Sunday, November 30, 2008

I Must Have More Thoughts Than This

Below are images from a book — Spencer had access to it and I don’t know its name — of a troupe of young humorists illustrating various funnyfaces and the charades-style meanings behind them. The pictures are quite old — around the time America was still developing a sense of humor, really — so the young hopefuls in them are likely dead, cancerous, divorced and sad now. I thought some of the explanations behind the faces were a little to on-the-spot and have consequently supplied my own interpretations.

Left: “My father didn’t love me enough and now look what I can do for money!” Right: “I hide my deviant sexuality with ugly faces, but you can still tell from my pinkie ring.”

Left: “My father didn’t love me enough and now look what I can do for money!” Right: “This is more or less where the drugs go in. Oh! I should have been a doctor!”

Left: “This is what Pete looked like when I pulled him out from the car.” Right: “I am horrifically racist.”

Your own interpretations are most welcome.

Pancakes and Pussycats

Four thoughts had while eating pancakes and watching Josie and the Pussycats on Boomerang:

One: Given that the show is made for children, the quality of the music is surprisingly high. Not that I’d want a Jose and the Pussycats album or anything, but I’ll gladly admit that the obligatory chase music is not usually terrible, especially in light of what pop music was in the early 70s. To see for yourself, watch this clip in which the gang flees militant Muslims:

Two: Perhaps because the show offered sugar-addled children the first-ever black regular on a Saturday morning cartoon in the form of the plucky yet level-headed Valerie Brown, the producers apparently decided to make the other Pussycat, Melody Jones, the dumbest piece of shit ever. Literally, she is too dumbness to be alive. Even for a kid’s show, her stupidity is insulting. Melody is well into her late teen years on the show, and, I swear, by this point in her life she should realistically have either eaten battery acid because she thought it was milkshakes or been murdered by anyone who’s ever heard her talk.

Three: On grounds that she is unfailingly unpleasant and actually cattier than the three girls who are dressed like cats, I am tempted claim that there is no reason for bitchy Alexandra Cabot to hang out with the rest of the gang. She is not part of the band. She does nothing but make life worse for everyone around her. And she is unlikable: When provoked, Alexandra is downright awful, but she’s also often spiteful for no reason. But then I realize that the rest of the characters probably truly don’t like her — how could they? — and that the reason they keep her around in hopes that Melody will demonstrate her dim-wittedness in such a way that infuriates Alexandra to the point that Alexandra will murder Melody.

Four: The two male characters blow, if only because they’re so clearly derivative of the male from Scooby-Doo. Alan is a hunkier, more assuredly heterosexual version of Freddie, while Alexander is a snobbier, high-strung version of Shaggy that could probably benefit from smoking a scoobie-doobie. And it doesn’t help that Casey Kasem voiced both Alexander and Shaggy and does so almost identically.

For the sake of pop culture continuity, I’ll mention that 2001 live action movie version of Josie and the Pussycats cast Rosario Dawson as Valerie, Tara Reid as Melody and Missi Pyle as Alexandra. So even if the movie was an abysmal failure, it at least had spot-on casting.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Bubbling, Doubling, Taco Sauce

The following is something I’d realistically be better off not sharing with the world but I am compelled to publish online anyway.

Shakespare’s Macbeth finds an archrival in the form of Macduff, and it’s likely no coincidence that the two have very similar names. They’re actually similar people, in some ways, but with significant differences. In modern texts — and perhaps in older ones as well, depending on how the transcriber decided he wanted to spell — this relationship is underscored by the fact the lowercase “b” in Macbeth’s name looks exactly like a flipped-around lowercase “d,” as you see in Macduff’s name.

That all being said, can the same opposite-rival-“b”-and-“d” relationship be applied Taco Bell and Del Taco?

Leftover Morpheme Sauce

This one seemed appropriate this week, given what’s likely hiding in your tupperwear as I write this.

Also, we’re on the letter “C.” So there.
cranberry morphere (pronounced exactly like you think it would be) — noun: a morpheme within a complex word whose meaning is opaque to the present speakers of the language.
Fascinating, right? And perfectly clear?

This bit of grammatical formalese might not mean much to anyone, but this is nonetheless a cool concept. Allow me to illustrate by example.

In the word cranberry, the word part cran is a cranberry morpheme, also known as a fossilized term. This particular chunk doesn’t mean anything on its own, but its presence in the word cranberry has meaning nonetheless: it helps differentiate a cranberry from some other kind of berry. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, the cran part comes from the low German Kraan, meaning “crane,” but that historical meaning has become completely lost despite the persistence of the word part in the name of the fruit.

It’s this disparity that lent the concept its name.

A small aside: Cranberry might be a bad example to use in explaining this concept. The association that the cran part has with the fruit itself has lent it a new meaning even when it appears separately from the berry. Look at any Ocean Spray bottle and observe that cran by itself signifies the presence of cranberries — or at least cranberry concentrate or cranberry-flavored sugar water. Cran-Grape is cranberry-grape, Cran-Orange is cranberry-orange, and Cran-Mango is cranberry-mango despite the fact that marketers missed out on the phenomenal opportunity to trandemark the name “Crango.” (As the blog Semantic Compositions notes, it helps to be fluent in the offshoot of English known as Marketing.)

