Phantasmic Links 6.30.08

As I recall, back when I had a regular gym routine, I had a lot more energy and a clearer mind. I guess after a week back in the gym I shouldn't expect to have that same burst of energy right away. So far, the opposite seems true and I've felt wiped out at night. Time was, a happy hour on Friday night followed by a barbecue early Saturday afternoon and an Italian festival procession late Saturday afternoon wouldn't phase me. After church Sunday morning, I mowed the lawn, and then I was pretty much done. Between the heat and the active days prior, my motivation was all gone. I lay around in front of a fan all day watching movies. I didn't go out and take any pictures, and as I write this a heap of laundry remains at my feet instead of washed and hanging on a line downstairs. Once in a while, as I get older, I guess I need to break my routine and crash in order to recharge. I've got a busy Monday ahead of me at work, and after work I have to play another band gig in the evening. One day of inactivity won't kill me, but in the interest of productivity I can at least pull together some PHANTASMIC LINKS :

(1) Click Myclofigia and help build our city.

(2) This Star Wars® dance competition will leave you speechless. Okay, now I've seen everything...
Hat Tip: Wendy.

(3) Find fine artists online alphabetically.
H.T.: Darrell.

(4) This brilliant short film about “reality” shows will blow your mind. Written by our old friend Curt the Happy Husband, the entire thing was put together in 48 hours for a film competition. See if you can guess who Curt plays in the film; I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.(I'm going to say either Zinnia or Femi...)

(5) These Super Mario Cakes will have you swinging your arms from side to side with hunger. What? Just me?
H.T.: J-No.

(6) In a related story, I present the greatest wallpaper ever.

(7) Japan finds a cure for lonely geeks. Finally.
H.T.: B13.

(8) Ginormo frustrates me because for some reason all the text screens jumble on my machine, and because I'm a bit of a n00b when it comes to moving a character with my mouse; I much prefer arrow keys. That aside, the four levels I was able to get through brought back fond memories of classic 8 bit games. Click away, upgrade your sword, and go medieval on some monsters!

(9) I'm in sheer awe of the characters and creatures this guy can make with origami. Now that's art.
H.T.: Wendy.

(10) Check out hundreds of War of the Worlds covers and enjoy a remarkable variety of design through the years.

(11) Discovering The Lap Dance Workout proves to me that I've probably been going to the wrong gyms.

(12) I think most of the time I lost on Sunday can be blamed on Hedgehog Launch. Help a small country develop their space program by launching a hedgehog into orbit. Upgrade his rockets, launcher, and other cool things after each test run, improving each day until you succeed. My best time was 6 days; can you do better?

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!




Stapling Your Fingers is worse than Stapling Paper.

Nightmares are worse than Daydreams.

Not Sleeping is worse than Sleeping Late.

Hot is worse than Cold.

Humidity is worse than Heat.

No Reunion is worse than Brief Reunion.

Getting Rained On is worse than Getting Rained Out.

Not Getting Paid is worse than Not Getting Paid Until Your Next Gig.

Death is worse than Taxes.

Gas Price Woes are worse than Ever.

Rejection is worse than Isolation.

Mark Wahlberg in The Happening was worse than Matthew Broderick in Godzilla.

Chartreuse is worse than Fuchsia.

Laces are worse than Velcro.

Road Rage is worse than Johnny Cage.

Mondays are worse than Any Other Day of the Week.

Diet is worse than Exercise.

Freaks are worse than Geeks.

Lying is worse than Telling an Unpleasant Truth.

Nothing is worse than Hillary Clinton.

I am worse than You.

Worse is worse than Better.

Worst is worse than Worse.



Cats are better than Dogs.

Pepsi is better than Coke

Dr Pepper is better than All Other Soda.

Acting On Instinct is better than Freezing Like a Frightened Deer.

Corona is better than Miller Lite.

Quiznos is better than Subway

Carvel is better than Cold Stone.

Meat is better than Vegetables.

Bender's Big Score is better than The Beast with a Billion Backs.

Dreams are better than Reality.

Red is better than Blue.

Fingers are better than Toes.

Pearl Jam is better than Toe Jam.

Qwerty is better than Alphabetical.

Yankees are better than Mets.

Flatscreen is better than Tube.

Smells Like Teen Spirit is better than Smells.

Supergirl is better than Wonder Woman.

Chocolate Mousse is better than Squirrel.

Gum is better than Thumb.

I am better than You.

Nonsense is better than Boring Prose.

Something is better than Nothing.

Nothing is better than Everything?



Maybe it's just me, but parental guidance isn't what it used to be. Kids roam the streets unsupervised at all hours of the day. Skateboarders roll into traffic, sometimes toward traffic, laughing all the way. Granted, as an only child, I probably had more restrictions than most children. Occasionally I forget I'm an adult and still ask my parents if I can do things. “You don't have to ask; just tell us where you’re going.” they’ll say, shaking their heads. I think good parenting results in hearing our parents’ voices even when they're not around. It keeps us out of trouble.

I go to lunch and I see kids ransacking delis, making fun of the guys behind the counter. I see skateboarders leap into parking lots before looking. I overhear conversations about what teenagers were doing when their parents thought they were somewhere else. Granted, there are plenty of things my parents didn't find out until years later, and one or two they should never find out. Maybe it's just the volume of unsupervised youngsters I witness on a regular basis that overwhelms. I hear words that the teenage MCF never would have understood; we didn't have Urban Dictionary back then.

I navigated a treacherous line on Thursday and made my way to a table to enjoy a delicious sandwich of roast beef, bacon, and American cheese on a roll of garlic bread. You better believe this porker tried to counter that with an hour of cardio later on with two separate machines. There would have been a third machine in the mix but the stair machine proved impossible to climb and I fell before I even reached the controls. But I digress, as per usual.

