Monday, February 27, 2006

Yellow Makes Blue

I maintain that my friend Sanam is good to have around. Formerly known as “Persian Sanam” and “Amateur Facial Sanam,” this one is reliable for cutting remarks, information about obscure subjects and generally good conversation. Back when everybody still lived in Santa Barbara, I always said that if anything ever happened to Jill, then Nate and I could rotate Sanam in without missing a beat.

Even though Sanam moved to the other side of the country — the fool! the foolish fool! — she still fills my dull moments with little bits of interest that I have taken to calling Sanamiana. A perfect example of Sanamiana is a recent note she sent notifying me of a special Mozilla Firefox plug-in that updates you to the status of bygone celebrity Abe Vigoda. Specifically, a tiny icon of Vigoda’s face appears in the lower right portion of your browser with a pronouncement of him as either “alive” or “dead.” (For the moment, he’s alive.) The page where you can download the plug-in includes testimonials from satisfied Firefox users proclaiming how much they enjoy knowing whether Abe Vigoda has died yet. An example from some guy named Paul: “Every time I glance down and see Abe's smiling face looking back at me, I feel like the world is a better place. Thanks Abe!”

I have downloaded the plug-in and am quite happy with it. But an interesting facet of the Abe Vigoda plug-in is that clicking Vigoda’s face opens links to pages on him at IMDb, NNDb and my beloved Wikipedia, the last of which explains why this plug-in is supposed to be funny. Apparently People magazine published an article in 1982 that erroneously declared Vigoda dead. The actor, best known for his role as Det. Fish on “Barney Miller,” took the error in stride and has made it a running joke. (So now you know.) But being the wonderful and needlessly comprehensive website it is, the Vigoda’s entry also includes a link to a whole list of people who have been prematurely declared dead.

It’s quite a list. I have to admit I get a kick seeing people like Jello Biafra and Lousie Flecther and Mara Wilson being grouped together for any reason, not to mention one as ridiculous as being less dead that previously reported. One name especially caught my interest, however: Thuy Trang.

Sound familiar?

It probably has a better chance of ringing a bell if you’re three or four years younger than I am. I just barely missed the “Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers” craze that erupted in middle schools across the country around 1997 or so. (I was always more of a “Batman: The Animated Series” guy myself.) But I had some familiarity with the series, seeing as how it segued between the afternoon’s cartoons and the subsequent two-hour block during which KCBA Fox 35 would air reruns of “Family Matters” and “Full House.” I’ve seen the opening credits to “Power Rangers” enough to remember them even today: split screen with the actor on one side and the guy-in-the-suit on the other, and with the actor’s name below. Thuy Trang played the Yellow Ranger — a fact which I’m shocked that no one noted as a racist slight.

What grabs me most about Trang’s inclusion in the list is that she was allegedly declared dead from injuries sustained in a car accident four years before she actually did die of injuries sustained in a separate car accident. Yes, part of what throws me is just the “what are the odds?” boggliness of such a coincidence, but I think what catches me the most is that I’m a little sad this actress has died. She didn’t impact me all that much, since I never watched the show. But I feel like hearing that the Yellow Ranger died is like hearing that some kid I remember knowing back in third grade died — the kind of person you would have never really missed unless they had died so long ago that you can’t really even rationalize mourning, if even for a few seconds.

So there’s Sanamiana for you in a nutshell: interesting and a little funny, until it makes you sad.

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