Unfortunately, most explanations of the concept of cranberry morphemes begin with the history of the word cranberry and then springboard into other examples that also happen to be berries. Like gooseberry. It has no real connection with geese, and its current form is hypothesized to be a corruption of the French groseille, which refers to various types of currants. (Randomly, it also can be used “an additional person” in the sense that we sometimes say “a third wheel.”) And the rasp in raspberry used to be rapsis, possibly from raspise, “a sweet rose-colored wine.” (Also of interest: Etymologists say the raspberry in the sense of the the disapproving noise you make with your mouth comes from Cockney-style rhyming slang — “raspberry tart” with “fart.” News to me.)

These examples have doubtlessly fooled at least one person into thinking that cranberry morphemes only exist in the names of fruit, but that’s not the case. Other examples include the cob in cobweb (it means spider), the twi in twilight (it means both “two” and “half,” oddly, but I think it means the latter here), and the luke in lukewarm (it means “tepid”).

So take away from this, if nothing else: Cranberries may be just slightly more complicated than you would have thought otherwise.

But only a little more.

I mean, they’re still just cranberries.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Since I’m for the moment situated on the grounds upon which I and at least several others are said to have spent our youth stomping — on what, exactly, I have no idea — I figured I’d celebrate the occasion with some Hollister-specific nostalgia.

Ta da. The above scanned postcard depicts a restaurant that has never in my life looked this way. I actually have no idea when or how this postcard would have come into my possession since it would seem to precede my existence as a human being. Of course, there’s a good chance that Progresso’s simply had old postcards sitting around long after the restaurant itself no longer matched what the postcards themselves promised.

That would happen at Progresso’s, a restaurant that most in Hollister probably don’t consider a nice place to eat, per se, but more of a place that they just eat at — maybe more out of habit than anything else. I’ve been told that the place became popular as a result of its cheese enchiladas being one of the few Vatican-approved Friday night dinner plates in town.

In my opinions, the back of the postcard is even better: both of the fonts, the blue ink, the way the full name of the establishment appears in a frowny arc, the fact that the postcards were apparently printed in Dallas, everything. The whole of it speaks to a different time and a different aesthetic that just works for me.

Circle for Cry?

I am watching Pushing Daisies and trying to wrap my head around the supposed Latin phrase orbis pro vox. Should this sound familiar? Should it be anything? Google is little help and Idiot Robot Translations puts the phrase into English as “circle for cry.” My high school-and-a-little-bit-of-college Latin is way rusty, however. Orbis can be other rounds things, If I remember correctly: a ring, an orb, a globe, maybe? Maybe the globe? The not-so-small world? Vox is usually “voice,” but can also the metaphorical use of “voice,” like a voice in government or an electoral voice.

Also: I’m apparently not the only one who’s curious about this.

Also also: That was Crystal from Dead Like Me eating at The Pie Hole, right?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Action County USA

So remember earlier in the month, when I blogged, if ever so tersely, about the fact that my city was on fire? Well, they put the fire out. Now we’re flooding. In fact, some of the same people who had to flee the Tea Fire and would have only recently returned to their homes are now evacuating again to escape mud and flood. In another post, I concluded with this thought: “It truly does seem that if it is not one thing then it must be another.” This would seem to be the case.

On a lighter note, area officials sent out a map of Santa Barbara this evening, with the mandatory evacuation area colored purple and, colored yellow, the areas that may yet be evacuated tonight. Unfortunately, the shape of the flood-endangered Sycamore Canyon lends the purple shape a certain penile protrusion into the Eastside. That little pointer, combined with the yellow fluid spilling out from the tip and all the way down to the 101, looks more than a little like male member pissing all over Santa Barbara.

Which would be appropriate.

see the flood penis in greater detail by clicking here.

A correction, I guess: If it’s not one thing then it must be another — and then again it might also be a penis.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Dr. Sun-Yat-Sen Memorial Rollerblade Rink

A few selections from a thoroughly entertaining slide show of past stars of the Berlin zoo. In order: one of the Rolands, Balthasar and Methusalem and their mysteriously unnamed mother, and finally Evi.

See the whole things at Der Spiegel.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Agent Fields Forever

Easily the highlight of the overall enjoyable but ultimately uneven Quantum of Solace: Agent Fields, the character played by Gemma Arterton. Essentially, she’s Girl No. Two, which is a bad position for a Bond Girl to be in. Sure enough, Agent Fields eventually joins Plenty O’Toole, Jill Masterton, Aki, Fiona Volpe, Andrea Anders, Corinne Dufour, Elektra King, Paris Carver, Xenia Onatopp, Miranda Frost, Solange Dimitrios, and at least a few others on the list of lesser Bond associates who end up dead, whether as a result of them being forces or good or forces evil.

The best part about Agent Fields, however, is that she was written subtly, even if her role in the story as a whole doesn’t hold up well to logic. Throughout the film, she never gives her first name. (Why would MI-6 send some cute, nubile office girl to temp Bond back to London? Shouldn’t M have predicted that Bond would just bang her silly and get her killed? Was there truly no one else that could have been sent? No birthing hipped, lady mustached monster of a woman that Bond wouldn’t dare take a poke at?) The credits, however, list her as “Strawberry Fields,” and that makes her an ideal inhabitant of the new world of James Bond. Though her full name makes her a silly pop culture reference, she seems to know this and has a conscious desire to not be some dumb Bond Girl. It’s almost as if she’s seen the films with Mary Goodnight and Pussy Galore. In a film that was unfortunately lacking in characterization and development, this minor character truly succeeded, at least for me.

