Roth is the WORST.

Say what you will about David Lee Roth as a singer, but the man really shouldn't be a talk show DJ.

I try not to listen. The radio station that carries him is all but dead to me now that it's mostly talk. At least on weekends they still play music. Of the three or four occasions I've tried to listen to him in the last month, I've never lasted more than a minute before I had to change the dial to stay awake. As he added other people to talk to on the show instead of being alone and droning about nothing, my reason for tuning out changed. I've actually found myself YELLING at the radio, “what the hell are you talking about?!” at some of the sheer stupidity that comes out of his mouth. I'm not talking about things that offend me, or things I disagree with. There were times I disagreed with, or was offended by his predecessor. But that show was interesting and held some intelligence in between or behind the sophomoric antics. Roth is a pure moron.

On one of the early shows, he was yelling at some caller. I thought there might finally be something controversial, so I left it on. He was talking about how his father was a cop, and anyone who has to carry a weapon to protect himself should get paid more. The caller was a guard at a prison who wasn't allowed to carry weapons, and argued that it was more dangerous for him, that is, when he got a word in. Roth listened to the worst of AM radio and brought the technique of talking over someone loudly to the debate table. The thing is, the caller wasn't disagreeing with him that cops deserve high pay, but adding on by saying guards take risks and deserve a better salary too. In an attempt to stir up an argument and make his show interesting, he was yelling at the guy, even though his sister tried to get him to listen. People tell me his sister is a regular cast member now. The first time I tried to listen he was about to interview his uncle. He's filling out his program with his family. It's like a child in his basement with a ham radio.

Digressing for just a moment, the Oscars are coming up, and many people are talking about the best movies from last year. I looked at that list, and the only movie I saw from it was Crash. I think that was a 2004 movie, too, unless it was late enough that they count it for 2005? Does that mean Kong and Narnia might show up in the 2007 Oscars? Likely these are just oversights, demonstrating the difference between my opinion and those of people who matter. I'm not even questioning the absence of Batman Begins, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, or Serenity because while I loved all three, I know they cater to a specific niche audience. Those other two movies were epic, though. Did someone who makes these decisions get tired of Peter Jackson? If the Oscars deal with the (supposed) best, then the worst is dealt with by the Razzies. This brings us back to David Lee Roth.

This morning, the broadcast caught my interest because they were discussing the Razzies, and who they thought were the worst actors and movies. One girl called and cited Johnny Depp, which is arguable. Another went with the tried-and-true Keanu Reeves. Roth agreed with both callers, including the stance that Point Break was okay because “it had the Swayze-man.” I actually liked that movie and think Keanu has done worse. He stands out like a sore thumb in anything historical or set far in the past. Bram Stoker's Dracula is the perfect example. I swear he says “dude” at some point. Point Break took place on a beach. Dracula is set in Transylvania. What works in one setting does not in another.

The Reeves caller was followed by a guy defending Johnny Depp, but making the tragic mistake of backing his argument with, “He was good in dat Pirate movie, brah!” Roth jumped on this by pointing out that Depp claims to have based the character on a cross between Keith Richards and Pepe Le Pew. My problem lies with his choice of words. I'm paraphrasing here, but he said something along the lines of, “he's a cross between Keith Richards and that gay muskrat from those Disney cartoons.” How many things can you find wrong with the preceding statement?

It's only been a month, but I can't imagine this lasting much longer. Today I listened longer than I have before, letting the stupidity fill me with hatred. When someone suggested Will Ferrell as a bad actor, he defended him with The Legend of Ron Burgundy, which I will admit was a damn funny stupid movie. Then the caller cited Bewitched, and Roth enthusiastically agreed. Though he hadn't seen the movie, he went on a rant about how it probably sucked because they modernized it, that the old one was great because she ran around calling him “master”. At this point, someone on his staff started sputtering and tried to interrupt with, “I think you're thinking of--”, only to be cut off as the rant got louder. He chuckled at his own brilliance, at the humor of Bewitched the movie failing because she didn't call the guy “master” like she did in I Dream of Jeannie, the sitcom he thinks the movie is based on. Idiot.

I'm done listening, and done registering my disgust on the internet. Worst. DJ. Everrrrr.


M.C.F.A.D. I: Draw Wolverine

Just when you think you've gotten the hang of Mondays at the Nexus, I throw you a curve ball. Today I won't be asking you to answer questions. For the first time in three months there will be no M.C.F.A.T. Tired of the rigors of academia? Stumped by questions that would challenge a third grader? Looking to work a different area of your brain? Perhaps what you need to do is earn a Mysterious Cloaked Figure Art Degree.

Now, I can't make any promises. An M.C.F.A.D. might not earn you a cushy job in the field of animation, comic books, or my own exciting field of direct mail. What it will earn you is FUN. Take the Batgirl Meme, for example. What started as a few sketches and drawings grew to include thousands of renditions of the character, a veritable comic renaissance. There was an impressive range of styles, from blends of fashion and animation to cute and cartoony to ”I can't draw so I'm going to paint over Laura Prepon.” Even a published professional like Mike Wieringo added his contribution.

A few weeks ago I asked for suggestions. After careful consideration of all the great possibilities, I decided to use Wendy's suggestion of Wolverine. Over the years, Marvel's most popular mutant has had many looks. Here's your opportunity as a fan to try your interpretation. Will you draw something realistic or cartoony? A simple stick figure? A photo manipulation? Will you resort to Hero Machine? Anything goes.

Below you will find my own contribution to the meme. As you add links to drawings on your own sites I'll edit this post. Will this be the next great art meme? Will there be more? Only you can answer that.

Wolverine and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof Copyright © Marvel Characters, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


Kev Bayer



Phantasmic Links 1.29.06

Dreary Sunday, woke up before afternoon,
Went outside, to see what my dad was doing.

“Yo, dad?”

“What up son?”

“Why's my car onna jack?”

“There's another spot to fix, another place to patch!”

“Trudat, double true, though I just got outta bed,
at least let me help you put the jack back in the shed.”

“Thanks son; don't drive it till tomorrow, to avoid any kinks.
Instead pass some time finding this week's PHANTASMIC LINKS:”

Your Social Dysfunction:

I am excessively sensitive to potential rejection, humiliation or shame. I tend to be socially withdrawn, in spite of desire for acceptance from others.

Take this quiz at QuizGalaxy.com

Please note that we aren't, nor do we claim to be, psychologists. This quiz is for fun and entertainment only. Try not to freak out about your results.

Hat tip to Kev Bayer for the above quiz. Is it accurate? You decide...

Japanese Spider-man will be the single greatest thing we all see on the internet this week, and we can thank Sarcasmo for the link. It's a promise!

I think all the countries of the world should resolve their differences they way the people in this banned X-box ad do. Fingers hold no bullets.

In the growing tradition of recut movie trailers, the upcoming thriller Sleepless in Seattle will leave you sleepless in wherever you normally sleep.

If this ever happened to me, I'd wait for the van to transform.

It's always darkest before the dawn, and a skilled gamer can always make an AMAZING comeback.

Someone has built a working girl robot, and it's not the Mysterious Cloaked Figure. Hat tip to the mysterious Davis Rose.

The Sphynx proves why cats should have hair.

Finally, witness Andy Samberg on Letterman share an amazing anecdote about how a staged mugging was nearly foiled by the LAST man any criminal or terrorist wants to see shouting and running toward them.



Elves and Blowtorches.

”Why is your father under your car?”

I looked up from checking my e-mail and trying to get a stubborn DVD to play. I'd just woken up, my eyes still not fully open, and my mother was posing a very odd question. I stumbled past her down the hallway to the kitchen, looked out, and there was a 75-year-old man lying on concrete underneath my jacked-up automobile. The sun shone brightly in the 11 AM sky, and it seemed like yet another unseasonably pleasant day.

As far back as I can remember, having a mechanic for a father has been both a blessing and a curse. Cars last a long time in our family, and the bulk of our automotive expenses has gone toward parts. There would be times my mom would get frustrated when he'd spend hours working on a friend's car in the driveway. We never had a garage, though our driveway terminates at a slab of concrete big enough to build a two-car garage on. My dad always wanted one; my mom feared he'd do a lot more side work. The result of their stubbornness was that he did the work anyway, even in the rain, and we'd always have two or three cars to clean snow off of in the Winter.

Among my dad's gifts thrived uncanny diagnostic and preventative abilities. He took such good care of vehicles that the moment they so much as sounded different, he was under the hood fixing or replacing something. Air was always in the tires, the gas tank never dropped below 1/4, and oil was changed three-four times a year. In a way, it always reminded me of the tale of the shoemaker and the elves. Just as the shoemaker would wake up to find his shoes fixed by unseen helpers, the same was true of my cars. When I started driving, I never had to think about motor oil or transmission fluid. To be honest, even now I forget to check, because deep down I know he already has. It's not a good comfort zone for an adult to be in, and something I need to work on.

One night this week, I'd made a casual comment about my car sounding a little louder. I didn't think anything of it, and my dad said I probably just needed a new muffler soon. Yesterday the car sounded fine, and I chalked it up to the weather being warmer than the day it sounded loud. But this morning, seeing that it was a nice day, he decided to investigate further. My muffler, which we only put in last year, was fine, but the intermediate pipe was rusted, hanging on by a thread of metal. Sooner rather than later, it would have broken off completely and I'd have heard metal scraping on the pavement. My dad said we could get a new pipe and put it in today, or I could wait a few weeks for it to fall off. It was one of those life-lesson choices, not a choice at all really, unless I was a complete idiot. I of course chose to put in the new part.

Replacing something on a car, especially an old one, is never an easy process. In theory, one would expect it to be simple. Unscrew a few bolts. Take out the old part. Put in the new one. Tighten some bolts. Drive. My mom never understood how he'd estimate an hour or two and end up spending a day working on one of his friend's cars. I didn't understand it either, even when I started doing more than handing him wrenches. Time was, he'd be stubborn and refuse to listen to my suggestions or stop to think of a different approach. Many was the time hammers, hacksaws, and fire were employed to defeat a rusted, stripped bolt. Today we faced two such bolts, but his hands aren't what they once were, and he's more inclined to listen to my suggestions and let me crawl under there instead. It still takes some persuasion, but there's a lot less yelling involved. It took a combination of physics and teamwork to remove those bolts. He braced the whole pipe from turning while I employed a pipe over the wrench to create a lever. I can exert more force now, but it wasn't enough. “Let me get the torch!” He insisted after the pipe slipped a third time. I told him that was insane. We were inches from the gas tank, and he'd just sprayed the bolt with highly flammable penetrating oil. “That will only be on fire for a minute. The metal needs heat to expand--this is how the guys DO it. Will you trust me? I've been doing it for years!” He always goes for the torch, but surprisingly, today, he gave way to reason, and the sound of that first bolt budging was a great sound indeed. The second bolt was a little tougher since it was completely stripped, and I needed a vise to hold one end while I turned the other. I became so focused on the task today, I didn't even think about my childhood fear of having a car fall on me. At one point I was completely under the car, using one leg to hold the pipe up while my hands worked the bolt from both sides. The hard part was over once the second bolt came off, and putting the new pipe on proved much easier.

Earlier in the week, my friend Rey was sharing thoughts on parenting and belief with another college friend soon to be a first-time father. He spoke about weighing whether or not to talk about Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and other fictitious characters with children. There's a difference between belief and make-believe, and as a Christian he pondered the difference between God and these characters. At some point children are told, “this story was made up, and this one, but this one was true,” and there are definite flaws with that approach. There is no Santa Claus, and there are no elves, but parents are real, there to shelter us as well as guide and teach us. I'm a long way from being a mechanic myself, and I wish I'd paid attention as a kid instead of moping about missing cartoons while I handed my dad tools. I'm glad I'm finally at the point where, if he tells me what to do, I can do the heavy stuff instead of having my old man exert himself. Hopefully, I'll eventually get to a point where I can diagnose as well as repair simple problems. And I'll never use a blowtorch.


Clubbing with MCF

I'm not cool. I've never been cool, and I probably never will be. Most people my age, if they're concerned about being cool at all, are concerned about being cool in their children's eyes. To look at me is to instantly know me, isn't it? People see a nerd, a recluse with few friends and more than a passing familiarity with a 20-sided die, a tuba, snacks, or any combination of those. They'd be incredulous to learn I ever had a girlfriend, but who could blame them? Nerds are skeptical about the romantic success of their fellow outcasts. I remember a kid from my high school who boasted about a girl no one ever met, who ultimately left him for another girl. In some twisted way he was proud of that. TheWriteJerry once told me of a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader he had to let down easy, and I'm ashamed to confess to being dubious at the time. The thing is, we're all human beings with far more below the surface. Physical appearance, the way a person carries himself, and our own past experiences shouldn't paint a picture so readily, but we're all guilty of doing so with all kinds of people. People are full of surprises.

While I've never been cool, I've been fortunate to have friends who were. I remember back in college, when I was working the at a gas station, I mentioned to one of my coworkers a few of the New York City clubs I'd been to. He scoffed, “Yeah sure, y'all are ****in' John Travolta,” and laughed raucously. Even though he was arrested a week later for credit card fraud, his words haunted me. I didn't look like the type of person who could get into a nightclub like The Limelight. In fact, the first time I tried to go there, the bouncers turned us away because one of us, surprisingly not me, was wearing sneakers. Fortunately, I had a friend who was bouncer there, and one Halloween I finally got to see the place. It was loud, overwhelming, and felt like a set from Blade or Alias. At the time, I loved it. I'd return there a few times, as well as to the affiliated (and apparently now gone) Tunnel. On one occasion I even got in a V.I.P. entrance with my girlfriend, because a buddy of mine had designed some outfits for a fashion show there.

I think the first time I went to any kind of club or concert was shortly after high school. A friend of mine read about a rave in some nondescript warehouse out East in some newsletter from a t-shirt store. We'd go on to discover a club in Huntington called the Roxy Music Hall, which is now a church oddly enough. Most of the time they featured small Long Island Bands trying to make it big, but the beer was cheap, the black light was cool, and the mosh pit was intense. I'd come home bleeding sometimes, reeking of disgusting cigarette smoke, but while I was in the place I felt young and alive. Girls that wouldn't look at me twice sober and in good lighting would crowd surf. On one occasion, we actually saw Biohazard, and another time my friend played there for New Year's with his Ska band. Those were some good times.

There are only three occasions I can cite that the people behind the microphones were well-known. Besides Biohazard, I've seen Pearl Jam and Vanilla Ice. No, the latter isn't a typo. A few years ago, when he was making a comeback as a more Korn-esque performer, I caught him at CBGB, and it may well be the most awesome and insane performance I've ever had the privilege to witness. Truly, I was a part of history that night. As for Pearl Jam, my favorite band back in the day, I'm glad that I got to see them at least once in 1996 at Randall's Island, thanks to a friend-of-a-friend's father who had connections. I got to hear a lot of great songs from their first three albums, as well as as-yet unheard songs from their upcoming fourth album. Shortly thereafter, my mom found out what I'd spent on tickets, and though I thought $50 was a great deal, decided that if I “had money to throw away on that garbage”, then I could afford to pay rent. I had just graduated college and started my first real job, so she was right. It was totally worth it and I have no regrets.

I guess, in the end, it doesn't matter what we think of ourselves, or how we think other people see us. Sometimes, it's important to turn off the little voice that says, “I'm not the kind of person who would...” and listen to friends who suggest an excursion against type. This philosophy should be employed with common sense of course. My parents' fears to the contrary, despite all the clubs and concerts I went to in my youth, I never once tried drugs of any kind, though a few incidents of having too much to drink taught me some lessons. Often, especially on karaoke adventures, I'd drink to the point of dancing in the streets and making a general fool of myself, but never so much that I didn't remember everything vividly the next day. I may have calmed down a lot as an adult, more in keeping with my image, but the music, sights, sounds, and experiences are ones I'll carry with me my whole life.

I don't know why, but when I proofread this a second time, I heard it in my head as read by Zach Braff. Try it; you might like it.



In the course of an hour of Smallville tonight, I saw both the demise of the character I was hoping would perish in the 100th episode, as well as that of the one I was expecting and dreading would be leaving. The wonderful thing about fiction, though often abused, is the ability to make us care about characters that aren't real, and mourn when they're gone. Anyone who's ever watched a soap opera, or anything Joss Whedon or J.J. Abrams were involved with, knows exactly what I'm talking about. Sometimes death is a cheap ratings stunt, and on shows with a more supernatural bent it may not even be permanent. I've read more than my share of comic books, and characters are rarely gone forever. Real life is different though. After the show ended, we called my mom in to the kitchen to blow out the candles on her cake. She joked about this being her last birthday, as parents often do, but the truth is that every year could be our last. My dad is in his mid-70s. My mom is in her mid-60s. All we can do is enjoy every day and not think about what tomorrow might bring.

Age is meaningless, though. My dad's been saying things like, “Yep, guess I'll be dying soon” ever since he started getting his first aches and pains in his ‘40s. Hard work hasn't knocked him down though, and I think it's only made him stronger. Twelve years ago a doctor noted the severity of his clogged arteries and gave him less than a year to live without a bypass operation. A radical change in a bad diet, Chelation therapy, and our family's trademark stubbornness keep him kicking. Death will never come when we expect it. It's been a little over a year now since my mom lost her younger cousin. Every day the news is filled with tragic loss, be it a freak accident while playing with a dog or a horrific crash claiming young lives. I was stunned yesterday to learn of Chris Penn's untimely demise, first at Darrell's then over at Sean's.

No cause of death has been found at the time of this writing. The most recent role I saw him in was Starsky & Hutch, and I remember thinking at the time that he'd let himself go, gained a little more weight. I know him best from Reservoir Dogs, as well as True Romance. He had a very distinctive voice and like Brian Doyle-Murray, another character actor with a more famous sibling, you'd recognize him the second he spoke, even if you couldn't see him. Looking at his resume I'm amazed at how many things I've seen him in: Seinfeld. Short Cuts. Mulholland Falls. Rush Hour. No, I haven't seen Footloose, nor did I know he was in it. After reading about his involvement at Darrell's, I'm going to rent it as well as At Close Range, another film Darrell cited.

One interesting thing I came across while researching his career, was a piece entitled Who Do You think You're Fooling, which explores the (blatantly obvious) similarities between Reservoir Dogs and City on Fire, with Chow Yun-Fat. I confess to seeing Reservoir Dogs first, and not even being aware of the Hong Kong version until I saw a showing of it with a far more culturally-aware college friend. This wouldn't be the first time I explored the differences between an American remake and its original. What I find intriguing about the documentary description is something I've either forgotten, or never realized. Apparently, while the stories are nearly identical, Quentin Tarantino denied any connection, rather than admit that one was done in homage to the other. Either way, Chris Penn's performance was great, and he'll definitely be missed. As for Smallville, I won't spoil tonight's episode for those that watch on DVD, but I wish they had fooled me. They certainly tried.


PBW: Great Neck of the Woods

East. For some reason, whenever I set out on a Photo Blog Wednesday expedition with no particular destination in mind, I always head East. This past Saturday I decided to drive West, instead, just to switch things up. I'm crazy uninhibited like that. My trek took me into Great Neck, and when I saw signs to the landmark Grist Mill, I remembered visiting the place with my parents as a young boy. I decided to follow these signs, which were at times a mile apart and took me through some very nice isolated communities. Every time I thought I was lost I'd see another sign and another arrow. Eventually, after driving over a small bridge and passing a library, I made a right turn on to a side street that ended at my destination. It was there that I saw this:

What are the odds?! Still, I'd traveled a long way, and a fence is an adversary I rarely let stop me. Barbed wire is a different story, but that didn't mean I couldn't get some shots through the fence:

And so, after less than five minutes on the wrong side of a fence, it was time for me to go home, which was incredibly depressing. However, when I got to the end of the road I found myself facing that aforementioned library. I noticed a pond behind it. I noticed sculptures on the grounds. I noticed the view from the nearby bridge. I drove across the street, parked my car, and set about catching it all on film.

I found the above imagery sad and ironic. In front of a tree stump, a plaque reads: “Planted in Memory of Emily Howard 1946-1968 By Her Loving Family.” The plaque faces the lake, so perhaps the landscaper, working from the parking lot side, didn't notice it as he cut down the tree.

The whole place had a very ‘60s feel to it, from the funky overlapping steps and bubble lights....

...to the funky signage for the arts center below the library.

Making my way around the library back to the road, I found myself on the bridge.

With one more sculpture to photograph, my surprise excursion was finally at an end. Where will my car take me next time? Stay tuned...



Explain to me...

...how a story could spread across the internet like wildfire, only to be proven a rumor the next morning?

...why my improbability powers worked in reverse at lunch? I had a meeting at 2 o'clock, so I took my own car. Despite my parents complaining about my speed and reckless driving, gripping the dashboard melodramatically, my friends complain that I drive like the elderly(sorry elderly; they said it, not me). Yet, for once I got to Best Buy® first, got an amazing parking spot at Wendy's, and made it back in time for my meeting. The real sobering portion of this story occurs well after my meeting, when my other friends returned at 2:30 due to car trouble. I wasn't with them when this happened, and didn't miss my meeting? What are the odds?!

...how for the past year-and-a-half I've been watching an average of 5 or 6 movies a week, yet can still have nothing to add to a lunch conversation when people bring up movies I haven't seen yet. There are too many movies!

...why I write 10,000 words or more each week, between this blog, e-mails, comments, message boards and my class, but my conversational skills with girls generally consist of “nice weather” followed by awkward silence, on those rare occasions when the silence is preceded by anything?

...what I need to do to really start pushing myself in the gym? Looping the theme to The Flash in my brain in keeping with the sound of my feet pounding on the treadmill has helped, yesterday and today, and I'm finally running faster than 6 MPH again. The problem is I can't maintain those old speeds, and in a half hour I still haven't done better than 2:52 miles. Today I did 2:51 and I was cursing myself for not doing as good as I did yesterday. I guess it will just take time to work back to where I was, but it can be very frustrating.

...why Scrubs doesn't get the promotion it deserves? I had to read online that the Wizard of Oz themed episode tonight was the series' 100th. It was really brilliant how the elements were planted in the first half of the episode to pay off in the second.

...why there was no gratuitous cameo by Emmanuel Lewis in tonight’s Scrubs? All the Webster references tonight were screaming for one.

...speaking of Scrubs, borrowing an observation made by John C. McGinley's character tonight, why DO so many guys carry cell phones in a belt holster when most of them will fit in their pocket mere inches away? Will they lose that much time getting the phone out? Phones are pretty compact these days, so they can't be worried about an unsightly disruption of the contours, can they? I personally keep mine in my right pocket, but I also carry a thick wallet creating an unsightly disruption in the contours of my left leg.

...why I just shared with the world the fact that I carry a Costanza wallet?

... why after being killed, thrown in the ocean, washed up on the beach, buried in sand, vacuumed, and dragged by a speeding boat, Terry Kiser's title character in Weekend at Bernie's didn't smell, and remained limber enough for Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman to carry him around and pose him? I'm guessing the answer has to do with everyone being drunk and oblivious, the manner of his death, or the fact that it's just a dumb ‘80s comedy that should be accepted for what it is and not overanalyzed. The good news is that after using Terry Kiser as one of my favorite obscure references for years, I've now seen him in perhaps his most famous film role, and not just guest roles on shows like Lois & Clark and Night Court. The bad news is that tomorrow night I'll be watching the sequel.

...what I'm doing working on a blog entry, and not this week's reading or writing assignments for class? It's a good thing we get a week to do these things, with a weekend in between, because I've really been relying on Sunday afternoons to focus on a Tuesday class.

...who you are and why you're reading this?


M.C.F.A.T. VI: Answers

Settle down people, SETTLE DOWN! If you'll all take your seats, we can discuss the results of M.C.F.A.T. VI. In some ways, you're ALL winners. In another, more sardonic way, I'M a winner. Here are this week's participants:






Kev Bayer



And now, my responses:

1) As you all no doubt remember, back in October I wrote about popular bands picking up former vocalists of other popular bands. If you could choose any one band and any one singer that have never collaborated, and put them together as a new entity, who would you choose? Have fun with this one. You can mix and match styles and eras, and choose artists living or dead. You might even NAME your creation.
And lo, from the depths of FRANCE shall rise the undead Jim Morrison, and he shall impart upon the world mellow and trippy visions of the afterlife, backed by Mike McCready, Stone Gossard, Jeff Ament, and Matt Cameron,and the world shall tremble and introspect before the might of DOOR JAM!

2) How would you react in a hostage situation?
Sean guessed correctly that an episode of 24 inspired this question. While being held hostage in an airport, one of the people is shot when a terrorist notices him covertly dialing his cellphone. I'd like to think I'd be a hero in such a situation, that I'd either get the call for help out or sneak into the ventilation system and take them out one-by-one. I imagine I'm a lot of things better than what I am, due largely in part to being exposed to so much fiction. In real life, heroics would get me killed and likely other people. I'd probably just sit tight, wait it out, and PRAY like crazy.

3) What is your favorite board game?
When I was a kid, my favorite game was Trouble, with the Pop-O-Matic bubble. The game I really wanted was Mousetrap, which my cousin had and which I eventually got in my very early teens. I think the BEST game in my collection is one I was fortunate to find at a yard sale when I was a kid, The New Fantastic Four Game(Featuring Herbie the Robot). It had such variety between the spinner and the random numbered and colored sections, and it had a big cutout of a robot! Seriously, look how cool this thing is!

4) Which is worse, being buried alive or getting locked in a freezer? Include reasons and potential methods of escape.
I want to thank you all for your invaluable contributions to my research...but seriously, the ground, while warm, has bugs and darkness. A freezer is above ground, has light, a better chance of someone outside hearing and maybe even a food supply. At the very least it would make for a great flashback episode.

5) In light of by the ”Draw Batgirl” meme I linked to yesterday, what other characters do you think would be appropriate for a similar meme? Hundreds of people with varying artistic abilities have rendered versions of the character. Some have been cartoonish, some amateur, and others professional. There have been countless variations and deviations, and all have been fun. I'm NOT asking for drawings(yet), so don't feel intimidated. Just name a comic character and at a later date I may choose one and invite readers to post their interpretations--and stick figures WILL be welcome.
I think for such a meme the character has to be well-known, or at least iconic. Everyone came up with some great suggestions, and I think I know which one I'm going to choose. If it were up to me, we'd all be drawing Quasar. Fortunately, it's not up to me and I WANT people to participate. I think if this new venture goes well, I'll get to all of your choices, but the frontrunners were Wendy's suggestion for Wolverine and Darrell's call for Venom. I think a character based on an animal opens itself up to slightly more interpretations, and thanks to Hugh Jackman, the character is (currently) more well-known.

So, click through some of the links in the Batgirl meme for inspiration. Some people can draw better than others, and in some cases they just modified photographs. Post your take on Wolverine, ANY artistic interpretation, to your various blogs, leave a link in the comments section, and come back in a week to see my rendition and earn your M.C.F.A.D. It will be fun and painless; I promise.



Phantasmic Links 1.22.06

My education continues. Today I learned:

1) Writing dialogue is HARD.

2) There probably will NOT be a fourth movie in the Back to the Future series, a rumor started when a quote from an interview with Michael J. Fox was taken out of context. However, there's a chance that there WILL be a movie made of Alias after the series ends this year, or a spinoff featuring Ron Rifkin, David Anders, and Amy Acker. Only time will tell if either of THESE rumors prove true...

3) No matter what, the Target nearest to my home will always offer at least one item that won't scan at the cash register, and can't be entered manually, stumping the cashier. My mom almost ended up with one less birthday present today.

4) I wish The Flash lasted more than one season. Watching it again on DVD has reminded me how good it was.

5) Actually, I wish I WAS The Flash. I'm going to start pushing myself on the treadmill again, try to get from running two miles a day back up to three. I slacked in 2005 and used late hours as an excuse.

6) The Last Boy Scout was a good movie. I've wanted to see it for FIFTEEN years now, but one thing or another kept me from it. For some reason I was expecting it to be bad, but by the time the credits rolled I felt like I did the first time I saw Lethal Weapon. Female readers should take my assessment with a grain of salt, as this is a GUY movie in its purest form, complete with explosions, grisley deaths, topless women, macho puns, guns that never need reloading, and one-dimensional villains.

7) There's always a different way to introduce this week's PHANTASMIC LINKS:

Enjoy these Chuck Norris Facts, courtesy of Rey.

Do you want more? How about Young Chuck Norris? Hat tip to The Lonely Island's pal Chester.

My writing class requires me to do a lot of reading, and it's all stuff I love. For example, check out ”The Top 100 Things I'd Do if I Ever Became an Evil Overlord.”

If nothing else, the Mighty Moshin' Emo Rangers proves that there's a fan film for EVERYTHING.

Forget maps to the stars homes, this guy provides maps to popular video games. It's great seeing the different levels continuously, and my favorite is Super Mario Brothers.

Not ONE but TWO eagerly anticipated shows are finally coming to DVD this year!

An old college buddy used to define honor as knowing the three times you don't mess with a man. These soldiers clearly violate one of those three occasions. Hat tip to Citizen Willow.

Have fun with this Garfield randomizer.

Are robots actually stupid?

Ever wonder what you'd look like on The Simpsons? Thanks to Sarcasmo, now you can find out!



Not a number...

At long last, after recommendations and references from everyone from Novelhead to The Simpsons, I've finally seen The Prisoner. It's taken a few weeks, interspersing the 10 DVDs containing all 17 episodes between other rentals, but this afternoon I finally reached the surreal conclusion to this uncategorizable series. Most refer to it as science fiction, and it was on a television special listing the greatest sci fi series of all time that I first learned of its existence. It transcends the label to be something more though, and is closer to the blend of genres that Lost falls into, not surprising given the similarities. In both cases, our protagonists are marooned on a strange island with some secrets revealed, while others are left for us to decipher. And while the creature on Lost is something dark and ephemeral, the Prisoner is guarded by ”Rover”, a terrifying sphere that roars and envelopes anyone trying to escape.

”I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered. My life is my own.”

Patrick McGoohan was no stranger to the role of secret agent he played on The Prisoner, already well-known for his part on Danger Man. Even if the series is before your time as it is mine, you might know this song. The Prisoner was about a nameless agent who, upon retiring for reasons unknown, returns home to pack when he's gassed, to awaken in a mysterious place known only as The Village. No one in The Village has a name, and McGoohan is referred to as “Number Six”. Some people have speculated that the Prisoner was in fact John Drake, the same character from Danger Man. McGoohan, who was also considered before Sean Connery for the role of James Bond, still denies that there's a connection. It's interesting to note that the “Secret Agent Man” lyrics include the phrase, “They've given you a number and taken away your name”, which is precisely what happens to The Prisoner.

The Village is a bizarre place, a microcosm of society in which it's impossible to tell which people are fellow prisoners, and which are guards. It is run by an individual named “Number Two”, and nearly every episode featured a different person in this role. Number Two's job was to learn the Prisoner's secrets and find out why he resigned. Psychological torture, hypnotherapy, mind exchanges, body doubles, and even placing him in the old West all fail to break Number Six. With each failure, Number Two is replaced. Colin Gordon manages to remain Number Two for two episodes, and Leo McKern is specifically brought back in the final two episodes to make one last attempt to break McGoohan. I wouldn't spoil the ending even if I could. So many episodes toy with the notion of freedom and reality, tormenting the viewer as well as the Prisoner, it's hard to say if the overall resolution really is what it seems to be. Does the Prisoner ever escape? Why does the Butler, played by the late Angelo Muscat, appear in more episodes than any character with the exception of the star? Is a mechanized door in London of any significance? Who was Number One, really? Like Lost, if you watch all the small details very closely, theories can be formed, but neither the writers nor the stars will ever confirm them.

The Prisoner affected pop culture long before I realized what it was. First there was The Foreigner, a Spider-man villain with apparently NO online profile for me to link to! The Foreigner, created by Peter David, was the ex-husband of Silver Sable, a trained assassin and crime lord, and fond of quoting the Prisoner. I was reading the phrases “Be seeing you” and “That would be telling” years before I saw this show. Marv Wolfman has cited The Prisoner as the inspiration for a large-scale limited comic book series, a project that would ultimately become Crisis on Infinite Earths. Even Iron Maiden was inspired to write a song about it. And as I mentioned earlier, The Simpsons even did a Prisoner-centric episode, that included Rover and McGoohan. The first time I saw that episode, most of the references were lost on me and I thought the writers were on drugs that season. Reading the synopsis now, after having seen The Prisoner, it's pretty funny:

Homer: “Oh no, an anti-escape orb!”
[grabs one of the plastic forks from the boat and pops the orb]
“Huh. That was easy.”

[back in the kidnappers' headquarters]
Number 2: “Why did you think a big balloon would stop people?”
Scientist: “Shut up! That's why!”
—"The Computer Wore Menace Shoes"

If you've seen The Prisoner, let me know your thoughts. What does it all mean? Is it a metaphor for society in general? Are we all nameless cogs in a big machine? If you haven't seen it, and you're a fan of science fiction, spy movies, or things like Lost, definitely check it out some time.


Defining Life.

At lunch today, I mused that between my writing class and other factors, I wasn't getting through as many DVDs per week as I had been, and so I'd switched my Netflix subscription from 4-at-a-time to 3-at-a-time. My colleague TheWriteJerry quipped that it will be even harder to watch that many movies once I “got a life”. I've always found that to be an interesting expression, the inclination of people to define life with certain benchmarks. I think the first time I saw the expression was when a classmate scrawled the phrase in the back of my sixth-grade yearbook. A few years later, the series ”Get a Life” would debut, in which Chris Elliot portrayed a man who, at the age of 30, still lived with his parents and had a paper route. I remember thinking, “that will NEVER be me”, and I'm proud to say I don't currently ride a bike and throw newspapers in people's yards.

I think life has to be measured by setting and reaching our own goals, not those of others. When I was a kid, having a life meant going to parties, drinking, and/or doing drugs, according to the “cool” crowd. Most adults define life as settling down, getting married, raising kids and worrying about things like real estate, taxes and politics. My parents would say that life is hard, that we're put on this Earth to labor and toil and earn things, never truly resting until we've died and moved on to the NEXT life. Ultimately, I think life is a passage of time, inclusive of the activities we engage in to fill that time, based on our own needs and, more importantly, those of other people. I'd never be comfortable judging another person, measuring how he or she fills time, and deciding that he or she does not in fact have a life. While I cannot assess real people in such a way, a fictional character is something wholly different. As part of this week's lecture, my teacher linked to a great questionnaire for writers to “interview” their creations. For fun, I'm going to try this exercise with an old RPG character of mine, to see how much life I can instill in him. It should prove an excellent method toward writing more realistic and believable individuals.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
“Finishing my training and getting my current job, I guess. My responsibilities may not be as important as my coworkers’, but I serve a function on this station. I dream a lot about going out and having some adventures, but the truth is I don't think I could really handle it. It gets boring behind this desk sometimes, but it's still safe. I can still dream, though.”

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
“Is anyone ever perfectly happy? There's always going to be something to worry about, some nagging certainty that I've left some report not filed or came to work without turning off the holo-projector in my quarters. I suppose, for me, perfect happiness is reached when I've done everything that had to be done, and I've forgotten nothing. That's the most I can expect out of life, though I don't often achieve it.”

What is your current state of mind?
“Bored. Bored and tired.”

What is your favorite occupation?
“Is Superhero a legitimate occupation? I've definitely seen some things around this station that make me think it is. Well...I haven't actually seen too much, so much as heard the other officers talking. Being a pilot would be fun too. Doctors, they get to save lives. If I was a chef, I'd probably make a lot of people happy, assuming I was good at my job. I bet it would be great to be a mechanic, to fix ships and put things together that have come apart. Being an actual ship, now that would be cool. I'm not a machine though, and I don't think I could handle the procedure to become one. If I could be a machine though, it'd be great to have access to all the data that's out there. Granted, as a desk clerk I have a lot of access now, but as a computer there would be less typing. I'm sorry, this is hard for me to narrow down.”

What is your most treasured possession?
“My holo-projector.”

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
“Um...do I really have to answer this? Will this be on my file? I do sort of have a crush on someone, but I don't think she'll ever notice me. I once had a dream that I saved this whole station, got a promotion, married her and started a family. I think it was a dream, anyway. It seemed very real.”

What is your favorite journey?
“Imagination. In my mind, I can go anywhere I want.”

What is your most marked characteristic?
“Nothing. There's absolutely nothing about me that stands out. I blend in completely, so I guess that's my most marked characteristic.”

When and where were you the most happiest?
“Well....like I said, that dream I had that time felt REALLY real. It was the perfect life. I had the best job, the perfect wife, and a great kid. I dream a lot, but that was the best one. I don't think I've ever been that happy before or since.”

What is it that you most dislike?
“No one looks at me. Officers bring prisoners down here to the brig, fill out the paperwork, and leave. Sometimes people come to pull records, including my dream girl from the library. None of them have ever looked at me. Although sometimes I'm looking down or zoning out, myself. I get really shy. That's what I dislike most about myself.”

What is your greatest fear?
“We had a full scale riot here, one time. Power went down, and a lot of weird things happened. As bad as it was for the prisoners to be loose, a lot of people were seeing things that weren't there. The captain made a speech when it was all over, and I've watched the history vids, but I'm not even clear on the cause of it, or why I didn't hallucinate from that gas or whatever it was the way a lot of my colleagues did.

What is your greatest extravagance?
“I don't make much, and most of my credits go toward my living unit and my holo-vids. I suppose anything I do for fun is an extravagance.”

Which living person do you most despise?

What is your greatest regret?
“I wish my dreams were real, and I regret any and all possible chances I've lost due to hesitation and doubt.”

Which talent would you most like to have?
“I wish I could fly. Actually, that would be scary without a ship. I wish I could fly a ship. There's a lot of enemies out there that would shoot at me though. I wish I could type faster, then I'd have more time to myself. Actually, I type pretty fast. Most of the time I keep working only out of boredom. It'd be nice to know how to dance, but I don't know if I'd ever have the courage to do so.”

Where would you like to live?
“I like my life here on the station. It's comfortable. Sometimes I look out at the planet below, and I wonder what it would be like to breathe real air again, run through a field and see trees. I've spent most of my life up here though. I can't remember what it's like in an atmosphere. I guess I think about living other places, but I like it here because I KNOW here, you know?”

What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
“You're kind of a depressing interviewer. I guess boredom is pretty miserable. Loneliness isn't fun either.”

What is the quality you most like in a man?
“Anything I lack, including courage, money, and a healthy physique. I forget to eat sometimes and I'm kind of scrawny. I wish I stood out more sometimes, although most of the time I'm glad I don't.”

What is the quality you most like in a woman?
“I like a nice smile, deep eyes to get lost in, intellect and conversation skills and, most importantly, that she acknowledges my existence.”

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
“I'm too much of a nobody, and I'm too afraid to do anything to change that outside my own mind.”

What is the trait you most deplore in others?
“People are selfish, completely oblivious to anything outside themselves.”

What do you most value in your friends?
“Having friends.”

Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
The Three Investigators, specifically Bob Andrews.”

Whose are your heroes in real life?
“The captain is at the top of my list. I hear a lot of guys put him down, but I think he has a lot more sincerity and integrity than most of the humans on this station. I'm not brave, but I'd follow that mechanoid into heck if he told me to. I don't think he would, though.”

Which living person do you most admire?
“I think I just answered this question.”

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
“Some people consider being good-looking a virtue, and place too much importance on it.”

On what occasions do you lie?
“All my lies are lies of omission. It's not the things I say, so much as the things I don't say that border on dishonest.”

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
“I mumble and say ‘right' and ‘sure' a lot. I'm sorry that's not a more interesting response. Actually, I guess I also apologize way too much.”

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
“I wish I could speak my mind and act without hesitation.”

What are your favorite names?
“Anything but my own.”

How would you like to die?
“As a hero, but only in fantasy. Really I'd be content to go to sleep one day and never wake up.”

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
“With my luck, I'd still be me, Walter Patterson, desk clerk for the brig at Starbase Rugby.”

What is your motto?
“Every day is another one.”

* * *


With a little imagination...

...subconscious anticipation of work blends with school days. Before I woke up this morning, went to work and attended actual meetings, I dreamt of one in a classroom setting. The conference room had big tables and colorful chairs, and watercolor paintings on construction paper were taped to musty windows as sunlight streamed in over a slop sink. Another team was meeting in the same space at another table, which made it difficult for my team to hear our editor on a conference call. The noise was so distracting, we actually misdialed and got Mrs. Roper on the phone instead. “Oh, that's Mrs. Roper,” I explained to my bewildered coworkers, “Mrs. Roper, can you connect me to our editor?” She groused and did so, but then our editor complained of the noise. We relocated to another table where, for some reason, my old college buddy Rob was boisterously laughing about something incoherent. I think it was related to a story our mutual friend Rey recently told him. In real life, Rey told him that he couldn't understand how long I took to get ready in the morning while I was staying with him, that I was the only guy he knew that could take 20 minutes to shave and still have a five o'clock shadow. I assume that's why Rob was in the dream, but through the laughs all I could make out was, “Yoooo, Rey said you have a different door every day!” I couldn't take too much time to decipher this, as my gaze shifted across the table to my supervisor, who was smiling either at Rob's joke or the Tenor Horn laying on the table before him on some newspapers. I play a Baritone Horn, so I'm not sure why the slightly smaller brass instrument was in a dream quickly outdoing a Sopranos dream for sheer weirdness. At this point I changed the subject to the clock on the wall, which indicated that forty minutes had elapsed and we'd yet to discuss the next Science Fiction catalog. At this point my editor, who somehow was now physically in the room, voiced her assent from a child's seat along the far wall. Then I woke up.

...a callous smoker could start a brush fire. I've never used one, but automobiles do still come with ashtrays, correct? Why then does EVERY driver throw his or her stub out the window? On the way to work this morning a driver in front of me flicked his arm out the window, and a smoldering butt ricocheted off my windshield a moment later. I need to end this paragraph soon, as I'm not comfortable with two of the words I put next to each other in the preceding sentence. At least New Jersey has taken a step in the right direction with the whole smoking thing, though. I've never been a fan of smoking.

...and some retouching on my part, I can rethink my original assessment of the actress cast as Gwen Stacy in the upcoming Spider-man 3. I wonder what geeks did before computers. I've lost track of how many people have re-colored this new Spider-man costume and posted it on message boards. I initially agreed that Bryce Howard wasn't the best choice for the role, but the next thing I knew I was altering the photo to see how she might look. In case no one's realized it yet, I am a huge loser. Don't tell anyone.

...I might wrap up tonight's post and concentrate some of my writing energies on my class. My homework isn't due until Tuesday, but one week in I'd hate to revert to type and wait until a night or two before to at least start. In school, I always waited until the last minute. Once in college, I stayed up until 5 AM to finish a painting project, slept for an hour, drove to Queens, gave a speech in my speech class, and then handed in shoddy color swatches all inaccurate due to my fading vision the night before. Say, I wonder if this class is why the classroom setting snuck into my dream? With a little imagination, anything is possible...


PBW: More Eisenhower Park

This has nothing at all to do with tonight's Photo Blog Wednesday, but does it bother anyone else that the television spot for Skating With Celebrities boasts: “Full House's Dave Coulier, Todd Bridges and Deborah Gibson”? Every time I hear that I think, “Todd Bridges and Debbie Gibson were never on Full House, were they?” At least the radio ad phrases it “Todd Bridges, Deborah Gibson, and Full House's Dave Coulier” which is the proper grammatical way to avoid confusion. Is it just me? Are more people concerned that such a show even EXISTS, that “celebrities” are so busy skating and dancing and eating insect larvae that no one has time for simple circus tricks anymore?

Anyway, while I focused on statues last week, my visit to Eisenhower Park included the war memorial tower from various angles, the lake, colorful signs discouraging visitors from feeding the birds, and an anachronistic cottage. Here are the rest of the images from that expedition, as promised:



Trusty Sidekick

I've always liked the notion of the sidekick in superhero lore. I'm not saying I wanted to run around on rooftops in tight green shorts, though in third grade I did dress as Robin, the boy-wonder. I think I liked the notion that while adults were heroes, kids could fight crime too. On the '60s Batman, Robin was more than just a tag-along or a potential hostage. He was the smart one, and often helped the caped crusader solve difficult riddles, punctuating his realizations with an enthusiastic (and corny) punch to his own fist. Such an idiosyncrasy on the playground had my classmates throwing punches, but not at their own fists. Another thing I'd realize in hindsight was that it was silly for a teenager to figure things out for the world's greatest detective. Still, Batman needed someone, not just to be a flashy decoy for armed enemies, but someone to groom as a replacement to carry on the fight after he was gone. Considering that the first Robin grew up to be Nightwing, a dark and vigilant vigilante in his own right, I'd say the training paid off. It's good to see heroes learning, makes it easier for the rest of us to relate to such superhuman characters. Sky High appealed to me on this level, in combining the ordinary academic and social stress of high school with the added pressure of mastering powers and battling villains.

Of course, sidekicks aren't always children. Sometimes they're a native American helping a cowboy. A sidekick might be a kickass Asian chauffeur or even a mild-mannered accountant, smarter than the hero. Sidekicks are foils, and bring something to the table that contrasts or enhances the hero's traits, be it youth, race, or intellect. Sometimes a sidekick works with an entire group, such as Casey Jones and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Though Casey is slightly older, his crude street fighting techniques are definitely improved spending time with formally trained martial artists. Then there are the Wonder Twins, junior members of the Superfriends who while sidekicks in their own right, also have a monkey sidekick of their own. Say what you will of Zann and Jayna, but they were better than Marv, Wendy and Wonderdog.

Sidekicks are loyal to a fault, as was the case with Samwise Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings. I think I tend to be like Sam, sticking by my friends, although I offer more comic relief. When I was younger, I fancied myself the “hero” of my block, even the leader of my group. As my friends grew up, they realized they didn't have to listen to me just because I was 4-5 years older, and once they were taller than me they REALLY didn't listen to me. Being a sidekick wasn't so bad though. Gone were the burdens of leadership, of rounding everyone up and agreeing on a plan of action for playing. I didn't have to go from house to house anymore, or think of fun things to do. I'd get the call to come play, and off I'd go. Of course, as was the case with the original Robin, no one can be a sidekick forever. Sooner or later we have to grow up, take charge, and be, if not heroes, adults.


M.C.F.A.T. Volume VI

What's this? The Mysterious Cloaked Figure's Astonishing Test returns for a SIXTH incarnation! When will the madness end? There's only one man who can answer that question, but he seems to be unavailable for comment. I guess the questions will continue for now...

1) As you all no doubt remember, back in October I wrote about popular bands picking up former vocalists of other popular bands. If you could choose any one band and any one singer that have never collaborated, and put them together as a new entity, who would you choose? Have fun with this one. You can mix and match styles and eras, and choose artists living or dead. You might even NAME your creation.

2) How would you react in a hostage situation?

3) What is your favorite board game?

4) Which is worse, being buried alive or getting locked in a freezer? Include reasons and potential methods of escape.

5) In light of by the ”Draw Batgirl” meme I linked to yesterday, what other characters do you think would be appropriate for a similar meme? Hundreds of people with varying artistic abilities have rendered versions of the character. Some have been cartoonish, some amateur, and others professional. There have been countless variations and deviations, and all have been fun. I'm NOT asking for drawings(yet), so don't feel intimidated. Just name a comic character and at a later date I may choose one and invite readers to post their interpretations--and stick figures WILL be welcome.

You have one week to consider these questions and post your answers at your respective blogs. Remember: whomever answers, wins....



Phantasmic Links 1.15.06

My head is going to explode. No, I'm not talking about the headache I had all day after shoveling snow without wearing a hat. I'm still reeling from two action-packed hours of 24! You know how most shows tell you to watch the first few minutes, entice you with promises that everything will change? Tonight was the first time ever such a statement was more than hyperbole. It's not over yet. Tomorrow offers two more hours and then 20 more hours in the coming months. I hope they can keep up what they started tonight. Of course, when the action gets too intense and you need a break, you'll always be in good hands with this week's PHANTASMIC LINKS:

If you're a geek like me, you'll appreciate Jeff Russell's Star Dimensions, a site containing scale drawings of nearly every ship and space station from an impressive collection of science fiction television shows and movies. The images are draggable, so you can compare. Thank the draggable The Write Jerry for this one.

Speaking of Jerry, It's Jerry Time! While no relation, that blog offers a monthly look into the author's life through twisted and innovative animations I found disturbingly funny.

The next time I worry about having too much free time, I should consider the fact that I'd never be able to replicate Bagend to scale taking into account the finest details. Hat tip to Solonor.

FINALLY, someone genetically engineers glow-in-the-dark green pigs. Thanks for pointing that out, Darrell!

Sean has some interesting theories about the next Batman film's cast and characters. I for one hope he's right...

Dosetaker invites us to click a castle into existence. It's pretty cool and takes some time, but is definitely worth it for fans of this sort of exercise.

Above is my humble contribution to the ”Draw Batgirl” meme. Be sure to click on over and see what other talented people have done.

This guy wants you to fill his room with LEGO®s. I can't help wondering if I should set up a web site asking people to take things OUT of my severely cluttered living space.

Finally. *NAME HIDDEN* gives us the best blonde joke ever. Actually, you don't have to be blonde to appreciate it, but patience and perseverance is key. Stick with it, and the payoff will all be worth it.



Educating MCF

I've learned a lot this week:

• My 10-week online course in science fiction writing started this past Tuesday. I didn't know what to expect. Would I have to make up ships or alien races? My first assignment was VERY interesting. We were to research REAL science, find an article that caught our attention, share why we liked it, and propose various stories that we could build around the idea. Science moron that I am, I opted for something relatively “easy” like teleportation and quantum computing. Wish me luck. I really am enjoying the benefits of an online class, though. While lectures and assignments are posted each Tuesday I don't have to be “there” at any specific time, and I have the week to think about my ideas and post my homework. That gives me the weekend to really focus and, so far, doesn't seem to detract from my blogging time.

• If there's one thing I'm missing by not having Cable, it has to be the Sci Fi Channel. I watched an amazing trio of shows at my friend's place last night. I've seen Stargate: SG-1 in syndication off and on over the years, and I had seen the movie premiere of the new Battlestar Galactica. I didn't have any interest in Stargate: Atlantis but decided to watch it since it bridged the other two shows and my friend insisted it was good. I picked a REALLY good episode to see for the first time. I might have to start watching these shows, either on DVD or at the very least in syndication. The show that really blew me away last night though was Galactica. WOW. I had to check my watch to make sure I didn't just watch a three hour epic movie. I don't mean that it felt long, but a LOT of stuff happened over the course of an hour.

• An adult, living on his own for any period of time, even for just a week, should phone his parents at least once. If they call him in the middle of the week, and he assumes those conversations “count”, he might be surprised when not one, but both at different times of the day make a point of mentioning, “You know, you never called us. We called you.”

• It's important when considering purchasing a house, to look for homes with sloped roofs. My parents own a Spanish style stucco house with a flat roof. It has the slightest of peaks, so water drains to the four walls which extend above the roof, through four openings to drain pipes. I came home relatively early this morning, having to give my friend a ride to the train station, and after unpacking, checking my messages, and working on my class assignment, opted to take a brief nap. My dad meanwhile, having returned from the doctor and getting an echocardiogram, noticed a small flood in the basement. As I dozed off, my mom suddenly called in to me: “Your father is taking the ladder out.” I was ALMOST asleep. I didn't want to move. When I heard the ladder banging against the basement stairs as a 75-year-old man with clogged arteries and an almost 67-year-old woman recovering from the flu struggled to get it outside, I quickly jumped up and ran to help. It was raining and pretty disgusting sticking my bare hands into each drainpipe, and I was surprised by the amount of leaves packed in there. It was only a month ago that I last cleaned them, and the trees had long since shed all the leaves. My only theory is that these had been sitting on the flat roof, until wind and rain carried them through. If I buy a house, I'm definitely getting one with a sloped roof. Taking care of one flat-topped house is bad enough without having to deal with two.

• A toaster oven is not a microwave. Putting uncooked rice in an aluminum pan, adding water, and putting three strips of leftover sweet and sour chicken from two weeks ago might seem like a good idea to an individual ignoring his mother’s admonitions that it won’t work, but he would be wrong. An hour later when the rice still hadn’t cooked, he’d eat it anyway to be stubborn and not admit he was wrong. Crunchy rice is rough on the teeth, and later feels like acupuncture on the inside of one’s stomach.

• Adults build layers of complications and obstacles to life that need not be there, that exist only within our minds. Children say what they think without fear, without considering the reactions of others or worrying about upsetting the status quo. As our priest was taking forever to get through announcements at the end of mass tonight, derailing into jokes about snow shovels, one girl brazenly called out to him. “Father Mike! I wanna go hooooome!” He smiled, said that she was saying what was on everyone's minds, and wrapped things up. Apparently, if you voice a concern or desire out loud, sometimes you get results. Who knew?


Field Day

In 1949’s Mighty Joe Young, there’s a scene in which the strength of the title gorilla is pitted against a collection of the world’s strongest men. Each side stands atop a pair of artificial cliffs, separated by a pool of water. The competition is, of course, a tug-of-war. In watching this classic and enjoyable film earlier today, this particular scene triggered fond memories of elementary school.

I’m not sure if schools still have field days, but I always enjoyed those annual events, though I myself could hardly be considered an athlete by any stretch of the imagination. When I was still in single digits, my parents enrolled me in a soccer team for two consecutive years, with less than sterling results. Games were frequently held on Saturday mornings when I was more concerned with the cartoons I was missing. I generally played defense, and the one time I was promoted to goalie I stopped a ball with my face and lost a loose tooth in the process. Fortunately, the tooth was recovered after a short search and game play could resume. I suppose the mandatory self-esteem trophies and ribbons for “Dribbling” should have been encouragement enough to keep playing, but other things discouraged me. My mom thought it was a great joke to tell people it looked like I was “doing ballet out there”, but I was somewhat offended. If I was making a fool of myself in front of throngs of parents and sports fans, then I had no motivation to continue. There would not be a third year.

Field day was different. The events were athletic, yet somehow fun. We had short races, often in burlap potato sacks. It was so fun and silly hopping around; I honestly didn’t know or care if I ever won. Friends who know me as an adult obsessively competitive about meaningless things would be surprised to know I ever played a game solely for fun, but it was a different time and a different MCF out there. The tug-of-war was by far my favorite. Perhaps the rope was coarse and thick, and rope burns were a big risk for small hands. But it wasn’t a measure of individual strength. I felt stronger working with other kids as a team, our collective whole exceeding the sum of our parts. Best of all, when all was said and done, we’d adjoin to a large table abundant with fresh watermelon. Field day was better than gym, better than any one sport, because it was in effect extended and official recess.

I hope schools still do it. I think it’s something companies should offer for adults. The first company I worked for after graduation once held a barbecue that climaxed in an insane game of volleyball at the park. The first year at my current job I’d throw a Frisbee around at lunch, hanging on to another beloved pastime from my high school and college years. That Frisbee’s since spent more time on my shelf, so I’ve had to settle for gym, bowling and a marathon, all through my job. I think it would be a great way to alleviate stress if the tug-of-war was incorporated in extra-corporate activities.

At the very least I want my slice of watermelon.


News from the Home Front

Somewhere in America, a phone rings. It’s a little after five PM on a Wednesday afternoon, and the young man, diligently working, stops to answer it. After a brief silence, he hears his father’s voice. “Hey…you’re still there. How come?” asks the old man. “Working,” comes the terse response, “Gotta get stuff done.” It’s been a few days since he’s seen his parents, finding himself staying with an epileptically challenged friend once more. Ultimately, his inability to multitask leaves him with a choice: continue working and ignore a family member, or slide away from the keyboard and give a loved one full attention. In making the right choice, the important choice, he learns what’s happened in the last few days. It seems his father has booked some musical gigs for them in May, July and even October, though one of those events will conflict with that of another band leader. Unable to deal with such a thing so far in advance, he allows his father to continue bringing him up to speed. It seems this band leader, having undergone thyroid surgery himself, also had bad news about their friend Bill, the trumpet player. When last the father and son saw Bill, back in November, Bill’s son, dying of pancreatic cancer, was told he had little time left. Shortly after their last job together, it seems Bill had lost his son.

The conversation shifts at this point to news from home. How are the cats? Has anyone telephoned? What movies came in the mail? The father, finished with what he had to say, suddenly says, “Hang on; I’ll put your mother on the phone.” The son is still speaking, but the father is already at the end of the hall, out of earshot of the phone he’s set down upon the kitchen table, and calling in for his wife to pick up. The mother hesitates, and then asks “Who’s this?” He replies in the same way, and the same expression is repeated back and forth a few times before they tire of the game. “Do you remember us? How are things going at work? Are you taking your vitamins? The cat misses you. Your father kept saying, ‘Why don’t you call your son?’ but I figured you’d call if you needed to.” The son has meanwhile started working again, and has found that taking a break cleared his mind enough to find a particular block of copy he’d been searching for before his parents called. When she begins talking about having the flu however, his attention returns to the phone call once more. After a senior citizen exercise class early in the week, she felt achy, and eventually developed a fever over 100 degrees. Her temperature was back down and she sounded fine, and was fortunately recovering.

Eventually, the conversation ends, with a promise that he’ll see them in a few days. Soon reality will be restored to the familiar, and this mysterious stranger will be himself again. But who is he now? Why does one world become two? And someday, will there be a way to embrace both worlds, independence and family, equally? Most importantly, WHAT IS THIS?! Time will tell…