Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Revenge of the Ass-Licking

Remember when I wrote about that fifteenth-century cyborg, who inspired that Mozart composition that demanded the audience to lick his asshole? (Because that happened.) Well, today a new footnote to that story: Jack White, of all people, has masterminded an Insane Clown Posse riff on that very Mozart composition. Now if anyone asks you if such a thing has ever happened, you'll be lying if you say no.

Also worth noting: A Wikipedia page exists solely on the subject of Mozart and his shit obsession.

Is this how I shall close out August 2011 on Back of the Cereal Box?


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I Am Only Going to Stay Here for a Few More Jokes

Dude. If this 2004 SNL sketch isn’t the genesis of Dr. Spaceman, then it’s totally a forerunner.


The Wink, in Retrospect, Seems All the More Malicious

Can we talk about Rosemary’s Baby for a second? I know, I know, you have plans that don’t involve reading about a 43-year-old movie, but there’s just this one thing about Rosemary’s Baby that’s always bugged me: Victoria Vetri.

You probably don’t know the name, because she didn’t end up becoming all that famous, but that’s the reason I bring her up. In the film, she plays Terry Gionoffrio, the boarder staying with Mr. and Mrs. Castevet when Rosemary and Guy move into the Bramford. Terry introduces herself in the laundry room scene, where she praises the Castevets and even shows off the strange, antique locket that they’d given her for good luck. She’s beautiful, in that Jerri Blank-ish way that actually worked in the 60s, but she gives off a harder vibe than pure-as-driven-snow Rosemary does.

Even her story is Jerri Blank-ish. As she tells Rosemary,
They picked me up off the sidewalk, literally… I was starving and on dope and doing a lot of other things. They're childless though. I'm like the daughter they never had. At first, I thought they wanted me for some kind of a sex thing, but they turned out to be like real grandparents. I'd be dead now if it wasn't for them. That's an absolute fact — dead or in jail.
Not long after their run-in, however, Terry ends up back on the sidewalk — dead and bloody, allegedly as the result of self-defenestration — and the Castevets start grooming Rosemary for the role they had initially planned for Terry: that whole giving birth to Satan thing. But there’s an odd meta joke that Rosemary makes to Terri when she first sees her: “I thought you were Victoria Vetri, the actress.” Terri brushes off the comparison, saying she “doesn’t see the resemblance.” First, consider that Vetri acted in Rosemary’s Baby under the name Angela Dorian, which she also went by in the September 1967 issue of Playboy where she appeared as Playmate of the Month. So the joke is strange, because Vetri would have been best known as Angela Dorian when the movie was filmed. And while Vetri did go on to act under hear real name, she only scored roles in schlocky B movies, the most notable of which would be the 1970 caveman movie When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth and the 1973 scifi flick Invasion of the Bee Girls. She achieved some fame as a sex symbol, but never became a household name — as Victoria Vetri or Angela Dorian.

Consequently, the joke now seems mean-spirited because not only is it unlikely that dumb ol’ Rosemary Woodhouse would have recognized her, but today hardly anyone else would either. (Though you have to wonder if Rosemary’s decline into antichrist-rearing was preceded by a subscription to Playboy. I mean, why else would she think Terry looks familiar? Maybe that snow ain’t so pure.)

So where is Victoria Vetri today? Better off than Terry Gionoffrio, I suppose, but not by much: Now 66, she’s in jail awaiting trial for the attempted murder of her husband. Vetri allegedly shot him on October 16, 2010, and she’s been held on $1.53 million bail ever since.

EDIT: The author Frank Portman has responded to this post and explained why it is that Vetri speaks her own name in the film. It’s a very logical reason, really, but I’m happy to learn it. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Tell Me How We’ll Be Alone Again

I was stupidly happy that “Cho Cha,” a bizarre little team-up between Teddybears, Cee Lo Green and The B-52s, might actually be about a passionate but innocent love of a man for his pet cat. Not so. Chocha is apparently Italian slang term for the female genitalia. How naive I was to think that a pop song about a cat could ever be just that.

But had I watched the bizarro video for the song sooner rather than later, I would have started suspected something… deeper — anatomically deeper, that is.

Is that a fucked-up video or what? And all the same, isn’t it natural to hear Cee Lo’s voice come from a stuffed animal?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Legend of Zelda’s Considerably Less Famous Brother

So who the hell is this prissy, pissy prick?

