Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Best Undead Creature


Apparently, I was ahead of my time. Or I was right on with my time. Or I actually set the pace. I can't decide which it should be. If I was ahead of my time then that means that I did something that nobody is yet able to recognize as genius, like the guy who invented Zero candy bars, which have been around forever but which are underappreciated, even by me, considering that last night I was going to get one when we were out running errands but then I thought Am I really ready for a Zero bar right now?

I really did think that, and then the answer was No, I'm not. However, it wasn't so much that I wasn't ready because Zero bars are ahead of their time, but instead because I'd eaten a lot of pizza for dinner and then gone and tried on pants because they were on sale, and I'd had to get pants a whole size larger than the pants I just bought in January, which dismayed me and made me opt not to get a Zero bar after all. Still, Zero bars are like something from the future, and they'll be heralded as great candy as soon as society is ready.

If I'm not ahead of my time, if I'm not the blogging/writing/should-be-working-a-lot-harder-at-his-real-job equivalent of the Zero bar, I'm at least setting the pace, I figure, because back last February, I began a little side project of mine, a blog that was going to be a "Web novel." (K know. Eccch. Right?) I began it because I wanted to practice doing a little writing of something less serious than the novel I was working on, but still different than the usual blogging I had. That, and I needed the money.

So I was driving into the office one morning and thinking to myself, non-Zero-bar related thoughts, and what I was thinking was that I'd try maybe writing something kind of humorous, sci-fi-y, serialized, adventurous, funny, and weird. And also that it should have some kind of monster in it as the main character, a monster I would try to make sympathetic. I tried to figure out which monster would be hardest to do that with, which monster was most in need of some kind of repositioning -- putting this monster into a place where the public would see it in a new light, would say, hey, I never thought of that before, and would decide hey, this is neat!

You know, the writing equivalent of putting the Zero bars higher up on the shelf and marking down the price. (I'll try to stop mentioning them now. But I really regret not getting one.)

I came up with Zombies, which had been made over already by the movie 28 Days but which could still use a little revamping, I thought. Zombies needed a little more push into the pop culture, I decided, because even with the fact that they were faster and meaner and scarier they were still... gross and stupid and scary and easily killed.

Vampires, werewolves, Swamp Thing, they've all had their moment in the limelight as positive role models -- vampires, especially. To quote Sweetie not even a week ago: Who decided that vampires were sexy? I had to admit I didn't know. 12-year-old-girls and Anne Rice, I guess. Vampires just have always been deemed to be sexy, whether it's Kiefer Sutherland biting your neck while Good Times by INXS with Jimmy Barnes plays, or that guy with all the hair in the Twilight movies not biting your neck because, hey, girls, he's hunky and cute and sweet and he DOESN'T want to touch you or anything, so come have a look.

Werewolves, too, had their time in the limelight, being American in London, ordering beef chow mein at Trader Vic's, now fighting Kate Beckinsale in that video game or movie or movie based on a video game or whatever it is. Maybe Kate Beckinsale's a werewolf. I don't know. I haven't seen it. But there are werewolves in it, I know, because I know what the word lycanthrope is and I know the latest movie was subtitled Rise of The Lycans, so I know (a) there are werewolves in it and (b) they had to shorten lycanthrope to lycans in the title because otherwise you kids these days would get bored reading the title and go off to do crystal meth instead of seeing the movie, and there would be a class action suit against the studio for properly spelling a word.

So I hit on zombies as the monsters most in need of making-over, as the monsters most unlikely to ever be a sympathetic protagonist, as the monsters that would constitute the greatest writing feat if they were to be the star of a story and be zombies and yet still somehow be sexy and fun and interesting and likeable and maybe played by Rachel McAdams in the movie version of my Web Novel. (Still. Ecch. I know. But maybe we'll all get used to that the way I got used to the word 'blog.' Why does everything on the Internet have to have such a dumb name?)

That was how I began writing Lesbian Zombies Are Taking Over The World!: That was the entire concept behind that story at the outset: zombies will be my stars. That and what's the exact opposite of zombies, in terms of sexiness? And the answer to that, the answer to the question If zombies are the least sexy thing in the world, what's the MOST sexy? was, of course, lesbians.

I began writing it with that concept in mind: I'm going to write a story about a Lesbian Zombie. I kept plugging away at it for a year now, getting readers along the way and building it into a story that's grown way beyond anything that I could have imagined -- especially because I have refused always to plot it out, so if you read it [NOTE: I AM AWARE THAT THIS WHOLE POST IS TURNING INTO BLATANT SELF PROMOTION AND YOU'LL JUST HAVE TO LIVE WITH IT.] if you read it, you should know that each entry is entirely made up on the spot without any thought given to where it's going.

Then, the other day, I stumble across a story that there's going to be a book released in March, called Breathers, or something, and this book is about zombies. Living in the modern day and having lives and falling in love and being sympathetic and stuff. I don't know what it's all about because it hasn't come out and because as soon as I heard that, I thought to myself what any red-blooded American would think: Can I sue that person?

Then I got a little more information and I realized that the book was maybe not that close to my own Web Novel (Sigh. Can I just call it a story? No? Why? Never mind...) and I calmed down and decided that the similarities really were that both of us were calling our characters zombies, and if we were to go around getting ourselves into lawsuits over that, then we'd both probably be sued by the estate of Mary Shelley, and I don't need to get myself into more lawsuits, anyway, because I've got like six going on for me personally already, and one of these days my boss is going to figure out that I really am not doing anything but my own legal work and that will probably result in an uncomfortable conversation between him and me.

Besides, I realized, my own zombies are less like "zombies" the way people think of them and more like the original zombie, and Best Undead Creature, and character whose introduction I foreshadowed in that last paragraph (see, Mr."Breathers" Writer? Can YOU use literary techniques like that? I'll show you!), Frankenstein.

Now, having called it that, I will no doubt hear from people who will say the monster was not called Frankenstein, blah blah blah.

Don't you hate people like that? If there were a list of people I find annoying, in order it would be:

1. Diablo Cody.
2. People who claim (truthfully or not) they don't watch TV.
3. People who remind you that Frankenstein was the doctor, not the monster.
4. Tina Fey/The guy whose house I'm stalking who now pulls down his blinds so that when I drive by I can't see inside the house (Tie.)

But here's what I'd like to say about that. I know that in the book, the monster didn't have a name and "Frankenstein" was the doctor. Or at least, I know that's what I've always been told, by annoying people, and I take their word for it because I've never read the book. (Nor do I want to read the book, but I'll get to that in a moment.)

People who insist on that, on saying things like the monster was not called Frankenstein, are not only annoying, but they're wrong and they don't understand how pop culture works. Have you seen how "ironic" is changing its meaning, all thanks to Alanis Morissette and her horrible misunderstanding of irony? Thanks to her, a generation of people thinks that rain on your wedding day is ironic instead of just kind of a bummer.

Side note: the other day, The Boy correctly noted that it was ironic that by setting our DVR to tape every episode of Battlestar Galactica, I had taped over the most-recent, as-yet-unseen Battlestar Galactica episodes because a Battlestar marathon came on. So there's hope for the future, I suppose.

Side note, 2: Unfortunately, I initially told him it was not ironic, then had to concede that it was, so I lost a little parenting authority there.

Side note, 3: I assume I didn't miss anything in not watching those last two episodes. I'm sure, even without seeing, that the plots could be summarized as Everyone and everything is actually a Cylon! And a human! Hey, an asteroid! Shoot that woman! Starbuck, kiss this!

Because of Alanis Morissette, the world has come to accept that things that are annoying in a coincidental way are ironic, just like we now accept that flammable and inflammable mean the same thing. That's the way society works: There are facts, like Frankenstein was the doctor, not the monster, and then society says Yeah, but I'd really rather say that Frankenstein was the monster, and then annoying people spend 82 years trying to point out that, no, society's wrong, but society eventually stops returning those people's phone calls and moves on without them, and doesn't friend them on Facebook, and after a while, the monster just gets to be called Frankenstein.

Which is where we have arrived at, right now: I'm calling it: Frankenstein's monster is officially just "Frankenstein." The monster's name is Frankenstein, now, and anyone who says otherwise is a loser.

I can say that Frankenstein is the best undead creature even though I haven't read the book, and I don't want to read the book. I don't want to read the book because it was written centuries ago, or might as well have been, and I have learned in my life that I don't like reading most books that were written long ago. I gain nothing by reading the book, I've learned, in most cases, at least. What's gained by reading Shakespeare's plays in the original? What's gained by reading Moby-Dick? What's gained by reading almost every single book written in the 1600s or whenever and trying to muddle through archaic language and dated references, when I already know the gist of the story? There is a reason we no longer talk like Mary Shelley and Herman Melville and that one playwright whose plays I had to read in college and who had all his characters talking about the auld wyblfighse or something so that I had to keep turning to the footnotes and wondering why he couldn't simply write midwife, and that reason is that all that old language looks like Welsh. It's incomprehensible and takes away from the story. There are very few works of literature that stand up to time, and for those that do, too often the language makes them impenetrable and not worth trying, just like David Foster Wallace's work.

So I'm not going to try to read Frankenstein, and I don't need to because it's soaked into the pop culture enough that I know all the points I need to know: Man creates monster. Monster is misunderstood. Crowd kills him. That's the story, right? Am I missing anything there? I know all the themes, too: Science can be misused. People suck. Little girls always know the truth about everything. I don't need to read the book.

The enduring power, and culture-seeping ability, of Frankenstein demonstrates why he was The Best Undead Creature, but only in part. Yes, it takes a truly great undead creature to be written about in a novel and then to infiltrate nearly every part of culture over the next century plus...

... look, I'll just admit that I don't know when she wrote the book, so I'm going to pick a date and say 1861...

... becoming not just a movie monster but a beloved family man and a cautionary tale about the dangers of gene splicing but also, I believe, a pop song or maybe a group, and so on, slowly soaking into our collective subconscious until we all instinctively know exactly what it means to be a Frankenstein...

... not the doctor. I said that's over. It's the monster...

but it's not just the enduring power of the idea that makes Frankenstein The Best Undead Creature. It's the fact that he had so much farther than everyone else to go. Vampires, werewolves, the Mummy, these guys all had a head start, in that they weren't made up of pieces of dead bodies. And if you're going to be trying to make a dent in pop culture, if you want to win the love and admiration of the public and become an iconic character, then let's face it, it's always an advantage to not be made up of corpse bits. Yeah, sure, it helps to have the cape and the castle and the sexy female vampires. It helps if most of the time you're human, or if before dying you were a powerful pharoah or something. It can even be a benefit if you're from a black lagoon, because women always like foreigners. But all those monsters didn't need those advantages to pass up Frankenstein in our minds; they were set up to do that just by, you know, not being sewn together from dead bodies.

Frankenstein had that to overcome, just to get us to notice him. I respect people who have to work hard to overcome their handicaps (remember, I also recognized Paris Hilton for doing just that)(It is quite an honor, Paris, to be mentioned as having also achieved what Frankenstein has, isn't it?) Frankenstein started behind all the others, and yet passed them up, becoming an iconic undead creature and becoming something we no longer feared or loathed or tried to burn with stakes or tried to convince people was not called Frankenstein, transforming instead into something that was called Frankenstein, that could hug and be loved and do the Mash and sit there in our minds comfortably, that could be adapted to a new generation as a loveable lesbian zombie having all sorts of fun, crazy, really interesting, adventures that could easily be made into a series on, say, the Sci-Fi channel, if you're intersted A monster who could, by his very nature, become more or less whatever we wanted him to be -- a monster created from pieces of us who eventually would come to symbolize pieces of us, who would be fierce, or loveable, or both, a monster who, like us, became more than the sum of his parts, who rose from the most humble circumstances imaginable to become The Best Undead Creature.

A monster who would make, by the way, an awesome spokesperson for the Zero bar.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

From up to Heaven: (The Third of The Best Songs By One-Hit Wonders That Aren't Their One Hit!)


When you start the big part of your musical career off with a song titled "Loser," aren't you courting trouble?

I know, I know, Beck didn't start with "Loser." I said the big part of his career, the part where people knew about him and actually bought his records and made him a star. "Loser" hit number 10 on the Billboard charts, back in about 1994; I had to look that up because if I'd gone on my own impressions, I'd have said that "Loser" didn't stop at hitting number one, but must have gone on to a ranking somewhat higher than "number one," a ranking of imaginary numbers that is reserved for those songs that seem more popular than physics should allow -- songs like "Mambo Number 5" and "La Vida Loca" and "Loser," which are played so often that they don't just stick into your head, they actually lodge in your mitochondria where they will dance around bewilderingly until Charles Wallace comes and does whatever he did to stop them dancing around, but even then your mitochondria will be humming I'm a loser baby/so why don't you kill me.

You're humming that right now, aren't you? Don't blame yourself. Blame your mitochondria.

I propose, while I'm on the subject, that Billboard in fact put a ranking greater than number 1 and reserve it for songs like "Loser" and other supermegawonderhits. They could use i; it's just sitting around doing nothing, after all. (Doing nothing, that is, except being The Best Number.)

So "Loser" hit only ten on the Billboard charts, even though its ubiquity seemed to rank it at i. Still, that ubiquity meant that the world would be hanging on Beck's every musical styling thereafter, right?


As it turns out, no.

Beck did what so many bands and musicians dare to do. They dare to do that stupidly, if you are concerned about making money, or bravely, if you are concerned about making music. Beck, after Loser, continued to experiment and branch out and be creative, and we all know what pop culture does to creativity and experimentation and branching out: it ignores it, and goes to concerts and yells out during the quiet parts: Play "Loser!"

Which sucks, in Beck's case, because he's made many, many great songs. Great songs that never hit very high on the charts. Great songs that when you put them on your iPod while you're "working" from home people say What's this? and then bug you to put on Madonna (people in that sentence = Sweetie.) But great songs nonetheless. And the greatest of them all, Beck's Best Song That Was Not His One Hit, is this:

"He's A Mighty Good Leader."

Note, 1: The song is supposed to be about Jesus, I believe. I read that somewhere. Or heard it somewhere. I'm not sure why I think that, but I believe it's about Jesus being the mighty good leader.

Note, 2: Wikidiotpedia, if you are going to say that the album Odelay, "put the one-hit wonder criticisms to rest" and you are going to rely, in saying that, on the fact that Odelay had the song "Where It's At" on it, you should first carefully define the term "hit," since a song that peaks at 61 is probably not a "hit" by the definition of anyone who likes, you know, facts.

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Ah, nostalgia!

Remember as a kid when you played with Tonka trucks? Road graders, dump trucks, bulldozers, all kinds of large machines? I did -- taking them out to the backyard where my parents had a flower and rock garden that would be dug up and rerouted and was the future site for all kinds of construction projects. Of course, my Tonka trucks were also from time to time driven by my "Greedo" action figure and were used to try to kill Luke Skywalker in a sort of space-construction-war. But I still played with trucks as a kid.

Some lucky guys went from playing with trucks to using them in business. Being able to do that would be the best possible thing about being a construction worker: driving for real the kind of equipment we had to push around with our hands as kids.

Al Asher & Sons know the pleasures of driving around the big equipment, and they know the pleasure of selling the big equipment to you. They've got all kinds of heavy equipment trucks: Bucket trucks, cranes, cable pullers and more, and they know how to sell them and service them -- they've been in business since 1914 and you don't stay in business for nearly a century without being good at what you do, and what Al Asher & Sons do is sell and rent and service trucks and related equipment. They'll even help you get financing if you need that.

And you DO need it, because when you browse around their site, you're going to want to buy stuff. A lot of stuff. Heck, I want to buy a lot of stuff, and the only reasons I haven't yet are (a) Sweetie won't tell me where my credit cards are, and (b) our driveway's pretty full already. But the temptation is still there -- looking at their sales record and the service they provide, I'd be crazy not to buy one of their cable pullers or trucks or cranes. Or so I'll tell Sweetie.

I just wonder if they can sell me a life-size Greedo to go with it.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Everybody tell me have you heard? (The Second Of The Best Songs By One-Hit Wonders That Aren't Their One Hit)

It's a Minibest!

The enduring appeal of "The Safety Dance" was shown when The Family Critic Guy Show this past week had its characters do a dance to that song (doing so in the midst of another tired parody of another tired movie. What is it with cartoon television shows, anyway? Why do they more and more simply parody other art forms? Last season, South Park parodied High School Musical. Which segment of their audience was that supposed to appeal to? Is there a cross-section of television watchers who know enough about High School Musical to watch a South Park parody of it and enjoy it? Is there any overlap between the audiences of those two?)

(And, what was worse about the Critic Family parody was that it was the second time in a year that a cartoon television show parodied Ocean's 11; South Park did that, too. I understand, cartoon show creators, that you have cashed in and are no longer even bothering to pretend to try, but aren't you somewhat worried that the studio heads are going to one day actually watch your shows and realize that you've lost it, and ask for some of the money back?)

(Also, South Park referenced Safety Dance, too, so I guess we have actually hit the point I predicted we would, that point where cartoon shows simply parody each other.)

The Safety Dance is not just a mainstay of cartoon shows created by people who have sold their creativity and energy for bags of cash; it's also been referenced in other television shows and areas of pop culture, including a memorable exchange on Scrubs:

Carla: What if your child wants to dance?

Turk: He can dance if he wants to. He can leave his friends behind.

That level of recognition, even by now-god-awful-cartoons-that-I-no-longer-watch (instead, I'm devoting my time to catching up on Lost) is deserved by a song like The Safety Dance, which took the world by storm (sort of; it was released three times, and eventually caught on) and rose to number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100. It's too bad, having risen up so high in the pop world that "Men Without Hats" immediately disbanded and took solemn blood oaths never to make music again, ever, under any circumstances.

Well, that's what you'd think they did, because they were almost never heard from again, despite releasing by my estimate at least two other albums, one of which I never heard of and the other of which I had on cassette tape and listened to incessantly, and I still have it today and would listen to it incessantly today but the only cassette player I have access to is in Sweetie's car.

That other album was called "Pop Goes The World" and was, in a word, brilliant. That this album exists is proof that Men Without Hats are geniuses. That it never got the recognition is deserved is proof that the world is full of doofuses. The entire album could rightly be put here, but I'm going to pick just one, and that one song, the song that is better, by far, than their one hit, is this one:

"Pop Goes The World."

"Pop Goes The World" kicked off a concept album of sorts, or at least I think it was a concept album, and also was featured briefly in Scanners II. Can you say that about "The Safety Dance?" I think not.

The video, by the way, is a homemade one from some guy. I couldn't put the REAL video here because Men Without Hats won't let it be embedded. So apparently they would rather that you didn't see their video, at all. I'm taking a risk just mentioning their song; I'd hate for them to sic that dwarf on me.

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2-4-6-8, who do we iCoaster -ate?... no, doesn't quite work.

I can I can iCoaster... I'm just trying to come up with a cool rallying cry/trash talk to use in my next session on the MagNext arena game "iCoaster." I've played and written about this game before, but I can't say enough about the whole site.

Magnext lets you create a free account and once in, become a magnetic supercool futuristic sphere that takes part in all kinds of games, from challenge puzzle games to my newest favorite, "iCoaster." Your little avatar/sphere goes racing around this roller coaster track at what feels like lightspeed while you've got to click and replace the missing tracks ahead of you to keep from flying off. It's like a race game crossed with Tetris, only faster and more addictive; this is the game that's going to get me fired if I don't find a way to master it soon, because I can't quit playing it.

And I'm not even that good at it yet. But I will be, because it's seriously compelling and provides a good rush of fun. It's like I've said a lot of times before: the best games are the ones that are deceptively simple. Games like litigation, golf, and "iCoaster."

Magnext doesn't just have "iCoaster," either; there are tons of different games to play there, and by earning points the person playing can customize their little sphere. Another nice thing about it: You can encourage your friends to join up and play them online, and the games are good for any age level of player. There's nothing scary or hardcore about them, so I could in theory master this game, then challenge my six-year-old nephew to a contest in it, and whoop him, making up for all those times I had to let him win at croquet.

Not that I'd do that. Not yet, at least.


The TBOE Comment Roundup.

This week in The Best Commenters:

Supercommenter/Awesomewriter Lisa Pepin, whose blog "Lost In Provence" should be required reading for people who (a) breathe or (b) exist, had this to say about the most recent Supervillain post:

"Chillblaine," that's the perfect brand name for your business leg warmers. Though it sounds like you should add a line of mittens as well. But they'd have to be mittens you could type in. Or they'd have to be so expensively-priced that they would inspire the kind of awe and respect that would get you out of doing such mundane tasks as typing while at work. Also, thanks for posting a picture of Duckie Dale. I didn't realize how much I had missed him until I saw his face (and gold jacket and ultra-feminine lapel pin) again.

Sure, Lisa, you say you missed Duckie Dale -- but you missed him as a friend, right? A really good friend, of course... but the Duckies of the world reside forever in the Friend Zone. But you are right that "Chillblaine" would be marketing genius, and I would be all over marketing them except that I'm trying to find my own "Wonder Sauna Hot Pants."

Hannes joins Lisa in liking that post, saying:

lol, that pic is funny :)

Hannes writes a blog called "Better World Thinking." His site says that It is the mission of "Better World Thinking" to share ideas with you, mainly on ecology, its going together with economy, corporate social responsibility, and green marketing, but not at all limited to it. Anything is possible! If you have feedback or other great ideas, let us know.

I can't imagine what it's like to actually contribute something positive to the world; Hannes, let me know.

Moving on from supervillainy, Claudia, read the "Give All Your Love To Me" Minibest and then found for me the original video that I couldn't find for The Sun Always Shines On TV and notes this:

... apparently the UK did want that kind of dark song: it hit nr. 1 there.

I've gone back and added the original video to the post, and I just want to say that I'm not surprised that music fans in the UK liked something dark and depressing; they've been down a bit ever since the United States kicked their butts in the Revolutionary War using just grit and moxie and a robotic George Washington armed with explosive wooden teeth.

However, because you went above and beyond the call of duty, Claudia, if you contact me at my email address and give me your mailing address, I'll send you your choice of a copy of either Do Pizza Samples Really Exist? Or Thinking The Lions, And 117* Other Ways Of Looking At Life (*Give Or Take.)

Finally, a person I want to get to know better, "Make Money from Blogging," checked in after reading "The Best Way To Make Money, Apparently," and noted that

I think there are real TV shows with twist of comedy :)

Which I'm hoping is not intended to dissuade me from going ahead with my idea for making money off my kids, because if I scratch that plan, it's back to the old drawing board.*

(*"drawing board" = powerball tickets bought with money meant to pay the mortgage.)

Thanks for the comments, and if you'd like your own free book or t-shirt or free opportunity to babysit my twins for roughly 16 years, go the extra mile like Claudia did and point it out to me!

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Little boys digging catacombs for corpses? Old women resorting to cannibalism to avoid demons searching for her soul? Ghosts in churches, wives returned from the dead, haunted basements, obituary writers with supernatural powers… All of these people can be found at AfterDark: the website that publishes serialized short horror stories. Remember: the scariest things, you CAN’T imagine.

Managing requires understanding.

With the news this morning that the government may have to buy up to 40% of another large bank just to avoid a run on it, it looks like the country could be stuck in neutral, if not reverse, for a while. That makes it all the more imperative to be more careful with your own personal finances, and manage them a lot better.

Managing your finances begins with understanding them. Take your credit card, or credit cards -- do you really understand how they work? Sure, you know that you can charge things and you can pay for them over time and that you pay interest, but do you understand how your interest is calculated, and what interest is charged on?

That kind of information is important, because it lets you know just how much that shirt or cup of coffee that you charged is actually costing you: the cost of the shirt is the ticket price, plus all the interest you pay. But most people don't know how much interest they pay or how to figure out how it's calculated.

Care One Credit Counseling can help in a variety of ways. Their website is stocked with helpful articles about debt and investments and personal finances and mortgages and credit cards and everything else that you deal with on a daily basis but maybe don't understand so well. They've for, for example, an article on how to calculate the actual interest rate on your credit cards, and what all those terms like two cycle average daily balance mean. Don't know what a two cycle average daily balance is? You could be losing a lot of money -- even if you've paid off your credit card this month entirely.

How? Read the article at Care One. I did, and I'm not going to try to summarize it. They're the experts, and you should go to them. In fact, they've even got experts there, waiting to answer your questions about credit card help, or about debt management, or mortgage-related questions, and more.

Then they can help you choose the right financial strategy for your situation-- giving you the information you need to decide what course to pursue and how to pursue it.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Give All Your Love To Me: The First of The Best Songs By One-Hit Wonders (That Aren't Their One Hit)

a-ha (note how I lower-cased it, just like they'd have wanted it. Also, note that there's no exclamation point there. a-ha were not suprised. They were blase about the whole experience. Whatever experience you're talking about) hit number 1 with their song Take On Me, which took the world by storm with its quirky video and peppy beat.

How to follow that up? Why not alienate your fan base by releasing a moody, dark, ponderous (but still-fast-paced) single? Sure, why not? Hey, could you also make it about a guy who's probably going crazy or something?

Can do: Hence, a-ha's second top 40 hit, The Sun Always Shines On TV, which peaked at 20 in the United States, despite winning a bunch of awards for the video (a video I can't find on Youtube; this one is a later version of the song and video.)

What did the world want from a-ha? Probably not lyrics like "I fear the crazed and lonely/Looks the mirror's sending me these days." At least not unless they were coupled with a peppy beat -- the dance remix version of Sun hit number 5 on those charts.

Despite all of that, I've still always liked The Sun Always Shines On TV much better than any other song by a-ha. But only because the song helps me avoid the looks the mirror is sending me.

Debuting The MiniBest!

The 30... make that 20... things "The Scream" is Screaming.

The 28... make that 23... Best Xmas Songs, Plus Santas and other Stuff.

The 15... make that FOUR... Best Summer Movies.

The Six Best Things I Didn't Know I Wanted Until I Saw Them On TV.

The 13... make that 8... Best World Records (You Wouldn't Think Would Be World Records.)

The 10... make that 7... Best Underrated Instruments.

The 30... Make That 23... Best Things About Summer.

February, 2009: The Best Songs By One-Hit Wonders (That Aren't Their One Hit.)

a-ha: "The Sun Always Shines On TV."

Men Without Hats: "Pop Goes The World."

Beck: "He's A Mighty Good Leader."

March, 2009: Best Foods Shaped Like Other Things:


Disney's Hydroponics.

Butter Elvis.
Lenin Pops
April 2009: Nothing But New Stuff!
The Best New Species.
The Best New Food.

May 2009: The Best Jobs For Brett Favre When He Finally Doesn't Play Football Anymore!

UV Monitor, South Pole.

Not Being A Spy In Iran

Manager of "Cave of the Winds"

June, 2009: The Best Ad Jingles:

Oscar Mayer Bologna

Dr Pepper: I'm A Pepper
Big Mac Ingredients


Pepsi Streamline

Rolling Stones: Rice Krispies.
July, 2009: The Best Parts Of Songs
"I Don't Care" (From No More Kings)

The piano in November Rain by Guns & Roses

The Background Voices in Fibber Island, They Might Be Giants

August, 2009: The Best Comic Book Characters I'm Pretty Sure Only I Remember.
Element Lad.

'Mazing Man
Syzygy Darklock
Nanny Dickering

September, 2009: The Best ACTUAL Horror Monsters.

Those freaky weird other-dimensional monsters from The Mist.
The Blair Witch
The Chattering Cenobite

The Jeeper Creeper
October, 2009: The Best Strange Movie Roles.
Prison Inmate Sitting Behind Henry
Jack Nicholson, Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan, and Frank Sinatra (but not all in one movie.)

November & December, 2009: The Best Alli Millstein Songs.

We interrupt the villainy to introduce Alli.

Song one: Our Love Is Underground.

Song two: Mend My Heart (with an update here.)

Song Three: "Skeletons."

December 2009: More Christmas Songs:
Everybody Loves Christmas
It's The Little Things
Merry Christmas, Everyone

February 2010: The Best Impossible Sports Stories.
Mutual Fund Executive Beats Michael Jordan In One-On-One
Man surfs 12.5 km, upriver -- and there were probably man-eating fish there.

April, 2010:
The Best Songs That Are Impossibly Catchy And Hard To Get Out Of Your Head.
Seven Nation Army.

Broadway musical songs (Reader Nomination!)

Poker Face.

Making Love (Out of Nothing At All)

May 2010: The Best Foods That Never Existed.

Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster

Fizzy Lifting Drink.

What's a "MiniBest?"What it sounds like: A "Best" that's not accompanied by all the frou frou of all these other lists and Whodathunkits? and meandering lengthy essays that could benefit from some severe editing (or medication. Either one.)

I like to write, and I especially like writing on here, but creating those longer posts takes time and every now and then I'm expected to work/parent/be a productive member of society, and because of those expectations, I don't get to write on here as often as I could.

To help fill the void in between those lengthier posts, I've decided to institute "The MiniBest," which will be a periodic "Best" nomination interspersed throughout the others. Each month will have a "MiniBest" theme.

Claudius' path to the stars was lit with hope... but paved in blood. Read Eclipse, the haunting tale of one man's doomed attempt to escape.
Click here to buy Eclipse in Softcover from

Click here to buy Eclipse on your Kindle.


You know what's a REAL mystery? How they get all those Pringles to stack up so neatly. That's what I'm working on here.

Time for you to get up off your duffets and start using all those detective skills you've honed watching all those detective shows on TV. Yes, if you watch things like "Monk" and "Law and Order" and "How I Met Your Mother" (what? It's kind of a mystery!), or if you enjoy reading mysteries, or if, perhaps, you are an underemployed private investigator with time on your hands, the mystery lover in you can now do what you've always wanted to do: solve mysteries.

You can do that through "5 Minute Mystery," a new site that lets you join up, read a mystery, and then solve it to earn points and move up in the sleuthing rankings. (The site was featured on ABC news; you can see the video here.)

Each Monday and Friday, "5 Minute Mystery" releases a new brief mystery -- clever ones, too, like the "Rhyming President's Mystery," a poem that asks you to determine which of the presidential paintings was lying (I like the poem, too). Solve the mystery and get points. The answers are posted the next day, in case you get stumped. You can even get into the archives and solve old mysteries.

They've got leagues available, I see, and some help for fundraisers, but the big draw is going to be solving mysteries. Why let Monk and Detective Benson and Jason Segal have all the fun when you can get going on solving your own mysteries now?


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Best Supervillains Who Deservedly Just Kept Coming Back And Should Keep Doing So.

Ever noticed how supervillains never really go away? Whether it's a "mad scientist" or a "deranged Army general" or "Jeff Bridges stealing an idea for a suit, thereby creating a supervillain who would not have existed if not for the creation of the suit in the first place, serving as an ad hoc justification for the creation of the suit in the first place" type of supervillain, time after time, supervillains just keep on coming back. But do they deserve to come back? Ask yourself that.

And ask yourself whether I used ad hoc correctly in that sentence above?

While you're at it, ask yourself whether yesterday I tried to describe the rather alarming increase in a mortgage insurance premium as logarithmic only to learn that I meant exponential?

The answers to those questions are, in reverse order: yes, probably, and Maybe not. Most supervillains who just keep on coming back aren't all that great to begin with. The Green Goblin? The Joker? Lex Luthor? The Dirty Bubble? What makes these villains so great that we just keep seeing them pop up in movies and comic books and cartoons? Sure, Heath Ledger did a great job with The Joker, but The Joker wasn't all that fascinating or great a villain before that, so why bring him back yet again when there are so many other, more deserving villains out there, villains who in the past used to come back over and over and over again but now have been banished, apparently, lost in the mists of time, living somewhere in a forgotten valley waiting to be discovered by Will Ferrell in the upcoming "Land of the Lost: Ricky Bobby's Excellent Adventure"... Or are they? Maybe they're not lost, but instead, are here, on The Best Of Everything, where I'm feeling lazy and tired and so I'm doing what I do whenever I feel lazy and tired: think about comic books, and present:

The Three Best Supervillains Who Deservedly Just Kept Coming Back And Should Keep Doing So.

These are supervillains the way God meant supervillains to be: Crazy, full of strange beliefs, hyped up with unusual and practically-useless powers, and crazy. Yes, that deserves saying twice.

Let's begin...

1. Ace: Ace has actually existed in several incarnations. "Ace" was an original member of the Royal Flush gang, a name that did not so much strike fear into the hearts of people as laughter into the hearts of teenage boys; apparently, the "Atomic Wedgie Gang" was already taken. The Royal Flush Gang all wore outfits with the "Club" suit from cards on them. The first "Ace" wasn't much at all: a guy in a suit running in a gang created by Professor Amos Fortune (is there anyone in real life called "Professor?" Wouldn't they go by Doctor?) to fight the Justice League and... rob people in an attempt to prove that Fortune's theory of a "luck gland" was real.

No, I don't get that, either.

The "Royal Flush Gang" didn't last long, what with high school bullies and all, but the idea was too good to be dropped entirely, and it was recreated later on in the comics by a guy named "Hector Hammond." Hammond was apparently not a professor but was a better super villain. For one thing, he changed the team's card suit to spades -- clearly a better choice than clubs. He also didn't rely on "luck glands" but built a team of actual bad guys, including guys with laser eyes (but only one laser eye, so no fair suing, X-Men), an immortal who could control minds but who was for some reason not the leader of the group, and the second Ace, a super-strong android. "Ace" the android's "real name" was Derek Reston. I don't know why an android needed a "real name." Maybe it was difficult to get frequent flier miles without it.

At some point, the Royal Flush gang expanded from five members to 52 members, thereby making their name even more ridiculous (which, it turns out, was possible), but this did little to help them because when The Joker tried to join them and was rejected, he killed them all.

So your gang of 52 supervillains, some with the power to control minds, and armed with explosive playing cards, was wiped out by a madman with no special powers whatsoever. Hammond was a better supervillain than Professor Fortune, but just barely.

Ace came back to life again, this time as a young girl in the Jokers' "Royal Flush Gang." This "Ace" was a moody girl who could put people into a hallucinatory, comatose state while performing on TV -- obviously a precursor of Britney Spears. As time went on, this "Ace," who was apparently named "Ace" for no better reason than to fit into the Joker's "Royal Flush Gang" motif, developed the powers to create whatever she wanted simply by thinking about it.

Before the world could turn into a rainbow-lit realm of ponies, oddly-sexless cute boys, and puffy hearts, though, the Justice League decided to kill "Ace," sending for the job the only hero capable of brutally murdering a young girl: Batman. But Batman changes his mind (wimp!) and decides not to kill Ace, who then helps out the world by dying in his arms anyway.

2. Solomon Grundy: Remember this children's rhyme?:

Solomon Grundy:

Born on Monday,
Christened on Tuesday,
Married on Wednesday,
Took ill on Thursday,
Worse on Friday,
Died on Saturday,
Buried on Sunday,
This is the end,
Of Solomon Grundy

The more you think about it, the more you'll realize I was right when I pointed out how scary things intended for kids are. What is a kid supposed to think about that? Half of Solomon Grundy's life was spent in horrible misery -- more, when you consider he was married on Wednesday! (Ba dum Bum! I'll be here all week. Don't forget to tip the waitress!).

It could've been worse, though. Whoever hated kids enough to think up that rhyme could have instead thought up:

Solomon Grundy:

Murdered on Monday.
Reanimated as a corpse on Tuesday.
Kills two men on Wednesday.
Moves into a hobo camp on Thursday.
Discovers he's mostly made of wood on Friday.
Hurled under a train on Saturday.
Reanimated AGAIN and then trapped in a green bubble until he ultimately gets imprisoned on the moon (on Sunday.

That's the story of Solomon Grundy, a partially-vegetative-material zombie corpse who exists as a villain, it seems, primarily for the purpose of allowing superheroes to actually kill a bad guy. You know, because they keep chickening out when asked to slaughter 13-year-old girls.

And, oh, how they kill Solomon Grundy: they hurl him under a train, put him on the moon, bury him, and put him back on the moon (Zombies On The Moon will probably be the sequel to this, now that I think of it.) Even that doesn't do it, though, as Solomon Grundy is reborn, this time by being grown from residual cells of his that were living in the sewers.

Yes, Solomon Grundy is a partially-vegetable reanimated corpse grown from sewer debris. But does that mean he shouldn't be allowed to fall in love? No. In between periodically gaining intelligence, mastering the "residual green energy" in his body that's stored there from fights with Green Lantern, and gaining control over wood, Solomon Grundy finds a little time for the fairer sex, falling in love with both "Jade" and The Huntress and briefly trying to be good.

Affairs between green women and sewer zombies are probably doomed from the start, but it doesn't help when another supervillain disguises herself and tricks poor Solomon into killing a hero named "Skyman." Solomon Grundy, shocked that he could do such a thing (even though for most of history he's been a horrible creature) beats the villainess "within an inch of her life," ending his heroing career.

If you're keeping track, then: planning to kill a thirteen-year-old girl = okay; savagely beating a supervillainess who just killed a man = no good. And if you think that distinction has something to do with whether you are a billionaire playboy moonlighting as a psychotic crimefighter, or are instead a zombie made up of sewer muck, then you're catching on.

3. The Top: The things you find fascinating in childhood can often foretell the career you'll choose. Take me, for example: I loved the ocean. I loved sharks and whales and crustaceans and ocean currents, and the Marianas trench, and more. I had, in fact, plans to become an oceanographer, and used to tell people that's what I was going to be when I grew up. You'll rarely find a kid more destined for the "cool group" in high school than the one who says "I'm gonna be an oceanographer." While other kids were playing sports and learning to smoke and meeting girls, I was reading World and Ranger Rick and learning about tidal pools... tidal pools that I then never saw in real life, even though everytime I was near the ocean I'd look for them, hoping to find that little microcosm of ocean life waiting patiently for the tide to come in and whisk them back to their life.

I never saw them. Never. And my disappointment led me, in classic supervillain style, to abandon my dreams of oceanography as a career and follow a path of evil, destruction, villainy, and more evil: law school.

That childhood trauma never seems to have happened to The Top, who appears to have become a bad guy for no better reason than the fact that he had nothing better to do. As a small-time crook, though, Roscoe Dillon -- there's your first problem, right there: Roscoe? Nobody named Roscoe ever amounted to much of anything, and naming your kid Roscoe probably shoots him straight into the arms of petty thugs in the area -- Roscoe Dillon was looking for a hook, a gimmick, that would shoot him to the top of the local crime arena. Everyone needs a hook -- whether it be What's the deal with airline peanuts? or changing your name from "Mapother" to "Cruise" -- and Roscoe found his in his childhood love of tops.

From that day forward, he was The Top, and before you go thinking man, that's ridiculous, consider this: Roscoe's inspired choice of gimmickry led to him having mind-over-matter abilities. It seems that if you spin around enough, you will eventually develop telekinesis or similar abilities, although you may not want to try this route because you will also overheat your brain and die.

Which means that The Top is not only a great supervillain, but a natural spokesperson for one of these energy drinks/athletic sodas that everyone's all into these days. Picture this:

Voice over: What is G? G is the ability to control matter with your mind without fatally overheating your brain...
(As the voiceover starts, the screen goes from black to a scene of The Top whirling around and generally wreaking havoc on Smallville, or wherever it was he lived, but he's slowing down and panting and holding his forehead)

The Top:
What's going on... brain, so hot... can't ... wreak... havoc.

(Cops start to close in. Sirens wail. A little kid stands nearby and pipes up, all innocence and moptoppery):

Kid: Mr. Top, do you want some of my "G" energy drink?

The Top: (Takes it, kneeling in agony and red-faced. Guzzles it.) Thanks, kid. (Stands up, grabs cop who was about to shoot him. Super-spins cop into other cops, knocking them down like bowling pins. When The Flash shows up, The Top easily knocks him out with a series of cool toplike moves. We see The Top standing over an unconscious, bloody Flash, smiling victoriously and drinking a little more "G," only to look over his shoulder and see Moptop.)

The Top: Hey, kid...


The Top: Here. (Picks up the Flash's limp body, tosses it to the kid, who grabs it and smiles.)

Kid: Thanks, Mister!

The Top: Now get out of here before I kill you and your whole family.

Kid: (Hesitates) Mister?

The Top: Do you think I'm joking? I'm a supervillain, for god's sake. Run.

(Fade out as the voiceover says): G. It's what lets you dominate the world and create a top-based society of evil.

That would be far better than yet another wacky beer commercial, wouldn't it?

The Top didn't stop with spinning and overheating his brain. He also developed the power to come back from the dead, and he didn't have to do that by being reincarnated out of a toilet bowl. The Top's ghost kept living on somewhere, and kept coming back to life by inhabiting others' bodies, like Heaven Can Wait crossed with... well, crossed with a guy who's obsessed with tops. The Top took over The Flash's father's body -- and used that old guy's body to re-woo his old girlfriend, the figure-skater-turned-supervillainess Golden Glider (really!) and also to try to kill The Flash, and later on was released from Hell when an experiment went bad. The Top eventually used his powers to take over the body of a Senator and run for president, ultimately settling for the vice-presidency because he was unfamiliar with politics, but setting up a scheme wherein he would get elected and have his running mate assassinated.

(No, it was not Joe Biden, but the similarites are remarkable, aren't they?)

The scheme failed when his running mate declined to take office, a move that shows the writers, too, were unfamiliar with presidential politics, since such a declination would likely have elevated The Top into the presidency without the necessity of having to kill someone (making it a little less fun, I suppose), but that might have been academic because by then a bunch of damned souls had somehow gotten out and taken The Top back to Hell.

The Top then came back again, later, and became, briefly, a good guy, a move that made him go insane. While insane -- things get a little muddy here -- The Top tried to convert all the bad guys into good guys, and it worked on most of them, except that then The Top was cured of his insanity, which naturally made him go back to being a bad guy, at which point he vowed to un-good all the other bad guys, or something, resulting in a giant battle of dumb Flash villains, but somewhere in there, The Top was killed... again... by Captain Cold.

Captain Cold, by the way, later became the supervillain Chillblaine. A "chilblain" is an inflammation of the hands and feet typically caused by exposure to cold and wet. With the addition of the "e" on the end, Chillblaine became not just a supervillain with the awesome power of... making you slightly uncomfortable... but also a bit of a preppy.

(Chillblaine? That's not a name, that's a major appliance!)

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Whodathunkit?-- The Oscars: The 3 Best Things You REALLY Want to know about the 81st Annual Academy Awards!

This week on Sunday will mark the 81st Annual "Academy Awards," an event which is billed on their website as "The Biggest Movie Event of The Year," a declaration that comes just before a guy whose voice I almost recognize (Kevin Costner? No...) does a Hyundai commercial, which itself comes just before a guy who I completely fail to recognize talks about "The Road To the Oscars."

So apparently it's the Hyundai 81st Annual Academy Awards Brought To You By Hyundai, judging from the abundance of road and driving metaphors. (next up: We put the parking brake on some celebrities' plans to attend the awards, while ensuring that "Benjamin Buttons" has the highest safety rating according to Consumer Reports, just like a certain car that rhymes with Myundai.)

This week on Sunday will also mark approximately the 38th time that I don't watch the Academy Awards; this year, I'm not even planning on tuning in for bits and pieces here and there. I just don't care much who wins these awards, and I can't stand sitting through acceptance speech after acceptance speech, and then various montages that I never get the point of. One year when I watched a bit, I'm pretty sure they showed a montage of Navy scenes. I have no idea why, but I distinctly recall Kelsey Grammar in a sailor's suit.

As I'm writing this, that web video is still playing in another window on my computer and they talked with the costume designer of The Curious Case Of Benjamin Buttons. I'm fascinated with the job of costume designer, and here's why: They put an incredible amount of effort into something that most people don't notice and wouldn't care about if they could, and if the people do notice then I think they're ridiculous.

This past week, for example, Entertainment Weekly had a little piece on how to buy the mittens that Bella wore in the rapidly-collapsing film/book empire that is the Twilight series, about which I will say this: Is there any chance that the next film will be made while the fans of the series are still into it? Probably not, given that the girl who stars in it has apparently been cast in the sequel to "Pineapple Express."

Anyway, Entertainment Weekly noted that the mittens had been found by the costume designer in some store or other way up in Oregon or Wyoming or one of those places where I assume sea otters live and everyone talks about salmon. That store is out of business now, but Entertainment Weekly helpfully pointed out where you might find duplicates.

Costume designers may have a lot to do when they're working on, say, a period piece about Marie Antoinette. But costume designers for movies that take place in the present day? When I read articles about these things (and for some reason, I do read articles about them) costume designers are always telling stories about how they found just the right earrings for Isla Fisher. Well, they'll say I went to a tiny village in Guatamala which is only accessible by burro. From there, I had to descend into an abandoned cave that took me down to the third level of Hades, where I made a deal with Charon to allow me to dip my hand into Styx for just a moment in exchange for a kiss, and I came up with those earrings, which, as it turns out, were worn once by Mary Todd Lincoln. Who'd've expected HER to be in Hades?

Then Entertainment Weekly would point out that you could get earrings that are close to that at K-Mart.

Which is my point here: What's wrong with just running over to Wal-Mart to get some stuff for your character? When someone's got to get mittens for Bella...

...and last night, running some errands, I saw a license plate that read BELLA9, and I got irritated and thought who liked that movie enough to put "BELLA" on their plates, and then got more irritated because apparently nine people did, but then I noticed that it was a veteran's plate and I thought maybe "BELLA9" was some kind of military code, so I felt bad about my irritation because I want to support our troops, but then I thought there's no reason it can't be a veteran who really liked "Twilight" so I was kind of irritated and kind of guilty, a situation I resolved by going home...

... when someone's got to get mittens for Bella, do they have to jump into their SUV and go through the old-growth forests to a mom-and-pop store near the Puget Sound? Or could they simply go down the street to Wal-Mart and pick some up and give those to Smoky? Or do they do that -- do they go to Wal-Mart and get the mittens and then hang out at home for 2 weeks and then go back to Spielberg's office and show him the mittens with an elaborate story about how they got the mittens? Is that why these stores they found the mittens are always out of business now?

I think I'm on to something here. Specifically, I'm onto a new thriller: The Costumer -- A costume designer who bilks studios out of millions with audacious tales about her exploits becomes the subject of a biopic -- only when the filmmakers try to track down some of the places she says she's bought costumes, they discover that none of them exist! I'm picturing what's-her-name, Queen Amidala in the lead. Natalie Portman. Yeah, her.

With that overly-long introduction -- modeled, itself, after the Academy Awards -- it's time for the second TBOE installment of Whodathunkit? This time, I'll be presenting

Whodathunkit?-- The Oscars:
The 3 Best Things You REALLY Want to know about the 81st Annual Academy Awards!

1. Don't tell the stars, but the "red carpet" isn't really an honor: The celebs traditionally walk into the theater on a "red carpet," being honored for their contributions to the arts -- contributions like Hotel for Dogs. Which I'm sure is a movie that would hold anyone's interest for... wait, I dozed off typing that.

It's hard to see why the "red carpet" is considered an honor, though, when in reality walking on that carpet is actually likely to offend the gods and bring punishment on you -- which explains how Brad Pitt got stuck with Angelina Jolie.

The first known instance of someone walking on a red carpet came when Agamemnon did it back in something-or-other B.C. Agamemnon had just returned from a stunning Greek victory over the Trojans -- a Greek victory achieved, in part, because the Gods were upset with Paris for not recognizing the sanctity of marriage...

... are you seeing the Brangelina connection here?...

...and upon returning home, Agamemnon was greeted by his wife Clytemnestra (these names are criminally underused these days, especially given how stars are always looking for unusual names. Instead of Kal-El Cage, why not Agamemnon Cage?) Clytemnestra rolled out the red carpet for Agamemnon, literally; she pressures him to enter his house walking upon a red carpet, even though he doesn't want to do it. She keeps at him and finally he gives in and walks along the carpet, offending the gods in doing so, an offense that somehow ends up with Agamemnon being murdered in his bathtub.

Which is why Brad Pitt always looks so dirty these days.

Clytemnestra wasn't done, though. She also forced Cassandra to be a slave and defended her murder by claiming that Zeus had acted through her body, absolving her of guilt. She thinks that Zeus did that to punish Agamemnon. Why would Zeus, who'd just helped Agamemnon beat the Trojans, want to punish him? Because Agamemnon's father had cooked his own children and fed them to Agamemnon.

Why weren't we studying this stuff in high school?

Will Agamemnon's son Orestes exact justice on Clytemnestra for her exacting justice on Agamemnon after he exacted justice on Paris and the Trojans? Would "Exacting Justice" be a great title for a crime show? Will this be a storyline on an episode of CSI: Miami next season? Stay tuned!

. The Curious Case of Benjamin... I mean, Max Tivoli... I mean Merlin... I mean Jonathan Winters in a Baby Bonnet... I mean... Newsweek, in a major scoop this week, talked to the man who wrote a story about a man who lives backwards in time. No, they didn't talk to F. Scott Fitzgerald (although I understand that a costume designer for the movie Benjamin Buttons went to the south of France and held a seance where F. Scott Fitzgerald appeared and passed along, from the afterlife, the tie he was wearing -- a tie worn by a doctor in the background of the opening scene!)(You can find a similar tie at J. Crew, sans ectoplasm.)

Instead, they talked to Andrew Sean Greer, who in February 2004 published The Confession of Max Tivoli, a book described as "an utterly original love story." Only it wasn't "utterly original," because it was about a guy who is born looking 70 and whose body ages in reverse as his mind grows up. Greer in Newsweek denies having ever read Fitzgerald's story, but that doesn't mean anything, because neither Fitzgerald's nor Greer's story were the only stories about people who age backwards; it's actually a pretty common theme going back to... you guessed it, the Greek gods.

Other characters in movies and literature who have aged backwards include "Mearth," the baby that Mork and Mindy had in their fourth season. The completely-inaptly named "Mearth" was was played by Jonathan Winters, who as an Orkan, aged backwards -- like all of them did, including his teacher, "Miss Geezba."

Then there was Merlin, who throughout literature was said to age backwards, too -- giving him the ability to tell the future becuase he'd lived through it.

And Piers Anthony wrote a series of very well-done, very creative books called Incarnations of Immortality in which one of the characters was Chronos, aka, "Father Time," whose office was held by a series of mortals who would, upon becoming the incarnation of time, age backwards until their birth.

So did they all copy from Fitzgerald? Probably not -- since way way back in Greek days, the Greeks believed that old age and death would come to everyone except the gods-- but kept up hope because they believed, too, that at some point the universe would stop revolving forwards and instead would begin revolving backwards causing time to reverse so that the dead would rise and begin living backwards through old age, then adulthood, then youth, until they disappeared.

Which brings up this important question: When Superman decided to fly around the Earth to make time move backwards and save Lois Lane's life, don't you think he should have announced to the world that he was going to do that, so that everybody would have a chance to undo something terrible that had just happened?

Because it seems kind of selfish for him to get to undo his mistake but we all still had to live with having dropped our ice cream cones.

3. Want to see what it's like to be a celebrity on the red carpet? With Google Street View, you can put yourself right outside where the theater is supposed to be, but it takes some work -- because if you go back to that Oscars official website to find out where, exactly, the whole shebang is held, and learn that it's the "Kodak Theater," (and also learn that they have a clock counting down, by the second, the time until the show starts) and then go to Google Maps and type in "Kodak Theater," you won't go right to the Kodak Theater area. Instead, Google Maps diverts you to an alley labeled "1712 Orchid Avenue," which I thought might be the location where regular folks who try to see the red carpet get thrown after they're beat up by the goons that protect Brangelina, given that it looks like a parking lot and has no apparent connection to the Kodak Theater.

With some work and some mouse-clicking I was able to Googulate (that's google + perambulate, and it's my word for getting around in Google maps) over to where the Kodak Theater was supposed to be, but all I could find was a Gap store.

From which I deduce that shopping at the Gap is exactly like walking down the red carpet. Unless you're Agamemnon, that is, in which case shopping at the Gap is worse.

But why spend all that time googulating -- that's fun to say! -- to the Gap, when instead, you could check out some of the far better views that Google Street View has to offer. And you don't even have to go through the time consuming work of finding them. This site has 15 pretty good ones (including The Void), but this site appears to be a compilation of the best of them -- "best" being a relative term, given that one thing they show right on the front page is Steve Wozniak's garage. (Wozniak makes the list in that first site, too, making him the Brangelina of Google nerds.) You can tell they're nerds because they got so excited about girls in swimsuits that they couldn't even hit Spellcheck. (Unless tannging is a verb I'm unfamiliar with?)

All that looking at Street View has given me a great idea for a new Internet pasttime, which I have just invented and which I will try as soon as I have no other productive things of any sort to do, but here it is. I give you...

The GoogleAbout!

A GoogleAbout is done by picking a random spot on Google Street View and then trying to find your way back home from there -- staying in street view the whole time. It's like a virtual walkabout without all the shoe leather/actual exercise -- which means more time for gaining valuable insight into your life, or civilization, or humankind, or whatever. Or, at the least, less time spent actually doing your job. Wander from a tiny mitten store in Portland back to Madison, Wisconsin. Walk out of your own house and head for Emporia, Kansas. Why? Why not? What will you encounter on the way? Tannging girls? Mysterious voids? Gap stores hosting awards shows? Or, more wondrous and mysterious and life affirming/question answering still, this:

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Did she really say I would be likely to get a crocodile to babysit the kids? "
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