Sunday, March 29, 2009

Ultimate, Indeed

Found on George’s blog, under the post title “Sign of the Times,” which proved to be cleverer than anything I could come up with.

Where shall we realize our potentials now?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Lactating Fish

For those of you who read this blog and know Dina, that she supplied this week’s word should come as no surprise.
milt (milt) — noun: 1. fish semen. 2. the spleen of a domesticated animal.
Uncmmon. I feel like only those in specific professions or subcultures would have reason to refer to fish semen by its proper name. The Wiktionary definition for milt offers the word roe as a synonym. This would be true only certain circumstances: when milt isn’t referring to animal spleens and when roe isn’t referring to fish eggs or crustacean ovaries. More interesting to me, however, is the likelihood that someone — likely an older man, possibly your grandfather — is or was named Milt Roe or at least Milt Rowe, because this is now funny to me. Such men do exist, and I’ll bet they’re not aware that names refer to fish sex in two separate-but-equally hilarious ways.

Wiktionary links milt to the Old English milte, also meaning “spleen,” as well as the German and Swedish words for “spleen,” Milz and mjälte. The American Heritage Dictionary most agrees, but also suggests that milt comes from both Old English milte and a Middle Dutch word spelled exactly the same way. There’s no entry for it at the typically handy Online Etymology Dictionary. Perhaps I’m disclosing my ignorance of anatomy in revealing this, but I don’t quite understand the connection between semen and the spleen. Can anybody explain it to me?

Google Books offers another take on the etymology of milt: Reverend Abram Smythe Palmer’s 664-page Folk Etymology: A Dictionary, published in 1882. From what I’ve read, Palmer seems to debunk folk etymologies with a sense of glee. I’d like to picture him, white-haired and hunched over stacks of books, muttering and sputtering about bastardizations to his beloved English and scribbling out the etymologists’ version of a holy crusade. His book’s subtitle, “Verbal Corruptions of Words Perverted in Form of Meaning, by False Derivation of Mistaken Analogy,” gets quite close to what I imagine Palmer’s mindset was as he wrote this book.

Clear though Palmer’s ambitions may have been, however, I’m not entirely clear what he means in his entry on milt. He writes:
Milt, the soft roe of fishes, so spelt as if identical with milt, the spleen of animals, A. Sax. milte, Dan. milt, Ger. mil. It is really a corruption of milk, so called from its resemblance to curd or thick milk, as we see by comparing Dan. fisfa-melk, “fish-milk,” milt; Swed. mjolke, from mjolk, milk; Ger. milch, milk, milt.
And from this, I’m not sure whether his claiming the notion of milt and milk being related is true or rather a folk etymology. He mentions milt again in his entry on milk, however, so perhaps the former is the case. Regardless of what Palmer says, I’m not what to think, aside from that even a possible etymological connection between milk and a word for semen makes me uncomfortable in a way I’ll try to put out of my mind when I next eat cereal for breakfast.

If that’s not enough to make you feel uneasy, consider this: As we’re on “M” this week, we’re halfway through the alphabetical order I began in the first week of January. Since two runs-through of the alphabet will fit perfect in the span of one year, we are therefore one-quarter done with 2009.

Previous words of the week:

Friday, March 27, 2009

Joey Jo-Jo Junior Shabadoo

Below is a brief Simpsons bit that represents a small moment in the series as a whole but probably one of my favorite ever. I can remember being about eleven or so and seeing this bit and thinking “This is what I think is funny.”

I’m sure it shaped the rest of my life in ways I can’t even imagine.

Rotten Asparagus Ale

In brainstorming how I should best run the near-beer tasting last week, I asked reputed foodie George for suggestions. In response, he forwarded me a score sheet used by the American Homebrewers Association that detailed the scale of its rating system and by which criteria judges evaluate beer. Even better, the sheet included a list of “descriptor definitions” that opened my eyes to how many ways you can say “tastes like beer.”

The list reads as follows:
  • acetaldehyde — green apple-like aroma and flavor.
  • alcoholic — the aroma, flavor, and warming effect of ethanol and higher alcohols; sometimes described as “hot.”
  • Astringent — puckering, lingering harshness and/or dryness in the finish/aftertaste; harsh graininess; huskiness.
  • diacetyl — artificial butter, butterscotch, or toffee aroma and flavor; sometimes perceived as a slickness on the tongue.
  • DMS (dimethyl sulfide) — at low levels a sweet, cooked or canned corn-like aroma and flavor.
  • estery — aroma and/or flavor of any ester (fruits, fruit flavorings, or roses).
  • grassy — Aroma/flavor of fresh-cut grass or green leaves.
  • light-struck — similar to the aroma of a skunk.
  • metallic — tinny, coiny, copper, iron, or blood-like flavor.
  • musty — stale, musty, or moldy aromas/flavors.
  • oxidized — any one or combination of winy/vinous, cardboard, papery, or sherry-like aromas and flavors.
  • phenolic — spicy (clove, pepper), smoky, plastic, plastic adhesive strip, and/or medicinal (chlorophenolic).
  • solvent — aromas and flavors of higher alcohols (fusel alcohols); similar to acetone or lacquer thinner aromas.
  • sour/acidic — tartness in aroma and flavor; can be sharp and clean (lactic acid), or vinegar-like (acetic acid).
  • sulfur — the aroma of rotten eggs or burning matches.
  • vegetal — cooked, canned, or rotten vegetable aroma and flavor (cabbage, onion, celery, asparagus, etc.)
  • yeasty — a bready, sulfury or yeast-like aroma or flavor.
A pretty cool vocabulary lesson, really. Some, like grassy and yeasty are pretty obvious, but others, like estery, seem to be words only used in descriptions of brewed beverages. (No, Google, I don’t mean estuary.) Now I’m have to wonder whether beer that smacks of canned corn or cardboard or plastic adhesive strips would necessarily be bad or if it such flavors could actually exist in a good-tasting product. Thinking back to the comment cards that I had my near-beer tasters fill out, I can see where some of this vocabulary would have been appropriate. They called certain brews out for tasting sulphurous or metallic. Would tasting like tomato paste mean a beer tastes estery or vegetal?

I was most curious, however, about where the term light-struck came from, since it sounds like it should mean something more pleasant than what it does. The term, it turns out, is quite literal. Beer takes on a skunky flavor when after being exposed to ultraviolet or visible light, or so says Wikipedia. Light causes riboflavin to react with hops-derived isohumulones to create a flavor that is chemically similar to a skunk’s spray. Incidentally, Miller High Life lacks isohumulones and therefore apparently cannot get skunky. Furthermore, the purpose of the brown beer bottles is to keep out any isohumulones-affecting light. Green and clear bottles offer the beer inside no such protection.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

How Does the Fox Make You Feel?

This is a Tibetan fox that recently appeared on the blog Fuck You, Penguin in a post titled “The Tibetan fox thinks he’s better than you.”

The image and the post were brought to my attention by someone who says this Tibetan fox has a people face — as in, it kind of looks like someone took a human and then Photoshopped his face onto the body of this animal to make a grotesque vulpine-human hybrid. I have to agree, though I couldn’t explain why: This animal does have a strange facial quality that gives him human-like characteristics. As a result of or maybe in spite of this, the animal also looks funny for reasons I can’t put my finger on. And that’s weird, because things that exhibit human-like characteristics make me uncomfortable more often than not. Does he look nervous? Imperious? A little sad? A little uncomfortable himself?

Would appreciate any comments on this fox’s accidental or deliberate human mimicry as well as on how you perceive his mental state.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

How Much Is That Chinchilla in the Bathroom Stall?

As proof of the promise made in the earlier post, I give you this:

UCSB chinchilla

Taken by Agent Prance Closer in a UCSB bathroom. Apparently bathrooms were tagged with this message all across campus by someone in such an urgent need to shed chinchillas that he was willing to commit vandalism. In case you’d actually like to shell out $200 for a chinchilla of likely inferior quality — I say this because Isla Vista animals often have mange problems and this would bode poorly for an animal for whom fur is pretty much the only selling point — email me and I’ll send the version with an unredacted phone number.

A point of discussion: Do you think the scratched-in animal face is supposed to be the chinchilla? Or do you think the face was already there and it made the would-be chinchilla seller that this particular spot on the stall wall would be a good place to write an animal-related message?

Also: Why do you think that the person who wrote this message chose to state the street he lives on? Why did he think that doing so would be helpful to customers? Why didn’t he think this was something he couldn’t communicate over the phone?

And something you can either discuss or not: College has changed since I graduated. In my day, most animal peddlers who’d post on bathroom walls were selling roosters.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Dr. Flimflam’s Miracle Cream

With the release of the fourth Futurama movie, Into the Wild Green Yonder last month came another round of Futurama postcards. They may well be the last, as there’s no subsequent movies scheduled to go into production. Enjoy.

See previous Futurama postcards here and here.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Pennies and Spit

By the way, for the first time in weeks, I’ve written something up for work that I’m actually pleased with: “The Quest for the Best Near-Beer.” At the very least, I got to trick a bunch of nice people into spending an afternoon drinking “beer” that tasted like echinacea, cat food, tomato sauce, metal and a few other things, depending on who you ask about it. I like to think about it as public service: If you’re ever in the position where trying non-alcoholic beer seems like a good idea, you’ll at least know which one eleven people picked as being the least awful.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Sweet and Sour Lover

After scouring the “L” sections of my various word books for something good enough for both the next entry in my strange words series and my first entry following an unplanned hiatus, I found one. Major points, here: I’d never heard it before, it makes for nice wordplay and I think I can relate it to 30 Rock fairly easily.
leman (LEH-men or LEE-men) — noun: 1. a sweetheart or lover. 2. a mistress
The entry in The Superior Person’s Book of Words also claims that one author cites “LAY-men” as a valid pronunciation, though none of my dictionaries offered it. If such a pronunciation does exist, I’d be all the more amused that this word leman can be pronounced three different ways that each don’t bring to mind the kind of person for whom you would sprinkle rose petals on the bedspread or with whom you’d duck into a dark alley. (Hey, everyone loves in their own way.) Superior also notes that the “lemon” and “layman” pronunciations “offer obvious opportunities.” Indeed they do, although I also see opportunities in that this archaic word either may or may not designate a gender — and when it does, it’s not the gender you might think the word part -man would signify. This is some Twelfth Night shit over here.

That -man at the end is exactly what you think it is, so the fact that leman would have eventually become associated with women in certain senses seems awfully strange. The rest of it traces either back to the Middle English leof or leif, both of which mean “dear.” (For all I know, both leog and leif are modern transcriptions of the same thing.) One source even makes a connection between leof and the Old English lufu, meaning “love.”

The implications of the word make for an interesting reading for Liz Lemon, Tina Fey’s stand-in for herself on 30 Rock, which I sometimes forget is a vaguely autobiographical sitcom. The Wikipedia page on Liz Lemon cites a now-removed YouTube video in the explanation of where the name came from. No way to check it now, but it allegedly had Fey explaining that Lemon is “apparently intended to imply an acerbic personality and possibly also to make her full name alliterative.” But the fact that much of the show concerns Liz’s lovelife means she’s frequently also the other thing associated with the pronounced sound “leh-men.” A sour dud and lining up dates nonetheless: That’s good news for all of us — these guys in particular.

Previous words of the week:

Saturday, March 21, 2009


When tabloids and blogs transformed regular old freakshow trainwreck Nadya Suleman into The Octomom, my thoughts went to video games. Rare though by position may be at the cross-section of tabloid browsers and game geeks, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one, as the initial translation of Final Fantasy IV featured a gruesome octopus boss named Octomamm.

Now that I think about it, Octomamm is a strange name for such a character. (It is, I suppose, better than Octoma’am. Sure enough, it wasn’t the creators initial choice and only came to exist in the game’s English version as a result of the limited space available for character names. In the original Japanese version called the monster Octomammoth, and this better, longer, and slightly more sensical name appeared in subsequent remakes.

In looking this up, I stumbled across some concept art Yoshitaka Amano drew up for this boss in particular.

Pretty damn horrifying, though less so than many third-trimester photos of Octomom herself.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Doom Train Cometh

Though I may geek out on video game mistranslations and other such manglings more so than other people, this one, you have to admit, is pretty phenomenal.

Early on in Final Fantasy 6, characters fight a boss known alternately as the Doom Train or the Phantom Train. Of course, it’s the train that takes the dearly departed to the afterlife and, of course, it’s ill-tempered and challenges living humans to a physical fight.


Like many Final Fantasy bosses, it showed later on in the series as a summon — that is, in Final Fantasy jargon, a thing your characters can call into battle to attack their enemies. For the Phantom Train, its return to fame was Final Fantasy VIII. For no apparent reason, it bore a different name in the Japanese version: Grasharaboras. Inexplicable though this name might have been, the hellish locomotive was all the more fearsome in this second incarnation.

But why Grasharaboras? The compendium of name origins offered at Final Fantasy Compendium suggests that the name might be a corruption of Glasya-Labolas, the name of a demon featured in the anonymously-written demonology tome The Lesser Key of Solomon — an earl and president of hell, no less. Realistically, this name probably existed prior to the book, but the internet was not helpful in determining where it might have come from.
According to Wikipedia, Glasya-Labolas is the “author author and captain of manslaughter and bloodshed [who] tells all things past and to come, gains the minds and love of friends and foes causing love among them if desired, [and] incites homicides and can make a man invisible.” I have no idea how the name ever came to be associated with a sentient train, especially since Wikipedia concludes the entry by noting that Glasya-Labolas is traditionally depicted as a dog fitted with a griffin’s wings.

The use of the name in Final Fantasy VI doesn’t mark the only use of the name in a video game. It appears in at least one of the Tales Of games in its traditional “griffin dog” form. Furthermore, Grasharaboras isn’t the only way its name can be mangled: other interpretations include Caacrinolaas, Caassimolar, Classyalabolas, and Glassia-labolis.

So that answers that. No idea why the character’s name would have ended up the way it did, but it’s certainly allowed for some fun mistakes.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Lenten Tabby Land

Long overdue: an update to the menu sign anagram game. The last was back in September, and in the remaining time the menu sign read as this:


A bit of a downer of a sign, I’ll admit. Apparently it made sense at the time. As of today, however, the sign bears a more seasonally appropriate message:

a lenten tabby land

Plus cats and stuff.

Previous menu sign adventures:

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Before We Turn to Ghosts

Writing about words gives one a certain amount of power, if only over those who read about words. If you write credibly enough, readers will begin to believe you, regardless of whether you back up your claims with facts. I’m not suggesting that Depraved and Insulting English authors Peter Novobatsky and Ammon Shea are occasionally pulling their readers’ legs, even if a certain degree of mischief wouldn’t be unheard of in people whose legacy is a list of words that exists at the exact cross-section of English’s most vile and most obscure. I will note, however, that some of the selections in their book are so obscure, in fact, that Google searches for them turn up little else besides mentions of these words as being obscure and appearing in Depraved and Insulting English.

This might queer these verbal obscurities for some people. Not me. I’m fine with them and I’m happy to take the expert’s word on the matter, so to speak. But this preface should be kept in mind when you consider this week’s word.
knipperdollin (nip-er-DOLL-in) — noun: a fanatical idiot.
This “surprisingly useful word,” as Depraved puts it, is an eponym — which itself is a useful word describing a thing that takes its name after the name of a person. Yes, knipperdollin allegedly gets to take its place with the likes of jehu and lamaze thanks to one Bernhard Knipperdolling, German leader of the Münster Anabaptists and a principal agitator in the failed attempt to re-create the city as a theocracy. I’m not sure why Knipperdolling would be verbally immortalized for his fanaticism more so than his rebel colleagues nor why the end “G” in his name would have been lopped off. However, this is the case, or at least the version of the case that Novobatsky and Shea offer.

If it at all helps you imagine the events that led to Knipperdolling becoming knipperdollin, here’s what Wikipedia says the man looked like.

(It serves a dual purpose, I say: It both amuses me and it puts Knipperdolling in league with a great many notables whose Wikipedia articles feature photos that make them look dopey. (Speaking of which, has anybody else noticed Padma Lakshmi’s?)

Even more curious to me is Wikipedia’s note that the man would have also been known as Bernd Knipperdollinck, Bernd Knypperdollynck, Berndt Knipperdollinck, and Berndt Knypperdollynck. But I guess knipperdollin could easily represent a clipped form of any of these names. The page makes no reference to the eponym supposedly associated with the man.

I’d also like to note that knipperdollin was my back-up word. I’d initially wanted to use the word that’s either spelled kitthogue or kitthougue, but I found even less about it online. Not a guide to its pronunciation, not a note about its etymology — only barely a confirmation that it actually does mean “left-handed” or “left-handed person.” Oh well.

Previous words of the week:

Saturday, March 14, 2009

X-Ray Specs / Peace on Earth

Easily, the worst thing about non-Leap Year Februarys — and there is a lot to hate, when you really think about it — is that the first twenty-eight days of each subsequent March must necessarily consist of the same days of the week attached to the same dates. Seriously, who needs two Monday the Nineteenths back-to-back? It’s redundant. The matter is complicated somewhat when the non-Leap Year February happens to have a Friday the Thirteenth, which means there will be one in that next March as well as one in the following November. Three Friday the Thirteenths in one year? The worst. The worst. And for no reason related to the bad luck superstition. How do you feel about the prospect of enduring three days in one year in which coworkers and acquaintances can jokingly infer mortal danger to your every action? “What’s that, Drew? You’re going to get a sandwich? Better look out for left-handed cats on ladders!” Only insert your name where I put Drew. Seriously?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Hello Wisconsin

Does it bother anyone else at all that Omar Epps’s character on House has the same name as the main character on That 70s Show? Eric Foreman and Eric Forman. Both on FOX shows, too.

Well, it bothers me.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Don’t Ask Alice

Did you ever want to watch a clip from a movie in which a woman, contemplating a recipe for chicken mousse in the kitchen from The Brady Bunch, has her hair set on fire by a malicious insect?

Because now you can.

Context: Stacie Ponder’s review of the 1975 film Bug.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Today a homeless man on the street pointed out that my fly was down. The subtext of this interaction, spoken from the perspective of the homeless man: “Hey, Mr. Has a House. I may live on the street and I may appear dirty, but at least my zipper is up.” Touché, Mr. Homeless Man. Touché.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Doom Bus

Don’t be like Spencer. If you’re waiting at the stop and an empty bus arrives, its destination advertised only as “out of order / fuera de servicio,” don’t get on, even if the driver tells you he’ll take you where you need to go. Though you may well end up in the desired place, alive and unharmed, there’s also a significant chance that the place “you need to go” will turn out to be somewhere you’d only want to be in some larger sense that you didn’t anticipate — the afterlife, for example, or perhaps some freaky opposite land where “no” means “yes” and melting Dali clocks stalk the streets. In short, beyond the sunlit world one believes to be reality.

One small upside, even if this mysterious bus ends up being some sinister psychopomp: You get an opportunity to take photos like this one:


Is that the crisp light or morning you see through the windows? Or something more sinister? And what if this bus was full just moments before you boarded?

I feel like this scenario must rip off the plot of a Twilight Zone or Outer Limits, or, failing those, at least a Tales From the Darkside.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Momentous, Monumentous, and Jumentous

First, a clue:

Second, another clue: When used in conjunction, the three words used as the title of this post refer to something awful, though you may not be aware of why just yet.

Could it be that there’s some hidden meaning to momentous or monumentous? That very well could be the case, for all I know about the arcane histories of either word. But given that last’s weeks word was ignivomous and the one the week before that was honorificabilitudinitatibus, you could also rightly suspect jumentous, a very important-sounding word with an importantly equine-related meaning.
jumentous (joo-MENT-us) — adjective: 1. smelling like horse urine. 2. resembling horse urine in color and frothiness. 3. smelling strongly of a beat of burden or an animal. 4. in a historical sense, a term applied to urine which is high-colored, strong-smelling, and turbid, like that of horse urine.
If you’re someone who collects weird words, then you’ve quite likely come across this one before. Apparently few strange words begin with the letter “J” and a great many collections of verbal curiosities stick jumentous, often alone or with few companions and pretty much always in between the “I” and “K” sections.

Most sources cite jumentous as being related to the word jument, — which means “beast of burden,” though it seems the only time the word jument gets used in English anymore is in the etymology of jumentous, which itself doesn’t get much play. In French, jument translates to “mare,” according to this site and also the IMDb listing for the 1959 film La jument verte. I’m not sure how it became associated in French with only the female beasts of burden — and, indeed, perhaps only my ignorance of French is making me think this is the case — but the term comes the Latin iumentum, a neuter word just meaning “beast of burden.” I’m also unclear how the name La Jument became associated with a certain lighthouse in Brittany. Though built on a rock also named La Jument, the lighthouse would seem to have nothing to do with ladyhorses, beasts of burden, or the urine of either of these creatures. Its proximity to the ocean makes me wonder if the French noun mer might have had something to do with it, but then again mare also sounds and looks a lot like mère, meaning “mother,” and there’s absolutely nothing maternal about a lighthouse. Additionally, this blogger seems to have no qualms about associating herself with the word, whatever its gender.

Previous words of the week:

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Two Charlottes


Now that I typed all that Lost craziness up in the previous post, I realize that the various ways in which those on Flight 316 emulated those on Flight 815 were already listed on the Lostapedia page for the episode “316.” Bah. Ah and bah, both.

The site actually lists one more: The confrontation between Hurley and Ben at LAX prompts a stewardess to ask “Is everything okay?” in the same manner as Libby did to Eko and Charlotte Malkin, that weirdo Australian girl who allegedly drowned but then came back to life, in a scene at the Sydney airport. The connection seems plausible — and a good way to tie in the tail section characters to flight 316 — but it also reminds me that British, red-headed Charlotte (Rebecca Mader’s character) who so recently kicked the bucket was not the only Lost character to have that name.

This kind of bugs me.

on top: the greater charlotte; on bottom: the lesser charlotte

On one hand, Lost offers us a fairly expansive universe of characters, so it’s only realistic that names would get repeated. On the other hand, there’s nothing realistic about Lost, which recently sent its principal cast back in time to the 70s and which features a sentient smoke monster that eats people’s faces and may have at one point taken the form of a bird that called Hurley’s name. I mean, there’s already three Charlies — dead rock musician Charlie Pace (Dominic Monaghan’s character), Penelope’s evil father Charles Widmore, and Penelope and Desmond’s newborn baby Charlie, who may be named either for the former, who died to save Desmond’s life, or the latter, who’s rich and evil and kills people. (I’m guessing it’s not the latter.) We didn’t need two Charlottes. (Though one is dead, so I guess that problem took care of itself.)

I have to suspect that sloppy writing is to blame for the fact that no one apparently recalled that the show already featured someone named Charlotte. Again, on another show it might not be problematic, but Lost spends so much time building its backstory and then folding around the past again and again that the two Charlottes have doubtlessly caused a bit of confusion for at least a few people. And if the two Charlottes don’t exist as a result of the fact that someone forgot about Charlotte Number One, there’s always the possibility that someone just really, really likes the name Charlotte. If it’s the second reason, I look forward to meeting several more people named Charlotte in the remaining season and a half. (“Hey everyone, what would be a good name for that badass motorcycle stuntwoman from New Zealand that we want to have show up next episode? Hmm? What’s that? Yeah, Charlotte is a good name! Yeah, let’s call her Charlotte!”)

Given that red-headed Charlotte — that is, the recurring one who has not yet recovered from that being dead problem — has the complete name “Charlotte Staples Lewis,” it’s a likely that she takes her name from the allegory-crazy British writer. Both attended Oxford, as Charlotte Lewis’s Lostapedia profile notes. And it’s also noted that Charlotte seems to allude to the Narnia books when she explains that she had been on the island as a child but had since been led to believe that her experiences there were imagined, as Susan apparently does after The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Neat thought the Charlotte/C.S. Lewis connection may be, it does not mean that her name had to be Charlotte, as we have a variety of other “C” names that would be appropriate to give to a female, British character. Camilla comes to mind, and if that’s too British, a quick look through a baby names book offers a whole lot of others.

The implications of Charlotte Malkin’s name, I should note, were explored on this blog in a previous post, though I wasn’t thinking about Lost at the time.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Table for Two, Non-Ghost Section

Apparently reservations at the French Laundry in Yountville are rather hard to get, and apparently people who care about such matters like to speculate on various methods of actually scoring a table at this particular restaurant. If you followed all the suggestions, you actually probably would eventually get some reservations, as different people have different techniques and you’d keep yourself quite busy to attempt each one. I, however, would like to think that I have best way to get reservations at the French Laundry: Stand in the bathroom, turn off the lights, sprinkle water on the mirror, and chant “French Laundry” three times to make a spectral hostess appear in the mirror. She will either grant you reservations or steal your eyes, depending on her mood.

If you have Googled “how to get reservations at the French Laundry” and ended up here, I seriously hope you try this and report your results.

A Future Unremembered Poet

I’d accept a Christmas cookie from the Great Veiled Bear.

edward gorey christmas card future unremembered poet great veiled bear

Here’s to Ogdred Weary, Mrs. Regera Dowdy, Eduard Blutig, Raddory Gewe, Dogear Wryde, E. G. Deadworry, D. Awdrey-Gore, Wardore Edgy, Madame Groeda Weyrd, and Miss Hyacinthe Phypps.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Goonies Lyrics ‘R’ Not Good Enough

For nearly my whole life, I have been familiar with the theme song to The Goonies, though I’ve never been able to remember the lyrics all that well. Until today, I thought I at least had the opening line down: “Here we are hanging on the strands of greens and blues.” (No, it didn’t make much sense, but it didn’t make significantly less sense than the lyrics to any of Cyndi Lauper’s other hits from the 1980s. Grammy-nominated or not, the song’s title is “The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough,” which itself doesn’t make sense because the song doesn’t mention the Goonies — individually or as a group — nor does it have much to do with the movie at all.) But today I found out that I even had that opening line wrong.

A lot of Google hits for “goonies song lyrics” as well as good sense point toward the song’s actual opening line being “Here we are hanging onto strains of greed and blues” or something like that. Really, think about it: the immediately following lines are “Break the chain and we break down / It’s not real if you don’t feel it.” Why would Cyndi Lauper want us to break a chain involving strands of greens and blues? An abstract concept, this chain, but certainly nothing most people would object to. The rest of the song goes on to discuss the need to escape the humdrum of everyday life and to reevaluate whether the way you’re currently going about things is really the way you should continue to pursue. With all this subject matter in mind, it’s actually pretty obvious that she’s saying greed and blues in that first line.

Though I might feel disappointed that I had misheard the lyrics all these years — this is the badness with Toto’s “Africa” all over again — I don’t feel dumb, since a lot of online listings for the lyrics offer green and blue instead of greed and blues. And there’s nearly as many Google hits for “goonies song green blue” and “goonies song greed blues.” It’s apparently a common mistake.

Check for yourself, with the original Cyndi Lauper video for “The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough.”

Note: The video is pretty damn odd — twelve minutes in total, and split into two parts. It also begins with a preponderance of exposition we just don’t see in music videos these days, and probably for good reason. The music doesn’t actually start until ninety seconds into the clip. It’s also worth mentioning that an extremely random collection of people make cameos, including but not limited to Andre the Giant, Lou “Super Mario Bros. Super Show” Albano, Steven Spielberg, and The Bangles. Clearly, making such a big deal out of the video did the song a lot of good, because today the one thing that everyone remembers about the song is the music video.

While we’re on the subject, does anyone note a slight resemblance between the Goonies song and The Knife’s “Heartbeats”? I’ve always thought so and have never been able to verbalize why.

Is it only the fact that the lyrics repeat the phrase “good enough” a few times? Is it that it sounds like Karin Dreijer Andersson’s singing “the colors green and blue” midway through? Or is it just Andersson’s voice?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Spinning Hat of Death

Your interesting bit of information from the day, as far as I’m concerned, regards the object referred to in the title of the film Master of the Flying Guillotine. As fantastic as it might sound that anyone successfully removed anyone else’s head with what is essentially a rather unsafe hat attached to a bit of chord, the flying guillotine was not invented by the makers of the film.

It may have actually existed, though how it would have worked remains even more unclear. Wikipedia speculates that the device could have actually killed using poison rather than with razor-sharp blades that lop of the heads their hat-like base has come to rest upon. I’m hoping this is not true, if only so the device can keep its amazingly cool name — so good, in fact, that it even beats out the Chinese name, which translates to “blood dripper.”

Though the flying guillotine is most famous for having appeared in the the 1975 Shaw Bros. film, it appears in others as well. Master of the Flying Guillotine — which is alternately known by the even better title The One-Armed Boxer vs. the Flying Guillotine is worth seeing even if you can’t stand martial arts movies. And it’s amazingly generative. Aside from homages in obvious works like Kill Bill, the film has resulted in some strange pop cultural connections. As point out by this blog — which charts various sources from which video game developer Capcom “borrowed” character designs for its Street Fighter series — the film’s Indian martial artist yogi would seem to be an obvious inspiration for the Street Fighter II character Dhalsim, also a Indian yogi prone to physical combat and able to extend his limbs to superhuman lengths.

Why anyone thinks yoga masters would can stretch their arms and legs to such lengths is beyond me. And the notion that they would do so for the purposes of hand-to-hand combat makes even less sense, but then again until today the idea of the flying guillotine seemed preposterous too.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Call Me “Professor Plum”

For people like me, the grocery store is a treacherous place. I am not a cook, though I frequently find myself buying ingredients for people who do possess the ability to use fire and water to turn these components of food into better food — full-fledged meals, in fact. For example, just this week I was charged with bringing home zucchini. I saw what looked like zucchini, but it was labeled as “Italian squash.” I asked a clerk standing just a few feet away if the store had any zucchini, and he looked at me like I asked if the store had a floor. “Right there,” he said, pointing to the Italian squash. “It’s the same thing?” I asked. He pointed again as if that would answer my question.

These things trouble me.

More recently, I found myself on the old people aisle, where tried fruit and bottled juice stretches as far as the eye can see. I was staring at side-by-side packages advertising dried plums and dried prunes and realized that I’ve never understood the difference between the two. I grew up in house whose yard boasted a plum tree. In stores, however, I saw dried prunes, whose packaging bore images of the fruit in their non-dried variety, looking a hell of a lot like the things that grew on the plum tree. What gives? Do these two things have the same relationship as grapes and raisins? Or is this the work of shrewd marketing on the parts of the world’s plum pushers, eager to distance the plum from associations with irregular old people?

The result of what the internet tells me: I’m still don’t know.

I mean, right off the bat, the Wikipedia page for plums tells me that dried plums are, in fact, prunes and that prunes have recently been rebranded in an effort to declassify them as poo fruit, so you’d think that would have answer my question enough that I’d be done with the subject. But I’m still confused by the fact that the scientific genus for the fruit, Prunus, also includes peaches and cherries. Furthermore, the Wikipedia page for prunes states that the term refers to various plum cultivars, usually sold and consumed in dried form. That word usually means a lot, as far as exactness goes. I’m concluding that while prune can mean a dried plum, it can also mean a non-dried fruit similar to plums.

My dictionary of choice doesn’t help much. While the American Heritage Dictionary entry for plum doesn’t tell me anything I don’t already know, the one for prune seems more restricted than what Wikipedia offers. According to AHD, prunes can be “the partially dried fruit of any of several varieties of the common plum, Prunus domestica,” “any kind of plum that can be dried without spoiling,” or, in a slang sense, “an ill-tempered, stupid, or incompetent person.” Nothing about anything you can eat in its non-wrinkly state.

As usual, etymology is no help in determining how these words get used today. Plum came into Old English by way of Germanic and descends from the Vulgar Latin pruna, which means “plum.” (The Latin word ultimately goes back to Greek and then to an Asiatic language, apparently, but the shared history with prune seems more relevant to the topic at hand.) And in case you thought that the verb to prune — as in what one does with shears to a tree — comes from the same roots as the fruit prune — and why wouldn’t you, considering that both prunes have a strong association with fruit trees? — know that you’re wrong. The verb seems to arise from Latin, specifically from a combination of the prefix pro-, meaning “in front,” with the Latin rotundus, meaning “round.”

So while I can’t explain the difference between plums and prunes, I can at least offer this: The disparity between the two goes way back. Plum has been used to connote goodness — “a desirable thing,” as Wiktionary puts it — since 1780 and prune to connote badness since 1895. Doesn’t help those trying to market prunes. It all reminds me of a paper I wrote on Ethan Frome back in college, with Ethan’s wife Zeena being associated with pickles and all things withered and infertile and his would-be mistress Mattie being associated with cherries and all things sweet and sexy. And to tie this all in with the previous post, I once watched a French thriller called With a Friend Like Harry in which an attractive female character was referred to as “Plum” in the subtitles even when the characters were clearly addressing her as “Prune.” She ended up dead, so maybe neither word has a good enough association.

If anyone can straighten me out on prunes and plums, I’d appreciate it, even if it’s just to affirm tha there is, in fact, no consensus on what means what.