At my Aunt's 80th Birthday Brunch, one of my other Aunts loaded up on pastries and later dumped the contents of several plates into plastic bags she had in her purse. My dad bickered with his sister constantly about her weight while she countered that the doctor said she was in good health. When the waiter distributed slices of birthday cake, inadvertently putting a second slice near her because my dad wasn't eating his, he asked him to take it away “...because she's fat enough already!”
At this point my cousin's girlfriend stuck her nose in, announcing that she believes what she does with her body is her own business and my Aunt should do the same. “So if you saw a person drowning, you'd let them drown?” snarled my dad. I actually agree with him; it's ridiculous that she was stockpiling bags of sweets to smuggle back to her apartment. I just realize that his concern blinds him to the flaws in his approach. When we were in the car afterwards, I pointed out that there might have been a more tactful and private way to handle things within our family, and not make a scene like that with the waiter. “You have to embarrass her!” he countered. As far as I can see, the more my dad and my other Aunts go the tough love route, the more she eats out of spite and/or depression.
Otherwise, it was a pleasant afternoon. The food was amazing and it was great to see my cousins and how big all of their kids are getting. It doesn't seem like my dad nor my Aunts have changed, and when any of them argue I feel like I'm seeing how they were as kids. My 80-year-old Aunt amused her grandchildren by borrowing her son's glasses and my youngest Aunt's cane, and hobbling around like a feeble grandma. This contrast demonstrated how spry she normally is, and I'd guess her to be 60 if I didn't know better. My dad's oldest sister lives in Florida and is still going strong at 82. My grandparents might not have made it through their ‘60s, but they seem to have passed stronger genetics down to their five offspring. Either that, or that brood wore them out.
As 2007 winds down, my dad and his sisters are still with us. My mom and her two older brothers are still around as well. May we all have such good health and longevity, and be ourselves no matter how many years we have behind us. For the last time this year, here are this week's PHANTASMIC LINKS:
(1) MYCLOFIGIA now has roads and crops! I'll keep reminding everyone to visit. If we all stop by once a day, it won't be long before we have skyscrapers.
(2) FWG Pinball is a pinball game with several unlockable levels. This thing is so addictive, I was nearly late for a movie the day it was sent to me. Hat Tip: B13.
2008 is going to be a great year if you're a geek like me. Even if you aren't, we might recruit a few people with all the comic book, fantasy or cartoon based films on the horizon. I thought 2007 was great, but now that I'm tallying up what lies ahead, next year may well top this one.
1.18.08: Cloverfield: It's only a few weeks away, and we still know very little about it other than J.J. Abrams wanted to create an American giant monster movie on par with Godzilla. But we've yet to see what form this creature takes. Is it born from Slusho thrown into the river? Is it a parasite that bursts out of people? Fan theories and quick glimpses of scenes in the trailers do little more than pique my curiosity, and guarantee my presence on opening day.
February 14, 2008Jumper: Based on a science fiction novel, it looks fast-paced and the effects are just plain cool.
February 26, 2008 (DVD)Justice League: The New Frontier: Based on a graphic novel that revisited the DC heroes in their classic, most pure form, it's a DVD I'll soon own.
March 19, 2008Inkheart: A friend of mine recently tipped me off to this upcoming feature based on a novel in which a girl and her father have the ability to bring characters in books to life. I have a vague recollection of designing ads selling the book and it's first sequel at my old job, and though I haven't read either I look forward to seeing the concept play out on the big screen.
May 2, 2008Iron Man: This is theMarvel movie to see in 2008. It's visually stunning, has a great cast, and seems faithful to the source material. ‘nuff said.
May 9, 2008Speed Racer: I'm a little on the fence about the over-saturated look of this, but it may be a unique and brilliant translation of an animated series. I'll give the Wachowski siblings the benefit of the doubt.
May 16, 2008The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian: When I was a little boy, there was a section of our local beach that was only accessible at low tide. At that point, you could walk under a dock and get to this other secluded area, which I dubbed ”Narnia”. The trailer for the next adaptation from one of my favorite childhood reads reminds me which book in the series influenced my name for that beach.
July 11, 2008Hellboy II: The Golden Army: Rey told me he was wary of the look of this one, well-lit costumes looking a little too fake. He went as far as to compare it to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2, which is harsh. Some of the new creatures look like something from Pan's Labyrinth, and that will be enough to get me in the theater. I might have a different opinion once I've seen it, but we'll see.
July 18, 2008The Dark Knight: To steal a quote from SwanShadow, “Ah just can't quit you Dark Knight!” I'm predicting right now that this will be the best super hero movie of 2008.
And Batman: Gotham Knight is an animated anthology that will probably hit DVD shelves when the movie hits theaters.
August 15, 2008Dragonball: I don't think I've seen more than 2 or 3 episodes of the cartoon, and their popularity hit around the time I was watching fewer animated series as the tone shifted away from the sort of shows I liked. Still, the cast looks good and once I see how the trailer looks, this might be a rental at the very least.
September 12, 2008The Punisher: War Zone: Bwah-ha-ha! A sequel? Really? Let's hope he does more in this one than hang around a run-down apartment building and interact with wacky neighbors or wire cars to blow up in the shape of a giant skull. If I don't rent it I'll catch it on YouTube. Again, I'm judging without seeing a trailer, so my opinion may change.
I didn't get as much done as I would have liked in the two days I worked this week, but I got a lot more done than I thought I would. And suddenly, it's the weekend again. Holidays are a time for family, and this year is proving to be a major one.
