PBW: Beyond Avalon

It's been well over a year since Photo Blog Wednesday last took us to Avalon. It's been two weeks since an excursion with my pals B13 & P13 brought me back to that destination to see some sections I missed the first time around, but those photos have been delayed by things like trading my old car for a new(ish) one and a comic book convention. Patience is always rewarded here at the Nexus of Improbability however, so without further adieu here are those photos:

(B13 already told The Story of the Pentagram better than I could.)

Finally, since we were in the area, I returned to the Stony Brook Eagle, this time a few minutes before the hour instead of after. The video footage was a bit anticlimactic, and I had to loop it...



MCF's 2008 Movie Calendar

In just a few short days, Iron Man hits the big screen. Early reviews are positive, and there's a lot of buzz that this is the next great comic book movie. I always try to temper my expectations so I can be more forgiving, but from what I've seen and heard it's hard not to be excited. It seems like every year the movie industry caters more and more to the geek audience. Perhaps it's because my generation is now making movies, so the cartoons and comics of my youth are being adapted by my peers. Perhaps the film industry knows that most of us still live with our parents and don't have girlfriends, and have nothing but spare cash and free time for movies. Who can say?

So much of my life is governed by a calendar, from meeting requests I accept weeks in advance at work to the little pocket calendar I carry around to keep all my band dates straight. I'm already starting to run into conflicts and double-bookings, and some band leaders are less than enthused when new gigs pop up that I can't make because I'm already booked. I like my day job and I enjoy my weekend job, but it'd still be nice to put things in my calendar that aren't related to work. To that end, I'm going to look at this weekend and beyond, and see what my geek movie schedule is like for 2008:

Iron Man 5/2/2008
Speed Racer 5/9/2008
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian 5/16/2008
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull 5/22/2008

Kung Fu Panda 6/6/2008
You Don't Mess with the Zohan 6/6/2008
The Incredible Hulk 6/13/2008
The Happening 6/13/2008
Get Smart 6/20/2008
Wanted 6/27/2008
WALL-E 6/27/2008

Hancock 7/2/2008
Batman: Gotham Knight (DVD) 7/8/2008
Hellboy II: The Golden Army 7/11/2008
Meet Dave 7/11/2008
The Dark Knight 7/18/2008
The X-Files: I Want to Believe 7/25/2008

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor 8/1/2008
Babylon A.D. 8/29/2008

Death Race 9/26/2008

Max Payne 10/17/2008
Saw V 10/24/2008

Quantum of Solace 11/7/2008
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince 11/21/2008

The Day the Earth Stood Still 12/12/2008

Surely, I've forgotten a few...?


Phantasmic Links 4.28.08

Is music my happy place? The more I walked through Brooklyn on Sunday, the more songs I played with an Italian festival band, the better I felt. The rain held off, and a few young couples on the sidewalks made out to our musical stylings. In the words of Pat Cooper, “It was'a so niice.” Did that sound more like Borat? Even when typing, my impressions suck. At least I'm good at finding PHANTASMIC LINKS :

(1) Blah blah blah Myclofigia. Blah blah click blah blah.

(2) Have you heard of a little something called Bracket Blogs? After a few weeks we've whittled things down to two blogs, battling it out fiercely. Stop by and choose your favorite, only if you haven't already. I have a lot of counting and double checking ahead of me in the next few days.

(3) Do you shoot or holster your weapon? I only scored 260 and I tried to focus on what each character was holding, regardless of skin tone. Sometimes what I thought was a wallet was a pistol, and sometimes a pistol turned out to be a cell phone. It's definitely an eye-opening exercise. Here were my average reaction times:
Black Armed:665.56ms
Black Unarmed:838.76ms
White Armed:696.8ms
White Unarmed:754.2ms

(4) These days, we take color photos for granted, but they've only been around for 100 years. Travel back and see the first colour photos of Britain.

(5) Behold: The Impossible Art of Li Wei!

(6) Enjoy even more visual delight and see how Bills stack up against reality.
Hat Tip: B13.

(7) Jimmy Fallon is replacing Conan O'brien. I wonder if he'll crack up during his own monologues?
H.T.: Rey.

(8) This is ridiculously dead-on: 8 (Pointless) Laws All Comic Book Movies Follow. The Fruit Roll-Ups parallel nearly made me do a spit-take.
H.T.: Sean.

(9) The inter-webs reach farms via a Firefox Crop Circle.

