Friday, December 30, 2005

Too Expensive to Pixelate in the Pilot

I'm going to quote Kristin Veitch of E! Online news once and only once. And don't read the following if you don't want the upcoming episode of "Arrested Development" spoiled.
William Hung is guest starring. I'm not kidding. Bang bang! In the Jan. 9 episode (which is a full hour long--whoopee!), which also stars Justine Bateman as Nellie Bluth, he will perform at the Bluth family mock trial for the "Hung Jury." Damn, I love that show. We'll also see George Michael and Maebe in a wedding as bride and groom (but it's not what you think), and Judge Reinhold will be the judge. Love. It. Love. It. Love. It!
Veicth's chat transcripts, third item from the top.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Exposed for Your Own Safety

While preparing to move again — the fifth time in the last year-and-a-half — I've come across a lot of things I didn't know I had kept. Here's one of the most interesting:

I scarcely remember the door being removed, much less this letter being written or me swiping it as a keepsake from my London program back in the summer of 2003. But there you have it — the British notion of security involves opening your living quarters to prowlers, jewel thieves and axe murderers.

I'm wondering if any kids from my program know about this blog — Megan and Molly, I'm looking at you — and if so, if they can remind me how we broke the door in the first place. Also: the super's name was "Murch"? "Murch"?!

EDIT: Huh. I looked a few days back at Megan's blog and she just recently put up a post about London too.

Because Josh Did It and I'm Fucking Unoriginal

Taking a note from Josh's blog, these are the first few sentences from the first post of each month in the past year.

January: Here's to You Canada Sue
Boss lady Heather calls me yesterday to tell me that the Flores article with my name on it was the third most read article on National Geographic's news site all year. Yay and all, but the real credit must go to an intrepid little intern whom I call Canada Sue. Of course, I'm still in the byline, so hey.
February: No, It's Not Cold in Here — That's You Dying
We motored down to LA to see Sarah Silverman perform at a comedy place last night. I enjoy how trashy Hollywood is, because anybody who doesn't know better always associates Hollywood with southern California glamor. And Vine Street is pretty scummy. And the venue, which was just called "M," was in a strip mall. Yes, we went to a show in a strip mall on Vine.
March: Super Poochio Bros.
Dear Nintendo,

I love you. Always have, always will. But you're so fucking weird.

April: The Season of SPF 45
Drew and fellow Nexites Dina, Lu and Lauren hopped in the Silver Bullet and motored up to Santa Maria to interview some of the loyal Michael Jackson supporters who stand outside the courthouse. It's for a five-part series I'd like to see called "Whacko for Jacko." A late start, faulty directions and a fundamental misunderstanding of Santa Maria courtroom proceedings, however, have relegated us to returning on Monday to witness the Moonwalk March — a parade protesting what I suppose is the injustice being done to Michael Jackson but what would actually seem to be the process of justice. He is, after all, still a free man — just a free man who has to spend the day at his trial. (Like he had anything else better to do.)
May: Meet Me at the Big Dragonfly
Hipster sweat, it turns out, does smell worse than normal sweat. Defying logic and my vow of "I'm never fucking doing that I again," I went to Coachella last weekend, hence the slight twinge of color in my face, hence my depleted bank account and hence the lack of real posts lately. (Three days to go to the concert and come back, plus one day to sleep off the concert hangover and another to catch up on all the work that didn't get done while I baked in the desert like a biscuit for a good forty-eight hours.)
June: Goo Beth
I broke my promise, sure. But this is too good. Dan Savage, sex columnist for The Onion and a pervy know-it-all who blasts Beth, Kate and Dave out of the semen-stained water, has decided to link Rick Santorum's name with a sexual by-product in order to besmirch the senator's reputation.
July: The POW Box
So how do you condense four days into a handful of brief, waking hours? You go to San Francisco. That's what I did, anyway. Since I got back from the city, I've been dead, more or less. I'm tired. I'm cold and hot, alternately. I'm dizzy. And I'm suffering from the unreasonable fear that I'll turn my upper torso too sharply and snap my spine off from my tailbone.
August: "One Toot on This Whistle..."
Someone got to this blog today by searching the phrase "planting a skittles tree." Turns out this is the only site within the wide-sweeping gaze of Google to include such a phrase. I'm honored, frankly.
September: A Bifurcated Kentucky Colonel
It's amazingly easy to donate money to Hurricane Katrina relief. I rarely push charity on people, but please keep in mind that it would much better karma-wise to just give ten bucks or so to people who really need it rather than spending it on alcohol that you would drink by yourself to escape your problems. Wretch.
October: Color With Remarkable Leg Power
Just in: The word "puce" — meaning a grayish-purple color — literally means "flea-colored." As in, "Your purse is the loveliest shade of flea-color I've ever seen! I adore flea-color!" I couldn't imagine why fleas got their own color name as opposed to, say, any other worthwhile animal.
November: This Is Kids' Stuff
I'm always surprised at what this blog can be. To me, it's generally a forum for the voices in my head — something funny or trivial or the latest cinematic production from Lier X. Aggregate. Since I decided to approve comments, it's become a way for my friends to share this, to some extent, or to call me on my bullshit. And for the creepos with nothing in their lives besides a keyboard, a monitor and a cable modem, this blog serves as a way for them to peer into the life of a total stranger.
December: Richard Grieco Is My New Landlord
Normally, I like to keep this blog as busy as possible. Looking at the previous entry, I realize that I have not written in nearly two weeks. For this, I’m sorry, but I feel my current circumstances are a pretty good excuse.

The Big Purple Thing That Isn't Barney the Dinosaur

So this has been plaguing me since, oh, I was seven or so. In the world of the McDonald’s mascots, each of Ronald McDonald’s acquaintances has some clear association with the food products his restaurant sells. The Hamburglar steals hamburgers. Mayor McCheese is a cheeseburger. The Fry Kids are made of French fries. And Birdie the Early Bird, horrifically, would appear to be unprocessed Chicken McNuggets. But exactly what is Grimace? McDonald’s sells no products that are purple or pear-shaped, but there he is nonetheless, all stupid and clumsy and purple and antithetical to the very fiber of the McDonaldland existence. (Please keep in mind that I was the same kid who was frustrated by the liberal interpretation of Santa Cruz geography in “The Lost Boys.”) Recently, I did some research and learned the story behind Grimace, seen below clutching a yellow feather for reasons I’ll never know.

Apparently, Grimace was created originally as a McDonaldland villain. Called “The Evil Grimace,” this purple meanie — whose name makes a hell of a lot more sense in the context of being evil — initially had four arms, all the better for stealing McDonald’s milkshakes, his addiction to which ostensibly drove him to a life of crime. I suppose this then would explain what Grimace’s food association is, though if he looks like anything that goes into McDonald’s shakes — and I wouldn’t be surprised if he did — I think I’m going to be sick. Note the next illustration, which depicts the Evil Grimace.

Like Smurfette or Donkey Kong, Grimace switched over to the good guy side shortly after his debut. No longer evil, he instead became clumsy and slow-witted — and also Ronald’s best friend. (You know how to pick ’em, Ron.) He’s been confusing inquisitive McDonald’s patrons ever since.

The mystery of Grimace has been explored by several websites in the past few years. Ask Yahoo ran an item on it, but also concluded that Grimace is, in fact, nothing. (The writer also likens Grimace’s lack of a clear species to Disney’s Goofy and Gonzo of the Muppets, noting “Maybe all this ambiguousness has something to do with the letter ‘G.’”) A website called The Straight Dope also tackled the question, with more amusing results. Cecil Adams, the site’s letter-answerer contacts a McDonald’s spokeswoman, who reads from the official McDonald’s description.
Grimace personifies the child in everyone… He is Ronald [McDonald]'s special pal. Everyone loves Grimace because of his innocent loving nature. He occasionally causes trouble in McDonaldland because he is clumsy, but his friends overlook this because he is so happy.
Adams continues:
You are gagging, I expect. So am I. [Spokeswoman] Jane Hulbert is… well, Jane is doing her best to be professional about this, but it's a struggle. Here's more: Hamburglar is a “fun-loving prankster.” The Happy Meal Guys are the “fun-loving personification of the hamburger, soft drink, and fries that compose the Happy Meal.” CosMc is a “wacky fun-loving alien who came to McDonaldland from outer space” and is “part vehicle and part creature.” (“I can't believe they pay me to read this,” Jane muttered at this point, but we promised we wouldn't tell the Kroc family.)
Perhaps the best results of such an investigation were yielded Ben Kosima at The Rubber Chicken. Instead of contacting McDonald’s directly, Kosima emailed a multitude of celebrities, including George W. Bush, the Olsen Twins, the Ninja Turtles, Cousin Oliver from “The Brady Bunch” and the guy who inspired Kramer from “Seinfeld.” Kosima’s conclusion: Grimace is a giant, cloned beetroot.

Well, I thought it was funny. And for the record, no, I don't know who the sailor-capped dog in the first Grimace image is, and I vow to never dedicate a blog post to finding out.

Your Blog's Own Bible Twin

As part of my never-ending quest to eat up the time so spend online, please enjoy the following links.

One: The upright Mr. Shack, formerly of the bookstore and newly of the Nexus reception desk, has added a link to my blog on his own. It's only courtesy that I return the favor. Now make yourself acquainted with Caffeinated Perceptions, which shall henceforth be a member of the extended Cereal Box family.

Two: To my own detriment, I've been a regular reader of the Drudge Report for the past three years or so. As of today, however, I've also perused four different Drudge Report parody sites: the Drudge Retort, the Drunk Report, the Sludge Report and the Smudge Report.

And three: A recent post by our friend Dina-Dina Canklesaurus has revealed an interesting phenomenon regarding Blogspot sites. Apparently, any Blogspot site — mine, Dina's and probaly yours, if you're wasting time reading this — has a mirror site. It's at the same address as the Blogspot site, minus an "s." Observe, the address for this site has always been <>. However, if one accidentally types <> — that's "blogpot," as in "blog marijuana" or "blog toilet" or something — you end up here. It's the same site for every "blogpot" address. For example:
As near as I can tell, nothing happens when you mistype in an address on the Livegurnel network.

People Who Can Appreciate a Good Joke

Bad news for my regulars: blog traffic has recently dropped by nearly half. Interestingly, the drop didn't happen until the 25th. And rather than continuing to plummet, the numbers have stayed around 20 hits per day ever since. I can also see that holidays like Christmas Eve didn't really make a dent in blog traffic, while the days of Hanukkah have. Readership was the same on the 24th and before, yet in the wake of Christmas — which coincides with the big H this year — the numbers are down. Thus, I conclude that most of my readers are not checking in because they are celebrating Hanukkah, which means my fanbase is predominantly Jewish.

Hurray for Jews!

Tomb of the Unknown Hitchhiker

What my holiday looked like — minus humans.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Medusa Meets Monty Python

Perhaps you've noticed my tendency to discuss odd tidbits of popular culture, sometimes in groups that wouldn't necessarily seem to go together and sometimes in groups that don't go together. I like these little pieces of random and I think it shows.

Last week, I came across and article that namechecks, among other things, Medusa, the basilisk, "The Ring," a Monty Python sketch, Stendhal Syndrome, Lady Godiva, a song called "Gloomy Sunday" and that creepy "Red Room" Flash site that allegedly infatuated my new little friend, Nevada-tan. These subjects wouldn't readily seem to share any quality warranting their presence in the same article. And before I read the Wikipedia entry on "Motif of harmful sensation," I wouldn't have expected anything other than something I wrote to include them all, either.

To explain, the motif of harmful sensation is a rather clunkily named phenomenon in which a person is killed or otherwise harmed simply by perceiving something, usually visually or aurally. For example, the video tape in "The Ring" causes people to die, whereas most video tapes do not. Looking at Medusa's face also kills people — though, by turning them to stone, though I suppose that total body petrification should kill someone as well. Looking at most other people, however, does not result in this effect.

I have been aware of this notion for some time, and even been attracted to it, though I never thought to put a name to it or anything. (If I had, I think I would have picked something better than "motif of harmful sensation." Maybe something like "thing-that-isn't-usually-bad-is" or "bad perception thing" or "gooberstumpis" or something.) The motif of harmful sensation, as the Wikipedia calls it, is quite an old concept that has arisen repeatedly in various world cultures.

Notable examples:
  • Like Medusa, the mythical medieval animal called the basilisk, a bird-looking serpent that could turn people to stone just by looking at them.
  • There's a plant called the mandrake that supposedly emits a human-like shriek when it is plucked. The shriek causes instant death.
  • The Stendhal syndrome is a supposedly documented effect in which people become dizzy or ill after viewing a painting or other work of art that they find particularly dazzling.
  • The Chuck Palahniuk novels Lullaby and Diary. In the former, hearing the lyrics to a certain song causes instant death. In the latter, a woman's drawings cause a severe form of Stendhal syndrome.
  • "Gloomy Sunday," also known as the "Hungarian Suicide Song," a little ditty that purportedly drove scads of Hungarians to kill themselves. (I've actually heard the Billie Holiday version of the English translation and like it quite a bit.)
  • The whole thing with the number of God in that movie "Pi."
  • A Monty Python sketch in which the British invent a joke so funny that anyone who hears it will die laughing. The joke is then used as a weapon against the Germans in World War II.
Best part of all, the article also mentions that creepy haunted eBay painting. In fact, the only glaring omission I see is that episode of "The Tick" in which the Queen of the Ottoman Empire tried to steal the Most Comfortable Chair in the World, a seat so accommodating that anybody who sits it in is unable to leave it of their own volition. But that might be different. Maybe.

I'm not sure why I find this so fascinating, but I think it might have something to do with that fact that these things, if they existed, would be forbidden to be perceived — unless you had a death wish, of course. So on top of never being able to see them because they're not real, I would be dead if I had seen them. Shoot.
[ link: the full article ]

In Which Drew Does Not Discuss the Holidays in Any Significant Respect

When I thought about what kind of post I should write on Christmas, I considered making some joke about the fact that the first night of Hanukkah is today. You know — something like, "Hey Jews! Way to finally fall in line with the rest of us and worship the Jesus baby." That joke seems even stupider now than when I thought of it a few weeks ago. So I thought some more and decided that there's really nothing I can say about this holiday that wouldn't sound trite. It's Christmas, for God's sake. (Literally.) What can I possibly say that nobody else has?

After we all felt too full of Christmas dinner to talk or think, my family decided to go see "The Family Stone" at the theater. Typical Jews-on-Christmas activity, I know, but once all the presents are unwrapped and the leftovers are vacuum-sealed into tiny containers, there's honestly not that much for the Christians to do either. Television on Christmas is appalling and the build-up of this holiday always yields a quasi-coma once it's finally blown past.

So instead of anything holiday related, I'm just going to write about going to the movies. On a day that's supposed to be special, why shouldn't I dwell on one of my favorite activities in the world?

I had a roommate sophomore year whose father didn't believe that going to the movie theater was good, financially, socially or — I suspect — even morally. He told me that his father explained the whole deal as a scam. To paraphrase: "It just doesn't make any sense to spend the money on a ticket for everyone when you can eventually just rent the movie for a few bucks a short time later." Also: "Watching movies at your house is better because you don't have to pay for food and you don't have to deal with obnoxious people who talk the whole time." As this theory was expounded, I wondered at what point his father's words had squirmed into his ears and taken an unquestioning residence in his brain.

I just can't agree.

To me, going to the movies is an activity I regard with the same reverence some people hold religious services. Like church, the movie theater is a place I can go and put life on hold for however long the movie is. You sit in this dark room with strangers and hopefully one or two loved ones, yet you all get to enjoy this narrative that's presented before you. You don't have any distractions in front of you. (And I should note that the strangers I've shared a theater with have generally exhibited manners. Maybe I'm lucky.) Alternatively, watching a movie at home usually results in people walking through the viewing room, talking on the phone, loudly doing dishes. It's irritating but understandable — you watch a video at a house, where people are meant to live. The theater, conversely, is meant for movies only. It's this weird location that's entirely devoted to being quiet and doing nothing but concentrating on what a bunch of people somewhere decided was a story that you should see. And in that way, it's just so much more special.

