Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Comic Book Sound Effects

The world depicted in comic books is very different from our own. Impossibly-muscled heroes with powers far beyond those of mortal men leap around in outlandish costumes foiling unnecessarily elaborate crimes, extraterrestrials and ancient gods periodically threaten the earth, and all women have perfect, round boobs. How could comic book reality be any more different than ours? Oh, that’s right, when you punch someone, giant floating letters appear in the air. 

What you and I call comic book sound effects—or SFX, punch words, or sound scribbles—are examples of onomatopoeia, a large, pretentious word that can score you major points with the brainiac squad (See Footnote 1). Onomatopoeia’s use is not limited to the realm of comic books. For instance, words like zap and zip mimic the sounds of their respective actions. Certain birds, like the chickadee, whip-poor-will, and cuckoo got their names based on the sounds of their calls, because the ornithologists who were in charge of naming them apparently had better things to do than sit around all day trying to think of names that didn’t sound like they had been invented by toddlers (See Figure 1: Onomatopoeiac Bird Names). 

So I’m on the campus of Carnegie Melon, right? The campus is right down the street from my apartment. And I’m playing street hockey in one of their fancy courtyards, by myself, because I’m so good at street hockey that nobody else can handle playing with me. So I score this killer goal, right through the front doors of the library, and the puck hits some genius in his big genius head and he starts crying. He gets in my face and says “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” and I say “Onomatopoeia, bitch!” which leaves him totally speechless, so I grab my puck out of his hand and skate away. Final score of the game? Carnegie Melon 0, The Mighty Fucks (my street team) 3,000.

FIGURE 1: Onomatopoeia-inspired Bird Names
Tweet tweet
Mr. Quackers
Humphrey Hoot Hoot 
MC Chirps-a-Lot
Dr. Cockadoodle

Comic book sound effects underline the medium’s glaring technological limitations. Simple stacks of glossy paper held together with staples, they have no video component, and must instead substitute small, primitive drawings in the place of high definition widescreen. They also, incredibly, lack an audio component—a feature even the lowly gramophone has (See Figure 2: Most Exciting Inventions of the Victorian Era)—and must instead communicate the sound of Captain America’s shield punching through an F-16’s cockpit glass using large, cartoonishly distorted letters. 

Many scientists believe that within twenty years this primitive art form will be completely replaced by television, movies, and video games (See The Future chart on page xx). Studies have shown that television and movies are better for your brain, because they eliminate the wear and tear that reading causes. And although comic books are good at desensitizing children to violence, they simply can’t compete with video games’ ability to realistically replicate the visceral experience of shooting someone in the face, or battering a hooker. It’s only a matter of time before comic books join heiroglyphics, Mayan doomsday carvings, and cave paintings in the pantheon of sequential art that nobody cares about.

Some critics have pointed out that I myself use words and drawings in this very book. When they point it out, they do it all dramatically, like Sherlock Holmes uncovering the identity of the murderer (“Who is in this very room!”) However, the crucial difference is that this book is merely a companion to the film version of Everything Explained Through Flowcharts, (if you haven’t seen it yet, Orlando Bloom plays me; he had to work out a lot and wear a prosthetic chin for the role) and is intended for people in remote areas such as the Mojave Desert, Antarctica, and West Virginia. Seriously, we merchandised the shit out of that movie. (See Figure 3: Everything Explained Through Flowcharts Movie Tie-in Merchandise.)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Most Exciting Inventions of the Victorian Era

1. the bicycle
2. sarcasm
3. opium-flavored chewing gum
4. steam-powered top hat
5. spats
6. pocket locomotive
7. cocaine-infused soda 
8. wooden toilet paper
9. telegraph sex
10. leeches

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Everything Explained Through Flowcharts: the movie!

The following is an excerpt from the Everything Explained Through Flowcharts movie script, currently under development.

The gritty city skyline crouches in the background like a hungry animal.

Grizzled Captain (O.S.)
You’ve gone too far this time, Maverick!

Maverick (O.S.)
What can I say boss, I’m a maverick!

The Captain paces the room angrily. Maverick is sitting on a horse on top of the Captain’s desk.

Grizzled Captain
Reckless endangerment, destroying public property, excessive force--

(gesturing to the horse)
Captain, you’re upsetting Maude.

Grizzled Captain
And get that damn horse off my desk!

Maverick flicks the horse’s reigns and he and Maude leap through the captain’s closed window, shattering the glass.

Grizzled Captain (cont.)
(shaking his fists)
Damn you Maverick!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Sound Effects for the Common Man

Special thanks to Luke Giordano for making up the nonsense words. GRROM!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Things People Say to my Dog

I’m a charming conversationalist. I make sure to read the newspaper everyday to stay abreast of current events (Orlando Bloom's New Gal Pal!) and keep a special eye out for interesting stories I can use as conversation starters (Scientists Discover that Dolphins Name Themselves!). I have a non-threatening physical presence, warm smile, and wear pleasant, sorbet-colored shirts. I know three different sure-fire ice-breakers ("Did you hear about the overweight polar bear? He broke the ice—hi, my name's Doogie), a ton of jokes, and one magic trick involving clothespins (which I always carry, just in case).

My dog walks around naked, has pee breath, and cannot speak a single word of English (or Spanish), but people still prefer talking to him than me. Squatting to shit on the sidewalk, he makes a better first impression than I do wearing a tuxedo and handing out free ice cream. Strangers will often stop us during our walks and hold lengthy, one-sided conversations with my dog without ever acknowledging my presence, other than to ask me his name; his name is Toby, but sometimes I’ll tell people his name is Doogie, so the conversation at least takes on the illusion of involving me. When people ask Toby questions—the same stupid questions over and over—it’s unclear whether I’m supposed to answer for him, or stand in dumb silence, holding his leash. It’s not dissimilar from someone walking up and starting a conversation with your shoes or wristwatch. 

I’d like to make it clear that I’m not jealous of my dog—seriously, I have way more friends than him (If you don’t count his Facebook friends. He especially makes a big deal out of the fact that he’s Facebook friends with Mr. T., even though I’m almost positive it’s not the real Mr. T.) 
And I can’t help but think that the daily grooming and jaunty little bandana I put on him is an integral part of his charm. I do feel kind of bad for him, because when people talk to him, he can’t talk back—although he can communicate eloquently non-verbally. (See Figure 1: Nonverbal Dominance Assertion.)

Of course, dogs’ inability to talk actually increases their charm. They can’t judge you, challenge your politics, or condescendingly question your employment status (“I wasn’t fired, I’m on furlough.”). If people actually wanted talking dogs, we would have them. It’s an open secret that the technology to read certain animals’ minds, including dogs, has been around since the 1960s, when the government developed it as part of their Cold War Bovine Interrogation Program. I know that sounds unbelievable, and I’d explain the mechanics to you, but it would be way over your head. (See Figure 2: Other Stuff You Wouldn’t Understand, Even if I Explained it to You.)

1. Atoms
2. Anti-matter
3. Electrolytes
4. Floam
5. The opposite sex
6. Rap music
7. Nuclear whatever
8. Lasers
9. Imaginary numbers
10. Gaydar

Anyways, what scientists discovered is that dogs are pretty much thinking what you think they are, although they’re surprisingly snarky when it comes to questions about their pedigree. 

Personally, my favorite aspect of talking to dogs is that it’s one of the few crazy behaviors that you can indulge in public, besides organized sports, which I enjoy far less, because sports involve sweat. You can walk up to a stranger’s dog and talk to them in a weird high-pitched voice as you stroke their face and—surprisingly, illogically—it’s socially acceptable. Same thing with babies. That baby can’t understand a word you say, but nobody would let that stop them from complimenting his hat, asking if he wants to be a fireman when he grows up, or pretending to steal and eat his nose. (See Figure 3: How Crazy are You for Talking to the Following People, Animals, and Inanimate Objects?)

Monday, September 7, 2009

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Drinks Only College Students Order

Of all the valuables lessons you learn at college, none is as important as how to drink until you almost die—unless you’re one of those nerds who doesn’t drink, and instead spends their evenings studying and anticipating with relish the inevitable day when all the jocks who used to mock them have to come crawling to the door of their lucrative software company, begging for a job (See Figure 1: How Are the Nerds Getting Revenge?).

Figure 1: How Are the Nerds Getting Revenge?
• Panty Raid
• Icy Hot on football team's jock straps
• Rousing speech
• Something involving computers
• Elaborate musical production
• Restore potion
• Saving throw

I never went to college, because I learned everything I needed to know on the streets—in the grimy back alleys and darkened juke joints; the smoky nightclubs and dead end avenues; the crazy criss-crossing maze of forgotten roads and grimy tenements that I grew to know like the veins on the back of my work-hardened hands—you prissy, pampered, ivy league fop. Actually, I didn’t learn everything on the streets, I also learned quite a few things on an Alaskan crabbing boat. And there was this old WWII vet who had half his face burned off, and when I was a kid I’d play chess with him—learned a lot of stuff from that guy. And I learned massage therapy from the University of Phoenix Online. 

One thing I definitely didn’t learn on the streets was how to drink like a college student. So when I began research on this chart, I had no idea what sort of drink names I would find. Had I known, I might’ve charted something less disturbing, like War Crimes or Feces Casseroles (See Figure 2: 15-Minute Feces Casseroles). 

1. Sloppy Joe Shitpot
2. Crispy Crap Ragout
3. Steaming Excrement Sweetbread
4. Mushroom Manure Hotdish with Grits
5. Zesty Guano Guacamole Casserole
6. Bohemian Poopoolatta
7. EZ Number Two
8. Green Bean Carbonnade Feculence
9. Lima Bean Stool Bake
10. Granny Smith’s Hotpot Turd Surprise
11. Tetrazzini au Diarrhea

The names of drinks only college students order provides a revealing snapshot into the minds of young adults at a pivotal age—and that snapshot is the scariest photo I’ve ever seen. It’s like that blurry photo of Bigfoot, if Bigfoot was staring right at you, had a massive erect penis, and was wearing a Who Farted? t-shirt. That startling mélange of mystery, smut, and innocence is at the black, beating heart of drinks only college students order. They are simultaneously jaded and juvenile, appetizing and disgusting, innocent and profane. Witness the sophomoric sacrilege of the Dragon Dick, Vampire’s Woo Woo, Spunk Guzzler, and Fuck My Bum Crack. 

The profane names and scandalous nature of most of these drinks are an embarrassingly inept attempt for college students’ to assert their adulthood. “I can shittin’ swear if I dick-suckin’ want to, Mom! Pass the smurf-fuckin’ potatoes!” It’s like listening to a foreign exchange student try to curse in English. The desire to shock often supplants all other considerations, including plausibility (eg. Bear Fucker), desirability (eg. Sweaty Shit), and acknowledgement of cosmic irony (eg. Call an Ambulance).

No exploration of college drinking habits would be complete without mentioning that other uniquely collegiate tradition—drinking games (See Fun Drinking Games, on page xx). You can’t just suck down a drink as special as the Lick My Banana—it deserves pageantry, pomp, a special sacred process not unlike the changing of the guard at Buckingham palace, or that crazy dance lizards do before they have sex (See Figure 4: Lizard Mating Dance).


Whether you’re partying with the guys or snowed in during nuclear winter, these great games are guaranteed to put the “fun” in “functional alcoholic!” Bottoms up!

Here’s a fun game to play if you like to have fun and also enjoy drinking. First you’ll need a stack of a hundred quarters. Hide each quarter in a different spot all over the city. Then go into a bar and get shit-faced. When the bill comes, leave a treasure map detailing the locations of each and every quarter in lieu of payment. 

Modified version: Use nickels instead of quarters. This version is called Dimes.

To play this game you’ll need a deck of cards and a bottle of whiskey. After shuffling the deck, place it face down in the center of the table. Drink the bottle of whiskey. Think about how everything is such bullshit. Mutter the word “bullshit” over and over again between drinks. When the bottle is empty scatter the cards all over the room. 

Go to Spain and drink wine until you become a truly great author. Write very truly and very fully, standing as you bang out your stories on an old Corona. See a bullfight or two. Lay in a big bed with a plump thighed woman and drink cold sweating glasses of beer naked under the crisp white sheets and the spinning palm frond fan. Forty years later blow your brains out with a shotgun.

This is a good “get to know you” party mixer kind of game. Have everyone stand in a circle. Turn to the person on your left and ask “Why are we doing this?” Then they turn to the person on their left and say the same thing. This continues until someone decides to say “Human interaction frightens me.” This reverses the order of play, and the person on their right now has to say “Alcohol numbs my fear.”

Any time someone screws up or says the wrong thing, they have to drink. Anyone who tries to break free from the circle is tackled by everyone else, dragged into the center of the circle and forced to make small talk with the least attractive person at the party. 

Any number of people can play this game, but you need at least four people to fulfill the following roles (in order of descending authority): President, Vice-President, Vice-Asshole, and Asshole. Each player has total authority over all the players below them, and can command them to drink at any time, or perform various menial and degrading tasks. 

Determining Roles: 
The most popular or feared person at the party is the President. The slightly shorter guy that agrees with everything he says is the Vice-President. The awkward introvert who’s too shy to admit he doesn’t want to play the game is the Vice-Asshole, and the social pariah who is so desperate for acceptance that he’ll do absolutely anything is the asshole. A crowd is also useful to embarrass the asshole in front of.

How to Begin:
Every round must begin with each of the players fulfilling their role’s prescribed duties.

President: Remember all the times you’ve disappointed your father. Visualize everyone as tiny pawns you move on a chessboard. Cruelly demean people based on whims. Dole out miniscule portions of kindness and bask in the resultant fawning gratitude. Wonder why homeless people don’t just get a job. 

Vice-President: Turn your fear of being demoted to Vice-Asshole into fuel that stokes your white-hot furnace of cruelty. Kiss the President’s ass. Visualize your fear of failure and social rejection as a scarecrow. Now put the Asshole’s face on that scarecrow; treat the scarecrow accordingly. 

Vice-Asshole: Take comfort in the fact that no matter how bad you have it, you have it better than the Asshole. Prove to everyone you’re not the Asshole by being crueler to the asshole than anyone else. Do not touch the Asshole, for fear that his bad luck might rub off on you. Scheme to become Vice-President.

Asshole: Reflect on the irony that you’re the only person not behaving like an asshole. Wonder why you’re playing this game, and then remember that even negative attention is better than being ignored. Pray to the god of your choice for deliverance/vengance.

Add a deck of cards to the mix; move them around the table in meaningless patterns while everyone berates the asshole.

The Asshole refuses to play the game, but everyone calls him an asshole anyways. He leaves the party, but continues to play the game for the rest of his life.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Everything Explained Through Flowcharts cover

The cover of Everything Explained Through Flowcharts! is under development. Let the horror begin!