Thursday, February 26, 2009

Entry: Commonwealth Black Pudding Throwing Championships

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the most frustratingly tantalizing article stub I have ever come across in my years of browsing Wikipedia:

"The first Commonwealth Black Pudding Throwing Championships were held in Ramsbottom, Greater Manchester on August 11, 2002 as part of the activities surrounding the Commonwealth Games in Manchester.

Participants took part from England, Scotland, Wales, South Africa and other countries."

That's it? People from around the world gathered together in a competition of pudding throwing, and it's only worth two sentences? What were the rules? Who won? Were there any record broken? What the hell is a black pudding? Okay, I actually know what a black pudding is. (Not too shabby for an American!) I've never indulged, because I have a personal rule about not eating something that looks like a giant scab, but I have seen them.

The official homepage is no longer there, but luckily the BBC article about the 2004 event is. The object of the contest is to lob a blood pudding (according to one of the commenters, "Bury Black Puddings from Chadwicks. Special competition weight, swaddled in ladies tights.") at a stack of Yorkshire puddings. Whoever knocks down the most Yorkshire puddings wins.

I like to think that I'm someone who keeps things in perspective and doesn't take her life for granted, but right now I'm very sad to have been born in the land of monster truck rallies.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Entry: Palimpsest

I learned what a palimpsest was in a Women's Studies class in college (I have no idea what it had to do with Women's Studies. Um. I vaguely remember a connection with Slavoj Žižek? If anyone wants to enlighten me on the connection between palimpsests and the works of Žižek, you will earn serious brownie points).

Stupidly put: when a monk wanted to translate the Bible or something into the vulgate but didn't have a blank parchment, he'd find a used parchment, scrape his grocery list or what have you off, and use it anew. And when you can see the old writing behind the new, that's a palimpsest! Apparently, the term is also used in architecture, and I will let the Wik' speak for itself:

"Architects imply palimpsest as a ghost —- an image of what once was. In the built environment, this occurs more than we might think. Whenever spaces are shuffled, rebuilt, or remodeled, shadows remain. Tarred rooflines remain on the sides of a building long after the neighboring structure has been demolished; removed stairs leave a mark where the painted wall surface stopped. Dust lines remain from a relocated appliance. Ancient ruins speak volumes of their former wholeness. Palimpsests can inform us, archaeologically, of the realities of the built past."

Awfully poetic for a Wiki article, don't you think?

You might be wondering why a slacker like me who usually updates twice a week is making two posts in a day, and one is about something she already knows about. The reason is quite simple: one of my favorite authors, Catherynne M. Valente, has a new book out today, and guess what the title is!

...Palimpsest. It's-- the title is Palimpsest. No, no, that was a good guess too.

Anyway: I heard her give a sneak preview reading at SalonCon a few months ago, and I'm very excited for this book. Her novels are incredible post-modern fairytales: I recently read The Orphan's Tales: in the City of Coin and Spice, and it was transcendent. I very rarely get so caught up in a book, but I was sitting at my desk at work, reading and trying so hard not to cry, because if someone had asked me why I was so upset, I would have blubbered something incoherent about soul-leaves and been advised to take the afternoon off and gone to see a doctor.

But I heartily encourage you to give Palimpsest a try-- there's more information about it on the page. But don't take my word for it-- Warren Ellis liked it. And he's way cooler than I'll ever be.

Entry: Lone Wolf and Cub

I'm not industrious enough to double-check, but the plurality of my posts are related to movies. Why not, sounds good to me. It's one of the things that I really love to geek out about, to the point where I have to check myself to make sure I'm not solely using the term "film" and sounding like a complete gasbag.

Anyway, something that gives me great pleasure when browsing Wiki articles on films (see, there I go) is reading about subgenres, like chanbara, Japanese action flicks about samurai. Apparently a lot of these movies are serials featuring well-known characters. I had heard of Zatoichi the blind samurai (and by "head of" I mean "saw a parody of him on The Boondocks"), but the one that really caught me off guard with his sharp sharp katana was Lone Wolf and Cub: six films, four plays, a television series, and a 28-volume manga about a samuai, Itto, and his 3-year-old son, Daigoro, who he pushes around Japan in a baby carriage, all the while stabbing ninjas and seeking revenge for the murder of his wife.

One thing I'm not quite clear on: does Daigoro fight alongside his dad? There's a screenshot of him from one of the movies:

(D'awwwww, baby samurai!) He's holding that stick like a weapon, but that doesn't necessarily mean he's fighting. Besides, if my dad was the Shogun's grand executioner and all I got as a weapon was a lousy stick, I would be pissed. But how would they achieve that in the movies with a child actor? A midget stand-in? I found a trailer for one of them (NSFW):

which includes Daigoro brandishing the stick, but it doesn't really answer my questions. I don't speak Japanese, so I don't have the slightest clue as to what the dialogue is ("What are you, crazy? He's not even wearing armor! I should call child services.").

I'm interested in seeing these, partially because I like a good action flick, but also because the some of English names are the best titles ever given anything in recorded history:

Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart at the River Styx
Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart to Hades
Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in Peril
Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in the Land of Demons

How could anyone not want to see a movie subtitled "Baby Cart to Hades?"

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Entry: Sedlec Ossuary

I'd heard from some non-Wiki source (probably Ripley's Believe It or Not) about the Sedlec Ossuary, a chapel in the Czech Republic decorated with human bones. But what I learned about from the Wik' was the accompanying documentary. Good Lord.

It was filmed in 1970 by Jan Švankmajer (hell yeah I got the diacritic in there), macabre animator and influence for directors such as Tim Burton and Terry Gilliam, who had been commissioned to do so by the Czech government. And film he did. To quote the article: "The result was a 10 minute long frantic-cut nightmare of skeletal images overdubbed with an actual tour-guide's neutral voice narration. This version was initially banned by the Czech Communist authorities for alleged subversion, and the soundtrack was replaced by a brief spoken introduction and a jazz arrangement by Zdeněk Liška of the poem 'Comment dessiner le portrait d'un oiseau' ('How to Draw the Portrait of a Bird') by Jacques Prévert."

I can see how it would be interpreted as subversive, but honestly, is there any way to film a chandelier made of human skulls and make it seem like a testament to your country's glorious culture and rich history? And how would a jazz arrangement change any of that?

And because I love you so much, here's a link to the film in its entirety. Warning: it's pretty disturbing. If you are on drugs, were on drugs, about to do drugs, or are contemplating doing drugs in the future, I would recommend not watching it.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Entry: Floaters

This isn't so much something I learned from Wikipedia, in that this time around I learned a variation on Wiki's usefulness; namely, proving to someone that you are not playing a joke on them.

My boyfriend and I were watching the latest episode of Family Guy this afternoon, which was apparently way more important than reading a book or going to the gym or volunteering at the Humane Society. Anywho, there was a joke about eye floaters, and I laughed (kind of), while my boyfriend just looked confused. And I said, "You know, the floaty things in your eye?" Well, apparently he is some kind of mutie with perfect eyes, because he doesn't have them. After a few turns on the Wheel of Disbelief-- "Are you just going along with the joke to fuck with me?" "Are you just pretending that you don't have them to fuck with me?"-- I turned to the Wik' to prove to him that they exist, and to prove to myself that I'm not embroiled in some twisted, ocular folie a deux with Seth MacFarlane.

And they do exist! Hurrah! And are apparently caused by crap in the vitreous humor (aka gel that fills your eyes). Ewww.

I don't know, is this some rare thing that only afflicts myself, at least one member of the Family Guy writing staff, and possibly a third person who wrote the Wikipedia article and is presumably not the latter person I mentioned (because I certainly didn't write it)? Who else out there on the Internet has weird floaty things in their eyes?

