Friday, September 30, 2011

Slug event photo montage

Here are some scenes from the Slug fete that took place on Tuesday. The first two photos are by Carolyn Lagatutta, and the one on the bottom was taken by Lisa Nielsen.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Pre-order your copy of 36 Hours right now

It looks like sales of the upcoming 36 Hours anthology, which includes two of my New York Times columns, are going well, even though the book isn't even out yet. Pre-order yours right here.

Slug cookies mentioned somewhat prominently in Santa Cruz Sentinel and San Jose Mercury News

Check this out, especially paragraph four, which I encourage you to read in public, preferably in an obnoxiously loud and braying voice. How about them bananas?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Hell yes, here are my UCSC Banana Slug cookies! Banana slug treats have almost sold out at the Buttery

Hey everybody, at long last, here are my slug cookies, produced (with my home-made banana slug cookie cutter and cartoon design) by the Buttery. We handed a bunch out today and they went fast, and we hear there are only three left at the Buttery itself. Some people ate a whole fistful at once. They're going to sugar-crash so hard! Long live Sammy the Slug.

When I first saw these I flipped out. It's like seeing one of my cartoons or doodles transformed into a food item. And then you start seeing people biting off their heads and nibbling on their little antennae and you feel like saying, "No, no, no, hey you, stop, that's mine!"

Artful cookie photo by Carolyn Lagatutta

They're out of the oven and ready to go!!!!!!

I'll upload full-color photos as soon as I am able.

Today's cryptic schedule for you-know-what

So, here's my schedule

This morning, after I drink a cup of you-know-what, I'm going on KSCO a.m. radio right around 715 or so. You'll never, in a million years, guess what I'll be talking about on the radio. Must I say it out loud??? (It ryhmes with 'shmug.') If you want to listen in, feel free.

At 745 am, sharp, I have an appointment at you-know-where, to pick up a bunch of baked shortbreads shaped and decorated to look like you-know-what.

Right around 1045, I will be going up to you-know-where to set up a booth dedicated to you-know-what. Close to 230, I will head to downtown Santa Cruz to discuss you-know-what with you-know-who.

See you all later on. You know where.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Absolutely the last time I'm blogging about this (liar, liar)

Just wanted to make sure that lots of you folks show up for both these things tomorrow.

I'd write more, but right now, I'm on my way to retrieve a gigantic yellow furry Slug outfit.

Not making this up.

Dawn of Slug Day

If you are up on time, you might want to stop by the Buttery Bakery early Tuesday morning and watch me walk over there to pick up approximately eight zillion slug cookies that I designed myself. As a matter of fact, I could use some help carrying the boxes so let me know if anyone can help. (no, you won't get a free cookie out of it, but I'll give you a big fat acknowledgment in this blog.)

I am nervous about this but I don't know why. The bakery itself says the cookies will look very cute and banana-slug like, and I have every reason to believe them, but what if there was some weird miscommunication on my part, and the cookies come out huge or too little?

Last night I had a nightmare that the cookies came out looking like tape worms, with hideous green frosting.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The banana slug you don't know: fascinating facts in the pop cultural history of Ariolimax columbianus

You might even think that Sammy the Slug's cameo appearance—on John Travolta's UC Santa Cruz T-shirt in Quentin Tarantino's 1994 movie sensation Pulp Fiction—was the only example of banana slugs infiltrating popular culture. But Pulp was only the starting point. Here are few well-populized highlights in the history of UC Santa Cruz's favorite mollusk on and off campus.

Slug versus governor

In the summer of 1988, California's then-governor, George Deukmejian, vetoed a bill that would have made the banana slug California's official state mollusk, complaining the bill was not representative of the international reputation California enjoys."

"I think the governor has thoughtlessly missed the point on this one," said disappointed Assemblyman Byron Sher, D-Palo Alto, who authored the bill at the suggestion of a children's group, the Redwood Campfire Kids. Sher emphasized that four out of the five banana slug species can only be found in California, and called them an emblem of state wildlife diversity.

Opponents of the bill said it was silly. Never mind the fact that the state has an official insect: the dog-faced butterfly.

Slug versus kitty cat

Back in 1985, on the UCSC campus, Sammy the Slug squared off against a rival mascot—the sea lion—and won the contest handily, as Slug supporters far outnumbered backers of the sea lion in a campus-wide vote. But California Fish and Game once received a complaint that a banana slug fought someone's housecat—not symbolically, but for real.

Here is the transcript of the conversation between a panicked caller and a Fish and Game official, as reported by the Los Angeles Times:

"I have this vicious large slug in my house and he is attacking my cat," the caller told the Fish and Game employee. "What should I do?"

The Fish and Game staffer replied: "It's probably a banana slug. They grow as big as four or five inches."

He also comforted the caller by saying: "This is a rare occurrence, but if it happens again, give us a call."

Sexy beast

In June 2008, London's Daily Telegraph ran an article about visiting Santa Cruz. Close to the bottom of the article, the author recommended buying a pair of silky underwear featuring Sammy the Slug, "the friendly mollusk," adding, "You can't get more intimate with Santa Cruz than that."

Weird sex in the slug world

In October 2001, renowned banana slug expert Alice Bryant Harper sat down with Metro Santa Cruz newspaper to talk about some little-known facts about the banana slug's unusual mating habits, some of which are so extreme that we cannot "reproduce" them in this family-friendly publication.

Since then, major authors have described some of the alarming aspects of our friendly local slug. In 2002, a popular book entitled Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice to All Creation by Olivia Judson mentions the fact that male banana slugs often get their private areas gnawed off during copulation.

Not the weirdest mascot!

And you might want to clip and save this next time someone tells you that Sammy the Slug is a "weird" mascot, or goes as far as to call him the "weirdest mascot of all."

Not true. Consider the Fighting Okra of Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi. (The greenish vegetable edged out a previous school mascot known as the Statesman.) And don't forget the Poets of Whittier College (who have battled the Banana Slugs).

Other strange names include:

• The Fighting
Kangaroos at the University of Missouri

• The Anteaters of the University of California, Irvine

• The
 Boll Weevils at the University of Arkansas at Monticello

• The Fighting Camels at North Carolina's Campbell University.

• New York University has
dubbed its men's teams the Violets. Women are Violettes.

• The name of the Rhode Island School of Design's mascot is so salacious that we can't even print it here, though you're free to Google it if you wish.

• The New College of Florida has an invisible mascot called the "Empty Set," delineated by a pair of parenthesis.

• Let's not forget the Dirtbags of California State University, Long Beach.

It also is worth mentioning that UCSC is not the only university whose mascot fended off a challenge from a rival mascot. Some years back, Scottsdale Community College students chose Artie the Artichoke as their mascot after knocking back a challenge from the rutabaga. And no, we're not making this up.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Banana slug cookies will soon be baked.

I am still enjoying the surge of publicity related to my upcoming banana-slug cookies.

Funny -- when I got my first book published, I didn't tell very many people about it at all. But now that I've designed a cookie cutter shaped like a banana slug, I can't shut up about it. I'm telling everybody. In fact, I'm working it into every single conversation I have, in the most awkward ways you can imagine:

Random stranger: "Hey, you're standing on my foot."

Me: "Sorry. Guess what, I invented a cookie cutter shaped like a banana slug."

Anyhow, I am as anxious as anyone when it comes to the final product. The Buttery Bakery is going to start rolling out the crunchable slugs early in the morning next week.

If you happen to be in Santa Cruz, the banana slug cookies will be handed out in two places: up on the UC Santa Cruz campus at 1130 to 1 p.m. September 27 at my Banana Slug booth right in front of the Bay Tree Book Store in the quarry plaza. The booth will feature an actual appearance by the Sammy the Slug character. Then make sure to go to City Hall in Santa Cruz where the City Council is going to vote on a resolution declaring an official UCSC banana slug mascot day. For real.

Stay tuned for fascinating facts in banana slug cultural history.

(accompanying illustration by Dan White with assistance from Linda Knudson)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Slug cookie success

I'm glad to report that my neighborhood bakery really likes my suggested design for what just might be the first official banana slug mascot cookie.

I will try to post a photo when the first one comes out of the oven next week. In case you are wondering, the baked goods will be part of a ceremony marking the 25th anniversary of UC Santa Cruz's famous banana slug mascot.

By the way, this accompanying photo shows a couple of rejected banana slug cookie options. The first one is my drawing, which is simply too big and too detailed to make a reasonably priced cookie. The second is a banana-slug-shaped blob of marzipan made by a pastry chef at the bakery. The problem is that the marzipan slug is, if anything, hemmed in by its extreme realism.
In other words, it looks disgusting!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Help: desperately seeking a cookie cutter shaped like a banana slug

Hi everyone. I'm about to order a bunch of custom-made cookies in the shape of banana slugs. Seriously. The trouble is, the bakery needs me to come up with a cookie cutter shaped like the creature in question. If you can help me out, send in to this blog immediately. I'll also post on Facebook and elsewhere. (Time is running out. I'm not making this up). If you live somewhere on the Central Coast, I can meet up with you and pay you a fair price for your cookie cutter.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Attack the Block: my vote for finest film of the year

These are such busy times -- non-stop, hectic -- but I was able to get out and see a very fine movie called "Attack the Block." Now, don't be turned off by the "aliens attack" set-up. The movie avoids that cliched, open world scenario in which all-powerful creatures vaporize Paris, cause tidal waves, bite the head off the Statue of Liberty and so forth.

For one thing, the alien creatures are earthy and highly kill-able mammal types -- hairy beasts that look like hedgehog wolf-bears, with some gorilla thrown into the genetic mix. The beasts don't have any death rays, just claws and fearsome teeth, which crackle and buzz and emit a strange blue glow like fluorescent track lighting.

For another, the alien invasion focuses on a single building in a dangerous London neighborhood and surrounding alleyways, trash-strewn fields, rubbish bins, etc. The aliens' combatants are mostly a group of young people who are well on their way to becoming thugs. The housing project houses three generations of full-blown and potential criminals: two older crime bosses, their adolescent henchmen, and, coming up just behind them, two little tyros who idolize the henchmen and are always trying to show them up. Stand this gang up against a group of alien creatures and you've got a truly novel fight to the death scenario.

I can tell that the makers of this movie put a great deal of thought into all this -- the hierarchy of the gang, and even the way the creatures interact with one another and what drives them to attack (which I won't reveal here).

The high-rise apartment complex is put to excellent use. I have a feeling that location scouts explored every nook of a real high-rise, considering every way that the garage underneath the complex, the tight and endless hallways, two creaking elevators, stairwells and skyways with perilous drops separating them, can be mined for suspense and shocks. They also though long and hard about all the things that scare us, and transported these old phobias from a 'scary woods' scenario to a 'scary city' scenario --the feeling of entrapment, disorientation, feeling pursued without knowing where you are, having to make a break from a safe zone while having no idea if something terrible is waiting just outside the door or the garbage bin.

All in all it was a wickedly clever film. Yes, it's funny, but it will also make you jump, shake, and spill your popcorn all over the place.

See it now, preferably in a nice, claustrophobic theater. I would recommend Haight-Ashbury's Red Vic, but someone told me that it just shut down for good. If true, this is very sad news.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Cactuseaters: back from my grand tour of the California Southlands (Santa Monica and beyond)

Don't count me among the Santa Cruzans who drive around with bumpers that say "We're back. L.A. sucked."

I, for one, enjoyed every moment of my grand Southlands tour which included Santa Monica, Westwood, Hollywood, Reseda, Tarzana, Redondo and Palos Verdes. Yes, there was a bit of sprawl, and yes, their was a bit of traffic (I almost got clipped in half by a Hummer, and had to rev my engine and drive like mad on the Rosecrans entrance to the 405), and yes, the place is humongous, but I loved the aspirational energy, the food, and the sense that I was putting every bit of my Driver's Ed training -- including all those "Red Asphalt" movies -- to the test. I went into a wonderful Bay Cities Italian deli in the middle of Santa Monica, and it was bedlam -- everyone clamoring for the same eggplant paninis and turkey Reubens. The struggle, the waiting, the clawing and shouting, made my sandwich taste even better.

We spent a good sized chunk of our time in Santa Monica, in a lovely rented house in a leafy, mostly quiet neighborhood -- I say mostly because it lies directly in the flight path of the Santa Monica Airport. The planes did not bother us at all, even though they swooped above us at regular intervals. I imagine it would be more of a problem if you lived on that street year-round and had to deal with the planes all of the time. (see the bottom of this post)

In the course of the week, I found that "nearby" highlights in Los Angeles are nowhere near each other, even if they look cheek-by-jowl on a Southlands map. For instance it took FOREVER to go from Santa Monica to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, but it was worth the extremely long trek. I especially loved the Zodiac heads sculpture by Ai Weiwei, now on exhibit at the Broad Contemporary Art Museum at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The heads – a rooster, a pig, a dragon, and a toothy sheep, among others –were beautiful and unsettling. All of them stare down from six foot spikes, and bare their teeth. They stand in judgment of the viewer. I read that Wei Wei based this sculpture on a looted work of art, erected in China by Jesuits and and pillaged by invading French and British forces in 1860. Most of the animal heads in that garden – save for the ones that inspired the animal heads in Wei Wei’s magisterial work, were carted off or destroyed. “You can scarcely imagine the beauty and magnificence of the place we burnt,” lamented the regretful Charles George Gordon, the British captain who led the mission.

The Broad museum itself was another surprise; a series of escalators (like the ones at the Pompidou) deposit you on the top floor. It's a bit like a fun house; enormous dinner plates that spin and threaten to topple over on you when your circle around them, Jeff Koons' larger-than-life Michael and Bubbles sculpture, and, on the first floor, a Richard Serra installation called "Band" that overwhelms with its scale and grace.

Incidentally, I was saddened but not entirely surprised to hear that a plane actually crashed right near where we were staying -- on the same block of the same street, no less.

(Fortunately, no one was seriously injured in that crash. Still, these good folks should think about moving the airport some place else. I guess the other alternative is moving the houses, but that would be harder.)

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

"Someone I'd Like You To Meet" author profile

I know my three readers keep checking for new content (I can see you from here). I am working on a piece about my journey to Los Angeles, but meanwhile here is an interesting profile. Also, in the unlikely event that you've never heard of them, I love these literary blogs: The Millions, Bookslut, and The Rumpus.