Friday, July 31, 2009

The Room Is Empty

But, in a sense, only temporarily so.

empty_room

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Transformed Teenage Lozenge Soldiers

Occasionally, while on YouTube, I end up watching footage from old video games or ones that weren’t ever released in the U.S. Occasionally, they make no sense.

Take this one, a Japan-only release for the Super Nintendo (and, by Super Nintendo, I mean its “over there” counterpart, the Super Famicom):



The plot, as I understand it: Five youths and a dog are walking to either a theme park called Jelly Land or the border between their home country and a neighboring nation called Jelly Land. At the front gate, some sort of demonic jester materializes and transforms them all — even the dog — into what looks to me like cough drops but which are probably the jellies mentioned in the title of the game, Jelly Boy 2. (I know, I know. We missed Jelly Boy 1. We’ll never grasp the context of what made this game great… and so memorable.) I’m not clear as to whether the youths and dog companion should have been surprised by this turn of events, as it may be what you get when you set foot in a place called Jelly Land. Also, the cough drops are color-coded based on what the characters were wearing when they underwent this transformation, so for our sake I suppose we should be glad that none of them wore similar outfits, as that would make differentiation difficult.

If it sounds like I’m mocking Jelly Boy 2, understand that it comes from a good place. I have nothing but respect for this brief foray into video games whose plots were drawn from real-life situations that kids should know about.

Bonus trivia: The title of this game is apparently sometimes transliterated as Jerry Boy.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Aimez These Two, Also

Neither am I sure how to feel about these images of disembodies miniature heads.


I shall say nothing more on the matter.

Aimez Moi

This was sent to me with the note that it reminded the sender of me.


Not sure where to go with that.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Headless Christmas

Merry Christmas! Here’s a disembodied head with tape in its hair.


If anyone can explain to me what hair tape is and why it’s not a nasty prank, I’d be happy to hear about it.

(Via the LiveJournal vintage ad community, via Spencer.)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Game Nerd’s Vocabulary: Beyond 1-Up and Kill Screen

This week’s word of the week post is a threefer, and all of them are honest-to-god words that I didn’t know existed until I learned them in a video game. I feel it’s due, since I haven’t written much about video games here since my “It’s a Secret to Everybody” post last month. (Though, at 80,000 unique hits to that post alone, I guess it’s not much of a secret anymore. Thanks Destructoid! And Kotaku! And GayGamer! And Digg! And Mental Floss! And Pajiba!) Following that post, I’ve had some interesting email exchange with other linguistically minded game nerds. One in particular wrote me about word changes in Final Fantasy IV, a text-heavy game that’s evolved quite a bit since its clunky English release for the Super Nintendo in 1991 and the third reworking of it, which came out last year for the Nintendo DS. (And yes, I do realize the irony in that a game called Final Fantasy has been given multiple sequels and that those sequels have themselves been remade and remade again. Recently, game blogs have been circulated the explanation for why the first game had the word final in the title.) As time has passed, dumb-downed translations of the original Japanese have given way to GRE vocab selections and, perhaps most surprising, some actual character development. I’m not sure why the translator for this most recent version of the game chose to pick the words he did, but the end result was that I learned a few words.
epopt (ee-POPT or EE-popt) — noun: 1. an initiate into the ancient Greek cult of Demeter and Persephone, which was centered at the town of Eleusina. 2. one instructred in the mysteries of a secret system.
So, essentially, it means either an inductee of a specific, bygone order or any old inductee of any old order anywhere. Wiktionary traces the word only back to the Greek ἐπόπτης (epoptes), meaning “initiate into mysteries,” while another source puts it more broadly, saying the original Greek is “variously defined as supervision, beholding, revelation, unveiling.”

The fact that the Eleusinian Mysteries would focus on two of Greek mythology’s major goddesses is particularly appropriate for the Final Fantasy IV epopts because they exist in a city dominated by women: female soldiers, generals and merchants, with eight epopts calling the shots from atop the social hierarchy. In the original version of the game, these ruling women were referred to only as clerics, which, if you take the newest version of the game as the “correct” one, isn’t inaccurate, per se, just less evocative of some higher female divinity. The direct sequel to Final Fantasy IV, The After Years, features a playable epopt, Leonora, who is a proficient magic user and also a cute-as-a-button blondie, as even the mightily spiritual video game heroines must be aesthetically appealing.

final fantasy iv’s epopts and cutie pie epopt leonora
actual epopts participating in rites of the cult of seasonal goddesses
I suppose as far as video games using obscure words drawn from mythology, the mention of epopt in Final Fantasy IV is a fairly appropriate one.
seneschal (SEN-ə-shəl) — noun: an official in a medieval noble household in charge of domestic arrangements and the administration of servants; a steward or major-domo.
What the new versions of the Final Fantasy IV refer to as a seneschal was previously just advisor or chancellor or something similar, if I remember correctly. Perhaps only by virtue of being more esoteric, the title seneschal lends the character a loftier sense of importance. I intend to refer to my butler as my seneschal. When I hire him, of course. According to Wiktionary, the term comes from the Proto-Germanic word parts sini-, meaning “senior,” and skalk, meaning “servant.” (That skalk apparently also morphed into the second syllable of the word marshal, literally “horse servant.”) Seneschal may be more familiar to French speakers, as it is a cognate with sénéchal (“a representative of the king, charged with the application of justice and control of the administration under the Ancien Régime of southern France”), which would be the person in charge of a sénéchaussée.
eidolon (eye-DOH-lən) — noun: 1. an unsubstantial image, a phantom. 2. an ideal.
Of these three words, I would have guessed that eiodolon would be a Final Fantasy-specific word. (The game does have its own terminology, after all. The fictional ratite known as the chocobo, for example.) But this word did, in fact, exist before the advent of video games. In theosophy, the eidolon essentially means “astral double” — “a phantom-double of the human form; a shade or perispirit; the kamarupa after death, before its disintegration.” Etymologically, the term is related to idol.

In many of the Final Fantasy titles, certain characters can fight by calling various monsters to do battle on their behalf. It’s sort of like having the index to Encyclopedia Mythica at your beck and call including but not limited to a titan, a siren, a phoenix, Fenrir from Norse mythology, Paracelsian sylphs, Leviathan from the Bible, as well as more obscure ones like Catoblepas, a heavy-headed, downward looking, bovine-porcine combo that ancient peoples believed could turn things to stone by breathing upon or looking at them. (Wikipedia notes that this creature may have actually been a wildebeest or gnu, which can do neither.)

catoblepas or just a stupid gnu?

Early in the series, the English version of the games just refer to these creatures as summons or summoned monsters. The ninth game used the term eidolon, and it was then retroactively applied in many remakes and sequels to previous titles. It’s so widespread, in fact, that a simple Google search for eidolon brings up the Final Fantasy-related version of the word first.