Short answer: It’s Princess Zelda’s brother. This dramatic little scene — recently posted on Game & Graphics, an awesome blog that features art from classic video games and their promotional materials — originally appeared in the instruction booklet for Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. But this bit of prologue illustrates a scene and characters that don’t appear anywhere in the game. While it’s not unusual for a video game to cram some extra exposition into the manual, but I’m interested in the decision to include this kid and then design him as they have. I mean, if you’re setting up a guy who’s such a short-term villain that he doesn’t even appear in the actual game, why model him after Jackie Earle Haley in Day of the Locust?

The prologue offers this much as background: When the king dies, the prince tries to get his well-manicured hands on the Triforce, but only Zelda knows its location. Aiding the prince in these efforts is an especially shady-looking magician — unnamed, like the prince himself — who threatens Zelda with a sleeping spell. (By the way, a psychologist with a penchant for pop culture could give a good take on the symbolism of the refined prince casting a hideous, demonic shadow.) Zelda still refuses and the magician, as promised, puts her under with an incantation so nasty that he drops dead on the spot. Finally remorseful, the prince locks Zelda in a room for safekeeping until someone can break the spell.

I like that story. It sets up why Zelda is napping for the duration of Zelda II, and it also gives a hint as to what the hell the franchise’s title means. (Allegedly, the prince decreed that all daughters born to the royal family should be named Zelda as a means of reminding everyone of the tragedy that befell his sister. You know, because of him.) What makes me scratch my head, however, is the prince’s look. Doesn’t he seem… a little young? a little bratty? a little effete? Why make him so much smaller than Zelda? Why give him such elegant curls? Why give him just the one visible tooth? When he could easily have been an imposing figure, why make him an angry, pubescent fop? Especially when the actual hero, Link, isn’t exactly a swaggering portrait of masculinity.

I mean, he can swing a mean sword, sure, but what kind of a guy wears jerkins and coordinates their tights with their boots? Also, I’d like to point out that this is the Zelda game where Link can transform into a fairy — wings, wand, ladyhair, pink Tinkerbell dress and all — in order to squeeze through keyholes.

The image of Prince What’s-His-Name sticks out so much because I remember playing the game through and never seeing this little shit. Honestly, he could be long dead, because who knows how long Zelda has been sleeping. But I was still disappointed. I really wanted to see him in action and find out how his appearance compared with his reputation. No, scratch that — I secretly wanted some kind of two-player co-op function in which you could play as this whip-cracking sassbucket, countering Link’s various special moves with such character-appropriate special moves as pouting, speaking cutting insults, ordering his butler to hit people and sulking while running a jewel comb through his silky locks. Now that would be an pixelly, eight-bit memory that this guy would like to reflect on.

For the record, the depiction of the prince isn’t the only bit of Nintendo-issued Zelda II art to take some creative license. For example, here’s how the booklet depicts Helmet Head, the game’s second boss:

And here’s what the same monster looks like in the game:

It’s not as show-stopping, is it? But I feel safe stating that the angriest royal dandy in video game-dom would have amped up the drama.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

When That Little Something Extra Isn’t a Parasitic Twin

Okay, a hypothetical: I am a tradesperson. You arrive at my tradespeople shop and give me money in exchange for my goods. Let’s say they’re, like, custom-made, natural fiber condoms, from like plants or something. I am so grateful for your patronage that I fulfill the order and toss in an additional spun cotton condom free of charge, as a thank you. Now what do you call my little gift? A baker’s dozen? No! It’s not baked goods, dummy. It’s condoms. And I’m just referring to that one little extra bit, not the whole order, thirteenth non-donut condom inclusive.

A visual aid, if I may:

Okay, shit. That makes it looks I am actually talking about donuts when I just said I was talking about condoms. Are natural fiber condoms even a thing? Fuck it. Here’s the stupid word of the week.
lagniappe (LAN-yap) — noun: a small gift given to a customer by a merchant at the time of purchase.
So how about that? This thing has a name and that name is lagniappe, which, yes, is fun to say and sounds sort of like a magical something that Bjork likes to think lives in her garden. There’s a bit of a story, etymologically speaking, and that’s the story about how the term came to English from Louisiana French, which in turn came from American Spanish (la ñapa, “the gift,” which stared as the Quechua yapa, “something added” or “gift.”)

And that’s fine and good, but I’m more amused by imagining other industries that could benefit from the implementation of the lagniappe. Like when you pay to have something professionally gift-wrapped, for example, the wrapper could kindly also drape your hand in coordinating paper when you’re not looking. Or when you hire a hitman and he explains to you, after the deed is done, that on the walk home he also slapped a crossing guard. Or when you buy a puppy and you bring it home and you’re so happy with your young and new and perfect puppy and then IT GIVES BIRTH and you say “Why oh why! And what the HELL is going on at that pet shop?!?!” But hey — you have free puppies, and maybe they’re not pregnant as well. Maybe.

Previous words of the week after the jump.
Word nerd? Subscribe to Back of the Cereal Box’s word-related posts by clicking here.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The “TIXE” Sign

Does an upside-down exit sign mean it’s actually an entrance sign?

Or is it telling you that you have to take the exit by walking on your hands?

Surely, it must mean something more than a construction worker who installed it, saw his error and said “Fuck it. Close enough.”


Thursday, August 25, 2011

With “It” Being a Horn-Like Skull Crest

A departure in my little “Who Wore It Better?” series:

It’s a departure because with all the previous comparisons, the celebrities involved had little idea they would look like She-Hulk or Grimace or whatever. But I’d bet good money Grace Jones donned her little cassowary costume knowing full well how it made her look — and she may have even chosen the cassowary because it’s the only member of the animal kingdom as strangely beautiful and as violently deadly as she is.

The Perfect Name for a Giant Venus Fly Trap

In writing posts like the one I put up on Tuesday — you know, the one on Looney Tunes lady boners — I always wonder if I’m overstepping in that Engilsh major way and reading too much into something that simply isn’t all that deep.

But then, in looking for the video clips for that post, I stumbled onto this one: Batman fighting Poison Ivy in the relatively recent series Batman: The Brave and the Bold. The comic book nerd in me liked the fact that Batman was socking Poison Ivy’s henchgirls alongside the little known superoheroine Black Orchid. However, the pervy pop culture junkie in me was even more impressed with the name Poison Ivy gives her giant Venus Fly Trap pet…

It’s Georgia. As in Georgia “Can’t Stop Paintin’ Flowers That Look Like Gynes” O’Keefe.

So thanks, whoever wrote this joke. You’ve validated some of my theories about the stuff I watched when I was a impressionable, young lad.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Pied Piper Comes for Elm Street

PREFACE: No, don’t worry. This isn’t a review of a bad movie that came out last year. I’m going somewhere with this one.

When Freddy Krueger swore to come back and exact his vengeance on the children, I’m sure the angry PTA meeting that torched him didn’t expect for his return to come in the form of a terrible movie years after the character had lost any shred of cultural relevancy. But that’s exactly how he struck back in the 2010 remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street. In some respects, this movie fares better than the later Elm Street sequels, but I would actually say it’s overall worse by virtue of the fact that the people creating it drained the story of the blood that made the original ones so interesting. Simply put, it lacks the perverse humor. And I realize that Freddy’s tendency for one-liners ultimately killed the original series, too, but in the beginning it at least made him more interesting than the Jason Voorheeses stalking their prey without any hint that they were enjoying their work. Freddy, at least, loves his job, and you have to hand it to someone who finds his true calling.

So that’s that: I didn’t like this movie, I shouldn’t have Netflixed it, I in fact can’t remember why I Netflixed it and I only watched it because it was there, in its tidy red envelope, daring me to push off sleep for two hours. And yeah, I slept just fine. This new Nightmare — not to be confused with 1994’s New Nightmare — wasn’t scary.

However, I have to hand it to the writers that they at least made a parallel between Freddy Krueger and a literary character who, upon close inspection, is damn creepy: the Pied Piper. The connection is made directly; e teacher is shown reading the story to the children whom Freddy would later kill in their teen years. But it is a valid comparison. Both Krueger and the Piper get wronged by the adults of a community who underestimate their target’s ability to exact revenge. And both men ultimately focus their anger on the children, the loss of whom seriously undermines their respective communities’ abilities to survive. And if you think that the Elm Street movies are unique in having the avenger kill off the children, know that you may have been read a sanitized version of the Pied Piper story. In the darker versions, the kids are never heard from again, in the darker yet they’re drowned in the same river where the piper exterminated the rats, and in the darkest they meet even more grisly ends. (Well, it’s certainly more direct than waiting to kill them in their dreams.)

But this should raise a question: Why the hell do we have this story? (I mean the Pied Piper of Hamelin — the Freddy Krueger story persists because New Line Cinema likes money, obvs.) But isn’t this an especially fucked-up story, even for a fairy tale? And why would this be something people have been repeating for hundreds of years? Well, it apparently has a real-life basis. Wikipedia states that the town record for Hamelin town features an entry from 1384 that ominously states, “It is 100 years since our children left.” The following have been suggested as possible explanations for why a specific town would have a story about the children leaving. Some to consider:
  • Was it an epidemic? Symbolically, it seems obvious, given how the story links the children with rats, and rats have historically spread disease, but apparently the rats haven’t always been part of the story. I have to say that this fact puzzles me, since without the rats it’s basically just a story about the kids being murdered by a weirdo in a clown suit. Oh wait, isn’t that It?
  • Was it the Children’s Crusade? You know, that time a bunch of kids allegedly went to the most Muslim-y part of the Middle East to convert people to Christianity? If that doesn’t already sound like history’s worst idea ever, none of the children who left on this mission converted a single Muslim, for most never left Europe and many just got sold into slavery. Gosh, times were different when people did all sorts of crazy stuff based on some silly misinterpretation about how Jesus wanted them to spend their lives.
  • Was it a psychopathic pedophile? That’s what this one guy guessed in his book about the Middle Ages. (I hope he wonders if all of mid-millennium European history was actually caused by psychopathic pedophiles!)
  • Did they wander into the hills outside Hamelin, where something horrible happened to them? Maybe. According to one fifthteenth-century poem detailing the events surrounding the Pied Piper incident, the children may have wandered into the Koppen, or hills. But the phrase could be translated variously as meaning that they literally went into the hills, that they were “lost to the hills” in a euphemistic way, that the kids “lost their heads” (again in a euphemistic way), or that someone cut all of their heads off. This is why poetry is maybe not the best way to communicate news. I feel like if more than a hundred children had their heads lopped off in some spooky woods, that should be the thrust of the story, not the fact that the man who plied the flute wore multicolored clothing. (That’s what pied means, by the way.) The story should be called “The Time They Found Those One Hundred Missing Kids, and Then They Found Their Heads, and That’s Why We Don’t Go Into the Fucking Hills Anymore.”
  • Or did the kids simply move away? This is by far my favorite theory — and a completely understandable one on the part of the emigrating children, because who wants to live in the fucking rat capital of Germany?
In closing, I’d like to say that I don’t know whether to thank the reboot Nightmare on Elm Street or to laugh in its face. Either way, it tried to scare me and ended up only teaching about European history. And by “teaching me about European history,” I of course mean “sending me to Wikipedia, where I read enough to satisfy my curiosity and did not pursue the matter further, as is the current custom.”

Monday, August 22, 2011

There’s a Green to Be Seen With

This is Ken Nordine’s spoken word poem “Green,” from his album Colors, where he waxes poetic (but not in poetry form) about every color from Red to Blue to Ecru to Puce. I like these. They toddle towards beat poetry parody but never quite stumble over that line, and this will not be the only video representation of Nordine’s work that I will be posting here.

I’m starting with “Green” not because it’s the best but because it’s the first of Nordine’s color ditties that I ever heard. The later ones get interesting.

“We should spend the better part of our time, yours and mine, with a green like this.”

Encyclopedia Drew and the Mystery of the Communicative Thais

I don’t speak Thai, so I’m really curious to know what has gotten this motley crew so excited.

My guess? Hemorrhoid balm.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

I Need to Talk to You About Your Saliva Problem

It’s a fine word whose meaning can be guessed just by the way it sounds — like fizz or waffle or Filipino. The word of the week is one of these.
slubberdegullion (SLUHB-er-dee-GUHLL-ee-un) — noun: 1. a filthy, slobbering person; a solven, villain or louse. 2. A worthless person. 3. A drunk and/or an alcoholic.
A visual aid:

World Wide Words points out that even if you don’t know what it means, “nobody hearing it could possibly consider it a compliment.” It’s a valid point; whether you conclude that slubberdegullion means “individual who is disliked for some reason” or “tiny organ that malfunctions and consequently fills its host body with toxic pus,” you know to take offense when the word is applied to you. (I cannot imagine someone interpreting anything aside from these two meanings.) Though used all too rarely today, the word has been making members of the English-speaking world feel bad about their prodigious saliva creation since 1610, according to Etymonline. World Wide Words notes that slubberdegullion once appeared in print in the company of a great many other strange but appropriately mean-sounding words in Urquhart’s 1653 translation of Gargantua and Pantagruel. Rarely has such a list been compiled, I’d guess, except maybe by a Simpsons writer looking to compile a list of insults for Mr. Burns to call Homer. (Okay, fine, I’ve been watching The Simpsons this weekend.) Anyway, read this:
The bun-sellers or cake-makers were in nothing inclinable to their request; but, which was worse, did injure them most outrageously, called them prattling gabblers, lickorous gluttons, freckled bittors, mangy rascals, shite-a-bed scoundrels, drunken roysters, sly knaves, drowsy loiterers, slapsauce fellows, slabberdegullion druggels, lubberly louts, cozening foxes, ruffian rogues, paltry customers, sycophant-varlets, drawlatch hoydens, flouting milksops, jeering companions, staring clowns, forlorn snakes, ninny lobcocks, scurvy sneaksbies, fondling fops, base loons, saucy coxcombs, idle lusks, scoffing braggarts, noddy meacocks, blockish grutnols, doddipol-joltheads, jobbernol goosecaps, foolish loggerheads, flutch calf-lollies, grouthead gnat-snappers, lob-dotterels, gaping changelings, codshead loobies, woodcock slangams, ninny-hammer flycatchers, noddypeak simpletons, turdy gut, shitten shepherds, and other suchlike defamatory epithets; saying further, that it was not for them to eat of these dainty cakes, but might very well content themselves with the coarse unranged bread, or to eat of the great brown household loaf.
It’s worth noting that Urquhart uses the alternate spelling slabberdegullion and uses the word as an adjective, but it’s even more worth nothing the adjective shite-a-bed exists, because you may have not been using it enough so far in you life. Today is the day that changes, lest I have reason to call you a turdy-gutted milksop.

Previous words of the week after the jump.
Word nerd? Subscribe to Back of the Cereal Box’s word-related posts by clicking here.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Drs. Fish & Fish, Dermatology

You’re rich. But you have grown weary of arranging your money into variously sized piles and counting the full-length portraits of yourself wearing period costumes. Yes, even cosmetic enhancement has lost its dazzle. After all, when you finally perfected the angle of that stubborn left eyelid, you had no use for the medical perfection as it exists in Western culture. But it was then that you got weird. You began exploring the most exotic treatments money can buy — diamond-tip abrasion swabs, jacuzzi suits, tongue-lengthening massages, protein emulsions made of your own fingernails — but even then you could not be stopped. Your need to spend compelled you to rope more into your madness — more people, more services, more… species.

Then you heard of the doctor fish, the Garra ruff native to certain Middle Eastern river basins. You felt cautiously optimistic. After all you’d been burned before on that basset hound-led primal scream class. But then you researched, and then you learned something that made you throw out your towels and soap, for you would never need them again. No, not once more would you have to pain yourself to clean your body. Ever.

That’s what the fish would do now.

Yes, the doctor fish you already had being shipped to your house, and they would soon populate your outdoor freshwater rock pool, where they’d be happy with you… when they ate your scabs.

Oh, sure, it wasn’t just scabs. It was a veritable you-banquet — your scabs, yes, but also all manner of dead skin cells. If you had dandruff, it would be like an appetizer to the bounty that was all the pieces of you that you didn’t need and that you’d been carelessly casting off on the ground, where no fish at all had the opportunity to eat them. Yes, you had ushered in a new age into your life — and the lives of your loved ones, if they would only have listened to you! — that so improved on the previous state that you now split your personal timeline between the period before ichthyotherapy and the newer, better, more fish-focused golden age. And you were happy, so happy, and it didn’t bothered you in the least that everyone else simply knew you as that crazy pervert who didn’t think he had to wash himself because he instead wanted to let hundreds of tiny fish nibble all his bits.

And if my description of doctor fish was too much for you, you really don’t want to click this link to see the little guys working on a pair of feet whose toe hairs are so weirdly long that they literally span the toe and reach out to touch the adjoining toes, as if the foot itself is trying to build some sort of hair-bridge from Market Piggy to Wee Wee Wee on the far side of town.

The Other “L” Word, Lavatory

Is it awkward if the best thing about the new iam8bit show was the Scott Pilgrim wallpaper in the bathroom?

No, of course it’s not awkward, because admission was free.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

With “It” Being a Pillbox-Style Hat (or Reasonable Substitute)

I had to. I just had to. A coincidence like this doesn’t just happen in nature and not expect you to take notice, you know what I mean?

Monday, August 15, 2011

It’s Brown Because It’s Green, Stupid

This landscaping company is so passive-aggressive that it actually printed signs that blame its professional shortcomings on government regulations. 

Essentially: “You don’t like seeing shitty, dry foliage on your walk to work? Blame those goddamn environmentalists.” But I say it’s a cop-out to make the signs green-colored. If they really wanted to drive the point home, they’d make the sign brown — and shaped like big ol’ spool of feces.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Grow Up, Little Blog

A technical question for my blog readers, who may well be more technically savvy than I am.

I’ve had this blog at this URL for some time, and I feel now that I can do better than a URL based on the old AIM screen name I used back in the day when I actually used AIM. So I could change the URL, but I don’t want to nullify all the links currently leading here. So I’m wondering this: Is it possible to start a new URL — maybe something a little more grown-up but maybe still even something that just reflects the title of the blog — and post content both there and at the old URL? Like, basically have a mirror site, I guess? I’d use the new, improved URL as the official site, but people could still access content by typing what’s gotten them here in the past.

Is this possible? Is this even a thing?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Cracks Are Deeper / On Every Plate

And this will be all for today: This band is the latest to be ruling my mind. May I present the band that shares its name with the Latvian goddess of light?


 It’s been too long since I’d been hearing some singer’s voice in my head even when I’m not listening to this person’s song. And hipster pretension aside, this video looks like a dream. I was chest deep in that floorhole once.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

H.R. Giger’s Underwater Chandelier

I actually posted this back in 2008, but the only video of it I had back then was a horrible embeddable clip from CNN that now, unless I’m mistaken, only plays a promo for Anderson Cooper 360. (Did you know they call it 360 because Anderson Cooper has one leg shorter than the other and when he slow dances — which is, like, all the time — he makes little circles?) But now it turns out there’s a website for YouTubes, and they have lots of videos films, including this one.


Isn’t it pretty? It’s the elbow squid, which is a horrible thing with a name that makes you fear elbow macaroni and maybe also your own elbows even though you use them. We didn’t know about the elbow squid really until the 90s, but now, whenever we wade into the ocean, we do so with the knowledge that we’re drifting ever nearer to these horrible creatures. Of course, if you’re toes touch one, you die instantly. But it still hurts.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Just D Chords and Luxurious Slow Motion

For the better part of the last year, I’ve been meditating with some regularity. I won’t lie: David Lynch and his enthusiastic advocacy of transcendental meditation are largely responsible. And though I can’t say that I’ve been reaping the benefits of a newly untapped source of creativity in the way Lynch says he does, meditation has greatly helped my stress in ways that literally nothing else ever has. To be honest, I’m not sure what I’m doing qualifies as transcendental, exactly. I don’t care. It works. And my experience with it this evening was so dramatic that I decided I would be selfish not to share.

Today, after a fairly stressful day at work, I got home and meditated for twice as long as I normally do and significantly longer than I ever have before. Practically speaking, the important result is that I don’t feel mentally dead and I’m now able to have a productive evening. That’s not incredibly interesting, I know, but hear me out on this. My path to a more positive mental and emotional state took a strange detour, and during my meditation I had a beautiful, strange experience: a sensation I can only describe as a combination of (1) sitting at the bottom of a pool, having the sounds of the dry world above you being completely muffled into white noise, and (2) standing in a dark room but not being bothered in the least by the lack of light. In the way you can sense the layout of a room even when you close your eyes, I could feel out this space to the point that I actually felt like I was in a physical place. And I had all the time in the world to “be” there and figure it out. This had never happened before. More than anything I’ve read in books on meditation, it reminded me of a lucid dream — an uneventful one, sure, but I think the it was the lack of action that was so beneficial.

I can’t explain how it worked, but I feel better, and I feel even better about feeling better knowing that the solution to the problem came from me and not an external remedy. You might be amazed to find out what your mind, once unfettered, can do on its own, without your conscious permission. It can make you a better version of yourself, but it can also take you… somewhere.

I’d always thought that those cloistered monks and nuns who spend all their hours in constant prayer were somehow not doing enough, or at least not helping as much as the ones who get out in the world and actively work to make the community better. Today, as a result of meditation, I actually get it. I can totally see how someone in that state could have a religious experience.

P.S. Am not crazy. I swear.

Laser Ghost! (May Not Contain Ghosts or Lasers)

There was a game called Laser Ghost. It came out in 1989 for the Sega Master System. The box art looked like this:

I don’t know what the title Laser Ghost is supposed to make me think of, exactly, aside from maybe a modern-day electroclash band that I wouldn’t like, but this box art represents none of the qualities I’d associate with either lasers or ghosts. Based on the title, I’d hope for some kickass fusion of scifi and horror. Instead, the box art offers me no explicit ghosts but only rather benign-looking floating skulls, a paintin’ with movin’ eyeballs, and hanged man and a monster car. No wonder that little blonde girl torched the place: Blatant false advertising pisses me off to the point of arson too.

 From reading the entry on Wikipedia, I know that Laser Ghost is actually a shooting game in which the player fires an NES Zapper-like light gun at monsters on screen. (I also know that the game’s plot involves the protagonist girl fighting her way out of the pits of hell in order to reclaim her soul. Again, not really what the box art would make you expect. And sort of like Poltergeist re-envisioned though pixels and from the perspective of Heather O’Roarke’s character.) Even the actually gameplay doesn’t come close to matching what I thought the game would have been like. Instead, it’s simultaneously darker and more lighthearted.

From the original arcade version:


And the Master System version, which was apparently made by people who hadn’t played the arcade version and instead just pieced it together from an explanation they heard while drunk:


Honestly, I’m a little taken with the box art, I realize now. Yes, that’s it. It’s not the art that’s wrong. It’s the title and the gameplay. Here, then, are titles that I feel would better fit the game depicted in the box art:

Quinceanera of the Damned 

What Happens to Little Girls Who Have Naughty Thoughts

Slightly Atypical Sleepover 

Don’t Piss Off Tiffany Henderson on Her Birthday 

Grandma’s House Is Weird Sometimes

Puberty: The Video Game 

Sandy Felt Responsible for Her Parents’ Divorce and Then Had a Weird Dream 

Now I want to play one of these games.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Dueling Samurai and Neoclassical Painting

I’ve had this rip from the background of Samurai Shodown 2 sitting on my desk for a while, and I’ve hesitated to post it just because I couldn’t think of anything clever to say about it. It’s the background of the stage at Versailles, and the painting hanging on the far wall depicts the cast of the first game — with French fencer Charlotte literally getting highlighted — taking on the main villain of the second game. Then I realized I didn’t really care if I had a justification for posting this. Just the fact that it exists was enough — that someone creating art for the game thought this might be clever and then arranged the pixels in a manner that approximated this kind of painting.

An enlargeable close-up of the painting itself:

And a detail of the scary lady, Mizuki, who is notable for being one of the first female big bads ever in a fighting game:

I do wonder how this cast was selected. I mean, clearly whoever designed this bit of art put some time into making it look good. But then why chose this particular combination of characters. The red-masked guy on the far left — a fighter from “Green Hell,” which is what the game’s creators thought was a reasonably named nation to locate in South America — isn’t actually in the second game. And yet he’s standing with the cast, taking on the scary devil lady who only appears in the second game. Weird. Also, Mizuki who never actually looks this demonic in the game itself, but I guess the “painter” is taking creative license. Still it’s interesting that the painting depicts events that haven’t technically happened yet rather than commemorating, say, the end battle of the first Samurai Shodown.

Before I drop the subject, I’ll say that one other stage in the game does a commendable job of creating not only an atmosphere but in fact the atmosphere that sums up the essence of the game. It’s this Japanese stage, which belongs to one of the game’s villains and which reminds me of a spaghetti western in spite of how very Japanese it looks:

Couple it with the background music — howling winds and howling flutes and the occasional howling dog — and you have a great example for how well a video game can create a mood as well as why a video game can create a mood in a way that no other medium can.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

My Money — for Nothing Interesting

My debit card was stolen, by which I mean that I probably lost it on the way back from a beer run on Friday when it simply fell out of my pocket. Well, that or I paused in the middle of the street to toss it in the air Mary Tyler Moore-style and then promptly forgot that I did so. I’m not clear which scenario is more likely. I make strange decisions sometimes.

Regardless of the circumstances or my ability to turn worlds on with my smiles, the debit card made its way into someone else’s hands, and by the time I realized this, it had two charges on it: one at CVS and one at Kmart. The bank is quickly working to nuke these boring little frauds into nonexistence, but can I say that I’m slightly disappointed that my thief chose to spend my money in such an uninteresting way? Really? $80 worth at CVS and Kmart? What’s the most interesting item you can buy at either of these paces — Trojans and Ronrico? A “personal massage device”? I mean, at least if the charges were to a sex shop or a go-kart racing track, I’d know that he or she put my money toward something fun. I suppose, however, that my thief could only use the card at chains that don’t require a PIN, which brings up a good question: Why the hell don’t they? I mean, why should they bypass an essentially built-in security feature? If it’s for the convenience of the customer, I (a customer sometimes, when I have money left over after the thieves have their go) would be completely fine with having to punch in my code during ever purchase if it made it harder for a person to use someone else’s ATM card, even if I was just buying Trojans, Ronrico and a personal massage device.

Now, I would never just steal someone else’s money. That’s an unequivocally shitty thing to do. But let’s say I did swipe another person’s ATM card and used it for my own devices. Presuming that I would probably get caught, I would use this free money to paint a fantastic portrait of myself: sky-diving, jet skis, the most expensive watercolor set that money can buy, and a round-trip ticket to Prague. However, because I’m also that Hollywood sort of fraudeur who manages to teach his victims a life lesson, I’d also use the card to donate to those indefatigably good organization like the American Cancer Society and the Center for Missing Children, just so they’d have to look over the charges one by one and ask themselves, “Do I really want to cancel that donation to the poor, little cancer children? Why didn’t I donate that money myself? What kind of life am I leading?” And then when they realized that I opened their eyes to their shallow existence, they’d forgive me, call of the cops and kiss me in front of a fountain. Because that’s how you know when something works out for the better: fountain kisses.

In closing, please stop spending my money.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

This 3D Thing Has Gotten Out of Hand

So I had to buy a lighter. Why? I need to burn things, nosy. And have you tried burning a giant pile of legal forms in an empty lot on a windy day using matches? It just prolongs the entire process and I have deadlines that must be met. But yeah, I bought a lighter and didn’t have much choice in the matter, so I consequently ended up with one that bore an eagle design not unlike what you might see painted onto the back of an RV from Wyoming. Whatever. It burned those papers.

And… an RV from Wyoming.

Then I got home. It turns out the lighter didn’t just have an a patriotic design. The art was three-dimensional!

See, the “3D” advertised on the packaging actually means “covered in bumps.” Because that’s what the third dimension is: bumpy. Like Avatar. Totally fucking bumpy, that Avatar. Yes, bumps are technically three-dimensional, but so is paper in that same technical sense, and I’m somehow not fooled into thinking that this eagle is flying toward me, from the lighter, specifically only in pinprick-sized formations.

I guess traction-enhancing gripping bumps are not very “now,” are they?

The Back Alley / Ex-Guru

But screw anything else indicative about the lives on Los Angeles residents. The alley behind my apartment offers the best peek I get at the people with whom I share this messy city. Now let me state right now: It’s not that kind of back alley. It’s just a simple stretch with uneven pavement, some the pits always full of mystery water. But back passing through this space at night, lit-up windows show me people cooking (steaming up the very glass that’s letting me see in), people doing dishes (with clean, satisfying porcelain clinks), people in the midst of heated phone conversations (kicking up a thunderstorm about who said some unbelievable thing). Only once can I remember hearing somebody cry, though I couldn’t tell where it was actually coming from and I assume it was from one of the darkened rooms and why shouldn’t it have been for good reason?

I can enjoy these little scenes furtively as I pass from there to home. More than anything, as far as signs that I should have faith in my neighbors, I hear bits of what they’re watching to take them away from Los Angeles: the opening theme to Veronica Mars (we are indeed not friends anymore), the thudding soundtrack to Inception (I had to see that movie by myself), that album I’ve not listened to since I got here (a certain hold on me). Their abominable driving and parking habits notwithstanding, what’s I’m glimpsing of their interior lives proves that these can’t be terrible people, right?


She means nothing to me now / I tell myself that every single day