Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Team-Up the Adventure Genre Has Been Waiting For

Surely, this cannot be an accident, right?

However, it’s beyond me how it is that Rin Tin Tin and Tintin haven’t already teamed up. I know, I know — poor Snowy would be heartbroken at first, but I feel he’d come around during a moment of especially high-caliber adventure.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Houston, We Have a Dog

One of the better Saturday Night Live sketches of the past few years aired back in 2008, on the Tracy Morgan-hosted episode. The title is “Family Flix,” but it would probably be more readily recognized as “Rocket Dog,” “Houston, We Have a Dog” or “Life Is a Highway.” In fact, that last one is was makes it next-to-unknown online: Because the sketch features Tom Cochrane’s “Life Is a Highway,” NBC has never been able to post clip online in any official sense. But I’ve found it, and it’s below.

Things to note: Kristen Wiig plays the straight man, Tracy Morgan outdoing Tracy Jordan, and the need for a movie titled Scuba Pig.

This will be the limit of what I will post this weekend.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Deluge of Dongs (Or — The Trouble With Google Targeted Ads)

Contemplations on the true nature of my coffee table aside, I tend to keep this blog fairly impersonal. But I’m breaking that rule today to vent about a matter that’s not only personal but also, you know, personal in the way you learn about in health class. The long and medium of it all is this: I bought some underwear. I bought underwear that was such an improvement over what I’d previously been using to shield my pants from my most-of-me, in fact, that it made the previous underwear seem like coarse burlap punishment pants that the especially Catholic might have once worn because of Jesus. Make a note of this, underwear-using segment of my blog readership, that buying the nice stuff has a similar effect to flying in first class, drinking aerated wine or shopping at the nice mall: You can’t go back. I sure as hell couldn’t, and I consequently had to choose between chucking years’ worth of underwear — yes, some of them were years old, and I’ll have you know that they’re in marvelous condition — and starting a new, considerably pricier collection of little inside pants.

I’ve always said that it’s okay to splurge in certain areas of your life. For example, You’d likely get your money’s worth out of a decent mattress, if not all possible bang for your buck. Along those lines, I would say that underwear — the intimates in closest possible contact with your intimates — might also be worth more money than you’re currently budgeting for. So I said to myself, “Fuck it. This is something that is happening,” which is about as enthusiastic as I get, and decided to buy more. However, department stores can sometimes charge more and I didn’t really want to be the weird guy who keeps coming back to buy underwear, so I decided the easiest way of doing this would be to order online. And I did.

That’s when I realized that sparing myself the trip to Nordstrom might not have saved me much trouble. You see, there’s thing thing that Google did recently. Maybe you’ve heard of it — targeted advertising? That service that purports to enhance your online experience by running ads for items you’ve already purchased? Well, guess what’s all over my internet now. Hint: It’s appearing to the left of the next paragraph.

Okay, fine, yes, I bought underwear from 2(x)ist, the company that I’d previously been baffled and annoyed by. (“Is it for gay men? Exclusively? Like, is it marketed that way? Would a guy who isn’t gay ever buy them? And wear them? How do I pronounce the brand name? Why would anyone ever think that’s an acceptable way to spell anything? Have people noticed that I’m lingering in front of this display?”) The product, I must admit, is good. What’s less good, however, is that any site that runs Google Ads now has cameos by dongs whether I’m looking at it at home (“Hi, neighbor glancing in my living room window!”) or at work (“Hey there, coworker. Just doing some work reading. You know, plus dongs.”) Fortunately, the problem is fixable, but I wonder how many other people have encountered a similar issue with this new ad system — not so much that it has betrayed some mortifying secret but more that it’s just being awkward, like when your dog emerges from your bedroom with a pair of underwear and plops it on the table in the middle of a dinner party. (“Funny story, I almost wore those tonight, but then I couldn’t tell if they were clean.”) It’s kind of funny, to me, in the situation that I’ve just now described, but it could have been majorly problematic were the context a nosier, stricter, more judgmentally environment. I can’t imagine why someone would want to work in such a place, but I’m sure someone does.

