Saturday, January 26, 2008

Choice-Cut Meats Form Derelict Boulevards

From New Year's at the Mercury Lounge. I found a green lei and it helped me start 2008 on the right foot.

drew_lei_five

Photos by Spencer. Faux photobooth strip format by me.

There's also this other time the subject of photobooths came up here.

The Calendar on Your Wall Is Ticking

Dina, to answer your question.

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This is Kami and I on Halloween in 2005, I think. I'm a Crazy 88 from Kill Bill, Kami is a flamingo. I'm stabbing her because that's what Crazy 88s do to waterfowl. I scanned this photo, which previously did not exist in digital form, because Kami recently emailed me with the below image.

schoolkids

This is Kami and I. I'm not sure when, but possibly in 2004 or 2005. She had been invited to a school-themed party in which attendees were expected to dress up like they went to a private school and then follow a class schedule that had people shifting from room to room. Flaming Dr. Peppers in the science lab, body shots in Sex Ed, drinks vaguely associated with historical figures in history. You get the idea. In all, the party worked pretty well. But Kami had the idea to dress up as exchange students and act like we didn't understand anything. Hence the awkward, vaguely foreign clothes.

Now you know Dina. World, you too.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Action Movies and Bad Decisions

Discussed herein: bad decisions, pompous movie reviewers, Cloverfield, various kinds of death, Scream, whether Sofie Fatale's dismemberment in Kill Bill was realistic or not, the difference between watching a movie and being in a movie

People think highly of themselves when it comes to reviewing action movies, I’ve noticed. Even the most self-depreciating schlub will credit himself with having laser-precise critical thinking abilities in bullet-ridden, explosion-rattled action scenes. He’ll criticize a movie’s characters for making decisions that seem illogical, all from the comfort of his theater seat and with the buffer of reality between him and the on-screen action. Given the luxury of retrospect, which action movies rarely provide, these characters might also realize the flawed nature of their actions, I suppose, though the more frequent result of boo-boos in shoot-em-ups would probably be getting shot up.

Mr. Naysayer irks me just a little. Though he has every right to say that a characters’ illogical actions prevented him from enjoying a give n movie, I feel like he might be holding folks on screen to higher standards than he would himself if he were plunked into a real-life version of a hokey action scene.


A discussion of Cloverfield on a blog I’ve started following prompted this train of thought. (And for the record, stop reading if you have any desire to see Cloverfield without knowledge of what kind of horrible end the film’s characters meet.) More than a few readers said they felt annoyed at the inherent stupidity of the movie’s human protagonists. (I specify “human protagonists” because the real star, of course, is the monster.) I admit that these people’s decision to travel back into a destroyed Manhattan to rescue a friend was a foolish one. The characters themselves probably realized this two, seeing as how all but one dies in some kind of horrible fashion. (In order: taken down along with the collapsing Brooklyn Bridge, swollen to the point of bursting as a result of some evil monster venom, eaten and then spit out, and then broiled the military-initiated inferno that ultimately destroys all of Manhattan. Only one of the six escapes the island on a helicopter, and even her survival isn’t assured.) But given their fractured mental state and the events leading up to their ill-fated trek through the city, I wonder if they could have been able to make a good decision.

In the film, de facto leader Robert (Michael Stahl-David) seems shellshocked enough by the arrival of the monster and the subsequent death of his brother Jason (Mike Vogel) on the bridge that a phone call from a seriously injured Beth (Odette Yustman) sends him back to rescue her. Lily (Jessica Ford), the only apparent survivor and the girlfriend of the newly dead brother, agrees to come along too, possibly out of some displaced grief over the end of her relationship — if she and Jason are no longer, then why shouldn’t every effort be made to help Robert and Beth? In a way, her decision to come along can almost make sense in light of the fact that whatever heroics she performs could erase her guilt at letting Jason die. Finally, two more — amateur videographer Hud (T.J. Miller) and sardonic hanger-on Marlena (Lizzy Caplan) — follow along in a manner one reviewer accurately described as lemming-like. But even then, does walking into certain death with people you know beat out risking possible death alone? Hud and Marlena seem to think so, even though people in that situation probably wouldn’t have ever consciously processed that thought.

Yes, the decision is a terrible one. But it’s easy to say that because we the audience members don’t share the bonds of friendship that we’re led to believe drive these characters to act like assholes. (A thought: Saving Private Ryan meets Godzilla.) My defense of the characters' collective lack of logic was perhaps a lousy one: It’s a monster movie and therefore it doesn’t matter. But even the review that the Independent ran this week noted that Cloverfield’s human protagonists are essentially the extras in the movie. The heroes working to stop the beast don’t figure largely into the story, and, much like the unimportant normals appearing in most such films, these "extras" do stupid things and die. For some, it seems, these people’s decisions proved far more problematic. I have to wonder, though, even if they didn’t make choices as horrendously bad as the Cloverfield cast’s, would they really be so on top of their game? How, exactly, does one not die in a monster attack?

The situation reminds me a lot of Scream, a good movie that spawned a whole genre of deathly boring imitators whose characters seems all-too-aware of how people should act in movies but died anyway. In Scream, Neve Campbell’s character has that awesome line about slasher movies in which she calls them “insulting” because they routinely feature “some stupid killer stalking some big-breasted girl who can't act who is always running up the stairs when she should be running out the front door.” Then she’s promptly put in her place when the killer comes after her and she stupidly flees up the stairs, proving that even the most self-aware person might cease to function so calmly and coolly when thrust into an adrenaline-raddled state. To compare this all to another film, I’m going to recall how some friends deemed Kill Bill unrealistic for having Bellagio-style fountains of blood flowing from body holes. I countered with “That’s the point, you shit,” and followed up with the notion that most of them haven’t ever chopped off somebody’s arm with a samurai sword and for all they knew, Sofie Fatale’s dismemberment happened entirely realistically.

In the end, I guess my point is entirely moot. As I already said, everybody has their own opinion about what in a given movie worked and what didn’t. However, I just hope that people declaring that the girl running down the alley in a life-or-death frenzy should have totally turned left when she instead turned right. (The idiot.) Movie characters definitely must be held to some sort of realistic standard for the choices they make, but those critiquing these movies should also stop and ask themselves two questions: “Would I have actually been able to think clearly, given the situation?” and “Do this quibbles in motivation really matter in this kind of movie?”

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Gingerbread Endowment

Taken this morning at the Williams-Sonoma in La Cumbre Plaza.

gingerbread_peen

I'm not sure whether the Mister or the Missus has more to smile about.

Bentley Banana, Ltd.

It is happening again.

bentley_banana_LTD

See, it already happened before. I'd like to think this incarnation refers to a company that imports, like, the most fancypants bananas ever.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Remembering Mother Winslow

As a result of a Wikipedia chain too long to remember, I ended up on the page for Rosetta Lenoire, the actress who played Mother Winslow on Family Matters. I think that I actually began the series with trying to find out what habit the various C-levels appearing on VH1's Celebrity Rehab are trying to kick. In her profile, I found a great example of why Wikipedia should allow editing by a smaller chunk of the population than does now.
As a young girl, LeNoire suffered from rickets, which her godfather Bill "Bojangles" Robinson helped her overcome by teaching her to dance. LeNoire made her acting debut in a 1939 production of The Hot Mikado, starring Robinson (wherein she played a Japanese!).
If you caught the sentence that seems like it was written by a person who has never read an encyclopedia, then you just might be smart enough to edit the Wikipedia. Let's focus on this for a moment: Not only does the parenthetical sentence chunk use an exclamation point, it also both uses the unfortunate phrasing of "a Japanese" and includes a pronoun with no clear antecedent. Well, it's actually clear that the "she" is Rosetta, but the sentence sets the "she" up so that it seems like it refers to Bill "Bojangles" Robinson. Which is just funny.


Oh, Mother Winslow, as long as I can see your reassuring face, all is right in the world.

Homer and Marge Save the World

Some nifty promotional art that came packed in with my copy of The Simpsons Movie. Seemed worth scanning and posting, if not outright saving.


Perhaps the full-scale version is even better.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Le Bad Nanny Battle

For unknown reasons, our office has one of those movable letter signs that restaurants use to announce the day's special or tell you to seat yourself. Only our sign has only the letters you see in the below photo.

le_bad_nanny_battle

The arrangement is mine, and it's the first I can recall doing that used all the letters. The sign and its enigmatic, anagramatic messages amuse me and I think I may start documenting them.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Drew Meets the Death Star

Much in the same way that the waitress who deems a certain plate as being hot often only encourages the diner to test the item's temperature themselves, I defied all my political leanings on Saturday and trotted out to Stearns Wharf to see the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan, just to see how my definition of big contrasts with the definitions of everyone else who's seen it. Everyone was right, it turns out. Also, I can now say that I've seen something that is powered by two nuclear reactors. I thought that the crowd of people amassed at the end of the pier was strange, until I realized that they had only walked out there in order to get as close to the ship as they could. Which is exactly what I did. I took a few pictures, none of which look especially great. I'm most pleased with the last, which depicts the Santa Barbara train depot at sunset.

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sunday787 009

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Friday, January 11, 2008

Angled Angel

A little late on this one, but I figured I should post it, if only as a service to the former Santa Barbara residents for whom my blog is the only source of news from this area. (Hi there, friends living in hipper, bigger, and presumably colder places!) Gemina the Giraffe — better known as the giraffe with a crooked neck — died on Thursday at 21 years old. Unlike other instances in which Death has come for local 21-year-olds, alcohol was not involved.

Let's look upon her ungainly form once more, and remember that sometimes God can only fix His mistakes by killing them.


Now she's in heaven, making little angel children ask "What's wrong with it? Is it hurt?"

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Bee I Me

Of course, on a good day, the realization that the clothes I chose made me look vaguely like a bee would have occurred before I left the house.

bee_me

Photo taken 7:15 p..m., post-day of people making bee remarks and asking if the look was intentional.

Plumbers in Space

For your pleasure or possible immediate dismissal: A small bit of name- and Mario-related trivia that I figured warranted a mention, seeing as how this blog seems to exist right at the nexus of “video game dork” and “word nerd.” Only my last ounce of strength has prevents this blog from transforming into a form for fanboy foaming on about Super Smash Bros. Brawl, an upcoming Wii title that I explain to the uninitiated by likening it to Battle of the Network Stars with Nintendo characters and with the nostalgia factor ratcheted up to a power of at least four. Anyway, last night, the game’s development blog revealed that the central character from the Pikmin series will be included in the melee madness. (Not to be confused with that cash cow Pok√©mon, which Nintendo also owns, the description-defying and underappreciated Pikmin has a pint-sized astronaut leading around small, root vegetable-like creatures called Pikmin. They do his bidding. They die for him. Eventually, they help him repair his spaceship to the point at which he leaves, leaving the Pikmin without anyone to guide them around the various carnivores that also populate this terrible, terrible planet.) The below illustration should help.


What should be interesting to the video game-playing etymology nerds to whom this blog caters, however, is the astronaut character’s name: Captain Olimar. Just as Olimar’s design is based on Mario’s — short, portly, stick-outy ears and with a big round nose — so is Olimar’s name. In Japanese, Mario’s name can be spelled in three characters: mah-ri-oh. Read in reversed order, those characters make oh-ri-mah, which gave the guy his name in Japanese, “Orima,” which was then translated into English letters as “Olimar.”

Small things like this I find interesting.

Two other times I was doubly geeky:

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

What the Doctor Ordured

A new word for your new(ish) year.
ordured (or-DURED) — adjective: covered, spattered or filled with dung.

[Source: Depraved and Insulting English, courtesy of Hannah]
The internet doesn't seem to vouch for its existence, especially, but I'm rooting for it. Spread it around! The word, I mean.]

Sunday, January 6, 2008

On Trumpet Solos and Greek Mythology

Anyone who has stopped at my office has likely met the woman who controls the reception area. She also directs quite a bit of business beyond that entrance, but her status as a guardian is key, both to this post and to my work life in general. Simply put: that reception area might as well be a drawbridge, because if you are deemed unfit for entry, the office is basically impregnable and you will soon be dogpaddling around the sharp rocks in the moat. This I like.

What’s interests me most about The Guardian — as I’ll refer to her in this post, for the purposes of not dragging her into the whirlpool of misspelled words and aborted ideas that is my blog — is that she has two distinct personalities. If the one that sends unpleasant, unreasonable people packing is Cerberus — and, yes, I realize that I just blew the whole two personalities motif by comparing her to a three-headed character — then the other is Hestia, the manifestation of all things comforting, warm and familiar. (And yes, I realize I just skipped from a medieval-themed metaphor with the moat-and-drawbridge comparison to a Greek mythology-themed one, but I don’t care. God, you’re picky today.) She’s the one who can exorcise bad feelings about work and co-workers better than most. She’s the one who brought me a plug-in space heater from her home just because I had casually mentioned that my un-heatered house was painfully cold last winter. And she’s the one who happily casts off unwanted visitors when she knows the day’s workload means that I probably don’t have time to chat. (A note: Don’t feel weird about me crediting The Guardian with having dual or possibly even dueling personalities. A Gemini, her birthday being just a few days apart from mine, she totally cops to it and, I’d imagine, would be cool with be noting it myself.)

At times, however, The Guardian blends the two personas to further some goal, and when it happens I can’t help but to watch in astonishment as she makes magic happen with interpersonal skills that I could only hope to one day have. I remembered the best example of this office mediation prestidigitation this past Friday afternoon. Some time back, The Guardian sent out an email to the entire office with what amounted to a request to make both of her jobs easier: retaining her authority in front of visitors while keeping her sanctum holy. For you see, The Guardian’s desk sits about ten feet from a room I identify on tours as “the pretty bathroom.” (It’s seriously the best-looking room in the entire office. Purple walls, lightbulbs lining the mirror, and generally a better smell than other rooms have, even though it’s a bathroom. When I’m showing interns around, I always try to end the tour there.) People like to use the pretty bathroom, but therein lies the problem. The Guardian’s email basically pleaded with those who might do so to acknowledge that its walls were no thicker than those in the rest of the acoustically vibrant office and that no magic spell made the actions performed in that room somehow inaudible to those who sit nearby. She asked not to be put in the position of having to fabricate reasons to the strangers waiting in the reception area for why those rude noises were manifesting, giving the equivalent of a Bronx cheer in their faces, then vanishing before they could be properly reprimanded. (“No! You don’t do that! Bad!”) If I recall that now-deleted email correctly, The Guardian offered an excuse along the lines of there being bad pipes in the bathroom, which, given the circumstances, wasn’t exactly a lie.

As I mentioned before, the reason this six-month-old story is rolling around in my head today stems from the fact that late on Friday afternoon — before Palmer gave me a ride home, saving me from wading through the swiftly-running creeks that were the streets of Santa Barbara — I was walking through the nearly empty office, looking for my coffee cup. (An everyday ritual: placing it down then instantly suffering a type of brain damage that sends me on a Legend of Zelda-style quest to find it half an hour later.) I stood in earshot of a bathroom — not the pretty one, but one of the tenement-style ones in back — and distinctly heard a sour note sound out from behind the closed door. I froze, partially out of the mental energy it took to assure myself that no, that wasn’t me, frenzied in my coffee mug search to the point where my body went on autopilot. When my brain had cleared me of any wrongdoing, I then heard more: a dozen or so staccato blasts, then the noise of a toilet paper dispenser spinning, then finally a rollicking, Dizzy Gillespie-style finish. Given its position at the end of this musical sequence, I’m inclined to think it took the trumpeter by surprise.

I’m not one to judge others for the fact that they are human and, thus, must perform the biological tasks that allow them to remain alive. The occasional sonic output while using the facilities is normal, permissible, even expected. But when someone composes freeform jazz, they’re overstepping a line, likely as a result of a frijoles-inclusive dish from Los Arroyos or a legume-heavy to-go salad from Savoy. It’s one thing to engage in this kind of activity in an empty building or even in a public restroom, where anonymity can lessen the amount of shame incurred. However, when the office is near-empty but totally-not-empty, this kind of performance creates the most problems in that I knew how many people would be using the men’s room and who, given their desk’s proximity to the bathroom, would be the one most likely to use it. Of course, as my coffee cup search continued, I had a hallway bump-into with the trumpeter himself. Picture it: me, trying to hide any expression which might read as “I know what you did” and him, sheepishly waving “hey” as he passed by, knowing full well that he had announced his troubles to anyone not listening to an iPod with the volume turned up. (This group constitutes a good chunk of the people I work with, and the trumpeter is all the better for it.)

Not only did the incident take me back to The Guardian’s email cautioning against this type of activity, but it also made me realize that had I her tact, I would have picked out words that would have simultaneously vanquished the shame but reminded him that other people have ears and would rather not know him on such an intimate level. I lack this skill, even in the context of essays like this, in which I can take however much time I need to scroll through my mental word bank and remove the “shame on you” words. At least I made it through this chunk of text without resorting to using the phrase “taking a dump.”

Oh, damn.

Three other articles about my office smelling bad or workplace bathroom habits:

Friday, January 4, 2008

Frothing Girl, Oozing Boy — The Gender Mysteries of Clu Clu Land

I’ve found something interesting about Clu Clu Land, everyone’s favorite childhood video game.

What’s that? Clu Clu Land was only you’re second favorite?

Okay, I guess I can deal with that sad fact. I mean, when I say “Nintendo,” the first thing I think of is a Pac-Man knock off that more or less faded into obscurity after hitting the market in 1984. Oh, and it started a fish that didn’t look like a fish. Classic!

image courtesy of aho-aki.seesaa.net

image courtesy of inside-games.jp

In any case, for the few of you who don’t know, Nintendo did release a game called Clu Clu Land back in the early days of the NES. And it did, in fact, bear a few similarities to Pac-Man, though the game mechanics were just different enough that I wouldn’t necessarily call it a full-blown rip-off. The game starred Bubbles, a “bubblefish” who didn’t look much like an anyfish and had her navigating a series of mazes. Just as Pac-Man had to evade the ghosts as he zoomed around his mazes, Bubbles had to avoid prickly unira, or sea urchins. Her main mode of defense — and this is where the game works especially differently from Pac-Man — was spitting bubbles at the urchins to stun them and them running them into a wall, where’d they dissolve into the standard 100 points.

The game takes place underwater and all the main players are sea creatures, but Clu Clu Land weirdly doesn’t allow Bubbles to swim so much as spin. It’s hard to explain, though the below video might help.


As you can see, the playing board consists of various pegs that Bubbles spins around, as if she were holding onto them with one hand. (Yes, it’s technically a pole dance.) If she lets go, she’ll continue in the direction she was facing at that instant. If she wants to switch directions, she’ll have to snag onto another peg and start spinning around it again. Spinning is central enough to the game that its name is actually a transliteration of the Japanese onomatopoeia kuru kuru, which also appears in the title of another Nintendo game that revolves around (ha) spinning, Kuru Kuru Kuruin.

image courtesy of n-philes.com

Bubbles beats a maze by swinging around the right pegs. Passing through the “correct” spaces triggers the appearance of a small gem — or as the game refers to them, gold ingots. When all the gems have been uncovered, they form an image, kinda-sorta in the style of connect-the-dots.

But her pole dancing isn’t what made me want to write about her. No, I recalled something today that I initially learned a few years ago: While in the U.S. her name is “Bubbles” and she’s female, in Japan, the character is named “Gloopy” (or “Groopy” or “Guruppi,” depending on who’s doing the translating) and he is male. Or at least I’ve been informed that this is so. It’s documented online fairly often at least that there’s a some confusion about the characters’ in different parts of the world.

Either way, Bubbles is definitely a lady in the U.S., which could make her the first-ever playable female character that Nintendo ever created. (Nintendo, remember, did not create Ms. Pac-Man.) And that itself is odd, since there’s absolutely nothing about her that looks feminine, and one notch odder yet when you take into account that she was showing up in a time when female video game characters wore bows and dresses and generally did everything and anything they could to look girly. And if Nintendo did change Gloopy the Boy to Bubbles the Girl en route from Japan to the United States, it would have been a highly unusual move for a video game company at the time — and, really, one that doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Then there are the names, of course, which struck me as vaguely sexual. (Hence the post title.) I suppose there’s no reason why “Gloopy” couldn’t have been a female character’s name. But I’m glad I changed it.

image courtesy of crossovers.blogia.com

Bubbles never went on to much stardom after 1984 — certainly not anything like that other, more famous Nintendo tranny, Birdo — though she did score both a cameo in Smash Bros. Melee as a trophy and another as an unlockable playable character in the Game Boy Advance game DK: King of Swing. (Weird, I know. It doesn’t take place underwater and she’s surrounding by Donkey Kong’s extended simian gang. But whatever.) But at least now she gets to have the legacy of having ambiguous gender.

That’s something.