Friday, July 31, 2009

Jacket Made of Watermelon Suede

The best of July 2009 — on this blog, anyway.
And now the clickable visual index:

The Room Is Empty

But, in a sense, only temporarily so.


Kid Licorice

This is an iPhone photo dump.


Just a random store.


Rabbit statues, like kittens and old people, enjoy a good sunbeam.

Mysterious sidewalk painting. Artist unknown.


Sometimes, if you stand at the edge of the beach and look out at the water, you can see the curvature of the earth. It is more easily observed in this photo.


The little dog and the big ocean.


I choose to interpret it as “Unauthorized vehicles will exist at vehicle owner’s expense.”

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.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Norsetin Bekkler

They continue to arrive at my blog, because they do so accidentally, they leave in disgust.
  1. Number one hit! But would that not just be a rectangle?
  2. Which is actually a thing and which I wrote about here.
  3. Number one hit. Also: What?! I can only assume this person meant to research the difference between plums and prunes and mistyped because the phrase prunes and prisms was on his or her mind.
  4. Whether this is video game-related or real-life mushroom-related, I feel like this one sounds incredibly dirty.

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?


Previous words of the week:
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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.


A second, the toughest of tough decisions.


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:

I Am (Yam) Ianto (Yanto)

Does anyone else find it strange that the actor Gareth David-Lloyd, who regularly appears on the Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood as a character named Ianto Jones, previously made an appearance on the unrelated show Mine All Mine playing a character named Yanto Jones? I mean, that is an odd enough name that its reoccurance has to be intentional, right?

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:


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 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

Beginnings Chang

The efforts of several people to find information — and my record of their failure to do so.
  1. Number one hit!
  2. I really do hope this does not exist.
  3. Number one hit!
  4. Do-dos? Dodos? Doo-doos?
  5. I give. Cousin Oliver?
  6. Glad to hear I am not the only one to arrive at this conclusion.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Loudspeaker, Cause a Landslide

Oops. I realize now that the previous post would have been better off with the inclusion of the new Jenny Lewis video that has so captured my attention. Here’s the pseudo film trailer that is meant to visually embody “Fernando.”

See suspense! See action! In See Fernando!

The Purty Little Lady With the Real Purty Song

So there’s a new video out for my favorite Jenny Lewis song, “Fernando.” You may remember a previous post I wrote on this very song. (According to the search results that post has drawn, the popular opinion is that Mr. Fernando is a drug dealer, not Lewis’s teddy bear from the episode of Golden Girls she appeared in.) This new video is the best one Lewis has put out in a while, and it reminded me that I had wanted to ask my loyal readers to decide whether Lewis or Lily Allen does faux hipster country better.

First, Lewis’s “Rise Up With Fists,” which probably features the better of the two songs featured in this post but the video for which apes Hee-Haw instead of any more high-minded bit of country fried nostalgia.

And then there’s Allen’s video for “Not Fair,” which incorporates more country western elements and which actually splices in a clip from The Porter Wagoner Show. So props to her for that.

So then, who did it better, in your opinion?

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.

Previous words of the week:
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Saturday, July 18, 2009