Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Japanese Parisian

The best of June 2010, according to Back of the Cereal Box:
And, of course, the clickable visual index:

Confusion Among a Fleet of Taxi Cabs

My June, as represented by certain 140-character-or-less snippets.
Just drove past a bondage gear shop called Stormy Leather.

Of course, when I said "clean off the tea set" earlier I actually meant "prepare the slopstacle course."

The recipe called for CRANBERRY BEANS, which apparently exist. Am I the only one who's never heard of these?

A major benefit of Twitter over Facebook: No one here invites me to like worthless garbage that I've never heard of and don't care about.

Cougar awkwardly smalltalks abt Lady Gaga to clearly gay guy working register at grocery. He pretends he's never heard of Gaga. Well played.

A peculiarly high number of Golden Girls episodes revolve around someone visiting from out of town. Did they even have a guest room?

Saw the Charlie St. Cloud trailer and thought it has to be a parody. Nope. Real. Barf myself to death.

Happy Flag Day! Feel the magic! — flag. verb. "to weaken or become feeble."

Dear Rockwell: Maybe you'd feel less paranoid if you removed the stuffed animals from your crazy person house.

Word of caution: The Trader Joe's Turkish apricots taste like a prune had a baby with black licorice. Avoid at all costs.

Party-sized bucket of flan

Got screened for skin cancer. Doctor showed me the Big Picture Book of Melanoma Nightmares and now I will never go out again in daylight.

Today I learned how many W's are in "JWoww." And, consequently, my bran probably forgot something else important.

A fun game: Do I have the flu or is it food poisoning with residual soreness from that tiny bit of exercise I did?

Am super excited about Angelina Jolie's upcoming documentary on the history of salt. Thank god she's stopped making shitty action movies.

Synopses for two different DVRed Golden Girls: "Dorothy has chronic fatigue syndrome" and "Chronically tired Dorothy seeks help." Huh.

"I resent the implication that Three's Company was all about Chrissy's boobs, as it occasionally focused on Janet being plain and sad."

Are you kidding? The last names of the Cruise and Diaz characters in "Knight & Day" aren't even Knight and Day.

"The world that can't be mentioned in polite company." Amazing.

Rielle Hunter was born Lisa Jo Druck. This I find amusing and indicative.

A bird is riding the pool cleaner and it actually looks kind of fun.

In demonstrating how to properly trim the lawn edges, my dad decapitated a driveway light. Advantage: me.

Trying to differentiate all the Twilight actors is like trying to learn all the Pokemon: If you're over a certain age, you just can't do it.

Grampa Simpson, commenting on a port-a-potty: "This elevator only goes to the basement. And somebody made an AWFUL mess down there."

I dropped my phone on cement, but don't worry --- the puddle it fell into cushioned the impact.

"A champagne brunch with Anne Rice, Shohreh Aghdashloo... and Tweet."
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.

Better Ways to Interpret Road Signs

Because let’s face it — driving is boring and could benefit from additional excitement. Make driving “fun” by putting your own spin on the rules of the road!

Swerve to the side to avoid the giant car-sized bullet racing toward you.

Road is pointless, repeating loop. You may be in a Lost Highway. Or a Mario Kart track.

Open passenger window to receive free box lunch from roadside man.

“Shit! Get me a pen and paper, quick! (Apologies for the joke in the style of your father.)

Your loved ones would appreciate a will.

“Look! I drew an arrow with two pointy parts! Isn’t that crazy?”

Slow down to leer at roadside crew, evaluating them for sexiness.

Actually, there’s no way to make this funnier than it already is.

Ditto the previous comment.

Ditto ditto.

Similarly, there is nothing funny about lane safety. Stay in your goddamn lane, crazy. However, with a small adjustment...

Much better. Why? You know why. Because Lana’s a ho.

I actually can’t make fun of this sign because I don’t know what it means. Seriously? The tracks aren’t in service? Shouldn’t I not care because trains won’t run on out-of-service tracks, because they’re curled up into roller coaster-like formations? And yet there is a sign for this condition. So I have to assume that the trains do, in fact, run on out-of-service tracks. In which case, I should be very worried, less so for myself than for the train passengers. Where the fuck am I?

Most self-negating, Magrittesque traffic sign ever.

Except, well... you know.

(All images from here.)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Piss Poor

Things you can learn from listening to DVD commentaries of Simpsons episodes: There once existed a movie theater in Los Angeles, the Pikfair. It was surrounded by Indian restaurants and was known for playing Bollywood films, at least until it burned down in the riots. Anyway, the theater got its name because it existed near the intersection of Pico and Fairfax. Because of its location, it was originally known as the Picfair, but they had to change it because some Indian people tended to pronounce the “C” softly — the “Pissfair.” Which is hilarious.

Anyway, I just thought it was cool.

In case you’re wondering, the episode was the 138th Episode Spectacular. It shows a deleted scene (from the one where Apu moves in with the Simpsons) in which Apu makes the family watch a Bollywood musical that “made every Indian critic’s top 400 list.” Homer: “It’s funny! Their clothes are different from my clothes!”

The Price Is Wrong, Bitch!

