7.31.2007

Might As Well Face It

67%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?

67% isn't as high as I would have expected. Scott, from whom I found the above quiz, scored 87%.

It's hard to believe I've been at this a few years now and, with 1,025 posts under my belt, I'll be approaching my third anniversary in October. Every day I find something to write about, though some days are more challenging than others. It's rare that I'll fall into a meme or post the results of a quiz. Everybody has those ”whatever” days though, where we either have nothing to say or nothing we can say. I didn't watch any movies or read any books on Monday, and for the most part it was a rare ordinary day. Addicted to blogging though I may be, for a change of pace I'm pretty much only posting quiz results today:

79% Geek

30%







And, since Kev Bayer tagged me, I might as well throw a meme in here too:

“It's very simple. When this is passed on to you, copy the whole thing, skim the list and put a * star beside those that you like. (Check out especially the * starred ones.)

Add the next number (1. 2. 3. 4. 5., etc.) and write your own blogging tip for other bloggers. Try to make your tip general.

After that, tag 10 other people. Link love some friends!

Just think—if 10 people start this, the 10 people pass it onto another 10 people, you have 100 links already!

1. Look, read, and learn. ******
http://www.neonscent.com/

2. Be, EXCELLENT to each other. ******
http://www.bushmackel.com/

3. Don't let money change ya! ****
http://www.therandomforest.info/

4. Always reply to your comments. ****
http://chattiekat.com/

5. Link liberally—it keeps you and your friends afloat in the Sea of Technorati. **
http://chipsquips.com

6. Don't give up—persistence is fertile. ****
http://www.velcro-city.co.uk

7. Give link credit where credit is due. ***
http://www.sfsignal.com

8. Never underestimate the power of a good looking blog. ***
http://scifiranter.blogspot.com/

9. Edit. Nothing cries out "Stop Reading" like misspelled words and bad punctuation. *
http://thebayerfamily.blogspot.com/

10. Post often, but use memes, quizzes, and link lists sparingly, once a week or less if possible. A complete lack of original content can mean death to a blog.
http://mysteriouscloakedfigure.blogspot.com/


Well, my tip wasn't too ironic. ;-) Here are my ten tag-arinos, even though I know maybe three will actually tackle this:

1) Rey
2) J-No
3) Janet
4) Lorna
5) Jeff
6) Jamie Dawn
7) Lyndon
8) Darrell
9) Scott
10) Otis

7.30.2007

Phantasmic Links 7.30.07

Damn, Black Snake Moan was an awesome flick. Welcome back, Mr. Jackson, and kudos, Ms. Ricci. Dee-amn, girl. The rest of my Sunday can be summed up with the following video:



Let's hope the week ahead is neither rainy nor insanely hot, the two extremes I ran into over the weekend. Here are this week's PHANTASMIC LINKS:

An artist creates a masterpiece before a crowd's eyes. I have trouble drawing if even one person is over my shoulder. Hat tip: B13.

These wedding announcements are pretty funny. I hope the girl I marry has a name that will work humorously with mine in the newspaper. The “Filthy-Whorenelli Wedding” has a nice ring to it, for example. HT: J-No.

Tuzki are mouthless, noseless animated bunnies taking the internet by storm. HT: Rey.

Block Dodge is a pretty self-explanatory game, and the longer you last the more twists and challenges you encounter. HT: Darrell.

This IKEA guitar looks pretty sweet.

The human brain cloud is the ultimate massive multi “player” game of word association.

It's about time someone collected all the video game crates and barrels on one site!

When challenged to draw 200 bad comics, an artist found that to be an easy challenge to meet.

I think I will have seen everything, when I see an Ostrich ski! HT: Darrell.

Sometimes games can be soothing and relaxing. Mellow out and help deer cross a gap. HT: Dosetaker.

Why are goggles with a laser sight a bad idea for guys? I don't think I'd have lasted in an office as long as I have with a pair of those. HT: J-No.

These Six Movie Formulas definitely should be avoided. HT: Sean.

I'm not certain how long the video will be available, but Sean also posted Iron Man teaser footage. I officially have something to look forward to in 2008.

It took me about ten minutes to Escape the Island. That's better than I do escaping a real island!


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!

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7.29.2007

The Heat is On

I react the same to extreme temperatures. When it's too cold, I just want to curl up and hibernate. When it gets too hot for me, I find myself equally lazy, often dozing in front of a fan or near an open window. I don't think Saturday was all that hot, but it felt warm enough. I lazed about for most of the day, watching Miami Vice, which had some of the most realistic shootouts I've ever seen in an action movie, and Who Wants to be a Superhero?, whose second season premiere didn't entice me as much as the first season’s. Perhaps it's because I know what to expect, or perhaps no one really stands out yet in this second group. The Defuser has the most commanding presence, Basura is a hot chick in recycled threads, and Mindset is the most geek-friendly. The rest are either obnoxious or forgettable, but I guess I'll see how my opinion changes as the season progresses.

At least one prayer was answered this week. For months, our church has been without air conditioning. Some days have been worse than others, and the oscillating fans up on the altar just didn't reach all the pews. As I drove my mom to mass on Saturday night, I hoped the AC had finally been fixed. Closed doors were a good sign, and indeed cooler temperatures prevailed within. And, as clouds gathered and the sun set, going back outside wasn't as bad as I expected it to be.

I got an interesting surprise on my chicken sandwich at Burger King. I bit into it at dinner, expecting the usual blend of chicken, mayonnaise, lettuce, and bread, and was greeted with two new flavors: bacon and cheese. That's a hot combination. I don't know if it's something new, or if the new cashier misunderstood our order. After dinner, sorting laundry gave me the opportunity to cool off in the basement. Then I settled in once more to watch DVDs and surf the web. I came across some interesting comic-related things, like the first model armor from the Iron Man movie. It looks like a faithful rendition of the original armor from the comics, and I can't wait to see it in action along with the modern red-and-gold suit. Angel will continue as an in-canon comic book series. I still wish that show had gotten a real sixth season. Perhaps the coolest thing I came across was a teaser trailer for The Dark Knight and a new shot of Heath Ledger's Joker that has me ready to run to the rescue of Maggie Gyllenhaal. Almost. It's too hot for me to want to be a superhero.

That's all for now. Go see The Simpsons Movie if you're looking for a cool, dark place and the funniest movie of the year. I haven't laughed that hard in a long time at anything, especially the regular series. They got the best writers and best animators, and even driving home from the theater Friday night I was cracking up thinking about some of the best lines. “Life well spent!”

7.28.2007

My dentist rocks.

I’ve had a pretty good run with my teeth. There have been trials, but I always came through unscathed thinking, “that wasn’t so bad.” One of the first major problems I ran into was an extra tooth in the top row. What were the odds? The dentist that removed it insisted I was feeling “pressure”, not pain, as he yanked it out with what I assume were pliers. I was 8 or 9 at the time, and my memory of the event had him putting a foot up against the chair and pulling with both hands. It was stubborn, and I was surprised to learn just how long the root of a tooth really was below the gumline.

Despite my mom’s predictions due to my snacking affection, I made it into my 20s without a single cavity. After college, I worked for four years for a company that had no dental insurance, so when I finally did return to my dentist, I expected the worst. I had one impacted wisdom tooth, and another with an impressive cavity. I went to an oral surgeon and had all four removed at once, completely anesthetized for the procedure. An animated gif of a tooth being drilled apart and removed in pieces convinced me that I wouldn’t want to be conscious. After a day or two of changing blood-soaked gauze, that experience became a fading memory as well. The most challenging aspect of it was that I was serving on a grand jury at the time, so I couldn’t take time off like I would with work. I managed to do it on a Friday afternoon and recover over the weekend before returning to the court on Monday morning.

