Friday, April 30, 2010

Make Way for the Moondancers!

A reminder that not everything introduced into a long-running comic series becomes a permanent fixture. Nor does everything deserve to be.

According to Wikipedia, the Moondancers — Crescent Moon, Harvest Moon and New Moon — are a trio of “radical pacifist terrorists.” The phrase seems like an oxymoron until you learn that they aim to destroy various manifestations of the military-industrial complex. And they begin do just this in their debut 1983 comic until Batman and Superman make them stop, at which point they are not seen or heard from again until a 1990 issue of Animal Man, which, as Obscure DC Characters notes, features the Moondancers as inhabitants of “comic book limbo.” Indeed. Nice knowing you, ladies! I’ll try not to find too much glee in the irony of a one-off team of 80s-glam wannabes making their debut by shouting “Make way for us!” and then promptly moving to the side so other, worthier characters can enjoy the spotlight.

(Source: Comics Make No Sense, via VoVatumblr.)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Zirconia Ztolen!

Here, finally, are the results to the abstract music suggestion game that I encouraged everyone to play two weeks ago. I actually expected to have this up far earlier, but I was downright stumped by some of your suggestions. Today, I finally paired the last one with an actual song. Prepare yourself for the oddest, most mismatched album ever.

In no particular order:

Alice suggested “nostalgic sighs.” To this, I respond with Andrew Bird’s “Oh No.” Though lyrics about chest-embedded calcium mines may not draw up feelings of nostalgia, I feel the instrumentation on this song does, especially for a simpler era in which string sections and whistling were more common in pop music. “Oh No” tends to make me feel happy and sad at the same time, and I consider nostalgia to be the recollection of a memory that makes you feel these ways simultaneously.

I offer Electric Light Orchestra’s “Twilight” as a match for Tom’s suggestion of “A song to play in the future, as you stand on the corner of a large space cube, having defeated all the Nucleon Tessalators with only the power of your Thor-suit.” I’m probably influenced a bit influenced by the fact that I associate “Twilight” with its use in the promo cartoon for Daicon 4, a neat little audio-visual treat that I’ve blogged about before. In fact, that version of the song might be an even better match, since it has the galactatastic spoken intro. Of course, any version of “Twilight” is wonderfully spacey and triumphant.

Godaigamer suggested this: “I want a song that brings back the relief that my 8-year self felt while playing Chemical Plant Zone in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 when he found an oxygen-bestowing bubble with less than a second to spare. In other words, something with a ‘times were tough, but everything's going to be groovy’ feel.” Difficult, right? This one actually gave me quite a bit of trouble, and I felt I would be remiss if I ignored the music associations I have with Sonic the Hedgehog. After skipping over The Hollies’ “Air That I Breathe” — because a bad match and yet still OBVIOUS — I instead chose to match the idea of calm-extreme panic-calm again. The best I could come up with is Andy Votel’s “Return of the Spooky Driver.” Odd, I guess, but at least blippy enough to not be completely inappropriate for a Sonic-based suggestion.

The anonymous suggestion of “the plight of captivity,” was easy: The Mountain Goats’ “Thank You Mario But Our Princess Is in Another Castle,” a surprisingly good song and one of the few works to not only narrate a story from the point of view of Toad but also to aptly use him as a metaphor.

Dina saddled me with “Theme song for a sitcom about a small dog and its best friend, a can of baked beans,” along with the following visual aid:

I respond with the Sam Lanin version of “Yes! We Have No Bananas.” I know, I know — it’s about bananas and not baked beans, but the instrumental opening could certainly work for this awful sitcom. Of course, the show will be black and white. How could it not be?

From Rey Flowers: “A man rocking a fro, clad in only a headband and cargo shorts, sayin’ to his buddy, ‘The colors man... Do you see the colors?... Cuz I sure do.’” I went with my first association, Olivia Tremor Control’s “A Sunshine Fix” — a good, trippy song in the spirit of 60s psychedelic pop.

I think I may have interpreted Darren’s suggestion — “Finding a moment of purity and beauty amidst seedy decadence, but only a moment. Then it is gone” — a little loosely. I could be way off, but when I read the words “beauty amidst seedy decadence,” my thoughts went towards noir. From there, it was only a short movement to the main title theme of Blue Velvet, which plays over the film’s opening credits and which seems to deliberately recall the melodrama of old detective movies. Too often, characters in these films experience something deep and profound, despite their surroundings, but this connection only lasts briefly. That’s my thought process for this one, anyway.

I’m not sure what Ben’s suggestion of “dinosaur tummy time” was supposed to mean, but he gets this:

It’s from a video game. I’m not ashamed to admit that. And it happens to be the first and only thing I could associate with the suggestion. DINOSAURS ARE EATING YOU!

From BigStompyRobots: “A song to play ironically over the top of an action sequence where someone plows a muscle car into a horde of hipster zombies.” To that, I offer something knowingly retro-sounding, inappropriately upbeat for carnage and finally something those very hipster zombies would likely delight in hearing. It’s “Moto Shagg” by April March, who’s perhaps best known as the woman who sings the closing credits song in Death Proof, which perhaps influenced my choice.

Don’t ask why, Bri’s suggestion of “Those aren’t pandas” in relation to Pedobear made me think of in-your-face, inappropriate sexuality and I wound up with “Purple Wail,” better known to the world as that horn-heavy stock song that plays whenever something comically sexual happens ever.

B’s suggestion — “Sukiyaki. The dish. If the song doesn't have anything to do with the dish, what song should?” in reference to my post on the actual song “Sukiyaki” — confounded me until I stumbled onto an old Elvis Presley song that I hadn’t heard since I was a kid: “Ito Eats,” which he recorded for Blue Hawaii. It skews more toward tiki culture than anything authentically Japanese, but I think the song works, at least according to that mid-twentieth-century worldview that collapses everything between the Caucasus Mountains and the California shore into the category “over there.” While listening, please note how the instrumentation, the beat and Elvis’s voice makes the song sound oddly similar to a song from Vampire Weekend’s first album — from before they became boring.

Because why not? After B posted a comment directly after Bri, I realized that they were not, in fact, the same person. They were different people, posting from opposite sides of the country. Don’t know why I assumed they were the same person, but I commented about it. In honor of this realization, I give a schmaltzy, mediocre song that happens to have a very appropriate title: “I’m Not Lisa (My Name Is Julie),” by Jessi Colter.

Lameness of the song notwithstanding, that’s a pretty awesome title for anything — and a very neat way to shorthand someone as being easy to forget.

Finally, there’s Julia’s suggestion of “I was walking in mud and lost my boot. Now my sock is all dirty.” For this, I give The Woods’ “Rain On.” From the opening strums sounding like heavy footsteps to the general sense of melancholy the song gives me, I think “Rain On” actually matches the suggestion pretty well. Either that or the combination of the song title and the band name made me think of mud. Take your pick!

To close out this playlist, I want to offer one bonus song, which I came across recently and which I realized would be the best song ever to load onto someone’s phone and a prank default ringtone: “Monster (in My Pants),” a solo effort by the B-52s’ Fred Schneider. (“For business meetings, weekly worship services and first dates, let “Monster” be your choice to mortify friends and enemies alike!”) The song is worth a listen for the opening lines alone, though if you could somehow make the phone play the entire track — like, lock all buttons until the song ends — that would be especially good. Can anyone get on this?

You get the whole video element for this one, just because it’s kind of amazing.

And to all you commenters, thanks for playing.

Monday, April 26, 2010

They’re Carrying More Than Moonbeams in Those Jars

A back-to-back viewing of two superficially unrelated articles has managed to concern me about matters over which I have no control. Like always.

Article number one: Boing Boing’s posting of NASA’s first-ever photo of Earth from the planet Mars. It looked like this:


Article number two: Professional smart guy Stephen Hawking relating his belief that contact with aliens may not be beneficial for the meatbags living on good ol’ Earth. In short, someone whose opinion matters is voicing my deep-seated fear that when the tentacled ones do come, they will neither steal our women or blow up our landmarks. No, they’ll just take all the stuff that supports life and go merrily on their way without a second thought, much in the way a beekeeper might not think much of taking a hive’s store of honey.


The Nicotine Robot

Another bit from the “cloudbush” thread: Heat Man, the boss from Mega Man 2 with the fire-based attacks, was clearly modeled after a Zippo lighter.

original concept art
revised concept art

I never noticed this before and find it kind of amusing. Furthermore, the arcade game Mega Man: The Power Battle, has unused animation frames that show Heat Man smoking.

