Saturday, May 31, 2008

This Sounds Like Ted Max Amateur Hour

I realize now that calling the day on which I offer my word-of-the-week "Dia de las Palabras Nuevas" was a mistake. It just doesn't roll off the tongue. (Though, now that I think about that expression, it occurs to me that a great many unpleasant things can roll of tongues. Vomit, for example. Or phlegm.) In any case, I think I'll stick with The Saturday Wordiness from here on out.
jehu (JAY-hoo) — noun: a cabbie, or a reckless driver
Yes, I realize those two definitions could be considered synonymous. I think that's the point. Almost doubtlessly a term that's been around a while, judging from the fact that it comes to us from the Bible. Jehu, for you Old Testament illiterate, was one of the kings of Israel, and a military leader known for his chariot attacks, hence his transformation into a common noun. Notably, Jehu's backstory seems to be populated by other people with "J" names that have made their way into common parlance. For starters, he's the son of Jehosaphat — who, to my knowledge, wasn't known for jumping — and he's also the one responsible for ordering that slutty, smutty Jezebel to be thrown out the window, whereupon dogs ate her. (A favorite childhood story, that one.) And if "jezebel" isn't a familiar modern term for you, then you must keep especially good company.

A random note on Jezebel, while I'm on the subject: Wikipedia claims that Jezebel was the aunt of Dido, who, in my opinion, is one of the more interesting mythological ladies and another member of ancient royalty who met a fairly bad end.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Throwing Troubles to the Dying Embers

Today's inspiration: Samurai Jack, a show that consists of one drop-dead gorgeous images after another. If you've never watched an episode or actually paid attention to the plot and never noticed the backgrounds, picture them like this: vintage storybook illustrations by some artist who's watched too much Blade Runner.

Here, for example, is a shot from the opening credits that sums up Jack's universe quite well.


Conversely, other art succeeds in its simplicity. Take this image, for example: a baby, hung by its feet and none too happy about it. Jack saves him from a trio of hungry ogres in the series' last episode.



This has been today's inspiration.

Ten Times Worse Than Clawglip

A few facts about the coconut crab (a species that I feel too few people know about) followed by a few pictures of said species. Unlike that Mae West post, these are completely for real.

From the coconut crab's Wikipedia entry:
  • The coconut crab is the largest living arthropod, a biological phylum that includes insects and arachnids in addition to crustaceans.
  • Its leg span can reach 6.5 feet across.
  • On one occasion, the coconut crab was observed to eat a rat.
  • Its German name — Palmendieb, means "palm thief" — comes from the animal's ability to tear open the extremely tough shell of the coconut. (What such pincers could do to your relatively thin hide is better left to your imagination). The coconut crab climbs up palm tree trunks — meaning that they can appear at eye level, horrifyingly — and then attempts cut into the coconut while it's on the tree, often causing the fruit to fall to the ground. (People used to think they purposely knocked coconuts off trees, but they've apparently since realized that they're too dumb to make that kind of agenda.)
And with this in mind, observe these photos of the coconut crab in action.

from flickr user fearlessRich

from flickr user AnnaPang03

from flickr user salpet

You're most likely to run into one of these monsters on Christmas Island than anywhere else, but report back with nightmares nonetheless.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Shells, But No Bananas: The Women of Mario Kart

Not long after I began this blog, I (drunkenly) decided the cyberworld needed to hear my thoughts on the women of Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, it being fairly new at the time and it also being the first in the shell-chucking racing series to feature more female characters than just Princess Peach. For years, she’d been the standalone woman in any Mario game, a fact that adult me now looks on as Nintendo telling the youth of the world that the epitome of femininity must have blonde hair, wear a pink dress and be dumb as shit. I can’t say that I’m especially proud of the old post — though it did mark my coinage of the term “cocksuckasaur” to describe Birdo, which I think was one of my better moments — but I’ve nonetheless decided that I should revisit the idea, especially since I haven’t yet tired of Mario Kart Wii.

So here you have it: Updated for a stunning new age of Wiimote twirling, the women of Mario Kart, rated by Drew.

Last place: Baby Daisy


In the “My Beloved Cocksuckasaur” post, I began my evaluation for Princess Daisy with two choice words: “Fuck you.” I’m now focusing these words on this moppet of a princess, who didn’t exist in the Mario universe prior to Mario Kart Wii. (It’s fine. Babies don’t know what that phrase means. Also, for the record, I lack patience for the many other “baby” versions of Mario characters, but they at least had the good fortune to appear in actual games before they joined the rest go-karting and playing tennis.) As near as I can figure, Baby Daisy was invented so Baby Peach could have a friend, because although it’s a good idea to let babies drive racecars around tracks that run through lava, dairy farms, space and whatnot, it’s not a good idea to let them do it alone. Somehow, racing in greater numbers must protect their little fontanels from damage. Further strikes against the toddler Daisy: She’s this close from being a palette swap of Baby Peach (laziness on Nintendo’s part) and she’s occupying valuable real estate that could have been occupied by one of the beloved Mario characters I remember from childhood (wisdom on Nintendo’s part, I guess, since most of the people buying Mario Kart Wii weren’t alive to appreciate unknowns like Pauline and Wart).

Sixth place: Baby Peach


Again, I don’t dig the babies, though I understand that quite a few relative Nintendo newbies do, especially when those newbies happen to be female. Whatever. Blame my infantophobia on my relative discomfort around larval humans or on the fact that I think babies shouldn’t drive racecars. Baby Peach beats out Baby Daisy just for the fact that she came first. Also, she’s not any form of Daisy. And I have never cared for Daisy.

Fifth place: Princess Daisy


Oh, Daisy. You’ve been around longer than most and you no longer irritatingly shout, “Hi, I’m Daisy!” when you take the wheel, but I still don’t like you, mostly because I find you contrived: You exist only to offset Peach’s passive femininity with yippie, overenthusiastic femininity, which doesn’t really balance out the equation. You’re that girl at the bar shouting “Woo!” without any real provocation. You’re the pep squad. You’re the Midge to Barbie, the Meg Griffin to any female Family Guy character that Meg Griffin happens to be standing beside. A final note why Daisy gets to be the worst non-infant Mario Kart racer: She looked cooler when she was tan and vaguely non-Caucasian-looking, before they made her look downright Irish.

Fourth: Toadette


Initially, I hated Toadette, who was invented as Toad’s racing partner for Double Dash!! in the same way Baby Daisy magically appeared in time for Mario Kart Wii. Yes, she still smacks of some crime-against-nature cross-breeding of Smurfette, Strawberry Shortcake and Toad, but in Mario Kart Wii, I’ve found myself oddly transfixed by watching her weird mushroom braids bounce as she drives over bumps, much in the way I “lose time” while watching lava lamps. And on the subject of those braids: Do they grow out of her head or what? If she takes off the mushroom hat, do they go too? Does all lady mushroom hair grow in a string-of-pearls formation?

Third: Princess Peach


I have to give her credit for being the longest-lived female video game character this side of Ms. Pac-Man. However, if playing these games for most of my life has taught me anything, it’s that this woman started out with the IQ of mayonnaise and, 23 years of existence later, has only a slightly altered hairdo and a butt-showcasing motorcycle suit to show for it.

Second: Birdo


Upon seeing this monstrosity for the first time, most people ask, “What is it?” The boring answer is “She’s a Birdo.” Birdo — the only character on the list who wasn’t technically invented as a Mario character and who also the only one known as “Catherine” in Japan — lacks a widely agreed-upon gender. Depending on how you look at it, Birdo could be female, Birdo could be male but dressing like a female or, if you really want to over think matters — and if you are reading this, you totally do — you could think of Birdo as a transgendered character who was male but is now female. In the instruction booklet for Super Mario Bros. 2, Birdo is identified as a boy who likes dressing like a girl and enjoys being called “Birdetta.” About ten years later, she started appearing in games regularly as a friend for Yoshi, who himself has weird gender issues. (He, like Birdo, makes eggs.) Nintendo referred to her as a “she,” seemingly having retconned her “Birdetta” days, but I noticed that as of Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Nintendo has taken to using “it” to refer to this egg spitting, be-bowed… character. That I enjoy. Plus she speaks in quacks. Birdo the Gender Mystery.

And the winner: Princess Rosalina


Yes, as in real life, the new girl gets all the attention. Rosalina — who, by the way, was the subject of an insightful essay on narrativity in Super Mario Galaxy, the game in which she debuted — takes the gold for three reasons. First: She’s not pink, a rare trait among Mario females, as you can see by scanning over the images in this post. She may still wear a dress and also have hair that blocks one eye, seemingly hindering her driving ability, but she at least helps break the law of “pink equals girl.” Second: She’s accompanied by a delightful bouncing star creature that does nothing to increase her racing prowess but delights me regardless. And third: Despite appearances otherwise, she’s apparently secretly fat. For those unfamiliar with Mario Kart racer classes, they come in three types: lightweights (babies, things with big eyes), middleweights (plumbers, princesses, bipedal dinosaurs), and heavyweights (villains and jovial simians). This time around, Rosalina got crammed in with the heavyweights, for reasons that I’d guess are based more on her height than any hidden junk-packed trunk. Aside from the obvious shame about being the only girl in a class populated by a jive-talking ape and a ghost king, Rosalina’s heavyweight classification means that she races faster than the rest of these bitches. And yes, I realize that the existence of a crown atop Rosalina’s existence raises the question of whether Mario knows any women who aren’t either princesses, baby versions of said princesses or dick-sucking dinosaurs. I’m willing to bet that he doesn’t.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Fertile Tears

Worth it not so much for the music itself but for the fact that the music is apparently composed of mostly sound clips from Disney movies other than Alice in Wonderland. Well, that and the fact that it utilizes animation from my favorite of the Disney movies.



Love those dancing pansies.

Well, you know what I mean.

[ Source: Kottke.org ]

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Stereotypical Nostalgia Color

While home last, I found some old photos that I don't remember taking. I'm sure that I must have been the photographer, however. No one else would have bothered with these unpopulated landscapes of the area around the house, much less have kept them in a box with a handful of unrelated papers and pointless keepsakes.

Not sure when these photos would have been taken. The back reads "Kodak — Official Sponsor of the Olympic Games," so I'd guess somewhere around the 1992 or 1996 Summer Olympics, though they could have easily been in 1994 or 1998, I guess. Ten seems about right, though, for the age I would have gotten my hands on my first camera. I scanned the photos and cropped them on Photoshop, but I didn't alter the color. What you see is what I found in the box and what I must have taken so many years ago. I'd guess I put sunglasses in front of the lens to get the color, which, you'll notice, makes them look like a flashback in a movie. They are a flashback, to be trite about it. And the areas they depict no longer look like this, with some trees being taller, some having been chopped down. No idea where I found that sunflower, though.

sepia5

sepia4

sepia3

sepia2

sepia1

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Aluminum Clutch

For the third installment of word-of-the-week, I've decided that Useless Vocabulary Day is too pejorative a term for something that I aim to be doing for your enjoyment. (And you will enjoy it. Enjoy it! So help me, you will enjoy it.) Henceforth, it shall be known as Dia de las Palabras Nuevas.
itaiitai — noun: a bone disease caused by cadmium
Showing up next to nowhere online, itaiitai apparently is a real thing. Its name purportedly originates from the Japanese expression for "ouch, ouch." While I can't find any pronunciation guide online, I believe it's six syllables: "eee-tai-ee-tai." The book I got this from, The Superior Person's Book of Words, notes that the word is of interest in that its etymology could be a pattern for new English names for diseases and disorders — "eekeek" for arachnophobia, "unhunh" for constipation, "uhoh" for premature ejaculation, as so forth. Seems reasonable.

There must be a way to work this word into a clever, sentence-long palindrome.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Chipped Stew on the Wall

Two items, unrelated but both aesthetically appealing, in my opinion. First, the flyer for the upcoming Outside Lands, which just might prove to be worth the trip up to San Francisco, despite the presence of Jack Johnson.



And second, a label from a Le Sueur-brand can of peas, which I like for reasons I can't explain. Simple, I guess, and looking like it hasn't changed in years. The label is reflective, though, so the scan didn't work so well. But you get the idea. Keep and eye out for them the next time you're walking down the appropriate aisle.



Click either one for a larger version.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Messages From Sahasrahla

When I'm home, I look through the boxes and folders under my bed, not so much for the joy of rediscovering forgotten keepsakes as for the amusement at seeing what my past self decided merited keeping. What's below — which I found, brought back to Santa Barbara, and scanned — I'd guess went into the box some time in 1992, after my tenth birthday. I'd received Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past that year, and I can remember opening the gift on the ride home from school that day. It rained, but I busied myself devouring the game's instruction manual. A given: Any time I had a game purchased for me when I was a kid, I'd spend the ride home carefully studying every word of the enclosed booklet, presumably in an effort to increase my appreciation of the game once I got home and inserted the cartridge into whatever Nintendo system I was playing at that point in time.

This particular Zelda game — the third in the series and a return to the wonderful gameplay that made the original so good, instead of the odd mishmash of overhead perspective and two-dimensional side-scroller that was the first sequel — included an additional booklet however, and one the likes of which I don't remember getting with any other game. This smaller booklet disclosed the secrets to solving many of the game's many secrets.

In the game, the hero, Link, receives advice and direction from an elderly sage with the unwieldy name of Sahasrahla. (Try making the average ten-year-old guess how to pronounce that. It seems simple enough now, but my mind just sorted glided over the name back then, without any regard to how the individual syllables worked together.) Sahasrahla actually doesn't do all that much in person, as I remember, aside from giving Link the speech that characters in each Zelda game give at one point or another: "You're the fated hero, you have to save the world, you don't really have much say in the matter." Sahasrahla also lends Link a pair of magic boots — as should any benevolent sage — and telepathically dispenses hints about the game's many dungeons. What my ten-year-old self apparently found noteworthy about the extra booklet was that it was written as though Mr. S himself were speaking to you.



Of course, I didn't know this at the time. Being the honest little adventurer I was, I heeded the warning on the front cover: "This booklet contains the answers to some of the toughest puzzles you will encounter during your quest as the legendary Hero of Hyrule. You should consult this booklet only as a last resort. At first, you should always trust in your potential to be the legendary hero and try to solve the game on your own." I did just that, up until the end anyway, and managed to figure out by myself, for example, that reading the Book of Mudora opens up the Desert Palace and that the apparent maiden in the seventh dungeon is actually Blind the Thief, a big bad in disguise. The Turtle Rock dungeon proved more difficult, however, and I eventually tore open the booklet's seal — a round gold sticker bearing the symbol of the Triforce, a triangular design that's been the logo of the Zelda series ever since the first game. I suppose the fact that I left the booklet unopened somewhere safe for so long helped it survive this long. I probably found the answer to whatever puzzle had me stuck and put the booklet back wherever I'd been keeping it. (Or, alternately, I looked up the solution to problem that wasn't in the book, by virtue of being deemed not hard enough. Just my luck, even then.) Whatever the case, this flimsy little booklet has endured.

I think this was a clever ploy on Nintendo's part, creating the excitement of having a book of secrets the players aren't meant to open unless under extreme duress and then framing the whole thing in the context of a special message direct from one of the video game's characters. I thought so when I was ten-year-old, anyway.

In the same box, I also found this:


It's an advertisement for yet another means of figuring the game out: Nintendo Power, the official Nintendo magazine. Its preservation still baffles me. At ten years old, I would have been subscriber to the magazine for four years and would have had no reason to keep this.

Blame packratism.