Thus, three words I didn’t know until video games taught them to me. Perhaps not the most useful words in the English language, but something to show for hours wasted in front of a television set, right?

Right?

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Undisputed Master of Apples to Apples

During a game of Appples to Apples, Spencer got two of the best hands in recent memory. First, the world’s best shopping list.

best_apples_to_apples_hand_ever

A second, the toughest of tough decisions.

second_best_apples_to_apples_hand_ever

Apples to Apples — truly it is the game of kings.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Or Would You Rather Be a Pig?

On the show Out of This World — the one about the girl who was half-alien and whose superpowers included freezing time by touching her index fingers together and making children who watched Out of This World attempt to freeze time by touching their index fingers together — the father alien who spoke to the daughter though that weird translucent diamond — or perhaps was the weird translucent diamond — was voiced by Burt Reynolds. Was I the only one who didn’t know that?


The post on Yesterday’s Faces Today that informed me of this also conjectures that another actor on the show, Doug McClure, was one-half the inspiration for the Simpsons character Troy McClure, along with fellow C-lister Troy Donahue.

Previous pop culture minutiae:

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Bride Was a Pine Tree

Jill, who may be familiar to some readers as the girl with the phony MySpace account and who has been blogging about her travels through China with her manfriend over at Jill Uses Chopsticks, has finally posted her wedding photos. And that’s weird, because she’s not getting married. As she — or rather Manfriend Brook, writing as her — explained it, the custom of Chinese wedding photos has bridge and groom dressing up in some attractive outfits and some Lady Gaga ridiculous outfits months before the wedding, a kind of movie star-for-a-day treatment that, I’d imagine, makes fashionable couples look even more chic and the frumpy ones look uncomfortable and sad.

A few of the photos made it to the blog. Some are very nice and would make for acceptable wedding cards in any country. Others gives Jill orange skin, purple lips and visible pores — which is, perhaps, a look that has yet to catch on in the States. My absolute favorite, however, would have to be the one that makes Jill look like some kind of plant monster or half-plant, half-woman amalgamonster from Greek mythology — Poison Piney, if you will — or perhaps album art one of the trippier Goldfrapp albums.

This is what it looks like:

jilly_bajiggle

I am very impressed, with the photographers, the make-up artists and anyone who helped convince Jill that she should do this. I say this as someone who once “clowned” her house and who also once convinced a good chunk of her associates that she had changed her email address to chestylovin@hotmail.com. Bravo, people. Bravo.

Google Books Is Not Robots

Or, at least, if Google Books are scanned page-by-page by robots, said mechanomen are designed to have realistic, feminine-looking fingers. Really, if any company could afford to assemble such a contraption, should Google not be it?


This slip of the hand comes to you via Spencer.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Debonair Criminal

The following is a reproduction of a conversation between Hasan and me. It began with him sending me a link to the following image, which is purported to be scan from an 1985 issue of Ebony magazine that envisioned what the stars of the era might look like in the year 2000.

click to enlarge
me: good god. what could have been. could you imagine what life would be like if michael jackson stayed cool? it would be a different world

hasan: i like how they just blended a picture of MJ and Billy Dee

me: what we should do is invent a program that blends anyone’s photo with billy dee Williams. people would love it

hasan: sanam would look awesome

me: well, i feel like it should be, like, cicely tyson or cch pounder for ladies… whatever the girl equivalent of billy dee is

hasan: nell carter

me: there you go

me: hey, did you know that sanam once thought that cch pounder’s name wasn’t supposed to be pronounced with just the letters?

hasan: so how did she pronounce it?

me: like, it wasn’t “C C H” but “sscchh pounder”

hasan: haha

me: this was suggested to be as if it were fact

Monday, July 20, 2009

A Penchant for Pipes

In case its reproduction on this blog renders unreadable the noteworthy text, know that it says “Please… May I sniff your Klompen Kloggen?”


The mind boggles.

(Via the LiveJournal vintage ads community, via Spencer.)

Advertising, previously:

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Volcano in Ventura

On the heels of last week’s post, “The Ghosts of Garden Street,” I have the following: another old report of Santa Barbara goings-on that made it into print in the L.A. Times and that also hinges around something that could potentially draw tourists to the area. Kind of gives you an idea of what Santa Barbara’s significance was to the rest of California. Not sure that’s changed, really.

This article comes from the September 29, 1883, issue and details an apparent feud between the editor of the Santa Barbara Independent and the ownership of a volcano that apparently resided in Ventura County at the time.


For context’s sake, the immediately following article was about a murder-suicide in New Jerusalem, a Ventura County settlement that apparently doesn’t exist anymore. As for the volcano, I don’t have a clue where it might be. A Google search turned up little of interest, save for a relatively recent article in the Ventura County Star about a small patch of land in Little Sespe Canyon, near Fillmore, that had been mysteriously smoldering for a while and may still be doing so. I feel like if it was doing so back in 1883 and making people worry back then that they were neighbors with a nascent volcano, it should be better-known today. Or it should be, you know, a fucking volcano. Why the Independent editor would be getting the county lines redrawn to include Fillmore is completely beyond me.

“Honey, My Water Broke Too!”

In short, anything you can do, I can do too — not necessarily better, but in my own little way nonetheless.
couvade (koo-VAYD) — noun: 1. a custom in some cultures in which when a child is born the father takes to bed as if bearing the child and submits himself to fasting, purification, or taboos. 2. a medical condition involving a father experiencing some of the behavior of his wife at near the time of childbirth, including her birth pains, postpartum seclusion, food restrictions, and sex taboos.
A strange concept that I learned about in A.J. Jacobs’s The Know-It-All, couvade can be both a rare medical phenomenon that can occur anywhere and a specific custom of the Basque people in which the man deliberately takes to a bed and imitates the mother of his about-to-be-born child. This is my understanding of the latter case, anyway — that it seems to be a more of a conscious choice inasmuch as participation societal traditions can be voluntary. It may seem silly to some, but I suppose the notion of paternity leave might have seemed strange to people not to long ago.

Different websites offer different etymologies for the term. Most claim it comes from the French couvade, meaning “brooding.” Merriam-Webster traces it back to a Middle French term for “cowardly inactivity” that in turn comes from cover, “to sit on, brood over.” It relates the word to covey, “a mature bird or pair of birds with a brood of young.”

I’m sure there’s a joke about Thomas Beatie in all this, but I’ll leave you all to form it in your own minds.