The movie I watched today was good. Not great, but a very certain kind of good that I needed. (It's also so much deeper and subtle than the trailers made it seem, which is one of the best surprises I can get when I go to the movies.) But on that level, even the quality of a movie doesn't really matter. To steal an idea I liked in "The Dreamers," which I also saw recently and liked, it doesn't matter what kind of movie I watch. Any movie, any genre, good or bad — it's still going to the movies. I was telling my dad before the movie started about this, and though my dad likes the movies he can't quite agree with me. Maybe I'm special, but even if I sit through a bad movie, I still got to see a movie. And that's almost always better than not seeing one.

The only downside I see of going to the theater is the very end. Sometimes, I can sit in the theater and soak in what I just saw. Like on Thursday night, I saw "Syriana" with Caitlyn and we just talked about it while the credits scrolled into the ceiling. Today, however, my folks wanted to race to the parking lot as soon as the director's credits popped up. They even skipped out the side exit instead of going though the lobby. (The lobby lights and the bathroom lines and the smell of popcorn at least give me some closure if I'm leaving the theater in a hurry.) To be into this movie — this narrative, this little world I saw two hours of — and then to be ripped out is a traumatic little premature birth. Snap your fingers and that world's gone and you're you and people are stepping over you and where did you park the car, anyway? The effect, of course, only lasts for a few moments.

Outside, however, it has started raining. The thing outside the movie box had transformed from a brisk late evening to full-on night complete with rain. And I love that, too. I'm going to steal from another movie — like I don't do that enough already — and recall a line that went something like, "You see a movie, then you step outside and the whole world is different." And so often, I feel like that's true. Not in some schmaltzy way where the movie changes the viewer as a person or anything like that, but just in a literal way. It's two hours or so, and the weather and the time keeps moving on, even if you're not aware. I wish I could even remember what movie that line came from. It could very well be "Pennies From Heaven" with Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters, but I'm honestly not sure. ("Pennies From Heaven," by the way, is an underrated movie entirely worth your time, if you're interested.)

I'm driving back to Santa Barbara tomorrow afternoon, and I think I'll con someone into seeing a movie with me. It's not that I'm that unhappy with the world around me right now, but there's no harm in taking a two-hour break from it and seeing what will happen when it resumes.

Oh, and my only real complaint about "The Family Stone": the gay, deaf son with the black boyfriend is the most contrived, most give-me-sympathy, most put-together-despite-hardships character in recent memory. I hated him. Luckily, he wasn't in the movie much.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

The Painter of Blight

Currently, I'm reading Joan Didion's Where I Was From. It drags in places, but this memoir of her childhood in California-cum-Golden State trivia tidbit history lesson makes some interesting points. About Leland Stanford. About The Gold Rush. About the transcontinental railroad. And, surprisingly enough, even about my hometown, Hollister.

But easily my favorite part is Didion's description of Thomas Kinkade, the man who calls himself "the painter of light," and who became my hometown's neighbor in the past few years. Didion draw a parallel between Kinkade’s work and the apparently commonplace practice of glossing over California’s history of hardship with a sweeter, more idealized version of the actual events — kitsch in the Milan Kundera sense. But her description of the paintings themselves nails their utter shittiness better than I ever could.

Sayeth the Didion:
A Kinkade painting was typically rendered in slightly surreal pastels. It typically featured a cottage or a house of such insistent coziness as to seem actually sinister, suggestive of a trap designed to attract Hansel and Gretel. Every window was lit, to lurid effect, as if the interior of the structure might be on fire.
Perfect. She got it just fucking perfect. I’m quickly becoming enamored of this woman.

Merry Date Rape: The Truth About Bing Crosby's "It's Cold Outside"

I've been prepping for the holidays by breaking my tradition of avoiding Christmas music. (Bless you, Vince Guaraldi.) However, various factors have led me to the conclusion that the Christmas favorite "Baby It's Cold Outside" is, in fact, about date rape.

The most popular rendition of the song features Bing Crosby as the rapist and Doris Day as the victim who asked for it. As proof of my findings, I present the full lyrics to "Baby It's Cold Outside." Since the song is a duet, I've decided to put the man's lyrics in parentheses. And to hammer home the point, I will also interject my comments, which are indented.

I really I can’t stay
(But baby, it’s cold outside)
I’ve got to go away
(But baby its cold outside)
The woman has established that she wants to leave. The man is trying to convince her otherwise. RAPE!
This evening has been so very nice
(I’ll hold your hands — they’re just like ice)
Hold you hands — in my pants.
My mother will start to worry!
(Beautiful, what’s you hurry?)
And father will be pacing with fury
(Listen to the fireplace roar)
She wrongfully believes that her status as a rape victim will shame her family.
So really I better scurry!
(Beautiful, please hurry)
Well maybe just a half a drink more
Roofie colada.
(Put some records on while I pour)
The neighbors might think
(Baby, its bad out there)
Say, what’s in this drink?
Roofies. Lots of roofies.
(No cabs to be had out there)
I wish I knew how to break the spell
(Your eyes are like starlight now)
Glazed from the roofies.
I’ll take your hat
(Your hair looks swell)
I ought to say no! no! no!
And she is.
(Mind if I move in close?)
At least I'll say that I tried.
"Rape schmape. I give up easily, apparently."
(What’s the sense of hurtin’ my pride?)
I really can't stay
(Baby, don’t hold out)

But it’s cold outside!

I simply must go
(But baby it’s cold outside)
The answer in no
He knows. He ain't listening.
(But baby it’s cold outside)
This welcome has been so nice and warm
(Look out the window at that storm!)
My sister will be suspicious!
(Your lips look delicious!)
How is she still standing after all those roofies?
My brother will be there at the door!
"Waiting to hit me for being a whore."
(Waves upon a tropical shore!)
My maiden aunt’s mind is vicious
"Maiden aunt"? What the hell?
(Gosh, your lips are delicious!)
Well maybe just a cigarette more
(Never such a blizzard before)
I’ve got to get home!
(But baby, you’ll freeze out there!)
Say lend me a coat?
He's not gonna give you any more clothes, honey.
(It’s up to your knees out there)
Her knees would be much warmer on the carpet.
You’ve really been grand!
(I thrill when you touch my hand)
"And even more if you'd touch my penis."
But don’t you see?
(How can you do this thing to me?)
"Don't be like that, baby."
There’s bound to be talk tomorrow
(Think of my lifelong sorrow!)
At least there will be plenty of implied
We're way beyond implication here.
(If you caught pneumonia and died!)
I really can’t stay!
(Get over that old out)
But baby it’s cold outside!

The message: though it may be cold outside, nothing beats the warm embrace of non-consensual sex.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

They Call Him "Drippy"

Yes, Uncle Boofus, I have updated my photos on my Flickr account. Oh, what that, you old cow? You don't believe me? Then how, dear woman, do you explain this?

It's the photographic evidence of an unfortunate collision between Twyla's tea kettle and my short attention span. Turns out Mr. Kettle doesn't like being deprived of water. Honestly, the incident was one of the more disturbing in recent memory. Instead of a cheerful whistle to announce the water having boiled, I walked into the kitchen, smelled burned metal and heard the noise of air escaping through the molten plastic cap. Needless to say, it sounded like farts.