Previous Zelda nostalgia:

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Bitten by the Love Shark

Longtime Back of the Cereal Box associate Tharpe-Tharpe has started a new blog of her own, Misadventures in Wedding Planning. You'll recall that she was the one whose significant other met a hungry shark in Hawaii not long ago. This new blogging venture had me sold right from the moment I read the subtitle: "My name is Megan. My fiance's name is Aaron. We got engaged after Aaron was attacked by a shark in Maui. This blog chronicles my experiences while planning our wedding." Action, reaction.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Lostfice

Thoughts while watching TBS's Tuesday night Office reruns while waiting for calls to be returned so I can finish work: Is it me, or does Creed Bratton from The Office look, act and speak a hell of a lot like John Locke from Lost? Only he has hair?


Has anybody else noticed this?

Custody of Your Life

A needed diversion on a drawn-out Tuesday: this particular blog meme.

The rules, according to George, from someone named Heather:
  1. Click on this link. The title of the page is the name of your band.
  2. Click on this link. The last four words of the final quotation on the page are the title of your album.
  3. Click on this link this link. The third picture is your album cover.
  4. Take the pic, add your band name and album title.
My results, compiled:


Or, broken down, the Wikipedia article on Mexican mobile phone carrier Telcel, this photo of a daisy, and this quote from author Anna Quindlen: "When you leave college, there are thousands of people out there with the same degree you have; when you get a job, there will be thousands of people doing what you want to do for a living. But you are the only person alive who has sole custody of your life."

Could be worse. I'd guess that it's either Christian pop or some early 90s alternata-rock quartet that broke up after their frontman overdosed.

If you read this and you have a blog, consider yourself tagged. Do notify me with your results.

Why English Steals

A good read if you have the time: The Wikipedia article for untranslatability. Far better written than your average Wikipedia article, a full of food for thought... about words. Perhaps the best thing I took away from it was Wikipedia's best guess for "most untranslatable word," ilunga, or Congolese term that purportedly best translates to English as "a person who is ready to forgive any abuse for the first time, to tolerate it a second time, but never a third time."

[ Source: Prance Closer ]

Monday, May 19, 2008

Makeshift Laptop

Cleaning out some files, I found this ad for the long suffering Santa Barbara News-Press, which Rachel decided would amuse me.



It does, but not only because the pictured couple look happier than anyone does when reading a newspaper, much less the News-Press. (Unless they're laughing at how crummy it is, of course.).What I thought even stranger about their pose. They're holding the newspaper precisely in the manner that someone might hold a laptop. In fact, such a computer might be subbed into the image fairly easily. The irony is killing me. Not only is the internet's usurpation of print as the world's primary news medium generally considered why newspapers nationwide are failing, but it's funny on a local level too: The News-Press's website is one of the saddest chunks of online real estate I've seen in recent months.

Desperado Crash Mambo Combo

Yes, the blog layout is different. No, it's not finished. There's a lot of things yet to be done with this apparently Irish Spring-inspired set-up, but do feel free to post any comments, criticisms or notes about anything looking especially wrong. Unless I'm mistaken, it look kinda-sorta okay on Firefox, a bit jankier on Internet Explorer. But you shouldn't be using Explorer anyway.

Thoughts? Do we miss the Brenis?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Garden of Sleaze

It's Saturday. Prepare for Strange Word Day, which I think I'm going to rename Useless Vocabulary Day.
grandgore — noun: a Scottish word for "syphilis"
A far more impressive name for a disease that leaves an impression on you. Also something that sounds like it came from a Harry Potter novel. Next time you get syphilis, try telling your friends that you have grandgore instead. They'll respect you for it.

The first webpage of note that features this word is the Wikipedia page for Inchgarvie, a Scottish island that, under the Grandgore Act of 1497, became a place of "compulsory retirement" for syphilitics. Speaking of shades of connotation, "retirement" has a much nicer ring to it than "quarantine."

[ Source: Weird and Wonderful Words ]

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Five-Letter Word

A doodle, to be interpreted correctly only by my immediate colleagues. Still, I couldn't throw it away.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Drain Angel

I suppose I could only take it as a harbinger of spring. On Monday, while washing my hands at work, a spied a single sprout growing up from the drain. This is inside, mind you, where plants usually grow from pots, not in sinks. I have chosen to dub it "The Vernal Miracle" instead of "a sign that my office lacks proper sanitation."

sink_sprout2

sink_sprout1

This really blows my mind, especially since it would seem to mean that plants don't need sun, water and soil as much as they do soap, metal pipes and coffee residue. I wonder if we can charge admission for people to see this, or possibly bring terminally ill relatives to perhaps benefit from its magic.

The Mathematical Equation for Creepy

Quick way to achieve the full-blown heebie-jeebies:

An ominous bass line

+

A good dozen different kinds of Lynchiness

+

Monochrome

+

Weirdly dispirited dancing that gives the suggestion of some kind of mind control

+

The knowledge that it came from eastern Europe

+

Beehives

=

Heebs and jeebs in abundance

The proof:



It's from a Polish film, Salto, about which I know nothing. Who new the Polish could be so subtly off-putting?

The YouTube info for the clip suggested that I also check out the dance scene from the French film Calvaire, which was more explicitly nightmarish.



[ Source: Music for Maniacs via PCL Link Dump ]

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Dinnertime Vainly

Speaking of Dina, she recently sent me something that made for an amusing few clicks: The Eater of Meaning, a little application that takes text and effectively renders it into nonsense. See for yourself: Back of the Cereal Box, with meaning completely masticated beyond recognition.

There’s also a few other flavors of nonsense you can pick from.
While we're on the subject, Dina also deserves credit for sending me an entirely different sort of what-the-fuck last week: thew news about the father of SNL alum Cheri Oteri having been stabbed to death by his country music songwriter roommate. Very odd.

Electric Ladylamp

I think of the below picture as the spiritual successor to Dina's "Lady in the Lampshade." It comes with the question, "¿QuĂ© ves tu en esta imagen?"


Acutally, make that the lovechild between Dina's dust drawing and that old visual joke where the lightbulb looks like a fat woman bending over to put on her girdle. I actually thought this would be easier to find online than it was, so I just drew a version myself.

You've heard this one, right?


[ Source: Chuanolog, via El Toilet ]

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Baubo Siren Revisited

When I wrote that post on the history of the Starbucks mermaid and her strange double tail, I had no idea that Starbucks was at that moment reverting to its old logo — sort of. Now, if you order a hot beverage at Starbucks, you'll get a drink holder with the old logo, modified so that the mermaid's hair now covers her nipples. (And relax — it's her head hair, not her nipple hair. Thank God.)


Now I can't remember what prompted the earlier post, but it certainly wasn't that I had any idea that retro logo would be coming back. Call it a happy coincidence.

Credit for delivery of double-tailed drink holder: Spencer.

All About Homer's Mother

In short, the character of Homer’s mother on The Simpsons is, to say it quickly, a little complicated, and not just because we didn’t know what her name was for years and years.


Unless I’m mistaken, last Sunday’s episode of The Simpsons, which featured Homer’s fugitive mother, was the first to every actually state her name, Mona Simpson. In her first major episode, “Mother Simpson,” Mona re-appears after having been on the run since Homer’s childhood. Homer and family know nothing of her criminal past as a 60s renegade, but they eventually suspect out that all is not well with her and go through her purse, revealing IDs for Penelope Olsen, Mona Simpson, Mona Stevens, Muddy Mae Suggins and Martha Stewart. Aside from the throwaway Martha Stewart gag, the list of pseudonyms merits a mentions for longtime Simpsons fans because it includes a reference to a name incorrectly assigned to Homer’s mother years before her appearance in the series. The Simpsons Uncensored Family Album book, one of the better early Simpsons tie-ins, included extensive family trees for both the Simpson and Bouvier families and listed Homer’s mother’s name as Penelope Olsen. I like that Simpsons writers performed that small bit of fan service for us diehards by slipping the name, even in a small way, into an actual episode.

(Small sidenote: The book also lists Marge's mother's name as Ingrid Gurney, which, as far as I know, has also ways been wrong and has never been addressed by the show. Marge's mom's name is Jacqueline, making her married name Jacqueline Bouvier.)

Regardless, that bit of trivia isn’t the most interesting thing about Mona Simpson.

I looked her up on Wikipedia and found that her creator, writer Richard Appel based her in part on his author wife Mona, whose maiden name is Mona Simpson and who continues to write under that name. (I’ve actually seen her name in bookstores before, noted the similarity to Homer’s mom’s name and didn't give it another thought.) This Mona just happens to be the full sister of Apple CEO Steve Jobs, though the two didn’t meet until adulthood because Jobs was adopted by another family.

Weird for two reasons: First, there’s the oddness in Mona Simpson the real-life author marrying a man by the last name of “Appel” when her adopted brother rose to fame by co-founding the Apple corporation. Second, the real-life Mona Simpson not meeting her adopted brother until adulthood mirrors a plotline in the Simpsons episode “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” in which Homer meets his long-lost, adopted-away brother, Herbert Powell, who is also the CEO of a successful corporation. (Until Homer ruins him, of course, but in a later episode he becomes successful again. Such is life.) You’d think that, perhaps, Richard Appel had written that episode too and was perhaps drawing on his wife’s life experiences with the Homer-Herb story, but that’s apparently not the case either: Jeff Martin is listed as the episode’s writer.

A final note about Mona Simpson: Glenn Close, who provided the character’s voice in all three of her appearances on the show, apparently couldn’t properly belt out a “D’oh!” and, thus, in the final cut of “Mother Simpson,” the annoyed grunt is provided by Pamela Hayden, who voices Milhouse.

The Simpsons, previously:

Monday, May 12, 2008

Stand Up for Anteater Rights

Both members of Brooklyn-based power couple Sanaemon saw fit to give me a heads-up about notable online anteater goings-on of the past few days. The male half did so with the explanation "anteaters blowing up on reddit.com." Not literally.

Notable cyberanteater unit one (a.k.a. "fuck you" anteater):


And notable cyberanteater unit two, (a.k.a. "anteaters in sweaters" and courtesy of theinternetisterribel.com):


Sanam and Aemon, in case you wanted to know, live in Brownstone that reportedly looks just like the Cosby house — which would make sense, seeing as how they are raising two scene-stealing moppets named Rudy and Olivia, respectively. (Eldest daughter Sondra moved out.)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Turtle Rock Ain't Got Nothing on This

I'd heard of it before, but played through the stage many times without ever seeing it. That changed today.

So Mario Kart Wii has bestowed my house with delightful, banana peel-strewn races for the last week now. But this post isn't reviewing the game so much as shedding light on what amounts to a Nintendo version of the Little Mermaid VHS box cover scandal. In addition to offering sixteen new courses to race on, Mario Kart Wii also offers retro stages from five of the series's earlier incarnations, including ones from the Gamecube title Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, which had previously occupied my houses more drunken late-night hours. One of these stages is Peach Beach, the sea-skirting Princess Peach-themed stage.