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Already Secretly Married

I know little of the work of Emilie Loring, though I can surmise quite a bit by scanning the titles of her books. You, who may also know little of Loring, can do the same.
  • Beckoning Trails
  • When Hearts are Light Again
  • Throw Wide the Door
  • How Can the Heart Forget?
  • Forever and a Day
  • I Hear Adventure Calling
  • Love Came Laughing By
  • Love with Honor
  • A Candle in the Heart
  • Rainbow at Dusk
  • Spring Always Comes
  • Behind the Cloud
  • Where Beauty Dwells
  • With This Ring
  • Gay Courage
Okay, Gay Courage sounds a little weird, but based on what she chose to title her other books, it seems like a pretty safe bet that Loring might have enjoyed Nights in Rodanthe, though even she would have thought better than to have saddled a book with a clunker title like that one. Of the covers I found online, the one for Uncharted Seas.


Can you see what’s wrong with this book cover? I’d say it’s either that Loring picked the worst possible title for a novel about the horsey set or that whoever painted the art read neither the book nor its title.

Easily the best part of my quick glimpse into the life of this prolific author, however, would be the following note on her Wikipedia page, which speaks more of Loring’s authorial tendencies than a mere list of here titles can. I quote:
There are several repeating motifs in her work that annoy some readers and amuse others. Among them are a girl who is twenty-three with red hair, a dark-haired lawyer or aspiring politician for a hero, a quotation-spouting secondary character, a fan back chair, a Mandarin coat, a Chinese lacquer screen (room divider), New England as a setting or character trait (“New England granite”), and a black-and-white spotted dog…. She has a habit of describing every flower in sight, as well as the outfits of the heroine and supporting characters in detail. Like time capsules, a great deal can be learned about the dress, etiquette, social classes, and political and economic conditions of the year each book was written in. Commonly used plot-lines in her novels are the Lost Will, Ward Grows Up, Orphaned Girl, Sickly Sister, Marriage of Convenience/Contract, and Already Secretly Married.
By the way, every entry in that list of recycled plotlines would have made for an appropriately Loringesque novel title — Already Secretly Married particular. They’d also make for good band names — again, Already Secretly Married in particular.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Chauncey Peppertooth Did Something Bad

Mr. C. Peppertooth is an energetic, young dog. He belongs to Hilly.

chauncey_peppertooth

The chick on the right presumably once looked much the like the one on the left. That is all there is to say.

(Chick pic courtesy Hilly’s Facebook.)

Other things I consider creepy or horrifying:

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Ghosts of Garden Street

I could say little to better introduce the following news article other than to note that it is a report that ran in the May 19, 1888, edition of the L.A. Times about repeated ghost sightings fairly close to where I live now. The report was drawn from an incarnation of the Santa Barbara Independent, which happens to be the name of the paper for which I now work.


Not sure what to love more — the concluding sentence, the overall dumbness of the whole article or the fact that in spite of this dumbness the author still pointedly noted that the alleged street corner haunting could be a profitable tourist draw. I feel that if anyone at my paper is ever accused of writing something that does not measure up to the journalistic standards mandated by the Independent’s history, they need only to recall this article.

Ghosts, previously:

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Pronoun-a-Thon

For my birthday, Nate bought me a copy of Patricia T. O’Conner’s new book, Origin of the Specious. In it, O’Conner blasts apart grammatical and linguistic myths in her characteristically straightforward, sensible way. She explains why English has been beset by phony no-nos, like the prohibition on using like when you could instead use such as, but she also tackles broader-in-scope mysteries, like when and how Americans lost their British accents. (As she tells it, we didn’t. The plumminess of British English developed over there, after the North American colonies were established. The way we speak is closer to how our founding British fathers spoke than current day Britons’ speech is.) For someone like me, it’s a fun read.

Her passage on English’s problematic lack of a gender-neutral third person singular pronoun reminded me of a word that essentially exists in a way similar to those old contraptions you see in black-and-white footage of people who tried to invent flying machines. Like the machines that invariably dumped their pilots out of trees and off balconies or simply sputtered to a stop, this word is a failure, yet kind of a noble one. Though some record of its existence should be preserved, you can’t mention it without also noting that it didn’t perform the function its daddy intended.
thon — noun: an epicene pronoun invented in 1858 in an effort to replace the genderless he.
Note that didn’t list a pronunciation. At the moment, I’ve found exactly two sites that note how the word should be pronounced: one that suggests the “TH” should sound like the one in thin and another that says it should be like the one in those. I’m inclined to think it should sound like the ones in thee and thou, since those would seem to be the cuttings from which this strange flower grew.

Thon was dreamed up by Charles Crozat Converse, an attorney who, as both O’Conner and Wikipedia note, is primarily known for writing the song “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” (Wikipedia — but not O’Conner — also notes that his “runner-up” contribution seems to be the arrangement for “The Death of Minnehaha.”) Thon also appears to have found some success. O’Conner claims that the word actually appeared in dictionaries and can still be found in those published as recently as fifty years ago. Today, searching for thon is more difficult, as most dictionaries list it as a variant of that -athon suffix so beloved my elementary school fundraisers. And, because it’s the internet, you get a lot of hits for the Thon, a triceratops-like thing from Star Wars, or at least so says the Wookieepedia.

Among the less successful attempts to rid English of the awkwardness inherent in asking every student to take his desk are the following less glorious failed attempts: ne, heer, ha, co, hy, ve, xe, ze, the unusual combo of ze and mer, the triplet team of ze-zam-zerz, and finally the so-called Spivak pronoun. Not all of these are honest attempts at reforming English. Co, Wikipedia claims, is used “in is used in contemporary everyday language by the 100 people who live at Twin Oaks community in Virginia, USA. It is used to mean s/he in the case in which the gender is not known or is irrelevant.” My personal favorite is the Spivak pronoun, which is essentially the forms of the word they with the “TH” chopped off: Ey laughed, I called em, Eir eyes gleam, etc. (See Wikipedia’s chart on how these words work if you’d like to know how they’d plug into actual sentences.) A Random House word-of-the-day post includes even more — including oddities like tey, en, po and jhe — that allegedly arose during the American feminist movement.

Most with a verbally-minded brain guess that English will probably never had a word that fulfills the function that thon would have, had it endured. The American Heritage Book of English has this to offer the subject:
Like most efforts at language reform, these well-intended suggestions have been largely ignored by the general English-speaking public, and the project to supplement the English pronoun system has proved to be an ongoing exercise in futility. Pronouns are one of the most basic components of a language, and most speakers appear to have little interest in adopting invented ones.
Is this, I wonder, similar to how consumers let Betamax die and opted not to teach the metric system?

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Friday, July 10, 2009

A Message of Peace From Planet Xarbdoz

I don’t question that Lady Gaga comes from another planet. This must be the truth. And also it must be true that Lady Gaga is treading around on our little sphere to spread a message of love and harmony that can only be communicated through upbeat dance anthems. I have to admit that I don’t really mind Lady Gaga doing this. Lady Gaga’s attempts to speak to us Earthlings constitute fairly good pop music, especially in comparison to what all else takes up Top 40 charts.

(NOTE: At this point, you may have noticed that I’ve avoided using pronouns to refer to Lady Gaga. This results from neither some weird reverence for Lady Gaga. From what I know about the artist’s home planet of Xarbdoz, the correct English pronoun in this situation would be they, but that’s a little awkward and I’d rather skirt the issue altogether.)

I recently watched a clip of Lady Gaga performing an acoustic(ish) rendition of “Pokerface” as part of the AOL Sessions series. It, in my opinion, is irrefutable proof of The Gag’s status as an alien. I encourage you to watch, even if you don’t enjoy her work.



Observations:

Lady Gaga actually has a good voice. This isn’t really apparent from Lady Gaga’s studio tracks, which are all glossed over in the way that can makes talentless singers sound decent, if inauthentic. However, Lady Gaga may not have a good brain, as Lady Gaga apparently decided that an appropriate outfit for an acoustic performance included Diane Keaton’s sunglasses and shiny black clothes that kind of look like the armor worn by the Knights of the Evil Round Table. (Lady Gaga would have been better served wearing the “Mickey Mouse” shades from the video for “Paparazzi.” ) Now that I think about it, Lady Gaga’s earth vocabulary probably doesn’t contain the phrase appropriate outfit.

Lady Gaga can also play the piano, though Lady Gaga does so in a manner that looks like someone who actually doesn’t know how to play the instrument and just exaggeratedly mimes his or her hands above the keys.

(at 0:34) Lady Gaga will not let the restraints of an acoustic set prevent Lady Gaga from throwing in a little flair. What that finger waggle means to Lady Gaga, however, is known only to Lady Gaga.

(at 1:22) Nor does anyone besides Lady Gaga know what that flashed hand signal means. The letter “C”? Or “I’m this close to my power crystal from running out. Need replacement, space assistant.”

(at 1:32) Lady Gaga hunched over, motionless except for the mouth intoning “ba ba ba ba” creeps me out. I feel like I’m actually watching the 70-year-old Lady Gaga of the Future on a post-post-retirement tour. Oh, what a world that will be.

(at 2:12) This is Lady Gaga’s true, extraterrestrial voice emerging, much like the facehugger from Bishop’s chest in Alien.

(3:06) Lady Gaga is a bird now!

(3:09) Now Lady Gaga is playing the keyboard with Lady Gaga’s own high heel-clad foot. This sounds cooler written out than it does in practice. I mean, I could play the keyboard with my foot about as well as this.

(3:26) True alien voice returns. It does not seem as interested in world peace as normal Lady Gaga voice.

(3:34) Now Lady Gaga is swimming. Everybody, Lady Gaga is swimming!

Conclusion: Total alien. That whole story about Lady Gaga being born in Yonkers as Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta — and, yes, that is the purported real name, and, yes, it seems somehow even stranger than Lady Gaga — is a total crock. I’m just awaiting the announcement that Lady Gaga has chosen to place the accent on the second syllable. Gah-GAH! Gah-GAH! Lady Gaga is a bird again.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Cyclops Construction

I never thought I’d have to make the distinction between construction materials and the optic blast-enabling superpowers, but I had to today.

two kinds of beams

Today I called Palmer, our copy editor, and asked how we write out the term that, when spoken, sounds like either “eye beam” or “I-beam.” I meant the latter version. I suppose that should have been obvious and I might have been the only person in the office who might have reason to use either, but I felt compelled to clarify the moment I said it. “I mean the metal beam that’s shaped like the letter ‘I,’ not laser beams you shoot from your eyes.”

Palmer politely explained that it would make sense that it would follow the pattern established with T-shirt.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

One by One, But Sometimes Four at a Time

There was no new Harper’s Island last Saturday, I’d imagine because this day happened to be the Fourth of July and CBS chose instead to air footage of fireworks blowing up Uncle Sam or whatever else constitutes patriotic primetime fare. It doesn’t matter what CBS aired, I say, because no one should have been home watching TV so long as there were watermelon slices to be eaten and grassy hills to roll down. The final episodes of Harper’s Island will air next Saturday — and for two hours, no less. But because no freshly DVRed episode awaited me this past Sunday, I’m getting my fix by writing about the show.


Harper’s Island may not be the next V or the next first-seven-episodes-of-Twin Peaks or even the next Wild Palms, but as far as hourlong, thriller-verging-on-horror miniseries go, it’s not bad. I’m happy that someone has apparently realized my major problem with many slasher movies — that I don’t give a damn about the victims, who so often lose their heads, their lives and any hope of being in the sequel before I’ve had time to learn their names — and then taken steps to remedy the problem by restructuring the genre as a miniseries, wherein characters get actual screen time and development before they bite the big one. Harper’s Island got off to a slow start, with only nobodies and Harry Hamlin initially falling victim to the mysterious killer, but it has tightened up considerably as the final episode drew nearer and nearer. Most remarkably, the show proved it had the guts to kill off major characters. The previous episode, for example, reduced the very likable Cal the British guy and Blonde Chloe to corpses floating down a river. It was a daring move, considering that most mainstream network shows seem like they would broken traditional horror movie rules and given the couple a happy ending.

I’ve even been impressed with the series’ treatment of lesser characters, like Katherine the Unfaithful Stepmother (the amazingly named Claudette Mink, who sometimes looks like Saturday Night Live’s Casey Wilson and sometimes looks like Mulholland Drive’s Laura Elena Harring). Usually when a slasher movie B- or C-listers hover in the background, tagging along with the A-Team when they don’t really need to, they just get picked off, their deaths only being a means to shed a bit more blood while the heroes and heroines run around screaming. Katherine, whose on-the-side hanky-panky seemed like an express ticket to the boneyard, made it quite a bit farther than I would have expected, continuing to develop as a character when an analogue in a “proper” horror movie wouldn’t have lasted through the first reel. And when Katherine did meet her doom, it was a gorier death than I would have expected from the network that gives us NCIS: stabbed with gardening shears through the wicker chair she had been sitting in.

