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.

Hey There, Unfortunate Girl

Until I began writing this post, I had no idea that the subject — a stupid and rather mean-spirited song the likes of which you’d expect to hear while on hold or while standing in line at the grocery store — had been nominated for an Academy Award. That fact speaks ill either of the award itself or the state of American, British and Australian culture back in 1967.

The song is “Georgy Girl,” by The Seekers.

Surprised? Does it seems strange to you that this ditty — and it is a ditty, and little more — could have nearly earned a little statuette? It almost did, by virtue of its association with a 1966 film starring Lynn Redgrave, Charlotte Rampling and James Mason, who all now regret their involvement with the project, I’m sure. (The film was based on a book, and a later musical stage adaptation was based on the film. Apparently “Georgy Girl” belongs to a expansive pop culture network of references and remakes. Yes, bad news for humanity.)

It wasn’t until KrisDina and I were driving through Australia and New Zealand that I really appreciated what a wonderfully terrible song “Georgy Girl” is. In addition to being catchy as all hell and containing some of the most awkward chunks of syntax ever in a pop song, “Georgy Girl” delivers one of the foulest messages you could imagine: Make yourself pretty in order to be happy, because no one could ever love you now, you disgusting pig. In retrospect, it was less funny and more mean to re-sing the lyrics as “Dina Girl” when Dina was sitting in the back seat. Then again, she seemed to think it was funny. I think.

If you still don’t know what song I’m talking about — it’s the one Homer Simpson once re-sang as “Hey there, blimpy boy,” if that helps at all — watch the video.

And here are the lyrics, with my commentary.
Hey there, Georgy Girl!
Swinging down the street so fancy free
Nobody you meet could ever see
The loneliness there — inside you
Nice how a brief rest helps to punctuate the “inside you” and hammer home the point that the speakers know more about Georgy than she does herself. The way the first two lines set her up as initially happy — “swinging down the street,” fancy free, or not — makes me think that poor uggo Georgy was just innocently walking down the street when some Brit pop-influenced quartet showed up and started browbeating her for failing to please aesthetically — through song, no less. How horrified Georgy must have been.
Hey there, Georgy Girl!
Why do all the boys just pass you by?
Really, they already know the answer to this question: Georgy is fancy-free and lonely inside. Jerks.
Could it be you just don’t try?
Or is it the clothes you wear?
God, please let it be the clothes and not something more fundamentally unappealing about her.
You’re always window shopping but never stopping to buy
So she’d those dowdy feathers and fly — a little bit.
I have to applaud the effort it took to create the in-line rhyme of “shopping” and “stopping.” Also, by this point in the song, I picture Georgy having dropped her bags of chocolate and stuffed animals she bought at the store and fleeing down the street, with the overly critical singers in hot pursuit. Georgy is scream-crying. Her arms are in the air. People are looking.
Hey there, Georgy Girl!
There’s another Georgy deep inside
Bring out all the love you hide
And, oh, what a change there’d be
And by “bring out all the love you hide,” they actually mean “buy new clothes.”
The world would see — a new Georgy Girl!
Same Georgy Girl. Same Cabbage Patch Kid-on-hard-times face. New clothes.
Hey there, Georgy Girl!
Dreaming of the someone you could be
The someone she’d dream to be is probably someone who isn’t being insulted musically.
Life is a reality; you can’t always run away
Nor can she run away from this band, seeing as how they’re still going on about how she sucks.
Don’t be so scared of changing and rearranging yourself
It’s time for jumping down from the shelf — a little bit
Being stuck on the shelf as a metaphor for being unloved: foreshadowing for the song that I picked for my first song of the week?
Hey there, Georgy Girl!
There’s another Georgy deep inside
Bring out all the love you hide and, oh, what a change there’d be
The world would see — a new Georgy Girl!
They’re repeating whole choruses at this point — proof of cruelty. Also, at this point, the “new” Georgy Girl is probably the old Georgy Girl, rendered into a sobbing human puddle at the bus stop, where she was waiting for her only hope of escape, since she’s clearly to lame to own a car.

Pop music at its best.

Previous songs of the week:

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.

Friday, November 28, 2008

This Ain't No Holiday

Points of interest, point out by me. Point point.
And, finally, a video clip for the text-averse: Something amazing titled Western Spaghetti, which saw via Dubious Quality.

Delightful, if not especially appetizing.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Monochrome Turkey

If you behaved properly this afternoon, you’re lucky to able to sit up at the moment. No matter, enjoy this Thanksgiving-appropriate clip from Saturday Night Live, which marked both Bill Hader’s first standout performance and the first time I realized how much I liked Kristen Wiig.

Try and keep it all down, now.

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

Esmeralda Fitzmonster

I wonder if people arrive at my blog in any more thankful a manner in the days before Thanksgiving than they do during the rest of the year.

No, it turns out.
  1. As in "Nick nack paddy whack — Give the dog a clone"?
  2. "Brightening"? "Illuminating"? "Having the lights turned on"?
  3. May the debate continue.
  4. Number one hit!
  5. Non-glossy news periodical? Cincinnati Jewish News Daily?
  6. One of only two hits!
  7. Number one hit!
  8. I probably had something here, but I forgot to post it. Now I cannot recall what I meant to write. Something about Demolition Man, possibly? In fact, this footnote only exists because George pointed out that made an attempt to make one but had neglected to write anything here below. Happy, George?

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?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Legend of the Cursed Digital Short

It’s a pet interest that I’d forgotten about until last weekend’s Paul Rudd-hoted Saturday Night Live: the motif of harmful sensation, or the notion that perceiving a seemingly harmless thing can cause a person to die, become sick or just generally suffer some bad fate that inanimate, non-poisonous, non-bullet-firing things usually don’t cause. A brief who’s who and what’s what of the motif of harmful sensation: Medusa, the evil eye, the Stendhal syndrome, The Stendhal Syndrome, “Gloomy Sunday” (a.k.a. the Hungarian Suicide Song), The Ring, seeing a deity in his or her full-on goddiness, and that Monty Python sketch about the fatally hilarious joke.

Here’s a new one, the digital short “Everyone’s a Critic,” which I also happen to find funny but also far weirder and far more violent than anything I ever expected to see on network television.

And that’s not even touching on the surprisingly high level of homoeroticism in the short and in the whole episode as well.

As another point of interest, I’d like to point out that, unless I’m mistaken, this short marked the debut of the new cast members whose first show was this episode. Abby Elliot played the woman at the auction who pulled the blanket off the painting and then vomited all over herself before dying, and Michaela Watkins played the old Italian woman who slashed her own neck.

If that isn’t a promising start to a career of TV stardom, I don’t know what is.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Considerably More Sophisticated Land Down Under

On its own but also as a follow-up to this, the below Quantas commercial says a lot about Australia’s apparent fascination with a certain 80s pop song.

Is that the Sydney Symphony Orchestra? Could it be? Shouldn’t it be? Could anything be better than that?

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.

Zinc Saucier

Two thoughts upon watching the season premiere of Top Chef:

First, the people who edit this show really must stop setting up episodes so that one of the two characters who admit to having some sort of friendship end up being eliminated that same episode. It’s laughably predictable at this point — the Top Chef equivalent of a sexy teen wandering into the woods to smoke pot and have sex. Just this episode, we were introduced to Lauren and Patrick, who basically sealed their fate by admitting that they knew each other previously and were happy to have a friend in the kitchen. They might as well have just swallowed the cyanide capsule right there. Lauren, who apparently lacks apple skills, got booted after a first-ever elimination Quickfire Challenge, and Patrick lost the full-fledged competition. Being friends, it seems, doesn’t pay off, but I suppose that doesn’t really matter since 85 percent of reality show contestants willingly admit to not being there to make friends.

Second, watching the start of a new Top Chef season has reminded me of my dream: Sneaking onto the show, either as a result of a completely false application process that makes me seem to have any sort of culinary training or by just wandering onto the set and hoping nobody notices. Either way, I only need to make it to the elimination challenge of the first episode, at which point I will make a recipe consisting of water, corn starch, green food coloring and cocktail umbrellas. It will be serves on tea saucers and I really just want the satisfaction of making Padma Lakshmi, Gail Simmons and Tom Colicchio eat a gluey, flavorless paste on camera. I wouldn’t even really wait for the judging. I’d just admit that I actually had no reason to be on the show and slink away, without bothering to pack my knives.

Also, the knives would be of the plasticware and switchblade varieties. Just because.

EDIT: Upon watching it again, I am disappointed to announce that the show is also seems to be edited to make Gail Simmons seem unattractive — especially when she is eating food, which, of course, is fairly often.

Gail, you should have words with someone.

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

An Open Letter to Jane Seymour

Dear Jane,

Hi! It’s been so long since you were on that show about the pioneer lady that aired when I was a kid but I never watched because my house didn’t get CBS. Full disclosure: If It wasn’t for the fact that I saw Live and Let Die on TNT a few years ago, I’d probably still confuse you with Roma Downey. That being said, I hear that you’ve taken to designing jewelry now. How great for you! But I have a question about the shape you have chosen to market: the “open hearts.”

