Sunday, October 31, 2010

Monster Mashing

The problem with posting on holidays is that I always feel compelled to put up something festive, inasmuch as I can be festive. (I try. Lord, how I try.) After searching for some old, Greek-derived word that means something like “great pumpkin” or “vampire fangs” or “slutty nurse,” I eventually found one that meets the requirement for Halloween but, in doing so, is awful. But it’s not me-awful. It’s etymology-awful. So go blame etymology.
teratogenesis (ter-ə-tə-JEN-ə-səs) — noun: the development of congenital malformations.
Why this? Etymologically speaking, the word means something like “the origin of monsters.” Yep — the technical, scientific term for deformity means “monster.” Our predecessors were not polite.

Technically, the term can also mean simply “marvel,” and even in English that relationship still exists. Our word monster comes from the Latin monere, “to warn” or “to advise,” which is related to monstrare, related to the English demonstrate and meaning “to point out” or “to show.” In both uses, there’s the sense of a thing being seen, which I guess would be a vital component in the process of labeling a thing a monster. I guess you’d have to see something before you could declare it a monster, right?

Teratogenesis, however, comes from the Greek root teras, also meaning “monster.” Aside from teratology (which could be interpreted to refer to either mythological beasts or biological ones), most of the English derivations of teras refer to the unfortunate, human kind of remarkables. We have teratogen (something that causes birth defects), teratoid (something exhibiting abnormal development), teratoma (a tumor frequenting the genitals) and even teratophilia (sexual attraction to monstrous or deformed people).

In light of this legacy of what really amounts to defamation, let me salute our differently-shaped brethren, apologize for the technical term (and, I guess, this post) and finally wish readers of all shapes (standard and non-) a happy Halloween.

With the best of intentions:

Halloween on this blog, previously:

Previous strange and wonderful words:
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Friday, October 29, 2010

Brentwood Rock City

Well, at least I can name one highlight of an abnormally worky Friday, even if it was not so memorable to the other involved party.

Scratch that: I also ate a latke taco today. So perhaps today is not a total wash.

The Two Googie Renés

Last week’s Saturday Night Live brought back a sketch that I don’t think ran on the show since Anna Faris hosted in 2008: Googie René, who sells awful discount goods. In the most recent appearance, he tries to sell stained, shit-smelling or otherwise befouled Halloween costumes.

Here’s the sketch:

And here’s the best part: the end shot, showing the store’s location.

Oh no! You probably wouldn’t want to shop there at all! But anyway the sketch was in my head this week, so I was surprised when I saw this on one of the blogs I follow:

I was also surprised that this photo made it onto the cover despite everything the woman in blue dress is doing. But more important than that: the exact same name. What the hell? The real Googie René — son of rocker Leon René — was actually kind of famous in his own right as a musician. So why would the Kenan Thompson character have the same name? I can’t think of any reason better than “Googie” being a funny name.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Evil Peggy

Jenny Slate continues to do things, and, as such, has done something.

Well, I think it’s funny. In fact, in its two episodes so far, “Bestie x Bestie” has so damn near perfectly represented most of the things that make me laugh. I just want to give Jenny Slate and Gabe Liedman bottle after bottle of wine so I can watch them interact.

But enough about this particular Jenny Slate-related matter. I’m instead going to go on about how I like to hold Elisabeth Moss responsible for Jenny Slate not being on Saturday Night Live anymore. Here’s why. So Moss and Fred Armisen divorced, and like five seconds later the blogs reported that Armisen was dating Abby Elliott, who was on SNL before Slate started and is still on today. And that pisses me off, mostly because I can’t understand the logic behind it. Elliott seems nice and I really liked that impersonation of Brittany Murphy that they took offline after Murphy died, but Slate actually led sketches with her Tina Tina character, whom people seemed to like, while Elliott hasn’t led a sketch that I can remember. And the presumption that a few people made was that Elliott becoming Armisen’s girlfriend somehow saved her job but caused the elimination of Slate’s. So whatever — I will personally never know what happened.

