Saturday, June 29, 2013

A Rather Busy Day for Satan

Most Americans with a passing interest in language probably already clicked through the dialogue maps posted recently by North Carolina State. They should have, anyway. These maps are damn cool. Colored splotches show you what regions of the U.S. say what, and for this flat-accented Californian who’s used to hearing people on TV talk like me, it’s helpful to be reminded how differently my fellow Americans can speak. (“That’s what they call soda over there? Oh my god, they’re so weird.”) But of all the dialectical breakdowns featured in the study, this one grabbed my attention most: “What do you call it when rain falls while the sun is shining?”

sunshower the devil is beating his wife

The map would seem to be accurate: I’m in that yellowish southern California splotch that would say “other.” (Obviously, the answer is “You’re on vacation in Hawaii, because this never happens anywhere else.”) I had never heard the expression sunshower, and while that seems like a sensible enough name for this type of weather, the superior term just in terms of batshit, backwoodsy folksiness has to be The devil is beating his wife, which I’d also never heard before (a-cuz California) and which has to be one of the more head-scratchy English idioms I’ve ever heard.

So what’s the deal? Here are the three theories I found online:
  • It could be just that unexpected raindrops are happening because they’re Mrs. Devil’s tears, according to this message board post.
  • According to this post on the same thread, it could also mean essentially “a mixed blessing” — to have rain during sun is a mix of bad and good, in the way that beating your wife is bad but maybe it’s not so awful when the wife in question is married to the devil. #controversial
  • And then there’s the theory I like best: Posted unsourced on Wikipedia, it states that rain during sunshine is a rare, beautiful thing, and because the devil hates anything good, he’s taking his anger out on his wife.
This Word Detective post also attempted to find the origin to this expression and came up with nothing conclusive, though the author does note that similar phrases exists outside the Southern U.S. For  example, Hungarian has The devil is getting married, and German has The devil is having a parish fair. And this guide to English translated into idiomatic French offers Le diable bat sa femme et marie sa fille (“The devil is beating his wife and marrying his daughter”) as the equivalent of It rains and shines at the same time, so way to go France for upping the ante by wedging incest into a discussion of a pleasant meteorological phenomenon.

According to Wikipedia, those who use these “devil” phrases are in the minority. Most idioms describing this kind of weather describe it as being some kind of special animal party. Among others:
  • In South Africa, a monkey’s wedding
  • In India and Japan, a fox’s wedding
  • In Korea, a male tiger gets married to a fox
  • In Morocco and France, a wolf’s wedding
  • In parts of Africa, a leopard’s wedding
  • In Kenya, a hyena’s wedding
  • In Bulgaria, a bear’s wedding
  • In northern Iran, a jackal’s wedding
  • And in El Salvador, just to be difficult, it’s a deer is giving birth
All of which, of course, are far cuter than domestic violence, devil-related or not.

Friday, June 28, 2013

The First High Five

This was a big week for fans of samesies, but while many Californians took to the streets to celebrate the Supreme Court, I observed this momentous occasion by working at home and then falling asleep watching Comedy Central. It’s for this reason that I’m presenting a bit of gay history today. It may not affect as many people as does California catching up to that glittering bastion of liberality we call Iowa, but it’s a pretty good story nonetheless. Also, I just learned it yesterday, and it’s one of the best things I’ve learned in a long time.

Last April, pro basketball player Jason Collins announced he was gay, prompting many media outlets to decree that he was the first to come out while being a member of a major American sports team. Some, however, noted that this wasn’t the case: In particular, the San Francisco Chronicle noted that Glenn Burke, who joined the Dodgers as an outfielder in 1976, was out to his teammates.

glenn burke dodgers baseball card

Burke’s sexuality wasn’t exactly known to the public, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort on Burke’s part. From The Atlantic:
Burke made no secret of his sexual orientation to the Dodgers front office, his teammates, or friends in either league. He also talked freely with sportswriters, though all of them ended up shaking their heads and telling him they couldn't writethat in their papers. Burke was so open about his sexuality that the Dodgers tried to talk him into participating in a sham marriage. (He wrote in his autobiography that the team offered him $75,000 to go along with the ruse.) He refused. In a bit of irony that would seem farcical if it wasn't so tragic, one of the Dodgers who tried to talk Burke into getting "married," was his manager, Tommy Lasorda, whose son Tom Jr. died from AIDS complications in 1991. To this day, Lasorda Sr. refuses to acknowledge his son's homosexuality.
The Atlantic notes that Burke came out in a bigger way in a 1982 interview. He died from AIDS-related causes in 1995. This story itself seems worth telling, or at least worth telling if you’re anyone who cares about the various Jackie Robinsons of the world, but there’s actually an even more surprising footnote to Burke’s short baseball career: He may have invented the high five.