Yes, you’ve found quite a catchphrase in “If your heart is open, love will always find its way in.” However, I’m somewhat concerned by the fact that the pieces of jewelry — which do, I’ll admit, look like two connected hearts that are quite literally open — also bear a resemblance to the naked female form. And, by that, I mean some odd impossible shape of the nude female form in which both the buttocks and the bosom are simultaneously displayed in full.

The below watercolors, which I believe you did, illustrate this tendency a little more blatantly, perhaps because you did them in red.

This being said, Jane, I’d like to reiterate that I’m very happy for your new career in the jewelry business. However, if you want to make something that people would feel comfortable giving, say, to their mothers for, say, Christmas, then perhaps it would be beneficial to evoke buttocks and bosoms less. I myself will not be giving buying anything from the Open Hearts collection this Christmas, but that has more to do with the fact that I am poor and that, as I said earlier, we didn’t have CBS and my mother therefore has less reason to know who you are.

Best of luck!

Drew Mackie

Previous open letters:

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

A. Pismo Clam

Presenting: The legend of the people who found my blog my blog through odd and notable means. It goes like this:
  1. This, for the first time in a long time, is actually a worthwhile Google hit, I should note. It landed someone here, at a post that directly addresses the problem of referring to male ballet dancers. However, in looking at nearby Google hits, I found that not everyone seems to agree with my initial finding that the word cavalier is the term of choice for this type of dancer. More often, I found that cavalier meant specifically "the male partner of a ballerina," and I don't know if that's any different than a full-fledged male ballet dancer. Wikipedia has a list of ballet terms that does not include cavalier and instead offers danseur as the correct term. News to me, but good to know, I suppose.
  2. No.
  3. Another strange but nonetheless appropriate search hit. Read all about Arnold Black Black here.
  4. I'm sorry — I live in Santa Barbara, so you're going to have to narrow it down. Also: Number one hit!
  5. This, and the six that preceded it, are each highly suspicious.
  6. I'm almost positive your too late to enter.
  7. Which is different that a purple nurple, it turns out, and has more to do with this lady.
  8. That would be Brak, of The Brak Show fame.
  9. Number one hit!
  10. Can I please note how astonished I am at the amount of traffic that lands on this blog — on this post, in particular — as a result of a wrongheaded Google involving Top Chef judge Gail Simmons and the words "arm" and "scar" or "scarred" or sometimes even "scared"? It's confounding, because if people have any awareness of Simmons, Top Chef or the person who actually has the scarred arm, Padma Lakshmi, they'd be Googling more sensibly. I mean, Simmons and Lakshmi are the two female non-contestants on the show, but they are so dissimilar that I honestly think it would be impossible for anyone to confuse them.
  11. Anyone? I saw Burn After Reading and have no memory of anything that I would describe as "the purple thing." Was it something Tilda Swinton wore?
  12. She will, alas, remained unnamed and mysterious, it seems.

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.

I Don't Want the World — I Just Want Your Half

I noticed recently that a photo I took and posted on this blog years ago appears on someone else’s blog.

pepper tree

Which is fine, really. I’m just always curious to know why anybody would have an interest in something I did. This stranger’s blog, which is in Arabic, just doesn’t lend comprehension. Google offers me this half-English, half-Arabic mongrel of a translation:
Ttjoz pepper tree fig tree
ميل غصن من الشجرة دي على الشجرة دي Mail from the tree branch on the tree de de
و اتفاهموا في كل التفاصيل And in all the details Atvahmua
ليلة الدخلة Dakhla night
شجر الجوز و الجميز و الفزدق الاخضر و الموز And Sycamore tree nuts and bananas and green Aelovesdq
بيزفوهم طول الليل .... Bezvohm all night .... طول الليل Overnight
غارت منهم شجرة فل .. Phil tree sinking them .. لونها ازرّق في غمضة عين Color blue in the blink of an eye
رقصت م الغل على التل .. M. danced yield on the hill .. و قطعت للعروسين غصنين And the newlyweds made Gsnin
و كل ما ترقص فرع بينقص .. And all the dancing section Benqs .. و جدورها اتقطمت نصين Atqtmt texts and Jdorha
في الصباحية الشمس بتفرد ناموسية Uniquely in the nets morning sun
و بتدعيلهم بالذرية و بترقيهم م الحاسدين And Ptdeilhm Baldhirip and M Alhasudain Petrekayam
شجرة فلفل .. Pepper tree .. تتجوز من شجرة توت Ttjoz fig tree
Anyone fluent in Arabic want to take stab at what’s going on here? Aside from several different trees?