(10) This is just some vivid and beautiful photography.

(11) Annie Liebovitz gives celebrities the Disney fairy tail treatment.

(12) Car-tapult, anyone? I never see cool stuff like then when I'm wandering through fields...

(13) Navigate four sections of a maze simultaneously to reunite a family.

(14) The best thing I've heard all week: Faith No More vs. Queen vs AC/DC. Holy. Crap.
H.T.: Sean.

(15) DOEO! I guarantee this is the most addictive game you'll play all week. Can you click enough of these things to make it to the king and beat the game? Will you end up using that voice in your daily life? DOEO!
H.T.: 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!



I Need To Know

1) It's 2008, and I still don't know how to refer to this decade. The decades I grew up in had easy designations: the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s. Now it's been eight years, and I'm no closer to having an easy way to refer to this decade. Maybe we need to go old school, and call it the “aughts”. That's probably what they called the early 1900s. Or maybe they just called it the “early 1900s”. The “teen” decade will be equally challenging, but once we reach the ‘20s, it should be easier. Or will it? How will we distinguish it from the 1920s, the roaring ‘20s? Maybe “Roaring ‘20s” is enough of a distinction? I need to know.

2) Are there exercises one can do to reduce chin fat? In some ways, a gut is easier to dispense with. Diet, exercise, and abdominal exercises can help one achieve a reduced girth, if not a six pack then at the very least a “don't lap”. Now, I'm not in double chin territory yet, but I have noticed in recent photos that there's a little extra skin hanging under my definitive chin line. It could just be the angle I'm leaning when I look into my camera, or it could be that every hair follicle that gets sucked into my forehead turns into fat cells and pops out under my jaw. I hate aging. Do I need to walk with my head held high to reduce the appearance of that extra skin? Will that just make me look like I have more forehead? WIll I end up walking in to things? I need to know.

3) Is Jason Lee going to sound like Earl Hickey for the rest of his career? I watched Underdog on Saturday, and for a family movie adapting a '60s cartoon, it was fairly enjoyable. However, and I wouldn't even say this is a criticism, but at times I felt like I was watching an episode of Earl when Lee was narrating. I kept expecting him to start a sentence with “Karma...” or “Me and Randy...”. I don't remember that raspy twang to his voice in early Kevin Smith movies, but maybe I'm just used to hearing him every Thursday and his voice is associated with that character because of my perception. Do I need to rewatch Mallrats to be certain? I need to know.

4) Is there a napkin shortage in this country? I'm used to the crappy Subway near my job and their absurd single napkin policy. There are no dispensers anywhere in the restaurant, and only at the register does a cashier put a single napkin in the plastic bag with your sandwich. The last time I was there I asked for more napkins. “Oh...” he said, clearly off put, “Of course...sir.” He then grabbed a handful of tiny generic store bought napkins and threw them in with the single napkin bearing their logo. When I was walking out of a bagel store/deli a few days later, I checked the bag and saw no napkins. I looked around the store for a dispenser, and finally had to ask the woman behind the counter. “Oh...I didn't put any in the bag?” she asked. Finally, when I treated myself to Quizno's on Saturday evening, I grabbed a straw and a lid for my drink, then reached for napkins without looking, only to find an empty alcove where a dispenser once sat. I checked my bag and saw the cashier had already put about 3 or 4 napkins, more generous and practical than Subway, but was surprised there were no stations in the store where a customer could get his or her own napkins. Is there a shortage? Do too many people “stock up”? Will fast food chains soon adopt similar paper saving policies? I need to know.

5) Did the last of the great Saturday morning cartoons, The Spectacular Spider-Man, manage to work in a sexual joke for the parents this week? When Peter Parker has to run off in the middle of his high school prom to take care of The Green Goblin, his new friend and date Mary Jane Watson doesn't let it get her down. She tells him to hurry back and that she'll save the last dance for him. The popular kids try to make fun of her for being ditched by “puny Parker,” but she decides to ignore them and ask Robbie Robertson's son Randy to dance instead. “Randy, is it?” she asks, taking his arm. “Very” is what his reply sounded like to me as he escorted her on to the dance floor. Am I reading too much into that? I need to know.

6) Is anyone still reading this? I need to know.


I Noticed...

...that I traveled back in time one day this week. I got on an elevator to go to a meeting on the third floor of one of our office buildings. The clock outside read 3:01. When the doors opened a moment later, an identical clock on the third floor read 3:00. It was only one minute, but I still had to repress the urge to drop the mail bin I was carrying, throw my arms in the air, and shout ”YATTA!”

...that a sign near the beach I go to for lunch read “Please Drive Slowly; We Love our Children.” I'm certain I've heard a comedian make this observation before, but if they didn't love their children would anything go, a la the Autobahn?

...that children and the mentally challenged have infested my happy place. As one of the latter climbed out of a van, picked his nose, and held it up proudly to show his caregiver, the picnic tables on that shaded deck suddenly were less appealing. The kids were just loud, one raising his shrill voice to explain his version of the Star Wars® saga to everyone else at his table. I found a park bench in the shade of some trees, along the edge of the sand, so my stress-minimizing solitude was still in effect. Some of the voices carried though, and it was interesting to hear the same Star Wars® expert promise his classmates that if they voted for him, he'd “take out Cheney!!” Moments later, their lunch finished, these same children were climbing on the outside rail of the deck while their teachers mildly informed them that they “didn't want to do that,” probably anticipating “accidental” gunfire from a duck-hunting vice president.

...that there must be something seriously wrong with me, emotionally. The Family Stone had a great cast, but with a similar plot and less humor than Dan in Real Life, I decided early on that it wouldn't get more than three stars. Then the final scene choked me up, even though it was heavily telegraphed about fifteen minutes earlier and I saw exactly what I was expecting to see. I gave it four stars. A movie makes me cry and I add a star. Seriously wrong.

...that my car has two FM settings. I got nervous Friday morning when I hit the button too many times and my presets no longer worked. Then I read the digital display and realized it was like my dad's radio. Instead of five stations I could actually program ten if I wanted. Oh, I know everyone else on the planet is listening to satellite radio or MP3 players, but if you consider that up until two weeks ago I was driving a car with manual windows, a broken tape deck, and no air conditioning, you can see why I'd be impressed.

...Steve Carell is at his best when he's playing someone completely lost, alone and pathetic. As withThe 40 Year Old Virgin, Little Miss Sunshine and the aforementioned Dan in Real Life, he's playing on this strength in The Office recently, moreso than usual. The first time he delivers this line, “It's not the horniness; it's the loneliness,” it's funny. Later in the episode, after spending a night clubbing with his friends, he repeats the line in a more somber tone, and while still funny, it's also very sad. There's some kind of genius in a guy who can make you laugh at and sympathize with his characters simultaneously.

...how (unintentionally?) hilarious it can be when Lost plays up the ”red shirt” cliché. Without being too specific lest I cross into spoiler territory, I cracked up this week when one of the main characters braved a barrage of gunfire to save another main character. “Get down!” he shouted as one extra walked out into a bullet. “Hey, what's going o--” began a second before she was told to duck a minute two late. Then a third extra wandered out into the gunfire to see where the other two red shirts had gone and what all the racket was. The main character was fine though because he has a credited part and found some propane tanks and picnic tables to safely block the bullets when he wasn't avoiding them just by crouching. Lost isn't afraid of killing main characters though and bumps a few off each season, so there always is reason for concern and adequate drama in such sequences. It was just funny the way the nameless kept wandering out and getting picked off like that. What? I said there was something wrong with me emotionally...



I've got The Fever. I've got the good fever, the SPRING Fever. I have walked every single day now for at least two months, and in the last two weeks I've gone from leaving my jacket in my office to rolling up my sleeves. Pretty soon it's going to be too hot to walk, lest I assail my coworkers with a stank, sweaty mess of an MCF. And nobody likes that.

But it has been amazing lately, and I've been in pretty good spirits. Part of me recognizes my history with improbability well enough to know that something horrible is around the corner if I'm feeling this great, but I'm enjoying it now. I'm enjoying driving with my window rolled down, enjoying ocean breezes and long stretches of road without thinking about panic attacks. I'm enjoying the blossoming flowers and the petals in the air. I'm even enjoying the large bees loudly getting it on above the sidewalks.

I seem to be knocking down every obstacle lately. One executive at my job has been particularly impressed with my work this week, saying how it gets better and better and that I've been “on a roll lately.” It's rare praise from a tough critic who's been known to yell if something doesn't fit what she's expecting.

