Monday, December 31, 2007

Trouser Mice

One more spam email before the close of the year, this one more disturbing than most in its use of mice running through your pants as a metaphor for penises. If I had mice in my trousers, I certainly wouldn't want them any larger than they already are. The fact that she's writing me from a Hersheys.com email address makes it all the more disturbing, though I suppose feeding mice chocolate would make them bigger.

trouser-mice

Yesenia Doty, you're a painter of words.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Killing Me Softly

A shot of mistletoe growing on — an slowly murdering — the big birch tree in my parents' backyard.

mistletoe on birch tree

Festive death!

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Terror of Secret Santas

More dumping upon the holidays, this time in print.
The Terror of Secret Santas

You wouldn’t know it by looking at Santa Barbara’s snowless skies, but it’s time for nog and wassail and all those other antiquated words associated with the holidays. For me, this time of year brings a very particular source of stress: the office Secret Santa gift exchange. Though I like the concept, I feel like the process of thinking of a gift for someone creates the awkward situation of reducing everything I know about that person down to a single object.

Is it in bad taste, for example, to give my copy editor a new pack of red pens? She’d use it, theoretically, but she could also take the offering as a sign that I see her as red ink-streaking no-no machine. (I don’t.) Would it imply too much, hypothetically, to give a desk-organizer? Hand sanitizer? A thesaurus? A bib? A haircut coupon? A one-way plane ticket? An appointment with a therapist? A lesson in how to use the word count function? Even the less critical Secret Santa gifts can still be awkward. “Hi. I remember you wore a hat to work once … so I bought you another hat.”

My office suggests a $10 cap on presents, but even that can cause problems. What if, for example, the perfect present costs $25? Would I be showing up my coworkers who all obediently bought $9.99 items? And what if I receive the expensive gift from the person who drew my name? (Like the one-way plane ticket.) Should I feel like a cheapskate by comparison?

Fortunately for me, my intended recipient has a significant other, so I have a source to go to for suggestions and vetoes. I now have to worry less about giving something that the recipient is (a) allergic to, (b) experienced childhood trauma from, or (c) already has. But for many Secret Santas out there, the moment of truth is looming ever closer: When the giftees unwraps their presents and the givers must attempt to read the giftees' expressions, are those forced smiles or genuine ones on their faces as they gazes upon their new hat?
The funny part here — well, it's actually not funny — is that I really did draw my copy editor, Palmer and really did give her a red pen. I also gave her a gift certificate to a store she reputedly likes for exactly $10.01 — meaning that I care enough to exceed the limit but not so much so that I showed everybody else up. As a bonus present sidecar ride-along element, I also burned her a CD that I hope Palmer doesn't hate. I'm most proud of the cover art.

palmeranian

Holiday puns.

Monday, December 17, 2007

No One to Say Meow

I found this image whilst doing a Google image search for my website. I’m not sure why this showed up. And I’m not sure what it is.


But I’m creeped out regardless. I found it here. It originally showed up somewhere here. The natural explanation, of course, would involve some form of Photoshoppery, but that's no fun now, is it?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

A Terrible Pun

Ahem.

regina dentata

Of course, I'm calling it "Regina Dentata." I couldn't resist.

Upon Finding a Photo in the Kitchen Drawer

This essay concerns a photo I found. However, that part comes five paragraphs later. In fact, I don't even mention the photo in the below paragraph. So if you're especially eager to find out about the photograph, I suggest you skip down. If you feel okay with a bit of exposition, however, keep reading the paragraphs as you come to them. I think it might make the part with the photograph make a bit more sense.

I live in an old house. Through a small bit of research, Aly, Spencer and I have learned that our house once constituted a part of a hotel enjoyed by wealthy and famous of early 20th-century California. (It’s less nice now, I suspect, but it’s livable.) My house even pre-dates the 1925 earthquake that knocked down most of the city and then allowed it to be rebuilt in red-tile-roof Spanish mission-style, making my house the only building I've lived in that's older than my grandmother. Behind me, where I'm typing this now, there's a sliding glass window that looks out onto the stairway. This window shows the age of the house by virtue of the fact that looking at it at an angle reveals a smooth ripple through the glass, which I'm led to believe is characteristic of old, old glass. Thus, there's a chance this glass once looked out onto the outside, rather than the inside, and out onto a very different Santa Barbara.

Given the house's age, its weirdness makes sense, I suppose. By virtue of having stood here for so long and having housed so many people and having been brutally divided into apartments, its current state surely differs greatly from its initial design, hence why some of its features defy logic. For example, the floor in the plant room — which used to be Amber's bedroom and Betsy's office and most recently Spencer's technical bedroom — tilts down perceptibly as it nears the outer wall. Clearly, this room was a porch in an earlier incarnation, and the arc of the floor exists so that rain would run off into the garden and not puddle. The second bedroom — formerly Byron's, formerly mine, and formerly Betsy's before that — lacks a closet, so we suspect it might have once been a dining room. If that's true, the third bedroom — now Aly's, previously Kristen's — might make more sense, as the back wall of its closet is actually a revolving door that would lead into the kitchen if it wasn't being blocked by the refrigerator. What would appear to be Aly bedroom’s cupboards actually open onto the kitchen shelves, where we store the plates and glasses. We suspect Aly's room once served as some kind of butler's room or something, hence the accessibility into the kitchen. Oh, and despite that it only has three bedrooms, the house has fifteen different doors, including the non-functional revolving door, the locked door that leads to the neighbor's balcony and the completely sealed door in the dining room that I didn't even notice until I had already lived here for a year. Clearly, the place has a history, the vast majority of it I'll probably never even know before I move out.

