More than a Hero

On the season premiere of Smallville last night, one of the characters tells Clark that he isn't just a hero, he's a “SUPER” hero.* That, along with Janet's Tobey/Topher/Jake post as well as Darrell's thoughts on Spider-man 3, sent me into an introspective mood. As an only child, it's never taken much to send me exploring the recesses of my own brain. I wondered about the rise of superheroes back in the 1930s. What led pioneers like Siegel & Shuster, Bob Kane, and Stan Lee to create humans with powers and alter egos? Was it simply a modern mythology, or something more, fulfilling a need within themselves? What drew me to collect comics for eight years of my life, to aspire to become an artist, and to still pick up the occasional trade paperback as an adult? Why will “comic book movie” always rank as high if not higher as a genre than science fiction, fantasy, kung fu, mystery, horror or Bruckheimer?

I would wager that most, if not all, comic book professionals were fans first. They knew the names of all the best writers and artists, and could cite 50 years worth of a hero's continuity, knowing everything from how his costume works to which issue he bought a dog to his middle name. Perhaps they, like myself, valued the ability to escape reality. Comic books offered colorful worlds where the losers by day were heroes by night. When my parents “banished” me to an all-boy's Catholic high school, a nearby comic book store provided all the refuge I could find for the lonely ride home on the train each day. The heroes I read about, especially Spider-man, had genuine problems. They missed trains. They were picked on. They pined for their dream girl from a distance while some jock got there first. Sometimes their bosses gave them grief; other times family members inflicted psychological wounds. In many cases, they lost loved ones and were driven by guilt to better themselves. Super heroes were more than just modern myths, they were a metaphor for the untapped potential in all of us.

Deep down, beneath even the strongest shells of low self-esteem, every geek believes he can be better than the good-looking athletic guys. If he just works out and stays focused, he can transform his body, and he believes he already has an intellectual advantage. He believes on some level that he can be Batman. Many heroes though, despite their gifts, can't be with their one true love. For various reasons he has to keep his abilities hidden, even maintain a separate identity. Sometimes the girl falls for the superhero, and doesn't notice the man. This plays to the fan's fantasy as well, since he can believe that the way people see--or don't see--him is irrelevant, because inside he's something so much more. And maybe someday, he can reveal his true secret identity and be recognized for the greatness within.

As times change, themes change. Superheroes these days might have a wife and even kids, and many secret identities seem to have gone out the window. I don't know if it's a change in society so much as the creators looking to develop the character and do something different, for change's sake. Perhaps the writers themselves have matured past the adolescent stage of beating themselves up and pining for what can never be, and now write about what IS. I think any creative endeavor incorporates some part of the artist, no matter how different he or she might seem from the creation. Still, a lot of those old themes endure, and will continue to endure, as long as there's an audience who will identify with them.

* * *

*I apologize to anyone who might consider that a spoiler, except for Jerry, who should have better things to do than read blogs right now. :)


Dumpster Safety

I wonder if teachers still make kids write on blackboards when they misbehave, the way Bart Simpson does. Try as I might, I can't picture a student scrawling the phrase “I will not bring guns to class” 200 times. When I was in elementary school, my discipline came in the form of loose-leaf paper and a pen. Sometimes I'd have to write the same phrase 1,000 times, and I think my various teachers were trying to keep me occupied as much as they were trying to punish me. I was always easily distracted, and always a distraction to my classmates with my conversations and antics. Most days, that describes my office situation, and explains why I get more work done after everyone else has gone home. Apparently writing “I will not talk in class” over and over until my pen was dry and my hand was cramped served to teach me very little. And though I should have reached some level of focus, the task would often take longer because my mind would wander and I'd start to pretend my pen was a spaceship. I'd craft an elaborate story in my mind about the crew, and the journeys they'd take and the difficulties they'd encounter, especially when their ink-fuel dried up. In hindsight I realize that I've always been somewhat...off.

By middle school, I'd learned to keep my mouth shut and blend in to the masses. Five elementary schools' worth of graduates converged in 6th grade, and it was easy to stay below the radar and out of trouble. The only time I recall seeing the principal's office was when my mom insisted on lodging a complaint about another student spraining one of my fingers during a game of dodgeball. I was mortified. If I had blocked the ball with my palm or, something even more radical, DODGED it, then I would have been fine. Instead I was too slow and it hit the tip of my finger, threatening to take me out of a concert featuring the best musicians in the county. My right pinky turned purple and swelled to the size of my thumb, and I had to wear a splint holding it to the neighboring finger. The principal and vice-principal humored my mom despite my obvious stupidity, but nothing really came of their understanding nods. I never had to see that office again, and amid a larger population I could still get away with the occasional bout of foolish mischief, like dropping pins into electrical sockets during home economics class to see sparks. I'll never claim I was particularly BRIGHT as a child, as far as common sense goes.

One day during recess we were playing a game of hide-and-seek. Everyone scrambled for trees and nooks in the school building. One kid managed to climb up onto the roof of a one-story segment of the school, using a neighboring fence. I didn't quite have such skills or courage, so I decided to hide behind a dumpster. It was very close to the building and I couldn't squeeze through, but it did have wheels. As I struggled to move the thing, I heard someone clear his throat. Slowly, I looked around to see my math teacher standing there. After pointing out the “DO NOT PLAY ON OR AROUND” sign, he further assigned me a 1,000 word paper on “dumpster safety”. And so, in seventh grade, for the first time in elementary school, I found myself writing as punishment once more.

With all the writing I was forced to do, my handwriting never improved. My mom always joked that I should have become a doctor, and early on some teachers had me try my left hand in case that was the problem. I was even worse as a southpaw. My dad and his sisters have notoriously bad handwriting, so I guess it's just hereditary. Computers have all but eliminated my need to write at all, and I type just about everything except for checks and the occasional note. Kids today are exposed to computers far sooner than I ever was, and I wonder if handwriting is a dying art. I also wonder if the cycle continues. Maybe somewhere, there's a student typing “I will not play on or around dumpsters” 800 times, while a dedicated teacher looks on to make sure he doesn't cheat and copy/paste it all.


PBW: MCF Goes to Churches

Churches have some of the most unique architecture. From looming brick strongholds to modest houses, I drove around this weekend collecting a variety of shots of those in my area for tonight's Photo Blog Wednesday. I hope you'll all enjoy these photos, including my own parish, the sixth one down, and the church where my parents got married, at the very end:



Dragged Back In.

Part of me hates when shows are cut down in their prime. From time to time I may rail against the injustices that have removed Angel, Firefly, Tru Calling, Blind Justice, The Inside, Committed, and other programs I enjoyed from the air before I was ready to say goodbye. Other shows, like Friends, Cheers, Night Court, Buffy, Everybody Loves Raymond and The X-files each finished with what I felt was a satisfactory run. Whether a show runs its course or ends too soon, part of me is often glad to have one less thing to watch. Every year, a fraction of new shows proves worthy of viewing, and I don't mind. No matter what, through casual viewing or word of mouth, I still get sucked in. I think of some of the entertainment I've had, of the conversations with friends, and I ponder a time when I wasn't going to watch shows like Alias, 24, or Lost. I actually didn't give Lost a chance until the fourth episode, after which I was solidly addicted. There aren't enough hours in a day, and while some days I spend up to ten hours in my office building, I can't spend the remaining hours of consciousness in front of a television set. I'm not watching Surface, Invasion or Threshold, the last of which I didn't even know about until Lorna commented on it and I looked it up. I refuse. I absolutely refuse to add new shows. Whatever remaining shows I was watching last year, with the exception of Joey due to a scheduling conflict, will be the extent of my television viewing this season.

