Tuesday, March 31, 2009




I mean, technically speaking, you could use Dr. Dick’s parking space, but knowing what he does there I’d think you wouldn’t want to go anywhere near it.

Negative Space Lesson

I must say: I find something a little odd and a little beautiful in the fact that a single day after the announcement of the death of Andy Hallet — the 33-year-old actor who played Lorne on Angel and who managed to a grow a fairly one-note character into a beloved, recurring character — that it would also be announced that Alyson Hannigan — who played Willow on Buffy, from which Angel spun off — had her baby. The baby’s father, of course, is Alexis Denisof, who himself appeared in major roles on both Buffy and Angel. Joss Whedon himself couldn’t have written a better encapsulation of the human life cycle.

Evelyn Saab or Mary Jo Volkswagen

Does anyone else find it funny that actress Lindsay Price has appeared in the TV series Lipstick Jungle as a character named Victory Ford after previously playing a character named Jane Honda in the American version of Coupling? I assume it’s a coincidence — like how Rashida Jones seems to so often play characters named Karen — but I’d like to think Price has some strange clause in her contract stating that she can only play characters whose names sound like car dealerships.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Someone Will Pack Your Knives for You

A rather disturbing clip illustrating the dangers of being a sous-chef. It’s part of an pretty damn effective Canadian public service campaign promoting workplace safety.

This, by the way, is my new excuse few not cooking and not entering kitchen in general.


The title of this post arose from a conversation I once had with my friend Lauren about what I term “smart people words.” They’re these ultimately unimportant linking words that we use in conversation now and then but we might use a hell of a lot more if we’re arguing a case before a judge or writing up a business contract. When Lauren initially brought this up with me, I think her examples were inasmuch and insofar. They’re good ones. Use them too often in casual conversation and people will start to think you’re trying to prove something, of course, but using them sparingly puts forth the notion that you’re just to busy thinking, doing, and achieving to use separate words. Instead, you jam them together. You know, to eliminate the spaces in your speech.

One of Lauren’s points regarding this words — insofar, inasmuch, heretofore, hereinafter, notwithstanding, nevertheless, albeit and some other adverbs and conjunctions — is that English has other turns of phrase which work much in the same manner but which retain their spaces. A prime example is be that as it may, which I accidentally typed out a few days ago as bethatasitmay, for no apparent reason and without having thought of this conversation with Lauren for at least a year. I feel like there were others, but I can’t recall them now. Todoso? Asitwere? Sobeit? Whathaveyou?

Unless I’m mistaken, Lauren and I had this conversation on the drive back from Coachella, at a very early hour. If we didn’t, then we certainly should have, because it’s exactly the kind of thing people should have on early morning car rides — emphatic agreements shared epiphanies and all. I just recently bought tickets to this year’s Coachella. Maybe that jogged the memory?

EDIT: Following a little research, I found a few more words that consist of more than two words jammed together. They’re not all adverbs and conjunctions. There’s words like internal combustion engine, which essentially functions as a triple compound even though it retains its spaces, but there are also quite a few “honest,” jammed-together compounds. People posting on this site note quite a few: plainclothesman, crossbowman, backwoodsman, highwayman, whosoever, wherewithal and whatsoever. Someone even suggests whatchamacallit as an informal quintuple compound for what you may call it. I couldn’t think of or find any more compounds using three or more words.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Judy Jurgenstern

Notable and perplexing searches that led here recently.
  1. Your use of the word infer makes me think you might be too proper a person to be told who Amy is and why anybody is seeking her.
  2. Number one hit!
  3. Yes.
  4. I’ll tell him you’re looking for him.
  5. I feel like you’re allowed to name eggs whatever you like, but I’ve always thought Shelly was be a particularly good choice.
  6. It’s black and white for everything happening before the 60s and sepia tones for everything after that.
  7. Sports Night. Heavy on the sit, light on the com.
  8. A weird one. This showed up as a search term that led to my blog, but my own Google search said that this string of words, in this order, doesn’t exist anywhere on the internet. Now it does.

Pinch-Hitting for Pedro Borbon

Last night, I was watching Airport 1975 on AMC. I had DVRed it from earlier in the night. I got about an hour and a half through when I apparently hit the remote’s “live” button, which halts the DVRed programming and switches it with whatever is being currently broadcast on the channel you were last watching. The live broadcast happened to be Airport ’77, again on AMC. For about twenty minutes, I had no idea I’d switched movies, in small part because I was not paying close attention but in much larger part because the movies are pretty damn similar — corny, overdramatic, full of people flailing about in 70s clothes. You’d think the tip-off would have been that the Airport ’77 plane crashes to the bottom of the ocean for some reason, but that could have just as easily happened in Airport 1975, for all I know. The first indication I noticed that something strange had happened was the sudden disappearance of Myrna Loy’s character — the classy alcoholic who tosses back boilermakers as disaster draws near. “Where is Myrna Loy?” I asked. “Did she die off-screen? Does she have alcohol poisoning?”

