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 email address makes it all the more disturbing, though I suppose feeding mice chocolate would make them bigger.


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.


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


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:


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 7, 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 5, 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 4, 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 3, 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!










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

Sunday, December 2, 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.