On a COMPLETE tangent, I know this great bridge over in Brooklyn that I could get you folks for a modest price.

Sometimes, a friend says something is good and I want to join in the conversation. Sometimes, I start watching something to give it a chance, and it turns out to be really good. Many of my regular shows haven't even started yet, and I already have four new programs. Here's a rundown, likely brimming with SPOILERS, of these new potato magnets:

Supernatural: In the wake of the aforementioned Buffy, Angel and X-files, there was a definite void in the supernatural genre. Granted, CALLING a show “Supernatural” is hitting the nail a bit, but after three weeks it's finding it's stride. Starring Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki as two brothers on a quest to find their missing father and take down ghosts and similar threats, it also marks the return of one of my favorite genres, the drifter show. A hero or heroes travel from town to town each week, helping out new strangers. Maybe they hitchhike, or maybe they drive a cool car, preferably black, as these brothers do. Each week the show presents a mini horror movie, with all the conventions of mood, lighting, and surprise. It didn't hurt that they cast the lovely Amy Acker tonight in an overdue return to the small screen, as the mother of a silent boy who knows the truth about what's killing people in a lake, and can only communicate through crayon drawings. The older of the two brothers remembers vividly how their mother was taken from them, and bonds with the child. There's a healthy blend of humorous banter mixed in with the action and suspense, and it's safe to say that I'll be sticking with this show.

How I Met Your Mother: I expected a Friends ripoff, and while I like both Alyson Hannigan and Neil Patrick Harris, I had my doubts about CBS portraying the dating scene of New Yorkers in their twenties. Where was the fat guy with the inexplicably hot wife? Where was the old lawyer/doctor/ranger solving murders? It didn't fit my image of the network. I was leery too of the gimmick of having Bob Saget narrate the story to his children. We know he marries the girl and has two kids eventually; what's the point? Yet the twist at the end of the first episode allayed those fears and proved that within the formula there could still be some surprises. Harris has some great recurring bits that are quickly making him my favorite character, and Hannigan proves she can be just as sexy kissing a guy as she was kissing girls in her Buffy days.

My Name is Earl: It's a great premise, and I guarantee you've never seen Jason Lee like this. Ethan Suplee has dropped some weight and somehow gained more humor, and Jaime Pressly is good as well. Lee plays Earl, a trailer dweller who has the epiphany that karma is why his life sucks. He makes a list of every bad thing he's ever done and sets about making things right, in order to balance things out. To make up for littering, he sets about cleaning the parking lot of a motel where he finds a $100,000 winning lottery ticket he had lost, proving his theory. Lacking a laugh track, the whole thing has a Coen brothers feel to it. After two weeks I like it, but I wonder if I'll tire of it at some point, if taping it and watching it after Supernatural is really worth it. Of the four, this is most likely the first casualty. How I Met Your Mother could be dropped at some point too. Sitcoms just don't hold me as well as they used to.

Prison Break: If sitcoms are declining, dramas are only on the rise. In the absence of 24, this is the most riveting hour on television, if you'll forgive the cliché. One brother is sentenced to die for a murder he didn't commit. Another will do anything to set him free, and that includes getting himself arrested, hiding the blueprints for the prison on his body in elaborate tattoos that hold other secrets, and making deals with some other inmates, some nicer than others. I'm not sure what will happen when and if they do get out, but so far the show's had a formula that works. Each week something vital to the escape plan is in jeopardy. We don't always know WHAT that something is, just that without it they're thoroughly screwed. One solution yields new challenges, and just when things seemed predictable, they unleashed chaos. After a huge riot last night in the first of a two-part episode, the escape plan has been exposed to the worst possible inmate, and a woman is in dire peril, unbeknownst to anyone but the younger of the two brothers. Meanwhile, his older brother is being led off by another inmate who’s agreed to kill him to protect a government consipiracy. This show picked up it's pace, found it's stride, and is now flat-out running. If I wasn't hooked before, I am now.


Cheer Me Up.

Skies are dark. I’m filled with woe.
Nothing shakes the status quo.
A labyrinth of changing trends,
A cyclic collection of dead ends.
I fight the end of Summer’s cheer,
but soon October will be here.
Yesterday was gray and chilly,
Trading woods for malls seemed so silly,
But where else was there to go?
Nothing shakes the status quo.

Someone please, cheer me up.
Tell me half-full is my cup.
Gray skies, gray walls, in a rut.
Worry not; my wrists aren’t cut.
Saturday Summer; Sunday Winter,
Such a sudden change in temper,
And by the time I drove home tonight,
Looking through raindrops at flecks of light,
Melancholy surged, making me a grump.
Someone please, please cheer me up.

Remind me of the season’s change,
Tell me beaches aren’t strange.
Snow will come but then shall melt,
Bringing Springtime feelings once I felt,
It’s all a cycle, all a game.
Infinite lives and all the same.
Good things end far too fast,
But even bad times never last,
Even if it seems a little crass,
tell me how this too will pass.

Hot chocolate, skating, snowball fights,
Christmas trees and wintery lights.
Weekends off are not so bad,
Nor shoveling snow to spare my dad,
So don’t mind me if I seem blue,
My emotions are natural, transient and true.
It’s always darkest before the dawn,
And it may be a while before I mow the lawn.
I wouldn’t be me without my luck,
Writing this has cheered me up.


Phantasmic Links 9.25.05

When I was a kid I thought nothing of killing bugs. I once spent an entire bored afternoon with a big rock taking out ants in my sandbox. At some point something changed, be it guilt, remorse, maturity, or any combination of the preceding. I'd step over ants, open my car window and slow down for flying insects, and catch insects in the house and release them outside.

But there are lines.

If a bug is particularly nasty and/or encroaches on my personal space, that bug has crossed the line and the rules of our unspoken peace allow me to retaliate. Last night, typing away at my computer, I noticed movement out of the corner of my eye on my doorframe. Jetting down at speeds heretofore unseen in such creatures, was the largest, nastiest spider ever to invade my room. It was about the size of my thumbnail, mostly brown, with a big black abdomen. I thought of my cat, obliviously curled up on a pile of laundry nearby, and I thought of myself, sleeping as the newcomer crawled over me. Within seconds, there was a crimson smear on a napkin I held firmly against the door. I disposed of the body after comparing it to photos of a Brown Recluse. While not indigenous to my region, it's better to be safe than sorry.

The weather is turning cold all of a sudden, especially today. Others may be coming, seeking shelter and warmth, and I may have to defend myself again. Last night I survived, and the phantom itching faded with time. But I'm still here, to share this week's PHANTASMIC LINKS:

14 days remain for you to send me your votes and guest posts for Cloakfest 2005. Which of the linked overall parties do you like the best? Which individual entry stands out above all others? Remember, attendance and participation at past parties isn't necessary. Many thanks to those of you who've already sent in your votes and guest posts. As added incentive, each guest writer will receive a mysterious “prize”. There's only one way to find out what that is, folks...

Can you master archery and level up your castle's defenses? By the time giants and flying foes opposed me, I was glad I did. Hat tip to Dosetaker.

Forget sweaters; why not put your pets in uniforms? I refuse to believe I've seen everything; I don't think the internet will EVER run out...

Speaking of animals, check out these pictures. Some are obvious fakes, while others have been around for a while, but it's a fun collection.

Do you agree with this list of the Top 50 Sci Fi Shows of All Time? Hat tip to A Small Victory.

Can you figure out what to do with various every day objects in order to pay off a gambling debt? Swedish gives you a chance to find out.

Earlier this week, Janet asked her readers what their favorite movie lines were. There's an impressive list in the comments, and it's a tough subject to narrow down. Earlier today I finally saw Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, a film I'd been hearing about all my life since my dad proposed after taking my mom to see it, and I think I need to add this line to my list of favorites: “Listen, I don't mean to be a sore loser, but when it's done, if I'm dead, kill him.” Actually, that whole movie is quotable. What lines do you like Nexusiphiles?

Oh no...not here too! What's going on with the weather on this planet lately?

Just for fun, I was checking out overpriced costumes in a Halloween store today. I think the best outfits are homemade, and I haven't gone with a storebought outfit since I was 2. Here are some of the worst costumes out there.

Is Verification Libs the newest game craze in the blogosphere? Doubtful. Hat tip to, um, me.

Some celebrities will age better than others(though I think Kidman will look much better than that).

Prince Adam takes a song I HATE and makes it hilarious. See my earlier remark about the internet never running out of new things to show me....



Pop Goes the Culture

What is it about pop culture references that we appreciate so much? I wonder if they've always been so pervasive in television shows and movies, or if The Simpsons set a precedent. Time was, even the mention of Mr. T or some other ‘80s icon would be enough to bring a smile to my face. It's possible that the shows I watched as a kid worked in references that I was simply too young to appreciate, and now that I've become old enough for people my age to be making the shows I watch, they're pulling from shared experiences I recognize and identify with. In an entertainment-based culture, nostalgia looks to the works of actors and musicians.

Shows become increasingly smart, and go beyond mere mentions to derive humor. I remember one episode of Scrubs in which a main character mentions that he wanted to get married in a church where the priest reminded him of ”Sulu”. The inevitable payoff is that later in the episode, he goes to this church and George Takei is playing the role of the priest. Another episode had the Janitor claiming to be an actor, and later using an actual clip from The Fugitive to prove his point, because Neil Flynn, who plays the Janitor, really had a small role in the movie. Stuff like that is brilliant.

Family Guy is another show that throws in references to movies, actors, cartoons, comics, music and more at a frenetic pace. I'm sure that even I don't get every single one. There was one episode a few years back in which the gang, sailing in the arctic, passes some bizarre character with long arms and cat makeup reciting some “fishy-o” poem that made me think of Dr. Seuss. Of course, many of you are no doubt jumping up and down at your computers screaming ”Monty Python's The Meaning of Life”, but I know that--as of this morning. Yes, the quest to see everything continues. I actually have seen bits and pieces of TMoL over the years and recognized many of the sketches, but I've never seen it in its entirety, and certainly not the “Fishy-O” guy. What a bizarre sequence that was. I think I know what an acid trip must be like now.

I wonder if Seth Macfarlane gets permission from the creators of all the shows he references. In Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story, one sequence actually has original voice actors from Thundercats reprising their roles. I think the thing about pop culture is that entertainment offers a way to hang on to pieces of our past. There really isn't anything we can't see again, even if it's a reasonable facsimile. Long-dead figures appear in commercials, and I've seen everyone from Steve McQueen to Biggie on television again. I'm not so sure that's a good thing, but the point is the technology exists; we CAN see them again.

Is it all nostalgia then? What if some of it is recycling? Will television collapse in on itself and implode? In 2017 will a VH1 show look back on this decade, and have Haley Joel Osment, Dakota Fanning, Greg Grunberg and more fondly look back on clip shows like ”I love the ‘80s”? Regular readers know how much I appreciate pop culture, but when we reach the point that we're remembering the time that we remembered the time, I think it will be out of hand. For now though, I'll enjoy my references as often as I recognize them.


Every Spam Makes Me See Red

Spam is an insidious and evil marketing tool, a mindless swarm of locusts set loose upon the electronic world to plague every letter combination imaginable within the vicinity of our e-mail addresses. At one point a few years ago, before getting DSL and switching my service provider, I'd come home every night to over 100 new e-mails. My heart would swell with potential popularity, only to see that two were funny links I'd sent home to myself from work, and 98 promised me everything from “Larger Breasts to Make Him Notice” to “ViG@ra to keep Her--and You Know What--Up All Night”. I have no idea what demographic probability computer had concluded that I was an elderly transvestite, but my old inbox painted a clear and disturbing picture of who they thought I was.

We have spam protection at my job, though it's shocking to see some of the things that slip through. Spam comes in many forms, too. There was a nice older woman who'd been with our company for years, who was laid off a few years ago. Since her involuntary retirement, she's spent most of her free time e-mailing links, poems, funny pictures and just about anything else most of us put in blogs to everyone she knew in the company. I remember the first year I was with the company, while I was home recovering from surgery, she'd often send me snacks from the vending machine and other thoughtful care packages. I appreciated it then, and I often wonder how the same woman now sends 50-60 e-mails a day to a large distribution list, most with decidedly not-work-safe content. Though I have her address listed in a rule to automatically move it to the trash, if she blind copies me on something it still comes through to my inbox. I'm thinking of turning off the preview feature so I don't accidentally see some of the images she sends. There was one of a guy stuck in a shower door last week that still has me cringing; I’ll leave that to your imagination. She really needs a blog as an outlet for all the things she forwards.

While my spam system and rules miss things like my friend's inappropriate transmissions, they do catch the majority of unwanted mail. There's one spammer that I occasionally glimpse in my deleted items, that I've never been sure about. Is he selling a pyramid scheme, or financial advice? Perhaps he's a self-help guru. He always addresses me as “friend” and tells me the answers lie inside, but if I'm stubborn about the advice my real friends give me, then I'm less inclined to read a stranger's suggestions. Yet, when I saw the subject line of “HELP ME FIGHT KATRINA”, curiosity got the better of me.

Spam doesn't take a holiday in the face of tragedy. I've seen bloggers who made it through the hurricane proclaim their survival only to be greeted immediately but automatically generated ads. So I had to see how Joe Vitale would use the hurricane to sell me this book. I won't share the whole message I received, but the gist of it was that we're all victims of various things, from gas prices to weather to our “poorly run government”. He then went on to explain how positive thinking was the way forward:

”While you may not want to stand in the path
of Rita, you don't have to cower under the bed.

As odd as it may sound, I believe that if enough
of us think positive, we can create a counter
storm of sorts. We can protect ourselves and
our loved ones with our thoughts.

I've described and proved this with the research
in the back of my book, "The Attractor Factor."
Nineteen studies *proved* that when a large
group of people hold positive intentions,
those intentions radiate out and become reality.”

That's eye-opening, isn't it? Some people have blamed various levels of government for the crisis, while others have wondered why God allows tragedy in the world. The problem though, isn't weak levees, or even basic geography and common sense. Where the people of New Orleans went wrong, was in their negative thinking. Everyone thought the place would flood and it did. If they only worked together to achieve a ”Unimind” of sorts, their psychic energies could have held back the raging waters. “Joe” goes on to share more pearls of wisdom, like “If you think the storm will get you, then
it's already gotten you.” and “...pretend you are the eye of the


The scary thing is that some people might not delete things like this, might even take it seriously. Conventional advertising is grounded in numbers. A television show stays on the air if enough people watch it, because to the sponsors those ratings equal potential customers. And as long as a product sells, a company has the budget to continue promoting it. Spam is a blindfolded creature hurtling electronic darts into cyberspace. It's free, so if only a few stick to something, it's done it's job. The e-mail I received today certainly got through. I'm positively seeing red over it. Well done spammer, well done.


Verification Libs

If J-No can make up a game with the word verification gibberish, then so can I.

