Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Balloon Fighting Spirit

So Easy Franzese and I hightailed it to the best thing within an hour of my house: the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It's too good to be true, really: an interesting, relaxing and relatively inexpensive place to look at widgy, squidy sealife without getting eaten by it. Also, money to the aquarium helps promote welfare of marine creatures all-around, so it's even and act of good will just to buy a ticket. The only time I ever go, sadly, is when we have visiting Kiwis or Swissies, in which case take them since, as I mentioned, it's the best thing within an hour of my house.

I'd forgotten, however, than the nature of an aquarium makes photography difficult, what with the low lights, quick moving subjects and massive glass reflection. So here are my best efforts.



Sea otters are just as adorable as they ever were, yet this is the only photo that comes close to capturing that adorableness and cropping it into a neat little jpeg.



Fortunately, we were blessed with a multitude of skulky, lazy fish who have nothing better to do than stare at passers-by with unimpressed expressions. Did I say the aquarium was cheap? Well, you get what you pay for. I guess you have to go to Sea World if you want them to make with the floor show.



Here we have an eel in a bottle. Behind him are other fish frolicking in garbage in what Dave guessed was the aquarium's trash-on-the-ocean floor exhibit.



This is the sardine tank, where they case each other in an endless circle. Yes, what would appear to be wavy silver lines are the fish. Personally, I feel bad for them. They're like kids at community college — always going forward but never getting anywhere they want to be.

In fact, the only place a took a good many pictures was the jellyfish exhibit. Jellyfish, knowing they are the weirdest and therefore best of all undersea life, have no qualms about simply bobbing about and allowing everyone to observe their their translucent coolness.



Meet Shirley. Shirley the Jellyfish. She either looks like something my grandma would own or the remains of a pink candle that burnt irregularly. In other words, cool.



And then there's the evil jellyfish horde. Still cool, just less pretty and more imposing. Not anything like Shirley. She's quite a lady, that Shirley.



And here's the same jellyfish horde attacking the silhouetted head of Mr. Franzese himself. (He survived, thanks mostly to the protective silhouette.)

Features like the swirling sardines and the psychedelic jellyfish have long made the Monterey Bay Aquarium a nice spot for local teens to get high and then stare at things. But the new exhibit, a gallery of art based on jellyfish, seems to make this draw official. They even play trippy 60s lounge music and showcase lava lamps. Personally, I think it's a great idea. If you're going to encourage people to do drugs, you should always do so in a place where they are separated from the vicious sea predators by a breakable glass wall. As a precaution.



One of the decidedly less psychedelic pieces of art, this diagram depicts what people thought jellyfish and the like looked like back in the Victorian age. Apparently, they looked like fancy Christmas ornaments and large bacteria. Or possibly stylized genitalia.



Of all the pictures, this is my favorite. Me, two Mr. Franzeses and some jellyfish, all gathered in the room I think they intend you to do shrooms in. And then walk into mirrors.

So when's the last time you visited my Flickr account? There's not sense putting off until tomorrow what you can do today.

When the Dancefloor Is Nothing More Than the Dancefloor

While I was home last week, my mom took me out to the San Benito Country historical park. This sentence, I realize, inspires about as much enthusiasm as the phrase "scoliosis exam," but I swear this road leads the intersection of worthwhile and interesting.


Some people with a notion of hometown history have been transporting various buildings out into a little community out at the edge of Hollister. One by one, buildings with a history are popping up in this makeshift little neighborhood — everything important within walking distance of each other, artificially transplanted but so close in proximity that the artifice is negligible. It's like an Epcot Center for Hollister. (I know, I know — scoliosis exam, but stick with me.)

The principlele draw out to the historical park is the former office building for my family's business — a structure that was once a saloon called "Cottage Corners." It now rests comfortably with new coat of sea green paint.



I have to be respectful to my family's heritage, but another feature of the historical part easily stole my interest that afternoon.

See the fluorescent caution tape wrapped around the posts of the saloon porch? It's there because the saloon's immediate neighbor, the former dancehall, had been destroyed in a wind storm just two days before. The structural flaw with a dancehall, you see, is that it's generally not compartmentalized into smaller rooms like most buildings would be. Instead, one room, as big as possible, sits under the roof so you can fit the maximum number of dancers. Despite preservationists' best efforts, this aspect ultimately ended up destroying the dancehall when the wind blew through the building and generated enough momentum inside to simply pick the roof up in the air and then drop it in the walls, which buckled and fell to the wayside.

When I saw it, the site has been cleared of roof particles, but the walls remained, broken and lying on the ground. The contents of the dancehall — antiques appropriate to the time period and setting — had mostly been moved to the side, though many of them had also been crushed.


As it stood, the dancehall was now no more than the dancefloor, still smooth and wooden and entirely danceable, but now conspicuously sitting in the middle of the field. For reasons I still don't understand, no one had yet moved the two pianos in, where they might have escape the rain and subsequent further ruin. I ducked under the caution tape and started taking pictures, though I feel I failed to capture the odd familiarity I felt as I stood on this ruined dancefloor and watched a piano older than I am sit and soak in the sun. A little surreal, a little sad.



But so much more than just a broken old piano.


I don't know what will happen to what's left of the dancehall and I probably won't go back for a while. I do know, however, that seeing thing — weird, funny and pitiful, all at the same time — makes me feel more memorably connected to my hometown than anything else has in the past twenty-three years.


Oh yes. I nearly forgot to mention that I later saw some deer, too. It's kind of an epilogue, really.

Set on an Open Course for the Virgin Sea

I like Lara Flynn Boyle.

Regardless of what anybody says about her and her pointy, skeleton-like appearance, I think she has a certain appeal on screen. She's pretty, in a defined way, and she has this icy-sexy vibe that verges almost on creepy, but in a good way. Like if Morticia Adams dressed sensibly and went on a diet and had high-paying jobs. No, that's a terrible example. Nonetheless, I've enjoyed her work as troubled teenager Donna Hayward on "Twin Peaks" and as tough-as-nails prosecutor Helen Gamble on "The Practice" and as Wayne's obsessive ex-girlfriend in "Wayne's World." She's versatile — and she used to fuck Jack Nicholson, too.

So when "Las Vegas" came on at Todd and April's and I saw that Lara was a guest star, I was interested. I have never seen an episode of the show before, and though I don't recognize a single one of the regulars, I thought it might be worth a shot. The episode itself was nicely done. A comic book convention has taken over the central hotel — the Montecito hotel and casino, a fictional resort with a slant-rhymed name I can't stop repeating — and so the entire episode is framed in a comic book motif, with paneled, word-bubbled pen and ink drawings leading to and from the live-action shots every time the show went to or returned from a commercial. A nice touch.

The episode also had a underlying theme of things slipping away. Subtle, and far better done than I would have expected, it started with a drag queen singing STYX's "Sailing Away" at a funeral — one of the episodes many subplots. Yes, I realize a drag queen covering a STYX song at a funeral is not subtle, but following that, there's these nice little touches here and there that recall that idea. And that was nice, too.

I can't say I was as impressed with Lara. First off, something horrible happened to her lips. They're bigger, no doubt the result of some cosmetic science experiment. Lara may think they look good. I think they press together in the semblance of a duck bill. We're just going to have to disagree for now, but eventually I think she'll realize that she looks like she's had an allergic reaction to her plummeting body mass index. More importantly, Lara's role sucked. She's a domineering sexpot boss — and a boring one at that. When a role like that is poorly written, it just makes the character a villain and gives people a subconscious reason to hate women that make something of themselves. (A theory of mine.)

Lara's character appeared in the very first shot of the episode, and April immediately recognized the show as a rerun. I was stunned. Sure, I can identify any episode from the first twelve seasons of "The Simpsons" within ten seconds, give or take, but I didn't expect April would have honed so squarely on "Las Vegas." I'd be surprised if anyone has, really.

But then there was the episode's final scene. In it, Lara's character calls one of the regulars up to her office on the hotel's top floor for a tongue-lashing. (The bad kind.) She's standing up there on the windy balcony, yelling and berating and wearing this oddly multicolored nightgown that has a cape. Before you can turn to the person next to you and ask why the fuck she's wearing a cape, the wind whips her and her billowy clothes off the balcony and into the distance, like Spider-Man but without any of the superpower prerequisites that prevent him from falling into the pavement at terminal velocity.

Bam! Blend into comic book-style art. "To be continued..."

Clearly, the character is dead, in a wonderful mingling of the episodes two motifs. This, of course, explains why April could immediatelyt identify the episode as a rerun. Frankly, I'm impressed. It's one of the most out-of-nowhere deaths of a major character since Rosalind Shays stepped into an open elevator shaft in a episode of "L.A. Law" and fell out of the show forever. The death may be a jab at Lara's lack-of-weight problem, but I say that's exactly the kind of wild surprise television needs in its hour-long nighttime soaps.

I can't say that I'll watch the show again, especially since my principle draw is pavement goo, but for what it's worth, "Las Vegas" gave me one more reason to like Lara Flynn Boyle.

Monday, January 30, 2006

They Put Their Legs in the Air

I stopped by my brother's place tonight. He told me that he and his girlfriend are looking at places for a wedding reception, which everyone should find funny since the two are still not yet engaged. Curious to this whole wedding process, I asked him who will front the money for this event: him, our parents or April's. Traditionally, it should be the bride's parents, they explained. (And I think back to that Steve Martin movie, my prime reference for this sort of thing, and that seems right.) So I joked that if Todd and April are going to have a traditional wedding, then her parents should also pay us a dowry. Once we settled on livestock as the appropriate currency for this transaction, April suggested that her family's fainting goats would work best.

"Fainting goats?"

It sounds ridiculous, but apparently these animals actually exist. Also known as "Nervous goats," "Stiff-leg goats, "Wooden leg goats" and "Tennessee Scare goats," this particular breed are genetically predisposed to react to predators by becoming rigid and falling over. (Oh, how wonderful my childhood could have been.) The condition is called "myotonia."

Here is a photo of a myotonic goat.


I know it looks like a sleeping cat, but I have to believe that the International Fainting Goat Association would post a picture of a cat in place of a goat.

No wait. Here is a better picture. I'd delete the first one, but I find it too amusing it its cat-like qualities.


According to April, the function of the fainting goat is to use them as sacrificial bait for predators. If you stick a fainting goat in with a flock of sheep, for example, it will keel over when the wolves show up, allowing the sheep time to escape while the wolves strip his stiff, little body of goat-meat. I suppose you could say that you'd be using your fainting goat as a bit of scapegoat, though the etymology for the latter term doesn't support the theory, I'm shocked to find.

For more information on fainting goats and the people who raise them, visit the official club website for the International Fainting Goat Association. (And please, note the logo.)

Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Little Man Living in Your Pocket

On the drive home last Wednesday, my iPod spontaneously died. I tried poking it, shaking it and spinning the wheel, all to no effect. In the end, I had to listen to a relic of my years riding in my parents' cars — KGO, all talk news radio, AM 810 San Francisco.

Despite nearly putting me to sleep on the King City backroads, the folks at KGO did tell me about this website, WheresGeorge.com. A simple idea: You check your dollar bills for serial numbers, type them in and then say where you are and where you picked up the bills. If someone else checks out the website and registers their bills — and apparently people often do — you can find out where your money ended up. Small bills, I learned, tend to stay in the community they're originally spent. Large ones, however, tend to travel quite far.

The news angle of this little story is that the National Institute of Health, otherwise known as former roommate Meghan's employer, has asked the site's creator to see his data. Purportedly, studying how money travels can give scientists a notion of how people travel on a weekly basis, and, thus, how disease might travel.

So there you go. Log in. Register your money. Save the world.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Encyclopedia Drew and the Mystery of the Mixed-Up Currency

As my grandmother cleans out the house she's been living in for the past fifty years, she comes across things that she'd like to pass down to younger generations of the family. As a result, it's now not uncommon to receive Christmas presents from her that verge on heirloom status. Some family members complain, but I like the practice.

This last Christmas — a day that, as of this writing, is more than a month past — my grandmother gave my brother and me each half a collection of Japanese pesos. The only background information she could supply was that her cousin Dave had picked these up during his stint in southeast Asia in World War II. She didn't know how or why the Japanese government got to printing pesos, much less disseminating them through out the Pacific.



Having never been to southeast Asia, I can't identify the tall tower depicted on these bills. I can, however, clearly read the word "peso" — not "yen" or "dollar" or "giant stone coin of the Yap islander." What's especially odd to me about these bills is that the text reads "one peso" and "the Japanese government" in plain English text.

I eventually got around to researching these weird bills online and found that they are the result of the Japanese occupation of the Philippines during World War II. It seems obvious, in retrospect. The Philippines still use the peso as its currency today, and English is one of its official languages. It seems that when the Japanese took over the Philippines, they tried to force this currency on the Filipino people. Essentially IOUs from the Japanese, the bills were met with resistance from the Filipinos, who dubbed them "Mickey Mouse dollars" and correctly figured that they'd never be worth anything. Instead, the people persisted in using crude, homemade currencies.

I wish there was more info about the Japanese peso online. So far, all I've gotten that still works is the talk section for the Wikipedia page on the Filipino peso — good ol' Wikipedia, once again — and this eBay page detailing one guy's attempt to sell his pesos for, I'm guessing, actual money. I suppose there's this page to now, so good luck to you future researchers of the Japanese peso.

I like these bills, and not only for their status as a trivial footnote in recent world history. Just looking at them, I feel like they represent some crazy intersection of too many cultues sweeping through one area in too short a time. The Japanese government, English text, a Filipino monument, a currency that initially began in Spain and a graphic design that to me looks like it was inspired by that of the American dollar. In a way, these short-lived bills are nicely emblematic of the Philippines in general. This little nation has been unfortunately bitched around by bigger nations for such a long time that its currency looks like some kind of multicultural singles mixer.

That, plus the fact that when I read "THE JAPANESE GOVERNMENT" all in caps like that, I hear it in this ridiculously official megaphone voice. And that's funny.

[ "m" minus some serious hardcore. do you get it yet? ]

Friday, January 27, 2006

Trivia on the Superhuman Scale

Being back in Crawllister forces me to care about the little things. For instance: this article in the Hollister Free Lance noting how my sad, lonely little hometown was mentioned in an article of a spin-off X-Men miniseries.

In the comic, a mutant named Erg explains how his uncle was one of the Hell's Angels who rioted in Hollister in the 1940s. The incident, which was overblown by the media and which eventually inspired the Marlon Brando film "The Wild One," involved only a few actual berserkers. By and large, most of the motorcyclists in Hollister at the time were as much bystanders to carnage as the town's residents were. Those who later studied the event figured that approximately one percent of the motorcyclists present had engaged in the wild criminal behavior that news media had so widely publicized. As a result of that estimation, many Hell's Angels — the fictional Erg's fictional uncle included — wore a pin bearing the phrase "one percent."

Anyway, the printed article had a scan from the actual comic. It's very strange to see accurate historical information about my town being printed in word bubbles with that thick all-capped font you see in comic books. But I suppose you'll just have to imagine what it's like.

Well, go ahead.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Punctuation Round-Up, Part Two

Last March, when I should have been preparing for my History 4A exam, I wrote a blog entry detailing the etymologies behind the long-lost letter “thorn,” the omnipresent-but-mysterious ampersand and the obscure interrobang. This is the follow-up to that entry, “Etymology Round-Up.”

[ “S” Goes to Jail ]

Like many people, I have used the dollar sign ($) without ever understanding precisely why an “S” with lines going through it represents the basic unit of American currency. I had heard initially that the sign comes from the expression “pieces of eight,” which is piratespeak for money. In that sense, the dollar sign was literally that — the “S” was actually the remaining chunks of the number 8, after having been divided by vertically cutting lines. But oh, if only it were that simple.

There are quite a few other origin stories that don’t pan out either. One, proffered by the United States Mint, claims that the modern-day dollar sign evolved from a logo that combined the “U” and “S” in the institution’s name, though apparently not the “M.” Ayn Rand apparently endorses this explanation of the sign in Atlas Shrugged. According to the website of researcher Roy Davies, the tenth chapter of Rand's book is titled "The Sign of the Dollar," and in it Rand claims that "the dollar sign was the symbol not only of the currency, but also the nation, a free economy, and a free mind." Though this one would appear to make the most sense, most researchers have seemingly abandoned it as a possible explanation because the dollar sign predates the founding of the United States. (Suck on that, Ayn.) The U.S. Mint website doesn't even list it — or any — explanation in their FAQ section.

Another different history, offered by the U.S. Bureau of Printing and Engraving, claims that the symbol was born as a result of a union of the letters “P” and “S” — as in “peso” or “piastre” or “pieces of silver” or, again, “pieces of eight.” The "S" was apparently written in superscript next to the "P" in "old manuscripts," though these ancient documents aren't cited and God knows where they could be. (This website for the bureau mentions this origin on its FAQ page — scroll down to the bottom third of the page.) This explanation accounts for the fact that the dollar sign was in use to denote other forms of currency long before the United States officially adopted it in 1785, and as a result seems to be the most favored possibility. However, the one vertical bar of the "P" doesn't account for the two vertical bars of the sign itself. (Though I should note that the iMac keyboard I'm typing on now only shows the sign with one vertical bar.)

The Wikipedia site for the dollar sign has a neat little graphic depicting how either the P-S or U-S explanations might have come to be.


Other, less popular theories abound. One purports that the dollar sign derives from an abbreviation for "shilling" — a form a British currency popular around the same time the Britons were drawing slashes through things to indicate that an abbreviation was being used. The still-used symbol for the British pound — £ — also has a slash, albeit a horizontal one.

Another unpopular explanation links the sign to slavery — and the Spanish words esclavo and clavo, meaning "slave" and "nail," respectively. Davies writes that "the shackles worn by slaves could be locked by a nail which was passed through the rings or loops at the ends of the shackle and bent while it was still hot and malleable." In short, the bent loops of the shackle looked like an "S." Once locked, they looked like an "S" with a line through it.

"S" + clavo ("nail") = S-clavo, or esclavo, meaning "slave"

To me, this seems at best another folk etymology, though one that works nicely when you consider what a large part of worldwide economy slaves once composed.

There's even a proposed connection to the Portuguese cifrão, a remarkably similar-looking character that Brazilians use to mark the transition from dollars to cents, much as we use a decimal point. (Well, not dollars and cents, but escudos and centavos. But you get the idea.)

What the Wikipedia entry concludes with, however, is an even stranger origin story for this little guy — and in my opinion, the one that most smacks of the truth. Some theorists link the dollar sign to the Pillars of Hercules, the twinned outcroppings that mark the Strait of Gibraltar — the nautical gateway to the new world. The logo of the two pillars superimposed over images of earth's two hemispheres — Eurasia and this new America thing — appeared on popular Spanish coins after Columbus' expedition and remained there until well after the United States declared its independence from Britain. The two circles representing the then-known world devolved into an "S" and the pillars became twin vertical strikes.

This explanation accounts for the double strike as well as the signs worldwide popularity. After all, the United States isn't the only nation to employ the dollar sign. Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile and Cuba also use it. Finally, it makes for sense than the shilling theory, because it seems unlikely that the United States would employ an out-dated currency symbol once held by the then-hated Britain.

Somewhere in these, there's the truth, but I feel like someone with more time than I have will be the one to sort it out.
[ all for you, lauren deny custard ]

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Especially Dominic Monaghan

Nothing against the show. I love it. But could people stop referring to the characters on "Lost" as "the castaways" and instead just call them "the losers"?

Tonight's episode was especially good. A bonus: they finally washed Cynthia Watros' character and it turns out she's actually pretty under all that dirt.

Shame on Ewe

Rumors of the 2006 Coachella line-up have begun to circulate online, apparently after having been leaked in an email from some careless higher-up. If this quickly spreading internet rumor is true — and when have they not been in the past, may I ask? — then the following bands will be appearing at Coachella in a few months.

April 29:
  • Depeche Mode
  • The Strokes
  • Portishead
  • Franz Ferdinand
  • Fatboy Slim
  • Massive Attack
  • Infected Mushroom
  • Royksopp
  • Kings of Leon
  • Doves
  • Sufjan Stevens
  • Broken Social Scene
  • Atmosphere
  • Blackalicious
  • Super Furry Animals
  • The Buzzcocks
  • Primal Scream
  • Supergrass
  • Ladytron
  • DJ Peretz
  • The Shins
  • Dieselboy
  • Tortoise
  • Sleater Kinney
  • Richard Hawley
  • Grooverider
  • Death From Above 1979
  • Yesterday’s New Quintet
  • The Walkmen
  • Son Volt
  • Will Oldham
  • The Clientele
  • Lightning Bolt
  • Cage
  • The Crimea
  • OK Go
  • Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
  • John Kelly
April 30:
  • The White Stripes
  • Roxy Music (featuring Brian Eno)
  • The Arcade Fire
  • Sigur Ros
  • Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  • Boards of Canada
  • Underworld
  • Ween
  • Death Cab for Cutie
  • Armin Van Buuren
  • Built to Spill
  • De La Soul
  • Big Star
  • Iron & Wine
  • Uberzone
  • Happy Mondays
  • Dinosaur Jr.
  • TV on the Radio
  • Elbow
  • Eagles of Death Metal
  • The Tears
  • Esthero
  • T. Rauschmiere
  • Cat Power
  • The New Pornographers
  • Carl Cox
  • Grandaddy
  • Calexico
  • Explosions in the Sky
  • The Wedding Present
  • Andy C
  • Fatlip
  • DJ Icey
  • The Notwist and Themselves performing as 13 & God
  • Devendra Banhart
  • The Coral
  • Stateless
  • 65 Days of Static
All in all, this purported line-up seems realistic. (Though, seriously, who the fuck listens to Esthero?) But I'm hesitant to get my hopes up after the fake line-up ended up online last year. Also, the inclusion of the Arcade Fire would seem to violate the rule of bands not being invited to Coachella two years in a row. (Though, again, I'm not sure that's so much an actual rule as an urban legend.) The official Coachella website currently says nothing about the 2006 line-up. If I remember correctly, last year's official list didn't get posted until Valentine's Day or so. The list I posed above is currently at a message board at StarPolish.com, a blog called Thighs Wide Shut and a British music news site called This Is Fake DIY. The only part of the whole hype that seems to be reliable as of yet is that Depeche Mode will headline, as evidenced by an article at MTV.com. And that makes sense, since Depeche Mode is big and good and their new album went over especially well. But if it turns out that this line-up is even partially correct: Sunscreen, anyone?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

What a Tacky Sunset, What a Vulgar Moon

Going back through the mnemonic device I was taught to remember the names of the planets in our solar system — yes, the one about the very eccentric mother — I was suddenly struck with the comparative crappiness of the name of the planet I'm writing this on. Earth — as in, a synonym for "dirt." Literally, our planet shares its name with some of the smallest particles that make up its outer layers. Our nearest neighbors, as pop culture self-help books remind us, share names with this great figures from Roman mythology — Mars, the uber-manly symbol of wrathful warfare, and Venus, the embodiment of all things sexy to the point that her name gives us the itchy, scratchy term "venereal." But here we sit in the middle, with no clear mythological figure to look up to. Even the two celestial bodies most important to Earth — the moon and the sun — get the shaft, as far as names go. Rather than calling them by their Roman names, we stick them with the generic terms for such things. Just a plain old sun, and a boring moon. We could have easily called the sun "Sol," I suppose, and the moon "Luna." Or something like that. But no. Other planet's moons — bodies which, I understand, have fairly little impact upon the daily lives of Earthlings — get fantastic names, like Europa and Ganymede and the like. We, however, insist upon referring the ones important to us as if they were the most humdrum, run-of-the-mill sun and moon we could possibly come across.

What I propose: If we're to rename the Sun, Moon and Earth, I vote that we either call them by their Roman names so as to fall in line with the rest of the solar system and call the three Sol, Luna and Terra, respectively. But if we really go through with this, I say we shoot the moon, so to speak. My suggestions for the new names for the Sun, Moon and Earth are — again, respectively — Superman, Moonie the Best Moon Ever, and the Wonderful Planet of Funk.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Watch Out, Laszlo Panaflex

Because she was asking for it. That's why.



This is my old roommate Jill. As you can see, Jill is wet and besmeared with shaving cream and other foaming substances. Her eyes are red. Though it might appear that Jill is crying, I assure you she is laughing.

In preparation for getting a new computer, you see, I've been going through my computer and finding old images that I thought were long gone. This image was taken three years ago by another roommate — Meghan or Nate, I can't remember which now — at the climax of a quickly escalating prank war between Jill and me. I can't say what brought the fight on, and I can't say what she did that brought the fight to these levels. All I know is that Jill was fleeing from me through the house and — rather stupidly — decided to hide in the shower, where she immediately drenched and foamed until she admitted that she had lost.

College — those are some memories.

Bread or Medical Emergency?

Food tastes better when it's smiling at you. It doesn't sound probable, I know, but pleasing packaging makes the contents so much more appealing. Case in point: Sun Milk. It's regular skim milk fortified with sunflower oil, which makes it taste heartier than regular skin milk. Whether that's true is ultimately irrelevant to me, as is the notion that this substance is the unholy semenic union of bovine and vegetable. The carton is just so goddamn pleasing.


(Sun Milk front)


(Sun Milk back)


(A close-up of the Sun Milk logo. What a happy fucking flower!)


(It's like the Brady Bunch grew a field of sunflowers!)


("I love Sun Milk as much as I love the sun itself!" — a contented cow)


(Malicious but still adorable trans fat!)

The nearest I can approximate the cuteness of the Sun Milk carton is that of the strange Japanese rice crackers that Subleaser Sarah left here. The English text identifies them as "Kameda Super Fresh Kaki no Tane Rice Crackers." They're super fresh crunchy, for sure, but my throat burns after I eat them.


(The packaging is good, but the Japanese text worries me.)


(What does it mean? Of what do these goblins speak? And why must a swim flipper and a toothbrushinterferee with my snacking?)


(Why have Tetris pieces escapes and come to deliver news via food?)



An attempted translation: "We are Hasashi and Okino, animate iron bars brought to life to enjoy Kameda Super Fresh Kaki no Tane Rice Crackers. Hasashi is angry because the Witch of Twelve Judgments has cursed him with the Black Tassel of doubt. But by eating Kameda Super Fresh Kaki no Tane Rice Crackers we hope to overcome this considerable handicap and become domestic partners. Praise Kameda Super Fresh Kaki no Tane Rice Crackers!"

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Math of the Surreally Yellow

I must admit I’m a little pissed. I received the seventh-season DVD box set of “The Simpsons” for Christmas — the one that includes the episode “Twenty-Two Short Films About Springfield,” which I’ve considered one of the best in the series. It plays exactly as the name indicates it should: a bunch of loosely interconnected vignettes about the various residents of Springfield, somewhat in the style of “Pulp Fiction” or this art house flick called “Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould.”

My major issue with the episode, however, is that it doesn’t contain twenty-two clear-cut segments. Those in the episode go as follows:
  1. Bart and Milhouse spit at cars from an overpass
  2. Apu in “The Jolly Bengali” segment, complete with title card and theme song
  3. Lisa gets gum in her hair
  4. Smithers gets stung by a bee
  5. Dr. Nick has his medical license reviewed, then prevents Grandpa Simpson from dying of “skin failure”
  6. Moe’s Tavern gets robbed
  7. The “Skinner and the Superintendent” segment, complete with title card and theme song
  8. Homer gets Maggie stuck in a newspaper vending machine
  9. Chief Wiggum and his deputies discuss McDonald’s
  10. Bumblebee Man’s house implodes
  11. Chief Wiggum runs down Snake
  12. Rev. Lovejoy’s dog shits on Flanders’ lawn
  13. “Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel” segment, complete with title card and theme song
  14. Milhouse and his Dad free Wiggum and Snake from the antique store
  15. Nelson Mocks an extremely tall man
  16. “The Tomfoolery of Professor John Frink” segment, complete with title card and theme song
The Lisa segment gets two sequels, so to speak, one involving the entire town trying to help her de-gum her hair and another involving a barber giving her a haircut — “I finally look like a real person! Thanks!” — and Bart gets another segment involving spitting that kind of bookends the entire show. At best, however, this makes nineteen.

Back when the episode first aired and I was just beginning to use the internet as an extra fix for my TV addiction, I looked the episode up and found that it was initially going to include two other segments: “Ralphplane,” involving the younger Wiggum and Krusty, and “Marge the Hostage.” (In retrospect, Ralph, Krusty and Marge seem like glaring omissions from the line-up of characters listed above. Well, them and Patty and Selma and Dr. Hibbert.) In fact, I can remember seeing a shot of Ralph and Krusty seated next to each other in an airplane in the original advertisements in the week before “Twenty-Two Short Films” first aired. Since the footage actually existed at some point — It had to! I saw it! — I eagerly awaited catching these two missing segments in the deleted scenes that the DVD box sets are so careful to include.

But no.

The only deleted scene provided for “Twenty-Two Short Films About Springfield” is an extended version of the “Jolly Bengali” title card and nothing more. As a last resort, I actually listened through the commentary to the episode to see if the people who made it might have any insight. They do indeed mention these two segments — noting that “Marge the Hostage” is some sort of fantasy sequence that ended in Marge being in a foul mood, hence her indifference to whether Lisa recycles later in the episode — and they claim that the segments should be included in the deleted scenes. (The writers also explain that the episode’s title is a reference to the Glenn Gould film and that they made the episode without bothering to count the vignettes.) They lie, however, as the missing segements just aren't there.

“Ralphplane and “Marge the Hostage,” I suppose, will be gone forever, which sucks for so many reasons, the least of them I can best explain in the following manner: “Come on! It’s Ralph. And Krusty. Together. On a plane! How could that not be the best thing ever?!”

So damn — has my imagination deluded me once again or have I just purchased a defective version of this particular DVD?