As I said at the beginning of this post, Harper’s Island hasn’t been a complete success. Its sprawling cast meant that even someone invested in the show probably didn’t care about all the characters. And I’ve quickly grown bored with two that have received the most screentime — Final Girl Abby (Elaine Cassidy) and mopey hometown boy Jimmy (C.J. Thomason), who seem to have been patterned on Neve Campbell and Skeet Ulrich even on a molecular level. If the final episode reveals that Jimmy, like Ulrich’s character in Scream, is responsible for the killings, I may well drop my overall grade for the show a full letter, from B+ to C+.

sidney and billy, island-bound

I hope this isn’t the case. In fact, I hope the big finale ties the killings and the killer back to the other candidate for Final Girl, Trish the Bride (Katie Cassidy, no relation to Elaine but yes relation to Partridge Family son David). The savagery with which Trish’s father and brother-in-law were dispatched, the fact that Trish and her sister and niece have so far emerged unscathed, and the absence of a Wellington family matriarch have me speculating that the family tree branches into the psychokiller gene pool.

Next Saturday’s episode — which I, along with most of the show’s fanbase, will watch on Sunday — will prove my guess right or wrong as well as settle the fates of the eight remaining characters, at which point this miniseries will probably be forgotten, excluding the chance of a spiritual sequel knocking off innocents one-by-one, week-by-week in some other remote resort location. (A ski lodge during a blizzard? A cruise ship trapped at sea? A penthouse with an out-of-service elevator… and lazy occupants who refuse to use the stairs?) Of course, I would be remiss if I wrote about my summer fling with Harper’s Island without mentioning the episode titles. As those of us with an INFO button on our remote controls realized, each title is a sound effect referring to noise heard when a victim dies. As in the fairly un-encyclopedically-written page on the show notes, these onomatopoeia of doom are, in order:
  • “Whap” (Cousin Ben’s underwater adventure)
  • “Crackle” (Bridesmaid Lucy’s impromptu barbecue)
  • “Ka-Blam” (Scorned Ex Hunter boombox surprise)
  • “Bang” (Booth lamely doing himself in and remind us of the importance of gun safety)
  • “Thwack” (Mr. Wellington teaching non-seafaring viewers what a headspade is)
  • “Sploosh” (Richard finds that a harpoon has mysteriously entered his torso)
  • “Thrack, Splat, Sizzle” (The three-step process that sent Hurley knock-off Malcolm into the furnace)
  • “Gurgle” (J.D. loses fluids)
  • “Seep” (Katherine ruins perfectly good patio chair)
  • “Snap” (Sheriff Mills suffers the wrath of a Rube Goldbergian gallows)
  • “Splash” (Chloe takes a dive)
One wonders what to make of the titles of the last two episodes, “Gasp” and “Sigh.”

Monday, July 6, 2009

Superman’s New Friend, Lloyd the Llama

A post by John Kricfalusi on the Wayne Boring school of Superman drawing ended up teaching me about yet another double “L” character inhabiting the stretch of galaxy between Metropolis and Krypton: Lyla Lerrol (a.k.a. Lyla Ler-rol), a vaguely Marilyn Monroe-looking Kryptonian actress whom Superman meets after stumbling back in time to a point when his home planet hadn’t yet sploded.


I suppose she’s not all that important in the scope of Superman mythos, but her existence makes the list of characters with the initials “L.L.” at least fifteen strong:
Rooting around online didn’t immediately turn up an explanation for this strange, Superman-specific trend. (And yes, while alliterative initials are common in comics, particularly in the Stan Lee-created Marvel series, the “L.L.” characters appear in the various Superman series with peculiar regularity.) Allegedly one comic has Mr. Mxyztplk surmising that the paired letters have a special significance in Kryptonian language, but I’d guess such an explanation happened after-the-fact, maybe even in response to readers wondering what the “L” the deal is.

A message board at DVDtalk.com reprints a no-longer-extant online exchange about the mysterious initials. It notes that Lois came first and that Lex Luthor didn’t debut as an “L.L.” but just as one “L”: Luthor. Lana was invented to be a Lois analogue for the stories of young Clark Kent and therefore was giving the double initials as well. These three apparently made for enough of a trend that writers continued to name later characters — especially female characters and especially especially women that Superman falls for — in the same style. It seems as plausible an explanation as any other.

I do hope that any Superman-savvy people Googling their way here will share any thoughts on how this odd naming trend came to be.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Mother, May I Pet the Pangolin?

From the IMDb trivia listing for the 1996 Tori Spelling TV movie Mother, May I Sleep With Danger?:
During the early stages of filming, Spelling was bitten quite severely by a tame pangolin being used in an adjacent production. In certain scenes, bruising from her rabies inoculations are clearly visible.
In case you’re wondering, Mother, May I Sleep With Danger? happens to be airing on TV right now. I saw it while flipping through channels and had a who’s-that-guy? moment. Turned out it was Lochlyn Munro. I feel like it’s always Lochlyn Munro.

The Fear of Hippos Using Monstrous Words

A new half of the year, a new cycle of strange and wonderful words. I’m not going to keep alphabetical order for this run-through, and I’ve this week decided to go with an “H” word, if only because honorificabilitudinitatibus was starting to look lonely.

In the way that the proper term for the inability to pronounce the letter “S” actually has an “S” in it and the proper term for the inability to pronounce the letter “R” actually has an “R” in it, it seems similarly unjust that the word for the fear of long words would itself be obscenely long.
hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia (hi-pe-POT-e-mon-stre-SES-kwi-pe-DAY-lee-an) — noun: the fear of long words.
Of course, it’s not a generally accepted term. According to those with a knowledge of words and, really, anyone with common sense, it’s a joke that word that lengthens the already unwieldy word sesquipedaliophobia, which itself means “fear of long words” and which seems to based off the word sesquipedalian. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, sesquipedalian goes back to the Latin phrase sesquipedalia verba, literally “words a food-and-a-half-long,” which Horace uses in his Ars Poetica to illustrate the very thing he is criticizing. Presumably, Horace chose this phrase for the same reason someone would centuries later tack parts of the words hippopotamus and monstrous onto sesquipedalian to make it even more humorously long.

Wiktionary notes that with these additions, hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia could be read to mean “the hippopotamus- and monster-related fear of long words.” I’m not sure if that’s true, but I must agree with another assertion: the four syllable phrase fear of long words gets to the point just as easily.

Credit to June Casagrande, whose word blog, Conjugate Visits, introduced me to hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia to begin with.

Previous words of the week:
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Saturday, July 4, 2009

Gobacken Sidonna

Five unrelated photos.

One: A Complex magazine cover rendered awkward by the fact that it was already sitting on store shelves the day Michael Jackson died. Jonah Hill probably blames himself. I do, anyway.

Two: Newly emptied shelf space — and not the first time such an occurrence has been noted on this blog.

Three: Inexplicable graffiti in a Ventura gas station bathroom.

Four: A co-worker’s vehicle, dust tagged in her honor.