The rest of them are posted on the first page of my Flickr account. But while I'm on the subject, I've noticed that certain photos in my collection are almost never viewed. I'm not sure why. Could be that these particular photos suck. Could be that people are racist. I don't know anything, really. But what I do know is that by linking to the pictures here and tricking people like you into clicking, I can make it look like Flickr cruisers actually do care about my work.
  • "What is it?" you ask. "It's a cattle squeeze," I reply. "What the fuck is a cattle squeeze?" you ask. And I am speechless.
  • When I ate it, It made me see Jesus. He had snakes for eyes.
  • The rotting corpse of a baseball — one that I or someone I knew may have knocked into the brush, years ago.
  • The story: for my birthday years ago, J-Cubed bought me a dinosaur from a used toy store. It had a tag on it that said "Works" — complete with the quotation marks and everything, so I guess it actually said "'Works.'" When you turn him on, a little motor makes a noise, but nothing happens. Thus, it "works."
  • Winter sunset at the Pasado House.
  • Cory's old beach blanket, hanging on the Pasado House clothesline.
  • "Little light shining in the window / lets me know everything's all right." More or less.
  • Green and swirly.
  • Lavender and swirly.
  • Rainy, paney sideview mirror.
Clicky clicky. That's an order.

Friday, December 16, 2005

The Only Way to Win

A few weeks ago, work was playing an album of TV themes. In addition to the happiness of putting books on shelves to the tune of “The A-Team” and “The Facts of Life,” this music also reminded me of when I first heard the lyrics to “M*A*S*H.” On the show, the theme is presented in a purely instrumental form — and probably for the best, seeing as how the lyrics are some of the most depressing I’ve ever heard.

Here are the lyrics of the song. Oh, by the way, the title is “Suicide Is Painless.”
Through early morning fog I see
Visions of the things to be
The pains that are withheld for me
I realize and I can see that…

Suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it if I please.

I try to find a way to make
All our little joys relate
Without that ever-present hate
But now I know that it's too late and…


The game of life is hard to play
I'm gonna lose it anyway
The losing card I'll someday lay
So this is all I have to say.


The only way to win is cheat
And lay it down before I'm beat
And to another give my seat
For that’s the only painless feat


The sword of time will pierce our skins
It doesn't hurt when it begins
But as it works its way on in
The pain grows stronger — watch it grin, but...


A brave man once requested me
To answer questions that are key
Is it to be or not to be
and I replied “Oh, why ask me?”
It’s a small joy that I get out of such morbid, maudlin lyrics are an integral part of such an American TV show. I mean, come on — “The sword of time will pierce our skins”? “A brave man once requested me / to answer questions that are key”? That’s not just bad writing. That’s hilariously bad writing from an angst-ridden twelve-year-old. This song is so cliché that Marilyn Manson does a cover of it.

But that’s me — just tainting nostalgia any chance I can get. Hope it turns out that the theme to “Bonanza” has startlingly homoerotic lyrics.

Shambles, Brambles: Adam Green Fucks With the Mind of "Jessica Simpson"

So Spencer’s turned me on to Adam Green, a singer-songwriter who might be more properly described as a songspeaker-songwriter, as he frequently verges on the monotone. Nonetheless, he has amusingly ridiculous lyrics that I enjoy. Case in point: his ode to Jessica Simpson, titled “Jessica.”

The lyrics:
Jessica Simpson,
Where has your love gone?
It’s not in your music, no.
You need a vacation

To wake up the cavemen
And take them to Mexico.


Jessica, Jessica Simpson

You've got it all wrong.
Your fraudulent smile,
The way that you faked it the day that you died.

My body's in shambles

Encrusted with brambles
That sharpen the air I breathe.
What's on the menu?

Jessica can you
Take down my order please?


Tomorrow gets closer
A purple bulldozer
Is calling you on the phone.
Your lovelife precedes you

Your son-in-law feeds you
Injections of Cortisone.

Altogether wonderful. The song is readily available for download and I suggest you get it without delay. But Spencer has this sick fascination of the song getting airplay in Los Angeles and Jessica Simpson actually picking hearing it as she’s driving on the freeway.

“Why?! Why am I receiving calls from a purple bulldozer?” she’d think to herself. “Why is this person doing this? Oh, I’ll call Ashlee. She’s artsy. She knows about this kind of music.”

Great stuff.


The best position I can be in is the one where I can't tell which of two things creepier. So what's worse: a haunted painting or a prepubescent murderer? A probably hoax or a genuine internet phenomenon?

I found out about these two subjects — Nevada-tan and “The Hands Resist Him,” respectively — after I woke up this morning and began my all day of do-nothing, which I feel I’ve earned. I ended up on Wikipedia, which is generally a sinkhole for spare time. Sometimes, however, time spent there turns up something interesting. This is what I’ve got.

First up: Nevada-tan.

Also known as “Nevada-chan” in some circles, “Nevada-tan” is the name given to an underage Japanese murderer, who slashed a schoolmate’s neck with a boxcutter in 2004. Japanese law prevents the release of juvenile criminals, so all court proceedings just referred to the murderer as “Girl A.” That’s not catchy, of course, so people eventually took to calling her “Nevada-tan” after the distribution of a photograph of her wearing a blue hoodie from the University of Nevada.

A kid killing another kid is sad enough, I’ll admit, but when you really start to look at this case, it gets into your head and rolls around in an uncomfortable manner not unlike an especially slimy millipede that might have burrowed into your brain. Though Nevada-tan was only eleven years old at the time, she apparently was adept enough with web programming to make her own site. (The site has long been taking down, of course.) However, she styled the sit in the aesthetic mold of a scary, “Ringu”-meets-“FeardotCom” Flash movie called “The Red Room.” (Click if you want, and just keep clicking — it’s all in Japanese, and I can’t tell if understanding none of it makes it more or less scary.)

And then there’s the worst of it. For reasons I’ll never understand, this little killer has become quite an internet celebrity. In Japan, she’s had quite a few songs written about her. But she’s also the subject of some anime-style drawings. They’re all the same. Cute, in that big-eyed cartoonish sot of way, but always clutching a knife and always grinning maliciously. (Examples: here and here and here — and that’s just for starters.) It’s also apparently a thing-to-do to dress up like Nevada-tan. In fact, the University of Nevada had to stop selling the particular sweatshirt when they realized so many people from the other side of the world wanted it.

See? Millipede of grossness.

But then there’s this painting — “The Hands Resist Him.”

I don’t know quite what to make of it, other than the fact that it pushes deep — past what I usually consider unnerving and into something that I’d rather not think about a night. This painting, better known online as the “haunted eBay painting,” depicts a child and a nearly life-size child doll standing in front of a glass door against which some spooky phantom hands are pressed. The man who painted it — Bill Stoneham, who did so in 1972 — claims no understanding of how the alleged ghosts got into “The Hands Resist Him,” only that the painting is some extended Jungian metaphor.

Nonetheless, things got strange.

The painting drew attention in February of 2000 when an eBay user posted it for auction. These are some selections from the item description:
When we received this painting, we thought it was really good art. A “picker” had found it abandoned behind an old brewery. One morning our four-and-a-half-year-old daughter claimed, that the children in the picture were fighting, and coming into the room during the night…

After three nights there were pictures. The last two pictures shown are from that 'stakeout'. After seeing the boy seemingly exiting the painting under threat, we decided, the painting has to go. This painting may or may not possess supernatural powers, which could impact or change your life. However, by bidding you agree to exclusively bid on the value of the artwork, with disregard to the last two photos featured in this auction, and hold the owners harmless in regard to them and their impact, expressed or implied…

As I have had several questions, here the following answers. There was no odor left behind in the room. There were no voices, or the smell of gunpowder, no footprints or strange fluids on the wall. To deter questions in this direction, there are no ghosts in this world, no supernatural powers.

This is just a painting, and most these things have an explanation, in this case probably a fluke light effect. I encourage you to bid on the artwork, and consider the last two photographs as pure entertainment, and please do not take them into consideration when bidding.
So yeah — apparently there’s photos of the painting monsters in motion, which you can see here, yet what’s there just looks like the regular painting being strongly backlit. Also, the thing in the girl’s hand is clearly not a gun. It looks more like a bomb.

Odd, I think. The painting did eventually sell — and with this kind of marketing campaign, how could it not? — and the person who purchased it granted an interview with some of the paintings online fans. It’s here, at the bottom of the page. For the click-hesitant, let me tell you here and now that he hasn’t seen anything unusual yet.

So that’s the news for today. Now which is creepier: Nevada-tan or “The Hands Resist Him”?

(Now accepting votes.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Richard Grieco Is My New Landlord

Hi and apologies, all.

Normally, I like to keep this blog as busy as possible. Looking at the previous entry, I realize that I have not written in nearly two weeks. For this, I’m sorry, but I feel my current circumstances are a pretty good excuse.

You see, I returned home from work on the evening of December first and found my condo deserted. I walked in, attended to my usual post-work bowel movement and then headed towards my bedroom. Immediately upon entering, however, I heard a strange noise from the kitchen, on the other side of the apartment — a thump from inside the refrigerator, like the sound of a carton of milk taking a spill. I had nearly turned to investigate when I was struck in the back of my knees by the seat of my office chair.

I fell backwards into its seat, then promptly felt myself being spun around 180 degrees and deposited on the floor in front of the television. I rolled over, barely in time to get my bearings when I saw the TV click on — that fucking metal detector commercial — and then watched as the TV inched its way over the edge of its stand and fell onto me.

Now, my TV is not small. Corner to corner, it runs about thirty inches. And the screen being on against my face made this weird staticky feeling that was also unpleasant. But that was far less of a problem then the weight of the thing. That hurt. Bad. I tried to push the set off my chest, but I couldn’t. Weak forearms. I tried wriggling out from beneath, only to have my bookcase crash onto me.

I batted falling books away from my face, and with a good swing, knocked the main support boards out from case. The case pivoted on its good side, but I swung my free arm again, crumbling its cheap Ikeafiber frame.

With the momentum of that struggle, I managed to pull myself from beneath the TV, which had started shaking about on the floor. I scarcely had time to climb over it when I saw my dresser wobbling towards me, leaning from one side to the other like a fat woman trying to dance. I yelled. That didn’t help. Though my furniture can apparently voluntarily move, it can’t hear.

I stood face-to-face with my dresser — like, if the dresser had a face — and tried to push it back, only to have the shirt drawer pop out at my fist. It hurt. I tried again, but the pants drawer on the bottom popped a good one at my shin — then the sweater drawer went straight for my midsection. That knocked the wind out of me, and while I was bent over, the sock drawer started popping out at my face, rapid fire-style. The knobs caught me in the mouth a few times, nailing my teeth. Also, socks were flying everywhere. It was a mess.

Not a moment later, I felt my leg jerked out from under me. Snared by the power chord to the lamp, which promptly hurled itself at my face. It missed, only shattering against the back of the TV, which had by then begun jerking violently in what I believe was an effort to right itself in order to drop onto me once again. By pulling on the doorframe with my one good hand, I yanked myself up and out into the hallway, closing the bedroom door behind me.

Outside, I was immediately greeted by the vacuum cleaner — the one with the swirling cyclone action, formerly known as the good one. I dove to the side as this kamikaze Hoover flung itself into Twyla’s door, just where I had been standing moments before. The plastic front wheels shattered and the dirt cup spilling out its dusty contents, the thing almost looked pitiful.

I raced down the hall, just in time to see the living room sofa slide to block the front door — the only way out. The slender antique side table where Twyla keeps her dry flower arrangements toddled over to me, almost timidly, and sending the vase crashing to the floor in the process. I roundhouse kicked the little guy and he splintered.

The remaining living room set began to collect in front of the door. That weird antique reading lamp — the one I always thought looked sinister — swayed its head in a way I could only interpret as a direct threat to my personal well-being. I knew I didn’t want to tangle with the rest of the furniture, so I thought about escaping through the dining room window. As I turned, however, I saw the refrigerator lurching out of the kitchen. It walked like a linebacker, and I had just begun to take a few steps back when the whole thing turned to face me — again, if it had a face — a barreled towards me at a ferocious speed.

I don’t remember much about what happened next, but our Tundra 406-model Frigridaire met me somewhere in the middle of the living room with the combined anger of dozens of lost leftovers and forgotten frozen entrees. I flew backwards, through the curtains and the window, and continued, airborne, until gravity insisted I make contact with the cement in the courtyard. There, some neighbors found me — bloody and covered in the remains of the living room windows. I apparently warned them not to go inside. Go figure.

I’m writing this blog entry with the assistance of a disabled people typing machine. It’s great, though I admit I’m a little wary of it and the orthopedic hospital bed I’m presently lying in. The doctor told me that in addition to the crack in the back of my skull I sustained from the fall, I have five broken ribs, bruised cartilage in my nose, a bruises pelvis, lacerations to my face, neck and hands. I still have all my teeth, just not in their former full-length glory. When I run my tongue over them, it’s this sharp but even ridge until the back, at which point it sharply jumps up back to its usual level.

So that’s why the Cereal Box has been out of commission lately. I hope you all won’t hold it against me. But please: let me warn you against your furniture and appliances. The things you use every day when you sit and type and use the bathroom. In fact, you may be sitting on them and typing on them and going to the bathroom into them as you read this.

They are mad.

They resent being used as objects — hence their suddenly becoming subjects — and they will turn on you.

When I get better, I’m going to get a group together to move out of our homes and stay in treehouses somewhere remote. Because when you really think about it, it would be better in a lot of ways.

[ why have you come to our lonely, small town, which has no post office and very few exports? ]

Lagoon Phone

How else should you deal with stress? Call 805 562-9054. It's the number for the payphone near the lagoon. Call it at ten to the hour on weekdays to fuck with people on their way to class. Or call on Friday or Saturday night and fuck with freshman walking to I.V. to party.

The best so far: pretending I'm an enraged parent looking for my daughter.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

I Stole the TV

If you would like to see the real-life inspiration for the woman who inspired Jerri Blank of "Strangers With Candy," click the link at the end of this post. I shit you not.
[ link: Meet Florrie Fischer ]

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Off She Went

Read the title. Note the sidebar.

Dim Lights, Small City

So Drew finally learned how to change how long the shutter on his camera stays open. This may not mean much to you. It wouldn't have to me, not long ago. But now I know, and I'll tell you. When the shutter opens for an especially long time — say, fifteen seconds instead of the usual one-hundredth of a second — more light gets into the camera. In normal lighting, this results in a nice, white rectangle. At night, however, this allows me to take photos in almost complete darkness. Whether the human eye sees it or not, there's still light there. Given enough time, even the smallest amount of light makes a picture.

Twyla's balcony. The crappiness of the adjoining condo complex looks almost good — colorful and resort-like.

The homestead, all bright and shiny. Me and the border collie are making a transparent cameo. And I like that.

More me and dog ghosts, complete with pretty blue cell phone trail. I believe this was taken during a phone call I took from Spencer.

The backyard. I like this because Hollister looks like it's on fire. It wasn't. But hey — there's me! All creepy and see-through! Ditto for the next two.

If I had planned this right, I could have made it look like I was kicking my own ass.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Miss Fresh Face Teen America

Because this blog double-functions as a means of updating readers to the doings of former roommates, this post will concern Brie, also known as Redhead Brie, France Brie or My-Stomach-I-Think-It's-Cancer Brie. Apparently impressed with the faux MySpace profile I made for Jill — add her if you haven't yet — Brie asked me to write her "About me" blurb. I made Jill a Tucson fishwife with an abnormal fixation on Shelley Long and trains. I took Brie in another direction.

Here's the first draft:
About me:

I really can't talk about myself without talking about MY WONDERFUL KIDS!!! I know a lot of people think it's not "cool" to be an unwed mother, but I couldn't be prouder of my six little pet-babies. I have Fifi and Francois and Sherbet and Tickle and Ping-Pong and Cody and they're just my whole life now. KIDS!!! I know, I know. Who would have thought that Brie would be a mom? But I've come a long way from the snaggle-toothed Brentwood girl with condoms in her hair and a dazed expression on her face who eventually became Miss Fresh Face Teen America!!! (Memories!) My cleaning lady Guadalupe and I sure have our hands full!!! Rest assured, I maintained my figure though. I have a way around the whole nine months thing. I mean, those schools barely flinched when I told them I was their aunt, picking them up for the dentist appoinment! Easy as that, and in a few weeks I filled my house with love. And by house, I mean basement. KIDS!!!

Who I'd like to meet:

Why, I really don't need anyone now that I have the love of my family. (Though, to be honest, I am looking for nice barren and/or queer couples looking for their own pet-babies, since Cody's been mouthy lately. He keeps saying "You're not my mama!" and I say "I am too" and he says "No, my mama ain't white!" and I just can't keep punishing him because I'm running out of paper clips. But really, the other five are angels.) KIDS!!!
I thought Brie would surely veto being characterized as a child-stealer, but no. She actually left it mostly intact, according to the newest version of her profile. No intent to sell babies to barren or queer couples, though. Too bad — something about that practice is just too funny to me.

Tough and Ruthless, Rough and Toothless

Weeks ago, I encouraged Dina — "Canklesaurus," to loyal readers — to start a blog. She has, and with this entry I realized I pushed her in the right direction.

A permalink has been added to the sidebar. You're family now, Dina.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Oh, Taryn

While rifling through my stuff at home, I found a card my old roommate Taryn gave me three years ago. When I say she gave me a card, I don't mean she sent it. She just saw it, thought I'd like it and bought it for me, telling me that she hoped I'd never send it to her.

I never sent it to anyone, honestly, because I liked it so much. And because no one had ever nailed my sense of humor as squarely as Taryn did when she gave me the card.

That's it. Simple. To the point. Mean-spirited. Hilarious. Sure, it's a "Far Side" rip-off, but Gary Larson never got this mean. And what do you get when you open the card up?

Nothing. No pick-me-up like "Just kidding, sport!" or "You're not that ugly" or anything. Just a blank card. I think if I ever sent the card — as I would to, say, someone I had just broken up with and hated or someone who really needed a kick in the teeth —I would just sign the inside. And then maybe draw a skull and crossbones or something.

In closing, best gift ever. Thank you, Taryn.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Drunken Holiday Phone Fumbling

No mask. No tights. No cape. And certainly no high-tech crime-fighting gadgets. Nonetheless, home makes me feel like a superhero. I don’t mean in any of the fun ways, either. No, just the one where I have a secret identity and I can’t tell anybody about it.

Whenever I talk with anybody I knew in high school — if I talk to them — I shut out the last five years and end up discussing the same boring people and remembering things that happened in high school that I wasn’t too crazy about when they were happening. “No, I don’t know what Jackoff McGee is doing now.” “Yes, I remember when that thing happened. What a riot!” I touch on what I’m doing now — where I’m living, what I did in college and if I’m feeling generous, what I’ve got planned for the next five minutes of my life — but I honestly feel like there’s no point in discussing anything that matters.

That’s where the superhero part comes in. Superheroes do cool stuff. They meet interesting people, punch them, live to tell about it and learn some random, esoteric factoids in the process. I’m not comparing my tiny little life to anything cool, really. A part-time job as a book-hocker and a chance to write some article for the Independent that may or may not get published isn’t much. I’d like to meet the person who envies me. (No, I wouldn’t.) But I think I’ve gotten somewhere as a person. The last five years, during which I have done a few noteworthy things, have gotten me quite a distance from the person I was when I graduated high school. I learned a thing or two about myself, but I also got a better grasp on these little tidbits about culture and whatnot — books, movies, art, history, philosophy — that I genuinely value.

But there’s no way to talk about any of that.

If I did try to discuss it — and such an act would necessitate more than the five-minute conversation I usually limit myself to — I’d probably sound like more of an idiot than these people already think I am. Furthermore, they probably wouldn’t get it. (Let’s face it — they live in Hollister.) And even if they did get it, what would I seem like to someone who never got out of this horrible town? Hollister, the town that can’t muster the people power to keep a bookstore in business, or even a bowling alley. I’d seem like some asshole who wanted to lord all his hey-I-learned-something over the heads of people who presumably didn’t. (They didn’t, I’m sure.)

So instead, I pretend I’m getting some important call and split, leaving the conversation at the most superficial level possible. The other person, whoever they are, thinks I’m still the same smart-mouthed sack of shit I was in high school, still clinging to those memories, oblivious to the fact that I’ve managed to mentally get away. (Except, of course, when I’m physically there.) They don’t know that I’ve done more than I ever did or could have in Hollister. They don’t know I’m an adult now. They don’t know that I will do something phenomenal one day.

They don’t know and they don’t care.

What I wouldn’t give to airlift my parents’ house to some other part of the world. But that, I suppose, would necessitate super powers.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Super Marimba Bros.

Oh my god — coolest, lamest thing ever.

[ source: Canklesaurus ]

Monday, November 21, 2005

Stubborn Monkey

Working at the bookstore, I’ve learned quite a bit. (Lesson one: people suck and don’t deserve help finding products that want.) But one corner of the store that genuinely surprised me was the manga. Having played video games nearly all my life and occasionally letting weeknight Adult Swim past “Aqua Teen,”, I had some awareness of the culture surrounding these strange serial Japanese comics, but I had no idea that had become so popular.

People — kids, disaffected teens, oddly proportioned adults — buy these things but the armful. They’ve done so in Japan for a long time. There, it’s not considered socially wonky to read them in public, even when they contain gushing genitals. So, like sushi, Dance Dance Revolution and the guys who bombed Pearl Harbor, these things drifted across the Pacific and into the lives of Americans.

They’re thicker than I thought, much more so than American comic books. Also, the pages turn in reverse order to what they would with an American book, which I kind of like in that it preserves some of the charm of it being a foreign product. But most importantly, the titles are hilarious in that same kind of Jinglishy hey-chief-let’s-talk-why-not translated way that Babelfish turns English into something and then back into English.

Here’s a few of the ones that made me laugh:
  • 3x3 Eyes
  • All-Purpose Cultural Cat Girl Nuku Nuku
  • Assemble Insert
  • Bluer Indigo
  • Boys Over Flowers
  • Candidate for Goddess
  • Cheese Family
  • Dirty Pair Flash
  • D.N.Angel
  • Fruits Basket
  • Goldfish Warning
  • Hell Teacher Nube
  • Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure
  • Lady Oscar
  • Legend of Heavenly Sphere Shaluto
  • Little Snow Fairy Sugar
  • Mushrambo
  • Pet Shop of Horrors
  • Please Save My Earth
  • Poltergeist Report
  • Prince of Tennis
  • Riding Bean
  • Sorcerous Stabber Orphan
  • Supernatural Beast City
  • The Violinist of Hameln
  • Weather Report Girl
  • Xabungle
  • You’re Under Arrest!
And the high-and-above winner, “Bobobo-Bo Bo-Bobo.” Apparently repeating a nonsense syllable seven times makes a title now. I’m totally sure the names have symbolic relevance in the narratives themselves. They’re not just words picked willy-nilly by some Japanese hack and then assembled into something he thought sounded good.

Nonetheless, they are fun to say out loud. I actually can’t seem to do it without inflecting my voice to sound like a nonsense-spouting infomercial spokesperson.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Green Curtains Fade

Celadon, Chartreuse or Just Plain Gangrene?

As you may have noticed, I switched up my blog template a bit. Not sure how I feel about it, really, so I was hoping for some input from you folks. Regardless, it's the direction I was wanting to take the Cereal Box, since the old orange text-on-spooky house background looked way Halloweeny, as both Spence and Hilly pointed out. But know that I look at the redone background, it reminds me of the menu screens from my "Lost" DVD.

In case you're interested, I posted the original version of the picture I modified for the background here, on my Flickr account. It's the living room curtains, not bamboo. Sorry.

I've also added a few permanent links to the extended affiliation of Back of the Cereal Box recommendations on the right sidebar: Girls Are Pretty, Toothpaste for Dinner, AemonCannon and Black and White Animals.

Enjoy, and please share your thoughts.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Cream of Blue Raspberry

For reasons I cannot understand, I painted a picture. This is what I painted.

As you may have guessed, it's an elk vomiting squares of varying sizes. For some reason, this image lodged itself in my head back in May, on the way back from the Nexus trip to Las Vegas. I quickly drew it on a canvas then let it sit in the corner — mentally, literally — until two weeks ago. Upon finishing it, I decided to call it "Prance Closer," which might hint at where the image came from. I'm not really sure.