As I enjoyed my lunch, the line in the popular establishment remained as long as ever. One group of kids came in, saw the line, and proceeded to cut through the dining area to bring their chips and sodas directly to the counter without waiting. “Short cut!” guffawed one lummox, bumping every table along the way. The funny thing is, as wild as kids seem without their parents, I was about to witness what happened when a parent was present.

A woman walked in with two little boys, let's say 8 and 10 for the sake of estimate. As she walked over to a cash machine, one of her loyal offspring followed close at her heels. “ROBBIE!” she snapped, whirling around and letting a burned down cigarette butt drop from her lips. “Get. On. LINE! I don't have all day to be in here!!” The little boy hung his head in shame, and toddled back over to his younger brother.

She shook her head and sighed in disgust, turning back to the machine and turning her back on her children in the process. Some more teenagers came in, looked at the little kids standing along the counter, and just walked around them. “Mommy?” asked the younger boy. “Shh!” She snapped. “What did I tell you? Stay on line! And start thinking about what you want to eat!” She turned her back again to unravel the riddle of the machine before her.

I guess I shouldn't judge too harshly. After all, here was a parent actually spending time with her children. And it was a mutually beneficial relationship, as they served as placeholders while she took out some money to feed them. I wonder if she made use of them in the parking lot too, maybe sending one running out to lie down in an empty spot until she could whip her SUV around. No, what I witnessed was heartwarming. I wish I could paint like Rockwell so that I might capture the scene perfectly. Instead, I just finished my sandwich and headed out, catching the door before some teenagers running out ahead of me let it slam in my face.

It's a mystery why kids are the way they are these days, is it not?


T.I.L.T. Things I've Learned Thursday IV

Things I've Learned Thursday is still here! Who knows when I will stop dropping “knowledge”?

* It is impossible to eat more than half of a good sized pizza burger in a decent diner before the sauce soaks through the bread, requiring a knife and fork to finish.

* Random station surfing through radio stations I don't normally listen to has now twice led me to a Katy Perry song with ridiculously catchy lyrics, not to be confused with a nearly-forgotten less-catchy '90s song of the same name by Jill Sobule.

* Mastiff saliva is not unlike soap suds; warm, gross, brownish suds shaken from the jowls of a beast more horse than dog. Also, apparently, that demonic growling sound means “I like you! Come back and pet me!” and not “Come back so I may devour you!”

* Reading.

* We are often more like our parents than we realize or care to admit. A week after falling off a ladder while picking cherries from a tree and badly bruising her feet, my mom finally checked with a doctor who suggested she get a CAT scan. “Didn't I mention I landed on my head?” she asked when I questioned the scan, which was clear thankfully. Given the choice, I've often avoided doctors in favor of a “wait and see” approach. I can't tell you how many times that's worked against me.

* When your Netflix queue is close to 500 movies, it's a good idea to check it every once in a while as you might forget some of the films you've added. This can avoid awkward double features such as Tuesday night, in which I watched the excellent The Bucket List followed by the crap-tacular The Ladies Man. I don't think I've ever been drunk when adding movies, and yet there it was in my mailbox. Some skits can't be stretched to feature length films as well as others, and I'll automatically subtract a star on principle from any movie that includes a scene with a character consuming human waste. I may need to watch Walk Hard again to remind myself Tim Meadows is capable of being hilarious.

* John Witherspoon's presence will almost always guarantee bathroom humor.

* Writing.

* While often credited with the invention of the Radio, Marconi's success was predated by Tesla's and the former based his work on the research of the latter. While I'm basing this information on a bit of dialogue from Morgan Freeman's character in the bucket list, Wikipedia lists quite a few contributors to the technology. It's difficult to credit any one individual, though in the 1943 the Supreme Court ruled against Marconi's claims.

* If there's a line of traffic and you can clearly see a police blockade up the road where a movie or commercial is being filmed, the people behind you will still angrily lean on their horns and even drive on the shoulder of a one lane road to pass you. If I don't roll forward, it's because the car in front of me is stopped. If that car isn't moving, chances are it's waiting for the car in front of it and so on. That's the definition of a traffic jam, you impatient road raging bastards.

* If you shop late enough in the day and tell a cashier, “No, I haven't heard of your store's new credit card,” he'll continue ringing up your order without elaborating further, because after a day of rejection his tired mind will tune out everything after the word “No”.

* If you blink during Atonement, you may miss some nonlinear storytelling as it occasionally reverses time to show key scenes from different perspectives. Good flick, though.

* Keira Knightley's beauty is inversely proportional to the size of her chest. Some would consider her a mathematical anomaly.

* Arithmetic.

Tune in next Thursday or John Byrne will rip up your comics. Let's see how many people get that reference!




My friend B13 recently picked up a GPS device, partly to guide his wife to various dog shows and partly to help him navigate on photo expeditions. She didn't need it this past Sunday, so we took it for a spin to see what we could find. A device that can locate any place you're looking for and guide you to it in real time both verbally and graphically is an awesome thing indeed, although I suspect it helps to have a destination in mind. A lot of our conversations consisted of “Where does it say we are now?” and “We're in this giant green rectangle that goes across all these roads, somewhere in the woods.” Clearly we barely scratched the surface, but I still managed to get enough shots for a Photo Blog Wednesday:

And here's one you can click for a desktop image:



I Don't Know...

...where I'll be in five, ten, or fifteen years. It's enough of a task keeping track of where I have to be tomorrow or next week.

...that I can say anything about the late George Carlin that hasn't been said better by fellow bloggers such as Swanshadow, Sean, Diana Prince or Darrell. I'll echo Darrell in that I always found him funny even if I didn't always agree with some of his beliefs. I guess it was an oversight on my part that he didn't make my Living Legends post a few weeks ago, but I suppose I would have felt like a jinx in hindsight if I had mentioned him. 71 doesn't seem that old to me, especially when I use my parents as a gauge. He will be missed.

...how I did four miles of cardio on Monday, but I do know why I fell asleep for like an hour after I got home from gym. I remember working out used to give me more energy, but I probably need to remember to pace myself, as well as the fact that I'm getting older.

...if I can share a humorous anecdote about using the wrong shower in the gym on Monday after Jerry's objection to the last time I mentioned taking a shower. He was probably saying what everyone else was saying with silence, so I suppose I'll have to keep this one to myself.

...whether I'll see Wanted or WALL•E this weekend, or neither. Between a happy hour, a barbecue, and an Italian feast it's going to be crazy. In general, there seem to be a LOT of “MCF” movies this year. As I've observed in the past, filmmakers and other marketers seem to be recognizing the force of geek in this country. If Stan Lee ever ran for president, I think other candidates would be surprised at the challenge they'd face. We are many.

...why I'm surprised Star Wars® Crawl has shut down at the request of Lucasfilm. I guess on some level I thought/hoped it was an official site. If something like that attracted tens of thousands in just a few days, maybe there should be an official version.



Phantasmic Links 6.23.08

What is it about My Favorite Sunglasses that they keep trying to leave me? After a day of hiking with B13 on Sunday, I came home to find my parents in need of my help. My dad can't drive until he fully recovers from cataract surgery, and my mom has been having more mishaps than me lately. Earlier in the week she fell off a ladder and badly bruised her feet, and apparently on Sunday she walked into the stake of a tent at a local festival and badly bruised her shin. With the blood thinners she takes for her heart palpitations, she has to be very careful.

So it fell to me to take my dad out to pick up some dinner, but when I opened the door to his car, I saw something black and plastic on the floor alongside the driver's seat. Sure enough, it was My Favorite Sunglasses, which I didn't even know were missing this time. Saturday night, when we got home from a parade, they must have fallen from my shirt pocket. Between carrying food and instruments into the house I didn't notice, and had my dad driven himself to church on Sunday morning instead of my mom taking him with her car, there's a good chance the glasses would have fallen out in the parking lot without him noticing, and I would never know their true fate. A 33-year-old would still look cool with a chain on his shades, right? Don't answer that. Instead, check out this week's PHANTASMIC LINKS :

(1) Click Myclofigia and help build our city.

(2) Now you can generate your own Star Wars® style crawl! I always wanted my own opening credits...

Hat Tip: TheWriteJerry

(3) Make ice instantly or create fireballs! SCIENCE!!
H.T.: Darrell.

(4) Behold: the world's largest sand drawing.

(5) Spin spin, Spin the Black Circle!
H.T.: Sean.

(6) As NASA's Cassini Spacecraft nears the end of its four year voyage, enjoy some of the images it has captured along the way.

(7) Change your computer's cursor into a finger to simulate the iPhone experience. It even comes with a smudge option!

(8) What happens when animation fights back against animator?
H.T.: B13

(9) Comic geeks, enjoy 50 Wonder Women, and don't worry about looking like this old guy. That shot might be a scary glimpse into my future...

(10) Watch “television” without context. It's a collection of often bizarre random videos you won't be able to stop watching. “My SPOON is too BIG!!”

(11) How long could you survive in the vacuum of space?
Created by OnePlusYou
H.T.: Sean.

(12) Finally, Epsilon will challenge everything you know about wormholes, time manipulation, gravity, and more. SCIENCE!

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!



The Craziest Dreams

Walking back to my car from the post office on Saturday morning, I heard someone calling my name. I squinted in the sunlight, recognized a former coworker who lived a few towns away, and headed over to say hello. When our conversation concluded and I resumed walking, someone else called my name. The guy looked kind of familiar as I shook his hand, like I'd know him if he looked...smaller? We spoke for a bit as he asked me how things were going and what I was up to, so finally I had to ask who he was. “Angelo!” he replied, which narrowed his identity down to one of two Angelos, both of whom I hadn't seen since the eighth grade. I'm pretty sure I know which Angelo it was, though a lot can change in twenty years. I have no idea how he recognized me. Maybe he heard my other friend call me by name, or maybe there aren't that many fat, scarfaced Italians running around this area. Perhaps I haven't changed at all in twenty years, and suddenly I'm paranoid about the time I posted baby pictures, or worse my toddler photo. In any case, the sequential encounters with faces from the past was surreal, a blending of reality usually reserved for dreams, though not as strange as some of my recent nocturnal excursions.

I've always had the craziest dreams, and always found them more interesting than the tedium of reality. When my head hits the pillow, it's like I'm diving in to another world. I love going there and hate coming back. In dreams there are no limits, and time is fluid. I'm not sure why, but something about the Summer makes me dream more. My theory is that I'm overstimulated from busy weekends with the bands, and my neurons are firing with a lot more information to process.

A few weeks ago, I had a dream in which I was walking along a bridge under heavy construction. Parts of the geography resembled a portion of my morning commute to work, though it was all clearly transplanted from Nassau County to Brooklyn. Waiting on the sidewalk next to an out-of-place escalator, I was suddenly hugged by our drum player's mentally challenged sister. It disturbed me, because even in the dream I clearly remembered she was dead. She got sick a few years ago, and one night her lungs finally filled with fluid and she basically “drowned” in the family's kitchen. It was a tragic loss for her father, our band leader, and the rest of her family. Her brother has her name tattooed on his arm and still carries her photo in his wallet. But in my dream, she was alive and well and ready to play the bass drum as she last did five years ago.

I realized we were all gathered to meet a tour bus, and noticed that a female cop across the street riding a Llama was waving us over. We crossed the street, nearly getting hit a few times, and as I got closer I saw that the llama was riding a bicycle. The woman, clearly Leslie Easterbrook in her role as Callahan from the Police Academy series, dismounted and held the bike with the llama over her head with her right hand and waved us on to the bus with her left. Our drummer was sticking twigs into the hubcaps of passing cars, and giggling about how when he was a little boy it would jam the wheels but now that everything is plastic the hubcaps just broke. I didn't mention that I'd seen his sister, as she seemed to vanish from the dream as though my brain was correcting “reality” about remembering her status. It was all very bizarre.

I awoke from the dream, went on to an actual band job in reality, and told the band leader and his son about the dream(leaving out the cameo appearance by their lost family member, of course). A few days later, my subconscious got creative again. I found myself sitting on a park bench in the zoo where our band had last performed. It was still extremely hot, which I deduced by my attire, the same old pair of shorts with a Yankees logo that I was sleeping in. I'm modest to the point that I won't take off my shirt at the beach, and Long Island can all breathe a collective sigh of relief at that.

I was talking, elaborately explaining some comic book, movie or television show in trademark excruciating detail. I reclined with one arm along the back of the bench, and generally addressed any passersby. A pretty brown-haired girl in a fuzzy pink sweater, clearly overdressed for a heatwave, sidled up and sat on the bench, gazing with fascination as I stared ahead and continued my story. She was twirling my chest hair, and while Long Island again breathes a sigh of relief at the shirt-on-the-beach thing I apologize to my readers for including that detail in my story. Fortunately for you and unfortunately for me, the dream took a strange turn.

I didn't want to stop talking because I was afraid the girl snuggling up to me would leave, but I lost my train of thought and she was gone, as was the sun. The animals, many of whom were loose and had gathered to hear my tale, suddenly scattered. Slowly I allowed my eyes to venture left, where a large lion stood imposingly while the other creatures fled in terror. ”Walk away slowly,”, I murmured. “Don't make any sudden movements or show fear, because they can--” At this point, the beast pounced and I sat bolt upright in bed. It was time to go to work anyway, so it was just as well the dream had turned. It was easier to leave a ferocious lion behind than a pretty female companion.

This brings us to my latest weird dream on Saturday morning. This time, I found myself in the country somewhere, maybe upstate New York or someplace further. It was late in the afternoon, and I'd just finished another band job. My dad and another musician headed for the car while I told them I'd be along later. I had my arm around a petite, pretty Italian girl, and we were heading in to a renovated barn to see the new Police Academy. Which part of that statement proves I was in an alternate reality, the fact that Police Academy 8 actually happened or that I actually got a date? I kept nibbling her ear and blowing in it while she pushed me away but eventually leaned closer to me. I suspect I was influenced from watching Nine 1/2 Weeks before going to bed. For whatever reason, Kim Basinger kept giving in to Mickey Rourke, even when he was being a downright sophomoric and abusive jerk. Granted, back then he looked less like Marv and more like a cross between Ioan Gruffudd and Jon Bon Jovi, but I've never understood why women will choose a good-looking jerk over say a Jack Black type who makes them laugh and puts them on a pedestal. I just didn't get how Rourke would whisper something that would demean Basinger, she'd say no at first, he'd whisper “C'mon, please?”, and she'd completely melt. I feel like I'm going way off on a tangent here, though.

The barn/theater was a cozy place and more like a house with a lot of large flat screen televisions than an actual movie theater. We found a bench in one of the side rooms, and cuddled up to enjoy Mahoney's latest antics. For a first date, I felt surprisingly comfortable and at ease, and was sure I could get a kiss. I leaned in, and she leaned back, tapping me on the nose with the tip of her finger and whispering she'd be right back. I continued watching the movie, which suddenly seemed like a bad idea and wasn't as funny as its predecessors. After about half an hour, I decided to look for my date. I couldn't find her, but as I walked past the main room with the larger television, I noticed my parents were in the audience. All eyes were on the screen except theirs, which glared at me in disapproval. I realized I'd left my dad and another musician stranded out in the parking lot while I'd taken the keys to the car and went to a movie with a girl I'd just met, who had now vanished. I woke up at this point, and sighed, “What the hell was that?”

My brain is seriously screwed-up sometimes, but at least it entertains me. Who knows where my dreams will take me next?


Rain Reigns

As I stood in the shower on Friday night at my new gym, I could swear the water seemed strangely loud. Soon, I was dressed and heading out to start my weekend, pondering the cartoon I'd watched on one of the cardio machines, The Robonic Stooges. I didn't even know The Three Stooges had a cartoon let alone one in which they were part machine, with extendable limbs and their initials labeling each stooge's shirt. It came out in 1978 when I was 4, so if I did see it before I probably remembered it as a bad dream. At this point in my sad musings, I reached the exit and saw that it was pouring outside. I wondered about the convertible I had parked next to an hour prior, but alas it was gone by the time I ran to my car. Hopefully the owner left and put his top up before the flash storm began. I'd hate to think I missed a great reaction otherwise.

It's been a strange week, cooler than last week's heatwave with sudden storms in the evening. On Thursday, my friend's car window jammed on him and got stuck half open. At precisely 4:30 in the afternoon, the heavens opened just as they did Friday night. “You got to be kiddin' me!” he said, running from his office to tape some plastic to the window. Twenty minutes later the storm was over.

I'm sure there's some complex meteorological explanation for these weather patterns, something about hot fronts and cold fronts and humidity, but my expertise lies with other things, like snacks or pop culture. All I know is that we've had nice days and stormy nights, and the storms have been localized, intense, and brief. By the time we get the windows in the house closed, it's over. Indeed, not only was the rain stopping before I was too far from the gym, but I could see it all evaporating from the pavement.

Not long ago, the silence of the evening was broken by the crash of thunder, waking my cat from his slumber in a nearby pile of laundry. He jumped up in alarm, looked around, then with the next rumble outside looked up at me for consolation. I scratched his ears, he blinked and meowed, and curled up and went back to sleep. The lights on my modem are flashing like crazy right now, and I'm hoping my connection lasts long enough to post.

One of the fire department bands I play with implemented a new policy a few years ago after we all showed up for a parade that was rained out at the last minute. Many of the players were upset that the call wasn't made sooner, though it was out of the department's hands. Parade officials thought we'd get it in, but the storm only grew stronger. Now, if we're not notified and show up at a parade site, we still get full pay even if we don't play. If Saturday follows the pattern of the rest of this week, there's a good chance a storm will break just about the time we're set to start marching. I hope that's not the case; this will be the first gig with this band for the year, and parades are a lot easier than Italian feasts. We walk no more than two miles to a reviewing stand, play six or seven marches, and we're done. Sometimes that's a nice change from leading a statue around Brooklyn.

Ahhh!! Sorry, but that lightning was close! I'd better close the window and wrap this up. Nature, it would seem, trumps lengthy blogging.


It All Works Out

I was never remotely a jock. In high school, my ideal Saturday afternoon found me lying in bed with one hand holding a comic book and the other elbow deep in a bag of cheese puffs. Parades on weekends kept me active, and my neighborhood friends often forced me to play sports, so I think it's fair to say that while I was overweight, I was never obese.

After college, a desk job took its toll. Without walking back and forth on a college campus, I developed the physique of a small pregnant woman. It wasn't until the second company I worked for added a gym and a few friends coaxed me in to joining with them that I started exercising again. Suddenly, gym wasn't an acronym for “Grumpy Young Man”. I had energy and my brain felt clear. I even lost a few pounds, though poor eating habits kept me from dropping down to my more reasonable college weight. I ran in a few races, and even won free gym membership for a few months by coming in first in a competition. It was close, and in the final week I surged ahead of the other teams by working out three hours before work and three hours after work. It didn't change my reputation; if anything, people thought I was crazier. But I felt good for achieving a goal and pushing beyond my limits. Getting to work three hours early was a major achievement in itself.

When the company fell under new ownership last year, I was one of many to perish professionally in a massive layoff. They gave me plenty of notice, several months in fact, so I had adequate time to get another job. I continued using the gym up until the second to last day of my employment, opting to say goodbye to my few remaining friends at a couple of happy hours on my final day. After a busy weekend of band gigs, I started my new job the following Monday. Between a more realistic workload and a lack of a gym, I had nothing to do but go home at 5:00 every day. I tried jogging around the house each day, but did less and less until finally I was just coming home and watching movies. I got through a lot of movies, and watched a lot of television shows. I got caught up on Stargate SG-1, watching all 10 seasons and DVD sequel in a matter of months. I liked all the extra time I discovered. Four years of running and weight training were soon forgotten. I considered buying a treadmill but the idea was discarded between the size and cost of the equipment.

That all changed this week. On the recommendation of a friend at work, I stopped by the gym on the road to our office. From the outside, it looks like a one level brick warehouse, but inside it’s massive. I signed up, taking advantage of a company discount, and by Thursday night I was ready to break my 10 month lapse. Determined to take it easy at first, and start with what I knew, I grabbed a treadmill on the end of a row with few people around. It was a little different from the ones I was used to, but the buttons were pretty self-explanatory, to anyone who isn't a partial moron. My first attempt to set a speed resulted in changing the channel on the flatscreen television mounted above it. I decided to actually read the writing on the device instead of pressing random triangles, but nothing worked. “Select a program or press Quickstart” flashed the LED display. I pressed every button. I tried to move the thing with my feet. A pretty blonde girl walked by and gave me an odd look. I was off to a start that was ridiculously me.

Defeated, I quietly grabbed my bottle of water and climbed down. One row back were what I thought were elliptical machines, low impact and perhaps easier to operate. As I climbed up, the base split in half as my feet spread in opposite directions. Clearly it was no elliptical or stair machine I'd ever encountered. Pulling myself up by the handles, I managed to bring my feet back together before I lost a testicle. I tried not to think of the show I was putting on, and instead concentrated on the buttons in front of me. After punching a few, there was some resistance and I could step from side to side without sinking too far. Soon I had a rhythm going.

About 10 minutes in, I noticed my heart rate had reached 165. It's been so long I don't remember if that's normal. It concerned me, and I felt lightheaded, so I started pushing buttons on the television to distract myself, and managed to find Family Guy. It was one of the episodes in which Peter battles Ernie the giant chicken. 10 minutes soon became 15, and I noticed a little round display had reached 100% and reset to zero. I watched it begin to light up again, realizing it reached 100% every 15 minutes, so I had to stay on until I lit it up again. Turning exercise into a game has helped me in the past, and so I managed to complete a half hour and “travel” 3 miles. Only after a comical dismount in which I stood on one foot and let the machine lower me to one side did I notice a platform on the back for disembarking. I have so much to learn.

The Cybex strength training section was twice as large as the one in my old gym, and there were weight machines that worked muscles I didn't even know people had! Thankfully, each had a small diagram explaining how to bend, sit, and contort. In some cases, I felt like I had climbed into the exoskeleton of a mecha. In addition to arms and legs, some devices worked my back and abs.

The shower offered wall mounted shampoo, conditioner, and liquid body soap dispensers. The dial actually had temperatures on it, instead of “H” and “C”. There would be no guesswork, no burning or freezing. I felt refreshed and alive as I drove home, one hand on the wheel while the other hung out the window. All in all, I'd done well for my first day. In the end, I expect I'll develop a healthy routine and abilities I thought were lost will prove merely dormant, especially once I get a treadmill to work. It's better to feel good than to look good, and I'm taking charge of the one I have control over.


T.I.L.T. Things I've Learned Thursday III

Things I've Learned Thursday returns for a third time! This feature collects a series of arbitrary information, mostly trivial, that's come to my attention recently.

* A truck for Big Brothers Big Sisters is apparently not obligated to come to a full stop at a stop sign, at least not for a tubby 33-year-old pedestrian desperately racing for the safety of the opposite curb. If I was a wayward youth perhaps the driver would have stopped.

* I always thought Warren Worthington III, the Angel, was one of the weaker Marvel mutants. With light bones, exceptional eyesight, and wings on his back, he was basically a man with the proportionate abilities of a bird. When he'd try to blend in with normal humans he'd have to strap the wings to his body or wear a giant backpack with an open lining. The character went through a radical redesign when Louise and Walt Simonson were writing and drawing the original X-Factor. His friends and teammates thought he perished in a plane explosion, but his death was actually faked by the villain Apocalypse. Angel was transformed into Death, one of Apocalypse's horseman, his skin turned blue and his wings replaced with razor sharp metal ones. His feathers, laced with a paralyzing toxin, could be hurled like blades. His offensive capabilities were greatly increased as was his coolness factor, and once he shook off Apocalypse's brainwashing he eventually rejoined his friends as Archangel. For some reason a few years later, subsequent writers would revert Warren to his original appearance and abilities. I think the reason why Ben Foster has played a freak and/or sociopath in every role I've seen him in since X-Men: The Last Stand is to make people forget his wussy turn as the Angel. Apparently comic book creators came to a similar realization, and Archangel is finally BACK. Comic book stories tend to be cyclical, a fact that made it easier for me to quit after 8 years collecting. I still like to peek in to that world from the sidelines of the internet to find out about developments like this.

* I find it very challenging to summarize, often supplying more information than necessary. Brevity is the soul of everyone who isn't me.

* When I was a little boy and my mom controlled the radio, we'd often listen to an AM station that played a lot of Sinatra, Dorsey, Darin, and the like. Between that and the songs I'd go on to play with concert bands in school, I developed a secret love for jazz and big band music that wasn't fully suppressed until I reached high school and first heard Nirvana's Nevermind and Metallica's Black Album. Those albums and Pink Floyd: The Wall greatly shaped my musical taste, which would be rounded out with a sprinkle of rap and hip hop when I reached college. These days, I'm predominantly a K-Rock listener, but a Glenn Miller CD that I got from one of my band friends has reminded me of my musical roots. Besides putting me in a calm and clear state of mind behind the wheel, I found myself humming Chattanooga Choo Choo, Moonlight Serenade and Little Brown Jug throughout the day, and couldn't be more WHITE. I may need to dig up my Enter the Wu for my next commute, just to restore balance.

* To avoid getting something nasty with your meal, consider that fast food workers are always right. Also, deviating from the numbered meals and ordering items individually seems to universally create chaos akin to crossing the streams of a proton pack.

* That skittering sound you hear in your room in the dark of night? That's not Mr. Marbles.

* Casey Affleck can act. I'd say it runs in the family, but...you know.

* One of my favorite delis has added burgers to their menu. Ordering a bacon swiss cheeseburger with curly fries from a deli probably isn't healthier than ordering that anywhere else, but it is fun trying to get all that plus a bottle of Arizona tea from the counter to a table without a tray.

* The gym alongside the road leading to my office must be some kind of TARDIS, larger on the inside than it is on the outside. It's been nearly a year since I changed jobs, and I've tried to compensate in vain for the lack of a company gym in my new office. I gave up running in place after work after two weeks. I looked at treadmills and realized there was absolutely no room in my house for anything that size. Finally, when I developed a general sense of malaise from poor eating habits and lack of exercise, I started walking on my lunch hour and cut down drastically on my fast food intake. As the thermometer rises, I'm lucky if I can get from my car to the office without turning into a greasy ball of sweat. So, on the recommendation of one of my friends at work, I stopped by the gym on Wednesday night. It's an amazing facility, with individual televisions mounted on every cardio machine, every weight imaginable, a sauna, a juice bar, personal trainers, a black lit spin class room, and even a day care facility. $65 a month is about $40 more than my old gym cost, but that place was a fraction of the size with a fraction of the equipment, and the convenience was the main selling point there. The price is reasonable compared to other facilities, plus I believe our health plan offers a year-end reimbursement if we prove that we go to the gym regularly. Soon I'll be back on a treadmill, and I'll learn what nearly 10 months of inactivity has done to my endurance. Wish me luck...

Tune in next Thursday for the secrets or minutia of the universe!



PBW: Random Summer

More and more, I fall into a bad pattern when Summer hits, and seem to write about how I can’t take the heat or complain about working every weekend with various bands. I need to learn to be a cool cat, to bear the heat and appreciate the sights Summer has to offer. So, this Photo Blog Wednesday is dedicated to some of the random sights I can find if I just stop and look around.

The sad reality is that it won’t be all that long before I’m complaining about shoveling snow instead of mowing lawns, or about being bored on weekends when the music season ends. To cope with Winter months that challenge us all, I’ve prepared desktop reminders of Summer:




This probably won't come as a shock, but I pride myself on being inconspicuous. I like to blend in to the shadows, to remove myself from any group or situation and simply observe, to be a watcher. We are each of us the center of our own universe, and it would be paranoid to believe all eyes are on us at all times. It would however be equally foolish to think ourselves invisible. I've been guilty of both errors in perception over the years.

Sunday evening, after a three hour Italian procession, I made my way down the steps of a church when I was approached by a pretty girl. “Excuse me!” I heard her say, but I kept walking, assuming she was addressing somebody else. “Excuse me, sir?” she said, and I was certain she was addressing someone else. “We'd like to hire your group for some of our events.” she said, looking directly at me.

I stopped, keeping one eye on my father to make sure he didn't wander in to traffic as the sun had set but he was still wearing his post-cataract surgery protective sunglasses. The “sir” definitely threw me, especially since I was easily the youngest member of the band by decades in most cases. I recovered quickly enough and pointed out our leader to her, directing her to get a business card from him. I continued down the steps and caught my dad's sleeve before he stepped off the curb.

On some level, I still see myself as the boy I am in my brain. I haven't grown up on the inside, but the outside is telling a different story. As my hairline is retreating, I seem to be gaining more of an extra chin to compensate. If I smile for photos, my cheeks form two giant, fleshy slug shapes on either side of my greasy, bulbous nose. I look at old photos from times I distinctly remember being self-conscious about my appearance, and wish I still looked like that. I'd wear a cloak in public if it would actually make me inconspicuous. Somehow, I suspect it would have quite the opposite effect.

It was cloudy on Monday, enough to keep things cool, so I chanced walking. With the recent heat wave, my last avenue of exercise had been lost to me, and I found myself driving at lunch again. I felt a drop hit my arm and, fearing rain, decided not to venture too far. The closest place to my office is a Subway, and as I walked along a shopping center I heard a man telling a woman that there were a lot of vacant stores in town because they already had everything they needed. They don't have a Quizno's, and I considered telling them as much. Instead I minded my own business and continued on to my lunch destination.

The place was packed by the time I paid for my food, so rather than share a table with other patrons I headed outside. The clouds had turned to haze as the sun burned through, and I realized if I walked too far, I was going to start sweating. I remembered a couple of park benches in a gazebo, and made my way there. But as soon as I sat down, I noticed a lot of ants crawling on both benches, I stood back up without removing my sandwich from the bag. I can imagine what the people in the bus across the street must have thought seeing me sit down and jump back up again.

I was halfway to the local beach with the picnic tables and shaded dining area, so I decided to finish the journey. I had a pleasant lunch by the water, but as I began my trek back to the office, the sun burned all the way through the clouds. I could feel my forehead grow moist, and tried to think cool thoughts. Once during a fire drill at my old job on the hottest day of the year, I stood drenched in sweat while theGreek, who was inexplicably dry, imparted some wisdom about state of mind controlling perspiration. To this day, I don't know how he did it, and as I felt liquid trickling down my back, I knew I was failing miserably.

I had a meeting right after lunch, and there was no way I was going to walk in with sweat stains on my back. I had some time to kill, and there was a supermarket on the way back to the office. If I ducked in there for a bit before I really started to sweat and cooled off a bit, the final leg of the journey wouldn't do as much damage.

I felt the difference in temperature as soon as I walked in. I strolled the aisles, trying to look as inconspicuous as possible, every once in a while pausing to find some item on a shelf fascinating. When I reached the frozen foods aisle, I decided the waffle section needed closer inspection. I opened the freezer door and considered a box of chocolate chip waffles. I looked at a few other varieties before closing the door and noticing that my very aura of heat had fogged up the glass of the door I'd opened as well as the doors on either side.

“Sir?” asked one of the supermarket workers, “Is there something in particular I can help you with?”

“No...” I said, embarrassed, “No, I'm...it's...nothing.”

“Are you sure,” she said, in a tone that implied security was on the way. I mumbled something and continued through the store and back to the exit. Ten minutes later, I was in a restroom in the office running cold water on my wrists to cool down. Soon, I had a pen and pad in hand and was walking down a deserted hallway to a conference room. “Heading to the meeting?” asked my boss, catching up to me. If there were wet spots on the back of my shirt, he didn't let on, and any hint of amusement in his voice may or may not have been my own perception.

I still need exercise, but until the thermometer gets back below 80, ideally below 70, walking is not a good idea. I'll have to start jogging in my basement at night or somewhere a little more inconspicuous. As for the whole “sir” thing, I guess that's something new I'll have to live with.


Phantasmic Links 6.16.08

First and foremost, I hope all you dads out there had a great Father's Day! Secondly, The Incredible Hulk was great, not Iron Man great, but everything it needed to be. Ang Lee should probably stick to gay cowboys from now on, although I just read he's producing a Shang-Chi movie next year. That's probably a character better suited for his cinematic sense than the jade giant, which really should be about monsters fighting and soldiers shooting in a Summer popcorn fest.

This is shaping up to be a good year for the most part. Let's check out this week's PHANTASMIC LINKS :

(1) Click Myclofigia and help build our city.

(2) Neither my dad nor my mom were aware that foil boxes come with built-in lock tabs, proving you're never too old to learn something new.
Hat Tip: B13.

(3) Why am I just now learning of Alien Loves Predator? Hilarious!

(4) Has human genetic material been found in a meteorite? We're so going to be enslaved by parasitic aliens posing as gods if we're not careful...

(5) Speaking of science fiction becoming fact, the final Skynet satellite has launched. Uh-oh...

(6) If cell phones can really make corn pop, I wonder what they're braining to our dos?
H.T.: Darrell.

(7) Kid's Rock breathes new life into tired classics! It's the album every cool parent should own!
H.T.: B13.

(8) Sean shares some inspiration, Trek-style!

(9) RhodesTer is the star of his own show(sort of).
H.T.: RhodesTer (of course).

(10) Google has nothing but good news to report as all the world's problems are solved...

(11) This is the story of a man who thought he was Bill Murray.

(12) Logomotto, randomly mixing logos with mottos to do a body good what's for dinner the best a man can get. I'm lovin' it!

(13) Get out your old red and blue 3D glasses and doodle in 3D!

