Tuesday, April 29, 2008

"Totie," Not "Toady"

Did you guys know that Lisa Lampanelli time traveled back to the 60s and stopped swearing?

Because I didn't.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Princess Daisy Stole My Face!

A short history of an endlessly enthusiastic princess.

Today, Daisy serves to make the Mario games’ Princess Peach more appealing by comparison. Sure, Peach has the social agency of a jar of mayonnaise and can’t seem to keep herself from being kidnapped on a monthly basis, but put her next to Daisy and Peach seems like she’s actually worth all the effort of rescuing her. Daisy today mostly shows up in Mario spin-offs — golf, tennis, go-kart matching, probably badminton someday — and fills the role of a female “player two” in that she’s a partner either for Peach or Luigi — or, that is, a clonish buddy for the leadying lady or a clonish girlfriend for the guy who himself is kind of clonish. Not an enviable position to be in, I guess, but hey — she’s been in more games that most video game characters.

Daisy first appeared in Super Mario Land, a 1989 Game Boy title much in the style of the original Super Mario Bros.. By that I mean that it plays a lot like Super Mario Bros. but has a certain exotic flair that that game lacked. No towering mushrooms in the background for this one: it’s instead pyramids and general Egypt drag, the stone faces of Easter island or traditional Japanese scenery, depending on what level you’re playing through. Super Mario Land is also the only Mario game designed not by Nintendo wizard Shigeru Miyamoto but the late, great Gunpei Yukoi. Perhaps in an effort to make this installment of the series his own, Yukoi renamed and slightly restyled a lot of standard Mario elements. (The Koopa Troopas, for example, turn into bombs when Mario stomps them instead of offering up their shells as a kickable projectile weapon. That’s some mind-blowing shit right there.) Included in this effort was a new skirt to be rescued, Daisy, whose color scheme has always reminded me more of how Peach looked in the original Super Mario Bros.

daisy per super mario land, her lass flattinering in-game
appearance, and peach in super mario bros.

(Sidebar: I’m nearly tempted to guess that Daisy might have taken her name from Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby. Miyamoto has said in interviews that the damsel-in-distress from the Legend of Zelda games, Princess Zelda, was named after Zelda Fitzgerald. That being said, it seems plausible that Nintendo creative types would be familiar enough with Mr. and Mrs. Fitzgerald to have read Gatsby. If Miyamoto himself had created Daisy, I’d say the chances were especially high, but he didn’t — Yukoi is credited with creating her. The matter remains a little mystery for me and whatever other Nintendo diehards may be following along.)

Just as Luigi started out as a perfect palette swap for Mario, Daisy began as a differently colored Peach — a Midge to Peach’s Barbie, if you will. And she remained that way for about a decade, with a few blink-and-miss cameos in the meantime. When Nintendo reintroduced her in 2000 for the Nintendo 64 version of Mario Tennis, she showed up with a slightly new look: the improbably combination of tan skin and red hair.

It didn’t last.

By the time the Gamecube arrived, Daisy sported a different look: fair skin and a brunette do.

I know, I know — big fucking whoop, the girl got a makeover. I’m only writing about this because Nintendo did something interesting in piecing together this B-lister’s new face.

There’s a company called Camelot that handles a lot of the Mario Golf and Mario Tennis titles in which Daisy so often appears. A lot of these games also feature a host of generic human characters, for whatever reason. One of these is a little lady named Azalea who, to put it bluntly, had Daisy’s face before Daisy herself did.

See? Same colors, same eyes, and the same hair too, if it wasn’t for the stupid hat.

Way weird, I think, that Nintendo apparently didn’t take the effort to design a whole new look for Daisy and — at best — borrowed from an existing C-lister or — at worst — stole some poor girl’s face. And that’s not to mention the strangeness in making a character’s skin look noticeably whiter.

We know your shame, Daisy. You owe someone a face.

Other noteworthy Mario-related posts:

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Three Birds of Paradise

Maria recalls past relationships, then attempts to date again nonetheless.

I think I like her best when she imitates men.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Long May You… Loof?

While I have still not yet been able to determine whether Super Mario Bros.’s “field horsehair plants are actually a thing, a stray memory form deep in my brain burst forth today and I decided to look into whether there exists such thing as a priphea flower.

These plants appear once or twice as a minor plot point in a lesser-known Super Nintendo-era video game called, miserably, Lufia and the Fortress of Doom. I know — what? In Japan, it was released under the far better title Estopolis. For whatever reason, some translator decided to name the game after its heroine, which is all well and good for this game along but which becomes somewhat problematic when it spawned a sequel that did not feature the character Lufia in any way but which was nonetheless known to Americans as Lufia 2: Rise of the Sinistrals. Again — what?

In any case, the priphea flowers — which actually might show up in Lufia 2 as well — aren’t real. Google turns up virtually nothing that doesn’t seem Lufia-related. Thus, it seems safe to say that the priphea is fictional.

And since I’m on the subject, what the hell kind of name is “Lufia” anyway? The fact that I knew a girl with that name aside, it all seems rather unfortunate.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Grand Master Kickface

People. My blog. Finding it.

  1. As far as I know, Little Shirley Beans is a fictional singer only mentioned in The Catcher in the Rye, and never seen. So, "no," I suppose, is the answer.
  2. Whatever website you'd go to find clothes that Uma Thurman looks 100 times better than you in.
  3. Strawberry color, I'd guess.
  4. Mostly drunk driving accidents.
  5. "Paper of news"? "News periodical"?
A little soon after the last one, I know. But I had to put up something and my head hurts tonight.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

I Caught Bloggerrhea

Just in case anybody was wondering, I am not actually interested in seeing "bit tits movies and pictures" and I will not "CLICK HERE." (Though if I did, I'd find the website Oobabes.com, the name of which has been pointed out as being suspiciously close to "goo babies," which is a favorite term of mine.) It would seem that I caught this blog comment social disease — which has overcome the spam-fighting antibody that is the Blogger word verification system and splooged spam all over a handful of recent posts — from a certain sexy lady blogger over at A Date in the Life, as she got these comments immediately before I did.

Did any of you catch this? Does it burn when you type?

That's the Doppler Effect, You See

I do love Smack the Pony, and not just for their parodies of late-90s British pop. However, this post concerned these parodies specifically. You may remember a previous post, "Thinking Is for Wankers," which featured a parody video that I guessed was a jab at B*Witched, even though I can't recall ever hearing a B*Witched song. Spencer recently stumbled on two more Smack the Pony feats that I thought were especially good.

"(Love Is a Big) Crash" by Luminatrix.

Which would seem to be poking fun at Republica's "Drop Dead Gorgeous," lead singer wig and all. (Remember Republica?)

And here's a song titled "Blown."

Which clearly is a take-off on Natalie Imbruglia's "Torn." (Remember Natalie Imbruglia?) Click the link for this one. "Embedding disabled by request," because Natalie Imbruglia thinks she's hot shit or something.

And for good measure, here's Karizzma's "Round 'n' Round 'n' Round" once more.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Ides of Drew

Of everything I've done since starting at my current job, I'd have to say my creation of a CD exchange club ranks among the greater accomplishments. It works as follows: Each member has a month on which he or she must compile a mix CD, make copies for everybody in the group and distribute them before that month finishes and then legally enjoy them in the privacy of their own home, before praying to Protestant God and saluting Old Glory. Yes, it's a little effort when you're month rolls around, but everybody else need only to sit back and graciously accept the new music.

My month was last month. I wasn't going to bother mentioning it here, but today I stumbled upon this post on the blog Slowly Going Bald, which demonstrates a handy way of legally sharing a mix CD by making it simple for readers to access the iTunes store and pick up any given song.

Thus, I'm proud to present The Ides of Drew, or what I listen to that I didn't think would make my coworkers think less of me. Clink on the iTunes link to take any of the songs for a test drive. If you want it for your own, you still have to buy it, of course. But this makes it all a bit more accessible.

1. "Too Drunk to Dream" by Magnetic Fields The Magnetic Fields - Distortion - Too Drunk to Dream
This is the from the Fields album that came out a few months ago. Feel happy-sad!
2. "Out of Zone" by Marbles Marbles - Expo - Out of Zone
I really like The Apples In Stereo. They represent everything I love about music and I feel like they're whole aesthetic is spot-on. Marbles is a kinda-sorta side project that, unless I'm mistaken, existed before the Apples in Stereo but was released much later.
3. "Cherry Tree" by Grand National Grand National - Kicking the National Habit - Cherry Tree
I also like anything that you can dance to that defies most of the characteristics of what you'd call "dance music."
4. "Bonnie and Clyde" by Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot Serge Gainsbourg & Brigitte Bardot - Monsieur Gainsbourg Originals - Bonnie and Clyde
I don't speak French, but I still like this song. Highlights: That weird background instrument that kind of sounds like a person hiccupping, Brigitte's inability to pronounce "Bonnie" correctly, Serge's use of "ka-tick-ka-tick-ka-tick" to represent the sound of gun fire.
5. "I Hear the Bells" by Mike Doughty Mike Doughty - Haughty Melodic - I Hear the Bells
I used to really liked that band Soul Coughing. It doesn't exist anymore, but the lead singer still does cool stuff. This song was featured in an episode of Veronica Mars, and for whatever reason I picture the girl singing back-up being Veronica Mars.
6. "Helena Won't Get Stoned" by Tarkio Tarkio - Omnibus - Helen Won't Get Stoned
The lead singer of the Decemberists, pre-Decemberists, I think.
7. "Is It True?" by Miss Ludella Black Miss Ludella Black - She's Out There - Is It True
As near as I know, this singer is totally contemporary, but just sounds every bit like she's four decades old. That's a good thing.
8. "Lady Bird" by Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood - Nancy & Lee - Lady Bird
I think Lee Hazlewood is good, and not in a kitschy, ironic way. I think this the best of his duets with Nancy.
9. "Lotion" by The Greens Keepers Greenskeepers - Polo Club - Lotion
A strange, dark little number that nonetheless has a dance beat. It takes a memorable line from Silence of the Lambs and makes it… different… and creepier.
10. "Rainfall" by The Apples in Stereo The Apples In Stereo - Velocity of Sound - Rainfall
My favorite song for, like, two years.
11. "Empire City" by Bishop Allen Bishop Allen - Charm School - Empire City
Upbeat and strange.
12. "Wet and Rusting" by Menomena Menomena - Friend and Foe - Wet and Rusting
Not so upbeat, but very pretty.
13. "Oh My" by Office Office - A Night At the Ritz - Oh My
I kind of hate this band for having the name "Office" when a TV show called The Office is existent and funny and well-known. But this sing is pretty damn good.
14. "I Did What I Did for Maria" by Tony Christie CHRISTIE, TONY - Worldhits & Love Songs - I DID WHAT I DID FOR MARIA
A spirited, Tom Jones-style ballad that justifies murder.
15. "Autobahn" by Karate
I know nothing about this song. I downloaded it back in the glory days of Audiogalaxy. It's likely mislabeled, and that's probably why I can't find it on iTunes. Hence the lack of link.
16. "Harmony" by The Clinic Clinic - Walking With Thee - Harmony
I used to love this bad. Then I hated them. Now I love them again. Their music sounds like a children's lullaby and the theme from Halloween had a baby. They wear surgical masks over their mouths when they play. Even the guy on clarinet.
17. "Dangle" by Daylight Titans The Daylight Titans - The Daylight Titans - Dangle
A fairly unknown band that's scored a few hits by being on movie and TV show soundtracks. I blogged about them once, and the lead singer wrote me an email to thank me. I thought that was nice. Now offering them to you.
18. "Let Me Take Your Photo" by The Speedies The Speedies - Let Me Take Your Photo - EP - Let Me Take Your Photo (2005 Remix)
Don't hold the fact that this was in a photo printer ad against this song.
19. "L'Aventurier" by Nada Surf
Again, I don't speak French. I know — weird that I put two on this album. The only lyric I can pick out in this is "Jack Kerouac." (Also, until I looked it up on iTunes just now, I thought the song was called "Indochine." It's actually a cover of a song by the group Indochine. Things you learn.)
20. "Boner" by Grand National Grand National - Kicking the National Habit - Boner
More dance-y goodness. Ignore the fact that this song is called "Boner."
21. "Magic" by Marbles Marbles - Expo - Magic
A very short, very good song.
22. "Africa" by The Gaylads The Gaylads - Mojo Rock Steady - Africa
First, I don't like reggae, in general. But these guys are an old, old reggae band who do some way cool stuff. Second, seeing as how they're an old, old reggae band, I don't think the band name "Gaylad" is meant the way most modern ears would hear it.
23. "High Art, Local News" by The New Pornographers The New Pornographers - Twin Cinema - High Art, Local News
Is it corny that I put this on here? I like this song.
That was my contribution, anyway. In case you're interested in sharing with your friends what CDs you've been burning, the little cajigger that makes the link to the iTunes store can be found here. Too bad neither version of "L'Aventurier" exists on iTunes. Here's YouTube versions of both.

The original by Indochine:

And the cover by Nada Surf:

And as for the enigmatic "Autobahn" — which I'm positive isn't a cover of Kraftwerk's "Autobahn" — we'll just have to wait until I find out what the song is actually called.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

High on Power Pills, No Doubt

This headline, which appeared atop my Gmail inbox this morning, seemed hilarious until I found out who Adam "Pacman" Jones was.

This is what I get for not paying attention to football. Here's the actual story, for those feeling the need to read further.

Come on Jessica, Come on Tori

For those of you who don't yet know, How I Met Your Mother crams more into the half-hour sitcom package than does your given hour-long serial epi-drama — Lost, 24, The Riches, or whatever else your televised obsession might be. Last night, for example, HIMYM revived the teen idol persona of series regular Robin Scherbatsky, who in her youth delighted Canadian audiences as Robin Sparkles. (Important note: Though she seems like an 80s idol, Robin Sparkles first existed in 1993. As Robin Scherbatsky, she eventually explains that "the 80s didn't come to Canada until, like, 1993.") The new video: her ode to breaking up, "Sandcastles in the Sand," starring Tiffany, Alan Thicke and James Van Der Beek.

Since the previous Robin Sparkles episode, my house has had much fun from the game in which we conjecture who in our lives would be most amusing to have had a secret past as an 80s pop idol. (Kristen, you're the winner so far.) "Sandcastles" supposedly marks Robin's failed attempt into pop music self-expression. Equally funny is her previous hit, "Let's Go to the Mall," which guest stars both a certain robot sidekick and a whole lot of spunk.

From Robin Sparkles's MySpace page:

The New York-based sitcom is not dead, it turns out.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Lauren, Deny Custard!

Lauren — L.A. Woman-turned-Brooklyn Woman, and with all the dangly jewelry to match that change — sent me a image intended to remind me of why I should visit her new stomping grounds.

Really, I owe it to myself to visit anyone's neck of the woods who might feature such a storefront. Of course, this is actually just the New York version of 826 Valencia, the pirate supply store in San Francisco that doubles as writing tutor center for kids. Thank Dave Eggers.

As if I needed additional incentive, Lauren also included the following sentence: "Your blog about subjunctives was read out loud at a dinner party at my house last week. Ha." Shit, my blog is being read at dinner parties — and the nerdiest of grammar-related posts at that — then I really have no excuse for not visiting. Well that and the fact that I now have more friends there than I do in Santa Barbara.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Oh, That Lady Again

Maria is given a lamp designed to cure Seasonal Affected Disorder.

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Chunky K Action Figure, Now With Murder Knife

A collection of amusing and bemusing search terms which have recently led to my site.
  1. Yes. This twist ending is that she slew herself.
  2. My guess is the fatwa on Salmon Rushdie. But they're divorced now, so I'd guess no scare.
  3. I think it's the other way around.
  4. No. Just no.
  5. Christian Simonson.
  6. Like, Fifi's personal MySpace layout? Or a Fifi-themed MySpace layout?
  7. Yes, as of the last time I checked.
  8. If you're Googling this, I hope to God you're not actually pregnant.
  9. To add a dash of affable Southern charm. And then to die.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Mrs. Carnivorous Plant

Another in my series on the surprsingly complicated matter of names in video games.

In the Mario games, there exists a hulking, monstrous plant thing by the name of Petey Piranha. I’ve mentioned him before here, mostly in reference to him looking like a giant vagina dentata. In Japan, this character is known as “Boss Pakkun” — literally, boss of the carnivorous plants, as Piranha Plants are called “Pakkun” over there. To German Nintendo players, however, the character a third name — and one important difference. In Germany, the toothy plant-thing is called “Mutant Tyranha” — and is considered a female, I’m guessing because they (perhaps correctly) view the bikini-bottomed, petal framed character as obviously feminine.

I, however, will continue to view the creature — male, female, both, neither, whatever — as a crime against nature.

More oddness with Mario character names:

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Marza Panda

Three things that earn points in my book: Word play, themed names, and the amusing detail that Wikipedia provides for obscure or unworthy subjects.

Thus, after seeing that Spencer chose to wear all blue a few days ago and then failing to remember the name of Strawberry Shortcake’s blueberry-themed friend, I happily perused the Wikipedia page for this doll’s universe and took in the whole of it: cringe-inducing puns, character names following a pattern that even a six-year-old would feel lacks subtlety, and far more Strawberry Shortcake-related information than I ever thought existed. Being a boy, I had only the briefest interactions with this character, in either her doll or cartoon incarnations. She and her friends smelled strongly, I remember, but I had no clue as to the punnery. I’m spare you the time and indignity of looking at it all yourself, for below I’ve provided the ten most flagrantly bad puns.

Not a villain, but an “edgy” character known for making cutting remarks. (Get it?) I can’t imagine what she could say in such a saccharine world. “Your name is an atrocious pun and you should cease to be,” perhaps? She’s now “Raspberry Torte,” as the good-natured Strawberry Shortcake creators apparently bought a dictionary since creating her in the early 80s.

Suggested substitute names: Ooey, Gooey Creme-Filled Eclair. Or Edible Underpants.

How little I know about Strawberry Shortcake. Apparently, a character can’t exist without having some animal familiar. The character Apple Dumplin’ naturally has this baby duck. What amuses me most is the needless dropping of the “g” at the end of both names, as if simply naming the character “Dumpling” or “Duckling” wasn’t cute enough. That dropped “g,” however? Fucking adorable.

Suggested substitute name: Deboned Duck in Plum Sauce.

Not so much a pun as a total abortion of a pun, I suppose. I’m guessing the name “Freezer Pop Penguin” was initially followed by “TKTKTK write non-stupid name later.” He belongs to someone saddled with the equally terrible name of “Frosty Puff.”

Suggested substitute name: Freezer-Burned, Memento Wedding Cake Slice Penguin.

Not a person, but a place, and the hometown of Strawberry Shortcake’s first Asian fiend, Tea Blossom. From what I can tell, everything associated with this terrible character sprung from some writing team brainstorming on the most stereotypical associations with China they could think of. “All the tea in China?” Check. “Almond-shaped eyes?” Check. “Let’s see… What’s something else food-related and Chinese? Oh! Chinaware! That can just be where she’s, like, from or something. China Cup, but less stupid than that.” And “China Cup” remained. In fact, the stereotypes were notable enough that, upon relaunching Strawberry Shortcake as a toy in 2000, Almond Tea was renamed “Tea Blossom.”

This isn’t a complete waste, I suppose. Almond Tea exists, apparently. Wikipedia also notes that this Almond Tea’s associated animal friend is named “Marza Panda,” which I thought was a decent enough a joke to merit it being the title of this post.

Suggested substitute name: Grandma’s Antique China Gravy Boat.

This gets a fail for attempting, and failing, to make an allusion to Madame Butterfly. I think. If it's intentional, it sucks. Don't drag opera down into this mess.

Suggested substitute name: Hifalutin Moth.

As the previous example indicates, introducing characters of specific ethnicities or nationalities gets dicey. At some point, most expanding fictional universes do this, and often the attempt at being progressive ends up endorsing lame stereotypes. (See Justice Friends’ additions of token characters El Dorado, Samurai, Black Vulcan and Apache Chief to the line-up of regular “American” superheroes like Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. Three guesses what ethnicity El Dorado is supposed to be.) As clichéd a representative of Chinese culture as Almond Tea is, Café Olé is ten times worse. She hails from Mexicocoa. Her animal friend is Burrito Burro. No joke. With that being said, I’m not sure how I feel about Wikipedia’s description of her as being “adept at handicrafts such as weaving.”

Suggested substitute name: Cinco de Mayonnaise.

The animal companion of the apparent bitch of Strawberry’s group of friends. This pun is either genius or utter retardity. Given the others on the list, I’m inclined to chose the latter.

Suggested substitute name: Crystal Cola Chameleon.

Ugh. In addition to being the only character I noted whose name references an alcoholic drink, Mint Tulip constitutes, in my opinion, another terrible pun. Her place of origin? Hollandaise. (Ugh again.) Her animal? Marsh Mallard. (Death ugh.) Absolutely unforgivable.

Suggested substitute name: Clogged Arteries.

Now we're getting to some of the worst. The Wikipedia mention — the entirety of which I'm beginning to think was written by one crazed Strawberry Shortcake fan whose contributions result from her desire to recover from a divorce or debilitating injury — even admits that the pun is clumsy. It doesn't, however, note the shoddiness of the name of these twins' hometown, Pickle Dilly Circus.

Suggested substitute name: Jane and Michael Banks (Candy Versions).

A girl villain accompanied by a presumably equally evil worm named “Durt.” This one takes top honors, purely because it dutifully references the phrase “raising cain” and, in my head, the 1992 Lolita Davidovich thriller of the same name, all while presuming the existence of some confection that captures the taste of raisins into a candy cane form.

Suggested substitute name: Bitcherscotch. Or Buttersnatch, I guess.

. . .

Not a pun, but worthy of a mention anyway: the inherently pitiful Baby Needs-a-Name, who seems to exist only for the purpose of desiring a name. The final sentence of this character’s description reads “The Baby's quest for a proper name remains unresolved.” Seeing as how Baby Needs-a-Name was introduced in 1984, I’m not hopeful this happen.

Suggested substitute name: Josephine? Bernice? I don't know. Anything, really, in hopes that giving this character a name might cause her to blink out of existence.

Also, as it turns out, the blueberry character was actually a girl. Maybe I was thinking of Rainbow Brite?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Remarkable in that it makes comedy out of both ceaseless repetition and Horatio Sanz's usually terrible character, the grotesque Carol, this sketch is worth the three minutes it will take to watch. This version is weirdly, lamely chopped off at the beginning, but you should get the idea.

Hulu truly is a great thing.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Are You Ready for the Werewolf?

Asian poster for An American Werewolf in London that's clearly emphasizing the film's comedy aspects over the considerable horror subject matter.

[ Source: Final Girl ]

Monday, April 14, 2008


Interesting what the website Is This Your Name? has to say about "Drew Mxxxxx." Apparently my power animal is the clip-winged pegasus. Who knew?

Here's Looking at Ewe

Please do not stare at the sheep.

sheep staring

She may interpret direct eye contact as a hostile action.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Oh! I Am Overcome!

Titles for Madcap Governess Adventures in the Spirit of Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day:
Miss Dunsmear Is Made to Sweat Profusely

Miss Barnswallow Brings About Her Own Undoing

Miss Hargreaves Wanders Into the Bad Side of Town

Miss De la Bolsa Meets a Lusty Scotsman

Miss Bluegarten Eats a Bad Scone

Miss Vanderloosk Gets Looped on Cordials

Miss Klauer Fights a Bear

Miss O’Halloran Burns Down the Harbor

Miss Pham Drops the Baby in the Serpentine

Rug Cleaner

More Maria Bamford. She gets kicked out. The Hampton Inn is praised.

A good question: What kind of creepy green sea monster would Jesus be?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Lost: The Central Question

It's been about everywhere already, but because I find it genuinely amusing, you're having it forced upon you again: a video that purports to examine what is undeniably the one question central to every episode of Lost.

The best part, easily, would have to be the subtitles break with Sun and Jin.

Milton Moorehead

Particularly notable ways people have been finding my blog lately. And some responses:
  1. Yes, but thankfully only as an art term.
  2. Because it came out and its family insists on demeaning names.
  3. Nothing good. Possibly dust.
  4. No. Never. Not even if you're using MLA format.
  5. Way no. one: Anne Heche.
  6. What confusion? Confusion between Daddy Long Legs and mere fathers with long legs? It hasn't come up.
  7. Lying.
  8. It's not. The official name is "Nantucket."

Secrets of the Starbucks Mermaid

I swear I’m not fixating on mythological creatures, previous posts being evidence to the contrary. That being said, this post chiefly concerns mermaids and coffee.

During my aimless Wikipedia browsing, I stumbled upon the page for a concept known as “The Mermaid Problem,” which is basically an examination of the paradox of mermaids being sexually attractive but sexually unviable by virtue of the apparent lack of genitalia. Take a look: Those girls are mackerel from the waist down. It's a problem that Fry encountered with no small amount of distress in the "Lost City of Atlanta" episode of Futurama. Wikipedia poses a few solutions, however, among them the notion that some mermaids were depicted having a split or split-able tail that would theoretically allow for lovemaking and subsequent creation of babies that were one-quarter fish.

As this insightful article discusses, mermaids make for some fun speculation, as far as symbols go. They are simultaneously sexpots and permavirgns — a dualism that should bring to mind the Madonna-whore complex associated with Christianity’s supreme mystical female, Mary. (The article also astutely mentions that “Star of the Sea” is one of Mary’s many names despite the fact that the woman wasn’t exactly a beach bum during her time on earth.) After all, the very name of these often naked female creatures can be literally read as “sea-maiden.” All this happens to be encapsulated nicely in the Starbucks logo, which, in its original form, also happens to be a good visual example of what these imminently sexable split-tailed mermaids look like.

Here’s the Starbucks logo as it looks now:

And here it is before the mermaid mascot was cropped.

And here’s what she looked like in her initial incarnation, before Starbucks higher-ups decided she might look a little too provocative.

And this fourth image — a purported 15th-century drawing of a figure known as the “baubo siren” inspired the original logo.

Talk about a familiar company logo that’s showing more than you thought.

Similar to how the Disney’s The Little Mermaid — mermaid text with which most Americans are now familiar — managed to hide any hint of the dangerous sexuality associated with this mythological creature, so too has the Starbucks mermaid been gradually de-sexed. It’s still there, if ever so slightly: on either side of her head in the current logo, you can still see the halves of her split tail held to the sides of her head. You wouldn’t know what you’re looking at, necessarily, unless somebody explained it, but it does hint at concealed sexuality. And for God’s sake, don’t think that pose isn’t supposed to be overtly sexual. Were Miss Starbucks a full-on woman and not a half-woman, her pose would be downright pornographic.

Thought I don’t recall ever seeing this figure before I started looking into material for this post, the split-tailed mermaid is not an infrequent subject in art from various periods, the following samples being proof.

In my opinion, this revelation is easily twice as shocking as the hidden phallus on the old VHS cover for The Little Mermaid. May you never look at the Starbucks logo the same way again.

EDIT: In case you’re curious — and the remarkable influx of traffic I’ve gotten from people Googling “baubo siren” would lead me to believe that some of you are, in fact, curious — I have newer mermaid-related and baubo-related posts.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Quagga Attack Lakes, Etymological Presumptions

The paper has run a few stories on the threat of the quagga mussel, a Ukrainian mollusk whose tendency to obliterate a municipality’s ability to get water to people who need it verges on scifi-level scary. (Read all about it. No really, do. It’s a good article. ) In editing the piece, I ended up looking into the details of this unassuming little monster — particularly where it got its name.

behold the quagga

When first discussing the quagga in the newsroom, one of my coworkers wondered aloud if some etymological connection existed between it and the quahog, the edible mussel that’s probably most famous for sharing its name with the setting of Family Guy, Quahog, Rhode Island. It would certainly seem probable. Wikipedia explains that “quahog” comes into English from Narragansett, a Native American language. As far as a town name, Wikipedia posits that “Quahog” might be a reference to the real-life Rhode Island community of Quonochontaug, though the differences between the two cities makes that seem unlikely.

When I finally looked up “quagga,” I was surprised to learn that the word has no connection to either any Native American term or any word from the Ukraine. “Quagga” seems to come from an obsolete spelling of the Afrikaans word that is now spelled “kwagga,” which in turn came from the word “quácha” of the African Khoikhoi language. In its original context, “quagga” referred to a now extinct relative of the zebra, which, like the mussel, had brown and white stripes that fade from one part of the animal’s body to the other. The fact that the mussel was named after the zebra-like animal seems especially appropriate given that the quagga is classified in the genus Dreissena along with the Zebra mussel, another striped, invasive mollusk species that poses a threat to American waterways.

quagga (non-mollusk, non-threatening version)

So despite appearances otherwise, the similarity between “quagga” and “quahog” results only from a coincidence. My persona association between the quagga and the Family Guy town was further cemented last week, however, when I read a headline by one of the other newspapers on the problem. It read simply “Quagga quagmire,” and, of course, being a member of the Adult Swim-addled generation, I now no longer hear the word “quagmire” without thinking of Quagmire himself.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Ghost Teresa

Back at my first high school, when I had to wake up in the dark to catch the bus to get there, I met a girl named Teresa. Most of the bus kids didn’t care much for me, often in the specific manner that most at this high school didn’t care for me: polite disregard. This indifference ultimately drove me to transfer, but now that I look back on it, vapor may not be the worst physical state to assume in high school. Anyway, Teresa hailed from Taiwan, which made her immediately even less popular than me. I can’t remember why, exactly, that she had reason to attend school in California and live with relatives she hadn’t met until she stepped off the plane, but think I recall her once saying that the move had something to do with home “not being safe anymore.” I never found out what that meant, and I'm pretty sure the conversation that constitutes the majority of this post had nothing to do with it.

That’s what I hope, at least.

As a rule, Teresa initiated conversations about as often as she piloted alien spaceships. But she’d at least respond when I spoke to her. If you can imagine one’s fluency in English as being an automobile gas meter, Teresa ranked just below a half-tank. However, her vocabulary could included nothing more extensive than “yes,” “no,” and “green onions” and I probably would have still sat next to her and asked questions that could best be answered with those very three responses. "Do you like having elbows?" "Are you a rabbit?" "What's your favorite component of sushi?" I’m serious. With most of the kids on the bus, interaction didn’t generally extend beyond me apologizing when my backpack hit their face as I walked down the aisle. (Only halfway through the year did I realize that the pinkish-orange smears on my backpack resulted from me sitting behind the overly made-up girls who would lean across their seats to gossip.) I knew then and even today still know little about Taiwan — I mean, really, it’s not like Taiwan makes video games, right? — so I’d ask Teresa questions about her life before she had to move to California. That subject was one of the two that seemed to make Teresa happy enough to offer her own sentences, unprompted by my questions. (The other was Lizzy, a flame-haired girl who experimented with goth attire as much as her uniform would allow. Teresa once said that Lizzy was the first redhead she’d ever seen outside of a movie or a photo.)

One day, while sitting next to Teresa on some morning bus ride, I was thumbing through a video game magazine when something caught Teresa’s attention. (Yes, by age fourteen I still read video game magazines — and in public no less. Did I mention I wasn’t popular?) Teresa pointed to an illustration of one certain video game character and asked if I knew who it was. “Hsien-Ko,” I would have said. (I can’t remember if I actually did say this, but had I spoken this particular character’s name, I would have said “Hsien-Ko.” I still have some awareness of this particular video game series.) Teresa asked me to explain the game. To the best of my ability, I explained fighting games were still a fairly popular type of arcade game in the United States, and while the big ones like Street Fighter had international line-ups of martial artists duking it out in various locations, this particular game — the awkwardly titled Darkstalkers — had monsters, such as a cheap Dracula wannabe, a Frankenstein’s monster knock-off, a poor man’s Wolfman — all designed in the style of Japanese comic book art. Essentially, by bucking the trend of typical fighting games and throwing in these goofy parodies of old horror movie characters but then redesigning them to appear as though they belonged in this context, the makers were thumbing their noses at what had quickly become a stale, derivative genre. The point was made all the more noteworthy because the Darkstalkers developers were themselves responsible for the aforementioned Street Fighter, which kickstarted the whole trend in the first place. (I imagine, of course, that I spared Teresa the majority of what I just unloaded in the previous paragraph. I did mention that I wasn’t popular, right?)

I’ve included a visual aid:

from left to right: the vampire, the frankenstein’s monster and the werewolf — each stylized to the hilt.

After the series’ debut, however, the makers ran out of stock monsters from American movies and therefore looked elsewhere. The first sequel introduced a new female character, Hsien-Ko, a Chinese ghoul described as a “kuang shi.” Being before the time when I knew how to make the internet answer all my questions, I simply lived in complete ignorance of what a kuang shi was. Hsien-Ko’s design certainly wasn’t giving me any clues.

less familiar to american eyes, as you can see.

For Teresa, however, even the heavily stylized design couldn’t hide that Hsien-Ko was a creature with which she was quite familiar.

The term “kuang shi” represented how the Japanese pronunciation of the concept might be transliterated into English, Teresa explained. In China, the creature would be called “XXXXXXX.” (I represent it in this manner because my American ears — only used to hearing Chinese along the lines of “moo goo gai pan” and “kung pao” at this point —couldn’t understand what Teresa posited was the correct term. The Wikipedia page on the subject explains that it’s “jiang shi” in Mandarin, “geungsi” in Cantonese, and “gangshi” in Korean. Since it seems to be the most widely accepted term, I’ll stick with “jiang shi” from here on out. What’s that? Oh. Yes, this is what this post is about.) As Teresa explained it, the jiang shi were dead people brought back to life through means both nefarious and magical. They often do the bidding of someone more powerful. And they draw their power from a paper talisman tacked to their foreheads, not unlike the one you see on Hsien-Ko’s hat. (Taking the video game magazine into her hands, Teresa actually translated what’s on Hsien-Ko’s talisman. I can’t remember what she said it said.) If a person tore off the paper, the jiang shi would drop dead, Teresa said, though one could alternately replace one talisman with their own and then use the jiang shi for the own schemes.

At this point, I realized I had actually been previously acquainted with this strange concept while watching some anonymous Hong Kong martial arts movie on KICU, the strange broadcast station that played a combination of Matlock, Mama’s Family and strange movies that I imagine they acquired the rights to fairly cheaply. In this one particular film, the hero fought off a horde of these paper strip-decorated bad guys, who looked like pale bodies dressed in traditional Chinese clothing. Oddly, the film has no other supernatural aspects, unless you count the fact that a guy who can kick beat legions of gun-toting gangsters. Teresa confirmed that jiang shi do, in fact, show up often in Hong Kong movies.

a still from a movie — quite possibly one titled Mr. Vampire.

Needless to say, I was instantly fascinated by these Chinese monsters, who supposedly draw out their victims’ life force — as opposed to drinking their blood or eating their brains — and move by hopping, I’d later discover.

Then Teresa threw me.

“I’ve seen them,” she declared. I asked her if she meant in movies. Clearly, she could distinguish between what she saw in movies and what she saw in real life. After all, she’d said that Lizzy was the first redhead she’d ever seen in person. Teresa — a high school-aged girl living in California in 1997 — again claimed that she’d seen the jiang shi walking around in the open in Taiwan. Maybe she was joking. Maybe the language barrier stopped that joke somewhere between her brain and mine. Maybe she said the wrong word. Twice. Whatever happened, the notion was communicated to me — clearly, if accidentally — that she thought she had actually seen a jiang shi, a Chinese hopping vampire, some kind of real-life version of the thing on the page of the magazine.

I don’t remember how the conversation ended, though I’m certain that I never brought the subject up with Teresa again. I doubt I could have hid my initial surprise at her claim, and I feel like I chose not to press the matter for fear that doing so would have made Teresa feel stupid. Really, how can you clarify the mater without condescending? “When you say you saw this thing, you realize that it’s not real, right? That you’re either mistaken or crazy? That somehow growing up in Taiwan has apparently prevented you from distinguishing real things and imaginary things?”

The matter ended there, for the most part, though I realize now that this constitutes the second post on this blog detailing some convergence of video games, Asian culture, the name “Teresa” and the undead.

There’s an epilogue, I suppose.

Later, toward the end of my career at this first high school, I was reminded of the jiang shi conversation. The bus that took me to and from Hollister picked up at the girls’ school first, then the guys’ school. If a girl missed the first bus, she could run one block over and still catch it at the guys’ school. One rainy day, while I waited in line to board the bus, I saw Teresa, umbrella in hand, run up behind us. For an instant, the Velcro strap — the piece of fabric that wraps around the closed umbrella to keep it from popping open — flopped directly against Teresa’s wet forehead so that it hung down over her nose. The instant she peeled it off, I was reminded of the jiang shi and Teresa’s story.

I transferred schools and never saw Teresa again, though I think of her whenever I stumble across some random jiang shi reference — there apparently was one in the Game Boy title Super Mario Land, which I only recently learned of and which would have to constitute my first exposure to the concept — or see some Darkstalkers cabinet in some pizza parlor or laundromat. The video game Darkstalkers received a few more sequels but has otherwise fallen by the wayside, in favor of more mainstream series. (In an effort to rejuvenate the series in later years, even stranger fighters showed up — Little Red Riding Hood and the Grim Reaper among them. And as for the jiang shi themselves, I imagine that they continue to hop about, whether in Hong Kong action movies or in real-life Taiwanese cemeteries and back alleys.

In light of the jiang shi conversation, I now think back back to my vague memory of Teresa's reason for leaving Taiwan — it not being safe, for some unspecified reason — and wonder if her purported jiang shi sighting motivated the move. A person could have worse reasons for moving to California, I guess.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Encyclopedia Drew and the Look-Alike Cats

After being called out by Batalla and Meg H. that I failed to recognize my artistic influences in cat doodles, I investigated the matter for myself.

In a post last month, I noted that a cat I had drawn reminded me of Alexandre, an ill-fated cat from Home Movies. Batalla and Meg argued, however, that the cat looked more like Mr. Pants, a character I drew for a sporadic-at-best comic strip I drew for the Nexus way back when.

Here’s the recent doodle cat:


And here’s Alexandre, from the Home Movies episode “Brendon Gets Rabies.”

And here’s Mr. Pants.


In a side-by-side Batalla put up on his blog, it looks like Doodle Cat and Mr. Pants are dead ringers for each other, save for the ears, but I feel like I ganked Doodle Cat's ears directly from Alexandre. But it wasn’t until I actually thought about the matter a bit that I realized that Mr. Pants himself is a Home Movies reference. In the episode “History,” the kids make another installment of the Star Boy adventures. (A synopsis that I enjoy writing: Star Boy and the Captain of Outer Space must rescue William Shakespeare, Oliver Twist and the Mermaid Queen from three evil villains — Evil George Washington, Evil Pablo Picasso and Evil Annie Oakley.) In the last segment, George Washington introduces his “killing machine” and “favorite kitty,” the evil, rapping Mr. Pants.

Best line: "I got claws like a cat because that's what I am / I'll throw up on the carpet and scratch up your hands."

In the end, I feel like Doodle Cat falls somewhere between Alexadre and the comic strip cat I drew. Perhaps more importantly, Home Movies is amazing and I, apparently lacking in ideas of my own, suck.

I miss Home Movies.

Lily Allen Is Impossibly Oblivious

I don't even remember how I ended up on this particular terrible British "news" article, but somehow I did. Reading the following caption and spot what's unusual about it:

lily allen smoking

It reads as follows, typo and all: "Lily Allen. Smoking a cigarette, Lily stopped at a fruit seller on her way to a restaurant in West London. she seemed unaware that she had a ladder in her tights."

The hell?

I realize that Lily Allen is the second most prominent British indie chanteuse right now and that only by virtue of comparison to Amy Winehouse does she get to be "the put-together one." However, even the most sugar-filled pop tart could surely realize that she'd somehow gotten a ladder dropped into her tights, no?

Spencer to the rescue: When your speaking British English, a "ladder in one's tights" means a run in one's stockings.

Now I know, I suppose. But the original interpretation of that phrase is infinitely funnier.

Doubly Behind

A mystery:

Why would a city as decidedly image-conscious as Santa Barbara permit its chamber of commerce to use the above image on its main page? Could the organization that should rightly have its finger on the pulse of the Santa Barbara business world really not have found a single more aesthetically pleasing image? Something more representative of the city? Or at least a photo depicting only one person wearing unflattering shorts?

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Chris Dotson Knows I'm Alive

Remember this?

I posted it before, and the man who made, Chris Dotson, it has taken notice, as I learned in a post he wrote celebrating the grand tradition of Googling yourself.

What Dotson wrote about me:
Here's another blog featuring the "David Lynch New Year's Resolution" video. This blog was written in English so I could understand most of it. My favorite part of the whole blog is the picture of the guy who wrote it.

He looks like this---

So hurray for that. And hurray for my walrus photo getting recognition for its greatness.

Another Dotson-as-Lynch video:

I have to assume the apparent Mulholland Drive reference is intentional.