Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Canadian Eyeshield 21: The Zuchinni Warriors

I've been on a nostalgia kick lately, re-reading all kinds of old books and comics I've kept for years, just waiting for the opportuinty to present itself.  (i.e., running out of new stuff to read)  One of these was marathoning the excellent Football Manga, Eyeshield 21.  When it was being serialized, I couldn't help but notice that there were some surprisingly similar parallels with the Gordon Korman book The Zucchini Warriors.  The MacDonald Hall series centers on two boys, Bruno and Boots, who are always getting into various states of trouble at a boarding school, long before Harry Potter made such an institution look cool.

Gordon Kormon also wrote other Sports-themed books, such as the misfit Baseball team The Toilet Paper Tigers (led by a Female Hiruma, no less) and the Slapshots Hockey team, but they're pretty much by-the-numbers in terms of storytelling compared to the zaniness that is Zucchini Warriors.  It's possible that most of these traits are part of overused themes from Football movies, but since I have no interest in those, I'll have to plead ignorance.  The only Sports cliche I'm aware of is from Sakuraba's being a major inspiration to an invalid kid in the hospital.

The identity of Eyeshield 21, the infamous running back is secretly Sena Kobayakawa, an wimpy short kid whose trait of being a gofer for bullies gave him incredible sprinting speed.

The identity of the Zucchini Warriors Quarterback, Cathy Duncan, from Scrimmages's Finishing School (who doesn't even attend MacDonald Hall) is given the secret identity of... the school nerd.  Normally, the role of the S-hero is hidden behind the unlikely facade of the unassuming quiet nerdy kid.  Here, it's inverted, with the role of the qualified athletic girl hiding behind the facade of a wimpy nerd.
"What's your name, son?"Bruno was babbling.  "It's - a student!  Yeah, that's it.  A student.  Someone who missed the tryouts but still wants to play.  It's -""Elmer Drimsdale," supplied Cathy."Elmer Drimsdale!" repeated truimphantly.  He staggered back and stared at her.  "Elmer Drimsdale?!""Elmer Drimsdale?!" chorused most of the players.
The leader of the Deimon Devil Bats, Hiruma, love child of Kurata Sana and Akito Hayama, gets players to do his bidding by threatening to reveal their most embarrassing secrets, lest they wind up dying of embarrassment.

The Zucchini Warriors have Myron Blankenship, a notorious blabbermouth who simply can't stop telling people about their most personal embarrassing gossip, even as it winds up making him extremely unpopular in the process.  He even reveals to the headmaster the particulars of an elaborate nighttime prank that he himself participated in.

While Hiruma is able to accomplish great feats and deeds through threat of blackmail, Bruno's friends agree to comply through his wishes only through his constant and convincing arguments.
"So why are you all here?" Bruno challenged.
"Haven't you figured it out yet? asked Boots, half in exasperation and half in amusement.  "We're here because talking you out of something is ten times more work than actually doing it!"
(From MacDonald Hall goes Hollywood, but applies here as well)
After each victory from his ragtag team of football players, a building extension is made to the clubroom, thanks to Hiruma's intimidating information over the principal.

In The Zuchinni Warriors, the sole driving motivation behind the MacDonald Hall students in playing football is not out of pure love of the game, but to get a Rec Hall that the money was used to make a football field instead.  Hence Bruno Walton's force in convincing his classmates to appeal to their sponsor, even if they have to eat dozens of unappetizing Zucchini sticks in order to do so.

On Sena's first game, when he got possession of the ball, he wound up making an amateur mistake:

Sidney Rampulsky is the fastest receiver for the Zucchini Warriors, but despite his speed, he has one glaring fault - he's notoriously clumsy.  Cathy even said that she'd never seen someone trip over the 30-yard line before.  In one of their early games, Sidney wound up making an unintended benefit for the other team.
"He can catch a pass, he can run like a gazelle, but he can't stand on his own two feet!""When he's going the right way, he falls!""Somebody should have told me," said Sidney reproachfully."We couldn't catch you!"
The Deimon Devil Bat's rivals, the Ojo White Knights have an excitable uncontrollable player, Ikari, who has to be constantly chained up otherwise he'd just beat up on anybody who says something disparaging about Ojo's team.  It doesn't even have to be insulting - he'll attack on the vague notion that sounds like an off-hand insult.

In The Zucchini Warriors, they've got Calvin Fitzhart, an external braggart who is constantly hyping himself up as a force to be reckoned with.
"The other teams are in big trouble!  I pity the poor guy who has to stand in the line against me!  I hope he's got his life insurance paid up!"
"Why?" asked Pete Anderson.
"Because I'm the roughest, toughest, meanest guy in the whole league!  My nickname is The Beast!"
"You mean you've played football before?" Boots asked hopefully.
"No!  But these nicknames have to start somewhere, and this one's starting right here!  The Beast!  That's me!"
Calvin is forever growling, snarling and basically ripping up pieces of equipment and patches of land in preparation of laying waste to the other team.  Of course, like any movie with multiple ads, his first debut ends with a dismal thud on the first play, which he weakly complains that he's suffered from a compound fracture that's little more than a bruise.  Even with this "injury" in a cast, he still continues to portray himself as a capable linesman, albeit temporarily benched.

Hiruma in addition to having a booklet full of lurid details on people's lives, also manages to heighten his intimidation by stockpiling a vast array of rifles, guns and other high-powered rifles.  Yet despite his impressive armory, his rapid-fire gunshots never amount to more than popgun stinging.  Likewise, one of the stronger rival football teams, the Seibu Wild Gunmen (loosely based on the Dallas Cowboys) signature move is the Shotgun.

You'd think a Canadian boarding school wouldn't have access to firearms, and you'd be right, but that rule doesn't apply to the Headmistress across the road who's notoriously worried about the well-being and safety of her girls (despite all evidence that they're more than capable of handling themselves on their own) and routinely carries a shotgun to capture any potential peeping toms at night.  Amazingly enough, despite Mrs. Scrimmage's lack of precise aiming and common sense, no one manages to get killed.  The closest anybody gets to being hurt is when the Headmaster, Mr. Sturgeon, happens upon a scene where the football coach is lying on the ground late at night.
"Woman, what have you done?!""She didn't shoot anybody!  She just hit him!"
The penultimate team before the Christmas Bowl is an oversized well-built student, Gaoh Rikiya, whose imposing size and girth is a threat to anyone who stands in his way.  Yet despite his destructive nature, Gaoh has a sense of fair play, and won't resort to dirty tactics.

The last team the Zucchini Warriors fight for the Daw Cup has the indomitable figure of Craig Trolley, an oversized 13-year old who overpowers the opposition easily.  He's also the pure definition of a true Canadian athlete, since after every play, he never fails to apologize to the opposing team.

"Are you guys okay?" Craig asked, his face open and sincere."Yeah thanks," said Boots.Craig helped the three of them to their feet, then he did exactly the same as before, sacking the quarterback, only this time he dragged Larry into the pileup as he threw himself on Bruno, Boots, and Cathy."Sorry about that," said Craig earnestly, giving the four fallen Warriors a hand getting up."Don't worry about it," breathed Boots.  He turned to Bruno and Cathy.  "We're all going to die.""That's guy's amazing!  He's a cross between King Kong and Miss Manners!"

There's a few other superficial similarities I didn't include that didn't quite fit the bill:

One of the games the Deimon Devil Bats played was on a muddy football field, but that was more of a detail about the lay of the land, and an extra layer of difficulty for getting solid footing.  The Zucchini Warriors weren't so fortunate, as their muddy field was of more extreme proportions, having everything and everybody soaked in mud, making telling friend from foe an impossibility, constantly washing off the ball and general confusion all around, which doesn't make for a very exciting football match.

While the Deimon Devil Bats is led by brainchild Hiruma, the rest of the team generally consists of well-meaning idiots who have great physical prowess, but little common sense.  While not on the football team, one MacDonald Hall student, Pete Anderson could certainly qualify, given how often he spouts complete non sequiturs, is slow on the uptake, and constantly misunderstanding situations.  Chances are high he'd wonder if Elmer Drimsdale and Cathy Burton were the same person.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Domesticating Walter

In addition to Sunday comics, one of the great regrets of collections of Newspaper comics is how often storylines are shown once and never seen again after their publication.  We're fortunate if week-long (or longer) arcs remain in their entirety in a reprint, with all their recapping intact.  Having gone through various months of online archives, I can safely say that there's a lot of junk material out there, usually with forced punchlines.  To further drive the difficulty of selection, Newspaper comic arcs can come out of nowhere, necessitating the need to backtrack previous days to get to the start of the story.

As with any storyline, it starts out perfectly innocuously, with Adam trying to get his neighbor to be honest about his feelings.  Fanfic slashers, your material is right here.

Deny it all you want, you're only repressing yourself.

After this initial setup, we get to the heart of the conflict:

Walter certainly seems to be quite the stickler for detail, and focusing on the wrong thing.

In a previous post, I mentioned Walter being somewhat helpless in basic household chores.  In case it's not obvious here, he's taking a pair of scissors to the shirt, hence the "SNIP" sound.

The last line is supposed to read "I'm sure someone at the factory made a mistake", but with the faded text, it looks more like "I'm sure someone at the factory Male a mistake", which makes it unintentionally relevant.

To put this joke in context, the year these came out was in October 1985.  The danger of being obsolete may be one of the reasons many strips don't get reprinted.  People eating items that expired in 1947 only gets funnier with each successive year.

With Walter expressing complete ignorance over basic household cleaning products such as mops and vacuum cleaners, I'm guessing he's being intentionally dense or displaying situation-specific amnesia.

Of course, it wouldn't be a typical Adam/Walter confrontation without basic Male Chauvinist ingratitude.

And of course, it wouldn't be a classic Adam strip without a typical Sisyphean reward.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Ad-libbing Famous Verses

Shortly after posting my last entry, it was suggested to me that I post the original theme song for those who wouldn't be aware of the original lyrics, and thus be confused by my interpretation.  I was a little upset, but rather than input the original lines below each interpretation (which would've made things more confusing and ruined the flow), settled for putting the song at the end of the post.  On the one hand, there aren't that many people who'd have a edetic memory for a catchy theme song opening that today's audiences may not be aware of.  On the other hand, there were dozens of MAD satires spoofing various musicals with twisted lyrics of their own.  Not being exposed to the originals, let alone knowledgeable about the tempo and themes of these once-laid classics, I was often missing out on a very specific subject of potential humour, and felt that others should do their homework in that field.  Looking up the lyrics to a popular animated cartoon shouldn't be that difficult after all.

It occurred to me that there's another realm of misheard lyrics that comes from audiences not mishearing what they've heard, but being inherently absentminded in recollection.  It's a dirty little secret that despite patriotic pride, chances are you're going to forget certain lines to your national Anthem.

It's not just Americans who are subject to this rash of forgetfulness.  Some Canadians just repeat the verses Oh Canada we stand on guard for thee over and over until the song ends, and hopes nobody notices.

Oh Canada, Our home and Native Land.
True Patriot Love in all our Sons' Command.
With glowing red eyes, we see thee rise,
The true Nords Strong Gin Fleas.
Frum farren wide, Oh Canada,
We Stand on Guard for Free.
Skyler's version is a more accurate portrayal of the original.
Chances are that if it weren't for these silly little mistakes, we wouldn't have inspiration for these parodies in the first place.  I once heard about a group of people who were trying to remember the words to The Twelve Days of Christmas and throwing all kinds of things out there, getting the Drummers mixed up with the Lords, and replacing them with what they thought were the closest equivalences.  While I wasn't present, I could easily imagine them mangling up the verses and using all kinds of amusing substitutions such as:

Fiiiiiiiiiiiive Gooooooooooooooolden Things.  Four Culling Herds, Three Shenzhens, Two Something Somethings, and...

Bells Ring, Batman Stinks, Robin made an egg.
The Batcycle broke its axle, and the Joker, he escapes!

That was how the song went, didn't it?
I'd certainly love to hear his testimony.
It'd either be horribly accented or incomprehensible gibberish.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Common Inn Computer Plays Swear Fawn ever Rends

Recently, previews of TV shows and movie trailers have had captioning included, so I can finally understand what the spoilers are saying.  Though it's a case of TMI, so I wind up trying not to look too hard, since I'll wind up gathering potential clues to what the latest episode's building up to.

While I've been (reluctantly) enjoying the rash of quick quotes, I'm still fairly ignorant about nostalgic 80's shows such as Transformers and G.I. Joe.  (The movies are captioned though)  That could be forgiven, since they're essentially glorified commercial shows, but the lack of tainted nostalgia is denied of me.  Shows on NBC such as Heathcliff, The Smurfs and Alvin & the Chipmunks had no captioning, but shows on ABC such as The Real Ghostbusters, Flintstone Kids and Looney Toons were.  There were threats to neglect the sponsors of NBC's children's shows, since they weren't being accommodating towards handicapped children.  (Their Prime Time stuff was captioned though)  Me and my sister often settled for watching episodes of Sesame Street, even though we were above the target group, simply because we wanted to watch something we could understand.  But the biggest sin for lack of available subtitles is Rocky & Bullwinkle.  There are dozens of rapid-fire jokes spewed out within the confines of a minute, which would be impossible to understand without outside help.  The only reason I'm aware of the show's genius is because I borrowed some VHS collected tapes, and those were captioned.  I know that there are illegal subtitles available for downloading, but I shouldn't have to rely on those to get my fix.  These companies should get their act together.

I was a little disappointed when I heard that Google Glasses wasn't as popular as they were advertised to be.  The reason they probably failed to catch on was because they suffered from having the eye being too close to the screen.  Having scouters that displays information directly to your retinas is a sound Sci-fi principle, but probably doesn't work well in reality.  We're more likely to retain information when seen from a distance to get the bigger picture.  The reason for my disappointment is that I thought that Google Glasses would be able to give miniature text-based subtitles of people's dialogue in the room.  Chances are they'd be simply unable to capture and differentiate between the numerous voices amidst the cacophony of noises all around them.

But maybe before moving onto new realms of uncharted technological territory, we should concentrate on perfecting the program of decoding human speech first.  Next to understanding images, capturing the essence of language is one of the most difficult things that computer AI is trying to tackle.

My impression of Youtube captioning was that they would be similar to real-time captioning that's prevalent on the news, where instead of having subtitles follow a script, an actual human being is made to transcribe text as they come live onscreen.  Real-time captioning is far from perfect, as it results in a time-lag delay during monologue-heavy scenes, and will rush by quickly in order to catch up, or will stall at a certain place to correct a spelling mistake.  Even so, it's still light years from the computer linguistic model which attempts to decipher the compounded cacophony of noises into something that makes sense.  If it's the audio that's a problem, a better solution would be to have a transcription embedded into pop-up annotations instead.  Like subtitles, they're optional, and can be turned on or off.
The beginning starts out perfectly fine.
Once the theme song music starts, we're in trouble.
The program is unable to discern the difference between intonation, accents, musical pop culture references and background noises.  Somehow they're unable to tell when a sentence begins and ends, the proper way to compose a sentence, and to rearrange the words for reading comprehension.  It's especially annoying when the computer places a single word all by its own instead of grouped with the rest of the sentence.  So far, they suffer the same limitation that hearing aids do.
A tin eye for detail coupled with faulty auditory control
brings about strange results.
A hearing aid helps in amplifying sound, but that's pretty much what it does - it amplifies ALL sounds, including foreground and background noise, making differentiating between the two a great difficulty.
Likewise, if there's any lingering music during an interlude, the computer captioning will capture it as part of the speech, and transcribe it as such.  And this is only further compounded with foreign languages thrown into the mix.  Anything looking for that certain Je ne sois quoi would be mistaken as "Tennis quiet".
Being saccharine is not always a good way to appeal to the masses.
Speaking of French, there was a satirical poetry book, Mots D'Heures: Gousses, Rames (Mother Goose Rhymes), that had nonsensical French words phonetically arranged in the style of Nursery Rhymes, and then analyzed with literary references.  For instance, Humpty Dumpty Sat on a Wall would sound like Un petit d'un petit S'étonne aux Halles.  Un petit d'un petit (a baby's baby) was "The inevitable result of a child marriage."  S'étonne aux Halles (Is surprised at Les Halles)  would be "The subject of this epigrammatic poem is obviously from the provinces, since a native Parisan would take this famous old market for granted."  You get the idea.
A piece of ballet clothing?
When the subtitles are mangled, you wind up with lines that're amusing in ways that was never intended.  However, as funny as it is, it's a struggle for the rest of us.  Constantly reworking every single sound you've heard into something that makes sense is emotionally and physically exhausting, especially if you have no idea what they're talking about.
A rare instance of accurate wording,
which carries huge significance.
But it's not as if close captioning is entirely free of its faults.  There are the occasional instances of the usual spelling mistakes (there, their, they're), and lack of emphasis on pronunciation.
Having an electronic recorder is no deterrent for
producing musical sounds through your ass.
A confession - apart from the beginning and end screen captures,
this is the only accurate Youtube lyric.
You say AYE-ther and I say EEE-ther.
You say NIGH-ther and I say KNEE-ther.

On an episode of Brothers & Sisters, two half-sisters were singing Let's Call the Whole Thing Off, one of whom was pissed at the other, and sabotaged it so it was heard as;

You say AYE-ther and I say AYE-ther.
You say NIGH-ther and I say NIGH-ther.

However, since the words looked exactly the same when written, there was no attempt to differentiate between the two, and all pretense of their conflict was lost.

For years, I thought that the interlude after "I hope you bring lots of Spaghetti" was "I'm Scared".
It wasn't until I saw the Garfield & Friends DVD that I saw an alternate version, which was "I'm full.", which makes more sense.  It seems that the theme song creators were equally confused about this Mondegreen, so when the 2nd theme song was redone, they used Wade Duck as a stand-in.  So which one's the correct choice?
Likewise, the line for Darkwing Duck's "Three Two One, Darkwing Duck"
was "
Too Too Wild!  Darkwing Duck".
Still, these are just niggling instances.  Compared to computers, humans are still light years ahead of the competition.  More often than not, when a sound is heard, the computer will go for the nearest Internet search parameters and select the closest phonetic equivalent among the most common and popular sounds available, rather than a historically relevant noise, let alone the context of what's currently happening onscreen.  Since they only transcribe sounds but not images, they can't make the connection that easily.
It's noisy in the Hub city as a result of not having any electronics to fool around with.
Cursing deer can be violent.
At least they're not along the same restrictions as Described Video, which takes the term redundancy to new heights.  Scenes of silent musical interludes would be described with obvious detail, along the likes of Sports commentary, most American comics, and spectators in Battle Manga.  "He's walking along the rocky path.  Now he's going up the cobblestone steps.  Now he's standing still, contemplating what to do next, his face etched in contemplative thought."
Typical bedroom hotels have components such as
television, night life and below average drinks.
Going too fast across a vast expense can lead to having egg on your face.
Close captioning was such an essential component for understanding what was going on it never occurred to me that there might be people who didn't like having words to read on the screen.  On that same trait, I can see how Described Video could be considered annoying to others.
Somebody who looks like Tina Fey,
despite all evidence to the contrary.
A top-secret investigation regarding
the silly dances Rabbis do at Bar Mitzvahs.
For me, Close captioning is essential for understanding just what the heck's going on.  If there are any breaking news stories that have to be seen to be believed, I have to wait for a transcript rather than see clips of them live.  And oftentimes, they'll lose something in the transition.  Seeing them online is no help because unless they're heavily involved with corporations (who'd want to keep such transactions private), I have no hope of joining the rest of public opinion.
Panic over an iconic Festival figure being involved with an intimate Spanish dance.

The British scream combined with the title of an Italian comic...
You know what?  There are times when you're simply unable to figure out the hidden meaning
from the scant clues available, and this is one of them.

To further compound the difficulty of understanding rapid conversations, I can't ruminate or linger on anything that confuses me for too long, since I've got to move on to the next sentence.
The Navy's experimental application of
"Don't ask, don't tell".
Consequences of barfing after investing heavily in sugared snacks
with the hope of getting a reward from minimal effort.
More than anything, comprehension is important.  Even if you've got the exact wording right, they're useless if not in the correct order.  In an old issue of Entertainment Weekly Magazine, they showed some props from a Batman movie, one of which showed the following text sandwiched between cut-out venetian blinds:

Tear one what once off and was red
Scratch my is black head instead.
Objectivism philosophy was plagiarized from other sources.
This phrase would be considered completely nonsensical until you rearrange the words like so:

Tear one off and scratch my head
What once was red is black instead.
There's a guy named Saul,
and he's annoyed at having his lunch stolen all the time,
so he's booby trapped his desert when the thief comes around.
Now, it's possible that the majority of The Riddler's riddles are inaccessible puzzles like these, but they have to be incredibly dumbed down in order to be comprehensible to the masses who'd feel completely left out if they were left in their natural state.  There's being deliberately oblique, and there's being overly obtuse.  Sometimes the surest way to understand a hard-to-understand word is not to repeat it verbatim over and over until it makes sense, but to use a different word along the same lines.  It shouldn't be that difficult to think of alternatives.  That's what Synonym dictionaries are for.
Crowded public transportation is a haven
for pushy people to get their way with total strangers.
Endangered fish are a leading cause of contention
among lording idiot sultans.
Equally annoying are TV shows that were captioned on their live airings (Air Farce, ReGenesis, Poirot) but didn't have that saved for their DVD cases.  Another major annoyance are DVDs that have their main features captioned, but don't bother to go the extra length to have their Special Features and outtakes subtitled, leaving me to sought out these factoids gleamed from online second-hand sources like Wikipedia and TVtropes.  Interestingly enough, I've found that the rare DVDs that had their special features subtitled, such as Jericho, Medium and District 9, have had a deaf member in their cast.  Apparently these Special guests were enough of an influential presence that they went out of their way to make sure they'd enjoy the releases as much as anybody else.
A rallying cry to rouse sales of tasty treats targeted towards
a very specific demographic of people named Barty.
The faster you go, the more likely you are to make repeating mistakes,
thereby making you feel stupid.
Back in the day, there was heavy resistance for showing any Close Captioning on TV, since sponsors felt there was little demand from audiences who didn't have decoders ready for the select few viewers that could afford them.  Nowadays, pretty much every show on cable has captioning, and the latest widescreen models have captioning embedded into their microchips.  Oftentimes, it feels as if the trailblazing efforts for Youtube captioning is suffering the same stigmata that Close Captioning for TV did in its infancy.  (Thirty years ago!)  There's no conscious effort to improve upon these faults, since there are multiple outlets, and unless there are any monetary disadvantages from not choosing one video-sharing source over another, we'll never see any improvement anytime soon.
Oh, now they're just mocking us.
 As it turns out, hearing things is remarkably easy.  Making sense out of multiple sounds is the hard part.
If you can't make out the last sentence,
welcome to my world.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Garfield and Friends.
We're / We're
Ready / Ready
To / To
We're ready to party, we're ready. Yo!
I hope you bring lots of spaghetti.
(I'm full)
Come on in, come to the place
Where fun never ends.
Come on in, it's time to party
With Garfield and friends.
Dancing! Fiesta!
Romancing! Siesta! 
Samba! La Bamba!
Aye Carumba!
Disguises / Disguises!
Surprises! Surprises! 
and pies of / and pies of...
All sizes!
Come on in, come to the place
Where fun never ends.
Come on in, it's time to party
with Garfield and Friends.
Come on in, it's time to party
with Garfield and Friends.
Garfield and friends.