Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Animated Sketch

Worth two minutes of your life, easily.

James Blunt, Put to Death

Friday, September 29, 2006

An Open Letter to Veronica Mars

Dear Veronica Mars,

I know you’re, like, really busy and all, solving mysteries around your town of pseudo-San Diego. But I was hoping you might be able to help me with a little problem I seem to have. I, apparently, am the victim of some light identity theft. Last night, someone made some comments on the blogs I usually read. The comments were, I’d say, a little nonsensical. Also, they didn’t exactly steal my identity, since they all purported to be made-up names like “Ngdudu” or “Lucy Legs,” but they all link back to my blog. It’s one of the biggest flaws of Blogger — a person can post anonymously and link to any blog they chose.

Anyway, a lot of the blogs I read got hit. I spent most of the past hour looking into any blog I could think of, and nearly all of the ones with fraudulent comments are blogs I link to from the main page of Back of the Cereal Box. The thing that makes me think the perpetrator isn’t some anonymous loser out in the world somewhere, however, is that one of the blogs that I don’t link to anymore: Morgan’s blog. I do occasionally read it from time to time, but I dropped the permalink from the sidebar when she tried to poison Holly and Lela, or so I hear. I noticed when I checked by site monitor that I’d been getting some traffic from Morgan’s site. Very odd.

Anyway, if you’re reading this open letter to a fictional teenaged detective now and you’ve recently noted a comment from me that didn’t make sense, please realize I didn’t do it. And Miss Mars? If you could get to the bottom of this one, that would be great. I have a lot on my plate right now, and I can’t bother to put in the effort for this one.

Thanks, Ronnie!

Your fan,

Large Heads

Two images representing the video games of my youth. The first is an ad depicting some of the original artwork for Kid Icarus, the game the lent me my all-purpose screen name.

And secondly, we have the Apple Kid. You know — the Apple Kid?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Made for the Minds of Children

Three rather nice images that some nice person scanned from their old children's books. Presenting a Mexican marketplace:

The house of the future:

And your circulatory system, as explained by an Italian canary:

Abject Terror

I'd guess I found this somewhere on MySpace, but I really don't remember anymore. What really gets me about this picture is the notion that, with the naked man standing behind her, this cat may be terrified for reasons other than the water.

And seriously, who would want to expose their naked skin to angry cat claws, anyway?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Come On Now, Sugar

The good news: Back-up is still alive, despite weeks of his owners apparently neglecting him as they run around pseudo-San Diego, solving mysteries. Indeed, the coming of the third season of "Veronica Mars" is upon us. For those of you who have read my frothing praise of the series and haven't managed to catch an episode, you no longer have an excuse: the season three premiere is available it its totality, online, for free, well before its actual TV airing in October, and with snazzy but somber new opening credits.
[ link: TV Buzz @ MSN ]
A small bit of bad news: Gia Goodman is nowhere to be seen. Another bad bit: you have to bring up the page in Internet Explorer in order to see the episode. Despite this bygone browser's inherent suckiness, I heartily recommend giving the episode, "Welcome Wagon," a once-through. It details the first days of Veronica's life at college, and conveniently doesn't delve so much into the mysteries of the previous season's mysteries that it would spoil the viewing of them. Okay, it name checks the killer in season two, sure, but this is as good a chance as any to support one of the best shows on TV.

Really, this is the right thing to do.

Creepier in Monochrome

Two slightly unsettling images I ganked from Miz Bri. Meet Medie Jones:

And her new pal Grace Bradley:

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Electra's Electrical Fire

New read. Meet Stevi. A friend of Meg H. of Cherchez la Femme fame, Stevi thinks she and I are kindred spirits. Good taste always gets a new friendship started on the right foot.
[ link: Electra's Electrical Fire ]

The Minus World

A large part of why I started to like video games as a child stems from the strange features that these Japanese-created pieces of software sometimes presented. Often, the simple eight-bit graphics presented visual ambiguities that my little mind couldn’t comprehend. For example, at the end of a level in the original Super Mario Bros., what was that design on the flag supposed to be? A mushroom? A peace sign? A skull? I never knew. But I’d notice these little things and my curiosity would suck me into the world of these games — however pixilated their presentation — and I’d be hooked.

A prime example of this was the Minus World. For the uninitiated, the Minus World is a glitch in the original Super Mario Bros that, with some finesse, could sneak Mario into a glitch level. (Level in this game are named “1-1,” “1-2,” “3-3,” “3-4,” etc., all the way to the final level, “8-4.” The so-called Minus World, however, didn’t display the first digit. Instead, the level name was displayed “-1,” which looked like “negative one,” hence the term “Minus World.”) Once there, the level didn’t really present anything all that spectacular: only an endless underwater stage that players could send poor Mario through over and over again, until the timer ran out and he died. At the time, however, I had no reason to suspect anything other than that the Minus World was a deliberate secret that developers put in the game, and that there was some important meaning behind it.

There wasn’t, of course, but the idea intrigued me nonetheless.

Today, the gaming blog Kotaku posted this video of an alternate version of the Minus World, from the Japanese Famicom Disk System version of Super Mario Bros. As Kotaku notes, it’s all the more surreal. Seeing this today made me feel once again like the awestruck little kid that first stumbled into the Minus World so many years ago.

The Post of Lists

When I said “when I have more time,” I apparently meant this afternoon. According to the same little operation I performed in the previous post, the following represents the twenty most-used words in my entire blog.
1. kidicarus (1139 times)
2. just (1021)
3. think (844 times)
4. people (796 times)
5. your (792)
6. good (515)
7. back (489)
8. really (479)
9. don’t (447)
10. got (439)
11. something (436)
12. movie (390)
13. actually (350)
15. life (337)
16. show (335)
17. say (314)
18. make (312)
19. look (310)
20. feel (308)
This is, of course, excluding the so-called “sucky” words like “and,” “you,” “was” and others that I felt don’t covey much meaning, especially out of context. Now other words of note:
83. blog (303 times)
128. apparently (128)
157. character (186)
166. anything (175)
172. funny (170)
185. writing (165)
186. barbara (164)
189. dead (160)
192. nexus (159)
194. finally (158)
195. she’s (157)
196. song (156)
197. funny (150)
258. hollister (127)
261. sex (126)
311. dog (107)
How many time’s I’ve named names, with a few names of people I don’t actually know thrown in for good measure.
1. Jill (100 times)
2. Sanam (94)
3. Kristen (86)
4. Jessica (76)
5. Bill (79)
6. David (69)
7. Nate (56)
8. Spencer (54)
9. John (52)
10. Meg (49)
11. Jesus (46)
12. Dina (45)
13. Cory (38)
14. Laura (39)
15. Mario (37)
16. TIE: Meghan and Moe (33)
18. Daniel (32)
19. George (31)
20. Glenn (30)
21. Adam (29)
22. Marcy (23)
23. Peter (24)
24. Taryn (26)
25. Brie (26)
26. TIE: Tristan, Samara, and Buffy (22)
29. TIE: Greg, Hilly and Teresa (19)
32. Birdo (17)
33. TIE: Megan, Monique, Hillary, William and Kami (15)
38. Uma (14)
39. Jennifer (13)
40. Veronica (13)
Naughty words:
1. fuck (118)
2. fucking (108)
3. shit (105)
4. hell (86)
5. ass (43)
6. bitch (24)
7. goddamn (18)
9. TIE: dick and shitty (19)
11. TIE: cock and vagina (16)
13. pussy (15)
14. crabs (13)
1. water (108)
2. orange (36)
3. beer (26)
4. pot (72)
5. cigarette (22)
6. TIE: pie and butter (18)
8. coffee (17)
10. TIE: cake and apple (16)
12. TIE: lemon and sandwich (15)
14. tea (14)
15. soda (13)
16. TIE: onion, peach and meat: (12)
Negative words:
1. don’t (447)
2. can't (253)
3. didn’t (201)
4. death (159)
5. hate (122)
6. kill (97)
7. die (85)
8. dark (59)
9. won’t (51)
10. hurt (20)
Positive words:
1. love (255)
2. happy (157)
3. nice (128)
4. glad (48)
5. dream (68)
That’s all I could think to do. This kind of thing is probably only interesting to me, from an autobiographical standpoint. Still, I have always wondered how my various used words would stack up. Total words blogged, by the way: 356,665. More than I would have expected. In looking up all this word count information, I managed to find a nifty website dedicated to this very process in the entire written English language.
[ link: WordCount ]
A project by a guy named Jonathan J. Harris, WordCount keeps tabs on the 86,800 most frequently used words. The last, curiously, is “conquistador.” “Drew” ranks 2012th. Best of all, WordCount displays this information in an aesthetically pleasing manner.

If you can think of any other statistics that would be interesting to look at, tell me.

Feeling So Used

A neat little program tells me what words I use most often on my blog. I put in data for all posts written between June 1 and August 30. Here are the top ten. Note that the list reads like a fairly descriptive sentence spoken in broken English.
1. they (114 times)
2. just (99)
3. people (88)
4. which (86)
5. kidicarus (85)
6. know (82)
7. really (82)
8. blog (74)
9. little (69)
10. only (68)
And here's some words of note further down the list.
24. something (54 times)
33. death (44)
41. movie (36)
64. supersanam (30)
72. gimmehamz (28)
73. however (28)
82. santa (26)
86. barbara (25, oddly)
100. myspace (22)
113. white (21)
120. freak (20)
129. wikipedia (20)
146. otter (18)
161. shit (17)
221. spencer (14)
225. baby (13)
230. flav (13)
231. griffin (13)
311. butter (10, for some reason)
I think when I have more time I'm going to plug my whole blog into this to see what it comes up with.

Monday, September 25, 2006


Unknown origin. Funny nonetheless.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Same Cannot Be Said for Tannis Root

The article I’m currently writing has required me to find a date for a certain issue of Time magazine that purportedly features Bob Dylan on the cover. All I know is that the issue came out during the Vietnam War, so I went to Time’s online archive and began browsing old issues from the 1960s. I still haven’t found the issue, but the process is entertaining. One cover in particular jumped out at me.

For those who have seen the film “Rosemary’s Baby,” the magazine should look familiar. Mia Farrow’s character glances through this particular issue in a scene at her doctor’s office. Of course, it ties in nicely will the film’s themes of religion, but I’m most amused by the fact that the answer to the question on the cover would seem to be “no.” By virtue of being a film in which the Devil is a physical presence and an active participant in the plot, I imagine one would have to conclude that “Rosemary’s Baby” is also a film that acknowledges the existence of God. In the same way that “The Exorcist,” to me, is one of the most artfully pro-religious movies I’ve ever seen, any film that concerns the Devil so literally would have to simultaneously concern his opposite. The Devil can’t exist without God, at least in the Catholic conceptions of these two entities. Oddly, the reverse isn’t true, as lots of films feature God but don’t necessarily imply the existence of the Devil.

Funny how that works.

In any case, I’m mostly amused that a magazine featured so prominently in the film was not fabricated just for it. Good work there, Roman Polanski.
[ link: The Time magazine online archive ]

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Creative Crutch

I can remember reading a long-past issue of Entertainment Weekly’s “It” issue. I’m fairly certain it’s an annual thing in which the editors jointly decide who is the give year's “it” girl, “it” writer, “it” special effects crew and all that. In this particular issue — I believe Heather Graham was on the cover, if that dates helps to date the memory — every person interviewed was asked what they used as a creative crutch. Most of them answered with the usual stuff: black coffee, cigarettes, yoga.

So here I am, alone in the house and typing at three in the morning in could be the best article I’ve ever done. Seriously. But as determined as I may be to get this done so I can enjoy the weekend, I seem to be hitting a creative block about every half-hour or so. Each time, I turn to something I’ve had since college started but haven’t ever used as a creative crutch: Smash Bros. It’s funny, because I haven’t touched in the game in months. But now, for whatever reason, whenever the words don’t flow like they should, I find myself firing up the Gamecube, taking my mind out of journalism mode and putting into whatever mindset most befits being a princess or a psychic ten-year-old or whatever and beating the crap out of everything I see.

For reasons I'm not sure of, this video game is somehow jogging my creative energies. By the time everyone I'm up against is adequately battered and screaming and sailing up and away to become a star in the sky, I’m ready to write again and I make more progress on this article, which presently seems more important than anything else I’ve ever done.

So what the hell does that say about me?

Onomatopoeia in the Style of Andy Warhol

Pop art? Or recycled imagery from the old "Batman" TV show?

Friday, September 22, 2006

He Is, Apparently, No Longer Carol

Probably anybody with an interest in goings-on at “Saturday Night Live” has read news reports indicating regulars Chris Parnell and Horatio Sanz will not be returning for the upcoming season. The Same “SNL”-focused group probably also has been too busy fawning over “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” to think about the implications of the actors’ sudden departure. In the same way that the loss of Will Ferrell, Molly Shannon, Cheri Oteri and the like marked the end of one “SNL” era — namely, one whose heyday coincided with the beginning of my high school days, and, thus, a period when I had a lot of Saturday nights spent at home — the loss of Parnell and Sanz marks the end of another.

If you’ll recall, these two joined the cast in 1998, along with Jimmy Fallon. While Fallon’s popularity skyrocketed, he left the show at the end of the 2003-2004 season. (And then apparently died, I’m guessing, with his corpse being hideously re-animated for Super Bowl commercials for Pepsi.) “The other two,” as I’m sure they were probably often called during their initial days alongside Fallon, lingered on, and grew into dependable contributors to the show. And it’s so strange for me to think of these actors — whom I still kind of thin of as being new, just by virtue having shown up after the Ferrell-Shannon-Oteri reign — as being actors who have performed on the show for remarkably long stretches of time. Only veterans like Darrel Hammond, Tim Meadows and the late Phil Hartman can claim longer tenures.

Parnell, in a lot of ways, was the new Phil Hartman — an everyman who although sometimes got to be very funny more often played supporting roles. His talent even earned him the opportunity to be re-hired to the cast after being fired during the summer of 2001. Allegedly, Ferrel and Chris Kattan lobbied to bring Parnell back. This second part of his tenure of the show allowed him some of his better moments, including his out-of-the-blue rap odes to people Kirsten Dunst and Britney Spears and his performance in the phenomenally successful “Lazy Sunday” video. Unfortunately, this latest news has given Parnell the unenviable status of being the only person to be fired twice from the show. Regardless, he had a good run.

Sanz evolved into a hybrid of John Belushi and Chris Farley — and not just because he was fat. He had a knack for emulating their style of humor, which often involved yelling, pratfalls and playing dumb. For what it was, he did it well, even if some episodes relied too heavily on his antics. Sanz even briefly co-hosted “Weekend Update,” a claim few of even the biggest names in “SNL” history can make, even if Tina Fey took the job back after her baby popped out. This last season, Sanz, whose grinning, unpolished delivery had previously turned a lot of viewers off, introduced a new character, Carol, whom a Chicago Sun-Times article beautifully described as a “grotesque floozy who somehow dazzles single men.” The character worked, even if she reminded me of something Farley could have done just as well. In all, by virtue of being the requisite “fat guy,” he did add something to the show. A Variety article later ran with the headline “‘SNL’ Cast Slimming Down,” and one can’t help but think the line somehow worked as a jibe against Sanz.

Lorne Michaels has vowed that budgetary restraints have required him to eliminate four cast members from the regular line-up. On top of Parnell and Sanz, Finesse Mitchell was also dismissed. I doubt anybody will serious miss Mitchell’s presence, though I can’t help feel that he was the victim of just not appearing in the right sketches more than being devoid of talent. Keep in mind that a similar fate befell Jerry Minor and Dean Edwards, both of whom I’ve seen be funny elsewhere. In any case, the fourth person to be named especially not-ready-for-primetime has been a matter of some speculation.

I would rule out Kenan Thompson right away. As crass as this might sound, I don’t think “SNL” could exist without a black guy, not for the sake of having a token character but because there are too many famous black men ripe for parody out there. Besides, Kenan has done well. I’m honestly proud to watch the opening credits and remember that he’s the fat one from “Good Burger.” Beyond that, Kenan appears in a lot of sketches — perhaps at the expense of Finesse Mitchell, one might speculate — and is consistently good.

The same reasoning would suggest that Maya Rudolph should stay, though I’ve read several reports that she’s on the short list of possible terminations. I like Maya. She’s hilarious. But comic appeal amounts more to taste than anything else, so I’d offer the fact that Maya is simply too functional to get the axe. She can — and has — played white, black, Asian and Hispanic characters, both male and female. As long as Condoleezza Rice is in the public eye and Donatella Versace hasn’t overdosed, they’ll be a need for this one.

I’m less optimistic for Fred Armisen and Will Forte. Though often funny, their spots may be usurped by newcomers Andy Samberg, Jason Sudeikis and Bill Hader. Armisen and Forte can sing, sure, but I’m not sure of sketches like “The Prince Show” and “Funny Nonsense-Singing Professional Guys Who Ruin 'Weekend Update'” are popular enough to warrant another year on the show. Speaking of Samberg, Sudeikis and Hader, I’m certain they won’t be going anywhere. They’re the new blood. Everybody seems to love Samberg, though he’s never struck me as more than a shaggier Adam Sandler. Sudeikis gets my vote for the cast member who could best fill Tina Fey’s slot at the “Weekend Update” desk alongside Amy Poehler, while Hader — my personal favorite — is such a talented impressionist that I feel he could ably play just about any white guy he wanted. This is perhaps an especially worthwhile virtue, seeing as how the 2008 elections aren’t that far off.

The last of the freshman class, newbie Kristen Wiig, has been promoted up from a featured player to a repertory player. This is especially good, and I’d like to see her do more on the show. Despite her newness and her the small repertoire of characters we’ve seen her perform, Wiig is a safe bet almost solely because she’s one of the show’s current three female stars. And we all know that “SNL” rule about having at least three women in the cast at all time, lest Lorne Michael’s heart turns to stone and he dies. Or something. Seriously, look back. There’s never been a point in the show’s history when it’s had less than three female players, though the end of Ana Gasteyer’s run marks the only time when the show boasted five — her, Fey, Rudolph, Poehler and the recently departed Rachel Dratch.

There’s a few long-timers I feel won’t be going anywhere. Darrell Hammond will die at 30 Rockefeller Center, I’d wager, though I feel Hader could perform a lot of the characters Hammond does if Hammond ever called it quits. And Poehler will probably also stick around. I feel she’s a fan favorite, even if she seems like a little part of her soul is slowly dying.

Finally, that leaves Seth Meyers. He’s appealing enough, but I’m strapped to think of what characters he does that I really like. Since John Kerry dropped off the face of the earth, I don’t think he’s had any. Conversely, Michaels promoted Meyers to the head writer position that Tina Fey vacated. I honestly have no idea whether Meyers has the talent to fill Fey’s spot, but for all I know a lot of the sketches I’ve enjoyed could have been written by him. Head writer status would make me think he wouldn’t be going anywhere, but I suppose Lorne Michaels can technically do whatever he wants.

To summarize, I’d bet that the following are locks for returning: Thompson, Rudolph, Samberg, Sudeikis, Hader, Wiig. The candidates for pursuing their future film careers, on the other hand, stand as the following: Forte and Armisen, with Hammond, Poehler and Meyers most likely coming back even though I think the show could succeed or even improve without them.

I’ll be interested to see who, if anyone, is missing from the opening credits when the thirty-first season premiere in October. Of course, It’s not like the fourth and last of the fired cast members will be entirely without any forum to employ their talents. My suggestion: put a call into NBC to find out if “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” or Fey’s “30 Rock” might be hiring.

A few notes:
EDIT: I may not know who else will be leaving "SNL," but I know someone who'd like to replace them. Cat Power. That's right. Chan Marshall, the woman with the heartbreaking voice and drunken stage antics, told a New York Times reporter that she'd like to audition for the show. That's a season premiere I won't miss.
[ link: Chan Marshall's comic aspirations ]

A55, Florida Orange and Red-Green-Yellow

Ha ha. From the Smoking Gun's files on ill-planned license plates.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

It’s Not Like I Called You "Hot Air Balloon Baby"

I’ve finally figured out the premise for the show I’m going to pitch to the networks next year: it’s "Hot Air Balloon Baby," the adventures of a bouncing bundle joy who consistently manages to steal away in hot air balloons and go on adventures. "We don’t know how he keeps finding these balloons," says the mom (Sara Rue). "Every time he comes back it’s in a different one. We’re keeping them in the garage." And the baby will have an arch-nemesis, too. His name is "The Baron," and he is also a baby. Only the show won’t really be about the baby, especially since I think the CW won’t give me the budget to film high-flying adventures in foreign lands. No, instead "Hot Air Balloon Baby" will be more about the baby’s family and how it copes with his absence while he’s in God-knows-where. Just trying to live their lives, not knowing when the balloon will once again land on the backyard gazebo and deliver the plucky tyke back into their eager hands. At least I know how every episode will end.

I swear, this is such a better idea than "Spit Baby."

The Double Date

Neat photo that Flickr user Diastema posted. I like it.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

To Buffalo

This morning, the righteous Dina sent me a link to the Wikipedia page for a certain linguistic parlor trick. “I'm sure you've seen this and probably blogged about it, but it makes
me happy, and I would like to share,” she said. In fact I had not heard of this, but Dina nailed it on the head when she decided it was something worth sharing.

Generally credited to William J. Rapaport, an associate professor at the University of Buffalo, the following sentence is grammatically correct, at least in a technical sense.
“Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.”
Technically correct, of course, is the best kind of correct. It describes the social hierarchy of buffalos at the Buffalo Zoo in Buffalo, New York. It employs three definitions for the word “buffalo”: the animal, the place and the verb meaning “to intimidate.” (Also, I should note that this is one verb I neglected to list in the post regarding animal name verbs, “Don’t Make Me Platypus All Over You.”) Translated into easier words, the sentence is trying to relate the fact that some buffaloes from the Buffalo Zoo that other buffaloes intimidate themselves also like to intimidate a third group of buffaloes in the zoo. Initially the sentence was problematic to me, even with the explanation. I kept feeling that any way I read it, the sentence omitted a crucial “that” whose presence grammar demanded.

In my mind, the sentence should have either read
Buffalo buffalo that buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.
Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo that buffalo Buffalo buffalo.
Then i realized I was leaving out one "buffalo." Furthermore, neither of these interpretations really express what the sentence should, however, and I had to read the Wikipedia’s explanation of it several times in order to get it. Even still, the correct interpretation fades out of my head the instant I avert my attention to anything else, kind of like how you can work to see the alternate interpretation in an optical illusion, but then revert back to the initial image if you stop concentrating and then have to work back to the secondary one. A major clue is which words are capitalized, as you can tell those words have to be the city, excluding the first one, of course.
To explain, I’m going to employ so font modifications. In the below sentence the bold buffalo represents the city name, the italicized buffalo represents the animal and the plain one represents the verb.
Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.
This, to me, is the easiest way to parse the sentence. Think of every "Buffalo buffalo," with the capitalized one followed by the lower-case one, as "a group of buffalos from the city Buffalo." With that, you have
Various buffalo at the Buffalo zoo that other buffalo at the same zoo tend to intimidate in turn go and treat this third group of buffalo at the zoo in a similar way.
[One group of] Buffalo buffalo [that other] Buffalo buffalo [tend to] buffalo [themselves] buffalo [other] Buffalo buffalo.
Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.
It's like making algebra out of grammar, which you'd think I hate but apparently don't. Still, I can't believe I've typed the word "buffalo" this many times. Likely, more than a lot of people have in their lives, rather than Buffalo Bill. I can no longer even look at the word "buffalo" without thinking that it now looks wrong, just by virtue of me having stared at it for so long and noticing how weird it is.

The Wikipedia article also suggest others, including "Badgers badgers badger badger badgers." but I don't even want to attempt delving into those today. All of them, however, are what is known as "garden path sentences" — that is, a sentence you can't correctly understand without doubling back and re-reading. "The horse raced past the barn fell," for another example, in case your head doesn't hurt like mine.

And it's with no small sense of humor that I note "buffalo" can also mean "to confuse." Seriously, who thought "buffalo" was suitable to being a real word, anyway?
[ link: Wikipedia on "garden path sentences" ]

The "Video" in "Video Games"

An admittedly random assortment of video game-based art that I enjoy. I've played video games since I was very young, and since they're such an inherently visual medium, I've always thought people could do something cool with the pixilated visuals that they beam into our heads. Turns out a lot of people agreed.

Flickr user skinny coder posted this on his account. It's Duck Hunt, realized in Legos. What's especially cool about this project is that he's managed to preserve the blocky graphics of the early age of video games while still creating his art in a three-dimensional space. I like it. He's done a few other games, too, including Excitebike and Bionic Commando.

This piece, titled "Pipe Dreams" was made by an artist calling himself Danimation. He re-styled a whole lot of Mario characters in a more fluid, cartoony style. For Mario fanboys, this is the equivalent of a centerfold.

This piece apparently first showed up as a poster in Nintendo Power, a magazine I actually used to subscribe to when I was a kid. I just like that the artist, some guy named Gabe Swarr, bothered to put as much effort into it as he did. He's covered most of his bases by showing a healthy cross-section of the various Mario-related games I played when I was wee. And I can't help noticing that he seems to have drawn Mario to look like the Mayor from "Powerpuff Girls." Gabe Swarr, by the way, has his own blog, where he posts a lot of his work.

I'm not sure who's actually responsible for making this Mario-related installation, but it's a neat idea for public art. The pigeon presumably agrees. Can't remember where I found it.

Flickr user Neil Fiddleton posted this on his account. It's strangely vacant landscape art created from the original Super Mario Bros." graphics. This one is titled "Martin Short." He's also made ones called "Steve Martin" and "Four Sisters."

This is a snow sculpture representing a character named Totakeke, whom I wrote about earlier in a Back of the Cereal Box post concerning him and the Pet Shop Boys. The image was posted on Flickr by somebody named Mr. Pippo. A good likeness, really.

This next one is utterly confounding. I think I picked it up from Kotaku or Destructoid or some such other gaming blog. It's Japanese in origin, so it makes no sense. In it, you can see realistically drawn humans dressed up like Mario characters. You can also see Mario in a car being driven by Mario. Oh, Japan.

The final three images come from work exhibited in the i am 8 bit show that I saw in Los Angeles last year. Neat stuff. I don't know who did the below work, but I know it was featured in the show. Using fabric to show the princess in a more playful sense really works to get at what the artist was going for.

The above pieces stands in stark contrast to the next two, which both depict familiar Mario characters in a dystopic setting. Below is Isaac Pierro's "Don't Be a 2nd Player Hater." Poor Luigi.

And finally we have this piece, "The M.K.," by Jose Flores.

Die, Die Wunderkammer, Die!

I've posted the last remaining image that I had in the little desktop folder I'd marked "Wunderkammer." Go see. It ended up topping out at ninety-seven posts. Expect sporadic updates as I see fit, but something tells me this little image archive isn't going to see a whole lot of action for a while.
[ link: Die Wunderkammer ]

I Started This Blog Because

Another Google meme game.
  • "I started this blog because I started this blog, because I wanted to post a comment on someone else's blog and needed and account!" (A Conservative's Blog)
  • "I started this blog because I firmly believe that blogs are a revolutionary change in how we communicate and form communities." (Blog for .Orgs)
  • "I started this blog because I got tired of the limitations of journalism." (
  • "I started this blog because I heard that the person who created the ten billionth blog won a free ham." (Urban Slant)
  • "I started this blog because all the information on the internet about Hepatitis C was medical or research or textbook information." (My 'Hepatitis C' Weblog)
  • "I started this blog because those cretins at the local paper would no longer run my musings." (Something Old, Nothing New)
  • "I started this blog: because scientists are people too." (Young Female Scientist)
  • "I started this blog because I have recently started quilting and I'm so excited about it that I want to share my quilts with the world!" (Quilt Blog by Sarah)
  • "I started this blog because of Smurfette, an hysterical coworker." (Pink Is Not a Color, It's a Religion)
  • "I started this blog because I was at the World Trade Center that day." (The 9/11 Records)
  • "I started this blog because... I don't really know. Maybe I'm bored or something..." (Something About Me, By Peter)
  • "I started this blog because my brain was gushing with toxic spewage that no one I knew was interested in listening to." (Feminist Mormon Housewives)
  • "I started this blog because I am a little egotistical and a little opinionated and I really like to garden." (Me, Myself and My Little Garden)
Why did you start your blog, anyway?

Monday, September 18, 2006

Calling a Spade a Spade

Not sure where I picked this one up. Could be vintage art from some forgotten children's book, but for some reason I think this one is newer than that. These walking playing card men gave me nightmares as a kid. The way the red paint drips like blood does nothing to quell that fear.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Hey! Let's Screw Up Your Toddler!

Hey Sanam, what did you say was the name of the book you've been working on?
[ link: something truly appalling ]

Not Resting, Not in Peace

I’d like to think I’m a fairly patient movie-goer. Sometimes, directors make films that move slowly and then ultimately build to great things. Or maybe they make a film that’s determinedly subtle or vague in an effort to engage the viewer more than the average series of flickering images might. I’ve said it before, after all: “Mulholland Drive” is my favorite movie. That in itself doesn’t elevate me beyond the average chair-moistener at the multiplex, but it does speak to the fact that I have patience when it comes to difficult movies.

And then, last night, I saw “The Black Dahlia.”

Oh, for the love of god, how could anybody with a professed love of noir — much less a group of people, including James Ellroy and Brian de Palma — donkey punch the entire genre by insinuating this mess into it? How could a still-unsolved real-life murder that has all the elements of great noir — mystery, danger, depravity, vice, a beautiful woman, rich people, Los Angeles — be wrung dry of its juice and then stretched into a sad imitation of fictional works that preceded it? Yes, I did not enjoy this film, despite every bit of foreshadowing that I would.

At this point, I’m going to tell you to stop reading if you still plan on seeing the movie fresh. Perhaps my biggest problem with this movie is the revelation of the killer, and I will name names. However, since you’ve already registered my dissatisfaction with “The Black Dahlia,” you might as well keep reading, as I imagine my bashing of the film would give you more happiness than actually sitting through it would. Also, my blog is free. The movie will cost you, like, eight dollars. That’s a winning proposition.

Something struck me as wrong about the film from the opening credits. It’s a small criticism, I’ll admit, but I would like to think a film that can afford big-budget, time period-specific sets with scores of characters interacting in costume could possibly make the effort to display the names of the people who made the movie in something other than a font that came packed in with Microsoft Word. Maybe it wasn’t Times New Roman, but it certainly could have been Times New. At least Courier New would have given the vibe of the old-fashioned typewriters on which the reporters of the Black Dahlia’s day would have tapped their news stories into existence.

Furthermore, the opening credits actually spoiled a bit of the supposedly shocking ending for me, although I’m probably in the minority of viewers who actually know who Fiona Shaw, the actress playing the killer, actually is. You see, Ms. Shaw came into my awareness at a young age. She played the villainous Lena in the “Super Mario Bros.” movie, which I saw as a kid. Shaw was further entrenched into my memory when I found out she is currently the partner of Saffron Burrows, a younger and very pretty British actress. Thus, I noted that the name “Fiona Shaw” popped up early in the credits, suggesting a rather prominent role. She only appeared in one scene, however, about midway through the movie. So when the film began tying up its various loose ends, I knew we’d be seeing Fiona Shaw again. Call me crazy, but I don’t think it’s bad filmmaking to hide elements like that. In all the promotion for “Scream 2,” for example, Laurie Metcalf’s name was withheld so as to make viewers think she did, in fact, play a minor character. Only when the film had been in theaters for a few weeks did Metcalf’s name show up in advertisements for the film, as by then most people had already seen it and learned that Debbie Salt was actually the crazed Mrs. Loomis. So there.

As the film actually got going, I felt a little overwhelmed. I realize that by virtue of being a novel adaptation, this film had to cram a lot of exposition into every scene. Unfortunately, this resulted in a half hour’s worth of scenes that generally ran shorter than a minute. In true noir style, the characters talk fast and get to business, but as the leads — Josh Hartnett and Aaron Eckhart — run about the Los Angeles crime world, I had fairly little idea what crime they were solving or what criminal they were chasing. This, we later find, is actually a major plot point, in that Eckhart’s character is a crooked cop whose reasons for being in any given location are not as noble as we initially think. Nonetheless, I couldn’t invest myself in characters whose motives were so needlessly inscrutable. I liked “L.A. Confidential” and I’ve enjoyed a lot of back-in-the-day noir, so I’m just used to my detective stories unfolding a little more slowly.

Of course, a major source of confusion for me was the fact that Ellroy chose to name his two leads almost identically. Hartnett plays Dwight “Bucky” Bleichart, while Eckhart plays Leland “Lee” Blanchard. What may be a neat verbal paring on the printed page yields a practically indistinguishable pronunciation in a film. Bleichart and Blanchard. Blanchard and Bleichart. And all this trouble is compounded by the fact that, by virtue of being how 40s-era detectives talk, the dialogue among virtually every other male character refers to the leads only by last name.

Eventually, Elizabeth Short’s body is discovered and the movie finally moves into the phase I was waiting for: the investigation into the murder of the movie’s title character. This, initially, was done well, though I’m pressed to think of any characters that were named as suspects into the case. Soon enough, however, Blanchard — that’s Eckart’s guy, for the record — goes loony after spending too much time starring at the autopsy photos of this poor girl, starts downing one Benzedrine pill after another, and is removed from the case, thankfully centering the film on the more stable plotline of Hartnett’s character’s involvement.

At this point, the film picks up. We meet Madeleine Linscott, played by Hillary Swank who wows and proves that her now dual Academy Awards are no fluke. She’s instantly captivating, as a noir femme fatale should be, and Swank’s performance recalls that of Faye Dunaway in “Chinatown,” which is perhaps the best compliment one can give any actress in this type of role. What’s more, Swank’s Madeleine is initially presented as a lesbian, or at least this handsome young socialite with enough lesbian tendencies to place her at an all-ladies bar when we first meet her. (The scene, I should note, is mostly fantastic. Lesbian bars of the era were probably not this extravagant, I’d wager, but I have to admit that seeing a full-on singing and dancing lesbian revue was fairly spectacular, even if the presence of k.d. “I don’t need no capital letters” lang as the bar’s resident crooner drew me out of the film’s setting somewhat.) This plot line, sadly, is ditched altogether as film the film progresses, save a later admission that Madeleine had a one-night stand with Elizabeth Short. Soon enough, she’s hopping into bed with Bleichart like there’s some shortage of good, old-fashioned 40s beaver in town.

Even Swank’s presence, which I enjoyed, caused a major problem for me. Characters are constantly remarking that her character looks just like Elizabeth Short. In truth, Swank looks nothing like Mia Kirshner, who we see playing Short pre-mutilation in film audition tapes and seedy stag films. Both actresses are white, have dark hair and breathe oxygen, sure. But similarities end there. Madeleine just wears black dresses and hair ornaments in a similar way to how Elizabeth Short did before she met her end.

As “The Black Dahlia” speeds past the halfway mark, the various side-plots are dispatched, for the most part. Eckhart gets killed in a particularly gory sequence that sends his character plummeting down a six-story drop that ends face-first onto an obelisk-shaped water fountain fixture. Dario Argento would be proud. His wife, Kay (Scarlett Johansson) vanishes for a bit, which is good in that even the heaving sweater cows she’s smuggling under her tight tops can’t help her be the sexpot her character needs to be.

Eventually, Hartnett visits Madeleine’s house and meets her wealthy family. In what is probably the film’s best scene, Madeleine’s wealthy parents bicker and yell like lunatics. Mrs. Linscott (Fiona Shaw) is appalled at the notion of entertaining someone as common as a police officer at her table, so she drunkenly relates a story about how her contractor husband once attempted to muster his political pull to get a street in Los Angeles named after her. In the end, all that resulted from this effort was Ramona Boulevard, which Mrs. Linscott notes is full of Hispanic prostitutes flashing their genitals from apartment windows. She then fumbles away. Although a welcome reprieve from the movie’s overall dark mood, this scene seems unfortunately out of place in “The Black Dahlia.” It’s simply too goofy and, in retrospect, seems a clumsy idea of introducing the notion that Mrs. Linscott is off-balance enough to commit murder. But that’s what happened, all right; in the concluding scenes, we learn that Mrs. Linscott, this loopy, pearl-wearing spoiled socialite wife, killed Elizabeth Short.

The movie eventually coughs up the facts: Madeleine is not the daughter of Mr. Linscott. Instead, she’s the product of an affair Mrs. Linscott had with her husband’s producing partner. After Madeleine was born, the partner, Georgie, was maimed in a suspicious automobile accident that we’re led to believe was planned by Mr. Linscott to avenge the cuckoldry. Because Georgie didn’t die, however, Mr. Linscott eventually took pity on him and gave him odd jobs — both in the sense of professional work and hook-ups with loose party girls. One of these girls was Elizabeth Short, who had starred in a porno that Mr. Linscott produced. After the film, Elizabeth and Georgie were alone in one of Linscott’s cheaply made houses — as he had set up several houses using pieces of not-to-code set timber after his movie heyday — when Mrs. Linscott showed up, bashed Elizabeth’s head in and horribly mutilated her. Why, exactly? I’m not sure. Mrs. Linscott, before she blows her brains out, claims she did it because Elizabeth simply looked so much like Madeleine. (Again — ugh.) Quite possibly she was too much of a “hophead,” as Madeline calls her, to know what she was doing. Possibly she was jealous of the fact that Georgie, her old flame, would want to knock boots with somebody else. And, as I wondered, she may have killed Elizabeth because she was jealous of the apparently incestuous relationship that the film hints Madeline shared with Mr. Linscott. (A crazed femme fatale doing her land developer father in noir-era Los Angeles? Unheard of. This almost counteracts all the great things I said about her role reminding me of Dunaway’s in “Chinatown.”) We learn that she slashed Elizabeth’s mouth from ear to ear in mockery of a painting that hangs in the Linscott house: “The Man Who Laughs,” which, in a nice touch, references the Victor Hugo story of the same name that was the inspiration for the silent film “The Man Who Laughs,” which Bleichart, Blanchard and Kay attend to together early in the film. (The story and the film concern a man whose face is deformed into a clownish smile. The latter eventually inspired the Joker character in the Batman comics, which is funny because that’s the first thing I thought when I saw the creepy clown painting in “The Black Dahlia” in the first place.) However, how or why Mrs. Linscott, who doesn’t seemed to be skilled in anything but drinking and pill-popping managed to bisect Elizabeth’s body, drain her blood, giver her a hysterectomy and then move the body to a different part of town is never explained. So boo on that.

Also, I should point out that Mr. Linscott takes credit for building a few houses under what he calls “that garish Hollywoodland” sign, or something to that effect. The sign is actually depicted in the film, although with shoddy CGI, and referenced in dialogue a few times. It’s not the fault of the filmmakers, but having that other Hollywood-set film noir, “Hollywoodland,” out in theaters simultaneously caused me to be drawn out of the film every time the word “Hollywoodland” was mentioned or depicted, if for no other reason than the fact that, despite its flaws, I enjoyed the latter film a whole lot more. Both movies deal with real-life murder mysteries. At least “Hollywoodland” doesn’t do the real-life dead the disservice of wrapping their untimely demises with a ridiculous, implausible explanation. (Also, notably, both films concern protagonists who refuse to smoke, despite that everybody else always has a cancer stick in hand. Both later smoke like chimneys when their respective cases become too stressful. Curious.)

“The Black Dahlia” ends with Hartnett realizing that Madeleine, in fact, is also a killer. Before poor Blanchard does his swan dive into the foyer, some especially feminine looking shadow slashes his throat. Bleichart reasons that only Madeleine could have done this, though how she knew to be lurking in the shadows when Blanchard would be busting up what presumably is a hush-hush drug deal is beyond me. She plugs her — this time with a bullet — and then speeds away to be with Johansson’s character. Or something.

Other minor quibbles: For a big-name director in a large-scale production, you’d think “The Black Dahlia” could have afforded better special effects than the film provides. All the blood and gore splatters beautifully, but at one point Bleichart gleans a crucial clue from a framed photo at the Linscott house depicting Georgie with Mr. and Mirs. Linscott. What the audience sees, however, is an actual old-timey photo with the respective actors’ faces superimposed onto other bodies in what looks like the result of the kind of copy-and-paste Photoshop job that people who are just learning the program might do. This trouble arises again whenever the film shows Elizabeth Short’s audition tapes or stag films, which always appear in startlingly clear focus that would seem impossible given the small budget of the films she appeared in. Give me film grain. Give ma shaky camera. Give me something to believe you actually thought this through, Brian de Palma.

Late in the movie, there's a scene in which Johansson's character yells "She looks just like that dead girl! How sick are you?" to Bleichart. Not a full minute passes before we see Bleichart in a different location, deep in thought, with Johansson's words echoing in his head. Again: "She looks just like that dead girl! How sick are you?" Me: We just heard this. It made me laugh then. It's making me laugh more now.

All in all, I hated “The Black Dahlia,” though it had a few good points. The funny scene with Madeleine’s family, as I sad before, would have worked beautifully in virtually any other film. Rose McGowan, whom I’ve loved since she got crunched in a garage door in “Scream,” puts in a good one-scene role as one of Elizabeth’s former roommates. And Eckhart does a decent job with his part, even if he’s limited to interacting with the underwritten Scarlett Johansson role and the unfortunately wooden acting of Josh Hartnett. And Mia Kirshner plays her character with genuine style. She’s beautifully pitiful. You actually feel bad for Elizabeth Short in that she had a hard life and not just a bad end. Also, I think every young person in the audience got a snicker out of the fact that Short — both the cinematic and real-life versions — had an arrest record stemming from underage drinking in Santa Barbara. Ha.

It’s too bad, really. The Black Dahlia case has intrigued me ever since I saw an “Unsolved Mysteries” segment on it when I was probably too young to be hearing the phrase “unnecessary hysterectomy.” Elizabeth Short could have made for a great noir movie. It may yet, but this isn’t what’s going to do it.

Diamond Dog

Another enemy from EarthBound, the quirky game I liked so much when I was younger. I think the only reason this character stayed with me is that it was called Diamond Dog, like a singular version of the David Bowie song.


I had intended to be on a long-postponed hike this morning, rather than sitting before my laptop in all-too-usual Drew fashion, typing away in hopes that someone somewhere would actually read what I had to say. The hike — a quick and easy adventure to Tangerine Falls, a spot in Montecito that in all actuality sounds like it belongs on the Candy Land game board — did not happen, this time due to a rain of ash drifting north from a wildfire near Ojai. I’ve honestly never seen anything quite like it before. Upon looking out the window, you’d expect the typical Santa Barbara morning: cool, damp, blanketed by fog. Instead, what looks to be the usual fluff is this sinister, opaque gray that reeks of barbecue-gone-bad and has the air burning a good fifteen degrees hotter than it should. Hiking was out of the question. The sun, shining weakly through this, is casting everything in a creepy orange light and termites — rendered homeless, I’d guess, by the destruction of their homes in Los Padres National Forest — are floating about aimlessly in the air, which I can image they’re not too happy about. Some measure of good news in all this, however: smokers don’t have to shell out for a pack right now. Instead, all they need to do is step outside and take a few deep breaths.

Here’s hoping for bluer skies.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Kendall Effect

If there’s one thing I love more than self-referencing TV shows, it’s self-referencing TV shows that references other self-referencing TV shows.

Case in point: the Kendall effect. Before Sarah Michelle Gellar became the girl who spends her time running from or after various supernatural terrors, she had a two-year stint on All My Children as Kendall Hart, the scheming long-lost daughter of the Susan Lucci character. I never saw her in action, but Gellar apparently won a Daytime Emmy for her performance. Years later, Gellar was on Buffy, where she frequently butted heads with Cordelia Chase, the snobby cheerleader character played by Charisma Carpenter. Cordelia was often aided in her efforts to make Buffy feel bad by her cohort, Harmony, who was played by Mercedes McNab. Despite her vapidness, Harmony is actually the longest-lived character in the Buffy universe. She appears in both the original unaired half-hour pilot for the show and the series finale of Angel, the spin-off in which she appeared as a regular during the last season. Midway through her run, however, Buffy’s gang goes searching for Harmony, using their senior yearbook as an identifying photo. There, viewers saw for the first time that Harmony’s last name was, in fact, Kendall. Knowing Joss Whedon’s pop culture savvy, I have to believe the reference is intentional, especially given that Gellar’s soap opera work is what landed her the title role to begin with.

That brings us up to the present, with me watching too much Veronica Mars. In the most recent season, Veronica clashed with a new character, played by Charisma Carpenter. The scheming step-mother of two of Veronica’s classmates, the character’s name was Kendall Casablancas — which, by the way, would be a great soap opera name. Seeing as how series creator Rob Thomas — no, not that one — has a propensity for referencing the other great TV shows of our day — there’s an episode featuring George Michael and Maebe from Arrested Development, for example, and another one featuring the cursed numbers from Lost and another in which Joss Whedon himself actually appears — I have to again believe that the presence of this name is no accident. In fact, this name seems to have traced through three TV shows and each time attached to attractive, minorly villainous women.

And things like that make watching TV fun.

A Wild Butterfly

I'm shocked — shocked — to know that the 80s hit "Obsession" is not, in fact, by Human League, as I've long thought. The song was actually song by the band Animotion, whose lead singer, Michael Des Barres, later had a son who started what was once my favorite publication: Diehard Gamefan.

Weird what Wikipedia teaches you.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Suppose You Download This Song

I think the best part about Regina Spektor's "Fidelity" is that it plays like a more socially acceptable version of Merill Bainbridge's "Mouth," which I couldn't stop listening to for a long period during spring of 2005. Also, the fact that she's Russian Jewish aside, I think she still bears a passing resemblance to Dina Dina Canklesaurus. Your thoughts?

What’s So Funny About Mountbatten Pink?

According to the Wikipedia, its own entry for the color Mountbatten pink is fraught with a few problems: namely, the article contradicts itself, several time. Allow me to demonstrate.

Apparently, the color gained popularity when famed British naval officer Louis Mountbatten noticed that a certain ship painted a grayish mauve color seemed to vanish into the sunrise-lit sky earlier than others. He promptly had all the royal vessels painted this color in an effort to make them less detectable during dawn and dusk.
[ link: all about Mountbatten pink ]
The article continues, strangely, that the rosy hue allowed the HMS Kenya — nicknamed “The Pink Lady” — to escape a German attack off the Norwegian coast because the ship’s color was indecipherable from the pink marker dye the Germans used in their shells. Thus, the German’s couldn’t tell the different between a big pink boat and water or sky or the very shots they fired.

The article concludes by stating that the color was disbanded by 1942, as pink ships were easier to see at sunrise and sunset than the traditional gray ones.

Oh, the Wikipedia — home to pointless and factually dubious clumps of words passed off as fact.

Perhaps the best thing about Mountbatten pink, however, is that the article on Louis Mountbatten notes that he was known for carrying on affairs with both sexes and was “widely known as the military as “Mountbottom.” Ha.
[ source: Prance Closer ]

Thursday, September 14, 2006


A long while back — May 13, 2005, to be exact — I was yet to graduate college, living in the Bath Street apartment and just learning about David Lynch’s latest film project, “Inland Empire.” It doesn’t seem possible that it’s taken more than a year for this movie to come into fruition, but I can finally follow up with more news.

Lynch screened his new work at the Venice Film Festival. Reviews so far lead me to believe that I will enjoy this film, even if the rest of the world thinks that Lynch is a one-joke guy who makes bad art films and has been making them — jokes or bad art films or both, depending on your taste in movies — since “Blue Velvet.” I love the guy, however, and frankly the small plot tidbits I’ve gleaned so far sound like the kind of surreal, escapist cinema that makes me happy.

The film, which stars Laura Dern and Justin Theroux, concerns the production of a film starring Laura Dern and Justin Theroux. The film-within-the-film is a remake, but only in the sense that the last time someone tried to film this story — some Polish folk tale — the two lead actors ended up murdered. So that, in a nutshell, plus the following:
  • Lynch vets like Harry Dean Stanton and Grace Zabriskie
  • Jeremy Irons
  • Talking rabbits voiced by Naomi Watts and Laura Elena Harring
  • Prostitutes doing “The Loco-motion”
  • Polish people, apparently
  • Close-ups
  • Head wounds
  • Red drapes
This makes me very happy.
[ link: the original "Inland Empire"-related post ]

Missing Kitty

Somehow, when I was hired as a personal assistant with the possibility of graphic deisgn, I didn't expect that it would entail this:

Keep in mind, this is all the cat's owners, not me. I'm not the one who decided to list Tito's distinguishing feature as "looks like the picture." Also, I find it secretly hilarious that I just had to type that little Tito may, in fact, be wearing the collar that belongs to his brother, which raises up a whole lot of other weird questions.

But since I bring it up, have you seen this cat?

He Thinks He's People

And it's water-skiing squirrel. You can't really elaborate on these things. This was originally posted, I think, by Amamba on my MySpace profile.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

A Week's Worth of Weird

Hi all. My blog side project, Die Wunderkammer, is coming along nicely. I've slowly gone through all my saved images and now all but seven remain to be posted. I suggest everyone goes and looks. Or, I guess, you could all just wait until I do this again in a week, when I post a similar message about everything being done. Funny, that.
[ link: Die Wunderkammer ]

Monday, September 11, 2006

Nothing They'd Want in the Yearbook, Part Two

After having closed easily thousands of pop-up ads, I have come across the online advertisements for often enough that I can but quickly glance at them and, using only scant visual cues, recognize them and then, subsequently, the fact that I don’t need to pay them any attention.

Then I thought about it.

Do you see the woman in this ad? In my estimation, this must be an actual woman. She’s wearing the hairstyle and glasses specific to a certain class of a certain generation — I’m going with early 60s she-dork — and her picture, if genuine, looks to be taken from an actual yearbook. Considering the effort that one would have to put in compositing several ugly yearbook pictures into one image that looks like a real person, I’d say it’s reasonable this is a real person. I’d be surprised if she’s not from a real yearbook, too, though God knows how the people got a hold of it.

Given the apparent age of the photograph, there’s some probability that the woman in it is dead, but it seems especially crass that this person would be commercialized in such a way that her survivors would have to witness her photo — appropriated for an advertisement — every time they used the internet. No, I’m guessing that this woman is alive somewhere — and that she signed a release for to use her old yearbook image as they wished. Then how, I wonder, must she feel to see her image paired with the test “She’s a model now?!” or — as I’ve also seen her, paired with some thick-necked jock — “She married him?!” Either one, a statement that could use an interrobang, however mean-spirited such a punctuational footnote might be implemented. If this woman uses the internet — and what troglodyte doesn’t? — I’ll bet she resents the fact that she ever signed the release.

As if being awkward through high school wasn’t pain enough.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Still a Big Zero

As I crawl back through the past few years along the trail of verbal breadcrumbs that is this stupid blog, I find things that I've forgotten about that advancing technology has made more accessible since I wrote about them. For example: the "Big Zero" blog post in which I discuss my hate-obsession for the opening credits to "Big O," an anime series that aired on Adult Swim some time back. I have still not bothered to watch the show, but the opening sequence still baffles me. Now, with the advent of YouTube, I can actually deliver the very scene I spoke of.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Too Blue?

New blog background. Your thoughts would be appreciated.

Other Back of the Cereal Box tech news: I've added a link to the public display of my Bloglines account to my sidebar, under the heading "Bloggery." This system works kind of link Outlook Express, only for syndicated blog feeds and not nearly as crappy. Now, if you're so inclined, you can read what I read.
[ link: so much more bloggery ]

Blue Wallpaper

Pop Culture Sonic Meme Diamond to the Max

Mr. Franzese sent me this, a compilation of movie clips featuring the Wilhelm Scream. This particular sound effect is one that directors apparently use just for the sake of using it. I first heard about in in researching the "Kill Bill" trivia, and while the below video does not feature any "Kill Bill" segments, you'll have to trust me that it's there. According to the Wikipedia entry for it, the Wilhelm Scream was probably recorded by Sheb Wooley, the guy who later sang "Purple People Eater." So, you know, there's that.

The Wikipedia also posted a list of films that use the Wilhelm Scream.
[ link: lots more screaming ]


Please note that, in demonstration of my inability to whittle my "top friends" down to a select few that would fit in the so-called spot MySpace provides, I decided to fuck the notion entirely and simply fill the list with people that I (a) do not know or (b) do not know well enough to warrant their "top friendship." I'm eager to see if any of them notice.
[ link: my MySpace profile ]

Empty Shelf

There's a hole in my heart in the exact shape of a certain sweaty brunette. And I think about it every time I see her empty shelf.

the empty shelf

The Lady in the Lampshade

And from way back on Fiesta weekend, here's a little sketch the talented Dina Dina Canklesaurus drew in the dust on my lampshade. Those familiar with Dina's artistic style should not be surprised.

lady in the lampshade

Nothing They'd Want in the Yearbook

Odd ways people have been finding my blog lately.

That Wide-Eyed Margot Kidder-in-a-Bush Look

rentalcarbashing: hey
rentalcarbashing: I read your blog
rentalcarbashing: how come you never post conversations we have?
kidicarus222: um, i thought I did
kidicarus222: in fact, i'm pretty sure i must have at one point
rentalcarbashing: who's this sanam chick anyway?
kidicarus222: she's like a friend. we used to hook up back in the day, but that's over since she started shooting up
rentalcarbashing: well fuck her
kidicarus222: time was
kidicarus222: did you ever think that maybe i don't post our conversations because whenever we talk you talk about your thing?
rentalcarbashing: my thing?
kidicarus222: your sickness?
kidicarus222: i don't know how to refer to it
rentalcarbashing: i don't think i'm sick
kidicarus222: you're the only one
kidicarus222: have you thought about seeing somebody about that?
kidicarus222: like a doctor?
rentalcarbashing: i don't need a doctor
kidicarus222: you need help, man
rentalcarbashing: it's really hard loving something that doesn't love you back
kidicarus222: i couldn't imagine
kidicarus222: you know, the whole thing totally puts into perspective that day we went to aquarium
rentalcarbashing: it had to come out some time
kidicarus222: and your obsession with narwhals
rentalcarbashing: they're so pointy
kidicarus222: stop
kidicarus222: i can't deal with the details
rentalcarbashing: they have horns like unicorns
kidicarus222: please
kidicarus222: it's not normal
rentalcarbashing: i just need to find someone to go with to the aquariums here
kidicarus222: good luck, sicko
kidicarus222: actually
kidicarus222: it occurs to me that sanam lives in new york now too
kidicarus222: did you know that?
rentalcarbashing: i did not
kidicarus222: you should hit each other up
kidicarus222: i think you two might have a lot in common

Today's Gemini of Weird

Because I like to force the unreasonably quirky side of the universe down your throats, please observe these two fine specimens:
[ link: "Reincarnation," the blog ]
I found this using the "next blog" button on the Blogger navbar, which, as always, yielded results not unlike looking into the basin of a port-a-potty. You know you shouldn't bother to look, but you can't resist the urge to check out what someone with your same urges and needs might have done with you're not looking. Yikes. I can't imagine what the Asian characters printed in this blog might indicate, but the way creepy image and the sole blurb of English text — "copycat, LICKING MY HEAD!!" — leads me to believe that I'd be better off not investigating.

And, also, a certain bloggist who's been commenting on the Back of the Cereal Box as of late:
[ link: Pet Confessions ]
I shudder to think what dark, creative mind thought to print the secret thoughts of our furry companions, but I'm glad they did. It's a sillier version of PostSecret. If you've ever wanted to learn the inner workings of a Republican iguana, take the energy to click the link.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Dream Factory

Because my mind was dwelling on the subject, for whatever reason, here are some more images from Doki Doki Panic, which I wrote about in a previous post.

This one shows art from the game's instruction booklet. I don't read Japanese, but what I can gather from the pictures is that the big frog thing kidnapped two kids in dorky hats through a book. Or something. And then the Arabian family chases them. Also, the kids have wings. Also, before the kids got kidnapped, they apparently had a neat impish friend in a beanie. Got, I love Japan.

This is some promotional image showing a strange partnership between Mario and Imajin, the latter being Mario's counterpart in the game he eventually stole. It's comforting, to me: Italy and Arabia, being friendly. Or, more accurately, Japan and Japan.

And finally: Mama, dying. She's the blue-hooded lady whose high-jumping skills translated to Luigi, who's been a high jumper ever since. Funny thing is that she dies just like Mario died in the first Super Mario Bros., which came out two years before this strange Japanese game did. Terrified look, jumping facing the screen, hands in the air — all as if to say "Damn you, you shitty video game player! May I haunt you forever for killing me!"

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

What's New, Canada Sue?

misterbrief: hey, i have a cat!
kidicarus222: !
kidicarus222: !!!
kidicarus222: what do you call it?
misterbrief: still working on that
misterbrief: she actually just moved in yesterday
kidicarus222: how about "drew"?
misterbrief: but YOU're drew!
misterbrief: i'll get confused dear
misterbrief: and you'll NEVER hear from me
misterbrief: cuz i'll always think "i see drew all the time"
kidicarus222: how about "pepper"?
misterbrief: hmmm, my best friend had a dog named pepper
kidicarus222: how about "terrence"?
misterbrief: she's a girl cat
misterbrief: I'd be ok with terrence, but others would get confused
kidicarus222: how about "the black dahlia"?
misterbrief: see, i don't want to say yes to any of these, because i want to see what you come up with next
kidicarus222: how about "mrs. leonard panaggio"?
misterbrief: getting closer
kidicarus222: how about "jessie's baby girl angel muffin"?
misterbrief: ewwww
misterbrief: most decidedly not
kidicarus222: how about "clitty kitty, the whorish cat"?
misterbrief: my parents are going to meet this animal drew
misterbrief: let's keep it PG, or at the least rated M for Mature
misterbrief: (do you have that down here? or is that a Canuck thing?)
kidicarus222: (yes, we have that here)
kidicarus222: how about "heroine," so you can yell for her when she goes missing?
misterbrief: also promising
misterbrief: still missing a je ne sais quoi
kidicarus222: how about "hortense the mule-faced cat"?
misterbrief: i'm laughing too hard to respond
misterbrief: which is freaking out poor hortense
kidicarus222: how about "stupid kitty garbage face"?
misterbrief: see, that's the kind of cat name i expect from you
kidicarus222: how about "lady diana spencer"?
misterbrief: nope
kidicarus222: how about "lady diana spencer 2"?
misterbrief: nope nope
misterbrief: though maybe "lady spencer diana"...
kidicarus222: how about "petronella"?
misterbrief: very timely
kidicarus222: how about "prunella"?
misterbrief: very pruney
misterbrief: Melanie's planning a visit
misterbrief: though only very vaguely
kidicarus222: my old DC roommate adam actually works very close to where melanie works in SF
misterbrief: fascinating
misterbrief: do they cross paths at all?
kidicarus222: yes, and they did so very recently
kidicarus222: how about "ana ng"?
misterbrief: persistent little bugger, aren't you?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


While I technically wrote the previous word-related post this weekend, while I was off the grid and letting my mind wander, the part about the word “cuckold” struck me. I remember more than a year ago noticing that words ending in “ard” or something like it often refer to people of unenviable status. Somehow, I neglected to ever post this.

Think about it:
  • drunkard
  • bastard
  • sluggard
  • dullard
  • braggart
The standout would seem to be “wizard,” though I’m sure that word has its own negative associations, especially when people were less Gandalf-friendly and more burn-the-pagans. I piped these few into Google and found this page, which makes mention of quite a few others.
  • blinkard (literally, someone who blinks too much)
  • dastard (which I’m more used to hearing as “dastardly”)
  • dotard (a senile person, in the same sense we use “doddery”)
  • golliard (an obsolete word that refers to a certain class of rowdy students, related to “glutton”)
  • laggard (guy who lags)
  • niggard (more common today as “niggardly,” and not nearly as awful as it sounds)
  • stinkard (you know, like your mom)
The suffix comes from French, where it denoted someone who does a certain thing too much. Oddly, the French got it from a Germanic word that also gave modern English the word “hard.” So literally, the word was used then in a way not unlike we say “hardcore” to mean that something is particularly intense. The suffix only works this way, however, when used referring to people, although I think it would be fun to research the etymology on “buzzard,” “mustard,” “collard greens,” “orchard,” and “leotard,” the last of which I think we can all agree is still pretty unenviable.

Oh, and of course “retard” would be the notable exception.

Don't Make Me Platypus All Over You

Some time ago, I posted an entry here that detailed what, as far my experience and research yielded, was a list of verbs the English language has derived from its words for the various parts of the human body. There were many, and quite a few more so were pointed out by my readers. The post, “Don’t Cock This One Up,” stands today as the one that generated the most comments ever. This surprised me somewhat.

In any case, I was struck this weekend by the inability to recall the animal-derived verb we English speakers use to mean “to search out, to rummage, the produce with much effort.” Only because my dad eventually spoke this phrase later the very day I was trying to remember it did I get to put my mind at ease. “Something something and then he ferreted out what was really up.” I can’t remember what the context was. But does it not seem odd that we’d have such a readily recognized expression taken from an animal with which most English speakers, I’d wager, I have little to no contact? Yes? It does? Good. I thought so as well.

As a consequence of this very problem, I’m listing here below what, as far as my experience and research can yield, is a list of the various verbs we derive from animal names.
  • to dog (as in, “to fix a negative, aggressive facial expression on someone”)
  • to hound (used similarly, but more in the sense of fixing a vendetta upon someone)
  • to wolf down
  • to horse around
  • to monkey around (meaning much the same as the previous one)
  • to pig out
  • to pony up
  • to ape
  • to parrot (again, meaning much the same as the previous)
  • to fox (though this one is most always spoken as “to out fox,” with the adverb preceding the verb, it stands to reason that it is as valid as “to horse around” despite its jumbled word order)
  • to cat around (meaning, surprisingly, "to look for a sexual mate")
  • to duck (which does come from the same word as the kind of bird, I found)
  • to goose
  • to skylark (though I think we usually just call them “larks”)
  • to leech
  • to sponge (most often meaning “to freeload” or something like it, though I’d bet this came from the synthetic, inanimate kind of sponges used for cleaning and not from the sea creatures, which, I think we can all agree, are for all practical purposes just barely count as animals)
  • to clam up
  • to mole (which apparently can be used in the sense of acting as a mole, though I can’t imagine how those near-sighted tunnel-diggers ever got tangled up in espionage)
  • to coyote (in a similar sense, when speaking of illegal immigration across the Mexican-U.S. border)
  • to beaver (though it’s more referring to the anatomical sense rather than to any function of the animal)
  • to pussy out (and likewise)
  • to dragon (in the sense of inhaling from a cigarette and blowing it out one’s nostrils; though I’ve heard this spoken, I must admit it is a stretch at best)
  • to rat
  • to crow (which may be spurious in that the verb only connotes making a noise like the animal does)
  • to snake (as in “to steal”)
  • to fish (perhaps the only of these verbs that derives from the act of killing the animal it is named for)
  • to worm (okay, so there's two)
  • to whale (okay, so there's three)
  • to chicken out
  • to squirrel (most often spoken as “to squirrel away”)
  • to weasel
  • to badger
  • and, of course, to ferret
If you’ll note the “Don’t Cock This One Up” post, you’ll notice that the list of body part-derived verbs is longer. I find this very surprising, for although we, being human beings, spend much of the day with out bodies and their various parts, we also have a long history of interacting with animals — certainly for as long as English has been around. And though we have a limited number of body parts, there's a far greater number of animals for us to interact with. Granted, there are other expressions that I’ve kept off the list. They’re all mainly longer ones that incorporate some form of the verb “to be” and an adjective derived from the animal’s name, like “to become sheepish” or “to be bullish” or whatever.

(Also, just so nobody calls me on it, I’d like to point out that a handful of homonym verbs that resemble animal names but have no actual animal associations, like “to bear.” I think I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention “to cuckold,” which if I’m not mistaken arrived long ago into English from an old version of French, hence the fact that it doesn’t directly resemble the word “cuckoo.” Most wordologists, however, agree that the word comes from the notion that the cuckoo bird kicks out the eggs of some unknowing hen and tricks her into raising a brood that’s not actually her own.)

Furthermore, a surprising number of the entries in the above list have duplicate meanings: namely “to horse around” and “to monkey around”; “to ape” and “to parrot”; and “to clam up” and “to turtle up.” Why, the cunning linguist must ask, should such disparate animals yield verbs with the same meanings? Why must everything that a parrot and an ape do, for example, be boiled down to mere mimicry? I for one have observed both animals — though, admittedly, never at the same time — and I feel that their collective actions should rightfully include clucking (parrots), snapping (parrots), scratching (apes), eating bananas (apes), crawling up cages (both), exposing their genitals (apes), frightening me on some level (both) and mastering crude sign language computer programs (apes). Parrots copy us as a parlor trick, sure, but do apes really even imitate humans? Or does their mere existence as our distance evolutionary relative renders them mimics? And isn’t that a little self-centered, especially since apes have been around longer than we have?

Additional weirdness: “to squirrel,” “to weasel,” “to badger,” and “to ferret.” Why should four slender, nimble, toothy, furry and altogether similar beasts all get verbs, when animals that are much more frequently the subject of interaction by humans — cows, for example, or goldfish or seagulls or rabbits or raccoons or ants — get the shaft?

And finally, why should any of the meanings we associate with these verbs have stuck so soundly? Humans, as a rule, generally love dogs. And dogs, in my experience, generally love us back, a fact that is so often exhibited by the glazed, tongue-lolling expressions of absolute mirth and complete loyalty they shoot us. Rightly, “to dog” should mean something else — to fetch a ball or trot faithfully by one’s side or to eat one’s vomit only moments after having purged it. For this, I feel that the notion of “dogging” as we currently understand it is a total misnomer.

I speak no language besides English fluently, but I know enough of others to understand that we writers are lucky to have it. Its status as a verbal melting pot makes it a convenient one to write in since we’re afforded so many ways to say the same thing that we’re nearly never without a word or phrase that can describe the precise shade of meaning we’re striving for. Thus, I’m not suggesting that we should crawl back through centuries of lexicon-building and omit these words. No, as much as some of their strange associations bother me, I’m happy to keep them. However, I have to wonder why we don’t utilize other members of the animal kingdom — both domestic and exotic — in a smarter way and derive more of these spot-on, that’s-exactly-what-I-meant terms from the various unused beasts.

For what else could one mean by the expression “to penguin about” than to frolic and slide about on the tundra while eating fish and dressed in formal wear? If I said that Barnaby’s younger, slighter brother refrained from speaking to the party guests and merely moused about his family’s grand ballroom in an earnest attempt to remain at the event but escape notice, wouldn’t you know exactly what I meant? Would any explanation be needed if I told you that Yoyo Ellenboggan could have easily avoided the wrath of the minister’s daughters had she refrained from peacocking about town in her new jewel-encrusted dress and matching hat? To mosquito? To sphinx? To vulture about a buffet table, awaiting the appropriate time to dive in for seconds? I find it’s all fairly straightforward, especially if you simply take in the words and the images they suggest, rather than rhinoing through without any caution to the deliberation the writer took in selecting each word.

And beyond the mere colloquialisms we could use the ignored animals for, the writerly readers currently reading this and readying to write their own response should stop to consider the more poetic implications of pairing the perfect animal for the action needing to be described. “By late October, the leaves had already begun to lose their green and, one by one, butterfly away from their branches in their final act of natural beauty.” How perfectly does that verb — one, as far as I know, undiscovered by English speakers — capture the motion of a leaf through the air? And what could be meant by the verb “to moth,” other than the notion of being destroyed by the thing that one desires most? And how obvious? And how beautiful, if even in a melodramatic sense?

And how — for God’s sake — could any of these await coinage while every one in the United States can immediately understand “You’re badgering the witness” despite the fact that relatively few have ever actually been harassed by a badger?