I resumed regular visits to my dentist twice a year. I flossed and used mouthwash. I decided that the cavity in my departed wisdom tooth didn’t “count”. I drank milk and had strong teeth and bones. I was in my late 20s before I had my first “real” cavity. My regular dentist was unavailable after my regular work hours, so I ended up having the filling done by his partner. I feared the worst. In my mind, a filling was this silver or gold metallic foreign blotch on otherwise flawless white(ish) teeth. I thought about my mom’s fillings, or my dad’s fake back teeth on a removable metal arch. I would be hideous and forever single.

Dental technology has advanced. The procedure was painless, though the flying sparks and smell of burning rubber or sealant disturbed me. When it was all over he handed me a mirror. After filing and smoothing and buffing, the slightly lighter spot on one of my back teeth was barely noticeable if I didn’t know where to look. Even now, I’m not positive which tooth has it.

Years passed, and I took that dentist’s word as gospel. He assured me that with proper care, I would never have another cavity. I was a little surprised when a second one was found, but I knew what to expect. That time I was able to get an appointment with my regular dentist, and he proved even more adept. I was given protective goggles, sparks were minimal, and the procedure took half the time. There was a mild pinch from the needle, then all was numb and it was otherwise a painless experience. Once again, the material matched my teeth and blended in.

About a week ago, I went in for my latest cleaning and exam. I had noticed a very tiny spot a few days earlier, on my upper right center tooth near the gumline, and hoped it wasn’t what I thought it was. Somehow, despite meticulous care, I found myself with a third cavity. Three cavities in 32 years isn’t so bad, but it still bothers me. Sometimes I’m too tired to floss, and I realize all those little times I skip that step might add up. Nevertheless, it was very small and though my dentist said there was no rush, he did say we needed to take care of it.

Friday morning, I headed in before work, expecting a half hour procedure. I joked with the nurse, “Quick and painless, right?” “Oh, I don’t know,” she said with potential sincerity, “It’s right up front. That’s gonna clear your sinuses if they weren’t already.” I laughed nervously as I was fitted with protective goggles.

The dentist applied a local anesthetic, then pushed cotton under my upper lip and warned me of a little pinch. With my eyes clenched shut and my upper teeth protruding over my lower lip, I hoped I wasn’t inadvertently making an offensive face at my Asian dentist. I felt the needle enter my gum, and then something weird. It felt to me as if it went through the gum, came out somewhere inside my nose, and then shot cold anesthetic down my throat. I’m sure the needle wasn’t that big and my nerve endings were just firing off impulses where they weren’t numb. I felt like my throat wouldn’t close, and tears involuntarily poured out of my right eye and streamed down my face. “Ahboch hey!” I said, giving a thumbs-up.

I sat for a few minutes while they waited for the area to get nice and numb. I felt a tiny surge of pain when he first poked the inside of the cavity, and then that went insensate as well. There was buzzing and draining as the dentist worked and conversed with the hygienist. Ten minutes in, I felt my chair rising as he removed the cotton and offered me a cup to rinse my mouth. Because it was such a small cavity, they charged me $90 instead of the usual $180.

I’m adding fluoride rinses to my daily routine in the interest of preventing future cavities. I don’t know if they’re inevitable. My parents thought I’d have a lot of the same problems they do, but not everything has manifested yet. By the time they were my age, they were both wearing glasses. They insist that I need to be careful with the computer, books, and television, but so far I’ve been lucky. I definitely have fewer cavities than they did by this point in their lives. I definitely have a great dentist and if more fillings are needed in the future, I’m not worried about it. I just hope I never need a root canal or anything more serious, so I’ll remain as vigilant as possible. I can’t imagine how I once went four years without going to the dentist. I suspect one of my band leaders has never set foot in a dentist’s office. His son’s latest girlfriend, when I finally saw her smile after another player told me to watch for it, looks like someone took a bat to her teeth, then colored half of the survivors in with a magic marker. You need to take care of your grill; slacking in that area can lead to roads I never want to travel down.

7.27.2007

Sights and Sounds

I'm glad I've never had a long commute for my 9-to-5 job. It's not that a long drive would be unpleasant. I'd actually enjoy time alone to listen to the radio, clear my thoughts, and prepare for the trials ahead. Public transportation is a different story. It's not that I don't like people per se; I just don't like being packed shoulder to shoulder in a speeding metal conveyance on a hot day. For the annual St. Ann's Feast, it took three trains to get to New Jersey. When the July 26th festival falls on a weekday, it means dealing with commuter volume.

As a rule, I don't like to talk on the train. I'll nap, or zone out, or go places in my brain. I learned to detach myself from my surroundings back in high school, when I took a train home from a private school every day and stopped at a comic book store on the way for some good escapism materials. I especially don't like to talk about where I'm going or what I'm doing, so it makes me uncomfortable when my dad starts talking about people in the band, or how much we'll be making. He's never been one for discretion, but as his hearing gets worse the stuff he says gets louder. Crammed in to a seat, hugging my instrument to my chest and feeling the eyes upon me from people heading to “normal” jobs, I already felt self-conscious.

In the past, my dad has slowed me down at the turnstile for our final train. In the interest of saving time, and perhaps from some technological high ground, I volunteered to put the money in and let him go through first. “It's not working!” he protested as his instrument clanked against the turnstile while I still fumbled to flatten the first bill so the machine would accept it.

“Let me know when I can go.”

“Just a minute.”

“WHAT??” ::clank::

“I SAID, ‘JUST A MINUTE'!”

“Okaaay.”

Once he was through, he loudly began offering me quarters while I struggled to feed my own money in. It cost $1.50, so I put in two singles for him, then my 50¢ change from that transaction and another bill for myself. I didn't need quarters, and I didn't need everyone on the platform to know I was being a spaz with the turnstile.

We caught our last train well enough, and met up with the band leader and a few other musicians at the station. As we drove to the church, the band leader pointed out an alley with yellow police tape, noting that a dead body from earlier hadn't been moved yet. Near a dumpster, a white sheet covered a human-shaped mound, crimson stains at one end. I don't know if it was from a fall or a shooting; I'll have to check the news later.

It was a hot day, and at times I was on the verge of passing out between water stops. We also proceeded at a record pace, and finished a six hour procession in about four hours. There were some good sandwiches along the way, especially roast beef, and plenty of interesting characters both within the band and on the sidelines. One woman was following us with a big sign that said “ONLY ROMAN CATHOLICS CAN GET INTO HEAVEN!” I happen to be Catholic, but it's not a requirement to be in the band. Otherwise, I'd say the majority of people in the procession were Catholic and from her local church, so I'm not sure who that message was for or why she took that approach. I'm not saying we shouldn't be missionaries and share our beliefs, but waving a big sign like that projected an attitude that she might not have been going for. I saw, “I'M BETTER THAN YOU AND YOU'RE ALL GOING TO HELL, NYAH NYAH.” and I am a Catholic. I can only imagine what non-Catholics thought. Likely she'd be dismissed as a “religious nut” and then people would go back to doing what they wanted.

Other sights and sounds throughout the day held more significance for me than for others. At one point, I noticed a small shack with the address “616” emblazoned on the door. As a huge geek, I imagined it being the portal to the Marvel Universe, because geeks (arguably) geekier than I use ”616” as a designation for the core continuity. I'd probably do better with the ladies if instead of storing useless knowledge like that, I took pointers from our drummer. Carrying a six-pack of kegs around his midsection, he nevertheless boldly addressed any and every pretty girl on the street. Some laughed and kept walking, and others ignored him, but there were instances where he ended up chatting with them and even had some dancing and playing his drum. He has some zen ability to clear his mind and just say anything. When we were heading back to the train, a girl walked by carrying a heavy box, and he called out, “Oh I woulda helped you!” We caught up to her when she was loading it on to a beer truck and he added, “Aw, I woulda got a free beer if I helped!” I guess some folks just have different gifts than others.

Prior to leaving, we'd all spent some time in an outdoor bar, waiting to be paid. After a few beers, the leader didn't even seem to remember that I nearly derailed our last song by playing a closing phrase before he was ready to cut us off. My dad ordered a gingerale, and the bartender replied with “Sangria? Yeah, let me check in the back.” I hesitated before correcting the bartender and pointing out what my dad actually asked for. I don't think he's had alcohol, ever, and probably shouldn't start at 77. I don't know if he noticed that I had something stronger than gingerale in my cup, though. I got talking with our bass drummer, who was actually a soon-to-be-retired journalism teacher and familiar with a lot of the same software I use in my line of work. He turned out to be a decent guy, and redeemed himself. At the beginning of the job, when the speakers we were standing next to suddenly blasted us with the sound of digital fireworks, he ran by in a panic, still hitting the bass drum, and nailed me in the crotch with the beater on an upswing. I'm sure he would have apologized had he noticed.

The return trip brought a lot of the same perils as the trip in. Once again, I had trouble with the turnstile, especially since my money was a little damp after a grueling day's work. “[MCF]! DO YOU WANT QUARTERS??” My dad might as well have held up a sign that said, “My son is an idiot!” In response to his cries, some guy came over and asked if I needed help making the money go faster. Expecting that he'd take my dollar and then run, I politely declined.

I suppose to the outside observer, it seems like I overreact to stuff my dad says sometimes. It's just that I read into things because I expect certain phrases from him. At the beginning of the job, one of the trumpet players walked by with an amazing looking sausage and pepper hero. “Wow, that'll make you have a bowel movement!” declared my father. That's the sort of thing I expect him to say. I'd blame his age, but he never cared what he said or who might be listening back when he was in his ‘40s and ‘50s, either.

Finishing the job early was positive, but timed our return trip at precisely 5:30, when the world was going home for the day from Manhattan. The train had standing room only, and I got stuck across from an obnoxious couple. The more he teased her with cutesy things like “If you ask me again for lots of strawberries, I'm only gonna order one strawberry for yours.”, the more she giggled and kissed his bicep. Fortunately, we got to change trains after 20 minutes. On the platform, my dad complained loudly that people don't offer their seats, and that in a row of three a lot of times folks take the first and third spot and leave the middle empty. I pointed out that if he wanted to sit he could have asked them, and that most people leave space because they don't like sitting that close to strangers. I added that I don't like sitting that close to people I know.

On the next train, I found myself distracted by a thin blonde beauty in a green floral print sun dress. I drifted through the train behind her, before the loud voice of reality beckoned from half a car away: “[MCF]! Hey, [MCF]! Come back, there's seats here!” It would not only have been rude to ignore him, but doing so would have resulted in louder shouting. So I returned, apologized to the person sitting next to him, and squeezed in to a corner seat directly across from my dad. It took some shifting before our knees were no longer touching, and once some people reached their destinations and disembarked, I asked him to move over so I could stretch my legs and move my horn more than an inch away from my face.

It was good to get home, and get back to our car. “A lot of people kept trying to see what your shirt said as you were napping!” Dozing on the ride back, I forgot that we were given new shirts on the job, matching red ones with “[MCF] Sr.” and “[MCF] Jr.” stitched into them. I remembered a pretty girl two seats down adjusting her makeup, her reflection caught in the glass as the train passed shadowy areas. I remembered the little smile as she walked by at her stop, and suddenly felt self-conscious again.

It was a day with a lot of interesting sights and sounds, and a nice vacation from my usual routine. Nevertheless, it was good to be back in my room. I checked my e-mail, got stressed about a few things at work requiring my attention, then put it out of my mind the best way I knew how, with the sight of my computer monitor and the sound of my fingers tapping the keyboard.

7.26.2007

That Would Suck

I watched Idiocracy on Thursday night. Wow. This Mike Judge science fiction satire stars Luke Wilson as a man who, frozen in the present, wakes up 500 years from now to a very different world. The scary thing is how probable a future he paints. Intelligence is mocked and discouraged. Dumb kids outnumber and over power the smart ones. Branding dictates major decisions. “Reality” television surpasses intelligent dramas and comedies, and game shows of intellectual skill are forgotten in the wake of shows where people eat insects or perform dangerous stunts. Can it be true that ”only stupid people are breeding”? 500 years beyond our reality, simple tasks are automated by malfunctioning machines, layoffs are handled by computers, and a sports drink has replaced water as sustenance for people as well as plants. I think it's generous of Judge to say this world is 500 years away; it seems a lot closer than that. If it became a reality, That Would Suck.

* * * * *


Walking in the park on Sunday, I noticed a family walking up a hill leading to a large pond. A middle-aged woman was pushing an elderly woman in a wheelchair, who had her hand to her forehead and looked extremely distraught and disoriented. The younger woman kept repeating, “It's okay ma. Mom, are you all right? It's ok maaaa...” I didn't take notice of the rest of their group until I was almost past them. Trailing behind, another woman was carrying a small pillow and a purse, which were both dripping large quantities of water. I'm not sure if my math was correct, but wheelchair + hill + pond + head injury + wet belongings = she rolled into the pond. I hope my calculations were off, because That Would Suck.

* * * * *


A friend of mine finds the time to read in a busy schedule by listening to books on CD during his commute. When he picked up Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which cost more than twice what the book did, I asked him if there were any celebrities reading. He didn't know, but said sometimes that is the case, and can explain a higher cost. You have to pay an actor to sit in a studio and read. But what if he got home and discovered the conclusion to this great saga was read by someone like Gilbert Gottfried? Could you imagine the horror of popping in that disk and hearing a shrill voice proclaim, “Hey! Er mai oh KNEE!”? In a moment of confusion for the actor, one might even hear, “Look out, Aladdin! I mean, Harry! Expecto, AFLAAAC!That Would Suck.

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7.25.2007

PBW: Tread Lightly



While reading outdoors this past Saturday, a fluttering butterfly fluttered by. I couldn't say that last sentence in the time it took to disappear, and only got one decent shot. So the following day, in search of more images for Photo Blog Wednesday, I headed to a park. There I found plenty of birds, a baby bunny, a tank and a very special squirrel.










I was realizing I'd ventured an hour from where I'd parked my car, so I was heading back when I heard scuffling and saw in the distance what I thought was a squirrel drinking from a cup twice his size. Closer inspection showed he was just nibbling away at it, entertainingly so.




I crept closer, as shaky portions of the above video demonstrate. At some point he noticed, dropped his prize, and leapt on to a tree, assuming his fiercest stance.



I felt bad for disturbing him, and took the long way around a golf range rather than scare him further. I hope he got back to his treasure.

I guess you never really know what you'll come across in the wild.

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7.24.2007

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

I think this movie is going to be amazing, and even though I feel like I've spent three days watching--nay, living--the tale, I still can't wait until 2010. There's a lot I can do to kill time until then, not the least of which is tackling the EIGHTEENTH edition of the Mysterious Cloaked Figure's Astonishing Test. Who rose to the task this time? Behold:

B13
(in the comments)

Darrell

Kev Bayer

And now, Accio, My Answers!

1) What aspect of aging do you dread the most?
Darrell's Alzheimer's response makes what I was thinking of when I wrote this question trivial, especially since I watched one of my uncles succumb and shrivel to a fragment of himself before he passed on. The thing that prompted this inquiry happened on the way to an Italian feast last Monday, when morning rush hour traffic found me sitting in a car with two old men for close to an hour. Almost embarrassed, our friend Bill the trumpet player mentioned that he needed a rest room. My dad cheerfully offered a plastic bottle he keeps in the trunk in case of emergencies, something my mom had liberated from a hospital. That horrified me as much as the suggestion of pulling up on the non-shoulder and letting the old guy run up into some trees in a very busy section of Queens. I convinced them to wait until the next exit, where we found a gas station. While we waited in the car, my dad chimed in that now he had to go, “the power of suggestion”. He climbed out of the back while I called our drummer to let him know we weren't getting to Brooklyn by 8 AM or even 8:30, and what the delay was. My dad sleeps in 1-3 hour shifts during the night, interrupted by that pressure and sense of urgency. Maybe it's not as bad as actual incontinence, but I can imagine the fear that comes with that whole prostate thing, and he'll often make stops as a precaution. I like sleeping through the night, and finishing car trips in one shot. Again, it's probably a minor inconvenience in light of Darrell's response, but it's somewhat in line with what Kev Bayer said about relying on other people. It must be very frustrating.

2) What's the wildest ethnic celebration you've ever participated in or encountered on the street?
Manhattan has offered many instances in which people in wildly colorful native costumes have waved tambourines in my face, danced jigs, and played exotic instruments. Last week's Italian feast found the matriarch of one local family using two round metal trays from the morning's breakfast as makeshift symbols. Six hours later, after she beat the hell out of them, they were riddled with dents. At one stop, people danced and banged pots and pans together as we played the theme to Rocky. It was one of the wilder times in recent memory, on par with the year one of the feast officials blew his eye out with a firecracker. The funniest disturbance this year occurred on one block when our drummer, the band leader's son, frantically stopped the procession and ran screaming, “Where's deh cop??” When we asked if someone had collapsed from the heat, he nearly collapsed himself getting the words out: “Some guy...up in his apartment....MOONED us....dat's a disgrace...” Honestly, while a juvenile and offensive gesture, I'm not sure what the police could do if he was in his own apartment, beyond a fine for public indecency. I don't think the drummer should have stopped the entire procession though, and I imagine provoking such a reaction, even if the police did locate his apartment, left the guy laughing his ass off.

3) Which characters would you like to see in the sequel to Transformers? If you're not familiar with the series, you can just suggest vehicles or other alternate forms you'd enjoy watching turn into robots.
I'd definitely like to see some kind of gestalt, any of the teams of robots that combined to form a giant robot. Devastator would be my first choice, not only because he was the first one in the original series but because we've already seen one construction vehicle named for a member of that team. Aerialbots would also be a cool addition, to offer air support to the heroic faction. And with rumors of Grimlock showing up in a sequel, I'd love to see him or any of the Dinobots represented, no matter how little sense giant robot dinosaurs would make. It would just look really cool. Finally, the bad guys could offer a greater threat with reinforcements in the form of Shockwave, a giant laser cannon, or more Seekers terrorizing the skies.

4) Do you ever just go crazy or lose your temper and, if so, how do you cool down and regain rationality?
I blew up at my dad last Saturday for repeatedly asking me if I'd be ready in time to park our car for a parade three hours before it began(and ultimately six hours before it was our turn to kick off). This past Sunday I did a better job of keeping my composure, even though my dad was pressing all my buttons and I was seething. I had to get out of the house for a while, and it took hours for my rage to subside. I'm learning that my outbursts are often releases when other things bother me, or when I feel trapped or stressed out. Last weekend I felt I was “missing” my weekend by playing musical engagements three days in a row, so I got upset at the idea of cutting into more of my free time. It's the same feeling I get when I'm stuck in traffic. Sunday's anger came out my own guilt, projecting my own sense of uselessness as the way my dad perceived me, when in fact the only reason he was working was because he was bored, and didn't want to feel useless himself. I hate the way I sound when I get in a shouting match with my parents, and the irrational things that come out. I guess love includes putting up with stuff like that sometimes, but they don't deserve it after giving me life, sheltering me, and the countless other things they've done for me over the years. Counting, breathing, and other techniques don't work, and I envy Kev Bayer's ability to recover so quickly. I think space is the only solution, stepping back from the situation and returning when I'm feeling more sane. A long drive isn't always an option of course, so possibly learning to go other places in my brain might be the solution. I just hate the loss of control, that I can get along with people for months then suddenly explode.

SPECIAL BONUS QUESTION: What is “Purple Monkey Dishwasher”?
Darrell got this one right; it was, of course, a Simpsons reference. Pass it on....

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7.23.2007

Phantasmic Links 7.23.07

When you're used to doing things yourself, it's hard to stand back and let others do things for you. We're going to have new windows put in our dining room this week. My dad insists on doing as much as he can before the people we've hired get here. First, we brought ladders up from the basement, initially for me to clean our gutters, but then he asked me to leave them outside in case the workers needed ladders. Our windows aren't that high, and I would hope they have basic equipment. My mom suspects an ulterior motive, that he plans on doing some other work on the roof that he knows we wouldn't approve of, especially since the bump on his shoulder swells up any time he exerts himself climbing or lifting.

While I cut the lawn, against both my mom's and my advice, he removed one of the inner metal window frames, with the rationale that he needed to see how it was done, that it would save the guys time and thus save us money, and because my mom wanted to save it and the workers might just rip it out. Later, after I'd settled in to watch a movie, the sound of a hammer and chisel finally drew me from my quarters. He was trying to loosen a painted over screw on the outer window, and had succeeded in stripping it. I tried to help, and he argued that no one called me. When I accused him of making a racket because he didn't like the fact that I was relaxing for once on a Sunday afternoon, he threw the now standard response that I “twist things with my psychology”. He went on to say that the workers could get the window apart with a hacksaw, and he was only “playing” because he was “bored”. He used some old-guy phrase like “a shoemaker could do this job”, so I finally gave up. I guess I'm not as good as a shoemaker, but he put his tools away and sulked off to watch television, so he didn't have any better luck. I went out for a while, and later checked to see that while I was gone he had sawed and filed at the head of the screw, but still hadn't removed it. I imagine the people he hired will take about five minutes getting it apart.

At one point during our argument, he asked why I was so stubborn. I know exactly who I inherited that from, and why it causes us to clash. I guess I can understand his need to be useful, and reasoning that for the job to be done right he needs to do part of it himself. In my own career, I've often taken up slack or covered where I found coworkers to be lacking. I don't like for someone else to take what I consider to be “mine”, so in hindsight I get why my dad got mad at me for taking his tools. He probably wasn't making noise to rouse me out of my laziness, though I took it that way at the time. I guess I need to cool down and de-stress, and I'll do that by finding this week's PHANTASMIC LINKS:

There's cute, and then there are newborn pandas.

When Sweet Dreams are made of Seven Nation Army, you get one of the greatest mash-ups I've ever seen.

DrawerGeeks is an invitation-only site in which a variety of professional artists take turns providing their take on various characters. Hat Tip: Curt.

What happens when Peanuts characters are rendered in Anime style? HT: Rey

This interesting study shows the effects of acid on art. Trippy; I wonder if the artist from my previous link participated.

Now you can get a little pole dancer for your MP3 player. Little restraining orders are sold separately. HT: B13

Nigoro is a classical game of...slapping? Four rounds in, most of the words foreign to me, and still I'm determined to win.

What is Lifeslackers? It's a new collection of trivia, videos, and more, brought to you by our old friend Lyndon. I highly recommend the Welcome Back, Potter video.(And please, no comments on the book, I still have another 282 pages to go...)

Hopnotic will prove to be hypnotic as you jump pieces through 16 levels in Beginner or Advanced mode, or 32 in Puzzle mode. Watch out for bombs and collect those gems, and get ready for the hours to disappear. HT: B13



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!

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7.22.2007

Deathly Hallows

The much-anticipated and thus far aptly-named final book in the Harry Potter series arrived on my doorstep on Saturday morning. After running an errand at the bank and helping my dad with a car he was working on, I had the rest of the day free to bury myself in a good book.

With extreme caution, keeping my hand over the page, I flipped to the last one to check the folio. I've made the mistake in the past when checking the length of a book of glancing at the content, and seeing a word or two that gave something away. I was determined to remain spoiler-free, and for the next week or so I'll probably avoid large chunks of the internet as well; I didn’t even read the link I used in the previous paragraph. I managed to see “759” without reading anything else, as movement distracted me. A large black insect darted to the corner of my old computer, paused, then ran down toward the floor.

At first I thought it was a big ant, but it was too short and wide. The nasty spider darted across my rug and over a dark blue shirt where it blended in. I hesitated with a tissue, then brought it down, missing completely as it disappeared under a box and I let out a masculine war cry, and definitely not a scream of terror.

I searched under my desk and along my wall, shining a flashlight into all the possible hiding places. I never did find it, and decided to take my book to a local nature preserve. Walking across a field, I found a large shady tree, and settled in with my back against it. Soon I was lost in a familiar world, anxiously turning the pages.



This blissful retreat ended within five minutes, when I looked down to see a huge ant zipping across my shirt. I flicked it away, and turned back to the tree I was leaning on. It was covered in smaller, red ants, so I decided to move on. I found a path leading into another shady spot, and some steps to sit upon. This had to be the perfect spot.





I got through a few more pages, and rustling in the underbrush turned out to be nothing more than a bird. It wasn't until I noticed a beige, striped spider hanging in midair, connecting my leg to the stone steps, that I relocated once more, retreating to a garden. There, along a brick path, I found a bench under a tree, and spent the next two hours lost in a fantasy world.



I'm not going to comment on the content of the book. Careful readers might think I've said too much already. I only took a break to go to church and eat dinner, and after dinner I got to page 200 before closing my eyes. Now, instead of going back to sleep, I'm going to attempt another 100 pages or so, because it's that good and I want to get to the end before someone ruins it for me.

I wonder where that spider went....

7.21.2007

You Can't Stay Here

In college, my mom would often say I was like one of my uncles, in that I was always the last one to leave a gathering. Between the lines, I think she was voicing concern that I might also be an alcoholic, but my friends back then really weren’t much of a drinking crowd. Like most geeks, I didn’t have my first beer until a few days before my 21st birthday. When I was out with my friends, we were just laughing, telling jokes and stories, and generally enjoying the whole group dynamic. If I was addicted to anything, it was socializing, and I hated to be the first one to leave. At some point, someone would have to make the first move, or comment that our hosts were tired, and once people started standing up and stretching, I reluctantly said my goodbyes and made my way to the door as well.

Not much has changed in the last decade. I’ve had more alcohol, and have even been drunk on a few occasions, but it never became a regular practice or something I had to do. Alcohol or not though, unless I was working or had to be somewhere else, I remained the last person to leave. I have to be really comfortable with people for them to see my dorky sense of humor, but a drink or two will also bring that out, along with bad dancing, off-key singing and the rare bout of freestyle rapping (That last old friend made an appearance at a happy hour on Friday).

I wonder sometimes if it’s an issue of self control, or of balance. Sitting under an umbrella with a cool breeze with a bottle in my hand and the sun setting, I was relaxed, content, and stationary. As people departed and conversations trickled, I wasn’t going anywhere. I may have zoned out, because at one point everyone I knew was standing, hugging, or shaking hands. “Everyone’s leaving, so you might as well get up,” someone advised me. People scattered in different directions, some home while others trekked to other bars. Suddenly, I was sitting in my car in an empty parking lot, and it was still light out.

As an adult, all things should be taken in moderation, from food to alcohol to fun to work. As a human being, it’s natural to always want a little bit more, even when we’ve had enough. The buzz had worn off, my second beer hours in the past, and I had a strong sense of “Where did everybody go?” I generally think I know when to say when, at least with alcohol, and certain signs like stumbling, confusing words, or breaking into a rap usually clue me in. I never know when to say when with other fun things, from hanging out with friends to watching television or playing a video game. I’ll be dozing at my keyboard playing a mindless clicking game. I’ll flip through channels with nothing on. I don’t go to sleep until I’m fully exhausted. Maybe self control is something that will come with true maturity, or maybe it’s something requiring a lot of hard work. I think I was so used to my parents calling me in to dinner when I’d play on the street as a child, that I don’t think I ever learned to call myself in.

I don’t think I’ve ever overstayed my welcome. On a few occasions in my mid-twenties, I did crash at a friend’s apartment in the city, but only because I was invited and after karaoke and vodka, I risked falling asleep on a train and waking up somewhere weird. If I did make it home, I doubt my folks would like what they saw. The first time I got home from a date at 3 AM, I found the house locked, and when I knocked on the window my dad started yelling about how our house wasn’t a hotel. I’ve had past supervisors send me home, telling me to finish my work the next day, and once before a holiday weekend one boss actually assigned what I was doing to someone else and more or less kicked me out. Possibly the closest I’ve come to staying when I wasn’t wanted would be the times I was in the gym literally one minute beyond closing time. After an e-mail memo or two on the subject, I made it a practice to finish working out no later than fifteen minutes before they had to lock up.

In the end, I don’t think the problem is that I lack an inner clock letting me know when it’s time to go. It’s like there’s still a child in my brain actively screaming, “I don’t WANNA!” At the most recent happy hour, I was talking to a friend I hadn’t seen in a while about his three-year-old son. The kid has discovered the phrase, “I don’t have to!”, and uses it when he’s told to go to sleep. That sums up the feeling I get when things are over before I’m ready for them to be. I think I’d write a lot less if I knew when to sum up my thoughts. Here’s a song in lieu of a solid closing paragraph:

7.20.2007

Fat Penguin; Sad Pigeon

About a month ago, a buddy of mine taught me a great line to use on girls in bars or at parties. It's a little corny, but harmless and more likely to get a smile than other clichés. You walk up to her, smile, and say “Fat Penguin”. When she questions that, you go on to explain you needed an “ice breaker”.

I told you it was corny.

Now that I've gotten your attention(or lost you completely), we can move on to other tales. Thursday morning proved far more uneventful than Wednesday's ordeal. I got to work with little difficulty, and didn't encounter a problem until I reached my parking lot. Due to flooding damage, one of our buildings was closed, so a lot of my coworkers were parked in the lot I normally use. The best spot I found had an SUV(of course) parked with both of its right tires firmly over the line. Still, my car is pretty small and I thought I could fit in the angled spot anyway.

I bring it on myself. Once in the spot, I wasn't comfortable having an inch between vehicles. When people pull that crap and take up more than one space, I don't mind climbing out the passenger side. But in most cases, there's still room for the offending car on the left to back out. I was so close, I knew I'd lose my mirror when they left.

I backed out, keeping my hand between my mirror and the car. Somehow, I was getting closer, so I pulled up. With each cut of the wheel, no matter what I did I got closer and closer. I was trapped. At one point I pulled forward over the curb and on to the grass divide, to get more room to maneuver. I grew frustrated, and afraid.

Salvation came in the form of a woman in my rearview mirror, shaking her head in disbelief and disapproval. I didn't recognize her, and since she was leaving its possible she had gone to the doctor's office across the street, given the direction she came from. People who don't work with us aren't supposed to park there, but this time it proved a good thing. She got into the car on my right and left, leaving me plenty of room to back out and swing wide enough to get away from the SUV. Once free, I took the spot she was in. When I came outside at lunch, I noticed no one had tried to park in the space between.

After a fairly interesting day in which a lot of stuff happened, I headed home. Along the way, I noticed a little pigeon waddling across the street, in front of oncoming traffic. I saw a car slow down, but the little fellow kept walking. My dad always tells me “keep going; they'll fly away,” but I never chance it. Sure enough, this wacky bird kept walking. He clear the car's left front tire, and my hand flew to my mouth in horror as the car rolled over him and he tumbled underneath.

In my rearview mirror, I saw the driver slow to a near stop. In the street behind him, the pigeon had actually rolled back onto his feet, and was still making his way to the other side. With people behind me, I couldn't linger long, but I saw him waddle up on to the shoulder.

Was he injured? Perhaps he was sad and had a death wish. I don't know why he didn't fly. It was a comical sight to see, since he didn't seem to be hurt, and hopefully he'll be more careful in the future. Cheer up, sad pigeon. I know all to well the perils of vehicles. There are good things in life too. The next time you're perched on a statue with some girl pigeons, try that “fat penguin” line. I bet that avian humor will work better for you than for us human beings.

7.19.2007

Flood of Patience

I live less than fifteen miles from my current place of employment. On a good day, my commute takes about 25 minutes. On an average day, it can take up to 35. Wednesday was a bad day, a really, really bad day...

I awoke to a torrential downpour, and took my time getting ready. It showed no signs of letting up, but since I haven't figured out a way for my work to do itself, I didn't have much of a choice. Wipers flying furiously, I set out into my aqueous journey.

Winds and water pelted my little car. I couldn't see more than a few feet in front of me, and relied heavily on the lines in the road. Where the road inclined toward the center, I stayed right to avoid puddles. Where it inclined outwards, I shifted to the left. Ten minutes in, the rain let up to a drizzle. I breathed a sigh of relief, knowing I'd be at work sooner rather than later.

The first obstacle was a van stalled in the left lane. I shifted to the right, and saw men in suits attaching a rope from the front bumper of one vehicle to a nub on the back of another. Traffic accumulated, but still it moved. The next obstacle was a power outage. I flew through an intersection where the lights were dark, cars waiting to cross my path. In my rearview mirror, a police car peeled out behind me.

I stayed calm. I wasn't speeding, and I don't think it's possible to run a light that isn't on to begin with. Indeed, he had other concerns as he passed me. The next four or five lights were out. Finally, he threw on his lights, pulled a u-turn, and soared the other way.

I only encountered one more light outage, just before a major expressway. This time, a cop was directing traffic, and beyond that the road was open and the lights were on. All lights, including brake. I found myself on a stretch of road in bumper to bumper traffic, with no side streets to escape down. Ten minutes passed, then fifteen. I crawled along, but I was calm. I listened to music, and had the window open, the light drizzle on my arm refreshing. Soon I got to a point where I could turn off the road, and cut down to another Southbound route.

The next major road was almost as bad, and the following one turned out to be worse, but it was my final option. Several times I seriously considered parking the car and walking, because I honestly could have closed those last five or six miles faster on foot. People beeped. People cut in front of me. At one point, the radio cautioned crossing train tracks because many of the lights and arms were out of commission. I left space in front of me, so I didn't get caught on the tracks. Suddenly, flashing lights took me by surprise. I sat for ten more minutes waiting for a train which eventually appeared, and slowly rolled past.

Finally, after nearly two hours on the road, I was within a few blocks of my destination. My cell phone buzzed in my pocket, but I wasn't going to pull over when I was that close. My parents were no doubt concerned, but I'd call them from my desk. The phone showed the missed call as being from a “restricted #”, so I didn't even bother checking my voicemail. I just ran into the building, wondering why half the parking lot was empty.

Inside, there was a message from my dad. I called home to let him know I was okay and just got to work, and asked if they called my cell phone. He said they had not and then, against my protests, put my mom on the phone. After a few terse affirmations and denials, I quietly explained to her that I didn't want to advertise loudly in my cubicle just how late I was.

An e-mail check explained the partially empty parking lot; one of our buildings had flooded, and the employees sent home. Our building, its lobby on level ground, proved to be more resilient against rain, and so we weren't as fortunate. Still, with half my team missing, it turned out to be a quiet day. I enjoyed it, knowing how frantic it would be catching up in the coming days. By lunch time, the rain had stopped though the clouds had yet to part. As I walked in to town with my friends, I decided to check my cell phone once we were outdoors and I had reception again.

A few months ago, a writer nearing retirement learned that I lived not far from him. On a few occasions when he's had car trouble, I'd given him a ride to and from work. Starter and transmission problems paled in comparison to the situation he found himself in on Wednesday morning. I stopped in my tracks as I heard him frantically telling me he was in trouble and needed help. His car was partially under water and stalled. It was a horrifying moment realizing the desperate call had been ignored, and he quite possibly was dead for hours. It was like a message from beyond.

He went on to ask me to relay a message, or at least he tried. Suddenly, I heard a woman's voice in the distance, muffled through glass. He began yelling at her, “NO! DON'T PUSH ME! I CAN'T!! I CAN'T SHIFT OUT OF NEUTRAL!” I couldn't quite hear her end of the conversation, but what sounded like people yelling at him turned out to be a lady asking if she could push his vehicle with hers. As it turned out, he had already called a tow truck, and as he thanked the good Samaritan, he got back on to finish asking me to tell his supervisor where he was.

When I got to my desk, I e-mailed his boss, then called him. His wife answered, and I heard him in the background asking if he could call back. I just left a message with her explaining that I had contacted his supervisor, but several hours later because my cell phone doesn't work inside our building.

When an e-mail came from our gym about an early closing, I was disappointed. Surely the aftermath of the weather nightmare was resolved. I read on to see that they were inquiring how many people were planning to stay late. On a busy night, there's maybe two or three other people in the gym when I work out, and often I'm the last one to leave. I wasn't going to make the gym stay open for me, so by 6 PM I was heading home, even thinking about going up to a local school to run around the track instead.

I thought about how much difference a few hours makes. The roads were clear, save for a few scattered small branches and bits of bark. Sidewalks were marked with wood chips and other debris, indicating how far the “tide” had come in before receding. When I saw a line of cars at a railroad crossing, I figured things were still slow on that end and turned up the next block. It would prove to be my last mistake of the day.

Once again, I sat in bumper to bumper traffic. Oddly, I felt more of a sense of urgency to get home than I did when I needed to get to work. When I finally got in the left turn lanes, I wondered why people ahead of me were shifting back to the right. That's when I saw the traffic cones and flashing lights, and noticed that my major road home was closed.

A block up, people turned in to a parking lot, to double back to a point where the North bound road was open. I stopped at a crosswalk in front of a toy store to let a mother and her toddler go by. The jackass in the SUV behind me leaned on his horn. I decided to let the next parent with a stroller get safely to the sidewalk as well. When I got to the exit and stopped before making my turn, it was horn time again. On reflex, I continued moving, spurred by the sound even though I saw a tractor trailer barreling down the road toward me. I made my turn safely, the SUV on my heels. He didn't get hit by the truck though, simply cutting to the next lane and zooming past me. His victory lasted to the next light where his lane came to a standstill while mine moved on. The rest of the ride was uneventful.

There was a lot of flooding on Long Island today. I had a few major puddles, but mostly traffic and power outages were my nemeses. Other people were less fortunate, like my writer coworker, and many people were submerged. One of my friends drove in with over an inch of water inside his car, sloshing back and forth as he drove until he created a dam with some old clothes in his trunk. Another friend sat in his car for five hours before he reached the office. I can be very patient sometimes, and it took a while for things to get to me. I kept rationalizing and approximating how late I would be. In my brain I would name a time, and it would be okay, but that time got later and later. I guess for all the benefits of living on an island, every now and then we're tested with stuff like tornados, floods, and inconsiderate drivers.

7.18.2007

PBW: A Spooky Cabin

A few weeks ago, on a Photo Blog Wednesday mission, I came across a spooky cabin in the middle of the woods. The windows were broken. It was filled with debris. Floorboards were broken and, in spots, burned. The wood outside was fine, but inside was charred, especially the ceiling. Up in the rafters, a table was perched upside down. Either teenagers or ghosts are wacky, but either way I didn’t linger in there for very long...







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7.17.2007

M.C.F.A.T. Volume XVIII

It's EIGHTEEN and no life to go, so you know what that means! Here's another edition of the Mysterious Cloaked Figure's Astonishing Test:

1) What aspect of aging do you dread the most?

2) What's the wildest ethnic celebration you've ever participated in or encountered on the street?

3) Which characters would you like to see in the sequel to Transformers? If you're not familiar with the series, you can just suggest vehicles or other alternate forms you'd enjoy watching turn into robots.

4) Do you ever just go crazy or lose your temper and, if so, how do you cool down and regain rationality?

SPECIAL BONUS QUESTION: What is “Purple Monkey Dishwasher”?


You will have one week to complete the test and post the answers on your blogs, leaving a link in the comments section. Next week I'll post your links, and share my answers.

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7.16.2007

Phantasmic Links 7.16.07

I had planned to jump right to the links and get some rest, but I'm morally obligated to tell the tale of the Worst Bus Driver Ever.

6:15 AM Sunday morning found my dad, our band's bass drummer, and myself in the parking lot of a local church along with 20 other people taking a trip with us out to Pennsylvania. There was no sign of the bus, and fifteen minutes later he arrived a half hour after the time he was expected.

It was one of those big tour buses, a Harran #120, and the driver pulled up, opened the door, and sat there. So we helped the women, children, and old guys open the doors on the side of the bus and load up their coolers and bags, then we closed the doors. If we didn't secure something properly, whose responsibility would that be? Maybe it's just me, but I would think the driver should get out and check all the doors. That's always been my experience when traveling on that type of vehicle.

Once loaded up, he proceeded back down the hill he drove up to meet us, stopped at a traffic light, then proceeded to back up. Beeeep. Beeeeep. Beeeeeep. Beeeeep. I thought perhaps we had forgotten someone. He pulled back in the parking lot, cut across to the next street, and drove down another hill to the main road. Rather than make a left though, once again we heard the familiar beeping as we shifted into reverse.

“Don't you have any streets that aren't hills in this town?” asked the diminutive mustached man, his first words since picking us up. I don't understand why he thought the bus would tip over when he'd driven up the same road earlier, but maybe with passengers he was concerned about the added weight. After a convoluted trip through some back roads to avoid inclines, we eventually got back on track, making one more local stop to pick people up before getting the rest of the band in Brooklyn.

After that, things went smoothly. I drifted in and out of consciousness, and when we finally arrived at our destination, a Padre Pio shrine in farm country in the middle of nowhere, I questioned our band leader's assertion that the job was “near Philadelphia”. I just checked the distance, and at roughly 53 miles we were an hour away from Philly. My leader's sense of direction is a tangent from the main rant, of course. At this point, the bus driver was somewhat redeeming himself. He got us there safely, and even drove some of us up the road to a nearby church so we could go to mass before playing in our procession. Coming home, he made even better time, and I commented to my dad that after a rough start, he turned out to be all right. I spoke too soon.

We dropped our first batch of passengers off in Brooklyn, and when we neared our second dropoff point, I overheard the man behind us talking about how the latch wasn't working in the overhead compartment, and he couldn't get his camera out. As people disembarked, he called up to his wife to let the driver know about the problem, so he didn't leave with the man on board, and to see if had a screwdriver or something to fix the latch. Some of the guys had pocket knives that weren't doing the trick, and after studying a compartment that worked, I understood what we needed to do. I almost got it with a longer knife, but it started to bend. Meanwhile, the driver made his way to the back of the bus to be horrible.

“What's the problem here?”

“My camera is in there, with all my pictures. I need to get it out.”

“I don't have any tools. You should have kept it on the floor.”

“You don't have anything on the bus to get this open? I'm not leaving without my camera.”

“Tough. I don't have any tools. I said you shouldn't have put it up there. You'll have to wait until I get back for the mechanic to open that.”

“You don't carry anything on here? I have to wait for my camera to go back to wherever your headquarters is?”

“WHAT'S THE MATTER??? DON'T I SPEAK-A ENG-A-LISH?? I SAID I DON'T HAVE ANY TOOLS!!!”

“Hey, don't yell at me! I just thought you'd have something for this and I didn't want to break it. If I have to, your door is coming off.”

“YEAH?? IF YOU BREAK IT, YOU'RE GONNA PAY FOR IT! THIS IS MY BUS! MY BUS!!!! WHAT I SAY, GOES, AND I SAY YOU'LL GET IT LATER!”

“YOU'RE A F***ING A**HOLE!”

Some people gasped, and the driver looked like the old man had physically struck him. It was all I could do to keep from applauding, because the driver's attitude was ridiculous. I was skeptical that he'd go for a three hour drive out of state with no tools of any kind, and certain he was just tired and wanted to go home. I continued working on the door while the driver grumped back to his seat, threatening to leave while I threw “sir”s at him left and right. “Sir...Sir! Just give us one minute, sir.” Sometimes excess politeness, even with a tinge of sarcasm, can diffuse an attitude. Meanwhile, the old man's daughter told him she'd get the address and information and get the camera back to him, so reluctantly he disembarked.

The remainder of the trip was in relative silence. There would be the occasional murmur, but I think a lot of us didn't want to upset the driver after his outburst, at least until we were safely home. He muttered “WhatdotheyexpectMEtodo” under his breath a few times, running lights and taking turns a little too quickly.

When we arrived, I began to worry about my instrument. My dad had carried his as I had done on the ride up, but there was very little leg room so I'd put it in an overhead compartment for the return trip. I took a deep breath, and tried the latch, getting it open. The 10-year-old grandson of the man who lost the camera even joked as he passed by, “you don't wanna get anything stuck up there.” “Yeah,” I said, “I was worried for a minute.”

Meanwhile, our bass drummer stepped up and played hero. Miraculously, the driver actually got off the bus this time, and stood there watching everyone unload their stuff from underneath. The drummer marched with purpose to his car, got a screwdriver, and marched back on to the empty bus. We watched as he worked on the door, but couldn't quite see through the tinted windows if he was successful. As he came back toward us we asked what happened. He got the compartment open, but it was empty! He checked the one across from it, and there was the camera. He gave it to the guy's daughter to return to him, so all was well. After the fight, I feared what condition the camera would be returned, if at all.

It was a funny and ironic conclusion to the story. Honestly, a retired firefighter deserved more respect, even if the driver was tired, and even if the camera turned out to be in a different compartment after all that. He probably shouldn't have swore, but the guy was asking for it, and it was a fair assessment. He really was a f***ing a**hole.

Worst Bus Driver Ever.

Thanks for reading all of that, if you didn't skip ahead to this week's PHANTASMIC LINKS:

Forget about waiting for the DVD; you can see a deleted scene from the new Die Hard movie right now. I can't imagine why they went with a different take on that. Hat tip: B13.

You can check the safety of your car here and here. HT: Donna W. via Darrell.

Can you click your way through 25 challenging levels at the Temple of Zoom?

Bumblebee's ‘77 Camaro mode is for sale. I think I know someone who'd buy that, too. HT: Darrell.

Speaking of robots, here are some Transformers that didn't quite make the cut.

Well, that robot movie doesn't make the list of the top 100 biggest grossing films, at least not yet, but it's interesting to see which ones did. I've seen about 80 of those. And while I liked the movie, I was surprised to see House of Wax on there until I realized there was another one in 1953. I'm usually more diligent about watching originals with remakes, so now I have to see the first version. HT: Curt.

Hitler is banned from XBox. Sturm und Drang und Hilarity ensues. HT: J-No.

This little German found the previous clip very funny. HT: Darrell.

911 receives a call about an escaped elephant. I swear, nothing interesting ever happens in my neighborhood.

My childhood love of stuffed animals is finally combined with something else I love. I swear I'm not thinking about getting one; that wouldn't be creepy at all. (some sections slightly NSFW)

Here's a more wholesome collection of comic book panels... or are they?

A skull a day keeps...something...away...

Bomb Wars is as much fun single player as it is against online opponents. I like the ‘80s retro feel.

Geico denies Optimus Prime's claim. Neanderthals. Prime isn't treated much better at his local BK. I swear, robots get no respect.


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!

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7.15.2007

Busiest Weekend

They dedicate their lives


For about a decade, maybe more, July has been my busiest month for bands. It was at its peak about three years ago, when my dad and I still volunteered for a Summer band that rehearsed every Tuesday and Thursday, and performed on Friday nights. It kept me in the best shape, and kept me reading sheet music of pieces other than marches, hymns, fanfares and Italian songs. The concerts were in a park overlooking the water, and were very enjoyable. But, in terms of my schedule, I can't say I've been missing that band. I still play every weekend, and occasionally during the week.

To running all of his


One feast I play for always falls on July 16th, no matter what day of the week that is. It used to run from the 14th to the 16th, but over time was trimmed to a day job. It's still a challenging procession that finds me in Brooklyn at eight o'clock in the morning, free some time after 2 PM, and returning a seven o'clock at night to play a concert on the sidewalk for two hours, followed by a short procession. This weekend, that particular job will be my third.

He tries to please them all


The first took place Saturday afternoon, a simple fire department parade. Unlike most gigs, we could drive to this one in about fifteen minutes. Living so close, of course my dad wanted to park his car near the end of the parade at 3 PM. The parade started at 6, but this small beach town has but one road in or out, that would be blocked from 5-10 PM. I lost patience with him a few times when he asked if I was ready yet to follow him when he dropped off his car, especially when he sarcastically asked my mom if she'd pick him up instead because he “didn't want to put [me] out.”

This bitter man he is


So we headed to the beach and were told we couldn't park there, because it was reserved for all the fire trucks. A parking lot up the road yielded the same message, and finally we found a side street where one of my mom's friends let us leave the car in front of their house. Later, my mom dropped us off around 4:30.

Throughout his life the same


The neighborhood where we gathered was paradise. It motivates me to keep working hard and saving my money, because I would love to afford a beautiful house with the ocean as my backyard. A cool breeze tickled the perfect lawns, and life was awesome. Three hours practically flew by, which was great since the waiting is always the worst part of a parade. Once our division moved out, the actual parade was a little over a mile and we were done within a half hour.

Hes battled constantly


In a few hours, I'll be up early to meet a 6 AM van to “somewhere near Philadelphia”, Pennsylvania. I'm not being intentionally vague for safety reasons; I honestly have no idea where I'll be spending my Sunday. Because our band leader grew up in Brooklyn and never learned how to drive, geography is one of his weak areas. He knows where and when we have to meet this van, and that the people hiring us are spiriting us away for twelve hours, including travel time there and back. I've asked him repeatedly for the name of the town, and finally the most information he conjured up was “somewhere near Philadelphia”, which really narrows it down. If this turns out to be my last post, send help “somewhere near Philadelphia”.

This fight he cannot win


So, I have a long and mysterious day ahead of me, followed by a long but familiar day on Monday. It's a good thing my regular job isn't anything more stressful than “drawing my pictures on a computer” as my dad describes it, or else Tuesday morning could be rough.

A tired man they see no longer cares


The highlight of my day, aside from free sandwiches and beer handed out by some fit female fire fighters, was hearing the true Unforgiven on the radio while driving to pick up my dad when we dropped his car off, and not the inferior sequel, which has the same introduction and often fakes me out. Enjoy:

7.14.2007

Curt Blogger and the Order of the Phoenix

Like many people, I've been wondering what happened to my friend Curt, The Happy Husband. After maintaining a blog with a focused theme for years, inspiring his friends to join the craze but always having the largest audience, he disappeared after his second kid was born. After years of praising marriage, showing how wonderful it was, and proving that life doesn't end after marriage as my dad and other veterans of marriage would joke, the message from his absence was that life ends once you have kids. That's closer to my mom's old joke, “Thank God you weren't twins.”

Well, I'm happy to report that this isn't the case. I learned Friday night what Curt has been up to, and why, other than the occasional quick link in my inbox, we don't hear from him. After seeing Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, I realized Curt was busy starring in a movie. It was uncanny. Normally, it bothers me when a film series recasts key players, but I think it was a wise choice to go with a more serious and mature lead, given the dark events he went through in the previous film, and even darker ones this time.

The movie itself, which I won't spoil even if you have read the book, did an excellent job condensing the longest novel in the series into two and a half hours. A lot got cut, some more essential than others, but they kept what they needed to make the story flow cohesively. The entire cast was perfect, and really brought to life everything I've read. I'd almost equate this with Empire, but having read the books I know where the next film is going to take us. Meanwhile, in terms of acting and special effects, I might consider this the best of the series.

The climactic battle at the end, moreso than anything else Rowling's words brought to life, is the best payoff I've seen this year since Transformers. I really do need to review that film of these days, but several factors are delaying my gushing. In terms of HTML, I know I'm going to need a plethora of links in order for it to make sense to the casual or non fans in my audience. There are tons of nods to fans and Easter Eggs, but I've already been over these repeatedly in forums with people who appreciate the references to the original series, G.I. Joe, Beast Wars, and My Little Pony as much as I do. I think a statement like “Jazz's maneuver with Devastator's gun barrel in tank mode is a direct homage to Kup using the same move on Blitzwing in the original movie” might be lost on some people. I wonder how many of you noticed that Optimus Prime hangs from underneath a bridge in a simian fashion similar to his descendant, Optimus Primal? Oh, I've wasted my life....

Getting back to the Order of the Phoenix, I have to note some great additions to the cast. Ralph Fiennes has more screen time and continues to be a very scary Lord Voldemort. I commend his integrity, and that of the filmmakers, in remaining unrecognizable and true to his literary counterpart. I've seen too many comic book movies lately in which characters unmask or have scars healed, solely for the purpose of letting a well known actor show his face. I didn't think I could detest Dolores Umbridge more in the film than in the book, but Imelda Staunton was a wonderful villain, beaming constantly while she said and did horrible, horrible things. If you've ever dealt with similar authority figures, you'll cringe and feel like you're back in school again. Finally, Evanna Lynch stood out as the aloof, spacey Luna Lovegood. She's not all there, and yet knows some crucial things.

I definitely recommend this film. If you've read the books, you'll notice what parts were left out and understand why. If you haven't read the books, bring a friend who has, not so much to fill in blanks as round out some of the condensed sections. I'll even share another fun fact; Curt's not the only one starring in this movie. Not only do I reprise my cloaked extra status as Dementor #2, but you might even see my face in a cameo as a giant. I have to say the CGI guys did an outstanding job turning my diminutive frame into a behemoth. I also came across an old photo manipulation I'd done that foreshadowed Curt's role, but I'm not sure how cool he'd be with having it posted. I may add it later if he remembers the image I'm referring to and gives it a green light. Until then, Expecto Patronum!

UPDATE: Curt said, ”I don't remember the picture in question. If it's cool, like the Tater Green Lantern, then yes. If it's embarrassing, like most pictures of TheWriteJerry, then no.” I choose to take that as a “yes”: