I’ve put together two quick Honorable Mentions posts to cap off the “Ten Things Brian Likes” series. These are intended to be brisk reads, and so I’ll keep it brief, even though some of the subjects touched on could furnish an entire article.
In this first half, I wanted to share ten more Things I Like. These selections were left out of the “official” series due either to (a.) only being one thing, and not a category, or (b.) being a category in which I could not think of ten examples. Nevertheless, they are all dearly loved, and worthy of a shout-out at the very least.
1. Mock English
Chances are good that, at some point in your life, you or someone you know has humorously pretended to speak another language. Perhaps Spanish, or Chinese, or Italian. Danny Kaye’s “Master of Many Tongues” gags elevated pseudo-language to an artform. At worst, some people might call this mockery of other languages and cultures racist. At best, it’s very silly. But I think even the most politically correct among us have to admit it can make you laugh. And anyway, turnabout is fair play: It can be just as funny watching foreigners pretending to speak English.
I present for the court’s consideration “The Trial,” a sketch from the Swedish comedy series Grotesco. The clip parodies John Grisham’s A Time To Kill, and the cliches of courtroom dramas more broadly. The underdog lawyer protagonist defends a victimized black man in the Deep South. Game-changing evidence is suddenly uncovered at a pivotal moment. The antagonist delivers an explosive tirade on the stand. And the whole thing is presented in garbled, soundalike English. Seriously, every part of the following 15 minutes is highly quotable. I particularly enjoy the wise-sounding words of Mark Twain lookalike “Old MacDonald Sutherland.”
So sit back and get ready to learn a little something about racial tolerance from “Matt McConaughooeylooeydooey,” “Sammy Lou Smith,” and “Gene Hackencrack.”
I also highly recommend “Prisencolinensinainciusol,” a rock song by an Italian singer which is meant to sound like American English despite the lyrics actually being gibberish. Even if you can’t quite “sing along,” both the tune and the music video are pretty unforgettable.
2. This One CD
Yep. So there was this one CD I burned in 8th grade and often listened to on the bus in the mornings. I totally would have included this one as an official category, but I could only remember 6 tracks, and wasn’t able to find the disk. Here are the tracks I could remember, presented without comment. They offer a fairly good representation of my middle school soundscape.
- “Wonderboy” – Tenacious D
- “Ancient Hero” – OC Remix user Darkesword, from original by Koji Kondo
- “Hyrule Field” – The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – Koji Kondo
- “Rainbow Road,” Mario Kart 64 – Kenta Nagata
- “Dr. Worm” – They Might Be Giants
- “Ana Ng” – They Might Be Giants
By no means should you consider me an expert in the field of webcomics. The real master of the subject is my college roommate Kyle, who in addition to being a brilliant physicist could easily earn his PhD in “Webcomics Studies.” In the spirit of brevity, I’ll simply link to two of my favorites, which have kept me coming back even as other strips lost my interest over time.
- Axe Cop: Kind of like Razor if it was a fully-realized thing. Axe Cop is the result of a 29-year old comic book artist vividly illustrating the superhero stories told by his 5-year old half-brother. Axe Cop became incredibly popular (at least as far as webcomics are concerned), and even got its own television adaptation by Fox. But Kyle got in on the ground floor and clued me in to the comic’s existence shortly after the first strips were posted, and I’ve been a fan since “before it was cool.” Just recently, the Axe Cop website went on indefinite hiatus: The younger brother is already 10, and it seems the series has run its course. With the announcement that there would no longer be weekly space-ninja-vampire adventures to look forward to, a little part of me died.
- JL8: An awesome comic which, as an added bonus, ISN’T OVER! JL8 is a Calvin & Hobbes-style strip following the members of DC Comics’ Justice League as 8-year olds. The series does three things admirably: 1. Writing authentic child characters, each with distinct personalities and voices. 2. Working in lots of great references to the DC universe, and doing these legendary heroes and villains justice. 3. GOOD GOD, THE ART! Artist/author Yale Stewart perfectly captures the visual style of a real newspaper comic. And we’re not talking just the inking and colors…he even works in crinkling and browning of the newsprint “paper,” though no actual paper is involved. That’s impressive.
4. Brad Jones
James Rolfe may have gotten his own article, but he’s far from the only internet reviewer I’ve followed. Some are more worth the time investment than others. The only host I’ve stuck with quite as long as Rolfe’s AVGN is “The Cinema Snob,” portrayed by Chicagoan Brad Jones, a member of the Nostalgia Critic’s “Channel Awesome.” In each episode, “The Snob” discusses an obscure film, usually from some niche subgenre under the broad banner of “exploitation.” Though not as personable or multifaceted as Rolfe, Jones certainly knows his subject. I feel like I’m giving away my secrets left and right in these last couple posts, but I feel it has to be said: Brad Jones knows more about weird, bad movies than even me.
The Snob is more prolific than The Nerd, and he pumps out roughly one review a week. Among the more than 200 films covered so far are many of the strangest movies ever made by man.
South African E.T. ripoffs. An Alice in Wonderland-themed pornographic musical. “Turkish Batman.” This guy shows films so obscure he puts MST3K to shame. While his production values aren’t as high as those of the AVGN series, I’m nonetheless hooked. Even in his earliest videos, with the lowest resolution and sound quality, you can’t look away…as in the clip above, in which Jones covers Black Devil Doll from Hell, easily one of the top 5 weirdest films out there.
If weirder movies exist…Brad Jones hasn’t told me about them yet.
In high school, the TJ fervor for homecoming (another topic which could fill its own article) taught me a life-changing lesson: Halloween need not be the only time of year one wears a costume. Cosplay, short for “costume play,” has risen in popularity and profile in recent years, and I’ve been along for the ride. I suppose I could say more, but I’ll let the pictures do the talking. Above are five of my favorite costumes I’ve put together, with the inspirations below. In order, the outfits are Metal Gear‘s Solid Snake, Watchmen‘s Rorschach, Rene Magritte’s painting “The Son of Man,” Dr. Byron Orpheus from The Venture Bros., and scaly manfish Old Gregg from The Mighty Boosh.
6. Thrifting / Yard Saling
More fun facts: I am a thrift addict. Particularly during yard sale season (roughly the beginning of April to early October), nary a week goes by that I don’t find something to add to my collection. Although it takes up a sizable chunk of time and space, it’s a relatively cheap hobby, and if you know where to look you can find some killer deals. Take for example a yard sale I stopped at last summer, where I scored a box of 10 DV cassette tapes (typically priced around five bucks each) for one dollar. 1/50th retail price. That’s potentially a 5,000% return on my investment. Try to name another business with those kinds of numbers. In addition to saving money, I try to find unusual objects…hopefully ones I can put to some use.
Five of my best finds from recent years include:
- Count Gauntly’s skull cane – $2
- Ocarina of Time (gold cartridge) for 98 cents and Super Mario World for 94 cents.
- 1979 Kenner Millennium Falcon, in box – $5
- Nintendo Power Glove, in box w/ all pieces – $4
- Functioning night vision goggles – $2
Of course, the downside to my addiction is that I tend to accumulate multiples of certain things. For example, I currently own 5 Nintendo 64s. And yet, the only one that cost more than six dollars was the one I got for Christmas in 1998.
There’s gold in the streets, just waiting to be scooped up. You just gotta know where to look.
But that’s one secret I’m not sharing.
I am a God of Tetris. And that’s not just me blowing smoke: I literally devoted the better part of a year to competing in “Tetris Battle” until I climbed to Rank 100…”God of Tetris.” Sad to say, I recently checked the scoreboard after a long hiatus, and it seems too many people (pretty much just me and many, many Asian teenagers) have climbed to “the top,” and the powers that be have subsequently added more and higher rankings. No longer am I a “God of Tetris;” though I still sit at Rank 101, I am now a mere “Immortal.” It feels bad, man.
Two additional Tetris feats of which I am just as proud:
-Back when the Tetris app had an “endless” mode, I managed a 3-hour game that racked up more than 15 million points. I know that since the mode no longer exists you have no standard for comparison…but you should be impressed.
-I’ve also completed Tetris Plus, probably my favorite variation on the classic formula. In this game, which I first played on the PS1, a bumbling archaeology professor climbs the blocks as they touch down. At the same time, a spiked ceiling gradually descends from the top of the screen. When the up-going idiot and the down-going spikes meet, it’s game over. Some of the levels (all themed around various ancient civilizations) are quite tough, especially the secret Atlantis levels you unlock upon reaching the “end.”
So what makes Tetris so addictive? It’s simple, fast-paced, and precise. There are no gray areas in Tetris. There is no “almost.” Sure, you might blame the “Tetris Gods” for giving you “bad pieces,” but in 99% of cases, when you reach game over it’s because of a mistake you made somewhere along the line. You simply have to fess up, move on, and reset. It’s time for “just one more game.”
8. Weird Cars
Regardless of brand, automobiles are surprisingly uniform: Tires, doors, headlights, bumpers, some mirrors, and a windshield. Only tiny variations distinguish one make or model from another. So when carmakers get ambitious or “extreme” with those variations, we sit up and take notice. Perhaps you prefer cars of extreme beauty, or extreme speed, or extreme luxury. I prefer cars of extreme “…what?”.
This was originally going to be a main-series entry, until it got ousted by Weird Musical Instruments, a subject admittedly closer to my heart. Nevertheless, I had a full 10 examples lined up. Here are just a few of my favorites:
- The Amphicar, a fusion of automobile and boat. We may not have our flying cars yet, but boat-cars exist! Which begs the question, WHY ARE WE NOT USING THEM?
- The Messerschmitt Kr200, a bizarre “microcar” with two seats, one behind the other in a long, narrow body similar to an airplane fuselage. It’s no coincidence that a few years prior, Messerschmitt had been a manufacturer of Nazi aircraft.
- The Peel P-50, the world’s smallest mass-produced car. This “one seater,” constructed on the Isle of Man, has three tires and only a single headlight. And, oh yeah, there’s no reverse gear. To back up, the driver must climb out, grab the conveniently attached handle on the back of the vehicle, and pull it to the desired location.
Then there’s my dream car, the BMW Isetta. Just imagine a slightly larger, two-seater P-50. Oh, and the entire front of the car is the one and only door. It’s so weird, Steve Urkel drove one.
9. Segata Sanshiro / Badass of the Week
If I asked you to name the most iconic product mascot of all time, who comes to mind? Captain Crunch? Aunt Jemima? The Pilsbury Doughboy? There are plenty of good choices, but no obvious frontrunner.
Now, what if I asked you to name the most badass product mascot of all time? Now you’re reaching for straws…Mr. Clean? The man on Brawny paper towels? After a bit of thought, you’d probably come up with Dos Equis’ “Most Interesting Man in the World.” And that would be a fine choice. But you’d be wrong. The most badass spokescharacter of all time actually hails from Japan, where he was conceived in the minds of Sega’s marketing department in the mid-90s, as they brainstormed ways to sell the new Sega Saturn console.
I imagine the pitch started with a brief Q&A:
Q: What’s the one thing every advertiser wants people to do?
A: Buy their product.
Q: What is the one thing advertisers DON’T want people doing?
A: Not buying their product.
And thus was born Segata Sanshiro, a martial arts master whose sole duty in life was to beat the shit out of anyone who does ANYTHING EXCEPT PLAY SEGA SATURN. Sports? Unacceptable. Dancing? Unacceptable. “Chasing after the petty pleasure of sex?” UNACCEPTABLE! YOU MUST PLAY SEGA SATURN!!!
When not assaulting half of Japan, Segata Sanshiro spends his days speed-skating barefoot, stopping fastballs with his bare chest, and kicking home-runs. He also fights the occasional zombie, and even makes time for love. And all the while, his epic theme song plays. This is no jingle. It’s a friggin’ orchestral anthem…all about playing Sega Saturn until your fingers break. If I were the type to deploy “can’t evens,” now might be the time.
At the end of the Sega Saturn’s life (the system held on two years longer in Japan than the rest of the world, due largely to Segata Sanshiro’s popularity), the venerable master received a death worthy of a samurai. That’s right: he died for his company, by manually redirecting a missile (sent by rival firm Sony) and riding it, reverse Strangelove-style, into space. He’s among the stars now. SEGA SATURN, SHIRO!!!
I first learned of Segata Sanshiro’s majesty when he was the subject of a post on “Badass of the Week,” a weekly blog I stumbled across in fall 2008 (I had a lot of spare time my freshman year of college, okay?). Each entry of the blog focuses on some individual who, in one way or another, proved him or herself to be jaw-droppingly “badass.” Most of the honorees are historical figures, often taken from military history. But civilians are fair game too, as are fictional figures, animals (such as the titanoboa, the largest snake to ever live) and even concepts (the “damnatio memoria” punishment I mentioned in my Ten Commandments post? I learned about it there). In fact, I learned a lot from that site, and I really ought to go back someday and get caught up. You probably should, too.
10. Marsh’s Free Museum
Finally, I wanted to show a little love to one of my favorite places in the world: Marsh’s Free Museum, a “tourist trap” in Long Beach, Washington. Long Beach is the closest thing to a “downtown” anywhere near my grandfather’s house, so I spent a lot of time there during my formative summers. There’s a tiny “amusement park” with a Tilt-A-Whirl and a pinball parlor. There’s a stand that sells “elephant ears,” large, flat pieces of fried dough topped with cinnamon sugar. Then, there’s Marsh’s. Pass beneath the ursine storefront and enter another world, festooned with wall-to-wall taxidermy freaks, antique coin-op machines, and other trappings of yesteryear. There’s helpful signage on everything: African Wildebeest. Florida Skunk Ape. 19th Century Logging Saw. Authentic Shrunken Head. Semi-historical knickknacks dangle from every inch of the walls and ceiling. And along one wall stands Jake the Alligator man, the “museum’s” prize attraction. “Jake” is a modern-day fiji mermaid, a desiccated carcass apparently half-man and half-gator. The monstrous mummy reposes in a glass case, surrounded by examples of his ample coverage in the media (he was the subject of not one, but TWO exposés in that great lost staple of journalism, the Weekly World News.
Though inspired by “dime museums” of the past, Marsh’s has always offered free admission, due at least in part to the fact that the place is largely a conventional gift-shop, peddling all manner of beach souvenirs. Some of the cooler stuff has price tags, too – part of me has always wanted to waltz in and buy the taxidermied lion. Actually, if I’m being totally honest, I’ve always wanted to waltz in and buy the whole business. I don’t know if the Marshes would ever consider selling…but I think “Terrill’s Free Museum” has a nice ring to it.
I’ve waited 20 years. I can wait a little longer.