey. I only heard it for the first time recently, but when I did, it immediately reminded me of so many movies from the late ’80s or early ’90s where L.A. streets, soaked with sun but slammed with cars, are used to set a scene. I always think of it as opening credits, but it could just as easily be closing credits or some montage from the middle.

The Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial kickoff to summer, seemed like as sensible as any day to post. Here, have a listen.



The footage you see comes from this YouTube clip titled “Los Angeles in the ’80s.” There’s also a version of the song with lyrics and vocals by Oakey, but it’s the instrumental version that makes me think of the movie score to some halfway forgotten VHS rental where characters go to fancy Hollywood parties, take in the lights as if they’re seeing them for the first time, and finally learn a lesson about life and living.

Is it just that it sounds like that one song from the Pretty Woman soundtrack? Which itself always reminded me of the Gracie Films logo? Which itself is something I associate very strongly with the Simpsons episodes of the late ’80s and early ’90s?

Friday, May 22, 2015

A Song of Smelt and Herring (Short, Idiotic Fiction by Drew)

Because sometimes you imagine conversations you might have, and things go downhill from there.


No Glens were harmed in the creation of this post.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Forty Questions My Twelve-Year-Old Self Would Have for Me Today

Today I realized that I’d completely failed to make good on a promise I’d made as a twelve-year-old to drive a car with the license plate “BORT.”


(Context, if necessary, but then why are we friends?)

I thought this was a genius idea at the time, and on some level I still do. However, the notion completely fell by the wayside, and I couldn’t help thinking about how twelve-year-old me would have been disappointed in what I was doing with myself two decades later, Simpsons-related activities and otherwise.

Here, then, is how I imagine getting interviewed by twelve-year-old me would go.
  1. Is The Simpsons still on?
  2. Do you write for it?
  3. Why not?
  4. Did you, like, try and they said no or what?
  5. Do you write for a newspaper now?
  6. Why are you laughing?
  7. Well, who do you write for then?
  8. What’s a blog?
  9. How much do you get paid to write for your blog?
  10. Then what else do you do?
  11. You spend how much time gardening?
  12. To what end?
  13. Why not just let the plants grow that actually want to grow and give up on the ones that don’t?
  14. How many dogs do you have?
  15. Are they, like, on order somewhere?
  16. Do you still play video games every day?
  17. Why not, if you still like them?
  18. Does your wife or girlfriend or whatever not let you play video games or something?
  19. Why are you laughing?
  20. Since when?
  21. Then why is this news to me?
  22. No, what about Perfect Tommy in Buckaroo Bonzai?
  23. No, what about John Wesley Shipp on the original Flash series?
  24. No, what about Dolph Lundgren in Showdown in Little Tokyo?
  25. So, like, completely or just sometimes?
  26. And you do all the… things?
  27. Wait, what is that?
  28. And that’s normal?
  29. With a butt?
  30. On purpose?
  31. Are butts in the future different somehow?
  32. Like, was there an advancement in hygiene or something in the future that made this less gross?
  33. Goddamit, why are you laughing?
  34. Well, what’s it like being a nerd in the future?
  35. Really, Green Arrow got his own TV show?
  36. In an expanded superhero universe?
  37. Does Wonder Woman have her own show yet?
  38. Why are you laughing?
  39. Is Princess Toadstool still the only playable female character in Mario Kart?
  40. They call her what now?

Sunday, May 03, 2015

The Unsweetened History of Animaniacs and the First Looney Tunes Star

(Discussed herein: the history of Warner Bros. animation, race in cartoons, the relative lack of female cartoon stars, the awesomeness of Sherri Stoner, the overlooked merits of Tiny Toons.)


If I were asked to compare Tiny Toons and Animaniacs (and I’m apparently asking myself to do that now), I would say that the former was more of a kids’ show and the latter got smarter, weirder, bigger and better. The jokes on Animaniacs stand up today, and the show plays more with the the nature of cartoons, the history of pop culture and Hollywood in general. But Tiny Toons laid all that groundwork, and a lot of the elements that I like so much about Animaniacs — goofing on cartoons, outdated cultural reference, and weird perspectives on show business — also appear in Tiny Toons, just to a lesser degree.

There is one Tiny Toons episode that does these things especially well, and in a way, works as a spiritual predecessor to Animaniacs: “Fields of Honey,” which first aired Nov. 2, 1990. In it, Babs becomes depressed because she has no female Looney Tunes legends to look up to. (She apparently has never heard of Granny or doesn’t consider her a star. Take that, Granny.) While in her school’s film vault, however, she discovers Honey, the female half of a cartoon pair that predates Bugs Bunny, and Babs sets out to find her.



The whole episode plays out as an homage to Field of Dreams, with a mysterious voice directing Babs make Honey’s films known in order to bring her out of hiding. She does this, and the laughter of the audience restores the youth of an old lady in attendance. She turns out to be Honey. And the voice telling her “If you build it…” turns out to be her old partner, Bosko, who had been working in the film vault. Finally reunited, Honey and Bosko dance off together.

