Remember the P.S.A.s

I grew up watching action-packed cartoons such as Transformers and G.I. Joe. While many parents protested the violence of these half hour toy commercials in disguise, the cartoons of my childhood offered stories with morals. Sometimes these lessons could be found within the episode, and I learned to have compassion for my enemies as much from my religious upbringing as from the episode of He-man and the Masters of the Universe in which He-man saves his nemesis Skeletor, pulling him from the edge of a cliff. Though Skeletor would have let him fall had the situation been reversed, He-man specifically demonstrates that he's not like his enemy. In case kids missed the message within the plot of the stories, He-man episodes were always capped with characters explaining what was learned “in today's story”. Similarly, G.I. Joe episodes also ended with a life lesson, and topics ranged from what to do during a fire to the importance of wearing a life preserver on a boat. Once educated, the children in these short public service announcements would always thank the soldiers and say “now we know!”, prompting the infamous response, ”And knowing is half the battle!”

I don't think morals and P.S.A.s are as prevalent today. Of course, I haven't seen a weekday cartoon in years and when I do watch a Saturday morning show, it's usually on tape hours later, fast forwarding through the commercials. One to Grow On, featuring lessons from 80s icons such as Mr. T or Michael J. Fox only lasted five years, but those P.S.A.s are forever etched in the memories of the kids who grew up watching them. The only comparable equivalent is The More You Know, segments that have been airing during prime time shows since 1989. Both spots originated on NBC, and a generation that grew up watching the former during cartoons found a familiarity in the latter appearing during later programs.

Earlier today, I was telling a friend about Time for Timer, P.S.A.s featuring and odd little character named Timer who looked like Twinkie the Kid had put on a few pounds. The most memorable one for me featured Timer as a cowboy who ”Hanker[ed] for a hunka cheese!” I also vividly recall Timer explaining how to make a frozen treat using juice and an ice tray. I wonder if there are any comparable characters or songs that today's children will carry with them into adulthood, but I know which ones are forever burned into my subconscious. So until next time, remember that only Dummies don't wear seatbelts, you can take a bite out of crime, reading is fundamental, this is your brain on drugs, and only YOU can prevent forest fires.


paRtied ouT

It's been a crazy week juggling work, camera woes, and helping with Rey's going-away party. Some days I've been away from my desk for hours, while other days found me still at work hours after I really should have gone home. In the past two week's there's been a birthday lunch for Rey, the party at work, a going-away lunch, and three going-away dinners. The last of these he skipped since he had a lot to finish packing tonight, and so I gathered with three of our old college friends to watch DVDs and drink beer in his honor, though he himself doesn't drink.

Tomorrow is Friday though today felt like Friday. I can't believe I had two dinners tonight, drank, and watched The 40 Year Old Virgin and Napoleon Dynamite again. We also watched a digital slideshow of my friend's trip to India, which included 97 adorable pictures of his three-year-old daughter with puppies. It really showed how my friends have changed since college, but then they introduced me to Chapelle's Show and reminded me that they're still the same people. It's been an insanely fun and emotional week, and thanks to that last DVD I can't get the phrase, “I'm Wayne Brady, B****!” out of my head. Tomorrow morning is going to be very, very strange and trying. Hopefully my next post will be more coherent.


PBW: Adios, Amigo.

Fourteen years ago, waiting outside an art history class on my first day of college, I noted a skinny kid sitting on the floor furiously drawing the best Spider-man I had ever seen outside of actual comic books. I would have said hello, but his long green trenchcoat and the way he was muttering the lyrics to Lithium to himself made me very nervous. I'd make other friends that first semester, and by my second semester one of them suggested we work on some comic book ideas together, and introduced me to Rey, the aforementioned “scary” artist.

Four years after graduation, when it was time to find a new job, Rey recommended me for a position at the company where he worked, I got in, and I've been there ever since. Somehow, six years elapsed, and now with a wife and two kids, my friend has bought his first house. Unfortunately, New York salaries being as disproportionate as they are to the cost of living, his first house is somewhere in the vast plains of Pennsylvania, near his in-laws. Tomorrow is Rey's official last day at work, but the final days leading up to this milestone constitute tonight's Photo Blog Wednesday.

The past few years, with the exception of Rey, I saw my college buddies once a year, usually for weddings, baby showers, or funerals. His imminent departure was a good reason to get the gang back together last week, and we gathered at a new rib place for laughs old and new.

Once on a camping trip, while the rest of us wanted to stay up late, Rey tried in vain to get some sleep. At one point he woke up, if only partially, and shouted at one of my friends to “pass [him] the blue animation cel.” Irritated by our confusion, he repeated the request, possibly adding the phrase “you fat b*stard!” The next day he had no recollection of the exchange, and denied swearing. For years, “blue animation cel” has been a running joke in our group and at dinner last week, the friend he yelled at presented him with a framed blue animation cel depicting a generic comic book babe, which he's proudly displaying in the second photo.

Today we held a Star Wars®-themed “surprise” party for him in one of our company's conference rooms. The above shot is a spinning light thing that I got for the party, which I tested in my living room last night. My mom thought it looked really cool and ruined video footage of it by saying “Wow, that looks really cool. Are you shooting a movie?” while I was recording. My dad meanwhile started getting anxious, and insisted that it was “enough” and I should turn it off and turn the lights on before the neighbors called the cops and reported a fire, apparently of the spinning technicolor variety.

We set up a mannequin in the center of our conference room with a breathing electronic Darth Vader mask. Fortunately, a coworker dressed identically, sat to the right of the mannequin, and scared a few unsuspecting guests as they arrived.

Knowing something was up, though not the full extent of it, he walked in extra late, to ensure everyone would be waiting in cramped quarters and suffering several false alarms whenever the door opened and it wasn't him.

The cake read “Oh my word!”, one of his catch phrases, and was punctuated with a simple “goodbye”.

Here he is chilling with our live Vader.

And now in a cardboard mask, he tries to summon the Force.

Attendance was excellent, but I don't think I can legally show all these people without their consent, hence the blur.

Hmm, animatronic was this little figure. Talk much and blink did he.

Mesmerizing little talking green Yoda he is.

What mysterious figure could be behind this mask, using the reversible screen on his new working camera that he got today to take a picture of himself?



Photo Bad Luck Tuesday

A person can only withstand so much improbability.

After a year of learning to use a digital camera with my Polaroid PDC 3035, I decided in a fit of hubris to buy a real camera. Actually, it was less spontaneity and more months of friends advising me to get a better model. I've also had a Best Buy® gift card in the amount of $100 from my parents since Christmas chewing a hole in my pocket, and today it finally broke through. As with most MCF stories, the moral varies from “Don't Try” to “If at first you don't succeed, you're MCF.”

After trying several models in the store and pestering Rey for technical advice as I've done for fourteen years, I narrowed my possibilities down to three cameras. While Rey made a wise exit with one of our friends to run errands elsewhere, I continued to deliberate while TheWriteJerry anxiously waited to get food. Finally, I made my decision. I went with an expensive and powerful model, a Canon Powershot S2 IS. It had a 12X optical zoom, and I could read signs on the other side of the store. That blew away my camera's sad 2X digital zoom. With a flip LCD display, 5 Megapixels, Image Stabilization, and countless other features I didn't understand but would learn, I went for it.

I couldn't wait to open it, and I brought it to my desk when I returned to work. It sat next to me while I answered e-mails and worked on several catalog designs that had to be presented early tomorrow. When my work was done by 6:30, it remained unopened. I missed gym last night, and I wasn't about to fall into old habits. The camera would wait until I got home and wait it did. While my dad anxiously asked if I was going to eat dinner any time soon, I busied myself in the living room carefully unpacking my new “toy” and installing the batteries and memory card. Soon I would be using a professional camera. I didn't recognize the familiar giddy feeling at the back of my throat, the surge of ego that always precedes an inevitable disappointment. I flipped the power on, the lens extended about a quarter of an inch, whizzed back and forth in place, and then the camera shut down with three irritated beeps.

What had I done wrong? I double checked everything, this time actually reading the instructions. The batteries were in right. The memory card was in right. I turned it on again, same results. This time I noticed the “E-18” in the lower right corner of the display, and Google™ed it. I found various comments from people with this and other Canon models about the same common error with the lens jamming. In most cases it wasn't serious although forcing it to move could be disastrous. I turned the camera on again and after a stubborn click the lens finally extended. Excited, I checked the LCD display which was blinding white. Was I zoomed in too far? I retracted the lens, and the white regressed to the top portion of the screen. Below it was a purple area, separated by a thick black area. The screen flickered and fuzzed, but never improved. After more research in the booklet and online, I took some photos and uploaded them to my computer in case it was just a display problem. The booklet suggested that sometimes the pictures come out fine. I could actually make out my living room amid the purple monotone with the black line and after consulting online with Rey, I confirmed my suspicions: I had, of course™, purchased a defective camera.

I'm going to take it back tomorrow and hopefully exchange it for a new one. For $400, I should not have encountered problems less than five minutes out of the box, and I don't think it's because of anything I did, beyond existing and having chronic bad luck. If they do give me a new one, I'll take it out in the store and test it. If they don't, then this will be the most expensive month of my life. Will I ever succeed? Will I start taking real pictures for The Nexus? I'm as anxious as anyone to learn the answer to these questions....


M.C.F.A.T. X: The Answers

I see you out there, waiting for the answers to M.C.F.A.T. X, wondering what clever introduction I'll have this week. Will I quote Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men? That never gets old. Perhaps I'll come up with something more obscure, or terse, or simply keep typing until I have a paragraph, perhaps purple monkey dishwasher fill it will nonsense wheep ni ni bong to see if anyone actually reads or sibilant esses simply skips forward past the links to everyone else's answers to read mine. How will I begin? I already have; you just don't know it yet.






Rubi Bayer

Kev Bayer



Crazy Neighbor


Capt. Eucalyptus

And now, my answers:

1) You loved it, but critics hated it, or vice versa. Who's right?
Some people answered this with specific examples, and that's cool. I was mostly thinking in general terms, and find I often disagree with critics. Sometimes I disagree with my friends too, but ultimately ANY form of art is subjective. I know the sort of things I like, and I think that's a problem with most film critics. Everyone has individual tastes, but critics are called upon to review a wide variety of genres. It's hard not to skew toward your personal tastes, and I might give comic book, science fiction, or horror movies higher ratings than most people, and lower ratings to anything with Barbra Streisand, for example. I think critics should specialize. One person should handle comic book movies, another romance, and so on. That will never happen though; Ebert needs to eat.

2) What's the most expensive hobby you've had?
Comic books were my drug for eight years. I started saving my lunch money in high school, buying only a box drink of tea and saving the rest. By the time I was earning money, I was spending about 20 dollars a week, which was a lot of money for a kid back then. I visited my dealer on a regular basis, and even had an arrangement where new books would be pulled from the shelves and saved for me behind the counter. They had a list of my poisons, but I checked the racks anyway in case they missed anything. I used to justify squandering my money to my mom by saying it was an investment, but the truth is I never intended to part with them. I was yanked out of the world I knew, thrust into an unfamiliar Catholic high school away from my friends, my home town, and from girls. I took the train home every day, but new comics day offered an escape. My mom once called me on it too, saying I was using comics to escape reality. My interest did lead to a career in the art field though, and I try not to dwell on the thousands of dollars I spent before the books became too expensive and I felt no one was putting out original stories or decent art anymore. I quit my addiction in 1996 and I've been mostly clean ever since, although in the past year or so I have picked up the occasional trade paperback. Could I have bought a house by now had I invested my money instead, as my mom once posited? I don't know, but I am glad I grew up at a time when comics ranged from 75 cents to $1.50. I've seen books more than twice the most I ever paid now, and without any special printing or gimmick covers.

3) What sports, if any, have you played as part of an organized team? What sports, if any, have you played for fun?
When I was 9 and 10, I tried to play soccer for two years on a local league but, despite my parents' best efforts, I was more interested in the cartoons I was missing on Saturday mornings in the dark ages before we had a VCR. I wasn't very good at it, but I'm happy with the “Dribbling” ribbons and trophies that every player automatically received. With my friends, we played everything from baseball to football to basketball. I was probably best at football and worst at baseball. My neighborhood friends were athletic and 4 or 5 years younger, and one even played basketball on his school's team. While he was dunking, I was lucky if I could get a simple lay-up. My friends tried to teach me and I did improve and learn things, like how to tell when someone was going to fake right and then run left. Of course there weren't many 5'6” Italian guys on my college basketball team, so I had to content myself with being a pep band geek.

4) What would you do if you had a pet monkey?
I would command him to destroy all my enemies swiftly and without mercy, and then bring me women, video games, and comic books. I'm kidding. Maybe. I probably would have him retrieve and deliver things for me, maybe maximize my time at the office and allow me to stay at my desk longer and get stuff done. While my health might theoretically decline from lack of exercise, being more efficient during the day would mean leaving on time and getting in a better workout at the gym. And with my rock hard abs, I'd be irresistible to all the women my monkey brought me, were I not completely kidding in my first sentence. I've said too much. I better move on and answer the last question swiftly and without mercy.

5) Which is better: extreme heat or extreme cold?
This is kind of a trick question since neither extreme is good but with these choices, I'd say extreme cold is better.


Phantasmic Links 3.26.06

Well, after watching The 40 Year Old Virgin, I'm fairly certain Steve Carell may in fact read this blog and owe me royalties. Granted, some key details were changed. Among other things, I'm not 40, I don't work in an electronics store, and I drive a car rather than a bicycle. But when I saw Carell marching around a room full of action figures playing a Baritone horn, or arguing with Catherine Keener about how hard it is for him to grow up and deal with change, it was pretty scary. His character even spent a lot of time on the internet, playing online poker, although my time on the computer focuses on other things, such as gathering this week's PHANTASMIC LINKS:

Orbox B is 30 levels of brain bouncing fun! The final board code is “orb003”, but the real fun is everything in between.

Observe the travels of a rubber duck.

”Who Wants to be a Superhero is reality television made for people like me. Hat tip to TVGoddess

Do you have what it takes to survive the Murloc RPG? It's a great blend of humor and strategy.

Final Fantasy comes to life, and I tip my hat to Rey

Google Idol pits lip-synching fools with webcams against one another, and the real winner is the viewers.

The Fancy Pants Adventure turns doodles into side-scrolling fun, with five hidden trophies, a hidden ability, and more, including the ability to change the color of those fancy pants.

Not surprisingly, I got 19 out of 20 on this Superhero or Household Cleaner Quiz. Hat tip to Sarcasmo

Hapland 3 is finally here!



Answer in Song

Even though I've done a version of this music meme before, time, slightly different questions, and a different band will yield different answers. It surfaced most recently at Xtine's, and requires participants to answer several questions using only song titles, from any one band. Last time I chose Alice in Chains, but tonight I'm going to go with an old favorite, Pearl Jam:

1. Are you male or female?

2. Describe yourself:

3. How do some people feel about you:

4. How do you feel about yourself:

5. Describe your ex-girlfriend(s):
All Those Yesterdays

6. Describe your current significant other (-ish):

7. Describe where you want to be:
State of Love and Trust

8. Describe how you live:

9. Describe how you love:

10. What would you ask for if you had just one wish:

11. Share a few words of wisdom:
Keep on Rockin' in The Free World

12. Now say goodbye:
Off He Goes



M is for MCF

A is for appetite.

B is for Bertucci's

C is for conversation.

D is for date.

E is for evening.

F is for fun.

G is for garlic.

H is for hero.

I is for ideals.

J is for jazz.

K is for knives

L is for legion.

M is for MCF

N is for Natalie

O is for oppression.

P is for pasta.

Q is for questions.

R is for ravioli.

S is for steal.

T is for two.

U is for underground.

V is for Vendetta.

W is for Weaving.

X is for xenophobia.

Y is for yawn.

Z is for Zzzzzzzzzz......



I first heard James Blunt's “You're Beautiful” on an episode of Smallville, during the 4,737th soulful conversation in the barn between Tom Welling and Kristen Kreuk. Needless to say, the circumstances, combined with the falsetto repetitious chorus, did little to impress me. Yet two days ago, I defended the song to a friend based solely on lyrics. He scoffed, citing the example of Bob Dylan as a skilled lyricist and terrible singer. He argued that music should SOUND good, and the words shouldn't matter.

I think I've shared his philosophy at times. Plenty of times when feeling depressed or angry or unmotivated in my youth, bands like Nirvana, White Zombie and Korn offered a remedy. I liked the driving beat and heavily distorted electric guitar, and it wasn't all that important to know what the words were. When I was in a serious relationship, my tastes shifted and I found myself in love and loving everything from Jewel to Dave Matthews to Sarah McLachlan, with occasional dips into Chumbawamba. My ex-girlfriend can be credited(blamed?) for this shift in taste, as she'd often give me messages like my ”love [was] better than ice cream” in the form of mix tapes. And of course my favorite band Pearl Jam offered the perfect range of songs for any mood, whether I wanted driving, angry and incomprehensible, or bittersweet, haunting and beautiful.

Blunt's song comes on the radio often enough during my commute that I've started tuning in to his high pitched mournful cries and distinguishing what he's singing about. Once I had the story, a tale of a man who catches a fleeting glimpse of a woman on the subway and makes a brief connection before she leaves forever with another man, I was hooked. It's powerfully romantic, and I've always been drawn to songs of angst and longing. In college, I'd sometimes immerse myself in ”Something I can Never Have” by Nine Inch Nails whenever I caught a bad case of unrequited love. The man in “You're Beautiful” is so moved by this woman he only saw for a moment, will never forget, and will probably never see again, that he writes a song.

Of course, romance aside, there is the obvious issue of infatuation, and basing attraction solely on the physical. I've always struggled with this aspect myself, both in how I perceive women and how I perceive myself. For various reasons, mostly for the jokes, a lot of old photos of myself have surfaced from various college buddies this week. I was always shy and self-conscious about my appearance, and in college knew with certainty that at 165 pounds I was gross and overweight to the opposite sex. Looking at those photos now at a rounder 198 pounds a decade later, I'm dangerously close to the sin of egotism in thinking how GOOD I looked back then. Granted, I had reached 212 a month ago before I recognized that I had a problem and set about correcting it, but I still have a long way to go. I doubt I'll ever look as good as I did in college, and I didn't even know I looked good at the time. But therein lies the problem of “love at first sight” and basing attraction on appearance. We all get older, and there's only so much we can do to retain how we look. Physical change is inevitable, which means I should work harder to relax my own “standards”.

What is nice about the song beyond the romantic painting of a love that will never be, is the artistic aspect. In Elizabethtown, Orlando Bloom's character describes himself as a collector of “last looks”, the expressions people display when they believe they'll never see him again. Like the protagonist in Blunt's song, I've collected dozens of beautiful faces over the years. Memory is perhaps the greatest power we possess as human beings, and possibly the one justification for initial physical attraction. When we fall in love, marry, and grow old with someone, no matter what changes on the outside we'll always retain the mental picture of what we looked like when we first met, and that's truly beautiful.


PBW: Best in Philly

”Turn on your damn cell phone! Listen, I'm goin' for the best Philly cheese steak--in PHILLY.

So came the strange voice mail from a coworker when I checked my cell phone late Saturday night. The full message was that he was picking up his wife at the airport in Philadelphia, stopping at Pat's, a place he'd researched, and he was inviting me and another friend from work on a road trip. And so this past Sunday, I finally knew where I would take pictures for this week's Photo Blog Wednesday:

Leaving NY via the Verrazano.

A downed tree and a farm near a rest stop off the NJ Turnpike.

Phone booths! A dying breed in New York...

Waiting for my friend's wife on the exit ramp, like everyone else avoiding parking fees.

Look! A plane!

Philly on the horizon.

A mural across the street from the steak place.

There were rules to ordering but when we succeeded, we truly enjoyed some great sandwiches.

The competition across the way was flashier, but we heard the food wasn't as good as Pat's, which has been there since the 1930s.

On the way back we stopped at a reststop where my friend paid 51 cents to crush a penny. In high school we used to do stuff like that for free using train tracks and a train.

The lights of the bridge look funky in a moving car as we finally get back to our home state.




Graduation is a momentous rite of passage, a welcome conclusion to a long and arduous journey often followed by an unexpected void. It was such a relief to be free of high school, of the stress of homework and the six three-hour comprehensive exams that capped every year. Those were the worst three days. Each day we'd have two tests, three hours apiece, and then with no time to recover I'd have the books out on the train ride home studying for the tests the next day. My brain was FRIED after that. It was so nice to do NOTHING all Summer. College was actually easier than high school for me, probably because I majored in art. Electives outside of my computer and illustration classes included theology, philosophy, and English. One semester I took a class in movie soundtracks. I liked the English classes the best, especially the ones that required a lot of writing as well. One professor had us record a daily journal, writing about the stories we read, the events in our lives, and sometimes both. In a way, I suppose those sheets of looseleaf were a prototype for what I now do online.

Graduating from college was an odd experience, since I was already out of school in a way. My last semester was a full internship working at a publisher, returning to campus only once or twice to give my professors an update about what I was learning. The day of the actual ceremony, I'd already gotten out of the routine of going to classes and seeing my friends everyday, and into the routine of sitting in a cubicle for eight hours. Yet that event marked the end of another chapter of my life, and true freedom from homework. In high school, the three hours between getting home and watching television were filled with homework, and sometimes with the more difficult courses I found my homework time bleeding into prime time. In college, I spent a lot of late nights in the computer lab, since I didn't have one at home and it was the only place to get my work done. Other nights I'd simply draw or hang with my friends. When I started working though, and the day ENDED at five, it was a tough concept to wrap my mind around. Coworkers would sometimes remind me to leave. I worked five minutes from home, I still didn't have a computer back in 1996, and at the time I still didn't have a girlfriend. I had absolutely nothing to do from 5PM to 8PM when my shows started. Some days I'd actually work on jigsaw puzzles.

These days my problem isn't too much free time, contrary to appearances. If anything, it seems like there aren't enough hours in the day to get everything done. Every night I go to the gym, some nights earlier than others when my workload is under control, and most nights I get home around 8PM. It's nice to not have homework, when my main concern is catching my favorite shows, watching a Netflix rental, and writing a blog entry. Ten weeks ago, I took on something more. Through my job I had an opportunity to take a free writing class, and so I engaged in a 10-week Science Fiction workshop. I didn't know what to expect, if I could handle it and fit it into my schedule, and how it would affect the things I liked to do. I also wasn't sure of my level as a writer since it's not something I've ever focused on outside the internet.

The course proved challenging. Each week we had a lecture to read as well as a short story. The works of various authors were used to illustrate lessons in exposition, dialogue, characters, worldbuilding and more. We also had weekly homework assignments, usually in the range of 500-1000 characters in length. Sometimes we had to describe a scene, other times a conversation. The official day of the class was Tuesday but, being online, we could log in and post comments and assignments any time. I did as much reading as I could during the week, using the weekends to catch up and tackle the writing assignments. In addition to our weekly homework, every student had two opportunities to post a story for the entire class to critique. There was quite a range in abilities, from dabbling amateurs like myself ,to professionals brushing up, to people I tried really hard to say nice things about. Last Tuesday was the last lecture, on marketing stories, and offered a whirlwind of information about approaching publishers, submitting manuscripts, formatting, pay information, legal copyrighting, and much more. Today was the deadline for the last assignment, simply researching possible publications to send work to, and as of 1AM last night I completed it. Whew.

It's weird; I'm basically done, but there's no ceremony. The teacher will continue to check the site for another week to answer any lingering questions and comment on any last minute assignments, and my access will last another two weeks. It's a relief to have the time back, to not come home and HAVE to read something, or take vacation day to write something as I did once or twice. Still, the course generated a LOT of good story ideas and, more importantly, explored the ground work of HOW stories are formed. I don't deny that a lot of television shows, especially science fiction series, seem to recycle plots. But it is possible in a sort of reverse engineering that different writers went through the same thought processes. It is by intent that the “science” preceeds the “fiction”. Our first week we had to read articles on REAL scientific developments, and then posit story ideas from there.

Now that I've “graduated”, will I write a novel? I don't think I'm at that level yet, but there are a lot of venues to pitch short stories so I might develop some of the ideas I played with in the class, and submit them to a few places. I have nothing to lose. I just hope I can maintain the motivation outside of a structure. The one consistent tendency after any graduation has been extended vegetation. I NEED deadlines, as much as they stress me out. If I'm free to do nothing, I will take the path of least resistance. Probably the best solution is to assign deadlines to myself, and stick with them. If I can develop good habits like running three miles a day or writing for this blog seven days a week, I can take the hours I spent on my class on weekends and use those to write a few thousand words each week.


M.C.F.A.T. Volume X

Welcome to the rated X version of the Mysterious Cloaked Figure's Astonishing Test! I have to say, I never thought this blog would ever resort to such a cheap ratings--what? X means 10 in Roman numerals? I see. Right then, on to the questions:

1) You loved it, but critics hated it, or vice versa. Who’s right?

2) What’s the most expensive hobby you’ve had?

3) What sports, if any, have you played as part of an organized team? What sports, if any, have you played for fun?

4) What would you do if you had a pet monkey?

5) Which is better: extreme heat or extreme cold?

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 3.19.06

In the thoroughly enjoyable film Elizabethtown, the lovely Kirsten Dunst's character advises Orlando Bloom's character to take a road trip, citing it as one of those things everyone should do at least once in life. Another thing people must do is enjoy a real Philly cheese steak IN Philadelphia. Today I unexpectedly did BOTH, and I'll have photos up in a few days. In the meantime, here are this week's PHANTASMIC LINKS:

Sometimes, it doesn't take much for packaging to really stand out, contrary to popular belief.

I think in my earliest academic days, I may have been guilty of this sort of book report. Of course in my earliest academic days, we didn't have Flash let alone the internet, and data was stored on tape cassettes.

The Streaking Game is one I'll never play in real life, and all the world breathes a collective sigh of relief.

Finally, the religious affiliations of comic book characters have been gathered in one page. Even superheroes have only one pseudo-Scientologist in their ranks, which is more than we can say for real-life celebrities.

Cam you navigate through all thirty levels of Roboclaw?

LEGO® Worldbuilder is a very cool virtual way to play with the bricks.

You Must love Jaws! Hat tip to Sarcasmo.

El Complo is yet another of those fun “click in the right order” games that we love so much. Ganaste!



Mysteries of Life

Why is my left thumb a quarter of an inch shorter than my right thumb?

I'm a cat person. Why have I had a 3'x2' poster of Rin Tin Tin on my wall for most of my life?

Why does my dad occasionally offer advice like, “Hard candy makes saliva.” Did science classes in the ‘30s and ‘40s not cover glands?

Whatever happened to Neil from Novelhead?

If Bill Paxton shook hands with Bill Pullman, would they implode?

What are women thinking?

Where is Dana Carvey? Oh wait, I found him.

Why do I have a constant five o'clock shadow, no matter what kind of razor I use?

Would anyone in the ‘90s really want to win a date with Rob Liefeld?

How do cats know from inside a sealed house with windows closed when another animal is outside, frantically running through five rooms to the precise window that will offer a view of the invader?

Is Dick Clark an immortal? What of Leslie Nielsen? Jack Palance? Abe Vigoda? Bea Arthur? Has Clark always looked young? Has Arthur always looked old?

Do many people read my site on the weekend?

What is the definitive origin of the name, ”Pearl Jam”?

Why are there so many androgynous names? Were parents lazy back in the day?

What do I look like?

Is that the only song that can be played on bagpipes? You know the one I mean...

Why did I think interviewing a baby would cause a huge traffic spike?

Why can't time drag when I'm having fun and fly when I'm not?

Is it possible to write a post like this and not mention the mystery of why hot dogs come packs of 10 ands buns come in packs of 8?


Observations from a Park Bench

Has anyone seen the American Express commercial featuring Manoj Night Shyamalan? In it, the director waits in a crowded café simply observing the odd people and events around him, fueling his story ideas with the quirks of real life. Walking in to town for lunch on this fine brisk day, I observed some characters as well.

I passed by ol' Willie setting down his newspaper on a park bench and unwrapping his sandwich. I don't know if that's his name, but when I see people regularly without actually meeting them, I tend to assign them names. Come to think of it, the learning disabled mailroom guy with the blinking red light on his cart in my office was also “Willie” in my mind, as many times as people said his name was “Charlie”. Ol' Willie might not be all that old, but with his long white mane, Gandalf-like beard, and Stan Lee sunglasses, who can tell? Any time of year, for the past six years I've been at my company, a walk into town at lunch guarantees an Ol' Willie sighting.

In the supermarket where I picked up a slamming slice of pizza, an iced tea, and a side of fries, I went to the register of Gertrude, a kindly old German woman with a hint of an accent and a staple of the establishment. Again, I'm assigning a name although in hindsight I'm sure I could have checked her name tag. She's nice if slower than the other clerks, but I'm a patient man. After her third or seventh unsuccessful attempt to scan a nonexistent barcode on the bottom of an aluminum pizza plate, she wandered away with my lunch, fortunately stopped by a younger manager who told her to “just punch in the hot food combo”.

As I sat on a bench outside enjoying my hot slice of pizza, I marveled at my ability to get tomato sauce on my new jeans even holding a dish under my food. The fact that I myself was a quirky character in someone else's lunch story didn't keep me from continuing my observations. Like clockwork, the blind or partially blind pedestrian soon crossed my path with her wonder dog, his claws clicking on the stones as he walked gingerly over my feet, sniffing in my vicinity once before loyally leading his mistress onward. I'm not a dog person, but that is one GOOD dog. I've seen the woman in local eateries with the dog sitting at attention, not bothering anyone or trying to take food.

Suddenly, the silence was broken by the unmistakable gibberish and folderol of Shaggy's “It Wasn't Me.” I looked up from my cold fries to see a large SUV stopped before the pedestrian crosswalk. At the wheel was a conspicuously white lawyer/businessman with expensive shades and a suit to match his rolling boom box. I wondered what Jeremy Piven was up to before he drove onward, shooting a dirty look at the pedestrians that dared break his rhythm.

A mother stopped in front of me, turning to usher on her twin red-haired girls in matching green dresses and orange caps. As a woman in a black truck waited for the trio to cross in front of them, I heard the mother tell her children, “It's okay if people wait for us.”

As I sipped the last of my tea, I realized overladen-backpack-courier-lady, another neighborhood regular, wasn't going to show. I got up and took the long, leisurely way back to work, passing other-creepy-guy-sitting-on-a-bench-watching-people. Of course we both avoided eye contact. Finally, I sprinted across the main road back to my building, narrowly avoiding ”If I hit you it's because you're too slow”-turning-guy. I paused in the parking lot by the four traffic cones that, for the last three weeks, have blocked four spaces under a tree with a broken branch hanging by some other branches. Getting a ladder or a long stick or a rope seems like a good idea to me, but our maintenance staff's plan of blocking off the spaces and waiting for the wind or gravity to take care of it may yet pay off. I deliberately stood shaking my head, hoping people looking out of windows in the building would register my incredulity and realize the illogic of their ways. Sometimes we sleepwalk through this world, and a lot of problems can be solved if we'd just stop to look at each other.



As I drove to work yesterday morning, I noticed a slight but not serious increase in traffic as I got closer to the Long Island Expressway. I wasn't paying much attention because, overhead, a black helicopter with yellow markings I couldn't make out was hovering. I wasn't sure if it was a news chopper or something military; it was too far away. It was odd to see something perfectly still in midair. When I reached the intersection of the road I was on and the L.I.E., I noted several police cars blocking various exits as well as an ambulance on standby. Glancing down from the overpass I was on, I noticed the traffic was severely backed up on one side while the other side was completely empty. As I reached the other side, another ambulance peeled out from the service road and cut in ahead of me. I flipped on 1010WINS for more information, learning how many exits were blocked due to a “serious accident”, but nothing more.

I forgot about it until tonight in gym, when I saw footage on the news of a mangled Audi under a truck, as well as actual footage of the accident taken by an automatic camera on a bus. Later I'd learn the whole story, that the truck, overburdened, swerved across several lanes into the HOV lane in front of the Audi and a charter bus with parents, schoolchildren, and that aforementioned camera slammed into the Audi, shoving it under the truck. Miraculously the driver of the car SURVIVED. Ironically, in researching this incident I found a post in an automotive forum from several years ago, when he had a puncture in his fuel cell.

Trucks are the worst part of the L.I.E. Seeing how mangled the car was is a testament to an Audi's durability, or the driver's good fortune. Whenever possible I try to take parkways, but there are times where the places I'm going, various gigs in Brooklyn, can't be reached any other way. The visibility is terrible and many is the time I've found myself surrounded on 3 or 4 sides by tractor trailers, literally boxed in. One popped tire or drowsy driver or displaced load, and I'd be crushed.

Trucks are a necessity. Items need to be moved from point A to point B all across this country. Perhaps they need a dedicated lane, or perhaps even their own expressway, which is of course impossible. There's no easy solution. All we can do is watch the trucks or go another route. Perhaps I just need something more durable...


PBW: Seasons Crossing

I feel like Spring is almost upon us. I've been fighting all Winter, going to the beach on any and all unseasonably warm days. The shots for today's Photo Blog Wednesday were taken back on December 30th, and show a beach and park on the verge of Winter. My walk that day also took me to a train, an apt metaphor for any journey be it seasonal or ambulatory.



"No relation."

Fans of Tiny Toons might recall the tagline Babs and Buster Bunny used when introducing themselves. Despite their shared last name and physical resemblance to each other as well as Bugs Bunny, there was no familial connection and they were always particular to add “no relation”. After all, there was an obvious attraction between the two, so they had to be clear nothing untoward was occurring. Let's examine some other characters who aren't related:

1) Dr. Bob Kelso of Scrubs and Michael Kelso of That ‘70s Show
Despite frequent references to his son, it's not likely that Dr. Kelso's son is in fact Kelso. For one thing, Dr. Kelso often alludes to his son being gay, while Kelso is a notorious ladies man. For another, Kelso has a brother while Dr. Kelso has never mentioned any other children. Finally, Scrubs is set in the present day while That ‘70s Show is, not surprisingly, set in the ‘70s. A teen in the ‘70s would be in his 40s by now, too old to be the doctor's son and too young to be the doctor himself. Whether or not they might be cousins is a mystery for another day....

2) Alex P. Keaton of Family Ties and Michael Keaton
Believe it or not, this actually confused me for a time when I was a kid since the man who played Alex Keaton's dad, Michael Gross, shared a first name with the actor. Eventually I would realize Michael Keaton was not Alex P. Keaton's father, and that neither were related to Buster Keaton.

3) Principal Seymour Skinner of The Simpsons and Assistant Director Walter Skinner of The X-files.
While both are authority figures in a school and the FBI respectively, the former is animated and thus can't be family...can he?

4) Buffy Summers of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Scott & Alex Summers of The X-men.
While the character Buffy started out as an only child and later gained a younger sister through mystical means, no reference has ever been made to brothers. Scott and Alex were mutants, orphaned at a young age. Alex was raised by a foster family while Scott grew up in an orphanage. Neither had a sister, although they may have another brother besides each other.

5) Dave Rhodes and Jim Rhodes, A.K.A. War Machine.
One blogs while the other fights crime in a suit of armor. Neither have ever been seen in the same place at the same time. Granted, the complexions don't match, but it could all be part of an elaborate ruse. He is, after all, an actor...

6) Mike Novick of 24 and Jerry Novick.
I'm actually not sure of this one. I've never met J-No's brother and, for all I know, he very well could be a fictitious White House Chief of Staff.


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

Thanks to everyone to participated in the Mysterious Cloaked Figure's Astonishing Test, Volume 9!


Paul, just this guy, you know?



Kev Bayer

Crazy Neighbor




And here are my answers:

1) From any current television series, who is the last character you'd want to see killed off? Who's the first?
If you want to avoid possible 24 spoilers, skip to the next answer. My answers are different than they would have been when I first thought up this question, although both my answers are from that show. While Jack is the easy answer, as much as they've teased and even faked, I expect him to last as long as the show does. After Jack, Tony is probably the last character I'd want to see killed off. They've offed so many major characters already this season. While I dislike the current President on the show, I'm starting to see potential for character growth. After tonight's episode, the death I'm most looking forward to is Henderson's, for reasons I won't spoil.

2) What are the best and worst financial investments a person could make?
Some say a house or land are the best, since they go up in value. Getting the money to afford them in the first place is the hard part. The worst thing to do would be to leave money in an interest bearing checking account. I remember when I got like 2% when I started my checking account, and now it's some ridiculous decimal like .03%. It depends on the bank too; I believe my savings account in a credit union earns 2%. It might be less, but I know it's at least a whole number. An accountant friend once told me that earnings are proportionate to risk. CD's earn higher interest than a savings account, with not much more risk, but stocks or mutual funds, which are collections of stocks, earn even more money, but there is a risk of losing money. I guess the best feasible investment is a 401K plan using mutual funds.

3) Think of the worst superpower you could have, either from an existing character or one you make up, and explain how you would learn to live with it.
The worst power to have would be one of improbability, of having the most unlikely things guaranteed to happen to me. Eventually, when bad luck became the norm however, then good luck would become more improbable and my powers would create a shift. Like real life, it would have its ups and downs. Blogging would be a good way to deal with it.

4) What's the worst dating experience you've ever had?
In college there was a cute, slightly quirky girl in one of my art classes that caught my interest, but I wasn't sure how to pursue her. After months of pining, Rey and the rest of my friends came to the rescue with a plan. He set up a group outing, including her, to travel to Manhattan after school for the tree lighting ceremony at Rockefeller Center. Conveniently, while everyone agreed initially, all my friends “couldn't make it” at the last minute, leaving only the girl and myself. She was a little hesitant when I asked if she still wanted to go, but Rey hung around to prompt us both and soon we were walking to the subway. My sense of direction in the city was pathetic. I didn't want to admit it since I was a self-conscious Long Island boy leading a Queens girl, so I maintained the front that we were heading in the right direction. It was actually nice walking and talking to her about everything from school to what we planned to do in our upcoming final semester. I still hadn't chosen an internship, and I told her I didn't want to copy Rey and apply at the same studio he'd found. She didn't think there would be anything wrong with it. Ultimately I chose a publisher five minutes from my house where I would work for another four years after graduation and meet my first real girlfriend. Ironically, my next job would be at a company where Rey worked, thanks to his recommendation. As for my date, after failed attempts to find either the tree or the place where she wanted to eat, Gray's Papaya, we took the subway back to Queens. Her mom picked us up at the station and dropped me off at my car on campus. A month later I'd try to invite her to a party at a friend's house unsuccessfully. She gave me what I call a “broccoli face”, the squinched up expression and violent head shake a child makes when faced with vegetables. A few months after that during my internship, I'd discover on a return visit to school that she'd taken up with one of my friends. He wasn't a close friend, but a dude I talked comic books with sometimes, someone with a similar personality to my own. I'm not sure when their relationship began and I sometimes feel guilty wondering if they were together when I asked her out. I suppose this is really the story of her worst date, but I still cringe thinking about how things could have gone differently that night had I asked for directions, or done prior research. What did I do before the internet? I went out woefully unprepared.

5) Would you ever appear on television? In what capacity? Sitcom star? Dramatic actor? Talk or game show host? Reality contestant?
“He was a quiet lad...,” said neighbors. Kidding. Actually, I wouldn't mind being on a game show requiring intellect, like Jeopardy or Millionaire. I wonder how I would handle the pressure? It's one thing to rattle off answers in my living room, but an audience could be problematic. My only hope would be my old concert trick. I never had a problem with stage fright on the stage, because the lights were so bright I never saw the crowd. Hopefully a game show would offer the same conditions.

Tune in next week for the next exciting M.C.F.A.T.!


Phantasmic Links 3.12.06

I don't want to go to work tomorrow. I don't want to be Office Drone Guy. I got away from that guy this weekend. Anyone want to volunteer to go to my job for me? Meanwhile, here are this week's PHANTASMIC LINKS:

Unlike some networks, FOX knows how to use the internet as a marketing tool.

Comic book urban legends are revealed! I couldn't believe that “Leopard” one was real...

When I dance, I look something like this.

Flow may be a clone of the first level of the upcoming Spore, but it's still a lot of fun and the rules are fairly simple. If you get stuck, hit the “`” key and then you can use the up or down arrows to surface or dive, “f” to add food, and “g” to grow your organism. But you didn't hear those cheat codes from me...

Though I never really watched the show, the online version of Deal or No Deal quickly held my attention this week.

Ever feel like you've just lost your marbles?

It's a juggling robot made of LEGO!

Look at two photos. Click your favorite. Repeat as needed.

With LED spokes, you could totally take your bike off some sweet jumps.

I could totally beat these guys in a Super Mario Bros. race; I just don't want to.

It's the motherload of X3 photos, some slightly spoilerific, courtesy of Sean.

Finally, how well do you know MCF? Hat tip to Jamie Dawn for the quiz site, which is sure to make some rounds in this corner of the blogosphere.



Should we talk about the weather?

When I was a kid, I don't think I paid much attention to seasons or the weather unless it was raining. Any other time, even in snow, I'd be outside playing, oblivious to clock and calendar. As I got older, especially once I started driving, I began to pay more attention, especially when it might affect a parade. Typically, whenever I've had to play outside in March, I've encountered everything from freezing rain to simply freezing, both of which are murder on both instrument and musician. Cold metal leads to flat notes, while rain results in gurgling sounds.

The last few years, since I started keeping track, I've noticed a trend in the seasons. I've seen snow in March and even April. I've enjoyed warm weather as late as November. Some might consider global warming while others might see it as simply a shift. I think it may be a combination of the two. Our calendar approximates the time it takes to orbit the sun, but if there's a discrepancy of even a few seconds each year, eventually a shift will occur. This year we didn't have serious snow until February, with only one other minor snow fall since that dumped more ice than anything else.

The late start of the snow concerned me. Would there be snow in the Spring? It's still a possibility, but this past week has shown increasing temperatures in the 40s and even 50s. Yesterday I wore a jacket that ended up on my front seat by the time I reached my car, and though it was dark when I returned home I still had no need of it. At the beginning of the week, I still found myself blasting the heat in my car for my commute home. And while every year at this time I shiver and freeze at today's parade, seeking shelter in the lobby of a nearby seminary until it's time to start walking, today I could stay outside, bask in the sunlight, and could probably have left my jacket in the car once more.

So is weather random? Are the shifts the result of global warming or simply a progression of the calendar? As much as these questions increase my focus on the conditions outside, the same can be said for broadcast news. When I was a kid, I didn't watch the news all that often, but I don't recall logos being designed every time it snowed, or storms assigned names like “SNOWMAGEDDON 2006!!” or “FROSTAPALOOZA!!” The news sensationalizes it so much, that I never know if it's going to be as bad as they say. The one major storm we did have this year fooled me; I was certain the forecast was blown out of proportion. Mostly now I go by Weather.com if I'm near a computer, 1010 WINS if I'm on the road, and looking out a window or going outside if I simply feel like living. In simpler times, that's what people did. Sometimes you just need to go out for yourself and determine, as did Bono, whether or not ”It's a Beautiful Day.”


I call myself a musician...

...but I rarely practice. Ask any professional, and he or she will tell you that twenty minutes to a half hour minimum is required to stay in shape. It's true whether you play brass, strings, or sing. Yet somehow I've managed to get by over the years and while I played every day in school, once I graduated college my playing was relegated to weekend gigs, much to my father's chagrin.

I am a Baritone Horn player, like my father before me. I started in the fourth grade, an eyeblink of twenty-one years ago. When my dad finished high school he stopped playing, and didn't start up again until decades later when my mom gave a horn to him for their first anniversary. I think he's always regretted the time he lost, and realizes he could have been a lot better if he stayed with it. He never missed a rehearsal, and my mom occasionally still brings up the fact that he went to one the night after I was born, while she was still in the hospital. Both he and my teachers were very good at keeping me on the path of practice, though I resisted in fourth and fifth grade. It wasn't until I started getting better, when it felt natural, that it became truly enjoyable to me.

Unlike my dad, I didn't stop playing after high school and in fact earned a half scholarship by playing in my university pep band. Getting into all the basketball games for free as well has cutting tuition costs in half truly made it all worth it. But, after college, when I started spending 40 or more hours a week in an office, I didn't feel like picking the instrument up outside of weekends. In my early twenties, this led to a lot of clashes with my dad who would eventually grumble that I was “going to sound like hell” on gigs and only embarrass myself. Yet in the regular season, from March to November, when I only played on weekends, I was still as strong as ever. Putting the horn away for a few months every Winter didn't damage me as much as my dad feared. I'd still remember all the songs, without reading music, and while my endurance was low the first few jobs I could still get most of the notes out, improving as the year went on. Would I be a lot better if I rehearsed every day? Absolutely. But, treating it as a hobby and a way to make some extra cash, and not as my career, I've reached a state of “good enough.” After a few years of seeing me in action after a few months of inactivity, my dad finally accepted that I could handle the time off.

Tomorrow will be the first official parade of the year, an early celebration of St. Patrick's Day out in Eastern Long Island. While my dad has mellowed about the subject, he's not immune to the occasional reminders and suggestions. Last weekend I heard: “Do you think you should practice? You haven't played since November. The valves might be sticking. Do you think you should play a few notes? Next week we're going to play. Are you going to be in shape? Are you listening?” Immaturely, I completely ignored things like this the first few times and pretended not to hear, but that only led to the 76- year-old repeating his inquiries. I knew I was taking a vacation day today, so I half agreed last weekend that I would in fact play a few notes. I wasn't sure at the time if I was going to keep that promise.

As I mentioned yesterday, we noticed a lump on my dad's shoulder the size of a golf or ping pong ball. It's been hurting him all week, but yesterday it was very noticeable even through a shirt. It looked fleshy and didn't seem cancerous to my untrained eye, but I advised him to see a doctor as soon as possible. He shrugged it off but after enough questions from me last night trying to diagnose it on the internet, perhaps he wondered if he should be concerned. Today I had planned to do some more shopping but when my parents announced that they were heading down the road to see a doctor, I knew it might be serious. My dad looked worried. Of course, before I even got up this morning, he had already done more work on the car of one of his deceased friends, and washed his own car. He just didn't use the bad arm as much. My dad doesn’t know how to rest.

Waiting when you don't know what will happen is a scary thing. I was sure it was just some buildup of fluid or cartilage, perhaps leaked from a fracture, and nothing that couldn't be drained or removed easily. As one hour bled into a second, I needed something to distract me, and the next thing I knew I was belting out various Italian and Irish tunes. Twenty minutes in to my rehearsal, I heard a key in the door as my folks finally returned. It wasn't cancer, simply some fat deposit that prescribed antibiotics might take care of, but if it returned would require minor surgery. I was relieved to know that he was going to be all right, and he was relieved to hear I could still play. For his benefit, I continued on for another twenty minutes before I left to go shopping and when I finished, he went downstairs to practice as well. After the lapse in his youth, he's stuck with it every day for over thirty years. Someday, I hope I have that kind of time and dedication.


Stubbornness and Sense of Self

Ask me what it's like to deal with stubborn or frugal people, and I'll probably recount a tale about my parents. Perhaps I'll talk about my mom going to three supermarkets to find the right price for produce, and never buying anything that isn't on sale or is higher than what she thinks it's worth, even when we need it. My dad will buy things when he needs them, sometimes picking up the first thing he sees, and my childhood is filled with “don't tell your mother” purchases that she would always discover, subsequently interrogating us. My dad is especially stubborn when it comes to health issues. Though he's complained of shoulder pain for days, he insists that working on a friend's car yesterday has nothing to do with it. He also doesn't think it odd that we noticed a protrusion, about the size of a golf ball, clearly visible under his shirt on top of his left shoulder. It only hurts when he moves it a certain way, so he just won't move that way.

Of course, any of my close friends reading this may already be formulating a comment about apples and trees. I remember the time I ignored internal bleeding for a few weeks, hoping it would just go away, and ended up getting major surgery and missing work for a month. When it comes to fashion, my worst inherited traits form like Voltron and hold me back. I'll insist a shirt bought in a sporting good store or worse, a dollar store, is just as good as any name brand department store. I'll even defend to the death any of my black jeans and shirts that have faded to a seventy percent gray.

Since college, my friends have often made attempts to get me to update my wardrobe. Rarely I would cave, buying a shirt here and there, or simply incorporating presents from relatives into the rotation. A new dress shirt is nice, but with faded black jeans and sneakers it can go to waste. I imagine dealing with me can be as frustrating to people as dealing with my folks can be for me. Yet in fourteen years, my friend Rey has never given up, even though I listen to a fraction of his advice, often much later, and sometimes too late. I'm trying not to think about the fact that, by the end of this month, he and his family will be relocating to the plains of middle Pennsylvania, a land of affordable housing where his children will find better schools than in New York and his in-laws will be near. Working with a fellow member of our old college crew for the last six years has been fun, and it will definitely be a different environment after he's gone. I hate change of any kind, an artifact of my stubbornness, and if I had things my way I'd still be in college with all my friends, drawing and talking about comics. The process of change is rough, but often is followed by a settling into a new and better norm that would not otherwise have been attained. Gain occurs when loss makes room.

After hearing my Dominican buddy try to speak my language and call me a “Freaking stunad!” an incalculable number of times, I eventually cave and try his suggestions. With his time in NY now dwindling, we went shopping at lunch today, and breaking me out of my mold was no easy task. When TheWriteJerry gasped in wonder at $7.98 dress shirts in a sporting goods store, my instinctive reaction was the same as his. Rey shook his head. I would be spending more than 10 dollars on a shirt today. For the first time, I would be spending more than 30, visiting Old Navy and other stores. It was a difficult process for all involved, and a long lunch, but I ended up with some nice things.

For the most part, price wasn't a huge issue. I approached the day with the mentality that my credit card was in fact a gift card, so I can lament the bill at the end of the month. In some areas though I was unflinching. I would not spend $129 on a pair of brown dress shoes in Nordstrom, as nice as they were, although tomorrow I will be looking elsewhere for something similar and more reasonable. One of the biggest problems with the whole process was my definition of what MCF wears and doesn't wear. I don't wear jackets like that. That neck thing is something for surfers, indie kids or perhaps Josh Hartnett. It's not something “someone like me” can pull off. Rey offered a lot of good advice today, from the slimming qualities of vertical stripes to the contour creating cut of the right jacket to the distracting abilities of the right accessories. I wish I could remember his exact words when I spouted my concerns about what “I” wear, but he basically said that a person's sense of self is often in his or her own mind and can be fluid. The only person that determines what I can and can't wear, after all is said and done, is me. Just because I've never worn something doesn't mean I can't, and just because something “isn't me” doesn't mean it can't be.

Tomorrow I plan to get a new jacket. I still think the neck thing is stupid and probably won't get one, but that's my stubbornness surfacing. It's frustrating to me when I know advice is probably sound but I still can't accept it. If history is precedent, expect me to wear a neck thing in a few years when it's no longer in style.


PBW: Intrepid

After I left the NYComicon two Saturdays past, I had a little over an hour before the next train. It was only a ten minute walk to the station, so I decided to walk one more block from the convention down to the water, since the weather had warmed up and the sun was shining. When I reached the water and saw an aircraft carrier, I knew I had a great subject for another Photo Blog Wednesday:




It's easy sometimes to get into a routine and become institutionalized. There are bad habits as well as good habits, and there are states of drifting, in which we're not fully aware of the events in our lives, in our small circles or in larger ones. It takes something shocking to pull us out of such comfort zones, although human nature is to settle back into the familiar once the shock subsides.

Tonight as I was running on a treadmill, one of the televisions in the gym, broadcasting a news program, flashed the caption, “Dana Reeve: 1961-2006”. I almost stopped in my tracks before registering where I was. Surely this couldn't be the widow of Christopher Reeve, the Superman of my childhood? There's no sound without headphones in our gym, but once they started interviewing people at the Reeve foundation and showing the pair together I knew indeed who she was.

Driving home I managed to get the story on the radio, and learned that she'd been diagnosed with lung cancer LAST YEAR, which I was unaware of and which is very rare for a nonsmoker. The second post I wrote when I began this site dealt with the loss of her husband. It's unthinkable that the 13-year old son of the pair would lose both parents so close together. I don't know how I would have survived had I lost either of my parents to their health problems when I was younger. In truth, I'm not sure how I'll deal with it as an adult when the time inevitably comes.

Lately it seems we've been losing a lot of people. It's probably the things they did in life to make them significant that we should focus on. When someone dies, especially at a young age like 45 as with Reeve or Kirby Puckett, who died earlier this week at the same age, it makes a person wonder if waiting for anything is a good idea. It's probably just as detrimental to rush into things or take crazy risks, but it's important to realize when time is a factor, that none of us are immortal. Scrubs, a quirky and wonderful show I can never recommend enough, deals with death often and in many ways. Tonight, a dying patient shared the following wisdom with a pair of doctors: ”You know, I've never really been afraid of death? I used it as a motivator. When you know there's an end, it forces you to live.” The episode ended with the somber tones of Pearl Jam's Long Road.

Mortality should be a motivator, but we forget it just like anything else buried in the rigors of everyday life, until we're reminded again. It's a lesson to be learned, then forgotten, then learned, again and again and again.


M.C.F.A.T. Volume IX

Where does the time go? Will I have to learn higher Roman numerals? This really is the ninth edition of the Mysterious Cloaked Figure's Astonishing Test:

1) From any current television series, who is the last character you’d want to see killed off? Who’s the first?

2) What are the best and worst finanacial investments a person could make?

3) Think of the worst superpower you could have, either from an existing character or one you make up, and explain how you would learn to live with it.

4) What’s the worst dating experience you’ve ever had?

5) Would you ever appear on television? In what capacity? Sitcom star? Dramatic actor? Talk or game show host? Reality contestant?

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 3.5.06

This weekend I watched several zombie flicks, including the original Night of the Living Dead(two versions), 1978's Dawn of the Dead(not as good as 2004's), 28 Days Later(far better than I was led to believe), and Rent(in which survivors battle poverty, AIDS, and the inability to go more than three minutes without breaking into song). I also looked at my uncle's house, since he's selling it to move into an assisted-living apartment. It's an extreme fixer-upper, and I''m not sure what renovations will cost or what he's decided to ask for the house. I am thinking about it. Today I took my parents out for a combined birthday dinner(my mom's was back at the end of January and my dad's was this past week). My mom shared a funny anecdote of the time a friend in her office, my future godmother, set up a double date for them. When my dad showed up for their first date his friend, a very tall redhead and my future godfather, rang the doorbell. She looked out and didn't see anyone else, and then my godfather stepped aside and my dad was “hiding” behind him. He was 39 at the time. It was really funny to learn I'm not the only shy person in my family. In addition to movies, real estate, dinner, and family history, I also tackled this week's PHANTASMIC LINKS:

Every religion faces skepticism, and The Force is no exception. Hat tip to Rey.

Can this be what Natalie Portman is really like? Hat tip to Sean. EDIT: SNL opposes free publicity. I found a working link thanks to Chez of the Lonely Island, so maybe this one will last longer....

Attention blogging community: It's Hammer Time!

Do you have what it takes to help a trio of plucky students Escape from Detention?

What would the Simpsons opening credits look like in real life?

Depeche Mode....in Simlish.

I can tell you from firsthand experience that Old People Are Funny.

Bat and Mouse is one of those quick diversion games, but the music kept me coming back for more.

The Favorite Friend
73% Sexy-Cute, 85% Dark-Light, 56% Artsy-Stylish

Cute, Light, and neither Artsy nor Stylish, she's that friend we've all had. The great girl. The one we've been friends with since the third grade. The one who laughs at our jokes and sends funny text messages. The one with whom we secretly, desperately want to crawl under the covers and spend the next eighteen hours naked.

This test tracked 3 variables. How you compared to other people your age and gender:
You scored higher than 94% on Sexy-Cute
You scored higher than 99% on Dark-Light
You scored higher than 66% on Artsy-Stylish

The Your Type of Girl Test written by dgc20e on Ok Cupid, home of the 32-Type Dating Test

Charlize Theron
35% Eyes, 28% Nose, 35% Mouth, 45% SexyCute

You seem to prefer that your women be hot rather than cute. Can't blame you for that. You also seem to find smaller or less prominent facial features appealing. Might you be a fan of Charlize Theron? If so, you're certainly not alone.

Similar: Nicole Kidman, Elisha Cuthbert

This test tracked 4 variables. How you compared to other people your age and gender:
You scored higher than 4% on Eyes
You scored higher than 13% on Nose
You scored higher than 11% on Lips
You scored higher than 26% on SexyCute

Link: The Beautiful Faces Test written by dgc20e on Ok Cupid, home of the 32-Type Dating Test

Do the results of the above two tests contradict? Either way, hat tip to A Golden World for both of them.