Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Giving a Manicure to the Fingernails of Darkness

The best of March 2010, at least according to this blog:
And, of course, the clickable visual index:

Yesterday’s Ice Cubes

Beware the Tweets of March.
All packed for New York! Sunglasses, flip-flops, boardshorts, sand bucket and matching shovel, light jacket (in case it gets chilly).

Apparently I did dress appropriately for New York as three people have asked me directions. They were disappointed.

Attempts to look up directions to MOMA and the Frick were autocorrected and consequently got me directions to Nina and the Prick.

Girl walking into Jackson Pollock room at MOMA exclaims "I love splatter paint!"

California is colder today than New York when I left it yesterday. Is a puzzlement.

Also: sucky...
You know what's a fun little verbal mix-up? "Wanton" and "wonton."

Little-known fact: The grammatically correct plural of "paparazzo" is actually "paparazmatazz." Impress your friends with knowledge!

Not only does my car have cobwebs in it, but more than one cobweb has bugs in it and is therefore successful. My car = habitat.

Remember the 30 Rock with Liz Lemler, Floyd's girlfriend? Did anyone else realize that was the chick from My Girl?

Facebook's "get back in touch with friends you've neglected" feature makes me feel guilty, annoyed, and unwilling to get back in touch.

Spotted on State Street: Old lady leisurely driving with crushed skateboard trapped beneath rear bumper. Metaphor for Santa Barbara?

Confused in the supermarket, I held up some herbs and asked a nearby lady "Is this thyme?" She checked her watch and responded "It's 6:20."

Word sound-alikes that lend themselves to horrifically embarrassing situations: oral/aural, diarrhetic/diuretic. Especially in conjunction.

Lost viewers of SB: Did your broadcast of tonight's episode also get interrupted by scenes of a middle-aged Hispanic lifeguard?

After nine cups of green tea last night, I realized I'd bought the caffeinated kind. Met a new friend named 5:30 a.m. Guess what? He sucks.

Band at bar is playing Devil Went Down to Georgia. Quoting Futurama: Wouldn't a fiddle made of gold sound like crap?

Saw Julie Bowen from Modern Family and Aubrey Plaza from Parks & Rec within ten minutes of each other. LA is weirdness.

Griffith Park has the most sinister merry-go-round ever.

What I mean when I say "Pele": famed soccer player (67 percent of the time), Hawaiian fire goddess (33 percent of the time).

I can now watch Netflix instantly on my Wii, therefore life is improved/ruined. First up: 30 Rock pilot. Skinny Tracy Morgan!

Sometimes I think it's too bad that funfetti is an ingredient limited to cake mixes. "Free the funfetti!" I say. "Funfetti in everything!"

Also, I'd like to also point out the strangeness of someone coining the word "funfetti," because "confetti" wasn't fun enough as is.

Feel like you would have liked to read these earlier? In a different setting? You could have. If only you were following me on Twitter.

What Do You Call a Mongoose in a Bikini?

Links of note!

Polyglot Vegetarian gives us more information that we ever thought possible about the pineapple and the history of its name in various languages.

The incredible but true story of the child vampire hunters of Scotland. (Via.)

Some cool photos of early 80s Las Vegas.

Blog find: To e, Michael Crowe's collection of YouTube screen grabs. More engaging that you might think. (Via.)

I don't actually care about the mid-80s manga series Mai the Psychic Girl, but some of the colorized panels in this post make for some damn fine pop art.

Just in time for Good Friday: the pietà redone with Mario and Princess Peach.

Six ways in which the final season of Lost is reminiscent of the final season of Buffy.

From Sketchy Bunnies: "Remember in Alien when the little mouth comes out of the big mouth?"

Fun new word: anarthrous, meaning "occurring without an article" — the, a, or an. (Via.)

Seriously, Japan? You even managed to make a good-natured dog disturbing.

Yo Momma So Fat jokes from bible camp.

The New York Times had to correct a few things in Fess Parker's obituary. (Via.)

The clapper woman from the set of Inglourious Basterds is kind of nuts and kind of wonderful.

Japanese culture blog Pink Tentacle is doing some pretty awesome posts on the urban legends of Japan. Check out one on the allegedly disappearing Eromanga Island, phantom trains and
the humanoid sea creatures of the Antarctic.

Conversations about how Edward VII's sex chair could work.