Where They Chain Up the Sun

What follows is a speculative origin for the personified cure-all that is Jenny Lewis’s Fernando.

I first heard this song more than two years ago, at a benefit for 826 Valencia that featured Lewis alongside such folks as Aimee Mann, The Mountain Goats, Sarah Vowell and John Krasinski. I liked the song and downloaded it straightaway, even if it was a lousy live recording of it taken from a performance on Late Night With Conan O’Brien. Lewis finally released a polished studio version of “See Fernando” just this year, with her new Watson Twins-free solo album, Acid Tongue. Now, after having listened to the good version a few dozen times in my iPod, I have to wonder who this Fernando guy is — or at least who he is to Jenny Lewis.

If you have no idea what I’m speaking of, here is the best clip of “See Fernando” I could find. (The official, fancypants video is likely forthcoming.)

The lyrics, according to this website, are these:
I wear a ponytail like a waterfall
Loudspeaker or land slide
I have a room key and a Johnny
A good buzz, feeling all right
Pitch a tent, pop a top
Forget about what you ain’t got
See the sites, sleep until night
Stamp your feet, turn out the lights

If you want to go where they chain up the sun
See Fernando, see Fernando
He’ll buy a bottle of suds for you and everyone
See Fernando, see Fernando

If you’re high strung or stressed out
Down in the dumps, been turned out
Stabilized, motorized, insecure or fable-ized
Curious or furious, picked apart like Prometheus
Legalized, penalized, simplify, dry out your eyes

If you want to go where they chain up the sun
See Fernando, see Fernando
He’ll buy a bottle of suds for you and everyone
See Fernando, see Fernando

You’ve been Jezebeled, back from hell
Cooling off, feeling well
Tired of talking, talked out
Ticked off or toughed up
Too talled or backed up
Haven’t made your mind up
DVDed or TVed
Tired of falling to your knees

If you want to go where they chain up the sun
See Fernando, see Fernando
He’ll buy a bottle of suds for you and everyone
See Fernando, see Fernando

And if you want to go where they chain up the sun
See Fernando, see Fernando
He’ll buy a bottle of suds for you and everyone
See Fernando, see Fernando
There’s a lot going on in this song, but not a lot of it necessarily meaning much. The verses pretty much describe various states of being the speaker or the addressee have arrived at — some enviable, some not, some completely inexplicable — and then offers a single solution to all of them: seeing this dude Fernando, who lives where the sun is chained up and who will apparently buy everybody champagne.

Aside from the random allusions to biblical and mythological characters such as Prometheus — who himself was chained up, not for sun-related misdeeds but for giving primitive man the gift of fire — and Jezebel — who appears as a verb here and whose bodymeat was eaten by dogs, the verse lyrics do not seem to be saying much of anything — lyrics for the sake of lyrics. None of it gives us any clue who Fernando might be or why Lewis might have attached this name to the guy who can do everything. My initial thought was that it had something to do with the San Fernando Valley, which she could have had some experience with during her previous career as a child star but which I’d also imagine she would not today equate with anything good.

As a result of no further leads, the mystery lingered until last week, actually, when a series of links dumped me on the blog Heartless Doll, specifically on its list of reasons why The Golden Girls was and is good. The show’s sixth listed virtue is the fact that watching it offers glimpses of people who are now big names but were relative nothings at the time they guest starred. Sure enough, Jenny Lewis is included on this list.

The proof, both of her appearance and her weird, Baby Doll-like accent:

Is it significant to anyone else that her appearance on fairly well-known show would have revolved around a prized teddy bear named Fernando? Could this one walk-on — admittedly only one among a great many during Lewis’s early years — have made such a impression on her that she’d recall it as an adult? And if not, who the hell is Fernando?

Dammit, Jenny, could you please just Google yourself and tell me?

Previous songs of the week:

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Spit Into Your Mouth, Only Verbally

Late but nonetheless not too late for today’s one-week-delayed word-of-the-week
ambeer (AM-beer) — noun: the juice that forms in the mouth as a result of chewing tobacco.
In short, something that sounds like the name of a cocktail waitress that is also actually something that could come out of that waitress’s mouth.

This wonderful word — really, how did you make it through your chaw spit-spattered life without it? — comes to us from exactly where you think it might come: from some bastard combination of the words amber, for the color of this flavor countered bodily byproduct, and from beer, again for the color but with the bonus factor of the foamy texture. At least that’s what the American Heritage Dictionary says. Merriam-Webster only mentions the amber influence, so perhaps the beer element is conjecture on the part of the good people at AHD. Perhaps surprising no one, it comes to the American English lexicon by way of the South, which is certainly something the residents of this region of the United States can be proud of.

One exception to this otherwise agreed-upon definition: Urban Dictionary — which, as I’ve said before, is the one user-generated website that manages to make Wikipedia look like the goddamn Oxford English Dictionary. Urban Dictionary simply offers us that ambeer refers to “a girl named Amber who loves to drink beer.” As if that wasn’t help enough, Urban Dictionary also offers us an ungrammatical example sentence, double explanation points and all: “Hide the beer here comes Ambeer!!”

In any case, the next time you’re riding shotgun with a chewing tobacco enthusiast and mistake your soda can with his makeshift spittoon, you’re not just drinking tobacco spit; you’re drinking ambeer.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Plucking Daisies

If nothing else, Bryan Fuller is consistent — consistently good and consistently cancelled, in that exact combination. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that his Pushing Daisies would suffer the same fate as the series he created previously, Dead Like Me and Wonderfalls, even if Daisies had the potential to appeal to the widest range of mainstream broadcast TV-watching 18- to 45-year-olds.

It didn’t, it turns out.

chuck, ned — you may stop smiling

And now Daisies has been effectively canceled — not even given the honor of being shot at point blank range but instead just left to wither away into nothing as the remaining filmed but as-of-yet-unaired episodes trickle out here and there, probably on Friday nights, probably in August, probably opposite whatever other station’s programming blocks ABC had determined to be unbeatable. Yes, the whimsical and lighthearted show about death — and not only death but also the strange liminal space between life and death — now itself exists in a vague, undefined way: effectively doomed but suspended from passing on for the moment, showing false flickers of life here and there, being and not being at the same time. It’s not all unlike series protagonist Charlotte Charles (a.k.a. Chuck, a.k.a. Lonely Tourist Charlotte Charles, a.k.a. the formerly dead Charlotte Charles), who herself was always only a fingertip’s touch away from a dirt nap and whose “reboot” could theoretically have rendered her sort-of alive but maybe not quite so much alive as you and me.

Perhaps we will never find out exactly how alive Chuck really was, especially if that was a question Fuller had planned to answer sometime around season three.

Not two days ago, I thought about writing something here about the show and its many lingering mysteries. Watching Wednesday’s episode, Roommate Aly questioned not whether Chuck qualified as a zombie — which she probably doesn’t, I’ve decided — but the nature of Chuck’s relationship with her two aunts — two women who, we found out recently, are actually only one-half Chuck’s aunts. It almost seems like a moot point now, but I’ll suppose that I’ll write out anyway, in tribute to a show that at least caught my attention enough that it make my brain muscle work.

the loveliest crime against god ever on network tv

At the show’s start, we learn that Chuck was raised by her spinster aunts, Lily and Vivian, after her father, Charles Charles, passed away. (This happened as a result of Ned No Last Name’s ability to revive the dead but only at the expense of another life of approximate value, in true algebraic style. But that’s nether here nor there as far as this conversation goes.) As the show progressed, however, we learned that Aunt Lily was, in fact, Mom Lily, and that she gave birth to Chuck in a convent in an effort to hide Chuck’s existence from Vivian. Lily did this because her lover — and Chuck’s father — happened to be Vivian’s fiance. Lily has never told Vivian about the affair and ensuing pregnancy. At the time of his death, however, Chuck’s father was not living with or apparently still seeing Vivian, as far as I recall, so it’s presumable that the couple had a falling out at some point, likely because he had fathered a child with his supposed lady love’s twin sister and he consequently felt guilty. (If nothing else, he had to explain that Baby Chuck came from somewhere.) Nonetheless, when Charles Charles kicked the bucket, Chuck ended up living with Lily and Vivian, whom she was told were her aunts. This seems strange, either in manner of a glaring plothole or the kind of thing that a detail-oriented show like Pushing Daisies would have eventually addressed. (I hope it’s the latter. And I hope the remained seven episodes touch on it in some way.) I mean, even if a guy has no living relatives, the logical choice for a guardian for his kid in the event of his untimely passing shouldn’t necessarily be his ex-girlfriend and her sister, especially when the latter of whom shares no public relationship with him. It makes for a weird conversation. I mean, Lily has good reason to care for Chuck, but why should Vivian want to house her ex-boyfriend’s child by a never-named and apparently vanished mother?

But as I said before, the point seems less worthy of pressing at the moment.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Can't Seem to Unremind Myself

I wrote Sanam an email last week, in reference to a coincidence involving a night in several years ago on which she and I and some other people watched the last ten minutes of an apparently terrible movie with a terrible name: Wolfen.
Something has happened and it seemed notable, but you’re the only one who might be able to appreciate it, hence this letter. When I was a kid, there was this commercial that would play on TV that I found scary. It was an ad for a book and the ad involved lots of people’s drawing of what they thought aliens looked like. [NOTE: I realize now the email was unclear in this part. The point of the ads was that everyone drew the aliens to look the same, with the big bald heads and dark eyes — the typical “gray” alien.] Freaky, no? I hadn’t thought about it in years until I worked at the bookstore and ended up having to help Holly find a book for class. It was that very book: Whitley Strieber’s Communion. I was at a thrift store this weekend and saw a cheap copy of the book and decided to buy it. I’m old enough that seeing the cover doesn’t give me nightmares anymore and. I feel like it’s well-written. After 100 pages or so, I learned that Strieber was a fiction writer before he wrote this supposedly non-fiction book, and one of his previous works is a little novel about superintelligent wolves called Wolfen. Weird, no?
Anyway, the coincidence seemed like it was worth mentioning, and Sanam would be one of the few people to appreciate the fact that I have now twice acknowledged that Wolfen exists, either in its book or movie versions. Sanam didn’t find this as weird as I did, I guess, and she supplied me with some better examples of what she considers to be properly weird. They included this and this — both of which are actually quite horrific, so you’ll have to click the links if you want to see them — and then finally the below image, which does, in fact, disturb me a bit.

Is it the fact that this bird’s name is “The Spectacled Tyrant” and that sounds like the name of some comic book archfiend rather than an apparently innocuous bird? Is it that his large eyes remind me of a real-life version of Tony Millionaire’s Drinky Crow?

