Wednesday, December 28, 2005

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.

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 ]

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.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

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.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

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.

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.

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.

Sunday, November 6, 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.

Wednesday, November 2, 2005

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.

Just this week, however, the Cereal Box helped someone I admire contact me. That's never happened before. I checked my email on the morning of Halloween and found a notice of a comment being posted. The comment was purportedly from Mike Lebovitz, the man behind a neat little band called Father Bingo. I’ve mentioned Father Bingo before — in the tracklists of CDs I’ve burned for friends and also in the lengthy post entitled “Ginger Prince Is Not Shirley Temple.” This is also the post that Mike Lebovitz’s comment is attached to. Go ahead. Read it.

I initially thought the comment was a prank. It was Halloween, after all, though I suppose the late October pranks are more in the style of car-egging. Besides, who besides Spencer and me would even know who Mike Lebovitz was?

Despite the fact that his comment ends in “You’re wasting your time. You’re wasting your time” — the last lyrics of the song — I feel that this little, wonderful thing is validating. It’s exactly the reason why I would continue to write this blog. Mike Lebovitz made a song and I appreciate it enough to look into what it could have been about. I wrote that, and now he’s read it. It’s remarkable that it happened, and not just because I accidentally referred to him as “Mark” in the initial posting. (This has been fixed.)

I still like the song. It’s entirely worth the ninety-nine cents it costs to download on iTunes. I like that the first stranger who stumbled upon what I wrote about them was flattered. (Julia Roberts, I’m guessing, would not be.) And I still like this blog. Nearly four years old and still surprising me.

Mike Lebovitz of Father Bingo, please don’t egg my car.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

The Death of Charlotte Braun

Wikipedia is an endless source of amusement for me. It has information, sure, but as a result of being constructed by anyone with computer access, it often has useless or sucky information. For example, all Wikipedia articles can be classified under some type of category. European Union member nations or racquet sports, for example. This week I stumbled upon the category for fictional cyborgs. You know, because you might be writing a paper on Seven of Nine and need another cyborg for comparison. Also, please note that no comparative category for real-life cyborgs exists.

Other articles are quite gratifying.Take Charlotte Braun, for example. I have read Peanuts all my life but had never heard of this character, whom Charles Shulz apparently created to be some distorted, female version of Charlie Brown. Unlike Charlie, Charlotte was mean and pushy and even louder than Lucy. But Shulz tired of her quickly and blinked her to the cornfield, never to be seen again. (Later, he created Charlie's sister Sally as a new and improved female twist on Charlie.)

Shortly after Charlotte went away, Shulz received a letter from an avid Peanuts reader who disliked the character and requested that she be eliminated. Shulz responded by asking the reader if she felt comfortable being responsible for the death of a child, and enclosed in the post script a sketch of Charlotte with an axe in her head. It almost seems to urban legendy to be true, but the letter was apparently donated to the Library of Congress, which posted a scan of it online. Amazing.

Charlotte Braun, rest in peace.

And Maxine — Where Are Your Red Shoes?

As of late, I've been keen on Toothpaste for Dinner, website that collects what I would describe as the crude stick drawings of some humorist who may or may not have taken his stability pills. Case in point:

Great, huh? I intend to return.

Eleanor, Put Your Boots On

A story Spencer told me, as close to verbatim as I can reconstruct it.

"The first time my mother had an awareness of material poverty was a doll called Pitiful Pearl. She was a doll that had purposefully thinning hair and an ugly smock of a dress with white polka dots. She looked a little fat, but my grandmother told my mother that that was because her family could only feed her with really bad food. That's how my mother learned about poor people."

And it turns out Spencer accurately remembered the incident that his mother recalled to him from her childhood. A quick search reveals none other than Pearl herself, whose full name turned out to be Poor, Pitiful Pearl — you know, for emphasis. Anyway, meet Pearl.

I think she looks like Angelica from "Rugrats" after having fallen on hard times. Spencer and I agree that it's cute to market poverty as something children should enjoy. What's even funnier is that they eventually decided to ditch the "poor, pitiful" angle and put Pearl in a fancy party dress. A see-thru fancy party dress.

Sure, it's a nice outfit, but you still know she's poor because any well-bred girl would no better than to wear that dress out.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

When the Three Words Didn't Work

A story:
Some time ago, a man in an unimportant town in Eagleland learned the power of the three words. The man had been well acquainted with words and their workings before hand and had even heard them spoken to him. But he had never said them earnestly. But times changed and the man realized that the three words meant something more than the individual definitions he had found in the dictionary. The words were powerful, symbolic of something greater than he was or anything he knew before. Indeed, the words seemed to tap into something fundamentally good about people in general.

The man thought the words could solve anything.

One day the man found himself faced with a terrible problem — worse than storms and earthquakes and anything else bad. So, naturally, he spoke the three words. They didn’t work.

At this point, the man realized that although the three words were quite powerful, they were not all-powerful. Alone, the man sat down and thought about what this meant.
What? You don’t think it’s a good story? I think it’s plenty good. What do you want from me?

Okay, fine — here’s one more line: Oh yes, and there was a unicorn in the story as well.

The end.

Kung-Fu With Grilled Onions

Well look who stepped into a pile of blog! Our old friend, Davey Dave! Let's monitor his every syllable and pen stroke!

Monday, October 17, 2005

To Quote Wally Exactly

Less a top-one hundred list, more a "Go ahead, ask me about 'blank,'" with "blank" being a thing. On the list. Why? Because sometimes I need to be reminded of the things that I like, the things that keep me going.

Fill in the blanks, folks.

the supervillain, not the plant

3. The Border Collie (and to a lesser extent, all Border Collies)

5. Comic books with social relevance

oh, and social relevance = rape. didn't you know?

6. Anya (or Anya Christina Emmanuelle Jenkins)

7. Raymond Scott and the titles of his compositions (specifically "Bumpy Weather Over Newark," "Yesterday's Ice Cubes" and "New Year's Eve in a Haunted House")

that's a whole lot of almost attractive

11. And in a league of its own, "Twin Peaks"

12. Birdo

everyone's favorite cocksuckasaur

13. Bret Easton Ellis' The Rules of Attraction

14. Roger Avary's "The Rules of Attraction"

16. Cassowaries

17. Narwhals

18. Maya Rudolph

19. This very blog, blogging in general and the word "blog," which collectively equal one item in my mind.

20. The Dodos that Porky Pig meets on "Looney Tunes"

21. Anything Beck does, basically

22. Devo (the band, not the person)

and totally excluding "whip it," on account of it sucking

30. Gin

32. The furniture of Gaetano Pesce

33. All manner of waterfowl

35. Cyrkle's "Red Rubber Ball"

"every inch of me will resist you!"

38. The interrobang

(photo not interesting)

42. Fictional bands that still release albums — for example, the Gorillaz, Spinal Tap and Josie and the Pussycats

44. Walter and Perry

45 and 46. Stephen Colbert and, slightly less so, Steve Carell

48-53. Pluots, Loquats, Kumquats, Physalis, Saturnfruit, Durians

with birdo making an accidental second appearance

you know — the cat who stopped the great depression

56. The hurdy-gurdy, both as a word and as a musical instrument

61. The word "ptomaine," but not the idea it represents

62. Blondie's Parallel Lines

63. Gale Weathers

65. (805) 562-9054

68. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark — and the illustrations therein

69. Perfect Tommy

70. Neko Case and her various bands

71. Zeppelins

not to mention blimps, airships and dirigibles

72. Henry Wallis' "The Death of Chatterton"

73. The two lost chapters of "Kill Bill" —
"Can She Bake a Cherry Pie?" and "Yuki's Revenge"

74. The samisen

and let's not forget the hermaphrodite playing the samisen.

75. The wonderful vocabular of geometry — "rhombus, "parallelogram," "isoceles," etc.

76. Alan Moore

unfrozen caveman comic book writer

78. Carmen, the mouse who would not move away

see nate? i totally have inside jokes with you that i don't have with kristen and hilly

79. Patrick Warburton's voiceover career

with brock samson on the left and crippled cop joe on the right

80. Works of art or literature that, though completed, were never meant to be viewed by anybody but the creator — for example, the poems of Emily Dickinson or Henry Darger's 15,000-page fantasy novel

pictured: a scene from In the Realms of the Unreal

81. Bettas

george washington carver 2, we miss you

82. The bagpipe solo in the Church's "Under the Milky Way"

83. Weekend Update when it's hosted by two women

84. "Creature from the San Andreas Fault"

kristen, how is this picture not in your myspace profile?

85. "Zang Tumb Tumb"

86. Secret passageways

87. Cryptozoology

88. The "thick line" artwork Genndy Tartakovsky

with the gentlemen on either side and the ladies in the middle
this album containing such hits as "the demise of barbara and the return of joe"90. Getting a red shell when you need it most

91. Charlie Kaufman's tendency to frame fictional stories around real people — for example, John Malkovich, Chuck Barris or himself

92. "My Mother, the Car"

93. Boo Boo Tannenbaum and the dysfunctional Glass family

a good band name, perhaps?

94. The paintings of Andrew Wyeth

"christina's world"

95. The Duffer of St. George

96. The eternally comforting sight of dry grass and green oak trees


97. Scandal, in general

98. "Hookah," especially when used as a verb

99. Joe Meek, in life and in death

101. The concept of the "flâneur"

. . .

[ doozy ]