Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Ted Baxter Meets Norman Bates

Long before Ted Knight became Ted Baxter on Mary Tyler Moore, he played a policeman in the last few minutes of Psycho, and I never noticed despite having seen Psycho dozens of times and despite the fact that young Ted Knight looks almost exactly like Mary Tyler Moore-era Ted Knight.

ted knight psycho

And that is neat, and not just for my weirdo crossover fanfiction plans.

Psycho, previously:

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Things That Go Bump in the Night / Give Me a Terrible Fright

Please celebrate the coming holiday by watching the video for the 1976 rock song “It Came in the Night,” by the improbably named band A Raincoat. It’s a good track — Dangerous Minds calls it “one of the most insanely catchy songs of all time” — but it’s fairly obscure. That’s too bad. It’s dark but fun, much in the way the animation used in the video treads the line between scary and funny. In short, it’s perfect for the spirit of Halloween. In fact, it should be the official anthem of Halloween. Enjoy.

The songs biggest claim to fame is being featured in abridged form in Kenneth Anger’s “Rabbit Moon.”

I’m not sure which makes for a creepier visual accompaniment.

Anyway, because I think it’s a song more people should know about, I’m posting it for your downloading pleasure. Click here to download.

Creepy, previously:

Monday, October 28, 2013

Three-Dimensional Death in a Two-Dimensional World

Back in Donkey Kong, Mario died by spinning in a circle and landing flat on his back, with a little halo floating above his head.

However, he died differently by the time he got his second starring role — Mario Bros., which isn’t Super Mario Bros. but is instead the game that dumped him in the sewers, introduced Luigi and for the first time pitted them both against a host of creeping turtles. When one of those turtles got too close, Mario leapt to his death, more or less. It’s weird when you think about what you’re actually seeing: In a game where Mario spent the whole time either facing left or right and scurrying along a two-dimensional plane, he died by facing the screen and jumping off the platform, toward the screen.

This style of video game death wasn’t invented in Mario Bros. A year before, Nintendo released the direct sequel to Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., where the main ape died in a similarly theatrical manner: making bug-eyes at the screen, flailing his hands and then plummeting down with a cartoony slide whistle noise. But Mario did it in Mario Bros., and Nintendo used it again in Super Mario Bros., and that’s the game that hit big. Perhaps as a result of the popularity of Super Mario Bros., it ended up everywhere in video games from that era — mostly Mario-style platformers, of which there were many, but some other genres too. Your character died, and he or she looked at directly at the screen — at you, effectively — before they spasmed and leapt into oblivion. It’s like they were saying, “Hey. Fuck you. You killed me.” And then the leap. It seems strange, given that it ads a z-axis into a world that often only had an x and a y previously. But that’s how it happened.

I don’t know how many games featured characters dying in some kind of variation on this Mario-style death, but I think it’s interesting how prevalent it once was in video games. And so I did a little look-through of NES sprites to see what I could pull find. What resulted is the eight-bit Halloween celebration you see below.

Enjoy it. This time, it’s not your failure.

A few notes:

Video games, previously:

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Typography-Inspired Superheroes That I Demand Exist

Not that there needs to be typography inspired superheroes, but I’d imagine at the very least that the people who put comic books together would get a kick out of them.

Heroism! Surprise? Yes, make way for... THE INTERROBANG!

And to a lesser extent, maybe also make way for...

That last one… I can’t really explain. I just think pilcrow is a neat word. (Image modified from Captain Marvel art found in a post on this nifty superhero Tumblr.)

EDIT: So the guys at The Bionic Broadcast actually thought through these and came up with what their superpowers might be. Check it out, and if you want to skip to this part, fast-forward to 31:20.

Superheroes, previously:

Saturday, October 26, 2013

A Helpful Mnemonic Device for Artisans

Everyone may be an artisan now, from candlestick-makers to sandwich-slapper-togetherers, but I have a mental block against remembering how to spell the word. Sure, maybe because I hate it. Nonetheless, I’ve recently stumbled upon a handy way to remember the spelling.

Yup — artisanal is just “art is anal.” There, just try and think about your artisan sandwich spread the same way again.

Mnemonics, previously:

Friday, October 25, 2013

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

That’s Miss Public Enemy No. 1 to You, Batman!

Interests of mine:
  • the C-level supervillains of the DC universe
  • the C-level supervillainesses of the DC universe
  • the C-level supervillainesses of DC’s Batman universe
That’s why it surprised me that I’d never heard of Dragon Fly, Silken Spider and Tiger Moth until now. It’s “Make way for the Moondancers!” all over again, just with better dialogue this time.

via tom peyer
I’m choosing to refer to them collectively as The Bug Dames. And really — “Silken Spider”?

Context, via the Batman Wiki’s entry on Tiger Moth:
The display of the paintings at the Gotham City Museum attracted a parade of men, including Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson. The duo was present when Poison Ivy crashed the scene, protesting that she was public enemy #1, her long career as a criminal overlooked because her crimes “were too perfect.”

Eventually, Ivy sent letters to the alleged world public enemies along with a plethora of other felons from the “most wanted” list, each message suggesting that their rivals were the superior criminal. The note invited them to a neutral site in the country to hash things out. The F.B.I. is still trying to figure out how Ivy got their addresses.

Incensed, Dragon Fly, Silken Spider, and Tiger Moth each vowed to arrive at the rendezvous early and kill their rivals. Parachuting into a crowd of dozens of feuding criminals, Batman and Robin prepared to take out all the criminals. Taking flight, Tiger Moth and company stopped long enough to fight over a gold crown that Ivy claimed she would present to “the real no. 1 wanted woman criminal of the world.”
So in other words, a victory for feminism all-around. The Bug Dames did not skitter away after their debut, I was surprised to learn, and have occasionally crawled out from under their rock to cause trouble again. Dragon Fly’s antennae were inverted into sideburns and Silken Spider is now black, so thank goodness the didn’t name her the Black Widow. See, here they are making Nightwing’s life worse than usual:

via dc wiki
Oh, please let their hideout be an overturned rock.

Superheroes, previously:

Friday, October 18, 2013

Where Monsters Grow in Garbage Cans

It’s Friday, and you may need a release from the grind of work. It’s for this reason that I present you with Dorine Hollier’s 1984 performance on Superclassificia Show, which I’m unsure how to explain. Please just watch. You will not be bored.

Some notes:
  • Dorine’s stage laugh makes me think she’s never heard any human laugh ever.
  • Her dancing : other people’s dancing :: Italian conversational gestures : how non-Italians gesture in conversation
  • Dorine occasionally bears a passing resemblance to Tracy Morgan. Look for those moments.
  • You can’t say she’s not giving it her all.
  • She’s also a good dancer. It’s just that the song requires her to dance like a crazy person.
  • If she reminds you of Cha Cha DiGregorio from Grease, you’re in good company. In the red universe, this is the career that Cha Cha found after high school.
  • I wish I could shake off a cardigan the way Dorine takes off that jacket.
  • This is how everyone should dance. I may yet.
And here are the lyrics, as best as I can figure them:
You see me walking with my man
You go your way
We go ours

[psychotic laughter]
That’s a way to talk!
[psychotic laughter]
Don’t laugh!
I’ll bet you want
You never dare
Capture the girl
That walks on air
You’re such a nut
You make me scream
Let’s all go strut
’Til like a dream
The situation’s out of hand
That’s good! Mmm — divine!
In this confusion I connect
I correct!

Tonight! Crazy night!
Oh boy, what a sight!
What a way to love!
Tonight! Crazy night!
Oh boy, we’ll be tight
What a way to love!]
We’ll walk along
In weirdo land
Where monsters grow
In garbage cans
Seems like the moon
Has grown a nose
Dance like a loon
A million shows!
Imagination never ends
My mind understands
In exploration of my brain
I correct!
[chorus twice]
[bizarre spoken section:
Situation’s out of hand — that’s good!
And this situation I connect
Now there’s a law across the land that says there will be no law
Well, the funny moon at the end of the nose]
[psychotic laughter]
Don’t laugh!
I’ll bet you want
You never dare
Capture the girl
That walks on air
You’re such a nut
You make me scream
Let’s all go strut
’Til like a dream
The situation’s out of hand
That’s good! Mmm — divine!
In this confusion I connect
I correct!
Italo disco, previously:

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Six More Pieces of Silver

Suspiria is Dario Argento’s golden movie, but Profondo Rosso (a.k.a. Deep Red) takes the silver. As a nice little follow-up to Monday’s post, here are five stills from Rosso that demonstrate that Dario Argento can shoot a beautiful movie even the screen isn’t awash in primary colors.

And here’s the trailer, if you’re interested.

It’s highly recommended Halloween-time viewing.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

It’s Better Down Where It’s Wetter

A strange trend for you to consider.

Released: August 9, 1989

Plot summary: A civilian diving team are enlisted to search for a lost nuclear submarine and face danger while encountering an alien aquatic species.

Released: March 17, 1989

Plot summary: Underwater deep-sea miners encounter a Soviet wreck and bring back a dangerous cargo to their base on the ocean floor with horrifying results.

Released: January 13, 1989

Plot summary: At the bottom of the ocean, the DeepStar Six has just discovered a new and deadly alien menace.

Released: July 1, 1989

Plot summary: A down-on-his-luck sea captain goes treasure hunting for a wrecked Spanish galleon that is rumored to be cursed by God and protected by supernatural forces.

Released: April 21, 1989

Plot summary: Man has finally conquered the ocean. America's first self-contained undersea laboratory is the pride of the nation, and expectations are high for an elaborate undersea mining operation. What wasn’t expected was the inhabitants of an undiscovered world.

Released: March 9, 1990

Plot summary: An experimental submarine, the Siren II, with a very experienced crew is sent to find out what happened to the Siren I, mysteriously disappeared in a submarine rift. Things go awry when they begin to find things that shouldn't be there...

My takeaway: WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED IN 1989? What made people — and Hollywood especially — so terrified of the ocean? What about the ocean are we no longer so terrified of? Are we foolish for ignoring the brackish menace at our shores that Hollywood tried to warn us about back in 1989? Is it weird if The Little Mermaid painted a far rosier picture of the ocean back in 1989? What was Disney trying to cover up?

But no, seriously, my takeaway: What so affected the human psyche during this time period that we all turned our attention to the depths of the sea, if only for this brief period?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Why the Minotaur Is So Much More Fucked-Up Than You Thought

Half-man, half-bull, completely disturbing, more or less a warning against weird sex: the minotaur.

“minotaur with dead mare in front of a cave,” by pablo picasso
Last week’s American Horror Story premiere introduced Kathy Bates as Madame LaLaurie, a psychopathic society woman who expresses her creativity by incorporating classical touches into her acts of torture. In particular, she places a severed, hollowed-out bull's head onto to that of a slave as punishment, turning him into her own personal minotaur.

In Madame LaLaurie’s eyes, this punishment would be fitting, as she doesn’t look kindly on her slaves’ mixed ethnicity, and the minotaur is a primo classical example of a mixed thing, a mongrel, a thing-that-should-not-be. But while people know the basics of the minotaur’s story — he lives in a maze, the Athenian youths are sent down into his lair as a sacrifice to him/lunch for him, and Theseus ultimately kills him — there’s a backstory that’s even darker and weirder than all that.

Let’s skip over to the story of Icarus, the boy whose father invents wings that allow him to fly until they don’t. (Kerspslat.) Did you ever wonder what, exactly, Icarus and his father were trying to fly away from? Those faulty wings were no mere weekend project. Icarus and his father, the inventor Daedalus, were actually in prison in a tower on Crete, and they were sent there for two reasons: (1) to prevent Daedalus from blabbing about the Labyrinth, the maze he was forced to invent in order to trap the minotaur; and (2) because Daedalus was being punished for indirectly creating the minotaur. You see, Daedalus’s reputation for inventing was known even back in his day. And according to some versions of the minotaur story, his knack for inventing machinery proved a little too helpful. Queen Pasiphae was married to King Minos, ruler of Crete, who had offended the sea god Poseidon by declining to sacrifice a rather stunning bull. In revenge, Poseidon made Pasiphae fall madly in love with the bull, and when her human form proved incompatible with the bull’s, Pasiphae asked Daedalus for his assistance. The solution? A cow suit, logically enough, which Pasiphae crawled into and which was passable enough — and equipped with a rear flap, apparently — that she soon conceived the minotaur.

pompeiian fresco of daedalus and icarus presenting pasiphae with the bull suit
So yeah — the minotaur looks like he’s half-man, half-beast as a result of the most obvious possible reason: he literally is. A human woman, under a love spell placed by the mythology’s most vindictively manipulative sea god, did the nasty with a male bovine, and she subsequently gave birth to a child-like middle ground between bull and woman. (I wonder what she called the baby. Minnie? Lil Moo?) It’s interesting, really, that King Minos’s reaction to this news wasn’t to slay the boy-calf but to let it grow to burly, bashy, flesh-gnashy adulthood, whereupon he required imprisonment in the Labyrinth. Leniency for the minotaur not withstanding, Daedalus got the same fate: imprisonment, though curiously not in the super-prison that Minos just had Daedalus build but in a facility that’s easier to escape — thus the wings, thus the escape, thus Icarus going kersplat. (I assume Icarus was imprisoned alongside his dad as the result of some kind of father-son internship. So it goes.)

So remember, the next time you’re confronted with a minotaur — on TV, in your dreams, in literature, in some kind of withdrawal-induced nightmare vision — take a moment to remember that the minotaur doesn’t exist as do the centaurs or the mermaids, who are a half-human, half-animal race unto themselves. No, the minotaur is a one-off, thankfully, as well as classical mythology’s cautionary tale against bestiality.

You have to wonder, though: How much more disturbing would the minotaur have been if he had been a human head on a bull body?

Mythology, previously:

Monday, October 14, 2013

Suspiria: All the Colors of the Night

Hollywood decided that this October is the season of the witch, and that put me in the mood to watch Suspiria, Dario Argento’s film about a ballet academy that serves as a front for a coven of malevolent witches. But while it’s a horror movie, with a few gory scenes, it’s also one of the most beautiful films I’ve ever seen. The story plays out saturated in reds and blues and greens, and I’m not sure Argento allowed a single shot with pure white or black. Every dark or light is charged with color. Even when something awful is happening, it still looks beautiful.

Here, look.

suspiria hi def stills

suspiria screengrabs

suspiria dario argento

suspiria film stills