What Telly Savalas Should Have Said

Yo, Chatty Cathy, check this shit out. It’s a large bucket and about two hundred pounds of cement. I bought it at the home supply store.

See, one thing that you should know about me, Chatty Cathy, is I’m totally fucking crazy. The very fact I am unabashedly talking to a demonically-possessed doll should be proof of this.

Actually, people are pretty used to me doing things for no easily discernible reason, so yelling at a doll won’t even register. Although they might wonder about say… if I cast a talking doll into a two hundred pound brick of cement… then took the ferry and dropped it in the center of the bay. Doll or no, I’m thinking that spending the next few hundred years cast in cement won’t be so great for you.

So let’s “Chat”, Chatty Cathy.

Handpresso: False Idol!

BRAIN: dammit shac
BRAIN: why are you not chris crocker
SHAC: i dont believe you got me to start watching another chris crocker video
SHAC: you owe me now
SHAC: you can make up for it by buying me a handpresso
BRAIN: whoa handpresso
BRAIN (watching video): do they have sex in this
BRAIN: wow

BRAIN: aspo, bow down to the might that is Handpresso!
ASPO: bah
ASPO: it uses a fucking pod
BRAIN: what!
BRAIN: disqualify!
ASPO: way
ASPO: all the taste of paper and stale grinds
BRAIN: all the taste of paper and stale grounds… outdoors!
ASPO: not to mention tepid water
BRAIN: they could at least have sex in this commercial!
ASPO: if it wasn’t ~160dollars
ASPO: I might be tempted to try it if it could use ground coffee
BRAIN: ¡ay caramba!

BRAIN: hey you, aspo says it uses a pod!
SHAC: it does
BRAIN: wtf
SHAC: it uses ESE pods
BRAIN: disqualify!
SHAC: thats why podmerchant is selling it
BRAIN: “all the taste of paper and stale grounds… outdoors!”
SHAC: thats the beauty of it. you can make espresso while camping
BRAIN: and then have sex?
SHAC: yes and then have sex
BRAIN: ok then
SHAC: the pods are sealed like jerky pouches
BRAIN: beef coffee?

Why Horror Needs Boobs

Even without the basic Puritain-influenced morality of Slasher Horror, you actually need the nudity early in the film. But why? Here’s my analysis.

In general, the audience gets uncomfortable if certain aspects of a film are ambiguous. For example, if the audience is shown a politically-charged theme (for example a teenaged girl about to get an abortion), the moral framing must be defined: is this an acceptable thing or not?

Even if the audience disagrees with the political stance of the director, they will be much more comfortable knowing they disagree than not knowing whether they agree or not.

Genre is a kind of contract between the audience and the director. The audience, adverse to a certain kind of uncertainty, needs a bit of definition of the type of thing that is possible in the universe they are observing. If the narrative changes genre in the middle, this can make the audience cranky. Even if the change is clearly intentional, critics get upset; audiences feel misled.

Two great examples: “From Dusk Till Dawn” and “Death Proof,” both joint Quentin Tarantino / Robert Rodriguez productions. In both movies, the story starts very firmly in one genre, then abruptly changes genre. You can read reviews online to see what people thought of that… I liked them, anyway.

So that said, the basic issue with Horror and nudity is one of genre. As above, you as the director need to define the movie as a horror movie very early in the piece. But, Horror is a genre, like Action, that requires a bit of crazy action right at the beginning.

What makes Horror fragile is its dependency on “suspense,” which is in turn contingent on the audience’s anticipation of an outcome adverse to the characters. The problem here is, in order for the audience to feel suspense, they must be emotionally engaged in the welfare of the character who is about to be a victim. And this must happen at the very beginning of the movie.

So: how do you make an audience member care, on some level, about what happens to the character they’ve just met? What will be the agent that “involves” the audience on some emotional level? You only have a few seconds; the movie can’t get old while we wait for the first killing.

For men, the “agent of involvement” turns out to be… hot girls. With bare boobs. “Oh no, don’t kill the girl with the killer rack!”

For women, it’s a little more complicated. Just as in advertising, when you show a sexy woman, the men want to sleep with her, and the women want to BE her. The female viewer identifies with the beautiful woman.

But not too beautiful! If the woman on the screen is too out of her league, the female viewer cannot identify with her and gets annoyed. The woman on the screen must be in some way “at the same level” as the female viewer.

So, more slutty, and you get the attention of the male audience. But too slutty, and you risk blowing off the female audience. Also the woman is marginally less desirable to the male audience if she is TOO “gettable.”


I was just reading about Stradivarius violins. Almost every one of them ever made has been accounted for, which is pretty amazing by itself.

Dr. Joseph Nagyvary has been trying to study these violins (there are also violas and cellos) to replicate the exact process Antonio Stradivari used.

The most interesting part so far: the wood may have been especially dense due to the source trees having been grown during the “little ice age” lasting from the 16th century to the late 19th century. And that made me reevaluate all the books I’ve read set in those periods, or written in those periods. Example: Dickens’ characters seem on the verge of freezing to death all the time. What is the big deal? Turns out it was actually colder back then, and this is even without global warming.

Another unmined idea: although Stradivarius instruments have been the McGuffin in a number of movies and books, I don’t think any supervillain has ever tried to acquire ALL of them. And yet now, due to our connected world, the whereabouts of all of them can be easily obtained by anyone with an internet connection. It is now possible to find every single “Strad” and acquire it, either through sale or by murder. Or death rays. Whatever.

BLOFELD: You’re too late Mr Bond!


The Economist has an entertaining Freudian slip today– I use “My Yahoo” as my portal, and I have the Economist headlines on there.

The E’ist’s feed pops up when you mouse over the headline, but the popup concatenates the title of the article with the first words of the article. Also, either AP or the E’ist prints the first few words in the article in all caps, so the passage:

George Bush’s travels to Africa—marking America’s help in the fight against AIDS

AS GEORGE BUSH contemplates the remainder of his last year in office, he is well aware that American is unpopular in much of the world.


George Bush’s travels to Africa—marking America’s help in the fight against AIDS AS GEORGE BUSH

This looks like a Dr Who episode, or a kaiju movie or something. WHO WILL WIN???! WILL IT BE THE US PRESIDENT, OR HIS INCARNATION AS AIDS?!

Either that or the E’ist is asserting that AIDS is just as bad as the Bush administration, which I could see an argument for.

Made my own granola

I made my own granola last night. Why?

  • cheaper – all the ingredients are bought in bulk
  • creates less waste (no boxes)
  • you can tune your recipe

The end results were yummy. The current issues with my version:

  • the almonds, at $5, accounted for half the price all the ingredients. Part of this was because I bought crushed almonds, which may have been more expensive. Next time I will either just get a hammer or get peanuts instead, which are more cost-effective.
  • I misread the recipe and added the dried fruit before putting the mix in the oven. It needs to be added after the toasting; now all the fruit tastes slightly caramelized
  • although there is less waste created, I still got plastic bags for the bulk purchase. Although Berkeley Bowl lets you reuse plastic bags, so that might be okay
  • I used the basic “default” recipe this time. I need to add my own stuff for the next batch
  • I may have been too zealous about breaking up clusters; there are none in my batch. Sometimes clusters are a good thing

Something to watch is, when hot, the granola still feels “wet” and thus it is tricky to figure out if it’s done yet. As it cools, the granola gets crunchier.

The recipe I used is off of Slashfood and is apparently from Marisa McClellan’s mom’s friend. But there are a ton of them online to get you started.

Get Off John K’s Lawn!

John K is the creator of Ren & Stimpy. He has a blog where he laments the downfall of animation and therefore of western civilization. He’s getting old… or maybe he was always like that.

A recent post has been cracking me up, where he uses Yogi the Bear merch as a metaphor for the decline of culture. I know what his point is supposed to be, but his examples are ridiculous and just make him seem out-of-touch.

It’s true, the merch was better in the 1960’s… but that style looks scary and weird now. Actually it scared me when I got things like that as hand-me-downs as a child in the 1980s.

Secondly, the sort of obvious reason Yogi doesn’t have good merch now is because he is no longer a 1st-tier character. Look at the insane merch for Spongebob Squarepants and you will see what I mean.

Rosslyn Cipher

Neat little video about the Rosslyn Cipher

perhaps the single most mysterious aspect of the entire building are the enigmatic ‘cubes’ located in the ceiling of the Lady Chapel, or retro-choir, which is located at the east end of the chapel. These cubes, which number in their hundreds, are seen emerging from musical instruments played by angels situated at the top of pillars running along the length of the small retro-choir. The cubes rise in silent tribute to the heavens and each cube carries its own set of delicate carvings on all of the exposed faces, what could these carvings mean? It has been suggested that since they emerge from musical instruments, logically, they must represent musical notes, but how can these odd shapes and patterns have any relationship to conventional musical notation?

Sim City Disasters, arcos

JAXA, which plans to have a Space Solar Power System (SSPS) up and running by 2030, envisions a system consisting of giant solar collectors in geostationary orbit 36,000 kilometers above the Earth’s surface. The satellites convert sunlight into powerful microwave (or laser) beams that are aimed at receiving stations on Earth, where they are converted into electricity.

SHAC: uhh
SHAC: they need to play SimCity ASAP
BRAIN: yeah wtf dont you remember the solar array disaster of 2014 ?
SHAC: this was always such a GREAT idea in sim city until it misfired
SHAC: and it would torch half your city
BRAIN: they are always behind these insane blow-up-the-world schemes
BRAIN: they are jealous because they never went to the moon
SHAC: though in simcity they would beam w/ microwave not lasers
BRAIN: tomato tomahto
BRAIN: maybe they are actually working on those Maser Tanks you use to fight godzilla

Actually this is not the only wacky thing we learned in Sim City, that actually exists in real life. See also the Arcology, called an “Arco” in SimCity.

As envisioned by creator Paolo Soleri, an Arco is a vertical city with everything integrated into the building design. Modern versions feature small-footprint architecture: small physical footprint, and a small environmental impact.

Soleri now runs Arcosanti, which is basically a prototype Arco in the middle of the Arizona desert. It’s turned into a hip venue for music and art events.

Sort of related is the military satellite “SOL” in the manga/anime AKIRA. Yay defense lasers!

Dan Curtis’ Dracula (1973)

Pros: Very true to the book.
Cons: Jack Palance is ridiculous. Lucy is not that hot.

Also, in the DVD interview, Dan Curtis reveals something that is plain in his version, which I completely disagree with: he says the vampire is a monster, just like a person. That pisses me off. You might as well make one of the Anne Rice books, where the vampire is an immortal gay dude moping through eternity.

In the book Dracula, the entire point is the walking dead is an abomination. Call it going against God, or just the society, or whatever. Dracula’s character has a persona which is nearly impossible to analyse, and this is intentional- he is not a person who has cheated death. A vampire is a walking corpse with only fragments of remembered behavior clinging to it. It is a hideous construct you cannot reason with.

Look at Lucy’s behavior: she is creepy as hell. All her remembered behaviors are inverted. She is an inverted mother ideal, drinking the blood of young children. When she returns to seduce Arthur she uses all kinds of sweet talk, but it’s like if you took a tiger and replaced all its stalking behavior with flirting– it doesn’t like you, Arthur. It wants to eat you. It looks like Lucy, but it’s not.

Here’s another simile: reasoning with the vampire is like trying to talk to a brain damage victim, or someone with Alzheimer’s. All the wires are crossed; you can read meaning into what they are doing, but you are only fooling yourself. The genuine vampire is a walking corpse and has only the illusion of a personality.