Five: A copy of a Jimmy Buffet record, A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean, deservedly set beside my apartment building’s dumpster.

jonah_hill_michael_jackson

empty shelf

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my_name_is_mashell

photo

Friday, July 3, 2009

It’s a Secret to Everybody, Part Four: Name Origins for Street Fighter and Other Capcom Titles

(This is a reposting of just one section of my rather lengthy “It’s a Secret to Everybody” post on video game etymologies. Click the link to see the whole shebang. Links to other sections are at the bottom of this post.)

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By virtue of boasting an international cast of characters, the Street Fighter games incorporate more languages than most other games do.

street_fighter_ii_ryu
ryu: he fights on the street but doesn’t wear shoes

Now in its fifth official incarnation but with countless remakes and retreads filling the gaps between full-fledged sequels, the games focus on Ryu and Ken — respectively Japanese and American twists on the karate fighter character type. Appropriate though their names might be in the countries they hail from, there’s an added layer of meaning: Ryu’s name translates from Japanese into English as “dragon,” while Ken’s means “fist.” Both Ryu and Ken appear in the Japanese name for a certain move that these two characters share: a jumping uppercut officially known as the Shoryuken, or “Rising Dragon Punch.” (Ryu’s name, as commenter parsleyboots pointed out, can also mean “noble.”)

Incidentally, the Street Fighter Alpha installments introduced a less honorable version of Ryu. He’s known in the U.S. simply as Evil Ryu. In Japan, however, he’s Satsui no Hadō ni Mezameta Ryū, which translates into English as the far more awesome appellation “The Surge of Murderous Intent Awakened in Ryu.” Harder to fit on screen, yes, but I say the literal translation should have stuck. Later on in the series, other characters received evil versions of themselves, many with amazingly long, evocative names. The Street Fighter EX character Hokuto was given the alternate form Chi no Fūin o Tokareta Hokuto (“Broken Seal of Blood Hokuto”), for example. Series villain Akuma has a more powerful, more evil version known as Shin Akuma (“True Akuma”).

street_fighter_ii_ken
ken: number two, twice over

While Ryu may be the most important character in the Street Fighter games — in the first, he was the default Player One character — Ken gets the honor of having a last name: Masters. Of all people, Ken has Barbie to thank. When Hasbro made a line of Street Fighter action figures, Capcom had to supply the character a surname in order to distinguish him from the other Mattel-produced doll of the same name, Barbie’s male counterpart, Ken. I can only imagine Capcom chose the name in order to emphasize his status as a world-class martial artist. The name was eventually absorbed into the Street Fighter canon. It has also been claimed that Ken, with his shoulder-length banana-blond hair and muscular build, bears a passing resemblance to another Mattel character, He-Man, in which case Ken’s last name would also recall the cartoon that popularized the character, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.

Perhaps significantly or perhaps not, the protagonist of Tecmo’s Ninja Gaiden series is named Ryu Hayabusa. In the American version of the game, this character’s father is named Ken Hayabusa, even though he’s Joe Hayabusa in the Japanese version. Since Ninja Gaiden debuted a year after the first Street Fighter, it seems possible the father’s name was changed to create another Ryu-Ken pair, but it could just as easily be a coincidence.

street_fighter_II_chun-li
street fighter ii to street fighter iv: years and years of chinese thunder thighs

Chun-Li, who debuted in Street Fighter II, has a name that translates from Mandarin into English as “spring beauty.” While not technically the first female combatant in a fighting game — that honor, notes commenter Stercus, goes to Edwina from the obscure Tongue of the Fat Man — she’s definitely the first notable one. Many a subsequent lady fighter was designed in Chun-Li’s image, as a quick-moving, light-hitting, acrobatic fighter. As such, I’d like to think that the “spring” doubles as nod to her ability to fly through the air, but I doubt it’s anything but a coincidence, notwithstanding the fact that one of her signature moves, the Spinning Bird Kick, evokes imagery along the lines of both interpretations of the word spring.

street_fighter_II_zangief
the red cyclone: still apoplectically russian after all these years

It’s speculated that Street Fighter’s Russian wrestler Zangief takes his name from a real-life Russian wrestler, Victor Zangiev. More interesting to me is that the working name for this character was Vodka Gobalsky. This is notable for two reasons — for one, that this name is amazing and deserves to enter into the public consciousness, and, for another, that it bears a striking resemblance to the name of a Russian boxer in Nintendo’s Punch-Out!! series, Vodka Drunkenski. I’m sure this says something about Japanese perception of Russian people. The latter Vodka, by the way, goes by the name Soda Popinski in U.S. translations of the game, presumably because Nintendo of America didn’t allow references to booze.

street_fighter_II_dhalsim
stretch: then and now

Dhalsim is the fire-breathing, limb-stretching Indian yogi who’s willing to forgo his pacifistic ways to kick ass around the world. Most profiles of the character note that he hails from the southwestern Indian state of Kerala and that his name comes from Malayalam, a language spoken in that particular state. So I guess I’m a little impressed that his back story matches his name, considering that Malayalam is one of India’s twenty-two official languages and less subtle things have gotten confused in translating from one language to another. Though I wish I could tell you what Dhalsim means, it’s literally the one word of Malayalam that I know, and functional, online Malayalam-to-English dictionaries are hard to find. So I’ll give you this, at least: If you ever want to see where Capcom more than likely got the idea for this long-lived yet remarkably odd character, watch the 1975 Taiwanese martial arts flick Master of the Flying Guillotine, which features a suspiciously similar limb-stretching Indian fighter competing in an international tournament.

guile_e_honda_blanka_streetfighterI
stereotypical america, stereotypical japan, and a slap in the face to brazil

And that’s all I could put together from the initial eight playable Street Fighter characters. I’ve got nothing on Guile, the other American fighter, other than his name sounds quite a bit like the more common Anglo given name Kyle. Unlike Ken, who received a last name through connections with American products, the notion of the character’s full name being William F. Guile — as it is in the awful 1994 movie with Jean-Claude Van Damme — wasn’t accepted into the game’s canon.

After the original post went up, a commenter pointed out that I neglected to note that Guile’s name is also a generic noun in English, meaning either “deceitful cunning” or “stratagem, trick.” I suppose I skipped over this because I couldn’t think of a way to relate this fairly negative concept to the character. The commenter, however, pointed out that the name’s connotations could be a comment on Japanese perception of the U.S. armed forces. Another commenter even pointed out that the name makes sense in the context of how many players use Guile: trapping opponents between projectiles and air kicks, essentially strategizing his opponents senseless. The same commenter also noted the similarity between Guile’s name and of that J. Guile, a character in the manga JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. (Like many members of the JoJo cast, J. Guile takes his name from a pop music act, in this case the J. Geils Band.) Such a connection wouldn’t be unheard of; many members of the the JoJo cast look suspiciously like Capcom characters — the mystic Lisa Lisa in particular looks like Street Fighter Alpha’s Rose — and Capcom released a video game based on the manga back in 1998.

