PBW: Falling

October felt like August until one day it didn't. Radiators had to be turned on. The little dial on my car's dashboard was moved from blue to red, and I probably need to consider wearing a jacket soon. Sunday's heavy lifting left me quite warm, but as the sun was setting I felt the chill once more. When I got home, I grabbed my camera and headed over to a local park to capture changing leaves and other tell tale signs that a new season is upon us. This is Photo Blog Wednesday:

And of course, I haven't forgotton what day this is. A Mysterious Master Prize™ fragment will go to the first person to correctly guess this year's costume based on the image below:

Perhaps I'll show more next week...



The Work of Others

Some people see a task that has to be accomplished and do it, because it has to be done. Other people see a task that has to be accomplished and leave it, because someone else will do it. The world works because there are still enough of us that fall into the former category.

Most of us work for a paycheck. Ultimately, though we might take pride in what we do and consider it our own, at the end of the day we’re getting something done for somebody else. It can be a dangerous mentality since that which we take ownership of could be taken from us at any time. Yet it’s a gamble to swing to the opposite extreme, and I left my last job with my head held high, knowing I was gone for financial reasons and that I always made my deadlines and turned in the best work I could produce, even up to my very last day. It’s a fading work ethic that I’ve picked up from my parents, even if their generation might consider me somewhat lazy since I don’t do a lot of physical work.

It’s always been hard for me to go home at the end of the day. It’s a given that I stay until I finish everything I set out to accomplish, or as much as possible, but on days where I’ve done everything and more, I have a sense of guilt. Driving home, it’s like invisible tendrils still connect my brain to the computer in my office, and I wonder if there’s anything I’ve forgotten. I spent the last few years working late consistently thanks to extra projects given to me by certain parties, so normal hours take getting used to. Thankfully, the further I get from the office, the more of those invisible strands snap, and by the time I reach home my brain is clear to focus on other areas of my life.

Weekends seem to be when my mental slate is most clean, at least in the Winter. Most of the year I’m playing music for others, in the bands of others, and traveling to places where others dwell. It’s nice when I get a free day to go where I want to go, a day when I can stay home and go no place at all if I like. Circumstances beyond my control will occasionally make such a day impossible.

Last year, my dad allowed mover friends of his to park some trucks on his lot in exchange for moving my mom’s piano for a decent price. The stay wasn’t to be indefinite, a few months at the most, but as time went on they seemed to be putting more instead of less on our property. One truck became two. A van and a car were added. The moving company had gone out of business, and undelivered items began piling up in the driveway. A stack of wooden skids grew almost as high as our garage. My dad asked nicely, and repeatedly, but it wasn’t until he sought the advice of local authorities and put up a “No Parking; Violators will be towed” sign that they moved the trucks. They found somewhere else to park but, having sold their warehouse, apparently had no place for the skids. There was room for a roofer to get in and make much needed repairs to the garage, one of the reasons my dad was anxious to have his property clear again, but the pile of wood and old blankets were an eye sore.

My dad made phone calls. He left messages. More months passed. Apparently, they didn’t care. Last week he even had me place an ad online asking if anyone wanted free wood. There were one or two phone calls, but the people weren’t looking for what we had. And so, when work that no one else wanted to do created a vacuum, responsible types like my father and I were swept in.

I didn’t mind spending a Sunday afternoon helping him out. With or without me, he was going to go, and with the amount of heavy lifting involved it was definitely better that I was there. When I saw how he handled a chainsaw, wearing no goggles and cutting wood that was sticking out on top of a stack, I knew at the very least I had to be there to call an ambulance if need be.

We soon worked out a system. He showed me how he had slid a few skids to the ground earlier in the week by himself, and how he was separating the cross pieces with a crowbar. Some of the wood had rotted from the rain, but some was surprisingly sturdy. I opted to climb a ladder and slide the skids off the pile away from me, rather than pull them down on top of myself the way he’d apparently been working. Once on the ground, I went to work with the crowbar, putting the long pieces in one pile for him to bundle and the six foot square flat pieces into another pile to carve up later. It was good, physical work and I was enjoying being outside. The one thought that I occasionally verbalized though was, “We shouldn’t have to do this.” I thought about all those situations in life, times where people take advantage or are simply negligent, and it is unfair that people like us will step up every time. “Who else is going to do it?” was my dad’s reply.

In three hours, we perhaps got through a third of the pile. It’s going to take a few more visits, but the fact is my dad’s question answers everything. In life, there are things we want to do and things we have to do. We can’t always do what we want, and sometimes we have to do things that we shouldn’t. There are jobs in life, tasks that must be accomplished. It’s been two months since I lost the use of a company gym, and my arms and legs were definitely sore on Sunday night from all the lifting, carrying, climbing, and demolition. I know it’s ironic coming from someone who still lives with his parents, but I can’t fathom people who leave a mess for someone else to clean up. But when we work, we’re always working for others. Even if I ran my own business, I’d have to put in extra time to be successful, and I’d have bills to pay and people to answer to. More often than not, work is something we do for someone else and believing otherwise is based solely on our mindset. At the end of the day movies, television, video games and more can remind us that we work for others, but we play for ourselves.


Phantasmic Links 10.29.07

October's been a long month, and strange as far as weather goes. It's been strange as far as time goes, as my VCR and computer automatically fell back an hour this weekend. Check those devices folks; they won't know the date for changing our clocks has been pushed back.

What time is it? It's time to get ill!

I'm looking forward to one of my favorite holidays this week, and as usual I've come up with a great costume idea. I'm not sure what my new office's policy is regarding Halloween. There's no formal party or contest, unlike my last job, and though I've asked around and ascertained a vague “some people dress up”, I fear being the only one. Will I go through with it, or will it be reserved for answering the door at home and a few photos for places where I'm less mysteriously cloaked? We'll all know the answer in a few days. In the more immediate future, I'll share why Sunday left me unbelievably sore and feeling my age, but for today I'll just share this week's PHANTASMIC LINKS:

Not every urban legend is a myth...
Hat Tip: Sean.

Classic art like The Last Supper in extreme detail is only a click away. There's almost no reason to leave one's house with the internet.
H.T.: B13.

Where have all the ”B” Movies gone? They're on the internet. Seriously, why leave home unless you have to?

In the not-to-distant future, Scientists will grow replacement eyeballs. People who wear contact lenses will realize they shouldn't complain.

Got questions? Dave Mustaine has answers.
H.T.: Darrell.

So, how would you fare on a Robin Hood Morality Test? It called me cautious, neutral, insecure, and inhibited. Should I be insulted or awed?

Is this a comet or a fully operational space station? You decide...

In Transylmania, your castle has been invaded by pesky villagers. Quick! Turn them into fellow undead!

I now preshent...hic...20 Shockingly Drunk Moments in Music History.
H.T.: Darrell.

It's time to enrich your culture and get Buffalaxed! I do not think those words mean what he thinks they mean, but I'm glad Color Me Badd finally made their way overseas...
H.T.: B13.

Sometimes, predictions come true. Other times, specifically 87, they were way off...

Finally, here's a nifty Grow Tribute.

Have a link to a game, movie, article, or anything else you think might be “phantasmic”? E-mail me and it just might appear in an upcoming PHANTASMIC LINKS!



Blogroll Hero Logos 4

With Blogroll Hero Logos, I try to imagine my favorite blogs as comic book titles in an exercise to keep my design skills sharp. I'm always open to comments, criticism, and suggestions, and from time to time may offer revisions if requested. Here's the latest batch:

Life Slackers(requested revision)

The Bayer Family Blog

Tales from the Dorkside

A Golden World

The Boiled Egg of Infinity

All of the above images may be clicked for a larger version. Look for more of these in the future!.



Semi Serious

America has a portions problem, and I'm an American. Everywhere I go to eat, the average size of a platter is definitely more than I need. If you go to an old enough fast food franchise, you might see the blank line or faded letters where once a “small” beverage resided. Now, there is only medium, and large, and extra large. These sizes correspond to meals, which allow you to increase the amount of accompanying French fries ot obscene proportions. And if that's still not enough, there's usually a value menu of some sort offering little boosts to your meal.

Just as I often order the same foods, I make the same choices in volume. My eyes are metaphorically bigger than my stomach, but sadly not literally. On Friday, I hit a diner type place called Cheeburger Cheeburger. They have custom toppings and you mix and match from a menu as you build your own burger. Sizes range from 5.5 ounces to 20 ounces, an entire pound! McDonald's recently upped their ante, offering a new third pounder since a quarter pounder is no longer enough for our growing nation. A pound is a serious burger before you even factor in bread, cheese, and more.

There's no way I'd subject myself to an entire pound of meat, even for the “fame” of having my photo taken and preserved on their wall. They describe their Classic burger as a “beginner”, which right off the bat challenges me. I feel like the menu is mocking me, that the waitress will snicker when I order such a puny item. I'd be made fun of for other reasons if I went for a larger size too.

They highlight one burger on the menu, The Semi-Serious, and herald it as “Everybody's favorite!” It's effective advertising, direct and to the core of what motivates most of us. We want to fit in and be accepted. If everybody likes a third pound burger, then we'll go with the crowd. I'd been to this place once before with B13, so I knew that the Semi-Serious was more serious than semi, but within my ability to handle. I decided to split a medium platter of fries with my friend this time, forgetting that the last time when I shared small fries, it was still a mountain of potatoes. As for the burger, I didn't feel it would be complete without swiss cheese, honey mustard, and bacon, because why should my cholesterol stay as good as it is?

That's an insane amount of food for the middle of the day. I couldn't possibly be more excessive, could I? I of course did need a beverage, and went for one of their shakes. They don't advertise in small, medium, or large. There's a regular and a half. Well who would only want half of anything? Of course I ordered a regular, with Oreo's naturally. I got a glass with two straws, and a big metal container from which I refilled my cup twice.

The problem is two-fold. On the one hand, we always want more than we need. We're greedy and gluttonous. But at the other end of the spectrum, the marketing plays to these human weaknesses. Eliminating small sizes completely and choosing words carefully makes a big difference. I shouldn't be ashamed of ordering a beginner burger, a “small” platter of fries, and half a shake the next time I go to Cheeburger Cheeburger. I'm healthy now and more overweight than obese. With a few small adjustments to my ordering mentality, I can avoid a semi serious heart condition.


Tame Game

The stray cat ”Sonny” continues to hang around our house. Every morning he's on our doorstep when I go to work, and when I pull in the driveway at night he's in the same spot. He doesn't trust us yet, but that's usually how it is with strays at first. Maybe they were abused, or simply abandoned. They have good reason to be suspicious of people, but they're also hungry and need to survive. They'll approach a dish of food, poised to dart away if even a twig snaps or a leaf falls.

Chirp was one of the few cats that never needed to be tamed. He hung around our door for a few days, and though he wouldn't let anyone pet him, he neither hissed nor ran far. He always had a good disposition, and the first time I held the door open he walked briskly into our entranceway like he owned the place. It helped that there was snow on the ground at the time, but I think he knew he'd get a good deal here. He sleeps wherever he wants, pushes aside food if he doesn't like it and paws at the wall in the same gesture he uses to cover his business in the litter pan, definite sign language that he thinks a certain flavor is crap. He forgets that a few years ago he might have starved and frozen to death. He's also a master at getting attention when he wants food. Sometimes he'll jump on top of the refrigerator. Other times he'll walk across my keyaz.,yh=-[87*

Sorry, as I was saying, other times my cat will walk across my keyboard while I'm trying to type. Last week he picked up a new trick. I awoke in the middle of the night, with no idea what time it was, to hear coins falling in the dark. I staggered forward, stumbled across the room, and fumbled for a light switch. Chirp was standing on the monitor of my old computer, with his two front paws up on the top shelf of my desk. He turned and whispered his trademark subdued meow, then finished his jump, knocking over my keys and more change. Thankfully he's only done this twice, and I've learned to close my door.

Chirp walked in and took over, but not every cat had his demeanor. Sonny hisses if we got within five feet of him, and on Wednesday he was sitting under our cars to seek shelter from the rain, causing concern since we’d have to check before driving anywhere. My mom used an old plastic recycling bin to make him a little house with food and some blankets by our door, but he wouldn't go in. He'd take a large bite of food, drop it on our walkway, and eat off the wet concrete. He suspected a trap.

Thursday was dry, but much cooler. It finally started to feel like October, like Autumn. Sonny was on our step once more when I got home from work. As I approached, he stood and slunk to the side, low to the ground, looking over his shoulder as he darted around our hedge. I walked to the door, my keys extended, and looked to my left. The cat hadn't gone far, and was now watching me. I crouched to the ground and held out my hand a few feet from him. There's a scene in the movie Hitch in which Will Smith's character explains his kissing philosophy to Kevin James'. He advises him never to lean in 100%, only 90%, and allow the girl to advance 10% to make contact. Are girls like frightened animals? Would my life be so much better if I applied the same principles in the way I approach girls? Approaching girls would be a start, but I digress. Besides, trust issues aren’t gender specific any more than they’re limited to any one species.

Sonny didn't walk forward to my extended hand, but for once he didn't hiss either. He just stared, and when I shrugged, said “all right” and walked into my house, he took a few steps forward. I looked out the window to see him inspecting a dish to see if I'd left any food.

When entering our house from the driveway side, a person has two options. Walk forward and down the steps to our basement, or turn right and walk up two steps to the door leading in to our kitchen. I noticed my mom had a dish of food on the top step by our kitchen door, and decided to try an experiment. I opened our door and propped open the screen door. The cat was nowhere in sight, then suddenly appeared from behind my dad's car, darting across the driveway and stopping when he saw me. I ignored him and pretended to go downstairs, stopping a few steps from the bottom when my head was below the line of sight from the floor of our landing.

I turned and watched, my eyes level to the floor as I lay across the steps. After a moment, a pair of ears appeared, followed by two wide eyes. They met mine, assessed I was no threat, then turned to the right. A moment later, I heard him devour the food in my mom's dish. I carefully reached out to the door, but he darted back outside. Later on, my mom kept the back door open once more, careful to keep the upstairs door closed so our cats didn't run out to “greet” their potential new roommate. Sonny did come inside again and stayed for a bit, before disappearing in to the night once more.

It takes time to build a relationship, to prove you mean no harm. A cat can't feel trapped, and has to know it can come and go on its own terms. Eventually, the decision whether life will be better inside or outside will have to be Sonny's. Some strays never made the transition, preferring the freedom of the neighborhood and the options of different doorsteps. Others walked in, found a soft bed, and never looked back. Time will tell which life this new cat will embrace.


99 Choices

There's a deli not far from where I work that has an assortment of 99 sandwiches, all named for local businesses, attractions, and landmarks. There are two different roll sizes, as well as a wrap option. It pretty much exceeds all other local sandwich options.

I've never been good at making choices or trying new things. If something isn't broke, why fix it? If something or someplace is safe and familiar, it will never change, right? Friends and family often find it a challenge getting me to break out of my boundaries with even the most minute and mundane practices. I picked one flavor I liked at Coldstone when that place first opened, and ordered the same thing every time until some friends suggested I try a new flavor each time. That was some Summer! Trying new things isn't bad, yet every time I consider ordering a different drink in Starbucks, the words “Grande Mocha Frappuchino” still come out automatically. Maybe it's just because it's too hard to learn how to say any of the other beverages. Somehow, I haven't set foot in a Starbucks in over two months, so I may forget how to order my drink.

I decided the first time I visited this new deli that I would take the same approach I did with Coldstone. Each time, I would order something different from the menu, until eventually I'd tried everything once. It was a solid plan, with no real order to it. I suppose I should have developed a system, perhaps going down the list numerically, or odd numbers then even numbers, or something I could keep track of. With 99 choices, sooner or later I'd inadvertently repeat myself.

Wednesday afternoon, I found myself dwarfed by the board once more, motioning people to go ahead of me while I made up my mind. I think the pressure of standing in line is another reason I get the same thing all the time in fast food places; I don't want to hold everyone else up. I can feel when eyes are on my back. 99 choices exceed fast food options vastly, and I kept changing my mind. Did I want #56? #40 looked good. Perhaps 23, sans onions of course? I vacillated for an eternity.

Finally I saw one that stood out against the rest. #34. Chicken cutlets. Melted Jack Cheese. Salsa. Salsa! I would drape myself in Salsa if it were socially acceptable. Actually, I'm just playing off an old Costanza reference. Even I'm not that disgusting, at least not yet. I knew what I had to do, in any case. I got a 34 on a wrap.

I pulled up a chair, carefully unwrapping my new experience. Steam rose from the halves, my eyes and mouth watering equally. I savored the heat and the aroma, opened my mouth and sunk my teeth in. The soft wrap yielded before my eager teeth, the cutlets offering a bit more resistance. I completed my bite as I reached the salsa and cheese layer, strands of melted cheese taking hold. It was beautiful, it was delicious, and it was absolutely familiar.

“I think I got this last time.” My friend thought I'd gotten a different sandwich, but the one he mentioned was the first one I tried. Again, with 99 choices, I'm bound to forget. I just didn't think it would happen on my third visit. I guess the item jumped off the board because my subconscious was drawn to it. The idea of “usuals” is so deeply ingrained in my psyche, that I don't even have to think about it. That's a little scary. Hopefully, it's just one of my idiosyncrasies that I can overcome or live with, and not a sign of memory deterioration that will only get worse. If I end up telling this same tale in a week or so, let me know.


PBW: New Additions

My mom doesn't find cats so much as they seem to find us. The big one hiding up top is Cubby, who was about the size of a mouse when my mom rescued him from a window well near my dad's doctor's office, and who still acts like a mouse even though he's one of the largest cats we've ever had. The extremely cozy little black and white cat is of course Chirp, in all his inimitability. I don't name them; my mom does. I wanted to call Cubby Cerebus, but my mom wasn't feeling it. I expect he would have been a little tougher if he grew up with the name I wanted to use.

So about a week and a half ago, a new cat was spotted by our back door. My mom occasionally puts food out that our cats don't finish, and our neighbor's cats are more than happy to make sure it doesn't go to waste. We get the occasionally raccoon as well, which my dad is never happy about. At first we thought this new one was our neighbor's, but it had different markings and no collar. We also can't get within five feet of it yet. He'll hiss, then run around our hedge, doubling back for the dish of food. Despite insisting that she didn't want any more cats because they'd outlive her and starve, my mom has continued to feed this new cat, and every morning and every afternoon we can count on it to appear on our back step waiting patiently. At first she was going to call it “Sunday” for the day it appeared, then “Aunt Kate” after coming home from a wake for her friend's elderly aunt. I thought “Sundae” would be a good variation. Initially, we thought it was a girl but eventually saw otherwise. Now my mom is calling him “Sonny”. I don't know if he'll eventually move in or just be an outdoor beggar, but he's the first new addition featured in Photo Blog Wednesday this week.

On a completely different note, remember that Wal-mart Exclusive Transformers DVD I bought last Tuesday? The bonus prequel disk was well worth it, especially for one surprise voice actor I was extremely happy to hear. However, when I finally got around to watching the main movie disk Monday night, I discovered that it only contained the movie, a few audio options, and chapter selection. There were a few trailers, hidden as an “Easter Egg” after the credits. There were no featurettes, commentaries, or deleted scenes. It was extremely vanilla.

Rabid robot fan that I am, further research was needed. I sought the council of geeks greater than I. The tempting transforming Target version held a second disk and all the special features I was looking for. However, a lot of places sold out as it was an extremely rare limited edition. Feeling doomed, and ignoring the fact that I'll probably buy this movie again in a new format in a few years anyway, I set out in search of it after work on Tuesday.

I lucked out. There were maybe twenty left at the first store I visited, and I left feeling like a kid with a new toy. The thing turned out to be a lot sturdier than I expected, though I know it's the type of plastic that could wear out after a few months of moving the joints. I haven't even watched the disks yet. I've bought something I don't need but it's something that makes me happy. Is that the American dream?



MCF's Perilous 4.III Questions

I thought no one responded to last week's conclusion to Game 4 of MCF's Perilous!, but as you'll soon see one player came through at the literal last minute. The general decline overall in responses will push me to come up with something even better in the future, once I figure out what that is. But for now, it's not going to take a lot of time for me to tally this week's results.

In MCF's Perilous! I provided 10 answers for which you, my readers, had to come up with the corresponding questions and post them on your blogs. Scoring was as follows:

1 pt=each question
2 pts=each question that matches MCF's
-1 pt=any sentences not in question form, or forgetting a question mark
15 pts=Bonus for the Best Question

This series had three rounds, at the end of which the player with the most points got a fragment of the Mysterious Master Prize™, something the majority of readers have been seeking for over three years.

The scores are as follows:

Round 1: Lorna R1 25
Round 2: Lorna R2 8
Round 3: Lorna R3 25
Total: 58

Round 1: Darrell R1 11
Round 2: Darrell R2 11
Total: 22

Round 2: Sean R2 21
Total: 21

So it looks like Lorna has won, and if I'm not mistaken, this will be her first fragment. Congratulations! I gave her the 15 point bonus for having a great overall theme and managing to tell a story with her questions! She'll soon recieve Scorpia.jpg, the largest piece yet! Now, on to my questions, one last time:

1. I don't trust him.
On Heroes, what do I think of Claire's new boyfriend West?

2. Most of them were tingling.
What had me concerned about the fingers of my right hand for most of last Monday morning?

3. It was under his flashlight.
Helping my dad fix my car, where did I find the spring from the tensioner on my car's timing belt?

4. Three were submitted, but only mine gave them trouble.
What was the probable improbable outcome of the rollover request my company submitted for my 401K?

5. My subconscious brought to the surface a lost reality mourned.
Why did I dream about visiting my old office, which included architectural aspects of my college and a collection of coworkers who no longer work at the same location?

6. Two of them, and about four feet each.
How many camel crickets did I encounter in my basement when washing my clothes after playing paintball, and how high did they jump?

7. I think it would be kind of cool to have one, but then I like the freaky and the surreal.
What do I think about the artist who put an ear on his forearm?

8. For once, baseball was my friend.
Why did I watch Chuck instead of Prison Break?

9. TheGreek.
What “so-called coworker” did Optimus Prime call B13 about?

10. “It's just paint!”
What did my friend say when I returned his equipment and told him I'd washed everything, including the gun case?



Phantasmic Links 10.22.07

Is it just me, or do weekends fly by faster and faster? It's not like I didn't do anything; in the span of two days I played for an Indian festival, helped my dad replace two old, leaky pipes running to our boiler, went to church, enjoyed the best vampire movie I've seen in a long time, visited B13's ridiculously fast growing puppies, finished watching all the special features on Rise of the Silver Surfer, shifted some of my 401K contributions to favor better performing funds, and caught up with Don Juan DeMarco and The Mothman Prophecies on DVD. With such a record amount of fun and accomplishment, why is my brain groaning, “Monday ALREADY?”? Perhaps that feeling will pass as I gather this week's PHANTASMIC LINKS:

We still don't know what the movie will be about. With just three months until its release date, we don't even have the official title. But if you linger for about five minutes on the 1-18-08 site with your volume turned up, you just might get a new clue.
Hat Tip: B13.

What parent wouldn't buy Cereal Killers for their kids? If I had children, I'd probably print one of these masterpieces and slap it on an actual box of cereal as a prank. Perhaps that's why I'm not a parent.

Can you paint Factory Balls and ship them? It took me a few tries to figure this one out, and I got to level 7 once I did.

Schwarzenegger Gone Wild! “...Brazil is totally devoted to [his] favorite body part...” He'll be back!
HT: Lyndon.

Benedetta Bonichi's “To See in the Dark” is an exhibition of extraordinary x-ray images. Excellent.

Here are 24 Great Films Too Painful to Watch Twice. I've seen #s 1, 6, 13, 17, and 21 and I have to agree that while I liked them all, once was definitely enough.
HT: Sean.

This week, Sean also posted the cast of the Star Trek prequel compared to their predecessors. I look forward to ”Spock” eating brains, ”Bones” fighting Orcs, ”Scotty” dealing with the undead in a humorous fashion, and ”Sulu” taking off with his buddy to satisfy a White Castle craving. Who knows what the rest of the cast will bring to the table...

TV-Links gets shut down. I guess it was inevitable, although the article does have some inaccuracies since users weren't actually downloading anything, only viewing content hosted on other sites. I imagine this case will set precedent for similar future situations. Hopefully more networks will post their own shows for legal online viewing, as many already do.

So apparently, Dumbledore was gay. Don't tell Harry...

Toronto's smallest house is for sale. I should buy that; the commute would suck but the extra space would be nice.

Marvel Universe: Connections lets you explore a cloud of your favorite characters, and see how they're connected to one another.

I can't understand why, but Chat Noir is incredibly addictive in its simplicity. Can you trap the black cat?

You never know who you'll find doing an internet dance off. Upload yourself, your friends, or your family, and enjoy! You can change bodies, backgrounds, and music, as well as control the dance moves themselves.

I'll leave you with a Cryptic Movie Quiz, that challenges you to guess a film's title from a series of sketches. Play more than once for different questions. Some are obvious, most are clever, and a few stumped me. 22,367 is my best score so far.

Have a link to a game, movie, article, or anything else you think might be “phantasmic”? E-mail me and it just might appear in an upcoming PHANTASMIC LINKS!



Culture Crash

Normally, my musical season begins with St. Patrick's Day in March and ends in early October with a few gigs for Columbus Day. Rarely have I played beyond that, with the occasional holiday parade or tree lighting being exceptions to the rule. Most years I pack up my instrument for the Winter and use my weekends to hibernate.

This year, one of the Italian bands I play for was booked for one last job. We weren't sure it was definite until our leader called with directions and more information two days ago. Saturday morning began like any other, with an additional bit of good news in the mail. It seems that when I donated blood, they determined my cholesterol level was 156. The letter warned me that this might not be an accurate figure since I wasn't fasting at the time, but I'm sure whatever I had for breakfast that morning didn't lower the number, at least not drastically. Anything above 200 is borderline high, with 240 being the definitive mark for high blood cholesterol. Without fasting I'd come in a surprising 44 short of the danger zone. I was feeling pretty good as I drove my dad and I to our job.

I've mentioned in the past that, hailing from Brooklyn originally, neither this particular band leader nor his son learned how to drive. As such, their directions are usually inaccurate. Simple things like transposing “street” with “avenue” have sent players miles away from where they were supposed to be in the past. This was a new job, and thankfully not far, but we only had an address to go on. When I pulled in to the empty parking lot of a lodge, 15 minutes before a “parade” was supposed to begin, I found nothing but a security guard and three police cars.

The young guard nervously told us we couldn't park there. I asked if there was to be a parade and pointed out that we were band members, just in case the matching green shirts didn't betray our identities. He said the starting point was up the road a bit, and we'd see tents. Expecting the usual feast area or collection of fire trucks, I drove up the road. I saw the tents, but there was also a massive crowd of Indian people in the brightly colored traditional garb of their homeland. The women balanced coconuts on their head, some of the men sported fake beards, and at least one horse was wearing a blanket covered in gems. Surely the guard was wrong.

I returned to the lodge and found a parking spot on a side street, calling the band leader's son on his cell to verify. Apparently we were in the right place, and they were almost there. A few more band members showed up as the crowd from the tents up the road made their way to the parking lot where we waited. Our usual fare consists of Italian traditional songs and patriotic American marches. My only experience with Indian celebrations had been a wedding reception for one of my college friends, and that was a truncated local ceremony in a restaurant. His real wedding and subsequent reception took place back in India over the course of a week. From what he told me and the photos he had, it involved riding elephants, face paint, and a lot of colorful food. I wondered if our band leader would have music, because I couldn't recall any Indian songs.

It was a strange sight for the neighborhood no doubt, as seven guys in green “Tony & Son” t-shirts and Italian hats stood in a parking lot surrounded by a technicolor sea of Saris. Tony assured us that we could play our regular fare, that the guy who hired us was his old pharmacist from Brooklyn, and had heard us playing for feasts in the past. I thought it was going to be more of a crash of cultures than when we played Italian songs for St. Patrick's Day.

While we waited, one of the people in the ceremony came over and started humming a tune. I listened as some of our trumpet players tried to mimic what the guy was singing. E-F-G. F-G-F-G-F-E. E-F-G. F-G-F-G-F-E. Was that the theme to Peanuts? It did share the same notes, so I played a few bars of that, which got a laugh or two from the guys in the band who recognized it. By repetition, I did learn the Indian song after a few minutes, though we repeated the same phrase so many times I was certain there was another verse to the song we hadn't learned.

The distance from start to finish was maybe four blocks, but the crowd took an hour-and-a-half with frequent pauses. There was singing and chanting, and when we played the new song there was even dancing. I tried to pick up what some of the officials were saying through megaphones, but the only word I recognized might have been ”Krishna”. We still played a few marches and Italian songs, all of which had a good beat they could dance to even if they weren't traditional to such an event. Everyone had a good time, and it was a fun and unexpected day. When we reached our destination, a couple of older ladies from the neighborhood with Italian accents asked us first if we were an Italian band, then what we were doing there.

Have we expanded our repertoire and opened up to a whole new field of clients? Walking back to our cars, I joked that we should advertise our availability for all cultural affairs, provided clients didn't mind if we mostly played Italian songs. I will say that the “E-F-G” tune is still looping in my brain, and will still be there when I wake up in the morning. Viva San Krishna!


Blogroll Hero Logos 3

I continue to enjoy Todd Klein's comic book logo studies. It's great to see alternate design ideas, and understand the reasoning behind certain decisions. Most of all, it continues to inspire me to exercise my typography whenever I have time. I'm still envisioning blogs as comic book titles, and having a lot of fun! This time around, I have another six to share. One is a minor revision that was asked for, two were new designs that were requested, and three I explored at my own whim. As always, I'm open to requests and critiques, and I'll get to any revisions or new designs in the future.

Lorna in Wonderland
(revised with stars)

Jamie Dawn's Mindless Blather

Neb 2.0

The Art of Getting By

Swimming in Champaign

The Hidden Blogger

All of the above images may be clicked for a larger version. Look for more of these in the future!.