Seven rejected Berenstain Bears titles.

Zelda goes Old Testament:

The amazing bouncing pebble toad.
The question: "Where is Bea?" The answer: She is forever in our hearts now.

Before he got Lost, good ol' Ben Linus appeared in a prison guard training video.

Via Scrubbles: "Escalation," a strange and very un-Disney animated short from one-time Disney animator Ward Kimball.

If you want, follow my Google Reader shared clips here.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Purple Monkey Dishwasher

Critical, ironic meme participation is the best kind of meme participation — but also proof that I use humor to mask my lack of any real personality.

(fig. 1a)
Hi, my name is called when others want my attention.

Never in my life have I been able to invent a previously unknown color.

The one person who can drive me nuts is aided by a dossier listing my various insanity triggers, I’d imagine.

High school was the setting of the popular NBC sitcom Saved by the Bell.

When I’m nervous my body is experiencing a psychological and physiological state whose cognitive, somatic, emotional and behavioral components work together to create a sense of apprehension and fear.

The last song I listened to was played at a low volume if it contained swears.

If I were to get married right now my best man/maid of honor probably someone who I felt would be physically able to participate in the wedding ceremony.

My hair is a vestige of my primitive ancestry.

When I was five not a legal voter.

Last Christmas marked the death of American singer-songwriter Vic Chestnutt.

I should be able to touch my elbows together. And I am.

When I look down I see snakes, if they’re down there, but I’m also opening my front to attacks.

The happiest recent event was complemented by endorphins.

If I were a character on Friends I’d be unlikely to be given as much screen time as the main castmembers.

By this time next year a baby that hasn’t even been conceived yet could be born!

My current gripe is a manifestation of deeper emotional issues, most likely.

I have a hard time understanding Hindi.

There’s this girl I know who began menstruating at puberty.

If I won an award, the first person I would tell would be confused as to why I had been assigned a ward until I clarified the miscommunication.

Take my advice when I express it to you through song.

The thing I want to buy is a warehouse full of food, since I’m apparently only being allowed a single purchase.

If you visited the place I was born you’d likely need to obtain a visitor’s pass from hospital staff first.

I plan to visit with neighbors and coworkers in order to earn their friendship and trust.

If you spent the night at my house I would prefer that I knew who you were.

I’d stop my wedding if I spontaneously combusted.

The world could do without the dodo bird, clearly.

I’d rather lick the belly of a cockroach than lick the bellies of two cockroaches.

The most recent thing I’ve bought myself was done so with a form of currency.

The most recent thing someone else bought me could have actually been stolen, for all I know.

My favorite blonde is freshly shampooed.

My favorite brunette is cut into a kicky summer ’do.

My favorite redhead is a specific red-colored, pigtailed Lego woman’s snap-on head adornment.

My middle name is nice.

In the morning I note the current time with “a.m.” (ante meridiem) instead of “p.m.” (post meridiem).

The animals I would like to see flying besides birds are either insects or powered by jetpacks.

Once, at a bar I was required to show my driver’s license upon entry.

Last night I was suntanning poorly.

There’s this guy I know who eats food and drives a car.

If I was an animal I’d be bad at drawing.

A better name for me would be given to me retroactively by my parents.

Tomorrow I am unlikely to be deported.

Tonight I am unlikely to worry about being deported.

My birthday is annual.

(Meme via someone else via someone else in accordance with how memes work.)

Monday, March 29, 2010

At the Corner Just in Time to See the Bus Fly By

Was it coincidental that the principal on Saved by the Bell was named Mr. Belding — a syllable that is essentially the word bell plus the noise a bell makes?

Men Who Love Translation Oddities

Well, one man, anyway: me. I’m sure there are others, but I’ll refrain from speaking for all of them.

This weekend, I was looking at a bookstore display for Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played With Fire, the first two books of the late author’s Millennium trilogy. I’ve only read the first. The version of it that I bought — yellow and green cover with a Chinese dragon design — seems to be the most widely distributed one. It looks like this:

 I say it’s an effective cover, even if the colors displayed prepared me for a different sort of story than the one told in the book. Before I picked up my copy, I knew nothing about The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo — not that it was originally written in Swedish, not that it took place in Sweden, not even that it was a detective story. Just judging the book by its cover, I imagined that the titular tattooed lady was herself Asian, some vampy stereotype existing in a previous decade, maybe someone who could have existed in Robert Towne’s Chinatown. A dumb decision to leap to, in retrospect, but that’s why we’re cautioned against this very activity. Dragon Tattoo is bleak and graphic and, since it begins in the dead of a Swedish winter, not exactly colorful, at least in the literal sense. It grows and changes and eventually gets splashed with quite a bit of blood red by the end, and by the time I finished the last page I was glad I’d read it. Nonetheless, the cover caught my eye, and I don’t feel embarrassed to have the book resting on my shelf.

In the bookstore, I saw plenty of copies with this good version of the book, but also several of the Spanish translation, which, inexplicably, had a far worse cover — chromatically appropriate, maybe, but overall poorly designed and downright ugly.

See, rather than abstracting the titular character by focusing on her tattoo, whoever designed this garbage chose to depict her as a tattoo-less waif, distorted and cartoonish to the point that she looks like a failed attempt and drawing a realistic Natasha Fatale from Rocky and Bullwinkle. Clearly, someone hates Spanish-speakers and wants to deter them from reading the book. I also wonder why the title would have been rendered Los hombres que no amaban las mujeres, literally “The men who do not love the women,” instead of something using a form of the verbs odiar or detestar, which both mean “to hate.”

The Spanish version is a translated version of the original Swedish title, Män som hatar kvinnor, “Men who hate women.” Since the novel concerns various awful things done to several female characters, it’s actually a better title for the story, even if it wouldn’t have sold as many copies in the U.S. (Worst case scenario: Man with rage issues buys Men Who Hate Women thinking it’s a self-help book, only to get some awful, awful ideas.) Furthermore, as far as the first novel goes, the tatted-out Lisbeth Salander isn’t really the main character; she shares that responsibility with Mikael Blomkvist, a middle-aged investigative reporter who’s less sexy and overall less interesting than Lisbeth. (I’ve not read the series any further, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Larsson ultimately made the series Lisbeth’s story.) Putting Lisbeth at the forefront certainly seems to be the tactic employed by the people who marketed the Swedish-language film adaptation. Lookit:

There they are, Lisbeth and Mikael both, but it’s clear that Lisbeth gets more emphasis, just by virtue of where she’s situated in the photo. For this film’s subtitled, English-language release, however, the poster uses the same photo of actress Noomi Rapace but omits the actor playing Mikael entirely:

And, again, the title was changed to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, because it’s simply grabbier to us English-speakers.

The English title also fits better with the structure of the second book, The Girl Who Played With Fire. In the original Swedish, it’s basically that: Flickan som lekte med elden. The theme doesn’t hold, however, with the third book, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest, as the original Swedish has it as Luftslottet som sprängdes — “The Air Castle that blew up.” The Spanish titles for these books, by the way, are La chica que soñaba con una cerilla y un bidon de gasolina (“The girl who dreamed about a match and a gasoline can”) and La reina en el palacio de las corrientes de aire (“The queen in the palace of the airflows”).

Translation, previously:

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Zombie Paper

The ill-conceived scratch-and-sniff promo Nintendo put out for Earthbound. The jist of it? “Play our amazingly creative video game but first smell a fart.” Seriously.


The associated smells, if I remember correctly, are as follows, starting at top-right and moving clockwise: dirt, a mushroom, a hot dog, a banana, a burnt match and finally the aforementioned fart. Way to enhance the gaming experience, Nintendo.

And, once again, I must question the use of clay models. Why?

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Coin Heaven Quickstep

Another gem from the “cloudbush” message thread: The music that plays during Peach’s Final Smash move in Super Smash Bros. Brawl is a sped-up version of Super Mario Bros. 3 “coin heaven” music, which plays on the up-in-the-clouds map of the fifth world and whenever Mario finds one of those coin-filled bank vaults in the sky.

A neat little Easter egg for long-time Nintendoites that also reminded me of an additional less-than-obvious musical reference in Brawl. A post over at Cruise Elroy discusses in great detail how the the Ocarina of Time medley, which plays on Brawl’s Zedla-themed stages, seamlessly blends in snippets from the various songs that Link has to play throughout the game. They’re nearly impossible to hear until someone points them out, but they’re there. Neat stuff.

Previous posts involving stuff taken from the cloudbush thread:
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Friday, March 26, 2010

Life Never Got Better for Poor Georgy Girl

The Seekers’ “Georgy Girl” is probably one of the meanest-spirited songs ever and is certainly one of the meanest-spirited ones to be nominated for the Academy Award. I wrote about it before on this blog, noting that despite its perky tune, it essentially works as a personal attack on the title character, a dowdy girl whose miserable life apparently results from the fact that she looks like shit. Or so say the singers.

Here’s the song, in case you haven’t yet had the pleasure:

Since I put up the “Georgy Girl” post, I actually watched the Georgy Girl movie on TCM, partly because I like Charlotte Rampling, who costars, and partly because I wanted to find out why this awful (but catchy) song exists. In the movie, Lynn Redgrave plays the title character. She doesn’t look like shit, exactly, but she’s not pretty. In the end she inherits the baby abandoned by her wanton flatmate (Rampling) and gets hitched to her father’s employer, a rich man whose awful wife has recently died. The end. Clearly, it’s a map girls today can follow to personal fulfillment. The best part about the movie, however, was the final scene, in which Georgy steps into her “Just Married!”-mobile and a few more verses of the song play. Same band, same tune, and same hateful attitude — only instead of kicking Georgy when she’s down, it actually attempts to tear at her even though she’s managed to cobble the scraps of her life into something.

Watch the clip, if only to remind yourself that it can always go further downhill:

The lyrics, for the impatient or hearing-impaired:
Hey there, Georgy girl
Pretty as a picture — told you so
Can it be the Georgy we all know?
Or somebody new?
(I wonder!)

Hey there, Georgy girl
Hurrying away to celebrate
Got yourself a man but wait!
There’s somebody else for you
[Note if you skip the video: The “somebody else” is the baby — the one that she didn’t actually give birth to, let me remind you — being handed to her through the car window like a burger at a drive-thru.]
Who needs a perfect lover
When you’re a mother at heart?
Isn’t that all you wanted right from the start?
(Well didn’t you?)

Hey there, Georgy girl
Now that you’re no longer on the shelf
Better try to smile and tell yourself
That you got your way
(You’ve made it!)

Hey there, Georgy girl
Now you’ve got a future planned for you
Though it’s not a dream come true
At least he’s a millionaire
So don’t despair!
You’re rich, Georgy Girl!
You’re rich, Georgy Girl!
You’re rich, Georgy Girl!
Yes, pretty awful. As far as radio play is concerned, I guess it makes sense that these verses were omitted from the final cut of the song. In the end, their absence keeps the popular edit of “Georgy Girl” from being overly awful. As it stands now, the single is just awful enough. I’m consoled just a little that “Georgy Girl” didn’t win the Oscar that year, but I have mixed feelings that the song that one is “Born Free.”

EDIT: This post originally said the song was by The New Seekers. It’s not; it’s by The Seekers.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Eleven Emotional Stages of the Job Application Process

In order:

1. Hope

2. Fear

3. Shame

4. The belief that you don’t deserve a given job — or, really, nice things

5. Completely unfounded confidence that there’s no way you couldn’t get this job, since it was basically created with you in mind

6. Giddy joy

7. Snacky hunger

8. “Is this what I’m supposed to be doing with my life?”

9. The paranoid fear that Word’s spellcheck function has ceased to work and everything is misspelled and incorrectly punctuated

10. Momentary relief upon having sent off the application

11. More fear

Video Games for Girls! (But Only Sexy Girls)

During my New York week, my friends took me to Barcade in Williamsburg. It’s basically a drinking environment tailor-made for me, even if the available video games skewed a little bit towards the era immediately before the one I love most. Think of early- to mid-80s titles like Pac-Man, Punch-Out!!, Joust, Donkey Kong, Ghosts ’n’ Goblins, and Crystal Castles. (Sidenote, thanks to Wikipedia: The band Crystal Castles gets its name not from the video game but from She-Ra, as in “Crystal Castles, the source of all power.”) I played most of the games there, including some I hadn’t touched in years and others I’d never actually had the opportunity to enjoy in their original arcade forms.

While there, my friends Kristen and Hillary stumbled upon the Universal Games title Ladybug, a Pac-Man clone that seems like an early effort at making a game that would appeal specifically to women. The major difference between Ladybug and its inspiration would be that moving about the screen opens and closes “gates” throughout a given maze, alternately creating dead-ends and opening up new pathways, but all-in-all it’s very Pac-Man-like but with an even more feminine take than Mrs. Pac-Man. An 80s-era cartoon analogy: Most of the titles at Barcade would fall into the Transformers or G.I. Joe category of “games for boys” or the Muppet Babies category of “games for everyone,” but Ladybug was the only title I saw there that seemed to fall into the My Little Pony category of “games for girls.” Why do I say this? For starters, you control a ladybug, an insect whose name renders it feminine regardless of a specific bug’s biological gender. The game’s controllable ladybug zooms around a Pac-Man-style garden maze and fleeing enemy bugs, with between-level interstitials being conspicuously floral in theme. Whereas Pac-Man eats fruits and keys for bonus points, the ladybug chases down hearts — and, later, vegetables. (Horseradishes give yield the most points, notes Wikipedia.) And if you play the game well enough, you get treated to a little marriage scene — between a human bride and groom, not insectoid ones. Because that’s what every girl wants, right?

images courtesy of classic gaming

So it’s not like the game has you collecting cosmetic articles to dress up Princess Ephemerelle for prom, but it nonetheless seems pretty clear that the game’s makers had in mind more people who would read Nancy Drew rather than people who read the Hardy Boys.

The strange this about the game — aside from horseradish being prized, of course — is that while the original Japanese creators had girls in mind, those charged with introducing the game for American audiences seemed to choose a different tactic. The cabinet art — looking very 80s and very American — reinterpreted the on-screen bugs as sexy women dressed in bug costumes.


image courtesy of killer list of video games



images courtesy of

Weird, right? They’re not even Betty Boop-style cartoon women. They look like female superheroes — leggy, curvy and wearing tight but revealing outfits that wouldn’t seem to lend themselves to doing much besides posing and boning — when it wouldn’t have been more appropriate to show cute, googly-eyed ladybugs, perhaps shopping or having tea parties or receiving their home economics degrees.

So what happened?

I can think of two possibilities. The first is incredibly unlikely but fun to consider: Given the game’s inherent girliness, it could be that those packaging it for the U.S. release decided to sex it up a bit an effort to appeal to that small but dedicated base of lesbian gamers. Like I said, probably not the case, but oh! if it had been. What actually probably happened is that the translators presumed that games for girls wouldn’t bring in the quarters in the U.S. like they might have in Japan and did what they could to make the game more appealing to the typical arcade inhabitant: dudes. And being unable or unwilling to tinker with the game itself, they simply redressed the cabinet.

Whether this effort was successful, I can’t say, but I can say that I’d never heard of Ladybug until I saw it at Barcade. And I can guess that girls who might have played video games at the time wouldn’t have been any more attracted to Ladybug as a result of the sexy insects (insexts?) displayed on the cabinet. Except, of course, for those quarter-popping, joystick-waggling 80s lesbian gamers.

As interested as I am in how video games address gender, I’m infinitely more interested in how efforts to do so get screwed up along the way.

One last thing: In researching Ladybug, I came across an FAQ that listed the various collectible vegetables and associated points. I’m reproducing the list here because I have a weird affinity for information posted in list form and because some of you may have been wondering whether a video game has ever featured parsley, Chinese cabbage or sweet potatoes. Rest easy.
 _______________ ______
| Vegetables |Points|
|Cucumber | 1000 |
|Eggplant | 1500 |
|Carrot | 2000 |
|Radish | 2500 |
|Parsley | 3000 |
|Tomato | 3500 |
|Pumpkin | 4000 |
|Bamboo Shoot | 4500 |
|Japanese Radish| 5000 |
|Mushroom | 5500 |
|Potato | 6000 |
|Onion | 6500 |
|Chinese Cabbage| 7000 |
|Turnip | 7500 |
|Red Pepper | 8000 |
|Cherry | 8500 |
|Sweet Potato | 9000 |
|Horseradish | 9500 |

But how, exactly, does one differentiate between the blocky, on-screen representation of the horseradish and the Japanese radish? Now wonder about that.

Gender issues in video games, previously:
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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Odd Compliments Given in Pop Songs

I thought of these three and couldn’t think of any more.

“She’s a hurricane in all kinds of weather” and “She’s a sensation / The reason for aviation” — Harry Belafonte’s “Jump in the Line (Shake Senora)”
Seriously? She’s a hurricane even when there are no hurricanes? Even when it’s sunny? Even when there are tornados? I guess that one I can get behind, but the “reason for aviation” is pretty damn weird. Granted, Belafonte needed a good rhyme for sensation, but still that’s a lot to credit to someone — and also totally false. Equivalent: “My girl is so great that she’s the reason we have trees.”
“She's so high / Like Cleopatra, Joan of Arc, or Aphrodite” — Tal Bachman’s “She’s So High”
Aside from the obvious strangeness of having a song called “She’s So High” be about a woman’s station in life and not about how much THC is in her system, the list of famous women the speaker compares his lady love to reads like one written by someone who didn’t go to high school. Cleopatra: powerful, not especially beautiful, committed suicide. Aphrodite: pretty as a peach but never existed, also prone to sleeping around. Joan of Arc: not known for her beauty but for her religious fervor, which got her burned at the stake.
“She’s the kind they’d like to flaunt and take to dinner” — Tom Jones’s “She’s a Lady”
It’s not that she’s especially beautiful, it’s not that she’s the kind of girl you’d want to go home with, and it’s not even that she’s necessarily a prospective trophy wife. She’s just acceptable enough to take to dinner. Maybe it’s not all that strange a compliment, but whenever I hear the line I picture Tom Jones taking some broad with giant hoop earrings to a Sizzler.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Honk Honk! This Baby Swallowed a Penny!

As I’ve said before, I enjoy Jenny Slate’s SNL character Tina Tina Shanooz, enthusiastic business woman of indeterminate ethnicity. Looking at Slate’s Wikipedia page, I noticed that the character’s last name is spelled Cheneuse, like how you’d spell entrepreneuse (if you’re the kind of person who uses that word a lot) or masseuse (if you’re particular about who rubs you). And the character is an entrepreneuse. I don’t know why I assumed the name would have been Shanooz, now that I think about it, and for all I know the spelling on the Wikipedia page could have been put there by Slate herself. (Because being on Saturday Night Live gives you so much free time, of course.) And SNL Transcripts has it both as Cheneuse and Shanhouse. Regardless, searching my spelling prompts Google to suggest Shanoose, which gets the most hits of all.

So who cares? I mean, I already have thought more about this than I need to. But I think this little implications beyond a sketch that airs at the end of SNL. I think it’s weird how something that’s never written down in any official form becomes so subject to interpretation — that today, when word-based information is plentiful and immediate, we can still be no better off than when English didn’t have standardized spelling (standerdyezd spellink). In this case, no one’s guess seems any more likely than another. What’s the best guess? Just assume that the one with the most Google hits is right?

“how joo spell my name? i dunno. whaaa?”

That Nymph Ain’t Dancing

A curious verbal note: the word calypso, referring to the Trinidadian style of music, has no known etymological connection to the Calypso of Greek mythology, at least according to the Online Etymology Dictionary and the American Heritage Dictionary. I find this very strange, especially considering the music genre’s origins in an island nation and the mythological character being famous for having been confined to an island.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Tartine Grammarstein

Search terms that have recently led people to this blog.
(What have you got to do that you're so busy, person Googling about cryptid sea monsters?)
(Like, all of them?)
(Good fucking question.)
(No idea if this person actually wanted to find this, but I do actually have a post about Monty Python, a fatally funny joke and The Ring.)
(Hello. You do not actually have to put the name of the search engine you use in the search terms. Little advice there. But a curious note: People actually seem to be using Bing — mostly to find images, yes but still. Weird, no? They might as well be using Alta Vista.)
(Normally, I skip over the porny-sounding search terms for these posts. For the above one, I made an exception.)
(The border?)
(Yes. When you think about it, it really explains a lot about the final season of Growing Pains.)
(Besides the color?)
(Why, yes, we've got that.)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Roman Feast of Turducken

For this week, a word that you’ll have little occasion to use unless you time-travel or decide to revive certain pagan traditions. (If you do either of these, please email me; I’m certain I’ll have many questions for you.) Often, when the Greeks combined multiple animals into a single entity, the result was a monster, such as the chimera (lioness + goat + snake) or the manticore (lion + human + shark, sometimes + dragon as well). The Romans, who I’m pretty sure would have known of these mix-and-match boogeybeasts, had one specific to their culture. It’s far less scary and, until the part with the bloodletting, kind of cute.
suovetaurilia (swo-vih-tah-RILL-ee-ah or swo-wih-tah-RILL-ee-ah, depending on how you pronounce your Latin) — noun: an ancient Roman ceremony in which a pig, a sheep and a bull were sacrificed.
Not unlike the kinda-sorta American counterpart, turducken, suovetaurilia — also spelled suovitaurilia — gets its name from the various animals who give their lives so that this thing can exist. In order, there’s the Latin sus (“pig,” which comes from the same Proto-Indo-European root as swine and sow), ovis (“sheep,” like the English ovine, “pertaining to sheep” ) and taurus (“bull,” like the Red Bull ingredient taurine).


Decidedly unlike turducken, the animals involved in suovetaurilia don’t crawl inside one another matryoshka-style. Instead, they got paraded around the plot of land that was to be blessed by Roman bigwig deity Mars. Contrary to modern parade procedures, the grand marshals were usually slaughtered upon completion of the walk. The result, if the ceremony was performed properly: agricultural bounty.

May this be a lesson to today’s stewards of the land.

Previous words of the week:
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Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Lady Losers, Part Five: Nikki, Charlotte and Ilana

In this post, I’ll be looking at the final three major female characters to be introduced on Lost, how they fared during their time on Four Toe Island and whether their gender might have played some role in the way they ended up.

In a way, this line-up parallels the one in that featured Shannon, Ana-Lucia, and Libby. Both Shannon and Nikki were self-motivated sexpots whose deaths were probably not widely grieved by viewers. Both Libby and Charlotte were brainy but mysterious women whose sudden deaths gave reason for their dorky male admirers to grieve. And both Ana-Lucia and Ilana are hard-hitting women who use violence to enforce their authority. Seeing as how Ilana is the only one on the list still breathing, she’s not exactly in the best of company. Let’s hope she fares better than her season two analogue.

For those joining the game late, here are links to the previous “lady Loser” posts:
For those of you up to speed, hit the jump for Nikki, Charlotte and Ilana.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Lady Losers, Part Four: Juliet

What can you say about a fertility doctor who detonated a twenty-ton hydrogen bomb?

Quite a bit, actually, and most of it good. Juliet is one of the more accomplished characters in the Lost universe, male or female, and a lot of what she did doesn’t seem to have any significant connection to her gender, unlike being a love interest (like Kate), a mother (like Claire), a dedicated wife (like Sun), or a bullet-riddled corpse that men can shed tears over (like Shannon, Ana-Lucia and Libby).

Before I get into it, however, I’ll point out to anyone reading this series for the first time that I was inspired to look at how gender works on Lost and whether the show’s female characters seem to suffer especially dreadful hardships in comparison to the men. I was motivated to consider this after reading and the A.V. Club’s review of the “Dr. Linus” episode. The article suggested that women on the show do get screwed over, and I’m starting to think that it may be true.

Here are the previous posts that focused on Lost’s ladies, with a quick summary of whether the character in question got put through the ringer:
Hit the jump for my take on the good Doctor Burke.

Mnemonic Devices for Remembering the Order of Planets (Minus Pluto)

For some time now, eccentric mothers throughout the English-speaking world have ceased to order their children ninety pizzas. Pluto being downgraded to a mere dwarf planet has rendered this handy-dandy mnemonic device irrelevant, and while “My very excellent mother just served us nachos” works okay, I guess, I think we can do better.

Some suggestions:
  • Many volatile educators maim juveniles suddenly, using needles.
  • Mice very enthusiastically munch Jerry Seinfeld’s uncle, Norman.
  • Mr. Valdez excitedly mimicked jiggly strippers until noon.
  • “My valuable excrement makes jewelry shine,” uttered Nancy.
  • My vulgar exclamations might just soften underwear nubs.
I am betting that no one who reads this blog can come up their own. Now prove me wrong.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

He’s the Fastest Thing Alive! (But She’s Not)

There’s a post up on Destructoid about something-or-other happening in the new Sonic the Hedgehog game, a throwback to the beautiful, two-dimensional platformer gaming that made the character a big hit. But ignore that and focus on the image that Destructoid chose to pair with this article:


I don’t know where it came from, I don’t know if Sonic is helping or attacking the poor wheelchair-bound girl, and I’m not sure if it relates to the upcoming game in any way. But I have to say I find something about this image hilarious. Maybe it’s her shocked expression and his apparent desire to spring up and away from the two-wheeled terror as she sails on toward Creamsicle sunset tomorrows. Yeah, that’s probably it.

A Gomez by Any Other Name

Something I’d always wondered about: Why do all of the members of the Addams family have names that are sinister in one way or another except Gomez? Dark associations of Morticia, Fester, Cousin Itt, Thing and Lurch’s names are obvious. Wednesday gets her name from the line in the “Monday’s Child” poem — “Wednesday’s child is full of woe” — and Pugsley’s seems like a play on pugnacious or something thereabouts. But why should Gomez get a fairly normal name? A surname for a first name is hardly sinister.

Something I did not know: the members of the Addams family did not initially have first names. Only when the original Charles Addams comics were adapted for the 1964 TV show did the characters need to refer to each other. Addams chose all the character names himself, except for that of the family patriarch. For that one, he was considering both Gomez and Repelli, the former if the character were to be played as Spanish and the latter if Italian. According to the Wikipedia page, Addams left the final decision up to the actor who first played Gomez, John Astin, who chose to play the character as Castilian. Which is too bad, really, because Repelli strikes me as a better name and a better match for the rest of the family members’ unpleasantly themed names. So that explains where the name came from, at least, but not where Gomez came from or whether Charles Addams thought it had negative associations.

One more thing: The initial suggestion for Pugsley’s name, Pubert, was nixed by ABC, presumably because the network executives at the time didn’t realize that puberty is hilarious.

Mozukusu in the Mosque

Links of note!

A diary from the mid-1800s reveals surprising real-life links to William Faulkner novels such as Go Down, Moses, Absalom, Absalom! and more. Pretty damn awesome.

Proof that redheads are insensitive.

Total blog find: Tada's Revolution, a magical, miniature world populated by crocheted animals. If you don't like it, you hate all things good.

A headline: "Dog Eats Diamond Worth $20,000."

Photodocumentation of a tour of a rather nicely decorated Santa Barbara home.

Wikipedia's list of alternative names for the British.

Two words: pet capybara.

All fifty-seven varieties of Heinz-brand bottles goop
. Among them: Heinz Plum Pudding, Heinz Peanut Butter, Heinz Mock Turtle Soup and Heinz India Relish, which I would guess is chutney back before Americans knew what that word meant.

Debunking the myth of Lady Jane Grey.

From the blog Sociological Images, a pretty kickass video titled "The Smurfette Principle," which traces the strange way gender was presented in American-produced, 80s-era cartoons:

Pedigree dogs shot at one thousand frames per second:

And a collection of every one of Alfred Hitchcock's cameos in his films:

If you want, follow my Google Reader shared clips here.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Trojan War Motifs in Roman Polanski’s The Ghost Writer

Spencer and I both saw The Ghost Writer this weekend. In discussing the movie, he pointed out something about a curious reoccurring scene: a gardener attempting to sweep up leaves from a beachside deck during a windstorm that keeps blowing more leaves into the area. A superficial viewing would lead one to believe that the scene is just comedic relief — and indeed a few people in the audience chuckled the last time we see the gardener, who eventually throws up hands in frustration with the impossible task. However, Ghost Writer is a Roman Polanksi film. And it doesn’t seem unlikely that a detail-oriented director like Polanski would stick a scene in just for giggles. Spencer didn’t think so, anyway. Via text: “So the man who was sweeping the patio is kind of a Sisyphus, yes?” I agreed.

Spencer then noted that in a later scene, Ewan McGregor’s character stands in front of a security system, the brand name of which is depicted in easy-to-read lettering as “Cyclops.” Since Polanski seemed to deliberately pointing out these elements — showing the Sisyphean gardener more than once, making the “Cyclops” brand name hard to miss — Spencer wondered if the film had additional allusions to Greek mythology. I thought about it a bit, and then it hit me: The argument could easily be made that Ghost Writer uses a series of allusions to Greek mythology to underscore the tragedy and pointlessness of the War on Terror by likening it to the Trojan War. It doesn’t fit perfectly, but it wouldn’t be as fun if it did.

So here’s a quick little analysis. Spoilers, of course. And please, go see the film if you haven’t. Hit the jump if you have — or if you enjoy being spoiled, you naughty rascal you.