Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Car Seat Is Freezing

Because December 26 is still time enough for discussions about Christmas — and all the more so if said discussions are tainted with the bitterness that only the post-holiday hangover can bring. Case in point: the special Santa Claus punchbowl my mom found at an antique store:

creepy santa punchbowl

Let’s face it — what says holiday happiness better than ladelling cheer out of Santa’s hollowed-out skull? Last Christmas, in fact, my mom made a special candy cane punch. It’s egg nog, sherbet and crunched-up candy canes, the red dye of which gives the concoction a wonderful pink color. Yes, minty and sweet thought it may have been, the foamy punch had every appearance of scrambled brains. As the sherbet melted, pink goo would dribble down the sides of the bowl, making the effect work all the better. We all felt like we had done something very, very wrong to Santa. Really, look at his eyes — heavy-lidded and altogether blank, they give the appearance of someone who has undergone unnecessary brain surgery.

Now, happily, we can put him and the rest of his crew away for another forty-eight weeks.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

One-Tenth of a Plausibility Unit

Christmas cheer for your face.

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

As Reliable as Roast Mutton

One more piece of photographic evidence from the Holly Jolly Christmas Party. I think Megan (Megan!) captured it well.

It's the rubber Christmas chicken.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Arch Stanton and Paula Schultz

Three obscure words for your face:
  • mammothrept — meaning "a spoiled child," its etymological roots go back to the Greek for "a child raised by one's grandmother"
  • logodaedaly — meaning "clever in the use of words," it's the Greek word part for "word" (as in "dialogue" and such) plus a permutation of the Greek mythological character Daedalus, who designed the Labyrinth and other ingenious things
  • jumentous — meaning "resembling horse urine," and simultaneously useless and wonderful because of that
[ source: Erin McKean's Weird and Wonderful Words ]

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Less Than a Snow Fairy, More Than a Sugar Plum

Just to prove that we didn't completely debauch the spirit of the holiday, here are some entirely more wholesome pictures of us in the post-party aftermath, during which we mustered the energy to go ice skating at Earl Warren.

ice skate 1

ice skate 2

ice skate 3

ice skate 4

Photo credits go to Laura.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Video Games and Rainbow Colors

This is Shigeru Miyamoto, the brain behind a lot of what made my childhood fun. This image appeared in Time magazine's "Asian heroes" list.

And this bit of vintage arcade cabinet advertising just amuses me.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Among Other Unusual Things I Did Before Nine-Thirty This Morning

So, yeah. I talked to John Stamos. And I didn't do that yesterday. And when I talked to him, I was wearing a bathrobe and disgusting slippers.

That's all I'm saying about that.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Keister Egg

Although I was initially disappointed that KTLA had pre-empted last Tuesday’s “Veronica Mars” in lieu of some sports garbage, Super Bri wisely pointed out to me that the episode would instead be airing on Saturday. I turned in just in time to see the opening credits. The best part of the episode, by far, was its guest star: Patty Hearst, who played an heir to a retail fortune and the granddaughter of the robber baron founder of Hearst College, the fictional school Veronica now attends. Thus, Patty Hearst is playing a thinly veiled version of herself.

In the show’s long-standing tradition of naming its characters with good reason, Hearst’s character is called Selma Hearst Rose. The “Rose” comes from her husband, Bud Rose. As in “rosebud,” as in “Citizen Kane.” It’s the first name that really gets me, however. I wondered why the writers would have picked such an uncommon name for the character, when I realized that the only association I have with “Selma” is the more mannish of Marge’s two twin sisters on “The Simpsons.” Then I made the mental leap. Patty Hearst. Selma Hearst.

Oh, and the episode also involved sodomy-for-humiliation, a suicidal tanorexic named "Patrice,two uppity personal assistants and the best implementation of “Here Comes Peter Cottontail” I have ever heard. All this from a show that has already given us an Asian frat boy named Charleston Chew. We truly have so many reasons to be happy.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Aunt Linda

If Stuart's mother and Evie Harris could somehow merge into the body of your disapproving aunt, it would this woman. May I please present the many moods of Aunt Linda.







Monday, November 13, 2006

Little Shirley Beans

Recent photographical conquests.

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cafe dining car 3

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cactus fruit

Friday, November 10, 2006

Your Best Friend's Wife

I just realized that Homer Simpson, Hank Hill and Peter Griffin — the main characters of "The Simpsons," "King of the Hill" and "Family Guy," which happen to be the three big FOX animated Sunday night sitcoms — each have a best friend who has a crush on their wife. Moe is always trying to sweep in with Marge whenever he thinks Homer is dead, Bill Dauterive makes awkward passes at Peggy, and Quagmire thinks Lois is the most attractive woman in the neighborhood. Funny, that.