I had a small crisis with my car's service plan this week, when I found that every card, sticker, and form had the second letter of my first name as an “o” instead of an “i”. I'm not going to reveal my name obviously, but I will say that with an “o” in that spot, it's NOT A NAME. It's not even a WORD. The dealer put me through to the salesman who sold me the car, who repeatedly put me on hold, who put me through to the service department, at which point I was asked, “Why did they put you through to ME?” I had no idea, but he was more helpful than the guys on the floor and directed me to an 800 number. The girl asked for my policy number and then the name on the policy. “Well,” I said, “See, that's why I'm calling...” She laughed and said they'd send me a correct one in a few days. Problem up; problem down.

I also got good news from my doctor. My blood work was excellent, no signs of diabetes, no problem with blood sugar, and good levels of everything all around. There was one liver thing that was 6 points above normal, but he said we'll just retest in a few months and it will probably be fine. When he got to my cholesterol level he let out a “WOW!” which had me concerned until he explained that 142 is nice and low. All in all, I think quantitative proof of good health has put me in better spirits. The less time I spend worrying and turning into a hypochondriac, the more time I can enjoy the beach and the great weather.

The beach has been ridiculous this week. I really feel like I'm walking through a Disney movie, with the singing birds and vivid colors. I'm talking about the animated kind, not Bridge to Terabithia which I watched on Thursday prior to five hours of new television shows. It's a great and beautiful movie that captures the magic of childhood and imagination, but some scenes were very hard to watch, particularly the cruelty of bullies. Getting beat up and looking for fantasy worlds to escape into describes my own childhood fairly well.

At 33, I'm still finding escapes. One day this week while eating lunch I heard loud peeping. “Look, honey,” said a mother to her child, “Look at the cute BABIES...no, don't throw anything at them.” I looked in the grass and saw one bird, gray with a blue and white stripes around its neck running. I heard more than one cry, some more high pitched, but it wasn't until some of the young made their way on to the sidewalk that I saw the miniature versions of the mother bird, barely larger than acorns. I'm seriously finding myself in Disney territory lately.

In a few weeks I'll be complaining about the heat, or about having to work every weekend as parade and feast season kicks into high gear. Right now though, the weather is just right, and I'm finding perfect pockets of time on picnic tables and park benches. I'll take this fever, and call the doc again in the Fall.


Bracket Blogs 4th Round

This is it! The final showdown in Bracket Blogs starts now! This may have been the toughest decision yet for voters, especially with six competitors to choose from for only two spots! I was also seriously bummed in the past week to see Bracket Blog semifinalist and long time blog buddy Darrell bid farewell to the blogosphere. He certainly has good reason to take a break, and I hope we'll see him again someday. Certainly one of my favorite reads, he will be missed. Thank you Darrell for great posts, comments, and support in all the crazy memes I came up with(such as this one). May the future bring you luck and better fortune.

It's time to tally the votes:

1) Lorna: 5 Votes
The Unseen Blogger: 17(?!) Votes
Spiritual Tramp: 4 Votes
WINNER: The Unseen Blogger

2) The Southern Conservative: 3 Votes
Rocketship of the Mind: 2 Votes
B13Fotographica: 10 Votes
WINNER: B13Fotographica

Unseen rallied his hidden army in the 11th hour. B13 is a mad photo blogger what blogs at midnight. This final showdown may be the fiercest yet. Will there be a definitive victor? Will they go with a Rocky III freeze frame ending? Will the Blogosphere ever be the same?

1) The Unseen Blogger vs. B13Fotographica

Two blogs enter; one blog leaves. You have one week to cast your votes. You must CHOOSE, but choose WISELY...



PBW: NYComicCon '08

Aging brings change in all of us. Maybe we put on a few extra pounds, or lose some hair. Maybe our skin turns green and our chins wrinkle into four distinct segments. Maybe our ears get long(er) and pointier. It's a rich tapestry. Walking back from the beach at lunch on Tuesday, something happened that's never happened to me before. A young girl hanging around outside a deli stopped me and asked if I could buy her a pack of cigarettes, because she “forgot [her] I.D. at home.” I apologized and said I could not, and as I continued on realized I now look old enough that kids ask me to buy things they cannot and should not be purchasing. Sobering.

Still, looking my age and acting my age are two different things, and I can always rationalize my last trip to ComicCon as a purely journalistic endeavor, seeking interesting material for Photo Blog Wednesday. Rey promised his readers in advance that I'd have photos, so I won't waste much time with words. If B13 can switch gears and have a post with mostly text, then I can try one that's more image intensive. This will be a long one.(”That's what she said!”)

I arrived in Manhattan and was immediately greeted with an Iron Man banner hanging the full height of MSG. Continuing down the street to the convention I saw some amusing irony:

Background: “Come to me all you that labor and are burdened. I will give you rest.”
Foreground: “NO Parking.”

The above desktop-sized image shows the space I spent my first hour waiting for the main floor to open. At least there were the occasional visits from Star Wars® characters to help the time pass.

If you're going to go to a comic book convention in costume, it might be a good idea to find your date before you go inside. This lost lady Robin put her cell phone aside and shouted to the crowd, “Has anyone seen Batman?!” Before I could shout out “I'M Batman!”, some dude in an actual Batman suit waved his own cell phone from the midst of the crowd, and the dynamic duo were reunited.

Is there a Jedi that looks like The Crow? I'm so not up on all the characters from the novels.

These lovely ladies were kind enough to pose for photos in exchange for taking the cards they were giving out and promising to stop by their booth. It was proof that an oasis was near after the ordeal of the line, and at last we were granted entrance into the geek promised land.

I think Rob probably drew that sign himself. A return visit later in the day was definitely in order.

I didn't go in the After Dark Horrorfest 8 Films to Die For booth, but I did see some bodies hanging behind those black curtains when some freaked-out people exited.

The artist working on the floor on a giant Captain America is Eric Maruscak, and I'd return several times throughout the day to check on his progress. But first, I'd see this year's performance by the N.Y. Jedi. Would-be muggers beware...

I don't have many ambitions in life, and I never thought I'd get to see Stan Lee in real life. Again, that part of me that won't grow up kicked in, and I couldn't believe I was in the same room with the guy that narrated Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends when I first started watching Saturday morning cartoons more than two decades ago. The man is an amazing storyteller, and at 85 years of age can still captivate an audience of fans.

I still don't own my own home. I still haven't reached a six figure salary. I don't yet have a wife and kids. But if I died tomorrow, at least I can say I heard Stan shout his trademark phrase. Of course, when I sent my friends a sneak preview of that clip with a subject line like “My work here is done,” Curt would wait a few days before finally opening the attachment then responding that I should be more descriptive because he feared it might be a virus.

Is that REY behind the webslinging anchorman???

A desktop-sized detail of Maruscak's work shows how well the piece is coming along.

What's with all the lucky Batmen? Batgirl a la Yvonne Craig? That's my dream right there. Maybe I need to start dressing up for these things after all.

Not a dream, not a hoax, not an imaginary story, not Kenneth from 30 Rock with Liefeldian proportions. My camera captures the Liefeldness of others.

Click the desktop image above; I found him!

The above desktop image shows how busy the entrance and floor got by the middle of the day. Shortly after taking a break from a high spot and braving the crowd once more, I could swear I saw Fat Momma waiting in line for a pretzel. She was kind of glaring at me each time I looked over my shoulder and began to go for my camera. To be honest, I wasn't sure if it was her or someone in costume, so I played it safe.

Always run when you see Pyramid Head.

“That's not Dark Phoenix; it's a MAN, baby!” Sorry if that sounds mean; I guess I was looking at Emma Frost when I took the picture and was a bit surprised when I got home.

Who knew Princess Leia was with Superman? Who knew Superman was Jared Padalecki?

Maruscak's Cap, nearly complete, looks great!

I don't know why, but the image of the unstoppable Juggernaut wearing a backpack strikes me as particularly hilarious.

I overheard someone telling Static to “keep it real” and come as Luke Cage next year, but I thought his costume was pretty good, definitely up there with the Mr. T I kept seeing. And I think Static's friend Gear is walking by in his civilian identity.

If every Batman had a Batgirl, Pyramid Head would naturally have one of the scary nurses from Silent Hill.

Alpha Flight, X-Men, New Avengers, Weapon X, The New FF, X-Force, and now the Autobots? Is there any team, project, or group that Wolverine hasn't joined?

Alex Ross is AWESOME. Click above for more detail from an amazing mural.

As I finally began my journey home, a sign tempted me with the dates of next year's convention. Mainly, I was just looking forward to getting home and finally off my feet.

I didn't actually try on the Skrull mask I got from the Marvel folks until I got home. I guess I wanted to blend in with normal humans, ironically enough in a place where no one was normal, and everyone was interesting.

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