First, on Saturday, my mom's cousin is visiting from out of state, and I think my uncles are coming over as well. On Sunday, it's my dad's side of the family's turn, as my Aunt turns 80 and we all celebrate in a restaurant. Monday I actually get a break from family by going back to work, and I'm hoping it's a short day as I'll be spending the evening with friends. Then on Tuesday, New Year's Day, we'll be starting the year with my mom's side, gathering at my cousin's house and exchanging gifts. We didn't see them last year, their first holiday without my aunt who passed away, so the visit is long overdue.
It all sums up nicely into one neat little paragraph, and it might go just as quickly, but by Wednesday I think I'll be exhausted and in need of a weekend, just when everyone is returning to work full steam and life gets crazy again. Of course, my definition of “crazy” probably differs from coworkers with children. Lunch was anything but relaxing as mothers with brood of 3 or more staggered in and ordered food while these short, wild people shrieked, ran around, and occasionally stared at me over the edge of the table while I was eating. There were lines whereever I went, no matter how late or early it was, and people were belligerent. “I didn't ORDER a #9! I ordered a #8!” The receipt said otherwise and the manager was polite about it, but someone was proving to me that the Whopper Freakout probably wasn't staged. People like that exist.
Mind you, I love my family, and someday I'd love to have a family of my own, at the very least a son to keep our name alive. But I find people better in small, intimate doses. Randal Graves may hate people and love gatherings, but I'm pretty sure I love people and hate when too many gather. I need space to breathe and quiet time to think.
Some day priorities may change, but for now I appreciate the value of friends who are there when I need them, but who I don't have to spend all day with nor vice versa. It's akin to the grandparent/grandchild relationship. They get to play and give toys and buy food and have fun and enjoy all the good stuff, then the parents take them home and deal with the mess. Still, once a year, I suppose I can be in crowded rooms and restaurants with people who share my blood, and make small talk about work(“It keeps me busy!”) and when I'm going to settle down(“When I'm less busy!”) After all, when the marathon is over, there's almost an entire year at the finish line before I have to start running again.
After two days of being off from work, I was bored. After six, I was still bored but suddenly didn't want to go back, even though I was worried about catching up. When I unlocked my office on Thursday morning, it was though I'd never left. Six days suddenly felt like a few hours had passed. I knew my voice mail and e-mail would say otherwise.
I had forgotten a few things. Though I'd been off for six days, I'd only missed two days of work. There was a weekend and pair of company holidays in the middle of my vacation. And because it was the holidays, I wasn't the only person who was away. I had no phone messages. I found one layout marked up with revisions that had been slid under my door, but the woman who left it was out until 2008. I had some other projects that were due to her, but the person covering her would be out Friday and there was no way I'd get it all done in one day. Even though my vacation flew, I didn't face the amount of stress I was expecting.
As the day wore on, my biggest hurdle was when technical support logged in remotely to add a font I'd requested on my machine, and subsequently closed a file WITHOUT SAVING even as I was starting to scream “WAIT!” into the phone. A half hour's worth of work was gone, and I suddenly missed the support staff at my old company which, for all the problems that led to the layoffs earlier this year, had once been the pinnacle of technology.
The smaller hurdles involved the reduced staff, and I hit a lot of dead ends. I also got a lot of work done, and because some things had to wait until next week, I was unusually at ease. For years I've been doing the same work that countless other people in my field do, but I think I've been putting a lot more unnecessary pressure on myself. I was the same way in my early school years, lying awake at night worrying that I'd forgotten some part of my homework or would fail a test the next day. At some point you just need to let stuff go, and know that sooner or later it all falls into place. My challenge is recognizing that the world won't end if I miss a deadline. I keep figuring this out and forgetting it.
Mentally, I fast-forwarded my long weekend to put out fires that turned out to be small embers. When I learn to chill, embers will be sparks. Meanwhile, the two days I'm working this week and (hopefully) short day I'm working on Monday are an anomaly. It feels like I never left work, but in a way it feels like I'm not fully back yet, because so many people are off. I think next Wednesday is when the real blaze will begin, and in thinking that I'm probably conjuring it into existence. What's wrong with me? Maybe I need to stop weighing whether I deserve vacation time and instead consider when I need to pause and recharge.
On some level I knew I was dreaming. I was back at work in my office but outside, alarms were going off at a nurses' station and medical professionals were racing down the hall. I leapt up and gave pursuit, bursting in to one of the other offices that, instead of a desk and a computer, held an unconscious B13 in a hospital bed, hooked up to a monitor. As he flatlined, my supervisor casually walked in and asked what the situation was. He was very calm about everything, readying paddles and throwing out a lot of medical jargon my subconscious had absorbed from ER or Scrubs.
It took two shots to get a rhythm, and then he was out of danger. Relieved, I headed back down the hall where a tropical bar was set up outside my office. I ordered a beer as my boss walked by, cleaning his hands.
“Your buddy's a little young for a heart attack,” he asked matter-of-factly, “Is he fat?”
Not thinking anything strange about the sudden medical expertise of a writer, or his choice of words, I simply responded. “Nah, not really. A little overweight I guess, almost like me. He doesn't eat right.”
Just then, the guy sitting next to me at the bar ordered a bacon cheeseburger with extra onion rings, and I woke up.
* * * * *
I checked my cell phone, charging next to my bed. I was meeting B13 and some other friends for a double feature of Sweeney Todd and AvP: Requiem, but I still had a few hours before I had to meet them. I debated whether or not to get another hour's sleep and see what dreams might form next.
* * * * *
Instead, I got up and ventured in to the living room. My dad and my uncle were sitting around, the former reading the newspaper while the latter sort of stared into space. I told them about my dream and my boss saving B13's life, then asked if they were using the television or if I could watch my cartoons. Rewinding while in “play” mode so I could see if I'd taped reruns or new episodes, I found explicit videos of girls going wild in locker rooms, showers, and other settings. My family didn't seem to notice, and I hit “stop” and proceeded to rewind even further, confused at why and how I'd taped softcore porn and not Saturday morning animation. Every once in a while I'd stop and check, and each time I'd find the contents of the tape to be the same. At this point, my mom walked in to the kitchen to get breakfast, so I ejected the tape and headed in to the den.
There's no VCR in the den, only a small color television with rabbit ears. I checked what shows were airing, and every station seemed to contain the same explicit content. I wondered if I'd messed something up trying to install the DVD player I bought my folks for Christmas. I suppose there were worse consequences, but sooner or later someone other than myself was going to turn on a television, and they weren't going to be happy.
I headed in to the kitchen to pour a bowl of cereal and think about my dilemma. I started telling my folks about the dream, though I found I was confusing parts of it and said Curt was the doctor who saved B13. When I got to the part about the bar, I spoke about my boss then realized I'd initially said Curt was the one with the paddles. I corrected my earlier mistake just as Curt shuffled out of our hallway, through the kitchen and on to the living room.
My parents went about their business, not noticing the houseguest with disheveled hair wandering around in a bathrobe and slippers. I watched him check the TV listings, but he didn't turn on our television. I turned to wipe out a cereal bowl when he was suddenly standing right next to me.
“Hey man...can I borrow a cereal bowl?”
“Uh...sure,” I said, reaching for the stack. I held it out to him, noting that my parents were gone and that he was just staring past me at the wall.
“You should leave.” he said in a monotone. “You should go out into the desert, and find water.”
Before I could ask for clarification, an argument broke out in the other room.
“Did you call him??”
I said, ‘DID YOU CALL HIM?' What time did he want to get up?”
“I don't know. I think he said 10.”
“Are you sure? I better check.”
“[MCF]? What time did you need to get up. [MCF]??”
* * * * *
I opened my eyes at the persistent, nagging tone of my mom. Reaching for my cell phone, I saw that I'd fallen back asleep. I never woke up and told my parents about the first dream. Our antenna wasn't picking up adult programs, my uncle had left the night before, and Curt certainly wasn't living with us or making inexplicable statements while zoning out into a trance. My mom closed the door when I confirmed that I didn't want to get up until 10, but I was up already. I staggered out into the kitchen and told them about the first dream only, then quickly typed up the following so I'd remember later on:
dreaoffice hospitalroom b13 crashed boss relaxed clear! clear! worried in hall rhthym bar down the hall boss says ge fat i say he dont eat right dude next to me orders bacon cheeburger
wake up tell dad and uncle rewind tape of cartoon explicit ggw not turtles move to den on ch 3 while rewinding mom gets up turn off tv go in kitchen tell parents about joe dream mix it up say curt doc curt walks thru kitchen bedraggled checks paper and tv cmes in kitchen and asks for ceeal bowl in trance”you shuld go go out to the dessert go to the desert and find water mcf wat time do you want to get up am i still dreaming?
I decided to save that “outline” and not edit it since it shows how weird my mind is when I'm barely awake. As for B13, my phone rang while I was driving to the movies and once I had a chance to check, found a voicemail explaining that he wouldn't be joining us because his stomach was “rotten”. It's not a heart attack, thank God, but it is interesting that my dream self previously made a (hypocritical) comment about his eating habits. Precognition? Or haven’t I woken up yet?
And seriously, what the heck was Curt trying to tell me about finding water in the desert? I can trace most elements of the dream to things that might have been on my mind, but that's probably the biggest mystery of them all...
And so, another Christmas has gone by and soon, another year. Time is a strange and accelerating concept, but I've spent nearly six days in a void of time. Without work, and a daily routine, it's just been one long blur of a weekend. Normally, days of the week have a feel, and anything from what I'm having for dinner to what's on television to whether or not I went to work can define a day for me. I've been in a long Sunday, which suddenly is going to give way to a Thursday, which is going to feel like a Monday because it's my first day working, and I'll no doubt be scrambling to get caught up. Time makes my head hurt, especially when I break from routine.
For Photo Blog Wednesday, I certainly didn't spend six days in my room, and I managed to venture out one day, albeit a bleak one, to get some shots, including some desktop sized images as presents for my readers. The camera came out again on Christmas day, with more photographic gifts.
I've seen those “candy cane” smokestacks from everywhere on the North Shore of Long Island from Target Rock to Sunken Meadow, and from Crab Meadow Park near Northport I finally got the closest. As it turns out, I'd inadvertently visited those towers at night several years ago. Driving around after taking my girlfriend to a nearby vintage movie theater, a dark road that I thought might lead to a beach, pier, or other scenic romantic setting led me to a very industrial fence with these ominous towers blotting out the moonlight. I didn't know where we were, only that I had a sudden urge to get back to civilization and roads with street lights. During the day, they weren't as intimidating, but I found there was no shoulder on any of the surrounding roads and short of pulling in to the facility and explaining to security that I wanted pictures for my blog, I opted not to visit this time around. Instead, after getting these shots, I checked out what Crab Meadow had to offer
Click the previous image for a desktop sized version. The previous three images are ready for your desktop. That last one, which I thought were some kind of “beach tomatoes”, turned out to be Rose hips, which my mom identified when I showed her the photo.
Since I was in the area, and I remembered Northport had a great park on the water with a pier and other attractions, that was my next destination. I drove past the towers first, checking again for any vantage points, and ended up taking a long and scenic drive to a private community known as Asharoken, which turned out to be a giant dead end when I discovered it to be a peninsula. Local police eyed my beat-up jalopy with suspicion, but I maintained the 30 MPH limit conspicuously posted everywhere and didn't linger longer than I had to. Once back on the mainland, I found the park in Northport I was looking for. Everything from a tree to a manger scene set the seasonal tone perfectly, and even a crane and a boat threw some red and green into the mix.
It's a desktop slide! Wheee! Now you can have a manger scene on your desktop by clicking the above image.
And before I knew it, days of doing nothing or going on photo excursions were done, and Christmas day was here! My mom made a great pasta dinner, my uncle joined us, and a good day was had by all. My parents didn't freak out about the DVD player I bought them, although I later discovered my mom's older television didn't have the same RCA cables. It had a coaxial antenna wire running to the VCR, which connected to a cable running to our outside antenna. The VCR had the traditional red, white, and yellow ports, but I couldn't get the DVD player to run through it. I sort of had a ghost image on a blue screen, and I think it's because of encoding. They obviously don't want people to tape DVDs. The television did have RCA ports, but only a yellow video and a white audio, lacking the red. Hooking two out of three wires to these ports did nothing, and after further research I discovered I need to pick up an “RF modulator”, a hub that should allow all the devices to work by converting the DVD signal to something their television would understand. I tested the player on our big television in the living room, which does have the three RCA ports, and it works fine. Technical tangents aside, here are the photos of my Christmas:
I also experimented with my digital camera, which has no problem plugging in to the three ports on our big television, after unsuccessful attempts to capture the infinite image of the camera looking at the television displaying the camera looking at the television, I settled for video. The still is just a screen capture from one of the videos I shot.
With a flash, the screen was black. Without a flash, it was too dark and grainy to make anything out. I fiddled with shutter speed and flash intensity, but couldn't get anything to work. Video was the best I could do. Second technical tangent aside, I'll leave you all with one final desktop image:
As occasionally happens, my dad found himself stumped with Sunday's Jumble. He'd unscrambled four words, yielding the letters needed for the fifth, but the following clue didn't mean anything to him:
”This character starred in his first TV special in 1965.”
Additionally, there was an illustration of a woman watching television thinking, ”This colorful character and his friends were sort of nuts”.
He asked me what I thought, initially asking me if there was anyone on Friends with a long first name. “Chandler...?” ventured I. “No,” he said, “It's a name with seven letters.
I took the weekly television listings from him, and studied the puzzle on the inside front cover. He had locked into the word “friends” but it was “1965” that caught my attention. The name they were looking for had seven letters followed by five and, though I didn't know it at the time, three of the letters were wrong because he'd put “DAYWORK” instead of “WORKDAY” for one of the other answers. Nevertheless, that's a slim excuse for missing the clues on my part. I hopped on my computer, punched in “1965 TV specials”, and the answer leapt off the page.
“It's based on a comic,” I told him. “It's a REALLY famous holiday special.” He wasn't familiar with comics or holiday specials. I pointed out that part of the name was in the clue...”nuts”...”Peanuts”...
The answer was, of course, Charlie Brown. Because of the DAYWORK/WORKDAY confusion, we were missing an “A”, but once we sorted that out the answer fit. I can understand my dad not being familiar with comics or cartoon characters, but I really should have gotten that from the clues. I guess with staples like A Charlie Brown Christmas, we're apt to associate the origination date with when we first saw it, in my case the early ‘80s. Not more than five days ago, I read a Newsarama post about how the special wasn't well-received by the network, who deemed it “slow” and were wary of quoting the Bible. The full story can be found at Mental Floss, and I'm just glad the executives were proven wrong and we can still hear Linus explain:
After only two days of doing nothing, I casually mentioned to my mom that I was bored and couldn't wait to get back to work. “What's wrong with you? Did we drop you on your head one too many times as a baby?” I find her phrasing very interesting, but for some reason I get a headache when I think too hard. Instead, I'll just wish you all a Merry Christmas...
...and proceed with this week's PHANTASMIC LINKS:
(1) Are chimps smarter than humans? My two cents is that we have more distractions while their brains can focus on problem solving and memory, but who honestly knows what's going on inside there. Hat Tip: B13.
As I mentioned yesterday, I'm not famous and you probably won't ever see the story of my life on the big screen. I remember one Summer when my neighborhood friends literally tried to start a garage band, rehearsing in one kid’s garage. For some reason they included me, even though they played guitars and drums and I didn't. Since my only instrumental talent was brass, they opted to make me the lead singer. We recorded various cover songs such Nirvana's Polly and Bush's Glycerine. We never went beyond those recordings, and in hindsight I'm now wondering if they were just playing a trick on me since I really can't sing and certainly don't have the looks of a lead singer. I recently watched Charly, the classic film adaptation of Flowers for Algernon, in which Cliff Robertson doesn't know when his “friends” are making fun of him because he's mentally challenged. Those were some painful scenes, and one wonders if the innocence in not knowing certain things isn't preferable.
So, I never became a rock star. I wanted to become a famous comic book artist when I went to college, even though I was just a margin doodler. Illustration gave way to commercial art, and I make an adequate living now designing stuff that won't make me famous, flyers that the majority of recipients probably rip up. I went through a karaoke phase in the tail end of the ‘90s, co-”starring” in the ensemble cast of a friend's Manhattan public access show. For those of you under the age of 30, that's what we did before YouTube. The digital age makes it a lot easier for nobodies to get into people's living rooms.
I'm not a rock star, famous artist, or television celebrity. Neither is Dewey Cox, but that didn't stop anyone from making a satirical biopic about this fictitious rock star in the tradition of Ray and Walk the Line. The film successfully satirizes the conventions of such movies, condensing a person's life into less than two hours and hitting on milestone events as though everyone knew they were milestones. My favorite aspect of Walk Hard was it's use of something I'll describe as “prophetic irony”. Characters will say certain things like, “Nothing horrible is going to happen today!” when you know the exact opposite is true, especially if you've seen any biography of any rock star or celebrity ever. There's a formula to those which this film exploits to the fullest.
As Dewey's drummer, Tim Meadows genuinely cracked me up, even if he wasn't doing anything different from the billion years he spent on SNL. I think it was just his earnest delivery, and repetition of certain key phrases throughout the movie that really got to me. He advises Dewey “against” Marijuana smoking, and his narcotic “advice” only escalates as the story unfolds. But the one name I've yet to mention is John C. Reilly. We've all known his face since at least 1990's Days of Thunder, but I'm not sure how recognizable his name has been over the years. It wasn't until I saw him in Magnolia that I decided to note his name and elevate him from his “Hey It's That Guy” status. He's a skilled character actor with great range and an impressive resume, but Walk Hard marks his first lead role. He's proven equally adept at comedy as well as drama, and his presence elevated what might have been another throwaway role for someone like Will Ferrell. Judd Apatow has been on a solid winning streak lately with films he's either written and/or directed, and his story here continues that streak with a solid star and supporting cast.
* * * * *
Reilly was of course the common theme in yesterday's Movie Keyword Game; all were movies he's appeared in. No one guessed the theme, nor all ten films, so no prize will be awarded this time. Honorable mention goes to B13 who came extremely close with an impressive nine out of ten. Here are the correct answers:
I’ve only been off from work for one day, and already I miss it. Do I bore too easily? If they made a movie of my life, would the majority of the film be a montage of me sitting at a computer? And, if so, why are they even making that movie? They don’t make movies about guys like me, but a guy like me watches a lot of movies. By the time I’m back in my office next Thursday, I’ll probably be missing lazy days and long DVDs. While I’m in extreme movie mode though, I might as well manufacture a new Movie Keyword Game. Here’s how we play:
1) Go to IMDB.com and look up 10 films. 2) Post five (5) official IMDB "Plot Keywords" for these 10 picks. 3) Have your friends guess the movie titles.
I’m feeling generous, so the first person to correctly identify all ten films or point out the common theme linking the films will receive a fragment of the Mysterious Master Prize™. What is this prize? It’s so Mysterious, that even those in possession of the ten fragments already awarded this year may not know what they hold. Will you glean a pattern below and win #11?
1) Wheelchair; Racer; Car Accident; Cheating; Manager.
2) Guitar; Satan; Satire; Best Friend; Magic Mushroom.
3) Motivational Speaker; Multiple Story Line; Ensemble; Biblical Passage; Religion.
”It's 10:00 AM,” said she. “They got this to you late; they can't possibly expect you to make all these changes in four hours.” With that, one of my creative directors handed me a folder and some sound advice. Rather than e-mail the team to postpone our meeting, or point out that I wouldn't have everything ready, I took her advice as a challenge. I may have nodded to the woman, but like John Locke, I was thinking, “Don't tell me what I can't do!” Then I opened the folder.
Printouts had returned to me after three or perhaps five people in other departments had reviewed them. Some people used different colored ink, but in many cases I had to rely on either handwriting or dialogue to differentiate who wrote what. If there was a question in black ink and a response in black ink, I knew it came from two different people(or someone answering his or her own inquiry). Four hours wasn't enough time, especially since I needed to eat lunch. I dove in nonetheless, because that's who I am.
Parts of my brain shut down. I focused, checking things off in orange, the one color no one else had used. I folded each page as I went, to keep track of my progress. By lunch time, with three pages to go in a stack of well over 20, I was visited by a marketer with corrections on a separate flyer from a previous assignment I thought I had finished. “I'm so glad I caught you! I thought everyone would be at lunch now!” I kept working, she never wondered why I might still be at my desk at 1 PM, and proceeded to talk to me about her project. I switched gears, made the changes, told her where the printer was, and resumed the first project without breaking a sweat.
Meanwhile, upon noticing that I hadn't taken her advice, the creative director who'd dropped off the folders sent an e-mail on my behalf letting everyone know I wouldn't be done because they got the changes to me so late. This arrived as I finished everything and started printing. Fifteen minutes before the meeting, the main person who needed to check the changes sent an e-mail saying she wouldn't be at the meeting and could review the flyers later in the afternoon. I'd worked at a breakneck pace, and through lunch, for absolutely no reason.
It sounds familiar, especially to those who know me, but there was a method to my madness. Any other time, I might have taken a more realistic approach, taken the time I needed and even finished things the next day. But in this instance, there was no next day. With a four day weekend and at least two vacation days that I couldn't carry over to 2008, I had extended it to six days. No, once I left on Thursday night, I would not return until the following Thursday morning. I can't remember the last time I went six consecutive days without working; I'm pretty sure that in the past 11 years, five days was my longest vacation. My superiors are both realistic and understanding, and if things go a day or two late due to circumstances outside our department, while they might appreciate heroics, they don't expect or require it. I would have waited a day if I could, but a week was out of the question. And with things resolved to the best of my ability, I can forget the grind. I've finally earned the reward of slacking for more than two or three days.
Of course, I still have a few minor presents to buy, and then there's wrapping, and I probably should help my folks decorate the tree whenever they get around to putting one up. It won't all be slacking, but nothing on my to-do list is going to fill up a full six days(he typed, instantly twisting probability in ways he would no doubt soon discover...)
I would attribute the main reason for the success of modern comic book movies to their “real world” approach. People don't put on fancy costumes nor have powers, but everything from the first Spider-man to Heroes has taken the fantastic elements and set them in a world that's otherwise familiar and relatable to all of us. In Batman Begins, we don't even see the hero in costume for the first hour. More time is spent on character, on developing the man who puts on that costume. Anyone can put on a costume; not everyone can grasp the idea of being a hero.
As often happens, Netflix recommended an obscure film to me based on my tastes. I don't think I've ever seen Hero At Large, though elements of the 1980 classic were familiar. Perhaps kids in my elementary school talked about it. I certainly wouldn't categorize it as a comic book movie, though it centers on a costumed hero. The late, great John Ritter plays a struggling actor in New York, taking on various publicity gigs in order to pay his rent. It was great to see how little Manhattan has changed as well as how much. The architecture was the same, but the signage was very different.
One night, while wearing a “Captain Avenger” costume to promote a movie, Ritter stops in a convenience store on his way home. He ends up foiling a robbery, which inspires a news story, which inspires him to go out and do more good deeds in costume. He doesn't have any powers, or any special training, and the film is realistic in its portrayal of what would happen if a regular guy put on tights and a cape and went after the armed and the dangerous. Without spoiling too much, I will say there are realistic consequences. Maybe his character is a little crazy, maybe he's trying to impress his neighbor, played by a lovely young Anne Archer, or maybe he's just a nice, idealistic guy who wants to give people something to believe in. It was a little sappy, the humor dated at times, but it was a very enjoyable bit of entertainment that reminded me how much it sucks that Ritter died. Before Jim Carrey and Ryan Reynolds, people like Ritter and Robin WIlliams reigned.
Will Smith, another growing legend with both comedic and dramatic skills, is set to portray a superhero named Hancock next year. Not based on any specific comic, but inspired and playing off comic standards like Hero At Large, Heroes, or My Super Ex-Girlfriend, Hancock looks at a hero like a celebrity or a professional athlete. The glory days don't last, and he reaches a point where he just doesn't care anymore as the public turns on him as well. It could be very funny, and certainly a very different approach to the genre. When you relate the fantastic to the world we occupy, it's more convincing, and makes escaping into that alternate world much easier.
It is freezing outside. This is definitely the time for hot chocolate, alcohol, or any combination thereof. I have two quick items to address before we get to this week's chilly images, best viewed from a computer by a warm fireplace. Firstly, it looks like Kev Bayer gets the win for his contribution to the first(and only...?) MCF RPG writing contest. Congratulations, and check your inbox soon for Leonis, the tenth fragment of the Mysterious Master Prize™.
The second item I'll touch on briefly is my new company's holiday party, which I attended on Tuesday night. There were certainly similarities to parties I'd attended in the past, between the DJ and the food stations. A two-drink limit seemed discouraging, but with a third I'd almost certainly have been on the dance floor, and might have entered the dance-off. Yes, there was a dance-off. There was also a raffle, and the prizes given away for both events were insane. Five iPods. One iPhone. Three plasma televisions. Two GPS systems. A camcorder. A digital camera. I can honestly say that I work for a place that makes dreams come true. Obviously, my name wasn't drawn, though the dude who won the iPhone had only been with the company for two months. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the food, wished I'd heard some of the conversations I was having over the music(“smile and nod” was in full effect), and dessert rocked. There was canoli and pastries and gingerbread men and houses and two kinds of mousse. In the lobby on the way out, there were fresh baked cookies, hot pretzels, hot chocolate, and roasted peanuts. And there were swag bags for everyone, so every employee at least got a CD, a wallet, a keychain light, a cubic zirconia necklace, a tin of mints, and a set of scented candles. All of these items would have made great gifts for various family members, but of course I finished my shopping the night before the party. Overall, life's not bad.
And what of Photo Blog Wednesday? While people celebrate and stay warm, birds and stray cats search for food. One cat even hid in our basement one night.
(The above shot is desktop sized.)
And when it's too cold outside, one might always find entertainment in the diverse reactions two cats have to a cheesy dancing Santa...
As I was returning a digital camera to a coworker, he conversationally asked if I was ready for the holidays. “Yeah...I probably should start shopping soon.” He raised an eyebrow. “Oh, you're one of those.”
I've never been exactly a last-minute Christmas shopper, more of a second-to-last minute guy. Except for one horrible, horrible year when I was a kid and somehow forgot, resulting in wrapping up items in my room to give my folks, I've been pretty diligent. For seven years I worked within driving distance of two major shopping malls, a Target, and a Best Buy, so I had no excuse. Even then, I'd usually buy the stuff, and bags would sit in my room until Christmas Eve, or the morning of the day we were visiting our extended family. Buying is easy; wrapping is hard.
I've been well aware of what I had to do this year, and even though my new job is in a far less central area, I had plenty of free weekends. Somehow, between bad weather and socializing, I suddenly found myself with a week to do all my shopping. I ventured out after work on Monday, taking nearly 45 minutes to reach the nearest Target. There wasn't much of a crowd, though as people finished their dinner and ventured out to shop, the volume of customers did increase. I faced the same attitudes in the aisles that one finds on the roads this time of year. People would stand blocking aisles, or leave shopping carts in front of shelves I needed to reach. No one ever seemed to hear me say “excuse me”, and perhaps 1 in 10 excused themselves rather than push right by. The holiday section was in particular disarray, but for the most part the merchandise was organized.
What I love about Target this time of year is how they'll take regular items, throw them in a “special” red box, and call them gifts. I very nearly bought my dad a car wax “gift set” just because it was in a nice box and had the word “gift” on it. I also came close to buying my cousin a playing card shuffler, again because it was in a red box. I don't even know if he plays cards. The electric coffee coaster to keep drinks warm seemed like a marginally safer bet, but I bolstered that with a gift card as I did for the rest of my family.
I guess the last few years I'd fallen into a rut of hats and gloves, as my mom specifically told me not to buy those items and she had plenty. Every year it gets harder and harder to find things for my parents. To this day my mom refuses to have a microwave in the house because of the “radiation”. But how would she feel about a DVD player? As I noticed how low the prices were on standard players, I debated whether or not to get one. Price is often the biggest objection my mom has to such items, coupled with her insistence that she'd never use it. A year or two ago, her VCR finally died, and my dad and I had to hunt down a new one once we convinced her the old one was beyond repair. I was actually surprised to still see VCRs on the shelves this year.
When my dad wanted to get my mom Shirley Temple movies last year, I was faced with a few challenges. VCRs aren't quite obsolete yet because many people record shows on tape rather than digitally. I haven't made that leap yet myself. But movies are rarely released on tape these days, let alone something as old as what my dad was looking for. “What store should I go to? Would Target have that?” I think he asked me a few days before their anniversary in October, and I ended up finding a few tapes on Amazon, albeit from a third party, and explained that it would take a few weeks. He decided they would be Christmas presents instead, they turned out to be shrink-wrapped in clamshell cases, and were surplus from a distributor. She loved them, and this year he asked me the same thing about a week ago. “Would your internet tell me if there's a good tape for your mother?” I love how he always refers to the internet as some sentient, mystic guide that grants me wishes if I ask the right way.
VHS is pretty much obsolete. DVDs are on their way out too, but it might take a few years. And unlike tapes, at least standard DVDs will still work in newer HD players. Movies impossible to find on tape might yet be available on DVD. And even if my mom absolutely hated the player, I was still spending less than some VHS movies cost back in the ‘80s. It's not like I'd be spending $200; less than $50 was a gamble I could afford. So, I bought a DVD player and the special edition of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the movie they saw on their first date(or the night my dad proposed...I always forget which it is). I expect there will be a fight on Christmas morning, a lot of yelling in which phrases like “TAKE IT BACK!” or “YOU KEEP IT!” might be thrown about. Once the dust settles though, and I explain that I didn't spend a lot, that it plays CDs too, and won't take up much space in their room, hopefully I can hook it up and convince her. At the very least, I think “not radioactive” will be a selling point.
Maybe it was selfish on my part. Thinking ahead, I know this opens up more gift options. VHS tapes might be ridiculously cheap, but I stopped getting movies for my parents years ago. And they don't actually own a CD player outside the ones in their respective cars, so any music I've bought them has been strictly for road trips. In any case, once I put that in my shopping cart, the rest of the pieces fell into place. I was home by 8:30, exhausted, but relieved that my shopping was done. I'll probably venture out later in the week for food gifts, and the daunting task of wrapping is still on the horizon, but at least I'm past this first big hurdle. In a week, it will be over. In a year, I'll be running around at the last minute all over again....
Sunday brought the rain and the wind, and yet my driveway was still encased in ice. I shoveled valiantly for an hour-and-a-half before giving up. Meanwhile, I inadvertently broke our screen door by leaving it propped open for the stray cat to come in and eat. The wind tore the tube right out of the molding. With a broken door, and half the driveway shoveled, guess which of those details my dad noticed first when my parents got home? And with the weather, I still haven't done any shopping. This is going to be an interesting week; I can tell.
Some days, it's best to just stay inside and search for PHANTASMIC LINKS:
(1) Rey goes looking for cows. I wondered if every place in that state looked the same, but I'm sure folks say the same thing about Long Island. I showed a friend at work whose parents live near there, and he described Rey's town as a “metropolis” compared to surrounding areas. I think I'd either go insane or spend a lot of time online in such a place. In other words, it would be business as usual...
So, what's the deal? Is the theatrical project scrapped? Further searching led me to Ain't It Cool News of all places, where I learned the film is not necessarily a defunct project. While the network retains rights to do the TV movie, Glen Larson has rights as the show's creator to bring it to the big screen. It's entirely possible we might still get both, but the AICN article is a few months old, so who knows what might have changed. Past efforts to revive the show on television have failed; will this time be any different? I'll tune in either way.
* * * * *
I once defended Quasar over Green Lantern. As a Marvel fan in my collecting days, I had a lot of good reasons for choosing him over DC hero. One used a ring that needed recharging while another wore bracelets that tapped in to a limitless dimension of energy. One had a ring that could be removed, a weapon not at all unique as an entire corps wielded the same weapons. The other wore armbands that wouldn't come off unless their owner were deceased, and they were the only ones in the universe. I have a lot of fond memories of Mark Gruenwald'sQuasar series, the only character I could say I collected from the first issue until the last. After all, everyone else I was reading about had been around since the sixties. Quasar was a unique series that launched the career of artist Greg Capullo, and introduced a lot of cosmic facets to the Marvel Universe.
That series ended after 60 issues, and while Quasar became a background character, Mr. Gruenwald sadly passed away in 1996 from a heart attack. The character who had gained so much relevance in his hands was recently brought out of obscurity and killed off, and his Quantum Bands passed on to the daughter of Captain Mar-Vell. These developments wouldn't entice me to pick up anything related to this new incarnation of the Quasar character. Meanwhile, I just read about a brilliant change in the status quo of the Green Lantern.
From what I've read or gleaned from animated versions over the years, while the various Green Lanterns had their rings, powered by will, rogue Lantern Sinestro wore a yellow ring, powered by fear. Both types of rings manipulated energy, allowing the wearer to fly and make force fields or constructs. For a time, the green rings had no effect on the color yellow due to some impurity in their makeup, but I've heard that's not the case any longer. Meanwhile, Newsarama has reported the latest development in the Lantern saga. It seems Sinestro had formed a Corps of his own, distributing yellow rings and leading a war against the Green Lantern Corps. In the wake of this storyline, no less than seven Corps are being introduced across the spectrum: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet. Each color will correspond to an emotion. Just as Yellow was powered by fear, Red will be powered by anger, and so on. It's a cool concept, one of those “Why didn't anyone think of this sooner?” ideas that sprung from the mind of writer Geoff Johns. When this stuff is inevitably collected in a trade paperback, I may have to check it out. Not only does he have a lot planned in the coming year for the seven corps of light, but he's already planning for 2009 in which an eighth type of ring, one of darkness, will raise the dead.
* * * * *
“HEY!! HEYYYYY!! THERE'S SOMETHING DOWN HERE!!!”
I'm not used to hearing that kind of fear in my dad's voice, and it's not often he yells. Every now and then he has this recurring dream about someone coming on to his property, and we can here him muttering “GETOUTTAHERE!” in a similar tone while he sleeps. This was different. It was a Saturday morning, and I was sitting at my computer checking to see if the temperature would go up, because I hadn't had much luck chipping the ice in our driveway. My dad had gone downstairs to do his laundry, and something startled him.
“What is it?!” I shouted, bounding down the steps two at a time. He explained that something had ran past him from under the stairs, disappearing into his work area. Our two cats were upstairs and accounted for, napping in my parents' room. He thought it might have been the stray we'd been feeding in our entranceway, but it might also have been a raccoon.
I grabbed a flashlight, and began navigating the narrow chasm of toolboxes, whilst he ran up to find my mom. I thought about the tracks I followed outside earlier in the morning. We had fed him Friday night, but he was conspicuously absent on Saturday, and my mom feared he might have frozen to death. After I gave up on chipping ice, I followed small pawprints to a neighbor's child's playhouse, but he was nowhere to be seen. As I crawled on the floor of my basement, I realized the tracks were facing away from that structure, and toward our house. They only went in one direction.
Friday night, I stopped home for dinner before meeting my friends at the movies. Like clockwork, the stray appeared, so my mom made some hot turkey broth, mixed in some dried cat food, and put the dish on our landing, propping open the screen door and closing the door to our kitchen. When she looked again, there was no sign of him. Many times he's finished eating, and ran back outside. “...unless he ran down the cellar,” joked my mom. She looked anyway, didn't see him, and closed the outside door. I went to the movies, and when I came home, I looked around for him outside. I figured he had just gone whereever it is he goes at night.
I couldn't see a thing under my dad's toolbench. I thought I heard something, but then voices confirmed that it was my mom's footsteps. My dad insisted he wasn't crazy, that something had ran past him. My mom couldn't figure out how he got in, while my dad wondered if he ran in when we went out to shovel. He won't come near the door if it's not propped and people are nearby, so that was unlikely. I reminded my mom about his disappearance after she'd fed him the night before, and wondered if he'd spent the night downstairs. We hadn't heard a sound, and in fact at one point one of our cats had ran downstairs when I was getting the shovel. I scooped him up quickly and returned him to the top floor, never once suspecting that the reason I caught him so easily was because he'd caught a scent, and had frozen while trying to pinpoint it. We're very lucky there wasn't an encounter.
Sure enough, my flashlight eventually found a pair of wide, frightened eyes. We put food down, and he came out of hiding once we were a safe distance away. I'm just glad it was the cat and not some other wild animal, but we definitely need to reconsider keeping the door open at night. Eventually, he came up to the landing, and didn't seem to mind that the door was closed. He blinked at the sunshine coming through the window, and curled up on the top step while my mom prepared another meal. A week ago when he swatted her hand, she vowed he'd fend for himself. It didn't take long for her to soften up, nor did it take long for him to hit her again. Within three hours of becoming aware of our surprise guest, my mom tried to feed him food from a spoon, hoping he'd accept human proximity. He gave her hand a nice whack, the same one he hit last time, and now she has a new swelling. When we headed out for 5:00 mass, I found him on the outside step, uttering a pleaful meow. He ran when I opened the door, and hissed when I extended my hand, albeit at a safer distance. And so, our antisocial little friend is back out in the cold.
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MCF is a mild-mannered
artist from the suburbs.
His knowledge of obscure
comic book characters
is more powerful than Gladiator
of the Shi'ar Imperial Guard on
an ego-trip. Able to leap topics
in a single sentence faster than
a speeder-bike on the moon of
Endor, MCF has never written
about himself in the third person
and now dreads the day he
utters aloud the fateful phrase,
"MCF is gettin' upset!"