I've always had a short attention span, difficulty focusing on the task at hand. I was easily distracted and spent most of my elementary school years flirting with the girls and laughing with the guys, no matter how many times the teacher relocated me. Back then they used to say that I was starved for attention, and teachers told my parents I didn't care if that attention was negative, so long as it was there. Had I grown up a decade or two later, they probably would have said I had ADD. In fourth grade seated in isolation at the back of the classroom, with empty chairs around to make sure I didn't disrupt other students, I climbed out a second story window “just to see” and was nabbed on my way back in after hanging out unnoticed on the ledge for a minute or two.
A friend of mine wanted me to inquire about the availability of an open cubicle near him today. I've been in the same spot for about five years. It's not as big, and I have to contend with a loud neighbor who's perpetually sick. Yet every time another cubicle has become available I've stupefied my friends by staying put. Every time; they should know me by now. I actually was considering it today after my friend yelled at me, even as my neighbor barked in the background. Sure, it would be a hassle to move all my stuff. I've amassed a lot in five years' time. And recently I redecorated my pole. Long before I was there this beam had been wrapped in brown paper, and green folders were cut to make leaves, making it a mock palm tree. Over time it has wilted, but there's a lot of history. People have written messages, couples have put their initials in hearts, and it struck me as a shame to tear it down. When people around me threatened to do so I taped it up, and added a cool circuitry pattern over the existing “bark”, so that it would still be under there for future generations. This was of course inspired by the classic The Key to Vector Sigma Part 2 episode of The Transformers in which the Decepticons set about using the title artifact to convert Earth into a machine world, like their home planet of Cybertron. Yes ladies, in addition to suffering from ADD I am a huge, huge geek. Feel free to leave screennames in the comments section.
Where was I? Moving or staying to guard Yggdrasil. The section I was considering is popular. There's a printer there and people are constantly walking by. My friend, one of the more popular people in the company, is always entertaining a multitude of visitors. While he has the ability to work and talk at the same time, I'm seriously lacking in that area. During the course of a day there's about 1-3 people who might drop by for a social visit, and every time I stop working to listen and talk. I know I would be drawn into conversations if I sat there. As it is, between e-mail and AIM, I'm constantly allowing myself to be distracted. Often, as a result, my most productive work is done after 5PM. Although today I had the added distraction of my boss dropping by to ask me to do a different cover for my catalog, which meant the stuff I was working on tonight has been bumped to tomorrow morning. The stuff I was working on tonight should have been done this afternoon, and the stuff I was working on this afternoon should have been done before lunch. Not only did I stop in the middle of collating four 24-page catalogs to fire off a detailed reply to a buddy about lunch, but later in the day someone pointed out I'd written something in the neighborhood of fifty personal e-mails. That's not good. It's been brought to my attention before and I've tried to quit cold turkey, only to come back worse than ever a few days later. Some of my friends are to the point where they're deleting my e-mails the second I send them.
I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same. On the surface I seem quiet, focused and efficient. But sitting there writing e-mails is probably the digital equivalent of talking about Voltron to my friends while the teacher is trying to speak. Maybe my parents did me a favor by sending me to a different high school than my friends. Yet, though I didn't talk to many people there, the margins of my notebooks were riddled with doodles. In some subjects I'd have three lines of actual notes and the rest were drawings. I guess it's fortunate that I ended up becoming an artist since if anyone's life depended on my knowledge of a soil profile, they'd be in trouble. Somewhere I do still have a jar with dirt, clay and rocks in it that I submitted as a barely passable science project my freshman year.
I have to learn to focus. Had I remembered a meeting two months ago, I would have remembered the image my supervisor wanted to use for the current issue and why(hint: it rhymes with Garth Nader). Had I paid attention this morning when packing my gym bag, I wouldn't have gone to change in to my old “USA” t-shirt only to unfold it and reveal my “Tony and Johnny's” Italian band uniform shirt. Good thing I packed a white sweatshirt for the cold after my workout. Bad thing it had what (I hope) was a sauce stain on one of the sleeves. Though “browning out” and not paying attention while driving has helped me overcome my driving anxiety, I need to wake up the rest of the time.
I think the real insight to be gleaned from all of this introspection and self-analysis is that 30 second bunny reenactments are cool. I first came across their version of The Exorcist a while back, and caught the follow-ups of The Shining and Titanic. Now, thanks to a post on SF Signal, I see that those bunnies have been hard at work reenacting a lot of other films. Maybe someday they'll get to TV shows...I would love to see a shrill Jack Bauer bunny holding a gun and shouting at a terrorist bunny. See the last two sentences of my second paragraph....
As we age our perceptions change, and time seems to go by faster and faster. On a large scale, years and seasons fly by, and if the snow here melted tomorrow and the sun shone brightly, it woudn't be too soon for me. On a smaller scale, weekends aren't what they used to be. Perhaps I'm greedy to want more than two days away from my responsibilities. It's enough for other people; why not me? I think the main reason I'm feeling this sense of “I can't believe I'm going back to work already tomorrow!” is because I've had several consecutive three-day weekends and gotten spoiled. That being said, I'm going to check my schedule tomorrow and see if I can take next Monday off.
Weekends have always gone by quickly, whether they were filled with activities and socializing or whether they were like this past one, where I can't for the life of me figure out what, if anything, I did the last two days. Even in my school years I was dreading going back to class the next day. Most of the time I didn't heed my parent's advice, and let my homework sit instead of tackling it immediately on Friday. I used to think, “I have plenty of time!” and suddenly find myself in a panicked state at 7PM on Sunday trying to get it all done. Times change, life changes, but there are the occasional constants to rely upon. The Simpsons is in its 16th season, and the majority of those seasons have seen it in the 8PM timeslot on Sunday nights. Through good seasons and through bad, it's always been there to make me laugh or just smile and forget that break time is over and real life beckons.
Sometimes a good show is cut down in its prime, like Angel,Tru Calling, or Firefly. Other times it can be painful to see a beloved show dip in quality but keep going. I loved Night Court, for example, but the last two seasons were real stretches. Cheers could have also ended sooner, although the finale was still an emotional farewell to behold. The Simpsons definitely isn't the groundbreaking show that had everyone talking about it Monday morning. I think most of my friends are glad I'm not reenacting lines in voices that to me sound like spot-on impressions but to them all sound like Chief Wiggum. The shock value has worn off with time, and even something fresh like Family Guy had to struggle with poor timeslots and even cancellation before being given another chance years later. The other factor in the decline of the Simpsons was a change in writers, and some of the more outlandish plots in the last few years had me wondering aloud if they were “on crack.
It's leveled off the last few seasons and the writing has gotten better, not quite to the apex of where it once was but still good. Tonight's episode was definitely one of the good ones. After a health code violation forces Moe to shut down his bar, Homer takes out a second mortgage to help pay to bring it back up to code. Upset with his decision, Marge decides to become involved, considering herself a part-owner. Homer is left to watch the children while Marge and Moe together turn the bar into a successful establishment. Homer is worried about how close the two are becoming but is relieved when Marge reassures him that there's nothing physical between her and Moe. But when his friends point out an important truth in relationships, that an emotional affair can be just as destructive to a marriage as a physical one, he realizes the jeopardy they're in.
The best comedy shows aren't afraid to tackle serious subject matter in a light but respectful way. It doesn't detract from the seriousness of the issue to portray it amid jokes, but rather puts the viewer in a receptive state to think about important things. The show still manages to go the extra mile while spoofing as well. On a date in a movie theater, Marge and Homer watch a trailer for a fictitious Dreamworks picture called “Cards”—a jab at the upcoming Cars, no doubt. The sequence is animated in CGI and has many clever jabs, including ”Eddie Murphy” voicing a card being arrested, pleading with officers that he “...didn't know she was a King; she told [him] she was a Queen!” Later at a poker game a jack that sounds suspiciously like Nicholson tells another card that he “can't handle the twos!”
As far as the resolution of the episode's central crisis, anyone who's ever watched the show now or in the past probably knows whether or not Homer learned to be there for his wife and listen as well as care about what she had to say, and whether Marge decided to honor her vows to the man she loved or leave him for a good listener with a thinly-veiled ulterior motive. If I enjoyed my last minutes of relaxation next weekend after the Super Bowl by settling down to watch an episode of “The Syzlaks”, I don't think it would be quite the same...
It's an unfortunate quality of humanity to rate and judge others by various meters. A lot of it comes from our own insecurity, wanting to know where we rank in the social food chain, and from the fact that everyone else does it as well. Shallow Hal was a surprisingly moving and thought-provoking comedy for all its silliness, yet I've come to expect that from Bobby andPeter Farrelly. I watched it last night, and again this morning, and was even moved to tears a bit during one particularly poignant scene with a little girl in the hospital. Jack Black might be the typical obnoxious slob he's played in movies like Orange County or Envy in real life but if he is, he's a damn good actor given the way he nailed the scene in question.
The movie's a few years old so I'm sure readers have at least seen trailers if not the film itself, enough to know the basic premise. Like most guys, Black's Hal “aims high” but is hypnotized to see the inner beauty in women. He falls in love with Gwyneth Paltrow's Rosemary, a kind and gorgeous woman who volunteers to help with sick kids, just one of her many ”humanidocious” traits. What Hal can't see is that Rosemary is in fact 300 pounds. The film does a surprisingly good job of portraying the way “ugly” and overweight people are viewed in society, and the pain and insecurity it causes them. The way Paltrow and other women who don't really look the way Jack sees them is perfect. In the special features, she said it was important to her not to have any distinction between her thin self and real self. She was who she was, regardless of her appearance, which was the movie's central message. She spoke of one sad day early in filming when she was fitted with the fat makeup and suit for the first time, and went down to a hotel bar where, rather than being stared at or mobbed, she was almost completely ignored by everyone, except a small puppy that let her pet it. Very sad. I can definitely relate to that feeling of being invisible and ignored. A girl can make fun of you or ignore you completely, but at least the first one is a form of attention. Black and his best friend(played by Jason Alexander) may be shallow and only approach perfectly gorgeous women in clubs, but those women reject them every time. The notion of “leagues” works both ways, and the movie hits that note as well.
In the film Hal gets some bad advice from his dad as a child. Possibly the worst advice my dad ever gave me was, “Look at the mother if you want to know what she's gonna be like when she gets older. I wish I had done that.” I'll never know if that would have affected my relationship if I'd married my ex, but I didn't think she was anything like her mother. I don't think her mother liked me but she may have just been in a bad mood all the time because she was separated from her husband and was wary of the guys her daughters went out with. She was also physically different from my ex, who was wafer-thin. She wasn't obese, but she wasn't wafer-thin. I don't think my dad was talking about physical appearance so much as change in demeanor though.
I'm about a “3” or a “4” but, like Hal, I set my sights on unattainable goals. I don't go for “10s” and rarely go for “9s”(though on her best days I could argue my ex was a “9”), but I'm usually looking at “6”-”8s” and lamenting “if only”. To that end I spend about an hour a day in gym after work every day, sometimes more if I'm not working late. Lately I've been working late to catch up after falling behind, and skipping some days when it was insanely cold outside as well as inside where the heat is turned off in the afternoon to cut costs. I get discouraged too since I seem to have reached a metabolic plateau. Even when I do watch what I eat as well as exercise, I don't seem to change by more than five pounds. Paltrow's character makes a comment that she too never loses weight even when she diets, an important point distinguishing those that are obese by lifestyle choices, and those doomed to that genetic fate.
A few days ago Curt wrote about what's good in a wife, and how the things he looked for changed as he matured. A follow-up post was a lesson in humility that showed we're all growing and learning, and anyone can surprise us and teach us something new as long as we're open to that possibility. Jerry teased me about one of my comments, asking if I'm looking for a girl like my mother. It was creepy enough when my mom used to say about my ex, “Oh, you like her because she's just like me. You should marry someone just like your mother.” Of course after my gf dumped me my mom subsequently (unfairly)referred to her as “that b****” or “North” for the direction she moved in when she was feeling above name-calling but below name-using. At any rate, the topic Curt's community is currently discussing as well as the movie I saw leads me to consider my own list, the things that have changed as well as the things that haven't, and perhaps should:
1) Blonde. My next-door neighbor that I was going to “marry” when I was five was thin and blonde. She wasn't very nice though. In elementary school, I had a crush on the first girl who was a real friend to me, also a blonde, but lost her when she went to a different school and I ignored her while watching cartoons. In middle school, I set my sights REALLY high. She was blonde. She could sing and play an instrument. She wasn't just in school plays; she was usually the lead actress. Once she wrote a perfectly platonic “I like you and I think you're nice” in my yearbook which went to my head, even as my “friends” played keep-away with my yearbook on the playground. Her boyfriend was even more talented, in band, choir and theater as well as near-perfect grades and the ability to play the violin. He was one of those “why can't you be more like” examples parents use to motivate their kids to get better grades or be involved in more activities, especially painful since my parents didn't know about my crush on his girl. Four years at an all-boys high school helped me get over my infatuation and made me appreciate girls in general. From college on, I've been attracted to all kinds of girls, and my ex was a raven-haired Italian.
As long as I get a girl that I find attractive I'll be happy. That might be shallow and something that needs to change, but I think as long as I think I'm “settling”, it isn't fair to the other person. I don't need some big-breasted bombshell; breasts have never been that important to me. My ex was insecure about hers and often talked about augmentation, and I discouraged her at every broach of the subject. She was perfect as God made her far as I was concerned. I do still need to feel some spark when I look in a girl's eyes though. A pretty face means nothing if she doesn't meet other qualities, but I'm still looking at faces unfortunately. Prettiness is relative too; what I find inherently attractive others might not agree with, and vice versa. Maybe time will give me the perspective people like Curt have.
2) Catholic. This hasn't changed. I might compromise for something “compatible”, but I've been learning the last few years that there are vast differences between different flavors of Christianity and there are insurmountable differences I may not be aware of. Still, I think its important for a couple to be united in the same faith, especially when it comes to raising children. I have a cousin who married a Jewish woman and subsequently raised four Jewish sons(hard to believe the oldest is out of college already--!). Typically, it's the mother that determines the faith of the child. If I ever do marry outside my faith I hope I'll love my wife enough to respect her beliefs, but I wonder if it won't be confusing to our kids when I go to church on Sunday. This is definitely an area I still wrestle with, made more difficult by the fact that a person's beliefs aren't visibly apparent.
3) Non-smoker. I don't think this one will ever change. Many times I've seen a very beautiful girl coming toward me and looked away the second I saw her light up. People could argue that since I'm cutting my life short by my eating habits I shouldn't care if my mate is killing herself with cigarettes. Die-hard smokers will even still argue the correlation between lung disease and smoking, despite all the evidence. I need to kiss the person I'm with too, and I wouldn't look forward to that if she tasted like smoke each time. I definitely couldn't bring her home; with her asthma, my mom could always tell even if I spent five minutes in the home of a friend whose parents smoked. I was frequently scolded for going inside. I think this is a reasonable trait, and I'm not sure that it's shallow.
5) Geographic proximity. When I went to college, the only limitation my mom imposed on my future girlfriends was that they couldn't be “Geographically Unsuitable” or “G.U.” as she put it. I had to drive pretty far to a much more populated area for school, and she was nervous enough about me going that distance as bad a driver as I was(ok, AM). It was fortunate then that I struck out with the various Brooklyn or Queens girls I was interested in, since it would have been a tough call. Of course when I graduated and finally did meet someone, she lived even further away, only on Eastern Long Island. My mom was a little nervous but I was old enough to make my own decisions by then, and she was just glad that I'd finally found someone. She was REALLY nervous when that someone moved to Massachusetts and I was driving 3-4 hours to see her.
I've had friends and known people who've begun long-distance relationships, and subsequently only got closer. Those are great success stories. I worked with a guy at my first job who moved her because his fiancée got a job here, and she subsequently broke it off leaving him stranded far from his friends and family. That points out the risk involved. My relationship started geographically close(she had moved to my town briefly before moving back home), and got further and further away. Long-distance can work if that's the initial phase; you can only get closer. But there is a risk. My family is here. My friends are here. I know where hospitals and stores are here. I don't like to fly, and I'm only now starting to like driving again. I don't see myself leaving New York any time soon, but I may need to expand my 30-mile radius of meeting someone.
6) Finally, there are interests. I don't expect to meet a pretty non-smoking smart Catholic girl in my yard who likes Transformers. That's not shallow; it's unrealistic and nonexistent. Along the same lines as the intelligence requirements though, I think it is important to have common ground and things to talk about. And even if she doesn't share all my geeky interests, if I can find someone who can accept and forgive me for them, I'd be very lucky.
Sci-Fi Daily, with a headline I can't repeat, points out today that Catwoman figures very highly in this year's Razzies awards, with nominations in SEVEN categories including “Worst Picture.” Sight unseen, I knew this was a bad idea months ago, before I even saw trailers. This movie should have been made in the early ‘90s, shortly after Batman Returns, and starred Michelle Pfieffer reprising her original role. The recasting didn't bother me, since the series I grew up with set a precedent of THREE Catwomen, although it was three actresses playing the same role. Personally, I liked Julie Newmar the best--I'll never forget the time our hero had to choose between the lady or the tiger. My main concern with Halle Berry when I first heard about this movie was the possibility of her leaving her X-men role as a result of it. I don't think she was the best choice for Storm but now that she was established I'd hate to see the part recast in a sequel. Bad enough that happened with the Batman series; it forces the viewer to accept that no one else is wondering why he looks nothing like Michael Keaton and all the other characters react to him like nothing has changed. That bugs the hell out of me.
I think if a character is going to be spun in to her own movie, it has to be while the main one is still popular. Supergirl(I love Helen Slater) came out a year after Superman III, and more recently Elektra premiered about two years after Daredevil. Pffeifer was a BIG draw for Batman Returns; seems like a no-brainer to have given her a movie spinoff. I don't know why they waited so long, and why they changed the character so drastically. If it isn't Selina Kyle, why bother?
Will I see this movie? Have I seen worse? Will I ever see the new Punisher movie, as bad as I heard it to be? As a (former?) comics geek, there is somewhat of an obligation, especially with the Marvel movies. There was a time when seeing Marvel characters live was a rare thing. I had to settle for seeing Spidey on The Electric Company, and later for guest stars on HulkTV movies. Bad as those were, Rex Smith and John Rhys-Davies were great as Daredevil and Kingpin, possibly better than their big-screen successors.
Netflix has been slow lately or rather, the mail has been slow. Usually I'd get a movie the day after I received the e-mail that it was on its way, regardless of their 2-day estimate. Now their estimates are even longer. When I was told to expect Clockstoppers by next Monday, I expected it would be waiting for me when I got home from work tonight. It wasn't, but there's still tomorrow or Saturday. In the meantime, I had plenty of new DVDs to watch that I'd gotten with a Best Buy gift card my folks gave me for Christmas. I spent the better part of this evening watching the Superman animated series from the late '90s. That doesn't seem like nearly ten years ago, yet somehow it is.
On the ride home I was mentally composing a post about the movie I thought I would be watching, and about the practical applications of freezing time. Lately, it seems I don't get out of work until at least 6:30. It could be my workload. It could be that I get in at 9:30. I could be that I take more than an hour for lunch. In all likelihood it's a healthy combination of all of the above. Still, if I could freeze time, I could sleep in, take my time eating and showering, and get to work on time. If emergencies or added revisions sidetracked me from the days plans, I could handle those AND the stuff I wanted to tackle. I could even take a Siesta if it took too much out of me.
As I was pondering these ideas, I remembered the show Out of This World, a sitcom which featured a beautiful girl named Evie with a half-alien lineage. As a result of her father being from another planet, she had the power to stop time. I vaguely remember her getting other abilities as the show went on, but that was the main one. She'd just touch her index fingers together and everything would freeze. VERY useful. I was in high school at this time and homework often took me 3-4 hours to complete. Math I could get done in about a half hour; that was my best subject. I struggled with the other five though, especially social studies which required lengthy essays. I often wished I could freeze time, get the work done, and go out and play while the sun was still up. Alas, that was never to be on a school night. It's funny how I often fantasized about powers to make practical things easier. Real life requires a lot of patience and accountability, and those are some of the hardest things to accept growing up. It takes time, and there are no shortcuts.
Fear is necessary to survival, but can just as often be irrational as rational. When I was younger I didn't mind dogs. My friend Freddy had a German Shepherd named Samantha that was his constant companion and protector. If we fought, even just playing around, she'd growl and intervene. Most of the time she was gentle though, and I liked her. I fondly remember my Uncle Jerry's Sheepdog Spunky, who mostly lay around his house like a mop and didn't mind me reclining on him. Another Aunt and Uncle had a Black Labrador named Kim that when I was 7 or 8 years old I tried to ride like a horse. She was old and arthritic, and definitely didn't appreciate that.
I'm not sure at what point the fear came in. The girl next door had these little ankle-biting yappy dogs that used to drive me mad, hopping and clawing at my legs. A neighbor up the road had a fancy french dog that had curly hair like a poodle but was a full-sized beast(My mom’s always had cats, so at this point I’ve all but exhausted my knowledge of dog breeds). He was usually gentle but one day he must have had a knot and while I was petting him, he turned and snapped at me. This was also around the age that I started formulating my foolish “everything happens to everyone sometime” theory. I postulated that, just like Chicken Pox, there were things that people inevitably had to experience as a part of growing up. Getting hit by a car was one inevitable fate I wasn't looking forward to; getting bit by a dog was another. It wasn't the brightest theory, but I was nine.
On my block growing up, most of my friends lived on my side of the street either right next door, or two doors down. At one point I had a friend who lived around the block. He was two years older and used to hide when he saw kids his age walking down the street, telling me he had to guard his “rep”. When my neighbors who were younger than me but whom I'd grown up with and known longer began hanging out with his younger brother, he eventually stopped being my friend since I was friends with his younger brother through this group. Visiting either brother was stressful however, since nearly every home between my house and theirs came with a dog. Most were tied up, but occasionally one would run loose while we were playing or riding bikes. During these times I was instructed to remain perfectly still by their owners, to let them smell me and see I wasn't afraid, because if they smelled fear, they'd get me. That is THE worst reverse psychological statement to say to a kid. “Relax! They're only barking because you seem afraid. Don't be afraid and they'll stop barking and leave you alone. Hold out your hand, let them lick it.” Yeah. That was going to happen.
The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Where I lived, I just had to walk or bike up one street, not even a five minute trip. I became accustomed to the jingle of a dog's collar as a warning sign. I used to stay in the middle of the road to be as far from yards on either side of the street as possible. Sometimes I would close my eyes. Other times the jangle of keys or change in my own pockets would make me jumpy. I had to carry the change in my hand until I got safely to my destination. Ultimately, I started going to their house by walking around the OTHER side of the block. Instead of one side of the square I was traveling three planes, and there was a steeper hill, but no one owned dogs on those streets and the few that did were better about keeping them chained up. There was just one house at the corner where my friends lived that had a fierce Doberman Pinscher named Sheera(not to be confused with She-Ra). Upon reaching the summit of either the direct route, or the steeper dogless route, I still had that one house to get past.
One day I was feeling more confident. I was in that arrogant zone of youthful immortality, as Social D puts it: ”When I was young, I was invincible.” I was pedaling my bike very fast on the dogless route, approaching the steep hill when Sheera tore around the corner, barking wildly. I cut a hard right to a side hill leading down to the main road. I didn't swear much as a kid but as this monster was nipping at my heels, literally biting chunks off my sneakers, I let the expletives fly. “You son of a b****! You F****** b****!!” Given a choice between traffic and being devoured, I blindly soared out across a four lane road and miraculously made it to the other side unscathed. My heart pounding, I watched her pace back and forth, waiting for me to cross again, her eyes saying, “You have to return home SOMEtime, chewtoy.”
Fear is necessary to survival, but can just as often be irrational as rational. Looking back, taking the dogless route wasn't all that much safer, and made about as much sense as some of the alternate longer routes I had taken to and from work these past few months, just to be near parking lots in case a dizzy spell came over me. It is better to be safe than sorry, but the mind can often overtake logic even after every logical avenue has been pursued and ruled out. I'm back to my normal commute and barely thinking about my problem these days; tonight it seemed like I was home as soon as I left work, my trip back to being a healthy blur at long last. In hindsight I can laugh now, and see how foolish those alternate routes were, how I was only prolonging the ordeal, in fact making an everyday routine INTO an ordeal. It's like a better man than I once sang, ”saw things so much clearer, once you were in my rearview mirror.
There are a few things that got me in to comics. My friends at school were in to them. My dad once brought me home an issue of ROM: Spaceknight. An annual Christmas gift was a roll of about 10 comics--the first year my mom did that I was very surprised, but subsequently looked forward to a cylindrically shaped package. When my mom took me to the library on Fridays after school, I'd often read young adult mysteries or The Chronicles of Narnia. I would also frequently take out a Superman anthology.
I remember being bored with supermarkets as a kid; still am. I liked when my parents went to Pathmark, though, because their magazine section used to carry comics. I used to read a lot of books until my parents were done shopping or some pimply-faced bag-boy informed me that “it's not a library!” It wasn't long before I was buying my own comics though. Eight years and 4,000+ books later, I finally stopped. I was out of college. I had a girlfriend. I had better things to spend my money on, and I was starting to wake up to the fact that in nearly twenty years I hadn't saved a dime; I didn't even have a bank account. Whatever money I got, I spent. I remember once finding money on the street while shopping with my mom. She was very happy for me, but when I “wasted” it on a Robotech figurine not ten minutes later, she scolded me. I still have that toy though, and all the comics I went on to “waste” money on. I think that stuff made me happy and was worth it, but I really don't know where I'd be today if I had been smarter with my money.
Even though I stopped collecting comics, I still like to pick up the occasional trade paperback or graphic novel, or just check out current storylines via the internet. The internet is the new “not a library” for me in many ways. Earlier today while some friends were shopping in Tower Records at lunch I got back to my roots and flipped through TPBs in the store. There's a lot of good stuff out there still. One Ultimate X-men story I read blew me away. A teenage boy awakens to find his home empty, his mom's clothes laid out on the kitchen floor. He leaves her a note and walks to school, passing an empty dog collar. At school while talking to another student things really get weird when everyone around him seems to spontaneously combust and disintegrate, leaving only their clothes behind. As she dies, the girl he was talking to tells him “It's YOU!”
Later, we find the boy on the outskirts of town holed up in a cave. He's joined by Wolverine who sets a campfire and breaks the bad news to the kid over a few beers; upon hitting puberty the young boy's uncontrollable mutant power emerged. He's toxic to anyone around him, and has already caused the death of over 200 people. Wolverine is immune because of his healing factor, and when the kid sobs about his curse and how he can't live with being death to anyone around him, Logan's silence tells him why he's there. After some more silence, the boy regrets, “I guess I should have done more...enjoyed life while I was here.”
We get a few silent panels of the cave entrance, and then a somber Wolverine emerges. Powerful stuff, stuff you wouldn't see in one of the mainstream X-books.
Speaking of living life to the fullest, I highly recommend the film Without A Paddle which I feel was VERY misrepresented in trailers. Thirty-somethings especially will appreciate a tale of high school friends separated by growing up and reunited by tragedy, to discover what really has value in this world. I'm glad a friend recommended it to me; I've got to stop going by trailers one of these days and take more risks...
Voltron was the first robot cartoon I really got in to. I have a vague recollection of The Mighty Orbots as well. It was a short-lived Saturday morning cartoon about a sentient gestalt team of robots. I didn't see as much of it as I would have liked, since around this time my parents decided I should play soccer and I was dragged out to a field every Saturday, my mind more on the cartoons I was missing than the soccer ball rolling past me while people shouted in vain from the sidelines. There WAS that one time they let me be goalie. I had a loose tooth, my last baby tooth, that had been hanging on by a thread for weeks. A soccer ball to the face remedied that and the game was stopped while everyone helped me locate my tooth in the field. Not long after that I was allowed to finally quit, though by then Orbots had been canceled.
When Transformers came along, it incorporated all the things I loved about the other robot cartoons I had seen. The first toy that caught my attention may have been a Gobot, but THIS was my show. I caught it on Sunday mornings when it premiered, and followed it to weekdays when it was picked up for a second season. In sixth grade I once got a phone call from my elementary school crush, whose parents had sent her to a private school. I was glad to hear from her but was also watching my show, and my end of the conversation dealt a lot with all the cool things I was seeing. Foolishly, since that was the last time I heard from her. That's how bad it was. My parents took me to see the movie in theaters. While they slept through most of it I was moved and blown away, especially by the death of a beloved character. Years later I would own it on VHS, and later DVD. Many scenes I can recite from memory, sadly enough. The live-action movie has a lot of history and nostalgia to live up to, and I'm sure I and many fans are setting expectations high enough to be disappointed. The trailers for I, Robot didn't begin to show the diversity of mechanoids featured in that movie though, and after seeing it I can easily imagine what the TF movie might be like. Maybe I won't be disappointed. Alan Tudyk(”Firefly”; A Knight's Tale;Dodgeball:A True Underdog Story) infused the main robot of the movie with a very rich humanity; hopefully the TF cast will share these qualities.
I don't know why I like robots so much; maybe some part of me picked up my dad's mechanical inclinations, though not for anything useful. I used to take my TFs apart with a screwdriver and put them back together, just to see how they were made. I think it's just the aesthetics of well-drawn, intricate-looking shiny machines. I don't know why, but robots are an integral part of who I am. I even recognized the cool Decepticon border on this cool blog, something most people would look at and just think “grid.” Speaking of cool blogs, I'm going to be revising my links soon, possibly tonight or tomorrow. It all depends on whether this robo-nostalgia sends me on a quest to my basement to locate my Shogun Warriorscolorforms...
Snow+Vacation Day+Me being a Sloth at Heart=Today.
I am in complete and total slacker mode. I didn't do any laundry, or tabulate my bank accounts(which I normally do every paycheck and have been paid twice, so I've had financial papers piling up for a month now), or anything else all that productive today. With the blizzard, I expected to sleep late, so I stayed up without any regard for potential responsibility. I surfed. I watched DVDs. I played games. I stayed up until almost 4AM solving The Dark Room. It took me almost an hour to finish and at one point I had to actually get a pen and paper and draw diagrams, but I made it in to their Hall of Fame(#5508). I love these thinker games. Speaking of games, be sure to check out the new game section at The Bible Archive. I wasted a(n) (un)healthy amount of time there today.
With the snow, we weren't going to be making it out to church, so I foolishly, perhaps even sinfully, expected to sleep in. Around 10AM I have a vague recollection of my dad asking if I wanted to shovel snow early before it got too cold, and to make room in the driveway for his friend's son-in-law to come by and plow. I remember mumbling an annoyed “Cn I hv bkfst fst?!” in to my pillow and the sound of the door closing. The next sound I heard was our screen door, followed by the scrape of a shovel. The impatient old guy was out there. I got up and saw a half hour had slipped by, and raced to help him before he had a heart attack. Downstairs I had trouble slipping in to an old pair of boots, and found a sock in one of them. My mom later confirm its mate had been in the “orphan sock” drawer, probably since last winter. So I have another pair of socks now, the high point of this uneventful day.
We cleaned off the cars and shoveled the top half of the driveway, and pulled them up as far as they would go. The lower half would be left for the plow, which we weren't even sure was coming. We did the front walk for the mailman and a path to the mailbox from the house for ourselves, and to his credit my dad went in after that. I stayed out a while longer knowing that if the plow didn't come, he'd be back out later despite saying it could wait until tomorrow since I had off. I also feel kind of guilty when we get plowed out, like I can't take care of my own parents and this guy needs to bail me out. I know it's not like that; his father-in-law, who passed away a few years ago, was one of my dad's best friends, and my dad helped their family out a lot with automotive problems, often without charge. So they're just returning the favor, but I still feel the need to do my part.
Finally I was on the verge of collapse myself, but little enough remained that if the plow didn't show, we could take care of it after some rest. I came inside and had breakfast, and immediately resumed slacker mode. I watched I, Robot again in its entirety. Very cool movie, but then I love anything with robots so I'm biased. A few days ago I mentioned I'd write a robots post, but that's not happening; I'm just not focused today. Perhaps tomorrow I'll be more productive and do something other than surfing and watching a rerun of Angel, then going back to sleep for a few hours until dinner.
Whoa. Just now when I went to look up the link for Angel, a headline caught my eye and actually made me gasp out loud. Johnny Carson died. I liked Johnny, and missed his presence in the public eye these last thirteen(!) years. Hopefully his absence from the spotlight meant that he enjoyed the last few years of his life, and wasn't battling some illness. He completely became a private citizen, and even the details of his death have yet to be divulged to the public. Definitely going to miss him.
Weddings and funerals. Twelve(!) years ago in college I made some of the best friends I'd ever had, the closest thing to brothers and sisters this only child would ever know(and some of them certainly pick on me the way I imagine biological brothers would have), and those are the only times I seem to see them these days. We saw each other every day in school, and got together more and more frequently since then. Things change with time. People get jobs, get married, have kids and at some point social get-togethers dwindle. I'm lucky to work with one of my college buddies, but I don't get to see the others that much. So when my friend Tom decided to invite us all over to his apartment for the first time since his wedding a little over a year ago, nothing was going to stop me from going. I've been battling that pesky problem with panic attacks while driving, and getting a handle on the problem. After six months of this, I'm convinced I'm not going to pass out so when I get those feelings, I can press on. I've even rediscovered the “zone” where I sort of blank out parts of my mind and “come to” once I've arrived at my destination. Getting to and from work is getting easier and easier every day with each successful journey, and I've even started driving my friends at lunch again instead of relying on them to ferry me around.
I was looking forward today with mixed feelings though. On the one hand, I needed a social outing, needed to catch up on the present and laugh at the past. But it also involved driving somewhere new, from Nassau to Queens, and at night on a highway. Part of my driving disorder involved making it to parking lots and resting until I calmed down. I slowly weaned myself off of that practice, making it to a “safe point” and continuing on rather than stopping. From there I worked my way to traffic lights, breaking down the “long” journey into smaller increments. I've only been back on a highway by myself once since this nonsense started though, so I used Mapquest to plot out two possible routes, one with the highway and one with local roads. I was determined to take the fastest route and only take the “cowardly” way if things got really bad.
As the week progressed, the forecast was grim. A blizzard. A Noreaster. A very, very bad storm dumping several feet of snow on us. The party, originally scheduled for 6PM, was moved up to 1PM to beat the storm. When I left my home just before noon, there were a few flurries. By the time I got on the parkway the snow was heavy, and the lines in the road completely obscured. Halfway there I detoured to a local road. Traffic was slow, but it was also safer. I arrived about a half hour late and was buzzed in. I decided to take the elevator because I've yet to foresee the things that can go wrong, as often as they do. It was an old-fashioned elevator with a hinged outer door, and the buttons didn't seem to do anything. When the inner door closed and I moved up one floor, it must have been as a result of the young girl waiting there with a bag of laundry. Good thing I had a cellphone, and my friend Rey had the presence of mind to program his numbers in to it a while ago for me. Somehow I got a signal, and they were able to rescue us. Later on I understand Rey's son was still talking about how I got stuck, no doubt echoing the whoop his father let out when he received the call. That kid is amazing. I'm still in awe that he knew all the words to ”O Holy Night.” Sure, he belted them out with the yelling enthusiasm of a 3.5 year old boy with a captive audience, but he was a 3.5 year old boy WHO KNEW ALL THE WORDS. Very impressive.
There was great food, great dessert and a lot of laughs. Rey's son and and another friend's daughter kept us entertained, but when I saw the snow outside covering my car and above the hubcaps, I knew I had best be on my way. I decided to take the Long Island Expressway home, since the volume of traffic would certainly help with the unplowed roads moreso than any local routes. I left a little before five, starting a journey that normally should take a little over half an hour. Idiots flashed their lights and beeped when I stopped for red lights. Pedestrians crossed against the lights, thinking in this weather that the rules don't apply and erroneously assuming any driver could stop on a dime in this mess. By the time I reached the LIE, my back window was completely covered in snow, despite the rear defroster. Most cars were moving between 10 and 20 miles per hour, and I managed to make my way in to traffic. I began to feel very trapped. It was taking forever to get from one exit to the next, I had no visibility, and lanes and shoulders were nonexistent. SUVs sped past while smaller cars fishtailed or threw on their hazards, forcing me to change lanes. I began to feel very dizzy, reinforcing the fact that my problem is anxiety and not fumes in my car since I was driving my dad's new car tonight. I'm actually a little dizzy DESCRIBING the situation right now.
I had no choice; there was nowhere to pull over, nowhere to go. If I passed out, I passed out, but I wasn't stopping. I faced my demons head-on. It was like learning to swim by being thrown in the deep end of the pool without a lifejacket. Of course, I've never actually learned to swim despite growing up on an Island and living five minutes from a beach for thirty years, but that's another story. The expressway was crawling and the snowdrifts were pretty big. Any time an SUV changed lanes it messed up the grooves I was driving in, and the sudden diagonal wall of deep snow resulted in some loss of traction. I got off at the next exit, still a long way from home, and found a local eastbound road that was bad, but in better condition than the expressway. I tried not to think about the hills I knew were ahead, steep and curved, or one very long bridge. My dizziness subsided, and only returned when I thought about it. I began to think of other things, and zone, and even admire the beauty of the snow. I made it down those hills, and detoured around that bridge, and before I knew it I was at the base of my driveway struggling to drive over a foot and a half of snow. It was seven PM, two hours from the time I'd left. If I can drive through this, I can drive through anything.
Appropriately enough I watched The Day After Tomorrow tonight. Between that movie, the recent tsunami, and what's going on here, I can't help wondering what's in store for us. The seasons have been shifting every year. Warm weather lasts in to October. Snow has still been with us in April. It's been a gradual progression, but weather's different than it was when I was a kid. Jerry linked to some interesting material on the subject. There is some strange stuff going on out there. Even Curt was unable to blog today.
Dennis Quaid turns out to be right(not a spoiler for anyone with a vague idea of what the movie is about). So was Jor-El. If something is going on with this world and someone has a good grasp on what that is, let's hope the people in power are listening to them....
It was a brisk winter day, much like today, six or seven years ago around this time of year, about two weeks before Valentine's Day. I'm in awe of my math right now, but it must be correct. I've been at my current job for five years, and remained at my last one a year or two before changing after it happened. Six or seven years. Wow.
Anyway, she had moved to Massachusetts after losing her job. We had kept our relationship a secret for almost two years and when the boss realized he had let my girlfriend go, he was seriously walking on eggshells. I didn't think much of myself or my abilities at the time, but looking back I realize I was fulfilling at least five different job descriptions in a small struggling company, and getting paid about a third of what any one of those responsibilities was worth. He avoided me for a few days, and then one day gave me some music CDs out of the blue. Like THAT would make up for it. Still, one of us had to work, and as I said, I had little faith in my abilities. I didn't think I was good enough to do better yet, so I held on to what I had.
She meanwhile struggled to find work, even with a Master's Degree. She was a few years older than me and BRILLIANT, and I think that in a way helped discourage me from just quitting. If someone like her couldn't find work, what chance would I have? She was unemployed for an entire Summer before the opportunity in Massachusetts presented itself. When we first started dating, about a few months in, she spoke casually about moving to Seattle. I told her I didn't want her to leave; she told me she loved me. This time when she told me the news I was torn. If I didn't want her to leave before, I REALLY didn't then. But I knew how hard it had been and I felt like I stood in the way of her dreams once. She was so awesome; I was nothing. I didn't deserve her, and she didn't deserve me holding her back. She would have stayed if I asked her to, so I didn't.
We adjusted. I bought a used car with good gas mileage and visited her every other weekend. I didn't have internet access yet at that time and phone calls were expensive, so we only spoke once or twice a week, a radical change from several times a day. Some weeks she came back to Long Island to visit her mother. On New Year's Eve I went to see her, and we spent a magical evening in Boston. A museum showed a variety of independent films. A string quartet played in one auditorium; a jazz ensemble in another. We made our way through the city from place to place, eventually making it to the water to see the fireworks by the old historic ships. It was probably the best New Year's Eve of my life, and the last time I'd ever leave my home on that night.
Valentine's was fast approaching. She was an inspiration, and gave me a reason always to continue to develop my fine art skills. Graphic Design, especially the grunt work I was doing out of college, was a far cry from the creativity I wanted to develop and express. Mind you, I was never cheap on gift-giving occasions. I hadn't had much experience with women but I knew that for all the skimping I do for myself, this was one area where money could not be a consideration. I bought her jewelry, and chocolate, and roses, and books, and music, and more as supplements, because I knew art wouldn't be enough. That stuff was easy. The real labor was the paintings and drawings I gave her. Probably the best of these was an 18” by 24” framed charcoal portrait I had drawn of her the previous Christmas, so I was planning to top it for Valentines day. Down in my basement studio, I had already penciled out the drawing and masked out a heart shape, within which I would paint the two of us in Gouache, a water-based medium similar to watercolors but applied opaquely. Time was running out and I wasn't certain I would finish in time. I didn’t know it at the time, but that was the least of my problems. Not only would I never finish it, but it would remain taped to my drawing table in a studio I’ve yet to use again.
One weekend, she was staying with her mom again, and I went to visit her. Which brings me back to where I began.
It was a brisk winter day, much like today, six or seven years ago around this time of year, about two weeks before Valentine's Day. Her mom's reception seemed lukewarm, but I didn't think anything of it at the time, or the fresh baked tray of brownies in her kitchen. She asked if we could drive to the beach. It was chilly out, but not snowing though it would later that day. She loved the beach, and it was one of the things she missed about New York. We went every chance we had. I drove her to one of our favorite ones and after a long walk it was time to drive her home. It was a Sunday, and she had to drive back before the impending snowstorm hit. I opened the door for her and she got in my car, and as I walked around the back I popped in a breath mint, since I was expecting anything but what awaited me inside the car. My “where do you want to go now?” was greeted with a “we should talk.”, and it was all downhill from there.
Some things should be private. A lot was said, and I made a lot of arguments through the tears. I reached in to the depths of my brain, quoting things I didn't even know I knew. She was an intellectual, and book smart, so I hoped that i could reach her through literature. When it was over and the battle finally lost, I drove her home and apologized for giving her such a hard time. She told me not to apologize and said I was eloquent, and she apologized and I told her not to. Everything about our relationship up until that “we should talk” was perfect, and I told her as much. I thanked her for two and a half years of things I'd only dreamed of. I had all but given up on ever finding love, of having someone love me back. She wanted to spend time with me. She listened to me. She actually liked what I had to say. I could be angry with her for that last hour, or grateful for the hours in the years before that one. My life was infinitely better for having known her, and though one could argue if we'd never met I wouldn't know what I had missed, I still would never give it up. After brownies and prolonging our final farewell, I followed her to the highway and saw her off, asking her to call me when she was home safe. My parents came home to find me a wreck, bawling on the couch with a tear stained classified section. I was looking for another job. I thought staying in a place that fired her had done us in, or that she saw no future with someone with no money. But I couldn't think clearly, and it would take another year before I finally got out of that place. I remember once while putting together a portfolio for an interview in those dark days, I thought about how poetic it would be if I slashed my wrists with the X-acto knife I was using. I wasn’t actually considering doing it, but the thought crossed my mind, a fantasy of a lovelorn artist ending his existence with the tools of his trade. It was stupid. Anyway, I never saw her again, though we spoke a few times, once when she got home that evening, and another time after I'd read her grandfather had passed away. Once I got an internet connection we tried to remain friends and e-mailed back and forth for a year or so before one or the other of us stopped writing, and it just ended.
Is this depressing? It's not. I've moved past the point where I look over old photo albums or read poems and letters she'd written me. I've considered other girls. What prompted this reminiscence was watching Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I won't ruin it for anyone(I know Jerry had some good observations about it a while ago), but I will say that if I could erase the painful memories of losing someone so precious to me, if that was an option, I wouldn't do it. Our mistakes and our past makes us who we are, the good and the bad. Pain makes us appreciate pleasure. We avoid mistakes unless we’ve made them at least once. At the grave site of my mom's cousin, the funeral director shared with everyone something that happened at her own mother's funeral. Someone turned and told her she should be happy, and when she looked at him with pain and confusion he explained, “You're in pain because you loved her dearly. It wouldn't hurt so much, if you didn't have a special bond with this person. You had someone in your life that you had a special connection with, and that's a rare and precious thing.”
If the technology in the movie existed, if I could erase my ex-girlfriend, would I? Could I? Should I?
In the course of an e-mail debate I had with my friends yesterday, we veered off topic a few times and some things were said in the heat of battle that I realize may have hit a nerve, veering in to a sensitive area. My friend Rey has made a tough decision with his wife to school their children at home. Public schools were evil and dangerous when we were kids and have only gotten worse. Many private schools are good but very expensive. There's one a town over from where I live that has a higher tuition than my college.
I myself am a product of both public and private schools. I went to public school up until eighth grade, then my parents sent me to a private high school. It was expensive, and my parents made a lot of sacrifices. My mom has had many part-time jobs over the years but I was always her primary responsibility. She didn't work until I was in school, and then took jobs like being a teacher's aid so she could keep an eye on me and so our schedules coinciding. My dad was a mechanic which paid well enough, but it was tough. My mom fortunately was skilled at finding bargains, clipping coupons, shopping in thrift shops, etc., whatever it took for this family to have the things it needed with the money it had. They saved, and they put me not only through a good high school, but college as well. I had one scholarship that paid half my tuition for playing in the pep band, and an additional thousand for having gone to a Catholic high school. My parents paid the difference, and today I don't have some of the bills my friends may STILL be paying off.
Being a parent is hard. I don't know this first-hand, but I know I was a handful, and my parents survived. Rey's children are lucky to have parents willing to dedicate themselves to their children and share their rich knowledge of computers, music, religion and more with them. New York itself is expensive, and in most families both parents have to work. People get used to luxuries like cable or a new car or new clothes or high speed internet, and think they NEED these things to live. Rather than make do without some of the finer things, both parents may work and never be home to enjoy what their money pays for with their families. Where I work I'm CONSTANTLY bombarded with the sounds of mothers “phoning it in.” “DO YOUR HOMEWORK!” “PUT GRAMMA ON THE PHONE!” “FAILING IS NOT ACCEPTABLE; YOU GO RIGHT HOME AFTER SCHOOL!” “WHOSE HOUSE ARE YOU OVER?!” Most of these calls are truncated, because deadlines take priority. “JUST DO WHAT I SAY! I HAVE WORK TO DO; GOODBYE!” Some parents are forced in to these situations; I think others may choose it to run from what they perceive to be a harder task. Work can be controlled and predictable; children not so much.
Rey mentioned my use of the word “coddling”--I'm not certain whether I used it in reference to letting a child win a board game or homeschooling since the e-mail thread is long-deleted; I hope I didn't use it in reference to the latter. He's right to say that I “...spent [my] days going to school, avoided people, then running back to the safety of home.” I did have a small clique of nerds that I clung to like a safety net in public school, but I was so foolishly resistant to the new school my parents sent me to that I refused to make friends with anyone, and ended up with only one good friend only because he was persistent with me. I know Rey will have other children over, children of friends, and that there will be social get-togethers. Potentially, his homeschooled children can have all the social skills I lack. My agoraphobia and loner tendencies have nothing to do with my schooling and everything to do with the safety net of being an only child with overprotective parents. Otherwise, I might have left home and braved the world long ago. (If anyone was coddled, it was me, especially now that I suspect my own parents let me win a lot of board games:D) I don’t think homeschooling would have been for me; my parents already took TOO MUCH care of me(still do). That doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be fine for other children.
I'm sorry some of my insensitive comments yesterday hit so hard; they were really throwaway remarks that I wasn't putting much thought into, because I was on the defensive with my position on a less significant topic. I'm probably not the only one that's made any kind of comments against the homeschooling thing, so I'm sure there's more to Rey's reaction and post, but it seems like I triggered it. My sincerest apologies.
On a lighter note, I was going to blog about something different before I read that post; I saw a trailer for a new Robots CGI movie that looks great. I like anything with robots in it though, so I'm biased. Perhaps more on this tomorrow, as well as a review of I, Robot, which I liked, but fell asleep for an unfortunate half hour in the middle of the movie that had nothing to do with the movie, and everything to do with me being really, really tired. I think this cold air is really getting to me; I hate the winter.
The flashbacks on Lost are far more detailed and precise than I believe anyone's memories actually are. It's a necessary device, and a great one, for filling in the blanks and back stories for the best ensemble of stranded characters since Beast Wars. Elaborating upon that last unique opinion may well merit a post of its own some day.
Earlier today when accused of being overly competitive, I mentioned to some friends that I used to lose a lot to my parents when we played board games. This led to a long e-mail debate which frustratingly set me further behind at work than I already am, yet one I was compelled to continue. One one side of the argument, Curt maintained that you should play to win, or not play at all. Jerry and Rey, who are each parents, held a different position. They would play a game with their respective sons not to win, but to have fun and spend time with their child. They even admitted they'd LET their child win to “let them have a taste of victory.” Rey went so far as to tell me that after playing Spider-man with his son, they DON'T EVEN SAVE THEIR PROGRESS. All of this blew my mind.
I get obsessive with games. I keep playing until I win. I don't buy a new video game until I've gotten all the way through. An only child, I've never had siblings, so I'm not sure WHO I'm competing with or trying to impress. Rey assures me that having siblings DOESN'T make one competitive, but I'm not certain. I think I would have been even MORE competitive with brothers or sisters. I'll never really know. He did say that it's hard to understand BEING a parent until you ARE one. I think our experiences as children are vital to our experiences as a parent. Who else do we have as an example? The things our parents did right, we'll repeat with our kids. The things we disagreed with, we'll probably do differently, but if they weren't there to DO those things, we'd be left with only instinct. Some wisdom comes from personal experience, but previous generations yield treasure troves of knowledge to those mature enough to listen. It's ironic, because I can remember a time when I didn't listen and my folks assured me that someday I'd wish I had.
When I got home from work I shared an abridged version of the morning's discussion with my parents. After hearing from my peers that they let their kids win, I had to know if my parents had done the same. My argument against such a “victory” was that it was false, and to learn the truth later might shatter any sense of accomplishment a child had from finally besting his or her elders, a natural part of becoming an adult. So I asked them if they ever let me win. They thought about it and said no, but that I was very good and won a lot. This clashed with what I told my friends. I thought I used to always lose and throw fits about it. I was certain I'd done that with my friends as a kid, but the more I spoke with my parents tonight I realized my flashback was muddy. My dad started rattling off all the games I used to beat them at. Checkers.Connect Four.Chinese Checkers.Parcheesi.Hickory Dickory Dock. And countless others. I realized it was true; I rarely lost to my parents. If anything, after a hard day at school, whether it was getting yelled at by a coach or hit with a ball or something, I took out my “losses” on my parents, who were there for me. As bad as I was at everything else, I was good at these meaningless games, and winning against adults made me feel really....
Ah, crap. Now I have a seed of doubt. I did ask them if they were sure, and if in fact they didn't let me win and they both sincerely reassured me of how good I was, my mom saying again how she wished I'd try out for Jeopardy because I guessed so many answers when we all watch together. After what my friends said, I'm not sure if my parents weren't trying to boost my ego or were really bad at games, or even if they're STILL boosting my ego. I guess that's what parents are for.
I still don't agree with not finishing a video game, or playing a game with a clear goal and not aiming for or caring about that goal. There is something to be said for “meaningless” fun between a parent and child though. Some of the best times I've had both as a child and as an adult have been putting together a jigsaw puzzle with my parents. Even a simple game of catch, with no winners or losers, brought me joy. My dad has bad arthritis these days, and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Years as a mechanic, of burns and breaks, have taken their toll on his hands. Even when he was in his early fifties he had begun to feel the effects, but when I was 8 or 9 I used to pester him when he got home from work to play. He'd rotate his stiff shoulder, and grimace in pain, but he could still throw like when he had his own team before he got married. He suffered to spend time with me.
During tonight's Lost, which also dealt with the painful sacrifices parents make and endure for their children, a commercial for Citicards came on. It featured a close-up of a cute toddler who bore a remarkable resemblance to the son of a good friend. The toddler came in and out of focus, and you could eventually see he was on a swing with his father in the background. The caption said something along the lines of, “There's a reason overtime pays more. You're getting paid for what you're missing. There's more to life than money.” It kind of made me sad that I never got married or had kids of my own, but it also made me appreciate all the things my parents did for me, things I may not even realize, and respect my friends who did become parents themselves.
Earlier this evening I settled down to watch Scrubs and Committed. A commercial came on for Cialis shortly after the Scrubs episode began. We've been bombarded with increasing pharmaceutical ads the last few years, for everything from allergies to depression to indigestion, and the list of side effects spoken rapidly by the announcer at the end of these ads seems to get longer and longer(no pun intended). The side effects seem often to be the very thing the drug is supposed to treat, too. An allergy medication may cause sinus problems. A pill for indigestion may cause nausea and upset stomach. As for the mood these ads create, the stand-up routine sampled in ”Underwear goes Inside the Pants” hits the nail on the head. At any rate, the warning at the end of the Cialis ad I saw cautioned that ”erections lasting more than four hours require immediate medical attention.” FOUR HOURS. Be careful what you wish for, eh? My dad was watching with me but is hard of hearing, and often naps during commercials. I didn't dare glance over to see if he'd heard what was just said. I felt uncomfortable enough as a kid once I found out what feminine hygiene products were. I'd be watching with my folks and a “do you ever feel unfresh?” commercial would come on, and I totally had to avoid eye contact and zone out.
Scrubs was great as usual, the perfect blend of crazy humor and the sort of drama we all go through. The ability to laugh in the face of pain and hardship is important, and that show definitely serves an important purpose. Committed continues to be my favorite new sitcom, and I hope it sticks around. There was a great sequence tonight in which one character tries to return keys to another character by throwing them to him across a busy New York street. Just as she throws them, a cab drives by with an open window and they land in the back seat. He tries to catch the cab to no avail. Later in the episode he sees her to a cab and after she gets in she finds the keys. She calls out to him and tosses the keys out the window, and INTO THE OPEN WINDOW OF ANOTHER CAB DRIVING BY. Damn funny stuff.
I mentioned yesterday that I'd gone to see Elektra with Curt. As an added bonus, I got to see the Fantastic Four trailer, which is now online. This movie has a LOT of potential and the effects look AWESOME. I still think they screwed up the Thing's head but his body had a lot more craggy definition than in the early clips and stills I'd seen. Besides, if this is an origin story, he does look closer to how he did in the first few issues of the comic before he mutated further. So I'm willing to give this a chance. Right now, based on the trailer, this could be the next Hulk(bad) or the next X-men(good). I will say that though I found the wording at the beginning of the trailer amateur and student-filmish, the APC tune that comes in halfway through really got me stoked. I've read some comments that felt metal inappropriate for sci fi(which is what the FF is as much as a superhero tale), but I thought there was a good blend between the traditional ”Stargate SG1”-ish music and the metal for the action sequences. Right now, July seems too far away, and I don't just mean because it's about FOUR degrees outside right now....
This is quite a conundrum. 24 was AWESOME as always. I have things to say about the episode, and the coming attractions which I find impossible NOT to watch after each great cliffhanger, but I don't want to ruin anything for anyone. The movies I see are less current and normally I don't have to be as careful with spoilers, but I went to see Elektra today with my friend Curt. I can talk about it without ruining it for HIM, but not for my other friends and readers. I will say it's one of Marvel's better films despite a few minor flaws and cheesy lines here and there, and EASILY bested Daredevil. Easily. It was no contest. Of course if you look at the resume of Mark Steven Johnson, and that of Rob Bowman, their records and experiences speak for them. Elektra was a VERY COOL movie. Stick.The Hand. The movie drew on a rich comic history very well. Of course, I DO love her, so I'm biased.
So here I am having seen two things I enjoyed very much today, and not being able to talk about them. I can talk about yesterday morning, and the whistling sound that woke me from a sound slumber. Groggy, I stood and stumbled across the bed to the floor, carefully using the dim light streaming in from the sides of my curtain to make out the shapes of undelivered Christmas presents still in bags on my floor until I visit those relatives. I moved my curtain aside and looked up at the sky. There, a cylindrical atomic bomb with a U.S. flag visible on its cold gray hide was falling through the atmosphere. It looked to be about the size of a truck or a small plane from where I was, but must have been larger since I could tell it was still very far from my home. At the angle of descent, it would hit not in my neighbor's yard or even his neighbor's yard, but a town or two away, roughly seven or eight miles. I could see other bombs in the sky much smaller, falling toward other targets. In horror, I let the curtain fall and stumbled back in to bed and lay there, hoping it was a dream. Finally, I decided to get up and get breakfast. I stood up and walked across the bed, gingerly stepping down to an open spot on the floor near my door, when the house shook. Suddenly, it was very dark. I stepped back up on the bed and walked toward my window, stepping back down beyond those presents, and peered out. I was so close to the mushroom cloud that I couldn't SEE the cloud; instead the entire sky was one big rolling gray mass. Then I woke up for REAL, and moved the curtain aside on the window closer to my bed, just above my pillow, and peered out at a windy cool day, with the sun still shining. Most of the time I prefer my dreams to waking up, but every once in a while I have a doozy like that.
Scary Movie 2 was GARBAGE, one of the worst things I've seen in a long time. It was rude and offensive and while its predecessor wasn't exactly high cinema, it was at least funny, and there was a novelty to some of the gross-out jokes. Repeating the SAME jokes did NOTHING for the sequel, and there's a limit to how many gallons of various bodily fluids anyone can bear to watch spewing from various orifices. Did I call this movie GARBAGE yet?
I didn't have high hopes for Scary Movie 3 but had rented both sequels, and so was committed. Apparently the second one was SO bad, it was IMPOSSIBLE for the series to get any worse. The third one then had some pleasant surprises. First and foremost among these was the presence of David Zucker as director. I loved stuff like Airplane and The Naked Gun growing up and as this movie unfolded, it promised THAT style of spoof I liked. The thing that works best with his comedies isn't the outrageous situations and unlikely plots alone, but how SERIOUS all the actors play their scenes. Leslie Nielsen is a MASTER at saying wacky things with the utmost sincerity, so even some of his worst work can still squeeze a smile or two from the audience. Shawn and Marlon are the weaker of the Wayans brothers and vehicles their older brothers let them drive tend to veer off into juvenile stupidity. I am in no hurry to see White Chicks, as much as the “Yo, hold my poodle, DAWG!” line cracks me up in the trailer. The point is, I didn't miss them in SM3.
Anna Faris was still there and stronger than ever as the dimwitted wide-eyed female lead. Figuratively, I see her as Nielsen's comedic granddaughter. The girl has potential. There's a bevy of actors too numerous to mention here, but they each get a chance to shine. An impromptu beer commercial spoof led by Tim Stack is just one of many of these moments; George Carlin's rendition of a vocabulary-heavy dialogue spoofing a recent Sci Fi sequel was another that had me rolling. Overall the plot is a clever amalgamation of The Ring and Signs, but the film works in an impressive number of references to other films outside the horror genre. The 8 Mile sequence alone is worth the price of rental as were appearances by nearly every major rap artist popular at this time. Deleted scenes reveal an overextended ending that shoehorns in a Hulk sequence and a longer Matrix sequence, including the obligatory burly brawl. Parts of it are funny but this sort of humor works best with surgical strikes, hitting the punchline and moving on. Drawing out a sketch is a shortcoming best reserved for SNL; I'd say the theatrical cut was the right choice.
If you enjoyed any of the other Zucker movies you'll definitely appreciate this one, especially if you've seen the films it lampoons. There's no continuity in the Scary Movie franchise, so SM2 can safely be skipped. Much like my DSL connection which I've FINALLY sort of got working after talking with tech support and doing some work around here today, Scary Movie 3 could be worse....
Sometimes it's good to be a zombie, to just turn off or turn down one's awareness of their surroundings and let the autopilot take over. I've gotten through long classes or later in life long meetings by drifting in and out of a ”Walter Mitty”-esque daydream or twelve. I've woken up from particularly cool dreams and cursed the morning, or rolled over and tried to go back with little success. I've pulled off superheroic feats to rescue and impress girls I've liked, or lay trapped alone with them in a cave-in where true feelings HAD to be confessed before it was too late. In younger years I'd even fantasized lying in a hospital bed and having some crush visit my bedside and confess HER feelings, but that one declined over the years and completely disappeared after an eleven day hospital stay for REAL, and one in which sending word to my ex-girlfriend garnered little more than sympathy, and no actual visit. Even e-mailing my near-death experience to her in painful detail the second I was home and at a computer again didn't bring her running back in to my arms the way I thought it would. Had the SoapOperas I'd watched with my folks lied to me? Had comic books, movies, and sitcoms done the same? Reality NEVER plays out like dreams, so I'll always prefer dreams. In dreams I've KNOWN how to dance at parties. In dreams I've GOTTEN and KEPT the girl. In dreams I've even been ATHLETIC.
I've tried to restore the lighter tone of this blog these lastthreedays, but my reality has been anything but. Besides a great lunch with a couple of oldfriends from college that I don't see nearly as often as I'd like, the only GOOD thing that's happened this week is I seem to be getting over my stupid ”driving insanity”. I've been longing for the days I'd get in the car and suddenly be miles down the road without knowing how or when I got there, far more preferable to measuring each part of the journey and hoping I make it to the nearest parking lot to rest. It isn't that I'm not paying attention to the road when I zone out, but that I'm paying attention on a different level, and not paying so much attention that I panic. As one of my friends put it this week upon learning I wouldn't drive to visit a friend if he moved out of state, I was a “real bitch”. Granted, he didn't know the full details of WHY I wouldn't drive and I wasn't about to explain my last six months of borderline agoraphobic HELL, but in a way he was right. This week I've been relaxed and let myself go when driving. When I feel like I'm not breathing I DON'T, and when I feel like I'm passing out I RELAX. In doing so, the opposite of what I would expect happens and the sensations pass, which makes me stronger with each successful journey. This means I'm looking forward to a trip I was previously dreading, but I won't say anymore for fear of jinxing™ it.
It's been an exhausting week with a lot onmymind. I think that combination is what's kept me from overthinking and hyperventilating behind the wheel. Yesterday I joined my parents at not one but two wakes for my mom's cousin. I hadn't made the two on Thursday but I was there from two until four yesterday, and seven until nine, visiting the deceased's family at their home in between rather than go home. At one wake I shared “surgery stories” with an uncle who’d survived cancer 20 years ago after having several feet of intestine removed. I talked about how I dealt with the pain after my surgery by immediately going to sleep for fourteen hours. Every time I woke up I was in agony, and sleep was my only true escape from the uncomfortable tubes and the unbearable pain.
It was a long day and I drifted in and out of reality. The family is a happy one with good memories and a great sense of humor(when I described them thus to my mom today she muttered, “that's how it's SUPPOSED to be, not all doom and sourness like US.”). One cousin told great boyhood stories about going to the racetrack with his uncles as a kid, or the time he almost drowned reaching in to a pickle bucket on the farm and slipped, landing headfirst and struggling until his grandmother saw him and somehow found the strength to pull him free. One tale about the time he told someone to bet ”333” in the lottery as a joke took me by surprise given my recent ruminations about that number. His surprise came the next day when the guy thanked him profusely and showed him a winning ticket. I considered playing the number last night MYSELF after hearing this tale, but fortunately didn’t, since it didn’t come in.
Yesterday was long and today was longer. I was nervous about being a pall bearer not just because I'd never done it but because I feared my dizzy spells. I've driven without passing out. I've made it through meetings without passing out. I've even walked and played my instrument through long processions, one as long as twelve hours, in the last few months. That foundation gave me confidence, but the real strength came in the ability to turn off that part of my mind that CAUSES symptoms by WORRYING about the very symptoms it’s CAUSING, in a vicious cycle. Today was long and unreal, a dreamlike blur.
First there was quiet solitude, saying goodbye one last time at the funeral home. When it was time to leave my mom kissed her cousin on the cheek and said goodbye, breaking down in tears as my father and I escorted her out.
Second came the vehicular procession to the church, with a detour past her home as is the tradition. On the way back we were directed by police around an accident, and later would learn the driver of one of the vehicles was a friend of the family on the way to the funeral. He never got there, but showed up distraught at the house later. He was unharmed physically, but the person who'd run a light and cut in front of him was in the hospital with a broken leg, and that's where he spent most of his day.
Third was the intimidating honor of carrying in the casket. Her son-in-law, her cousin, her son's best friend, her daughter's godfather, and her husband's nephew rounded out the group and I followed their lead, surprised at how light a shared weight can be, even going up steps. Inside, there was a wheeled cart to guide us.
Fourth was the mass. The priest had some comforting notions to say about the journey she was taking and why we feel sadness, anger, and confusion. Back when people thought the Earth was flat, the sight of a ship disappearing over the horizon was terrifying. It looked like it fell off the edge of the world. But though we can't see it, we know it's still there and somewhere on another shore what got smaller and disappeared for US, is getting larger as it arrives for SOMEONE else. I liked the metaphor a lot. In her anger my mom said a lot of things today like she wished SHE was in the box and even asked ME if there was a heaven. I thought the priest’s metaphor was apt. Just because we can’t see heaven, and can’t see those who have began their journey, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have faith that it IS there. Without faith, what does ANYTHING we do on this world matter?
Fifth was the journey to the cemetery. We got shuffled around and I ended up at the front of the coffin this time. It seemed heavier somehow, especially going down the steps, but we saw our precious cargo to her ride without incident. There were some more words said by the funeral director at the grave site and we were invited to think of our happiest memories before tossing a flower on the grave. Tearful hugs were shared all around.
Finally we gathered at the family's home one more time. There was food, and my mom's cousin's four grandchildren were brought to the house(having been spared the other events they were too young for--the oldest of the four boys is five). Other than one incident where the boys wandered into a room they weren't supposed to and got excited upon seeing “gramma's shoes!” and thinking she was in the house somewhere, they brought much-needed joy with them. One of the woman's friends had moved to Florida and the last time they spoke she told her she'd NEVER come to New York in the winter again. My Aunt simply told her, “Yes, you will,” and she was stunned today by how that came true. At one point the doorbell faintly rang but no one was there, and the husband speculated his wife may have come to join everyone eating and keeping company. Last night when a curtain in her kitchen snapped up by itself, we pondered the same possibility.
I think it's going to be hard for the family later after things quiet down and visitors depart, and the reality of the quietness sinks in. Just as today was a blur for me, I'm sure her immediate family were “going through the motions” and just EXISTING, getting through the day minute by minute. Every weekend the parents used to visit their son's grave, and now the husband will be visiting TWO graves side-by-side. We get through life not in big steps but in smaller increments, the best way to tackle any problem, and ironically “sleepliving” through the longer stretches is the only way to get through them sometimes.
It didn't feel right to post something as offbeat as yesterday or to review a movie tonight. Comic relief is important, but with everything that's been happening I had to visit this subject one last time. I'll share one story of this woman's grandchildren though, to close with a lighter note. Earlier in the week to emulate their uncle, one of the boys decided he wanted a goatee and drew one in--WITH A RED PERMANENT MARKER. While the adults were making preparations and sitting around absorbing the reality of what had happened, the boy came out just when they needed to smile the most. The ink would take a few days to wear off and in the interim, he had to go to school like that. God bless the children.
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MCF is a mild-mannered
artist from the suburbs.
His knowledge of obscure
comic book characters
is more powerful than Gladiator
of the Shi'ar Imperial Guard on
an ego-trip. Able to leap topics
in a single sentence faster than
a speeder-bike on the moon of
Endor, MCF has never written
about himself in the third person
and now dreads the day he
utters aloud the fateful phrase,
"MCF is gettin' upset!"