Only driving through it again, in its slightly altered, Wii-updated form, did I finally see the alleged penis in the rock archway the course runs under.

Here's the only image I could find. It's from Double Dash!!, but the rock basically looks the same in either version.


The fact that the rock is pink doesn't help, of course, but it's hard to deny that that that looks a hell of a lot like a pair of balls on the left with the shaft arching over the sandy raceway into a fairly prominent head on the right side. The above image isn't taken from the best of angles, but it's there. Here's another one I found of Penis Rock, viewed from afar.


And one more, equally bad, but equally showing the famed Penis Rock.


Strange, especially for something that came from a company as decidedly kid-friendly as Nintendo. Of course, all that on-the-surface wholesomeness has to create an opposite and equal reaction, right?

Saturday, May 10, 2008

"Who’s on First?" (Revised and Improved)

Abbott: Well, Costello, I’m going to New York with you. Bucky Harris, the Yankee’s manager, gave me a job as coach for as long as you’re on the team.

Costello: Look Abbott, if you’re the coach, you must know all the players.

Abbott: I certainly do.

Costello: Well you know I’ve never met the guys. So you’ll have to tell me their names, and then I’ll know who’s playing on the team.

Abbott: Oh, I’ll tell you their names, but you know it seems to me they give these ball players nowadays very peculiar names — strange names, like Dizzy Dean.

Costello: Strange indeed. That being said, what are the names of the athletes you’ll be overseeing?

Abbott: Well, let’s see, we have on the bags… Who’s on first. What’s on second. I Don’t Know is on third.

Costello: That’s what I want to find out.

Abbott: I say: Who’s on first, What’s on second, I Don’t Know’s on third.

Costello: Are you the manager?

Abbott: Yes.

Costello: You gonna be the coach too?

Abbott: Yes.

Costello: And you don’t know the fellows’ names.

Abbott: Well, I should.

Costello: Well, then who’s on first?

Abbott: Yes.

Costello: I mean the fellow’s name.

Abbott: Who.

Costello: The guy on first.

Abbott: Who.

Costello: The first baseman.

Abbott: Ah, I see now that I was being unclear. You see, the name of the first baseman happens to be “Who,” much like the English relative pronoun “who.” Before, when I was repeatedly saying “who,” I was answering your question, not replying with an answer.

Costello: Oh. Well, I suppose that would make sense.

Abbot: The confusion is understandable.

Costello: That’s an exceptionally strange name to have. Is he Asian?

Abbot: I don’t believe so. In fact, while most of the players on the team have equally strange names, regardless of their ethnic heritage.

Costello: You don’t say.

Abbot: Yes, as a matter of fact. It’s probably for the best that we’re having this conversation now, as I can’t imagine what manner of confusion might have resulted otherwise. For example — and this will truly confound you — the second baseman’s name is “What.”

Costello: Also a relative pronoun?

Abbott: Yes, but not in this sense. It’s a name, just like “Dave” or “Bob” or whatever.

Costello: How strange. But surely all of team can’t be named for relative pronouns, seeing as how English only has four.

Abbott: As a matter of fact, it’s only Who and What who follow this pattern. Curiously, none of the players are named either “That” or “Which.” The rest of the team are named as follows: The third baseman is “I Don’t Know,” the left fielder is named “Why,” the centerfielder is named “Because,” the pitcher is named “Tomorrow,” the catcher is named “Today,” the shortstop is named is “I Don’t Give a Darn.” So many of them are named after generic parts of speech, or at least words or phrases that one might use to answer common questions. There doesn’t seem to be much reasoning behind it.

Costello: And the right fielder?

Abbott: That’s a mystery, surprisingly.

Costello: How strange.

Abbott: Indeed. But I hope this prevents any further confusion about the team.

Costello: I think it does. Thanks for laying all this out for me.

Abbott: It seemed necessary, given the situation.

Costello: Well, I can understand that.

[ Abbott and Costello stare at each other blankly. In the silence that follows, a thousand suns rise and set. ]

The end.

Torn From a Page in a Best-Selling Book

A new feature for the Cereal Box: If Sunday is Maria Bamford Day, as it's apparently become, then Saturday gets to be Strange Word Day. Here goes.
fissilingual (FISS-il-ING-wool) — adjective: possessing a forked tongue.
A good word to referring to anyone featured in a Google image search for "tongue splitting," and altogether a word that we don't get to use often enough. View at your own risk, and know that these people were not born this way.

A regular Google search for the same term also brings up the Loftus Plastic Surgery Center webpage, which includes a thorough explanation of tongue splitting procedures, as well as the following paragraph, which I enjoy despite its notable lack of the word "fissilingual."
Many will wonder, "Why would anyone ever choose to have such a thing done?" Suffice it to say, that we live in a free country. Many men and women across the country have caught onto this trend and tongue splitting has become increasingly popular. At the Loftus Plastic Surgery Center, our goal is not to pass judgment, but to ensure safety for the public. Unless this procedure is offered by a reputable surgeon, those seeking it may be forced to have it in unclean and unsafe environments.
Note how they carefully avoid giving an answer to the question of why anybody would want this done. My offer for an answer: to give reason to use the word "fissilingual."

[ Source: Depraved and Insulting English ]

Friday, May 09, 2008

Kid Icarus: A Kid No Longer?

The video game whose title lent itself long ago to my AIM screen name and, subsequently, the URL of this blog, is rumored to appear soon in a new Wii game — his first starring role since the Game Boy title Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters. This is the Kid Icarus protagonist — whose name, most people don’t realize, is “Pit” and not actually “Kid Icarus” — looked like in his NES glory days.

concept art on the left; considerably less detailed in-game sprite on the right

And here’s his updated appearance, as per the recent Nintendo battle royale Super Smash Bros. Melee.

vaguely olsen twin-like

And here’s what he’s rumored to look like in the alleged Factor 5 reboot to the series.

meet beefcake icarus

Well, it’s technically just one take on what Pit might look like, but it’s altogether wrong, in my opinion, for a video game hero whose list of foes include someone named “The Eggplant Wizard.”

[ Source: NeoGAF, via Nintendo Wii Fanboy ]

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Coolest Puppet in Sockville

I have purchased the first ten seasons of The Simpsons currently available on DVD. However, I’ve no intention of buying any more, because, to be honest, the show took a nose dive around the time I was midway through high school and, coincidentally, had better things to do on Sunday night. I can actually pinpoint the episode that convinced me that the show had nosedived into the pits of suckitude: “Saddlesore Galactica,” an infuriatingly stupid episode in which Bart befriends a diving horse named Duncan and Homer is pursued by singing jockeys who, we learn, are actually members of a villainous elf-like race living beneath the surface of the earth. Ugh.

It’s strange, then, that I’d actually recommend an episode that ran a week from last Sunday, “Apocalypse Cow,” in which Bart befriends a cow whom he must save from the slaughterhouse. Superficially similar plot, overall higher quality episode. It’s actually pretty funny, not overly silly, and well-written — three descriptors I never thought I’d apply to a latter-day Simpsons episode.

Through the magic of Hulu, I can prevent “Apocalypse Cow” in full and in full accordance with the law below. I know many Back of the Cereal Box readers don’t usually spend half an hour here, but if you find you have some down time, you might not regret it.



Some highlights:
  • The couch gag, which runs for about a whole minute and references the Bayeux Tapestry, of all things. If you’re in a bind for time, just watch this.
  • A cartoon called the Trans-Clown-o-Morphs. (“And their human friend is you!”)
  • “Don’t you worry about Wikipedia. We’ll change it when we get home! We’ll change a lot of things!”
  • Two words (by which I mean one letter and one number): 4-H, an entity that apparently still exists and which, if you didn’t go to high school with me, you might not have had to encounter.
  • How the West Was Won, referenced musically
  • Special guest star Zooey Deschanel, as if I hadn’t heard her voice enough lately
  • “Fringe vests for gay cowboys”
  • Two separate, explicit reference to Tress MacNeille, who perhaps doesn’t get enough credit for making noises
  • Dr. Hippie’s Fungus Yums
  • Windsong, Compost, Solar Panel, Lisa’s Brother
  • The weirdly public service announcement messages from Tylenol
  • A callback to Lisa’s jug song in “Homer the Vigilante”
  • Diabetty
  • “We name all our kids after what we thinks gonna happen to them. Ain’t that right, Stabbed in Jail?”
  • “Mama, you know I love you’re Somethin’ Stew.”
  • The Laughter House
  • And a callback to “Don’t have a cow, man” — a phrase I’d rather forget but which was touched on rather poignantly.
Really, more worth it than you’d expect.

Friday, May 02, 2008

The Girl With the Stars in Her Eyes

Rosalina, the newest addition to the Mario mythos, has a name that changes considerably depending on what language you speak. The fact that she has different names in different languages is notable to geeks like me because Nintendo has in the past made an effort to minimize the number of alternate names that major characters have. For example, Princess Peach (on whom Rosalina is clearly modeled) was previously known to American video game players as Princess Toadstool, and it wasn’t until the dawn of the 64-bit era in 1996 that she officially become known to English speakers as Peach, the name she had all along in Japan.

the teal lady herself
When Rosalina was first glimpsed in promotion materials for Super Mario Galaxy, she was dubbed Rosetta. I took this to be a reference to the Rosetta Stone, as women in Mario games tend to be named after objects, but upon playing the game through, I realized that the connection wasn’t there: She doesn’t have any associations with language or communication, this post notwithstanding. Today, I found that a rosetta is can actually a type of orbit that, if traced, makes a rose-like shape, which would make a lot more sense, given that Super Mario Galaxy takes place among stars and planets and all that celestial stuff. It’s actually quite an elegant, sensible name for a space princess, really. Of course, it really makes no difference for Americans, since Nintendo renamed her Rosalina for Galaxy‘s release here. (To confuse the point further, she’s known in some French-speaking regions as Harmonie and in some Spanish-speaking parts as Estela.)

an illustration of a rosetta orbit, via wikipedia
Space Girl don’t get no respect, it seems.

And yeah, Nintendo has allowed Toad and Bowser to have alternate names inside and outside Japan, but they don’t have quite the variety that Rosalina has. (They’re Kinopio and Koopa over there, but just about every other region uses the Western names, or some variation thereabouts.)

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Thoughts on Fleeing a Mormon Wedding

With a simple request — “Can I have the keys?” — and a quick lie — “I need to get something from the car” — I walked out, into a minivan- and SUV-strewn parking lot beneath a sky too dark to permit me to drive home without my glasses. Ultimately, pathetically, I spent the remainder of the evening in the car, with only “Bedtime With the Beatles” to pass the time.
Sheepdog, standing in the rain
Bullfrog, doing it again
Some kind of happiness is measured out in miles
What makes you think you're something special when you smile?
Of course, I didn’t initially know the song was by who it’s actually by. My first conscious memory of hearing it had nothing to do with my parents’ old records. (This, after all, emerged from the point in time after the Beatles became insane, in my parents’ estimation.) No, for me, the first instance of sheepdogs and bullfrogs and frightened wigwams came on the soundtrack of a certain slasher film, the name of which I’m declining to mention. The album featured a cover of “Hey Bulldog” by Toad the Wet Sprocket, who, by then, had ceased to matter. I wouldn’t have guessed that I’d ever waste another synapse on Toad the Wet Sprocket, but I moved to Santa Barbara — a beach town with a far less sinister coastline than a certain one in North Carolina and a profound love of its hometown band-done-good. Aside from sexy teenager murders, life presented a simpler set of obstacles before I found out covers were covers and before I moved away. It’s not a bad metaphor. Then: covers. Now: The originals, or at least what I believe to be originals until I learn otherwise.
Child-like — no one understands
Jack knife in your sweaty hands
Some kind of innocence is measured out in years
You don't know what it's like to listen to your fears.
Ironically, leaving the wedding didn’t allow me to feel any less conspicuous. A lesson: If you’re going to sneak away from a wedding, don’t linger in the parking lot, in the back seat of a car. The funny looks you felt like you got inside are nothing compared to the ones you get from people who see you outside, purposely not sharing the marital joy. They must assume either that you’re either rude or that you’re making some sort of statement. It wasn’t performance art, I’m sure, though I’m still somewhat unclear as to why I felt I had to leave. It wasn’t reluctance at sitting at a table with my parents’ tennis friends. It wasn’t some deep-seated hatred of the wedding couple or weddings in general. And it wasn’t the service, though I’ll say right now that I had a great deal of fun as a result of my mom’s instructions on the drive there: “Things might not be the way they’re been done at other wedding receptions. Don’t say anything. It might be a tradition or something.” This, of course, gave way to some golden comedy moments, with me asking if the presence of water pitchers on the dinner tables but no glasses might be some Mormon custom. “Maybe it’s like Passover. Maybe the water is for the prophet.”
Big man, walking in the park
Wigwam, frightened of the dark
Some kind of solitude is measured out in you
You think you know me but you haven't got a clue
Like I said, I’m not completely sure, but I feel like I’ve come up with as good a theory as any as to why I walked out and sat outside, like a petulant twelve-year-old. Let’s say I expected somebody to be there. Let’s call her Sally. And let’s say that a closeness that once existed between Sally and me, at least in my head, has dissipated as a result of time and geographic distance and the fact that both of us have serious issues with keeping appointments. Other reasons, too, but I don’t want to talk about those here. Sally didn’t show. Egotistically, I first wondered if the prospect of me attending might have been motivation enough for Sally to bypass the event. After all, we hadn’t seen each other recently. Perhaps for good reason? Had time and distance and those unspoken other reasons made me so objectionable? This thought process last for mere moments, however, and soon gave way to something worse: that I possibly hadn’t factored into Sally’s decision at all. That all those reasons had rendered me forgettable, not objectionable. It had never occurred to me before that this person might not think about me much anymore. I don’t know if it’s true, but the possibility that it was struck me pretty hard there, mid-reception, with my pressed shirt and white pants.
You can talk to me
You can talk to me
You can talk to me
If you're lonely you can talk to me
And that’s how I missed the bulk of my first ever Mormon wedding reception. Now I’ll probably never see the part where the bride and groom get hats that give them magic powers. I didn’t even try the punch, which was purple. I’m not ready to call the evening a total loss, however. I heard a song I like for the first time in years, which is a good thing. And I got to put myself in my place before someone else had a chance to. I guess I have to count that as a good thing.

Rather Than Have Her Riddles Answered

Indications that this brand new month of May will make for a pleasant 31 days: I just found out that Wordsmith.org’s A.Word.A.Day feature is this week focusing on words drawn from mythological sources. That's a nice foot to start out on.


Indications that May will be full of strange coincidences: As of early this morning, today’s word, “sphinx” is illustrated with a quote from a Washington Post article on convicted D.C. madam Deborah Jeane Palfrey, whose suicide didn’t make news until about 10 a.m. today. “Deborah Jeane Palfrey is unreadable, a sphinx, she covers her mouth when she whispers to her attorney to shield against lip readers.” That’s how Wordsmith quotes Monica Hesse, writer of the article “A Slash of Scarlet in a Gray Court.” The quote seems especially prophetic when you remember that the mythological sphinx — the female, Theban one, not the one who’s hung out in Egypt for so many years — killed herself when Oedipus finally solved her riddle. I remember the version of the story in which she tossed herself off a cliff in shame upon being rendered less mysterious, though Wikipedia also notes an alternate, less kid-friendly version, in which she actually devoured herself.

Hesse’s article, by the way, features some of the better writing I’ve come across in recent months.