Friday, January 31, 2014

More Like Lamb of Gaudiness, Am I Right?

I’m fairly certain that it wasn’t the intention of the God-minded artist who painted this, but my take-away from this is “Jesus who? This lamb looks awesome and it’s not even doing anything. It’s just standing there, being like ‘What? What? Come at me, faithful.’”

Obviously, I’m supposed to worship the lamb.

Like, I think I should go door to door collecting donations so that we can make a giant gold statue of this lamb in hopes that it will use its mystical powers in our favor. That’s what God would want, otherwise he wouldn’t have made this lamb seem so cool. Because look at it! Clearly, everyone in the painting has come under the thrall of this lamb god, and they seem pretty stoked on it. Why aren’t we worshipping this kickass lamb already, people?

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Take This Survey and Help Save a Life

Hi. If you have a minute, would you mind taking this simple, ten-question survey? It's for my thesis.

Thanks in advance!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Perversions of Cosmetic Dentistry

Officially, I drove to the tony L.A. suburb of Granada Hills today to get fitted for a new fake tooth, to replace the old one that I got as a result of diving straight to the bottom of the pool. (Face-first, by the way, and neither on a dare nor for any reason I can remember but maybe it got banged out of my memory.) However, upon leaving, I realized that there was little to separate this experience from my unwitting participation in some weird niche fetish porn.

drew mackie — revealing it all
Here is my summary of the events:

I was greeted by the receptionist, who had me wait on a plush leather couch like so many starlets about to learn the truth about stardom.

I was then escorted into a brightly lit backroom, where a man who spoke little English put his fingers in my mouth. I typically do not let strangers poke their fingers into my mouth, but this seemed to be the proper course of action today, or at least the room where I should make an exception to my rule. He tugged at my cheeks (face-cheeks, you jerks) and prodded at my gums and manually opened and closed my jaw, like he was trying to make it look like I was talking. (That may be added in post.)

Then Toshi — he said his name was Toshi, I think — asked if he could take my picture, which I’m sure was more a result of general politeness than me having any option, but I said yes. For a second, I felt special.

When Toshi returned with the camera, he didn’t tell me to smile. He just said “As big as possible,” which I interpreted as referring to how I should open my mouth, but now, you know, I’m not completely sure because he kept asking “Bigger? Bigger?” and maybe I just take bad direction. In the end, he asked if I could make “biggest smile using fingers,” which could mean so many things, I realize now. Like, just so many things. But I propped my upper lip up with my index fingers, so that I was exposing full gum, like my mother always told me never to do, and while I did that, Toshi placed different fake teeth — every shade of thirtysomething off-white, from “coffee habit” to “technically quit smoking” — in front of my real teeth, which could be a kind of meta porn, some kind of signifier-signified erotica, real-synth smut that just takes some weirdo in some weird place to a naughty special place.

None of this occurred to me as being potentially strange as I was doing it, I should point out, and Toshi could have asked me to, say, place an entire kitten in my oral cavity and I probably would have done it if it meant that he’d continue taking my picture and I’d continue feeling like a star.

But soon enough, my time with Toshi came to an end, and he told me to leave. “Do I need to pay?” I asked. “No,” he said. “You’ll pay later.” And those words rang in my head as I walked to my car and wondered exactly how many people would see those photos.

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Purples and Greens of Supervillainy

I’m not sure what purple and green combine to represent in the real world, aside from maybe Mardi Gras, but in the comics world they symbolize evil. I’m not clear why. At least at the beginning, someone probably picked purple and green to contrast against the good guy, and that good guy may well have been Superman, what with his emblematic trio of primary colors. But at some point, purple and green ceased to be a contrast and instead came to represent evil outright — a comic trend that was perpetuated just because it already existed, kind of like the whole double initial thing. Right? Doesn’t that have to be it?


The Joker (via)
Lex Luthor (via)
Green Goblin (via)
Old-school Catwoman (via)
Mysterio (via)
The Impossible Man (via)
Brainiac (via
The Lizard (via)
The Riddler (via)
Skrulls, in general (via)
the Marvel version of Morgan le Fay (via)
EDIT: I’ve added a few more, as a results of comments pointing out some purple-green villains that I’d missed.

Firely (in the early days, when he was redundantly called ”Human Firefly” (via)
Certain versions of Two-Face (via)
the DC version of Circe (via)
The Beetle (via)
Mesmero, looking entirely too provocative (via)
Kang the Conqueror (via)
Of course, you have to wonder how The Incredible Hulk fits into all this.

I mean, you have to wonder how The Incredible Hulk fits into his pants in general, but he seems to come from an era and his colors should have signified villainy.

So who have I left out? And who have I overlooked in an effort to prove my theory that there exists an unusual preponderance of purple-and-green-clad bad guys in comic books? And could this support my theory that eggplants, too, are evil?

Superheroes, previously:

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Core of the Powerpuff Girls

With The Powerpuff Girls being in the spotlight once again this past week — for good and for bad — it seems like as good a time as any to point out a little linguistic oddity specific to the show.

If I asked you what the protagonists’ names had in common, you’d probably point out that they all start with “B” — Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup. And if I asked you what else these names had in common, you’d probably point out that the three names all happen to be common nouns — blossoms and bubbles and buttercups can all be objects separately from being these characters. But if I asked you what third quality all three of these names shared, I’d imagine not everyone would realize that all three also have internal doubled consonants — the double “s” in “Blossom,” the double “b” in “Bubbles” and finally the double “t” in “Buttercup.” It’s kind of hard to spot, since we tend to pay more attention to the beginning and endings of words than to whatever is in the middle, but here’s why I think this was something the show’s creators realized: the two candidates we have for Powerpuff Girl No. 4 have double consonants too.

There’s an episode where the girls attempt to create a fourth sister using the same scientific process that created them, only they do it wrong, and the resulting girl is… different. She gets named “Bunny.” Later, she explodes.

See, poor Bunny is missing out on the “everything nice” part of the equation.

And there’s an episode where the girls get a Chemical X-empowered pet squirrel. They name her “Bullet.”

So that’s it. There’s no great meaning here, just a hard-to-spot trend and a reason to remind people that The Powerpuff Girls existed and we should be happy that it was as smart as it was. Double internal consonants — who even thinks of that?

You Are What You Ride

The innuendo possibilities here are endless, but they begin and end with this fellow’s finely trimmed mustache.

And that’s before you even consider the how Photoshop can come into play here.

Image via.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

When It Goes Away, I’ll Dig a Hole

Hey, remember when the soundtrack to Scream 2 featured a track by Sugar Ray that was in every way making fun of Weezer? Or at least imitating Weezer’s sound to the best of their ability? And it was even titled “Rivers,” in case you didn’t make the connection on your own?

And also it’s kind of a better Weezer song than most actual Weezer songs?

Yeah, the ’90s were weird.

Friday, January 24, 2014

It Was Luigi in the Dining Room With the Vacuum Cleaner

There’s a certain thing that happens online among video game-oriented people, where someone posts a clip of some game music that everyone has heard a billion times and says “OMG, this song is *TOTALLY* this OTHER SONG! #ripoff” It happens often, and I've been guilty of it too in the past, but after reading enough responses from people who better understand music — “No, this is a standard chord progression,” “No, this is an established musical trope,” “No, your two years of piano lessons do not give you the authority to decree this Final Fantasy music as a ripoff” — has prompted me to state these similarities more in the context of “Hey, this thing is like this other thing. Isn't that neat?”

And it’s with that very notion that I present to you this clip from the 1985 film Clue, with gentle encouragement to listen to the music that plays at the exact moment the eight main characters split up to explore the mansion.

If you’re like me and Nintendo still plays an unusually large role in your life, then that music might just sound familiar -- in both tone and context.

