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Eric: Honestly, aren't we all just doing our damnedest to tease the nubbin from its sugar pea?

Achewood!

(From Achewood! Click on the thumbnail for full sized Escaladeapult!)

Looking into Achewood after a long hiatus is always an interesting experience for me. Obviously, we have entered into one of those forays into the odd that Onstead uses as a counterpoint in his work. Things grow, organically, out of the banal and become epic. It's how it works.

Let's take the current storyline as an example, shall we?

Back at the start of July, Ray and Cornelius are discussing the industry reports one can receive in the bodice-ripping field of Romance novels. This inspires Ray to pay Cornelius to produce near-porn based upon the Williams-Sonoma catalog, with an eye to setting the results to the overpriced upscale kitchen supply stores as a new breed of advertising. Cornelius agrees.

As a side note, Cornelius then says that he "shall do his damnedest to tease the nubbin from its sugar pea" as a euphemism for inspiring female sexual arousal. It is entirely possible that the entire development of the English language, from its origins as an argot of the Angles and Saxons, who by way of the Jutes were influenced by Latin phrases via trade with the Roman empire and became the use language of the various tribes who invaded the British Islands and fought the Picts, which led to later cross-contamination with old Norse by way of Viking raiders and flavorings from Greek and later forms of Latin as Christianity took hold, before the Normans skewed the language into Middle English and then its modernization as a byproduct of the development of the printing press and eventual evolution into the modern language we know today had as its sole purpose the creation of the phrase "I shall do my damnedest to tease the nubbin from its sugar pea." We are now free to move to Esperanto.

Cornelius is entirely successful with his tasteful yet suggestive advertising copy, and though Chuck Williams, the nearly one hundred year old founder of Williams-Sonoma, decries the decline of the fickle market for his goods and Ray's lurid solution, he gives his blessing to the endeavor. Cornelius sets to work (with a side business of 'completing' the stories through to their inevitable bedroom encounter on Ray's behalf).

Ray's persistent and ill-advised need to edit Cornelius's work proves infuriating for the aged writer, however, and after a few days (or hours -- Ray changes his clothes multiple times, but that may just be Ray) he quits the project, leaving Ray to muddle through himself. Ray gets the inspiration to change the strategy from hot romance to lesbian erotica. This offends Chuck Williams -- not because of the subject matter, but because Ray's Lesbian 'erotica' is blunt and lacks grace. He proceeds to attempt to school Ray in the art of "Sapphic erotica," though he has a habit of interjecting notes parenthetically. Ray is amused by this, and challenges Chuck to a freeform lesbian erotica slam, the winner of whom will be (or remain) the founder of Williams-Sonoma. To level the playing field, the pair would wear identical Elephant costumes.

I honestly can't believe I typed that last sentence.

Anyhow, somewhat to Ray's surprise Chuck Williams texts him a reply, agreeing to the event. After all, he is almost one hundred years old -- what does he care? The event, titled "The New Kings of Sapphic Erotica," is set to take place. Ray and Chuck begin doing research (Ray's research consisting of finding out what ugly Suburus or Pontiac Azteks can hold the most dogs, and Chuck calling a lesbian acquaintance to find out her dinner prefences and what vacation location she would choose given unlimited resources. For the record, her answers are Eritrean cuisine and the Scottish highlands.)

Ray is overly confident of his abilities, until Téodor tells him that the crowd judging the contest will be harsh. Ray protests, but Téodor makes his point. ("You think when they get together without men, they get pruder?" Which I'm not entirely sure is a proper word, but never mind.) Ray gets cold feet and asks Téodor to take his place in the elephant costume. Téodor agrees, so long as he will get to be the founder of Williams-Sonoma if he wins.

Téodor meets Chuck Williams, both in their elephant costumes. He shows Chuck his cookbook, and Chuck is stunned at how good a cookbook it is. He trash-talks Téodor's erotica-composing abilities, thinking he is Ray, and Téodor resolves to destroy Chuck in the contest.

Roast Beef, in the meantime, has decided to engage the services of a Palmist, to read his future. He is humble and Lady Bourré is calm and comforting, until she begins... and discovers that Roast Beef has the legendary Lash of Thanatos running through his Life line. Visibly shaken, she asks Beef to leave and never return. Before Roast Beef can digest this frightening news, Ray calls him at the last second, puts him in an elephant costume with sunglasses, and has him emcee the Erotica contest. Beef rejects the telepromter and decides to make this event his last Scream, before death takes him.

But, unexpectedly, Lady Bourré texts Cartilage Head (who receives said text message on an antique stock ticker) of the existence of Roast Beef and his Lash of Thanatos--

That's right. Mother fucking Cartilage Head.

--and Cartilage Head responds, bringing 'the Sineùfendo,' a horrific weasel-like creature Cartilage Head issues commands to via the same series of preprinted note cards he uses to communicate with at all times and heading out to the theater in his black triplane.

At said theater, the Slam is on, with Chuck Williams accusing Téodor of cheating. As the contest continues, the Sineùfendo (whose name is Mary) arrives and terrifies Roast Beef into fleeing out a window. Beef lands in the Triplane and he and Cartilage Head leave. Cartilage Head asks (via preprinted card) if he can 'use' Roast Beef's death -- the Lash of Thanatos is one of the rarest of the 'collectors' of man, and he has already prepared a venue for Roast Beef under the title of 'The Dying Man: Final Remarks and Expiration' at Alberquist Hall. As he asks, the window Beef fell through closes... and disappears.

Ray, meanwhile, is on the phone arguing with Lyle, who wants Ray to bankroll a downtown teppanyaki cart. Ray receives an invitation and ticket to The Dying Man (while Lyle screams on the phone for Ray to hurry up and come back). Remembering his earlier encounter with Cartilage Head Ray realizes Beef is in trouble. He collects Téodor and the two leave, leaving Chuck Williams to soldier on alone (which leads to problems as Williams begins to insert product placement into his erotica, and the crowd turns ugly and prepares to bum rush the stage).

Beef, flying with Cartilage Head, reads a book Cartilage Head prepared on the nature of the Lash of Thanatos, which makes a victim susceptible to a hastened death. There are various potential triggers. Sadly, the wind carries away the book (it is an open cockpit triplane, naturally) before Beef can learn what tree's fresh bark will alleviate his condition. (One suspects Cartilage Head somehow arranged this. He does such things.) Beef therefore ends up at Alberquist Hall, in an elaborate bed, with gaslights on the headboard, waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

Téodor and Ray speed to the scene, to try and help Beef... but the lost book that Beef had been reading before falls from the sky, smashing through the windshield of Ray's Cadillac Escalade and bifurcating Ray's head!

Seriously.

The book bifurcated Ray's head!

The Escalade smashes into a car and flips through the air (almost certainly echoing Michael Phelps's recent accident in his own Escalade, though Phelps's head was not bifurcated at the time), leaving Roast Beef on the stage, in his gaslit bed, waiting. Is Ray dead? Is Téodor dead? Will Beef die? Will this death be any more significant than any of the other deaths we've seen in Achewood (remember, Molly and Charley Smuckles are both technically dead, Beef has been to Heaven and Hell, Ray died and went to Hell, Todd passes through Hell on a regular basis and Téodor once died and got stuck on the ceiling as a ghost. Which then caused his corporeal pants to fall down). And....

...and....

Okay, up above I mentioned Onstead likes the Odd? Yeah, this isn't Odd. This is fucking insane right here. This is full on batshit insanity of a grade usually reserved for Little Orphan Annie. This is Oh My Fucking God insane. The book bifurcated Ray's head! Cornelius did his damnedest to tease the nubbin from its sugar pea! Chuck Williams is almost one hundred years old! Lesbians!

Honestly, Onstead's last few story arcs have felt tired and forced, but this? This is the hardcore stuff. This is Achewood on all cylinders. And I am bloody well glad for it.

Now, I need to figure out how to use 'doing my damnedest to tease the nubbin from its sugar pea' in a sentence -- especially one without involving sex -- in casual conversation. I charge all of you to do the same.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at August 19, 2009 11:04 PM

Comments

Comment from: Kneefers [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 20, 2009 10:38 AM

Good to have you back, Burns. :)

Comment from: PatMan [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 20, 2009 11:10 AM

That room reminds me of The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

Crazy.

Comment from: madbaker [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 20, 2009 12:17 PM

The book bifurcated Ray's head!
But it didn't tear his freaking face off!

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 20, 2009 8:57 PM

My favorite bit is how the terms of the contest are that the winner is to become the founder of Williams-Sonoma. Retroactively? If Ray wins, is Williams going to dissolve the corporation so Ray can re-found it? Is there time-travel or some other sort of history-changing discipline allowed? Where's the Romulan with the mining ship, and Ray Prime from the alternate future? And what about Naomi?

Comment from: wednesday.dreamwidth.org [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 23, 2009 9:37 PM

"Now, I need to figure out how to use 'doing my damnedest to tease the nubbin from its sugar pea' in a sentence -- especially one without involving sex -- in casual conversation. I charge all of you to do the same."

I could have sworn we had a Talk about this.

Comment from: Doug Wykstra [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at September 1, 2009 2:11 AM

Today's (yesterday's?) strip is brilliant, especially the three tennis balls at the bottom of the reincarnation chute.

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