It didn’t occur to me until recently how similar the episode is to the premise for Animaniacs, which has Yakko, Wakko and Dot being created in 1930 but deemed too crazy for cartoon audiences. They and their films are locked away, never to be seen again until they escape in modern day (or 1993, which was the modern day twenty-two years ago).



One of the recurring jokes on Animaniacs is that people aren’t sure what the Warner brothers (and sister) are supposed to be. They usually guess that they’re dogs — to which the siblings reply “We’re Warners” — and according to the official series bible, they’re members of the species Cartoonus characterus. But they also look a hell of a lot like Honey and Bosko in that Tiny Toons epsiode: They’re (mostly) black and white in the way that Honey and Bosko are, which is also the way a lot of early “funny animal” cartoons like Mickey Mouse looked too. Dot especially reminds me of Honey. And they’re dog-like, but not explicitly dogs.

There’s even a quick joke in “Fields of Honey” in which Plucky points out that he’s not quite sure what the hell Honey is supposed to be.



The way Buster shushes Plucky may be more significant than it appears to be. Here’s the thing: Honey and Bosko were not initially animals. In his first cartoon in 1929, “Bosko the Talk-Ink Kid,” Bosko is a caricature of an African-American boy and speaks in what Leonard Maltin terms “a southern Negro dialect” in his book Of Mice and Magic.

Here is that cartoon, which is also notable in the way it merges live action, animation and speech.



Friday, May 01, 2015

Why Do You Lock Yourself Up in These Chains?

I’m being a grown-up and staying home tonight to get work done. No, not in the garage. I’m inside the actual house, although I have this whole weird haunted bottle thing going on, and I’m choosing to find it charming.

Tonight’s work involves Wilson Phillips’ 1990 hit “Hold On,” the video for which I had actually not seen, because I have odd gaps in my pop culture experience. So I kicked off my efforts with actually watching the video. Here it is, in case you also had not seen it before.



Isn’t it uplifting? Like, just so thoroughly uplifting?

That was my take-away as I watched it on my laptop in my otherwise darkened house alone on a Friday night. I’m not bitching — like, I made a responsible decision to get work done, so fucking what? — but I just need you to picture how overwhelmingly sad this scene would have looked to anyone who may have passed by one the sidewalk (and yes, someone did in fact pass by on the sidewalk): a single man, alone at his kitchen table on a Friday night, watching the most inspirational hit of 1990 at a considerable volume, ostensibly because he needs the combined powers of Carnie Wilson, Wendy Wilson and Chynna Phillips to find the courage to make it through another day. That’s slightly less sad than, say, trying not to cry as you sing happy birthday to yourself in an empty living room while looking at a picture of a cake you cut out of a magazine when you were a kid, but not by much.

I just wanted to share this, because I thought it was funny how it might look, even if it’s totally not the case at all and I’m doing fine.



Also, if I’m being honest, I’m currently once again wearing a bathing suit in lieu of shorts because I did not have clean underwear. The passers-by maybe didn’t notice this, but you know now!

But I’m fine. FINE.

Fun bonus question: “Hold On” may not have been the most inspirational song of 1990. While nominated for Song of the Year at the 1991 Grammys, it was actually Bette Midler’s “From a Distance” that won. That doesn’t seem right, does it?

Second fun bonus question: Why do I read the band members’ fashion as “lesbionic”? Did it read that way back then? Or did some lesbians just seize on what was current in 1990 and subsequently never evolve?

The Apricot Warning

At my first job in Los Angeles, we had a farmer’s market truck that came once a week. It was like any L.A. food truck but also totally not, because instead of prepared food it had a sampling of whatever produce was available. One week, it had dried Blenheim apricots. Now these are the good apricots, not the sugary garbage ones you see sometimes at Trader Joe’s or those awful Turkish ones that taste like poison and are also poison. I bought a big bag of them.

The guy who drives the truck held the bag away from me before he handed it over. “Now, I have to tell you: You can’t eat all of these in one sitting.”

I looked at the brown paper lunchbag full of dried apricots, which would have been more food matter than anyone could eat in a single sitting. “Yeah, I wouldn’t do that,” I said.

“Okay, I have to tell people,” he said.

“Don’t people know that already?”

“You’d be surprised. I had one guy who came out once specifically to yell at me. Big guy. He bought a bag of dried apricots and apparently ate all of them that day, at his desk.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah, so he was pretty mad because of what happened.”

“I mean, I guess I might be too,” I said.

“I just figured he knew,” he continued. “But people who live in cities maybe don’t know that.”

“Oh, it’s cool,” I responded. “I grew up in central California.”

And with that, he knew I was good to go, gave me a few extra dried apricots and sent me on my way.

The moral of the story is that the next time you make fun of people from rural communities for not being accustomed to your flashy, urban ways, remember that one of your kind once shat himself in his cubicle because he didn’t understand the power of apricots.

That’s it.