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!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

The State Nickname That Can Get You Into a Lot of Trouble

Dear Missouri,

Why are you the "Show-Me" state? Until you can come up with a good answer, please refrain from putting this nickname on license plate frames.


Saturday, October 15, 2005

A Soft Plastic Snap

Last night, while discussing the development of "Arrested Development" in Kristen's kitchen, I was fiddling with my keychain in my pocket. I often do this, so it shouldn't be surprising that it finally resulted in the death of said keychain.

Though not so much a result of nostalgia as laziness, I've had this doodad since I moved into the dorms freshman year. The Residence Hall Association may well of abandoned this practice, but every incoming freshman once recieeved these rather generic key chains. I'd seen it every day for the last five years of my life, but it is now gone.

Goodbye, memory of college.

[ don't worry sanam; this is not the promised "doozy" post ]

Sunday, October 9, 2005

Sheep Hypnotist

According to a book on border collies I was leafing though the other way, one of the more interesting characteristics of the breed is its "strong eye." Apparently, the border collie has an especially strong gaze that it can use to stop a sheep dead in its tracks. The way the book was written, this stare works like some kind of canine-ovine hypnosis, and by holding the sheep's attention, the border collie can make the sheep go wherever it wants to.

This is my dog.

To me, he looks too damn happy to be some stern sheep hypnotist. His canine brain is riddled with the same faults that plague some people with ADHD. He'll hold your gaze, providing he doesn't see a bug. Or hear a bug. Chief is a good dog, for sure, but I just don't think he's the kind of border collie with a stern mind-controlling gaze. He's too frantic and scattered. Citing this photo as evidence, I'd say his expression is more like that of some slightly senile old relative confronted with a surprise party — he's excited and seemingly caught off guard, but you can't help thinking that the startled glee is more a natural condition than a result of the immediate situation.

And with that, I'll shut up about my fucking dog.

Saturday, October 8, 2005

Opera and Truck Pulls

Note: The events describes in this entry occurred a full week ago. The bias that developed in the distance between today and seven days ago may shade this article. Such a bias is purely the result of deep-seated resentment.

Hearing, as I understand it, is mainly done by thousands of tiny hairs inside our ear. These hairs are different lengths. Each length of hair is responsible for a certain frequency of sound wave. For the entire spectrum of audible sound frequencies, a certain hair exists that is in charge of vibrating when the frequency rolls through. (Whether these hairs’ individual frequency responsibility exists as a result of design or evolution, I won’t even begin to discuss here.) Now, unless I’m mistaken, the phenomenon we generally call “ringing in the ear” or “ringing in my ears” or something like that has a very definite connection to these multi-lengthed ear hairs. You see, contrary to the popular superstition that such a sensation means someone is talking about you, I was once told by one of the better informed teachers at my high school that that noise is actually the death knell for that particular hair.

You heard me right, if you ear hairs haven’t yet fallen out.

Tragically, whenever a person feels ringing in his or her ears, they should know that that’s the last time he or she will ever her that particular frequency in that ear. That hair has just broken off, due to overuse and abuse — like the events I will shortly describe in this post. Say goodbye to that particular ring, dear friends, because you’ll never hear it again.

So now imagine what it must feel like if, instead of having just a certain grove of ear hairs vibrating at their predetermined frequency, you had all of your tiny, delicate, supersensitive ear ears shaking like telephone polls in a full-on Richter Ten. Imagine all your ear hairs screaming their frequency, as if they knew the sheer force of sound would soon snap them from their fleshy, cochlear base and render them as useless as the rest of the hair on your body.

Think about that and you’re about where you’d need to be to re-create my experience at the San Benito County Fair last weekend.

I went home last weekend for two simple reasons: paperwork and family. The paperwork needs my signature and I need my family’s adoring attention. Unfortunately, I hadn’t realized that last weekend also happened to be that of the fair. This annual event — which I’m told has occurred on the same weekend since I was born — is a big draw for the people of Hollister. That, the opening of a new gas station or the wedding of a recent high school graduate who’s one month shy of her third trimester — these are the things that the people of Hollister flock to. If you, dear reader, have ever seen an episode of “The Simpsons” in which the entire town flocks to some meeting point to witness a doings a-transpirin’, then you understand the devastating lows to which the Hollister social scene reduces.

Still, not wanting to miss out on the olfactory combination of beer, cotton candy and deep-fried god-knows-what, I went. Call me a snob all night long, I still love the fair. There’s too many good memories there for the entire population of Hollister to spoil it for me. Besides, I had the bright idea to go and snap some pictures of carnies. (And yes — I did do this, and yes — I have an idea, and yes — you faithfuls will see it soon.) So I went. And all in all, it was okay. I didn’t have to speak with anybody I didn’t want to. In fact, the only people who even recognized me were the various members of the Ryan family — having caught Meg at the brewery that morning, I managed to see four out of five, meaning I’ll have to be vigilant over the Thanksgiving weekend if I want to collect a full set.

A little before seven, I bump into my parents, who have apparently arrived at the fair to “see [my] brother’s thing.” Okay — I like my brother and I’m already there. No reason why I shouldn’t get to go and see his thing, whatever that might mean.

So we enter the grandstands — I’m giving serious thought to suggesting they pencil in some quotation marks around the “grand,” by the way — and sit down and I’m looking at the very arena I’ve seen countless horse shows in. It’s full of trucks.

“What are we watching, anyway?” I ask.

“It’s a truck pull,” my parents’ hive-mind answers.

And I realize that though I’m familiar with the term, I’ve never actually seen a truck pull and I have no idea what one entails. So I ask and they tell me to watch the first contestant go and then I’d understand.

So I wait. And then I watch. But I didn’t understand.

Here’s how I would explain a truck pull, if pressed to do so. So there’s this truck, but the owner has gone to some effort to soup it up and make it more powerful than it would be otherwise. And he goes out onto the track and some people attach a trailer to it. But not a normal trailer — more of an industrial trailer, like one that you’d use for hauling something heavy. Only there’s nothing on it. Instead, there’s a guy on the back and he’s operating these levers that control how much resistance the trailer will give the vehicle that’s towing it. Then the driver of the truck — the towing truck, though not the tow truck specifically, since that might make you picture the wrong thing — revs up the engine and pulls the trailer as far as he can.

At this point, the tremendous strain placed on the engine sends this fantastically horrible mechanical screech-wail in all directions. If you’re at Bolado Park, home of the San Benito County Fair since God sneezed and created the county back at the dawn of time, you’re sitting on bleachers covered by a roof that looks to be some sort of metal, possibly tin. The echo that bounces between the concrete base and the metal roof actually increases the volume of this deathly noise — I would estimate eightfold, if not ninefold — until your ears produce the supremely unpleasant feeling I described earlier in this post.

Then everybody cheers.

Don’t ask me why everybody cheers. I don’t understand why. The truck does exactly what it’s supposed to do. You hitch it to a trailer and it tows the trailer. And this elicits applause? Would these same enthusiastic spectators applaud the successful towing of a U-Haul trailer to their sedan? Do they applaud a Pink Pearl eraser’s successful rubbing away of an errant pencil mark?

These are answers I cannot provide.

In short, the spectacle of the tractor pull was completely lost on me. I sat there, utterly perplexed and bored — and oh yes, my ears were bleeding — and watched truck after truck do exactly what they were supposed to be doing. And then sat there as everybody cheered. (To be technical, I wouldn’t be able to say they were cheering. At this point, my ears went all Helen Keller, so for all I know everybody was standing up and shaking their hands and mouthing silent obscenity.) I suppose truck pulls are something like opera, in a sense. I don’t understand opera, thought I can appreciate that other people get something out of it. Someone told me that opera is something you just have to watch, and then one day you’re watching it and you just suddenly get it — the spectacle and the sound and the total involvement of the audience in what is happening before them.

So yeah — opera and truck pulls.

After about forty-five minutes of this nonsense, I decided that it would be in my best interest to escape. Careful to leave my camera with my parents — so as to create the illusion that I would return — I excused myself, ran to though the darkened ag sheds to the noise of startled, squealing pigs and finally arrived at my car. There, I turned on the heater, rolled up the windows, put down the sun visors even though it was dark out, plugged in my cell phone, spun the iPod wheel until I arrived at the new New Pornographers and drove home, imagining that the hand of God would lift my car up into the night sky and, with the care of the most benevolent of the benevolent deities, toss me onto a fluffy night cloud that would take me gently to Santa Barbara as I napped, Little Nemo-like, and dreamed of the cotton candy that I never actually got to buy.

In order to better explain the methods of the truck pull, I have enclosed the following pictures.

This, apparently is my brother's truck. My mom manages to capture the large trailer being attached to the back. In front of the truck, you can see roughly one-fourth of the total track.

Whoosh! The truck is technically moving at about twenty miles an hour. What would initially appear to be a speed blur is actually my camera's inability to capture moving objects at a distance in low light. But just think: whoosh!

Conversely, some people chose less traditional vehicles. Here, you can see what would appear to be a tractor, painted in Cal Poly colors and given an extra chromosome.

Tresure your ear hairs, friends.

Friday, October 7, 2005

Goblin Market

Check out this week's Independent if you get a chance. It's not much, but it's something and I don't completely hate it. Normally, I wouldn't be able to access this kind of article online, but Jen — one of the kids who runs the Empty Garage — was excited enough about it that she clipped and scanned it. Here's for eager young go-getters.

And there you have it.

[ two more, and soon getting lonely ]

Monday, October 3, 2005

Color With Remarkble 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.

Learn your colors today, for they may change by tomorrow.