But let’s say that’s what did happen, and it caused the wonderful, talented, funny voice-making Jenny Slate to only improve my life through the magic of online videos. Okay, then, how awesome is it to imagine Elisabeth Moss being responsible for this situation by virtue of her being this horrible, abusive monster wife that drove Fred into Abby’s arms? Like, picture her coming from the Mad Men set, changing out of her Peggy clothes and into sweats and a beater, and then just wrecking Fred as a person. Like, the whole thing — insulting his weight, spitting on the floor, throwing carefully prepared dinners against the wall, farting in his face when her rowdy friends come over to watch the game, making him call her “Don Draper” during relations, and pretty much whatever else you feel like imagining. I actually have this whole fiction in my head where Moss is Don, Armisen is Betty and Elliott is Henry Francis, but Armisen is still all broken inside because she listened in on his therapy sessions. (He cries during SNL ad breaks.) It goes without saying that in this little dream scenario, Slate is playing the part of Sally Draper, for no reason.

So that’s how I think it should have gone done, and that’s how I’ll be explaining it to anyone should the subject arise.

Oh, and by the way, don’t watch the video at work. (Swears.)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Festive Threat

Halloween is probably the only time of year during which you can arrive home and find a bloody knife on your doorstep and think “Yay! Fun times!” and not “Wow, I guess someone has it out for me.”

And yes, a decorative bloody knife is still a bloody knife by several standards.

Ceci n’est pas un derrière

Re: the previous post and its Kimberley Joseph craziness, I felt I should also mention that the YouTube search for her commercial work also turned up the following video.

Titled simply “Nice Ass,” the remarkbless assless and Kimberley Joseph-less short film struck this critic as tantalizingly short, utterly meaningless, wholly fascinating, and thoroughly meh-provoking. I’m certainly glad someone took the time to upload this clip — in its current state, without the slightest bit of context or explanation.

Well done, internet.

Return of the Oceanic Air Mattress

Hey guys! Remember Cindy form Lost? You know — Cindy Cindy? The flight attendant who gives Jack the extra liquor in the pilot? And crashes in the tail section with Libby and Eko? And gets kidnapped by the Others? And gets brainwashed? And becomes a weird pseudo-mom to the orphaned, kidnapped kids? And then goes all Lady Rambo at the temple? And then we never find out what happens to her in the last episode? Because — um... Hey! Remember Cindy?

Well, the good news, everyone! I found her. She's alive and apparently free of her Australian accent, per this commercial for HughesNet, which I'd never heard of before yesterday.

In all seriousness, I'm happy to learn that Lost's B- and C-listers can find work, but is it weird to anyone else that I still think the actress, Kimberley Joseph, is brainwashed and that the all-too-innocuous-sounding HughesNet is a front for the Hanso Foundation? Clearly, if I give them my personal info, they will kidnap me and make me wear dirty clothes in a jungle… for no apparent reason.

In finding the YouTube clip online, I also learned Joseph in a commercial about a family that's way too enthusiastic about its Bissel-brand carpet cleaner.

Brainwashing. Carpet cleaning. Connection? Clearly, Bissel wants to steal your babies.

The same search also turned up Joseph as a host of an Australian fashion awards show from 1996 (which, by American standards is more like 1989). See Cindy the flight attendant with an unflattering — and clearly evil — up-do.

The take-away: Australian fashion also wants to steal your babies.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Drew Gets Advice From an Old Man in a Parking Lot

I worked late, and knowing that I didn’t have any food at the house, I stopped at the grocery store on the way home. Eventually, I stepped out of the car and began toward the Whole Foods, when a voice said “excuse me” with a distinctly foreign intonation. I turned around to see an old man — Japanese, I think, and dressed like he’s been working in the garden. He then told me, “You are a man who does not know how to make up his mind.”

I attempted to process this but decided that I must have misheard him. “Excuse me?”

He repeated: “You are a man who does not know how to make up his mind.” And then he just stared at me, as if the statement of his judgment should have been enough. Realizing that no one has ever told me this, much less a stranger in a grocery store parking lot, I fumbled for a response and eventually arrive at “Why do you think that?”

His explanation: “I saw you pull into that parking spot right there, but then you pulled out and went over there. And then you waited there for a while and then you pull in here. I told my wife that I had never seen anyone do this before and that you must be a person who cannot make up his mind.”

His account of events was accurate. However he could not see that I had sensible motivations for pulling into three spots. And, for some reason, I thought he’d be interested to know these. So I told him. “Well, that first spot wasn’t actually a parking spot, it turns out. So I moved. And then in the second spot, the truck next to me was so close that I wouldn’t have been able to get out. So I called my parents, because I told them I would. But when we finished talking, the truck hadn’t moved. So I decided to pull into the third spot so I can finally get groceries.”

He didn’t care about my sensible motivations, it turned out. “You should learn to make up your mind. If you always think you can do better, you never move ahead. You should make a decision and reconsider only if you must.” Or something like that.

I was halfway tempted to point out that I had essentially done that, but I realized that this old man was more concerned with giving than taking. So I took it. “That’s actually good advice. Thanks.” He nodded slightly. And then I turned around and went into the store.

Granted, he didn’t understand the situation, but he nonetheless had a point — and certainly more of one than most crazy old people who give me unsolicited advice.

Sex Coconut

You’d be hard pressed to find a more romantic, more evocative title for a Wikipedia page: “Legends of the Coco de Mer.” The name suggests some fancy, old collection of island-hopping adventures that you might find in the corner of some eccentric’s library. Or it could be a Nickelodeon game show. Either, really. But “Legends of the Coco de Mer” is how the page begins now. And this magical-sounding item of produce is the subject of today’s post.

Consider of this a follow-up to the post about the Vegetable Lamb of Tartary, the bizarre sheep-plant combo monster that supposedly existed but, alas, did not exist. In that post, I talked about how the Wikipedia category for “mythological plants” included surprisingly few entries. However, the Vegetable Lamb wasn’t alone; it had the Sea Coconut to keep its company. And oh, what company it provides. The article reads like a dummy entry someone posted on Wikipedia specifically to get me to blog about it. If that’s the case, well done, sir or madam.

The largest seed in the plant kingdom, the nut of the Coco de Mer palm would drop to the ground and fall into the ocean, floating from its native habitat in the Seychelles to places as far away as the Maldives. There, people noted that the nut, when denuded of its husk, looked like a woman’s buttocks on one side and a belly and thighs on the other.

The current scientific name for the Coco de Mer, Lodoicea maldivica, was even preceded by a far more entertaining one: Lodoicea callipyge, the species name literally meaning “beautiful butt” and being related to one of my words-of-the-week, kakopygian, “having an ugly ass.” Naturally, people concluded that nuts resembling the sexy ladyparts wielded magical properties, and the nuts became highly prized. They also circulated stories about undersea trees whose fruit dropped “up” — that is, toward the surface. In a way, they weren’t off the mark. As it happens, the whole fruits had to sink to the bottom of the ocean, where the husk would eventually shed and the nut’s insides would rot, creating a gas that made them float to the surface and then far-off places. However, by virtue of their buoyancy, the nuts were also infertile, and I think there’s some irony in something that looks so sexual no longer being reproductively viable.

Eventually, humans inhabited the Seychelles and realized these fanny nuts were not, in fact, coming from upside-down, undersea orchards but from normal palm trees. And that’s when things really get weird. The Coco de Mer has female and male trees. The females bear the nuts, while the males produce long, phallic, unmistakably penis-like catkins.

Almost too much, right?