In closing, if you see dongs on my computer, I’m most likely not looking at some underwear fetish site. That’s just how the internet looks until I buy a different embarrassing thing. Oh, and I really wish 2(x)ist would either make a product whose quality is more on par with its terrible ads or (in order), learn what parentheses are for, call the product line in question something other that Touch and think of something more clever than a hard-soft pun to use in its tagline. My suggestion? “It’s kind of like your penis is dressed like a superhero!” You can have that one for free, 2(x)ist.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Encyclopedia Drew and the Mysterious Table of Mystery

Perhaps you might remember when I wrote about buying a coffee table. I did so here on this blog, in the post wherein I discussed the set dressing from a cancelled Raven-Symone sitcom, the monsters from Tremors, severed mannequin legs and the estate sale of Not Joni Mitchell. Yes, that post. At the very end, after the detailed listing of all the things I did not purchase, I mentioned that I bought coffee table.

That, I suppose, was a lie.

I bought a piece of furniture that I have chosen to use as a coffee table even though it’s most likely intended for some other purpose. I’m just not sure what.

Here is the table in its oval form:

What makes this table strange, however, are its leaves. They don’t especially increase the overall surface area, and they also don’t fold under the table, as extend-o-leaves usually do. Instead, they fold up. Here, with the edges vertical, the shape takes on its second, rectangular form:

So why would a table do this? The leaves, when folded up, make it difficult to put things on and get things off the table, so I’d guess seems like you’re supposed to use it with the leaves down. But why would you ever want the leaves up? Did this table go on a ship or something else that had reason to be less stable that a normal, tacked-to-the-ground house? Or did someone once arrange items on this table and then move it somewhere else, arranged objects and all? With the sides folded up, the handles make it easier to carry, I suppose, but overall the table is not especially light. I can’t imagine why a whole table — legs and all — would be simpler to move around than, say, a tray that you could place anywhere.

Anyone? Really at a loss for what this thing is. And please, no jokes about it being a sex table, because I’ve already eaten off it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Great Lentil in the Sky

Hey, everyone! Thing is doubly neat!

Do you remember those cheap little childhood whatsits that would look different when viewed from different angles? You know what I mean: They’d be on cards or toy packaging or maybe on the toys themselves, and viewing from one side of the other would show you one of two possible pictures.

Here, like this:

From one side, Donald Duck is happily watching the TV, but from the other, that TV screen savage has shot him in the skull with an arrow. Hilarious! Now, the nature of this technology has been problematic to me for a long time, not because I was troubled by how it worked — it's magic, duh — but because I didn’t know what it was called. And, as the previous paragraph demonstrates, it’s not something that I can succinctly describe. Thus, for a long time, I was unable to put a name to this phenomenon. But now I know: it’s lenticular printing, which composes an image from tiny triangular ridges that show one of two possible pictures when viewed from either side. See?

Hence that zippy noise you’d make if you ran your fingernail across the surface.

The thing is, this world lenticular — in practice, “like a lens,” but literally meaning “like a lentil” — also refers to this totally awesome but (I think) totally unrelated meteorological phenomenon, lenticular clouds. Once more, see?

The thing is, the cloud actually does kind of look like a lentil, but it’s their resemblance to flying saucers that has people taking notice of them. It’s not a wholly unreasonable reaction, I guess.

Anyway, there’s a post up on The Awl about how freakishly beautiful these clouds can be.

Don’t you think, though, that people would be a lot more up-in-arms about these formations in the sky if they thought we were being invaded by giant lentils? 

Now it’s all I can think about.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Attack of the Giant Dog (But in a Good Way)

Easily, the best day at work -- at my work, at your work, at anyone's work ever -- was the day we were visited by a towering ogre of a dog named Yeti.

We took turns riding him, and he leapt over small villages in the manner that normal canines jump from one backyard step to a higher backyard step.

Wait, that is maybe a bad example of his leaping prowess.

He bit all our enemies? Is that a good example? Oh, and he also did this:


Like, to everyone. Super assertive, that Yeti.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Your Little Mouth

Since I never got a degree in linguistics, I’m probably not qualified to say that a given word is cute. People probably need to study the cuteness quotient of the smallest elements of a given language before they can do the complex linguistic calculations necessary to determine whether, for example, pfisslepoop is an inherently, undeniably cute word. But as someone who’s at least 95 percent proficient with the English language, I will say at least that the word kiss is pretty adorable. Something about that “K” gives it spunk that a “C” just couldn’t, and the way it snaps at the beginning a slides away on the double-“S” at the end makes it an attention-getting little collection of phonemes. In fact, you speak the word kiss a lot like you’d actually kiss someone: sudden at the start, then tapering into something softer and lingering. It’s not a weighty thing, like hug sounds and like a hug can be. No, kiss, as a word, is exactly what it needs to be.

But let’s say kiss just couldn’t cut it as the term we English-speakers use to describe lip-on-lip action. Do we have any alternative?
osculate (ahs-kye-LAYT) — verb: 1. to kiss. 2. To convene or contact. 3. (in geometry) to have three or more points coincident with. 4. (in biology) to be intermediate between two taxonomic groups.
Most dictionaries note that the “kissing” definition of osculate is almost always used humorously, probably because it’s hard to resist the idea of two Coke-bottled nerds in lab coats making plans to “commence osculation.” But I say the latter two definitions are funnier. Think about geometry, with its rendering of real-life bodies in a flat, sterile and wholly theoretical plane. There’s nothing funny about lines and rays and all that, really, so it sounds uncharacteristically human — cutesy, even — to characterize overlaying curves as “kissing.”

Now with a deeper understanding of what it means to osculate, I look at the above illustration and see that that wobbly line is totally getting to first base with that circle. You get up all in those 360 degrees, line!

All that adorable personification goes out the window, of course, when you consider where osculate comes from. A verb whose use in English dates back to 1650, it comes from the Latin noun osculum, figuratively meaning “kiss” but because it’s the diminutive of os, “mouth,” it literally means “little mouth,” which either makes me think of the little mouth that lives inside the monster’s face in Alien or, like, a secondary, smaller mouth that develops on a person when he or she mutates or, like, develops one of those tumors that makes its own people parts. And that makes me want to never, ever kiss anything again, in any sense of the word, for fear of alien tumor kisses.

I… may not be a romantic person.

Previous words of the week after the jump.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Another Catholic Nightmare

So I got bored. Voila! That’s how gifs are made!


My LACMA Catholic nightmare — snapped, shopped and now finally giffed. I am pleased for having attained a skill already mastered by junior high school students.

Thinking Negatively About Your Body

I knew that silhouette came from some Frenchman’s last name, but if I ever learned the history correctly, then I just forgot it and assumed that Monsieur Silhouette invented the art form. This is apparently not the case.

Most etymologies of silhouette note that Etienne de Silhouette served as the French financial minister in 1759, during the Seven Years’ War. He famously pinched pennies — or whatever the most useless French coin was back then — in order to support the military effort. During this time, the act of cutting black paper in a person’s likeness became a cost-effective alternative to, you know, having them painted or having marble chipped until it looked like them, and the association between Silhouette’s thriftiness and this style of craft has stuck ever since.

silhouette of etienne de silhouette, for all i know. without facial features, it is hard to say
Given where it came from, it’s funny how the word is spoken in English today — silhouette. It’s an inherently beautiful-sounding word, and one spoken often by fashionistas referring to the outermost contour of a given outfit. It is, in this sense, a distillation of beauty — the most superficial level upon which a body could be deemed attractive.

For a moment, however, just focus on what a silhouette is, as far as a black form you might hand on the wall. Given how we think about black and white, it’s a negative space drawing — instead of the black representing a body, the white around it could represent everything outside that body. Now hold onto that, because it’s important. Etymonline gives all the standard background for silhouette but also goes a step further, into what the last name meant before it was attached to penny-pinching, shadows and those portraits you buy at Disneyland. The name comes from Basque. In fact, in its pre-Frenchified state, it may have been Zuloeta, with the -eta meaning “an abundance of” and zulo meaning “cave” or “hole.” If you focus on caves and holes essentially being voids — absences of the materials that surround them — then it’s weirdly appropriate that silhouette has come to mean what it does, because that’s exactly how a silhouette can be read: a lot of empty space.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Best Actor in a Lasagna-Based Drama

However many people are currently aware of the actor Charles Laughton, that number is relatively small and sure to dwindle as old age take its toll. That’s simple logic: Laughton died in 1962 and his fans aren’t getting younger. Comparatively, more people are aware of the comic strip character Garfield, but I’m wagering that this number is also currently at the highest it will ever be. The march of time will also will also gradually diminish this number, but so too will dangers faced especially often by Garfield fans: obesity, depression, brain rot, accidentally eating poison under the misguided belief that it’s candy. Thus, the sliver of overlap in the Venn diagram of Charles Laughton fans and Garfield fans is a very slight one. But I believe so much in what I’m about to say that I’m posting in anyway, regardless of how small its idea audience might be.

The actor Charles Laughton is, physically speaking, the human manifestation of Garfield the cat. I feel this is undeniable.

Here, now watch the trailer for Laughton’s Witness for the Prosecution, in which he breaks the fourth wall and addresses the camera not as his movie character but as himself, Charles Laughton, Monday-hating and spider-killing Garfieldesque actor.

Struggle to repress in urge to laugh out loud when he promises to give you, the viewer, “a series of climaxes.” Indeed.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Hunger, Games

(Disclaimer: This post is not about Hunger Games in any way.)

Perhaps you are both a video game enthusiast and also a general smartypants. I mean, wow, your social calendar must be just exploding, but we’re not here to trade insults. Let’s just say you feel equally comfortable with a joystick or a copy of The Book of Lists in your hand, and when you’re not shuffling pixels around a screen you’re chasing down some new point of trivia that will just make you the envy of your message board cohorts.

If that’s the case, you might know that Pac-Man was, in his earliest incarnations, known as Puck-Man, and that his name was only changed because a vandal armed with a magic marker could have easily blacked out the edge of that “P” and rendered the game pornographic. A lot of you doubly nerdy types know that one. But why Puck-Man, especially given that he’s not all that hockey puck-like? The name comes from this Japanese word, paku paku, which describes the sound (kinda) but also the action (kinda) of chomping — literally “eating in big mouthfuls,” according to this collection of the Japanese quasi-onomatopoeia. (Basically, these words cover the sound effects we use but also name phenomenon that don’t actually make noise, like glimmering light or an intense stare. Also, they’re adverbs. It’s weird.) And paku paku is a sensible word to inspire Pac-Man’s name because eating is all he does. Hell, eating is all he is, given that the most basic representation of him is just a moving mouth.

Keeping that in mind, Mr. Game-Playing Smartypants, consider this: In Japan, the name of the bitey, chompy, pipe-dwelling carnivorous weeds that you find in Super Mario Bros. is Pakkun Flower. The name totally comes from the same mouth-flapping Japanese word. And, now that you think about it, you have to admit: Both being video game characters that you’ve known more or less your entire life, they have a lot in common, Pac-Man and the Piranha Plant.

And that common thing is eating, constantly eating, even eating when there’s nothing to be eaten, but still biting, always biting, biting the air, eating the air, always eating. And if you’re that lame-o who exists at the precise cross-section of video game dork and trivia-scouting word nerd, this fact will seem neat and novel and totally noteworthy.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

How to Call Your Ladybug, Regardless of Its Nationality

How did I end up on the Wikipedia page for ladybugs? What was I looking for? I have no idea.

However, what I took away was the knowledge that these guy have a suspicious number of aliases. And here are just some of them:
  • ladybug: What we slack-jawed Americans call them today, but the usage goes back at least to the 1690s. The lady in question is the Virgin Mary.
  • ladybird or ladybird beetle: What the British call these creatures, with the first word also meaning “sweetheart.” Ladybird is also a reference to the Virgin Mary, and Wikipedia claims that ladybird came from Our Lady’s bird (which I don’t understand because I don’t see how anyone, no matter how medieval, would confuse birds and bugs). Allegedly, Mary got associated with these insects because she at one point was depicted as wearing red and not the blue she wears today at charity events and other social outings. The seven spots on the common European ladybug were thought to represent Mary’s seven joys but maybe instead her seven sorrows, depending on your mood. According to Etymonline, the British aversion to ladybug could stem from associations across the pond between the word bug and sodomy.
  • Marienkäfer: The German word for the insect. It literally translates to “Mary beetle,” so hey — guess what, Britons? The Germans agree with Americans that ladybugs aren’t birds. Ha!
  • Lieveheersbeestje: The Dutch term and a contraction of Onze Lieve Heer Beestje, it means “the diminutive beast of our Lord.”
  • Bête à bon Dieu: The French term, similar to the Dutch term, translates as “the good beast of God.”
  • Bóín Dé: The Irish term, allegedly meaning “God’s little cow,” is purported to be a corruption of the French term, but it’s also purported in superscript that a citation may be needed, so make of that what you will.
  • Buggobar: Despite the apparent British aversion to anal sex, this term is cited as being used in “the home counties of England,” whatever that means. The term is weirdly similar to bugbear and bugaboo, both of which use a very Middle English sense of the word bug that means “scary.”
  • ladycock: Alleged by Wikipedia, but I’m tempted not to touch this one.
  • lady cow: Which just seems redundant.
  • lady fly: I swear I’m not making these up.
  • Coccinellidae: The scientific name for the biological family, it was the Latin term for the creature, and it comes from the Latin word coccinus, “dyed scarlet” or just “scarlet,” which in term came from the word coccum, a berry or insect used to produce red dye. 
  • mariquita: the Spanish word for the creature, and despite the apparent etymological tie to the Virgin Mary, it also means “faggot.” Thanks, Spanish!
  • Himmelsdéierchen: Because I always like to end on an obscure but uplifting note, I’m giving you the Luxembourgish, in case you’re ever in the area and your life depends on your ability to name this particular insect. The literal translation is “little heaven animal.” So there you go. You’re welcome in advance.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Kids, Our Prayers Are Answered!

I need to say nothing, I realize, yet the post looks weird if I transition straight from hed to photo.

It also looks weird if the footer comes right below the post image. Which is why this text is here.

Two Things to Know About Alice Brady

First, this is not Alice Brady:

But you’d be forgiven for thinking it was. This is, in fact, Alice Nelson, the beloved Brady family housekeeper to whom Sam the Butcher would deliver meat. Alice was not, in fact, adopted by the Brady family, though again you’d be forgiven for thinking so.

Instead, this is Alice Brady:

And the thing to know about this particular Alice is the story of her Oscar. She was given the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1937 for her work in the film In Old Chicago as Mrs. O’Leary, the woman whose cow supposedly started the Great Chicago Fire. (It didn’t, but the rumor nonetheless reflected poorly on both the real-life woman and the cow.) As a result of a broken ankle, however, Brady could not attend the Oscar festivities. When her name was announced, a man stepped forward to accept the award on her behalf. He then promptly run away, never to appear again and never to return the award to its rightful owner. To this day, her Oscar was never recovered. And while the Academy issued her a replacement, it was smaller than the standard statuette and, due to a printing error, listed the year of Brady’s victory as 1838.

A year later, Brady died at 46.

And... “Hollywood!” (with jazz hands a-quivering).

“Now That’s Interesting,” previously:

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Kitty Got the Boot

Perhaps you have a heart. Perhaps you actually care about injustice in the world. Perhaps you wonder what became of the mewling kitty who needed a home.

Well, this story actually ties up two lose ends on this blog: the adorable orphan kitten and the mannequin legs that my friend Stephanie bought for reasons unknown.

Well, here you go.

Any idiomatic reading of this image will tell you that the kitten got kicked out. It did, but in the good way! She found a home, and therefore no longer needs to cuddle around the dummy leg for companionship. It’s all the more remarkable that Stephanie was able to find the cat a home when you consider the photo she chose to send out in advertisement of the particular animal’s cuteness.

Some pet owners have unusual takes on cute.

Two Views of Los Angeles From Behind My Windshield

This city has its moments. For example, weather reminds you that you are alive, even when the regularity of your daily commute could fool you into thinking that you’re some undead schmuck forced to complete the same impossible task again and again, Sisyphus- or even Third Policeman-like. (In this geographical context, I should note, weather means in this geographical context as anything more dramatic that sunny sunshine.) These events make for ideal moments in which a person can experience Los Angeles. Proof:

Here, weather takes form in the sky over Pico and Santa Monica Boulevard, respectively. It was unexpected to experience weather and therefore fantastimagical.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Grant Wood and the American Erotic

Have you ever wondered why you don’t hear much about the later works of Grant Wood?

Wood is the artist responsible for “American Gothic,” the 1930 painting recognizable even to Americans without any knowledge of art by virtue as a result of it being reproduced — that is, reprinted or parodied — so often. It’s a go-to for that blue-skied but nonetheless grim swath of wheatland America, and that is strange given how “American Gothic” was originally painted to poke fun, either of Iowans or dour depictions of Iowans. (Wood himself explained “American Gothic” differently to different audiences.) So whatever the painting means — or what it means to you, if you don’t think it intrinsically means anything — you can’t debate its fame. It is, simply put, a recognizable image. You also couldn’t say that it’s not Wood’s most famous work. Go on: Try and name another Grant Wood painting. You would, most likely, need to have studied art to do so. Commercially and critically speaking, Wood was a one-hit wonder as an artist, and the of his post-“American Gothic” career never really strayed from that original formula.

Save for one work: the provocatively titled “Sultry Night.”

(Hit the jump to keep reading, but be forewarned: There’s a nude dude at the end of this post.)

From some standpoints, it may seem ironic that Wood was held up as an embodiment of Midwestern American life, for he was neither the pitchfork-thin old man who appears in “American Gothic” nor the cornfed, potato-stuffed ranch hand you might imagine today when you picture a typical Midwestern man. According to popular opinion, Wood was gay, although completely closeted about it. Presumably, Wood had no choice in the matter of how he lived his life, and the fact that he had to hide his sexuality, even going so far as to marry a woman to quiet rumors about his personal life, should cast a harsher light on the way “American Gothic” sent up the American Midwest.

That’s not to say that his sexuality didn’t manifest itself in his work. For one, “American Gothic” doesn’t necessarily depict a man and wife. The models for the dour couple in the painting were Wood’s sister and his dentist. (Kottke just actually posted a photograph of what the two human models as wel as the architectural model in the background, looked like in real life.) And when his sister protested that the painting’s popularity made it seem as though she had married a much-older man, Wood began explaining that the “American Gothic” couple was actually a father and daughter.

And then there’s “Sultry Night.”

He created this lithograph in 1937, five years before his death from pancreatic cancer at age 50. And while he tried to explain away the image as merely depicting “the ordinary bathing habits of hired men on farms,” as noted by the January-February 2012 issue of Mental Floss, it’s pretty clearly not only that. You have to admit that it marks a stark departure from the rest of Wood’s work. It’s black and white, rather than color-saturated in the way a lot of his post-“American Gothic” works were. And then there’s that hard-to-miss wang in it. And that’s not even mentioning that the nude man’s pose evokes that of someone’s misguided daughter winning a wet T-shirt contest on the cover of a Girls Gone Wild DVD. Sure, Wood had dabbled with the nude male form (so to speak) in an early work such as the pointillism study “The Spotted Man,” but he painted that during his days studying art in Paris. He was experimenting — with pointillism, I mean not wangs, though he might have also been experimenting with wangs at that point.

My takeaway from all this is that the ubiquity of “American Gothic” overshadows the story about the man who painted it. And that’s too bad, because Grant Wood’s personal story reads as a lot more interesting than anything about “American Gothic” in particular. In fact, his personal story helps the viewer to consider “American Gothic” in terms that are perhaps a lot closer to the way Grant Wood himself might have viewed the painting: as a poke to the eye of a community that wouldn’t let him indulge his one passion aside form painting.

And that passion, of course, was wangs.

Note: A previous version of this post incorrectly identified “Sultry Night” as a painting. It is a lithograph.

“Now That’s Interesting,” previously:

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Two Cinematic, Catholic Nightmares

It took place at LACMA, while I was awake. And while technically it occurred only in the space between these statues and the camera, but that doesn’t make it seem any less sinister, I say.

What with the monks and the rampant Catholicism, it could also be a Dario Argento nightmare. Here, let me make a few alterations.

There. Now you’re dreaming in all the colors of the night.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Oh, the Things We Saw in Burbank!

On last Sunday’s schedule: a visit to a Burbank warehouse where studios sell off set dressings they don’t need anymore, an estate sale that of Joni Mitchell (but which probably wasn’t, based on the fact that Joni Mitchell is not dead), and finally an awkward place. (All my adventures end in an awkward place, so final designation was not surprising.)

First, the studio dumping grounds, where the most recent dump was taken by State of Georgia, the thing that once was Raven-Symone's sitcom. I could have bought this for only $20! The shining bling effect on William Shakespeare's ear stud alone was worth $15.50, I say.)

There was also the following piece of wall decor, which I imagine appeared in the room of a would-be terrorist moments before Bones and Booth stopped him from executing his act of terror. Also, this clipping came from a giant newspaper that did not believe in line breaks or left-justified text.

I like this photo. I think it has composition. And also JFK. But all that stupid composition might distract you from the highlight of the photo, which would be the baby dolls who were made to be in a state of constant agonized horror.

Look, I'll cut out all that distracting composition so you can just concentrate on what is important. Those expressions? Those are ones of horror if we are lucky.

The following photo depicts the highlight of not only the shopping expedition but also 2012 so far. What is a graboid, you ask? Oh,  I am so glad you asked. Before you click this link, I will give you a hint: Reba McEntire probably has this sign somewhere in her condo.

Another thing was three things, which is confusing on a grammatical level. But the fact that those three things were three severed mannequin legs is confusing on a psychological level.

My friend Stephanie just bought one leg, both in case she runs into some bad luck at the factory and also so that she has a reason to say hi to Heather Mills the next time she runs into her. (You know that Heather Mills is the best one-legged celebrity? It’s true. Not that I wish there were more one-legged people, necessarily, but Stephanie and I agree that we wished we could have given the shout-out to someone better than Heather Mills.)

Okay, we have left the studio warehouse in this point in the day. I know, based on the painting, you might think that we had stumbled into the set dressing from a movie about a woman who lives near the beach, has an exaggerated feminine physique but also looked like a penis. (This is a self-portrait.) But no, we spotted this painting at the estate sale. Yes, this once hung in someone’s home. (I still think it's a self-portrait.)


Alternate theory: It was actually the third dog’s estate sale.

Alternate alternate theory: It wasn’t a picture of a dog. It was another self-portrait of the penis lady.

Now we’re at the third location, a kind of thrift store crossed with a haunted carnival. But I think this will all seem funnier if you pretend we’re still at the estate sale. 

As you can see, Marge Simpson’s sunhat was among the items for sale.

This angry baby statue enclosed in a birdcage stood several feet taller than I do. That isn’t a joke. That’s a fact.

They put him on hold for me.

Given everything I have already showed you, it may sound surprising to hear me say that this golfball chair was one of the most perplexing items. I just want to know where a golfball-shaped chair would be appropriate. The chair is clearly too heavy and awkward to carry around at a golf tournament, where it would make you look awesome. And it would be crazy to put this near a tennis court. I just don’t know what to make of this one.

Painting the lawn jockey’s eyes blue and his skin a lighter shade of brown does not make him less offensive. It might even make it more offensive, just on grounds that someone might have understood that it looked “a little racist-y” and then attempted to undo that racism in such a half-assed manner. 

Not pictured: the coffee table I bought.

That’s it! No more stuff!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Building a Meta Narrative… in Bed

Call this a spiritual sequel to my post about Ambrose Burnside, the man whose celebrated face wool gave the English language the word sideburns. If you’ll recall, before I knew the etymology, I’d always thought how remarkable it was that a man named Burnside had such magnificent sideburns. It would have been as if Pamela Anderson had born Pamela Bagsfun. Of course, I learned the error in my thinking, but there’s still the strange occasion on which someone’s name ends up being just bizarrely perfect for their station in life.

So I like William Faulkner. And that’s not saying that I don’t fear the bastard to some degree, both because anyone who could drink like he could demands that you fear him, and because his stories cause reverberations in a deep part of my brain near where my surreal subconscious lives, and strange things tend to come loose when I spend too much time in a Faulknerian place. In college, I read more of Faulkner than I did of any other single author, and while he has played a less significant role since I graduated, I stumbled upon a little fact about him while writing up a piece on To Have and Have Not, the 1944 Humphrey Bogart-starring adaptation of the Ernest Hemingway novel. Faulkner, improbably, collaborated on the screenplay, and being reminded of this strange Californian dogleg to his career got me reading.

It turns out that during his time in Hollywood, William Faulkner took up with a number of women, but perhaps foremost among them was the script girl to Howard Hawks, who directed To Have and Have Not. This woman was Meta Carpenter, and while there’s much to be said about her life — she worked on The Maltese Falcon, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Prizzi’s Honor, and The Graduate, according to IMDb and her New York Times obituary, and The Longest Chapter has posted a letter from Ms. Carpenter that shines some light on who she was — I’m just going to focus on her name.

Maybe Meta Carpenter isn’t the most Faulknerian name ever, but let’s say that William Faulkner himself turned in a draft to an editor, and the story featured a writer whose works call back and forth to each other, with characters’ fictional lives weaving in and out of the stories to the point where the author has, chapter by chapter, slat by stat, constructed a self-referencing, self-contained universe. And let’s say that one day that author met a woman whose job was monitoring the scripts upon which movies are built — the verbal scaffolding, if one will. And let’s say that they had a passionate love affair, with dangling clauses dropping into open signifiers. Well, if that happened, even if the author were as esteemed as William Faulkner, and he chose to name the love interest Meta Carpenter, then the editor might very well have called William Faulkner up and explained that perhaps the name was just a little too on-the-nose, and that the story might benefit if he re-named Meta Carpenter something that didn’t seem to cut quite so straight to the heart of what she was, what he was, and really, what any great writer is.

Of course, Meta Carpenter’s parents named her without any knowledge of the kind of woman she’d be and the role she’d play in coaxing life from words and word-makers.

The fact that Meta Carpenter eventually married and became Meta Wilde? Well, that’s another post, I think.

Names are not insignificant, even in real life:

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Only Book I Know Featuring a Character Born in My Hometown

Joan Didion’s A Book of Common Prayer. Part one, chapter three. Page twenty-two in the 1995 Vintage International printing.

I have not read it yet, but given how well Joan Didion knows California, I have to imagine she chose Hollister to Charlotte Douglas’s hometown for a reason. And my first guess would be that it’s a stand-in for a sort of west coast anytown, but her reasoning could be — and probably is — more profound than something so simple. Either way, this is easily a cultural highlight for a smallish, breezy that at one point was literally known for its hayseeds.

Will report when I know.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

No Casual Hauntings, Please

Posted on a Hollywood telephone pole:

But you have to ask: How many people would classify their ghost problem as anything less than severe?

The Last Thing I’d Do Is Hurt You, But It’s Still on the List

It has been explained to me that comedy is the byproduct of a subversion of expectations. For example, if you watched a woman get ready for a lunch out with her charity club, and you saw her meticulously style her hair, apply her make-up and slide on her best jewelry, and then as she was stepping out her front door, an angry bear charged her, seized her and shook her like a doll made from loose scrap meats, you’d be laughing uncontrollably. Because of all the possible conclusions to this woman’s afternoon, getting dismembered by a whirling fury of ursine claws was at best the fifth most-likely outcome you would have imagined. To think — that she spent all that time getting dressed! That bear wouldn’t have cared if she had just worn sweats! She would have died anyway!


All that said, here is today’s word of the week.
paraprosdokian (PAIR-uh-prose-DOKE-ee-un) — noun: a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected, often in a humorous manner.
This definition from Wikitionary isn’t the clearest, but paraprosdokian can be more easily defined with examples. Here is one that I’d heard previously.
“If I could just say a few words, I’d be a better public speaker.” — Homer Simpson
I thought it was just a joke, but now I know there’s an awkward Greek word for it. And now it’s funnier than ever, because comedy always seems funnier once you’ve analyzed it. Here, read a few more examples:
“If all the girls who attended the Yale prom were laid end to end, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised.” — Dorothy Parker
“She looks as though she’s been poured into her clothes, and forgot to say when.” — P.G. Wodehouse
She got her good looks from her father; he’s a plastic surgeon.” — allegedly Groucho Marx, though there’s a tendency for the internet to credit Groucho with sourceless funny quotes to the point that he, Mark Twain and Winston Churchill apparently said every funny thing ever
This figure of speech works like a garden path sentence, but rather than the goal being grammatical confusion — “The horse raced past the barn fell” or “The old man the boat” — a paraprosdokian makes the double meaning obvious. Any half-witted person would immediately see that the instinctive reading of the text was wrong. And then they would laugh. Oh, how they could laugh. I’m not clear exactly how paraprosdokian differs from syllepsis, examples of which seem to crack jokes in exactly the same manner as paraprosdokians. I mean, do you see a difference between the above examples and this verified Groucho Marx quote from Duck Soup? “You can leave in a taxi. If you can’t get a taxi, you can leave in a huff. If that’s too soon you can leave in a minute and a huff.” I guess that example comprises three sentences, not one, but seems like a negligible difference. It’s also hard to spot the difference between paraprosdokians and wellerisms — “‘Simply remarkable,” said the teacher when being asked her opinion of the new dry-erase board.”

The confusion may arise from the fact that paraprosdokian’s status as a word is debated. And that’s silly, because I’m using it now, and I’ve explained what it means, and it’s obviously a functional word. But not everyone agrees. Bill Casselman decries paraprosdokian as a “bogus word” whose slapdash construction — the Ancient Greek roots para, “against,” and prosdokia, “expectation,” but inexplicably rendered in English in the accusative case — indicates that it’s not an authentic Greek noun. Also, it is not a word the Ancient Greeks would have used. However, Languagehat points out that although the paraprosdokian never pops up in any Greek text as a single word, para prosdokian does, and the word minus that single, offending space appeared in a 1891 edition of the English humor magazine Punch.

I guess it just proves that the person who splits hairs when it comes to determining the validity of words will only end up [insert witty, snappy conclusion here before posting — some pun on splitting hairs maybe?]

Previous words of the week after the jump.