First, Jerry sent an e-mail at work. Then I saw a post about it on Swimming in Champaign. Then a friend sent me a link as well. Within the space of a few hours, I'd heard from three separate sources that Garner would soon be off the market once more, and that there would soon be a little Affleck in this world. It had been a long day after a short week of long days leading up to a long weekend, and as I thanked the cleaning lady for emptying my garbage pail, I realized it was time to go.

Driving away as the sun was setting, I noticed movement in the grass and slowed down. The last few nights I've been seeing baby bunnies around the grounds. Sure enough, there was a little guy(or gal) about the size of my hand sitting next to a stop sign looking around wide-eyed as he nibbled the grass. As I pulled out of the parking lot, I saw something running along the fence that at first looked like a squirrel but then I saw was another baby rabbit. I definitely have to drive carefully the next few weeks around there.

Apparently, tonight was the season finale of Hit Me Baby 1 More Time. I can't be sure, but annoying host Vernon Kay certainly mentioned the fact EVERY TIME HE SPOKE. Ugh. I won't miss that guy. PM Dawn won, somewhat deservedly, though I unfortunately had changed the channel at one point and missed the “what they're doing now” segment. Did they explain why the one brother had to be carried out and sat in a chair at all? I couldn't find anything online about him being sick but their charity was for juvenile diabetes, so I was wondering if he was living with that. Does anyone know?

Finally, the last babies in tonight's post are Marvel Babies. Apparently they've realized their core audience is a small group of overweight 30-40 year old males who grew up with the comics, and they need to draw in younger readers by starting small--very small. Brilliantly evil or commercially brilliant?


PBW: Posterity

Photo Blog Wednesday

He squinted at the lithe female form who had walked past his table in the park, ever so slightly bumping him with her hip and casting a coy glance back over her shoulder at him, coupled with an even rarer smile. This was no time to sit and play chess with old men; it was past time he--


The voice was familiar and distant, but an unwanted distraction he brushed aside like an aggressive wasp. His future girlfriend seemed blurry and indistinct now, but nothing would stop him from at least talking to her. After all, swatting a wasp seldom incurred further intrusions, right? He opened his mouth to say,

"HEY! Are you going to work today? It's seven thirty!"

The dream was done; all that remained was the blinding light on his closed eyelids, and the staccato tone of his father's voice.

“Are you wearing a BEARD now? Is that the way you wanna look?"

He kept his eyes closed, pretending not to be fully awake yet. He heard a sigh of disgust as the 75-year-old man shuffled back down the hallway mumbling the time once more and something about perpetual lateness, along with the phrase, “...hope he doesn’t come with me looking like that...". After nearly a month of his first goatee since college, his father had finally made a small remark a few days prior, but was now resurrecting comments not heard in a decade. The weary 30-year-old began the arduous process of getting out of bed, bending his fingers at first to loosen them up, then his arms, then finally kicking forward with his feet to bring his torso to a sitting position, where he'd remain for another minute letting his eyes finish adjusting and fighting the urge to just lie right back down. Some mornings the call of sleep was stronger than others, and this was one.

In the kitchen his father said nothing as he ate dried cereal and studied the Jumble®. He got a bowl and poured some milk over some cereal of his own, when the silence was broken.

“So is that how you're going to look now?"

He fought the urge to throw something, realizing the bowl of milk would result in a mess in more ways than one. In the past he'd allowed irrational, angry physical responses to make bad situations worse, and hoped he'd one day mature past the outbursts of his childhood. He shot back with words, rather than actions.

“What do you HAVE against facial hair?"
“If you want to look like a bum...."
“Uncle Jerry has a mustache!"
“Yeah! A mustache! Not a beard, a...a ‘grow--tee' or whatever you call it!"
“Well what about your friend Vinnie from high school? He's always had a beard."
“That's different. He plays in a band."
“What?! We're in the SAME band--it's a band of your high school alumni and we play marches, Americana, jazz and broadway medleys. ‘He plays in a band'? What does that even MEAN?"
“All I know is you look like hell."
“What about Tony and Anthony in the Italian band? They have facial hair--"
“--and you think they look GOOD?!"
“OK. Fine. Can I keep it until the weekend at least? It has been getting uncomfortable with the heat and I wasn't going to keep it much longer anyway."
“You do what you want. You're a grown man; I can't tell you what to do. All I know is, you don't look like a person. If it was me, I’d shave.."

He walked away now, conscious of the time and not wanting to hear, “IT'S A QUARTER TO NINE; THEY'RE GONNA FIRE YOU IF YOU'RE NOT CAREFUL!" as he often did while still taking a shower. It was funny. In the last decade or so he'd mellowed out and his parents had softened with age, and they didn't argue as vehemently as they had when he was in college. Back then, any logic he'd introduce to support whatever he was arguing was met with, “What are you using, psychology? Is that what they teach you in college? Your mother and I have been around a lot longer; don't try to use psychology on us, kid." His dad would then turn to his mother and add, “It's no use arguing with him when he uses that psychology." As he struggled with his electric razor, he mused that one didn't necessarily need a college degree to be adept at psychological manipulation. The shaving took extra time, and the 8:45 warning came right on time at 8:40, another example of psychology.

Work had its usual array of stress, compounded by having taken Monday off and knowing he couldn't work too late because of band rehearsal. Ironically, his father called him around 4 PM to let him know Vinnie had delivered some bad news. It seems the school budget had been voted down, which meant the band couldn't use the school to rehearse, or any instruments or music. Until further notice, Summer band was on hold. He easily could have kept the goatee until the weekend as originally planned.

When he got home, his parents asked how his day was as usual. His father added, “You know, a mustache is ok. I didn't mean for you to shave your mustache. I just DON'T LIKE that go-tee, that's all." He was too tired for another debate, or even to draw some explanation of the Old Man Logic Rules of Proper Facial Hair. Obviously there was something from his childhood, perhaps when he was a teenager back in the ‘40s his own father had very specific views. One thing was certain; some generation gaps were too far to bridge entirely. Fortunately, he had taken some photos the weekend prior. He'd record the tale in words and images for posterity, and hopefully recall it at some future point when he found something objectionable in his own offspring.



Film Geeks Favorite Films Blog Party

Those wacky Film Geeks are hosting their very first Blog Party and posing the question: ”What are your favorite films?” It seems simple enough, and I don't plan to make it more complicated. This will not be a top ten. This list will not be in any particular order. These are films that are my personal favorites, which means many if not all will not be based on any semblance of reality. If someone were to ask me what I thought the greatest movies of all time were, or what the best movies within a particular genre were, then the list would certainly differ. By no means is the list which follows stating that I think The Transformers: The Movie is a superior film to Casablanca. I'm a geek, but I'm not a fool. Perhaps future F.G. party topics will offer me the opportunity to prove that.

The Transformers: The Movie

Like most children of the ‘80s, I was a willing victim of brilliant marketing. Many toy lines spawned cartoons that were half hour commercials, but we all devoured them. I took the Transformers cartoon very seriously. I loved the toys because I was(and to some degree even today still AM) fascinated by the concept. Is it a car or a robot? A plane or a robot? A dinosaur or a robot? The line offered two toys in one at first, then three, then robots that combined to make BIGGER robots. The permutations were endless, and were a good foundation of interest when the show arrived, chronicling the tale of a four million plus year civil war between giant alien robots that came here, to Earth. For two seasons I got to know these robots and the humans they interacted with. My action figures had “life”, personalities reflected from the show. There was no way I would miss a feature-length film about them and, though they claimed to find it “boring” and slept through most of it, my parents still took me to see it. On the big screen the story jumped ahead to the year 2005. Their teenage friend was now a man with a wife and a son of his own. The war had escalated and I watched in horror as many beloved characters became casualties of that war. On the small screen, no one ever died. The robots sustained damage and were sometimes even blown to pieces, but they were always put back together by the end of each episode. The movie destroyed any status quo along with these characters, and made the battle all the more desperate. Add in better animation, a hard rock soundtrack, and a giant planet-devouring transformer, and you have all the ingredients needed to cement this as one of my favorite films.

Clash of the Titans

I actually was reminded of this favorite from my childhood while surfing channels yesterday and coming across it on television. Like The Transformers, this film holds a special place in my heart because of a toy. One Christmas a relative got me a boxed set of action figures of Perseus and his winged steed Pegasus(which I still own). I didn't know the story behind the figures or even who Harry Hamlin was, so when I was watching cable at my aunt and uncles during a family gathering a year or so later, it was very exciting to see large, living versions of my toys running about. It was an epic tale which I went on to watch every time it was on television. It had some scary creatures and witches in it, but was campy enough at times that the scary stuff didn't phase me. I was in awe of seeing a robot owl, a winged horse, snake-haired Medusa, and of course the gargantuan Kraken. Watching the film again yesterday, I realized how obvious the Harryhausen miniatures were. Still, I was in single digits when I first saw this movie so nestled in the arms of nostalgia it will always be one of my favorites.

Superman II

Why does a sequel, and not an original make it to my list? The Man of Steel was established by this film, and no time needed to be spent on an origin story. Christopher Reeve's Clark Kent finally revealed his true identity to and his love for Margot Kidder's Lois Lane, and the stakes were higher. To be with her, he gives up his powers at the WORST possible time, when a trio of villains led by Terence Stamp's General Zod arrive on Earth, Kryptonians who've escaped their Phantom Zone prison. Since they hail from the same planet as Superman, all three possess the same powers as he does under Earth's yellow sun. Twenty-five years later, I don't think I'm spoiling much by going on to say that Superman recovers his powers and faces the trio in one of the most brutal superhero slugfests ever shown on film. When one considers that this was done well before digital technology, that the concrete and vehicles and metal being hurled around was done with traditional special effects, the climactic battle is all the more impressive. The movie has several great “hero moments” as well, points where all seems lost and then a musical fanfare signals that the tables are about to turn. One of these moments occurs when the villains have threatened those closest to the absent Superman and the city feels abandoned, and then a wind kicks up and blows a stack of newspapers as the re-empowered hero soars in and asks the General if he'd “care to step outside.” The other moment I love is toward the end when it seems Superman is again powerless, and the General orders him to kneel and take his hand. I get a giddy lump of excitement in my throat EVERY TIME Superman kneels, takes Zod's hand, and then crushes it as his theme music comes in and he stands triumphant. I LOVE that scene.


It was rare, even as a boy, that I would walk in to a movie theater without any inkling of what I was about to see. These days trailers give away a lot, and my curiosity often gets the best of me. As a child, kids at school would talk and I'd at least have an idea what was going to happen. I went in unspoiled to anything, including The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. I'm not even sure Ghostbusters was entirely my choice. I thought it was going to be a dumb comedy but had seen just enough ghosts in the trailer to pique my interest. I jumped when they encountered the first one in the library, and was hooked from that moment on. The movie was damn funny and yet had some genuinely scary moments. The music was awesome and I loved watching Bill Murray's Peter Venkman put the moves on the ladies, like Sigourney Weaver, or the college girl being tested for ESP while he zaps the kid next to her who actually is getting the questions right. It spawned an awesome cartoon and a disappointingly inferior sequel, and remains one of the most quotable movies of all time. To this day I still smile when I think of lines like “Listen. Do you smell that?” and “Don't cross the streams”, and I'm honestly wondering now why I don't own it on DVD.

Spider-man 2

As with my Superman reasoning, I feel getting past the origin story in the previous movie only helped the pace of the sequel. Beautiful Alex Ross illustrations in the opening credits do all the recapitulation that is necessary, and then we're launched right in to the present tribulations of Peter Parker, still perfectly portrayed by Tobey Maguire(who celebrated his 30th birthday yesterday). Peter's still one of US, a regular geek pining for the girl he can never be with while struggling to make ends meet in between fighting crime as a superhero. OK, I admit it, I don't fight crime or have powers, but otherwise I still found myself relating to the character. The film was faithful to the source material, nodding to things in the comics die hard fans would appreciate without requiring newcomers to have read those original stories. The pacing between the subplots was less choppy this time around, and everything tied together nicely. Best of all, a happy ending with a hopeful future changed in tone just through the dissonance of the underlying score, and we know more troubles are on the horizon.

Return of the Jedi

For the record, I agree with the widely-held opinion that The Empire Strikes Back is the best of the series. But this is a list of favorites with personal significance, and Jedi was the only original edition I was old enough to see in the theater. I had seen Star Wars on television several times but not its sequel, and many kids in my elementary school had already spoiled the Big Secret and made fun of me for not seeing it. I was a little lost when Jedi began but quickly caught on to what was going on, and was in awe of Luke Skywalker's Jedi mastery. I couldn't believe this was the same character from the first film, and feared for his life when he faced the Rancor. I thrilled when, on the brink of death at the edge of the Sarlacc pit, he leapt and caught his lightsaber, launched from R2-D2 who was already strategically in position thanks to Luke's master plan. But it was his final showdown with Darth Vader that really had me on the edge of my seat. Things were not going well for Luke or ANY of his allies, and I didn't see any way they were going to triumph. It was the love of a father for his son, a father not wanting to see history repeat itself, that ultimately saved the day. Focus on that and not “Deus ex teddy bears, and you can accept this as one of my favorites.

Batman Begins

I've already reviewed what I consider to be the BEST big screen portrayal of the Dark Knight. It had a fine cast, plausible explanations for his arsenal, a balance between his story and that of the villains, and all the themes from the source material that I love about the character. He struggles with the dual identity: which one is real? He abhors the gun, but even that aspect is further fleshed out here. In the absence of parents, he finds role models in surrogates, and his enemies shape him as well as his allies. Most importantly, as I've said it's tough to surprise me, especially these days, and the film did what no other has done in a very long time. I can't WAIT to own this one, and I'm already imagining the sequel in my mind.

Back to the Future

This is forever a classic of my childhood. Michael J. Fox was somehow at once cool and a dork, all the while conveying how lost he was in his situation, as any of us would be if sent back in time. Christopher Lloyd was hilarious as always, and I loved the Car. The movie blended humor and action in a very unique time-travel concept, and wasn't afraid to make things hard on its protagonist. So many things go wrong, and so much has to go PRECISELY right in order for him to fix the past and get back to the future, that the film thrives on a tension and unpredictability that is rare today.

Wayne's World

If this were a list of the BEST movies, then my last entry wouldn't be included. But since, as I said at the beginning, these are my PERSONAL favorites, then the list wouldn't be complete without it. And while this comedy may just be an extended SNL skit, it's easily the BEST movie to come out of that show. Forget what I said about Ghostbusters; Wayne's World is the most quotable movie from my past. Just last week, my friend Rey brought his guitar to work and when he didn't immediately comply with my request for ”Stairway to Heaven,”, I cried out, “No Stairway? Denied!” I loved Wayne's World. I sang along to ”Bohemian Rhapsody”, ogled Tia Carrere, and chuckled at Ed O'Neill's psychotic monologues. The pacing is quick, the pop culture references are bountiful, and Rob Lowe makes for a lovably detestable adversary. Wayne Campbell may be Mike Myer's best creation before Dr. Evil, and the sympathy and amusement one feels towards Dana Carvey's Garth makes one weep at low spots in his career like The Master of Disguise.

* - * - *

The Transformers: The Movie
Clash of the Titans
Superman II
Spider-man 2
Return of the Jedi
Batman Begins
Back to the Future
Wayne's World

There you have it, a selection of nine of MY favorite movies, in no particular order. I feel that the shows we watch, books we read, and movies we enjoy all reflect our tastes and, by extension, our personalities. I think I've presented a good portrait of who I am, here tonight. Thanks again to Darrell and Wendy for hosting. I can't wait to see what films they and others have chosen.



Is In Everything

Samuel L. Jackson is in Everything.

When he spoofed Danny Glover in Loaded Weapon, I didn't really know who he was but thought he was very funny. I think it was with Pulp Fiction that he achieved the level of popularity he now has, and his memorable lines from that film are forever cemented in my mind. From that point I started noticing him in films, even ones I'd seen already such as Jurassic Park, Goodfellas, and Patriot Games, all of which yielded the reaction of, “he was in that?” Since then he's starred in A Time to Kill, Shaft, Unbreakable, Star Wars Episode I and the other prequels, and The Incredibles. Looking at his filmography, one can see that these are just a few highlights. And as I continue to catch up on films I haven't seen, I'm sure I'll continue having the “He was in that?” reaction like I did just last week when I finally saw Do the Right Thing.

Daniel Dae Kim is in Everything.

Fans of Angel probably remember his role as an evil lawyer, which is where I too first noticed his work. After leaving the show he appeared in some television phone ads before landing a recurring role as a serious and reliable Agent Baker on 24. On the big screen he's had supporting roles in The Hulk and Spider-man 2, and his most recent work has been part of the eclectic ensemble on Lost. A few months ago I rented 1997's The Jackal and was surprised to see him in a significant supporting role as a very cool sniper. He's not in the same class as Sam Jacks yet, but his career could conceivably reach the point that once he's noticed by the mainstream public, people will be surprised how much is on his resume.

Adam Baldwin is in Everything

Though he's been acting since the early ‘80s, I didn't notice his work until he had a recurring role as a super-soldier on the last few seasons of The X-files. From there he went on to play Jayne Cobb on the cult hit Firefly, the role I'd wager contributed the most to his being as well-known as he is today. Fans like myself are no doubt eagerly anticipating the exploits of his gruff anti-hero in the upcoming film version, Serenity. Adam's currently starring as part of a team of FBI profilers on The Inside, a show with such interesting characters and great plots that if it was on any other network than FOX it wouldn't be airing in the Summer. It's GOOD and it airs Wednesdays at 9, so I suggest catching it before they cancel it and replace it with either a reality show or some series about teenagers who live on a beach and have money so they can spend their free time having relationships while experiencing angst about their hard lives. As for Adam Baldwin, he keeps popping up. A few months ago I caught him in 1987's Full Metal Jacket, and according to his filmography he was in the absurd Independence Day, though I'm not certain I remember his role.

* * *

As I wrote tonight's post, I had a strong sense of Deja Vu, especially on the Dae Kim section. I may have written something similar, but I couldn't find it in my archives. Hopefully I didn't repeat myself too much. There are dozens of actors who gain popularity after they've been around a long time. Steve Buscemi comes to mind, as does Joe Pantoliano. Who are some of your favorite stars whose careers exceed their popularity? And who do you like now that a lot of people might not know of, that you think will someday be a household name?


Phantasmic Links 6.26.05

I'd like to begin tonight's post by thanking everyone who gave their input on yesterday's post. My dad finally made a remark this morning, as we were driving home from church, when he sagely warned me people might start calling me ”Fidel Castro.” At this point, I think I'm going to take that chance for just a bit longer. As I stroke my ebon follicled chin contemplatively, let us ponder this week's PHANTASMIC LINKS:

I could spend weeks writing about the Stuff I Used to Believe, but for now I'll content myself to read the amusing childhood misconceptions of others.

Alan Moore leaves D.C.

AverageJoe does an outstanding job explaining the Highlander continuity. Through no fault of his own, I'm still somewhat confused, but then I've only seen the first three films and one or two episodes of the television series.

Dosetaker links to a highly addictive and magical journey with a rabbit. I still can't get all the carrots in the allotted time AND make it to the hidden BBQ, and I also can't get the music out of my head. “Hate something, change something, make something betterrr....”

Is this the future of search engines? I'm still a Google™ loyalist, but with unlockable hidden features, site previews, and customizable skins, this thing has potential.

Cube likes cats; Darrell is a kitten-stomping FIEND.

Enjoy this open letter to the Superfriends, link courtesy of Sarcasmo.

It's time for us all to unite and make the Ultimate Judgment of good vs. evil....

After witnessing his power, I wish to become Tom Cruise's apprentice. Hat tip to Rey.



Parades, Facial Hair, and Women

Tonight was my first parade of the year. True, I played in a parade on St. Patrick's Day and Memorial Day, but the former was with a small Italian festival band and the latter was with my former music teacher's band, also an Italian band. Each of those groups is very informal and never has more than 7-10 players. The drum beat is very casual and we stroll rather than march in a rigid “left-right, left-right” progression. There were no judges at either parade, no trophies to be won. I've also played in about 3 or 4 feasts this year, also casual gigs.

Tonight was my first parade with the fire department band I belong to. It was their second parade of the year, but I had missed Memorial Day since I always help out my old teacher on that job. It was 90 degrees here on Long Island, but thankfully there was a breeze and the temperature had come down somewhat by the time we arrived at the parade site around 5 PM. We were an hour early because my dad as usual told me an earlier departure time than was needed, to allow for traffic. No one was there. No firetrucks and no other bands could be seen. We walked to the gathering site where we found our band's lead trumpet player, and the father of someone I'd gone to high school and college with. As I shook his hand he pulled me in close, stroked the bottom of my chin, and quipped “I like your bush.” That sounds a LOT creepier now that I type it, but he has kind of a sarcastic sense of humor and was commenting on my goatee since he hadn't seen me since last year and I've recently returned to a look I haven't sported in nearly a decade.

I've always looked a lot younger than I actually was, which didn't help with my college popularity. The Catholic high school I attended had a strict dress code. Besides wearing suits, we all had to be clean-shaven and our hair couldn't pass below OR above our collar line. I'll never forget the time one kid shaved the sides and back of his head, and used shoe polish to conceal it. We were sitting in French class on a very hot day in a building with no air conditioning when his “hair” started to run down the side of his face and the teacher had to dismiss him. College meant freedom from a lot of the rules which had shaped me. I could wear sneakers, jeans and flannel shirts and I could grow a mustache. Girls started actually noticing me and saying how much older it made me look, but when I wore a red ball cap and some of the guys called me Mario, I knew it wasn't working. I added a goatee and enjoyed the reduced shaving time each morning. My parents weren't too happy with my look. My mom would try to use psychology and point out that “no nice girls” would be attracted to me. My dad went with the more direct: “I would shave, but if you want to look like a bum, that's up to you....” By the time I was a Senior, these and other comments were getting very annoying, and I knew I'd have to look presentable on my upcoming internship if there was any hope of a company actually hiring me.

The next opportunity would come when I was barely at my second job for a year and found myself in the hospital for 11 days undergoing my intestinal surgery. Every day as I lay weak in the bed my dad would visit and ask if I wanted my razor. I'd say no, he'd start to get upset, and my mom would shoot him the bulging eyeball “don't-make-a-scene” face as onlookers in the ICU turned in our direction. I kept a full beard for the entire month of my recovery, telling them I planned to shave when I went back to work. Since I was homebound, they could accept it since I wouldn't be embarrassing them anywhere. The method to my madness was that while I returned to work with a full beard on my first day back, I shaved all but very large sideburns for my second day back appearing as Wolverine for Halloween. By day three I was back to my presentable mild-mannered office working self. A few years later I again grew the mustache, this time to intentionally resemble Mario as I donned overalls with my red hat, also for Halloween.

It's been interesting to note different people's reactions the past few weeks. My dad surprisingly has said nothing about it. My mom only made a few remarks along the lines of “are you going to keep that?” Some people at work have treated me as though nothing was different, while others have commented. Some have said it looks good. The editor-in-chief of my science fiction catalog quipped that I “had some dirt on my face” and then posed the more serious question of “doesn't one usually grow facial hair for the colder months?” One co-worker filmed a short three minute “documentary”, to send to another who'd left the company and moved out of state a few months ago.

At some point, it probably will get too hot, or I'll decide that it interferes too much with contact against my horn's mouthpiece. I've been getting some looks from women, but I've never been able to gauge what those looks mean. I've always been certain that when they averted their eyes and smiled that I was being mocked, and while they contained their laughter it left me hurt and seething on the inside. Last week a cashier in a Chinese take-out place did that to me, and I nearly decided on the spot, “OK, that's it; this thing is coming off.” Walking to the car however my mom commented that the girl was “giving me the eye” and asked if I noticed how she was looking at me. On the one hand, my mom was a girl once so maybe she can read people better than I can. On the other, she's a 66-year-old woman desperate to marry off her 30-year-old son and obtain grandchildren, and she's always looking, possibly seeing things that just aren't there.

Before the parade I spent my afternoon enjoying What Women Want. It was very funny and moving with a variety of VERY sexy ladies, from Helen Hunt to Marisa Tomei to Judy Greer. Though the circumstances which grant Mel Gibson the power to read women's thoughts were somewhat thin, once you suspend your disbelief and go along for the ride it's a fun one. Such a power could be both a blessing and a curse, but I think I wouldn't mind having it for at least a week or so. Gibson's character finds that so much of what he thought THEY thought was way off, and I think such knowledge is invaluable.

I may not know for sure what women think of me or my goatee, but old men are nothing but vocal and honest. As we lined up in formation to move out, a trombone player turned, gave me look, then called over to my dad, “Hey [MCF senior], you let your son look like that?!” He then turned to me in mock disgust and said, “Ya look like BLUTO!” I had sunglasses on under my fireman's cap, so I just looked ahead as though I hadn't seen or heard him.

The parade went well. As we passed judges at various points and I saw them scratching notes furiously in their books, I wondered if facial hair would count against us. There are various things they look for. Uniforms should be neat and ironed and shoes should be polished, and of course we all need to be in line and in step, everyone “lefting” and “righting” in unison. Other players in the band have mustaches, well trimmed, and I did notice one drummer later also sporting a goatee. This band wins at least 2 or 3 trophies a year out of the 5 parades we play. I'll find out next week whether we won anything tonight. As for my facial hair, I'm sure before long I'll go back to being clean-shaven at a time of my own choosing. It really IS too hot for it now and it does interfere slightly with my mouthpiece.

Of course, if some Judy Greer-lookalike walks by and I hear her think I look sexy, all bets are off.


I don't remember...

...throwing a coffee can full of nails out the window and all over the lawn when my dad and my godfather were renovating our den, but I certainly heard about it enough growing up.

...recording my own “radio show” including song parodies like “I feel s**tty, oh so s**tty...”, but I have the old cassettes.

....what the girl next door's nanny looked like, but somewhere boxed away are several t-shirts she gave me as gifts as a little boy, including two with the childhood version of my name across them in bold letters.

...the names of the two kids who beat me up the first day of kindergarten and taught me that other people can cause me harm if I sound different, look different, act different, or if they were assholes having a bad day.

....Molly Ringwald on The Facts of Life, or any of the other girls besides Blair, Tootie, Jo and Natalie. I just learned of this fact of life on another blog this week.

...the kind of September when life was slow and oh so mellow.

...the practical application of the Quadratic Formula, though I still have the equation itself memorized. And I can't believe kids today have a CALCULATOR for even that!


...Square Pegs.

...being reprimanded by my mom after coming home from pre-school and using the word “butt”. Apparently I used the defense, “...but all the other kids laughed when Tanya said it!” I only know this because my mom's told me the story so many times, but I don't actually remember the incident. Or the girl who was such a bad influence since I guess she went to another school and I never saw her again.

...the names of an alarming number of movie CHARACTERS. I'm relatively good with actors, and I do know the names of the characters in all my favorite sci fi, fantasy and comic book movies, but there are some films where I draw a blank on the character's name. For example, I could tell you I saw Topher Grace in In Good Company, but not that he played Carter Duryea, and I just saw the movie LAST WEEK. I worry sometimes that I'm watching movies too fast to retain all the details, or that new information is pushing out old information. The day I can't remember names like “Luke Skywalker”, “Peter Venkman” or “Jack Ryan” is the day I start to worry. Thank God for the internet.

...the additional 4 digits to my zip code. I'm glad the post office will recognize something with just the traditional 5 digits, because if I have to memorize 9 digit numbers for my home and my work addresses I may forget a few other movie characters.

....what I'm supposed to be doing at work. I'm easily distracted, and may work on one project for hours before remembering I had to e-mail someone a file or work on another project that was a priority. This condition worsens as my workload and hours increase.

....half the things I sat down to write about tonight. This much will have to do I suppose.


I remember....

...watching a news broadcast on television for the first time on an old black and white model with legs and rabbit ears, and turning to my parents and saying, “Jimmy Carter take a walk!”, a phrase which was repeated to various friends and relations through most of my childhood.

...fearing the Wicked Witch of the West and hiding from the safety of the hallway, peering around the corner, whenever she was on screen.

...getting the other kids in the neighborhood to collect various leaves from my yard which I mashed in a bucket of water, explaining to the my awed younger companions that I was trying to create a protoplasmic life form, inspired by something I'd seen earlier that day on Spider-man and his Amazing Friends.

...trying to build a time machine with those same friends a few years later, using a cut extension cord, a no-parking sign, a magnifying glass, and a small toy car that I somehow thought we could shrink ourselves to fit into. I wasn't even a teenager yet and I thought I was going to achieve mass as well as chronological displacement in the same afternoon. By this point in my life my neighborhood friends were starting to realize I had more imagination than actual intelligence.

...the prominent use on Family Ties of the song ”At this Moment” by Billy Vera and the Beaters, which he performed on tonight's episode of ”Hit Me Baby One More Time.”

...jumping at the climax of the opening library scene in Ghostbusters then instantly feeling at ease as Ray Parker, Jr.'s theme song blasted from the theater speakers, and knowing I was going to love every minute of the film.

...jousting on my bike with my friends, using long branches. We also used pine cones as grenades, and would sometimes play tag using either a tennis ball or a frisbee to nail either bike or rider. We did anything to enhance bike riding, which by itself had grown boring.

...crying when Optimus Prime died. It may well be the only time I cried IN a theater. Afterward, as my parents drove me home, I sat quietly in the backseat genuinely concerned for the future of his warriors, even though they had a new leader.

...crying when my girlfriend and I got back to her car after seeing Titanic. What? The old lady led a full life, did what she promised Jack. What? No, I DON'T think that was the day my ex decided she was going to leave me. Shut up.

...making fun of a kid's last name in 4th grade in our gymnasium/cafeteria, inciting him to slide his plate of spaghetti at me which missed me and landed on the white pants of the kid next to me, which resulted in a food fight that spread from our table clockwise around the room and when the dust settled, I found myself in the principal's office as usual along with a few other kids on her consistent, “I know it was you!” list.

...being put in the back of the classroom so I wouldn't talk to the other kids and disrupt class, noticing an open window with a wide ledge and climbing out. Realizing the pine bushes below wouldn't break my fall from the second story, I was halfway back in the room with none the wiser when I felt my teacher's nails dig in to my arm and yank me in. The next thing I knew, I was sitting in the principal's office as usual.

....wearing sunglasses on the collar of my shirt at all times in 7th grade because I thought THAT would make me cool, along with my corduroy pants and velcro sneakers.

...one of the first drawings I ever did, a spiral etched with crayon on to construction paper, which I proudly explained to an impressed uncle to be a “space warp”. I believe there was even a speck and an arc that was supposed to be a ship flying out of it.

...John Moschitta, Jr.

...the Dance of Joy.

...all the lyrics to Ice, Ice Baby.