I know, I know. It’s weird to think of a word in which people didn’t slap palms as congratulations for a feat of athletic awesomeness, a perfectly barbed put-down, a righteous belch or “yeah, I hit that,” but we didn’t always have this gesture. In the way that it can be tough to determine exactly when a slang phrase enters the lexicon, we also can’t be sure exactly when high-fiving went mainstream, but Glenn Burke and Dusty Baker seem to get credit for giving the first on-the-record high five on Oct. 2, 1977, just after Burke hit his thirtieth home run. This article, notably written just a few days before Collins came out, does a fantastic job telling the story:
It was a wild, triumphant moment and a good omen as the Dodgers headed to the playoffs. Burke, waiting on deck, thrust his hand enthusiastically over his head to greet his friend at the plate. Baker, not knowing what to do, smacked it. “His hand was up in the air, and he was arching way back,” says Baker, now 62 and managing the Reds. “So I reached up and hit his hand. It seemed like the thing to do.”
The article, which goes on to describe the ambiguous relationship Burke shared with Tommy Lasorda’s son, says that the high five went “ricocheting around the world” from there, in spite of the fact that the game wasn’t televised. And there you have it. Yes, it does seem strange that the high five was born only a few years before I was, and yes, it’s entirely possible that someone else in the history of the world slapped someone else’s palms in a victorious fashion. But if they did, we don’t know about it. We do know about Glenn Burke, who along with Dusty Baker invented something that would live on, even when Burke himself or mainstream awareness of his athletic career or his status as the Jackie Robinson of gay baseball (“gaysball”) did not.

Does this mean that high fives in the early seasons of That ’70s Show were anachronistic? Yes, I suppose so. Does this not tie in nicely with what I posted on Wednesday? Yes, it really does. And does this also mean that any and all high fives are tacit endorsements of the gay agenda? Well, obviously.

Now That’s Interesting!, previously:

Monday, June 24, 2013

Twenty More Free Movie Titles

I’m embarrassed to admit that none of the previous twenty are currently in production that I know of, but I really feel that this batch hasl a lot more box office potential.

Nothing But Shrieking Accusations

Orphans vs. Robots

Yvonne the Terrible

Golden Fingers, Silver Tongues, Lead Feet

Too Many Torso Heaps!

Not That Kind of Fiddler

Til Meth Do Us Part

The Lanai Where He Lied

Game, Set, Match, Apocalypse

Who the Hell Destroyed My Bathroom?

Prognosis: Hilarious

Fops vs. Dandies

Turkish Delight, Portuguese Danger

The Safety Scissors That Dripped Blood

Did Somebody Say “Secret Family”?

The Butler Did Me

The Slow Unzippering of a Mild-Mannered Schoolteacher

Pew Pew Pew! You’re Dead! I’m Shooting You!

Fresno Face

Not Buried Deep Enough, Apparently

Friday, June 21, 2013

Blue Skies and Broken Hearts — Next Twelve Exits

It’s not because I’m a diehard Ataris fan. In fact, I don’t think I could hum a single song by The Ataris even if you put a gun to my head. I actually don’t think that I even realized that this neon blue trailer park sign had any pop culture relevance outside of just looking old and cool. But on January 9, 2006, I trekked out to it to take a photo, just because I liked it just because I thought maybe I could do something with the photo.

blue skies trailer park santa barbara

I never did. In the end, really, all the photo expedition did was get a certain someone’s shoes unpleasantly muddy. (No, not mine.) So seven years later, here you go: Here’s the sign that ruined what I imagine were nice shoes.

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Tree of Life

Note: I am reposting this from my Tumblr. It usually works the other way around, with the Tumblr serving as a means to promote this blog, but this one hastily-written Tumblr post actually resulted in more reaction than what my blog posts here do, so I said why not? Perhaps I stumbled into something that meant something to someone.

The man who made this illustration passed away this week.

Hiro Isono, the man who created promotional illustrations for the Secret of Mana games (including this one and this one), did something that not many artists working for video game companies can do: Rather than just drawing from the game itself, he envisioned the essence of the it, that spirit of adventure and all that, and in doing so he created an entryway into a colorful, new world. It helps that these games had a big impact on me, but I actually think the art stands up on its own. Why else make art than to dream up something up that doesn't already exist in real life and make the viewer wish so badly that it were real?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Encyclopedia Drew and the Bad Balloon

A short update.

Since I last reported on the evil balloon roommate I now have in my apartment, the situation has worsened. It’s now floating lower than it had before, so it’s basically aimed at my junk at any given moment. It’s still moving around the house, just more sluggishly. I suppose its declining health prompted what’s happened as I type this. See for yourself:

Literally, it’s sitting in the chair. And not just any chair. It’s sitting in the one seat that has a view of me working at my computer. As I type this, it’s pointed toward me, and I honestly feel like I’m being watched. No lie: I had an itch in my noise and I declined to scratch it because I felt like someone was looking at me.

I’m not kidding about this. If I stop blogging, that means the balloon got me and my soul is now trapped in the balloon and you have to come break into my apartment and pop the balloon so I can be at peace.


Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Rustling Terror

Trigger warning: If you suffer from globophobia, this post may be very disturbing. I do not suffer from this hilarious psychological condition, and this is still kind of creeping me out.

When my friend Michelle gave me a mylar balloon for my birthday last week, I realized that I’d never been given one before. I had a childhood full of the regular, stretchy, imminently pop-able balloons, but never their hardier, metallic counterparts. (They’re the humanoid robots of the balloon world, these things. They’re Robert fucking Patrick.) I should probably note that what Michelle gave me was also no mere circular balloon. No, it was the mylar Taj Mahal. Observe:

It’s large. In fact, I joked to Michelle that the balloon will make it feel like I have a roommate. It may be bigger than some of the children to whom its helium-filled brothers are given. It also differs from most balloons in that it has points — a head and arms, if you like.

Have I ever mention that my apartment is drafty? Well, it is. Perhaps you can see where this is going.

The first time: So I’m in the kitchen, washing dishes and I hear this peculiar scraping noise. Scraaaape. Scraaaape. Scraaaape — pauses in between and then the noise for a few seconds at a time. I stopped washing to hear the noise better. Scraaaape. It was getting closer. So I dried my hands and stepped into the dining room to immediately come face-to-face with the birthday balloon. I jumped. Were it a horror movie, it would have been punctuated by a blast of music.

The second time: I’m reading in bed. Straying over the top of the page for a second, my eye catches movement down in the darkened hallway. At the other end of the hall is the dining room, empty but illuminated enough by the streetlights outside that I can make out the silhouette of the balloon pass by the doorway… very… slowly. It makes little crinkly noises as it moves around my apartment.

The third (and final) time: I won’t even try and build up suspense with this one. A few nights later, I woke up and the balloon was in my bedroom, right by bed, kind of like it was looking over me. I know I said something out loud — maybe “Oh Christ” or maybe just “nope” — and I immediately locked it in the closet.

I’d just pop the ballon now, but I’m worried doing that will release the ghost that’s maybe causing all this creepiness and who is perhaps better off trapped in a mylar prison. Seems logical, right? This is the wisdom you get with age.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Grim Specter of Death (a Birthday Post from Drew!)

Yesterday, I turned thirty-one, and I treated this birthday as a non-event, since the big three-oh didn’t mean the end of the world any more than 2012 meant the end of the world. I had the day off work, and I tried to spend my time doing the things I always want to do — happy-making, me-centric stuff, with less of a focus on what I have and haven’t accomplished one year further into my life. Please keep that in mind when I show you the painting I can’t stop looking at, and understand that no, this is not a plea for help in my battle against the grinding passage of time.

“the white peacock,” via wikipedia, via the vienna academy of fine arts
I find this beautiful. You may find it horrifying — it’s five dead birds and a dead rabbit, after all — but I think it helps to look at how lovingly and carefully these animals were painted. Click on the photo for the bigger version, and you’ll see individual feathers and hairs. But they’re not realistic depictions of hunted prey. As this sporting journal article notes, they’re idealized: You can’t see any puncture wounds, and they simply seem to have died in an immaculate state. (Spencer notes that the painter’s name was Jan Weenix, and maybe the animals just heard his name and died laughing.) The article goes on to say that such game pieces “weren’t commemorating a specific hunt, or morality tales on blood sports, or demonstrations of putting food on the table,” but instead were “status symbols for the bourgeois painting-purchasing class to hang in their country estates,” which makes me think of them as the seventeenth-century equivalent of those knock-off vintage booze posters you see in every home wanting to suggest some vague notion of old-timey class. That doesn’t bother me. I’m just looking at the painting in 2013 — in my thirty-first year, apparently — and appreciating it as a depiction of ordinary objects, rendered with a level of care that makes them seem like more than what they were, if they ever existed in the first place. (Do white peacocks exist?)

I suppose there are worse ways to begin a new year than appreciating something for what it is.