And no, Sanam, this isn't the canvas that Aemon gave me, though I have some idea what I'd like to paint on that.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Cheep-Cheep Gets the Chair

Carless for the second day in a row, I had lunch today at the Mexican place near work. (Good, not great — too much sour cream.) It was especially sunny, so I was eating outside. So was everyone else. And so were the birds, who despite being dumb enough to contract avian flu are smart enough to know where people congregate and eat and leave crumbs every day. Before I could start on my second quesadilla, however, I heard a metallic clang followed by a scream.

What apparently happened was that a woman eating outside had set a chair directly onto one of the birds, very nearly cutting him in half. Dead, of course. I’d wager instantly. If I had imagined what the scenario would have been like without having already seen it, I suppose I’d imagine that the bird would be flattened. The metal chairs at Camino Real are made from slender pipes that flow into these silver dollar-sized caps at the bottom, and I would have guessed that one of those circular caps would have pressed onto the birds head, shoved it into its chest cavity and then forced the whole mass down until its little legs snapped like twigs. But no — instead, I think the bird pitched forward and the cap crushed him at an angle, almost cleaving his head from his chest. (Those flight-enabling featherlight bones did you no good today, Mr. Cheep Cheep.) The mess was less than I would have guessed, too, though something — something — had gooshed from the beak, perhaps interrupting the bird’s final death-squawk.

Everyone stopped eating. The bird-killing woman had been seated at a table in the center of the outdoor eating area, and the noise drew everybody’s attention. She looked horrified. Some kids were a little upset, too. I think I heard somebody ask “Is it dead?” — duh — before some nice old man scraped the pieces off the ground with a plastic knife onto a serving tray. He dumped the whole package — bird, tray, knife — into the trash, which I find sad since I don’t think anybody — bird, human or otherwise — deserves to be laid to rest among Starbucks cups, partially drunk smoothies and unwanted receipts. By the time I was done eating — the incident didn’t affect my appetite — the wet spot had dried and the incident seemed largely forgotten.

Still, I was amused and told anybody who would listen. What still gets me is that the timing of this had to be so specific — for some clumsy woman to slam down a chair just as a bid flitted through. Remarkable.

The bird was probably going to give us all avian flu anyway.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Drew's Top Three Canine Internet Phenoms

  1. Snuppy, the cloned puppy.
  2. Sam, the ugliest dog in the world (who happens to live in Santa Barbara and I could break into his house and see him right now if I really wanted)
  3. A new contender: Wasabi, the golden retriever whose skin in mysteriously green

Friday, November 11, 2005

I Love Television, But Television Doesn't Love Me Back

When the TV goes off, the world ends. In a small way, I believe this is true. The characters I watch on my shows — however few I actually keep up with nowadays — engage me in a way that nearly lets me believe they’re real. I tend to care about them. I tend to feel sad when they go away. On that note, here are two musings on television and TV characters.
[ As If Shame Were Something to Be Proud of ]
Since people’s taste in television shows has swung away from sitcoms, a lot of hourlongs have sprung up. (A lot of reality shows have too, but I don’t care about those.) Things like “Desperate Housewives” and “24” and “Alias” and Nip/Tuck” and all those. And though I’ve heard good things about all of them, I’ve abstained from watching merely because I didn’t need some new fake universe to envelop my free time. Few readers will remember what happened during winter of 2003, when “Twin Peaks” swallowed me — as well as Jill, Nate and Moe, to varying extents — and we talked about Nadine and Bobby and the Log Lady like they were real people. I didn’t want to let that happen again.

Recently, however, I’ve become a big fan of “Lost.” I was willing to forgo my embargo on new hourlongs simply because “Lost” seemed too enticing. Helmed by J.J. Abrams, whose work I enjoy. Written by Paul Dini, who made the “Batman” cartoons I watched as a kid so engrossing. And ultimately structured along some very “Twin Peaks”-like lines. Similar to how every episode of “Twin Peaks” followed a consecutive day in the investigation into Laura Palmer’s murder, “Lost” follows the plane crash survivors’ investigation into why they crashed, where they are and just what the hell is up with the island. Like the town of Twin Peaks, the island is almost a character unto itself. More often than not, poking into one mystery merely yields another, more dangerous one. I like.

I was more than a little put off, however, when the most recent episode, “Abandoned,” ends with the apparent shooting death of Shannon Rutherford, a survivor played by Maggie Grace, who I’ve liked since I saw here as a Swedish exchange student on the short-lived “Oliver Beene” a few years ago. Shannon, as Spencer put it, never let the fact that she was on a desert island deter her from styling her hair in a sassy zigzag part. She also gleefully flirted and fucked her way to survival, both on the island and before the plane crash. Indeed, this character was created very much so in the Cordelia Chase vein — and that’s a stock personality type I can appreciate.

As the show stands so far, Shannon is the second of the major characters to die. Late last season, her character’s stepbrother — and fuckbuddy — Boone bit the big one in a, well, plane crash. (Yes, there was a second one. Long story.) It’s really a pity that the show’s directors chose to bump off Shannon because this last episode consisted of flashbacks into her life pre-island. For the first time, she seemed like a genuinely sympathetic character. Now that that whore Ana-Lucia — whom online “Lost” fans abbreviate as “AnaL” — put a bullet in her chest, I feel like we’ve seen Shannon grow as much as she ever will. Worse yet, her flashbacks provided a way for Boone, played by Ian Somerhalder, to show up again. No more, I guess. The cast no longer skews quite so WB.

In the end, however, I’m okay with Shannon being dead. The show still has a large cast of characters I like — Sun, Jin, Sawyer, Charlie and Claire, to name some. But more importantly, I think killing off Shannon helps to remind people — both the remaining characters and the show’s viewers — that this island is a dangerous place. I’ll wager that Shannon won’t be the last “survivor’ the be picked off this season.

Still, it’s lamely sad to think about Shannon being dead.
[ Family Comes First ]
As if Shannon’s accidental death weren’t hard enough, the news that comforted me in my fictional character mourning was of the cancellation of “Arrested Development,” the best show on TV and the only hope for the sitcom as a genre. Even a guest star as high-profile as Charlize Theron couldn’t save “Arrested,” which people simply didn’t want to watch.

I was talking with Kristen and Betsy about this a few nights ago, and it seems so strange to us that such a great show could suffer from this problem. I seemed like most of our associates watched the show with some regularity. However, this bad news is a reminder that our friends generally are pulled from a very select group — college students and recent graduates living in California and with enough understanding of literary techniques to appreciate the show’s genius. The rest of America, it would seem, is more content watching unchallenging fare like “The King of Queens,” which airs on CBS in the same timeslot “Arrested” formerly occupied on FOX — 8 p.m., Monday night.

Still, I’m oddly not that upset about the cancellation. Sure, life seems just a little knowing that I may never hear another one of Lucille Bluth’s racist remarks or without ever seeing just what Steve Holt’s impression of a chicken might have been like. But I’m still hopeful. I’d wager that critical praise of “Arrested” might be enough to prompt another network to pick the show up. Say the ailing NBC or even HBO, whose looser standards could let the show truly flourish. Though the show’s fan base is small, it’s the kind that would be willing to follow it to another network and another time. They honestly care about these characters.

Friends who like the show will hate me for saying this, but I can honestly see why the network cancelled “Arrested.” I’m not too happy about it, but it all comes down to money. It’s unfortunate that TV networks and movie studies have to let money get involved with something a human as narrative. Whether it’s ending a narrative before its time — as happened with “Home Movies,” for example — or pumping one beyond its proper lifespan — as NBC’s doing with “ER,” for example, or as Miramax did with “Scream” — it happens. Realistically, “Arrested” shouldn’t have lasted as long as it did. It never got great ratings, and since FOX is notorious for prematurely yanking a show, fans of “Arrested” should be happy that they got as much as they did.

I’m hopeful for the future of the show. I honestly am. But I think the part that really gets me at the moment isn’t that a great show was cancelled for some silly, inconsequential reason. What really pisses me off right now is that a great show was cancelled for a very good reason.

[ And Then a Short Epilogue ]
Take this as evidence of the way TV-watching culture has changed, but I just realized that though I think “Lost” and “Arrested Development” are both great shows, my primary experience with them did not come through regular TV broadcasts. No, I bought the first season of “Lost” and have been catching up the new season through the episodes posted on iTunes. (Just $1.99 per installment — not a bad deal at all.) As for “Arrested,” I can remember watching it on FOX during the first season, but I had to fill in my little plotholes with the first and second season DVDs.

So, in effect, I wasn’t actually watching the show I was trying to get everyone to watch. Shit. Does this mean it’s all my fault?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Who the Hell Owns That Dog?

A girl. I kind of know her. She seems nice. She is my MySpace friend. Today, she posted this bulletin. I didn't know what to make of it.
for all of you who know me and have been to my apartment you will all be greatly saddened to hear that bulldozers knocked down my beloved neighbor, the bayou house. earlier today i saw some heavy machinery and i thought they were just working on the yard... when i got home later i saw that THE BAYOU HOUSE WAS DESTROYED. it is now a pile of rubble in the middle of a lot. there will be no dueling banjos or mysterious hippies to look at from 6621 abrego any more. THIS IS A SAD DAY!!!!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

My Problems, Listed

Initially, I thought my problems would look more manageable if I made a list of them. Instead they just look more numerous.
  1. My present lease ends around Christmas and I don’t know where I’m living after that.
  2. Though I would want to move into Kristen’s house, her exiting roommate won’t be fully moved out until late January.
  3. No matter where I live, I may only be living there for a short time, both because I am tired of living in Santa Barbara and because I want to travel to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji this winter.
  4. I have not set a departure date.
  5. I have not set a return date.
  6. I don’t know how long I will be traveling, if I go.
  7. Currently, I have no one to travel with in these locations.
  8. Excluding Hollister, I will have nowhere to move back to when I return to the United States.
  9. I’d like to move to a different city on my own, but the thought of that is very intimidating.
  10. If I move back to Santa Barbara, I will be wishing I had moved anywhere else. However, this scenario solves one problem — easily the biggest: no matter how and when I leave Santa Barbara, I will be ending the best relationship I’ve ever been in.
Anyone? Anyone?

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Orange and Black and Drunk

Proof the Halloween happened. It may have happened in a five-day blur of drunkeness, but it did happen. Here a few photos, better late than never.

Me, as Cowboy Drew. You can't tell from the photo, but I'm even wearing cowboy boots at great risk to my verticality in my drunken state. Photo courtesy of Kristen-Mike.

Spencer and I made a jack-o'-latern in the image of the scariest thing we could think of: Quincy Jones, the chow with a heart as poisonous as candy corn.

And here's the Quincy-o'-lantern, looking just a little scarier. And as a bonus, here's Quincy looking uncharacteristically pleasant.

Just trust me that he's plotting something awful. He's tasted blood. And he likes it.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

When I Couldn't Get Anything Done

Here's a photo of my desktop, taken sometime Thursday afternoon.

Main shelf, left to right: red wine bottle (empty), "Fierce" cologne, Vitamin Water bottle (empty, filled with cigarette butts), green Sharpie marker, Marlboro cigarette box (empty), box of personal checks, baggy containing packaged generic aspirin, bottle of nasal spray, nail clippers, hair goop in red tube, deodorant, generic aspirin package (open, empty), Free Lance newspaper mug, flask (empty), bottle of Centrum vitamins, spool of blank CDs, book of matches (containing no matches), Escher mug, graduation mug, Queen of Hearts mug.
Back shelf: book on Flash belonging to Dr. Sorapure, Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, The Complete Guide to Digital Photography, letter from Grandma, monitor, right speaker with blue sweatband, miscellaneous papers and photos, Toad doll.

Left shelf: CDs for reviewing, bamboo lamp, box of thank you notes from Spencer, unwatched Netflix arrivals, left speaker.

Right shelf: novelty martini glass, echinacea supplements, box of collar stays, sun block, bottle Oxy pads, "Glory Hole Sports" beer cozy, 2006 Hokusai calendar.
Or, if you will, what keeps me from doing anything. Or, if you will, me.

Is That Counting the Chip on Her Shoulder?

Interesting ways people have been arriving at this blog lately.

My Secret Diary, by Steve Martin

“Shopgirl” could have been two movies — the kind of light-hearted comic romance as you’d expect from Steve Martin, or the kind of angsty drama, as you’d expect from Claire Danes. It’s neither. Instead, “Shopgirl” attempts to tread down the line separating these two possible outcomes, creating a noticeably bifurcated movie that still manages to be entertaining enough that you don’t regret paying to see it.

It’s weird, really, the way the movie yo-yos back and forth. It has a scene of Jason Schwartzman being all goofball and Jimmy Fallon-like — and please, Jason, cut your hair — then goes straight into another of Danes weeping. It would feel forced if Schwartzman wasn’t such a good goofball and Danes wasn’t such a good weeper, so I guess I have to credit the actors with holding the movie together. Steve Martin hold up well too, even when he’s delivering some clunker lines — ones, admittedly, that he wrote himself. In this one scene, he and Danes’ character are having dinner and he asks to see her wristwatch. Then he coils his old man fingers around her naked wrist — no slashing scars, I was happy to see — and tells her “I’m your watch now.”

The fuck?

But he wrote it and he apparently understands the genuine sentiment he was trying to express in that terrible, terrible line, so it ends up sounding not as bad as it would if it came from, say, Bill Murray.

Why Bill Murray, you ask?

I can’t help but feel like this movie would have never been made if it hadn’t been for “Lost in Translation.” It’s easy to draw the parallels. Danes — an actress who falls into the category of “thinking man’s hottie,” like Scarlett Johansson — is lonely and unfulfilled until she meets this wealthy older guy — Martin, a comic colleague of Murray’s. They romance with some difficulty. Twirling around in the background are Schwartzman, a hipster doofus mildly reminiscent of Giovanni Ribisi in “Translation” and a blonde, dippy sexpot — Bridgette Wilson-Sampras, more contained than Anna Faris in “Translation” and a little less affable. (Wilson-Sampras, once the muse of middle school boners nation-wide as Veronica Vaughn, has put on a lot of weight. And her gumminess is making her look more and more like Missi Pyle. I’d guess Pete Sampras should run her around the court a little more.) Even the look of “Shopgirl” owes a lot to “Lost in Translation.” There’s a pronounced emptiness in every shot. The color seems a little drained, but when it’s there it’s especially bright — Danes’ lips or the knowingly funky sea green her character has painted her apartment.

Add to that the movie’s tendency to introduce plot points that quickly vanish — Danes stops taking anti-depressants, freaks, goes to the doctor off-screen, then never mentions it again — and you have a movie that has just enough problems to prevent it from being a genuinely good movie.

I like Steve Martin a lot, but I’d rather see him being funny than being old and heart-breaking and narrating it all as if Martin himself — not his character, but the actor — were reminding you “Hey! I wrote this!” I especially think he should get a second opinion before naming his characters. The film’s lead, the titular shopgirl, is named Mirabelle Buttersfield, which is a mouthful. Of vomit. And butter. Really, did he think Bianca Steeplechase and Fernanda Grunnigle-Goatsworth were taken?

Perhaps the one point of this movie that I find most interesting is wondering how much of it is autobiographical. Steve Martin has written before, notably the film “Bowfinger” with Eddie Murphy. I liked this movie, too, despite its flaws. And I remember reading that Heather Graham’s character in the movie — an up-and-coming actress who eventually takes up with a famous lesbian to further her career — is based on Anne Heche, with whom Martin had a fling years ago. He’s dated other younger women as well — Bernadette Peters, Helena Bonham Carter — and I’d like to think that part of his strong performance came from this story being based on something that actually happened to him. In this uneven movie, there’s a spark in his eye that made me feel like he really believed in the story and the characters. And if “Shopgirl” came from some private emotion that he decided to vent through art, then I think I like it even more.

[ elsa shivers lives ]