However, on a smaller scale, I'm continually reminded of the history of the past few "generations" of people who've lived here. For example, former tenants get more mail on a daily basis than do the three current tenants. A magazine for Betsy, a check for Kristen, something strangely legal-looking for somebody named Deirdre, credit card application for a different Drew, arty stuff for a girl named Lisa-With-The-Ugly-Last-Name, generally nothing for me. Or there's what happened a few months back, when Spencer and Aly were explaining the house to our friend Graham when he revealed that he had actually dated Lisa-With-The-Ugly-Last-Name and played a small hand in making the house look the way it did. (Bamboo curtain rods for one, and the strange plywood-and-styrofoam structure that blocked off part of the sun room at the top of the stairs and which Aly and I sent crashing down the stars one night in last year a fit of frustration.) And knowing about a connection between Graham and this Lisa girl struck me as so odd because I had never personally met her and only previously knew about her through stories Amber had told and from seeing her name on all the fucking catalogues that she never bothered to unsubscribe from. Yet I know for a fact that I'm still using some of the furniture she bought when she lived here years ago.

Another: One day, Spencer found a secret compartment in the attic. Inside, he found a dusty grocery bag full of papers — photocopies of articles from women's magazines and a partially written thesis paper by someone named Marian who went to Stanford. On a whim, I looked her up on MySpace to find out if she wanted them. Months later, she wrote back, this Marian, saying that she did live in my house for a period and that she no longer needed her old research. She also mentioned that the lead singer of The Ataris lived in the next-door apartment back when she lived here, and that she remembered hearing him fight with his girlfriend and then have loud sex. Everyday. (We, for the record, still hear our neighbors doing similar activities, though the people next-door now aren't rock stars.)

This all seems quite important in light of the fact that I found a photograph in the kitchen drawer a few weeks back. The photo looks like this:

kristen2


It’s Kristen, whom I know fairly well and who lived here at the house just over a year-and-a-half ago. I don’t know who was standing on the other side of the camera, but I can be sure that that’s Kristen. Despite being able to readily identify the girl, though, I couldn’t help but marvel at the fact that had I been not me and instead some resident of this house just one generation down the line, I’d have no idea who the girl in the photo was or even when the photo might have been taken. For whatever reason, it seemed notable that I held in my hand an artifact that proved how quickly knowledge about this kind of stuff can be lost. This photo — like the blue leather chairs in the kitchen or the old-fashioned school desk or the lime green wall clock — has a story behind it and a reason it’s in my home. But in a very short amount of time, anyone who might know that story could leave, rending all subsequent tenants to wonder how and when and why a certain thing arrived. Example: Who is the man in the tiny framed photo above the dining room table? I don’t know, and I have no way of guessing whether the photo is retro-faux-wannabe old or genuine, full-on old.

Beyond being just any old photo, qualities of the Kristen photo lend it to being even more mysterious. I don’t know why, but whoever snapped the Kristen photo eventually printed it out in monochrome — and a tinted monochrome at that, which gives the photo a bit of an aged look. Furthermore, the photo had been living in the kind of kitchen drawer that wreaks havoc on smooth finishes — picture frame nails, paper clips, twisty ties, pencils, thumbtacks and countless Allen wrenches, all waiting to make the kind of scratches that that lend a photo the look of something that’s seen better days. Finally, there’s what’s actually in the photo. Beside from just being an image of Kristen, it’s an image of Kristen sitting at a table in an unfamiliar location — a restaurant? some other home? — and dressed in a way that I might describe as anachronistic. All that dangly costume jewelry ornamentation makes her look almost flapperish, but her hair looks pretty contemporary. The photo itself is clear, but not crystal clear, which might make someone think it could be older than it is.

I’m not sure even I’m communicating my point here at all, so let me try some other way: I find something special in both being able to imagine why a certain item might be mysterious and to dream up all the hypothetical stories about why it exists and who made it. I find something alluring in the notion that the true story behind that object can be quickly lost, leading later passersby to do the dreaming up themselves. But perhaps most of all, I find something empowering in the knowledge that I know the real story but very soon others may be at a loss to explain who and what and why is.

There’s something in this photo — maybe it’s Kristen’s expression, maybe it’s the overall time vagueness, maybe it’s a quality I haven’t even processed yet — that I like. Whatever it is, it represents everything: the weirdness of my house and the nature of memory and the stories inanimate objects carry with them (or don’t, as the case may be). There’s something in this photo and I just had to write about it.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Suddenly Sister

While looking up the Wikipedia page for Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer,” I saw a link to a page for The Kransky Sisters, an Australian comedy-cover band trio. KrisDina and I saw the Kranskys’ show at the Sydney Opera House, and were much better off in life for having done so.

A signed CD of the girls' first show. (we saw the second show, heard it on the wireless, but i much prefer the title of the first show, we don't have husbands.)