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman With Lots of Hats

Just when you think Jenny Lewis has risen to the flawless levels of rock goddess stardom, this piece of pop culture wonderful surfaces. "Teen Set," a video magazine that attempts to show what kids in 1991 should think is cool.

As much as I like Jenny Lewis, I can't help but snicker at the idea of this interview coming back to haunt her, making her face about as red as her hair. The highlights:
  • "What was it like to work with Fred Savage?"
  • The montage of Jenny trying on different hats.
  • "Frankly Scarlett, I don't give a damn," spoken in her regular Jenny Lewis voice instead of the various accents that mark the rest of her hat personalities.
  • In answer to Jenny's claim that she enjoyed her mother getting a part in "Troop Beverly Hills," the interviewer asks who her mom was in the film. "Shelley Long," Lewis explains. "My mom was Shelley Long."
  • The circus music that plays during the trampoline sequence.
And, oh yes — it features a cameo from the original Rabbit Fur Coat woman herself: Jenny's mom, shown wearing a carbon-dated t-shirt and not the coat we all wanted her to be wearing.

And just so you all don't think I'm trying to make Jenny Lewis look like an ass, here's a finishing touch that makes her look considerably, properly, accurately cooler — the video for "Rise Up With Fists."

[ source: Prance Closer ]

Thursday, November 9, 2006

Snake Wig

Since I first discovered Greek mythology as a kid, I’ve been entranced by it. As a product of Catholic school, I spent a lot of my childhood hearing Biblical stories. In their own right, they’re good, I suppose. Occasionally, they feature the type of extreme violence that grabbed my attention. Greek mythology, however, offered everything: blood, guts, all manner of weird sex, and such freaky monsters that they’re still showing up in random bits of popular culture today.

Easily first among the toothy, mismatched creatures Greek mythology offers us is Medusa. She’s a longtime love of mine. I’ve even written about her before on this blog — “Fiorenze Henderson” and “Pentimento” and “Medusa Meets Monty Python” — but most notably in a post in which I theorized that she could be a symbol for the vilified female artist. Gaze and statues and all that. It makes sense. Look into it. She’s strange and supremely lethal and quite confusing given her dual origin stories.

A sketch of Miss M., done during a boring history lecture

Recently, a fellow blogger wrote a retrospective of the many appearances of ol’ Snakeylocks in video games. She’s a regular, whether she’s depicted as a vixen with an awkward hairdo or an out-and-out monster. Whatever the design, she’s popular in video games because she’s from Greek mythology — thus her presence doesn’t offend Christians — and she’s a powerful female figure.

Reading the article sent me looking into Medusa. I was surprised to find that her name means “queen” — or, literally, “female ruler” or “female guardian” — in some old form of Greek. How odd. Some postulate that the Medusa character may have arisen from a particularly disliked female ruler whom folklore had transformed into a literal monster by the time the Greeks began telling stories. I, however, would wager that something else may have caused the name “Medusa” to ultimately be associated with the ugliest, the most dangerous and the most genuinely awful woman in the canon of literature. (Yes Jezebel and Lady MacBeth were bad, but people could at least look at them without dying.)

Before I ended up completing the English degree I started college pursuing, I bounced around in a few different departments. I took four linguistics classes with Arthur Schwartz, a great professor who helped me get more out of the language I grew up speaking than anybody else who’s ever taught me. One of the things that has long stood out in my head is the phenomenon of words for “left” becoming pejorative over time. For example, look at the following words for “right” from various Indo-European languages.
  • Latin: dexter
  • Italian: destra
  • German: recht
  • French: droite
  • Spanish: derecho
  • Persian: rast
If you’ll notice, a sound pattern is shared by these words. They either start with “d” or “r,” and most of them have both the “d” and “r” syllables in them. Clearly, these words share an etymological connection. And this would make sense, especially since they refer to a basic human concept and the various listed languages all originate in the same basic area.

Now note the same languages’ words for “left.”
  • Latin: sinister
  • Italian: mancino
  • German: link
  • French: gauche
  • Spanish: izquierda
  • Persian: chap
The relationship among these words vanishes. It might initially seem curious that the words for “left” wouldn’t share a connection with their respective opposites do. However, as Prof. Schwartz explained, another basic human concept is the profanity of the left hand. That side of the body — and especially that hand — is considered so dirty, in fact, that the centuries and centuries of using it eventually makes it impolite to use, similar in the way that “sinister” today means “evil” in English. Thus, before people began writing words down, they’d cycle through words for this idea fairly quickly. Even now that language is more formalized, we’re still doing it. The American expression “left-handed compliment” helps prove this.

This post, however, concerns Medusa. Using the logic of the eventual debasement of words for “left,” I’d wager something similar happened with Medusa. Just as the longstanding view of western culture regards the left hand as the inferior of the right, women, unfortunately, have long been regarded as the inferiors to men. I think that because of this prejudice, words referring to women also suffer the same fate.

I can think of a few examples in contemporary English-speaking culture. Another bit I learned in one of Schwartz’s classes is that a little-known word exists that is a perfect homonym for “queen.” It’s “quean,” which is sometimes spelled “kwean” or “kween,” depending on who’s doing the translating. Now obsolete, “quean” refers to women of little status — nobodies, serfs and the like. The Scots still use it this way. Outside of Scotland, however, the word can also refer to a prostitute or even a male homosexual, the latter of which is made all the more confusing by the fact that we use the more familiarly spelled “queen” today to also mean a male homosexual. The whole essence of what I’m going for here is that queens and queans could easily be considered social opposites. And I find it very interesting that a language would allow for two words with identical pronunciation to mean opposites.

Though it’s probably the best example, we have a few terms we use commonly that work in a similar way. The word “madam,” for example, should be a term of respect, but I know I can’t hear it without hearing the meaning that refers to women in charge of brothels. Likewise, “lady” should be the respectful way one refers to a woman of standing, but to call a woman that — as in, “Listen, lady” — is often considered impolite. A “princess” is more commonly understood as a spoiled girl than the Diana or Cinderella types. “Mary,” long the most common girls' name in the United States, is now a commonly understood term for a male homosexual, which doesn't carry as much perjorative weight today, sure, but did when the term first originated. And then there's “spinster,” “mistress,” “witch,” “bitch,” and “actress” as opposed to “actor.” Even the title “Miss” is now considered improper.

It happens. Words take on new meaning over time, and unless they refer to what their speakers consider good, those meanings often turn out to be bad. I can only imagine that “Medusa” — being an old, old word — has slowly transformed into from a female ruler to the single worst female entity you’d ever want to encounter.

I just enjoy that this monster has roots in something far different. In Sexual Personae, Camille Paglia writes that Medusa is an inherently sexual character. “She is Medusa, in whom Freud sees the castrating and castrated female pubes. But Medusa's snaky hair is also the writhing vegetable growth of nature. Her hideous grimace is men's fear of the laughter of women.” I think she makes a point. And I also think that whether people process the notion of Medusa’s origins or not, they’re aware of her dual nature on some level.

To go back to the Medusa-in-video games post, why else might this loathsome woman come to be represented as beautiful?

Nothing is more interesting than when it’s something and that things opposite at the same time. Does that even make sense?

Monday, November 6, 2006

Revenge of the Blob

And on a far less-groundshaking note, I came across a second noteworthy sea creature today. This particular species is not new to the world of science, but I feel most people don’t know about it.

And they should.

Being the lame-ass that I am, I spent a work break perusing Wikipedia articles on the EarthBound series of video games. This is a Nintendo franchise that has seen little release in the United States despite its greatness. One of the recurring characters in the game is a strange little fellow named Mr. Saturn.

Here is Mr. Saturn as he appears in his original, two-dimensional form. The limits of the Super Nintendo mean you can't really go for a lot of detail, of course.

And here is Mr. Saturn, realized in three dimensions for his appearance in Smash Bros. The various playable characters can chuck him at enemies.

As you can see from this images, Mr. Saturn is little more than a walking nose with a funny haircut. In EarthBound, these little fellows — who are all named “Mr. Saturn” — speak a strange broken English and, despite their outlandish appearance, are happy to help the game’s heroes. (They also irritatingly intersperse their speech with the interjection “BOING!” for no apparent reason.) Next to nobody has ever played these games, but Mr. Saturn showed up as an item in Super Smash Bros. Melee — a Nintendo mascot free-for-all, for the uninitiated. Even with the Nintendo Gamecube’s high resolution, a lot of people who suddenly found their character grasping a Mr. Saturn mid-battle probably wondered what the hell he was.

In any case, the Wikipedia article on Mr. Saturn — or Mr. Saturns, depending on how you interpret this characteristically Japanese take on the group and the individual — notes that he somewhat resembles “a blobfish.” The term seems made-up. Given the article’s context, I wondered if it was a Pok√©mon or something, so I decided to click the link to the Wikipedia entry for “blobfish.”

This little-seen species — Psychrolutes marcidus — apparently lives in the deepest waters off the coast of Australia. The blobfish is composed mostly of jelly and lacks muscles. It floats about with a gas-filled bladder and eats merely by waiting for something edible to swim into it. Fascinating, no? Tragically, its Wikipedia page lacks a photo of the beast, so I had to turn to Google image search for a result.

It’s shocking, I suppose, but I don’t know why I expected anything different. There's a passing resemblance, I suppose. Maybe if Mr. Saturn melted.

Those of you who followed my other blog project, Die Wunderkammer, should know that I have a soft spot for the weird-goofy aesthetic of the EarthBound games, as the game's characters figured into several posts:

Sunday, November 5, 2006

The Grammar of Capital Punishment

Before I fell asleep last night, I checked the Drudge Report in order to poison my dreams with a biased view of the news. I hadn’t checked news all day, to be honest, so I was unaware that the Saddam Hussein trial had reached a verdict. This was what I saw last night:

It’s still up today. In my half-awake state, I didn’t understand what the story was trying to express. “Faces Hanging After Baghdad Verdict,” to me implied that people were upset with the verdict, and that their “faces hanging” was some idiom Matt Drudge was using to express that people were downcast. It wasn’t until I checked this morning that I understood what the headline actually meant: Saddam Hussein is going to be killed by hanging. The odd thing is that when I explained the situation to Spencer in terms of the Drudge Report headline, he also interpreted it as people being upset, not Hussein hanging from a rope.

This all reminds me a bit of the garden path sentences I learned about when I was going through that “Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo” phase. Like “The horse raced past the barn fell” and the like.

Hopefully news of his imminent death was clearer for Saddam himself.

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

An Open Letter Written Upon the Death of Mr. Eko

Dear people who make "Lost,"

Exactly what was the point of introducing the "tailaway" characters — Mr. Eko, Ana-Lucia, Bernard, Cindy and sweet, sweet Libby — only to kill off the three major ones and have Cindy disappeared? I mean, Bernard is great and all, but we haven’t even seen him yet this season. And having the smoke monster thrash Mr. Eko to death did remind us that this unexplained phenomenon is a legitimate threat to our dear unwashed crash survivors… But still. If either Nikki or Paulo die within the next season, you're getting a more strongly worded open letter, you can be sure.

On top of all of that, it's extra creepy that you'd kill of yet another "Lost" cast member who incurred the wrath of the police after breaking some traffic rule or another. Even if Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje was cleared a few months after he was caught driving without a license, this is still too much of a coincidence to escape mention.

You worry me. All I know is that if Yunjim Kim gets caught double-parking her Daewoo, I'm going to be very frightened for her.


Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Fun Teenager Ketchup Party (The Follow-Up)

I'll bet you four thought I forgot about this. In case anyone wasn't reading for the introduction, the rules went as follows:

1. You guys tell me what kind of music you want.

2. In a few days, I'll post one mp3 for each of you.

You can't request music by band name or genre. You have to describe, in terms of color, mood, texture, taste, or any other creative way you can think of, what you're looking for in a song, and I'll do the best I can with what I have. Yes, that means that I may end up posting a song that you wouldn't normally listen to. That's part of the fun.

I can't use more than one song by any given band. The point of this meme is to give you a taste of new stuff, not to pirate whole CDs. If you like what you hear, you'll still need to buy it yourself. If two of you come up with identical descriptions, I have to find two bands that both fit, or use one song for both of you.

I can't make the song permanently available. Unless the song in question is already available on the band's website (in which case, I'll provide a link to their site instead of posting an mp3), I'll be taking the songs down in a few days, or posting them on a temporary host so that they'll expire after a few days.
I've been doing a thousand other things, but that doesn't mean I had forgotten about the arrangement. Bri (Bri!) responded first, with this: If Twin Peaks were set today, what song would Audrey find to dance to in a contemporary jukebox?

My answer: The Gossip, "Listen Up." Like Audrey herself, this song has a retro vibe. I could honest hear Aretha Franklin singing in as well as the girl who does. Besides that, the message of the song seems to be one that a popular rich girl like Audrey would agree with. I'm not 100 percent comfortable with this recommendation, however, so I'm going to double-up with Andy Votel's "The Return of the Spooky Driver," which may not be imminently danceable but at least matches the formal structure of Audrey's theme. Besides, I doubt anybody but Audrey herself could dance to Audrey's theme.

The Gossip and Andy Votel are both available through iTunes, though less legal downloading programs could probably snag the songs as well.

Next up: Dina (Canklesaurus!). She responded with this: I would like to hear a song that you can dance to, but awkwardly. I would like to not quite know how to move because something odd but fun is happening so I must just hop around and smile a lot and wave my arms like a European. I want it to be bubbly like icecream covered in bubbles — inedible but still delicious.

My answer: Soviet's "Candy Girl." It's dance music, but in a very New Wave sort of way. (And no, I didn't just recommend this because I associate a band called "Soviet" with you, my little Russkie immigrant child. If you didn't know better, you'd probably think it came from that era, but it oddly came from the 90s, neatly between the two time periods where such synthy music was in style. It's poppy as all hell, but the singer's voice is so low that it always seemed to me that the vocal track had to have been recorded separately, in the basement of a shoe polish sandwich shop in some country that didn't exist before the U.S.S.R. fell.

Next up: Meg (Meg Horesxhkji!). She shot me this: I'd like to hear something synesthetically red and orange and outlined in thick black lines, something that expresses existential discontent in a cheerfully palatable manner. I'd like it to generate the kind of weirdly nostalgic, mixed up and distressed and simultaneously exultant feelings that you'd have if you accidentally came across your tattered, childhood teddybear up for sale by some stranger on eBay."

My answer: Woof. That's a lot to chew on, but I think I can give you something that captures most of it. The Magnetic Fields' "I Don't Love You Anymore" could probably work on the grounds that it presents a title that ostensibly explain a man's now-dead love for a woman. However, it's very clear from the song that he still carries those feelings. It's a fairly simple song in that it sounds like something a child might write or sing, however, the meaning goes deeper than that. It may not be especially red and orange with black lines, but I'm not sure what would be.

The Magnetic Fields are available on iTunes. But if you download one, you should really get the rest, too. I think you'd especially dig this band.

Next up: Pedro (Pedro!). He spat at me the following: Because you know enough about art history to have a chance at pulling it off: I'd like to hear something Baroque. Not the cats-banging-against-a-trashcan that they came up with themselves, but something that sounds like Baroque sculpture and/or architecture looks.

My answer: Fuck. I don't know much about the Baroque anything. In fact, whenever I see the word, I secretly pronounce it in my head as "barbecue." But I have seen it before. From what I’ve taken in from all things Baroque, this song should be elaborate, fancy, vaguely spiritual, lush and largely grand. I think “The Tain,” by the Decembersists, should work well. It’s an epic eighteen-minute song, with four or five distinct parts. It also features various speakers, including a crone, a soldier, a chorus of waifs, a married couple, a sea captain, and a widow.

As always, “The Tain” is available on iTunes, but only if you purchase the full album. If you have any trouble finding a way around this, tell me and I’ll help you out.

So how did I do?

Monday, October 30, 2006

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Carnival of Terror

I find this endlessly entertaining. The music helps.

I'd imagine this is what the children who tortured ants with magnifying glasses did upon turning their malice to more socially appropriate venues.

The Onion Kid

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Cryptkicker Five

Brett Easton Ellis' perfect Halloween mix, as noted in his 2005 pseudo-autobiography Lunar Park:
  • "The Ghost In You" - The Psychedelic Furs
  • "Thriller" - Michael Jackson
  • "Witchy Woman" - The Eagles
  • "Evil Woman" - Electric Light Orchestra
  • "Rhiannon" - Fleetwood Mac
  • "Sympathy For The Devil" - The Rolling Stones
  • "Werewolves Of London" - Warren Zevon
  • "Spooky Girlfriend" - Elvis Costello
  • "Time Of The Season" - The Zombies
  • "One Of These Nights" - The Eagles
  • "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" - Blue Oyster Cult
My additions:
  • "Bad Moon Rising" - Creedence Clearwater Revival
  • "Spooky" - Dusty Springfield
  • "Hush" - Deep Purple
  • "Paint It Black" - The Rolling Stones
  • "She's Not There" - The Zombies
  • "Bela Lugosi's Dead" - Bauhaus

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Hoodoo Guru

Every so often, I’ll use this blog as a means to share a strange dream I’ve had. When I hear most people recount their dreams, it’s usually a painful affair. By virtue of not making sense, dreams make for an unsatisfying story in which the problems presented are not solved but instead are tacked on one after another. The result is the narrative equivalent of a run-on sentence.

I’d like to think that some dreams — if explained correctly — are worth the time it takes to explain them. I’ve related quite a few here before, but I just realized today that I’ve never written about my most memorable dream.

So I will.

Picture a field. Iowa. Kansas. Whatever gets you there. It’s flat and cropless. It’s a plane, in the geometrical sense, stretching out to the horizon.

Somewhere in this area is a small farmhouse, isolated and without any nearby trees or houses. I am standing in the back porch — an enclosed area where you could imagine rocking chairs and old people and the like. However, the only other people on the porch are two girls, pretty and high school-aged. I should probably note that while I’m “there,” I’m not. The girls don’t seem to see me, so I’m some kind of ghost or floating observer to this little scene. In any case, a young man is standing at the door to this enclosed back porch construction and he’s angry.

Instinctively — or magically, if you will, in the way dreams imbue you with knowledge that you never learned but just have — I know that the young man goes to school with these girls. He’s unpopular for whatever reason, and the girls befriended him as a joke. He screams and yells and pounds on the frame of the door, but the girls laugh at him. For whatever reason, the joke is still funny.

Soon, however, the pounding gets louder and louder until I’m not looking at the girls anymore. I am looking at the angry young man. Despite my status as a floating narrator ghost, this rage scares me. And then I note that the girls have stopped laughing. They’re scared too. The banging continues and panic on the back porch escalates.

Suddenly, the entire scene falls silent. It’s as if someone hit a giant mute button and more than earlier it’s as if I’m watching this interaction in the same way I’d watch a movie. Then a hear a noise that I can only describe as the sound of a hundred men humming at the same time. One loud, resonant note, sung in perfect unison. I can hear it in my memory still, this noise I never actually heard. It gives me chills.

In the distance, I can see a figure bounding over the horizon. A speck growing larger with every Superman-style leap it takes as it nears the house. It’s a man, though he’s quite skinny and wrapped in cloth, like a mummy. Only his eyes are visible. My brain tells me this thing is called the “Hoodoo Guru,” and despite the goofiness of the name, the Hoodoo Guru is terrifying.

With tremendous force, the Hoodoo Guru eventually crashes onto the angry young man, and for a moment both are on the ground, below the view that the window in the back door provides. Then the wrapped man stands, and then the young man does too. They look at each other for a moment before the Hoodoo Guru taps him once on the head and his body falls into pieces — specifically six: head, arm, arm, torso, leg, leg. Not bloody pieces, mind you. Neat and tidy, like a human body was meant to disassemble. The Hoodoo Guru gathers the pieces in his arms and bounds away.

That’s the dream.

When I had this dream, I was a sophomore in college and living in an apartment in Isla Vista. I specifically dreamed this story at about five in the morning. Immediately afterwards, I was perfectly awake — not so much from the fact that the dream scared me but more than I had to use the bathroom very badly. I didn’t, however, and this is the truly weird part of the dream: I had the completely irrational fear that if I walked into the bathroom, I’d pass by the mirror and see someone else’s face instead of mine. Not the Hoodoo Guru’s necessarily, though that would have been unsettling, I’m sure. No, anybody’s face. Just not mine.

Despite the insisting of my bladder, I lied in bed and very calmly told myself that I’d just have to wait until the risk of mirror confusion had passed. Near eight-o-clock, I finally realized the illogic of this belief and peed like a normal person. Clearly, though, I was insane at the time. I mean that literally.

I don’t know why the dream affected me so profoundly or so strangely. I had another dream during the summer after my senior year that also had a dramatic effect, but that was different. (For the record, I recorded that dream in a post shortly thereafter.) Also of note: The Hoodoo Gurus are an Australian rock band whose track “What’s My Scene” I had downloaded probably six months before the dream. It’s a good track in the style of The Replacements or The Smithereens. Every time I hear the opening chords, though, I get a little shiver, only because of the associations my subconscious made with it.

All in all, I’ve never been able to make anything from it. I just thought I’d write about it.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

It Was the Sister!

I’d like to present a song that, perhaps more than just about any other, warrants a closer look: “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia.” Yes, it’s country. Yes, as a rule, country sucks. However, this song was first performed in an era where a lot of country was good, enjoyed mainstream success and shared a lot of style with the soul and rock music of the day. Often, a song could easily be placed in any of the three categories.

People most likely peg “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia” as out-and-out country probably because the cover version by Reba Macentire seems to be more familiar than the original by Vicki Lawrence. I vastly prefer Lawrence’s take. Since this is one of those sings that tells a story — again, like a lot of great country of the era did — Lawrence’s restrained voice works a lot better than Macentire’s big, brash vocals. True, both singers have red hair, but the fact that Lawrence considered this hit song a career high despite starring on “The Carol Burnett Show” and, later, “Mama’s Family” makes it all the more worthwhile to note.
He was on his way home from Candletop,
Okay, so he’s returning from “Candletop,” which I’d imagine is an area in Georgia between Moonshine Valley and Curly, Curly Piggy Tail. I’d always heard the lyric as “Canada,” but I guess that seems off, in retrospect.

