Five Facts For Friday

Sometimes, I sit at my keyboard and wonder if I have any stories left to tell. I pride myself in maintaining a careful balance of honesty and mystery, and short of things I won't yet divulge such as my name or appearance, what's left? Hopefully, there are plenty of new stories and adventures in my future, but not every day. Most days are quite ordinary, in no way different than anyone else's. When I noted that Lorna came up with five facts about herself, I sensed a challenge. Chances are, I've covered this ground before and I've simply forgotten. If not, peeling back the cloak even a little may cause horror and/or nausea. Also, I cannot guarantee half-truths and subtle misdirection amid the follow five random “facts” about myself. Read on at your own discretion:

1) Sometimes, my imagination is powerful enough to make me flinch. I'll see something, and my brain will instantly process a scenario so real, it jolts me when I return to reality. I'll drive over train tracks, and think about a train suddenly sideswiping my car. Flinch. I'll see a pen or pencil on my desk, and experience a scenario in which my chair rolls back and in some freak accident while fumbling for balance, I end up losing an eye. Flinch. I'll stop short before making a turn, because a pedestrian runs in front of me while I'm looking at traffic in the other direction. After he or she has safely crossed and I've made the turn, I'll rewind and think about what would have happened if I hadn't looked the other way before moving and actually hit someone. Flinch. All the times kids in my elementary school punched me for flinching did nothing to condition me against the reflex. It only made it worse.

2) I lose time. Sometimes, parts of my brain shut down and when I look at a clock, I have no idea how time elapsed so quickly. The strange thing is, I'm not always daydreaming when this happens. Many times I'm quite productive, and while I once lost time in the morning, lately I've been getting to work on time or early, with only a partial recollection of my morning ritual. I think I've been shaving with my eyes closed, but I'm not sure. And Thursday night, though I was finally caught up and didn't need to work late, I got into a designing groove. “I'll just finish this one flyer,” I thought. An hour-and-a-half later, it was done, but I felt like a mere five minutes had elapsed. I'm sure we all experience some form of this, whether it be daydreaming in the shower or the “phantom commute” in which we stop for lights and make all our turns, but have no idea how we got to work. Some things are done on autopilot. It scares me sometimes though, because while it’s only minutes or hours now, what if someday I lose years? What if I already have? When are we?

3) $16,000 is the salary I agreed to for my first professional job out of college, and I was thrilled when the place I was interning at offered me a full-time position effective immediately after graduation. I never thought I'd get a job in my field, or so quickly, and I had no concept of salaries at the time. I was used to thinking in hourly wages, and had never made more than $5.00 an hour. It wasn't until I divided by 52 and figured out what I was making after taxes that I realized my mistake. After a year, I got a $1,000 raise. Once again I was thrilled. $1,000! I thought about how many comic books I could buy. Though I had recently stopped collecting, it was still the best translation of currency value at my disposal. But, when I divided once more and realized how little $1,000 would be when spread out across a year and taxed, I realized again that I wasn't doing so great. Nevertheless, I got great professional experience otherwise and had something more substantial for my resume than “yard work” or “gas station attendant”. After four years or similarly puny increases, I got into a bigger company and doubled my salary in the process, probably the only time in my career that will happen. If I ever do see six figures, chances are it will be in a time when people need seven to live comfortably.

4) In seventh grade, I tried to start a gang. The kids I approached, all fellow nerds though not to as extreme a degree, were confused. Were we going to steal, kill, and genuinely terrorize? No, we were going to be a “good guy” gang and help people. We'd probably develop secret gestures and choose gang colors and nicknames, so in a way I suppose I was really describing a super hero team comprised of powerless geeks. Suffice to say, they all laughed at me and the idea never got off the ground. I was often overly creative in trying to obtain or retain friends, where simple conversation might have worked better.

5) It is actually entirely possible to find a real photo of me by putting my name into a Google™ image search. If the first and last name are in quotes, I might even show up on the first page of results. Of course this feat requires my real name. I will say that I share a first name with a comic book character with no secret identity. I won't say whether this is a hero or villain, who publishes his(her?) adventures, or whether this is a star or a supporting character. You might seek a last name as well, but you won't find it until the day I write my last post. Hopefully, that's still a few years off, unless I zone out...when are we again?


Coming to Realize

I relate to film in three overall ways. There are movies I've seen. There are movies I have not seen. And then there are those movies that I've sort of seen, catching bits and pieces on broadcast television over the years. But is seeing what I referred to as a “Channel 11” movie growing up really seeing it? If a cinematic work has been edited for content and to run in the time allowed, as well as to fit my screen, the experience is not complete.

With that mindset, I rented Coming To America the other day. There was a lot more to it than I realized, though it wasn't remotely raunchy the way guys in my high school made it out to be. I guess some things were more shocking in the ‘80s, but apart from brief nudity in the first five minutes and the occasional stray swear, it didn't seem that far off from the television version. My realizations stemmed entirely from viewing it again after all these years, after watching thousands of other movies and television programs. In no particular order, here's what I learned:

1) I'm discovering lately that Eriq LaSalle had more of a career before ER than after it. First I catch him in Jacob's Ladder over the weekend, then I see him in Coming To America as the chief nemesis. The Jheri Curl look he sported made him almost unrecognizable until he spoke and I recognized his voice.

2) La Salle was easy to spot, but not a young Cuba Gooding Jr. Blink, and you'll miss him as a young boy in a barber shop. It wasn't until the credits rolled that I spotted his name and found out his film debut. Knowing that is like knowing Elijah Wood first appeared in Back to the Future II, and trivia like that is firmly cemented in my brain.

3) Actually, the whole cast was impressive. Louie Anderson works the counter of a fast food restaurant. I wasn't sure why the love interest, Shari Headley, seemed familiar to me until I looked her up and realized I knew her better as Mimi from All My Children. I only know this because my mom taped the show and watched during dinner when I was growing up. These days she has her own television and VCR, and I have a million of my own shows to watch. I will say a soap opera can be as addictive as comic books. Anyway, rounding out the cast of Coming To America we have James Earl Jones who needs no further qualification, and John Amos, best known as the dad on Good Times. There's another notable cameo that I'll cover further on.

3) You know that thing Eddie Murphy does where he plays multiple characters in the same movie? For years I thought it originated with The Nutty Professor. That's probably the strongest example of his chameleon abilities, and might be the first time digital movie magic allowed him to play several characters on screen at the same time. But eight years prior, he was doing the same thing in Coming To America. There was no split screen or digital manipulation, only classic movie tricks. If he was sharing a scene with himself, they'd use a double whose face would be off screen when the other appeared. I probably wasn't as sharp when I was younger, or else I might have noticed the elderly barber was Eddie, a local celebrity was Eddie, and even an old Jewish man was Eddie. The makeup department deserves major props for that last one, but his vocal talent completes the illusion.

4) Queens Blvd. is a major setting for the film, as is St. John's University. A basketball game with my alma mater, or some outside shots in places where I frequented in college gives the film a sense of familiarity now.

6) Where is Arsenio? Eddie's not the only one playing several roles, just the stronger of the duo. But it did remind me how big Arsenio Hall once was. Come back, Arsenio. I don't blame you for letting Clinton play sax on your show, a performance that probably got a lot of people to vote for him. No, wait; yes I do.

7) The best realization I had while watching the film is a small role that probably wouldn't be considered a cameo, because the actor in question had yet to become a household name. To win the girl of his dreams, Eddie's Prince Akeem has taken a job at her father's fast food place as a common laborer, his royalty a secret. While conversing with her in the restaurant, a loud-mouthed bad m*****f***er storms in with a shotgun. Who else but Samuel L. Jackson could play a role like that to perfection? I may have jumped up and applauded the second I heard him.

There's something to be said for revisiting classics or even seeing them for the first time, because a lot of elements have more meaning now.


PBW: Training, Cats and Dogs (and Beach)

Welcome to a Photo Blog Wednesday with variety! My camera caught a bit of everything over the long weekend.

After going to the movies with some friends, we all visited a couple who recently adopted cute mutt siblings, ”Miss Fine” and ”Mr. Sheffield”. I'm not sure which one appears below, but he or she seems to be some kind of ninja dog:

No one told me there were ninjas on The Nanny; was it a mistake that I avoided that show like the plague?

I also stopped by B13's to check on his remaining puppies. A few weeks ago I was juggling them(kidding), and now they've tripled in size.

That little guy kept ducking under the deck, and darted in the house the first chance he got. You'd think I did juggle them, but he was probably camera shy. I think it was definitely the first time a dog ran away from me.

Who killed the wabbit? If the Schipperke knew, he wasn't telling, but he is desktop sized if you click his image. Meanwhile, as B13 readied their meals, the pups made several impressive running leaps at a safety gate.

On Sunday, I planned to have some adventures, got lazy on the road, and opted not to travel much further than a train museum a few towns away. I had seen signs of this impending attraction last year, but it's still not open. There are a few old pieces of equipment starting to appear on the sight though:

At a nearby beach, I endured the cold long enough to get my future home and boat(I wish), a lonesome Autumn beach tree, and a bird begging to be a desktop pattern.

When I got back from the beach, Sunday Cat was waiting for me. He still won't let anyone near him; at five feet he'll hiss and run. But he will follow my mom around the yard when she gardens, and he'll come into our entranceway for food and shelter, provided the screen door remains propped open. If he feels trapped, he bolts. Hopefully he'll feel more comfortable before the first big snowstorm, because we can't leave the door open all the time. My dad is really afraid of leaving the door open after dark, not because of thieves or his skater punk nemeses, but because he thinks raccoons may wander in to the basement. It's probably a legitimate concern.

That last one is desktop sized as well. Enjoy!



Monday Fog

There's nothing like a long weekend to charge the soul and rejuvenate the spirit. There's nothing like a Monday to bring the soaring down to Earth. To quote Cypress Hill, ”It's a fun job, but it's still a job.”

Of course, it was raining when I woke up, and of course my first meeting of the day was at 10 AM in our second facility, and of course I had two mail bins worth of merchandise to lug over to our photo studio. The meeting went well though, revisions minor and easily dealt with. My next meeting fell during my lunch hour, because it was supposed to happen a week ago. Between vacations and delays with certain team members, it was pushed back to the next available time. That meeting went well also, but the amount of things I had to keep track of were growing.

When I got back to my desk, I found an e-mail with extensive changes from someone who had missed the earlier meeting. My phone was flashing and there was a note on my chair as well. It was crisis time, the time when I either shine and accomplish miracles, or break down into a blubbering heap in a small dark room in a corner of my brain where no one can see me. The voice mail was from someone in accounting, or accounts receivable, or some official sounding department that doesn't quite exist. The voice was familiar and seemed constantly on the verge of suppressing a laughing fit. I remember a time when those cracks wouldn't be audible, a few years ago when a steadier voice almost convinced me I'd be spending another night in the hospital, until I realized there was no fourth floor, which is where the caller claimed to be located.

It did remind me amid the confusion of catching up after a vacation that I had to hand in my benefit forms for next year. With that done, I grabbed a small piece of paper and made a checklist in priority order. I didn't get everything done before I went home, but I put some satisfying dents in my objectives. The real challenges weren't in my office; they were on the road ahead.

Rain gave way to mist, and as I navigated local shortcuts at a high altitude near water, that mist gave way to fog. As my headlights illuminated nothing but a billowing white and the occasional hint of pavement, I imagined strange tentacles and giant insects smashing into my windshield. Instead I got the glow of oncoming lights, and slowed down to let them pass. On a two-lane residential street with no shoulder, people often park anyway, forcing drivers to veer into the oncoming lane at times. That's hard enough through hills and curves with full visibility. I couldn't see more than a foot or two in front of me, so I was more likely to hit a parked car as one coming straight at me. At least the one coming at me had headlights blazing.

Once I reached lower altitudes, visibility improved, and I made it home without incident. I unwound with leftover turkey and stuffing, the best episode of Chuck ever, an intense penultimate chapter to Heroes' strike-truncated second season, and some good laughs from How I Met Your Mother. While I have another 30 years or so of work and television routines, my parents are finally embarking on adventures. My uncles convinced them to take a road trip to a casino, despite my dad's grumbling about developing an addiction and not having any interesting sights to see. He played it safe, and the money he lost was in the single digits. My eldest uncle, either through luck or years of experience, came back with thousands. My parents both agreed that with machines, screens, and lots bright lights, it was an environment I would have loved.

My parents worked hard their whole lives. They still work hard. I sometimes feel guilty when I'm away from home all day, knowing my dad is probably up on a ladder with a saw doing something dangerous. My mom and I were only gone for an hour for church on Sunday, and came home to find my dad in the middle of the street with a rake and a broom, because he was afraid “those damn kids might throw a match.” I'm glad that, for one rare day, they were out having fun while I was at work. As much as I love what I do, I never forget that I'm earning a future. When the fog lifts in three or four decades, I intend to enjoy the rewards of retirement. Of course, like my dad, I'll probably need friends or family to drag me out of my fog and into the light.

Hopefully, the light will be from a casino and not an oncoming car.


Phantasmic Links 11.26.07

I was productive on the last day of my vacation. On Sunday I went to church, raked leaves with my dad for nearly an hour, went to the beach, took pictures, watched Jacob's Ladder(awesome) and Day Zero(great performances), listened to an audio play of The Mist(thanks B13!), took a nap, enjoyed the latest episodes of The Simpsons and Family Guy, did laundry, filled out my benefits reenrollment forms for 2008, and collected this week's PHANTASMIC LINKS:

(1) If I ever get married, I'm totally stealing this first dance. Classic.

(2) The world's most lopsided building is this German church. I spent eight hours last weekend sorting out stacks of books that had taken up a corner of our living room for months. If I left them where they were, I might have gotten a similar record.
Hat Tip: Darrell.

(3) Chain Factor resembles other games, but is quite unique. Drop disks numbered 1 through 7 into the playing field. When the number of discs in a row or column reach a certain number, all discs with that number disappear. With various special abilities and three modes of play, you'll lose hours.

(4) The Honda Puyo is made of a gel body which protects pedestrians. I can see the ads now: “OH NO! You just hit that guy!”/”It's cool; we're totally gellin'...”

(5) Enjoy an animated medley of classic video games as the notes form the graphics. Beautiful.

(6) Is time real? The article might make your brain hurt, but in simpler terms it reminds me of a Spaceballs quote: “When will then be now?”/”Soon.”

(7) Wizard wields the Top Fifty Fictional Weapons. I would have rated a few much higher on the list--notably #'s 11 and 27 would have been in my top 10--but I like that they list which ones are available for purchase, at least in replica form.

(8) Foodpairing is a tasty reference that breaks out which flavors complement one another.

(9) In Lambchop Drop, control a skydiving and charitable sheep and collect as many stars as possible.

(10) Need to chill out? Here are fifteen tracks to soothe the savage soul.

(11) Finally, meet Britain's Mr. Inappropriate. One of my buddies turns into Mr. Inappropriate when he's drunk; I didn't realize the character was international.

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!




It was a long strange journey, the halls of my office occasionally switching to alleys and side streets and Manhattan at alternate turns. I'd finally found a new gym, small and low budget, on the third floor of a building with no doors. I remembered a 20-foot ladder back by my desk, and headed uptown for it. When I got back and climbed up, there were only a few free weights and a handful of people.

I sat next to a girl rubbing her neck, who vocalized aloud her need for a massage. My hands hung in the air as I worked up the nerve, then my thumbs were rotating and kneading her shoulder blades. I could sense her relaxation, imagining tense muscles loosening up. “That was amazing,” said she, “Why don't you have a girlfriend?”

Of course, that's when I woke up.

It was Saturday morning, and as I cursed my brain for stopping things from going further than PG, I remembered there was a lot to be done. Since my Aunt passed away last year, my mom has adjusted our Thanksgiving tradition to include my widowed uncle. As we did last year, we had a small celebration with immediate family only on Thursday as my mom made lasagna. It was Saturday that both her brothers came over, and we had a larger feast of turkey, “stuffing muffins”(thank you Rachael Ray) and more. So, going back to sleep to return to a dream, which never works anyway, wasn't an option. There was ice to make, floors to vacuum, and snack trays to fill.

I think, besides snippets of my office sneaking in because work is still lurking in my subconscious, I'm also concerned about the weight I've put on since losing a company gym three months ago. It's like my brain was telling me I'd treat a girl well, but need to go to a gym to meet one. At the very least, even if I don't join a gym, I do need to start exercising again, even if I do it on my own. This is of course the worst time of year to consider exercise. Even without all the holidays, I think many of us instinctively eat more in an effort to stay warm in the colder months. That's my excuse and I'm sticking with it.

My uncles brought pastries and sherbet, and my mom had various cakes and ice creams prepared as well. By Saturday evening, I felt like a supermarket ran me over. I did venture out to a bookstore, just to get out of the house, and I finally picked up Ultimates 2 Volume 2. Wow. In surfing the net between meals, I found out that this long-awaited trade paperback finally arrived, apparently back in June. It had been delayed so often I'd stopped checking, and with everything going on in my life over the Summer with my career crisis, I hadn't thought about it. The conclusion to this re-imagined vision of one of my favorite teams was worth the wait. Epic.

It's been a dizzying couple of days, and it's only the start of the holiday season. I haven't even thought about shopping for gifts yet, but I suppose that's my next big goal. By 2008 though, I should probably think about getting a physique like a superhero, so some of my dreams can come true, and I’ll hopefully find out how they end.


Separation of Work and Life

I relished weekends when I was in high school. Most nights, after a long day at school I’d find myself sitting at my desk for three hours doing homework. A half hour per subject isn’t so bad, but with six subjects it added up. At least I could space out my work over the weekend, although I never did. My mom always advised otherwise, but I’d still find myself panicked on Sunday night racing to finish what sat for three days. In college I escaped homework somewhat, spending hours after class in a studio or a computer lab working on projects that didn’t feel so much like work because they were subjects I’d chosen and was genuinely interested in. When I graduated and started working, sitting in the same spot for eight hours took getting used to. Having nothing to do when I got home was also a foreign experience.

I adjusted quickly to the hours moreso than the free time. As an intern who was hired upon graduation, I wasn’t given an excess of responsibility. I’d stick around a few minutes at the end of the day even if my work was done, mostly for appearances. I didn’t want to be the first one to leave. I remember the first coworker who told me to go home at five. I wondered if he was telling me from experience not to fall into a trap, or concerned that I’d make other people look bad. Over the years, I’ve realized it was a little bit of both.

Boredom was certainly a factor in those early years. I didn’t know what to do with myself after work. I lived five minutes away. I’d do jigsaw puzzles or bicker with my parents. I’d take naps. I seriously needed internet access back in the ‘90s. I seriously needed a computer. By the time I moved on to a larger company after four years, I had both. A longer commute and real responsibilities meant that excess free time was no longer an issue. At some point, my concern over deadlines blended with the occasionally bout of boredom, and I’d find myself checking work e-mail from home not just at night, but on days off. Work was always on my mind. “They don’t pay you enough for that!” friends would tell me, but it was in my nature. I owned my work. I hated to be late, and never was. It meant extra hours, but peace of mind. I couldn’t go home if something wasn’t finished. I seldom did.

I learned the hard way that, while such dedication is admirable and honorable, there are no guarantees. Mergers happen. Layoffs happen. I owned my responsibilities, made them my life, and one day they were simply gone. I acted quickly in crisis, and was lucky to find a new job immediately. Over the last few months I’ve made the transition with the help of a lot of great new coworkers. Pronouns challenge me though, and I find I still use “we” when describing my former company. I also decided that as great as my new job was, as any job might be, it was important not to make the same mistakes. I’d be just as dedicated, productive, and efficient while in the office, but once I drove away the concerns of work would wait until I returned.

The plan was fine while my responsibilities were minimal. My boss did an excellent job pacing out my assignments in such a way that I’d have time to learn, gradually adding more as I proved what I could handle. He told me most people take about six months to get past the learning curve, and I definitely wouldn’t be expected to know everything right away. At the three month mark, I have what I’d call a normal workload, and nowhere near as insane as what I amassed after seven years at my last job. Every new job starts out light, with gradual increases. The more you do, the more you’re assigned. Over time, if not properly monitored, this can lead to an imbalance. People who do nothing stay employed and leave on time. People who do everything also stay employed, pick up the slack of others, and work late. Other than personal pride and ethics, where was the reward?

One might expect that now that I’ve had time to process some things, even feel anger about certain things, that my outlook would become more cynical. A recent reminder of the best part of my old job did make me angry about what was taken from me. I worked with fantastic talents on fantastic creations. I worked with kindred spirits. I miss it, but I do know that life breaks into chapters, and every chapter must end before a new one begins. Three months into my new chapter, though I might have a look back in sadness and anger, I’m still looking ahead. In my future, I worry about making the same mistakes. I’m not checking work e-mail from home yet, but work is on my mind when I’m not there.

The last few weeks have not been typical. I was paired with a slow writer on a project, who assured me that while he’s usually late, he’s been there nearly ten years and I shouldn’t worry about getting in trouble. I don’t care about getting in trouble; he missed the point. I worry about getting stuff done on time, and it’s against my nature to do otherwise. I was never one of those kids who’d smooth talk a professor and get more time to finish a paper. Assignments were due when the teacher said, with no flexibility in my mind. Not everyone thinks that way. But while my teammate was taking his time, I wasn’t completely idle. When asked to design an ad for a magazine I agreed. When asked to design the invitation for the company’s holiday party I agreed. New people always embrace extra assignments to show dedication to a new job and earn points with management. That’s not exactly my rationale though. In my mind, when a boss asks me to do something, it never occurs to me that “no” is an option.

Eventually, my writer did what he needed to do and I could resume working on that project. Thankfully there’s a rotation system, so with each new project I’m dealing with a different writer. While I’m working with a much quicker person on my next assignment, there’s now a crash because I’m still catching up from working with the slow guy. And so, work has been on my mind a lot these past two weeks, even though I know I’ll get everything done and get past this rough patch. I’m glad to have a long weekend and not think about the pile in my inbox or the multiple meetings that await me on Monday. And yet, here I am in the middle of the long weekend thinking about it.

I’ve been pretty good, and for the most part time spent with friends, family, and movies distracted me. I tend to snap when stressed, and my parents caught some attitude from a few simple questions in the last week. I don’t like that aspect of myself. It’s good that I’m conscientious and concerned about getting things done during the day. It’s bad that those things still gnaw at me at night and affect how I behave with my family.

I know once I get caught up, things will quiet down again. I know there will be other crazy times in the future, and know that I can’t relax until I get everything done. What I need to know is how to clearly separate my work from my life. If I keep falling into this trap while I’m single, what am I going to do when I’m married and have children? I think distraction is the key, finding other things to occupy my mind when I’m not at the office. I don’t expect that to work 100% of the time, and I certainly don’t want to fall into the opposite extreme and not worry about being late if I haven’t been fired for it after ten years. That’s not me.

The weekend’s not over yet. I’ve got plenty of movies to watch, and extended family will be visiting as well. I’m taking this time to intentionally type out my thoughts and feelings, to get them out of my brain and make room for other things. I think returning to work with a clean slate might make it easier to tackle the daunting stack ahead of me. I wonder if this is why people take vacations.


Opposite of Good

I got to talking about bad horror movies with one of my friends this week, and the subject of Stephen King's Dreamcatcher came up. I hadn't seen the film, but back when I was designing book club catalogs I was privy to a synopsis of the book when it first came out. It was a time when people wondered if the master had run out of ideas, if getting hit by a van and nearly killed while out on his morning jog had impaired his judgment. The basic premise had potential. Four friends save a mentally challenged boy from some bullies, and somehow these kids are rewarded with psychic abilities, bonded by their heroic act. When I reached a description of aliens, “sh*t weasels” that swim up and burrow into people while they're on the toilet, I decided I wasn't going to read the book. I had my illustrator depict the main characters gathered together in snowy woods, and avoided the weasels entirely for my artistic presentation.

Years passed, and while the film was on my Netflix queue, I had a lot of movies ahead of it. As my friend told me about the film this week, I knew I was right in not making it a priority. His description of the movie was worse than what I'd read about the novel a few years earlier. The cast sounded amazing, and it's rare that Morgan Freeman shows up in anything of lesser quality. In most cases, his presence elevates and legitimizes movies. An over-the-top general bent on destroying aliens at the cost of innocent civilians didn't sound like Mr. Freeman's usual fare. My friend also spent a lot of time talking about how bushy Freeman's eyebrows were, which seemed an odd criticism at the time.

When I got home, I decided to double-check if the film was in my queue and, if so, where. It was, surprisingly enough, in the top 20. Rather than delete it or move it down, I bumped it to the top. Maybe it would be campy fun, like Slither, though not intentionally funny. As I watched, I didn't think it was that bad. Thomas Jane, Jason Lee, Timothy Olyphant, and Damien Lewis(Life) portrayed the four friends with special gifts from their childhood rescue. While on a trip, we see how they first met and saved “Duddits” in a flashback reminiscent in tone and setting of Stand By Me. I found it had all the qualities I enjoy about King's books and his characters. It took about 45 minutes before it went wrong.

Soon enough, the presence of parasitic aliens is made known. And yes, the discovery is made in the bathroom. It's loud and it's messy. When we meet Freeman's character along with Tom Sizemore, a staple of military roles, the flavor changes entirely. Cutting between the army scenes, the friends' plight in the present, and flashbacks to their childhood, the film becomes somewhat disjointed and frays at the edges. As for Freeman's eyebrows, I saw what my friend meant. He bore an uncanny resemblance to my cat. Not only were they not trimmed, but I suspect those forehead whiskers may have been added.

Eventually, Donnie Wahlberg joins the party as the adult Duddits, playing a mentally challenged man with all the respect and grace of Damon Wayan's Handi Man. There's a “twist” about his character's origins that's apparently a huge deviation from the novel, but I won't spoil that here. As the credits rolled, I pondered what I'd just seen. So much was right about the movie, about it's cast and characters. Probably the best aspect of the film was the visualization of a character's mind and memories, a “warehouse” he inhabits while his body is being controlled by one of the invaders. It's a shame that the alien had a villainously chipper British accent any time he spoke through his host. I understood the need to differentiate between two inhabitants of the same body, but the accent was an odd choice.

It's strange how we sometimes do the opposite of what instincts or trusted sources tell us. I knew what I was in for, and I opted to see the movie sooner rather than later. I also watched an interview with Mr. King, to see how the film stacked up with his vision. He spoke of course about his accident, but also where ideas come from. He felt all doors had been opened, and once the bedroom was no longer a taboo place for movies, there was almost no place left to go. He realized that the bathroom was the one door he needed to open. People often make horrific discoveries in there, such as learning if they're seriously ill. Recalling a personal near-death experience of my own, I knew he was right and that the bathroom is the last place you want to see blood. Hearing that he based an entire novel on that concept, built a story around the framework of blood in the toilet made me understand why the tale was so flimsy. He admits he wrote the whole thing just to get to a scene where a character sits on the toilet and tries to keep a monster contained. There was a lot that could have been explored with the friendships and special abilities of his main characters, and maybe the book did delve further into that aspect. The movie unfortunately did not.

Some of my favorite movies and miniseries had their origins in the works of King. Stand By Me. The Shawshank Redemption. The Stand. The Green Mile. The Shining. When they get it right, they get it so right. When they get it wrong, we get things like Rose Red, The Langoliers, and The Storm of the Century. The hits do outnumber the misses.

At least parts of Dreamcatcher are salvageable, and with a little less attention on the military and more focus on the psychic plane, I think there could be a decent cut of the movie. When you see a Stephen King movie it's usually really good, or the opposite extreme. I'll be heading to the theaters to see The Mist this weekend, and I'm hoping it falls in to the former category.


Weren't You Canceled?

My brain is a funny thing. There are things I generally know, and things I'm vaguely aware of on my periphery somehow. With all the movies and television I watch, I can't keep track of everything. Yet while watching the increasingly charming Pushing Daisies, I noted commercials for October Road and Notes From the Underbelly, shows I'd never seen but thought had been canceled. I pondered this briefly before drifting back to thoughts of how magical life would be if I baked pies for a living, had two beautiful women interested in me, hung out with a sarcastic Chi McBride, and of course had my every adventure narrated. The way my life is now, the style of narration employed by Pushing Daisies seems unnecessary... “The facts were these: At precisely twenty-five minutes past five PM, one Michael J.W. Whorenelli sat in traffic. His eyes peeked over the steering wheel with trepidation, fearing the flickering glow of his fuel light. Had he left five minutes earlier in the morning, he might have had time to stop at a gas station and avoid such a predicament. Alas, this was not the case.”

As the WGA strike continues and networks run out of completed original shows, I suspect the void will not be filled completely with reality shows. Instead, mid-season replacements and other completed shows that might not otherwise have aired may surface. This doesn't mean canceled shows will return because even if old scripts are floating around, sets have been dismantled and actors have moved on to other projects. Sadly, there will be no resurrection of Firefly, The Inside, Drive, Tru Calling, Angel, Undeclared, Traveler, John Doe, Day Break, and countless other shows that deserved more seasons, in my humble opinion. The stars of many of these series have found success on the big screen or in other shows. So, what do we have to look forward to? I expect unaired episodes of many new shows, and apparently Cavemen hasn't been canceled yet.

Things are that bad. I'm worried that many shows won't return. Will the networks welcome any writers back? Are they obligated to keep people who refuse to work? Unions are a bit of a foreign concept to me. I've been in unfair situations before, but I knew there would be no job waiting for me if I didn't show up. Again, I guess it's different when no one shows up. Whatever happens, these shows definitely won't be the same as they would have been. With two episodes left, Heroes has adjusted to wrap up some storylines. I can't say the sudden increase in pace has been a bad thing, but episodes like the one that aired this week leave me craving more. At some point, even the online graphic novels might run out; someone has to write those.

Negotiations should resume after the long holiday weekend. Hopefully both sides will come to a resolution sooner rather than later. Meanwhile, there are a lot of old shows I can catch up with on DVD along with movies. And while new episodes of my favorite canceled shows won't be airing, at least Futurama is returning on DVD. The feature-length Bender's Big Score comes out next week, and will be the first of four all new movies. It looks like I'll survive without television, and there will be no dearth of stuff to watch. Besides, there are worse things going on in the world than shows going off the air for a bit. Seriously, Cavemen is still on??

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!


PBW: Technically

I didn't make it out this weekend for Photo Blog Wednesday, and honestly was looking forward to taking a week off. As far as this week goes, the score is Week: 1, My Ass: 0. It's got some kick when you try to cram 5 days' worth of work into 3, and I'm wondering if the schedule makers took the holiday weekend in to account. I'll do some kicking back of my own soon enough and forget about deadlines for a few days.

Meanwhile, in trying to think of something original to write instead of just posting photos, I drew a complete blank. When I get a complement describing something I wrote as my ”...best post in quite a while...”, it creates a lot of pressure. How do I follow that? Thanks a lot, Scott.

After wracking my wearied brain, I decided to steal an idea from B13, a source of many of my best pilfered concepts. It bothered me to plagiarize since “plagiarize” was the motto of one of the worst people I'd ever dealt with, but I reconciled the difference in that I would actually credit the source of my inspiration. B13 has offered desktop images to his readers in the past, so I combed through my archives for images that might look good a little larger. A few of the following 800 x 600 pictures might have shown up in the past as 300 x 400 or 300 x 225, but there may be a few in there that I've never posted. All are from 2006, and one is a new Terragen, but technically this still qualifies as a PBW post:

Next week, if I don't have new photos, I'll try to actually write something....



Under Different Direction

I watched Watership Down this weekend, a beautifully animated classic from the late ‘70s that, had I seen it when it came out and I was four years old, probably would have traumatized me for life. Having never read the novel, I had only a vague notion of the story, only that it had to do with rabbits and possibly some political allegory. About five minutes in, when one of the rabbits has a vision of a field covered in blood, I knew it wasn't going to be a cute ”Look, bunnies!” story. In fact, it may be the bloodiest cartoon I've ever seen. Granted, I've watched Japanese animation in which people's limbs are torn off or bombs decimate crowds, but you don't often see realistic paintings of cute animals suffer devastating wounds. Thankfully, it's not something I've become desensitized to, and it helps that the perils these rabbits face are not exaggerated or supernatural. Snares exist. Farmers with shotguns exist. Predators exist. Even the most horrific death in Bambi happened off screen.

Watership Down is a moving tale of courage and survival, as a small group of rabbits leave a doomed warren in search of a new home. There are challenges along the way and the tension is high. The outcome is never certain, and I won't spoil it here, only recommend it to viewers over the age of 17. But it did get me thinking about the line between animation geared toward adults and cartoons aimed at children. What might some childhood favorites be like under different direction?

If Robert Rodriguez directed the aforementioned Bambi, you can bet that the forest would have run red with the blood of his mother's killer, who probably would have been drawn a lot like Danny Trejo. I imagine Thumper would sound a lot like Cheech Marin.

Quentin Tarantino's Snow White and the Seven Dwarves would open with the dwarves sitting around a pub drinking from shot glasses and debating whether or not to tip their serving wench. There would be fast talking and a lot of obscure ‘70s movie references. Snow White would be pretty self-sufficient though, sporting a yellow track suit and displaying her martial arts prowess as the cartoon occasionally shifted to black-and-white to get all the blood past the ratings board. The film's chronology would jump around a lot, Dopey would turn out to be working undercover, a knight would lose an ear, and Samuel L. Jackson would lose his **** more than once. “I am TIRED, of these *****-******* DWARVES, on this *****-******* CARRIAGE! Yes they deserve to DIE, and I hope they burn in HELL!” The movie would be released on DVD one-seventh of the film at a time, followed by a boxed set of all seven chapters with bonus features not available on any of the individual discs.

Wes Craven would inject new terror into a feature-length adaptation of Muppet Babies. Not only would Nanny have claws, but the babies would find that once they wandered into their imaginations, getting out wouldn't be so easy...

If legendary Italian horror and suspense master Dario Argento got his hands on Pinocchio, you can bet there would be at least one cringe-worthy scene from the point of view of a character losing an eye when it gets impaled on the extended proboscis of the lying protagonist. Look for a lot of rain, a lot of chases down dark alleyways, a lot of subtitles, and a lot of Italian rock songs. Depending on which decade this hypothetical film is made, you might even see a lot of Dario's daughter Asia. It won’t always make sense, but it will be consistently artistic.

Finally, what would David Cronenberg have done with The Little Mermaid? She'd probably suffer at least one graphic injury biting down on a fish hook, but she'd ultimately prevail against her nemesis, whose head would explode. The real horror would be seeing far too much flesh on an animated James Woods....

There are so many possibilities...James Wan and Leigh Whannell's Toy Story...Eli Roth's Babe...Rob Zombie's Dumbo...and so many more. Ultimately, this exercise has made me appreciate that the line between cartoons and animation—between horror and fantasy—doesn't blur that often.


Phantasmic Links 11.19.07

Where did Sunday go? When I got home from church, it was as gray and cold as when I'd left. A few drops of water on my windshield coupled with a radio report of rain and possibly snow had me debating whether or not to take my camera to a great location I'd thought of. I was feeling cooped up after finally getting around to organizing all the books I'd brought home from my old job on Saturday, a task that took nearly 8 hours. At least we can finally get to that corner of the living room again and the piano if need be.

I brought up the laundry I'd washed the night before, accidentally scaring the stray cat my mom's been feeding into our basement. She's been leaving the screen door open so he can come and go as he pleases. He hissed, ran downstairs when I approached, and once I moved past him to the clotheslines, he darted up and out. He's willing to come in for warmth and food, but still won't let people near him.

It still looked cloudy outside as I lay down to rest for a moment. The sound of my cell phone buzzing woke me up, and after a conversation with B13 I noticed it was after six o'clock! Time flies when you sleep through an entire day. Saturday was productive, and I hope to be productive in the short week ahead at work, but Sunday was almost a total loss. I say “almost”, because at the very least I can still compile this week's PHANTASMIC LINKS:

(1) Randy Taylor can't feed his family on a 12 ounce roll of sausage. I heard this on two different radio stations the other day, and every word of this complaint call is comedy gold. My favorite part is his openness about the size of his family, especially the word he uses to describe his wife...

(2) Comic characters correspond to the periodic table. I'm torn between relief that I'm not geeky enough to have thought of that, and jealousy that someone else thought of it first.
Hat tip: Curt.

(3) No, I am not Italian Spider-man, but it looks like a FANTASTIC show...
H.T.: B13 and Sean.

(4) The Cloverfield Monster has been revealed! So much for thinking happy thoughts...
H.T.: Sean.

(5) I got a 24 on this Almost Impossible Rock Quiz, which would be great if there weren't 58 questions. How did you do?
H.T.: Darrell.

(6) Powerthirst will make you run like KENYANS!!” Or, if you prefer, JUNKIONS! ENERGY!!!

(7) Potter in the Hood! Hogwarts, son, HOGWARTS! He'll “bust a cap in your Azkaban!” Represent!
H.T.: B13

(8) Here are 25 baffling toys from around the world. God robots? Teddy bear guns? Japan is so cool.

(9) Street Fighter: The Later Years Part 4 and Part 5 are now available. If you haven't seen the first three, you can find the whole series at this link.

(10) Beautiful women from several decades morph into one another. Mesmerizing.

(11) Twilight Heroes is a classic role-playing game in which you're an ordinary person by day, a hero by night, and you level up as you play. This could prove to be a new addiction...

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!



30 Rocks

It takes a while to get into 30 Rock. In my opinion, almost all the best comedies on television right now lack a laugh track. It's an outdated tool, and unnecessary. I don't need to be told when to laugh.

30 Rock, like its star and creator Tina Fey, is very intelligent. This isn't to say every character speaks as an intellectual or that the humor is always sophisticated, but it often takes me a minute to register some of the jokes. They have a slow burn, and even the most outlandish cast members keep a straight face and speak with such sincerity, I don't always catch on to a line until after the fact. It's never been high on my list of priority shows, but this season especially, there have been moments I find myself laughing literally out loud. Once or twice I've spoken aloud, prefacing a laugh with a “Wait, what?” that would make my parents think I was insane were they in earshot. (Okay, more insane.)

Fey is great, and there's a large ensemble, but while each person gets a turn to shine, three in particular stand out for me:

1) Kenneth Parcell: In his role as Kenneth the page, Jack McBrayer seems like he should be a background character, someone to deliver messages in the hall to stars and provide exposition to keep the story moving along. I spoke of sincerity, and McBrayer speaks with an innocent Southern religious innocence at all times, completely gleeful. He's a great example of a “Wait, what?” character, and it takes a moment to realize the insanity of his lines. It's rare to see him angry or upset, and a real treat when he is. A few weeks ago when Jane Krakowski's character accidentally burns his treasured page jacket, he just keeps holding it in stunned silence while she keeps talking. The second time he interrupts her with “You burned my jacket”, his delivery was hilarious.

2) Jack Donaghy: I'm developing new respect for Alec Baldwin. Speaking in a powerful whisper at all times, his Vice President of East Coast Television is wise, slick, crafty, and successful. I say wise, because as crazy has his advice seems, the show is set in a crazy reality in which he's often proven right, to the chagrin of Fey's Liz Lemon. His best moment this season was a few weeks ago, while trying to help his show's star in a therapy session. In role playing the family of Tracy Morgan's character, Baldwin demonstrates his range as he fires off a series of borderline politically incorrect impressions of stereotypical ‘70s black sitcom stars, with a sprinkle of Wallace Shawn thrown in. The first time I saw the scene, I was sure they were dubbing the voices of Redd Foxx and others, but apparently not. You can judge for yourself here.

3) Tracy Jordan: Tina Fey figured out the right dosage of Tracy Morgan to make him hilarious. He was good on SNL, but somehow his own 2003 sitcom didn't work for me. On 30 Rock, he's the star of the show Donaghy and Lemon produce, with a slew of movies under his belt, but he's completely childlike and insane. In the episode I mentioned with Baldwin's impressions, Tracy wanted to get into dog fighting when Jack forbade him to do so, only because it was the one thing he was told not to do. When his entourage (of 2) bring him a dog, it's clear from the way Tracy is dressed that he thinks he's the one to fight the dog, and not that dog fighting means pitting dogs against other dogs. This past week, while discussing Jack's dilemma over romantic interest in a woman with differing political views, Tracy had this bit of insight: "Oh, I get it. Romeo and Juliet. Capulets and Romulans…I'm Black, she's White. I'm Black, she's light-skinned Black. I'm Black, she's seventeen..." He might not get Jack's problem exactly, but that doesn't stop him from trying to help and coach him in what to say, like "Tell her that you want your privates and her privates to do a high-five.” or “Tell her you want her to donate her body to science and you science!" Jack does just fine not using the suggested lines, and this leaves Tracy alone on the street advising a pigeon not to eat french fries out of the garbage because it can fly and should have some self-respect. The man is talking earnestly to a bird, and it’s killing me.

* * * * *

In a show about a fictitious show that focuses on writers, and stars several writers including Fey, it's going to be affected by this strike as much as if not more than other shows. I hope we haven't seen the last of it, because it's really been on top of its game lately. After working in some clunky dialogue about how great Verizon is, Fey breaks the fourth wall and asks the camera, “Can we have our money now?”

Seriously, someone pay the woman so we can keep watching.


20 Truths

This past week has been insanely busy, and every coworker I've spoken with shared the sentiment. I got a lot done, including getting approval from the VP and CEO on one of my designs for the holiday party invitation. So, next week I can focus on my core responsibilities once more, but not before enjoying a well deserved weekend.

I had intended to write about how 30 Rock sneaks up on me sometimes, and lately I've been catching myself laughing out loud at certain things when I least expect it. I'm a bit exhausted though, so I'll save that for another day while I instead tackle the easier task of a meme, answering 20 questions with brutal honesty or clever misdirection.

1. What's your middle name?
Joseph. Or Cloaked. Or Wayvid...

2. Your current relationship status?
I'm overweight, geeky, and still living with my parents; I'm pretty sure that answers the question.

3. What is your current mood?

4. If you could go back in time and change something, would you?
I never thought a girl would go for a guy like me, and when I was in my early 20s one actually did. I once told her that all the bad things I'd gone through in my life didn't matter, because every catalyst of every decision I made led me to her. If I didn't get picked on in public school, my parents might not have sent me to a private school. If I didn't go to that school, I might not have chosen the college I did, which led to the internship, which led to the job where I met her. We had 2.5 great years together, and even though it ultimately didn't work out, the experience did teach me to never say never. I have no idea what my future holds, but I know that changing any one bad thing in my past or anyone else's could erase a good thing in the future. Think of The Butterfly Effect.

5. Where was the last place, out of town, that you went to?

6. Ever had a near death experience?
By my count, six: two-near drownings, one fall on to a piece of glass face-first, one blow to the head by a flagpole, one birth defect, and one car accident. There are probably a few I'm forgetting, and a few things that would have resulted in serious injury rather than death, and are thus better categorized as near near death experiences.

7. Something you do a lot?

8. Do you have a fondness for gnomes?
I am a gnome.

9. Name someone with the same birthday as you?
Freddy Heineken, Art Carney, Markie Post, Kathy Griffin, Ralph Macchio, P Diddy, Matthew McConaughey, Laura Bush, and Doris Roberts all share a birthday with me and I suggest to any of the living ones who might read this, that our eclectic group would make a great team of superheroes. Actually, the deceased ones are welcome too. Zombie Carney would have the same charm, and Heineken could be present in spirits...I may need to draw this team.

10. Where are you right now?
Sitting in front of a computer, the same place I am every night.

11. If you could have one super power what would it be?
I'd like to freeze time; I'd get so much done.

12. What's the first thing you notice about the opposite sex?

13. Favorite color?

14. What are you eating or drinking at the moment?
Orange Gatorade, slightly frozen.

15. Do you speak any other language?
Je parle un petite peu de “High School” Français.

16. Describe your life in one word?

17. Have any tattoos?
I still have rings around my ankles from when the sun burned them on Memorial Day; does that count?

18. What are you looking forward to the most?
Each year, Thanksgiving marks the most consecutive days off from work, and it's next week already!

19. If you could have any last name in the world, what would it be?
Alba, because if she's with me, it's a small compromise to take her name.

20. What is your natural hair color?



This has been some week. I've had multiple meetings, multiple side projects, and multiple multitasking. Being the new guy, I'm not turning down any assignments that come my way, and working directly with our VP on the invitation to the company's holiday party seemed like a good move. It's been a fun project, albeit challenging, but after numerous revisions, I think I'm getting close to getting a final design approved. I've been getting a feel for the core workflow and learning efficient ways of getting more done in less time, but you can never account for every variable. I'm exhausted, and looking forward to letting my brain slow down and shrink over the weekend.

Last weekend when I was also unwinding, I learned an interesting fact about how some other workers made their jobs easier. On one of the commentary tracks to Spider-Man 3, producer Avi Arad reveals that in the earliest days of Marvel, the creators intentionally gave a lot of characters alliterative names, because it would be easier for them to remember someone if his or her first and last names began with the same letter. I realized this was no random segue, as the scene he was speaking over featured four alliterative characters whose origins date back to the ‘60s. The more I thought about it, the more I realized alliteration shows up a lot for secret identities, supporting cast, and superhero names. Here are as many Marvel-ous examples as I can think of:

1) Betsy Braddock
2) Betty Brant
3) Big Bertha
4) Black Bolt
5) Brian Braddock
6) Bruce Banner
7) Bucky Barnes
8) Devil Dinosaur
9) Green Goblin
10) J. Jonah Jameson
11) John Jameson
12) Matt Murdock
13) Otto Octavius
14) Peter Parker
15) Red Ronin
16) Reed Richards
17) Reynaldo Reynoso
18) Richard Rider
19) Robbie Robertson
20) Robert Reynolds
21) Rocket Raccoon
22) Rocket Racer
23) Scott Summers
24) Silver Samurai
25) Silver Surfer
26) Stephen Strange
27) Susan Storm
28) Victor Von Doom
29) Wade Wilson
30) Warren Worthington III
31) Wyatt Wingfoot

I'm sure there are more fantastic fictional mighty Marvel creations I've missed, but if even Stan Lee could forget, I'm sure I can be forgiven. And I've only scratched the surface of one major comic book company; I could write a thesis on Superman and the plethora of “L.L.” characters in his supporting cast. What's the deal with that tradition?


The Office Cold Opens

It's a very turbulent time for television addicts. The Writer's Guild strike doesn't leave many completed episodes left. Of the episodes of my favorite shows that were completed before the strike, in most cases those that remain for each number in the single digits. In fact, The Office airs its final episode this week. Who knows when or if it will return?

These are interesting times. I have a list of shows people have recommended to me. Some are from this season and conflict; others are older shows that I'd never seen. The list kept growing, and I never had time to catch up. Maybe now I can. I might also make a dent in the 600 movies on my list as well. If I'm really daring, I might even get a life, but I doubt that.

Since we have all this time, and The Office is the first casualty, I'd like to take a look back at some of my favorite ”Cold opens”, those bits of show that air before the opening credits. Before I eventually got into the show, I'd linger a little longer after whatever led into it, and at least watch the first bit. Some of those quick hits are great. Here are five I love:

Season 4, Episode 1: ”Fun Run” opens with boss Michael Scott driving to work, addressing a documentary camera man in his back seat. It's a typical sight to see in a show that's supposedly about an office being filmed for a documentary. Suddenly, he hits Meredith, the office alcoholic, who rolls up on to the windshield with a contorted expression of horror and disbelief, before rolling back out of sight to make room for the opening credits. Don't worry; she doesn't suffer any permanent damage, but the way her boss deals with what he's done is hilarious.

Season 2, Episode 6: There's a lot of great stuff in ”The Fight”, but the opening is definitely a classic. Dwight arrives to find that the latest prank his neighbor Jim has perpetrated has been the complete removal of his desk. He rails about how it isn't funny, running back and forth as Jim either shouts “warmer” or “colder”, until he finds his desk in the men's bathroom, his phone plugged in and all his papers in order. Deluded but dedicated soldier that he is, Dwight answers his phone and gets to work. It's one of the more memorable pranks between these two rivals, and I even discovered a blog dedicated to them.

Season 2, Episode 11: ”Booze Cruise” sees the staff gathered outside the office on exactly what the title suggests, but before the show begins we get another classic prank. Dwight walks in to the break room to get a snack from the vending machine, only to find is wallet is gone. The snacks are gone too, replaced by all of Dwight's things, ranging from a pencil cup to a name plate to his wallet. Jim's friendship with the vending machine guy pays off in another great prank, as he loans his adversary nickels so he can buy back his wallet(eventually), then the rest of his stuff.

Season 3, Episode 21: Maybe my topic should have been on pranks, but they do seem to be the best openings. In ”Product Recall”, Jim shows up with his hair combed forward, wearing a pair of glasses, a short sleeve shirt, and a drab tie. He speaks definitively and haltingly about minutia, and it takes Dwight awhile to realize Jim is doing a perfect impression of him. I believe an alliterative reference to Battlestar Galactica finally sheds light on the prank, to Dwight's dismay. The scene ends with Dwight running in to Michael's office to complain, as Jim follows suit. It's not until the closing credits that we get to see Dwight's awesome attempt at a Jim impression.

Season 4, Episode 3: ”Launch Party” throws us immediately into a scenario any office worker would dread. The staff is packed into the conference room as Michael addresses them, but they've found a way to make it through a tedious meeting. Behind Michael, a cube bounces around a television screen, and everyone is watching the screensaver, hoping for a moment when that cube will bounce perfectly into one of the corners. No has ever seen it, though in a side interview Pam insists that she saw it happen once. Back in the present, it finally happens in everyone else's presence, and they cheer. Michael of course thinks his workers are excited about whatever he was droning on about, and he beams about being on fire some days. Cue those opening credits.

* * * * *

That's just a small sampling of the one's I've enjoyed. I wish I could have listed more. Feel free to comment and share your own favorite Office cold opens.


PBW: The Cold Woods

I've been considering removing Photo Blog Wednesday as a weekly feature. I'm having trouble thinking of new subject matter lately, so I wonder if it wouldn't be better every other week, or when I've had a genuine adventure. Perhaps an extra day of written content would be a good thing. Of course, feedback is appreciated and it's been a while since I asked for audience suggestions. What would you like to see in a Photo Blog Wednesday? Nature's always been my first instinct and most visited subject, because the camera is a good excuse to go hiking and get some real exercise...

Let me catch my breath. When I've gotten out of shape, perhaps uphill in the Fall is not the best starting point to resume exercise. Still, that footage would be great for a horror movie. I slowed down after that, as fading light and a few dead-end trails proved to be vexing adversaries.

(M.L. + J.G.? Martin Lawrence and Jennifer Garner? Well played, Mr. Lawrence...)

So that was me last weekend, wandering the cold woods. If I don't come up with something new or interesting next week, I probably won't force it. Definitely let me know which images speak to you the most. Trees? Beaches? Cars? Cats? Dogs? Squirrels? Landmarks? Architecture? The Nexus is looking and listening for inspiration.

I'll close with a more pop cultural note, as I made an interesting discovery on Tuesday night. My Stepmother is An Alien encompasses more of what's wrong with ‘80s movies than what's right, though it does have some redeeming qualities. Apparently, this is the major motion picture that introduced the world to Alyson Hannigan, and includes early appearances of Juliette Lewis as one of her friends and Seth Green as her prom date. Early appearances.

How insane is that? Except for the red hair, braces, and carnation, that dude is ridiculously me in high school, complete with a tie too short to reach his belt. It was great to learn where Willow and Oz really first met.

I wonder what ever happened to the careers of their adult co-stars? Could Lovitz be wandering in the woods somewhere?