Oscar Blog Party

....not to be confused with Goldman. No, the following is my contribution to Mr. T's Oscar Blog Party:

Best Actor in a role “like you've never seen him before” Without that Statement Being Hyperbole:
Tom Cruise, Collateral

Character I Cheered for the Most:
Jamie Foxx, Collateral

Sexiest Female in a Children's Movie:
Sophia Myles, Thunderbirds

Most Desirable Geek:
Jennifer Garner, 13 Going On 30

Most Desirably Quirky Girl:
Natalie Portman, Garden State

Prettiest Girl I'd Hate to Forget:
Kate Winslet, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Best Commentary on Race Relations Concealed Within One of Those Teen Movies with the Pop-Punk Soundtrack:
Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle

Best Cameo Appearances:
Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle

Best Comedy Involving a Serial Killer:
Club Dread

Best Zombie Love Story Comedy:
Shaun of the Dead

Funniest DVD Easter Eggs:
Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story

Number One Movie I have No Excuse for Not Seeing Yet:
The Incredibles

Best Comic Book Movie Ever:
Spider-Man 2

Best Live Action Comic Book Comedy Starring Mostly Cartoon Voice Actors:
Comic Book: The Movie

Best Indie by a “Sitcom” Star:
Garden State

Unlikeliest Outcome:
The Day After Tomorrow

Coolest Live-Action Robots:
I, Robot

Best Story of Vengeance and Redemption:
Man On Fire

Most Disappointingly Telegraphed “Twist”:
The Village

Worst Alternate Ending, Proving that It's Best NOT to Spell Everything Out and Insult the Audience's Intelligence:
The Forgotten

Best Effects To Produce a “WHOA!” Reaction:
The Forgotten

Best Director's Cut:
The Butterfly Effect

MCF's Favorite Movie of the Year:
Spider-Man 2

DIsclaimer: MCF only saw one of the above in theaters(Spider-man 2) and the rest through Netflix(Except for the Incredibles which comes out on DVD in 2 weeks) The above “awards” therefore reflect MCF's tastes as a reclusive geek and do not have any of the significance society places upon the televised Oscar®s. ACADEMY AWARD(S)®, OSCAR(S)®, OSCAR NIGHT® and OSCAR® statuette design mark are the registered trademarks and service marks, and the OSCAR® statuette the copyrighted property, of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. No welcome wagon hello stranger with that good coffee flavor for you. Yeah, yeah. Or your money back. Offer expires while you wait. Operators are standing by. If you're reading this, you don't need glasses. If you're still reading this, you're probably MCF.



Phantasmic Links 2.27.05

Hello? Is this thing on? Is anyone still out there? Did yesterday's post scare away all my readers? Why am I talking in questions? Can I keep this up for the entire introductory paragraph? How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? If Einstein's definition of insanity was “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”, how would he categorize someone who does the same thing over and over again and DOESN'T expect anything to change? And, perhaps most importantly, will anyone read this week's PHANTASMIC LINKS?:

While many people might be watching the actual Oscars, Snowball02 is hosting an Oscar-themed Blog Party. It sounds like a lot of fun and he's already posted his picks. I'll probably get to work on selections of my own and post my contribution late tonight or early tomorrow morning.

Your Brain is 60.00% Female, 40.00% Male

Your brain is a healthy mix of male and female.
You are both sensitive and savvy.
Rational and reasonable, you tend to keep level headed.
But you also tend to wear your heart on your sleeve.

I found the above on The Bayer Family Blog. I'm not sure what it means, but I swear I like girls. Now man up, brain, or I'll stab you with a Q-tip!

”Ooh...and that's the origin of that.” Hat-tip to Curt.

Oh, so THAT'S how to draw women! 60% female indeed....

I think I'm going to need a lot of post-its this week...

The episode of Lost that piqued my interest and made me a viewer was the fourth one, which featured a big revelation about Terry O'Quinn's character. Big Orange Michael links to an interesting article about the actor.

Finally, here's a link for anyone who misses Calvin and Hobbes.



Pensive Plan

“What time is it? Is my computer still on? I see sun through my shades and--10 AM? I could swear it was just 3...let me watch this movie now...”

“Wow that was just...wow. I can't see how Jerry thought Garden State had a “lack of plot.” That was a beautiful and funny movie, nothing like what I expected from the trailer. It was great to watch Zach Braff essentially “come back to life” over the course of the movie, and how could anyone not love Natalie Portman? She was beautiful, funny, weird and REAL. The movie fell into a few Hollywood cliché pitfalls here and there, but was otherwise an inspirational portrait of life. I'm done being numb and sitting around every weekend waiting for the next Monday! I was going to shop for my dad's birthday on my lunch hour during the week; that's as good a reason as any to go out. Rice Krispies here I come!”

“OK, it's a quarter to 1 so I should be able to mail my mail before the 1PM pickup and--CRAP! I got a check from my dental plan reimbursing my last visit! I have fifteen minutes to get to the post office AND the bank! Me and my luck....”

“I can't believe I got a parking spot right in front of the post office, or that I'm pulling in to the bank with five minutes to spare! Can my new movie-induced attitude of action be changing my luck? One teller open...and she's calling over that old man first...and he's asking for checks and she's giving him a registry....and he's hard-of-hearing....and now she's asking the girl....and now he's clarifying again....and now she's asking him to have a seat and muttering under her breath....ok, good I made it with a minute to spare. On to the stores. I don't know where, but the open road will guide me!”

“Wow. That is a lot of bird crap.”

“OK, minor obstacle aside, I am on the road and whoaaaaa, dizzy spell. Not again; I've been doing so well for weeks. OK remember, it's just panic. Change the mental channel. Change the mental channel. Think about something else. Turn up the radio and sing along...Chevelle, that'll work...”

“Hey, I'm here! That wasn't so bad. Odd, there seems to be an extra structure jutting out of the back of this mall. There's something familiar about the color of those concrete blocks too. I'll have to check it out after. Guess it's been a while since I've been here.”

“Whoaaaa....is that what I think it is? It is! There's a new Target twenty minutes from my house! This is AWESOME! Best day ever. I wonder if it's sad that I'm excited about this?”

“This is so weird....the last time I was walking here a few years ago this was a parking lot. It opens into the mall too....that's wild. I wonder what I'll blog about tonight...maybe I'll do one of those stream-of-consciousness posts. It's been a while. I'll start making note of my thoughts while I shop, and review my earlier ones. I've got a great title too, and I bet I can tie in my weekly sketch somehow...”

“Excellent. I've got my shopping almost done and it's not even three o'clock yet. With one person ahead of me on the express line, things couldn't be going smoother.”

“I never heard that beep before.”

“OK, she keeps scanning it and looking confused. And now she's staring into the ether. Let me turn and see what she's looking at....”

“Yeah...yeah it was at nothing. Wait, that item is broken...better tell her and ask if I can run back and get a better one. Hopefully she'll get a price check on the problem item in the meantime.”

“Wow, to the back of the store and back in less than a minute and....why are there five people ahead of me now?”

“Great, finally back and her manager is punching in the code manually....and there's that weird beep again...and now they're both staring. And now she's ringing up the replacement item I just ran and got. And now THAT one isn't reading either. Double-you. Tee. Eff?”

“OK, I'm finally outside and the random values they assigned the problem items are less than what I told them it said on the shelf. It could have been worse. One more stop and I can go home.”

“That's so weird. They completely remodeled that supermarket. Time for tunes and travel. Awesome; I've been hearing this Green Day song a lot but I'm not tired of it yet! ‘I walk a lonely road...'”[segues into singing aloud]

“Huh, our pastor's still recovering from his bypass operation. This sub is doing a pretty decent job filling in though. I like what he's saying about hunger. We hunger and thirst, and there is food and drink in this world. God hungers for us, and we exist by His will. That's an interesting way to look at it.”

“OK, a little dinner, maybe a quick game, and I'll get out the old sketch book and then work on tonight's post.”

“Damnit, how many levels are there?! I've been playing this for HOURS....almost to level 50 though so I should beat it soon.”

“This is insane. Why can't I stop? Nearly 80 levels....I'm running out of time....let me save the level code and pick this up afterward.”

“I suck. I suck I suck I suck. Ugh. Why are the eyes so crooked? This is a horrible angle. This is not the angle to start with after so much idle time. Maybe I can clean it up after I scan it.”

“Nope. That was horrid. The whole left side is wrong. I'm going to have to fix it the old-fashioned way, erase and redraw until I get it right.”

“This is as good as it's going to be. If I am going to keep this up, I have to post the bad stuff so my progress will show when and if I improve. Question is, do I start the post with the picture or put it in chronologically? I guess I'll put it at the top of the post.”

“OK, I'm on my final thought. This idea seemed a lot better in Target. Target...that Swindle figure looked hot; I should have picked it up. I wonder when Human Resources is going to send me that gift card for my five year anniversary? I totally should put it toward this, or maybe some of those shirts I was looking at. Man, Target has everything. And now I'm blogging about Target. And now I'm literally typing every thought that goes through my head. This was a bad idea. I have to stop. I have to stop. I have to


Labor of Love

After high school my dad studied a trade, automobile repair. He took some classes and worked for several gas stations, getting invaluable on-the-job training. By the time he was in his late 30s and got married, he had his own garage and a reputation for being one of the fairest mechanics around. Where others replaced, he would repair. Where others jacked up labor costs, the bulk of his bills came from parts. My dad loved what he did, loved helping people and figuring out problems. It was tough to diagnose things and as he got older and the cars newer, even more frustrating. At some point the business began losing money, the sad reality that honesty didn't pay looming. With a wife and a young son, and a future of tuition expenses, he made the difficult decision to sell his garage and find a union job with the county working for the police department. It was a good job with great benefits, and benefits are the most important thing to someone supporting a family. He had great hours, working 12 hours a day only 3 days a week, which meant he was home on Mondays and Tuesdays to work with my mom around the house, and help me with homework and keep after me to practice a musical instrument. The most stressful thing at his job wasn't the workload but the clash between his work ethic and that of a union. Once when he was starting out, his supervisor spoke to him about working too fast. The boss would say, “OK, that car is going to take you three hours.” My dad would take a look at what needed to be done, see it was something simple and reply that he could have it finished in about 40 minutes. His supervisor looked at him sternly and repeated, “No. THAT kind of job takes three hours.” Often he'd complain over dinner about these “young guys just sitting around” but he dealt with it. When he retired they allowed him to take all his unused vacation days at the end of his last year, so he was making his full salary up until the official date of his retirement, even though he had stopped working months prior. In the end the benefits and the rewards of being able to support a family and put a son through high school and college made the sacrifices worth it.

There were no careers for my dad's generation. A job was a job, something you did to make ends meet, usually fulfilling some necessary role in society. Mechanics. Plumbers. Electricians. People got jobs because they needed money and society needed their skills. No one went to college to pursue a career. When a friend posed the question earlier today, “So why DIDN'T you draw comics for a living?” I quipped back that I found designing book catalogs “more fulfilling”. The conversation led to actual elaboration as well as a discussion of artist's rights as creators vs. their employers' ownership of their creations.

My dad didn't become a mechanic because he loved grease(despite his stock answer of “do you know how much dirt I ate in my lifetime?” anytime I rewash a dish I don't think is clean or freak out over an eyelash or cat hair in my cereal bowl). But when I decided to major in art, it was because all I did in school was draw. I loved comics, loved creators, and enjoyed talking to artists. I wasn't very GOOD at it and my natural talents seemed to be in the areas of math or music. It wasn't a logical decision, or one motivated by money. I realized that if I was bored all the time in school and doodled in my notebooks, and I would someday spend my whole life working and never have summers off again like when I was a kid, I should spend that time doing something I liked. If I could do something that held my interest AND paid me at the same time, it would be a win-win situation. So I went to school, I made friends with my peers. I marveled at how good they were even as I improved every day. I embraced the wisdom that an artist is NEVER done learning until he or she makes that decision. It's more than natural talent, though that helps. It's something to work at. A color theory professor of mine once told us a story of a man who painted the same fish every day of his life, in various mediums and colors, always striving and never being satisfied.

I was never as good as my favorite comic book artists, but I often surprised myself with my progress. It wasn't noticeable but when I looked at older pieces I could definitely see the difference. At conventions I saw friends who were further along than I struggle for recognition. EVERY comic book geek who could use a pencil wanted to be the next Todd McFarlane or Jim Lee. They wanted the recognition of the fans, for kids to know their names just as they knew the names of their favorite artists. It was a competitive field with no guarantee of a steady paycheck, no promise of job security. I learned my way around a computer with extensive help from a knowledgeable friend and classmate who worked in the computer lab, and concentrated my efforts on graphic design over fine arts.

Art in any form is a labor of love, but doesn't translate well to basic work structures. There's only so many ways a muffler can go on a car, the right way and the hammer & coathanger method. But art is a lot more subjective, and though people who've studied it are experts to some degree, unless they're extremely fortunate there will always be people telling them what to do based on their personal tastes, with no background in font selection, color relationships, and arrangement of positive and negative space. People who've studied marketing or literature or writing who have their own areas of expertise may ask someone to make something red because they “like red”. An artist making his own creations has the freedom to do what he or she wants but when someone capable of firing or reprimanding you makes a request, you can appeal and disagree but in the end, if you can't convince them you're right and why, you'll have to cave. In a way that experience is as frustrating as being told to take three times as long to repair something on an automobile.

After nearly ten years in this field, I've run into every conceivable clash of aesthetics and subjectivity. I nearly wept inside at my last job when the sister-in-law of the vice president, with a background in cosmetics, was put in a position where she dictated the way books looked. She'd sit for hours with the artist I assisted, rearranging hours of hard work on an entire design book, moving pictures around, making big ones small and small ones big, often on a whim. When I finally got out of that place and into a bigger company with more structure, things weren't as bad. Requests would be made by other departments but because we were all on a monitored schedule and had deadlines to meet in order to produce nineteen issues a year, there was a cutoff point after which we could refuse any requests that would make a job late. I soon realized I couldn't do my own thing, that there would always be others telling me how to do the job I was hired for. I was still learning though, and made the best of it. I paid attention to things my supervisor frequently requested when standing over my shoulder, and got in the habit of doing things a certain way so she'd have less changes. This approach had two results, one of which I should have remembered from college. The first was that the catalogs began to look stale, and our marketing department pursued an extensive redesign to boost dwindling sales. The second realization was that no matter how many times someone looked at something, he or she would always have a change to make for change's sake, sometimes changing things THEY had asked for without remembering. That lesson I should have learned Freshman year in college. A professor didn't like the way I had handled a shadow in one of my paintings, but I didn't have time to work on it from one class to the next. When she looked at it again, at a piece I hadn't touched, she remarked how much better it looked.

At some point I had the good fortune to fall into a well-oiled machine. I was placed on a club that sold a lot of the sort of things I enjoyed reading. It was also one of the most efficient team structures I'd ever seen. Marketing people rarely commented on anything other than what the price of a book should be. Editors were mainly concerned with the content of the writing. The majority of art changes came from my boss, and as the months went by and I earned his trust, the requests became fewer and fewer and he left me to handle my job. If there's a downside apart from a heavy workload, it's the lack of credit. I get to work with a lot of famous illustrators and design book jackets. My editor once remarked after seeing one she particularly liked, and lamented that I wasn't allowed to put my name on it. Personally, I'm more in awe of the paintings I receive and I'm happy that the “real” artist is credited—all I'm doing is slapping a title and author over a picture in an appropriate font, basically. There's a little more involved, but not much.

This brings me full-circle back to my earlier conversation about the comic book industry. Those artists, the especially talented ones, have recognition. Fans want their autographs, and mimic their styles in aspirations of being just like them. They learn that secret visual language artists share, and can often recognize one another's work on style alone. The flipside to this recognition is that their work becomes the property of the company they're working for, and may go on to adorn posters, t-shirts, mugs and other promotional materials without the artist getting any additional benefit. Writers may create characters that go on to make money for a company for decades, but not for their creator. Only recently did Stan Lee win his cut of the profits. Siegel and Schuster went through similar struggles right up until their deaths in the ‘90s.

The bottom line, and a lesson which can make or break aspiring artists, is that the only true fulfillment is in your own creations. As long as you work for someone else, you'll often find yourself doing things you disagree with. In the ‘90s McFarlane, Lee and others formed their own creator-driven company, to varying degrees of success. As my father struggled to maintain his own garage, so too did the artists to maintain their own creations and run a business. It's difficult, if not impossible to do both. A lot of artists can reconcile their day job to being just a job, and finding creative outlets on their own. I was very happy with how something I drew at work came out today, but can't share it obviously since it's not mine but my company's. Last week and the week before I slowly began scraping away at my rusty fine art skills. I can't do it every day, and I haven't for years, but I really do want to draw at least once a week, just for the personal satisfaction. I don't know if I'd ever be confident or ambitious enough to start a web comic, but I can definitely understand what would motivate a person to do so. At the end of the day it's not about fixing a carburetor or rewiring a home.

It's a labor of love.


Snow Fair

It's so beautiful outside right now. Our cars sit under a fluffy white blanket. Gone is the sand and grime and salt and muck that enshrouds old snow in a blanket of filth. There's a tranquility out there, a silence as gossamyr-thin flakes drift down aglow in the artificial orange of a nearby street light. It's the perfect sort of night for hot cocoa by a warm fireplace. Gazing out I can almost remember what I loved about snow as a boy.

Up until high school, a big snowstorm would often mean a day off from school. I didn't think about the future consequences, that days would be added in May truncating my Summer break. I lived in the NOW. The Pre-teen Cloaked Figure relished the transformation my neighborhood experienced. I'd gleefully put on the big boots and trundle over to my friends' homes. We'd have snowball fights and make snowmen, and even play football. I didn't care about getting sick when I got hot running around and cast my winter coat aside. I didn't feel the cold then.

We didn't HAVE snow days in my high school. There was a running bitter joke that there was a dome created by prayer that kept bad weather from other parts of Long Island from affecting the town our private school was in. Even when the weather was bad there was never a problem with school buses--many students, including myself, took the train. Occasionally my parents would pick me up. I remember one day in a raging blizzard the two of them making heroic efforts to get me from school to a rehearsal for the annual NYSSMA concert I participated in. Visibility was bad, my dad's eyesight was worse, and my mother and I alternated between wiping the fogging windows and shouting “watch out!” Of course once we got to the school where the rehearsal was to be and saw no cars in the parking lot, it was apparent that it had been canceled. For the first time in years snow had given me some time off.

I didn't understand why my dad would get so stressed driving in bad weather until I was driving myself. I think college is when I started to dislike the snow. I remember driving home on the Grand Central after a basketball game in a fierce blizzard. My wipers were accumulating ice and I had to roll the window down and reach around with a scraper while moving. Fortunately it was stop-and-go as the age-old question of “Why don't we park on a parkway?” was finally answered. With painted lines wholly indistinguishable from snow and ice, three lanes begat four lanes which begat seven. A 30-minute commute under ideal conditions took two-and-a-half hours. I hated snow. HATED it.

I only had one good experience with snow in college, one time where instead of impeding my progress or keeping me from someplace I wanted to be, it enhanced my experience. Art majors, especially in New York, would frequently visit museums as one of the better class requirements. After one such trip to The Cloisters, several of my friends and I were heading through the surrounding park, making our way down a steep hill. One of my friends noticed a groove between some trees in a wooded section, and promptly slid down it as we followed one by one. It was like being a kid again, joy and immortality reclaimed. When the friend in the lead suddenly dropped out of sight and my friend Rey shouted “Joe's DEAD!”, immortality flew out the window as self-preservation and panic kicked in.

Obviously my “one good experience with snow in college” wasn't the death of my friend Joe, since that would have sucked. There was a pretty steep drop but not as bad as it looked from our point of view, and we all managed to slow our descent by grabbing a tree branch that was jutting out. Nearby, people of all ages were playing in the snow on a hill and we noticed something, a makeshift sled made from an overturned car hood and a thick rope. The next thing I knew I was clinging for dear life to the edge of a car hood with five other guys, soaring toward Harlem at speeds I'd only imagined after the first time I saw Empire.

After that snow became my enemy again. I used to shirk shoveling but after my dad developed clogged arteries it became apparent that I couldn't leave that task to an old man with a heart condition and an old woman with asthma. At first I tried to take the shovel from him but soon found it impossible to work for him. My dad understood something that I, perhaps because of my generation, never would. Being alive meant that he could do the work; to sit and do nothing was the equivalent of death, waiting for it at the very least. So I learned to work WITH him instead, as well as faster to minimize his effort. He'll be 75 next week and still won't slow down. Monday we had snow that was likely going to melt by the afternoon, and in fact did melt. Nobody had to be anywhere that day since it was a holiday and as I poured a bowl of cereal and popped in Shaun of the Dead at 10AM I heard the familiar scrape of a shovel outside. We worked well together and got a lot done, but he asked me to leave the entrance to the driveway in case the city plow closed us in again making another pass at the street. He went inside but I stayed out to make sure nothing was left for him to do, and I started to open up the driveway. My mom opened the window to say that his friend's son had called and was coming with a plow and I said I'd be right in as soon as I finished the section I was on. A minute later my dad called out the same thing and, because I have a hard time controlling my temper and am prone to irrational outbursts, unwisely called back, “MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS!” He snarled back that it was still his house and his business and that he wasn't dead yet, and slammed the door. So much for being tactful and not upsetting him.

It's so beautiful outside right now. Gazing out I can almost remember what I loved about snow as a boy. I left work early tonight, around 5:30, skipping the gym when I saw what was happening outside. My drive home wasn't as bad as I expected, though my window perpetually fogged up. I know the storm will finish tonight and I'll have to go to work tomorrow on time. I also know that my dad will be out there at 6:30 cleaning off my car and shoveling the driveway. I really hate to get up early. I could go to bed earlier, but I hate that too, the sense that I'll miss something exciting. That feeling is a holdover from childhood and once I was allowed to stay up later, I discovered I wasn't missing anything. Nevertheless, it's still there. I probably could slip out quietly after midnight, after my mom's gone to bed as well, and shovel. I've done that before and usually by morning the continuing snowfall has erased all evidence. I think this storm will continue well into the night, so I don't know if it will do any good to go out there now. Seems like my only option is to get up tomorrow morning and help my dad. For now I'll just stay on my computer and enjoy the latest Blog Party entries from Citizen Willow and FawnDoo's Cavalcade of Whimsy.

I can't wait for Winter to be over. In the Summer when I'm complaining about mowing the lawn and looking forward to the Winter, I'd appreciate it if someone would remind me of this post.


Don't Ask Me

That was some party the other day—apparently it's still going on. That's very cool. Truth be told, I've never been much of a party person. I wasn't invited until my first real party until college, and even then I think the invitations were obligatory because I was in the vicinity when friends of friends extended them. There are many reasons why I never went to parties. Maybe it was the way I looked, or dressed, or behaved. Maybe it was the crowd I ran with. One strong possibility could be the fact that I can't dance.

Can't. Not, unfortunately, won't. The first school dance I went to was an absolute disaster. It was the second-to-last day of middle school and my friends were strongly encouraging me to ask the girl I'd had a crush on for nearly 3 years to dance. I hung back in the shadows along the wall most of the night, occasionally stepping out and then returning with a snack instead when I chickened out. They made fun of me relentlessly, although I didn't see any of THOSE nerds dancing with anyone either. Hypocrites. At any rate, I'd finally sucked down enough apple juice and Hydrox to make my move. It was a move born of desperation because, unbeknownst to anyone, it would be my last chance. I hadn't told any of my friends that I was going to be going to a different high school. I forget the exact reason why—I think my parents asked me to keep it quiet for some reason. As far as my twelve or thirteen-year-old brain knew, this might be the last time I'd see ANY of these people, let alone females since it was an all-boys Catholic high school I had been “sentenced” to.

Bad eighties dance music blared in the cafeteria as the lights flickered. She wasn't far away when into my path stepped one of my middle-aged stout teachers. “You're not dancing; you should be having fun!” she said as she took my hands and dragged me out on the dance floor. Has anyone out there ever felt relief and regret at the exact same time? On the one hand I was off the hook from the scary moment where I declared my long-secret feelings to the prettiest, most-talented girl in school and waited to be accepted or mocked. On the other hand, I was robbed of the opportunity to turn my life around, my last chance at happiness.

I finally excused myself politely, and looked around for the girl. Somehow, I found myself back along the same wall in the same shadows with the same friends making fun of me. One of them said they saw my dream-girl, that she hadn't left, and something as rarely felt as hope and confidence swelled within me. I cast myself off once more into the sea of intimidating cool kids writhing and leaping and doing moves I'd only seen in still yearbook photos. This was it. I was going to be face-to-face with destiny. I was going to be face-to-face with...my dad?

It was after 10PM, my bedtime. Truth be told, this was the time my dad normally went to bed. He yelled at me and said I had to get up for school the next day, and I protested that so did everyone else there and it was less than a half-day--we'd only be in long enough to get our final grades. He grabbed my wrist and I yanked it free, determined not to look like the baby I was acting like, to have this be everyone's last memory of the town nerd. I would go willingly, and not make a scene. As I headed for the door the teacher from earlier tried to get me to dance again, but I pulled away and stormed out and got in the car where my mom, also concerned about me, was anxiously waiting. I didn't speak to either parent the whole ride home. As an adult, I can only imagine what it will be like someday when I have to make a tough choice for my own children's well-being, even if it means they hate me for it at the time.

There were dances in my high school, when they'd bring in girls from our sister school. I never went. I didn't socialize much with anyone in that place until junior year, when my friend Mike, then a Freshman, got me out of my shell a little, introduced me to things like Nirvana and Pink Floyd. The closest I came to a dance was senior year, when I worked Friday nights on the student cleaning crew. My responsibility was to clean every window in the school, and one night when I got to the cafeteria there was music blaring and inside there were so many pretty girls in plaid skirts. I would say the cafeteria windows were never cleaner, and my supervisor wondered why I was late for my checkpoint. When it came time for the Senior prom, some of the guys in my class that I had started to at least talk to encouraged me to ask someone from my town. Everyone at this school came from different towns, and many had similar situations to my own where they had friends in their local public high schools. Though I'd only seen my middle school crush once in four years at the train station, and hadn't talked to her much when we did go to school together, I decided to call and ask her. Every day up until about a week before the prom I'd dial six out of seven digits and hang up.

I'm very self-conscious and while I've been known to head-bang like a dweeb when no one's watching or in my car where I forget people are watching, I tend to limit my movements. One Summer in college I went with my friend Mike and this other kid from our high school to a local amusement park that let you record a video against a green screen. We chose Slam by Onyx, and proceeded to make an infamous video of three white boys, two overweight, leaping around like the The Star Wars Kid. I just thank GOD the internet wasn't popular yet then. That video, which I can only hope my friend destroyed years ago, forever burned the image of me having an epileptic seizure to bad hip-hop into my brain.

Alcohol tends to get me up from my table at weddings where I make a real Elaine out of myself. My sentiments about dancing and weddings echo what Chandler Bing once said about avoiding his own erratic movements on the dance floor for fear of alienating women. I've done all right with slow dances but I'm clueless with what my generation considered dancing. I don't think my ex-girlfriend minded my lead feet. I've got photos of us from a few weddings and her smiles seem to be out of admiration rather than amusement. She had seen me jumping around too, once at a fashion show my friend was having at a New York club.

There's something liberating about dancing, a sense of being alive. Against my better judgment I've been drawn to it again and again, like a moth to a flame. A song will come on the radio and it's a conscious effort for me to remain motionless. Sometimes it's impossible to keep from singing along, although my adventures on a short-lived public access karaoke show are probably a post for another day. In the gym tonight, an entire Good Charlotte album seemed to be playing. Bloody Valentine. Hold on. The Anthem. As I pedaled, I could feel my shoulders moving in time with the pop-punk rhythms, fighting to make my mechanical motion more musical. I knew people were around me and would laugh, so I fought it, but it wasn't easy.

Maybe that's the secret to dancing, though. It isn't about how someone looks or what people think. It's about a loss of inhibition, and if it can be achieved without alcohol, then it's a happy person who can dance without caring what people say or think. I can only imagine how nice that must be.


Afterparty of Champions

You heard me. Champions. You all banded together as heroes yesterday, one and all, and served up cold justice to a mind-boggling barrage of bad guys. Well done. I'd like to thank Jerry once more for the inadvertently inspirational title that got my wheels turning, and Rey for being a good sounding board as always as I worked out the notion forming in my brain. Most of all, I'd like to thank EVERYONE who participated. With nearly 100 visitors to my “house” alone, I'd call my first Blog Party a rousing success, and I definitely plan to host more in the future. Some will be top fives; others will be decidedly different memes that I'm still mulling over. I suspect some of you may be hosting your own B.P.'s in the future—with some it's more certainty than suspicion—and you can definitely count me in when the time comes. This is a quality bunch of neighbors.

Now then, as promised, on to the after-party review. Sometimes I thought the topic was too limited and people felt limited by the lack of the words “and more” at the end of the question I posed, while in other cases it seemed too broad. I wasn't the only one who had a hard time narrowing down a list but at the end of the day, there were some interesting choices. There were overlaps and second-guessing and some humorous creativity. Hopefully I haven't missed anyone; one person wrote in today and perhaps more will be fashionably late. As the great philosopher Homer once said, “It's a party Marge! It doesn't have to make sense!”

Rey of the Bible Archive rang in first:
1. Thanos
2. Leto II, God Emperor of Dune
3. Grand Admiral Thrawn
4. Hannibal Lecter
5. Arvin Sloane

I pity the fool who didn't read what Snowball02 of Mr. T had to say:
5. The Joker
4. Commodus
3. The T1000
2. Leatherface
1. Darth Vader

Some jerk posted nearly 30 characters in the guise of the following five:
Freddy Kreuger
Megatron (II)

Kev, patriarch of the Bayer Family Blog, had these to add:
5. Hector
4. Joker
3. Kurgan
2. Mayor Richard Wilkins III
1. Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker
tied with Angelus, and then I reminded him of Megatron II, so it's either a three-way tie or Megs eliminated the other two. Ask Kev.

Run his name through your favorite search engine and you'll find the inimitable Jerry “J-No” Novick, most recently of The Write Jerry fame. Here were his choices:
Kendall Hart

The above AverageJoe, guardian of the Omniverse had these for us:
Dr. Hannibal Lektor
Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker
Lex Luthor
Parallax/Hal Jordan

Who could forget Curt the Happy Husband? (Me apparently, since he pointed out this morning I'd left him off and this is an edit):
1. California Assemblyman James A. Hayes
2. John F. Kennedy and William Jefferson Clinton
3. Elizabeth Taylor and Larry King
4. Reality Television
5. Pornography

Grant of Stu's Rants ranted and rolled with a list of cinematic sinisters:
1. Hannibal Lecter
2. Darth Vader
3. Jaws
4. Predator
5. Agent Smith

Sarcasmo of Sarcasmo's Corner sincerely said:
1. Iago/The Joker
2. Jack the Ripper
3. Malificent/The Master(from Doctor Who)
4. Vincent Price as Edward Lionheart, Prospero, Charles Dexter Ward, Joseph Curwen, Frederick Loren...
5. The Killer Klowns from Outer Space
6. Asaji Washizu

IWantitAll of I Want it All wanted:
Lex Luthor
Michael Myers
Hannibal Lecter
Professor Moriarty

Wendy, half of the fantastic Film Geeks, picked:
Majin Buu

I've tried unsuccessfully to locate Peachwater, Tx. on a map but it must exist, because resident Jeff had this funny addition to the party:
1. Tinky-Winky
2. Dipsy
3. Laa-Laa
4. Po
5. Barney

Kev Bayer's better half Rubi reflected upon:
5. Kenneth Irons
4. Caleb
3. The Goa'uld
2. Jasmine
1. Angelus

Darrell, the other Film Geek and a Southern Conservative, gave us this list:
5. Darth Vader
4. “Sideshow” Bob Terwilliger
3. Dr. Doom
2. Amon Goeth
1. Tommy DeVito

Last but not least, Michael, or Big Orange Michael, chimed in with:
6. Locutus of Borg
5. Angelus
4. Professor Moriarty
3. Khan Noonian Singh
2. The Scorpion
1. The Daleks

Wow. That took longer to compile than I thought it would. Be sure to let me know if there are any participants I’ve left out. It was great to see such a wide range of choices, as well as which characters popped up more than once. Darth Vader, Hannibal and Angelus seemed the most common. I'm glad to see I wasn't the only one who had trouble with five. I think WITHIN this theme there are many subthemes to be explored at future parties. There will be more, although right now I need to clean up my yard. Anakin drove his speeder bike into my garage door, Hannibal ate all the fava beans, and Angelus had WAY too much to drink...it's not pretty.

Good night, neighbors! Be seeing you...



Blog Party I: Top Five Villains

Hello! Thanks for coming! Please, help yourselves; there's plenty of text for everyone. When we run out, we can just go over to your homes for more. I've got a lot to serve today, so let me put up the official logo and get to work having fun:

I've been thinking about the topic for my first Blog Party ever since I announced it last week. It wasn't easy. Batman alone has a rogues gallery that could more than fill this list. So, in order to narrow things down, I had to break it in to categories and limit myself. If I picked a Marvel villain, for example, none of the other four could come from Marvel. It resulted in the painful omission of several really good characters from the list, but at least this way I can “cheat” and mention them in passing as runner-ups. The five categories that make up my list will be animation, film, television shows, Marvel comics, and DC. In instances of overlap, such as comic characters appearing in films or animated series, my criteria is based on the version which impacted me the most. Now then, let's dig in!:


I didn't really watch Buffy, the Vampire Slayer when it was first on. I'd heard buzz that it was a good show, closer to Joss Whedon's original vision than the campy feature film. I really enjoyed Dracula: the Series and thought Buffy might have the same tone...and lifespan. Besides, the few shows I did catch here and there felt very “girly” and I was a little embarrassed to be watching.

One night, I caught the last few minutes of an episode in which she's consummated her love with a recurring informant/love interest. The pair are lying in each other's arms asleep when he suddenly sits bolt upright, looking very panicked, and runs out into the rain. I had no idea what was going on and tuned in the following week to see her boyfriend acting truly evil.

Angelus was one of the vilest vampires to roam the world, carving a swath of death and destruction across Europe for hundreds of years until he crossed paths with gypsies who placed a curse upon him that restored his soul. As Angel, he could now feel remorse for his atrocities, the memories still there to haunt him. He broke ties with his party of vampires and fled to America, hiding in the shadows and living off the blood of rats and other animals, eventually becoming a defender of the innocent in a never-ending battle to atone for his evil. Allying himself with the Slayer was a good move to that end, but sleeping with her proved tragic. The gypsy curse came with a price, that if he ever experienced a moment of “true happiness” his soul would be torn from him once more and he'd become the remorseless demon he once was. Now that I know Whedon was an X-men fan, I wonder if Dark Phoenix was an inspiration for this storyline. The idea of lovers become bitter enemies and one having to die to save countless others is certainly a parallel. For weeks Angelus terrorized Buffy and friends and ultimately planned to plunge Earth in to a hellish dimension. The only way Buffy could reverse the portal he had opened was to impale Angelus with a sword. Unfortunately, at the last minute one of her friends had succeeded in restoring his soul and it was Angel that she killed. Aghast, she left town in the season finale and I became a regular viewer.

Angel returned at some point in the next season after having spent hundreds of years in a hell dimension where time moved faster than it did here. Eventually he was spun off into his own series and, four seasons into that, Angelus returned for a few episodes. His second run as Angelus wasn't quite as good or as terrifying as the original, but it had its moments, such as the cliffhanger where he bites the slayer Faith, or the one where inside his mind, Angel fights Angelus.

Close runners-up in this category included Arvin Sloane (Alias), The Cigarette Smoking Man(The X-files) and Alex Krycek(The X-files).


How does one go about choosing just one villain when movies have offered us so many? Even now as I write this, I'm unsure of my choice. So much so that I find myself writing about my original second choice instead.

It's arguable whether or not Freddy Kreuger has ever been as scary as he was in the original Nightmare on Elm Street. I thought the second one wasn't as strong but I absolutely loved Dream Warriors. Robert Englund is both charismatic and funny in this role, unexpected traits in someone doing such evil things to children. Sleep is such a safe haven that the notion of being unsafe in your own bed is terrifying. I also really enjoy the surrealness of it all, the powers a villain has on a plane where thought becomes reality. Freddy was extremely creative. Speaking of creativity, though the sequels inevitably declined in quality after the third movie, Wes Craven's New Nightmare has one of the most brilliant premises I've ever seen. Bringing Freddy into the “real” world to terrorize the actors and creators involved with the movie was sheer genius. It was great to see the original cast again, and Englund was awesome as both Krueger and a tormented...Robert Englund.

I came very close to picking General Zod from Superman II for this, if only for being in the best comic book slugfest of the 80s and having the greatest defeat scene of any supervillain. Besides, Terrence Stamp is everywhere these days from Star Wars to Elektra to Smallville(and I really don't trust him as the voice of Jor-El on the latter given his prior role). The other close runners-up in this category were Darth Vader, Keyser Sose, and Biff Tannen.


Definitely my publisher of choice in my comic-collecting days, this too proved difficult to narrow down. I managed to narrow it down to two, suspected Rey might beat me to the punch on one of them, and ultimately picked Thanos anyway.

The Infinity Gauntlet was one of the most impactful crossovers that I read as a high school senior, and introduced me to Thanos of Titan. I had seen a glimpse of him in an old issue of Captain Marvel my uncle had given me, but hadn't known the full story behind the character. Thanos worshipped Death herself, embodied as a robed female skeleton, and would stop at nothing to gain supreme power in order to impress her. Upon collecting all six Infinity Gems he became a master of time, space, reality, power, mind, and the soul, and his first act was to kill HALF the universe's population, just to impress his girl. Eventually, the surviving heroes teamed up and defeated him, in part due to his own subconscious desire to lose, and reverse the effects of his evil and restore the deceased.

Thanos is ruthless and brilliant as well as powerful in his own right, and heroes have often paid the ultimate price facing off against him. The Infinity Gauntlet was not the first time he threatened the galaxy, and it wouldn't be the last, but it's the campaign that impacted me the most.

Dr. Doom was a very close runner-up in this category. Others were Magneto, Apocalypse, Juggernaut, the earliest appearances of Venom, and the aforementioned Dark Phoenix.


Joker. Not the cheesy Cesar Romero version with the clearly visible mustache under his makeup that I grew up with on the '60s TV show. Not the one voiced by Mark Hamill in the animated series, though he was very good. Not even Jack Nicholson's portrayal in the movie. I didn't read as many DC comics as Marvel, but when my Aunt and Uncle gave me A Death in the Family as a Christmas present one year, I saw how evil the Joker was. THAT'S the Joker I'm talking about. The one who shot and crippled Batgirl, who beat Robin to a pulp with a crowbar and left him to die in a horrific explosion. The comic incarnation of the Joker is no joke. Is he responsible for his actions or is insanity to blame? Either way, he's no less of a threat, and all the more dangerous.

Runners-up are Bane, Darkseid, and Chemo.


Not surprisingly, Megatron is my favorite animated villain. Roughly ten years ago, I would have been talking about Megatron from the original Transformers, as voiced by the busy Frank Welker. I might even have talked about his later incarnation as Galvatron, at least the Leonard Nimoy-voiced movie version. Welker’s post-movie TF season three version was maniacal and unhinged, but Nimoy's was cool and vengeful and had some of the best lines, including “Coronation, Starscream? This is bad comedy.” and “It's a pity you Autobots DIE so easily, or I might have a sense of satisfaction NOW.” Yes, it wouldn't be surprising that a Transforners fan like myself would pick Megatron, but I'm not talking about either of those guys. I'm talking about Megatron II from Beast Wars.

Beast Wars took place both before and after the original series, thanks to a clever twist. At the end of the civil war portrayed in the first show, the heroic Autobots defeated the evil Decepticons. As a result their descendants, the Maximals, ruled over the Predacon descendants of the Decepticons. The Predacon council bided their time, and went along with the Maximal government, but a renegade in their ranks who had taken the same name as the original Megatron had plans of his own. He recruited a crew with a lie and stole a mysterious golden disk. Pursued by a Maximal exploration ship that was closest to theirs when they made their escape in to warp space, the Predacons emerged over a strange primitive world. Both ships crash landed and their occupants adopted alternate forms as animals to survive the world's harsh conditions.

The original Megatron didn't tolerate treachery and often unleashed his rage on upstarts like Starscream. Megatron II had his share of traitors(one even joined the other side in the first episode), but he often manipulated their treachery to his own ends. He manipulated the actions of two traitors to his benefit, resulting in the destruction of the opposing side's leader in the first season finale. He accomplished after 26 episodes something his predecessor only managed after 65 episodes and a feature film!

The real depths of his genius and villainy were revealed in the second season when we learned that these characters had traveled through time as well as space, and the world they were on was in fact a prehistoric Earth. The premise of the original Transformers was that the warring robots crashed on Earth in an Autobot ship, the Ark, four million years in the past, only to be revived after a volcanic eruption in the year 1984. The true nature of the golden disk was that it had been encoded with detailed information by the original Megatron and sent in to space as a back-up plan, should he fail. It revealed the exact location of the Ark where the Autobots and Decepticons lay dormant, and Megatron II's true master plan was to change history itself. In the heartstopping second season finale, Megatron puts some distance between himself and the Maximals and manages to breach the Ark's control room, where he blasts the Autobot leader Optimus Prime in the head, unleashing a furious timestorm. As the Maximals flicker and he declares victory, that they “no longer exist”, viewers were left wondering for months how there would be a third season, let alone how the original series could be considered intact. I won't spoil where things went from there, but there was a third season as well as 26 episodes-worth of a spin-off in which this cool, calculating genius continued his reign of terrorizing. Things got much, much worse for the good guys before they got better, and the cost was high.

No other cartoon villain accomplished what this one did, so the runners-up aren't anywhere as close this time. Besides the original Megatron/Galvatron, other distant contenders in this category are Unicron, Mumm-Ra, Skeletor, C. Montgomery Burns and Clayface.

* * * * *

Freddy Kreuger.
Megatron (II).

I wouldn't want to cross paths with one let alone five of these characters in a dark alley, or anywhere for that matter. Hopefully everyone will survive the Blog Party and make it past all five to the comments section, where other participants are invited to leave their addresses. If all goes according to plan, I'll be back tomorrow to post links to everyone who joined in the fun in a Blog Afterparty wrap-up. If not, I've either had my blood drained, had a really bad dream, been wiped from existence, beat-up with a crowbar, stepped on or blasted by a large robot, or met some other dastardly fate. Stay tuned...



Phantasmic Links 2.20.05

I'm lying.

The timestamp will say 11:59, but that's actually the time I STARTED writing up tonight's post. I woke up thinking it was 10AM and it was somehow 2PM, so today REALLY seemed to go fast for me. The majority of the day was spent compiling the post for tomorrow, one which I just finished. I still have to proofread it, but I'm glad I didn't wait until tomorrow morning like I originally planned—there's no way it would have been up by noon. I did take a break to watch The Simpsons and an interesting documentary on the first five years of SNL. None of that matters now though, because it's after midnight, and I've got to post this week's PHANTASMIC LINKS:

This afternoon I found out:
I am Beast!
I am brilliant and extremely clever. I can handle almost any problem swiftly and efficiently. I am devoted to philosophy and am always up for a good discussion. Sometimes, though, my anger gets the best of me and I upset those whom I care about.

Which X-Men character are you most like?

brought to you by Quizilla

Cool; always liked Beast.

I'm not sure what to make of this. I've read various commentaries on it at Solonor's Ink Well and A Small Victory. I think I'd be more upset if these stylized(OK, identical) characters were completely replacing the classic characters, but they aren't. The show is about future versions of them with powers, and probably won't last as long as the originals. As long as they're calling him Buzz and not Bugs and making it clear that it's a descendant and not the same character, I don't have a problem with it. The classics are still intact, although I wouldn't mind seeing new cartoons with the old favowites....

I got a chuckle out of this X-men short at Newgrounds today. Though I don't collect comics anymore I read about what's going on online. Don't let the animation style deter you; this guy really nails the current plotlines and practices well.

You'll see this villain list linked to a few times tomorrow, and it made my life easier and harder today. Definitely worth sharing tonight I thought.

Despite what many villains named tomorrow might think, destroying the Earth is hard. Hat-tip to Peeve Farm.

Frustrated with their inability to destroy Earth, villains turned to their computers to pick on their Interactive Buddy.

In a rare bout of ego, MCF included his Blog Party as one of this week's Phantasmic Links.



A Question of Structure?

”I wish your weekends had more STRUCTURE.”

It was an interesting choice of words on my mother's part, and led to some discussion. I had taken a nap this afternoon, not because I was tired from doing any work since I hadn't done much of anything today, but perhaps because I was bored or having a day like Jerry's. Maybe the sudden return of cold temperatures after unseasonably warm weather had knocked me out. Maybe I was just bored again, like the Apathetics in Zardoz. Whatever the reason, I was lying down when my mom announced at 4:15 that if I wasn't ready, she was going to go to 5 o'clock mass without me. I guess I could have gone tomorrow morning at 10AM, but I do like to sleep in on the weekend. I definitely didn't want to get up at 6AM to go to church with my dad, who routinely shows up at 7 for a 7:30 mass as he's done for probably more than 70 years. I can't even get up that early during the week. There's also the darkness factor; it isn't really right or safe for me to let the old lady go out alone at night, and if I did I'd hear about it for a while from both parents.

It's tough to get moving after I've been lying down for a while, but I managed to get up and get cleaned up and ready to go. I went out to the dining room around ten to five to wait for my mom to be ready, and my dad came in from having seen her off and let me know she was leaving. I looked out and sure enough her car was backing out of the driveway, so I ran out and joined her. After a lecture about how she gave me fair warning and that I should have been ready, and me protesting that she must have snuck out quietly because I thought I was waiting for her, she made the structure comment.

She elaborated that I don't DO anything on the weekend, don't follow any kind of schedule. I tried to defend myself by pointing out that nine months out of the year I'm working nearly every weekend with one of the bands I belong to, and it's really only three months out of the year that I like to “vegetate” and recharge on the weekend. She said I come home every night and relax and do nothing during the week, and laughed bitterly when I protested “It's not enough!” Sadly, she said “I guess it's my fault. It's how I raised you.”, and we changed the subject.

It's funny that the discussion ended with her taking the blame for my laziness. If anything, my parents have always tried to instill a sense of responsibility and the value of hard work in me. It was usually my own shortsightedness that kept me from benefitting from their wisdom. When I was a kid and my mom would tell me she wished I'd do something constructive, I'd stop playing with my action figures and start making things out of LEGO, taking her literally. The number one reason why I will NEVER win an argument with either parent about me taking downtime is because they never did. An auto mechanic, my dad had a more labor intensive job than I did and never needed vacation or rest. When he wasn’t working at work, he was working around the house. Earlier this week on the way to a band rehearsal, I mentioned to my dad that some of my friends were trying to talk me in to going on vacation. He scoffed, “And where would you go? There's no place to go.” I mentioned some of the places they suggested and he advised that I think for myself and not go someplace because someone else wants me to go there. If there was someplace I really wanted to go then I should, but only if it was my idea.

I guess the fights I've had with them when I'd come home from school or work and nap are similar to those between spouses. My married friends are probably wise enough to do the right thing and help their wives when they come home, and not try to play the “I'm tired from work” card. My mom certainly worked hard raising me and keeping up the house and garden, and I don't think it would have been pretty if my dad came home and sat down in front of the television, and didn't help with the dishes. I tried to tell my mom tonight that it looks like I do nothing because that's only when she sees me, that the majority of hours in the week I'm doing work, but it didn't fly as usual. “What about your father and I? When do we rest? You don't see us sitting around doing nothing.”

What I like best about my winter month weekends is the absolute LACK of structure. Church aside, there's really no place I have to be at any specific time, no appointments to keep or deadlines to meet by a certain hour. It is to me, the ultimate representation of freedom. The word structure nags at me too, since:

Monday: Dad yells it's 7:30. Fifteen minutes elapse before I drag myself to the kitchen, put a Gatorade in the freezer for lunch, pour a bowl of cereal and return to my room to check my blog and e-mail. By the time I use the bathroom, shave, shower, get dressed, and pack my lunch and(if I haven't done so the night before) gym clothes, it's nearly 9. My mom calls out as I walk out the door, “Goodbye have a good day do good work drive carefully I love you!” and then watches me from the window with one of our cats. I get to work late, between 9:20 and 9:40 depending on traffic and if I've stopped at the post office, and then set about returning e-mails and phone calls, both professional and personal. At 12:30 I go to lunch with my friends and get back by or before 2. If I get my work done by 6-6:30 and there's nothing on television to rush home for, I go down to the gym for an hour or so. I drive home, eat spaghetti and watch television and/or a movie from Netflix. It depends on whether something new is on and if I've gotten a movie. I then write a blog entry and surf, and start thinking I should go to bed so I can get up early. I start thinking this around 11-11:30, but somehow it's 12:30-1AM by the time I force myself to shut down and go to bed.

Tuesday: Exactly the same as Monday, but my mom makes chicken cutlets, carrots, and potatoes.

Wednesday: Exactly the same as Monday, but the type of pasta may vary to shells or ziti.

Thursday: Exactly the same as the previous three days, but my mom makes turkey burgers, potatoes and carrots.

Friday: Exactly the same as Monday, but pasta with no meat during Lent. Also, there's generally nothing good on television so it's definitely a Netflix night, or something from my own collection.

Saturday: Sleep late until 10 or 11AM. If a movie came from Netflix the night before, I try to get it to the post office in time for the 1PM pickup. If a new one comes in the mail, I watch that. I go to mass at 5 with my mom and on the way home, we pick up Burger King. My parents watch Lawrence Welk reruns and later I watch my tape of the morning's cartoons. I then blog and go to bed.

Sunday: I do even less than I do on Saturday. I read, catch an Angel rerun in the afternoon and, if I'm feeling particularly ambitious, take care of my laundry and tally my finances. My parents go to the supermarket in the afternoon and stop off to pick up Wendy's for dinner around 6:30. Later I watch the Simpsons, surf, and blog, and go to bed wondering where the weekend went.

There are exceptions to this of course. There are parades on Saturdays and feasts on Sundays throughout the Summer months, and Friday night concerts during the month of July. There are even days where I have to take off from my day job to work one of my musical gigs. Even those days follow a structure though, and many events fall on the same holidays each year. If anything, my life is TOO structured.

Perhaps what she meant was the quality of the structure, and not the structure itself. As with the “constructive” incident, I may have taken her too literally. One thing I've decided to add to my weekends is drawing. I'm going to try and draw once a week, since art is something that requires as much practice as music to maintain. I have more of a natural ability with music and bounce back better from my foolish bouts of inactivity, but drawing is always something I've had to work at. This is what I've drawn this weekend:

There is a story behind it, but I don't think it would mean much to my readers. Even the three coworkers who know the story behind it are probably scratching their heads at a duck wearing a TMNTish mask and an over-the-top Liefeld-style bulletproof vest and wondering what's wrong with me.

I'm guessing this isn't what my mom meant about structure either...


Second Home

This has been one of the best weeks I've ever spent at my job, and I owe it all to my new home away from home.

I love what I do, work with a great team of people who rarely stray outside the boundaries of their responsibilities, and save for one or two annoyances things go smoothly, which is good since with the volume of work I have the slightest pause can set me back. There are good jobs in this world and bad ones, and attitude can easily influence one's perceptions. Aside from my old neighbors being loud, and one perpetually sick, they were all constantly complaining aloud, especially the sick one. I tuned her out as best as I could with my headphones, but often her stress over her workload(which was less than mine) was contagious. I would often find myself suffering from “What do I do first?” syndrome. I'd have two catalogs to work on after a meeting, one to create and one to refine, and somehow I'd send e-mails, or work on flyers or jackets, and suddenly it would be five o'clock and I hand't even touched either priority. I never handed in anything late, but I was constantly crossing the finish line just before the final buzzer, barely making it.

This was the first full week in my new digs. I only spent half a day there last Thursday and had taken the day off on Friday. The people in that area often speak aloud about various things. Occasionally some complain about work. Some even break into spontaneous song. And yet, it's a totally different chemistry than my old area, perhaps because some of these people are friends. I'm not annoyed(yet), and instead of thinking how dumb people are and putting on my headphones, I've occasionally joined in some of the conversations around me. Rey in particular gets a lot of visits from mutual friends, and back when I was considering the move I feared I would be distracted and talk instead of work. Somehow this week, I was able to do both. Even when I got up and joined in full conversations, and then panicked that I hadn't been working, when I did get back to work things went smoothly. Somehow, with a new relaxed attitude, I was not only on time with all my deadlines this week, but in many cases I was as much as THREE days early. Even yesterday, when I took a long lunch at Benihana to bid a farewell to a departing coworker, I accomplished quite a lot when I returned. I didn't feel rushed or pressured. I just sat down, started working on one thing at a time, listened to music, and suddenly everything that had to be done was done, and more.

Sometimes late in the afternoon, as people have departed, I'm still able to hear my old neighbor barking several rows away. I have two walls between myself and her now though, and while they block the infested gleeks that used to fly over my old wall, my headphones are more effective at drowning her out. I'm also less exposed to the stupidity of some of these people, whom I frequently overheard yelling at our techsupport guys on the phone, even hanging up, over things they honestly should know already given their computer-reliant profession. I sit near a printer, which is also a dream come true. I can see who comes over and shuffles the pages in frustration, or stares at the printer without reading the “load paper” message. I saw one woman just standing, looking bewildered and sighing heavily, until I excused myself, leaned in, and added paper. Later she returned, sighed loudly, and left as seconds later I heard the thing printing. We have print-monitors on our computer. They tell us if a job has gone through and if there's a problem such as a lack of paper or toner. In my old spot I never got up to check the printer unless I saw the files had gone through, and if I saw a problem I picked up the phone and let the tech guys know. It's all stuff that I think is common sense, but clearly isn't for some people. I don't have a lot of patience for those lacking it, and it doesn't come from any kind of nerd elitism, or at least I hope it doesn't. There's a difference between not knowing something and being ignorant, and it involves a choice. I read memos that go out. I experiment with applications. And when I'm stuck, I compare notes with more knowledgeable coworkers and ask them when I don't know how to do something. When I don't know something, it's my problem. When people cast the blame on tech people, blame other people for things they don't know, that's when I get annoyed. I even had a woman this morning rifling through the pages, not finding hers, and shooting accusing glances into the neighboring cube where I was talking to two of my friends. Like everyone put down their coffee, hid her page specifically from the stack, and then acted like they were in a conversation when she came by.

So far, my new space isn't cluttered like my old one. I think the organized area helps my focus as well and minimizes my panic states. I had several bad crashes this week, one this morning cost me quite a bit of intensive Photoshop work. The screen froze and instead of swearing, or throwing a pen at the screen, I took it as a sign to take a break and went to the restroom. On the way back, I ran in to one of my illustrators and we chatted for a bit. When he left, I turned back to my monitor and saw it was frozen and remembered what happened ten minutes prior. I hit restart, went back in to the file and recreated my work in a fraction of the time it originally took me.

At night the area gets really nice. There's just enough light to see, and it's very quiet. I feel like I'm in a den or a study or a library. My chair is more comfortable than my old one too. I found a streaming heavy metal broadcast and cranked up my headphones loud enough that I could hear them sitting on the desk, I lay back and almost dozed off. I was done well before 6PM tonight, and really hated to leave and come home. It feels like a home away from home now and I look forward to going there every day. I watched The Terminal tonight and besides thinking what a wonderful chameleon Tom Hanks is, I thought, “ I could do that.”

Seriously. Some of those night scenes where he has this whole large space to himself, with maybe 2 or 3 other friends around, just seemed heavenly to me. I'm just letting coworkers know that if you ever come in and see me at my desk before 9AM, there's a possibility that I've spent the night.


After Short-lived Sitcom Showcase

Wednesday's post was a big hit but all things in this world are finite, and all good things must inevitably perish. Fortunately, entertainment has many lives, so yesterday's post will live on. In the new post, Post moves from Wednesday to Thursday, with an entirely different cast of links and possibly a previously unseen sibling. So sit back, tune in and if you haven't read it, it's new to you! This is must-read blogging.

Bob was BACK—Newhart, that is. The beloved stammering star of two successful sitcoms returned in a premise that appealed to me. I was starting college when it began, and majoring in art with the hopes of someday drawing comic books. Bob was a comic artist who in his later years earned his living drawing greeting cards, only to be pulled back to his first love when one of his creations was revived. The tension was created by the fact that the comic book company had modernized his silver age hero as a typical nineties vigilante. Apparently the premise appealed to a very small audience, and not the fans of Newhart, since Bob lasted only 8 episodes into its second season.

That ‘80s Show was more that like anachronism show. A lot of people who watched That ‘70s Show might not remember the 70s, but the 80s were so fresh that I had friends pointing out songs they were playing years before they were popular left and right. It had some marginal potential, rushed a romance too soon between the lead characters, and overall was made about a decade sooner than it would have been popular.

Undeclared was great. A motley cast of characters, some cute girls, and a geek that looked a little like a young Zach Braff and got his dream girl while still only a freshman. Great show that didn't rely on a laugh track, had some great guest-stars(wow, like ”Gwen Raiden”), and didn't last more than a season. I particularly enjoyed a musical battle two girls have when neither enjoys the other's music, and repeatedly change CDs and turn their respective radios louder. It was some of Monica Keena's finest pre-Freddy vs. Jason work.

Did anyone other than me watch Ned and Stacey? If nothing else Thomas Haden Church broke his typecasting as a simpleton from Wings. Greg Germann and Debra Messing still found roles after the show's demise, so it couldn't' have hurt them too bad.

What about the show that followed Ned and Stacey, Partners? Tate Donovan went on to play a prominent recurring role on Friends, and Jon Cryer showed the world he's not going anywhere, Superman IV be damned. I actually like the dynamic between his character and Charlie Sheen's, whenever I've happened to catch Two and a Half Men. I thought Maria Pitillo was absolutely gorgeous. Excuse me for a second while I shake my fists in rage at Godzilla trampling her career....

...aaaaand we're back. In What's Happening Now!!, so was the late, great Fred “Rerun” Berry and friends. It lasted for three seasons but I didn't. It just wasn't the same as the reruns of the original show I grew up on. Anyone remember when Rerun almost joined a cult? Good times....(not to be confused with Good Times.

What's that? Ratings are down on this spin-off post? Canceled??? But...but I haven't even gotten to The Single Guy, or Happy Family or Double Rush or The Powers That Be or Three's a Crowd, or My Secret Identity or even Small Wonder! No George Carlin Show? No Get a Life?

Fine, there's always the possibility of a reunion movie....post.