Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Entry: Boston Molasses Disaster

This is tragic and in no way totally awesome.

The blurb at the top of the article pretty much says it all: "The Boston Molasses Disaster, also known as the Great Molasses Flood and the Great Boston Molasses Tragedy, occurred on January 15, 1919, in the North End neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts in the United States. A large molasses tank burst, and a wave of molasses rushed through the streets at an estimated 35 mph (56 km/h), killing 21 and injuring 150."

I've long held the opinion that any food, given that it is in enough quantity, eventually becomes really disgusting. You know: bulk jars of maraschino cherries, buckets of salad, Michael Moore's lunch (HIYOOOOO!)... I assumed that when I see a food item in such a vast quantity, my mind simultaneously interprets it as something I can eat (because it's a food item), and something that I can't eat (because there's so much of it), and the result is repulsion. But now, I see it's a survival response.

The 35 mph speed is interesting, too. My original response was "35 mph? Pfft.", but then I realized that it was with regards to a substance that is a cliche hallmark for slowness. Plus this was 1919, when nothing when 35 mph, ever. And considering that the company that owned the molasses factory "ultimately paid out $600,000 in out-of-court settlements (at least $6.6 million in 2005 dollars)"... relatively speaking, the wave of molasses must have caused a sonic boom.

Also, I don't know what the status of syrup production is in Boston today, but to be on the safe side, I encourage my Massachucetts readers to wear flotation devices at all times. You can't be too careful, kids.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Entry: The Monster at the End of This Book: Starring Lovable, Furry Old Grover

(Before I start the post, it's only fair to warn you that it contains spoilers for The Monster at the End of This Book. I give away the ending. If this is a problem, visit the children's section of your local library before continuing.)

One thing I hear a lot is, "OMG, Regina, you're so pretentious." All the freaking time! Even more often than "Ma'am, you're making a scene."

And, okay, it is kind of true. Every cultural object I love is meta-this and post-that. And I thought it all started in college, or maybe late high school, when I saw Being John Malkovich and it opened my eyes to a whole new world of highly theoretical intellectual masturbation. And if it features John Cusack in some way, so much the better.

The Wik', however, has proven me wrong. My love of post-modernism apparently extends back to early childhood.

When I was a wee child, and the family computer was only useful for playing Reader Rabbit, one of my favorite books was The Monster at the End of This Book: Starring Lovable, Furry Old Grover. We probably owned a copy of it, but my memory situates me in my pediatrician's waiting room, reading it with my mom. I liked Grover, probably because he was the only creature in existence more neurotic than I. (Well, okay, Telly could have probably benefited from the occasional benzodiazepine tablet too.)

Anyway: the Wikipedia article describes The Monster at the End of this Book as a "post-modern children's book" that is self-reflexive; Grover is conscious of the fact that he is a character in a book (he tries to stop the reader from turning the page by tying the pages together). I guess you could also argue that since it ends with the reader and Grover confronting the monster at the end of the book-- which turns out to be Grover himself-- thus forcing Grover to accept his identity as a monster, it is a sort of bildungsroman as well. Although, he doesn't really age during the course of the book. An $80,000 liberal arts education put to use, ladies and gentlemen.

I was so excited to have one of my favorite books growing up put in this light. Next time I'm at a party drinking PBR from a keg and feeling insecure because I'm not dressed like I got attacked by a Goodwill, I'll be sure to smugly mention the fact that I've been into metafiction since I could read.

That, and I was totally into Rilo Kiley way before they got all mainstream.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Commons: Picture of the Year/2008

Okay, so this entry is technically cheating, since it's from Wikimedia Commons-- doesn't that sound like a delightful spot to go a-picknicking? "Oh do come down to Wikimedia Commons with us, Millicent! Grace has assembled a delightful basket for our dinner, and the Kensington boys shall play bowls and fence for our amusement!"-- ahem, as I was saying: Wikimedia Commons.

The article I was looking at was the results of Picture of the Year 2008. The entries were the year's featured pictures, and the voting body were users from the various Wikimedia projects, including my reason for existing on this planet, Wikipedia.

One would expect that the top ten photos would be images from great scientific and historic occurrences and far-flung locales frozen in time and put on the Internet for the benefit of those of us who, for whatever reason, are probably never going to be privy to such sights in reality. Most of the entries are really beautiful and intriguing photos. (First place: HORSIES! Second place: GUY BREATHING FIRE!)

But there was one picture on the top ten that really caught my attention. Cooler than a fountain of pahoehoe lava spurting from a Hawaiian volcano. More dramatic than a burning building in Quebec. More iconic than Dorothea Lange's photos of migrant workers during the Great Depression.

What was this amazing picture that captured the hearts and minds of Wikimedia users the world over, gaining the #7 slot?

A scantily-clad anime girl. Comma, you hopeless pack of nerds. Wikimedia users: turn the computer off, sit in the corner, and think about what you've done.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Entry: Shark Attack 3: Megalodon

You guys, this is my 100th post! I'm very excited, because my typical approach to projects is something along the lines of "Hey, I wanna be a lepidopterist! No, I wanna build a model train town! No, I wanna run for mayor of a sparsely-populated town in Montana!" and then I end up spending the night drinking beer and watching cartoons. But I've actually stuck with this. Pat on the back to me!

Additionally, a pat on the back to everyone who has read and supported this blog. Without you guys, I might as well just be talking at a blank wall. But instead, I talk at a blank wall when I'm done blogging. Your comments keep me writing, and promoting TILfW on your websites has taken my readership from nobody to a hair under three-thousand unique visitors in the past month. The fact that there's an audience out there for my half-baked, self-consciously twee ramblings means the world to me. It really does.

Okay, on to the entry.

Thanks to my friends Matt and Jess, whom I have known since high school and still talk to me for some reason, I've gained an appreciation for really awful movies. If the phrase "GARBAGE DAY!" means anything to you beyond taking out the trash, you know exactly what kind of movies I'm talking about. So when I came across this ridiculous clip on YouTube:

I had to know more. "...what?" is right.

Shark Attack 3: Megalodon is, um, the third in the Shark Attack series. It was released direct to DVD-- I know, I'm surprised too-- in 2002. Yes, 2002. Yes, with those special effects.

There's a very long plot summary, which is flagged as being both "too long or detailed compared to the rest of the content" and "[describing] a work or element of fiction in a primarily in-universe style." I didn't even bother. Giant shark, eats people. Moving on. Surely such a ridiculous and low-budget movie has an equally pathetic cast of talentless nobodies?

Not exactly. The protagonist is played by none other than consummate sexypants John Barrowman, aka Captain Jack Harkness from Dr. Who and Torchwood. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth when I learned that, I can tell you, especially when I found the YouTube video of the jewel in Shark Attack 3's crown of suck.

Note: the above link is NSFW. I will bowdlerize the quote below for your convenience.

Cataline Stone: *sigh* I'm exhausted.
Ben Carpenter: Yeah, me too. But you know, I'm really wired. What do you say I take you home and [stimulate your vulva with my mouth].

One would assume that this was just a prime example of depressingly terrible screenwriting, lay the blame squarely on cocaine, and move on with one's day. But no, friends. No. According to the Wik', the line was an improvisation on Barrowman's part, with the intention of cracking up his co-star, that was left in the final cut. It stands to reason that whatever line had been in the script to end the scene, the above was considered the preferable dialogue.

I'll leave you with that to muse on.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Entry: Gullibility

Sorry for my tardiness in updating, I've been a combination of busy, distracted, uninspired, and sans Internet. Ever onward.

Last night, one of my "friends" took advantage of my trusting nature for the sake of entertainment and told me that "gullible" is not in the dictionary. You'll be happy to know that I did not run to look it up. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me several times... still shame on you.

It did, however, lead me to wonder if there was a Wikipedia article on "gullibility" and if it mentioned the joke. As it turns out, gullible is not on Wikipedia.

No, it's really not.

No, really, click on the damn link. It's not there.

See, would-be mockers, the Wik is on my side.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Entry: Boiling Frog

The frog in the heated pot of water. Have you heard this? Of course you have. It's one of the most overused illustrative anecdotes ever, especially on very serious television news special reports. In case you've been trapped in an elevator for the past fifty years and you've managed to find this blog before the shock of the 21st century overwhelms you: a frog is sitting in a pot of water, which is slowly heated. The frog remains unaware of the gradual change in temperature, and eventually boils. And while you're thinking about dead, boiled frogs, stop polluting the environment/ferrying illegal aliens into the country/looking at porn on the Internet.

You guys. The origin of this story is really shaky. The experiment was performed over 100 years ago; an article that the Wik' article links to at the University of Georgia's ecol lab website states that frogs will jump out of the water when it gets uncomfortably hot, unless the scientist put it in a pot with really high sides and it can't get out. Dick move, scientist. But my point is: it's a big cliché, and it might not even be true.

We need a new metaphor to warn about the dangers of complacency. My suggestion: professional television writers get incrementally sloppier at their jobs until they're only capable of producing hackneyed crap aimed squarely at the lowest common denominator. SCARY! Watch your cholesterol.