Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Can't Tell a Water by Lookin' at the Bottle

The other day, while waiting in line for my morning coffee, I casually noticed a row of shampoos on top of the pastry counter, and then did a double take: Shampoo? In a coffee shop? I looked again, and discovered that it was not shampoo at all, but a new, flavored water called Icio. Icio is the brainchild of a man named Alex Van Lang, and it comes in four flavors: peppermint, cucumber-lemon grass, lemon-basil, and apple-pear. One of these days, I am going to try this stuff, but, I'll have to get past the fact that my brain is telling me that it will taste like shampoo. I wonder if this represents a new shift in package design? Will we be seeing cereals packaged to look like kitty litter? Or sodas made to resemble Lysol?

You can find out more about Icio Water here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Luckiest Baby in the World!

Weirdo fan, and oddball artist, Elmer Presslee created this stroller for his kid, and put pictures of it up on Flickr. What a lucky toddler. Check out the gray matter seating arrangement. I can just imagine the horrified gasps from other parents as the kid goes tooling down the street in this contraption. After admiring the stroller pictures, go to Presslee's web site for dementia. (Thanks JB!)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Awake in Cologne

A couple years ago, while I was in Cologne, Germany, I awoke in the middle of the night, jet-lagged, unable to sleep. I did what nearly everyone does at this point: I turned on the TV in hopes of catching something rare and wonderful on late night TV (this becomes more and more unlikely every day, but I will talk about that in some future post). On TV in Cologne at four in the morning, you will catch one of four things:

  • Softcore porn
  • Call-in game shows
  • A computer-generated gnome
  • Trains

The softcore porn is remarkably tame and nearly unwatchable. Beautiful blondes bathing themselves to bad lounge jazz, or pretending to compete in naked Olympic sports. Even the description is more enticing than the actual shows. The call-in game shows consist of tall, buxom, nearly-naked Valkyries accepting standing in front of a white board covered with 100 Euro notes. People call in and try to guess a word that might be behind one of the notes. They are usually wrong, and they have probably already spent 100 Euros in phone charges anyway. Again, the description is more interesting than the actual show. The computer-generated gnome is a little character in lederhosen and a trachten hat. People can send messages via their computers, and the little fellow will say whatever they type in—a bit like those shows on MTV and G4. Usually, the messages are along the lines of, "Gisela, ich liebe dich. Du bist mein Traummädchen."

After watching the gnome chatter meaninglessly for a while, I switched channels. Finally, no porn, no game show and no gnome; instead was a video of a train going down the tracks, shot from the POV of the engineer. I watched for a while, expecting a voice-over narrator to come on and explain something about this particular train trip ("Always watchful for obstructions on the track, the engineer must remain vigilant."). After five minutes, there was still no narration; just a train going down the tracks. After a few more minutes, the train pulled into a station and the name of the station appeared at the bottom of the screen. At this point, all action stopped, and I began to think that, perhaps, the video had frozen. Then the train started to move again. I was mesmerized. I kept watching, waiting for clues as to why such a video even existed, but none came. A five in the morning, the train abruptly shut off, replaced with morning television.

For the next few days, I wandered around Cologne, trying to find somebody who could explain these videos to me. I went to the local DVD store, but nobody there knew anything either. Finally, as I was leaving Cologne, I found my answer.

While waiting for my train back to Paris, I decided to spend some time in the bookstore at the Cologne train station. Upstairs, I noticed a section devoted to trains, so I figured, what the heck, I'll ask about what I saw on TV. "Oh yes," the woman behind the counter said. "Those are called Im Führerstand videos. We have several here." Elated, I asked to buy one.

"Which country do you want?" She asked.

"Country?" I said. "I don't know I hadn't thought about it." The woman told me that there were Im Führerstand videos for most of the countries in Europe. On her recommendation, I chose Switzerland.

"Do you want a modern train, or an old train?" She asked.

Now things were getting a little more complicated. My choices here ranged from a rickety old narrow-gauge steam engine to an ultra-modern ICE train. I opted for a middle-ground, ordinary train—neither too fast, or too slow.

"Which season?"

Yes, my readers, not only did they have these videos for nearly every country and train in Europe, they also offered them in a choice of seasons as well! I toyed with the idea of the winter train, with its minimalist landscapes of white, but settled on late summer, when the weak trees were starting to turn fall colors, but the landscape was still mostly green.

Contentedly, I headed back to the states with my purchase. I showed the video to a few people; most of them found it strangely mesmerizing. One got motion sickness and spent the rest of the evening throwing.up. The link above is for an amateur version of the Im Führerstand video, but it will give you a fair idea of what to expect. For actual DVDs, you can go to the GeraMond web site. Ordering instructions are in German, but easy enough to figure out. If you do order DVDs from them, be advised that sometimes, the wait can be terrific.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Britney in Faster Pussycat?

A rumor that has been flying around the web at memespeed lately is the claim that Quentin Tarantino is planning to cast Britney Spears in a remake of Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill! Now, I am perfectly willing to acknowledge that Quentin Tarantino is capable of making some pretty cokey decisions; witness the bloated waste of time that was Kill Bill Part 1. But I don't believe that he is an idiot. The rumor has it that he is planning to cast Ms. Spears as Varla, a part originally played by Tura Satana. Now, he might get away with casting her as Linda, the whiny airhead played by Susan Bernard, but certainly not Varla. In fact, considering what a force of nature Tura Satana is, I doubt that anyone could ever remake this film. Of course, that didn't stop them from trying to remake The Wicker Man. I predict that this rumor will turn out to be nonsense.

Monday, July 28, 2008

1960s Crooked Gambling Catalog

Forrest Flanders, collector of old catalogs of every stripe, has put a complete set of scans of the the old K.C. Card Company Blue Book up Flickr. Until the 1960s, it was legal to sell crooked gambling equipment. Along with the H.C. Evans Company in Chicago, the KC Card Company (also in Chicago) was one of the major U.S. providers of gaffed cards and dice, as well as various various carnival games. Forrest has scanned each page of the company's 1960 catalog, and offers them in a variety of resolutions. I could spend all day perusing these scans.

Also: If you are the kind of person that feels the need to own an original catalog, you can find it here at Earth's Largest Magic Shop. Tell 'em Jim Morton sent you.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

YouTube as Jukebox

I have a real soft spot for minimalist approaches; single-color Rubik's Cubes, Andy Warhol's early films, and the like. So I was delighted to come across the YouTuber who goes by the moniker "thunderbird1958." Instead of fancy video productions for each song, he (and I am pretty sure it is a he) shows the 45 as it is being played, complete with the sound of the needle hitting the groove at the beginning. Brilliant stuff! So far, he has uploaded almost 1,500 tunes. Here's one of the more Pop Void choices: Martian Hop by The Randalls.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Lost Metropolis Footage Found

Great news for fans of Fritz Lang's classic silent film, Metropolis: Three reels of long missing footage have been rediscovered in Argentina. The three reels had been acquired by the Museo del Cine in Buenos Aires back in 1992, but only recently were found to include footage that was edited out by the American distributor, Paramount Pictures.

A copy of the film was sent to the F. W. Murnau Foundation in Wiesbaden, Germany, for analysis and verification. Researchers at the foundation confirmed that the scenes were original. "The film can now be shown more or less as Lang originally intended it," foundation head Helmut Possmann told the Reuters news agency. "In terms of understanding what it's about, we'll be seeing a new film."

Due to the poor quality of the film, the restoration may take a few years.

You can get more details on the story at, or, if you speak German, at Zeit Online.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Prior to last Saturday's Kentucky Derby, Hillary Clinton announced that she was betting on the only filly in the race: Eight Belles. I truly believe that Ms. Clinton had something symbolic in mind. She knew that Eight Belles was running well, but not the favorite. If she won, Hillary could use the horse's victory for her own political purposes. I can hear her now: "She came from behind, and everyone thought she couldn't win, but she did! Just like me!" etc., etc. If the filly didn't win, no harm no foul. It was just a horse race after all.

The actual results of the Derby turned out more like this political race than anyone wants to acknowledge. Eight Belles ran hard and fast, and it looked like she might actually win, but, in the end, she came in second, wrecked both her front legs, and had to be put out of her misery. The horse that beat her: Big Brown. The yahoos on TV are declaring victory for Obama, but I don't think Clinton believes it. She is running as hard as ever, and may end up like the filly at Churchill Downs--crying in pain and in need of euthanizing--before this is all over.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A friend of mine who knows how much I like trailers and shipping container housing sent me this. Apparently, it is something of a meme on the Internet, and has even made it onto the Snopes site as an urban myth. The myth is that this is an actual place. Sadly, I must inform you that it is a stage set at an open air theater in the Netherlands. Man, I want this place so badly. I guess I will have to make my own.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Last Night, my friend Michelle and I went to The Blue Plate Restaurant on Mission a few blocks south of Army, er, excuse me, Cesar Chavez. It's a small place set up in classic diner format (counter in front of a grill, with tables all around). The food was definitely a cut above the usual diner fare though, and believe me, I know my diner fare. I had the mac & cheese, which was made with Drunken Goat Cheese instead of cheddar; it was sensational. I also ordered the Chard, which was good, and that's saying something--it is easy to do chard badly and end up with a bitter mess. Michelle had the Halibut, which, judging from the expressions on her face, was also quite good. By the end of the meal I was stuffed, but that didn't stop Michelle from ordering dessert. It was delicious as well, but I don't think I could really appreciate it at that point. Had I known dessert was on the menu, I would have saved more room.