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.


PICT4606 copy

PICT4603 copy




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 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 ]

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.


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 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 ]

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Thanks, Hannah

In memory of Hannah, noted former Santa Barbara resident, I present a word worth knowing, courtesy of Hannah's birthday present to me, a book titled Depraved and Insulting English.


It's an archaic euphemism for the female genitalia, and easily the best word in the book. (Even better that two runners-up, "licktwat" and "aerocolpos.") Now use it three times in casual conversation and it's yours.

No Respect for the Superball Flower

Pretty sweet. This is apparently a scan from GamesTM magazine — or possibly Games magazine — that initially went up at Go Nintendo.

click for a larger, readable version

My one quibble: The flower-looking power-up from Super Mario Land does not, in fact, grant Mario fire powers. It gives him the power of chucking superballs. The Superball Flower, maybe?

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The New Zealand Story

The time has come again for me to venture into strange and wonderful video games that I never played as a child. Today's pick: The New Zealand Story, also known as Kiwi Kraze. I can vaguely remember seeing a flashier version of this game in arcades way back when. And given my proclivity for all things New Zealand, you'd think I would have bothered to plunk in a few quarters. Not so. However, I found an emulated version of the NES port of the game at and decided to give it a shot.

After all, this game was made by Taito, which also produced a more familiar and more popular video game, Bubble Bobble, the characters from which later went on to appear in Snood-inspiration Bust a Move. All that, plus a heroic kiwi bird protagonist? How bad could such a convergences of quirks be?

Based off this title screen, pretty damn bad.

The hell? What is that font? What is with the strange grinning bear face under the top score? And what, for the love of God, are all those green monsters? Not one looks even remotely like a kiwi or anything remotely New Zealand. It's not the other kind of kiwi that I'm meant to play as, is it?

This, friends, does not bode well. Maybe if I watch the attract mode a little while longer, this will get better.

It didn't.

A be-goggled bear firing an arrow and riding on the floating disembodied head of another bear. And those names? Not a single Japanese one in the bunch.

My antagonist!

Wikipedia tells me that this warlus-looking fellow is actually a leopard seal — a carnivorous species that actually does live in New Zealand but doesn't, to my knowledge, eat kiwi birds. Yet nonetheless Mr. Purple Leopard Seal appears to have stuffed a gaggle of kiwis into a sack, surely not for benevolent purposes. As the heroic kiwi, it's my job to rescue them, one by one.

Here we go.

Okay, I apparently misspoke when I called the hero a kiwi bird. The limitations of eight-bit video game technology — or, perhaps, the designer's understanding of what a kiwi bird looked like — have resulted in the controllable character looking more like a standard farm baby chick. And what that sleeping olive-colored beast in the cage is supposed to be is completely beyond me.

Am I in a zoo or a children's playroom? Without knowing the answer, I'll push my little kiwi onward, past the hordes of villainous conches, which periodically spit out green globs of goo. Having never encountered wild conches, I'll have to assume this trait is taken directly from real life and that said goo does, in fact, make you die instantly.

Ack. Apparently the leopard seal has also employed strange British police officer-style minions, which, of course, toss boomerangs. The various stereotypes of the British colonies have been melded into a single, mindless, generic video game enemy.

Tragically, the game employs the one-hit-and-you're-dead rule, a vestige from the arcade days when people were being duped out of their quarters and tokens. On a home console, it's more frustrating than anything else.

An exit! And a baby kiwi colleague! Can I be done with this now?

With this part, at the very least. In all, that was rather painless. You know, except for dying.

The map screen.

WHAT?! I'm actually in New Zealand?! Auckland, no less?! Jesus! They should have just called this Escape from Auckland. Had I realize that Auckland was full of all manner of projectile-vomiting mollusks and crazed colonial stereotypes, I would have never vacationed there. KrisDina, if you're reading this now, we're lucky to have escaped with our lives. I'm sure The New Zealand Story resulted in countless children developing negative impressions of little Australia Jr., which is why nobody ever wants to travel there today.

I don't know from experience, as this game's shoddy controls and tinny music angered me such that I never actually had the patience to get Mr. Kiwi Chick out of Auckland, but I'm told each subsequent stage is also based on a real-life New Zealand locale. (I'm assuming, however, that the stages represent this places in name only, judging that the Auckland I saw wasn't made entirely of butter yellow bricks.) The stages, in order, as as follows: Rotorua, Waitomo Caves, Wellington, Strait Cook, Hanmer Springs, and Mount Aoraki.

Weird, to say the least. Bare minimum, I can presume that somebody actually looked at a map of New Zealand before retuning to de`sign more anonymously weird enemy sprites.

Like I said, I got bored before I got out of Auckland, so let's pick up — and end off — there.

Mr. Kiwi was approached by what I can only describe as a floating, pink whale ghost wrapped in cellophane. Those snowflake-looking objects were coughed at him by the polter-whale, which Mr. Kiwi dodged long enough to be swallowed whole.

And here he is inside the belly of the whale — the cellophane is easier to see now, please note. Mr. Kiwi must attack the whale's stomach from the inside, all the while dodging drops of stomach acid that rain down on him. Doing so proved difficult, and I never got to see the miraculous site that is an enraged Rambo kiwi bird bursting forth victorious from a dead whale's gut. As neat as that sounds, I've moved on.

New Zealand Story, I'm done with you.

Pantalones Giganticus (Or, the Devil Himself)

A little monster, quite literally, may be terrorizing my beloved, upcoming Smash Bros. Brawl.

ashley the strange, basically

I know, I know. Most people who read my blog could give a damn about the above witchlet or this video game or video games in general. But trust me on this one — there are interesting things going on here and I'm using them to touch on some of my pet interests: language, translation, urban legends, religion, unnecessarily close readings of lyrics and weirdly hidden counterculture messages in popular media. Just trust me.

Tonight's update at the Smash Bros. Brawl blog revealed that Ashley's theme from WarioWare: Touched! will be one of the game's musical tracks — and in an up-tempo, big band reconstruction, too. Personally, I'm happy. The original tune stands out in my mind as one of the more memorable video game songs I've ever heard. That's saying a lot, both because I've played a lot of video games and because music in them tends to verge somewhere between forgettable and irritating. Even more notable: Ashley's theme has lyrics. And they don't suck. I somehow doubt she'll be making a playable appearance. Nonetheless, this post makes for an interesting one at the Brawl blog in that Brawl designer and blogger Masahiro Sakurai refers readers to its Japanese version. There, you can hear the Japanese singer for Ashley's part — younger, sweeter and entirely less saucy. This strikes me as being noteworthy because, by and large, international video game companies either try to eliminate differences between different area's versions of the same game or just not mention them.

Just because I think it's a clever little ditty, here are the lyrics to Ashley's theme. (The parts sung by Ashley herself are italicized. The non-italicized lines are sung by a Disney's Haunted Mansion-style host of ghouls.)
Who's the girl next door living in the haunted mansion?
You better learn my name 'cause I am Ashley!
She knows the darkest spells and she brews the meanest potions
You might be the ingredient I seek

Don't let yourself be fooled by her innocent demeanor
You should be afraid of the great Ashley!
She doesn't play with dolls, and she never combs her hair
Who has time for girly things like that?

Eye of newt, I cast a hex on you
Grandma's wig, this'll make you big
Kitten Spitz, soon your pants won't fix
Pantalones Giganticus!

Oh no, not again!

She could rule the world, and still finish all her homework
Everyone knows that I'm the greatest Ashley!
You better watch your step or she'll cast a spell on you
I turned my teacher into a spoon

I must flip through my spellbook, and yes it's true
I don't have as many friends as you.
But I think you're nice and maybe we could be friends
And if you say no, you're toast

Who's the girl next door living in the haunted mansion?
You better learn my name 'cause I am Ashley!
Just remember this when you see her on the street
I'm the cruelest girl you'll ever meet
And for the sake of comparison, here's the lyrics to the Japanese version, translated into English. (Credit goes to GameFAQs contributor Enigmapoeia and his awesome video game song lyrics guide.)
Everyone's most popular person in the world
It's all about her Ashley
Everyone turn around to see her glance
It's only natural for Ashley, that's me

Everyone has an admiration throughout the world
It's all about her Ashley!
The great Ashley's magic is so supreme!
It's a party tonight!

EnOre Bmu N — it is a laughter spell
Si O I Ra Wn — what could be that spell?
I Ed A M — I don't remember this one
Ah! It's detestable! I'm getting bored!

Everyone's most popular person in the world
It's all about her Ashley
There are no impossibilities with the great Ashley
Nothing is strong to me!

The sea of the night sky has plenty of s
I am all alone
I want to make friends with everyone
How should I be good?

Everyone's most popular person in the world
It's all about her Ashley
The great Ashley's magic is so supreme!
It's a party tonight!
Far different, these two versions, but that could just be the translation. I can't help but pay special attention to the fact that the Japanese version contains a hidden backwards message in English. See that string of nonsensical letters in the third verse? It's the one part of the song that isn't normally sung with Japanese lyrics. (In the original, even Ashley's name approximates "Ashuri" more than "Ashley.") If you take the individual word parts and read them backwards, they spell "Made in Wario is number one." (Made in Wario is the Japanese name for the series of games we call "WarioWare" here in the States.)

That hidden message makes for a cute little footnote in all this, but it would seem to add credibility to the still-likely-false rumor that the English version of the song contains a Satanic message when played backwards. Yes, backwards messages from the Devil hidden in music is, like, one of the most played-out urban legends ever, I know. But the fact that Ashley herself comes off as a fairly evil character — in the games, her companion is a small impish demon named Red and she does live in a haunted mansion, after all— makes for a package that amounts to a cross-continental tangle of weird. It's a well-documented fact among Nintendo nerds like myself that Ashley's English theme, when played backwards, includes a line that sounds remarkably like "I have granted the kids to hell" or "I have condemned the kids to hell" or "I grant the kids to hell" or "I condemn the kids to hell." (This YTMND posting of it choses the first interpretation, but in the tradition of seeing pictures in clouds or the Virgin Mary in toast, you can take it however you like.) The only reason that anyone ever stumbled onto this fact is that the game the song debuted in included a mode in which various theme songs could be played at a tempo the player himself controlled. Odd, no? It might almost seem as though the programmers wanted the supposedly hidden message to be found. Allow me to explain: The game in question, WarioWare: Touched!, employed an usual control scheme in which players only used a stylus and the Nintendo DS touchscreen to play. In other words, no buttons, just various swipes and jabs with the little plastic pen-like instrument. The game also included various unlockable "toys" that basically showed off what one could do with said touchscreen. One of these toys was a record player, which could be used to play selected in-game music. And by swirling the stylus in either a clockwise or counterclockwise direction, one could either speed up or reverse the music, much as one could with a real-life record player. To some, the fact that Nintendo would have included such a feature further bolsters the notion that this whole backmasked secret message was intentional.

It wasn't. I don't work at Nintendo nor have I checked this out with any of the nice people who made this game, but I feel pretty safe in stating that the crazy conspiracy theory of Ashley-as-the-Devil and Nintendo-as-satanists amounts to utter bullshit. As far as urban legends go, however, it makes for a pretty good one.

For the one of you who actually made it to the end of this post, here's a clip from WarioWare: Twisted! featuring Ashley's intro sequence and her English theme song.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Koopa Troopa Beach

Less racing, more pain-staking sand sand-molding.

[ Source: Kotaku ]

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Little House on the Kanto Plains

It seems like some kind of postmodern joke, like a a daguerrotype of a computer processor or a silent film about the internet. Or something. But it's true: There exists a anime adaptation of Little House on the Prairie called Laura, the Prairie Girl. (Yes, of course that's what they would have called it.)

the familiar garth williams version
and laura, chibi pioneer moppet
Released in 1975, the short-lived TV series is alternately translated as Laura, Girl of the Prairies and is known in Japan as Sôgen no shôjô Laura. Hardly any info about it can be found online, a fact which may stem from the series relative unpopularity. Series directors Seiji Endo and Mitsuo Ezaki certainly didn't catapult to fame from it; it appears on IMDb near the end of both of their filmographies. (And it's with a smirk that I note that Ezaki's work before Prairie includes titles like Seven Beastly Men: Proclamation of Blood, The Harbor of No Return and The Woman Police, Part II.)

Laura, the Prairie Girl was never translated for English-speaking audiences, which seems somewhat odd given how popular the books have been in the United States and that a lot of series were ported over here before any children watching them would have had a clue what anime was. What I could find of interest, however, was a list of episode titles which, to me, indicate jus how the show's creators twisted this bit of Americana into something suitably Japanese. Below are a few:
  • A Wolf Cub Arrives
  • Bear Cub We Met at the Waterfall
  • A Fawn Is Calling
  • Bullets Made by Dad
  • Bearded Guest
  • Dreams and hope! Departing for the Prairies
  • Big adventure! Crossing the Frozen Lake
  • Come Back, Jack, My Dear Dog!
  • Build It Quickly! Our New House
  • A Cute Calf Has Arrived!
  • Perilous Well-Digging
  • Something Terrible Happened!
  • Wheat, Grow Tall!
Curiously omitted episode titles: "Mary, Go Blind," "Nellie Oleson Dies of Diptheria," "It Got Cold for a Long Time!"

In fact, "Wheat, Grow Tall!" is the series finale. I guess we'll just have to wonder where that wheat grew tall after all. I suppose it's for the best that the actual Laura Ingalls Wilder didn't live to see herself reduced to a grinning anime moppet. That's a fate no one deserves.

a head that big would not have survived frontier days

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Lindsay Who?

Another winnder from

linsey-woolsey (LIN-zee WOOL-zee)

noun: a strong, coarse fabric of wool and cotton or wool and linen

adjective: an incongruous mix

[From Middle English linsey (linen, or from Lindsey, a village in Suffolk, UK) + woolsey (a rhyming compound of wool).]

"This is no linsey-woolsey, tawdry romance: rather, it is the credible story of two people who must be together, whatever the enormous costs to them and those they love." Valerie Ryan; "An Affair To Remember," The Seattle Times, Jan 2, 2000.