Monday, March 30, 2009

Entry: Matter-Eater Lad

I haven't read a lot of superhero comic books-- and even less DC-- but a pattern I've been noticing is that the concept for any character whose superhero name ends with "Lad" is going to be kinda dumb.

Take Tenzil Kem, aka Matter-Eater Lad, for instance: he is a lad who eats matter. Any matter. But no mere cafeteria sideshow is he; Tenzil is able to bite through and digest anything. "In his first appearance, Matter-Eater Lad explains his origins, saying that the natives of Bismoll found that microbes had made all their food inedible, and that the populace evolved their ability to eat all matter as a survival mechanism." I'm no scientist, but I would think that evolving an immunity to the microbes in question would be simpler. Then again, Immune to a Specific Kind of Microbe Lad is admittedly a step backwards in terms of crime-fighting and world-saving. Originally a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes, M.L.E. was often written out of the plots because the writing staff had trouble translating making his ability useful in combat. After the Zero Hour storyarc in the 90s, when the world was rewritten, he returned as the Legion of Super Hero's chef. Because a dude who eats through fences obviously has a refined sense of haute cuisine. And he can spit acid. Great.

Best caption ever, might I add.

As alluded to earlier, Matter-Eater Lad is from the planet Bismoll, where his entire species has his ability. According to Wiki, this origin story is shared by many members of the Legion of Super-Heroes: I come from a planet where everyone does this, hand me a cape. Matter-Eater Lad isn't even the best of his kind at eating matter; Calorie Queen, another citizen of Bismoll, can convert the energy from what she eats into super strength. Why not recruit her instead? It makes me wish that some organization was recruiting Earthlings for a similar legion in hopes that we would share a "fantastic" ability that we take for granted. I could be Hair-Growing Woman, or the Salivator...

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Entry: British Film Institute list of the 50 films you should see by the age of 14

...made me feel like an uncultured hayseed.

The BFI composed this list in an attempt to convince parents and educators that film can be a legitimate art form, and that children should be exposed to great films the same way they are to visual art and literature; I can only assume that means "until the school has budgeting issues or one parent thinks their child might be exposed to something potentially offensive."

I like to think that I have good taste in movies, and I have seen a whole bunch in my day, but according to the BFI, I have been woefully underexposed. Here are their top ten films that kids should see by age 14, in order:

1. Bicycle Thieves (1948)
2. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
3. Kes (1969)
4. Les Quatre Cents Coups (1959)
5. The Night of the Hunter (1955)
6. Show Me Love (1998)
7. Spirited Away (2001)
8. Toy Story (1995)
9. Where is My Friend's House? (1987)
10. The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Out of these films, I have seen E.T. (although I was so young when I saw it, I don't remember it-- is there a part where E.T. gets rabies? Because I've been laboring under that impression), Spirited Away (which came out after I turned 14, but is one of my favorites), Toy Story, and The Wizard of Oz. The Night of the Hunter and Show Me Love are on my Netflix queue. I had never before heard of Kes or Where Is my Friend's House?, and now I'm convinced that there are British tweens out there mocking me for it.

Now, I agree that exposing children to classic movies and teaching them to view them as art is a good idea, but I'm not sure I'd want my kids to see some of these films if they were under 14. I haven't seen Les Quatre Cens Coups, but maybe you should let your kids hit puberty before exposing them to French New Wave. And to be honest, I'm a little surprised that Show Me Love is listed, considering it's about two teenage girls that fall in love; I guess Brits are a lot more queer-friendly than Americans.

The rest of the list is also in the article, and there's a lot of fantastic movies listed... but I can't speak for the whole thing, because as it turns out, I've seen less than half of them. Now if you'll excuse me, I have some very important reality shows to watch.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Entry: Baader-Meinhof phenomenon

This is one of those things that requires theremin-heavy music in the background.

That'll do. Read on.

I StumbleUpon-ed the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon article this afternoon. The Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, something I'm sure everyone's experienced at least once, is that bizarre synchronicity whereupon you learn something for the first time and then hear about it again a short time later. The term itself was coined by someone writing an editorial in the St. Paul Pioneer Press about experiencing the B-M P; their readership responded overwhelmingly with similar stories.

I was glad to know that this is apparently a Thing, but didn't think I was going to write about it... until tonight! David Malki of Wondermark notoriety had Twittered about using the Valsalva maneuver; I made note of the unfamiliar phrase, but antithetical to my nature, did not Wiki it. I know, I'm disappointed in myself too. But then, not an hour later, I was goofing around on the Straight Dope, and Cecil Adams explained the very same Valsalva maneuver in the article I was reading! And, the Valsalva maneuver just happens to be exhaling forcibly with your mouth and nose closed to clear your ear canals, which I do all the damn time because my inner ear bits get congested especially during allergy season!

Baader-Meinhof phenomenon! Spooky stuff!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Entry: Boobam

The very existence of this blog, if not the individual entries themselves, imply that I'm a hopeless geek. So the setup of this entry is probably of no surprise: "I was watching an episode of Futurama* with the audio commentary on, and."

I was watching an episode of Futurama with the audio commentary on, and since composer Christopher Tyng was one of the commentators, the use of music in the series was one of the major discussions. Besides talking about the fact that Futurama was one of the few remaining shows to use an actual orchestra-- neat-- he kept mentioning the use of boobams. Since I was doing chores at the time, I was more listening than watching, and got really confused when he said, "Notice the boobams in this scene."

My immediate reaction was, "Oh wow, I didn't realize there was a director's cut of this episode!" but as it turns out, my immediate assumption was quite wrong. As opposed to being a somewhat childish euphemism for censorable anatomy, the boobam is a percussion instrument, originally made out of bamboo, that produce a hollow, wooden sound. So another viable name for them would be "knockers," I suppose. And since I originally assumed that boobams were in fact knockers, the entry comes full circle.

* For the record, I believe it was s02e15, "The Problem with Popplers."

Monday, March 16, 2009

Entry: Noodling

I first heard about noodling on NPR (considering the stereotypical NPR listener, it's amazing how much one can learn about rural life from it, especially on the weekends). I tuned in in the middle of the program, so while I learned that it was popular in Oklahoma, I wasn't sure what it was for a while. Considering the activity is called "noodling," I thought maybe it produced baby Okies, but that is not the case at all. By the time I pieced together what noodling is, not only had I reached my destination and it was time to turn the radio off, but I was all shades of "Are you effing kidding me." Surely those mellow-voiced, eloquently homey radio hosts were pulling a fast one!

When I got home I turned to Wiki, and, well, the proof is in the pudding. And by "pudding" I mean "open-source encyclopedia entry." I might as well just cut and paste, because I'm sure you're getting impatient:

Although the concept, catching fish with only the use of the arm in the water, is simple enough, the process of noodling is more complicated. The choice of catfish as the prey is not arbitrary, but comes from the circumstances of their habitat. Flathead catfish live in holes or under brush in rivers and lakes and thus are easy to capture due to the static nature of their dwelling. To begin, a noodler goes underwater to depths ranging from only a few feet to up to twenty feet, placing his hand inside a discovered catfish hole. If all goes as planned, the catfish will swim forward and latch onto the fisherman's hand, usually as a defensive maneuver in order to try to escape the hole. If the fish is particularly large, the noodler can hook the head around its gills.

If you're having trouble wrapping your head around that, here's a montage to illustrate, courtesy of YouTube.

Yankee that I am, the thought of sticking my hand in a giant fish's gill strikes me as kind of gross. It's also a pastime that involves the very real possibility of pissing off snapping turtles, gators, or whatever angry, sharp-toothed, aquatic animals might live in your region (including the catfish themselves-- a 60 pound fish must be a formidable opponent). TILfW's official stance: consider taking up macrame instead.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Entry: Tear tattoo

First let me say, I know all about prison life because I've watched the entire run of HBO's Oz. Twice. Hell yeah.

Even if you don't have the kind of street cred that I do, you've probably seen someone with a tear tattoo. It's pretty common knowledge in the US that the tear is a memorial to a deceased loveone, but is also a prison tattoo that signifies the inkee has murdered someone.

However, in Australian prisons, tear tattoos are forced onto the faces of convicted child molesters. So, my advice to anyone who has a tear tattoo and has designs on visiting Australia: keep a low profile. Or invest in a tube of concealer. In fact, you might want to stay on the safe side and just make alternate travel plans.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Entry: Jack Churchill

If someone were to ask, "If there were an extended Churchill family reunion that traversed the boundaries of time and space to bring many generations of the clan together, which Churchill would be the most badass?" You would probably answer, "Well, Winston Churchill, because he was the PM of Britain during World War II and we honor that legacy by comparing newborn babies' faces to his."

And I would say, "NO."

I submit that the most badass Churchill was, in fact, this guy, "Fighting" Jack Churchill. Same general time period as the other one, probably not a close relative, Churchill is probably best known for having fought during World War II armed with a bow and arrow and a claymore. BAD ASS! In fact, he is the only known British soldier to have felled an enemy with a longbow during WWII. AWESOME! And then the Nazis caught him and put him in a concentration camp-- and he escaped. WHOA! And then he was captured again, and he escaped again! ADDITIONAL INTERJECTION!

I might sound flippant here, but believe me, I'm only making fun of how impressed I am by this crazy story. (Oh sure, the article has been flagged for "unverified claims," but I can't imagine that further research would divulge anything more interesting, unless there's a newsreel out there with him punching Hitler in the face or something.) There needs to be a movie, and it needs to star Jason Statham.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Entry: The Story of the Three Bears

It seems that a good number of these entries find their genesis with my boyfriend raising a question. Take the other night, for instance, when we were watching The Simpsons episode "Treehouse of Horror XI," which led to "How does Goldilocks and the Three Bears really end?" Now I never cared much for this particular fairytale; I was a sensitive child, and I think the stranger-danger mania of the late eighties and early nineties really got to me. So my answer was something along the lines of, "She gets eaten! She escapes! I have no idea."

Wiki, for once, made things even more confusing. An 1837 version featured a dirty, foul-mouthed old woman in Goldilocks' place. In that story, she escaped when the bears discovered her; however, in an 1831 version, the bears try to drown the old woman, then try to burn her alive, and finally impale her on a church steeple. Later in the nineteenth century, the old woman character became a little girl, but her name was "Silver Hair"-- presumably she was portrayed by Steve Martin.

So, to summarize: she gets eaten. She escapes. I have no idea.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Entry: ???

I found out, via Wikipedia and completely by chance, a casting spoiler for Joss Whedon's Dollhouse.

Who is playing Alpha? You either care, or you don't care, or you know already! Or a combination!

I won't force it upon you, but if you want to know, here's a large glaring hint.