Like many other intelligent Americans, I have accepted Modern Family as the new great sitcom — a show that manages to combine the some of the best qualities of Arrested Development with bits that make the central family appealing enough not only to avoid cancellation but to actually draw good ratings. (Good on you, Modern Family!) And because I often root for underdogs, I find myself especially enjoying Julie Bowen’s performance as Claire — the show’s Marge Simpson, the put-upon housewife who gets opportunities to be truly funny when she’s not being a nag or a drudge.

But though I love the show, I didn’t realize until late in this first season that Bowen played a prominent role on another major ABC show, Lost, as Jack Shepherd’s patient then wife then ex-wife. Vaguely similar in that both Lost’s Sara Shepherd and Modern Family’s Claire Dunphy are both underappreciated stay-at-home wives, the characters go drastically different directions, with Claire quietly venting her rage with sarcasm and passive aggression and with Sara leaving Jack, even after he successfully operated on her spine and allowed her to walk again. (And also Sara may have had an affair with Jack’s dad? Or not? … Oh, fuck it.) Anyway, I was impressed that Bowen could pull off high drama and subtle comedy so well — and surprised that a Lost obsessive such as myself didn’t immediately identify Claire as a Lost alum.

Then I realized that my time with Julie Bowen goes all the way back to eighth grade, with Happy Gilmore, in which Bowen played Adam Sandler’s love interest.

Yup, she got a better haircut and became a little less round in the face, but that’s her in that unflattering golf sweater.

When I checked the IMDb page for Happy Gilmore, I was reminded that Bowen’s character’s name in this movie was Virginia Venit. Which is interesting because the love interest in the previous Adam Sandler movie, Billy Madison, is named Veronica Vaughn — as in the immortal line “Veronica Vaughn. So hot. Want to touch the heiney.”

For some weird reason, I like characters with double initials. And because both Happy and Billy were written by Sandler and Tim Herlihy, I have to wonder why they’d give similar names to the movies’ love interests. They did to later ones too — Fairuza Balk played Vicki Vallencourt in The Waterboy and Particia Arquette plays Valerie Veran in Little Nicky.

But why double “V”? Am I underestimating Adam Sandler’s level of maturity by guessing that the “V” could stand for that certain thing that female love interests have that also happens to start with that letter?

Names, previously:

Monday, June 28, 2010

Super Mario Abstract

It began with LACMA, it began with Kandinsky, but — oh, yes, that’s right, I realize now — it really began with Emil Nolde. I saw these amazing postcards at LACMA. Nolde had painted anthropomorphic versions of famous European mountains, but the postcards are rare enough that digitized versions simply don’t exist online, at least where I was looking. Then, somehow, I ended up on this page and found a certain painting — allegedly something called “At Rest,” allegedly by Mr. Wassily Kandinsky.

Instantly, briefly, this painting of mysterious origin became my whole world: Was it just me, or did it look eerily like a stage from a Super Mario Bros. game? Am I the only one who would see this similarity? Could the Super Mario aesthetic, in fact, be an intentional homage to Kandinsky? Consider the geometric qualities of the “hills” and “trees.” Consider the odd assemblage of polygons on either side, some overlapping others to suggest that they extend into the background. Consider the “structures” floating against the background, perhaps suggesting motion but perhaps also meant to be solid objects inexplicably suspended in the air. There’s definitely something in this painting that the old Mario games echoed, intentionally or not.

Points in favor of “not”: First off, I tend to see Mario where no Mario exists. More to the point, Kandinsky (or whoever did the above painting) was doing an abstract landscape, letting basic shapes stand in for the features that would normally decorate a given stretch of land. Similarly, the Nintendo people had to create similar terrain in making Mario games — especially Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World — mostly as a result of the technical limitations of the systems for which they were designing games. It could very well be that a staggered collection of quadrangles is just that, whether in a early twentieth-century painting or in a late twentieth-century Nintendo game.

Still, the resemblance jumps out to someone like me, who likes art but has spent too much time with a video game controller in his hands and will therefore be likely to fuse the two interests into one. I was curious about what other abstract Kandinsky landscapes might look like and looked around online. What I turned up supports at least the simplest conclusion: that there is, in fact, a visual similarity between these paintings and Mario games.

“the great gate of kiev” (1928)

“softened construction” (1927)

“brownish (1931)

“structure joyeuse” (1928)

“composition eight” (1923)

As the paintings get weirder and more surreal, they look particularly like the Wii game Super Paper Mario, a work of art in its own right that forces two-dimensional figures into a three-dimensional world (both in terms of graphics and the game’s plot) and which folds surreal art into a platform game universe. I know most people who read this blog haven’t played Super Paper Mario, but it’s a sight to behold, particularly Flipside, a geometric city that serves as the game’s “portal,” through which the various stages are accessed. (I tried to find appropriate art from the game to post here but found no usable screenshots online.) Looking at these paintings, I can see echoes of them in the game — Flipside especially.

In poking around at art websites, I also stumbled upon an Emil Nolde — not the one that I was originally looking for, but one that looked weirdly like one of the bad guys from Super Paper Mario. It’s a coincidence, I’m sure, but a noteworthy one, given my thought process leading up to it.

I conclude nothing from all this, but I will at least point out that one of the few goals I’d like to accomplish with this blog is to elevate video games as a medium. A lot of people look down of them, even today. They may not see the place of video games in the greater cultural context. A connection like this, however, at least hints that such a connection might be possible — that there could possibly be a connection between the art hung in museums and the games played in our living rooms.

Mario, previously: