Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Pre-emptive Answers to Your Questions About My Apparent Wheat Allergy

A fun fact about me that readers may not know is that for the last few years, I haven’t been consuming wheat. Shortly after I moved to Los Angeles, I developed a stubborn rash. Several months and several doctors later, the only method we found to make the rash go away was to not eat wheat — no bread, no pasta, no beer. This hasn’t been so difficult, since hippy-dippy Los Angeles is probably one of the easiest cities in the nation to find gluten-free food. However, my flagrantly anti-wheat lifestyle seems to be a matter of curiosity for everyone else. Here, then, I’d like to preemptively answer any of the questions you might have about it.

wheatless wednesday everyday (via)
Isn’t it very L.A. of you to go gluten-free right after you move there?

I suppose. This city does have a lot of people who avoid gluten for other reasons — they think it’s inherently unhealthy or that it will make them lose weigh to cut wheat out of their diet. I’m not doing it for those reasons. I’m doing it a cuz that rash I mentioned.

Wouldn’t you be kind of screwed if you had moved to, say, Omaha?

For this and so many other reasons, yes.

I’ve read about celiac disease. It affects a much smaller portion of the population than people think, and what you’re describing doesn’t sound like celiac disease. Why are you being such a stupid faker?

First off, you’re a terrible person. Second, I don’t have celiac disease, at least according to the way I have understood that disorder. I suppose you could say that I have a gluten sensitivity, but I think it’s more accurate and much clearer to simply explain that if I eat wheat products, I get a rash, and I’d rather not eat bread than be Scabbly the Rash Man. It’s that simple.

Could it be something else in those products that’s causing the rash?

Yes, totally. The process of going to doctor after doctor was an ordeal, and since not eating these products solves the problem, I’m just going to stick with it, regardless of whether it’s the wheat or something else that’s actually causing the rash.

What happens if you eat this piece of bread?

Jesus, get it out of my face. As near as I can tell, I will get a rash that’s more or less in proportion to how much wheatiness I eat.

What about gluten-free bread?

What about it?

Well, couldn’t you get by on gluten-free products?

Here’s the thing: In my opinion, gluten-free versions of typically gluten-full products suck, much in the same way that soy-based fake meats suck. These things aren’t meant to be sourdough or chorizo or whatever we’re trying to gussy them up as. You can kind of make it work, but the end product will always be an inferior substitute for the real thing. Essentially, I just don’t eat bread anymore. It’s not that hard.

Did you lose weight as a result of giving up all those wheat products?

Yes, but not for the reason you’re thinking. Essentially, I cut bread and pasta and pastries and beer out of my life. Those are things that make you fat. Because I just stopped consuming them altogether and didn’t replace them with gluten-free versions of them, I did lose weight. But people who simply switch to gluten-free foods probably would not. Gluten-free food is not inherently healthier, just more expensive. Also, in general, paying more attention to the composition of everything I eat has helped me make healthier food choices.

No beer, huh? Wait, didn’t you go to UCSB?

Yes, and I did consume a superhuman amount of beer there without any negative skin conditions resulting.

What about gluten-free beer?

As someone far pithier than I once put it, gluten-free beer tastes like someone came in a mud puddle.


Yes. I drink wine now.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

“Megan Is Fat.”

Why do people own birds as pets? Aren’t they annoying more often than not? And less so with the cuddly? I don’t even understand the appeal of the ones that can talk. It’s a neat parlor trick at first, but wouldn’t you get sick of having a not-so-fuzzy, peck-y, claw-y pet who can seize upon a single word and then repeat it endlessly?

At my new place, I have a neighbor who has birds. (It’s actually the same neighbor who told me the “She everywhere” story, in case you’re compiling my anecdotes into some sort of master timeline.) They don’t speak so much as make shrill, inhuman noises at each other all day, to the point that I have wondered if it’s actually an incapacitated relative that my neighbor has chained up in the back room. It may be, honestly. It may also be two incapacitated relatives or one incapacitated relative and one bird, having a “fwaaargh”-off. Really, that’s the story I should be writing.

But no. I write instead about something I remembered when I drove through my old neighborhood today. I passed a house where there is always a caged parrot on the front porch. It whistles. It makes cell phone ringtone noises. Sometimes it sounds like a truck backing up. That’s about it, and really, were I its owner, I’d also keep the damn thing outside.

One day, while walking by, I saw two young boys crouched outside the cage. They were repeating the same phrase over and over, and it was simply “Megan is fat.”

“Megan is fat. Megan is fat. Megan is fat. Megan is fat. Megan is fat.” In unison, the two of them.

That’s the story.

I laughed, but not for the reasons you might think. No, it’s more a laugh about how funny it is that some people think of children as these pure-souled little angel beings who represent the promise of a better tomorrow, when children are actually heartless little shit-monsters. I don’t know who Megan was or what Megan did, but can you imagine being Megan and trying to un-teach a parrot from calling you fat? All day? Constantly? Repeatedly?

Best case scenario: The parrot bit those kids, and Megan saw it happen.

Friday, September 26, 2014

A Little Heartache Before the Weekend

You don’t have to thank me. I was happy to.

Twelve Alternatives to Murder, She Wrote

Murder, She Scrawled 

Murder, She Sighed 

Murder, She Slurred 

Murder, She Weaved 

Murder, She Painted 

Murder, She Guessed 

Murder, She Ignored 

Murder, She Fantasized 

Murder, She Requested 

Murder, She Committed 

Murder, She Gloated 

Murder, She Blamed on Someone Else in Cabot Cove, and Holy Shit, Have You Ever Thought Maybe Jessica Fletcher Is a Serial Killer and She’s Pinning All These Murders on Innocent Townspeople?

Fletcher-faces via here, here and here.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Red Before Red Was Red

I sped through two seasons of Orange Is the New Black before I realized why Kate Mulgrew's performance as prison mamochka Galina “Red” Reznikov rang a bell somewhere at the back of my mind. The reason? Batman.

On Saturday, September 5, 1992, the first-ever episode of Batman: The Animated Series aired. Titled “The Cat and the Claw, Part 1,” it introduced Catwoman (voiced by Adrienne Barbeau) and pitted her and Batman against a villain created specifically for the series, Red Claw, a terrorist of unspecified eastern European origin. But come on — just barely post-’80s? Eastern European? Terrorist? Children’s show? Red? She was obviously supposed to be Russian. Mulgrew voiced the character, and she returned for two more episodes: the second part of “The Cat and the Claw” and then “The Lion and the Unicorn,” in which Red Claw kidnaps Alfred.

I created the above supercut of Red Claw’s appearances on the show, chiefly to give people a chance to hear how much Mulgrew’s “vague, threatening east Euro” accent sounds like Red’s. (I actually have no idea how close Mulgrew gets to an actual Russian accent, but I’d nonetheless like to think of Red Claw as training for Red.) However, unlike many other great female characters who originated on the show but later transitioned to the comics — Harley Quinn, Renee Montoya, Roxy Rocket, Livewire and Mercy Graves — Red Claw has remained in the animated continuity only. So far, this is literally all we’ve seen of her, bad-ass tattoo, asymmetrical jump suit and fashion sash notwithstanding.

One quick thought, though: Are we past the point of naming Russian characters “Red” yet?

Another: I think the freckle-faced female henchwoman who shows up around the six-minute mark may be a rarity in Batman: The Animated Series. She may not have lines, but she’s one of a few female toughs to play B to a major villain’s A over the course of the series.

One last one: “And people wonder why no one takes Britain seriously anymore.”

Superheroes, previously:

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Useless New Word and a Picture of a Duckling

I honestly love English. I love the breadth of its vocabulary. Dozens of synonyms exist alongside each other, but often one word can encapsulate the exact concept you have in your head. It’s messy, as far as languages go, but it’s rich — like a tangled jungle where all manner of wild things can grow. English doesn’t have the largest vocabulary of any language in the world. (As The Economist points out, that’s… just not a thing, when you think about it logically.) But it does offer some options to its speakers, and I’m proud to specialize in the language that affords speakers not just purple and violet but also indigo and magenta and mauve and lavender and freaking palatinate.

Still, sometimes it fails us. There are the autoantonyms. On the subject of color, there’s sinople, a word that basically no one ever uses but can refer to either red or green, depending on the context. There’s shelled, as in shelled pistachios, which you think would work in a straightforward fashion but I found does not, necessarily, when I asked a clerk at Trader Joe’s about them.
Him: Shelled pistachios? Like, pistachios with their shells on?

Me: No. Shelled pistachios as in pistachios that have their shells removed.

Him: So they’re shelled if they don’t have their shells on?

Me: Yes, they’ve been shelled.

Him: That’s confusing.
It’s not confusing to most people, but when you approach the expression shelled pistachio like you’d never heard it before and instead along the lines of a clothed person or a covered bridge, yeah, it seems counterintuitive. (And yes, the Trader Joe’s clerk must have been new.)

And then there’s the trouble with describing time. It’s maybe one of English’s greatest failings, simply because we need to describe yet-to-occur events quite often, and English sucks at it. Biannual is probably the biggest offender, simply because an event could just as likely occur every two years as it could twice a year. Because biannual can mean either, you can almost never be sure in the context of any sentence which meaning was intended. Bimonthly can mean either twice a month or every two months, and I suppose events could occur on either schedule. You’d think that biweekly wouldn’t post such a problem, since we can’t evenly divide our seven-day week and therefore events would be less likely to occur twice a week, but no. When I ran the opinion desk at the college paper and hire regular columnists, I had to ban the word biweekly from all the ad copy, just because every single applicant asked whether they’d need to write two columns a week or one column every two weeks. The modified copy read every two weeks, even thought that’s less succinct. (Fortnightly was rejected on grounds of sounding affected and quaint.)

This is the ambiguity that people are attempting to solve with oxt, an invented word that means “not this coming one but the next one,” as in “We’ll kill them this weekend and then bury the bodies oxt weekend.” Despite having its own promotional website, I’m guessing oxt will go the way of Esperanto and the interrobang, even if it does solve a longstanding problem has resulted in too many people being all dressed up with nowhere to go.

And it’s with all this that I present a strange and wonderful word — the first new one in about a year.
hebdomadal (heb-DOM-uh-dul) — adjective: 1. taking place once every seven days. 2. a weekly magazine, newspaper or other publication.
Like I described it in the post title, it’s useless. Most people won’t know what hebdomadal means, and besides we already have the word weekly, which may be one of the English words that doesn’t benefit from a synonym. In fact, the Etymonline entry for hebdomadally calls it “pedantic humor.” But in its favor is the fact that this word — which comes from the Greek hebdomas, “the number seven; a period of seven days” — is perfectly exact. It will only ever refer to something that happens every seven days.

As useless as hebdomadal may be, a related word could actually solve the biweekly ambiguity. If oxt is being dangled out there, then hell, why not dekatesseral?

“We’d need columns from you on a dekatesseral basis, and if you can’t figure out what that means, we don’t want you.”

I suppose that might discriminate against the non-Greek applicants. So it goes.

And here, as promised, is that picture of the duck.

Previous words of the week after the jump.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Strangest SNL Sketch You’ve Never Seen

People don’t know about Yvonne Hudson, generally. She’s the first black female performer in the history of Saturday Night Live, but she has become hard to remember, probably because she had mostly low-profile roles on the show during her tenure (between 1978 and 1984) and because she seems to have retired from acting since. I actually often make the mistake of saying that Danitra Vance was the first black female performer on the show, but it’s not true: Vance was only the first main player, while Hudson was a featured performer.

The latest installment of Splitsider’s “Saturday Night’s Children” reminded me about Yvonne Hudson and also picked out one sketch in particular where she got to play a significant role: “Bad Clams,” from a Buck Henry-hosted episode of Saturday Night Live that originally aired on November 10, 1979.