This combination of “Hey! These look like our naked women during sexytimes!” and “Those ones over there look like the parts what we have!” led to additional unfortunate conclusions: that the trees have physical intercourse on stormy nights, that the male trees uproot themselves to meet up with their arboreal sweethearts, that anyone who saws the trees mating would die or go blind (of course), and that the sexy Sea Coconut was actually the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. (Not sure how that last one squealed in there, but if it had been the case, I would imagine Eve wouldn’t have eaten the fruit on grounds that it tasted like shit.)

All of it hilarious and entertaining, I say. But I think it’s worth pointing out that the humans first observed the tree form of the Coco de Mer in 1768 — less than ten years before the Revolutionary War and, really, not all that long ago — and yet they still jumped to the most fantastical, implausible explanation for how the trees reproduce: tree sex, penis-vagina-style, which, now that I think about it, is also pretty damn self-centered. Funny how we act that way.

In conclusion: Omigod, doesn’t that thing look just like a butt?!

The horrible, wonderful intersection of food and sexiness:

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The License to Be Stupid

It’s been a while since I featured a super-specific German word on this blog. That’s why.
narrenfreiheit (NAHR-ren-fry-height) — noun: the ability and right of a jester to mock freely without being punished.
The pronunciation I’m offering matches how an English-speaker would pronounce the word, but I give that one because I feel the word has applications beyond the German-speaking world from yesteryear. I think a German-speaker would pronounce that double-“r” with a bit of a roll, but I don’t know how to write it out phonetically.

Literally “fool’s freedom” or “jester’s freedom,” narrenfreiheit refers to the days when the court jester could poke fun at whoever he chose, the logic being that a ruler surrounded only by yes men would never know if he or she were screwing up. In that sense, narrenfreiheit would be the antidote to “Emperor’s New Clothes” syndrome. Besides, jesters are funny. Let them do their job, royal court. And yes, Königin Giselberta does eat too much and her face does look a pig’s anus.

I picked this one because I like that Germans once again have a term to refer to a concept that would take other languages several phrases to explain but also because I’m interested in whether such a thing exists in the modern U.S. We have comedians who lampoon politicians (the cast of Saturday Night Live in a good year, for example) and bloggers who take down celebs (like Perez Hilton did until last week, when he stopped because everyone hated him), but we don’t have anyone who actually has the license to mock everyone and anyone with impunity. Sarah Silverman takes on ignorant, racist personas as a joke, but even people who understand what she’s doing still get pissed when she crosses a line and, for example, says the “c”-word on TV. (The racist “c”-word, not the lady “c”-word.) And, as I learned, certain people are always off-limits. Take a harmless dig at Obama’s toddler-aged niece after she sleeps through his inauguration speech and just wait for the hate mail to come.

I guess, then, that we don’t have narrenfreiheit now the way it once existed, but I suppose our clowns don’t mock with as much purpose as a court jester might have. All that being said, a good comedian wouldn’t miss an opportunity to get a laugh out of Königin Giselberta’s very clearly pig-anus like face.

Previous strange and wonderful words:
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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Funny Little Brazilian Frog

If you told me I was going to receive a frog-related email, I would have assumed it would be about the Scrotum Frog. Nope.
I saw a post on your blog, “funny little frog,” and I was wondering if it means something, like an expression. I’m Brazilian, and I am asking this because of a Belle & Sebastian song called “Funny Little Frog.” I'm trying to figure what it means.
Sérgio from Brazil
I love that this blog allows people to send me these kinds of emails, scrotum-related or not. I told my new friend Sérgio that the Bell & Sebastian song mentioned in this post title doesn’t refer to any English idiom that I know if, aside from our cute tendency to refer to gurgly phlegm as “a frog in the throat.” It doesn’t mean anything else, does it?

Frogs, previously:

She Laughs Again

So remember when I discovered how the laugh from “Situation” ended up in “Macarena”? But I couldn’t locate any of the hundreds of other songs that also use the same sample? The mystery has been solved. Ironically, by posting the piece as I did, with me having given up searching for a list, I arrived at it. I noticed on Google Analytics that someone found my post on the Alison Moyet laugh by searching some terms that I hadn’t thought of, and right there in the second hit was Who Sampled Who, an indisputably awesome database of songs that have been sampled in other songs. So here, then, is a list of songs that use the laughing effect from Yaz’s “Situation.”

A warning: It’s a mixed bag, in the way that a bag mixed with different kinds of shit is still technically a mixed bag. Sad to think that the last post hit the worthwhile samples with Los Del Rios and Samantha Fox. Nonetheless, the laugh can be heard in a not-terrible 1982 Ser & Duff track that’s vaguely Girl Talk-like in its sample craziness. Hear the laugh at the 5:54 mark.

It’s also in Simon Harris’s 1988 track “Bass,” the video for which is at least educational about how weird pop culture got at the cusp of the 90s.

It’s in the 1990 Deee-Lite track “What Is Love?” (and no, it tragically has no relation to the Haddaway song of the same name). Listen for Alison’s laugh about six seconds in.

Some drag queen named Ondina used it in her 1997 song “Summer of Love,” about twelve seconds in. The resulting track sounds remarkably like a spoof song from “Deep House Dish.” I think Bill Hader would play Ondina.

A 1990 atrocity, “Tequila,” by the group Latino Party, features it around 1:47 in. The song sounds like a cross between a jock jam and what an ill-fated Fly Girl would have heard in her head as she fatally overdosed.

And it appears in the 1999 Belgium dance track “Party Time,” which I can only imagine being useful to cults for brainwashing purposes, what with its incessant chanting of “Tonight is party time / It’s party time tonight.”

Though Heidi Montag’s 2009 song-like thing, “Body Language,” steals almost every part of “Situation,” it weirdly omits the laugh. Also, no joke: It’s legitimately the best song on this list. But that could just be the brainmelt talking.

Despite all this I still like “Situation” and don’t blame it for this parade of horrors. And I think the real take-away here is yet even more proof that the easiest way to arrive at hard-to-find information online is to post what you have and let the information find you. Take that, traditional research.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

No, It's Just That My People Are Nordic

A few words in defense of Betty Francis (formerly Betty Draper):
And she just can’t stop doing it, the screaming and the blaming, even though it’s been going on way too loudly for way too long and no-one has any sympathy for it any more. Betty can’t let it go; now that she knows how to be angry, and how to let people know that she’s angry, she just can’t stop. I mean, consider: It took her several years, three kids, and countless life-altering, scandalous revelations for her to be able to talk to Don the way she now talks to Henry Francis pretty much every day. In previous seasons, when Betty was upset in the middle of a business dinner, her hands just went numb, or she threw up in the car on the way home. This season, she stomps off to the bathroom and has an out-and-out fit. She’s hit the mother load. We all said we wanted Betty to get in touch with her anger, but we expected that anger to look admirable and positive and feminist. We didn’t consider that it might just be anger. That she might just not bother to think about how she was serving the world or women or the audience when she finally got to the point of rage.
Read the rest here. I wholly agree.

Plutonic Sex

Bugs Bunny and company skew darker and edgier than boring ol' nice guy Mickey Mouse. That's what I thought and that's what I figured others thought too, but the 1951 Pluto short "Plutopia" changed my opinion. Pluto's dream about an effeminate, masochistic cat gets real weird, real quick. Whether it's the cat's total subservience to Pluto or his earnest pleas of "Bite me, bite me," this relationship hints at themes that must have disturbed a few adult viewers back in the day, to say nothing about the sex-addled gutternauts who happen across it today. Doubtlessly, "Plutopia" transformed countless children into sex criminals.

It doesn't take a dirty mind to question the way the cat reacts so delightedly to Pluto's every chomp and then rewards the dog with meat for his efforts. And when they dig a hole together and strike a bone well and geysers shoot forth delivering more bones? That noise you just heard was Sigmund Freud rising from his grave to drive the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile through a tunnel decorated with Georgia O'Keefe prints. Extra awkward: Pluto just barely averts Mr. BDSM Kitty from blowing his brains out, plus the fact that the short's title suggests that this strangeness represents some kind of idea situation for Pluto. Porky in Wackyland and Bugs's cross dressing have got nothing on this cartoon.

And yes, the cat does occasionally sound like an in-character Jon Lovitz, no?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


A new twist on an old favorite: "Ha ha — This species' name."

This week, the Ever So Strange Animal Almanac introduced me to the Lake Titicaca Frog (scientific name: Telmatobius culeus, sometimes, perhaps erroneously spelled Telmatobius coleus), a strange species whose folds of skin give it the appearance of a wrinkly leather bag. It should be no surprise, then, that its species name translates from Latin as "testicle." By extension, the term also refers to the whole scrotum, and that's exactly the organ scientists had in mind when they named this South American marvel. It's an understandable association. See?

The Latin slang coleus (the oh-so-necessary plural being colei) comes from obscure origins, though Cicieo's use of it might have been in reference to a wineskin. Regardless, it's the non-technical but not-exactly-vulgar term for every man's pair of swingers. Coleus is also the word from which the Spanish term cojones descends. (Ha ha, "descended balls.") A word mystery: Coleus also happens to be the name of an Old World genus of perennials. What's so ballsy about them? No idea.

But don't think that this frog — a critically endangered species, mind you — is a hopping, swimming joke. If we want to respect it, we should just refer to it by its common English name, Lake Titicaca Frog, Titicaca of course being a South American term that translates to English as "tittyshit."

"Ha ha — This [subject's] name," previously:

Monday, October 18, 2010

Team Faye

Mad Men spoilers abound, but watch the goddamn episode already. Why are you reading a blog when you could be downloading it right now?

I just finished the last Mad Men of the season, and damn, did I underestimate this show's ability to surprise me. Though I suppose I should have figured that Faye's potential as the new Mrs. Don Draper ended when we found out that she just can't deal with children, since that nixed her from the life of the new, (somewhat) more moral Don.

A thought on her name: I wonder if I'm overreaching in wondering if Jon Hamm's experiences on 30 Rock might have played a role in naming Faye. After all, is Tina Fey not a woman who kicked ass at what many had considered to be a men-only job? Is Liz Lemon not a woman in a similar plight of the impossible balance between a woman's career and her desire to have a family? I'm sure Fays and Fayes and even Faes abounded in the 60s, but it was only tonight — when I realized I wouldn't be thinking about Dr. Faye Miller anymore — that I considered that Hamm's absorption into the Saturday Night Live-30 Rock clique has such that it might have just crossed Matthew Weiner's mind.

And it's not like Mad Men characters' names don't sometimes reflect personalities. Just see how much mileage you can get with Don Draper.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Light at Night

I don't hear so well, but I still notice whispering. Either despite or maybe because of the fact that I have bad hearing, the sound of people whispering gets into my ears and makes me focus nothing but it. Maybe I'm just too nosy to resist straining to hear what they might be talking about.

Last night, whispering woke me up. I think. I'm not sure how it happened but I found myself awake in bed, listening to people whisper. I couldn't understand what they were saying, but in my hazy state I actually thought people might be talking, quietly but noticeably, in my apartment — which doesn't make sense. But I got up anyway, walked into the living room and flicked on the light. No one, of course. I concluded that the whispering must be coming from outside my bedroom window and crawled back into bed.

That's when the light went on outside. It was bright — like spotlight bright, and not like any of the lights I've noticed coming from the building next door. I remember being annoyed but also impressed by it, because I could have read by this light alone. Very strange, no? Even stranger was my next reaction: Instead of looking out the window to see what early morning movie production had set up shop in the narrow space between my building and the one next door, I simply rolled over and pulled the covers around my face. The last thing that I can remember running through my head before I fell back asleep was whether one or two episodes remain in the current season of Mad Men.

That's not a logical reaction to the circumstances, right? I must have been dreaming.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Pretty Phantasmagorical

May I please present the opening to the 1976 BBC miniseries Children of the Stones, the entire run of which I watched while housesitting this summer. Though the show was intended for children, it incorporates some profound and complex themes about time. It often verges into creepy, unexplained territory that I liked, even though I watched it as an adult and even though the lights and film make much of it unmistakably phony. Think of it as, let’s say, the best episode ever of Are You Afraid of the Dark, just with accents.

I’m posting this clip, however, to let you all at the opening “theme song,” an atmospheric little choral composition that nicely sets the mood.. until the singing begins building up. This would normally indicate an upswing in tension. However, in the show (and in every single opening sequence) it kinds of builds to nothing aside from boulders, clouds and a musical, chaotic babble that suddenly falls into an in-unison sigh of relief that I came to interpret as the singers simultaneously running out of air and fainting. I thought it was funny, both in how often it figured into the show and how effectively it killed any air of mysticism.

And yes, by the way, I watched this because of Lost. And yes, I, ever the logophobe, dreaded the opening production company logo. Is it bad when the production company logo scares me more than the show itself?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Dogs of Colorado

Because my out-of-town correspondents know to pitch me what I like, I can now present to you the following two items. Both are dog- and Colorado-related. First, proof that someone in Colorado has an affinity for dogs — and more of a sense of whimsy than I would expect from a state I associate with rocks, trees, altitude and other outdoorsy qualities.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, Coloradan dogs can shoot laser beams from their eyes, which would explain the curiously low cat population.

More as these stories develop.

Palmyra Is in the Room

Random fact about something I care about but you may neither know nor care about: The Soul Coughing album Ruby Vroom is named after Ruby Froom, the daughter of singer Susan Vega, who consented to the honor only if album title was slightly modified from her daughter’s actual name.

Given that the girl is now old enough to Google herself and may not want to sort through page after page of Mike Doughty fanpages, I’d say Vega made a good call. Of course, now that I posted this, it will show up whenever this girl Googles herself. If so: Hi Ruby! Your mom is cool!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

If Your Wedding Takes Place in Africa

I enjoy offering readers glimpses into the mundane that quickly turn surreal and unpleasant. Not even the local weather is safe.

From a strange public service announcement regarding the plight of Third World inhabitants, via Buzzfeed.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

She Laughed for Twenty-Eight Years

This is a post about a laugh that you have heard before if you have any awareness of pop culture. Think of it as a pop music equivalent to the Wilhelm Scream.

Though I like to consider myself someone with a good knowledge of 80s music, I occasionally discover an artist that has escaped my notice. The all-too-frequent cause? Britishness — theirs, not mine.  I sometimes forget that that little island over there has culture (or something approaching it), and that the less-brightly-burning stars of the motherland usually stay there, resulting in total confusion for us American media gadflies when we run across headlines like this one: “Sinitta ‘texted Cole over Gamu X Factor axe.’” There are at least three things in that sentence that I don’t understand. If you can explain it, don’t. Just don’t.

Most recently, the 80s singer who came to my attention is Samantha Fox, who had a worldwide hit in 1986 with her debut single “Touch Me (I Want Your Body).”  I don’t know how, exactly, but she just existed in a cultural blind spot for me until this week. And it was one of those instances where the person I’m talking to says, “Oh, when you hear it, you’ll recognize it.” Nope. No flicker of recognition. In any case, Fox has continued to record through today, releasing lesser hits and a dreadful cover of Dustry Springfield’s “I Only Want to Be With You” that would maybe tie Kylie Minogue’s remake of “The Loco-Motion” as the best musical evidence aliens could use to support a plan to mercy-kill our planet. Truth be told, I didn’t even dig any of her songs all that much, but I’m posting one, “I Wanna Have Some Fun,” for this simple reason: It contains a laugh that I’d heard before around the 1:30 mark.

Here, see if you’ve recognize it:

If you’re like me, you heard that echoing laugh and immediately thought of the song “Situation” by Yaz, which features the laugh about twenty seconds in.

And if you had ever been stuck in traffic next to someone who was blasting “Macarena” — and this happened to me this year, I should note — you would have had an opportunity to hear the laugh again. Evidence: here. (And no, I’m not embedding a video of “Macarena” on my blog, because I have standards, and I will only write about bad music most people don’t already know. And yes, the laugh only can be be heard in certain versions of the song, which I know because I actually watched a five-minute-long video for the wrong one, thus necessitating a second listen-through of a different version. Hell christ.) Take my word for it, the laugh is there, right at the beginning.

So what’s up?

It turns out the laugh belongs to Alison Moyet, the female half of Yaz (and, later, the singer of “Love Resurrection,” which doesn’t suck and the video for which features camels). Wikipedia and a few dozen other sites claim that anywhere between several songs and thousands of songs also feature the laugh, but I can’t find anywhere that lists these. I’m genuinely curious to know. These invisible pop culture trends fascinate me, and now I’m wondering if other songs I know have this lady’s throaty laughter, still echoing, hauntingly, as if she saw something funny in a tile bathroom.

Hit the jump for more examples of the Moyet laugh. (And I will warn you now that from here on out it’s a mixed bag, inasmuch as a bag mixed with different kinds of shit is still technically a mixed bag.)

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Word for When the Dust Settles

A strange and wonderful words hat trick: a single term that can mean three different things, all of them pinpoint specific.
pulveratricious (pull-ver-uh-TRISH-us) — adjective: 1. (of birds) nesting on the ground. 2. dust-colored. 3. covered with dust.
The word comes from the Latin pulvis, meaning “dust,” which also gives us the English pulverize and which is related the words pollen and polenta. With birds, pulveratricious refers to the habits of certain birds that wallow in dust as a means of cleaning or maintaining their feathers. As William R. Long notes, such a bird would be called a pulveratrix, though the term is unfortunately not often used anymore despite how well it describes these birds’ habits. Pulveratricious doesn’t show up in most dictionaries, but Wiktionary at least has it, though only with the bird-related definition. It’s cited in various placed online, however, to also mean “dust-colored,” which is logical since that’s how anything would if it played in dust all day. Finally, it’s noted even still fewer places that it can just mean “covered with dust,” which kind of also means “dust-colored,” depending on how you look at it.

I think the take-away here is that when you’re eating polenta, you’re really just eating dust. Well, that’s what I took away. Now, to sing us out, the lovely and incomparable Pulveratricious Springfield.

Previous strange and wonderful words:
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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sour, Dried Grapes

For various reasons, I’ve had to think about the TV show Dallas, which in turn reminded me of the existence of a CBS parody miniseries called Fresno. It starred Carol Burnett as Charlotte Kensington, the matriarch of a family working in the cut-throat raisin industry, propelled by the by the motto “We dry no vine before its time.” Fresno also tok digs at the plethora of other “scheming white people” shows that were popular in the day, like Dynasty and Falcon Crest. Overall, it doesn’t hold up as well as I would have liked it to, but you have to respect any series built on the joke that Fresno is a festering crap hole. Having actually been through Frenso more often than any good person should (once), I’m amused by the opening titles featuring sweeping shots of a weirdly verdant version of the city.

Also pretty great: The above video also includes Fresno character Bobbi Jo Bobb (Teresa Ganzel) singing the show’s country western love theme, which begins with the lyrics, “Just because you’re a migrant worker / Don’t mean we have a migrant love.”