Or is it simply that this bird — even in the form of an image on my computer screen — seems to be giving me at least one stink eye as he plots my doom?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Your Friendly Neighborhood Gay Anthropomorphic Dog

I have purchased Animal Crossing: City Folk, a despite having previously built towns from the ground up on the Gamecube and Nintendo DS, I’m happily starting from scratch again. News to me: This game has a gay critter who can be randomly selected to live in your neck of the woods.

Meet Butch: the dress-wearing male dog.

Okay, so maybe calling him gay is overstepping the matter somewhat. These characters don’t seem to have sex with anyone, male or female — at least on screen — but the fact that he is a male character who wears women’s clothes struck me as surprising, especially since Animal Crossing is made by Nintendo, who not so many years ago nixed the game Devil World from ever hitting the United States on grounds that its use of religious imagery could be considered blasphemous. There are still very few gay characters in video games in general, much less any in ones that children might want to play.

A big minus for Butch the Dog, however: He’s kind of a jerk.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Make Sheep Work for You

The fire behaved itself today inasmuch as a fire can. Maybe it realized how much wrong it did on Friday night and is now attempting penance in its final moments.

I’m fried, though not in the literal sense. I had considered doing a word of the week today, but I won’t. I don’t have it in me. Instead, I’ll offer you this, which I only thought of since I’ve been needing a nap for most of today: an issue of Fortune magazine given to me because it was correctly assumed that I’d enjoy the art.

Really, sheep — in an office! Who would have ever thought of such a thing! How can they even pick up the phones properly! It’s the most ridiculous thing!

Spencer noted that it was unfortunate that the cover wet to print with such an obvious typo: They clearly meant “sheep.” Right?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Granny Badness

Because you and the rest of the world must now: Certain Scandinavian mythologies feature a female creature — alternately a giantess or ladytroll — who is traditionally the prey of a ghostly apparition known broadly as the Wild Hunt. (It’s basically Ghost Riders in the Sky, only pastoral, medieval and less catchy.) The name of this eternally pursued she-creature is, wonderfully, “Slattenpat,” which is pretty great in and of itself but even better when translated into English as “wobbly boob” or “saggy tit.”

Also, consider the fact that she would be running more often than not.

Mythology, previously:

Singing Mountain

The living room. I didn’t realistically think I’d be leaving it behind forever when I stepped out this morning, but the hundred — if not hundreds — of houses that the Tea Fire turned black and small and far less homey gave me some pause nonetheless. I packed a bag. I’m not embarrassed to say it. I’d much rather look stupid unloading them from the trunk of my car than to stand sooty and sad and wish I still had my computer, my camera, and a certain cloth and fabric approximation of a sheep that has a certain emotional significance for me.

Doesn’t the name “Tea Fire” sell short a natural disaster that has so profoundly altered the lives of the people who met it most closely? “Zaca Fire” — Santa Barbara’s guest who overstayed his welcome last summer. Now there’s a name befitting a natural disaster. Familiar to local ears, but Spanish-sounding and exotic-sounding enough to inspire a certain amount of respect. This one, not so much. A tea fire heats up a teapot. Take it to the extreme and a tea fire could take out a room at a bed-and-breakfast where doilies and Earl Grey live. A tea fire can’t grab the attention of an entire of city recently jaded by wildfires. A tea fire can’t spook Oprah and turn Rob Lowe into an action hero.

This has been a long, strange day, with more extreme emotions that I’m accustomed to experiencing in such a short period. The Tea Fire seems to be waning as I write this — and that is a very good thing — and yet the weirdness won’t stop. Driving home from The Day That Wouldn’t End, I scanned for any radio station that didn’t broadcast news. I got Delilah. You know Delilah. She’s the staple of late-night easy listening who takes requests from people who apparently have tepid feelings for each other. I’m not sure if this was a one-night special or if it’s Delilah’s game plan from here to the end of the year, but she played nothing but Christmas hits tonight. Believe me: There’s nothing quite like hearing the lyrics “It’s lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you” when you’re cruising downtown Santa Barbara in a Mustang, with the windows rolled down to fight off the unseasonably hot pre-Thanksgiving temperatures. Falling ash makes for a decent enough approximation of snow, it turns out.

Bonus weird: Watched Suspria in its entirety on Turner Movie Classics, recalled my fear of covens, and then found out Sylmar got the fire that Santa Barbara didn’t. Shit. I hate to invoke a cliche, but it truly does seem that if it is not one thing then it must be another.

Friday, November 14, 2008


Joan and the Copy Machine

An example of the fantastic and wonderfully retro Mad Men illustrations by Dyna Moe.

Click for a larger version, or see them all through the magic of Flickr.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Less at Doppleganger, More at Handleganker

What’s the courteous way to address someone who’s ganked your online identity?


Not in the illegal, credit-ruining way, but in the casual sense of just having adopted a handle that happens to be the one that you’ve used for just about everything you’ve done in the online realm for years and years? And one that seems pretty unlikely to be picked randomly by anyone who isn’t you? And one that happens to be the base of the URL for a certain blog that you might have kept for the past five-plus years?

Also, what do you make of the fact that the handleganker chose to create this ill-gotten alterego for himself at a website called Superfuture Supertalk, which describes itself as “discussion for superboard global shopping experts”? And what if he used your identity to gab on about esoteric fashion items such as size-nine “haunted tree boots” and “hi top mono IIIs”?

Really — what’s the proper procedure here?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Police Sweater Blood Vow

A random bit of nothing that I stumbled upon: The old Nintendo game Hogan’s Alley — which had players wielding the Zapper light gun to shoot cardboard cutouts of criminals and not shoot those of innocent bystanders — got its name from an actual FBI training facility.

image courtesy sydlexia

There currently is a Hogan’s Alley at the FBI academy in Quantico, Virginia, that didn’t exist until 1987, three years after Nintendo released the video game Hogan’s Alley in Japan. (The game came out in the United States the following year. Some may remember it as the game they played with the Zapper when they tired of Duck Hunt.) According to Wikipedia, the game probably took its name from an earlier training facility at Camp Perry. The term Hogan’s Alley can actually refer to any facility that specializes in training people in tactical shooting, it turns out, and that term was spawned by the first-ever newspaper comic Hogan’s Alley, which gave us the character The Yellow Kid and in which the title location was a crime-ridden slum.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Your Courage Hangy-Ball

Old roommate Meghan — now currently of Filthadelphia, a.k.a. the set of Blade Runner — posted this, a taken-in-the-mirror photo of someone she termed “the scariest kid I’ve ever seen.”

Close, I guess, though I think Disaster Girl takes the cake.

A good tradition to keep up nonetheless.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Here's to All the Pretty Words

And proof that the New York Times loves me, or so I’m told: postcards.

Neat postcards, really. Perhaps I’ll write a note to my grandmother about what it’s like to work in the print news industry during its decline. Hi Grandma!

Fat Dog Is Fat

I have proof that Spencer has a fairly narrow schema for how animals look.

An example of how he used to draw his dog when he was a kid:

And, drawn sometime later, a note that I found on my desk and which I’m pretty sure that Spencer wrote.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Eternal Struggle

Speculation as to what drives Bowser to repeatedly attempt to kidnap Princess Peach and, thus, create more and more Super Mario Bros. games:

One: He wants to eat her.

Two: He wants to have sex with her.

Three: He wants to marry her.

Four: He wants some combination of the three above choices, in an order depending on how much depravity you’re willing to infer into a fairly innocent child’s game.

Five: He wants to overtake homeland — the Mushroom Kingdom, which is bucolic and pleasant — and escape his own — the Koopa Kingdom, which is riddled with lava rivers and ghosts and exists under a gloomy permanight.

Six: His offspring lacks an apparent maternal influence and he’d like to remedy this by introducing into his household the embodiment of passive femininity.

Seven: He has boundary issues resulting confusion which itself results from the fact that he routinely gets invited to various golf tournaments, tennis matches and go-kart races that Peach attends.

Eight: He’s compelled to perpetuate a gender-flipped Freudian metaphor that involves turtle shells and mushrooms serving as symbols for female and male genitals, only these symbols are each associated with the wrong gender and consequently create a great deal of psychological strife.

And nine: Housekeeping needs.

Monsoon + Fire

Home, as good as it possibly can be.


Please ignore the fact that the pictured Monsoon Wedding subtitle is “motherfucker.”

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Because Obaminate Isn't a Word

I had initially planned for the below word to run next week, when I’d be on the letter “B.” However, in light of recent events it really seems more appropriate for this week. The letter “A” will have to wait.
barrack (BAER-uhk) — verb: to cheer, especially to cheer on a team.
That first syllable should be pronounced like the first syllable in the word barrel. Don’t feel bad if the term is new to you — to Americans, barrack usually refers to the place soldiers live. This definition, however, comes from our rugby-loving friends in Australia in New Zealand. It’s worth noting that barrack also means just the opposite, “to jeer,” in England, but we’ll ignore that for the moment. That’s really all I have to say about the word of the week, other than that this happy coincidence makes me happy.

I can’t take credit for rooting out this one — it came from the curiously named Anu Garg, who dedicated a whole week to words that sound like the names of those on the major presidential tickets this election. Also included on the list was meeken (“to become meek”), bidentate (“having two teeth or teeth-like parts”), obambulate, (“to walk about), and, best of all, palinode, which means “a poem in which an author retracts something said in an earlier poem.” The lovely Girg — who’s or possibly lovely in a masculine way — even gave an example of such a thing: Gelett Burgess, who first wrote the four-line poem “The Purple Cow”…
I never saw a purple cow,
I never hope to see one;
But I can tell you, anyhow,
I’d rather see than be one.
… And then wrote a follow-up of sorts, “Confession: and a Portrait, Too, Upon a Background that I Rue!”
Oh, yes, I wrote “The Purple Cow,”
I’m sorry now I wrote it!
But I can tell you anyhow,
I’ll kill you if you quote it.
Next week: the letter “A,” I promise.

Previous words of the week:

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Kansas of Your Sweet Little Myth

I have occasionally found myself strapped to name good qualities about my home county, aside from resident family members. “Benitoite!” I say, referring to the semiprecious gem stone found only in my home county, San Benito. It’s actually quite pretty, especially considering that it comes from a place beyond even New Idria. If you didn’t grow up in Hollister, the phrase “beyond New Idria” probably means little to you, but believe me — it might as well be the Midwest or Mesopotamia or the moon.

I’ve known about Benitoite since I was a kid and actually have only ever seen it at the Smithsonian natural history museum, but apparently there are those who actually travel to unincorporated reaches of San Benito County in search of it, as this website attests.

Beyond this blue rock, there’s not a whole lot that jumps to mind, aside from a embarrassingly high teen pregnancy rate that’s only inched ever higher since the bowling alley closed. I have heard, however, of a rare plant, the San Benito primrose (Camissonia benitensis), which may only exist in my home county but as of yet has only been observed there. The poor thing doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page to call its own — yet — but is pretty, I suppose, in a sunny, unassuming way,

Just last week, however, I learned of the existence of a little-seen San Benito County resident, Illacme plenipes, whose genus and species names literally translate from Latin as “over there” and “plenty feet” — making it the only species whose name works as an implied imperative — and who holds the record for the millipede with the largest number of feet. Not a thousand, sadly, but around 600, which is still a lot. The specimen with the most feet had 750 legs, which is close enough for me.

the hometown hero himself

So now, when people ask me about my home, I can proudly tell them that I shared it with the millipede that came the closest to making true on its name and having a thousand feet. And then I can ask them how many feet the millipedes have where they’re from, and whether or not their hometown bowling alleys are still functional, I’ll have made a little victory for myself.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Man at Work, Blackberry’d

Or, to be more technically correct, the man momentarily averting his attention from 30 Rock to check his email.


Cameos by Kami art, Molly art, Giraffes? Giraffes!, the Kransky Sisters, and an ad from

This House Was Half My Mind

The below image came from a magazine page — from what publication, I can no longer say, for it was delivered to me at work mistakenly and I threw it away slightly after. However, I tore out the below page and scanned simply because the people pictured struck me as the single most unpleasant-looking human beings I’d ever seen.

Now I want to share them with you. Gaze upon them, look into their cold dead eyes and know that they will one day come for you — and perhaps will be posed in your living room just as they are above. And before you can even ask why or how or when they’ve broken into your home, their barrage of barbed remarks will cut you to pieces.

In the meantime, you may want to give them funny names.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Who — Not Whither — Is the Blue-Haired One?

Some people make life a little tougher than it is. And they do this by being confusing. Of course, the fact that certain people speak different languages doesn’t help, either.

two characters, who may be the same characters, and who
nonetheless have four names between them.

An example that sprang to mind this morning for no apparent reason: a certain character in the video game Chrono Trigger, which I played and thoroughly enjoyed almst fifteen years ago. Ostensibly, his name is “Magus,” even though the appellation should be considered more of a title than a name. (Unfortunately, no one bothers to put a “the” before the “Magus,” so the matter is hardly clear.) From the get-go, Magus is offered as the storyline’s primary villain, but that doesn’t turn out to be the case. In fact, if the player makes a few key decisions, Magus actually reveals himself to be not a total dick and joins the party outright. Furthermore — and keep in mind that a video game with the word “chrono” in the title must necessarily involve a bit of skipping around through time — the characters in the game also encounter Magus as a child, in a different period of history, when his name was “Janus.” (A sensible allusion, as the character has at least two distinct personalities.) In Japan, however, the character’s grown-up bad guy name is “Maoh,” which literally translates as “Demon King.” And his little boy name is “Jacky.” (This is one instance in which I’m actually happy that the translators took some liberties in removing the text from the original Japanese. “Jacky” is not anyone to be taken seriously. Jacky is a girl with bangs and glasses who came up to you at recess and asked you if you wanted to play tetherball.) That is the extent of the character’s names in this one game, although one character memorable refers to him as “the blue-haired one” and that phrase has long stuck out in my mind. (Enough, least, that it became a post title and a chunk of surrealistic dialogue for a nonsense comic I once drew.)

from radical dreamers

The character became further complicated with the release of a game called Radical Dreamers, a Japan-only text-based sort of “chose your own adventure” game that featured a man named “Gil” as one of the three protagonists. The game’s developers have since stated that Gil is, in fact, Magus — as well as Maoh and Janus and Jacky, I guess — and that the connections between Chrono Trigger and Radical Dreamers were initially obscured so that the latter’s status as a spin-off would be a sort of Easter egg for those who play through the former. In unofficial English translations of Radical Dreamers, however, that gap is closed somewhat by the fact that Gil is re-named “Magil.”

The intentional obscuration is completely undone, however, with the release of a true Chrono Trigger sequel, Chrono Cross, a few more years down the line. One of the 45 playable characters in it is a guy named “Guile” who bears enough of a resemblance to Magus that it seems more than coincidental. (He also looks like an extra from the ballroom scene in Labyrinth, but that is neither here nor there, as this post is concerned.) Also, the linguistic distance between “Gil” and “Guile” seems negligible. The matter is compounded by the fact that Guile has a different name in Japan: “Alf.” Associations with extraterrestrial-starring sitcoms aside, the name is notable because Chrono Trigger’s Janus has a pet cat, Alfador. Again, the names resemble each other enough that I’d guess the similarity is not a coincidence.

Thus, what may or may not be the same character in three different games has eight different names. (As far as I’m concerned, the jury is still out on whether Guile is supposed to be Magus or just someone who looks a lot like Magus.) I’m not sure whether I love or hate the fact that such a seemingly simple matter could be so very complicated.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Yes We Is

I write this from the comfort of my living room, where I’ve composed so many posts about ultimately inconsequential things. But tonight I’m writing about a day that makes me so much happier than any silly pop culture footnote ever could.

Sure, I’m looking at a late bedtime tonight — Santa Barbara polls just closed — but I’m very happy to put in the hours tonight.

I can’t help but to think about where I was four years ago — in an unfamiliar bar, watching states on a map inexplicably turn red. I was living in Washington D.C., however briefly, along with a few friends. I can hardly remember who I was sitting with. (Jill? Monique? Adam? Daniel? Who was there, aside from the tables of people sitting near me, looking sad? I can see those strangers so much more vividly now.) I remember walking home in the cold and feeling a sour feeling in my stomach because the nation had chosen to re-elect a man that I felt didn’t deserve to be president. And I can remember walking to (unpaid) work the next morning, and seeing people on the streets looking somber and not talking.

Tonight is different. I know where I am and I feel happy for the country. Months worth of tension paid of, it turns out, I can look to the next for years, at least, and feel hopeful.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I must try and pay attention to the Santa Barbara school board race.

Women on Top… of Construction Sites

I’d always assumed that Pauline — the running-in-place enthusiast, the Donkey Kong damsel in distress and Mario’s first ladyfriend — was named for the title character in The Perils of Pauline, the Pearl White character who first appeared in the 1914 silent serial as the persistently imperiled beautiful woman. You may know her best as the woman tied to the train tracks.

This YouTube clip illustrates the point well enough, I think.

It’s not the original, but it gets the point across well enough.

Pauline — the film character, that is — appeared in several subsequent cinematic adaptations, including some 1933 serials in which she was portrayed by Evalyn Knapp, a 1947 film in which she was portrayed by Betty Hutton, and finally a 1967 film in which she was portrayed by Pamela Austin. Thus, her constant state of distress seems well known enough that she could have been the inspiration for the poor woman who has taken to the top of the construction site that some crazed ape decided to climb.

But she wasn’t.

If I’m to believe Chris Kohler’s phenomenal book Power-Up — and why wouldn’t I? — the character was reportedly named for Polly James, wife of Nintendo of America employee Don James. The book doesn’t say what Don James did for Nintendo, though a simple Google search says he was Nintendo’s warehouse manager at the time. If the story is true, it would make a nice little parallel for Mario, who was named “Jumpman” until Nintendo of America decided to name him after Mario Segali, the landlord for Nintendo’s American office.

pauline, from her pixelated days to more shapely, more current, more whorish days

Apparently my educated guesses don’t always pan out. That’s not a first, I’m afraid to admit.

Given that Pauline was the first-ever damsel in distress in a Mario game, it’s appropriate that before she was ever Pauline she was known in Japan as “Lady.” If that doesn’t get to the heart of the role of women in early video games, I don’t know what does.

Games and names, previously:

Monday, November 3, 2008

One Bad Neighbor

I needed a reprieve from election coverage, so I decided to watch old Simpsons DVDs tonight. I picked the seventh season and ended up watching the episode “Two Bad Neighbors,” in which George and Barbara Bush move across the street from the Simpson family. Things do not go well.

homer, as many of us have, fights george bush sr. in the sewer

At one point, Bart and Homer get George to step out of his house by tricking him into thinking that his sons — “George Bush Jr. and Jeb Bush,” as Homer puts it — are coming to see him. Odd to watch tonight, of all nights, because I’m now positive that this episode, which aired January 14, 1996, marked my first ever awareness of George W. Bush. Being reminded of that tonight seems just a little significant.

The Melancholy British Version of Hee Haw

Even as a kid, I thought it strange that all the Winnie the Pooh characters save for Pooh himself should be named after the type of animals they are save for Eeyore, the clinically depressed donkey whose doom and gloom could rain out even the most Disneyfied cheer.

However, a recent post at Separated by a Common Language — a blog that focuses on the differences between the American and British varieties of English — discusses the phenomenon of onomatopoeia variation and noted that the American version for the noise donkeys make — hee-haw — is essentially similar to the British version — eeyore. This might not make sense to Americans until they consider that eeyore is essentially hee-haw spoken with a silent “H” on both syllables and the ending pronounced with the typical British reluctance to pronounce the letter “R.” Just try it: Say “eeyore” out loud in a British accent.

And so, essentially, “Eeyore” is just “donkey” in the same way that a kid might call a dog a “bow-wow” or a duck a “quack-quack.” Oh bother, indeed.

And if that isn’t enough of onomatopoetic differences among different languages, check out bzzzspeak and see how India, Korea and Italy’s versions of the noise cuckoo clocks make.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

To the Eighth, Not the Nth

A simple one for this week.
zenzizenzizenzic (zen-zi-zen-zi-ZEN-zik) — adjective: raised to the eighth power. noun: a number raised to the eighth power.
A by that “simple” I mean a shirt explanation for a rather complex word.

Famously one of the most underutilized words in the English language, this one comes from the obsolete German word zenzic (meaning “a number squared”), which in turn came from the Italian censo, which itself was an approximation of the Arabic mál, meaning “possessions” or “property.” That we’d be back at Arabic should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the history of math. World Wide Words notes that “Arabs, like most mathematicians of those and earlier times, thought of a squared number as a depiction of an area, especially of land, hence property. So censo, and later our English zenzic, was for a while the word for a squared number.”

Wikipedia claims that it was coined by Welsh mathematician Robert Recorde in his 1557 book The Whetstone of Witte, though his spelling of it was zenzizenzizenzike. Recorde’s book is apparently the sole citation for the word in the Oxford English Dictionary. “It survives as a historical oddity,” Wikipedia notes.

Zenzizenzizenzic is related to such terms as zenzicube — “the sixth power of a number,” or that number’s square being cubed. Zenzizenzizenzic has the unique honor of being the English word with the most instances of the letter “z.”

Previous words of the week: