Having a blog is a lot like having a secret identity. Whether we post as a character, under an assumed name, or even under our real name, we still share things that we wouldn't necessarily share with our family and friends in our everyday lives. Of course, as with super heroes, a double life is not without complications.

I've never been a fan of my voice. In elementary school I'd often get made fun of for its high tones, labeled ”Mickey Mouse” and other appropriate names and variations. I learned the hard way that if bullies didn't take well to sarcasm, they really didn't appreciate it in a higher octave. As soon as I learned what puberty was, I could not wait for it.

Concerned with my vulnerability and the decline of the public school system, my parents opted to send me to a private Catholic high school. Our local school was rumored to have a drug problem and was overly lax in its policies. Students had numerous free periods, and were allowed to leave the school grounds during school hours. It offered way too much freedom to kids who weren’t mature enough to handle it. As it was, I had trouble focusing and concentrating on my academics, despite being in the “smart” classes, so removing distractions was a good thing. There were no free periods in my high school, and certainly no leaving the premises before the last bell of the day rang. Everyone had to wear suits which eliminated some of the pressure of labeling people by fashion, but we didn't have to wear a uniform. Kids will work with what they have, so while NO ONE was dressed cool they still found things to criticize. Maybe someone's tie had an ugly pattern. A plain belt buckled normally instead of a braided belt tied with the excess hanging in preppie high fashion? That was fashion suicide. Perhaps someone found it appropriate to scrawl ”Love Shack” in ball point pen on the back of one of my suit jackets. The suits didn't eliminate the class divisions from public school; they simply created new divisions. Uniforms might have been preferable.

Around Freshman year my voice finally began to change, but it was a long process. It would crack and waver somewhere between the voice it was, and the voice it would become. My potential status to start over in a new school as a new guy with a clean reputation and no nicknames lasted days. Early on I was branded with the nickname “Squeaker”, which some kids used right up until graduation. It didn’t help that it sort of rhymed with my surname either.

During a class reading, my English teacher advised me to speak from my chest and in mid sentence, I snapped into a masculine bass. I think some of the guys applauded. From that day forth, I continued using that voice in school, but it was not my voice. My friends in the neighborhood and my family knew my true secret identity, that I was still Squeaker. I began leading a double life of sorts, talking one way in school and another way at home. I stopped picking up the telephone, because I didn't know who would be on the other end and how I should answer. Fortunately, my parents finally got an answering machine around this time which solved at least one dilemma. In hindsight, I suppose I should have always kept the deep voice but it wasn't my real voice, and took conscious effort. I felt dishonest when I used it, even though I preferred it. It got me through Freshman and Sophomore year, and I grew concerned. With a birthday in November, I was younger than most of my classmates and could justify being a late bloomer. But too much time was passing. Would I always speak in a cracking voice? Would I always have to fake a man's voice? When would my voice finally settle?

Worlds collided when one of the guys from my school somehow started dating a girl in my neighborhood that he met at some party. The situation was exacerbated by the fact that the girl, a friend's older sister, was already something of an arch nemesis, Lucy to my Charlie Brown. She did far worse than pull footballs away. She called me names at every turn, turned the girl next door from my “girlfriend” into her partner in mocking me, and at times even hit or scratched me. My only retaliation was to call her a dog, but that only escalated things. I never did find a good atom bomb to cripple her endless gibes.

One Summer, riding home as the sun was falling, these two girls were standing in the street in front of their houses with the guy from my school. I saw an evil smirk illuminate the face of my friend's sister and I knew she had me. If I stopped to say hello, which voice would I use? Had they already compared notes? Was my reputation at school already torpedoed? Only a few still brought up the “squeaker” nickname, but that was more than enough. I did the only thing I could do. Even though she commanded “Come here!”, I pedaled faster, nodded and waved, and zipped up my driveway as quickly as I could. It was an extremely close call. Thankfully, before Senior year, my voice finally settled. One day while talking something just snapped, and it was no longer high and cracking. It wasn't the rumbling bass either, and I found I could no longer summon forth that voice. To this day, I'm not quite happy with the nasal quality of the voice I ended up with, and one college friend even labeled it a Pidge voice. Personally, I think it's closer to Wiggum, especially when I try to do impressions.

I might never be brave enough to record a podcast, but the important thing is I haven't been Squeaker in years.


M.C.F.A.T. VIII: And the Answers are...

Blah blah blah Mysterious Cloaked Figure's Astonishing Test Volume VIII blah blah results blah blah filler text yada yada participants:


Capt. Eucalyptus




Crazy Neighbor

Paul, just this guy, you know?




Kev Bayer

Kev Bayer take 2

1) From any television show past or present, which character would you wish to have as a sidekick in real life? Valid answers include but are not limited to talking vehicles, intelligent animals, ghosts, sassy maids and more.
These questions are often influenced by whatever is on my mind at the time. In this case, I'd been watching the third season of Knight Rider on DVD. I'm sure I've shared this anecdote before, but when bullies would chase me in elementary school I'd often shout into my watch, “I need ya buddy!” When David Hasselhoff did the same thing, a nigh indestructible black Trans Am would crash through a wall and come to his aid. When I did it, I bought three seconds of confused glances before the bombardment began. Nevertheless, my answer to this question is still a no-brainer: KITT. Of course, my dream is sort of a reality for some people with more money and free time.

2) ”Guns ‘n Roses” might be releasing a new album this year. If you could hear a new CD from a band that's no longer together, possibly with deceased members, what band would that be?
After seeing A Hard Day's Night a few weeks ago, I'm sorry I never saw the Beatles in their prime and, with two members left alive, will never see a reunion. Capt. Eucalyptus called that an “easy answer”, but it's still where I was headed all along.

3) What's the worst thing a person could ask you on a job interview, and how would you respond?
“Can you hold this grenade for me? I seem to have dropped the pin...”
“In five years I see myself breathing. I have to go now.”

4) What do you consider your greatest weakness, and greatest strength?
My greatest strength is my endurance. The flipside of my trademark bad luck is that no matter how bad things get, I keep going. Even on a treadmill when I start to feel dizzy, and sweat stings my eyes shut, I remind myself that people are watching and I don't give in. I'm neither strong nor fast in mind or body but, like a persistent tortoise, I get where I need to be eventually. My greatest weakness is my passive acceptance of the state of things I'm subconsciously unhappy with, simply because I fear change might yield worse results. My strength enables my weakness, allowing me to deal with devils I know, rather than risk meeting ones I don't. Of course, according to this message board that I discovered linking to my site, my weakness could just be “whining”.

5) Who is your favorite game show host and why? If you don't watch game shows, you can skip this question or choose some random individual you'd enjoy as a host.
Perhaps it's just the way he carries himself, but Alex Trebek seems to know everything. He might be reading all the answers off of his cue cards, but he comes across as sincerely intelligent. Some hosts seem smarmy or stupid, but he seems clean-cut, honest and respectable.



Phantasmic Links 2.26.06

Wow, yesterday was really overstimulating for me! I had a hard time getting to sleep, my mind processing the day's adventure, and I definitely didn't want to get up early and go to church this morning. Tragically, I couldn't tell you what my priest talked about because my mind continued to wander back twenty-four hours and because clocking in at an hour-and-a-half, it seems Sunday mass has gotten a lot longer than I remembered. On Saturday afternoon they're not more than an hour, usually. When I got home, I sat down to work on my homework for my writing class, neglected for nearly a week and due this Tuesday. Instead, feeling tired, I lay down for a minute that turned in to three hours.

I've gotten used to the idea that being an adult entails embracing a routine, going to work every day and having the same dinners on the same nights of the week. Monday is pasta, Tuesday is chicken and potatoes, etc. Deviating from such an “exciting” life often feels like an injection of caffeine directly to my brain. I like it, but it takes time for me to come back down to reality. Still, I managed to be productive and finish my class assignment as well as compile this week's PHANTASMIC LINKS:

Wednesday, March 1st remains the deadline to send Myclofig nominations to MCFSPU@hotmail.com. That's right, you only have a few days left to vote! See the movies you haven't seen if possible, vote for the ones you have, and e-mail me by Wednesday. If you'd like to further support the Myclofigs and make it a truly special event, follow the instructions at the end of this link to help spread the word! Special thanks to the following blogs gracious enough to include my banner: The Chronicles of Rhodester, My Wife Works in a Video Store, and Willow Crossing. Visit those sites because they rock! If you've put up a banner and I missed it, let me know and I'll update this list.

The crowd situation at the convention yesterday was unprecedented, and already the organizers are considering options to prevent a recurrence next year. The more I read about this and see it on the news, the more I realize how uncharacteristically lucky I was to get in!

The Cliff Guy collects sketches from comic book artists of various characters and precipices.

Do you think you have what it takes to resolve a hostage situation at a bank by commanding a unit of skilled bears? Warbears is a funny and cute challenge that offers you the chance to prove it.

Arbuckle is a project in which Garfield comics are redrawn, sans thought balloons, to present a very different image of the sad life of Jon Arbuckle. The site has information about submitting strips, and apparently anyone can join in the fun!

Based on the presupposition that all guys are imperceptive, MSN lists the four signs that a woman is interested, or “four things that MCF has never encountered.”

Now that the Johari exercise has concluded, visit my Nohari window and let me know my negative qualities. Hat tip to Janet.

Three dimensional images in the air take us yet another step into the future. I love when science fiction becomes science fact.

Toy Story 2 merges with Requiem for a Dream, combining two movies that were great for VERY different reasons. Hat tip to Sarcasmo, as well as Sean. Video contains strong language; viewer discretion is advised.

A zombie called “Myclofig” now wanders the streets in Urban Dead. Will you join him as a fellow zombie or battle him as another survivor?



Con Job

I really can't blame the fire marshall for doing his job but, in a way, things worked out fine in the end. Of course, before we get to the end, I really should start at the beginning.

Tonight's tale began 31 years and three months ago, when a small Italian woman gave birth to a--what? Too far back? OK then, my first introduction to comic book conventions began when I was in college. It seems like only yesterday, but in reality it's been well over a decade. I mostly went to ICON, held every March in Eastern Long Island. Once, in the mid-‘90s, I went to a convention at the Javits Center in Manhattan. And about three years ago, thanks to a coworker's connection at Wizard, I got to attend a convention in Philadelphia as a V.I.P. I spent more money on parking for that one. The best part about the conventions was getting to hear from various writers and artists, as well as screen trailers and scenes from upcoming movies. Another entertaining factor were the extreme fans, garbed in homemade costumes of their favorite characters. Of course, in true MCF fashion, my first encounter with one of these fans was somewhat traumatizing. Across a field at my first ICON, I saw a tall female figure approaching. I soon saw she was made up to be a Klingon. As she got closer, I saw part of her robe had fallen away to reveal a large exposed alien breast. As she got even closer, I realized the boob was painted latex, slightly melted, but found a common denominator between it and a horrific car crash; I couldn't look away as much as I wanted to. It was only when I realized it was a MAN, that my disgust allowed me to move on with haste.

A few weeks ago, an agent representing several illustrators I've hired in the past sent me an e-mail, calling attention to the fact that a convention would be taking place this weekend at the Javits Center. Located a few blocks from Penn Station, which is a little over an hour from where I live, it was a pretty easy and convenient place to get to. As I considered it, looking at the weather and the guest list, I finally decided to go. I didn't order tickets in advance, but I got in to Manhattan around 9:30 this morning, and the first panel I wanted to go to didn't start until 11 AM. I took my time, taking pictures of the city as I've long been planning to do, and arrived around 10 AM. As I made my way inside, a few signs here and there indicated the coat check and the location of the vendors and the gamers, but none explained where admission could be purchased. I made my way down to where I saw a line looping around the lobby, and followed it. It ran from one end of the convention center to the other, looping around the balcony, and looked something like this:

I got on the end of the line, like a good sheep, but had my doubts. The couple ahead of me said they bought their tickets online, and that it was the ticket holder's line. A security guard nearby quickly dismissed this, and said the line was the line for everything. As we slowly moved, a few feet every ten minutes, convention officials would occasionally pass by, sometimes taking people who had already purchased tickets. I just wanted admission. I didn't expect to get in to see Kevin Smith or Milla Jovovich. I knew those would fill up, and my first priority was getting in to see Joe Quesada, who I'd seen before in Philadelphia. But when I was still on that line after 11, I gave up on that. There was still an artist's panel at noon I wanted to see, that included both John Romita and John Romita Jr. However, when I finally got to the point on the above diagram where the red line abruptly stops, disaster struck. A man in a megaphone walked by, proclaiming somewhat incoherently that the fire marshall had declared the floor to be full, and that only pre-registered ticket holders would be admitted. Additionally, we were told that the line we'd spent two hours on was NOT to buy tickets, despite reports to the contrary. “You should have just gone to that booth there,” gestured the security guard over his shoulder, to a booth that could only be seen once someone got to the end of the ridiculously long line.

I couldn't believe it. Not only would I miss the panels I planned to see, but I wouldn't get in at all. As we protested and remained at the front of the line the guard's supervisor, who looked and sounded exactly like Keith David, came over to find out what the problem was. As “Keith” heard our story, heard it corroborated by people behind us, he made a judgment call. He couldn't get us wristbands or official access to any of the panels, but he could get us in to the lower floor and vendor area. The other guard had stepped away to head down the line and let any one waiting for no reason in on the cruel twist of fate but, once he returned to his post, “Keith” motioned for four of us to follow him. He led us down and around, to the lower level and under stairs, and finally ushered us in to the crowded floor, shaking our hands and wishing us luck. In hindsight, I realize I probably should have tipped the guy. Wherever you are, if you're reading this, you rock, Mister Awesome and Reasonable Security Guard. Here's what my two hour trek to get in looked like:

Nervous that someone would notice my lack of a wristband and boot me out, I kept moving for the first hour, picking up business cards and admiring costumes, paintings and sculptures. I took a picture of a tall, balding artist that I thought might be Alex Ross, but moments later saw his name tag said Erik Larsen. At the back of the convention center at a small table signing old black-and-white photos of himself sat Peter Scolari, for some reason, and I got his picture as well. Nearby, actress Melody Anderson, from the classic Flash Gordon, was somewhat more camera-shy. I raised my camera to take her picture as she spoke to someone, but she raised her hand pointing to the left and it blocked her face. At first I thought she was giving the guy directions, so I lowered my camera and waited. She put her hand down, I raised my camera, and the hand came back up, this time with the palm out and her head turned away in the classic “damn you paparazzi!” pose. I got the message and moved on.

I continued on my way, snapping costumes and artwork and sculptures. I met a former coworker as well as one of my current editors, who confirmed that some of his friends were unable to get in. At the Wizard/Toyfare booth, I waited on line to play a familiar game. Back in 1994, I stood at a similar booth run by the same company, and gave the older twenty-something experts a trivia topic, The Avengers. When asked which issue Captain America joined the team, I surprised and frightened my friends by delivering the correct answer, issue #4. As a result, I was allowed to spin a wheel for a prize, and won a free comic. I've played the game at two other conventions since, winning once with a Transformers question and once with a Simpsons question. Today, following a 13-year-old girl with a Harry Potter question, I gave the younger twenty-somethings behind the counter the topic of Transformers Generation 1, and utterly bewildered them. One started asking me a question from a more modern series, but the another corrected him. I offered to change the topic but they waved me aside, ultimately ending up huddled in a group of three. Finally one turned around and posed the question, “Who ends up with the Matrix in the movie?” To make a long story slightly shorter, I won a Wolverine comic and walked away feeling very old to have stumped the “experts” with the topic of an ‘80s cartoon.

The best part of the day came when I saw Tom DeFalco sitting in a booth with no guests. A few guys leafed through the books he was selling but when Mr. DeFalco jokingly asked them to buy them because he “needed to eat”, they walked off. During the eight years I collected comics, he wrote some of my favorites, including Thor, Thunderstrike, Fantastic Four and The Amazing Spider-man. Lately he's been writing various guides to comic book characters for the publisher DK, large coffee table books encompassing decades of history. I picked up Avengers: The Ultimate Guide, as a girl working the booth asked if I'd like to purchase it for $21 and have it signed. I bought it without hesitation and presented it to him, at a complete loss for words as I tried to remember precisely WHICH books he'd written that I'd read. He asked my name, which I've omitted of course from the following photos, and presented me with the following:

I shook his hand enthusiastically and thanked him. As I walked away, I paused to turn and take his picture before calling it a day. His signature joins elite ranks, as the only other professional signatures I've obtained in my lifetime came from Simon Bisley and Jerry “J-No” Novick. Before catching my train, I ventured a few blocks away for a surprise photo opportunity. I haven't decided yet whether to share those photos along with pictures of the convention this Wednesday, or save them for the following week. It was a fun if exhausting day that almost didn't happen. I really can't blame the fire marshall for doing his job but, in a way, things worked out fine in the end.



Here Comes the (Spider-) Man in Black.

Non-comic book fans, familiar with Spider-man perhaps only from a movie, cartoon, or television series, might be surprised to learn that the hero, normally garbed in red-and-blue tights, once wore black. Comic book fans, passionate about the history of this character, would shudder in terror were I to pinpoint the first appearance of this costume as Transformers #3. However for me, that issue was my first introduction to Peter Parker's nefarious alien symbiote.

The Transformers began as a four-issue limited series but was so popular, they continued with a fifth issue. Six years later, the series' final issue would bear the phrase “#80 in a Four-issue Limited Series”, a testament to its popularity that took some of the sting away from its cancellation for die-hard fans. In the beginning, the stories took place in the mainstream Marvel continuity and, besides Spider-man, also included a significant visit to the Savage Land. As time went on, the publishers realized that it would be difficult to explain how two warring factions of giant alien robots were never noticed or mentioned in any of their other comic books, so they quietly forgot those early issues and began treating the stories as though set in an independent universe.

I had watched plenty of superhero cartoons, often when my parents weren't looking since they weren't fond of such shows, but I didn't really get into comic books until I was older. The Transformers was the first series I collected regularly, and sparked my interest in the two-dimensional exploits of a lot of my other favorite characters. The Spider-man presented in the now immortal third issue differed quite a bit from the one I knew. Not only was his costume black, but it responded to his mental commands. Ducking away from some soldiers investigating robot activity, Peter Parker concentrated and his civilian clothes turned fluid, covering him completely and becoming black with a large white spider emblem. Additionally, this costume made webbing from itself, and could regenerate what it lost. I didn't know when this development occurred at the time, but I would later learn from the packaging of a toy in my local Odd Lot that he acquired the suit on an alien world during the Secret Wars series. And of course during the eight years I seriously collected, I would acquire those issues as well as many others dealing with the suit.

By the time I was collecting Spider-man books, his black suit was just a regular suit. At some point the symbiote apparently tried to bond with him, and he managed to destroy it by exposing it to church bells, exploiting its vulnerability to sound. The suit survived, and when a reporter considering suicide visited that church seeking forgiveness for what he was about to do, the suit sensed that his despondency stemmed from being exposed as a fraud by Spider-man. The suit bonded with this man, Eddie Brock, and Venom was born. Possessing all of Spider-man's abilities, as well as knowledge of his secret identity from the time Peter wore the suit, Venom quickly became one of Spider-man's deadliest foes. I will never forget the cliffhanger at the end of Amazing Spider-man #299. Mary Jane, Spider-man's wife, comes home and sees him standing in the shadows. Only his eyes are visible. As she talks to him, thinking it's Peter, she wonders why he doesn't answer. At this point the mask grows a sinister toothy grin for the first time and taunts her: “Honey...I'm home.” Suffice to say, though Spidey defeated him in the following issue, his wife was so traumatized by this encounter he had to abandon his own black suit and return to the traditional one.

What, you may ask, brought on this sudden foray of geek information overload, moreso than usual? Everyone from Superherohype.com to Swimming in Champaign has been posting the Spider-man 3 teaser poster today, featuring a black costume. Does it mean that the symbiote will be in the movie? Is the speculation that Topher Grace will be playing Eddie Brock true? I don't know the answers to these questions yet, but I do know that May 2007 seems even further away to me now. I might have to go to a convention tomorrow to get this surge of youthful comic book enthusiasm out of my system. Who knows, if I'm lucky, maybe I can score a full-size version of that poster....


Interview with Tater Happy, Part Deux

My friend Curt, The Happy Husband, was kind enough to grant me an interview with his son, Tater. Though an infant, Tater possesses the uncanny ability to convey his thoughts to his father with a surprising level of eloquence. The first part may be found over at Curt's site, and the conclusion follows below:

Your father describes himself as a "geek by association"; how would you describe him, and where would you place yourself in society?

I do not fully understand the labels grownups assign to one another, but I have met a few people Daddy refers to as "geek friends." If these people are geeks, then—with all due respect to my esteemed interviewer—Daddy is at most a surface geek. I have seen in him no evidence of a deep-seated drive for obscure knowledge, at least not the same sort of obscure knowledge as his friends. As for myself, I do not conform to any definition of the word "geek." Never have I read a single comic book, nor have I seen even one science fiction movie or anime cartoon. Furthermore, complete strangers—including beautiful women—often approach me, smile, speak to me, and tell everyone within earshot how attractive I am. If you must label me, call me a "baby."

With a nod to Joss Whedon, who do you think would win: astronauts or cavemen?

In zero gravity, astronauts win. In full gravity, cavemen win, but only if the astronauts have no projectile weapons. More ifs occur to me now: historical era of the battle, numbers of each group, presence of reptilian wildlife, proximity to water, prevalence of wing-flapping Brazilian butterflies...the sheer profusion of factors prevents any sort of accurate prediction...but cavemen.

Describe your perfect cartoon.

To be successful, a cartoon must communicate the idea of a thing without actually imitating it. The more realistic a cartoon grows, the less it communicates and the more it insults the bit of human intellect that draws deep meaning from the abstract. This is all academic, of course, as I am not yet allowed to watch TV.

Do you have a favorite artist?

I enjoy the drawings of Dr. Suess immensely, and his stories as well. He has one about a small egg abandoned by its lazy bird mother and thereafter protected by an elephant. It would be to my shame were I to disclose the ending, but suffice it to say external forces do not control one's destiny.

Our generation was raised on science fiction depicting the years after 2000 rich with flying cars, robots, and other technological advancements. While we're not quite the futuristic society imagined over the past few decades, we have made some advances. There are things we won't see in our lifetime, that you have a better chance of encountering. What advancements or cures do you anticipate?

Daddy has regaled me with some horrific tales of technology gone amuck. As I have stated, I am uncomfortable predicting the future, but if I ever meet an army of superhuman drones who look exactly like me, kill without remorse, and follow orders issued by a criminal mastermind from the recesses of a shadow government, I will know that every member of that army is both a spiritual and natural abomination grown from stem cells in the cord blood my parents donated at the time of my birth, and that the responsibility—perhaps the sole ability—of killing them all will be mine alone.

Unlike the Quizno's baby and the dancing baby from Ally McBeal, you've thus far avoided the spotlight, appearing only a few times on your father's web site to share thoughts from inside the womb as well as after you were born. Does celebrity have a price? What advice would you offer other young stars to avoid becoming the next Corey Feldman?

If celebrity has a price, I have not paid it. The question arises, however, whether an anonymous baby can actually achieve an irksome level of fame. Could I conceivably be hounded by media, paparazzi, and stalkers who do not even know my real name? I think that as long as on-air personalities find discomfort in the idea of speaking the word "Tater" in the course of their daily ramblings, I'm safe. I suppose, then, that I would advise other young stars to protect their anonymity if they value sanity.

Forgive me for getting political, but which stuffed animal, puppet or mascot would you endorse as president of children's television? Yes, people like Levar Burton may also be considered.

As I mentioned before, I am not allowed to watch television and therefore cannot make an informed appointment for such a high office. However, I have a little rattle shaped like a crab that brings me a great deal of joy. I think he might do a fantastic job were he put in charge of entertaining children. In any case, I wish only good things for him.

"Ring Around the Rosie"—macabre rhyme or fun ditty marred by an urban legend?

Daddy read me the rhyme and omitted the urban legend. Armed with only the information provided by the ditty itself, I would describe it as more nonsensical than macabre. Daddy once sang me a lullaby called "Rock-a-bye Baby" that unnerved me slightly. Now when he offers that particular ditty, he alters the last line to "And Daddy will catch you, cradle and all."

God has given you many gifts, not the least of which is life. What do you think is the best thing you can do with this gift?

I fear I do not have the necessary knowledge or experience to provide an intelligent answer to such a question. I suppose, though, that I must always keep in mind the nature of this gift of life. No recipient is worthy of a gift, else it is not really a gift but a reward, and the bestowal of a gift requires nothing in return either in the form of thanks or compensation. I feel a moral responsibility, however, to treat my gifts with gratitude. Therefore I intend to live my life fully, to grow in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and men, and when I have reached my full stature to continue to live in a manner deserving of the gift so that when the end comes, the giver may say to me, "Well done."

Before we part, I must remark that you require much of one so young. I say this as a fact, not a complaint. In truth, I appreciate a mental challenge to break the pattern of physical difficulties I must work through every day. Between locating my fingers, grasping my crabby rattle, and not scratching myself in the eye, I enjoy a periodic tangent of philosophy. Thank you for taking time for this interview.


PBW: To Tobay

The weather has definitely been crazy. While last week I had the aftermath of a snowstorm to share, tonight's Photo Blog Wednesday will take us back to the beach. My office allows for 20 vacation days and 2 personal days a year. We can bank 10 to use the following year, but the bank fills up. Since I have 10 in there already, I had to use or lose 22 days last year. I lost 3, possibly 4, because I ran out of time. This year I've only taken 2 days, both in February, and I intend to take 2 a month for the rest of the year and use them all. And so I found myself home last Friday, looking out at the rain. What was I going to do on my day home? Was I going to write another post in which the first letter of each paragraph spelled out a hidden message? I didn't think cleverness would provide much entertainment value. Fortunately, not only did the sun come out, but the temperature rose. Soon I was at Jones Beach again, and I proceeded to walk East with heavy winds at my back, observing tide pools and seagulls. Three miles and a little over an hour later, I found myself at Tobay Beach. All in all, it was a good use of a day off and an improvement over sitting in a gray cubicle staring at a monitor.

Walking through a sandstorm was very cool and created some great optical illusions. Some times it seemed like I was standing still, while at other times it was like floating on land.

The end of this foot tunnel or drain that ran under the highway was flooded, but I could still venture in part of the way to get some cool pictures. The above view looking out from the “cave” is possibly my favorite this week.

This sign made me feel very safe.

Not all the snow had melted.

Picnic grounds outside the concert theater were empty, and in a few months the above area will be very different. I hope you enjoyed this week's photos. Tune in tomorrow for a very special post, the second half of an interview I was granted with a “minor” celebrity. Please check out the first part at The Happy Husband, then come back here tomorrow night for the conclusion.



Who is this Johari, anyway?

Well, it's been a week since I posted a link to my Johari Window. As of this writing, 17 people have responded, enough for me to share my thoughts on these results:

Arena(known to self and others):

Blind Spot(known to others, not to self):

Facade(known to self, not to others):
There was nothing in this pane.

Unknown(not known to self or others):
able, adaptable, bold, brave, calm, cheerful, confident, dignified, energetic, giving, happy, idealistic, loving, mature, organized, patient, powerful, proud, relaxed, self-assertive, spontaneous, tense, wise


Dominant Traits

58% of people think that MCF is self-conscious

All Percentages

able (0%) accepting (5%) adaptable (0%) bold (0%) brave (0%) calm (0%) caring (11%) cheerful (0%) clever (35%) complex (17%) confident (0%) dependable (5%) dignified (0%) energetic (0%) extroverted (5%) friendly (23%) giving (0%) happy (0%) helpful (11%) idealistic (0%) independent (5%) ingenious (11%) intelligent (47%) introverted (41%) kind (17%) knowledgeable (23%) logical (11%) loving (0%) mature (0%) modest (29%) nervous (23%) observant (23%) organized (0%) patient (0%) powerful (0%) proud (0%) quiet (11%) reflective (23%) relaxed (0%) religious (5%) responsive (5%) searching (5%) self-assertive (0%) self-conscious (58%) sensible (5%) sentimental (5%) shy (47%) silly (11%) spontaneous (0%) sympathetic (11%) tense (0%) trustworthy (11%) warm (5%) wise (0%) witty (11%)


I can't say I was surprised that 10 out of 17 people found me to be self-conscious, even people I've never met. It confirms that my writing is, at times, brutally honest. The interesting thing is that while I KNOW this about myself, when it came time to choose the six traits I thought were the most dominant, I myself didn't choose it! Introverted was another trait I somehow missed, that 7 of my friends and readers caught. I think this supports the blind spot section in that, while I think I'm aware of these things, they weren't at the forefront of my mind when I was clicking.

Tests like these should be used as a rough gauge only. Some might argue that there are subtle differences between being shy, and being either of the traits I missed. I'm also surprised that only one person besides myself thought that I was religious. Maybe I don't write about my faith enough, or maybe it's not as strong as I think. Two readers who know me in real life surprised me by not including that characteristic in their assessment.

If I remember, this might be a good exercise to revisit in a year, to see if I've changed or grown in any way, and get fresh results. My thanks to everyone who participated so far in giving me a lot of good input! I'll close tonight with links to windows from my friends and neighbors:



M.C.F.A.T. Volume VIII

Boredom is a terrible, terrible curse. I thought taking off this past Friday would be a great idea and it was. I got caught up with my writing class and several other projects, and I even made it to the beach for a three hour walk. But by today, President's Day, when I'd been home for several days and it was far too cold to do any hiking, I found myself wholly disinterested in everything, from DVDs I've yet to watch to video games I've yet to complete to books and blogs. At least it was sunny, so I took a book to the beach and sat in my car for a few hours before that bored me as well. Today dragged and I find myself looking forward to a more hectic and interesting work schedule. I expect that feeling to last until about 10 AM tomorrow.

Such conditions threaten to sap one's creativity yet, undaunted, I forged ahead with this week's edition of the Mysterious Cloaked Figure's Astonishing Test:

1) From any television show past or present, which character would you wish to have as a sidekick in real life? Valid answers include but are not limited to talking vehicles, intelligent animals, ghosts, sassy maids and more.

2) ”Guns ‘n Roses” might be releasing a new album this year. If you could hear a new CD from a band that's no longer together, possibly with deceased members, what band would that be?

3) What's the worst thing a person could ask you on a job interview, and how would you respond?

4) What do you consider your greatest weakness, and greatest strength?

5) Who is your favorite game show host and why? If you don't watch game shows, you can skip this question or choose some random individual you’d enjoy as a host.

As always, you have one week to consider these questions and post your answers at your respective blogs. Next Monday I'll link to your answers and share answers of my own.



Phantasmic Links 2.19.06

Some days it's impossible to be comfortable. Currently, it's FREEZING outside. When I got home last night it was about 15 degrees but felt like THREE with the wind. But when I awoke at 6 AM, I could barely breathe in the sauna-like conditions of my room. Today has been much the same. As soon as it gets cold we put the heat up, but it quickly becomes stifling. There's no middle ground. Somehow, I managed to get a lot done on my computer despite these temperature extremes, and that includes the compilation of this week's PHANTASMIC LINKS:

Wednesday, March 1st remains the deadline to send Myclofig nominations to MCFSPU@hotmail.com. My profound thanks to those who've voted already. If you'd like to further support the Myclofigs and make it a truly special event, follow the instructions at the end of this link to help spread the word!

If you don't buy Gargoyles Season 2 Part 1, Season 2 Part 2 may not be released! Pick one up if you're a fan of the show, or even if you're curious about tight animation and modern epic fantasy. It would really be a shame if only half of the best season was available.

Rrrrrrrrrrrrrnnnnnnnnnnhhhh! Hrrrrnh trrr rrr Xtine.

I present Office Space, as portrayed by the Superfriends.

Marvel at the 10 Best Sci Fi Films that Never Existed, courtesy of Sean. I know I’d like to see a few of these...

Jamie Dawn posted a rather addictive game called “Hows and Bys”. Without looking at the other comments, post an answer starting with the word “by” followed by an unrelated question starting with the word “how”, then see how your comment works as a response to the prior one.

Welcome to The Simpsons house...for real.

On a related note, The Bobacabana takes fandom and home ownership to a whole new level of indulgent geekiness. Hat tip to Kev Bayer.

Sad? I'mReallySad.com offers a random cute image to cheer you up.

Back in the ‘80s, consumers could turn to Ayds to achieve weight loss.

Fans of Questionable Content and Frank Miller should appreciate this hybrid of the two.

Can a Color Quiz really determine a person's psychological profile? Skeptical though I am, my results were surprisingly accurate in some regards. You can thank the Crazy Neighbor for this one.

Speaking of analysis, have you filled out my Johari Window? Posted on Tuesday and originally found at Sarcasmo's, it has inspired several other bloggers to create windows of their own, including J-No, Rey and Sean. It’s been an interesting exercise, and I’ll share my thoughts about it later this week.

Finally, I didn't expect this evolution game to be as addictive as it was. I can't seem to get past being a primate in the Miocene era, perhaps disproving the theory...if anyone evolves and has any tips how to get further in the game, please share them in the comments.



Tim Burton's Dark Genius

In 1989, the name ”Tim Burton” entered my personal lexicon. Batman exceeded all my expectations, providing something that truly struck fear into the hearts of villains, as the title hero had done in the comics for decades. Who knew Michael Keaton, star of such comedies as Night Shift, Mr. Mom, Johnny Dangerously, and Gung Ho could fulfill the title role? I had seen and enjoyed all of the films I just listed, but had a hard time envisioning him as Batman, until I saw those first trailers with him in costume, yanking a thug close and stating in a coarse whisper, “I'm BATMAN!” The music of Danny Elfman, who would go on to be a frequent Burton collaborator and become one of my favorite composers, enhanced the new Dark Knight. Finally, the solid insanity of Jack Nicholson completed the new gothic tale of the caped crusader. Nicholson's career is vast, with more than sixty roles to his credit, and I'm still catching up on such things as Chinatown and The Two Jakes, both of which I saw this past week. Batman had a lot of great ingredients, but it was the work of Burton as chef that made it so tasty.

Tim Burton's view of the world combines gothic elements with twisted circus imagery to create a new entity. A fact I often forget is that, while Batman is the first time I registered his name in my consciousness, Pee Wee's Big Adventure is actually the earliest Burton film I've seen. Keaton worked with Burton prior to Batman on Beetle Juice, but I'd actually catch that film a few years later, well after watching the animated spinoff. Certain things, from stripes to distorted architecture to exaggerated anatomy, from rotund figures to twigs with spindly legs, all mark Burton's signature. What he achieved with live action in Edward Scissorhands, which I'm ashamed to admit I've not regarded in its entirety, bordered on animation. In 1993, The Nightmare Before Christmas marked his liberation from the restraints of the real world.

The Nightmare Before Christmas was released while I was in college. At the time, my school would often screen movies for free once they left theaters but just before they were released on video cassette. It was in this manner that I also enjoyed Ed Wood. In the age before DVD special features, I'm not sure how I found myself watching a special delving in to the complicated process of stop animation used in Nightmare. Perhaps it was shown as an addendum to the movie in the college auditorium, or perhaps we watched a video in one of my film electives. I was fascinated with the patience required to move each figure slightly and precisely, snap a frame, then repeat the process. Enamored, I woke one morning in a half-dreaming state and exclaimed, “I Am the Pumpkin King!” A lack of common sense led to recounting the tale to classmates and budding friends later that day, a story that took years to live down.

It's hard to believe that was over a decade ago. Burton returned to the world of stop animation with last year's Corpse Bride, a very enjoyable tale that includes the voice of Johnny Depp, another Burton favorite. It's hard to go wrong with Burton, Depp, and Elfman. I think A Nightmare Before Christmas is the better of his two animated works, but Corpse Bride is a fun and twisted ride with a lot of great characters. Every expression, every gesture, and every little facial tic add to the rich and amusing tapestry. Even as I write this, I'm playing the DVD for a second time using the “soundtrack only” option, which removes all dialogue and truly shows how much Elfman's music contributes to storytelling. I don't want to influence readers who haven't sent in their Myclofig votes yet, and I still have some nominees to watch myself, but Corpse Bride definitely ranks high for me at the moment.

With the exception of the tragically disappointing Planet of the Apes remake, I've enjoyed every Burton project I've consumed. I'll close tonight with my top ten favorite movies directed or produced by Burton, in descending order:

10) Mars Attacks!

9) Beetle Juice

8) James and the Giant Peach

7) Corpse Bride

6) Batman Returns

5) The Nightmare Before Christmas

4) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

3) Pee Wee's Big Adventure

2) Batman

1) Big Fish


Thoughts of Minutia

7:25 AM
My eyelids protest the sudden invasion of light, tucking themselves tight. “7:30!” calls my dad, faithfully lying. There's no need, not this morning, and I mumble as much. “Offt'day.” I knew there was someone I neglected to share that information with. Darkness returns and I tumble headlong into the blissful depths of vacation day extra sleep.

8:36 AM
What the hell was that? I awake from an unusual dream, in which I found myself walking into a strange hybrid of a hospital room and my parents' room. There are two girls I wouldn't recognize even if their features weren't fluid. One lies in bed, tired and smiling. The other, sitting by her side, turns, and I see she's wearing hospital scrubs and holding a very large infant. I'm in awe as the nurse leaves with what I assume is my child, and I go to the bed and kiss my wife(?) on the forehead. She's a little standoffish, and I wonder if it's my wife and child after all. That's when I woke up. I have a new “no food after 9PM” rule that I've been strictly adhering to, so I don't know what triggered the dream. Sometimes when I wake up and go back to sleep, that results in odd mental jaunts as well.

9:47 AM
I finish a DVD I started watching the night before, The NeverEnding Story. I've never seen it in its entirety. In fact, growing up, whenever I caught parts of it on television I always thought it was still on from the last time I watched. I took the title literally. Today, I couldn't help laughing when the little boy is flying on the Luck Dragon, because it reminded me of a recent Family Guy episode in which Peter is seen doing the same, with hilariously disastrous results. Despite bad reviews, I add the sequels to my Netflix queue for completism and move on to my next DVD.

11:58 AM
It's not that Hollywood Homicide is necessarily a bad movie. Both Harrison Ford and Josh Hartnett give interesting and humorous performances. The film seems to hang a little too much on the premise of cops taking side jobs, such as Ford selling real estate and Hartnett teaching yoga while aspiring to be an actor. The murder case lingers in the background behind the character studies, and what would be a great one hour episode of a cop show is stretched into a two hour movie using extended chase scenes and several shots of Ford sitting in a chair looking tired. I'm hungry. I put off breakfast as long as possible, in the hopes of eliminating a meal on my day off and shedding some more pounds, but now I'm feeling lightheaded.

12:39 PM
I really don't understand the weather. Just five days ago we were buried in snow. I was certain it would be weeks before I saw my lawn again, yet this morning only a few patches of snow and mud dotted the yard. It was gray and drizzling, not at all the sort of day to travel outdoors. That was twenty minutes ago. Now the sun is shining and the sky is blue. I grab my movies to mail, and my camera. I'm not sure where I'm going, but I know I want to walk a lot since I'll be skipping the company gym today.

1:22 PM
I'm back at Jones Beach and since the last time I was here I walked three or four miles West, I decide to head East and see what I can see. It's VERY windy and the sand rushing by obscures my feet and creates the illusion that I'm moving backwards. It's very cool, and I hope that the lower resolution versions of the photos I post on my blog in a few days convey this effect.

2:22 PM
I look at my watch. The plan had been to turn around at the one hour mark, but now I see a building on a previously static horizon. Surely I can go a little further?

3:22 PM
Those were some of the best pictures I've ever taken! I'm so glad I walked this far! The beach continues even further East, although I did note the signs indicating that I'd left Jones and walked to something called ”Tobay Beach”. I realize the time, and the fact that I have to walk several miles into the wind. If not for my sunglasses I'd be blinded by this sandstorm. As it is, my face feels pretty rough. Now isn’t the time to wimp out, though.

4:22 PM
Running in the sand is HARD, especially fighting the wind, and especially after a two-hour walk. It's now way too hot for my jacket, so I toss it in the back seat. Soon I'm cruising on the Wantagh Parkway, hoping for a truly great driving song. I'm not as lucky as I was a few hours ago, when I had Sweet Child O' Mine blasting as I passed the dormant toll booths and the landmark water tower loomed ever larger.

5:05 PM
Home at last, I hook up the camera to my computer and collect my spoils. With the sun, I couldn't really see the preview window, but as it turns out I got a lot of great shots. It's going to be hard narrowing 38 pictures down by this coming Wednesday. Debating whether to finally tackle my class reading assignment for the week or watch an old X-men Evolution episode on YouTube, I opt for the latter. I remember this episode. This was the one where...

7:07 PM
My dad tells me, apparently for the second time, that dinner is ready. I guess I'm still not the athlete I want to be if a few miles on the beach can knock me out like that.

7:15 PM
Surfing during dinner, I come across some disturbing news. DVD sales on the first half of the second season of Gargoyles were low enough that the second half might not be released. I make a note to include a link in my next post, urging my readers, especially fans of the show, to pick up a copy and increase the chances of this great show being released in its entirety.

8:57 PM
After watching more YouTube, notably Justice League, I finally tackle my lecture for the week as well as the assigned story.

11:57 PM
Another exciting chapter in my life comes to a close, as I put the finishing touches on today's blog entry.


Tunnels and Codes...

I can't stress enough how much better Webster got after he burned down the apartment with his chemistry set, forcing the family to move into a house full of secret passages. Call it a load of Papadapolis if you must, but I stand by my comment. The notion, especially to my impressionable 10-year-old brain, that any bookcase, clock, or dumbwaiter could lead to places inside the walls was an exciting one, and I spent a lot of time inspecting my own home, comparing the width of our hallway to a pair of adjoining rooms to see if any space was unaccounted for. Sadly, I found nothing, though 22 years later adding such spaces to homes is an option, evidenced by this link found over at Sean's.

At my Middle School, a legend persisted of tunnels running beneath the school, connecting it to the neighboring elementary school, and possibly anywhere else in my hometown our young minds could imagine. My friends and I would speak of expeditions, pondering riches or two-way mirrors to the girls' locker room. There were two possible entry points to The Tunnels, located at the back of stairwells, solidly locked and at times guarded by a janitor or a security guard. Through the grapevine, eyewitness accounts trickled down of one of the security guards spied emerging from one of these doors, looking around, and discarding a cigarette. Getting in was impossible, unless of course a weak spot could be located. Fortunately, being a musician would prove useful.

My break was discovered in the auditorium, where a staircase led below the ground level of the school to a place the theater group could store props and costumes. There were a pair of bathrooms, used only for changing since they had not been maintained, and word reached me from my band contacts that the girl's bathroom had a hole in the wall, a section of collapsed bricks that led to a very plain and mysterious room with nothing but dust and pipes. One day during a break in our rehearsal, I crept quickly down those stairs and darted in to that restroom. Sure enough, light streamed in from a curved wall of bricks, and stepped through into a strange room between rooms. The only other opening was a rectangle on the opposite wall, no more than a foot or two high and three feet across. Beyond it only darkness and humming thrived. I got the hell out of there and back up to my seat on stage, before I was missed.

My friends were very excited when I relayed the news. Plans were quickly set in motion as our group leader determined we'd need rope and flashlights. We had no idea what sort of labyrinth awaited us, and the rope would help us retrace our steps should we become lost. After school, I took them to the place I'd found to assess our mission, where the bravest of our trio immediately crawled into the dark space. His voice soon echoed that we had to check it out, and I crawled in followed by our other friend. After a few claustrophobic feet we reached a place where we could stand again. It was very hot and the only light came from the room we'd left behind. All I could make out were pipes running along the walls. My sense of adventure dwindled. In 7th grade, I found myself in a transitional state between a risk-taking MCF and an overly cautious MCF. What if I got kicked out of the band? It didn't matter to my friends, but I was part of something other than classes, something that, if I lost, I might finally see my dad get as angry as my mom usually did. After five years of getting in trouble in elementary school and seeing the inside of a principal's office several times a week, I was determined to change my stripes. Punishment wasn't my only concern. I'd seen Scout's Honor; I knew the dangers. No way was I going to end up trapped in a cave-in like Gary Coleman.

Convincing them to leave, I knew my cowardice had driven a wedge between my closest friends and I. They were determined to return, with or without me, at the end of the week with the rope and flashlights. Threats were made, and even if I didn't join them I had to keep their secret, or they'd let everyone in school know I was chicken. Logical flaws in such a threat, while evident to me as an adult, escaped me then. I already felt like I was the school nerd, the biggest of our group, and the one that brought everyone else down. They already blamed me for their status with girls and cool guys, and I had no desire to become an outcast among the outcasts. Friday rolled around, and I kept my silence. A long weekend ensued, during which time I imagined my friends trapped or missing. I'd have to say something, even if I got in trouble, in order to save them. Yet if I spoke, I wouldn't be cool. I kept my mouth shut, and the transition to my future self clicked forward.

Friday long past, Monday morning wasn't so bad. Both friends were alive, well, and accounted for, and I discovered that only one of them carried out the plan while the other quietly backed out. We listened wide-eyed to his tale of following the pipes and discovering the boiler room, and then emerging in a subbasement of the elementary school where he found old colorful chairs. There were several other places where the tunnels were too low to stand, where he considered turning back but would have had to move backwards to do so in the confined areas. Miraculously, he found his way to one of those doors behind the stairwell, and escaped unharmed and undetected. I regretted missing the adventure, even though I now realize he was very lucky, assuming of course his story was true. To this day I have no way of knowing if all three of us backed out. After four years at a different high school and seeing them only on weekends, we all grew apart. They went away to college while I stayed local, and I only saw them once at a party one of them threw, after which I was given misleading directions to an ice cream parlor. They told me to make a left, while everyone else turned right.

It's no surprise that I ever considered exploring The Tunnels, since I always craved adventure as a child, even before I delved fully into comic books in high school and college. I devoured young adult mystery novels, and took The Young Detective's Handbook as my bible. No glass or surface was safe from me sprinkling talcum powder and collecting fingerprints with scotch tape. I called myself a detective and carried around a magnifying glass, one more invitation for classmates to pound the crap out of me. I solved “mysteries”, like the Case of the Missing Cat, in which I told a neighbor I heard meowing in the woods and two days later their missing cat showed up. I was wholly and completely delusional, or simply lost in a boyhood fantasy.

Writing codes fascinated me, and I passed coded messages to friends at every opportunity, usually mundane things about what games we'd play at lunch. Sometimes I'd write in numbers, with each number corresponding to a letter(A=1, B=2, etc.). Sometimes I'd use a reverse alphabet, in which A was Z and Z was A. Sometimes I'd write with lemonade, which was invisible until the paper was held to a flame. Later I'd move on to more concealed messages, such as writing a paragraph that required a key, a piece of paper with spaces cut out that only highlighted certain words and parts of words when placed over the fake message. Then there was the ever popular “take the first letter of every paragraph” technique. That’s one I’ve never gotten completely tired of.

Renting National Treasure last year, I spent some time on the special features, exploring the different ways messages have been concealed historically. Not only did they cover some of the techniques I used as a child, but one feature covered Heiroglyphics in great detail. I wouldn't say I became fluent, but I did get an idea of the complexity of the ancient Egyptian language. Single symbols could represent words, or anywhere from one to three latin characters.

In last night's episode of Lost, a crucial scene, which I won't spoil here, involves the appearance of hieroglyphics. I was reminded of my childhood fascination with code breaking, and set about surfing the web to attempt to translate what I'd seen.

This soon proved to be a challenge. I only found two recognizable characters that were Egyptian for sure, and it took another friend surfing today to discover someone who had figured it out. If anyone is interested, the screenshot from the episode can be found here while the translation is here. I can't guarantee how long those links will be valid, so check them while you still can.

Every once in a while I realize how much better life was when most of it stemmed from my imagination. I probably won't be writing any complex coded messages any time soon, and I definitely won't be climbing around in underground tunnels, especially ones with a symbol like the one my Middle School tunnels boasted. At least television, movies, and writing provide an outlet for those old pleasures.


PBW: White Out

Welcome to a Photo Blog Wednesday decidedly different from last week's trip to the beach. We got quite a mess of snow dumped on us this past weekend, although between rain and rising temperatures I suspect a lot of it will be gone this weekend. What remains will be that nasty, dirty snow with sand and gravel mixed in. While it was falling though, since I didn't have to drive in it, there was a lot of beauty to capture, from pristine white trees, ivory-capped sheds, and mounds that concealed automobiles.

I enjoyed the tranquility for about an hour or so before my dad decided it was letting up, despite the evidence of his eyes, and made an effort to “get some exercise”. I've already covered that story in detail, though. Instead, I'll let the following “after” photos speak to our efforts:



Who is this MCF, anyway?

Perception is a funny thing. The way we see ourselves, good or bad, often differs from the way other people see us. I've been genuinely shocked when people point out or notice certain things about me. For example, I once heard about several people observing that I always lower my head and never say hello to people in the hall. I'll say hello if someone greets me, or if I've reached a level of comfort where I think they know who I am and would not take offense to me speaking to them. Yet people I didn't think knew I existed had noted this behavioral quirk, which made me realize I had latched on to an ostrich mentality. Lowering one's head is about as effective as putting one's head in the sand. Another approach I've used is the noncommittal half-smile or nod. If someone responds, I then elevate to a verbal greeting. If they don't, I can play it off as an itch or facial tic. Think of the scene in the first Spider-man in which, on a field trip, Toby Maguire's character is surprised that a pretty girl, played by Kirsten Dunst, waves at him. He expresses the perfect “Who me?” look before beaming and waving back, just as her friends pass by from behind him, revealing that she was waving at them. He lowers his hand, and looks the way I feel every day of my life.

In order to grow and overcome certain personality handicaps, a person needs to first recognize what they are. Someone, possibly my mom, once said that to be loved, one must love oneself. Actually, what she used to say was “in order to have friends, you have to be a friend,” but it's a similar thought. I remember a time after taking a new job when friends of a friend would go to lunch without me whenever my friend wasn’t in. I didn't really know them that well yet except through him, and I'd sit in my cubicle when they walked by, hear them talking, wait for someone to invite me, and then be bitter about it when they didn't, thinking they didn't want me along or didn’t like me. That was psychotic. Modifying my mom's saying, I would say that in order to have friends, one must prove he exists, and make people aware of that.

It's definitely not easy, and takes a conscious effort to not make the same mistakes even after I realize some of the odd ways I relate to people, or don't relate at all. Over at Sarcasmo's, I came across something called a Johari Window. It illustrates, in four panels, various personality traits and categorizes them based on what a person may or may not know about himself, as well as the things other people may or may not know about him. It seems like an interesting exercise to pursue, especially on a blog with an audience that consists of both people who know the real MCF, and people who only know what I tell them. Being “cloaked” allows me to be very honest though, and I suspect I may convey things I don't even realize.

Below you will find a link to my window. When you click it, it will ask you to choose five or six words from a grid that apply to me. I've chosen six words of my own and, upon completion, you'll see where things overlap. In a week or so, whenever a significant number of people have clicked, I'll post the results here. It should be educational and fun, and I encourage anyone to set up a window of their own! What we learn might surprise us:

Click and tell me who I am.


M.C.F.A.T. VII: Answer Time

Just sit right back friends and you'll hear a tale, a tale of the Mysterious Cloaked Figure's Astonishing Test! A five question test. A five question test. The test was answered on the blogs of...



Kev Bayer


Crazy Neighbor(who also took on a classic test.)




....and finally, as we always do, ended up right back here. Enjoy my answers and tune in next week for another test.

1) On Friday, I wrote about The Physics of Superheroes, and cited the example of Schrödinger's cat. What do you think of that theoretical example? Does lack of an observer allow for the simultaneous existence of contrary realities? In other words, if a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there to hear it, does it both make a sound and not make a sound?
No. While it's impossible to know what happens without observing, if a tree falls the end result will be finding it lying on the ground. The same is true of the cat. Though it has an equal property of being alive or dead before you open the box, the fact is that it's already one or the other. But the cat is a hypothetical example of what happens on the subatomic level, where the act of observation alone changes what you observe. If all probabilities are true at that level, and our reality breaks down to that structure, one could argue the existence of parallel universes, and I think that's pretty cool.

2) What is your favorite color? Why?
Asked in elementary school, forced to pin it down to one, I chose red and stuck with it for many years. I still like red, but I definitely think black looks cool, particularly on clothing. Navy blue and teal are colors I'm partial to as well.

3) Choose an actor or actress whose work you enjoy. What is the first project you recall him or her starring in? Next, check IMDB. What was their first starring role, and have you seen it?
When I saw Kiefer Sutherland in Stand By Me, he was the stuff of nightmares. The mean older kid who picked on the younger ones. The bad kid who drank and knocked over mailboxes with a baseball bat. I never wanted to run in to him or anyone like him. I was afraid of him. Small wonder I watched little more than snippets of The Lost Boys on television, avoiding it in its entirety until fairly recently. post-24, I'm a solid fan. His first IMDB credit is Max Dugan Returns in 1983, which I've never seen. The earliest film I've seen him in is 1986's At Close Range, just last week. As Darrell observed, he does look ridiculously young. I can't see that kid scaring me, let alone terrorists. Though I asked for film credits, in my research I discovered he was in an episode of Amazing Stories which I totally remember! “The Mission” took place during WWII and featured a cartoonist whose drawings became reality. I might be my favorite episode of that series. Note the amazing cast of the episode as well.

4) Who is your favorite corporate mascot? Who is your least favorite?
The current Burger King really creeps me out. Of course, the greatest mascot of all time will always be Kool-Aid Man. OH YEAH!! Hat tip to Xtine for inspiring this question.

5) How would you deal with being a superhero? Would you maintain a secret identity, lying to even those closest to you to protect them, or would you operate publicly as a full-time hero?
I think because of my personality, I'd almost certainly shun the spotlight and go out of my way to do good deeds without getting credit. Ultimately, I'd have to share the secret with someone. I thought this one up after watching the second season of Lois & Clark which deals with this subject frequently. They finally start dating but, since he hasn't told her who he really is, it creates a lot of tension when he has to run off to save people, making up a really lame excuse every time. I could lie to the world, but I'd have to be honest with a girlfriend for the relationship to progress. Like Clark, my parents would probably know my secret too.



Phantasmic Links 2.12.06

Readers here only for this week's PHANTASMIC LINKS can skip the rant that follows and jump to the section in the usual P-link color. Brave souls with older parents who might offer advice or empathy are encouraged to read on.

Old man winter made up for lost time, and later in the week I'll have the pictures to prove it. Flurries started around five o'clock yesterday and ended about the same time today, but in between we were hit with nearly two feet of snow, at least in my area. I'm beginning to feel very frustrated and helpless when it comes to my dad and snow. Around noon I heard my mom yelling at him, so I went out to see him putting on boots and an extra pair of pants, denying that he had plans to go outside. I chimed in that I'd checked the weather online and there was no point going out for a few hours, until it stopped. The discussion elevated to a shouting match, and at one point he snapped at my mom, “he's in worse shape than I am!!”

I know I'm out-of-shape, but as I mentioned yesterday, I've been working very hard to improve. Even though I knew his words were hurled in defensive misdirection, that he didn't actually believe a 31-year-old who visits the gym regularly was worse off than a 75-year-old man with a heart condition, they still stung. I suddenly felt a strong urge to prove myself, show that I wasn't a kid. He admitted that he wasn't planning to shovel for another hour, but was getting dressed to look for the newspaper. I told him I'd get it, hoping that the Jumble might buy me some time, since boredom was as much a motivation as pride in his desire to go outside. Even though it was still snowing pretty heavy, once I found the paper and brought it in, I remained out there working as quickly as I could. Maybe someday I'll be fast enough, but it wasn't today. Sure enough, he soon joined me, and I'd only done the front sidewalk and a portion of the driveway. It was the same “if you can't beat him, join him” situation that I find myself in every year. Telling him to go inside only makes him raise his voice and say that the neighbors are laughing at me for arguing with him. More misdirection, but he knows the right buttons to push.

And so we worked together, my mom looking disapprovingly from the house as I shrugged. He looked pale even though he was pacing himself, but upsetting him by arguing would only make his blood pressure go up. Earlier in the day one of his sisters had called and given my mom permission to “hit him over the head with a shovel” if he was stubborn and tried to go outside. I wasn't about to try that. After cleaning two of the cars and half of the driveway, he finally went in, and I stayed out for another hour or so to finish up. I don't know if I should take it as a good sign, that he's finally starting to trust me to be a man and handle an adult's task, or a bad one that he hit his own limit and had to stop. Normally, nothing stops my dad, a trait I wish I possessed, so I'm thinking it was the latter. Ironically, as I finished our driveway the 10-year-old boy across the street came outside, climbed on to a small ride-on mower that his father had hooked a plow up to, and proceed to clean his parent's driveway in half the time.

Does anyone have any advice? We borrowed a snowblower once to try it out, and it kept jamming. My dad also didn't like the lack of control. With a shovel, you can deposit snow anywhere but a blower limits you, and you have to be careful to face away from the neighbors. There's a family friend who sometimes plows the driveway for us and he actually did so earlier today, but with the snowfall it filled in again and his tires packed the snow down in some places, making it impossible to separate from the pavement. I work as fast as I can and normally I would have gone out at night while my father slept, but the bulk of this storm was overnight so I didn't bother this time. I'm only human and, heart condition aside, there actually is some truth to my dad's words about me being in worse shape. Years as an automobile mechanic have left him remarkable strong while I still have my limitations. Insisting he stay inside has the opposite effect, makes him go out there to prove he can do it. I'm not sure if reverse psychology would work either. I think he's going out there no matter what, and I just have to accept it and do the best I can to minimize his exertions. I am starting to feel really guilty about entertaining the notion of buying my uncle's house when he moves into a senior apartment. Realistically, unless my mom turns my bedroom into a sewing room, I suppose I could always stay over when there's going to be a storm, so I shouldn't let this deter any plans should I pursue leaving.

If you read this whole rant I thank you, and I now present what you really came for, this week's PHANTASMIC LINKS:

I haven't been able to stop watching Doctor Tran ever since I saw it over at Darrell's. This link comes with a strong language warning and near-lethal doses of hilarity.

Speaking of strong language, you've never heard Barney like this. Skip if gangsta rap offends you, but this certainly paints the purple dinosaur in a new light.

Speaking of offensive, I watched this news item with mixed feelings. The teacher's defense is valid insofar as there is a difference between the two words he cites. Did he actually use the non-offensive version? I'm not sure. Even if he did, there's an unwritten rule that someone like him can't get away with it. There's also the matter of context. I think he deserved the penalty. I'm not sure if it's a fireable offense, though. What do you think?

Finally, the question of what would happen to MCF if he were locked in the trunk of a moving car is answered.

Sometimes turning back the clock explains everything.

This is only a scale model, but I'm excited to think that every day we're getting closer to the real thing. Hat tip to Rey.

Sketch Swap entertained me for quite some time this afternoon. Draw something and get one in return instantly.

Here's another one of those games in which you must click things in the right order, courtesy of Dosetaker.

Can you navigate a maze armed only with bombs and escape in Trapped 5? It took me about a half hour last night, at which point I learned that I'd missed a secret room. What are the odds?

Here's an interesting analysis of the names of the characters on Lost. In case anyone is wondering what I'm doing on a baby names site, I've been using such sites to research names for my writing class stories. It's handy to find out what names mean or look for names with specific meanings that tie in to what I'm writing about.

You might as well face it; you're addicted to Lost.