Been two weeks gone, and he’d thought he’d stop,
At Web’s and have him a drink ’fore he went home to her.
Andy Wo-lo said: “Hello.”
Andy who? I honestly can’t make out what is spoken here, by either Vicki or Reba. Various results for lyric searches on Google give me “Andy Warlow,” “Andy Wadlow,” “Andy Woelow,” “Andy Wallow,” and, perhaps with the least chance of being correct, “Andy Warlord.” Also, Andy works at a bar called “Web’s,” but I’m certain his last name isn’t “Web.” And most confusingly, the narrator refers to him with the unlikely nickname of “Wo” two lines after the character is introduced.
He said “Hi. What’s doin’?”
Wo said: “Sit down, I got some bad news — it’s gonna hurt.”
He said: “I’m your best friend, and you know that’s right,
“But your young bride ain’t home tonight.
Since you been gone, she’s been seeing that Amos boy, Seth.”
I’m totally unclear whether Andy’s explaining that the wife is fooling around with a man named Seth Amos or he’s telling the protagonist — whose name is Seth — that she’s been fooling around with “that Amos boy.”
Now he got mad, and he saw red.
Andy said: “Boy, don’t you lose your head,
’Cos to tell you the truth, I’ve been with her myself.”
Awkward, Andy. Also awkward: the abbreviation of “because” to one syllable. I just stuck with “cos” with the apostrophe in front of it since that at least looked better than “cuz.” Technically, the apostrophe doesn’t even need to be there, since “cos” isn’t technically a contraction for anything.
That’s the night that the lights went out in Georgia.
That’s the night that they hung an innocent man.
Well, don’t trust your soul to no backwoods Southern lawyer.
’Cos the judge in the town’s got bloodstains on his hands.

Well Andy got scared, and left the bar,
Walkin’ on home, ’cos he didn’t live far.
You see, Andy didn’t have many friends,
And he just lost him one.
Brother thought his wife must have left town,
So he went home and finally found,
The only thing Papa had left him — and that was a gun.
I’m honestly confused as to why the main character would just assume his wife would have left town, for whatever reason, but whatever — it advances the plot by giving him to go home and play with this heirloom revolver he apparently has.
He went off to Andy’s house,
Slippin’ through the backwoods quiet as a mouse.
Came upon some tracks too small for Andy to make.
A clue!
He looked through the screen at the back porch door,
And he saw Andy lyin’ on the floor
In a puddle of blood and he started to shake.
I'm assuming it's the main character who's shaking and not the newly dead Andy, though from the context you really can't tell. Damn pronouns.
Georgia patrol was making their rounds,
So he fired a shot just to flag them down.
A big-bellied sheriff grabbed his gun and said “Why’d you do it?”

Judge said guilty on a make-believe trial,
Slapped the sheriff on the back with a smile,
And said: “Supper’s waitin’ at home, and I gotta get to it.”
Well, they hung my brother before I could say
Okay, so the narrator isn’t just some random person. She has a personal relation to the main character. Interesting that we don’t get that until the end of the song. And wait — they hung the brother? For whatever reason, I just assumed that the brother got the electric chair and his electrocution was the reason the nights went out in the entire state. You know, because the whole of Georgia only has enough power to operate one electrical appliance at a time.
The tracks he saw while on his way
To Andy’s house and back that night were mine.
And his cheatin’ wife had never left town,
That’s one body that’ll never be found.
You see, little sister don’t miss when she aims her gun.
I love this. The narrator, whom we have just assumed is some nameless storyteller is actually an active participant in the story. The murderer, no less. But seriously? He was tried, convicted and hanged — not "hung," as the lyrics erroneously state — before she could do anything about it? Seems odd. She was probably busy killing every other person in town.
So that’s it.

This is a great song, and I’ve been thinking about it more closely than probably anybody else I know ever would ever since I saw that scene in “Resevoir Dogs” where Nice Guy Eddie mentions having listened to the song and then finally realizing that Vicki Lawrence is the killer. I’m just honestly impressed that such a story could be compacted so neatly into a three-minute song. Seriously, this song has more characters than books I’ve read:
  • the main character
  • his sister, the narrator and murderer.
  • Andy Whatever-His-Last-Name-Is, the ill-fated bartender
  • the whore of a wife
  • that Amos boy, Seth
  • the backwoods southern lawyer the protagonist apparently entrusted himself to
  • “Papa,” the father of the protagonist and the narrator
  • the big-bellied sheriff
And so few pop songs have twist endings nowadays. The idea that she’d murder Andy on the same night as her brother would come home, only moments after Andy confronted him is odd, I’ll admit. Beyond that, I’m not entirely clear as to why she’s killing people. If most people were going to confront a adulterous sister-in-law, they’d probably just talk about it over coffee or, at the very least, yell “Whore!” as they passed her on the street or something. Maybe the sister is just psychotic. That would explain a lot.

Anyway, I like this song. I enjoy that it’s more complex than an episode of “Law & Order.” I like that it’s ambiguous, even if part of that ambiguity means not explaining exactly why the lights went off. And most of all, I like Vicki Lawrence. This whole mess would have made an excellent series finale to “Mama’s Family.” Kristy McNichol actually starred in a 1981 film called “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia,” but, as the Wikipedia explains it, the plot bears little resemblance to the song. That’s probably a good thing, since I’d imagine most people would have realized that the sister is the killer during the period the song was a number-one hit — April of 1973, right between Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly” and Tony Orlando’s “Tie a Yellow Ribbon.” I might as well note that adapting songs into movies was also a trend during that has long-since vanished. Two other popular country songs from the same time as “Georgie” — Jeannie C. Riley’s “Harper Valley P.T.A.” and Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe” — fared considerably better.

And you know what? I just figured it out — the lights went out in Georgia because the batshit-crazy sister killed them too.

The Kodos-o-Lantern

Last year, when pressed with the task of turning a pumpkin into a jack-o-lantern, I decided to fashion the face in the likeness of the scariest thing I could think of.

Yes, little Quincy Jones, the dog who thirsted for blood, made the cut. This year, I bought an even bigger pumpkin. We decided to have a mini-marathon of “Treehouse of Horror” and, thus, I made my pumpkin in honor of the tentacled aliens who so often appear in them — specifically Kodos and not Kang, because Kang is clearly inferior.

kodos-o-lantern 2

Not all that close, especially since it’s pretty hard to carve tentacles.

But I’m pleased with it. For the record, I was told I could not, in fact, call the jack-o-lantern “Kodos,” so we’ve taken to calling it “Miriam.”

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Sea of Heiuso

The whole weekend didn’t revolve around possible apparitions of long-dead prom queens in white hats, however. This below is entirely more representative of my time at home.

dog time 1

dog time 2

dog time 3

dog time 6

dog time 7

dog time 8

The Woman in White

I drove home last Saturday for a brief break from Santa Barbara life. In all, the weekend went well. On the drive up, however, I nearly veered off the road while gawking at an unexpected roadside attraction: a strange person, dressed all in white, with a white, wide-brimmed hat, bowing reverently to passing traffic. This occurred right on Highway 25 — a backwoods stretch also known as “Airline Highway” that I use to cut through King City and get to my house without having to pass through Salinas. She was standing right where the road forms a “T,” with the various legs of the letter running to Hollister, King City and Coalinga, respectively.

Yesterday morning, I traced the same route back home. When I got to the T once again, I saw the same white-clad person, only a few yards from where the first strange encounter happened. This time, the person was walking with her back to me, towards Coalinga. I was half-tempted to follow and ask what strange compulsion could possibly be causing this activity — at the height of the midday sun and on a shadeless road, no less. But then I started thinking about “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “The Hills Have Eyes” and the like and decided to press ahead to King City.

Right at where Highway 25 dumps off onto the 101, there’s a gas station that I always stop at. I arrive at this spot either one hour or three hours into the four-hour trip it takes to between Santa Barbara and Hollister, and regardless which way I’m headed it usually marks the time when I have to use the bathroom. So I asked the attendant — from whom I’ve been buying bottled water and assorted car trip food since I started college — if he had heard of anybody ever seeing this person. He had, in fact. He confirmed that the figure was a woman and that she had been dressing in white and walking the back roads for a while now.

I had never seen her before. Honestly, she creeps me out a bit. However, I’m curious to know if anybody who reads this blog had seen her or if they know why she is doing this. Is she keen on Jesus? A proponent of midday constitutionals? Proud of her white hat? Somehow, I feel the number of regular readers who would have reason to use this bypass would have diminished since we’ve mostly all graduated and moved away from Santa Barbara. I found nothing online about the Woman in White — not that I really expected to, seeing as how her ilk usually spread their gospel on poorly Xeroxed newsletters with lots of exclamation points and run-on sentences.

The combination of fearing for my life and not wanting to slow beneath sixty miles per hour didn’t allow me photograph the woman, but until I can this image will have to suffice.

Disregarding the nose, the menacing grin and the lit dynamite, it’s actually not a bad likeness.

Another Reason to Mistrust Pelicans

Children aghast as pelican swallows pigeon whole

[ link: the original story at the Daily Mail ]

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Don't Drink the Cuckoo Punch

It's just not a good recipe. Click for a larger image with readable text.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Victory of Pauline

Everything's so easy for Pauline. Everything's so easy for Pauline. Ancient strings set feet a light to speed to her such mild grace. No monument of tacky gold. They smoothed her hair with cinnamon waves, and they placed an ingot in her breast to burn cool and collected. Fate holds her firm in its cradle and then rolls her for a tender pause to savor. Everything's so easy for Pauline.

Girl with the parking lot eyes, Margaret is the fragments of a name. Her bravery is mistaken for the thrashing in the lake of the make-believe monster whose picture was faked. Margaret is the fragments of a name. Her love pours like a fountain. Her love steams like rage. Her jaw aches from wanting and she's sick from chlorine, but she'll never be as clean as the cool side of satin, Pauline.

Two girls ride the blue line. Two girls walk down the same street. One left her sweater sittin' on the train, the other lost three fingers at the cannery. Everything's so easy for Pauline.
[ something i haven't done in a long while ]

The Ghost Tree of Malaysia

Does it not make you feel slightly uneasy? It should.