...memorizing the words to Will Smith's “A Nightmare on My Street”, long before I saw A Nightmare on Elm Street.

...the first time I heard ”You Give Love a Bad Name” by Bon Jovi. I was walking with my parents through a department store called TSS which has been out of business for 16 years. As soon as I heard the drum solo, followed by vocals sans guitars for one strain of the chorus, I knew I was hooked.

...the time my friend Mike bought a BB gun at a flea market which he smuggled in past his mom. We put a lot of holes in the walls of their upstairs den. I don't know that his folks ever found out or if the new owners noticed when his parents sold the place a few years later.

....the first time I saw Pink Floyd The Wall, also at Mike's. I'd never seen anything like it before, and for months after that all my drawings reflected the twisted sketchy animation that was interspersed between the live action.

Cockroach, Skippy, and Boner but not Six.

...Jay Leno selling Doritos—”Crunch all ya want, we'll make more!”

....”You mean Doctor Galakiewicz?” “Yes I am!”

....the combination for my middle school lock, the first lock I ever bought, which I brought with me to high school, used in college, and now use for gym at work. 19 years....that's a damn good lock, especially considering guys in high school would sometimes take it and hurl it down the hall when I was frantically trying to get my books for the next few classes in the inadequate three minutes they gave us between classes. I also remember when they'd lock it upside down or even more evil, upside down and through the handle of the door. I soon learned to keep the lock in my hand while the door was open and not leave it hanging there.


I remember quite a bit, and these are but a few random highlights. Some people remember more of their childhood than others. What and how much do YOU remember?


PBW: Weekend Warrior

Photo Blog Wednesday

No, that's not a still frame of Paulo Costanzo wildly miscast as Night Thrasher in some upcoming New Warriors television movie. New readers can read the story behind this week's photos here.

At the rate I'm revealing myself on this site, my nom de web is quickly becoming ironic...



Summer Band

July is the busiest month of the year for me, musically-speaking. It's the month in which I can have as many as three gigs on a weekend, and the occasional weekday gig that requires taking a vacation day from my day job. Besides all these jobs to keep food in my already ample belly, it's the month of Summer band.

I've been a musician for over 20 years, and a member of this particular band for at least the last 15. It's predominantly made of alumni from my dad's high school, though any musicians are welcome through word-of-mouth. We play a wide range of sheet music, different from the sort of things I play on the street. It's the only time I play with a conductor anymore, and the closest to the educational value of the high school band experience. I don't practice as much as I should or as my dad would like; I NEVER practice. When I was a teenager my teacher advised that a half hour a day was a necessity, but as I got older I couldn't find the time or the interest. Somehow I stay in really good shape though and bounce back quickly after a winter of not playing at all, much to my dad's surprise every year. Since I'm playing during the week as well as on weekends in July, it's the month in which I'm in the best shape.

It snuck up on me this year. Some years, such as last year, I dread the coming of July, of having to deal with various challenges at work that may require extra hours as well as cutting out early and skipping gym to make rehearsals and concerts. This year, I promised I wouldn't stress like I did last year. Whatever's on my plate, no matter how intimidating, eventually gets taken care of. Our concerts are in a nice outdoor bandshell overlooking water, and four are held on the first four Friday's of July. We have two-hour rehearsals every Tuesday and Thursday, starting the last week in June(which gives us four before our first concert, twice as many as we get for subsequent concerts). All in all, it's only fourteen nights at most, though some years it's less when conflicting paying jobs arise, as is the case with one of the concerts this year.

Every year I steel myself for a busy stressful month, of my dad telling me what time he wants to leave for rehearsal at 8:30 in the morning when I haven't even gotten out the door to work yet. I prepare for the worst, for subpar fans in a crowded band room with no air conditioning, and for long periods of boredom while the conductor works with other sections of the band on difficult parts. I prepare for the worst, and it's never that bad. The school we rehearse in got air conditioning put in several years ago, though budget restraints keep them from turning it on some nights. The conductor is very good at zeroing in on one measure of music that has a figure which carries through the whole piece, and never spends more than a minute or two working with any individual section. He explains it, they get it, and they can apply what they learn in a few measures to the arrangement as a whole, as he adds the other musicians back in. It's more than good practice; it's educational, which is rare for a casual adult player. Most of all, by the time I'm actually facing these “dreaded” five weeks, July is somehow over and I'm looking back at how fast it all went.

Tonight was our first rehearsal. It went well, and we even sight read some new pieces. If my Tuesday, Thursday, or Friday columns should suffer in length or quality in the next five weeks, it may be because when I get home at 11 I just want to watch a movie and relax before going to bed. I'll have to write my contribution for next Tuesday's Film Geeks Blog Party over the weekend. I'm beat. I'd say it's easier burning the candle at both ends as a kid, but there's just as many people in the band my dad's age as there are high school and college students. I just like to complain, I guess.



Our parents are always there for us, our mothers ready to bandage a cut and our fathers ready to encourage us. “Why do we fall?" asks Thomas Wayne (Linus Roache) of his young son. “So that we may learn to pick ourselves up again."

It's fitting that I saw Batman Begins on Father's Day since fatherhood is such an important theme, one of many in a complex and perfect profile of a legend that hasn't been as accurately portrayed since the Batman: The Animated Series and even Burton's Batman. No, the entire preceding sentence was NOT a typo. And, for the record, lest anyone think me a bad son, I got up early yesterday, carried a 30-foot ladder up from the basement and cleaned the gutters, and mowed the lawn before going to the movie. I offered to take my dad but he wasn't really interested, and later treated him to dinner when my mom got back from her job at the arboretum. Three hours waiting to go to dinner in my room watching a DVD wouldn't have been all that different from three hours a few towns away at a stadium movie theater, so there's no guilt to derive from spending some “me" time on my dad's day.

My dad has always been there for me(as has my mom). I know when they're gone, I'm going to have a hard time surviving, even at my age. Hard as it is to lose a parent as an adult, it's unthinkable to lose one let alone both as a child. Yet for those familiar with the Batman mythos, that's precisely the catalyst that drives Bruce Wayne to don the cape and cowl and wage war on crime from the shadows of Gotham City. The film embraces Bruce the man(and the boy) for the entire first half, leaving Bruce the Legend for later. Spider-man was really the first superhero movie to embrace the importance of the alterego, the man within the superman, since the original Superman. Treat the character as a relatable, REAL human being and your audience will accept the rest. It's where Smallville succeeds in concept while failing so often in execution(or progress).

Bruce loses his father but finds so many surrogates. Gary Oldman as a young Jim Gordon shows kindness to the little boy in the police station, and plants a trust that remains when that boy returns as a grown warrior. Overseas, the ninja master Ducard(Liam Neeson) hones Bruce in body and mind, helping him to channel his anger and push aside any self-blame he felt about his parents' death. Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox provides him with the tools he needs, as well as memories of his friend, Bruce's father. Of course there's the butler Alfred, played masterfully by Michael Caine, who raises the orphan and maintains his legacy knowing he will one day return. Every encounter in the film is a learning experience. Things his girlfriend(Katie Holmes) says as well as the philosophy of a crime boss all contribute to the journey. It IS a journey, both literal and figurative, and we're right there with Christian Bale as he takes it. The cast, including Cillian Murphy as a brilliantly creepy Jonathan Crane, is superb. And though she looked a bit young for her role, I didn't mind Katie all that much. There was far too much other good stuff to look at. I WANT that car, for example.

Batman has always shunned guns, found them deplorable as weapons. Most fans know the obvious reason why, but the film even manages to add its own logical incident as well. It's remarkable, actually, how the movie is at once faithful to the source material and original in its approach. Sin City was perfect because it treated the comics as storyboards and followed them panel for panel. The joy was solely from the performances and the visuals, seeing it all brought to life. With Batman Begins, the element of surprise is added. Too many trailers give so much away these days, and when you're a fan of the source material you tend to intuit so much more. Whoever cut together the trailers for this movie deserves an award. There were things I was expecting, between the previews and my knowledge of the characters, that didn't play out the way I thought they would, leaving me more than pleasantly surprised, often at the edge of my seat, and many times grinning like a giddy idiot man-child. I can't wait to own this masterpiece on DVD, and I'm wondering if it's too much to hope that a sequel is in the card. As for you, yes YOU, stop what you're doing right now. Turn off the computer, get up, and go to the nearest movie theater, preferably one with a big screen and loud speakers. Forget work, forget the kids, whatever you're leaving will be there three hours later. Probably.

Don't take my word for it. Be sure to check out what Film Geeks, Paradoxes and Problems, and Swimming in Champaign had to say.


Phantasmic Links 6.19.05

Happy Father's Day! Happy Father's Day to Rey, Jerry, Curt, Darrell, AverageJoe, Kev Bayer, and any other readers who have or are expecting children. And of course, Happy Father's Day to my own dad, despite the fact that he never uses a computer and already got his card, gifts and dinner. I dedicate this week's PHANTASMIC LINKS to you, sir:

At Film Geeks, Darrell links to an article explaining what makes a great comic book movie. I saw one today which followed these rules to the letter; more on that in tomorrow's post.

Speaking of Film Geeks, guess what they're throwing?:

A new Catwoman is on the prowl. Hat tip to J-No.

Time to get your eyes checked?

Where does reality end and these banners begin?

I'm adding Dosetaker to the sidebar, a blog that links to cool games and movies just about daily.

This Mara Jade fan-film is a few years old, but I hadn't seen it before last night so I'm sharing it in case others have missed it as well.

Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology is an insanely comprehensive free 3,700 page online reference source.

Oh no! ANOTHER New Bunny?! (Not for kids)

Speaking of “not for kids”....

On an unrelated note, check out this Superball story.

This video has a powerful twist, though not at all what I was expecting.

What do you think is the best case mod?



Ain't Broke

When does a person become too old for the world? When are the old ways better, and when is it time to find a new and better way? Sometimes, if something is working well, it shouldn't be fixed. Sometimes, if something that works well can be made better, the old ways should be discarded. Determining either scenario is the true feat.

In the accurate and moving film In Good Company, Dennis Quaid plays a businessman in his early 50s who faces an all-too common problem in corporate America. When the sports magazine for which he sells ad space for is bought out by another company, there are of course fears and rumors of layoffs. Quaid is confident, assuring his workers that they've had a good year and that he doubts the new owners would change something that works. Soon, the company faces a reorganization and many disruptive changes ensue, including Quaid being demoted and reporting to a much younger boss played by Topher Grace. New, inexplicable changes are made to existing business practices and when some of the risks don't pay off, they lay off more employees. I won't spoil the resolution of the film but I highly recommend it, especially to anyone who's ever worked in an office.

Quaid's character worked for years, developed a rapport with his clients. He knew how to approach them, and didn't use fancy buzzwords like “synergy”. Speaking to people like they were just that, people, proved to be the most productive method of all. Of course, sometimes things do change for the better and, if we're not careful, we can be left behind. I've seen people in supervisory positions suddenly find themselves unemployed after years of looking over those who use design programs to do the actual work. Not only is it hard to find another position at their level, but since software updates so often and they've been out of practice for years, they may no longer be qualified for positions at lower levels without additional training. It's a tough spot to be in when you're suddenly pushed off the ladder and there are rungs missing.

I went with my dad to pick up some paint at The Home Depot today. After searching in vain for the same shade of red that he'd painted our veranda years ago, I noticed something interesting. I suggested that perhaps the reason the colors were all white and shades of gray was because specific colors in the chart hanging in front of the shelf had to be mixed by adding a dye to the canisters before us, which were likely only bases. It seemed like a logical explanation to me, and it made more sense than taking up shelf space with multiple colors. What if most people bought blue and orange went untouched? This way, every can of paint could be customized to every customer with a smaller bottle mixed in at the counter. My dad disagreed, thought the place was “terrible”, and pointed out that he had no trouble buying the same shade of red as-is a few years ago. Nevertheless, I found the nearest worker and asked the question despite suspecting the answer already. He said if we wanted a certain color he'd have to mix it, and took the brochure from my dad. The swatches in the book had hyphenated numbers beneath them. The first number was the base, and the second code corresponded to a smaller can of dye. My dad picked the color he wanted and the guy mixed it for us. He feared telling my mom that we spent over $20 since she'd feel paint should still only cost $5. I carried the paint over to one of those new self-service checkouts rather than getting on one of the lines. “Are you sure you know how to use this thing?” he asked, but by then I'd already scanned, bagged and processed the order. I said “yes”, fed the machine his money, and handed him his change and the receipt.

The older we get, the harder it is to learn new things, and to let go of old, familiar ways. ”If it ain't broke, don't fix it.” This is all-too true most of the time, but sometimes when the world changes around us, we have no choice but to change with it. Following the Home Depot, our next stop was a window store. The windows in the front of our house are rusting and need replacing. We live in a Spanish-style stucco house with metal windows on hinges and single-pane glass. There's only a few rooms in the house where renovations have forced us to replace the original windows entirely, since that kind isn't made anymore. The guy in the window place was stunned to learn what we had, and educated us in the fact technology has thankfully changed and, at least in the Northeastern United States, NO ONE has single-pane glass in metal, especially since metal conducts cold. He showed us some samples, and explained how instead of smaller panes we'd have two large panes, one inner and one outer, between which wood could simulate the grid pattern of our original window. With this type of window we wouldn't have to replace the inner screens with glass during the winter, and could keep this set-up all year round. He also had the windows in a shade of red similar to our other windows. It was all logical and thorough, and the estimate for the window combined with having someone come and install it was close to $2,000. My dad said he'd have to consult his wife and thanked the guy for his time.

The one thing I didn't like about the encounter, besides the guy's initial reaction of almost laughing in our faces, was how he kept addressing me when it was my dad making the inquiry. I'm used to being the kid ignored by adults. When I was younger and we'd go to a hardware store, I might as well not have been standing alongside my dad's knees as he spoke with a salesman. At some point I've apparently become an adult without realizing it, and I'm seeing an ugly side of our society where senior citizens still in full possession of their faculties are treated as children. I felt like telling the guy, “Stop looking at me; my dad's the one buying a window. He's asking the questions; answer him. I'm just the driver here, the muscle carrying anything heavy.”

It seems like just last week I was writing about the wisdom of our elders. There are dozens of things my parents know how to do that will never and should never be improved upon or changed. There are also instances of them not changing when they should, and struggling with unwise changes where they have no choice but to comply with the majority. Watch your parents; they're a window to our own futures. Even now I'm certain there are kids in college who know the newest programs better than I do, and it's only going to get worse. I worry about people listening to me and taking me seriously NOW, since they never did when I was a kid. To think that 45 years from now I could find myself dealing with patronizing salespeople who'd rather explain things to someone younger isn't a pleasant thought. The flipside of this whole situation is, of course, the things I can do. If I can remain flexible with certain things and always try to keep learning, I just might surprise the salespeople of the future....

“Sir, NO ONE uses Schwartzenneggionium fuel cells anymore. You really want a R.I.F.T.™-based catalyzer.”
“Son, I've been flying my hovercar since before you were cloned. According to the article I just downloaded to my Cerebellochip, there are still some risks with that technology and I really don't feel like falling through any interdimensional portals on my ride home. So if the Space Depot values me as a customer, I think you'll be getting what I asked you for in the first place....”

Yeah, that will be sweet. Lousy Space Depot punks, think they always know better than me....


10 there's nothing else to blog about...

It's been a long week. I'm not sure why I'm so tired right now. I had a lot of good topics in mind on my drive home but my mind is slush right now. Maybe I've been taking too many three-day weekends; this is the first five day week I've worked in over a month. I should be able to handle five days.

I know anything I'd write in this state wouldn't be worth reading, so that leaves only one logical option: partake in a Meme that's been circulating. I always wanted to find a meme at it's point-of-origin, so this is pretty cool. And while CitizenWillow didn't tag me, Kelly tagged everyone. For once I'm going to be lazy with the HTML footnoting, so Google™ as needed. Here goes nothing:

TEN words you love to say: subtle, junk, hyperbole, juxtaposition, ludicrous, advantageous, embouchure, gig, pinocle, spastic

NINE guiltiest pleasures: Saturday morning cartoons, junk food, dollar stores, the Star Wars® prequels, Red Dwarf, Superman III, The Cable Guy, UHF, Spaceballs

EIGHT favorite items to wear:shorts, golf tees, sneakers, nothing, sweatpants, t-shirts, sunglasses, ski mask

SEVEN sexiest celebrities: Rena Sofer, Jennifer Connelly, Scarlett Johannsen, Jennifer Garner, Natalie Portman, Jessica Alba, Jessica Simpson

SIX most irritating celebrities: Ben Affleck, Fran Drescher, Chris Tucker(outside of the Rush Hour films where I do like him), Jared from Subway, Carrottop, TheWriteJerry

FIVE favorite things about Summertime: ice cream, longer days, cool nights, barbecues, girls in sun dresses

FOUR books you've read most recently: The Five People You Meet on the Way to Heaven, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, A Storm of Swords

THREE words you've been meaning to look up:
propitious—Presenting favorable circumstances
specious—Having the ring of truth or plausibility but actually fallacious
pollyanna—A person regarded as being foolishly or blindly optimistic

TWO funniest gifts you've been given:
Once, in college, I was walking through the city with a couple of my buddies and may have admired Tahnee Welch(Raquel's daughter) on the cover of a Playboy we saw in a store window. At Christmas, a bunch of us from school got together and exchanged gifts. One of the two guys presented me with the Playboy. The other, an African-American, handed me a similar nondescript paperbag with a magazine inside, which turned out to be an all-black nudie magazine. He had gone the extra step of writing next to each girl how much money I'd have to spend on nicer clothes in order to look presentable enough to attract them.

Last Christmas, one of my co-workers gave me Shrek 2 as a secret Santa gift at our team party. That in itself wasn't funny, but after learning my parents once dressed me as W.C. Fields for Halloween(in a costume that I at the time thought was Burgess Merideth as the Penguin), he went the extra mile and made his own wrapping paper. I didn't notice the pattern at first but soon saw that against the red paper was a pattern consisting of various high-contrast images of Fields and myself. I slowly looked over to him as realization dawned and he and one of my other buddies who was in on the joke both lost it.

ONE thing you both fear and find wildly intriguing: Change.

• • •

No tags folks; feel free to pick up the topic and link back accordingly, if you so choose.


What's the deal with...?

...the Knight Rider episode The Mouth of the Snake'?
Hasselhoff is barely in this 2-part episode which mostly focuses on David Dalton, played by L. Charles Taylor, an actor I'd never heard of who sort of resembles a young Robert Davi. Dalton seems capable of superhuman feats, leaping fences in a single bound as a faint ”Bionic” sound effect is played. He is, in his own words, “just a guy”, despite being able to stop, drop and roll out of the path of bullets, or hang from the skids of a helicopter. As I watched this episode on DVD I could accept all these things from Glen Larson, but not the amount of screentime the character was getting. I forgot that there was a time in the history of television when such a practice was common, that rather than air a pilot for a new show producers would showcase a character on one of their existing shows with hopes of garnering an audience for a spin-off. In this instance, the spin-off was called ”Code of Vengeance,” aired years after his appearance on Knight Rider, and lasted a mere six episodes. More importantly, I never heard of the show before yesterday. Has anyone seen it? It also starred Erin Gray of ”Silver Spoons” fame.

....people putting all their stuff in the gym lockers at work and not using a lock?
I've lost track of how many times I've had to open and close doors three times before finding a vacant locker. People leave nice bags, wallets, clothes, EVERYTHING in there like no one's going to take anything. I of course never have, but I have been tempted on many an occasion to leave the door to the occupied compartment open. You're an adult. You work in an office. Buy a damn lock.

...Wang Chung not looking remotely asian?
Seriously, I guess I was deprived not having MTV growing up. Tonight's ”Hit Me Baby One More Time” was remarkably educational for me, even if Wang Chung was robbed. Seeing them perform Nelly's “Hot in Here” may well be the sole reason I was put on this planet. Also, did anyone else who caught the show feel that Howard Jones once bore an uncanny resemblance to Dave Coulier? If nothing else, Jones definitely had the most musical ability out of all the featured performers tonight, even if I was rooting for Wang Chung all the way.

...the portrayal of Asian-Americans in ‘80s films?
I was watching The Dead Pool last night, and Eastwood is partnered with an Asian-American. I found nothing particularly unusual about this, but one of his superiors makes a point of commenting how it will be good for the department's image to pair him with an Asian-American. Eastwood scowls and asks the moron if he has any children, and when the guy says “no” he says, “lucky them.” Several scenes later, while foiling the robbery of a restaurant in Chinatown Eastwood loses one of the perpetrators, who flees out into the street. He chases after him in time to see the guy run in to his partner who pauses, before delivering a flurry of open-palmed blows and finishing the guy with a roundhouse kick. Eastwood saunters over, smiles, and says “maybe it's good being partnered with an Asian-American”--! Later in the film we learn that, true to stereotype, he has a wise grandfather who has him paint protective sigils on his arms, chest and back. I guess the age of politically-correct films has altered my perceptions. When I watched The Enforcer over the weekend, I was surprised that Eastwood objected to having a female partner. Tyne Daly? Lacey? I couldn't fathom where he was coming from.

Today's his birthday and, despite being dead for several years now, he's still hard at work on albums and movies.

...feeding Gremlins after midnight?
Isn't it after midnight SOMEWHERE at any given time? If you feed them breakfast at 10AM, isn't that ten hours AFTER midnight? Or was it based upon light? If there was an eclipse at noon and you fed a Mogwai, would that trigger the metamorphosis? Maybe I'll never understand Magic.

...traffic patterns on the Long Island Expressway?
I've come to accept the perpetual construction. But why on a Saturday afternoon when no work is being done, and three lanes are open, does it turn in to a parking lot for six exits and then suddenly open up? One would assume that at the point where the flow of traffic shifts from 20MPH to 60MPH that a mass exodus can be noted at whatever the nearest exit was. Such an assumption would be wrong. If cars were leaving in droves, it's subtle enough for me to have missed it.

...the word “subtle”?
If anyone can provide a justifiable reason, factual or creative, for the necessity and contribution of the letter “b” to that word, I might just have to award a prize for the best answer. What do I have to offer? How will the best answer will be determined? I have no idea. At some unspecified point in the not-too-distant future we may learn what the deal is...


PBW: Unfinished Business

Photo Blog Wednesday

It's officially over.

My friends will occasionally refer to me as a “Google™-master" because I often find things very quickly, from the useful and informative to the outright weird. Regular readers of this blog know that I often use a lot of links in my posts, usually as footnotes but sometimes just for fun like Easter eggs. It is at once a terrible blessing and a wonderful burden.

I'm hesitant to divulge where this train of thought is leading, for it is a stop which may alienate and frighten my female readers. I ask only that you realize that all humans have weaknesses, and may give in to bouts of curiosity driven by loneliness. Whatever led me to it, on Monday evening before turning in I went looking for one more formidable female—my ex-girlfriend.

We had worked together at my first job out of college and, skeptical though I was at the time, she showed interest in me. She was cute and very smart, having gotten her Master's degree in English while I only had a bachelor's in Graphic Design. She was also three years older than me. Our initial dates were somewhat intimidating, but in time I grew very comfortable around her. I could be myself, and make dumb jokes, and not worry about her running for the hills. For nearly three years, she was my best friend.

Neither of us were making a lot of money in those days, so I think she understood if I didn't buy a lot of flowers or expensive jewelry as gifts. She liked to read and I often got her books or music, and augmented my store-bought presents with artistic ones. I gave her paintings of her cats, of us, a soft-sculpture of the sun I sewed for my “sunshine", and an 18"x24" framed charcoal portrait of her, to name a few lame gifts. Toward the end our company laid her off, and after months of searching for work she finally found a job in a bigger company with better benefits. I was so happy for her, but my heart leapt to my throat when she told me over the phone what the catch was: the job was out of state. I stayed cool and didn't let on how devastated I was. It would have been selfish to do so. It was a four-hour drive to where she was moving, and I was sure I could do it in less. My dad’s car was seeing its last days so I picked up a better, albeit used, car that I knew would make the trip. Before leaving, she mentioned a conversation her mom had with a neighbor who speculated I would be proposing to keep her here. She made it clear that she hoped that wasn't the case. Her parents had separated shortly before we got together, and I knew she was cautious of marriage. I was only 23 at the time and while I wasn't considering marriage yet, I couldn't imagine myself with any other woman. When I married, it would be to her. I didn't tell her this, mind you. I told her what she wanted to hear. She moved, and I visited every few weeks. Every few weeks she came down to visit her mom and her sister and her dad, and we would see each other then as well. For nearly four months we made it work, and all was fine.

I've probably written about the break-up before, but the way I “cleverly" name my posts I'm never going to find the link to reference it. The short version is that on one of her visits home she told me she wanted to “slow down" and not feel guilty about meeting other people, or something to that effect. I argued against the break-up as passionately as possible, quoting bits of literature I didn't even know were buried in the recesses of my mind. A lot of things happened that day, but ultimately she left.

This was a few weeks before Valentine's day, and down in my basement studio was an unfinished painting that was to be among her gifts. I was devastated. I was also confused when she sent me a card, and wrote that she hoped it wasn't inappropriate to do so. It took some time, but eventually we were more or less friends again. I finally got internet access and every couple of months we'd write back and forth and keep up with each other's lives. At first it was hard, because sometimes I'd find myself attracted to a cute girl in the office and just when I'd approach the point of acting on my attraction, I'd come home and find one of my ex's “how's it going?" e-mails, as if she sensed it. Numerous people whom I told of this situation recommended I see the movie Swingers, and when I saw Jon Favreau in a similar moral dilemma, I understood why.

Sometimes months would pass before she'd reply to something I wrote or initiate a new conversation. At some point she moved and I didn't even have a phone number. I knew the office job hadn't worked out and she had started tutoring troubled children, with an eventual goal of being a teacher. She wasn't doing mindless office work anymore. She was making a difference, and happy, and I was so proud of her. There were sad times shared as well, when she contacted me with some bad news regarding 911. Among the missing was the husband of a woman we had worked with, whose wedding we had both attended. This was early in our relationship and no one in the office knew we were together, and after a happy hour a few weeks before her wedding we let her know that we would be coming together. Now this woman's husband, father of her daughter and soon-to-be-born son was gone. My ex didn't come down for the memorial service, but the widow did ask after her when we spoke. In our e-mail correspondences we began to discuss the possibility of meeting for coffee or something, just to talk.

I don't know why it never happened, or even whose turn it was to write who. Maybe she stopped or maybe I did. Years passed. I still thought of her, but far less frequently. There were even some embarrassingly disastrous and ambitious attempts to start new relationships. At some point I did get a notice that she'd switched e-mail services and my ISP was giving me a month free because she used my name. The correspondence didn't include her new address unfortunately, and all ten of the potential guesses I made bounced back. I'd try to Google™ her sometimes and only once found her name on some memo at the school where she tutored. I realized such actions were creepy and stalker-like, and put her from my mind almost completely before I crossed any more moral lines.

I might have hit the “pause" button when our relationship ended, and stayed in the same place waiting for her eventual return. Her family was here; she had to come back someday and I would be ready. I felt guilty when I was attracted to other girls; when I was with her I really had stopped looking though I didn't realize this until after we broke up. I wanted to be available when she came back, and not have to break someone else's heart—or hers. So I hit “pause". I never went downstairs to my studio again. The painting would wait until I had the need to complete it. Nothing would change.

Therein lies the problem; time cannot be stopped. I've been doing some math and hard as it is to believe, it's been three years since our last communication and more than SIX since we broke up. Six years is a long time. In six years I've seen six friends get married. One friend moved to various parts of Europe and back to New York. One friend had a daughter. One friend had a son and now a daughter. My uncle died. My mom's cousin died. My parents both lost friends. One of my high school music teachers died. One of the band leaders I played for died. I nearly died myself at one point. A lot can happen in six years, and while I could speculate all day about what happened to HER she was just as frozen in my mind as I was.

Which, for those still reading, brings us full-circle to Monday night. I'm not proud of it, and I don't know what drove me to do it again after so long, but I typed her name in to the search engine. Her name came up on some school's news archive, reporting that she had been added to the teaching staff. It sounded like an exceptional private academy, the sort of place Lisa Simpson would fit right in to. It was the perfect place for her. The school praised her dedication to the children and ability to hold everything together, and said a lot of other nice things. These were all things that registered long after the first thing.

There were three names.

Her first name. Her last name. Someone Else's Last Name.

Three names.

Six years.

She'd be 32 now, 33 at the end of July. Of course she would be married. It was something I speculated, but there it was as cold hard fact. It wasn't that she never wanted to get married; she just didn't want to marry ME. So here I was a little after midnight sitting in the same chair in front of the same desk six years later, with the same lump in my throat and difficulty swallowing I had when I heard the words, “we need to talk."

I tried to sleep; I hadn't been this restless in a long time. Life went on for everyone but me. I begged God for some clear sign, some explanation of why I was always the running joke, always the nerd in the movie that didn't get the girl, the one that was NEVER supposed to get the girl. I was getting really, really tired of my role on this Earth.

I was in a somewhat more logical mood yesterday morning. The night before seemed like time travel, and going to work and talking to the people I know NOW anchored me back in the present, back in reality. The past was only something in my mind, and there was something else, a sense of freedom. I began to realize that maybe it wouldn't be cheating on her to date someone else, not now. I had made a promise to God Himself six years ago that would now be impossible to keep. How could I marry her now that she was married? I thought I had moved on but I guess as long as that possibility existed, I couldn't. Now? It was officially over.

I came home yesterday and checked my e-mail for the first time. The night before, around the time I was trying to fall asleep and praying for answers, Jerry had sent over a bible verse that had popped up on his computer:

"Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
Habakkuk 3:17-18"

The timing was very interesting, that a message basically saying “Even when it seems like you have nothing going for you, there's joy in God" was delivered at the time I was making my “inquiry". I went downstairs, cleared some things on my desk and took some pictures of that unfinished painting, the one that will no longer be taped to that desk after this weekend. I looked through a lot of my old drawings and saw the progress I had made in college. Doing page layouts and type designs for a living has been an acceptable compromise, but I miss illustration. I work with a lot of well-known artists in the Sci Fi and Fantasy field, and it's great seeing the process, commenting on their sketches and then receiving a finished painting. When that art arrives, it's like Christmas 30 times a year for me. It's a tough field and even the best of these folks have to work hard to remind art directors that they exist and need work. I've long since given up my dream to be a professional illustrator, but I think I'd like to start drawing again.

Some of my older work, while hard to see in these bad indoor photos, is actually better than some of my more recent attempts. I think the right atmosphere is important, and sitting in my room with a sketchpad on my lap isn't cutting it. I have a perfectly good drawing table downstairs, and it's past time I returned to it. Drawing is like music, and takes practice. If I drew as frequently as I played, I think I'd surprise myself. I have unfinished business with a stack of blank sketch pads.

The “pause" is officially over.