Archive for August, 2008


spider-man, italian style

The following trailer poses the question: what if a radioactive spider had bitten a mustachioed Italian man in the 1970’s? Worthy of academic debate, with footage courtesy of YouTube, I present Italian Spider-Man.

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Mr. Blick

blick1 It’s hard not to like Mr. Blick. You’d have to be a naysayer or a rule-follower to turn a cold shoulder to the little pink pill. The first time I met Mr. Blick I was at my friend Curtis’ house. I can’t remember if Mr. Blick was left out or if Curtis brought him out to show me. Either way, I had never met a more delightful little man.

Mr. Blick is a game in which you hold a paddle with a divet in the center and try to make a plastic pink pill with a ball-bearing inside “walk” into the divet. It is the sort of challenge I was happy to take up – something a five-year-old could handle. I was 17 and loved games I knew I could win. Uncoincidentally, I had never asked a girl on a date.

Ultimately, though, it was not the game that I loved: it was Mr. Blick himself. For some reason, I see Mr. Blick as an old-time pharmacist, complete with hat and suspenders. He lives above the store with his wife and their children. They go to church on Sundays and frequent the playhouse. He is a man about town, known for his patience and thorough knowledge of ailments. When he is older, he grows a silver moustache. His obituary will run on the front page of the local paper: “Blick Dies, Leaving Town Bereft.” His hearty laugh and gentle demeanor will be missed. But that’s the future. Today we can all enjoy Mr. Blick.
blick3There exists a picture of me at my high school graduation. It is the official graduation picture: me smiling in cap and gown, American flag behind me, diploma in my right hand. In my left hand I am clutching something small and pink. At first you might think it’s my thumb. Upon closer inspection, you’ll realize it is none other than Mr. Blick, on loan from Curtis.

I was not too sad when I left high school forever, but I would often think back on Mr. Blick. Like that girl you never got the courage to ask on a date, Mr. Blick was someone I always wanted to spend more time with.

Unlike a human girl, Mr. Blick is a plastic toy which can be bought at stores nationwide. You just have to find the right one. I never went out of my way to find Mr. Blick; I like to think he found me. I was browsing in a music store a few years ago when I saw him. The sight of him so surprised me I almost cried out in joy. I dropped the half-dozen CDs I was about to purchase and made my way to the cash register with my long-lost friend.

Now Mr. Blick assists me in writing funny comics. When I have a block, I’ll gaze into his tiny eyes until I think of a punchline. He usually has good suggestions. I would write him into my comics, but I don’t know if the world is ready for a pink pill as leading man quite yet.

Here’s to you, Mr. Blick. May you live 1,000 years not in some landfill, but in our hearts and in the stories we tell.


Belated Friday Robots

Since we’ve still got 45 minutes of Friday here in the Pacific Time Zone, here are this week’s Friday Robots. Enjoy!friday-robots-8-22-08

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the dream is over?

carterobama08 As many of you have no doubt heard, Barack Obama chose his running mate over the weekend. Joe Biden, US Senator from Delaware. Joe Biden has voted on a number of bills since 1972, when he was first elected to the Senate. It’s amazing how many things you can vote on in 36 years.

I’m not going to mask my disappointment here. While Biden seems like a great guy, a good running mate, and has a beautiful smile, he is not the person I would have chosen for Obama.jimmycarter5
What about the Man from Plains? Ol’ number 39? Is a Nobel Peace Prize not good enough for you, Mr. Obama? How about bestselling author? Habitat for Humanity? Do none of these qualities strike you as fitting credentials?

I shouldn’t be too hard on the man. Maybe Obama asked Jimmy Carter and he refused. After all, Mr. Carter keeps a pretty busy schedule as it is. Being Vice President would cramp his style.

But a guy can dream. After all, the theme of Obama’s candidacy is “hope.” I “hope” Obama will read this blog one day and realize he’s made a huge mistake. In the meantime, do not let this minor burp sway your position on Barack Obama. He’s still a great candidate and worthy of your vote. I’ll do some research and find out if there are any similarities between Joe Biden and Jimmy Carter.

Does anyone know if you can write-in a vice presidential candidate on election day?

OBAMA/CARTER ’08.


woody guthrie and the bonneville dam

woody-guthrie-bonneville There was a time when dams were not expensive wasteful abominations against nature. No, dams used to be the solar and wind power of their day. It was an elegant idea: build what is essentially a concrete wall. Use the water running through it to power your city. Use the water trapped behind it to irrigate your land. There’s no harmful waste leftover, no smokestacks billowing noxious fumes. It’s a pretty ecologically sound idea.

It was only by the 1950’s problems arose due to over-damming. Mighty rivers such as the Colorado have become sluggish because too many dams were built along it. But in 1933, when the Bonneville Dam began construction on the Columbia River, dams were a viable source of power and water, and even liberal Woody Guthrie could find no fault with them.

In the spring of 1941, Woody Guthrie was hired by the Bonneville Power Administration to write some songs. The BPA was building the dam east of Portland, Oregon and they wanted some good press for the event. Today they may have hired someone like Paris Hilton or Miley Cyrus to write a few songs. Back then, the only person coming close to that level of fame was Woody Guthrie.

The BPA hired Woody Guthrie for thirty days. In that time, he wrote twenty-six songs, with titles like Roll On Columbia, Roll, Columbia, Roll, Columbia’s Waters, The Biggest Thing That a Man Has Ever Done, and Oregon Trail. None were huge radio hits, but Guthrie got paid $10 per song and that was fine.

The songs, I have to say, are pretty good. I’d never heard this much Guthrie – my previous experience was with Billy Bragg and Wilco’s Mermaid Avenue. That was a collection of Guthrie lyrics newly put to music, but the Bonneville Dam album was pure Guthrie: lyrics, music, singin’ and playin’. Some people complain that folk music is too homogeneous; one song sounds just like the next. I was surprised at the variations, both in his lyrics and his voice. True, the tunes were often recycled folk standards, but I’m kind of a sucker for that old timey music anyway.

I also felt the thrill of catching Guthrie’s references. Usually, folk songs take place in the South, or maybe in England (if you like Donovan), or the Midwest. I’ve never heard too many songs that take place in the Southwest or the Pacific Northwest. It’s a different listening experience when you are familiar with the place names and can picture them in your mind.

Today the Bonneville Dam still stands, a testament to Guthrie’s songwriting and the mad skillz of the US Army Corps of Engineers. Nearby there is a salmon run made of concrete steps; the fish can still swim upstream to their breeding grounds.

I am conflicted about the usefulness of dams. On the one hand, they are the original green power. They generate electricity and create reservoirs so farmers can grow crops. But, like so many good ideas, dams were overused and have become a detriment to the rivers they utilize. Maybe the answer is to take some of these dams down. (For the record, the Glen Canyon Dam would be my first suggestion.) Dams can still be part of our effort to stop the reliance on petroleum. With what we know now about river ecology and average yearly rainfall, we can better maintain the rivers and still keep the dams that keep western America truckin’.

A few resources:
Woody Guthrie Timeline.
A nice summary of the time Woody Guthrie spent near the Columbia River.
The Bonneville Dam.

bonneville-dam


Laura

dr-katz Isis and I have been renting Dr. Katz lately. TV on DVD is really, really nice. You can watch old shows, new shows, whenever you want. Also cool is being able to watch the arch of a season in a compressed timeline. You see a lot of small details (themes, recurring characters, little in-jokes) that I never noticed before.

As we’ve been watching, I became curious about the character Laura, Dr. Katz’s receptionist and Ben Katz’s love interest. She pretty much has the run of Dr. Katz’s office; the surprising thing is that she does any work at all. She knows she has a good situation; she can pretty much walk all over the passive Dr. Katz. The biggest drawback to her job (besides the work, which she openly despises) is having to deal constantly with Ben, who will call and stop by throughout the day ostensibly to talk to his dad but really to talk to her.laura

After watching a good number of episodes, the characters’ backstories have begun to emerge. Dr. Katz used to be a folk singer, he got divorced and now lives with his grown son. Ben is perpetually trying to hide from life. He comes up with job ideas that are so far fetched they will never succeed. The real mystery is Laura.

How long has she lived in the city? What jobs did she have before this one? I could see her as a barista before she saw the ad for receptionist that changed her life. The bored, aloof expression she keeps seems to communicate coffeehouse malaise.

It seems as though she has a boyfriend (or boyfriends) in Europe. Dr. Katz has had to question her about her expensive long-distance calls during office hours. She, of course, doesn’t have to pay for them. What kind of a man would Laura even be attracted to? A hipster? A soccer player? An egghead? The only thing I can rule out with certainty is every single patient Dr. Katz sees. Which is probably for the best. Do you want to meet someone at a therapist’s office?laura2

These questions may never be answered. All I know is there are 8 more DVDs of Dr. Katz waiting for us, if we choose to rent them. Maybe one of the discs will unlock the secret life of Laura. Maybe she will remain an enigma, forever belittling Ben and every patient who walks through Dr. Katz’s door.


a little information about extra terrestrials

Aliens steal our water. The universe is experiencing a drought, and Earth is the last place left where you can simply turn on a tap and drink. Aliens bring those large water-cooler jugs and take their fill, never returning the favor.

Aliens eat cats. Cats are a delicacy on alien planets.

Aliens eat name-brand candy. Sprinkle pieces in the forest and little aliens come scurrying out for more.

Aliens never got their flu shots. Sneeze in their face (or the closest approximation) and they’re down for the count. Weaklings!

Aliens either have tentacles, long limbs, or tubes coming out of their bodies. Some kind of long, gangly feature.

Some aliens have sharp teeth. Those are the biters.

Aliens have green blood, or come from a green planet, or use green light bulbs on their ships.

Some aliens have eyes like a squid, others have eyes like a shark. Most have brows that are permanently creased, making it look like they are deep in thought over how best to kill and devour you.

Aliens are flabbergasted by devices such as blenders, TVs, microwaves, and other common household appliances. This in spite of their far superior space flight technology.

Aliens can read our thoughts. This makes them hate us; they see we are just as petty and mean as they are.

They also hate us because we are free.

Aliens are like ants or bees. You have to kill the queen or else they’ll just keep on coming.

Aliens can learn English much more easily than we can learn their language. They like to hold that over our heads, as if bilingualism is a measure of intellect.

Aliens have very good poker faces. An alien’s face is located on the inside of its abdomen or under its left tentacle, making it difficult to see.

Aliens care not for trivialities such as precious metals or paper money. They want plastic bags and pandas. We’re not sure why.

Aliens love to conquer but have no plans for post-war infrastructure. They just say Mission Accomplished and call it a day.

Aliens saw Ingrid Bergman on TV and would like to know if she’s available for coffee sometime. Strike that — anytime.

Parasitic aliens are covered in slime.

Don’t lend your car to an alien. It will ruin the transmission, rip out the passenger seat, then do donuts in an empty parking lot. This after killing and devouring you.

Aliens will steal all your good ideas and never return your calls when they get famous.

Aliens love mayonnaise.

Aliens cannot grow facial hair.

Do not confuse aliens with intergalactic robots. Aliens will kill and devour you, while robots talk in mechanical voices. There are other differences, but that’s another list.


Friday Robots

It’s that special time of the week, when robots come out to play. Here we have what appears to be a standing robot flanked by a group of less useful-looking robots. They’re posing in a valley in front of a tree-lined hill. A bucolic subject matter, perhaps? Or are these robots merely visiting their country brethren?friday-robots-8-29-08

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who?

There was a very funny running gag on the show Arrested Development. George Michael Bluth kept telling his father, Michael Bluth, about his girlfriend Ann. Michael, who couldn’t hide his distaste for the poor girl, kept forgetting who she was and what she meant to George Michael.

A typical conversation would go like this:
“I’m taking Ann to the dance tomorrow night.”
”Who?”
”Ann. My girlfriend.”
”Have I met this lady?”
”You’ve met her a number of times.”

The “Ann/Who?” conversation was repeated every single time George Michael brought Ann up.

Which brings me to John McCain’s pick for VP: Sarah Palin, current governor of Alaska. I know exactly what you’re thinking: “Who?” You know, Sarah Palin. The gun-lovin’, abortion-hatin’, governor of the state that people go to when they don’t want to be around people anymore. The bear delegation will be having a party tonight!

Psst – she’s a woman! Isn’t that revolutionary? It doesn’t stink at all of desperation on the part of McCain. It isn’t like he was trying to fill some kind of quota with the first available warm body he laid eyes on. He was totally going to pick a completely unknown, relatively inexperienced politician from the beginning. After all, it has worked before.

Now, finally, girls have a role model in the Presidential race. The Democrats sure messed that one up. Leave it to the Republicans to take the nation’s pulse and give us what we need. Sure, Palin is currently under investigation, but what role model hasn’t had to hide a few bodies in the basement from time to time? I know I have!

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