Friday, October 17, 2008

Sir Mix-A-Lot's "Baby Got Back," Translated for Literature Majors

I am fond of oversized hindquarters, and I am unable to falsify this information.
Neither may you fraternal acquaintances offer renouncement,
for when a young female enters, possessing a notably reduced midriff
and a posterior so rotund as to be forthright,
your male member becomes erect, and thusly, you desire to remove it from your trousers
due to the fact that you have become aware of the aforementioned plump dorsal section
which is immersed within a pair of denim dungarees.
I admit addiction to this situation, for I cannot avert my eyes.
Dear maiden, I desire to be close to you
so that I might capture your likeness on a photographic plate.
Compatriots of mine advise caution;
however, I find the derriere that is attached to you incredibly erotic.
O! Thee with the backside of velvety tegument,
do you indicate that you would enter my Mercedes?
Then I beseech: manipulate me to your own ends,
for I believe you to be superior to my usual hangers-on.
I have witnessed how she undulates;
a pox on courtship!
She perspires to a degree that soaks her vestments,
resembling, in her tenacity, a Chevrolet with forced-induction combustion.
I grow weary of periodicals
which report that planar backsides have become chic.
Approach any African male and inquire whether he agrees.
Verily, he will report the opposite.
I ask you, my comrades,
do the loves of your lives retain lipids within their haunches?
If so, you must implore them to agitate them,
for doing so will illustrate their wellness.
Indeed, my darling has a large keister.

Knight Grand Cross Whom Combines Frequently - Indeed, My Darling Has A Large Keister

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Generative Creativity

I came up with a GREAT technique for naming characters:

1. Go to and generate 2 integers from 1 to 1000.
2. Go to and use the first number for the first name (for girls; there's also a page for guys in the menubar).
3. Go to and use the second number for the last name.

This can also be a good creative tool in general, for stimulating the imagination; generate a name, then come up with the persona based on it. Geoffrey Manning, for example, is a low-level sysadmin with dreams of one day becoming a star in the blogosphere, but this will never happen seeing as he only ever blogs about his cat's human-like qualities, his female acquaintances' cat-like qualities, and the fact that repeated consumptions of burritos continue in deference to his horrible bowel issues. He is played by Stephen Root, or possibly Jack Black if the director can get him to closely emulate "reserved".

Then there's Cathy Sexton, a tortured high school sophomore who carries a rather unfortunate surname in contrast to the fact that she is still a virgin. She wears thick-rimmed, leopard-print glasses, carries a My Little Pony backpack, and will be the victim of exactly one rape scene. Played by someone born no earlier than 1986 who is NOT Lindsey Lohan.

Dianna Ryan is a daytime soap opera actress with raven-black hair, a sort of semi-permanent sneer (even when she smiles; especially when she smiles), and a penchant for purses that cost more than her entire net worth.

Oscar Padilla: wildly eccentric millionaire, balding, harbors a deep desire to be the first man to walk on the surface of the sun.

And finally, Elsa Trevino... she's a hard one to pin down. Some days she's like a whisper on winds, carried farther down the lane than was ever intended, a secret on shivers that teases far more. Other days, she a fucking cunt. In any case, she works at a local independent record store, has more De La Soul albums than the artists themselves, and never wears shorter than a two-inch heel in any occasion.

Threading them all together, the soap opera star is totally whoring herself to the millionaire so that she'll get his money when he kicks the bucket. The sysadmin works somewhere within the millionaire's corporate hegemony, and dates the record clerk, who has the high schooler as a regular customer.

Beginnings of a story right there, from a mere ten random numbers. Solid.

UPDATE: our ever-selfless pal cxreg has cobbled together a wedge page to automate the process described in this post. I thank you from the bottom of my pancreas, cxreg, as do the newly-generated Cora Sanchez, Rod Lawson, Silas Drake and Janine Hammond.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Television Will Not Be Revolutionized

"I hate television. I hate it as much as peanuts. But I can't stop eating peanuts."
-- Orson Welles

While I was at Value Village a few days ago tracking down some costume pieces to use in a set of Scooby-Doo inspired mannequins photos, I stumbled across an old Gemini KM200 "rabbit-ears" antenna. I haven't watched television regularly for over a decade, due to a combination of factors: lack of decent programming, increasingly schizophrenic advertising, sporadic broadcast availability, a wide variety of optional media outlets (cable, satellite, DVD rentals, bittorrent). What was once the major technological method of information and entertainment acquisition has become increasingly sidelined, almost to the point of obsolescence.

The FCC apparently agrees; in less than a year (specifically, on February 17, 2009) analog television broadcasting will cease to exist. I find myself saddened by the end of this era; even though television and I parted ways over a decade ago, I have to admit that the boob tube has had a significant impact on my cultural identity. I cut my teeth on Star Blazers and Mister Roger's Neighborhood, ran home from elementary school for Pink Panther and Inspector Gadget, woke up early to catch Robotech before middle school, spent my lonesome preteen nights with Doctor Who and Monty Python, clung to The Real Ghostbusters and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for support through boarding school, and took solace in Red Dwarf and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine during the madness years following graduation.

I decided to buy the antenna. My desktop has a capture card with a built-in tuner, which usually goes unused. Using a very simple adapter, I could hook the old dipole receiver into the cable-ready port on the back of my box. I would catalog this final year of television, writing down its memoirs before it passes into oblivion, like an old, dying parent in a nursing home.


The antenna is incongruous against the rest of the equipment on my desk: a huge metal sculpture reaching up to the sky like some abstract Rocky statue, praising the heavens and praying for the blessed signal to be bestowed. Behind it and off to the right sits the desktop's wifi-G adapter, whose own antenna, in contrast, is blue, plastic, and only three inches long. Its stubby transceiver, barely visible from the chair, looks like the smart kid in the back of the class raising his hand politely and patiently, while in front of him this drama queen of silver and height is flailing her arms for attention: I'm the Princess! Everyone look over here, I have something important to say! There's a sale at Macy's, half off blouses and skirts.

The first experiment was very rough. Tucson has a number of broadcast stations and television translators (lower-power relay stations which piggyback a larger station's signal onto another channel), but the capture card's auto-tuner could only find six stations with a decent amount of signal:

16 KGUN - ABC (translator)
18 KTTU - MyTV
27 KUAS - PBS (translator)
29 KPCE - Daystar
40 KHRR - Telemundo

Nowhere to be found was the old standby NBC, nor any Fox or CW affiliates -- well, unless you count MyTV. I was unfamiliar with this network, so I did some research: when WB and UPN merged in 2006 to form CW, several UPN stations were lost to Fox. Fox turned these stations into a new network called MyNetworkTV (or MyTV for short), following on the coattails of their acquisition of the MySpace internet brand.

The other station I didn't recognize was Daystar, but it only took a single Google search to determine why: it's a Christian network. Easily the loudest and clearest signal of the bunch, Daystar was ironically ignored by my card's auto-tuner. I begrudgingly added it manually, resolving I could not be biased in my historical accounts.

I began flipping around the dial. At 11 AM on a Wednesday, the choices were:

- a paid Christian program
- another Christian program
- a soap opera
- another soap opera, in Spanish
- the news
- Barney and Friends

No reruns of McHale's Navy? No 321 Contact? No Press Your Luck? What sort of mad nightmare mediascape was this?

A couple of hours later, it wasn't any better. I checked the various networks' schedules for the rest of the evening, and then the rest of the week. What I found was a slew of ill-conceived reality shows, a smattering of sitcoms with only slightly more realistic premises, some paranoid doctor and crime dramas, and 'investigative' (read: exploitative) news programs.

I was stunned. I knew television had gotten bad (when that Lost crap is your biggest draw, you're clearly on the down stroke) but I never imagined that the horrors had sunk so miserably low. There were no stories, no narratives, no characters that you could learn to love or learn to hate. All that remained was a diorama of horrible fuckups: pedophiles on hidden cameras, washed-up celebrities forced to degrade themselves like heroin junkies for one more brief glimmer in the spotlight, asshole citizens assaulted by asshole criminals who get booked by asshole cops to be defended by asshole lawyers in front of asshole judges -- and then there's Flavor Flav.

Disgusted, I shut the damn thing off, and returned to watching Xvid rips of old Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes.


I walked home from the Friday graveyard shift listening to Boards of Canada on my Palm Tungsten C. The resonant chords and loping beats, like hip hop produced by Eeyore, complimented the early morning sunrise in the monsoon-soaked humidity.

It was Saturday morning; I entered my home, slung the backpack off, and sat down at the desktop. Saturday mornings had always been a joyous childhood time, even during the harshest points of my life. Adults, worked to exhaustion five days a week, slept in on Saturdays, which meant if you were enterprising and ninja-quiet, you could help yourself to a breakfast of cold pizza and while away the next few hours with the Shirt Tales, the Mighty Orbots and Kidd Video.

I fired up the capture card and ran the auto-tuner again. It deemed KXBA 58, a CW affiliate, was now worthy of signal recognition. It was 7 AM; time to watch cartoons. Surely that old stalwart bastion of childhood had not yet gone the way of the dodo?

Wrong again!

What I found in lieu of the Cosby Kids and Pee Wee's Playhouse was a batch of lame garbage: Disney's The Emperor's New School, Beakman's World, a rehashing of the Care Bears, some crap called Will and Dewitt -- and for some reason, they all had an "e/i" logo in the upper right hand corner.

"e/i" stands for "educational and informative", and was created out of the Children's Television Act of 1990. Networks are required to broadcast at least three hours of e/i children's programming per week, and virtually all of this falls in the slot previously used for Saturday morning cartoons. While I applaud the spirit of the initiative, hardly any of these shows could be considered to have even a remote educational value, unless they are intended for retarded children; of the samples I viewed, only Beakman's World seems to take the notion with any seriousness, but, to be blunt, it's really just a poor man's Bill Nye, who in turn is a poor man's Mr. Wizard, who in turn is a poor man's Julius Sumner Miller.

Surely this can't be all kids have to look forward to on the weekend? The whole point of showing cartoons on Saturday is because kids don't have school then -- you know, that place where they're supposed to get an education. I delved deeper into the Saturday programming:

- CBS's lineup has been reduced to a fairyland of unicorns and rainbows, with Strawberry Shortcake, an animated Sabrina the Teenage Witch, an adaptation of the Madeline children's book series, and something called Horseland which is even too god damned Takei for me to explain.

- ABC now relies almost entirely on live-action teen comedies like Hannah Montana, That's So Raven and The Suite Life of Zack & Cody. Only Power Rangers: Jungle Fury approaches anything resembling a classic Saturday morning cartoon, and frankly I was surprised that Americanized Super Sentai clones were still being produced.

- MyTV, owned by Fox, leaves the responsibility of programming the e/i block entirely to its affiliates.

- As for the CW, well... give credit where credit is due, I always say. They seem to be the final holdout of the old ways, with treasured friends like Spider-Man, Batman and Tom and Jerry gracing their 7-to-noon block -- ironic, considering they're one of the newest networks.

No wonder teenagers are so intolerable these days! If I'd had this tripe for my weekend breather as a child, I'd probably have turned into an douchebag, too. I remember crying like a baby when I discovered that Galaxy High School had gone off the air. If only I'd known then what I know now: 'tis better to have loved and lost, then never to have loved at all.


Television is dying, and I believe that it deserves to die. Of course, linear media itself isn't going anywhere; I've followed loads of webcasting, from Ronald Jenkees' haphazardly recorded phat jams to the BBC's Scream of the Shalka production. Storytelling and narrative are both still out there, but the production and distribution models have taken radical turns in the last ten years. In 1998 you could barely get 25 megabytes of free web space for some low-bitrate MP3s of the awful trance music we were squeaking out in ReBirth -- and forget about online video.

Like that old, dying parent I mentioned at the beginning of this post, television has become increasingly dissociative in its old age, as the dozen medications that salve its death pangs -- corporate mergers, advertising slogans, genre overhauls -- create unexpected chemical interactions when taken together, leaving behind a wrecked, frail husk of former dignities... Where's my wife? Who are you people? How did you get into my house?

Yet, before the end, we can still reminisce on the nostalgia of years past, on the good times when things were wholesome and pure -- after all, this whole adventure started when I decided to dress up Tabitha like Velma Dinkley. And who didn't have a crush on Velma, really? Oh sure, Daphne was the hotpants of the outfit, but every kid knew that Velma was where the action was at: while Freddy was tongue-wrestling with Miss Blake in the back of the Mystery Machine, and stoner Shaggy dropped so much acid that he saw ghosts and thought his dog could talk, Velma was out kicking ass and taking names. Not bad for a petite nerd girl who couldn't see shit without her glasses.

That's what I'll do, as the arbiter of culture passes into the electronic netherworld: I'll dress up my mannequins like friends from programs past, downloading their adventures from Pirate Bay or picking their DVDs up from Amazon. That's how I'll remember television, on that fateful day in February, when the on-call doctor arrives to pull the plug.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Regarding Window Displays

As many of you know, I've been collecting mannequins since 2000 and have had an interest in them all my life. I can identify the brand of a mannequin from 75 yards away, and if it's a Rootstein or a Decter I probably know the model number. I have extended understanding of the economics of visual merchandising, watch fashion trends closely, and have a keen eye for artistry. In short, I'm pretty much an expert on window displays.

Very few things anger me more than seeing a store that is using their mannequins poorly. A local store (which shall remain nameless) has in their window two Rootstein mannequins. The Rootstein brand, for those not in the know, is the pinnacle of quality in the mannequin world; a fifteen-year-old fiberglass Rootstein is worth more than a brand new "eggshell" made cheaply out of plastic in a factory in Korea. A Rootstein immediately brings a sense of elegance and class to a store, which is why it pisses me off that the aforementioned local shop sets theirs up so haphazardly.

Here are a few tips for aspiring visual merchandisers and mom-and-pop thrift junkies:

BRUSH THE WIGS. This is the absolute simplest way to improve the quality of a diorama. People want to see themselves in your displays; they want something that engages both their sense of aesthetics and their humanness. If your mannequins don't look like real people, the illusion is lost, and the quickest way to ensure that they don't look like a bunch of heroin junkies who just fell off the bus to Salt Lake City is to brush their hair. Think of how presentable you make yourself in the morning: if you came to work with unruly, sticking-up hair, you'd look like a complete asshole. No one wants a cashier that looks that way, so why would they appreciate a model with the same unkempt look?

USE SHOES. Unless your target demographic is hippies or Jains, pretty much everyone you want to sell to wears shoes. Again, people want to see themselves in the window. A shoeless mannequin looks incomplete, unfinished, half-dressed. Even if your store doesn't sell shoes, get one or two pairs per model to match any potential outfits. A black dress pair and a white casual pair will do. And make sure you use flats for flat-footed mannequins and heels for heel-footed mannequins, or else you'll look like a bumbling amateur.

ACCESSORIZE. Anything the human body can wear, a mannequin can wear. Necklaces, hair barrettes, bracelets, opaque tights, earrings -- all these things show a person behind the imagery, someone who wants to dress a certain way to convey a certain statement. Just one pair of black-rimmed glasses will add a sense of depth to your entire mannequin line. Even things like iPods and headphones can turn a normal ho-hum display into a cheeky subway scene.

UNDERSTAND PLACEMENT. If your store is having a sale, don't tape the sale sign up in the same window as your display. That misses the point of having a display. Why bother spending an hour on a scene box if you're only going to obscure it with some humongous poster? It's terrible form.

ENGAGE THE CUSTOMER. The whole point of having mannequins is to generate interest and invite potential sales. Don't just dress the girls and prop them up; do something creative and unorthodox to grab the customer's attention. Say your store is next to a coffee shop; you can buy some cups from them, set up a table and chairs in your window, and make it look as if the mannequins stepped out for a coffee break when no one was looking. Not only is it free advertising for your neighbor (which they'll likely appreciate), it draws the eyes of their customers to your store, and the lighthearted nature of the diorama will soften their hearts and open their wallets.

These seem like simple ideas, but you'd be surprised how many visual merchandisers pass right over them. Many stores treat their displays like they're mopping the floor or stocking boxes: their only aim is to get the job done with the minimum amount of effort. However, in the world of artistry, the amount of effort put into a piece is often proportional to the enjoyment derived from it. If you're going to bother to have good mannequins (or, really, mannequins at all), you ought to bother to make them look good as well. It is not enough to merely own the Stradivarius; without regular playing, the violin becomes brittle and dry, and the beautiful music it once produced turns to sour whining.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Commonalities of “Proper” Religions

Walking to work today, I noticed a number of flyers along the way decrying the evils of Scientology, posted by local members of Anonymous. I took most of them down, because I was deeply offended by this absurd media notion of a “war” on Scientology. There is no war on Scientology until someone gets blown up. That's what war is: killing people who don't agree with your ideas. There are no Internet suicide bombers taking out Scientology clinics; there have been no drive-by shootings at anime conventions by Dianetics zealots. Unless you have killing, you don't have war. You merely have a debate of increasing levels of impoliteness and rhetoric, which ends either when someone brings out the swords or everyone shuffles home in cowardice.

Then it occurred to me: what would it take to get a Scientologist to kill someone for his beliefs? Sure, I've heard horror stories about Scientology members dying from negligence, but in my estimation it doesn't count when you kill your own flock, or else Jim Jones and those Hale-Bopp aficionados in the black Nikes would have more historical respect. Real religious fanatics kill other people.

Do all “true” religions (i.e. the ones that get the 501c tax breaks) have assassins? We certainly know the Jews killed plenty of people; their own books laud their massacres like football scores in a sports almanac. One need look no further than the Bhagavad Gita to implicate the Hindus. Certainly those Buddhist monks don't need all that Shaolin kung fu for spreading Dharma. As for the Christians, don't even get me started about the Crusades, the Inquisitions, the conquest of Mesoamerica...

It wouldn't be so galling if these same churches didn't constantly claim to be religions of peace. For the most part, I find that the more someone feels compelled to tell you how peaceful their religion is, the less peaceful it actually is. For example, the Rastafari (and here I mean the true practitioners in the lineage of the Burru men, not your local Stoned White Guy With Dreadlocks And A Tie-Dyed Bob Marley Shirt) almost never feel the need to explain how peaceful their beliefs are; the beliefs themselves do that for them. On the other hand, Muslims constantly talk about Islam being a religion of peace, almost to the level that one wonders if they're trying to convince themselves as well.

You can make the argument that assassins are the rogue zealots of faith and operate independently of the “pure” believers, but that's a convenient cop-out. In truth, no one likes to be told that they need to get their house in order. If violent fanatics call themselves Jews, Muslims, Christians, Hindus, etc. then it's unarguably the responsibility of everyone else who bears that classification to pull these antisocial elements aside and straighten them out. Sitting on your balcony sucking your teeth in disapproval will not keep Kitty Genovese from getting raped.

In summation: if you kill other people then you're in a religion, but if you only kill your own members then you're in a cult. If you don't kill anyone, you're probably just a hapless ascetic.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Rational Christ

The collection of books we call the Bible is actually an arbitrary anthology, and references a number of other books in its own texts that have since fallen into the realm of apocrypha: The Book of the Wars of the Lord, The Sayings of the Seers, The Gospel of Perfection, The Covenant Code, etc. These texts were not accidentally dismissed. There are surviving decrees from the Church of Rome ordering various texts to be burned if they contradicted with their established order; ironically these are the only documents that provide us historical record of the existence of these texts.

Fast-forward to the Drug War. While caffeine, taurine, nicotine and alcohol remain freely available or very loosely controlled (evidenced by the ATF bottom-feeder practice of stinging the common minimart clerk rather than the tobacco lobbyist), all psychedelics -- LSD, cannabis, MDMA, etc. -- are strictly controlled substances. This is no coincidence: the substances that decrease the possibility of organized revolution are allowed, while the ones that incite free thinking are demonized. You can hardly blame the powers that be, since it's pretty hard for people to find a reason to get up and go to work in the morning once they realize that they're actually infinitely powerful cosmic beings in a larval stage.

There's no difference between these methodologies. There is only one conspiracy, throughout time immemorial, regardless of whatever incidental material encumbrances its wielders have acquired, from the Spanish Inquisition to the Third Reich to the Vietnam draft to the Patriot Act: the pervasive belief that you do not possess the authority, the ability or the agency to make decisions for your own body. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Christ was not a God to be worshiped or a savior to surrender one's temerity to; he was a blueprint to be overlaid over oneself. "I am the way and the light" is not a sentence that contains a personal pronoun. The "I" is the way; myself is the light; the body furnace that the alchemical Rosicrucians called "athenor" knows itself best as a vessel for transmuting the vile metals into perfect gold.

The true and proper Christian -- in fact the proper practitioner of any belief system: Muslim Sufism, Zen Buddhism, Masoretic Kaballah, the Socratic Method, all truth-seeking sciences and alchemical schools since Ibn al-Haytham, etc. -- draws a clear distinction between submission to God and surrender to God, just as the collarable BDSM slave knows the difference between a Master and a Control Freak.

"Through God all things are possible." (Matthew 19:26)

Jesus isn't coming back, friends; he's already here. He's you.