Previous items cloudbush posts:

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Windmills > Tigers, Apparently

At one point in my childhood, I can remember being driven all around California in an effort to show me what my home state had to offer. As part of this experience, I was also given a coloring book — a kid’s collection of tourist locations around California — to help me remember where I’d been.

But being a kid who couldn’t concentrate on much for very long, I never colored most of it in. For example, take a look at the page for the San Diego Zoo, which I loved to the point that I considered running into the landscaping, hiding and then just living at there. You couldn’t tell from the coloring book, however.

As you can see, I inexplicably chose only to color in the clothes and hair of the two children zoo-goers, their balloons and half the shirt of the man standing next to them. In a rare burst of creativity, I also seem to have attempted to put my own spin on the one balloon by giving it a sharp tail or antenna, which leads me to believe that at this point in my life I had never ever seen a balloon in real life, since they have neither antennas or tails.

So, clearly, this coloring book wasn’t my thing. I must have preferred more exciting activities, right? Mostly yes. However, there is one page that colored close to completion.

Solvang. Fucking Solvang. The city I’d come to revisit as an adult and that overwhelmed me with its lameness. This city — which should only appeal to wine buffs, antiques collectors, knickknack hoarders and Denmark aficionados — somehow made enough of an impression on my young mind that I chose to not only color in the picture but actually do so in a chromatically appropriate way — no orange sky and green skin. And I’d say that seems very strange, if it wasn’t for the fact that Solvang would later push me toward mildly creative pursuits, even after I’d realized that it’s a festering swamp of suck.


Solvang, you are and forever will be a mystery to me.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

“Moving in the Direction of the Bushy Hairstyle”?

I tend to misread certain words. Infarction, for example, I often read as infraction until I realize that the sentence makes no sense. Who knows how many times a sentence may have made sense with either word and I just continued on, thinking that someone had broken a rule when they actually were suffering from hypertension or atherosclerosis. The word of the week works similarly, for me at least. I only recently learned of it, but, now that I consider the situation, my eyes could have easily passed over it and wrongly thought it was the much more common word it resembles.
froward (FROH-werd or FROH-erd) — adjective: willfully contrary; not easily managed.
As I type this, I notice that Word’s autocorrect function keeps changing my every mention of froward to forward, so even computers may not be immune to the confusion between these two words. But maybe this little post will remind us all that this word exists and is not necessarily a typo.

Although froward can be explained as the opposite of toward — you know, as in to and fro? — toward isn’t often used in this sense anymore. In addition to the more common use of toward as a preposition (for literal directions, as in toward the house, or figurative ones, as in his attitude toward women), it can also mean “about to come,” “going on” (in the sense of There is work toward), “favorable,” or in obsolete senses, even “promising” or “compliant.” But while the definitions of toward that most apply to froward may be obsolete, froward apparently is still in use. It’s just not used very often.

The Online Etymology Dictionary explains that froward comes from the Old English fromweard, “turned from or away,” and could be also used to mean “about to depart,” “departing” or “doomed to die.” The word appears in various versions of the Bible. The King James version uses it in Psalms 18:26: “With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward,” which gets translated in other editions as something like “To the pure you show yourself pure, but to the crooked you show yourself shrewd.” Froward also gets used in the King James version of Proverbs 4:24: “Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee,” which would be stated in more contemporary speech as “Put away from you a deceitful mouth, and put devious speech far from you.”

To me, this word seems hard to pronounce. If I don’t concentrate, I’ll say it as something like “frerd.” Must be something about the “W” being stuck between “R” and “R” that brings out my inner Elmer Fudd. I wonder if froward fell out of use because it was just hard to say and easy to confuse in its written form with forward?

And finally, because I couldn’t resist:

Previous strange and wonderful words:
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Friday, April 23, 2010

Japan Improves Upon the Common Axolotl

Of course, axolots are cuteness incarnate. This is not a debatable point. To deny that these often-smiling, baby-faced amphibians are anything other than adorable is to admit that your brain is diseased or your eyes don’t work or you’ve somehow associated the word axolotl with some other creature. Please, if you doubt me, examine these images of these real-life Pokémon doing the one task they have in life: frolicking carelessly in their watery homes.

However, for axolotl advocates and deniers alike, I have news: As it always does, Japan has managed to amplify natural cuteness levels to dangerous new degrees, for in this fantastical island nation what we call axolotl is instead known as the wooper looper. An improvement? Yes. Should we have expected anything else from Japan. Certainly not. Japan’s top export is cuteness, after all. I’m unclear exactly why this specific term would have been applied to this animal, as the internet doesn’t seem to be hiding an etymology anywhere. I’m also not sure that wooper looper originated in Japan, where it would be pronounced something like “oopa roopa,” though one site claims that the term arose from a Japanese marketing campaign that aimed to get people to purchase and raise these critters. That site, however, is a Pokémon wiki, so I’m not sure how believable its non-Pokémon-specific information should be. And, yes, there is apparently an axolotl-inspired Pokémon, Wooper.

Note to Japan: Removing a thing’s legs is not a good way to make it seem cuter.

Since we’re on the subject, the word axolotl comes from Spanish via Nahuatl, from atl, “water,” and xolotl, “slippery or wrinkled one, servant or slave.” I also enjoy that any language has a word that can mean “slippery one.”

Weird animals, previously:

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Looking Through a Glass Onion

Hey there, Google, take note — Intelius People Search is doing a much better job of digging up information on me. That is, of course, is if potential employers, stalkers and long-lost relatives are specifically wanting to learn about what I was like five years ago as per my MySpace page. Maybe they’re trying to write a book about what I was like immediately after I graduated college?

I honestly think anyone would be better off finding me in a phone book and just calling to find anything out about me.

On Planet Deschanel, Emotion Is Forbidden

Has it ever occurred to anyone else that the Deschanel sisters — singer and (500) Days of Summer star Zooey and Bones star Emily — have made names for themselves by portraying emotionless robot women? That’s an overstatement, I guess. Perhaps “flat affect, pale-skinned beauties whose faces rarely betray any emotion” would be more appropriate.

emily deschanel zooey deschnael model shoot
emily and zooey exchanging long protein strings
In the case of Emily, she is chiefly known for playing the protagonist on Bones as a Sherlock Holmes-style genius whose inability to socialize, interpret emotions or understand anything besides literal speech renders verges on the level of autistic. She grows more comfortable around other humans as the series progresses, but this awkwardness is one of the character’s most defining traits. With Zooey, she has played multiple roles in which her physical beauty is contrasted against an emotional coldness, distantness or absence. In some cases, her characters open up over the course of a film — Elf, for one — while in others she remains inscrutable and deadpan until the end — The Happening or Summer, among others.

I guess it’s not so unusual that two sisters raised by the same parents in the same environment could have such similar public personas, if not similar actually personalities as well. But I feel like it’s a rare enough sort of character that it seemed notable that two sisters would have done it almost exclusively throughout their careers. The only explanation I can possibly give is that Zooey and Emily’s mother is Mary Jo Deschanel, who played Donna Hayward’s mother on Twin Peaks. And David Lynch having had access to any member of your family, at any point in time, is enough to explain away most instances of weirdness. My guess: In preparing for her role on Twin Peaks, Mary Jo took her daughters to a screening of Eraserhead, mistakenly thinking it was suitable for children. The girls were never the same. That, or Hollywood should prepare for invasion of Snow White-looking automatons that seek to eliminate facial expressions from motion pictures.

I kid, and I feel comfortable doing so because I actually like both sisters, but I also can’t imagine what it would be like to join the Deschanel family table for a holiday meal, what with all the big-eyed pretty people sitting around, not laughing at jokes and speaking in staccato computer voices. “Turkey. Is. Good. More. Food. Units. Please.”

Zooey, previously:

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wishes You Should Avoid Making to a Malevolent Genie

And, of course, they’re all malevolent.
“I think I’d like to lose a lot of weight — and real fast.”

“I’ve always wanted my life to be more exciting.”

“I’d like to stand out more.”

“I just wish I’d never have to worry about anything or suffer ever again. Is there anything you could do about that?”

“In fact, I’d like it that no one in my whole family every has to worry about anything or suffer again.”

“Did I say ‘family’? Because I meant ‘the whole world.’”

“You know what? I can’t think of a thing. Why don’t you just pick something out for me. Blank check. I trust you.”
Previous lists:

Not Everyone on Lost Is Named After Philosophers

A friend was catching up on old but new-to-her episodes of Lost not long ago and, upon being introduced to a new character, responded with “Is everybody on this show named after philosophers?” I can’t remember who, exactly, prompted this response, but let’s be honest: There’s a whole lot of characters that could have. To answer the question, however, no, not everyone on the show gets their name from dead philosophers. Lost characters also seem to take their names from scientists, authors, works of literature, and some surprising pop culture sources. So here, then, is a quick list of speculative origins for Lost character names. Consider this a companion post to two others I’ve done on shows I love — Arrested Development and Pushing Daisies, both of which also put a lot of care into naming their characters. For this post, the vast majority of info came from the vast compendium of Lost knowledge that is Lostpedia. Consider it the source unless otherwise noted,

A quick aside before the big list: There’s one character whose name I won’t really be discussing.

And that’s Squirrel Baby, the horrible thing Feral Claire has been keeping in her sad little island bassinet. I realized while writing this that I’d so far neglected to give a shout-out to Squirrel Baby, who quickly became one of my favorite characters in this, Lost’s final season. And now, as of last night’s episode, Claire boarded a boat and sailed away from Squirrel Baby. Yes, after being abandoned herself, Claire has abandoned her little ALF-looking substitute child. Squirrel Baby, you may not have gotten his own flashback and you may not be as important to the show’s overall plot as I had hoped, but I at least will carry you in my heart — and not my arms, because you’re creepy and I wouldn’t want people to see me with you.

After the jump: names, names and more names. (And no Squirrel Baby, I swear.)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Grammar of Seatbelt Safety

Of all people, Drew Mackie the Typo King probably has the least room to criticize others for stringing their words together in strange or unpleasant ways. But this fact has never stopped me before, I so I shall continue on. (Take that, conspicuously dark-colored kettle!) If you live in the United States and ride in wheeled vehicles, you have likely seen a certain safety slogan that bothers me — and probably me alone.

Yep, it’s “Click It or Ticket.” And, at least on the verbal level, it sucks, regardless of how many life-saving seatbelt burns it may be responsible for. I had no objections to “Click It or Ticket” whenever I first encountered it, but then a friend pointed out how it’s grammatically awkward and now I can’t help but to remember this every time I see the slogan on roadside signs or electronic highway billboards during non-Amber Alert time periods. It bothers me a little more each time, and one day, I’m sure, it will sufficiently distract me from driving safety that I’ll cause an accident

My problem has to do with the two choices given: “Click It” and “Ticket.” The first could be a grammatically complete sentence, if it wanted to be, with the understood subject of you — as in “Hey, you! Dumbass!” — and then the imperative verb click and even the direct object it. The second is just the word ticket, sitting by itself all awkwardly, without a verb to complete the thought. It’s like an unbalanced equation, this offering of two grammatically unequal choices. Or it’s like twins, with “Click It” being the one that got all the good womb food and left “Ticket” malformed and sickly.

In general, “Click It or Ticket” seems like it wants to mimic a more successful rhyming construction such as “Be There or Be Square,” which offers two grammatically equal choices, both of which are imperatives with the understood you. With “Click It or Ticket,” I can mentally supply the you for the first part, but I feel like it’s asking too much to insert the missing words in the second part until it makes sense. “[You] Click It or [Get a] Ticket”? “[You] Click It or [You Will Risk Receiving a] Ticket”? “[You] Click It or [an Officer Will Pull You Over and Issue You a] Ticket”? Nope. Asking too much, all of these. I will say, at least, that the American slogan reminding motorists about basic safety is better than its British equivalent, “Clunk Click Every Trip.” Because slant rhymes kill.

My suggestions: “Get Strapped to the Seat or Smeared Across the Street,” “Fasten Your Belt or Death Is Dealt,” and “Make the Buckle Click or You’re an Inbred Hick.”

The Truth About Kelly Kapoor

The following is one sentence from the Wikipedia page for Office character Kelly Kapoor, complete with footnotes.
Although there are a few major alterations between them,1 her closest counterpart on the original UK series is Donna.2
  1. For instance the race of each character is different. Donna is vaguely related to her boss, while Kelly is not.
  2. They are both sales reps, they have relationships with their office temp and are both vain.
I just want to point out how funny it is that some crazed Mindy Kaling fans not only posted this information about the character but chose to do so using the words they did — and in footnote form, no less. Fools, when I click a Wikipedia footnote, I expect links and sources and grand, scholarly elaboration the likes of which simply couldn’t fit the general text. This footnotes did not meet my standards. “The characters aren’t exactly the same because one of them has brown skin” is not worth bringing up anywhere, much less in a footnote. To you, I say this: You may know about Kelly Kapoor, but you much to learn about academic citation.

Monday, April 19, 2010

You Don’t Know Where That Bear Has Been

As a young television viewer, I initially had access to only three channels — NBC, ABC and a very fuzzy feed of Fox. Eventually, my parents sprung for a satellite dish and this enabled me to see all manner of programming inappropriate for someone my age. Included in my young education of violent, sexual, violently sexual and otherwise disturbing movies was stuff like Lawnmower Man, Halloween 4, strange British sitcoms, the Rocky Horror Picture Show for some reason, and episodes of Dirty Pair, all of which I thought were AWESOME because I didn’t know better. Also on this list is the 1981 movie Heavy Metal, the first adult cartoon I’d ever seen. I loved it, and just this weekend I re-watched it to check the accuracy of my memories of its greatness.

In case you’ve never heard of Heavy Metal, have a look at its poster, which communicates all you need to know about the film’s theme and general imagery.

Overall, Heavy Metal wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be, and at times I actually thought it was about as cool as it seemed when I was a kid. Perhaps more than anything else, I found myself surprised by the quality of bands supplying music for the soundtrack — Blue Öyster Cult, Stevie Nicks, Cheap Trick, Grand Funk Railroad and Devo, just to name a few. Certainly not the screeching, thrashing kind of music the name Heavy Metal suggests.

Along the lines of music, I noticed something else, too. In “Den,” one of the film’s vignettes, a bare-chested barbarian dude must rescue a soon-to-be-sacrificed maiden from an evil cult. The ceremony is led by an evil queen — also bare-chested, of course — and her outfit get-up has a familiar-looking symbol blocking the view of her hoohah.

(image has been modified to prevent you from being scandalized.)

This was the best image of the ceremonial thong I could find, but I think you can make out enough detail to note how much it looks like the Radiohead “evil teddy bear” logo.

Right? Like, normally when confronted by an alleged pop culture connection like this, I’d say “Oh, those look similar, in a general way.” But these two look similar to the point that I’d actually bet that Heavy Metal influenced the Radiohead logo. I wish I could find out for sure, but my attempt at research yielded only that the bear logo was designed by Thom Yorke and artist frequent Radiohead collaborator Stanley Donwood. Beyond that it’s hard going, since any search terms that could lead me to an answer — “heavy metal,” “radiohead,” “queen,” etc. — also turn up thousands of shitty music sites. All I can say for now is that it doesn’t seem out-of-the-question that Yorke or Donwood would have seen Heavy Metal and used it as inspiration, given its status as a cult film existing at the exact intersection of music and weird art.

I guess I can just hope that someone Googling their way here might be able to point me in the right direction.

Previous assertions of my visual literacy:

Son of Sniglet

A quick reminder: I got some good abstract song suggestions for my little music game that I began last Monday. (I think my favorite so far is “Theme song for a sitcom about a small dog and its best friend, a can of baked beans,” by the way.) I’m wanting to assemble the songs by Friday or thereabouts, but if you still want to play, click this link for the main post.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Gruesome Vocabulary Lesson

A friend once pointed out to me that the world has few naturally blue foods. Though I can’t vouch for my friend’s explanation for this fact — that blue in nature often signals or implies poison, which causes an evolutionary aversion to eating things this color — I have to agree with the first claim: Aside from some horrifically rotten things I ate during my long, cold, “Frank McCourt” days, I can’t recall every eating something that was naturally, Crayola-starter-pack blue. Blueberries are often more purple, while blue corn actually looks more black. Fish skin can be blue, but it’s often also iridescent and therefore every other color. Besides, the skin isn’t ever the central source of nutrients with fish. And as I noted in a previous post on the crime against nature that is blue raspberry, the flavor has no counterpart sapphire-colored fruit growing on a vine anywhere.

I have to wonder, however, how this peculiarity might be discussed by people speaking traditional Vietnamese or Lakota Sioux, because neither language distinguishes between the colors the way English does. Not only might they have trouble verbalizing this situation, but I also don’t think they’d even understand it, since both language collapse sky-colored things and leaf-colored things into the same category. “What are you talking about, no blue-colored foods?” the Sioux-speaker would ask through his interpreter. “There are tons of them. Arugula. Bartlett pears. Certain varieties of heirloom tomatoes. Wasabi. Pistachio meat. I can name more.” (In my imagining of this conversation, the Lakota Sioux is a boastful gourmand with a sophisticated knowledge of vegetables. Why shouldn’t he be?)

to some, these pears are not different colors

The problem of translating the concepts of green and blue into other languages that may not differentiate between them or may do so differently has given rise to a linguistic catch-all that also happens to be the word of the week.
grue (GROO) — noun: a portmanteau of the words green and blue, used to describe the concept of these colors being viewed as variations of the same base color and therefore needing only one name.
Our Native American foodie friend would claim that the sky on a clear, sunny day and the trees below that sky were both colored tĥo. His Vietnamese counterpart would say that the uniforms of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Green Bay Packers were both xanh. If he wanted to distinguish further, he’d either tack on syllables that come from Chinese words for “blue” and “green” or say that the Maple Leafs were xanh bầu trời, “sky color,” and the Packers were xanh lá cây, “leaf color.” To me, it’s hard to wrap my head around the concept of these colors being lumped together, since the difference between them seems obvious. However, I have to remind myself that just as a day on this planet isn’t naturally or necessarily divided into twenty-four equal parts, the concept of colors is one that is constructed completely by humans and the way they perceive the world around them. Thus, we get grue to describe how people who aren’t us see these two colors. (I mean, we also get bleen, but grue seems more popular for discussing this phenomenon and, also, sounds less like something that builds up in one of your organs and kills you.)

I have actually written before about how the way we Westerners break up the spectrum is arbitrary. In the post “How Roy G. Biv Ruined Everything,” I talked about why I hate indigo and how it didn’t deserve a shout-out in the spectrum any more than, say, turquoise or chartreuse or whatever you want to call the chunk of rainbow where red turns into orange. It’s the fault of that that dumbass Isaac Newton, in fact, as he wanted the colors of the spectrum to add up to that most heavenly of numbers, seven, instead of the clearly imperfect six. But aside from throwing off the color wheel and making complementary colors not show up across from each other, inserting indigo between blue and purple is no less logical than any other way of breaking up the spectrum. To illustrate this claim, I set up a five-color division of the spectrum using the nonsense words that don’t mean anything in any language. It would be different, but it would be just as valid as the old Roy G. Biv system.

And while breaking the spectrum is arbitrary, the focus on differentiating green and blue instead of any other two adjacent colors isn’t. Linguists care a lot more about grue than they do about, for example, rurple or yellorange. According to Wikipedia, the 1969 book Basic Color Terms: Their Universality and Evolution notes that a culture will not distinctly name colors such as brown, purple, pink, orange and gray until it differentiates between green and blue. (Black and white, red and the green-yellow group generally come first, at least according to this book.)

Some other tidbits relating to your new friend grue:
  • The Philippine language Ifugao and the Australian language Martu Wangka are unusual in that they both distinguish between green and blue but lump blue and black into the same category.
  • Russian use a seven-color spectrum that separates blue into lighter hues (голубой, or goluboy) and darker ones (синий, or siniy).
  • In Irish, glas refers to either green or greenish gray, while gorm refers to either blue or black. Dark-skinned people, for example, would be daoine gorma, “blue people.”
  • Similarly, in Sudanese Arabic, dark-skinned people are sometimes called akhḍar, “green” while even darker-skinned people are azraq, “blue.” To call someone aswad, “black,” is considered impolite, and not just because it sounds a lot like “ass wad.”
  • And, finally, the word that led me to learn about grue in the first place: ao, Japanese for either “blue” or “green,” though it’s not as simple as just that. Japanese also has a separate word for green, midori, which should be familiar to people who know their way around a bar. (That is, they’d know to avoid the stuff.) But midori came into use much later than ao, and the latter retained some chromatic territory. For example, Wikipedia notes that ao is still used when describing vegetation or traffic lights, while other green-colored objects get midori.
So that’s what I can offer you about grue. It kind of makes the English-speaker’s dilemma of “Is my new sweater turquoise, teal or aquamarine?” seem a little stupid. (And yet I go through that dilemma. Every. Day.) I normally end word-of-the-week post with a link back to all the previous words-of the-week, but this time I prefacing that link list with one of just color words, and I’ve done quite a few on this blog.

Colors and language, previously:
And, as usual, the previous words of the week:
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Friday, April 16, 2010

The Darkstalkers Official Artwork Extravaganza

Back in the day, a kickass video game mag existed. It was called Diehard Gamefan and it was notable for acknowledging the beauty of game art. When it wasn’t splashing its pages with concept or promotional art, it was using the graphics of the games themselves as part of the layout. Often, the text of a given article would be laid out on top of art — whether hand-drawn or digital. The pages popped with color and life. I loved it.

At some point during Gamefan’s run, it put out strategy guides, including one for the second game in Capcom’s Darkstalkers series, Night Warriors: Darkstalkers’ Revenge. This particular guide kept true to Gamefan’s standards and included a whole lot of official artwork for the game. Recently, I discovered the guide in a box of books I hadn’t seen in years, and I decided that I should scan the art and post it online. I’m sure I’m not the only one who can appreciate it. My only regret is that the guide came out before the third game, Jedah’s Damnation, so what I’m posting here won’t include Lilith, Q-Bee or B.B. Hood — each a well-crafted and respectable character in her own right.

Hope this brings back some fond memories of joystick-waggling for a few people. (Click any image to access larger versions of it.)

demitri darkstalkers

Main vampire Demitri in his transformed, demonic state.

darkstalkers art demitri

Here Demitri is again, with one of his conquests.

talbain gallon darkstalkers

British werefolf Jon Talbain. Neat fact about ol’ wolfy, via Wikipedia: His Japanese name is Gallon. In Japanese, the name would be pronounced like the word garou, “hungry wolf.” The word may sound familiar to anyone who played the latest and possibly last incarnation of SNK’s Fatal Fury series, Garou: Mark of the Wolves. Had I known at the time, this little linguistic nugget would have made the “It’s a Secret to Everybody” post.

victor darkstalkers

Victor von Gerdenheim, the game’s take on Frankenstein’s monster even though he was erroneously referred to as just a Frankenstein. Really, shouldn’t we just use golem and cover our bases?

raptor zabel darkstalkers

Undead Aussie rocker Lord Raptor, known in Japan as Zabel.

sexy morrigan darkstalkers

An even more sexed-up Morrigan Aensland, the batty succubus who became the series’ mascot. I love that a bat is functioning as her shirt clasp.

anakaris darkstalkers

Freaky mummy man Anakaris.

felicia darkstalkers

Werecat Felicia, who’s probably the only naked female fighting game character that I’d still refer to as “cute” and not “sexy.” Maybe it’s her proximity to Morrigan?

bishamon darkstalkers

Bishamon, the samurai possessed by cursed armor, accompanied by the ghost of his wife, Orin.

rikuo darkstalkers

Protean merman Rikuo, who gets to be the game’s Dhalsim.

donovan darkstalkers

Vampire-hunting dhampir Donovan Baine, accompanied by the strange psychic girl Anita.

anita donovan darkstalkers

Donovan and Anita again.

donovan elementals darkstalkers

Donovan alongside the various elementals that aid him in battle. Note that the ice elemental is labeled Brizzard in stead of Blizzard.

anita darkstalkers

Anita surrounded by toys inspired by the “reduced” forms various characters suffer when struck by Anakaris’s pharaoh’s curse breath.


The fighters themselves with their little mascot forms.

sasquatch darkstalkers

Comic relief character Sasquatch.

huitzil darkstalkers

Mayan mechano-man Huitzil.

hsien-ko / lei-lei

Hsien-Ko, the Chinese hopping ghost with a heart of gold and a sleeve full of cutting implements.

hsien-ko lei-lei darkstalkers

Hsien-Ko and her twin sister, Mei-Ling, who splits their current form time share-style.

pyron darkstalkers

And finally evil galactic overlord Pyron.

And below, some composite illustrations:

darkstalkers nightwarriors

darkstalkers we await your return

darkstalkers composite

anita's diary

Even the Darkstalkers fear the consequences of getting caught reading Anita’s diary. Is that Akuma lurking in the background?

morrigan sien-ko felicia darkstalkers

The three ladies, before the other three ladies showed up.

morrigan demitri darkstalkers

And, finally, Morrigan and Demitri by moonlight.

Again, I hope this stirred up some long-forgotten gaming memories for a few readers. Hey Capcom, how about a new Darkstalkers already?

Capcom, previously:
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