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:

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.

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.

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:

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 ]

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.

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.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

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 8, 2008

The Little Loquat That Could

In the garden behind my parents' house, there grows a loquat tree. It's been there since the summer of 2005, I'd guess, when I moved out of Isla Vista and spent a month at home before I headed to D.C.

the little loquat tree

Aside from photos and some hazy memories, this loquat tree constitutes my best memento from life in the Pasado House, that backyard wonderland that served as a setting for so many of my college stories. I have a few smaller artifacts, of course — my bamboo lamp, Space Potato — but they all exist in Santa Barbara, where still haven't removed my life all that much from Isla Vista. They somehow don't mean as much as this tree.

The parent loquat didn't even grow on our lawn. We were the "B" half of a duplex; the "A" half had this pruned-to-hell monstrosity that hung over the driveway and occasionally littered it with rotting yellow fruit. I'd seen the species elsewhere — on every block in Isla Vista, and occasionally downtown as well — though had I ever heard the term beforehand, I would have thought a loquat were more like a kumquat than an apricot. I lived at the Pasado House for nearly six months before someone pointed out that we could eat those yellow fruits, before they hit the cement at least. The front neighbors didn't seem to care that we picked the fruit, though I remember them regarding us suspiciously as we filled grocery bags with loquats twice a year. (God bless that year-long Santa Barbara County growing season.) We'd wash them. By and large, I'd eat them, spitting the smooth pits into the garden. I probably consumed a year's worth of potassium in a single harvest.

The Pasado House backyard had room to spare, and the longer I lived there, the more I made dangerous vegetative experiments. Some yielded fairly Frankensteinesque results, but others thrived, including a single loquat potted pit that quickly sprouted leaves. That, I'd estimate, happened no later than Spring of 2004, because the sapling had damn near exploded its pot by the time I brought it to Hollister.

Since going into the San Benito County soil, it has survived two sheep attacks, as well as seasonal frosts it wouldn't have encountered had it remained near its original home. Nonetheless, it's well on its way to full-fledged treehood and will probably grow fruit in the next few years. Though I only see it on the rare occasion I travel back to Hollister, I realized over this last Easter there that I'm glad for that. I probably won't live in Santa Barbara forever. In fact, I doubt I'll be living here even a few more years. But I don't foresee my parents leaving Hollister in the near future. Even on days when I can't imagine ever missing Santa Barbara, it makes me happy to know that I have one of my fonder memories of this place now firmly rooted at my childhood home.

God, I can't believe I let myself use that pun, but I honestly can't think of a more appropriate phrasing.

two and a half loquats

A small footnote: It helps, I guess, that I have memento doppelgangers here in Santa Barbara. As I mentioned before, loquat trees are everywhere, possibly as a result of some landscaping trend that happened to bypass my hometown. I see no less than three loquat trees on the walk to work.

Monday, April 7, 2008


The website for the paper I work for has a design flaw that results in staff members sometimes getting emails that were not intended to go to them. Allow me to explain. If you're reading an article, you can click on the byline to open up a form to contact that person. For example, the form for contacting me looks like this. If you click the link, you'll see that you merely need to put a return email address, type your message and click send, and you'd have every reason to believe that the email would reach me.

This doesn't work, however, if the person being written to lacks a email address at the paper. Basically, any editor or longtime staff member would have one. A free lancer, especially a new one, would lack this, and any emails sent to these people go to a general address that defaults to everybody at the paper, though the website would fails to tell you this. Thus, we occasionally get emails to free lancers praising or criticizing a given article, or maybe asking questions about it. Most of the time, these emails are rather benign. Occasionally, they're awkward and every now and then they're outright hilarious. Whenever one of this accidental mass emails shows in my inbox, I try to find the correct personal email address for the given recipient and put it into the website, so as to prevent this from ever happening again.

In late January, the majority of us at the paper received the below email.

I'm not sure if this was a prank or an honest-to-God email intended for some part-time staffer with a rather tumultuous personal life. Either way, it totally made my day. It's also a rather unsolvable situation, as the sender doesn't specify who he was writing — after all, you wouldn't necessarily include a salutation if you thought an email was going to one specific person — and I feel like anyone who received this would have felt awkward about telling the sender that the details of his failed romance were exposed for everyone at the paper.

I didn't post this for a long time, for fear that it could embarrass someone, but as time passed, I've become more and more convinced that it was, in fact, a joke, perhaps done in an effort to bring the paper staff's attention to this problem.

Now I'm sharing it with you all. If you wrote this, please tell me. In regards to your last question, I think you'd be a fantastic addition to my paper's staff.

Of All the Abbreviations

Nearly forgot.

We ran a story last week that mentioned the San Francisco-based law firm Morrison & Foerster, an institute which I only have awareness of by virtue of its web address, Yes, "mofo." I can only imagine that the other meaning of the term "mofo" has been brought to the senior partners' attention and that they chose to keep the web address.

This makes me happy.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Miss Orange Goes on an Adventure

For no good reason that I can recollect, I spent part of Easter weekend photographing a childhood toy — an orange ball that came bearing the name "Miss Orange" and that initially smelled like an orange. At the time, it seemed like a good idea to pose her among various bits of foliage.

miss orange in my hand

miss orange in the bush

miss orange in the pine tree

miss orange in the weeds 4

miss orange in the grass

miss orange in the weeds