The Happy Box - Things that Make Us Think Happy Thoughts
Contrary to a carefully cultivated on-line persona, LabKitty does not spend Saturday nights home alone memorizing logarithm tables. Sometimes we also drink, merciful fermented nectar quashing the memory of our once-promising career, cut down by cruel fate and the vicissitudes of departmental intrigue. The lingering spectacle more the punishment for the glorious beast the thing once was.
But when running low on alcohol or, more to the point, alcohol transferase, over-stimulated GABA receptors reduced to so many tiny down-regulated pudding pops, no longer capable of suppressing our autonomic nervous system and murderous rage, what to do?
That's when it's time to reach for the Happy Box.
Ten Things that Makes LabKitty Think Happy Thoughts
Like Ray conjuring the Stay Puft marshmallow man as the physical embodiment of Gozer the Destructor, these are the things that come to mind when we think of all that is good and true in the world. Things that chase away the blues, the reds, and the pinks. Things that cover us in a warming glow, like a giant nurturing mitten constructed from warming glow.
Let's just get on with it, shall we?
LabKitty brings the happy with
TEN THINGS THAT MAKE US THINK HAPPY THOUGHTS
UPDATE: The Happy Box now goes to eleven!
UPDATE: And by "eleven," we mean "twelve."
UPDATE: A baker's dozen, that is...
UPDATE: It's possible that we have given up on counting.
Category: Music - Squirrel Nut Zippers
From the foothills of Research Triangle to the BP-enriched shores of the Big Easy, the Zippers led the charge of the Swing/Blues revival of the early 90s. Entries from the band's catalog that put Katharine Whalen's sultry siren front and center put us in the mood for love, but when the band stretches out they simply put us in the mood for happy. Try this on for size: the lead track from their 1995 release Perennial Favorites. By the end of the first bar we are smiling, and by the time the trumpet comes in, we've already forgotten that the NIH cut our funding.
Category: TV - The Tick
LabKitty channels our inner kitten with 1990s Saturday morning superhero cartoon The Tick. There is simply nothing that can compare for glorious weirdness. The big blue guy and his sidekick/accountant Arthur fight supervillains that include a six-armed violin player named Octo Paganini (apparently Hexo Paganini didn't have the same ring), Pig Leg (had a pig for a leg), Chairface Chippendale (chair for a head), botanical revolutionary El Seed (and his Bee Twins - hubba hubba), and all the rest. And The City's other superheroes are no less strange, including scaredy-bat Die Fledermaus, the buxom and patriotic American Maid, Rainman channeling Sewer Urchin, and recurring characters from the Civic Minded Five including the Carpeted Man and the Human Bullet (fire me boy!).
There was a more recent live action version that we wanted to like but somehow just failed to capture the magic of the original. Anyhoo, here's a clip from our favorite episode. Roof Pig! Most unexpected.
UPDATE: Ack! The Video you requested is no longer available! Calling card of the Tick's greatest nemesis: Intellectual Property Lawyer Man!
So, enjoy a different Tick vid, as we attempt to stay one step ahead of IPLM...
Reader Poll - Tick Love
What is your fav Tick quote?
Category: Beer Commercial - Real Men of Genius
Speaking of commercials, remember these?
Category: Radio - Car Talk
By all rights the whole thing shouldn't work: the bad puns, the brotherly bickering, the mockery of art history majors, the one of them that snorts when he laughs (Ray, we think). But Car Talk is an NPR institution. Tom and Ray Magliozzi dole out good-humored advice on cars, car repair, and/or the last week's puzzler. Two MIT nerds who made good in the world for a change.
And if you're like LabKitty, who spent many an hour greasy and supine under mom's Pinto station wagon (with faux wood paneling!) after it left us stranded on the shoulder of I-95 with daylight receding and the wolves beginning to circle, you often listen to Tom and Ray in slacked-jaw rapture of their encyclopedic knowledge of automotive repair minutia. Hearing them rattle off the design specs on a left-handed blivet for an '85 Whozits or the firing order of the little-known aborted black-ops Edsel dune buggy is simply mind-boggling. If only we had not crammed our brains full of math and science goodness, we too might be able to remember such useful factoids.
And, as pudding on the cake, the guys make fun of Harvard at least once on every show. Happy times.
UPDATE: The Car Guys are retiring this fall! This makes us the opposite of happy. Which is to say, not-happy! Where shall we go to hear people make fun of Harvard on a regular basis (sure, Fox does, but in a not-funny way). Sniff.
Category: DVD - The Incredibles
Any of the Pixar outings bring the happy (except maybe for that weepy montage in Toy Story where whats-her-name's kid discovers Twilight and training bras and dumps her cowgirl ass in the Goodwill box). But The Incredibles features Geek Goddess Sarah Vowell as Violet. Geek Goddess Sarah Vowell as Violet! Sure, we need not say more, but we will anyway. It's a perfect story idea for a Pixar movie: retired superheroes trying to fit into regular society. Mr. Incredible pining for his old life as he grinds through his day job at the insurance firm. Mrs. Incredible at home with Dash, Violet, and baby Jack-Jack. The past catches up with them in the form of evil man-child Syndrome and his sultrix with a heart of gold Mirage (browlf!). There's fights, 'splosions, secret islands, rampaging robots, and a glorious cameo by director Brad Bird as superhero tailor Edna Mode. Mrs. Incredible even uses accurate FAA air traffic control terminology in the scene where the bad guys attack her Gulfstream. It's like a nerd borgaschmord of happy!
Also: features Geek Goddess Sarah Vowell as Violet. Squee!
Category: Documentary - Riding Giants
If LabKitty is reincarnated as something that doesn't spend its childhood in ear tubes, LabKitty 2.0 will learn to surf. Forget baseball: surfing is the quintessential American sport. What other society could produce a subculture of trust-fund beach dwellers who one day would look to the ocean, mother ocean, the giver of all life, and say I'm gonna ride a plank of wood down her bosoms. And not be satisfied with just any bosom - no, sir - but in a frenzy of entrepreneurial one-upmanship, driven (or jet-skied, as it were) to ride waves that are bigger than a building. Waves containing so much kinetic energy that if you screw up, not only can it kill you, it can kill you so much that you don't even leave behind a mangled corpse for anyone to find. You will simply be ground back into your base elements.
Like other dangerous activities such as war and fatherhood, LabKitty will only ever experience surfing in this life from the vicarious comfort of our barcalounger. Enter: Riding Giants. Stacy Peralta documents the rise of surf culture, and not just any surf culture, but the obsession of seeking out the biggest, meanest, most dangerous waves the planet has to offer. And taunting them with flowered shorts and sunscreen. From Hawaii to Fiji, to the freakish Mavericks south of San Francisco, to plain out in the middle of nowhere, the footage Peralta captures gives a new meaning to that old biker tattoo: ride to live.
Category: Internet Site - The Comics Curmudgeon
We consider Josh Fruhlinger (aka The Comics Curmudgeon) to be the Patron Saint of LabKitty (shhh - don't tell Josh, it will only frighten him). Someday we aspire to write something half as funny as Josh railing against daily comics grown long in the tooth. Family Circus, Mary Worth, Crock, Funky Winkerbean, For Better or Worse, Beetle Bailey and all the rest. Strips perhaps once beloved (pronounce that with three syllables, please), but let's face it, a long time resting on laurels and running on autopilot. Even Old Yeller knew when it was time to take one for the team.
Yet, under it all, you can tell Josh has a genuine love for the art form, which is what separates him from garden variety hipster snobbery. And the commenters on JoshReads are often as funny as the master.
Here's an Aldo Kelrast tribute, from the Mary Worth storyline that helped Josh's site become a force of nature
Category: Blog - Cheeseblarg!
There's a gazillion great blogs out there, and we don't mean to disparage yours. But JRose's Cheesblarg is just bursting with awesome.
Photobombing llamas. Lunch Thief Island. Peeps horror movie challenge. And, of course, Narwhal Dress Up. Here's a video link to the CB's first experiment with animation. But for full Cheeseblarg goodness, you should really go here.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Category: Book - Calvin and Hobbes
Watterson quit the game before the glow came off the rose, and in so doing left behind what is arguably the most perfect treasury of daily comics ever drawn. We never want to see Hollywood defile Calvin and Hobbes, but we might permit a movie based on tyrannosauruses flying fighter jets.
Here's a tribute to C&H we came across on the 'Tube.
Category: Outdoor Activity - Muscle Car
Although we misspent much of our youth greasy and supine (see above), not all of that was under mom's Pinto. Some of it was under our crazy best friend's 1969 Mach-I fastback.
It's hard to impress upon the youth of today, what with their replica tribute cars and their CAFE standards and their catalytic converters and their computer-enforced factory settings, what the real deal was like. The muscle cars of yesteryear were hateful. These were cars that could lift the front wheels off the ground when you dropped the clutch. Cars that crushed you so far into your seat that the seat belts went slack (or would have if you wore one, which no one did. If something Went Wrong it was better to get it over quick). They didn't turn, and they didn't stop, and they didn't have stereos in them because it was impossible to hear one. But, crikey, did they go.
And there's nothing quite like the naked terror of incomprehensible horsepower to chase away the blues. We can't let you experience the crush of speed firsthand (that'll have to wait for Web 3.0) so for now we'll refer you to any of a number of YouTube videos which we assumed were carried out by trained professionals on a closed course (LabKitty does not condone law-breaking, especially if it does not further our purposes).
Here's a bitchin' 440 Roadrunner taken out for a stroll (passenger's side view-through-the-windshield comes in around the 30-second mark).
Category: Cosmic Convergence - Dresden Dolls sing Rocky Horror theme song
Our next entry requires no explanation. This moment is why the universe was created. It can now end, its task fulfilled, the circle complete.
Category: Punk song you can play in front of your mom - Join Us for Pong - The Vandals
Punk may be fired by the eternal snottiness of youth, but the best punk bands also have a wicked sense of humor. Nobody did humor better than the California punk bands of the 80s and no 80s California punk band did it better than the Vandals. Although there's a few songs in their catalog that are exceptions ("Pat Brown" is rather unnerving given recent evens, and their cover of "Heartbreak Hotel" is a little dark) the Vandals were the masters of wrapping impotent adolescent rage in a clever package.
Case in point: Join us for Pong from their 1991 masterpiece Fear of a Punk Planet. If you don't know what a Pong is, either because you are not old or not poor, it is/was an electronic ping pong game you played on your TV. This was back before there were Xboxes and rendering engines and dedicated polygon hardware and high-speed bit blitters and whatnot (bah, kids these days). It was the first video game ever, and if you were the first one on your block to have it, you were instantly the most popular kid in the neighborhood.
J.U.F.P. is the band's love-letter to Pong, and could only have been penned by someone who lived through the heady days of early video games. Still, after nothing but fun for the first 2/3s of the song, the final verse segues into a commentary on the realpolitik of the post-cold-war era and a prescient critique of the surveillance culture taking hold in 21st-century America. Now there's value you don't find in just any punk song.
Lyrics Assistance: Pong came with a little box (known as a "dongle") that you had to plug into the antenna port on the TV with a switch that had 2 positions: "TV" and "game." You selected the latter setting to play (dur-hey). The game also allowed you to set the ball speed to either "normal" or "fast." That's pretty much all the Pong you need to know for the song, but if you desire more info, go here.
Additional Lyrics Assistance: "Pass the Dutchie" was a pop song that you couldn't escape in the 80s and you hated it if you were cool. "Kung Fu Theater" was a regular TV thing that played bad kung fu movies for hours and hours, usually starting Saturday morning, and you watched it if you were cool. We don't recall what "Tyson" was, probably because beer and graduate school has purged it from our memory.