I’d never seen it, but I hunted the episode down. And it’s weird as hell.

It’s not exactly hilarious, but to me there’s something compellingly bizarre about it. Really, what was the pitch for this? “Let’s have Gilda do Lucy and then we’ll force her to eat rancid clams on morning TV”? At a time when a lot of alternative comedy skews dark — from “Wait, what’s going on?” to “Oh, this is more strange than funny” to “Wait, this is just a low-budget nightmare sketch” — there’s something about this sketch that seems ahead of its time.

Or maybe not. Maybe it’s just funny watching a national treasure being force-fed spoiled shellfish by the most disturbingly pleasant TV hosts in history.

But hey — Breaking Away!

Weird SNL sketches, previously:

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Weird Walk Through the Mushroom Kingdom

Hi. Here’s the third and final part of my little series on that obscure Super Mario anime from 1986. (Or, as the non-video game-giving-a-shit-about portion of my readers consider it, a last deep dive into geekdom before I resume writing about funny old people I meet at the grocery store.)

In the first post, I wrote about how The Great Mission to Rescue Princess Peach! probably caused the rumor that Toad used to be a girl. In the second post, I wrote about all the other elements from the movie that later appeared in Super Mario Bros. video games. In this one, I’m just posting all the spare images and videos that I didn’t reason to post anywhere else.

Looking without reading! Fun!

As if the movie didn’t feature enough musical sequences, there’s also one where Mario fantasizes about wearing a tuxedo and waltzing with the princess. You know — for the dreamy-eyed romantics in the audience.

I have Mario dressed like a Mexican bandito. See, because he felt angry, so he just transformed into this costume. See?

And here is Bowser attempting to woo Peach by dressing in drag.

Screenwriting at its best! I actually don't get why these would be the subtitles here, honestly. Jugem is Lakitu’s Japanese name, but I have no idea why these subtitles would be in English when most of the rest are not, at least per the video from which I got this still.

You can tell by Mario’s eyes that he’s overwhelmed by the prince’s flagrant disregard for gender norms.

“Don’t come back!”

Friday, September 19, 2014

Why the Super Mario Bros. Anime Matters, Even If You’ve Never Seen It

Yesterday, I got to explore a weird little Super Mario Bros.-related rumor that led me to The Great Mission to Rescue Princess Peach!, a 1986 movie that received a theatrical release in Japan only. As far as obscure Mario lore goes, it’s a strange one in that it’s something that would have been extremely familiar to Japanese kids growing up around the time, yet it’s something few of their Western counterparts would have even heard of, despite the Mario mania of the late 1980s and early 1990s. We simply never got the movie here, and that’s a shame, since it’s a beautiful rendering of these games back before Nintendo had really solidified what Mario’s world looked like.

First up, we might as well fix that lack of international exposure right now. It’s fairly simple to find it online, and you even watch it right here.

It’s only an hour long. According to the Mario Wiki, it was paired in theaters with a video guide to playing the Japanese version of Super Mario Bros. 2, the game we know in the U.S. as The Lost Levels. The game came out just a few weeks before the movie.

Watching the movie for the first time this week, I thought it was interesting how many details from the movie ended up working their way into the games. Some of it’s coincidence, I’m sure; the movie-makers were just exploring ideas that the game designers eventually would have had regardless. But some of them seem pretty spot-on. Today, I’m listing these off, as well as a handful of concepts that Nintendo maybe should have thought about incorporating.

For example, that same Mario Wiki article points out that the movie has a sequence where Luigi has a bad trip after eating the wrong kind of mushrooms. The scene could be a reference to the fact that The Lost Levels introduced nasty, trick mushrooms that hurt you instead of powering you up.

It seems plausible, even if it just makes me wonder how an eight-bit, pixelated psychedelic freak out might look.

The movie also features a scene where Mario and Luigi escape on a flying ship, years before the Super Mario Bros. 3 came out made airships a staple of the series.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Lady Toad? The Gender of Everyone’s Favorite Anthropomorphic Mushroom

(Note: This posted ended up spawning two more about the Super Mario anime. Read part two and part three, if you like.)

Earlier this year, I found a great video game website, Clyde Mandelin’s Legends of Localization, that looks at the strange process of adapting video games made in one language for people who speak a different language. The site tends to focus on the little moments — the ones that didn’t necessarily make the game but the ones dedicated players nonetheless remember. For example, how do you save Lucca’s mom in the Japanese version of Chrono Trigger? Does that random scrap of paper make any more sense in the Japanese version of Final Fantasy VI? And what’s with this random Helen Keller joke? It’s always heartening to find someone else who not only cares about the little stuff and the odd stuff in old video games but who also spends time wondering about the decision-making process that led to them.

In one post, Mandelin writes about the strangeness of Toad not necessarily being the singular, distinct character we tend of think of him being. (This is something I wrote about a while back, and this flexible sense of “self-ness” is hardly unique to Toad — it works for Yoshi and Birdo too — or even unique to the Mario games.) Mandelin also brings up something I hadn’t heard before: the idea that Toad (or the Toads) were initially supposed to be female — the princess’s handmaidens, in fact.

He offers as evidence The Great Mission to Rescue Princess Peach!, an anime released theatrically in Japan in 1986. Like The Super Mario Bros. Super Show here in the U.S., it was a loose adaptation of the original, barebones Super Mario Bros. plotline. It added a lot in. It had to. And in place of the Mushroom Retainers (Kinopio, in the orginal Japanese) that Mario rescues at the end of every level are these distinctly feminine mushroom people.

Here’s a scene where Mario and Luigi free them from a spell that had turned them into coins.

They seem a little more human, a little more articulated than the generic Toads you see earlier in the film.

Later, Mario rescues a second Lady Toad. Again, the movie clearly genders her. This is a female mushroom who’s giving Mario a peck on the cheek.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Two Rebecca De Mornays

In the past month, I’ve posted a bit about various pop culture mysteries, all of which remain unsolved. But occasionally I get to the bottom of one.

Back in 2009, I wrote about a strange recurring joke Seinfeld has involving a woman who introduces herself as Rebecca De Mornay. She appears twice on the show. Both times she causes trouble, and both times she introduces herself using her full name. But as I explained in the previous post, there’s nothing about her that makes that name especially meaningful, other than the fact that it’s shared by an actress who looks nothing like her.

Here are both those scenes, back to back.

The original post gets a fair bit of traffic from people who happen to catch those reruns and then wonder, “Wait, did that lady just say her name was Rebecca De Mornay?” and just recently someone left a comment that inspired me to track down the writer of that episode, Spike Fereseten, and ask him.

Here’s the explanation.

And there you have it. It’s just a weird little joke that Seinfeld tossed off. It’s not some weird dig at the actual Rebecca De Mornay, who was maybe friends of someone on the show or who maybe ran over one of the writer’s dogs or something.

Which would have been interesting, you have to admit.

Weird, old TV, previously:

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Searching for Mr. Peepers

At the risk of alienating certain kinds nerds in an effort to talk to other kinds of nerds, I’ll just say this up front: This post is about Duck Hunt.

modified from sprites found here
“But Duck Hunt came out in 1984, Drew, you crazy idiot. Why bring it up today?”

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

In Fact, I Will Tell You What’s the Matter

I present to you Ellen Foley’s inexplicable performance of her cover of “What’s a Matter, Baby?”

I... have some notes.

First, this is the opening frame of the video.

I’m guessing that’s Andrea Martin handing Ellen Foley the mike? And she’s dressed like a colonial-era witch for some reason? I don’t know why I pose it as a question; there is no answer, clearly.

Furthermore, I can’t tell if the dancing girls in the spinning, translucent cube look more like they’re the victims of some sci-fi mastermind who’s torturing them or if their gyrations are actually powering the spinning cube. In this latter case, the cube is still a torture device. Obviously.

Ellen Foley, it should be noted, is dressed like a gym teacher who is also a superhero. From Texas.

The effect they used to fade from the spinning cube action to Ellen Foley’s album cover yields the following disturbing image.

Not that the album art itself isn’t disturbing on its own...

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Big Hair, Big Trouble

I’ve made a mix. It’s for September. It’s not especially Septembery, but I suppose you can’t say it’s not a September mix. But if you’d like a peek at what music is informing my mental state, then this is the album for you.

I’ve also made album art. Go ahead and click it if you’d like to hear my selections. If you like them, you can right-click and save them, but I insist you buy the associated albums if you think the songs are worthwhile.

It’s very here and there, I know. It’s a good overview of what I listen to, but there’s no more solid throughline than “Oh, this is what Drew happens to be listening to nowadays.” Your mileage may vary.

Monday, September 08, 2014

“She Everywhere.”

I’m entering my third month of life in my new house. The move has presented me with a whole host of new experiences, new people and new ways I can hurt myself performing manual labor. And while I’ve learned a lot — don’t drop cement pavers on your big toe, for example — the biggest life lesson comes from the following short story.

One Thursday evening I was repairing some irrigation pipes in the front yard when my neighbor came by to make conversation with me. My neighbor is my new favorite person. She knows everything about my new neighborhood, and she relays this information — positive, negative, banal and bizarre — with the same inflection, as if she loves telling all stories, regardless of the content, and that none of her stories seem more or less strange to her than the other. They all have value. They must all be told. (In a similar sense, she also loves all colors equally, provided they look like ones you might see on some rare jungle flower, and I feel I don’t often enough see such chromatic boldness. You could learn a lesson from her, reader wearing head-to-toe taupe.)

One story had ended and another began with this sentence: “You know the house around the corner? The white one? With the pretty plants?”

I said that I did.

“Well, no one want to buy it when it for sale.”

The house is admirably done-up, and so I asked why anyone wouldn’t want to live there.

“The lady who own it before, she have no husband. And she out gardening one day, and she die back there. And, you know, no husband, so no one know. No one miss her.”

A shrug.

“And then they get her.”

I asked who “they” were. She seemed to search for the word.

“No eskunk… but the other one. You know…”

I guessed it was “raccoon.”

“Yes. Raccoon. The raccoon get her.”

I grew increasingly worried about the direction this story was taking, but my neighbor seemed unfazed by it. She looked as calm and pleasant as she might if she were just telling me about a neighbor who bought a lovely new hat or who maybe saw a blimp once. She continued.

“The police come and ask questions, ask if anyone hear anything. I tell them I hear nothing, and I ask what happened. They tell me they never see nothing so bad in their whole career. The raccoon, they eat her. They eat her for a long time. The police say ‘She everywhere.’”

This was a lot to have suddenly sprung on me.

“And so for long time no one want to live there, because that lady die there and that lady everywhere there. But then eventually, someone buy it. Two guys. No wifes. You know.”

I nod that yes, I do in fact know.

“And they move in and now it look beautiful. They make it such a nice house. But you know what?”

For this last part, she lowered her voice to a stage whisper.

“She still everywhere.”

And that, I suppose, is true, in both the metaphysical and literal senses.

Every night, when I see the English bulldog-sized mother raccoon skitter down the fence line with her two raccoonitos, I remember this story and remind myself that there’s a good chance all three of these have tasted people-flesh. I wonder how much of a difference they see between me and the unfortunate neighbor lady, who I did not get a chance to meet. And then I decide not to sleep with just the screen door protecting me from the rest of the world.

She everywhere.

Creepy stories, previously:

Friday, September 05, 2014

The Yawfle

A GPOY of sorts. This is all for today.

The Yawfle is watching, always.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Beware the Mighty Septopus

Please enjoy “Septopus,” the end credits song from the Home Movies episode “The Heart Smashers.”

No really, listen to it. It’s important for this story.

Way back when, the band Fleet Foxes was new. I actually remember writing the post back in 2008 about how the band’s sound was inspired in part by old RPG music, a fact that’s not especially evident just listening to their songs but that makes sense once you hear about it. I remember buying the album. And I remember a co-worker asking if I wouldn’t mind burning her a copy.

Now, I could have told her that I wouldn’t be complicit in her music piracy. I could have told her that she’d failed to follow through on several work-related favors I’d asked of her and, as such, I just couldn’t be bothered. Or I could have just said, “Oh no, I plan on turning into a lava monster any moment now, so you’d better run on home or I will catch you with my lava arms. Run! Never return! Lava arms!” or something thereabouts. But I said yes, with all these thoughts of unfulfilled requests and molten lava arms swirling around in my head when I got home.

When I got around to burning the album, however, I inserted one extra track: “Septopus.” I’d done this before. In college, a roommate asked me to burn the new White Stripes CD for her and I inserted the Clarissa Explains It All theme song about two-thirds of the way through, and it infuriated her because she’d always forget to skip that track and would consequently get blasted by the opening “Na na na na na.” I think it killed whatever mood she was trying to establish. “Septopus,” in the context of this strummy, harmony-laden Fleet Foxes album, however, seemed less jarring, and I was just curious to see what would happen.

The short answer? Nothing.

A few days after I gave her the CD, I asked how she was enjoying it. She said she loved it. She called the album peaceful and beautiful. “Any of the tracks in particular stand out to you?” I asked. She said a few did, but that she’d have to match them with the titles. I left it at that. I didn’t want to give her any reason to be suspicious.

I suppose it’s possible that she eventually transferred those tracks to her iPod and is still driving around today, blissing out on those gentle Fleet Foxes chords and, unwittingly, also on those of Brendon Small as he sings about a seven-armed octopus who is always eating pies. But I have a best-case scenario in my head as well, and that is this coworker one day attending a Fleet Foxes concert where she’s standing in the front row and in between every song break she’s screaming “SEPTOPUS! SEPTOPUS! PLAY ‘SEPTOPUS’!” at the top of her lungs, and then turning to the concert-goer next to her and saying, “I’ve seen these guys all over the country now and they freaking never play ‘Septopus,’ not even for encores.”

Regardless of how she finds out, I’m just sad I won’t be there when someone eventually tells her “Fleet Foxes don’t have a song called ‘Septopus.’ Also, what’s a septopus?”

Here’s the full Home Movies episode, in case it’s been too long since you’ve seen the show. I queued it up to Fenton’s performance of the Septopus song, which I now realized has lyrics that the “Fleet Foxes” version doesn’t.

And would you look at this: Fenton in the Septopus costume appears on Home Movies’ season four DVD box set, and I just now noticed.

septopus home movies

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Pixelated Pornstaches and the Outer Limits of the Nintendoverse

It may not surprise you that I have a thing for lesser-known Nintendo characters. I blame Smash Bros., I guess, for reminding us with every edition of bygone franchises and protagonists that never saw a proper sequel.

Maybe one of the lesser less-known Nintendo titles ever would be Arm Wrestling, a spin-off to the Punch-Out!! franchise released only in arcades and, even then, only in those located in North America. As far as I know, this might be the first Nintendo-developed title never to see the light of day in the company’s homeland. I don’t know why it showed up here and not there, but I think it’s too bad. I remember playing this long, long ago and enjoying it. I even tried to find a port of it to the NES but couldn’t: Arm Wrestling never saw a second life on a home console.

Also working in the game’s favor is its appealingly oddball mix of characters. They wouldn’t be out of place in a Nintendo game today. Nintendo has, after all, stayed weird. I tried to see if any site featured large-ish sprites of Arm Wrestling’s opponents and couldn’t, so I’m just going to post them here.

First up: Texas Mac, a ripped, bare-chested cowboy with a Falcon Studios mustache.

By the way, like Punch-Out!!, Arm Wrestling featured two screens — one with the action and one showing the score as well as who you’re fighting. This second screen included a descriptor for each opponent, and Texas Mac’s was, strangely enough, “Stud-Horse.”

I think I know why he likes holding hands with other strong men.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

When The Simpsons Was Mean

In reading reviews of more recent Simpsons episodes, I've noticed more than a few people pointing out the show’s darker turns as being out of synch with the golden years — and perhaps more similar to Family Guy humor. I’m not necessarily sure this is true. Those old episodes have some dark moments too, and I’m not talking about the “Treehouse of Horror” installments.

“Homer’s Enemy,” the Frank Grimes episode and probably the darkest ever of the show, aired back in the show’s eight season. I guess it’s all a matter of perspective, but in general the dark humor doesn’t bother me. There’s even a seriously mean joke in “The Three Gays of the Condo” that I actually like. The family is putting together a giant jigsaw puzzle in the backyard, when Flanders looks over the fence.
Flanders: Nice puzzle, Homer, but aren’t you missing a piece?
Homer: Aren’t you missing a wife?
Flanders: Ho ho! Walked right into that one!
(Maude, by the way, has been a deceased character on The Simpsons for longer than she was a live character.)

There is one joke I’d pick out as the meanest-spirit one the show ever did. It’s one you have to know a little background info to appreciate, however, and it involves a little-known Simpsons character named Ricardo Bomba. A few years back, the show held a contest where viewers could invent a character, and the winning character would be featured on the show. In 2009, the winner was announced: Peggy Black, a Connecticut woman whose entry was Ricardo Bomba, a Latin lothario who would work with Homer at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant.

In a New York Post article, executive producer Al Jean called the contest “a thank-you to loyal fans.” Black is quoted as feeling over-the-moon about the win. “It’s amazing to see how they captured what I imagined,” she said. “I’m going to be immortalized forever by making a Simpsons character.” The character was set to debut in a January 2010 episode, and to coincide with the airing, the show even posted a little behind-the-scenes video of Black discussing her creation with the show’s staff.

And then the episode aired. Here is Ricardo Bomba’s introduction to Springfield.

Yep, he instantly dies in a fiery automobile crash, never to be seen again. To be fair, Al Jean was quoted in that article as saying Bomba make a subsequent appearance, but based on the nature of his intro, I’m guessing he won’t.

There’s a part of me that feels bad about this. The contest winner seems like a nice person — she’s a radiation therapist at a cancer center — and I just have to wonder if they told her ahead of time, “By the way, we’re instantly killing off your character” or if she found out by watching the show. Then again, in the context of Jean calling it a thank-you to the longtime fans, it’s also a pretty good joke. It’s a seriously dick move, but not an unfunny one. Longtime fans, I suppose, are the very people who whine about the show online.


Ha. Ricardo Bomba didn’t even get to speak his whole catchphrase. That is funny.

The Simpsons, previously:

Monday, September 01, 2014

Everyone Who’s Ever Moved in With the Simpsons

And on the final day of the #EverySimpsonsEver marathon, I finally wrote something about The Simpsons.

The Simpsons have to be one of the most generous families in TV history. They’ve opened their doors to so many people — friends, enemies, strangers, celebrities, various animals — that it became a meta-joke on the show back in the show’s eighth season, when Roy shows up, unannounced and unexplained and mostly unidentified, living with the family. Sure, it’s a Poochie joke, but it’s also a riff on the fact that even so early into the show’s run, the “someone comes to stay with the Simpsons” plot had been done and re-done. Double meta.

via eye on springfield
I didn’t watch all of the FXX Simpsons marathon. (Who could have? Who but the richest and poorest and most obsessive among us could have?) But I did have the TV for twelve days straight, and passing through the room I saw a lot of the “someone comes to stay with the Simpsons” episodes, and I started to wonder how many times the show had done this.

Here, then, is every instance I could find of the Simpsons having someone to live with them. In a lot of cases, it forms the episode’s main plot, but I also included the episodes where it’s incidental to the plot.
I’m sure I missed some. What say you, internet? What omissions can you point out? What clarifications can you request? What kind of idiot am I for having confused some point about the episode you hold most dear and it’s basically the best episode of the show and why don’t I know anything?