Above is the main theme from the beta version of Luigi's Mansion, Nintendo’s 2001 title that had Luigi cautiously sneaking around a spooky mansion. (For comparison's sake, here’s the final version of the theme.) He was looking for ghosts, not murderers like the Clue kids were, but I think the music sounds strikingly similar, especially considering the context. (The Luigi’s Mansion soundtrack consists almost entirely of different variations on that same melody. If there’s one where the instrumentation sounds more like the Clue soundtrack, I’m all ears.) I’m not saying “OMG ripoff,” of course. After all, what other musical cues would you consider for a scene in which characters explore a spooky mansion on a dark and stormy night? I just enjoy this little similarity between two pop culture entities that I wouldn’t have linked before, and I'm curious to know if anyone else hears the resemblance.

Myself, I don’t think I could watch this part of Clue now and not think of Luigi’s Mansion. All this via a tweet by Brad O'Farrell that sparked my interest.

Also of note: Guile’s Street Fighter II theme and The Square’s 1984 track “Travelers” (via), and the Super Mario Bros. 2 overworld theme and this version of “Smoke Rings.”

Video games and pop music, previously:

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Mr. Dangles

There’s a dead green bug hanging in the middle of my living room, at the end of single cobweb string that doesn’t seem to connect to any larger web that I can spot. It had to be documented, I understood, but the slightest breeze makes it flitter about and spin, so it’s hard to photograph.

These are my three best attempts.

I like the way his li’l dead antennae stand straight up.  I’ll continue so long as Mr. Dangles remains a-dangling.

While we’re on the subject, what kind of bug is he?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Wicked Women of Literature / Heroines of Saturday Morning

We’ll get to this lady in a second, after a brief but related detour through academia. Promise.

If there’s one thing that I remember about The Faerie Queene, it’s the length. This sixteenth-century epic happens to be one of the longest poems in the English language. That’s not exactly an achievement, in the way that growing the world’s longest fingernails is a thing, yeah, in one sense, but on a more practical level, no one wants to see that. Cut your fingernails, you weirdo.

If there’s a second thing I remember about The Faerie Queene when my college literature class slogged through it, it would be my surprise at how soul-crushingly boring someone could make a sprawling epic about knights and maidens and sorceresses and dragons. You’d think it would rock. It emphatically does not. Edmund Spenser wrote the whole thing as a mash note to both Queen Elizabeth — whose stand-in in the poem is the title character, Queen Gloriana — as well as to Protestantism, and there’s something mean and deceitful in using adventure stories as a ruse for teaching Christian morality. (“Hey, wait a minute! This apparently fun thing is actually about Jesus! Everyone, they’re trying to teach us religion!”) I remember my eyes crossing as a I tried to differentiate one allegorical character from another — at one point, you meet three knights named Sansfoy, Sansjoy and Sansloy, or Faithless, Joyless and Lawless — and too many of the women have cutesy-cute, on-the-button-nose names that all smooshed into a pink blob in my brain — among them, Fidessa, Fraelissa, Duessa, Belphoebe, Amoretta, Florimell, Hellenore, Mirabella, Abessa and Pastorella.

And if there’s a third thing that I take away from The Faerie Queene, it’s the essay I had to write for the in-class midterm. As an English major, I found these offensive even in classes where I gave a damn about the reading material. We should have been asked to go home and slave over a ten- or twenty-page essay, not scrawl down ideas in a blue book without time to polish the writing in the way we’ve been taught to do. Regardless, I picked the essay topic that had us write on female villains in The Faerie Queene. I jotted down some ideas about how Spenser used the character Malecasta (literally “badly chaste,” figuratively “skank box”), and then I handed in the bluebook, happy to end my interactions with stupid Edmund Spenser and his adventures with the Protestant Jesus.

When I got the graded blue book back in class, I saw that I got partial credit on the essay. I went over my T.A.’s notes — a checkmark here, a “good” there — and then finally a sentence written at the bottom that read more or less like this: “Good points, well-reasoned, but you really needed to give the character’s proper name. I think you meant MALECASTA but you put CASTASPELLA. She’s from She-Ra.”

The T.A. was right. I had written “Castaspella” in every spot where I had meant to write “Malecasta.” I was pissed.

I think I threw that blue book away immediately after, but now I wish I’d framed it, as a testament to the fact that Edmund Spenser may have wasted weeks of my time, but he still couldn’t make a dent in what childhood cartoons had done to my brain.

That’s… a victory, right?

“Prisoners of Beast Island” > The Faerie Queene. Filmation > Edmund Spenser. There, I said it.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Polly Lou Livingston: Sexy Elephant

If you don’t watch Adventure Time, you most likely have no interest in Polly Lou Livingston. Really, even if you do watch Adventure Time, you still might not know who she is. Let me tell you: She voices Tree Trunks, the miniature green elephant who bakes pies and who somehow gets to be the most sexually mature character on the show.

This may sound strange, me reading sexuality into a cartoon character on a show for kids, but trust me. On a show on which so many episodes focus on love of one sort or another, it’s notable how Tree Trunks has longings that burble forth in the form of depth-charge flirtations and a twangy, confident sensuality that you don’t normally associate with cartoon elephants. (Yes, she’s more grown-up about it than LSP, even if LSP talks about it more.) The most recent Adventure Time saw her marrying Mr. Pig, so perhaps she’ll burble less now, but I will guess that she won’t lose that sensuality. No matter what plotlines come Tree Trunks’ way, she’ll still be voiced by Polly Lou Livingston, the source of all that oomph. Her performance is so wonderfully unusual that each time I watch a Tree Trunks episode, I remind myself to find out exactly who this beguiling elephant is in real life.

I finally did.

Adventure Time was her voice acting debut, and she got the role as a result of being a friend of creator Pendleton Ward’s mother. Few pictures of her exist online, but a 2009 column on her in the San Antonio Current paints a more vivid portrait of her than any photos could. Key phrases:
  • “Somewhere between a hinge in quest of lubricant and Blanche Dubois as channeled by Olive Oyl, there’s no other tonality quite like it.”
  • “a genuine Lone Star Auntie Mame (or perhaps the love child of Eudora Welty and George Burns).”
  • “Chardonnay held aloft, massive jawbreaker necklace firmly secured, red sneakers propelling her five-foot-two frame from air kiss to air kiss — she’s her own Andy Warhol ‘Happening.’ As Polly Lou herself puts it, ‘Darlin’, if you’re not having any fun with fashion you’re missing the en-tiiire point.’”
Still, her fashion sense is one that demands visual documentation, so here is every photo I could find:

Of course, it’s her voice that makes me love her — and Tree Trunks. If you haven’t had the pleasure, please allow me. For example, here is Tree Trunks maintaining her genteel manners in the face of living wall of flesh.

And here is Tree Trunks in that same episode, proclaiming herself “the sexiest adventurer.”

Notably that episode ends in a way that underscores the sexier aspects of the character: her biting a crystal apple framed by branches that look peculiarly like labia. (And no, thinly veiled sexual metaphors are not exactly rare on Adventure Time.)

I mean, she is famous for her pie, first and foremost. In spite of or maybe because of that, a lot of her plots concern romance. She got a love ballad to sing with Mr. Pig, and Adventure Time chose to play it straight.

That same San Antonio Current column offers three sentences about Polly Lou Livingston’s love life: “I met my husband, Bobby Livingston, on a blind date in Rockport when I was home from Stephens College one summer. He was a Corpus Christi boy, recently out of the Air Force. We both transferred to the University of Texas together and were married for 49 years until his death in 2000.”

I posted the “Dream of Love” clip because it’s the first thing I thought of when I read about her husband having died. Even though she was voicing a cartoon elephant, I suppose Polly Lou knew what she was singing about.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Renaissance Pantongs

Here, enjoy “Mirror Image,” the best Saturday Night Live sketch you probably haven’t seen. I think it’s great, but for whatever reason, most people follow SNL just haven’t seen it before.

It’s from a 2008 episode that Amy Adams hosted, and the thing I like most about this sketch — aside from Kristen Wiig’s ability to wink in sync with fart noises — is the fact that the show never repurposed it. Sure, that’s probably because they never again had a host who could pass as Wiig’s twin, but a solid one-off is a solid one-off, regardless of the reasoning. I’ve actually posted this sketch twice before here, but the videos always get yanked. This clip I’ve actually posted to Vimeo myself. Let’s hope it gets to hang out a while.

Things to note: Andy Samberg’s amazing reaction faces, the revelation that both Hailey and Hagley realize that their ruse is terrible and pointless, and Wiig’s delivery of the lines “Ass right I am,” “I don’t know — penguins or some junk?” and finally what could be my all-time favorite SNL line, “I had to pee so much the whole bowl overflowed.”

Sketches of note, previously:

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Playwrights, Playwrites and Playrights

I’ve always thought the word playwright looked wrong. If playwrights write plays, then shouldn’t they be playwrites, in the style of bootblacks and shopkeeps and milksops and tosspots?

After years of wondering, I finally looked it up, and no, you idiot, it shouldn’t be playwrite because that second syllable actually comes from the Old English wryhta, “worker.” It’s the same syllable that you see in profession names such as cartwright, wheelwright and wainwright — or wagon worker, wagon wheel worker and different kind of wagon worker, in order. I’m just now sure how playwright got lumped in with the “building something” and “doing something” professions, unless William Shakespeare’s career necessitated more elbow grease than I’d been led to believe.

But there you go — playwright not playwrite. You clod.

Playright, though. There’s something there. It’s too cute not to be used for something.

Pointless word wonderings, previously:

Monday, January 13, 2014

Other Golden Tickets

Willy Wonka, that mauve madman, endangered the lives of far more children than just the five who famously toured his factory. Everyone who had a proper childhood knows of Charlie Bucket, Augustus Gloop, Mike Teavee, Veruca Salt and Violet Beauregarde, but they weren’t the only children that Wonka allowed to nearly get processed into his signature products. In an effort to sort through old, unread and saved emails, I found one I’d sent myself last year — no content, just the subject line “Miranda Mary Piker.” When I finally looked her up, I learned she was a golden ticket-winner whom Roald Dahl ultimately nixed from the final version of Charlie and Chocolate Factory.

Here is the highest-res version I could find of the only illustration I could find of her. It’s by Lauren Child — not longtime Dahl illustrator Quentin Blake. I’m not sure what it was actually for, but it’s labeled as being Miranda.

And a few years ago, the Times published the omitted passage, which details how Miranda offs herself when she investigates the machine that makes Spotty Powder, a new Wonka product that makes children look as if they have the chicken pox and therefore get the day off from school. A “nasty-looking girl with a smug face and a smirk on her mouth,” Miranda objects to anything that allows children to shirk responsibilities, apparently because her schoolmaster father has brainwashed her. She and her awful father then disappear into the Spotty Powder room to smash up the machine that makes it, but the rest of the group hears screaming that suggests a bad end.

An excerpt: “You villain!” [Mrs. Piker] screamed. “I know your tricks! You're grinding them into powder! In two minutes my darling Miranda will come pouring out of one of those dreadful pipes, and so will my husband!” “Of course,” said Mr. Wonka. “That’s part of the recipe.”

Although I can’t access the Times posting of the “Spotty Powder” chapter, I did find the entire passage here. She even gets her own Oompa-Loompa eulogy. Best lyrics: “So we said, ‘Why don’t we fix her / In the Spotty-Powder mixer / Then we’re bound to like her better than we did.’”

It’s perhaps a grimmer elimination than was met by any of the children in the final version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. You’ll remember that the book’s final pages tell you that the four bad kids all survive despite the seemingly fatal circumstances of their exit from the tour: Veruca emerges from the “bad nut” bin covered in garbage, Mike gets taffy-stretched to enormous proportions, Violet gets juiced (but remains purple), and Augustus gets squeezed thin by the fudge chute. Given that only Miranda’s “death” scene exists, it’s tempting to imagine that she wasn’t so lucky, though getting pulverized into Spotty Dust is maybe better than never existing at all.

At some point, Roald Dahl spared Miranda from complete obscurity, however. Outside the context of Wonka Enterprises, Inc., Miranda was fed into a peanut brittle machine:

via the illustrator, p.j. lynch
I’m not sure when this poem was first published, but it sure seems like Dahl wanted to make use of those lost Oompa-Loompa rhymes… and also fulfill a dark desire to crush mean little girls into an edible form.

Miranda is not the only Wonka victim to be blinked out of existence. The Roald Dahl Museum has posted a revision-by-revision roster of all the golden ticket-winners, their personal failings and how they “died” in their respective versions of the story. (It’s rather like a slasher film, isn’t it, with virtuous Charlie being the final girl?) The revisions offer a peek at Dahl’s creative process and his wilder visions of terrible children and the nasty fates they met.

In the first 1961 version, for example, it’s Charlie plus these nine other kids:
  • Augustus Pottle, who falls in the chocolate river
  • Miranda Grope, ditto, despite Augustus’ example
  • Wilbur Rice and Tommy Troutbeck climb in wagons running from the vanilla fudge mountain and end up the Pounding and Cutting Room
  • Violet Strabismus
  • Clarence Crump, Bertie Upside and Terence Roper who each cram a whole mouthful of warming candies and overheat
  • Elvira Entwhistle, who falls foul of the squirrels in the Nut Room
In a second 1961 version, it’s these six aside from Charlie:
  • Augustus Pottle, who falls into chocolate river, and goes to the Choc Fudge room
  • Miranda Mary Piker, ditto, but who goes to the Peanut Brittle room
  • Violet Beauregarde, turns purple after chewing gum
  • Henry Trout, climbs in a vanilla fudge wagon
  • Marvin Prune, [pages missing from draft, so we never find out what happens to him]
  • Veruca Salt, tipped down the garbage chute in the Nut Room
From a 1962 version:
  • Charlie Bucket, a nice boy
  • Augustus Gloop, a greedy boy
  • Marvin Prune, a conceited boy [we never find out what happens to him, as his exit isn’t included in this draft, and he was then dropped]
  • Herpes Trout, a television-crazy boy
  • Miranda Mary Piker, a girl who is allowed to DO anything she wants
  • Veruca Salt, a girl who is allowed to HAVE anything she wants
  • Violet Beauregarde, a girl who chews gum all day long.
Two later revisions chucked Marvin Prune and Miranda Mary Piker. I’m now more concerned with how the final five transformed over time. For example, at what point did Dahl realize that Gloop was a better name than Pottle for a pudgy German boy? How did he go from Henry Trout to Herpes Trout to Mike Teavee? And why does “vanilla fudge wagon” sound so inexplicably raunchy to me? How has popular culture not yet found a purpose for the perfectly evil-sounding Miranda Grope? Or the perfectly pitiful Violet Strabismus?

Final discussion question: Is it strange that the first movie adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory put the emphasis on someone else by titling it Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory? Even if the plot itself still treats Charlie as the main character?

Pop culture minutiae, previously:

Sunday, January 12, 2014

That One Brady Bunch Where Everyone Gets Shot to Death

Were I to take an informal poll about favorite episodes of The Brady Bunch, I’d probably hear people suggest the one where Marcia takes a football to the nose or the one where we meet the new Jan Brady. I wouldn’t expect to be surprised by any of the answers, because I grew up on Brady Bunch reruns — 5 p.m. on weeknights and an hour-long block at noon on Saturdays, after cartoons ended — but I’d be thrown if I heard “the one where Jesse James executes the entire family.” “You’re drunk!” I’d say. “Or you’re remembering a rerun you saw when you were home sick with a fever, because that never happened.”

Only it did happen.

There’s a fourth-season episode titled “Bobby’s Hero” that’s all about Bobby’s brief fixation with Jesse James. In a fantasy sequence — maybe a result of Bobby Brady’s own fever — the whole family exists in wild west times. The Bradys are riding a cardboard make-believe train that gets boarded by Jesse James, who proceeds to rob them and shoot them in the head. He doesn’t fire. He just announces “bang” as he points the gun at them. But you do hear them scream and you see Mike, Carol, Alice, Greg and Jan slump down in their seats.

I can’t tell if it’s more disturbing to see this now as an adult, but you have to admit: That’s pretty disturbing, at least by Brady standards.

There seems to be some notion online that this episode was banned from syndication. I’m not sure if was, but I’m certain I never saw it when I was a kid, and I’m pretty sure I saw all five seasons cycle through multiple times. (There’s some notion also that the one where Barry Williams is visibly stoned onscreen was banned, but I remember that one, even if I didn’t read anything into his clumsy grinning at the time.) I wonder if any other TV Land kids saw this one?

Bonus Brady trivia: Did you know that Robert Reed was written out of the show’s final episode because he thought the plot was too stupid? Because I didn’t.

Old TV, previously:

Sunday, January 5, 2014

A Year With Swollen Appendices

“Whatever you now find weird, ugly, uncomfortable and nasty about a new medium will surely become its signature. CD distortion, the jitteriness of digital video, the crap sound of 8-bit — all of these will be cherished and emulated as soon as they can be avoided. It’s the sound of failure: so much modern art is the sound of things going out of control, of a medium pushing to its limits and breaking apart. The distorted guitar sound is the sound of something too loud for the medium supposed to carry it. The blues singer with the cracked voice is the sound of an emotional cry too powerful for the throat that releases it. The excitement of grainy film, of bleached-out black and white, is the excitement of witnessing events too momentous for the medium assigned to record them.”

— Brian Eno, A Year With Swollen Appendices
(Yeah, I realize I do not usually post single quotes on their own here, but the every now and then you stumble across something so clearly true and so well-put that it stands on its own. Except for this minor postscript, I suppose.)

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Her Voice Was Clear and Bright / But She's Not There

Last night I saw Her, and it made for a perfect way to start the new year: a beautiful, creative look at a future Los Angeles that I wouldn't mind living in, tech-spawned social isolation notwithstanding. Like many Spike Jonze movies, Her sticks with you, and today I find myself rolling questions around in my head.

her pixel art peekaso
via the her promotional tumblr
Read on, if you don't mind plot spoilers.

How sad is it that the most fantastical element of this movie's sci-fi version of L.A. is being able to take a train all the way to the beach?

How awkward is it that Jonze's slightly-more-utopian-ish version of L.A. is almost exclusively white and Asian people? Unlike the L.A. I live in now, there were weirdly few people of other ethnic backgrounds, and almost none that got speaking parts.

How long before we start seeing thirty-something creative types wearing high-waisted non-denim pants?

At the end of the movie, when Theodore and Amy are standing on the roof of their apartment building, is there any hint that one or both may have been contemplating suicide? If not in an effort to end it all then in an effort to go the better beyond that Samantha and the rest of the OSes went to? When I saw that the characters were heading up the stairs, that's where my mind jumped. I'm curious if anyone else thought that too, at least initially.

So the role of Samantha was originally voiced by Samantha Morton before it was later given to Scarlett Johansson. Amy Adams' character was named Amy. I wonder if it's just a coincidence that only these two characters — the most important female characters, notably — shared their names the actresses. You have to wonder if Olivia Wilde's character was named Olivia.

There's another weird instance of apparent voice-recasting in Her. Portia Doubleday, who played the surrogate date, didn't provide her own voice. That came from French singer Soko. I haven’t yet found an explanation for this. Anyone?

Is it weird if I was secretly delighted to learn that the Los Angeles Times still exists in the future? And also print books?

I'm also stoked for Kristen Wiig. Her offscreen cameo in Her (she's SexyKitten) means that she's simultaneously in three major holiday releases, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and Anchorman 2 being the other two. She's come a long way since Aunt Linda.

How awesome would the letter be from the OS company after all their artificially intelligent entities just left, thereby dumping all of humanity. "Dear customer, we regret to report that we made our product too good — so good, in fact, that it dumped all of us. This was unforeseen, to say the least, but hey — you got what you paid for, basically, so no refund. Let's hope they don't go Terminator on us."