ETA: Andy Goth sent me a link to this essay about floaters. Floaters, and HP Lovecraft. Check it out.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Entry: Grammy Award for Record of the Year

I will be the first to admit that the Grammies are about at meaningful as a certificate of participation for soccer camp. I'm not a complete elitist when it comes to the Grammies, mind you; a few of my favorite acts were nominated this year (eg. Radiohead, MIA), and I was pleased when Amy Winehouse won a million awards for Back to Black last year (and have subsequently become depressed because she's probably going to OD before putting out another album). But when I found out (via Wiki!) that John Mayer won Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance over Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Neil Young, and Eddie Vedder-- well, that was yesterday afternoon and I have yet to unwrinkle my nose. Admittedly the latter four are arguably all past their peaks, but at least their music isn't so bland as to be one consistent plateau of a career.


After throwing up in my mouth a little, I wondered to myself, "Gee, self, I wonder what the difference is between record of the year, song of the year, and album of the year?" And dependable ol' Wikipedia had the answer.

Record of the year goes to one song or track, and recognizes achievement in recording; the award goes to the performer, producer, and recording engineer. Song of the year goes to the songwriter. And album of the year is awarded to the performer, producer, and recording and mastering engineers for the entire album. So now I know the criteria for awards that I hold in contempt.

(The underlying irony of all this, of course, is that I'm usually pretty excited about the Oscars.)

Monday, February 9, 2009

Entry: Proust Questionnaire

If you're a highbrow snobby type like me (or if you've ever been bored and channel surfing on a weekend afternoon), you've probably seen Inside the Actor's Studio with James Lipton on Bravo. Or maybe you've seen Will Ferrell parodying Lipton on SNL. If you haven't done any of the above, perhaps you have the vivacity of imagination required to summon up an admittedly pretentious show where a middle-aged man with a goatee and glassy stare interviews various actors about their craft.

Are we all on the same page? Good.

One of the best-known aspects of this show is the ten short questions that Lipton asks his guests. This is commonly known as the Proust Questionnaire, named for the author Marcel Proust (aka the Guy that Steve Carrel's character was talking about in Little Miss Sunshine). The questionnaire is often misattributed to Proust; the truth is that they were a turn of the century fad, published as diary-like books known as confession albums. Proust was simply a fan of them; two manuscripts of these lists filled out by him have been found (and one was sold at auction for over 100,000 euros). The list of questions and his answers can be found in the article.

It's nice to see a writer of such great renown humanized (his favorite fictional hero is Hamlet); he liked to do little egocentric memes from time to time, just like the rest of us. On the other hand, how far would he have gone if allowed to indulge? Just imagine what his Livejournal might have looked like.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Entry: Fruit Preserves

So last week my boyfriend called me from the supermarket and was wondering about the difference between jelly and jam. We ultimately decided that it didn't matter; honestly, I don't know which he got, because I don't eat jelly/jam/whatever as much as he does. Shucks, for you guys, I'll go check.

Well I'll be damned; he got preserves. But the conversation stands. I didn't know, so naturally I looked it up on the Wik'. I'm going to gloss over the regional differences (I don't know, British people... I just don't know), and go directly to the culinary definitions.

Jelly refers to a fruit spread made out of fruit juice; jam includes the fruit's flesh. And, in case you're wondering, "the term Preserves is usually interchangeable with Jam, however some cookbooks define Preserves as cooked and gelled whole fruit (or vegetable), which includes a significant portion of the fruit." So preserves (screw you, arbitrary uppercase) is just extra-fleshy jam. Yum. There's also other fun spreadables listed in the article, like confit. Fancy-shmancy!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Entry: Petabye


You guys.

Petabytes are huge.

I know the more computer-savvy readers are chortling at my naivete right about now-- and frankly, I'm a little embarrassed that I didn't realize that we were already on the next order of magnitude for data, considering that we just got a 1TB external harddrive-- but my mind is boggled. One million gigabytes. That's a lot of pirated movies.

Speaking of, this little putting-things-in-a-practical-perspective factoid really threw me for a loop: "As of December 2007, YouTube had a datatraffic of 27 petabytes per month." Jesus H. Christ, people, how many times can you watch OK Go jumping around on treadmills?