Equally perplexing is the other Japanese fighter, the sumo E. Honda. I have no idea why the “E” stands for the decidedly non-Japanese Edmond, though the helpful Guile commenter also offered a theory, if a nonserious one. He writes:
E. Honda is the least clear of the three — but if someone asked me to find a meaning within the name I would tell you that Edmond translates to Edomando in Japanese. Two hyphens and some heavy squinting later and we have Edo-Man-Do a cheap play on words describing a sumo wrestler — literally ,“The Way of the Man from Tokyo.”
Even its creator, however, admits that the theory is a stretch.

Most inexplicable of all is Blanka, the feral thing from Brazil, whose name is very close to the feminine Spanish Blanca, which means “white,” even though the character is male and green-skinned. Various sites claim that the character’s name comes from either the Spanish hombre blanco or the Portuguese homem branco, both meaning “white man,” as a result of being called this by people he met in the Brazilian jungle. This strikes me as unlikely for a few reasons, the least of which is that Blanka would not have been especially more white than most people living in Brazil. Right?

So that does it for the eight main characters. But there exists a slew of others, each of whose names hide their own verbal curiosities. My recommendation: If you know the series or thrive on verbal minutiae, read on. If not, skip down to the next chunk.

Even casual players know that three of the “Four Devas” — the original Street Fighter II bosses, M. Bison, Balrog, Sagat and Vega — swapped names when the game was translated from Japanese to English. Theories abound as to why, and, as I explained in a separate post devoted to the subject, the American set of names actually make more sense. Click through to read all that.

Similarly, I also have a post that focuses specifically on Gouken (a.k.a. “Not the Sheng Long”), the Street Fighter uber-sensei. It’s here and includes a bit on the character’s name and his long and complicated history with the mysterious W.A. Stokins.

The name of the aforementioned series villain Akuma translates from Japanese to English simply as “devil.”

dee_jay_MAXIMUM
dee jay: maximum jamaican, no matter which way he faces

Aside from having a fairly obvious name for a fighter associated with music, Dee Jay — the Jamaican fighter and the only American-designed character in the whole Street Fighter series — merits a mention on account of his band name, Maximum, which appears in all capital letters down whichever pant leg is facing the screen. Since Street Fighter II has characters punching or kicking with whatever arm or leg is nearest to the screen — essentially making them right- or left-dominant, depending on which direction they are facing — Capcom had to pick a word that looked the same when flipped, mirror-style. “MAXIMUM” happens to be one of the rare English words whose letters are vertically symmetrical, thus allowing the word to be readable to matter which way Dee Jay faces.

I’m not sure if I agree with the connection, but at least one site claims that Cammy — the beret-sporting, thigh-tacular Number Two Girl — is named and modeled to some extent after the protagonist of the manga known as Battle Angel Alita in the U.S. In Japan, it’s called Gunnm and the alleged Cammy inspiration is named Gally. I suppose the Japanese name is not too far off from Cammy’s.

It’s also worth mentioning that Street Fighter Alpha gives Cammy a whole back story involving her unwilling participation in a league of brainwashed, teenaged, female soldiers called The Dolls, who rank easily among the most obscure canon characters in the entire series. (And, now that I think of it, they remind me just a little of characters on the TV show Dollhouse.) The Street Fighter Alpha games also feature two other Dolls as playable characters, the almost identical Juni and Juli, who, according to a comprehensive Street Fighter plot canon guide, take their names from the months June and July. That origin, however, might not be immediately apparent.

cammy_juni_juli_dolls_street_fighte
the original, plus the june and july models

The month theme becomes a lot clearer when Juni and Juli are considered in light of the ten other dolls, who, if they appear at all in the actual games, play only minor roles.
  • Enero (Spanish for January)
  • Février (French for February)
  • März (German for March)
  • Aprile (Italian for April)
  • Satsuki (the Japanese name for the fifth month)
  • Santamu, or possibly Tháng tám (Vietnamese for the eighth month)
  • Xiayu (allegedly some form of Chinese for the ninth month)
  • Jianyu (again, some form of Chinese for the tenth month)
  • Noembelu (purportedly from an unspecified Latin American country, representing November)
  • Decapre (the Russian doll, representing December — more correctly rendered as Dekabre, says my Russian-savvy friend.)
Given that there are twelve “month” dolls, Cammy doesn’t fit into this calendar pattern and is known as the “zero” doll, which is possibly significant in that the Street Fighter Alpha games are known as Street Fighter Zero in Japan. In further evidence of the Cammy/Gally connection, Battle Angel Alita features a series of clones of Gally that take their names from the German words for the numbers one through twelve. Commenter Migaloo points out that Cammy’s name could just be a reference to the camouflage paint she sports on her legs. It seems sensible enough to merit a mention.

The Native American fighter T. Hawk was allegedly going to be called Geronimo until Capcom thought better of it. Really, the name T. Hawk — short for Thunder Hawk — is only slightly less stereotypical. Incidentally, one of the dolls is purported to be T. Hawk’s long-lost sister. Depending on what you take as official, it’s either Juli or Noembelu. Juli’s possible status as T. Hawk’s sister is alluded to in the nutball crossover title Namco vs. Capcom, which has Juli partially regaining her memory and confusedly stating “I am... Juli... a... Hawk?” at one point in the game.

In creating the plot for Street Fighter II, Capcom dreamed up a fallen comrade-in-arms whose death Guile fights to avenge. In the Japanese version, this initially minor character was saddled with the name Nash — unusual enough in America that the game’s translators dropped it in favor of the name Charlie. (If you think about it, the decision to select Charlie is also strange, considering the connotations the name carries among American military men.) In the prequel Street Fighter Alpha games, however, Capcom made Nash a playable, forcing the a second set of translators to choose between preserving the switch or retconning it to keep various international versions on the same page. They chose the former, Charlie became popular, and the disparity lasts to this day, though the English versions eventually used Nash as Charlie’s surname.

Also in Street Fighter Alpha, Capcom introduced a new female character, a Japanese schoolgirl named Sakura, whose name means “cherry blossom” or “cherry tree.” The character eventually became popular enough that she received her own rival, the snobbier but equally fisticuffs-prone schoolgirl Karin. Given that Karin has these blonde locks that approach some awful hybrid of Shirley Temple ringlets and stripper curls, I’d always assumed her name was an alternate spelling of the common Western name Karen. It’s not; it’s actually the Japanese word for “quince,” which is appropriate given her relationship with Sakura. Both are named for flowering, fruit-bearing trees, but while cherries are sweet, quince fruit is sour and generally hard to love.

