Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Video Games and Rainbow Colors

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

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

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

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

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

That's all I'm saying about that.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Keister Egg

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

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

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

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Aunt Linda

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







Monday, November 13, 2006

Little Shirley Beans

Recent photographical conquests.

restaurant reflection 1

cafe dining car 4

cafe dining car 3

nojoqui falls 3

green bug on the wall 3

cactus fruit

Friday, November 10, 2006

Your Best Friend's Wife

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

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

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

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

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

[ source: Prance Closer ]

Thursday, November 9, 2006

Snake Wig

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 6, 2006

Revenge of the Blob

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

And they should.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 5, 2006

The Grammar of Capital Punishment

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

An Open Letter Written Upon the Death of Mr. Eko

Dear people who make "Lost,"

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

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

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