All in all, Airport 1975 turned out to be a pretty lousy movie. What can you say about a movie whose emotional climax occurs in Salt Lake City? I have to say, however, that the underwater sequence I accidentally spliced in actually made the movie better, inexplicable though it might have been. I suggest everyone watch it in this manner.

A final question: Why on earth was this series of movies called Airport when all of the plot points anyone would give a damn about happen on the airplane?

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

No One Can Escape My Mighty Legs!

Seeing as how Street Fighter IV has brought a renewed popularity to the series, it’s understandable that bits like this would be unearthed.

It’s a Japanese pop song by Maya Miyame set to the tune of Chun-Li’s background music from Street Fighter II. I can’t imagine it was a hit. The use of sound effects from the game certainly don’t help, but all in all it’s still better than Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li.

Source: This Japanese blog, via Kotaku.

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.

Licorice Ladder

Monday’s link dump didn’t cover my bases, it turns out. Here’s the rest.

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.


Did you know that indie auteur Kevin Smith has a Twitter account? Did you know that he tweets exactly what you think he would?


Because he does. And he does.

And no, I swear I’m not switching over the format of my blog to only post cropped PRNT SCRN snapshots.

Poise Meets Girl

A Facebook exchange. First, Bri:


Me, thinking Bri is actually referring to Highlights magazine or perhaps some area of the library where Highlights magazines are kept:


Then I saw it, as I’m sure at least a few others did — right there, one the same page, in the far right column:


Very orgasm-y indeed.


It is truly amazing what technology can allow us to do. Also: Seriously? 89,199 people have nothing better to do than see The Haunting in Connecticut? Do they think it looks good? Do they think a movie’s quality negatively correlates to the cleverness of its title?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Fake Jamaican

Via Stereogum, a live performance of Modest Mouse’s 2004 hit “Float On” synched to the Kidz Bop cover.

Phenomenal, though the “I Came As a Rat” would have been even better.

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

Worry Worry Superscurry

This afternoon I edited the third draft a rather long article that focuses in part on twin girls named Alexandra and Sandra. Only today, however, did I realize that these girls’ mother doofed up pretty badly in picking out these names: Phonetically speaking, the Sandra’s entire first name is contained within her sister’s. As a result, the former goes by what is essentially an unadorned version of what the latter goes by. It works on an etymological level too: Sandra is generally considered a shortening of Alexandra, save for the rare cases that it’s short for Cassandra. It’s kind of like parents naming their twins Bill and William. Or Nathan and Jonathan. Or Tori and Victoria. Or Susan and Susanalinda. Or Frank and Frank-Who-Doesn’t-Smell. Worst of all: At some point, Sandra will realize this and look at her sister’s name with jealousy. “Why does she get that extra stuff?” she’ll ask. And no one will answer. And the pain will eat away at her. And one day she’ll take the whole family hostage, with her only demands to police being “a few extra syllables, maybe. Perhaps something with an ‘L’ or a ‘Y’ or something else pretty.”

On a completely unrelated note, today I also ate a single praline candy that constituted seventeen percent of my daily recommended allotment of fat.

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.

Invisible Talk Show

Some links, but be forewarned — they actually represent an extraordinarily small amount the content available online.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Like Sticking Your Arm in a Backed-Up Sink

Does it bother anyone else when the shows that comprise Fox’s Sunday night “Animation Domination” line-up feature similar plots on the same night? It’s happened before and happened again tonight: Both King of the Hill and Family Guy featured episodes that centered around female characters trying to make it big as TV news reporters. Does anyone else even notice these things? Does anyone else even bother with Fox’s Sunday night TV shows?

The Royal Wee

Inexplicable magazine content that apparently has something to do with Lichtenstein. Sent it for your bemusement by Agent Prance Closer.

If anyone can tell me what cows and wees have to do with Lichtenstein, I’d love to hear it.

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:

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Schadenfreude Shower

I believe my previous post has elicited a response.

Should I feel bad? Should I feel good that I feel bad?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Desperately Seeking Amy

In case you’ve Googled something embarrassing to end up at this post on this particular blog, know this: I don’t usually write about Britney Spears. I will say this to the Great Queen Pop Tart, however: You got me. You made me actually look your song up online and listen to the first minute or so. Spears, you rascal.

You see, I’d read a few reviews of Spears’s new single here and there in apparently polite publications that declined to state the song’s gimmick outright. They mentioned that the song had “a barely coded raunchy message,” or something to that effect, and that was enough to make me curious enough to find out what that disguised filth was. I suppose I should also note that the song’s title, “If U Seek Amy,” struck me as an odd one for mainstream shitpop — something, perhaps, along the lines of “Annie, are you okay?” On some level, I wanted to know who Amy was and why she was hiding.

If you’d like to hear it for yourself, I’ve posted the video here. If you’d rather spare your ears from Spears, then read on. (A note to the brave video watchers: Please note that ten years after “(Hit Me Baby) One More Time,” Spears still can’t pronounce the word baby properly. “Beh-beh,” is not acceptable. Claire “What About the Baaay-Beee?” Littleton from Lost can pronounce the word better.)

The big deal, apparently, is that the phrase if you seek Amy, when spoken, sounds a lot like “F-U-C-K me.” On one hand, I have to admit this little trick is clever enough that I didn’t get it right away. And, in one sense, “If U Seek Amy” fits nicely in line with the theory that phrase rock-’n’-roll itself alludes to the physical motion of sex.

On the other hand, it’s also only as clever as other grade school pranks like “Sofa King” and the Pen 15 Club: Once you know the joke, it’s pretty lame. A better-veiled reference to sex would allow for another interpretation — an innocent one in addition to the smutty one, so at least you can accuse the holy rollers who take offense to this of creating the alleged profanity only in their heads. (And they will take offense to this, if on the wrong grounds. They object because it speaks about the lovemaking act in crass terms. I object because it sucks.) The song, however, only really allows for the “F-U-C-K me” interpretation because no other alternative makes any sense. In the chorus, Spears sings this: “All of the boys and all of the girls are begging to if you seek Amy.” That doesn’t mean anything. That is nonsense. The phrase if you seek Amy is an adverbial clause being jammed into a noun spot in the second half of an infinitive, but I don’t even need to get grammatical to point out that these words — in this order and as they’re written — don’t convey meanin.

In the end, “If U Seek Amy” only underscores what we’ve known about Spears since the beginning: She’s singing about sex but trying to hide it, even though most of the world sees her as little more than a gyrating torso with a voice that isn’t all that pretty for singing. But even then, she still seems to shy away from true outright, four-on-the-floor whorishness: Even in the correct, smutty reading of the song, Spears is literally only spelling out the dirty words rather saying them.

All these negatives would be enough for me to write the song off and try to move on with my life, but there’s actually a reason why “If U Seek Amy” is even stupider yet. Aside from making the next few months hell for any grade schooler or high schooler unfortunate enough to be named Amy, the song sucks by virtue of the fact that its verses actually try to tell a story about this elusive Amy character.

The first verse:
Oh beh-beh, beh-beh — Have you seen Amy tonight?
Is she in the bathroom? Is she smokin’ up outside?
Oh beh-beh, beh-beh — Does she take a piece of lime
For the drink that I’mma buy her. Do you know just what she likes?

Oh oh, tell me — Gave you seen her? Because I’m so — oh
I can’t get her off of my brain
I just want to go to the party she gonna go
Can somebody take me home?
Ha ha hee hee ha ha ho
Yes, it really does end with the line Ha ha hee hee ha ha ho, which actually beats out zig-a-zig-ah as the worst bit of lyrical filler that ever made it to the final version of a pop song. But I can look past that. And, yes, Spears does really use I’mma in place of I am going to. But I can look past that. Hell, she’s from Louisiana. And syllables are hard to come by in pop songs, especially during today’s economy. No, my big problem with the verses is that they infer that Amy is actually a person… which would be fine if the chorus didn’t eliminate the possibility that Amy existed with the revelation that “seeking her” is actually only a request for immediate carnal loving. It doesn’t make sense — and I know I shouldn’t be looking for logic in a Britney Spears song, but by initial investment in “If U Seek Amy” and my deliberate exposure to it has prompted me to search for anything that I can possibly grasp onto. Perhaps it’s an act of atonement.

All in all, this is somehow worse than realizing than Bryan Adams was only ten years old in 1969.

Reptile-Lidded Eyes

Tweeto ergo sum.
Was in Lens Crafters. In store radio played Somebody's Watching Me. Found this funny… I just now got the whole "If U Seek Amy" thing. Had to listen to it. Doy… If I start typing in a Wikipedia URL on work browser, the entry for "dugong" comes up first. No idea why. Can't remember ever looking it up… My green tea tastes suspiciously like dirt, which would not technically violate the package's claim of "natural taste."… Homeless man informed me my fly was down. Touche, homeless man… Dear Coachella: Adding Chemical Bros., Devendra Banhart, and some fools called Plump DJs doesn't make me want to go more… There has to be a rational way to get revenge on the streetsweeper and the parking tickets its weekly rounds bring about. There just has to… Editing. Taking words and folding them into space itself and hoping that some of the meaning of this omitted text remains, ghost-like… Walked by deli, heard owner mention that he was ''in a pickle.'' Amazing… The Office bit with Kelly's valentine from her dentist totally ripped off a joke from Mr. Belvedere… The similarity between "hoisin sauce" and "poison sauce" must have led to confusion, hilarity and possibly death at some point, I feel. The new girl on Lost is a dead ringer for Casey Wilson from SNL. Weird. #lost… My god. What I would give for a decent English-Malayalam dictionary. Who's with me on this one?
And, if you’re interested, the real deal.

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.

Cracks in the Earth

In writing a small online article about a UCSB earth science professor who is receiving this year’s top honor of the Seismological Society of America, I noted that it seemed strange that the organization would place the of America at the end of its name rather than using American, as most groups do. Then I realized why: Seismological Society of America yields a more pleasing acronym.

The way it is now:

And the way American Seismological Society would reduce down:

Well, that and the fact that the group name Shakers was already taken.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Jealot’s Passion

My idiotic word quandary of the day: The word jeal should exist in English. Since zeal is the noun of zealous, then jeal should be the noun of jealous, for the sake of keeping things logical and concise. Why say jealousy when jeal could do the job? I know that logic and conciseness often don’t have a say as to why English is the way it is and that there’s no point in bemoaning the fact that a given word doesn’t work the way I think it should, but this nonetheless seemed important today.

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.

Geldegarde Monotoli

People arrive at my blog like a lion, but they leave like a lamb.
  1. Number one hit! (Tristan, was this you?)
  2. Because the regular comment boxes at your work just don’t blow your mind enough?
  3. Number one hit!
  4. Coins?
  5. Number one hit! (And it’s Stevi’s fault.)
  6. Number one hit!
  7. Number one hit!
  8. ... is a terrible idea. That’s how that sentence should end.
  9. Number one hit! (And it’s not entirely my fault.)
  10. A name so strange that it could be the title of one of these search results posts.
  11. An accurate search hit, though it’s not about the radio station. It’s actually about Santa Barbara’s out-of-control octopus problem. I can’t remember why I thought to write about it.
  12. Number one hit!

Monday, March 09, 2009

99 Decision Street

So what I’m about to lay down here ties into a few things that normally wouldn’t have much to do with each other. Among them: the episode of 30 Rock that aired two weeks ago, the Watchmen movie, the French film The Class that was the subject of this post, and the general trickiness of language in translation.

This past Saturday, I say Watchmen with Jesse and Leia, despite warnings from trustworthy sources that I should skip it altogether. I actually enjoyed the movie quite a bit. It had its faults, sure, but I walked into the theater expecting a complete broken-condom sodomization of the original graphic novel, and this was not that. Sure, Malin Ackerman doesn’t have the dramatic chops that Laurie Juspeczyk deserved, but considering that Ackerman has previously only been known for comedic work, she didn’t do a wholly terrible job. Certain scenes fell short — some due to Ackerman’s presence, some not — but others actually gave me geekly goosebumps as a result of how well they translated Alan Moore’s original work from the page to the screen. I didn’t even mind the soundtrack, which one certain naysayer claimed would stand out as being particularly ill-chosen. One of the things Moore’s original work did well was to riff on stray bits of pop culture. It makes perfect sense, then, that an audio-visual adaptation of it would incorporate sonic staples of the various decades in which its story takes place.

That brings us to the subject at hand: Nena’s “99 Luftballons,” more commonly known to use non-Deutschers as “99 Red Balloons,” which is featured early in the film as an intro to a date between Laurie and Dan Dreiberg. Some might find this song’s presence jarring or even downright irritating, but I think it not only makes sense but also constitutes a good use of the New Wave tune, seeing as how “99 Luftballons” is one of the more superficially sugarcoated pop songs about nuclear apocalypse ever and this exact type of potential world-ender looms throughout the film. Furthermore, Watchmen takes place in 1985, so the film’s characters would have had every reason to be familiar with it.

awkward apocalypse dancing

(Out of the context of the spandex-clad, for a moment, “99 Luftballons” was in my head already, due to the episode of 30 Rock that aired two weeks ago, in which Liz tried to pass it off as a lullaby that her German grandmother had sung to her. I feel like Liz Lemon isn’t the only one for whom the opening lyrics constitute the extent of their German vocabulary. There’s no great connection between 30 Rock and Watchmen other than this coincidence, but at least its appearance in both proves the song still bears relevance to pop culture as it stands now.)

My experience at the movies last week — with The Class, whose translation into English was hampered by the fact that its original, French version focused so heavily on languages other than English — got me wondering, however, how accurately the English lyrics to “99 Red Balloons” match up to those of the original, German version.

As a refresher, here is how the English versions read:
You and I in a little toy shop
Buy a bag of balloons with the money we’ve got
Set them free at the break of dawn
‘Til one by one, they were gone
Back at base, bugs in the software
Flash the message “Something’s out there”
Floating in the summer sky
Ninety-nine red balloons go by

Ninety-nine red balloons
Floating in the summer sky
Panic bells — it’s red alert
There’s something here from somewhere else
The war machine springs to life
Opens up one eager eye
Focusing it on the sky
Where ninety-nine red balloons go by

99 Decision Street
Ninety-nine ministers meet
To worry, worry, super-scurry
Call the troops out in a hurry
This is what we’ve waited for
This is it boys, this is war
The president is on the line
As ninety-nine red balloons go by

Ninety-nine knights of the air
Ride super-high-tech jet fighters
Everyone’s a superhero
Everyone’s a Captain Kirk
With orders to identify
To clarify and classify
Scramble in the summer sky
As ninety-nine red balloons go by

Ninety-nine dreams I have had
In every one a red balloon
It’s all over and I’m standing pretty
In this dust that was a city
If I could find a souvenir
Just to prove the world was here
And here is a red balloon
I think of you and let it go
(I should note at this point that a Google search for “99 red balloons lyrics” first pulls up the words for the cover of this song by Goldfinger and next a listing of the song by Blondie. Nena only shows up on the third hit.)

I won’t put the German lyrics here — because who cares? — but their literal translation into English reads just a bit differently. Foremost, the balloons aren’t red. They’re technically not even balloons — they’re luftballons, though I’m not clear what the difference might be. The word red was added to the song to help the English words fit into the song, though I imagine that the translators picked red as a result of American anti-Soviet tensions.

According to this site, these are the German lyrics, translated into English without the restraint of rhyme or rhythm.
Have you some time for me,
Then I’ll sing a song for you
About ninety-nine balloons
On their way to the horizon
If you’re perhaps thinking about me right now
Then I’ll sing a song for you
About ninety-nine balloons
And that such a thing comes from such a thing

Ninety-nine balloons
On their way to the horizon
People think they’re UFOs from space
So a general sent up
A fighter squadron after them
Sound the alarm if it’s so
But there on the horizon were
Only ninety-nine balloons

Ninety-nine fighter jets
Each one’s a great warrior
Thought they were Captain Kirk
Then came a lot of fireworks
The neighbors didn’t understand anything
And felt like they were being provoked
So they shot at the horizon
At ninety-nine balloons

Ninety-nine war ministers
Matches and gasoline canisters
They thought they were clever people
Already smelled a nice bounty
Called for war and wanted power
Man, who would’ve thought
That things would someday go so far
Because of ninety-nine balloons

Ninety-nine years of war
Left no room for victors
There are no more war ministers
Nor any jet fighters
Today I’m making my rounds
See the world lying in ruins
I found a balloon
Think of you and let it fly
Nothing earth-shattering, and perhaps just as different as you might expect. But for me it just goes to show that anything in translation only offers a loose interpretation of whatever the original was attempting to say. Tragic, really, the limitations of language. The most I could hope to get from a film or song or book originally written in a language other than English is only the gist — and that’s saying I had the translation done by a clever friend equally fluent in both English and whatever the language in question was. And even then he or she would have to substitute certain foreign words and phrases and concepts with whatever the best English approximation is.

I swear, this represents the most I will write on “99 Red Balloons” ever, though it’s worth mentioning now that the song previously came up in this blog in 2005, when I realized it had a curious lyrical connection with The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside.” And the fact that this post follows so closely the heels of a similar one on Cyndi Lauper’s song from The Goonies is pure coincidence. Really.