A less subtle name theme exists for two British fighters who appeared in the original Street Fighter: Birdie and Eagle, both of whom seem to take their names for golf terms. Both reappeared in Street Fighter Alpha, with the former becoming a hulking punk and the latter a fey, Freddie Mercury-quoting fop. Funny how that happens.

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biblical brothers, minus one: abel and seth

A confession: I have yet to play Street Fighter IV. Consequently, I can’t speak on any connection between newcomer Abel and the game’s big bad, the Doc Manhattan-looking Seth, who, as a commenter pointed out, was named in honor of real-life Capcom employee Seth Killian. Real-life Seths aside, I’d be willing to bet it’s no coincidence that Abel and Seth share their names with children of the Biblical Adam and Eve. And I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if subsequent ports and incarnations of Street Fighter IV feature a third character named Cain.

(After the original post went up, a commenter calling himself Toninho 3rd noted that the missing Cain could be Cammy. Abel, Seth and Cammy are apparently all clones of M. Bison, if I understand correctly. Cain and Cammy aren’t especially similar, but the possible connection is helped a little bit by Cain’s status as the Bible’s first and perhaps most famous murderer and Cammy’s nickname, Killer Bee. It’s probably not the case, but it’s a nice little theory.)

I’ve never been able to make much of the cast of Street Fighter III, save for one: Sean, a Brazilian fighter whom the game introduces as Ken’s protégé. He fights and dresses much like Ryu and Ken. With that it mind, it is plausible, at least, that Sean’s name is meant to represent the first syllable in the name of the aforementioned Shoryuken, a key move for all three characters. Speaking with an American accent, however, you really have to fudge the pronunciation to make it work.

A number of Street Fighter Alpha characters originally hailed from that other long-running Capcom brawler, Final Fight. In early English translations of the game, one character decked out in Japanese armor bore the name Katana, except for one installment in which he was called Shogun. In Japan and in most versions of Street Fighter Alpha, however, he has always appeared under his original, Japanese name, Sodom. Given associations with the Biblical city of the same name and the related sexual act, it’s not altogether strange that American video game companies would censor the name. However, such associations seem to be coincidental, as there is actually a Japanese name Sodom, sometimes rendered as Sodomu. (The name doesn’t seem to be especially common, though it does appear in the title of the 2004 film Sodomu no Ichi, known in English as Sodom the Killer.)

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variously, katana, shogun or sodom

One of Sodom’s character quirks is that he is a Westerner who is obsessed with Japanese culture but unable to properly speak the language. He wears a traditional Japanese get-up, for example, but it bears the symbol for “death” scrawled sloppily enough that it looks more like the one for “heart.” The intentional goof seems especially appropriate given that his creators named Sodom in way that would be easily misinterpreted by English-speakers. In some appearances, Sodom’s inability to speak proper Japanese is represented with his use of English words that vaguely sound like what he’s trying to say. For example, his attempt to denounce an opponent as shoushi senban, “truly pathetic,” appears in text as “SHOW SEA SEND BANG.”

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andore, andré, and hugo

Being that Final Fight is a sort of sister series to Street Fighter, it follows that its characters would also owe their names to various pop culture references. One of its mainstays, for example, is a family of hulking wrestlers who each bear the name Andore. The name and the characters’ design are pretty clear references to famed wrestler André the Giant. Curiously, the one member of the Andore clan to make a playable appearance in Street Fighter III doesn’t bear the family name. He’s called Hugo.

A great many other Final Fight characters seem to take their names from musicians and bands. (An exception: the protagonist Cody, who could possibly have gotten his name from Tom Cody, protagonist of the 1984 film Streets of Fire, whose plot bears a few similarities to that of Final Fight. Worth a look, really: Diane Lane essentially plays Jessica Haggar.) For example, it’s suggested that the protagonist Guy could take his name from Guy Picciotto, frontman of the band Fugazi. Two of the game’s minor enemy characters, Axl and Slash, are obvious references the members of Guns N’ Roses. And to complicate Sodom’s origin even more, there’s also a German thrash metal band by the same name.

In the console version of Final Fight, the heroes take on skinny punks named Billy and Sid, whose names sure do sound like references to Billy Idol and Sid Vicious. What’s most interesting about Billy and Sid, however, is that they replace two other characters censored from the console port but present in the original arcade game: Poison and Roxy. The former seems to take her name as well as some fashion cues from the band of the same name. The latter, a palette swap of Poison’s sprite, could owe her name either to the band Roxy Music or the Roxy Theater music venue on the Sunset Strip. (Rather than footnote just about everything in this Final Fight section, I’ll just cop to cribbing nearly all of it from the website FightingStreet.com and its amazingly comprehensive list of video game rip-offs — that is, characters and ideas video game companies have themselves cribbed from movies, comics and some of the most random sources you could ever imagine.)

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poison transcends the passage of time like she does biological gender

Incidentally, most who read up on video game lore know a theory about why Poison and Roxy were nixed from the more family-friendly versions of Final Fight. Aside from the fact that they sport short skirts and some serious under-cleavage, they’re both trans— or newhalfs, to use the Japanese term. Roxy has all but vanished, but Poison has actually grown in popularity since Final Fight’s release in 1989, either in spite of or as a result of her being a trans. And if it strikes you as strange that there would be LGBT inclusion of any sort in this game, there’s a whole separate gay subtext to Final Fight.

A “no duh” about Captain Commando: In 1991, Street Fighter creators Capcom released the arcade beat-’em-up Captain Commando, which starred a hero of the same name. Only recently did I realized that the character’s name is based on that of the company itself: Captain Commando.

In 1996, Capcom put out another brawler, variously titled Red Earth or Warzard in different geographical regions. It never got a sequel, though a handful of its characters appeared in later games. One of these is a sexy witch named Tessa in the U.S. and Tabasa in Japan. I’d always assumed Tabasa was a slightly mangled take on the more common name Tabitha, maybe as a result of having watched Bewitched as a kid, but I recently found another witch character with a similar name. Mario’s second Game Boy outing, Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins features an otherwise forgettable boss character named Sabasa. She’s such a non-entity, in fact, that her name doesn’t even appear in English version the game, which makes me think Sabasa might only be her Japanese name. Regardless, Sabasa seems pretty damn close to Tabasa.

tabasa_tessa_sabasa_warzard_witch
sexy witch on left, more standard witch on right

I couldn’t find any connection between the two or an explanation as to why two witches might have such similar names, however, though I did have to laugh at the fact that Sabasa’s German name is apparently Heiße Hexe, which translates into English as “hot witch” and which also would an accurate description for sexed-up Tabasa.

Street Fighter and thereabouts, previously:
The whole “It’s a Secret to Everybody” series: