Thursday, July 31, 2008

Monsters Walking Across the Floor

"Hi. Is this Leslie Feist? Hi, Leslie. I'm a producer at Sesame Street and I was wondering if you'd like to make a guest appearance on an upcoming episode... Hmm? What's that? Well, you know your song '1234'? We like it too, but we were thinking that it might be even better if it was re-written to be about counting to four. Oh, I don't know. Chickens and stuff?"

And the rest was history. I suppose it's better that Sesame Street didn't use the version of the song where Feist counts 1-2-3-4-5-6-9-10, as that would have doubtlessly confused the children. The children!

Of course, Feist is not the first female singer with indie cred to sing alongside muppets. Just recently, I also saw this on a blog I read: Debbie Harry singing a duet of "The Rainbow Connection" with Kermit the Frog.

And since we're on the subject, the last two weeks have seen a handful of Muppet-central take-offs on classical music. Like the author of this blog, I have no idea whether these are new or old. I've certainly never seen them before.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Sanity Melts Like Lemon Drops

I like whippets. And I like any animal made to exhibit human qualities. "Like," however, doesn't get anywhere near my thoughts on the below video of a whippet eerily singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."

I can only hope the the person who made this did so specifically to disturb the people tricked into watching it and not because he or she actually thought the above video would actually induce happiness. Now it's your problem, I suppose. Let's cross our fingers and hope that the dreams that we dare to dream do not, in fact, come true.

Monday, July 28, 2008


My office sponsored a booze cruise on Friday night. I have chosen not to elaborate on the matter, aside from the fact that part of the three-hour tour of the Santa Barbara harbor area included a good look at a boat that has been overtaken by seals. Basically, it was the pinniped version of a hobo camp. I'm surprised that these animals could have mustered the energy to conquer anything, much less some family's boat. Based on what I saw during the cruise, I feel like the seals the laziest animals I've seen in recent memory. And I've seen sloths. Also, I'm surprised they could jump onto the boat deck, given that their bodies look like sleek sacks of fat. Do they get squatters rights?

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Also, there was one seagull. Also, Paul was there, presumably taking better photos than what you see above.

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Fart Date

Apparently my old roommate Tristan lets the Washington Post write about dates he goes on with legislative assistants who are one year older than he is.

Proper Terminology for Scabby-Mouthed Sheep

Word of the week, being presented a few hours later than normal. This week's pick has limited use, but is fun to say and, quite possibly, the kind of word that can prove handy in a match of Scrabble.

orf (pronounced like you'd think) — noun: a sheep-born disease that causes red, oozing sores around the mouth.
This word might seem out-of-place in a book like Depraved and Insulting English, which is where I found it, but this word's potential use in mockery is alluded to in book's example sentence: "Jamie wasn't going to let a little thing like a case of orf keep him from attending the shepherd's ball." Yes, in fact, orf can be transmitted to humans, as the Wikipedia article on the subject notes. But while human-ovine love could certainly be one means of inter-species infection, less salacious interactions between the wooly ones and their non-wooly caretakers can also result in the disease spreading. Still funny, though. The next time you see someone with a scab, suggest that it could be orf.

The biological aspects of orf weren't what led me to pick it, however. Simply put, it was short, unfamiliar and looked like it would be fun to say. (On that third count: It totally is, especially repeatedly and in rapidly.) Most dictionaries don't feature this word, but Wikipedia suggests that orf means "rough" in Old English. I would have supposed that the our word rough also came from the Old English orf, with the letters "O" and "R" being transposed for the same reasons that the Middle English brid became our word "bird." But that doesn't seem to be the case here, as the American Heritage Dictionary ruh. Shows what I know.

Previously celebrated words-o'-the-week:
And now that I look at the list, I notice that three of the words picked so far refer to illnesses of some sort. The pattern is accidental, I swear, but perhaps I should just rename this feature "Disease Words of the Week." Notable candidates for such a series: the adorable-sounding pica, the tropical-sounding framboesia, and the downright strange-sounding maple syrup urine disease.

The Lady in Green

Because I’m determined to make a habit of documenting name goings-on with Nintendo characters, that’s why.

This fall, Nintendo will release a new Wario game: Wario Land: Shake It!, which features the morbidly obese anti-hero venturing off to find treasure and, to a lesser extent, rescue a damsel. Given the title and the fact that the game is controlled with the Wiimote, it should surprise no one that the gameplay involves super fiesta maraca-like waggling action. Initially, the game’s new damsel character was presented to the world, she bore her Japanese name — or, at least, an English approximation of her Japanese name, Melfull. Which means nothing in English, though it could be some strange way of saying “full of honey” in the same way that the name Melissa refers to honey. But it probably doesn’t. Even worse, the name can be also be translated as Merfle, which sounds downright un-queenly.

here she is — little miss problematically named

More recently, Nintendo began advertising the game to English-speaking audiences and, in doing so, has presented a new Anglo-friendly name for this woman: Merelda, which probably isn’t a translation of either Melfull or Merfle but at least sounds enough like it that it shouldn’t be confusing for the people with reason to discuss proper names in the game’s English and Japanese versions. (Me, basically.) After a moment, I realized that the name was either a shortened variation on the name Esmeralda — which means “emerald” and which is appropriate, given the character’s profound greenness — or just a variation on the world emerald itself. This keeps her in line with the Mario universe tradition of naming female characters after things that are small, pretty, or sweet. (Case in point: Peach, Daisy, Rosetta (Rosalina’s Japanese name), Syrup, Tiaramisu (which counts for two and surely must be the name of a drag queen somewhere), Shokora (whose name is Japanese for “chocolate”), Eclair, and a whole lot of others.) Her profile here also notes one more of her names: Königin Midori, which the Germans shall call her and which oddly uses a Japanese word — midori, meaning green and surely familiar to most of us as the melon liqueur.

My take: Call Melfull, Merelda, Midori or her whatever you like, but I can’t help but to think of the minor Tiny Toons character and Marvin the Martian offspring Marcia the Martian every time I see her.

Am I the only one who sees it? Mentally switch all the pink and purple to green.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

No Need to Watch It Now

Apparently at a loss for anything better to do, I was watching reruns of Tales From the Darkside on the Scifi Channel this weekend. Wanting to see exactly how much time I'd be wasting, I pushed the button that gives the episode synopsis. For whatever reason, the synopsis when read in conjunction with the episode title struck me as accidentally hilarious. I took a photo.

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Direct to the point of being spoilery — but not exactly unexpected, given the nature of the show. Also, randomly, IMDb says Jodie Foster directed this particular episode.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Not a Hedgehog, But Close

Things that looked like hedgehogs but, upon close inspection, were not: this thing, which fell from a tree. I'm actually not sure what the proper term would be, but "spiky thing full of blowy seeds" gets to the heart of the matter, I think.

spiky seed thing looks like a hedgehog

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The lesson: Be wary of hedgehog mimics.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Can I Call Ewe?

Easily the best email forward I've ever received from my mother: Some insightful artist has seen fit to construct sheep out of old telephones.


Apparently these telesheep became minor internet celebrities two years ago, but they're new to me. Mad genius Jean-Luc Cornec made the sculptures for Frankfurt's Museum of Telecommunication, which, of course, sounds like a blast, telesheep notwithstanding.

Tell your friends!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Ride the Tiger Down River Euphrates

I’ve already put up two posts with photos from my weekend at home: one biker-related and one puppy-related. Here’s a third, sort of a catch-all for other strange photos I felt compelled to take.

liquor store mural

Randomly Aztec-themed mural on the side of a liquor store.


Billboard that seemed relevant at the time.

tennis courts in the middle of nowhere 3

Tennis courts in the middle of nowhere. (And, yes, the house on the hill is the creepy, pseudo-Moesko Island one from this post.)

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Tennis courts, again.

strange figurine shrine

House with strange McDonald’s action figure shrine in front. This thing has to be seen to be believed. I may go back and take more pictures at a later date.


Wires, sky, and alleyway.


Inside of the church that had the motorcycles parked on the lawn, from this post.

grandma at the pool

Grandma — cold but nonetheless standing by the pool.


Milkweed, lookin’ all weird.

weird growth in pine tree

And a weird growth on a mostly dead pine tree. I feel like the needles that aren’t growing on the rest of the tree chose to instead grow in this one clump.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Toad’s Piranha Plant-Controlling Cousin?

Hello. Every now and then, I test the power of this blog and the reach of the internet to determine if a thing I have back in the recesses of my memory actually existed or if I just made it up then forgot I made it up and continued life thinking said thing was real. I did it a few years ago with George and the Star, which, it turned out, was real. I’m hoping I’ll find luck with this one as well.

Way back when — between 1993 and 1996, I’d guess — I was a regular reader of a video game magazine called Diehard Gamefan. I loved it. They reported on games with a certain style that other magazines didn’t, and they often focused on obscure stuff, much of which would never see the light of day in the United States. I distinctly remember one day reading about an aborted Mario game that, unless I’m mistaken, would have been released on the CD-ROM attachment Nintendo had initially planned for the Super Nintendo. (That attachment never came, of course, and a lot of titles planned for it were either scrapped or changed into Super Nintendo titles. This was the case for Secret of Mana.) This game was a sequel, of sorts, in the regular Mario franchise, but had some significant differences — mainly lots of playable characters, including some who could “talk” their way out of a fight and one in particular who was described as “Toad’s Piranha Plant-controlling cousin,” or something to that effect. In retrospect, it would seem like Gamefan was describing some early iteration of a Mario RPG. Who knows if this project was eventually mutated, bit by bit, into other Nintendo games.

I no longer have the magazine where I first read this. I’ve Googled it and found nothing. The only three unreleased or cancelled Mario games I can find any information about are Super Mario’s Wacky Worlds, Super Mario 64 2 and Super Mario 128. So now I’m posting it here in hopes that others may be looking for it too, may find this site and may tell me once and for all that I didn’t hallucinate all this.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Will You Give Me Back My Dime?

If you have a Verizon cell phone and send a text message to “LEILA” — as in those letters, in that order, in lieu of a phone number — it goes to the woman who keeps the blog The Leila Texts. Her name is Leila, yet she’s not the intended recipient of these texts. This alone amuses me. Wrong numbers and incorrectly sent mail usually makes your day more interesting. Yet this Leila actually posts the texts and guesses why the messages were sent and what kind of relationships these other Leilas might have with the people trying to contact them.

Previously Known as a “Snooty Chunk”

Earlier this year, I was talking to a co-worker — let’s call her Leona — about her impending marriage. I ask her if she planned to take her husband’s name and keep her own. She didn’t know. I asked her what her soon-to-be-husband’s name was, and Leona answered with “van Something Something.” (I’m not trying to protect Leona’s privacy here. I honestly can’t remember what followed the “Van,” but it sounded nice, believe me.) Me: “Leona, you have to take his name. I mean, the name you have now is great and all, but Leona van Something Something — that’s a name. Leona Van Something Something owns a yacht.”

In the end, she didn’t take his name, but I maintain that Van Something Something or any other surname beginning in “van” has an air of aristocracy to it.

This brings us to this weeks’ word of the week, which is technically two words, but they function to convey one specific meaning. So this week’s word is a compound word. (Forgive me.) But I think it’s a good one.
nobiliary particle — noun: one of those prefixes such as “de” or “von” which, before a personal name, indicate noble ancestry.
The Superior Person’s Third Book of Well-Bred Words notes that this otherwise insignificant chunks of word are remarkably useful when booking a room at a London hotel. I don’t know if that’s true, but I feel they do add something — and that thing I suddenly felt missing from my life when I found out that my mom’s family dropped its “von” upon arriving in the United States. Of course, living in Santa Barbara, the power of the “von” in particular has been diminished by a certain person that I'd rather not mention on my blog, though I'll note that mention of his proper name frequently draws the joke “von (of physiology).” It's really funny, in certain circles.

And that now you too know the term for this neat little grammatical function, you can accuse people of having inserted fraudulent nobiliary particles in their name just to sound all cool and stuff.

Less snooty but nonetheless notable words-o'-the-week:

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Some Folk'll Never Eat a Skunk

My obsession with names prompted me to look into the long list of kids claimed by The Simpsons characters Cletus and Brandine Spuckler.

The children, and their names, are as follows:
  • First a big group of fashionably named hicklings introduced in the episode "Marge Simpson in 'Screaming Yellow Honkers'":
    • Tiffany
    • Heather
    • Cody
    • Dylan
    • Dermot
    • Jordan
    • Taylor
    • Brittany
    • Wesley
    • Rumer
    • Scout
    • Cassidy
    • Zoe, pronounced to rhyme with "blow"
    • Chloe, also pronounced to rhyme with "blow"
    • Max
    • Hunter
    • Kendall
    • Caitlin
    • Noah
    • Sasha
    • Morgan
    • Kyra
    • Ian
    • Lauren
    • Q-Bert, for some reason
    • and Phil
  • Condoleezza Marie (from "Barting Over")
  • Rubella Scabies (from "I'm Spelling as Fast as I Can")
  • Gummy Sue (from "Helter Shelter")
  • An unnamed child Brandine is giving birth to in Cletus's truck in "Lost Our Lisa")
  • A group of kids introduced in "Yokel Chords," though Brandine claims Cletus is the father of only two of them:
    • Birthday
    • Crystal Meth
    • Dubya
    • Incest
    • International Harvester
    • Jitney
    • and Witney
  • A kid whom Brandine births and for whom she asks Cletus to "cut the umbrellical cord"
  • Children described in "Marge Gamer" by Cletus with the following sentence: "I have sired a dumb-dumb, a mush-head, a whatsit, a dogboy, and something with a human face and fish body what we called Kevin. But my young'uns is not dirty players!"
  • And, finally, in "Apocalypse Cow," two more — Marry Westlemania Spuckler and Stabbed in Jail Spuckler.
So, then, if you only count two from "Yokel Cords" and suppose that the ones named in "Marge Gamer" as being kids already listed, Cletus has 36 strikingly named children.

My work is complete.

More Simpsons:

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Box Full of Puppies

You remember that bygone, misfit TGIF sitcom Dinosaurs, right? It should stand out because it was performed by people in dinosaur suits instead of people not in dinosaur suits. Hmm? What’s that? No, you’re thinking of Boy Meets World. This is Dinosaurs, a show that I can’t believe actually aired as long as it did, much less on the most mainstream night of TV that ABC ever slapped together. Weird though it was, the show offered some interesting cultural criticism. In one episode, family patriarch Earl became the head of a TV network, for some reason, and made shows so blandly appealing that they began to make viewers incredibly stupid — terrible things like The Happy Colors Show, which featured squares that would flash different shades, or Box Full of Puppies, which featured just that: squirming, yipping baby dogs. It’s hard to argue against the inherent entertainment value.

I experienced the Box Full of Puppies phenomenon this weekend. In a harmonic convergence the likes of which have previously inspired astrologers of yore and The 5th Dimension, I happened to be at my parents’ house while my cousins were watching over not one but nine Border Collie puppies. If you know me at all, you would understand that this amounts to heaven, or at least as close as I’ll ever get in this life. Of course, the puppies instantly reduced me to a googooing idiot who was entertained by their mere raising of single paw. And they raised their paws several times, at least. Total permagrin. I can’t tell if the experience made me stupider or not, but I suppose the new stupid me might not be able to appreciate the lowered intelligence. I guess for the moment we’ll have to assume the Dinosaur writers were not, in fact, prophets, though I think the Pet Channel actually now airs a show that’s not all that unlike Box Full of Puppies.

So I say we should do an experiment. I took some photos of all nine of the puppies — though I was rarely fortunate enough to get all of them in one frame — and I’d like you all to take a look and tell me if you feel stupider.

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If you like, you can see the complete puppy collection here.

And if that weren’t enough, the cousins — whose house has always been a sort of dog playground — now own a four-month-old Irish Water Spaniel, who’s equally wonderful and kind of resembles the singing dog from those Nestle’s commercials. (I know, I know — this post is weirdly heavy on puppet references.)

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Finally, here’s one of the dog I spent the most time with. He’s not a puppy, but that only means he’s able to fit more love inside him. Also, I have to give him credit: He has years of experience being a Border Collie that the puppies just can’t compete with.

guilty-looking border collie

So, stupider yet?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Sabor de Soledad? Not Quite

Oh, the surprises that await me at my liquor store.

Mostly, these surprises revolve around the less friendly of the two men who work there. That could be an unfair assessment of him, as I feel his looser grasp on English prevents him from being as social as he might be if we were all speaking Arabic. Still, he bears some resemblance to Sesame Street’s Bert, and that fact alone makes me think he’s prone to sternness. (His more talkative counterpart, by the way, has a round face that makes him look more like Ernie. Perhaps the phrenologists were correct.) Despite comparisons between this man and Bert, I enjoy interacting with him because he frequently seems baffled by what use the various things his store sells might have. Mustard, for example. “What is it?” he once asked me. I was temporarily at a loss for how to explain the yellow condiment. “You put it on sandwiches,” I answered. “Like ketchup?” he asked. Again, a loss, then, finally, “Sort of. It’s… not red.” Then I paid for my mustard and left.

He’s been confused about other seemingly simple products, but I’ve recently come across a product that baffled me. I took a photo.


“Skwinkles Salsagheti — con sabor sandia!”

The hell?

I pointed to the monstrosity candy. “What is it?” Bert, perhaps recalling the many conversations we’ve had with reversed roles, just shrugged and offered, “Kids like it.”

I remain fascinated: red licorice-looking candy that combines the spiciness of salsa and the noodliness of spaghetti, yet somehow also incorporates watermelon flavor. Also — and you can’t tell by looking at the photo — the individual candy strands are encrusted in the kind of salt-looking substance, like that pucker-inducing stuff that elevates Sour Patch Kids above mere “Patch Kids.”

I’m fascinated. Each time I’ve been in the store since, I see that fewer and fewer Swinkles Salsagheti packages on the counter. Clearly, someone buys them — or at least steals them.

Is it you?

Who eats these?

Who thinks spicy watermelon spaghetti sounds good?

Stop buying the spicy watermelon spaghetti, you. But at least tell me what this item tastes like and why you like it. Otherwise, I may eventually break down and buy one myself.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Mingling, Mixture, Confusion, Mess

Saturday, word day. Increase your wordiness!
mongo (rhymes with "bongo") — noun: 1. an object retrieved from rubbish. 2. a scavenger.
A good one, even if the word doesn't appear very often attached to the above two definitions. Elswhere online, it's an ethnic group in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a city in Indiana, the character in Blazing Saddles, a famous dwarf detective, a planet in Flash Gordon and the Filipino name for mung beans. According to this site, however, it's also a rarely used but technically valid word that has appeared at least twice in the New Yorker, both times referring to garbage being put to a use other than rotting in a landfill.

As World Wide Words notes, mongo is one of those wonderful American slang terms that lacks any clear etymology. Some educated guesses offer mungo, a word referring to a low-grade cloth made from previously used material. (It could also be that mungo somehow allowed Mungo Jerry to come to be, so I suppose we have to hate this word.) The way World Wide Words puts it, the Oxford English Dictionary suggests a possible further connection to the word mung — which means "a mingling, a mixture, a confusion, a mess" and which could also come from the among precursor ymong, meaning "a company of people." However, the OED also apparently suggests that the word comes from a Yorkshire folktale in which mungo cloth earned its name when its usefulness outweighed its crappiness. According to this story, It mun go (meaning "It will have to do") was run all together as mungo.

Nothing like a word that describes the state of scraping the bottom of the barrel when you have no other choices, right?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Birdo Meets Captain Rainbow (Not a Gay Joke, I Swear)

Can we please talk about Captain Rainbow?

“But Drew, what the hell is Captain Rainbow? Also, why do you suck worse than some horrible machine designed to remove milk from cow udders?”

“No, stupid!” I say. “I don’t suck! Why would you think that?”

Why would you think I suck? It’s unfathomable, your insane logic. Meanwhile, my very sane, normal person logic pushes me to examine Captain Rainbow, Nintendo’s newest title in recent memory to feature a protagonist that has not already appeared in another game. This is remarkable in that Nintendo has introduced very few genuinely new series in recent years. For example, Smash Bros. Brawl, the game that pitted Nintendo’s mightiest mascots against each other in comically violent combat, included very few faces from recent outings. There was Olimar from Pikmin, which premiered all the way back in 2001. And that’s it. Newer additions like the Animal Crossing folks or the Nintendogs or Professor Layton didn’t make the cut. Captain Rainbow, however, is a kinda-sorta badass who wields a yo-yo, thus making him an ideal candidate to throw down upon the better known Nintendo stars, whether they be Italian plumbers or effeminate elves.

I’m not sure, however, that Captain Rainbow has any real fighting skills, at least based on footage of his debut game that hit game blogs today.

See below: very little rock-em or sock-em.

Lack of face-beating notwithstanding, what is notable about the above video, however, is Birdo, even if she’s restyled to the point of looking even more disturbing than ever. The game apparently takes place in some fictional-upon-fictional video game island populated almost by obscure Nintendo characters. Based on the video, Birdo apparently wants something. What, I couldn’t tell you. Gender reassignment surgery? Perhaps that’s the point of the game — running favors for video game has-beens and allowing them to attain strange new genders. Of course, it goes without saying that it’s notable that the first video of something called Captain Rainbow features a character widely reputed to be the first tranny in Nintendo history. Really, that title — Captain Rainbow? Maybe that flies in Japan, but I have to imagine that Nintendo will re-title the game for an American release, if for no other reason than “Captain Rainbow” sounds like a playground insult against someone’s masculinity. The rainbow lends the title to a decidedly gay interpretation — whether warranted or not — and it will be interesting to see how Americans receive it.

I, meanwhile, am happy as a clam, both to see Birdo out and about and to see a new game from the people that previously offered something with the title Giftpia — which tricked players into delivering presents for fun and whose name managed to badly combine the words “gift” and utopia.”

Let’s hope for an American release, if for no other reason than I want to find out what the hell Birdo wants.

[ From Kotaku, Press the Buttons, Infendo, GayGamer, and, like, everywhere else ]

15201 Maple Systems Road

Sometimes YouTube does funny things. I've noticed before that the list of related videos sometimes features clips bearing no apparent connection to the video being watched. I decided to document one especially noticeable disconnect that happened to me while I was watching a video of Thumbelina, the world's smallest horse. (I was bored, okay?)

Anyway, the proof:

click for a larger version

"Love Shack," "I'm Too Sexy," the Rednex version of "Cotton Eye Joe," "Groove Is in the Heart" — apparently, YouTube thinks the Thumbelina video is some sort of early 90s dance hit.

Was it? Did I miss something?

Also, did anybody else know that Rednex was a Swedish band? And still exists? And still presumably makes awful, awful music?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Bandana Belly Tent

The menu sign has been changed — and this time by hands other than mine.


I'm thinking it sounds like a hippie-leaning line of pregnant active wear. Thoughts?

Previous menu sign adventures:

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Robot Music: It Ain’t Just Techno

Today: Robots and music, but not in the freaky way automatons will one day usurp humans as the creators of culture. (Though that will happen, and robo-rock will dominate the airwaves, to the dismay of any still-surviving human ears.) I will discuss, once again, the Mega Man series, as the news of the new one has reminded me of how much I enjoyed these video games as a kid. Think of this as a sort of sequel post to “Marza Panda,” in which I marveled at the amusingly bad wordplay that underlying a group of names. I like themed names, especially when the theme exists throughout a given work.

Basically, the Mega Man games were created with an underlying theme of music that isn’t immediately obvious to John and Jane Q. American Gamer because the central character lost his music association in being translated from Japanese to English. In Japan, Mega Man has always been known as “Rockman,” which itself is still a vague music association at best, given how nearly every villain in the series has a name that fits the formula “noun or adjective plus the word ‘man,’” with an appropriate weapon, appearance and home turf to match. (Fire Man, Bubble Man, Magnet Man, etc. There are quite a few.) Far from stones and pebbles, the “rock” in “Rockman” is the “rock” in “rock ‘n’ roll.” This makes even more sense if you know about Mega Man/Rockman’s little gynoid counterpart, the female housekeeping robot Roll. Even knowing that about Mega Man’s Japanese name, I still didn’t get the music association with Roll’s name. (In fact, a noted the oddness of her name for a list of famous ladybots I wrote long ago for the Nexus for some reason.) Rather, in the vein of other Japanese-created video game characters like Peach and Daisy, I assumed the “roll” in question was the kind you eat along with dinner.

rock and roll, in grinning, large-mouthed robot style

As with many female characters born in the early days of video games, Roll doesn’t do a whole lot. We’re told she cooks and cleans, but we don’t even actually get to see that. (And on this note, I suppose she might have well been named after bread, then, since she really never got to be a full-on counterpart to Mega Man. Come to think of it, given Mega Man’s name switch from Japan to the U.S., series creators Capcom might as well have just called her “Mini Woman.”) According to this page, she was considered as a possible sidekick role in Mega Man 2 before the idea was nixed for fear of turning off the largely male target audience these games were being aimed at.) Possibly as a result of this decision, she doesn’t appear in Mega Man 2 at all. She never really did anything of importance until the second Marvel vs. Capcom game — which, weirdness of weirdness, pits folks like Wolverine and the Incredible Hulk against Ryu from Street Fighter and Jill Valentine from Resident Evil — but even then, she only appeared as a joke character that couldn’t really hold her own. (Longtime Back of the Cereal Box readers may remember that the dream match of Universe A against Universe B once made for a lively comment discussion here that, among other things, pitted the characters of ABC soap operas against Muppets, Ziggy Stardust against Jareth the Goblin King, and “I know you are but what am I” against “I'm rubber and you’re glue, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you.” Ah, memories.) In 2006, Capcom remade the original Mega Man as Mega Man: Powered Up and finally included Roll as a playable character, but make no mistake: She’s relatively inconsequential in the series as a whole.

So, then, in Mega Man 3, the title character was given a new counterpart who would prove more active in the series. In America, this very Mega Man-like character was named “Proto Man,” but the Japanese version of the game referred to him as “Blues.” (Technically, the American inexplicably introduces himself as “Break Man,” but as the game progresses, players learn that he’s actually Proto Man — a Mega Man prototype. I have no idea of the Japanese version introduces him under a false name before revealing his true identity.) What’s odd about Proto Man’s Japanese name is that it completely divorces the word “blues” from its chromatic associations and focuses instead on blues as a musical genre. Confusingly, however, Proto Man/Blues is red in color, which I imagine might be confusing even to a Japanese person with a rudimentary understanding of English. Throughout the rest of the series, Proto Man acts independently from the full-fledged “good guy” side but generally sides with Mega Man and not the series villain, Dr. Wily.

It bears mentioning that two recurring characters who don’t fit into the music theme name are the game’s central non-robot characters, Wily and his nemesis, the good doctor who created Mega Man. This latter character himself suffers from some identity issues as a result of translation between English and Japanese, as his official name, Dr. Light, often gets mangled as “Dr. Right” or “Dr. Wright.” In fact, a Japanese person would pronounce his name “Raito” regardless of its English counterpart, so the confusion is understandable. Fortunately, both “Right” and “Light” characterize the guy as being a lot nicer than the nefarious genius Wily. Aptronym City.

But back to robots. (The best conversational segue ever, by the way.) Mega Man 3 also provided players the assistance of a robotic dog named “Rush” that, over the course of the series, would morph about Transformers-style into various devices that would aid Mega Man, including a submarine, a hoverboard, a motorcycle, and a springboard. (Seriously, at least twice as cool as my dog, who has only been transforming into a thing that sleeps all day and barks at bees. That process began two years ago and shows no signs of stopping.) Unlike most characters, Rush’s name remains the same no matter what the language, and I’m hard-pressed to think of what music association his name should bring to mind other than the band Rush. Geek-friendly though these Canuck rockers might be, I wonder if they would have been popular enough in Japan to merit their name being lent to a robot dog. (That’s how you know you’ve made it big, by the way.)

The last of the major characters warranting a mention on this list would be yet another Mega Man counterpart: Bass, a black-hued villain who showed up once Proto Man ceased to be edgy enough. Whereas Mega Man has his canine companion Rush, Bass has Treble, an appropriately more vicious robo-mutt. And while it might seem that Bass and Treble would be a perfectly fitting pair in this universe, Capcom once again switched the pair’s names from the Japanese version — and this time for the better, I’d wager. In Japan, this pair is known as “Forte” and “Gospel,” respectively. This makes no sense. While both musical terms, “forte” and “gospel” have no real relation to each other, and I suspect the translators may have worried that naming an evil dog robot after a Christian-affiliated style of music may have drawn letters in the U.S.

Minor, musically-themed characters abound. Mega Man occasionally receives help from a robot cat named “Tango” that can transform into a buzzsaw. (Of course.) There’s also a birdbot named “Beat” that aids Mega Man and a apparently less good-hearted birdbot named “Reggae” that aids Bass. As the series progressed, other non-animal characters made appearances, including a kinda-sorta villain named “Ballade,” apparently after the term for a piano composition evoking an epic ballad; a stout robot named “Duo,” even though he’s only one; a bad guy named “Enker,” whose name is either a corruption of “encore” or a reference to a style of Japanese folk music; another foe named “Punk,” who’s rather unremarkable; an alternate reality Mega man named “Quint,” whose name would seem to reference the term “quintet” despite that he too is only one, and who rides a sentient pogo stick that’s for some reason named “Sakugarne.”

My point with all this, I suppose, is that what would appear a meaningless set of words assigned to characters in a children’s game actually has some reasoning behind it — and notably reasoning that gets somewhat muddled as the in-game text changes from Japanese to English. Okay, so maybe the naming system devolved into arbitrary assignment of music terms to unrelated characters late in the series, but it didn’t at least start that way. (“Hey, I just designed a robot dolphin that shoots lasers. Have we named anything ‘Hip Hop’ yet? Hmm? Oh, right, the heli-panda. Okay, I’ll just call it ‘Alt Country.’”) But I like that theme begun in the first game continued through the end, developing and changing and even directing the course.

Oh, those wonderful mechanical men. It’s strikes me as odd now that the Mega Man series — having already spawned such spin-offs as racing, soccer, one-on-one fighting, and even a Monopoly-like game — has yet to evolve into anything that plays up the music the underlying aspects.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Felicity Schickfick

As the result of aimless Wikipedia-wandering, I somehow ended up on the page for Heather Graham’s character in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. Why she warrants her own Wikipedia page, I couldn’t tell you, but the article includes an interesting section in which it lists the various ways her name — “Felicity Shagwell,” a pun in the classic Bond girl fashion — was translated into other languages. Some good ones:
  • In Danish: Felicity Bollergodt, with boller godt literally translating to “fucks nice.”
  • In Dutch: Felicity Neuktgoed, with neukt goed meaning “fucks well.”
  • In French: Felicity Felicity Bonnebez, with bonne baise meaning “good fuck.”
  • In French-speaking parts of Canada: Félicité Chaudolit, with chaud au lit meaning “hot in bed.”
  • In German: Felicity Schickfick, meaning “Felicity Fucknice.”
  • In Italian: Felicity Ladà, with the last name translating as “(she) gives it.”
  • In Portuguese-speaking Brazil: Felicity Façobem, meaning “Felicity (I) Do It Well.”
  • In Portuguese-speaking Portugal: Felicidade NaCama, translating in full to “happiness in the bed” and the only one of the translations that uses her first name in the sense of happiness.
There’s a few others that aren’t translated on the Wikipedia page, and I suspect Babelfish would not prove especially useful: Estonian (Õnnelik Kargaja), Finnish (Unelma Panopuu), Latvian (Felisitija Labdrāte), Polish (Felicity Robidobrze), Russian (Фелисити Добротрах), and five different ones in Spanish (Marifé Lación, Felicity Buenfollón, Felicity Revueltas, Felicity Revuelcabién, Felicity Lación).

“It’s tough being a globe-trotting pun,” says Heather Graham.

EDIT: Of course, I meant to say "Bond girl," not "Bong girl," though I suppose a bong girl would think sex puns are hilarious.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Boatjacking of Supership '79

What I thought was a noteworthy coincidence: A while back I posted about a Mexican Jaws rip-off called Tintorera, the Wikipedia summary for which was hilariously thorough and, I believe, indicative of the film's crappiness. Slightly less long ago, I posted a list of things I've blogged here that have not yet received what felt was the explosion of appreciation and feedback they deserve, as I crave attention. The list attempted to direct readers like you to the Tintorera post.

This holiday weekend, as I sit at home posting news stories about the Gap Fire, which as I type this threatens to burn the edge of Goleta, I've watched two movies about rape in England — Alfred Hitchcock's Frenzy and Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs, the latter of which was immensely more entertaining than the former. Straw Dogs starred a British actress named Susan George, of whom I've been previously unaware. I wanted to see what else she'd been in. It turns out, oddly enough, that she played what I think might be the female lead in Tintorera. It's hard to tell, as the Wikipedia synopsis of her role in the film is limited to this: They bring Gabriella, a British girl, with them, and go fishing for sharks and mantas, where Miguel gets eaten by the Tintorera. Gabriella, being shocked, returns to England.

Apparently George's career took a nosedive sometime around 1977. Nonetheless, I thought it merited mentioning here.

Also perhaps worth mentioning here but also maybe not: Spencer points out an additional flaw of Tintorera in the fact that its name sounds remarkably like the Spanish word for "dry cleaner," tintorería.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Lazy Eights

See this?

See that there? That number eight, drunk on its on power? Grown floppy from the knowledge that it is the first whole number to be both a square and a cube? It’s not an eight. It’s considerably greater than that, as it signifies infinity. So I suppose the difference between the above symbol and a proper, upright eight would be infinity minus eight, whatever that is. (I’m not a math person.)

I speak of this lazy eight because the proper name for this term happens to be the new word of the week.
lemniscate (lem-NIS-kət) — noun: 1. The symbol for infinity, which resembles the figure 8 on its side. 2. any closed curve, similar to a figure eight, described by the Cartesian equation of the form (x2 + y2)2 = a2(x2y2).
Don’t ask me what the second part means. I’m more interested in there being a term for something I more commonly knew as the “infinity symbol.” I don’t care that this displaces “octothorpe” as the most unwieldy term I know for something that doesn’t technically necessitate a special term. I don’t care if it it’s pronounced to rhyme with “them biscuit.” And I even don’t care The best part about this word is that it is derived from the Latin adjective lemniscatus, meaning “decorated with ribbons.” Just the fact that this thing exists and I know about it totally makes my week.

If you’re particularly adept at the maths, the Wikipedia page for the Lemniscate of Bernoulli may further enlighten the matter. The lesson I’m choosing to take away from this? If you get so lazy you fall over, you eventually grow in strength and power to the point of being omnipresent.

Other great words:

Friday, July 4, 2008

The Three Weird Sisters

I wanted to like The Chapin Sisters, but I can't help feel like they are a humorless, tuba-less version of The Kranksy Sisters. Quite heavy on the dour, girls. And you have to feel bad for the one non-Chapin Chapin Sister, Jessica Craven, both for being the the third of the trio that doesn't match and for looking so much like her dad, director Wes Craven, that it's spooky. Which is kind of appropriate, if you think about it.

Judge for yourself:

On the other hand, I have to hand it to them: For three women all caught up in the Southern gothic schtick, they couldn’t have picked a better name for their album than Lake Bottom.

Also, I search YouTube and found some footage of The Kransky Sisters that wasn't up the last time I checked. You have to admit: The two bands have a similar take on the the three-woman harmony. Watch the below video, but fast-forward past the jokes to 2:30 if you just want to hear the vocal similarities.

Also, I can't help but notice that, like The Chapin Sisters, The Kransky Sisters have one member with a different father than the other two. The Kranskys, at least, make a point of mentioning this as often as possible.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Power of Mu Compels You

Yesterday I saddled Super Intern Devon with the task of writing an article on a UCSB professor who's being published in a major scientific journal for his defense of the Large Hadron Collider, which, if you haven’t been paying attention, is the particle accelerator being built near Geneva that will, among other things, create small black holes for infinitesimal amounts of time. The project has created some concern that the black holes formed in this monstrous machine — which, really, sounds like something a mad scientist would cook up specifically for nefarious purposes — could end up sucking the earth and, indeed, all existence into a celestial nothing spot and collapse all mass into a single nanoparticle. Or something. (I’m actually not sure what happens to matter upon entering a black hole, but I’m willing to bet that scientists don’t know for sure either.) Scientists say the collider won’t, in fact, erase the earth’s past, present, and future — and the UCSB man agrees — but I can’t help but feel a little concerned.

After all, black holes exist off in outer space, and I feel maybe like maybe we shouldn’t change that fact, because they’re big and scary and powerful and, as far as I know, exist for no other reason than to suck things into them. (They’re like sorority girls, in that way.) Maybe creating them closer to my house, where al my stuff is, could turn out badly for existence. “But Drew,” the scientists would argue, “the evil black hole machine will be all the way in Switzerland? Surely you have no need for concern.” But I worry that — if matter does, in fact, collapse — then the distance between my house and Switzerland will become considerably shorter. Zero, in fact, because neither my house nor Switzerland would exist anymore. Nor would Tahiti, and I’ve never even been there yet. This all may make me sound like a Luddite, and I truly would like to have faith in the science men in the white coats, but so many other scientific discoveries have wrought destruction upon us: the ability to split atoms and gun powder and television chief among them.

So while Devon prepared to talk to Mr. Published Scientist and ask questions about what the black hole creators hope to achieve by making this miniature abominations — “Okay, pretend I’m stupid and don’t know anything about large hat iron collisioners. Now tell me in extremely simple terms what’s being gained from this.” — the rest of us in the newsroom brainstormed about what benefits of black hole technology could be for Average Joes. What we have so far:
  • Extra storage for people who live in apartments
  • Alternative to a handgun for single women.
  • A way for me to get out of carrying either a briefcase of a messenger bag,
  • Junk disposal. (Though that does raise the question of whether we’ll get a crumpled-up note popping back out of the mini-vortex that reads “Quit throwing garbage into our dimension.)
  • Portable body dump. (Don’t have to drive to the Nevada desert anymore.)
  • Looney Toones-style portable hole.
  • Means to taunt your Bizarro-self.
  • Quick clean-up after parties.
But in the end, of course, the black holes created will probably result in little kids in the Midwest trying to play hide-and-seek in one of them on a hot summer day. And we all know how that goes.

All life begins with Nu and ends with Nu. This is the truth! This is my belief, at least for now.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Synesthesia Music Meme, Take Two

I'm not the only one who posted results to this meme in Muxtape form. This guy, who got the idea from little ol' me, did the same. And even responded to my suggestion.

Hello, guy!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Goleta, You're Not Alone

Hey, City of Goleta, you’re not the only Goleta in the world. There’s also a genus of spiders that shares your name. And it’s a genus of jumping spiders, no less. JUMPING SPIDERS!

Remember, everyone, when you hear the name “Goleta,” think of JUMPING SPIDERS!

Dwigt, Meet Tyson Homosexual

From Co-Worker Chris, a lesson in the dangers of auto-replace and a reminder that computers can only be a smart as the people using them. I can’t try to say it any better than Steve Benen, so here’s how he put it:
Auto-correct can be a very helpful feature of any word-processing program. But when conservatives use it, they run the risk of embarrassing themselves. Some far-right sites that subscribe to the Associated Press feed, for example, will use auto-correct to change “Democratic Party” to “Democrat Party.” This, of course, is because they have the temperament of children.

But the American Family Association’s
OneNewsNow website takes the phenomenon one step further with its AP articles. The far-right fundamentalist group replaces the word “gay” in the articles with the word “homosexual.” I’m not entirely sure why, but it seems to make the AFA happy. The group is, after all, pretty far out there.

The problem, of course, is that “gay” does not always mean what the AFA wants it to mean. My friend Kyle
reported this morning that sprinter Tyson Gay won the 100 meters at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials over the weekend. The AFA ran the story, but only after the auto-correct had “fixed” the article.

That means — you guessed it — the track star was renamed “Tyson Homosexual.” The headline on the piece read, “Homosexual eases into 100 final at Olympic trials.” Readers learned:

Tyson Homosexual easily won his semifinal for the 100 meters at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials and seemed to save something for the final later Sunday.

His wind-aided 9.85 seconds was a fairly cut-and-dry performance compared to what happened a day earlier. On Saturday, Homosexual misjudged the finish in his opening heat and had to scramble to finish fourth, then in his quarterfinal a couple of hours later, ran 9.77 to break the American record that had stood since 1999. […]

Homosexual didn’t get off to a particularly strong start in the first semifinal, but by the halfway mark he had established a comfortable lead. He slowed somewhat over the final 10 meters-nothing like the way-too-soon complete shutdown that almost cost him Saturday. Asked how he felt, Homosexual said: “A little fatigued.”

Now, the AFA has since changed the article back to the way it was originally written by the AP reporter, but don’t worry, Kyle got the screen-grab before the AFA edited the piece back.

There’s just something helpful about starting a Monday morning on a hilarious note.

Can’t help but wonder what else could be corrupted by this replace code. “Now we don our homosexual apparel”? Oprah Winfrey’s best friend Homosexualle King? Famed sherpa Tenzig Norhomosexual? And how might the AP story about this incident be filtered, if such an article were to be written? “… which erroneously and nonsensically changed the last name of would-be Olympian Tyson Homosexual to ‘Homosexual’ and referring to him solely as ‘Homosexual’ upon second reference throughout the remainder of the article. ‘I had to laugh about being called Tyson Homosexual,’ because that’s not my name,” said Homosexual, who also clarified that he is heterosexual.”

And since they’re already crazy, why not just replace “Hillary Clinton” with “Borg Queen”?

And how to the people who receive this news feel about it literally going through a filter that changes the meaning of words?