In order to prevent spam, this site requires each person to type a series of nonsense letters, a feature I'm sure most of you are familiar with by now. I'm going to share a fragment of a (bad) story I once wrote, with words intentionally left blank. As each of you comment, paste the first available sentence with blanks, filling the blank with the nonsense word you're given, and bold it. Once enough people have commented, I'll edit the post to include all the words. This may seem stupid, but bear with me--we just might have fun...

* * *

"Are you here?" asked Walter as he entered the library, momentarily taken back by the resounding ____ of his own voice. It seemed wrong, but felt right somehow.

"Over here!" she called, and he turned toward the melodic _________ of her voice. Kathryn Patterson. His wife.

Kathryn was crouching next to a reference _____, Molly and Alcatraz nearby with their children. The former warden and his wife had the beginnings of a __________ family, but Walter's pride and joy was his own. Young Walt had managed to wriggle out of one of his socks again, and he _______ as Kathryn perched him on the edge of the table and worked the sock back on while Molly steadied him. A warm ______ danced along Walter's spine, and he chuckled.

"Now then, hope I don't have to lock the tyke up in my brig." he said, stepping forward and grabbing his wife by the _____.

"Don't you dare," she replied, a gleam in her ____ as they met his. "I think the 'Hero of the Starbase' has enough _________ to fill the cells without having to restrain his own son."

"Maybe..._____ has been pretty crime-free since I was put in charge of security. Maybe I can spend more time around you."

Kathryn smiled and kissed him, and Walter remembered the first time they ___. She had told him an anecdote about her niece back home on Earth, and he nervously smiled and cursed himself for barely being able to speak to her. Right then and there, from the way she described how she spoke to her _____, he knew she would be a good ______, a natural. He knew he wanted her to be the mother of his children and spend the rest of her ____ with him.

Paralyzing shyness. It seemed so far away now, like he was a different person. Walter had come so far for an ________ desk clerk. He had single-handedly stopped a one-eyed tentacled demon from...from something, and had saved Kathryn. From that action his confidence had boosted, and he managed to thwart the new ____ before their organization even got off the ground. Inspired, Walter set about presenting strategies he had conceived in fictional holo-novels written in his spare ____. Alcatraz and the others in security were so impressed they promoted Walter immediately to the position of ________ General. Working with communications and lab technicians, he perfected a space-time portal generator, and summoned the greatest heroes of the __________ in their prime. Together, they formed a legion and, under Walter's guidance, took out the Electriad, the Paleguard, the _______, the Swarm, the _____, the Hive, the ___, and more. Walter faced the _______ villain alone however, one no one could have expected, and the human _____ and ingenuity won out. The __________ itself was at peace, and the warden retired, nominating Walter as his ___________. ________ of course seconded it, and as he stood on the dais in the holorooms beside _______ and the Captain, the only face in the audience he saw was hers. His acceptance speech was a wedding ________, and she accepted.

* * *

Obviously, I have more blanks than I have readers, so you can comment as many times as you like until this exercise in insanity is complete.


PBW: Garage Day

Remember when I mentioned taking pictures in a parking garage last month? No? Neither did I. But since I worked this past weekend and didn't really get out with my camera, it didn't take me long to come across these as yet unpublished photos. Was I really hanging off a roof to get some of these shots? In the coming weeks, I have some fresh ideas planned for Photo Blog Wednesday. For tonight, look at the colors and the geometry, and hopefully find art in the ordinary as I did:



The Point of No Return.

”I've passed the point of no return. You know what that is? That's the point in a journey where it's harder to go back to the beginning than to continue on to the end.”Michael Douglas, Falling Down (1993)

Life offers all kinds of moments we can't return to, irreversible changes that are sometimes good and sometimes bad, but all part of growth. Over the weekend, I happened to see a commercial heralding ”Transformers: Cybertron”, weekday afternoons at 4:30. The last time I watched a Transformers cartoon in that time slot was over twenty years ago, when a ten-year-old MCF raced home from school with one thing on his mind: robots. Before I realized what I was doing, the VCR remote was in my hand and I'd programmed Monday through Friday. Last night, during commercials between ”How I Met Your Mother” and ”Prison Break”, I discovered that I can't go back. It's a sobering thing, but sober is often good.

It was bad. It blended animé with computer generated models, and the seams were painfully visible. The badly dubbed voices were irritating, even though some of the voice actors I'd enjoyed on other series. I would say perhaps ten minutes of the episode constituted actual plot, while the rest were elaborate sequences demonstrating the robots turning in to vehicles. They each announced their name, and changed one at a time while electric guitars blazed and a rotating glowing grid in the background threatened to give me seizures. Not only was the cel animation of the original series easier on the eyes, the transforming was fast, leaving more time to tell an actual story. This was the most blatant toy commercial I've ever had the misfortune to fast forward through. By the time a flying firetruck soared through the forest, I was already furiously deleting it from my program. I don't know what I was thinking.

Nostalgia has value. It grounds us, and common experiences unite us. Nostalgia tends to color the past in a different light, and we sometimes think things were better than they actually were. Tastes also change as we mature, but that too is a good thing. It's good to look back sometimes, realize we're not the person we once were, and gain perspective into who we are, and who we will be. I've come too far, further than I realized, and I can't go back. It's scary, but moving one step at a time is enough to take anyone forward.

That being said, one is compelled to question:

11 years of ER

Rocky VI


Police Academy: Mission to Moscow

Gung Ho the series.

Star Trek(this will definitely get me in trouble with some readers)

Susan Lucci(she's been playing the same role for 35 years)

The Golden Palace

Three's a Crowd

Kato Kaelin

Feel free to continue the list in the comments....


You know what I noticed?

The moon was large, full, and a shade of red I've never seen before. As I neared the end of my commute home, it loomed ominously on the horizon, like a frame out of an old horror movie. I thought back on my day and recent events as I drove, and several thoughts came to mind.

Every day at work, for about a week now, there have been loud noises coming from the ceiling over the quadrant of cubicles where I sit. A couple of days ago rain started leaking in, and some workers came and moved the drop ceiling panels, putting our recycling buckets up there to catch the drops. One of them informed us that we were directly under the boiler room, and that this was the first building he'd ever worked in with a boiler on the roof, as opposed to the basement. The buckets have remained up there collecting water, and the noise of the workers has gotten loud. Today there was a lot of loud banging and crashing, and despite the reinforced beams we can see through the open panels of the drop ceiling, I'm hoping I don't find anything large and metal occupying my space tomorrow morning.

Needless to say, if I escaped death for the umpteenth time today when the ceiling held, several animals I encountered on my way home had closer calls. On one road, in the dark, something that may have been a possum or a cat shot across the road from left to right in front of me and leapt up on to the sidewalk at blinding speed. I was already going slow, because that particular area is a speed trap, but I braked in surprise. As I accelerated, my heart still doing the same, I reassured myself that the odds of another animal doing the same were slim. Not FIFTY feet down that same road, a calico cat darted out from right to left, escaping me as well as an oncoming car on the other side of the four lane road. I may never learn not to question the odds, but it's a mystery why.

About a mile from my home, on a dark stretch of highway isolated from both residential and commercial areas, I suddenly smelled soup, the kind of noodles you'd find stuck together in a plastic package with a bouillon cube. It smelled amazing, but I have no idea where it came from. Was someone cooking soup in the woods? Had a car driving by with an open window contained a passenger enjoying a Cup O Noodles? I may never know, but tonight is more about observations than answers I think.

”Japanese Cartoon” was the very first Strong Bad e-mail cartoon I watched on the Homestarrunner site, more than two years ago now. I think it's been about that long. The brothers that run that site are constantly coming out with new innovations, new ways to make a living selling merchandise for silly flash cartoons. Though they've already come up with 22 variations on their main page(23 counting a hidden one), today they unveiled another brilliant take on their basic structure. They update on Mondays, which is why this wasn't included in yesterday's links.

Ever wonder what happened to Pauly Shore? I certainly didn't, but for some reason I rented Pauly Shore is Dead this weekend. It featured a record number of celebrity cameos, showed he had a sense of humor about his life, and at times came off as a love letter to Sam Kinison. I was amazed when he addressed a group of college kids in a featurette about the making of the movie, and told them to rent Back to School if they didn't know who Kinison was. Even more sobering was a line from Britney Spears in which she questions, “Pauly Shore...OH, he's the guy that was on MTV before I was born.” I quickly checked and found that he would only have been 13 when she was born, so there was a little bit of an exaggeration. Very little, and I'm once more wondering where all the years have gone.

Kryptonite, irradiated fragments of his destroyed home world, is Superman's one weakness. I wonder if they'll ever have an episode of Smallville in which Clark questions the Earth element Krypton while studying chemistry. Why WOULD we have an element with the same name as his home planet? Maybe that's a dumb notion, but that show's certainly had more ludicrous plot threads...

I tend to watch details very closely. Last week, at one point during the series premiere of Supernatural, the two brothers around whom the show focuses are discussing music. Jared Padalecki questions the cassettes in the car of his brother, played by Jensen Ackles, both their content and the fact that in 2005 he still listens to cassettes. Ackles' character defends his music, holding up a tape clearly labeled Metallica, calling the group by name, and explaining why he likes them. He then pops it into the tape deck as the car peels off, and Back in Black by AC/DC blasts. If I'm understanding correctly, the show had the rights to use Metallica's name but not their music, and the rights to use AC/DC's music but not refer to the group by name. Even more frightening is the fact that the same kids who listen to Britney Spears and need to be told who Sam Kinison is, probably didn't even notice.

Leaving a laugh track off a sitcom greatly enhances it. Tonight's premiere of ”How I Met Your Mother” showed some potential, and I especially enjoyed the performance of veteran stars like Alyson Hannigan and Neil Patrick Harris, but the laugh track annoyed me. I think shows like Scrubs and Family Guy have spoiled me. I don't need to be told to laugh. If it's funny, that should be enough.

I think that's enough observations for one evening. Tune in tomorrow for something more cohesive, or less, but hopefully still entertaining.


Phantasmic Links 9.18.05

It's funny how God can address our concerns, if we care to listen. Just yesterday I was whining about my musical obligations, such as they are. As part of his sermon at mass this morning, the priest mentioned how the phrase “life is unfair” can be a mental trap. We might squander the talents we've been given and be tempted to give up with such a mindset. If we can't win, why even try? He offered alternatively that “life is hard”, because that phrase acknowledges challenge without concession. Mind you, the improbability in my life amuses others, so not writing about it would also be a waste of talent. But it is an interesting way to adjust one's viewpoint I thought, and in line with yesterday's musings about the struggle needed to survive or gain something of value.

My former music teacher is 85, and has been in and out of hospitals more and more in the last decade. At last night's parade we saw a drummer who also took lessons from him, who was old enough to have met him while he was still a school teacher. He informed us that he was in the hospital in bad shape and we should visit him sooner, rather than later. So, after we got home from today's job, my dad and I paid him a visit. He was half asleep when we got there, covered in bruises, and connected to various tubes and wires. Though his heart and his kidneys are weak, his mind is still as sharp as ever. He recognized us both, my musical Yoda, and asked how we were doing. We told him of various gigs we'd played, and my dad filled him in on a concert band they used to play together in. He lamented the fact that his grandson, now a junior in college, never really took to the trumpet. I remembered the toddler that would wander in during my lessons sometimes, and asked myself if that much time had really passed. He asked about my job, and if I practiced every day. I admitted that I didn't, but that the weekends kept me busy and in shape in the Summer. As he's done as long as I've known him, he shared his wisdom once more. There was no rebuke to his tone; he simply stated fact as he lay there, barely able to move, and told me that 20 minutes a day is necessary to stay in shape. Suddenly, my excuse about being tired when I get home from work seemed even thinner.

I hope he pulls through. He's scheduled for surgery later this week, followed by several weeks' recuperation in a nursing home. Things have been bad before and he's always pulled through, but time catches up with all of us. His mind is razor sharp; it's his body that's slowly breaking down. First as a schoolteacher, then later giving private lessons when he retired, he's taught generations of musicians, some of whom went on to make their primary living from music. A more inspirational human being I've yet to meet.

* * *

I apologize for the ”Tuesdays With Morrie” tangent, but I found the perspective I encountered several times today important enough to share. We now return you to tonight's regularly scheduled program, already in progress, this week's PHANTASMIC LINKS:

21 days remain for you to send me your votes and guest posts for Cloakfest 2005. Which of the linked overall parties do you like the best? Which individual entry stands out above all others? Remember, attendance and participation at past parties isn't necessary. Many thanks to those of you who've already sent in your votes and guest posts. As added incentive, each guest writer will recieve a mysterious “prize”...

Aim to misbehave...with LEGO Serenity.

The newspaper comic version of Peter Parker is apparently dumber than I am. Seriously, I've never shown up for a dental cleaning wearing my cloak...

Grow Cube--what will they think of next?

Speaking of forced segues, check out Cube's cat and dog impersonating the weather.

It might defeat Cobra, but Does it get good mileage? Hat tip to Rey.

Speaking of G.I. Joe references...

Rock...paper....devil?! DRAGON?!

Enjoy this collection of various Stop Motion Shorts.

Khaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan! I'm sorry if that offends anyone.

Ambigrams, whether symmetrical or asymmetrical, are just the sort of thing that graphic artists like myself might appreciate.

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens? Actually, I'd say it's the exact opposite--be warned or be traumatized...

This maze would be a LOT easier without the time limit. Of course, it would be a lot less of a challenge. I gave up at level nine....for now.



Don't Need Your Civil War

I can taste sweet freedom on the horizon. Don't get me wrong; I enjoy being a musician, getting exercise and making extra cash on the weekends. But every year around this time, I start thinking it might not be so bad having nothing to do on a Saturday or Sunday, and start counting the gigs until I have my weekends free again. Tonight was supposed to be a simple job, a parade for a fire department. While feast processions with my Italian bands are generally several hours, parades consist of walking for a mile or two from one point to another. The longest thing about parades is the waiting. Depending on the division we're in, we could be at the beginning or end of the parade, or somewhere in between. The bigger the parade and the further back we are, the longer the wait.

Tonight was a last-minute request that my dad agreed to earlier this week. I came home from work and when he asked, “You're not doing anything on Saturday, right?”, I knew we were already booked. I wasn't doing anything, so I decided I might as well make some extra cash to support my expensive habits, like watching DVDs or playing video games or, you know, driving. Going anywhere with my dad is a stressful affair since he's obsessed with getting places early, and days in advance I have to listen to: “So we're going to leave here at 3 on Saturday, right? 3? Hello? Did you hear me? Well why didn't you answer? What? I'm just asking a question. Boy, you can't talk to this kid...”

Now that my dad is getting older, he's discovering new and unique ways to increase stress prior to a job. Today I heard him exclaim an oddly muffled “Ohhhh no! Ohhh boy--!” and come running out of the bathroom. In lieu of floss, since he has trouble with it and few of his teeth are still originals, he uses these little plastic sticks with bristles on the end of them. They're pretty thick, so I doubt they're meant to go between teeth. Yet there he stood with his mouth agape in the hallway, a piece of plastic wedged between two teeth in the bottom row, his lower lip dripping saliva on the floor. “Whag oo ay oo?!” he asked, as I raced to put some paper towels on the floor and ushered him back into the bathroom. Before I could stop him, he impatiently yanked it free with a sickening snap that I hoped was just the plastic. Later, as we drove to our destination, he idly mused that he hoped his teeth weren't broken. I asked him if they hurt and he said no, so that was a good sign.

Emergency aside, we arrived on time and proceeded to wait nearly two hours before it was our turn to march. Though we were told it would be short, the route was over two miles so neither distance nor time were lacking. As we neared the reviewing stand, a crowd of people who'd driven their cars up onto a patch of grass were drinking beers, cheering, and holding up signs. The messages from our “fans” ranged from “Baby got back” to “take off your shirt” to “Get a life” to “Let's get it on”. I admit to sensing some mixed signals.

Life is full of struggles, and we sometimes wrestle with being where we want to be versus being where we need to be. Still, I'm starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel and, despite my legendary luck, I don't think it's a train. I have another procession tomorrow, and two more parades in a few weeks for Columbus Day weekend, and I'm more or less free for a few months with the possible exception of one holiday parade. I did get a call for a job on October 1st, but I had to turn it down because it conflicted with someone's wedding. If they weren't at the exact same time I might have been able to fit both in, but even as I considered it a moment of clarity hit me like a ton of bricks: It's not going to kill me to take a day off for something more important and fun.

It's nice to recognize when there's a freedom of choice. As I watched the Odyssey-like Civil War epic Cold Mountain this morning, I marveled at the determination of Jude Law's character to survive, and reunite with his true love, played by Nicole Kidman. At one point in the film, he asks a blind man what he would do for ten minutes of sight. The blind man says he wouldn't want it, because it would be cruel to go back to being blind again. His stance was that having a thing and losing it was worse than never having it at all, but Law countered that some things were worth fighting for, no matter how brief. Without some conflict, we might never get what we want.

One thing the film showed was how brutal life was back then, how tragic it was for countrymen to be at each other's throats. I look at politics today, a subject I rarely touch, and I pray we're not heading down that road again. Admittedly, I never paid much attention to the news, especially as a child, so that may be why things seem so different to me now. Did conservatives hate Carter as much as we hated Clinton? I remember Reagan being a beloved figure, not reviled by liberals as our current president is. Realize, as I do, that this is a gross oversimplification that doesn't take into account specific events from their respective term. Maybe the personal attacks and dissatisfaction existed during the presidents of my youth, and I just wasn't paying attention. It's never going to be possible to please all the people all the time, and we have a pretty good system in which every four to eight years, it's some other group's turn to be pleased or unhappy. Still, the tensions seem high and the reds and blues on the map point to a marked division in this nation.

When I take into account the struggles people are facing in this world, and the endurance our ancestors needed to simply survive, I know I can march a few more steps and tough it out. Sometimes I just need to step back, gain perspective, and recognize how trivial my “problems” truly are in the grand scheme of history and the world.



...humans the only living things that imagine what it would be like to be another living thing?

...you lonesome tonight?

...chicken fingers the result of some twisted genetic mutation? What about buffalo wings? What about this guy?

...ye awarrrre that Talk Like a Pirate Day is three days away, maties? Yarrghh!

...nine stitches really all that bad?

...these real, do you think?

...we there yet?

...you sure?

...smaller Hummers ironic to anyone besides me? Will we soon be able to sub-size our meal for just 35 cents less?

...”doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles” all that high on anyone else's list of favorites? I guess it beats dog bites, bee stings, or manic depression, right?

...you going to finish those fries?

...Daniel and William jealous over the success and popularity of non-relation Adam?

...S T U V W? X Y Z?

...Snorks weirder than Berbils?

...gas prices going to continue to drop until what was ludicrous two weeks ago is now welcomed as a bargain?

...the best things in life really free?

...my thoughts showing?

...some scientists too absent-minded for our own good?

...dryer days ahead for New Orleans?

...two heads better than one? It must be nice to be Modulok...

...cola. Chachi Arcola.

...ants ever uncles?

...goldfish more valuable than silverfish?

...you all considering your votes and looking forward to the impending festivities?


Nine Seven SEX.

The first time I saw a naked woman, I was only in the third grade.

In life, there's a time and place for everything, a natural point when we're ready to gain knowledge of certain things. If it was difficult when I was growing up for adults to keep a lid on certain things, I can't imagine how hard it must be for parents today. Kids are exposed to so much before they're even teenagers, and I think the days of mom or dad sitting down to have “the talk” with Jimmy or Jenny are long gone. It's a challenge some parents would put off as long as possible, while others would wait for teachers to solve for them. My parents faced it sooner than they were prepared for, and it was awkward and embarrassing for all involved.

One day, a little girl (successfully) tried to increase her popularity in my elementary school by bringing in a stack of her father's Playboy magazines. I wandered over to a crowd gathered around her desk, and overheard one of the boys, sounding very impressed, use the phrase, “spread eagle in a bathtub”. I was certain they were looking at wildlife photos, and I was a big fan of Ranger Rick Raccoon. I had stacks of that magazine at home myself, but I hadn't come across an article about someone bringing an exotic bird into the house. I wondered if it was a National Geographic she'd brought in. I craned my neck to see, found a break in the crowd to squeeze through, and saw that I was way, way off. On that day I learned real women were more anatomically correct than the girl next door's Barbie® dolls, which answered a LOT of questions I'd had while raising others.

Pandora's box had been opened. And, not long after, another classmate would make a startling discovery about an automated phone system. By changing some digits ever so slightly, the weather hotline became a recorded sex message. In other words, if one called 976-3X3X to get the weather, 976-2X2X was something altogether different. I was sure he was lying though, and a few of the other boys were skeptical as well. There was only one way to be sure, and later when I was home and my parents weren't around, I dialed the number. On the other end was a VERY friendly librarian who was eager for me to check her out. I think I understood the gist of the message, though some of the actions described made little sense to me. I probably called back two or three times to make sure I understood.

The next day at lunch, everyone gathered to compare notes. One or two guys pretended they had called to fit in, but those of us who called for real knew what she said and spotted the fakers pretty quickly. It was one of the rare times in elementary school that I was actually part of an “in” crowd. Maybe I didn't have cable, and maybe I hadn't seen all the movies most of the other kids had, but now I could join in the conversations. Like office workers gathering around the water cooler to discuss their favorite television show, we gathered to compare notes about this new phenomena. Who knew the telephone hid such treasures? Of course, being 9 or 10, we quickly grew bored and life went back to normal in a few days. I'd only listen to two more calls that week. One was a nurse who bet her patient was naked under the sheets and won, and the other was a teacher who taught me some very special lessons. After I lost interest, I forgot I'd even made the phone calls. There were many things I didn't know about when I was a kid, and phone bills were unfortunately among them.

A few weeks later, oblivious to the storm on the horizon, I was playing in my room when I heard my mom call my dad into the kitchen, and ask him about some expensive charges to a 976 number. She didn't recognize it, nor did he, so she called the phone company to find out what it was. By the time I heard her ask the operator, “It's a WHAT?!” I was already out the door. A few tense moments passed as I sat on the lawn idly pushing a toy dump truck back and forth. I heard the screen door open and close, saw two shadows fall across me. I sensed that this was going to be bad, but they were surprisingly calm. They asked if I had made the calls, and I nodded without lifting my head, unable to look them in the eye. My mom went on to explain that it was wrong, that they weren't very nice women, and that I should never do that again. I mumbled an acquiescence and an apology, still not looking up. After an eternal awkward silence, the shadows were gone.

We never spoke of the incident again except for one other time, a few days later. We were going for one of our family drives, and I was lying across the back seat reading a comic book as always. I wasn't really listening to my parents, but in hindsight I can imagine them whispering, maybe my mom prodding my dad to say something. All I remember is him nervously asking, out of the blue, “So--so what...what kind of things did they say?” I told them I didn't remember and said I was trying to read. I'd say that was the closest we ever came to “the talk”. Classmates and biology teachers filled in the rest of the blanks by the time I was in middle school.

If I'm ever lucky enough to have kids, I know this is something I'll have to deal with someday. With the internet in the mix, all the parental controls in the world won't change the fact that the questions will be raised sooner, rather than later. Hopefully, when the time comes, I'll have better answers.


PBW: In my next life...

You're looking at the only shot I have of the Spectrum Show opening, because my camera SUCKS. At one point it froze and I could only turn it off by opening the battery cover. Apparently, this wipes out the memory card, even images I had locked. The problem is that the door is loose and if I don't hold the card in place, pictures either save to the camera itself, or often not at all. It's been a good learning device though, and now that I (sort of) know what I'm doing, I'll definitely buy a better one next time. On my way home, I did manage to get a shot of the steps of Penn Station, which currently remind New Yorkers that ”Everybody Hates Chris”

At this rate, everyone is going to hate Photo Blog Wednesday. It's times like these that, if I believed in reincarnation, I'm certain how my life could be better.

Can you imagine a life where you don't have to get up at any specific time, don't need to deal with the stress of a commute and the aggravation of a job, can nap anytime and anywhere, and someone else feeds and cleans up after you?

Hmm...I wonder if I’m too young to move into a retirement home...



CloakFest 2K5

Now, for the first time anywhere, I've collected the Blog Parties of 2005:

Blog Party I: Top Five Villains
Afterparty of Champions

Blog Party II: Three Favorite Sitcom Supporting Characters
Afterparty of Canned Laughter

Blog Party III: Top Five Heroes
Afterparty of Vigilance

Blog Party IV: Femme Fatales & Formidable Females
Afterparty of Estrogen

Blog Party V: Five Favorite Places
Afterparty: Where were you?

Blog Party VI: Three Wishes
Afterparty VII: Up in Smoke

Oscar Blog Party

Impromptu Blog Party Say What?!

FawnDoo's OMG Party
FawnDoo's OMG Afterparty

FawnDoo's Old Coot Blog Party
FawnDoo's Old Coot Afterparty

Film Geeks' Favorite Movies
Film Geeks' Favorite Movie Wrapup

Film Geeks' Impromptu Blog Party

Lorna's 15 Words Blog Party
Lorna's Best Bleeping Blogger Awards

* * *

What madness would possess me to go through so many archives and collect these links? It's been a great year, and while I want the Nexus to be more than the “Blog Party Blog”, the Blog Party was undeniably a big element of my first year doing this, and one which introduced me to a lot of my neighbors, and introduced my neighbors to each other. So, with my one year anniversary precisely one month from today, I've decided to hold an inevitable BEST BLOG PARTY PARTY

The party will be held on Thursday, October 13th and will work a little differently than other parties.

1) Take a look at the list of links at the beginning of this post. Choose your FAVORITE party and your FAVORITE guest(s), and e-mail your votes to me at MCFSPU@hotmail.com no later than Sunday, October 9th. Do NOT leave votes in the comments section; I will tally the results and reveal who YOU chose as the best host and the best partygoer on October 13th.(Please let me know if I've inadvertently missed any parties and I'll edit this post accordingly)

2) On that day, I'll also reveal my own picks(since my votes wouldn't count for obvious reasons).

3) If you like, you may copy the BP7 logo to your servers and display it as link to the party, with some words of your own. Unlike previous parties, this is OPTIONAL. I'm grateful to have found such an awesome group of people to read my words, so this celebration is about CELEBRATING more than publicity.

* * *

But WAIT! There's more! Between now and Sunday, October 9th, the first 10 bloggers to send me a GUEST POST on the topic of their choosing, will have it appear here on the Nexus in the weeks following the anniversary party, with kind words of thanks and links back to their respective sites. Simply e-mail submissions to MCFSPU@hotmail.com.

* * *

Best Blog Party Party. Guest Posts. And the day before the party, be sure to catch the most REVEALING Photo Blog Wednesday yet! You’ve been warned...

CloakFest 2k5 is on!

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Judy Greer, that is. I just finished watching Cursed, which started out as a sub-par Ginger Snaps and ended up incorporating enough satirical elements to make me appreciate what Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson were doing. Think ”Scream” applied to the werewolf genre. It doesn't quite do for werewolves what Scream did for slashers, but it definitely had a nice balance of scares and laughs, the latter being the stronger point whether intentional or not. A high point for me was the inclusion of Greer, who plays Scott Baio's agent, Joanie. While I doubt that's a coincidence, not much is made of it in the film. Christina Ricci stars, looking more and more like Angelina Jolie, and the ensemble cast includes Michael Rosenbaum, who I rarely recognize with hair. The voice was familiar, but the film was nearly over before I reached that particular epiphany.

At some point in my life, I developed an odd habit of latching on to obscure stars. Joe Pantoliano is pretty famous now, but knowing his name back in the early ‘90s probably contributed to the “Obscure Reference Boy” moniker my buddies saddled me with. Of course, back then I could cite specific issue numbers of comic books with encyclopedic accuracy, so that was a factor as much as the actor thing. Once I liked a performance, even a small role, I'd watch for that individual in other projects. I first latched on to Judy late one Saturday night watching The Specials, a low-budget superhero mockumentary that included Paget Brewster(first noticed in Friends, Thomas Haden Church(previously seen in Wings and Ned and Stacy) and Jamie Kennedy(my favorite Scream character). Armed with that collection of obscure stars on the rise, I ended up buying the DVD since I only caught part of it interrupted by commercials. For me, obscurity equals buy-worthy. I don't know why.

Greer played the sarcastic Deadly Girl, and won me over with her tell-it-like-it-is attitude. Her blonde hair, known around these parts as “MCF-Kryptonite, didn't hurt. There was a certain familiarity too, and I was sure I'd seen her before. As it turned out, I was confusing her with Alexandra Wentworth from In Living Color. The resemblance was a lot stronger in The Specials, and while I hadn't seen Judy Greer before, I'd soon start noticing her everywhere, and appreciating her range. Her look and attitude differed from film to film, and she seemed prettier each time I saw her. She was quietly desirable in Adaptation, and loveably evil and caustic in every guy's secret favorite “chick-flick” 13 Going on 30. I've gone on to see her in The Village, Three Kings, and What Women Want, and I can honestly say no two roles were remotely the same. Her look and mannerisms shift flawlessly from film to film. She broke my heart in What Women Want. Her character had such low self-esteem, felt so neglected and undesirable, that her thoughts were tragic given how talented and beautiful she was. That's a key plot point of that film which I won't ruin on the off-chance people haven't seen it.

One of the things I loved about 13 Going on 30 was a series of interviews which explored the childhood of each of the actors. Hard as it was to believe the nigh-unattainable Jennifer Garner was once a braces-wearing band geek at one time, Greer's photos demonstrated the greatest transformation of all. She looked like a BOY with short curly hair when she was younger, and an ugly boy at that. It was surreal to see this blonde bombshell joke about her childhood and note the hint of regret, the twinge of sadness in her voice. Kids never recognize the beauty inside, and an outward change to match the inward doesn't erase old scars. To me, that's the tragedy of The Swan, but that's a post for another day. As for me, I'll watch for where Greer will unexpectedly turn up next.


Phantasmic Links 9.11.05

He stood confident atop the great edifice, his cloak billowing in the persistent and dramatic gale. ”I have RETURNED!” he declared to the crowd below. Of those who acknowledged this announcement, some muttered “so what?” while others inquired, “you were gone?” Undeterred by such trivial concerns as reality, he pressed forward in presenting this week's PHANTASMIC LINKS:

Feeling ravenous? There IS an alternative. Hat tip to Dave Barry. Although it was Curt who sent me the link, for some reason he selflessly requested that Barry get the credit.

Modern illustrators not your thing? The Web Gallery of Art offers a more classical fare.

As a team player, I would go the extra mile to achieve the kind of synergy necessary to implement an alternative methodology to change catalysts and empower a paradigm shift. If that sentence made sense to you, and you've heard worse where YOU work, then Business Buzzword Bingo is for you.

Now Marvel can produce their own movies. It's a risk, but one with a potentially high payoff. Imagine a film continuity in which Daredevil and Spider-man COULD inhabit the same city, their universes not separated by different movie studios and legal restrictions. Hat tip to Sean.

There should be one of these in every bar and restaurant.

Depending on your mood and personality, this generator displaying what people your age have accomplished could be either depressing or inspirational.

Don't shake-shake-shake, shake-shake-shake, shake that baby—maybe.

This image to sound application is AMAZING. I've been composing with photos all afternoon. Not to leave PC users out, there's also something called Coagula, though I have no way of testing it. If anyone tries it and would care to offer feedback, I'd be much obliged.

Freaky point-and-click thingys are both spooky and fun. This one is easy to “cheat” at, but why? Competitive as I am, I have to say the journey is of more value than the destination in this case. Admittedly, that's because there's no high score list and the later levels are still under construction.

I probably won't be leaving the Nexus to join Weezer any time soon. Still, it was fun to virtually jam with them.

The best part of this video is the surprise ending. It's worth the wait, and something everyone should start the week with.



Open House (blog) Party

That's right kids, MCF is going to be out of town for the day and probably won't have time for a typical post. So I'm stealing an idea from Digressions Joe and leaving the place open for discussion.

The doors are unlocked and nobody's home. Someone call Kid N Play because there's a House Party up in here, up in here!

Anything goes; the comments section belongs to you more than ever. What do you like about the Nexus? DO you like the Nexus? What sort of pictures and articles would you like to see in the future? Less dead animals? More? Are blog parties a fading trend? How do you feel about the Ranch tooth? You can talk about whatever's on your mind. But be prepared in case, in true teen movie tradition, I come home early. I doubt that's going to happen though.

Don't blast that rock music of yours TOO loud; I'll be back on Sunday...



”Go. You should go. And don't do that thing where you stay to the side and don't talk to anyone. Do me a favor; TALK to people. You're not gonna, are you? You never listen....”

So, a month ago, came the sage words of advice from my long time friend Rey. I had received an invitation to a reception for an exhibit opening at the Society of Illustrators, and I was debating whether or not to go. On the one hand, it would be the first ever gathering of science fiction, fantasy, and comic book illustrations seen in Spectrum annuals over the past 12 years. Many artists who've illustrated jackets for me would be there, and it would be great to meet them in person since I've only dealt with them over the phone and via e-mail. On the other hand, it had the unfortunate timing to fall the night before the annual Hoboken Festival. I'll be getting up at 6 AM tomorrow. I may not be home before midnight. In between, I'll be playing music and on my feet most of the day, napping on trains whenever possible. It's the single most exhausting day of the year for me.

Ultimately, and thankfully, I was sensible enough to recognize a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I took the day off to sleep, and so I wouldn't have to rush to a train right after work. I even took an earlier train so I'd have time to walk the 30 blocks or so from Penn Station and get some exercise before tomorrow's big procession. Two nights in a row this week I'd opted to work until 8:30 and miss the gym, in a vain attempt to keep my work on schedule, and I was feeling the lack of activity. Manhattan is so visually stimulating, I can walk miles without realizing it. I can't always say the same about nature trails. Of course™, at one point as I was crossing 5th Avenue the light changed when I was in the CENTER of the intersection. I ran and literally DOVE at the sidewalk, narrowly escaping a cab as an incredulous passerby exclaimed, “How did THAT happen?! The light like JUST turned GREEN!” People are always amazed to see my improbability powers at work.

The gallery wasn't too crowded at first and many of the artists would be wearing name tags. While I'm no stranger to the pieces on display, having seen them in the Spectrum Annuals, and while I've held original paintings in my hands whenever artists have submitted them for my jackets, I was still in awe, seeing so many originals in one room. The only show that held the same impact for me was a collection of Frazetta's I'd seen back in college. There was one of his pieces among the 200 I saw tonight as well.

As I made my way around the room, I checked name tags. I saw Stephen Hickman, who'd done one painting for me about a year ago. He was talking to a group of people, and I began to feel self-conscious about interrupting. I was there tonight as an art director, as someone who'd hired many of the people in the room and placed titles and author names over their illustrations, my typography hardly doing them justice. But I felt like a fanboy, like a teenager at a comic book convention. At some point, I think everyone reaches a point of maturity and/or professionalism in which he or she realizes that all people are just people, human beings and nothing more in spite of their fame. I moved on, Rey's advice and prediction haunting me. Before the night was through, I vowed to say hello and introduce myself to at least one artist, if not more.

The first artist I felt a little more comfortable saying hello to was Bob Eggleton. Last year I collaborated with him on a special set of eight classic novels, and just the other day we discussed ideas for yet another book. After introducing myself and making some small talk about the growing crowd and the volume of talent on the walls, I began to feel more confident. As more people arrived, I began recognizing more and more nametags. Todd Lockwood. Kinuko Y. Craft. Stephan Martiniere. Michael Whelan. It began to get very loud, and very crowded, neither of which are conditions I enjoy. I did get to speak with another artist who's done a number of pieces for me, Bruce Jensen. We both agreed that there wasn't a single work that didn't belong in the exhibit. He told me the last time a collection showcased such science fiction and fantasy artists was back in 1984. I knew then that this was a historic gathering, and one I would have regretted missing.

As I made my way to the door, I passed Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell, whom I recognized without nametags. They might as well have been rock stars or movie stars. Despite working on two jackets with Julie in the past and speaking with her on the phone, I didn't say a word as they walked by. I decided it was worth the risk of missing my train, so I hung around a little longer. Unfortunately, I never did get to break in to any of the conversations and introduce myself, and found myself hanging outside a circle that included Donato Giancola and Tom Kidd. I've worked with them as well, but interrupting four major illustrators at once was something beyond my capabilities.

All in all, it was a fantastic evening and I recommend the exhibit, which is free, to anyone in the area between now and October 1st. My favorite pieces were a Hobbit painting by Donato(which was HUGE), an Entmoot piece by Hickman(which bore insanely detailed brush strokes), and a Rock’em Sock’em Robots painting by Eric Joyner(which was the cover image for the eleventh Spectrum). The whole evening felt like a dream, and it was difficult to break away and come back to my ordinary reality. In college my friends and I had our work exhibited many times. I'm no stranger to this sort of event. But though I've hired many of the people in the room, I'm also a fan of their work, and their work is intimidatingly good, even though they're all regular folks like me.

Don't take my word for it though; check out the various sites I linked to and look at their galleries online. These are quite possibly the best illustrators in the field today.