Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Circle Cubes

Apparently in the last word in the name Bed Bath & Beyond refers to the sections of the store in which geometry is bent into shapes impossible anywhere else on Earth.

Question: Would it not be dangerous to bring such an anomaly into the house?

The Giant Rabbit of Long Beach

Given that David Lynch’s immediate follow-up to Mulholland Drive was a short film series about man-sized, anthropomorphic rabbits, this is actually as sensible a thing to post now as it would be ever. There is a giant rabbit in Long Beach. I saw him myself, sitting in the front yard of a house on 3rd Street. I took a picture, but I fear the limitations of the iPhone camera don’t really convey just how large this rabbit is.

It’s not a trick of perspective: From toe to ear, he is taller than I am, and I’m just under six feet. He’s on Google Street View, in case you want to examine from a different angle. See?

I can only imagine that whoever lives there placed the statue in the front yard because they felt too few people were driving distractedly in their neighborhood. It’s that much of an eye-catcher, this fucking rabbit.

You know what? Screw it — here’s David Lynch’s Rabbits.

Warning: It gets weirder than you might expect.

Monday, January 30, 2012

With “It” Being a Very David Lynchy Sense of Hollywood Tragedy

So there’s a singer named Lana Del Rey. Perhaps you’ve heard of her?

In the interest of full disclosure, I didn’t put this one together until Spencer alerted me to a particularly insightful comment on a Del Rey-centric Gawker post. But yeah — now that you mention it, she’s like a character who spiraled straight out of Mulholland Drive, hobbled onstage and started singing a little dirge ditty.

Consider this her name: Lana Del Rey, with the first name presumably intending to evoke the old Hollywood glamour of Lana Turner and the two-part last name skewing very Los Angeles — the Del Rey neighborhood of Culver City or Marina del Rey or Playa del Rey over on the far west side. That’s Lynchy in itself, if you think about his Los Angeles-focused Mulholland Drive period, but it’s also a trick he’s tried before: the FBI agent that Chris Isaak plays in Fire Walk With Me is Chet Desmond — half jazz musician Chet Baker and half Sunset Boulevard character Norma Desmond. (And that’s all ignoring those Hollywood stand-ins for Los Angeles, Chinatown’s Hollis and Evelyn Mulwray.)

In one sense, you could view Lana Del Rey as a Camilla Rhodes figure — the blonde on the top left, the girl whose dreams of show business success come true for no good reason. Like the character in Mulholland Drive, it has simply been deemed that “this is the girl,” without any real explanation. She’s selected by the powers that be to be the one basking in the spotlight instead of anyone else who might be more deserving of the attention. But on the other hand, there’s also a sense that Lana Del Rey is a version of Mulholland Drive’s Rebekah Del Rio — the woman on the bottom with the painted-on tears, the singer whose entire persona is an illusion. Think about it this way: In the Club Silencio scene in Mulholland Drive, Betty and Rita watch Rebekah sing on stage, and they’re incredibly moved by the performance. Before she can finishing singing her Spanish-language take on “Crying,” however, she falls to the ground, as if dead. The song continues anyway. Her whole thing — her presence on stage, her schtick as a singer, her song itself — doesn’t really need her. She’s just one part of an elaborate show. In my head, anyway, this works because her performance on Saturday Night Live revealed that the physical existence of Lana Del Rey, live and in person, pales in comparison to the reputation that precedes her. Watching her fumble through “Video Games” on SNL was sort of like watching her slump over dead on live TV, only we all knew that the song would keep playing no matter how lifeless she seemed.

Aside from all that, the lighting alone in this one shot I’ve found would totally make David Lynch smile. And, of course, if it turned out that Lana Del Rey were both Camilla Rhodes and Rebekeh Del Rio at the same time? That would make David Lynch even happier.

David Lynch, previously:

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Good Day at Work

Mere hours after I rediscovered “Missing Missy” and recalled that I too find a great deal of satisfaction in annoying people in creative ways, the opportunity to do exactly that presented itself. Work friend Sara asked if I could Photoshop these two images together for a friend’s birthday:

I agreed and shortly thereafter sent Sara the following composite.

This was not what she had in mind. Clarification: “Can you instead put my friend’s face on the old lady’s body?” I agreed and shortly thereafter sent Sara the following composite:

Sara didn’t feel that the Creature from the Black Lagoon added all that much to the arrangement and asked me if I could just Photoshop only her friend’s head and only onto the old woman’s body. I agreed and shortly thereafter sent Sara the following composite:

She said that it made her friend look like a monster, and then she asked if I could just “do it right.” I understood that this friend clearly meant a lot to Sara if she was wanting be so particular about this little birthday note. Personally, i thought the friend should know how much Sara cares about her. Shortly thereafter I sent Sara the following composite:

Sara didn’t like it. She then explained that she just wanted to give this to her friend, an avowed fan of French bulldogs, as a little way of celebrating her birthday, but I wasn’t being helpful. (Also, I think maybe Sara wished I had chosen a different photo of her.) Understanding the situation now on a deeper level, I asked myself, “What would Sara’s friend really want?” Shortly thereafter I sent Sara the following composite:

And Sara actually liked it — and that’s funny because I had the “real” image waiting for her the whole time, but there was now no need for it. Here it is:

I mean, after all this work, I had to do something with it. Happy birthday, French bulldog-loving girl, whoever you are. (Between you and me, I think you looked best in the third iteration.) I may yet print out the fourth iteration and put it in a frame on Sara’s desk.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


I guess today will be an unusually cat-centric day on this blog, but it’s for a good cause. Mere days after I told my friend Stephanie that I miss having pets, a kitten presented itself to her. Alas, she already has a cat (and he’s rather territorial), while I just don’t think I’m at a point in my life at which I could be a good pet owner. Thus, I’m doing my best to find this cat a home.

Just look at this freaking cat? I mean — right? What a kickass package of kitten you’d be getting here. If that’s not incentive enough, please watch this video of the kitten able demonstrating her cuteness, helplessness and tininess with a series of plaintive meows.

She’s mewling for you! But will you be the one to save her from this bathroom dungeon of despair? Seriously — if you’re in the greater Los Angeles area and needing an additional feline presence in your life, contact me.

The Cat Breed Whose Name Must Be Whispered

Did you know that there exists a breed of cat with Corgi-like proportions? Literally, it looks that the great maker got distracted during these cats’ construction and simply attached the feet straight to the torso, It’s the Munchkin — yes, that’s the actual name — and I have to imagine that it’s just not capable of the high-jumping acrobatics that its non-mutant-legged cousins.

Gaze, if you dare, upon this unfortunate creature.

So unfortunate! It cannot jump to the highest, comfiest seats and dandelions tickle its nose as it strolls through the meadow!

But here’s the thing: The shortest-legged, squidgiest of the Munchkin cats has a name… and that name is Rug Hugger. I would have trouble saying this name out loud, because to me it sounds like some horrible offensively name for one minority group or another. I’m not sure which.

Rug Hugger.

Rug Hugger!

You lousy, misbegotten Rug Hugger.

Maybe I should just yell this in crowds and see who gets mad?

Other disturbing cats:

Monday, January 23, 2012

Myra / Myron

I found a note jotted down on the back page of a copy of Myra Breckenridge.

In case you can’t read it, it says, “How does a child’s irrational fear of everything and its irrational confidence that things will be taken care of live side by side?” I did buy the copy of the book, and I’m eager to find out if reading it will explain what it means.

Super Mario, King of Japan

A little nuggets of awesomeness hidden in Super Mario Bros. 3, and all but invisible to American children who didn’t appreciate geographical Easter Eggs back in 1988.

So the third world, the seaside one…

That last island, where the final castle is, before you fight Wendy…

Bears a striking resemblance so a certain other chain of islands…

And corresponding to almost exactly to where the castle appears on the Super Mario Bros. 3 map is Kyoto, where Nintendo is headquartered. And, as if to clinch it, the king of this particular castle (once you have rescued him)…

Just happens to bear a striking resemblance to the hero of the game and the guy who made the company a financial success.

Just an amazing little Easter egg that I didn’t appreciate until twenty-four years after I first saved a little kingdom of islands from Wendy O. Koopa. I’d always wondered why this one king looked so much like Mario and thought it was a strange decision on the part of the design team to make him look this way. Now I get why.


Other noteworthy Super Mario-related posts:

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Watercress Girl Revisited

In looking for images of the watercress girl  for that last post, I found this particularly great vintage book cover featuring a watercress girl if not the watercress girl.

I meant the Henry Mayhew character. Regardless, this book cover is as probably as visually appealing as any watercress girl has ever been made to look. Such is the fate of a character who’s literally one basket of wilted greens away from selling herself on the street.

It looks like everything in my elementary school library.

A Field Guide to Street Children

How often have you batted a tiny hand away from the moneysacks that hang from your belt, shouting “Be away from me, ye wastrels”?

Have you ever stopped, mid-shout, and wondered if you were using the correct word for the type of impish chield-fiend you’ve encountered? Fear not! In time for your next back-alley stroll, I’ve found the word for you!
tatterdemalion (TA-ter-dee-MAYL-yen or TA-ter-dee-MAH-lee-un) — noun: a person dressed in ragged clothing. adjective: 1. ragged or disreputable in appearance. 2. being in a decayed state or condition.
All in all, it’s a wonderful word that makes light of the target’s station in life whilst simultaneously boasting enough syllables to give the speaker an air of learned superiority. Really, how better to put one in their place that to slander them with a word they won’t (and can’t) know? The etymology is unclear, with the first part most like coming from the word tatter but perhaps being related to the word Tartar — referring to one of several historically disadvantaged or dangerous peoples causing or receiving trouble in Eurasia — with that last part being simply a “fantastic second element,” according to Etymonline, whatever that means.

According to a system that I just now made up, tatterdemalion is actually the kindest word one could use to describe a poor child whose family made the unfortunate decision to be poor. On its end of the “Young Unfortunates” spectrum are the wee ones who are more likely to elicit pity or paternal affection than other the other ones, who are more likely to stab you with a penknife after being paid a mere nickel by one of your longtime social rivals. Let’s have a look at the various gradations, so as to prepare yourself for your next visit to an orphanage, an urchin farm or the underground bowels of that factory you secretly own.

(rumpled in a way that you’d consider adoption, Mr. Drummond-style)

(you don’t necessarily blame the child for its under-nourished condition)

(appealing in his poorness, yet lively enough to cause trouble)

(a ragamuffin who has somehow obtained the amount of daily calories that a wealthy child would get and is therefore unpredictable)

(the child has made it into the house and his mischief has a sinister edge)

Hobo Jr.
(the child’s conduct is wine-propelled and his mirth is just as destructive as his malice.)

(crafty enough to use his unfortunate condition to catch you off guard; keep walking to avoid the ambush)

(any young person in the company of two or more poor children; v. dangerous)

(rubs his hand grime into your wounds, ensuring your death)

Please update your discussions of the your neighborhood watercress salesgirl accordingly.

Previous words of the week after the jump.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Stage Directions for a Play About the Lives of Housecats

[breaks eye contact to stare at wall]

[blinks coldly]

[looks down at paws; maintains gaze for three hours]

[much yawning]

[raises right leg above left ear]

[licks own paw with great interest]

[rolls over to display supple belly]

[tongues hindquarters firmly]

[skulking, sulking]


[sleeps entire play]

[peers our nervously from beneath chair; retreats instantly]

[inches forward to track shifting sunspot]

[bats furiously at sunspot]

Thursday, January 19, 2012

We Still Need to Talk About Kevin

I really wish I could explain why I find this movie so funny.

And I do really wish people would talk with me more about Kevin. Really.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Kind (of Wheat) You Don’t Take Home to Mother

Can wheat be sexy? No, wait — don’t stop reading my blog. Allow me to rephrase: Wheat can be sexy — and exotic! … You know, if you’re American.
freekeh (FREE-kah) — noun: wheat harvested when still green and then roasted.

I feel like it makes me sound obnoxious if I say that I enjoy a menu more when it teaches me new words. Regardless, I have to admit that I feel no shame in bringing my iPhone to the table and using it to make sense of what’s been laid out before me. And I especially like seeing how the dictionary definition differs from how the server explains it. For example, soubise. Says the internet: “A béchamel variant whose velvety texture benefits from the pungency of onions.” Says the server: “It’s white sauce.” And I really like catching the restaurant dressing up simple fare in fancy terms. — haricots verts used for plain old green beans, for example.

Freekeh, as a word, manages to make wheat more interesting — a little lusty, a bit weird, sort of scary, a skosh threatening. I can’t comment on the taste, because my life has so far been freekeh-free, but my superfreak friend Kristen’s recent article in the Wall Street Journal tells me that freekeh offers either a smokier or grassier flavor than that gutterwheat you’ve been eating all this time. I trust Kristen — a sort of culinary guinea pig over at Food52 who consequently has a lot of guilt about eating guinea pigs now — and now I feel bad for not knowing about freekeh sooner. You know who has known about freekeh even longer than Kristen? Arabs. Culinary up-and-comer though freekeh may be in the Western world, it’s not a new dish the cuisines of Egypt, the Levant or the Arab Peninsula, according to Wikipedia. It can also be known by the name farik — literally “rubbed” in Arabic, as a result of the thrashing process it undergoes — which seems like an alternate transliteration of the original Arabic. That one’s only sexy if you interpret it as an extremely affected pronunciation of freak. And I do. Mostly because I know it actually means “rubbed.”


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

Monday, January 16, 2012

Additional Proof

Remember when I said that Zooey Deshcanel is totally evil?

Her cheerful demeanor is straining her face muscles! We must be vigilant!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Sugar Teeth

Just hold on. I’ll get to this in a second.

We had an English major problem at work — and believe me, an English major problem is a hell of a lot better than, say, an anatomy problem or structural integrity problem. Writing about the very subject of my previous post, someone mentioned that the Senate candy desk satisfies the cravings of the entire Senate floor, only she chose to do so by referring to the senators’ sweet teeth. Logically, if one candy lover has a sweet tooth, then two must have sweet teeth. Right?

Technically, no.

Sweet tooth belongs to a rarely discussed set of nouns known as exocentric or “headless” compounds. Basically, they’re compound nouns — like blackboard or ice cream or internal combustion engine, in which smaller words function together as if they were one single word — but in this special case, neither involved word actually refers to the thing described. For example, while a blackboard is a board, a flatfoot is not a foot at all. And flatfoot is especially handy because that end word, foot, has an irregular plural that you ignore when it appears in an exocentric compound. Thus, one flatfoot, two flatfoots. It seems unnatural when you think about it, but I actually feel like most people causally speaking would say flatfoots without thinking about it. The example you’re probably most used to hearing, whether you’re a hockey fan or not, is Toronto Maple Leafs. Logically, that should be Maple Leaves, only the team is officially Maple Leafs. Other examples? Still lifes, sabertooths and houndstooths, and no I’m not sure anyone has had to refer to houndstooth in the plural and no, I don’t know why most of my exocentric compound examples involve teeth. But I feel like sweet tooth, which isn’t a tooth at all, totally falls into the same category and that the plural should be sweet tooths.

But here’s the thing: Even though the one dictionary that offers a plural for sweet tooth agrees with me, it would still look wrong to the majority of readers. Rather than be technically right but apparently wrong, we simply re-wrote the sentence. Readability once again conquered correct but awkward grammar.

One more thought on the subject of exocentric compounds, and it relates to the image at the top of the post: Should cloverleaf (referring to the looped highway interchange and not, like, the actual plant parts) be pluralized as cloverleaves or cloverleafs? Is the structure leaf-like enough that it’s not exocentric? Webster says leaf can actually mean “something suggestive of a leaf.” Now I don’t know how to discuss the countless cloverleaf structures that I, as an Angeleno, must wind around every day.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Something Sweet, Something Pungent

First the sweet.

Are you aware of the U.S. Senate candy desk? Begun in 1965 by Republican Senator George Murphy -- a former actor and dancer who starred in For Me and My Gal before leaving Hollywood for Washington -- the candy desk has occupied the same spot on the Republican side of the Senate floor since 1981, and all senators are free to grab sweets as they pass by. No matter who bitter I get about politics, humanizing little footnotes such as this one make me resent politicians just a little bit less.

Now the pungent.

From 1997 to 2007, the candy desk was occupied and stocked by none other than Rick Santorum. And if you think that taints the appeal of this unofficial Washington D.C. institution, then choke on this: Because Santorum hails from Pennsylvania and because he lacks the slightest shred of self-awareness or social savvy, the candy he favored was… Hershey's chocolate. Yes, Rick Santorum was pumping the Senate full of his trademark cocoa goodness. Given the infamy of "small 's'" santorum, I'm almost tempted to think the guy has a sense of humor. But no. Not at all. He couldn't.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Beeper King and His Impostor

I have a mental problem that’s clearly rooted in some manner of childhood-rooted trauma. I confuse actors. Not all of them, no, but specific sets of two. I acknowledge that they are separate people and that they don’t even look that much alike, but I consistently mistake one for the other. I hear something about one and catch myself picturing the other. I do it with Adam Scott and Seth Gabel, whom I posted about late last year, but I also do it with, for example, Embeth Davidtz and Annabeth Gish (for no reason I can understand) and also Senta Moses and Marisa Jaret Winokur. And here’s another one.

On the left we have Dean Winters, best known as Liz Lemon’s terminally recurrent boyfriend, Dennis Duffy, on 30 Rock. And on the right we have Jeffrey Donovan, best known as the lead role on Burn Notice, which SNL correctly identifies as a show which I have never seen and know nothing about. I don’t think they look like, exactly, yet I can’t keep them straight. I constantly mix up which one used to be on Law & Order (Winters) and which one was in Changeling (Donovan), which one was on Oz (Winters, even though I could swear it was Donovan) and which one was in that weird Blair Witch sequel (Donovan, even though he seems to old to have been in that movie).

Honestly, I don’t get it. Looking at them side by side now — and, honestly, for the first time — I feel like Donovan looks more like Mac from It’s Always Sunny than anyone else, yet when I found out that Burn Notice was a thing, I remember thinking, “Oh, I hope this doesn’t prevent him from being on 30 Rock.” I can’t imagine what mental block prevents me from separating these two actors and their respective filmographies. ButAnd I’m curious to know: Does anybody else?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Buttercups in High Definition

Now I offer four strange things I saw but did not purchase at the sale at H.D. Buttercup. (And yes, non-Angelenos, that really is a store, and no, it’s nowhere as twee as it sounds.)

Lamps that suggested Marcia, Jan and Cindy Brady had they been scalped during the family trip to the Grand Canyon.

Rampant sexism!

A doll that I imagine was not designed to have a broken leg but whose facial expression made a hell of a lot more sense with the leg being broken.

And finally a small statue in the form of that extraterrestrial that either abducted me or is just a creep and has been hanging around my bedroom window.

Not pictured and not purchased: an affordable coffee table.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

I Am Living on Channel Z

Today, some overdue attention for the ass end of the alphabet. If you love the Queen of England, you call it zed. And if you love TV instead, you call it zee. Why the hell is that, anyway? Especially when every other letter has the same name regardless of which country you’re reciting the alphabet in? Before I attempt an answer, I’ll confuse the matter further.

Words of the week!
izzard (IZ-urd) — noun: a Scottish name for the letter “Z.” 
izod (EYE-zod) — noun: an obsolete name for the letter “Z.”
I picked this pair for the weekly weird word post because of the many old or obscure names for “Z,”, these would be the most familiar to English-speakers — izzard as a result of the comedian Eddie Izzard and izod as a result of the clothing brand. (The latter takes its name from British tailor Jack Izod, who sold an American businessman the rights to his brand in 1938. Funny how Messers. Izzard and Izod have the same last name, in a sense.) According to a handy post on Separated by a Common Language, which examines the difference between American and British English, Americans have zee and Britons have zed as a result of Noah Webster — who specified in his dictionary that Americans should use zee and not zed — and the spread of “The Alphabet Song,” an American-penned ditty whose end rhymes don’t work as well if you use zed. However, zee isn’t an American creation and was documented as having been used in certain regions of England before the American Revolution.

You could argue in favor of either zee or zed, I guess. The former rhymes with a majority of the other letters, while zed better reflects its origins: the Greek zeta. But rather than looking so closely as these two winners in the race to the back of the alphabet, I’m more curious as to why the letter “Z” has had so many different names. The Separated post alone lists zad, zard, ezed, ezod and uzzard in addition to izzard and izod. They’re not all that different, of course, and in fact, Canadian word blogger Bill Cassell says those last two could be the same, more or less. Izzard may have come from the French et zed, (“and ‘z,’” like you’d say upon reaching the end of the alphabet), or just “s” hard (which is what a “z” sounds like) or maybe even just izod with an “r” jammed into to it, as the British are sometimes wont to do.

Now I’m wondering why the other names for other English letters aren’t so complicated. If this page is any indication, “Z” is the only one with such a severe identity crisis.

Hey, but speaking of Izod, how disturbing is this mannequin?

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