However, when I arrived back in California and tried to research them, I found they lacked any mention on the Wikipedia. Things change, and the Wikipedia grows, Blob-like, absorbing more and more pop culture until the point at which it explodes in a gooey confetti shower of useless facts (and opinions). But how startled was I to find that the youngest and arguably best Kransky — the portly, mute, tuba-playing Arva Krasnky — had since dropped out of the group. (Although I think the girls liked Arva best, I actually preferred the loopy Eve, who, as I mentioned in an earlier post, looks remarkably like Stephnie “No, That’s Not a Typo” Weir and who deigned to speak to me after the show and was insistent on enunciating her last name, which, as I also wrote in the earlier post, I found strange since I had clearly just bought tickets to and attended her show, in which her last name is billed. Memories.) From the Kranskysite:
Due to the mysterious disappearance of tuba playing, Arva Kransky, who was last seen exchanging sheet music with a member of the Hornbell Military Marching Band, the Kransky Sisters have enlisted the assistance of their rarely visited, reclusive sister, Dawn Kransky, who has taken leave of her job as trolley librarian at the Esk Hospital to be with her Sisters.
Me being the strange obsessive I am, I can’t help but note the strangeness of the fact that Eve and big sister Mourne replaced their now-missing sister with a fourth, never-before-mentioned sister, Dawn Kransky. To me and the rest of the planet’s population who find themselves in the awkward position of having to explain to people why Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a good show, the fact that the blinked-into-existence sister is named “Dawn” is especially notable since the show’s fifth season introduced Buffy’s little sister, Dawn, who previously didn’t exist. (It was eventually explained. The short answer: magic.) And this Dawn was played by Michelle Trachtenberg, which meant that Harriet the Spy got to meet Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Anyway, I thought it was relevant. I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again, dammit.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Beautiful Arms Showing From Your Summer Dress

She's a real-life gymnast, who competed in the 2005 World Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships. She's also the star of the below video, which is technically titled "Mariko Takahashi's Fitness Video For Being Appraised as an 'Ex-fat Girl,'" but is more popularly known in the world of memery as "Poodle Fitness." Needless to say, it's way weird.


From Wikipedia: "[Director] Nagi Noda, in her artist's statement, explained that she arrived at the poodle concept after noticing that the dogs' hair cuts resembled muscles. She believed that this concept would help her video appeal to people of all ages." Of course!

[ Source: PCL LinkDump ]

Yule Prevails

Normally, I don't bother posting here what work I do for the news department, but today is different.


Today, I posted a very simple article about an overly medicated woman who drove her Lincoln in to the State Street Christmas tree. She was not seriously hurt, from what I've heard, and I think that makes it okay to look at the humor in a situation where the poor woman had to, at some point, figure out how a tree had grown out of the middle of a normally tree-less road. Well, that and the fact that the tree survived the collision with nary a twinkle light out of place.

Friday, December 07, 2007

An Empty Sarcophagus

In an effort to answer a question about the nature of Santa Barbara, the soap opera, that arose in a meeting today, I looked at the show's Wikipedia page, on which I found the following utterly delightful paragraph:
The series began on an uneven foot, but creators and executive producers Jerome Dobson and Bridget Dobson proceeded to kill off most of the show's actors via natural disaster and a serial killer storyline. When a major earthquake hit Santa Barbara, core character Danny Andrade slept through the entire thing. Minx Lockridge (Dame Judith Anderson) was unfazed, saying that the 1984 Santa Barbara earthquake was nothing like 1925. She was later locked into an empty sarcophagus. Luckily, her grandchildren were around to let her out and she escaped with merely a bruised ego.
I don't know what's better: the fact that such an apparently terrible show starred one Dame Judith Anderson, that her character's name was Minx Lockridge, or that she's emerged unscathed from imprisonment in an empty sarcophagus, which, of course, we have in abundance here in Santa Barbara.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Where's Maddy?

After having shown the video for "Collection of Stamps" — which is apparently the name of the song and not the name of the band, which is I'm From Barcelona, strangely — to anyone with a spare three minutes, I've noticed that one girl — the one I've named Nosering Girl — looks a lot like a hipsterfied Maddy Ferguson. I swear, it's not just me coming off the Twin Peaks kick.

Nosering girl

Maddy Ferguson

Had I been able to find any big enough images of Maddy wearing her Sally Jesse Raphael glasses, the resemblance would be even more striking, believe me.

EDIT: I found a good image of the bespectacled Maddy, on a German Twin Peaks wiki site, of all places.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Damn Fine Coffee

Apparently, December is David Lynch month here at the Back of the Cereal Box, because the dude seems to be everywhere lately. (Must be all the transcendental meditation.) Less than a day after I mentioned re-watching Twin Peaks through to the end, Sanam sends me a link to this: an Onion article (but not a fake one) about how he started his own Signature Line coffee brand a year ago. (The article actually went up one day short of a year ago, strangely enough. But what does "strange" mean when writing about Lynch?) The article also shows a clip from an old Japanese commercial Lynch did for Georgia coffee, mid-Twin Peaks fame there, I'm pretty sure. The clip features Coop, Lucy, Hawk, Andy and the Log Lady — then some Japanese guy and a Japanese lady that's supposed to be Annie, I think. It's not the same brand of coffee and the one Lynch launched (ha), but just another connection between the director and his favorite beverage.



Funny how Lynch complained about ABC tinkering with Twin Peaks but apparently was okay with lending the show's characters and setting out to an international coffee company for a few ad spots.

EDIT: Apparently the above clip is just one part in a series. Here are two others:




Monday, December 03, 2007

LampSex: A Story Told in Nine Photographs

The night before I left for my study-abroad program in London, I tried out my new camera. I rarely use it now, but for the last non-digital camera I ever had, it did pretty good. Curious at how it worked, I took some test photos in my room. After a few, I decided that the obvious way to learn it would be to photograph a tableau melodrama about two oversexed lamps, whose trust is interrupted by the sudden arrival of one of their spouses.

I just scanned them today. See if you can guess when they're having sex!

lampsex0

lampsex1

lampsex2

lampsex4

lampsex5

lampsex6

lampsex7

lampsex8

lampsex9

I like the way the low light gives the photos a pulpy, yellow light.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

This Is the Girl

While at work, I had to look up somebody's filmography on IMDb. One thing led to another and I stumbled onto the cast listing for that awful Lindsay Lohan movie, I Know Who Killed Me. Scrolling down the names — more out of mean-spirited curiosity for who else had their fingerprints on this train wreck than anything else — I saw one named that struck me as familiar: Bonnie Aarons. I couldn't place why, but I was sure I remembered seeing something that Bonnie Aarons appeared in. When I clicked on her profile, I saw her face. It was this face:


Again, she looked vaguely familiar, though something about her face disturbed me on a fundamental level. In fact, when the image loaded and popped onto the screen, I felt a little startled to see her. I couldn't put my finger on it, however, until I scrolled down a bit and saw what had made her known to me.

What was it?

Well, she's been in a good handful of movies most people would know of: both Princess Diaries films, for example, as well as Exit to Eden and Wristcutters: A Love Story, which just came out. But one role stands out. And I'm wagering that readers of this blog would recognize her most easily from this one role. For maximum effect, I'm making the image of her in this role open in its own page. When you click this link to her image, I'm hoping, you'll have a similar reaction to the one I did when I first saw her.

I'm including an explanation in the first comment of this post for those of you left scratching your head.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

For Better — But Worse

Last year, I became taken with the 60s parody folk rock duo Allen & Grier, and in doing so felt compelled to pick apart their song "Celebrities Cake Walk," which namedrops a ton of famous people who are now either dead or considerably less famous. I blogged about it, and in the process of trying to identify each of the once-famous people, I came to Mae Busch's IMDb filmography — a list of films and roles that should rightly make you laugh and then feel bad.


Though the below list appeared in the initial blog entry on "Celebrities Cake Walk," I stumbled across it recently and thought I should re-post it on its own.
  • Mable and Fatty's Married Life
  • Ambrose's Sour Grapes (as "second twin")
  • Beating Hearts and Carpets
  • A Human Hound's Triumph
  • For Better — But Worse
  • Fatty and the Broadway Star (as "actress")
  • Wife and Auto Trouble (as "a speedy stenographer")
  • A Bathhouse Blunder (as "swimming instructor")
  • The Folly of Fanchette (as "Mrs. Rayburg")
  • The Love Charm (as "Hattie Nast")
  • Foolish Wives (as "Princess Vera Petchnikoff")
  • Brothers Under the Skin (as "Flo Bulger")
  • The Shooting of Dan McGrew (as "Flo Dupont")
  • Nellie, the Beautiful Cloak Model (as "Polly Joy")
  • Flaming Love (as "Sal Flood")
  • Love 'Em and Weep (as "old flame")
  • San Francisco Nights (as "Flo")
  • Chickens Come Home (as "Ollie's blackmailer")
  • The Man Called Back (as "Rosie")
  • Doctor X (as "Cathouse Madam")
  • Them Thar Hills (as "Mrs. Hall")
  • Tit for Tat (as "grocer's wife")
  • The Amazing Exploits of the Clutching Hand (as "Mrs. Paul Gironda")
  • Prison Farm (as "Trixie")
  • Women Without Names (as "Rose")
  • The Bride Wore Boots (as "woman")

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Leave the Limbs You've Lost

Occasionally, editing news allows you access to a certain bit of trivia that you just know will come in handy one day. I've written about it before and I'm always happy to be reminded of it. Last night, for a news story, I had to look into whether carrying a ninja throwing star could constitute possession of a concealed weapon and, therefore, a felony charge. It can, apparently, depending on the circumstances. However, in looking into the California Penal Code on the subject, I was introduced to a whole list of what I can only interpret as miscellaneous weapons included alongside throwing stars — or shurikens, as the code correctly identifies them — which are surely listed in the code because some lunatic, somewhere, was at some point involved in an incident that involved one of these bizarre utensils for hurting somebody else.

The list, condensed to bullet points-form:
  • any cane gun or wallet gun
  • any ammunition which contains or consists of any flechette dart
  • ballistic knife (which I'd never heard of before but sounds utterly useless)
  • any multiburst trigger activator
  • any nunchaku
  • any short-barreled shotgun or short-barreled rifle
  • any metal knuckles
  • any belt buckle knife (Read more at belt-buckle-knife.com!
  • any leaded cane
  • any zip gun
  • any shuriken
  • any unconventional pistol (which seems like a tragic catch-all that could have developed into a wonderfully detailed list of obscure handguns)
  • any lipstick case knife (!)
  • any cane sword
  • any shobi-zue (a staff or rod concealing a knife and which is apparently different from the aforementioned cane sword)
  • any air gauge knife (not a knife employing some kind of air pressure mechanism to kill, but just a knife disguised as an air gauge… because such a thing apparently exists)
  • any writing pen knife
  • any metal military practice hand grenade or metal replica hand grenade
  • or any instrument or weapon of the kind commonly known as a blackjack, slungshot, billy, sandclub, sap, or sandbag. (or, as it's known to me, a whack-bonk)
Highlights: the slungshot, of course and the lipstick case knife, because the incident inspiring that note in the penal code must have been amazing.

A minus: nothing about boomerangs. (Or is that a plus, given my upcoming heist schemes?)

She Forgot "Tired"

Way late now, but nonetheless worth a post. Meg H. of Meg H. — The Blog! fame and her little friend, whose name is also Meg, came for a visit to the Indy a few weeks back, and though the office was finishing up the behemoth Best Of issue and therefore beaten-down as all get-out, I did what I could to give them a tour. In all honesty, I failed as a guide. I was pretty frazzled myself and was running all over the place more than usual. However, as a thank-you note-plus-homework assignment, Big Meg had Little Meg write up her own newspaper describing what she learned in the tour. I finally brought it home and scanned it. It's really only viewable in full-size form and it's entirely worth the effort it will take to click this hyperlink. For those that need further incentive, here's a selection.


Pay special attention to the part I highlighted. For what it's worth, she nailed it — both in her description of me and of the office itself.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Dandelion Who Could, Part Two

Spencer eagerly pointed out that the pot of dandelions that normally does nothing but makes leaves that quickly turn brown had sprouted another puff over the Thanksgiving holiday. You might recall how heralded the previous freakishly tall blossom. This time, the plant outdid itself.

A daylight shot from below:

tall_dandelion3

The long stem in all its curvy glory:

tall_dandelion

The tall dandelion situated next to a Lego person to demonstrate relative size:

tall_dandelion2

And one final shot, with a detail of the Lego person, in case you forgot what one looks like:

tall_dandelion5

Please do not ask why I, at age twenty-five and no longer living with my parents, had access to a Lego person. Please do not ask why I only have the one and no actual Lego blocks. And finally, please do not ask why the one Lego person I have is an overly made-up farm girl with pigtails.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Unseen California

NOTE: Though I'm posting this late on Thursday night, I wrote this at about 3 p.m. on Wednesday, when I was heading up north for Thanksgiving.

My train—the Pacific Starlight, or something to that effect—just passed another headed the opposite direction, resulting on one of those momentary seizures in which the background that has steadily rolled by for the last hour is suddenly replaced by screaming metal and glass. Not that I knew straight off that it was another train, mind you. The passing trains have stunned this railroad novice each and every time they passed. Once I realized what exactly that gray blur was, I then had to contend with being reminded that I was, in fact, riding on a train and not just somehow flying through the little-seen parts of California I'd been staring at — trees and beaches and all manner of backgrounds not visible from the 101.

Anyway, the passing seems as good a time as any to write about my first-ever cross-California train trip.

Most of those whom I've told of my Thanksgiving plans have shuddered. For them, train time is bad time, a means of making an already tedious commute even longer. "Six hours on a train?" they ask. "I'd rather just wait in traffic." For me, however, this railroad adventure has already paid for itself. First off, I love trains, even though I haven't ridden any with any frequency since the D.A.C.K. days. Not only do I get to escape the horror that is Thanksgiving traffic on the 101, but I also get valuable downtime to write whatever I please. (Technically, I'm supposed to be writing a feature for the Indy, but I'm currently deprived of both internet access and cell phone reception, and I'm far to starved for a distraction-free environment to let this opportunity pass by.) And as this Amtrak iron horse slowly chugs toward Salinas, I get a chance to reflect on the strangeness of having lived in California all my life, mostly, and yet never having seen what I'm seeing now. If it's not altogether new new, then I'm just now seeing it from the unique railway perspective — the backs of what faces the 101, for example, or the piles of gravel and debris that the state shoves away from the view of highway motorists. For every pile of rubble, however, there's also a pristine stretch of California coastline that's seemingly evaded being marred by human hands — an immaculate slope of sandy hillside with only the occasional deer or fox footprints to leave an indication that anything had ever been there. I'd never seen Vandenberg Village until today, and I'd only once ever seen the Hollister Ranch. (And even that time, it was through some savvy Veronica Marsing on Spencer's part.) I'm thrilled at the prospect of seeing how, exactly, the train manages the Cuesta Grade, but being a train newbie, I'm no less stoked on just hearing the train blare its whistle — I'm hearing it from the inside for the first time, don't forget — or the fact that I'm on my fourth gin and tonic but nonetheless working my way home for the holiday.

And seriously — this train couldn't have a more motley assortment of passengers. The very old, the very young, the driver's license-deprived, the poor, the college freshmen, the environmental, the just plain mental, and every other conceivable classification of public transportation user. I can't decide whether I'm more put off by my 300-pound seatmate, the guy whose rowing team t-shirt would seem to contradict any of the physical attributes people usually associate with the sport, or the high school-aged lesbian couple behind us, who refuses to come up for air for fear that stopping kissing might allow somebody to mistake them for not-lesbians. None of these strangers, however, can hold a candle to the two I sat with in the dining car for my fancy people lunch. Sitting beside each other, opposite me and my issue of Juxtapoz in the booth, were a guy who manages a construction company in Santa Barbara and who went to a Halloween party in Los Angeles held by his "adult industry" brother and then another guy who made Dwight Schrute look like the definition of cool. The former wanted to talk more about how the porn industry makes for easy money. The latter wanted to talk about nothing but missile launches at Vandenberg and why he didn't "know much about the adult industry." (I kept ordering drinks to go with my gardenburger.)

As I finish this, I'm now in San Luis Obispo, parked, so to speak, waiting for the train to chug toward Paso Robles and looking out at a lot full of the parked cars of Thanksgiving out-of-towners. I have three more hours ahead of me before April picks me up in Salinas. Lord knows what I will do until then.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

And the Villain Still Pursues Her

Below is the image that I found to accompany Starshine's column this week, which concerns sex ed. I find it rather fitting.

and the villain still pursues her

It's old enough that the copyright has lapsed, so it's all hunky-dory with the legal eagles. Hurray for strange old-timey Victorian cartoons illustrated for God-knows-what, God-knows-why.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Not So Grrrreat

A text from Spencer-on-a-train: "Did you know that your initials, when read as a word, sound remarkably like the slogan of that Sugar Smacks frog?"

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Plumber, the Slayer and the Dominatrix

Funny thing about the newest Mario game, Super Mario Galaxy, which was released November 12. It doesn’t abbreviate so well for me. Just use the initials and you get “SMG,” a three-letter string that Buffy fans like myself have come to associate strictly with actress Sarah Michelle Gellar. Shorted the more familiar first two words and you get “SM Galaxy,” which is exactly one ampersand away from sounding like a sex dungeon, or at least a store where one could buy items to stock his or her sex dungeon.

I foresee myself writing this one out a lot.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Spatula Disaster

From Nate, proof that wherever you work could be a zillion times lamer.


Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe, eat your heart out. And yes, the Longaberger Company does, in fact, make baskets.

Gaylord Q. Tinkledink

When Dansy text messaged me that I should watch The Simpsons tonight, I figured there'd be something Drew-specific in it. It turned out to be better than I could have ever hoped for: tonight's episode, "Little Orphan Millie," takes place, if only for a few moments, in Solvang, the Disneyland-for-Danes quilting store of a town that I resent for more reasons than I care to list. I can't quite believe that Solvang registered on radar of the episode's writer — Mick Kelly, quite possibly writing for the first time — but at the same time, I note that the show took nineteen seasons to get around to mentioning it. That, I'm positing, is precisely how long it should take any show to feature Solvang in any way. For what it was, the episode dealt with Solvang just how I would have wanted it to: jokes about butter cookie and boring Danish architecture. Amazing.

One more quick note: The Simpsons episode concerned Milhouse thinking his parents were dead after they fell over the rail of a cruise ship and were lost at sea. The episode weirdly mirrored last week's 100th episode of Family Guy, in which Lois seemingly died after she fell off a cruise ship. Even more weirdly, last week's Family Guy episode was "to be continued," meaning we had to deal with even more fake-dying-by-falling-of-cruise ships with the part two that aired just one half-hour after tonight's Simpsons.

Jumbo Versus Peewee

No joke: The little one is smaller than the larger one's head. How often can that phrase be spoken about a meeting between two Guinness record holders?


[ From The Daily Mail, via electro^plankton ]

Sunday, November 04, 2007

We Like to Ride on Executive Planes

Today we discovered the perfect activity for an aimless Sunday afternoon in Santa Barbara: walking through the Mission rose garden, reading the names on the plaques and deciding if each sounds more like a sex act, a cocktail, a girl band, a self-help book or a name you shouldn't call a person to his face. Some results:
  • Chrysler Imperial Hybrid Tea (a cocktail)
  • Apricot Nectar (a cocktail)
  • Barbra Streisand (something you shouldn't call a person)
  • Chicago Peace (sex act)
  • Double Delight (sex act)
  • Escapade (a cocktail or a sex act)
  • Fragrant Cloud (sex act)
  • Indonesian Queen (something you shouldn't call a person)
  • Mister Lincoln (a girl band)
  • Opening Night (sex act)
  • Color Magic (cocktail, possibly a self-help book)
  • Duet (sex act)
  • Gemini (a sex act, much in the manner of the previous entry)
  • Broadway (sex act)
  • Marmalade Skies (a cocktail)
  • Special Occasion (maybe a perfume, definitely a sex act)
  • Celebrity (a terrible perfume)
  • New Beginning (a self-help book)
  • Black Jade (something you shouldn't call a person)
This, of course is a natural evolution of the usual game for any conspicuous group of words: band name, album name or book title.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Pink Typhoon

I think we can start here.



I know, I know. Not only is this the first and probably only time I've heard anything about Here's Boomer, but the prospect of The Facts of Life being a "new series" is so strange to me that it's funny. (Also, please note the presence of Molly Ringwald among the show's main cast before her character, whose name is also Molly, was blinked into obscurity.) Then, of course, there's the show that I'm focusing on in this post: Pink Lady, which before it was cancelled was better known as Pink Lady and Jeff. It featured comedian Jeff Altman — of whom I'm only aware otherwise as being one of the lesser Hoggs on Dukes of Hazard — and the Japanese pop group Pink Lady side-by-side, Tony Orlando & Dawn-style.

Yes, the name of the band in which two ladies don't always wear pink is Pink Lady, singular. I suppose Pink Ladies would create associations with Grease, though, so I can forgive this bit. Believe me, the group's name is small potatoes compared to the staggering weirdness that's going on here.

I learned of Pink Lady and Jeff only after seeing it listed on the Chicago Tribune's list of the 25 worst TV shows of all time. (Also dinged: Petticoat Junction, Small Wonder and My Mother the Car.) The purported suckiness of Pink Lady and Jeff stemmed in part from clunky jokes and the fact that singers Mie and Kei spoke almost no English and had to learn their lines and lyrics phonetically. You can't really tell, at least, in their cover of "Boogie Wonderland," as they sing with appropriate funk levels and in accents no worse than anybody else who didn't grow up speaking English.



Occasionally, however, they'd give these poor ladies a break and let them sing one of the songs that made them such a huge hit in Japan. Like this below performance of "Monster," in which Mie and Kei dress up like Captain EO.



They seem like they're having more fun when they sing in Japanese. I'd place their sound somewhere between the B-52s and The Go! Team, which might help explain why American audiences weren't too interested in Mie and Kei's antics, Jeff Altman or no Jeff Altman. Shortly into the run of Pink Lady and Jefffive episodes, according to IMDb — the show was canned by NBC. Mie and Kei trudged back to Japan, with only the fawning love of millions of fans to comfort them, and the once-omnipresent variety show format sputtered and died. Eventually, Mie and Kei shed their Pink Lady personas and returned to being Mitsuyo Nemoto and Keiko Masuda, the names under which they had successful acting and solo singing careers.

But that's not to say Pink Lady and Jeff can't be remembered for being not just a colossal failure but a flamingly colossal failure that emits multicolored rays of lights and can be seen from well beyond the Shizouka Prefacture. Personally, I can't wonder how life might have ended up if this show were the one to run for nine seasons instead of The Facts of Life, perhaps even incorporating Mrs. Garrett and Tootie after the hypothetical demise of Facts. Pink Lady and Jeff stands as a testament both the astounding weirdness that can result when American and Japanese pop culture collide and to network TV's desire to capitalize on quite possibly anything it can. (Come to think of it, in light of the looming TV writers' strike, I wonder the ladies of Pink Lady might be asked to clear their schedules on Monday and head back to our shores.)

On that note, I'm leaving you with one last bit by Mie and Kei: their Japanese hit single "UFO," which they also performed on the show in their native language. Between the green-screened space opera backgrounds and the back-up dancers who look like extras from Xanadu, you have to admit that, if nothing else, it's a spectacle you wouldn't have thought would have been aired on prime time.


Friday, November 02, 2007

Strange Invitation

Another doodle, done in a moment of boredom:


I'm calling it "Rachel's Boyfriend." On some level, I think, it's as best an homage to Frank Miller as I can do.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Giygas Attacks

An advertisement for my beloved Earthbound, which I believe ran in Nintendo Power back when the game was released.


I couldn't find a bigger version, so I unfortunately can't make the text readable, but I still really like this ad.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Little Baby Potatoes

Completely against the spirit of Halloween in theory, but in practice I think these photos of the plants we keep on our kitchen windowsill verge on the kind of haunted house science experiments that are all too appropriate for this day.

PICT4609

PICT4606 copy

PICT4603 copy

PICT4604

PICT4602

PICT4597

Those last two, for the record, are an actual science experiment, though only the kind of grade school one where anyone who's graduated eighth grade knows the outcome. Months ago, I found a potato in the cupboard. The spud has sprouted, so I tossed it into a pot on the back porch. Of course, a potato plant quickly grew, but given the confines of that pot, it withered before too long. Eventually, I decided to use the pot for another plant, but when I did I found little baby potatoes growing. I poked some toothpicks into the biggest one — more out of a sense of obligation than anything, really — in hopes I could extend this potato family for another generation.

Keep you fingers crossed. I'm going to be a grandpa.

These Lambs Ain't Silent

Very appropriate to have received on Halloween, this postcard came from the now-New York-located Kristen, who is attending grad school to learn how to make monster movies. I think.


It's a real film, and one that I might tack onto my Netflix queue. (I just hope I don't somehow get the other Black Sheep instead.) I could swear KrisDina and I had a conversation about this very possibility — or, more realistically, inevitability — while driving through a road-blocking flock while in New Zealand, but that could just be my imagination.

Read the back! The back!


A demographic of one indeed. And please note that stamp Kristen used to send this postcard bears a picture of Marvel comics superheroine and zombie ninja Elektra, making this the second association between a comic book character and Kristen this year.

For the record: another time sheep were disturbing.

Propane-Scented Halloween

As close to an actual jack-o'-lantern as the Back of the Cereal Box is willing to offer.


Hally Happoween.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Royal Kooparillo

Tonight, I have only to report two interesting things that happened at the grocery store.

First off, someone has apparently poured a sud-producing substance in the fountain at the Chapala Street Ralphs. Aly theorized that it was done by Ralphs itself in order to make the fountain look Halloween-appropriate and bubbling cauldron-like. Given that the police were speaking with the managers when we were there, I'd guess the bubbles were more likely the result of some Halloween prank. Here's the photo I took with my cell phone.


Then, while wandering the snack food aisle, I came across a product with which I was heretofore unfamiliar: Poppycock.


To some, "poppycock" might be an entirely innocent name for something you eat. It's not. At all. My research into the origins of silly words taught me where the word comes from, and I actually wrote about it on my blog back in August 2005. I'm fine with repeating it now, however, just because it's such a great story. "Poppycock" literally means "caca poopoo." Originally from the antiquate Dutch word pappekak, meaning "baby feces," the "poppy" part is related to the word "pap," which can either mean "soft baby food" or "worthless substance," the latter more often used in the context of "pile o' pap." Linguists don't seem to agree on whether "pap" shares a common origin with "poop," with some presuming that the latter was onomatopoetic, but I think the similarity is too striking to disregard. The "cock" part has no relation to the contemporary English use of "cock," but instead comes from the Latin cacare, meaning "to defecate." If I'm not mistaken, the same Latin word ended up in English as "caca." Thus, "poppycock" refers to soft baby doo, or the doo resulting from the consumption of baby food. Or, in my terms, caca poopoo.

With that being known, if poppycock still seems appealing, then by all means indulge.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Every Peach Has Its Thorns

Yowza. When Peach takes off the ballgown, she really lets loose. I don't know whether the image itself is more disturbing than the fact that somebody actually thought of and carried out this work of art.


Bonus points: the Bowser bracelets on her thighs. As GayGamer notes, Vampy Peach looks a bit like a certain homoerotic depiction of Luigi.

Sexiness and the Mario games, previously:

Friday, October 26, 2007

Webster's Losses

An interesting feature on Webster.com shows a good deal of Noah Webster's many attempts at reforming the spelling of the English language. Some lasted, some didn't, though all were intended to make English more logical, more phonetic and more aesthetically pleasing in its written form.

Some victories:
  • gaol to jail
  • masque to mask
  • mould to mold
And some losses:
  • ache to ake
  • tongue to tung
  • women to wimmen
You know, as in "My tung is aking for wimmen."

[ more at Webster.com ]

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Boy With Numbers For a Name

According to Wikipedia, the below Peanuts character — who may be most familiar as the kid who does the pigeon-toed shoulder dance from the Charlie Brown Christmas special — is officially named 555 95472.


Charles Schulz took the first part from the traditional Hollywood non-functional phone prefix, while the last part comes from the zip code of Schulz's hometown of Sebastopol. This guy, arguably, is even more obscure than Charlotte Braun. A quote from the Wikipedia page on the origins of the obscure name:
As 5 once explained to Charlie Brown, his father, morose and hysterical over the preponderance of numbers in people's lives, had changed all of the family's names to numbers. Asked by Lucy van Pelt if it was Mr. 95472's way of protesting, 5 replied that this was actually his father's way of "giving in." 5 also has two sisters named 3 and 4. ("Nice feminine names," in Charlie Brown's estimation to which 5 responds, "We think so."). It can be assumed that their parents are named 1 and 2.
It should also be noted that 3 and 4 are both two cute little red-haired girls, meaning that Charlie Brown's universe was populated with two additional fire-haired love interests in addition to the infamous, nameless Little Red-haired Girl.

A final notes of Peanuts wonderment: No shitting you, there actually exists a Peanuts special with the title It's Arbor Day, Charlie Brown.

EDIT: Ah, it seems the the blog TGLOB did a good job explaining Number Boy's entry into the Peanuts comics.

The Odd, Forgotten Couple

Below is the poster for the 1981 comedy Chu Chu and the Philly Flash, which I actually saw part of on bad, old movie channel KICU-San Jose (channel 36) during a terrible, rainy Sunday in junior high.


You don't need to see it. The poster tells your everything you need to know: Alan Arkin meets up with Carol Burnett, for some reason, and Carol Burnett is dressed like Carmen Miranda, again for some reason. Well, that and the following sentence from the film's Wikipedia page: "The film was panned by critics and was not a box office success." Well, that and the following cast note: "Also with Ruth Buzzi as Consuelo."

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Snipers Passed Out in the Bushes

The color has not been altered. Yes, it's this hazy out in Santa Barbara. Blame that damn Zaca Fire.

PICT4588

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Thinking Is for Wankers

We're fairly certain that they're referencing B*Witched, but it could be any number of girlbands whose songs advocated vapidness in women.



One complaint against this Smack the Pony sketch: lack of focus on Sarah Alexander.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

An Ill Blog

I've found a blog dedicated solely to a phenomenon of which I've been completely unaware until now: signs on which all letters are capitalized except for "L." Apparently it happens, and apparently some people think it's funny. My only previous association with curious use of "L" and capitals has been my editor's instruction to never use the word "ill" in a headline, as most fonts render the capital "I" and lowercase "L" indistinguishable to the point that it looks like the Roman numeral for three. This post title is a good example, but this other "L" thing is a subject for an entire other blog, I suppose.

I'm especially fond of this sign, which advertises a "free beagie."


Read further, if you like, at lowercase L.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Return of the New Zealand Story

Remember New Zealand Story? Of course, you do. It was only mentioned this week and has yet to shuffle off the main page into archive obscurity. Apparently, we aren't the only ones who remember.


This article popped online only two days after the post about my frustration with the older version of the game did. Very oddly, nearly everything I talked about is represented on the box art you see above: Mr. Kiwi, the weird boomerang-tossing Bobbies, the strange pink whale, and the villainous, kiwi-eating leopard seal.

Strange when this blog makes its own foreshadowing.

Grandma Misery

Reading over people's writing and neatly placing it online with visual accompaniments affords me a look into the lives of others. Sure, just by virtue of these writers having documented a meeting or a conversation, I get to experience it secondhand and moments before the loyal Independent.com readership does. But every now and then, these small articles manage to escape the limits of mere reporting and offer a moment — in the writers' lives or somebody else's — that strikes me as honest, regardless of whether the way it's described comes off as objective or subjective. To paraphrase Joan Didion, it's how they remember it, and that in itself carries a certain weight.

A while back I put online a column by a writer who now covers Goleta goings-on for us. The text itself read fairly straightforwardly, but the writer included one photo that I found somehow moving. Even being an un-doctored photograph, it's still what the writer/photographer saw and what she thought important, and she composed it to reflect her experience of this moment.


What you see above is no great feat of photography. It's a snapshot, really, taken by the kind of Average Joe With a Camera that generates most of the photography we see online, my own included. However, I see something in this photo that makes me want to stare at it. Maybe I'm intrigued by the contrasting greens of the marshy brush and the woman's sweater. Maybe I like how her head rests just below the horizon line. And maybe I'm drawn to the fact that the whole image — the greens and yellow expanding out beneath the sky, the woman's age, and her facial expression — remind me just a little of an Andrew Wyeth painting.

In the wonderful way, there's something in this image I can't put my finger on and can't take my eyes off.

[ link: another time when Andrew Wyeth seemed important ]