(14) Finally, see if you can guess how many sequels various films had. I think you'll be surprised.

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!




Saturday morning, as I was driving to the post office, I noticed one of the neighborhood dogs scampering down the street, so I took my time backing out of the driveway. As I rolled past, I heard the crazy old guy that’s living with the woman next door scream, “GET OUT OF HERE! GET. THE. F***. OUT!!!” The dog bounded past his driveway and down the sidewalk, and in my rearview mirror I saw him start to squat on a patch of grass before the old man chased him into the road. A car driving down the block in the opposite direction had to slow down to avoid hitting either beast.

I don’t understand rage, and I’m not just talking about the superhero. I certainly have my moments, and not only am I not proud of them, I’m absolutely baffled by the loss of control once I’ve calmed down. Perhaps there are times when rage is justified, but most of the time it seems like people are overreacting.

On Friday night, as I was taking a side street home from work, I noticed a cat leave the safety of its yard and begin crossing the street. I slowed down a bit to let him pass, when I heard the angry screeching of tires. I looked in my rearview mirror and saw the car behind me speed up and cut to the left. I made a “slow down” motion out the window with my hand, which he ignored, and he missed crushing the cat by inches, barely slowing for a stop sign a few feet ahead before screeching on through the neighborhood. From the lawn on the other side of the road, the cat looked at me as if to say, “What was that guy’s problem?” I’m not sure the few seconds he would have lost waiting behind me were more important than the life of an innocent creature. If he was in that much of a hurry to get home after work, maybe he should have stuck with the main road.

I myself had somewhere to be, and after grabbing a quick dinner at home, I was off to meet my friends for a crappy movie. Driving home, I’d find more excitement than the movie itself provided. On a dark road with one lane in either direction and no shoulder, some kind of utility truck had stopped. One of the oncoming cars had slowed down to see if the driver was in need of any assistance, and thus there was way around for those of us behind him, a black pickup truck followed by my car.


“MOOOOVE, A**HOLE!!!!” shouted the driver of the truck. I couldn’t hear the response he got, but a moment later he was getting out of his truck and walking over to the other driver screaming, “Oh, I’m an a**hole??? You’re blockin’ traffic, you’re the f***ing a**hole, pal!!!” I put my car in reverse and backed up slightly as the conversation degraded into “shut it”/”no YOU shut it” and other witty exchanges. Finally, the pickup truck guy started getting back in his vehicle, which prompted the other driver to get in a last word.

“You’re a p***yf***k!!!”

What did you call me?!” shouted the guy in front of me, climbing back out of his vehicle before he’d had a chance to close the door.

“You heard me! F***ing white trash!”

“F*** YOU!! You’re the white trash!!”

“B***h! F***er!!”

“F*** your mother!!!”

It went on like this for like another two minutes. Another car had rolled up behind me and was keeping a safe distance, and a car waited patiently behind the car in the other lane. The escalation was fascinating, neither party mature or patient enough to back down. Finally, the car moved forward with deliberate slowness, and the pickup truck driver veered around the stopped van into the oncoming lane, with barely enough room to make it. I was more cautious to check for oncoming headlights before I made my way around as well. The rest of the trip home was much more peaceful and uneventful.

I guess some people like to fight, and some get frustrated when others prevent them from doing something. Granted, there are times when a sense of urgency is justified. Maybe you’re late for work, or your wife just went in to labor, or you just went into labor. Otherwise, the incidents witnessed at 5:30 and 10 PM respectively seemed unnecessary to me. Everyone who loses control like that, including and especially myself, looks childish. We can all benefit from stepping outside of ourselves and getting a little distance from a situation to gain better perspective. The guy in front of me was ready to grab a tire iron or a gun, while in my position I was ready to grab a bucket of popcorn.


Nothing Happening

I love parodies and spoofs. I loved that Simpsons episode in which the kids sneak off to watch “The Bloodening”, a British horror film with creepy kids using phrases like “And doctor, we know that you and the bootblack have been rogering the fishwife in the crumpetshop!”, whatever that means. I also find myself pondering an episode with the following exchange:

Homer: “Wait, I'm confused about the movie. So the cops knew that internal affairs were setting them up?”
Cult Guy: “What are you talking about? There is nothing like that in there!”
Homer: “Oh, you see when I get bored I make up my own movie. I have a very short attention span.”

With The Happening, M. Night Shyamalan has unfortunately crossed the line into Simpson-esque self-parody, and thanks to some friends with great humor, I managed to escape into a much funnier comedy. I've liked all of Shyamalan's movies, even the last two that weren't as good as his first three, but I can't even defend this. I wanted to see The Incredible Hulk but my friends outvoted me. Even though B13 heard a reviewer describe it as “the crappening”, he still wanted to see it opening night to avoid finding out the “twist”. I think M. Night dispensed with twists a few movies ago, and defends this film in advance by having a teacher tell his students that scientists come up with explanations, which in the end are just theories, and we never really know what actually happens. As soon as I heard that bit of dialogue, I knew that no matter how many times variations of the word “happen” were used, nothing would actually happen or be concretely explained.

That teacher, by the way, was played by a Mark Wahlberg from an alternate universe in which his line reading is more forced than Broderick's in Godzilla. I read one theory that Wahlberg is great at playing tough guys, but to play a calm, gentle guy was too much of a stretch for him. I can just imagine the conversation when he was discussing the role...

Night: “So, your character is a science teacher.”

Marky-Mark: “So you wants I should play faggy?”

Night: “What? No, no your character is married to a cute woman played by Zooey Deschanel. He's calm and rational, but also has a romantic side. You see, he has a sentimental attachment to a particular trinket he gave her...”

Marky-Mark: “But he's a teacher, right? Not like a coach? Alls my teachers was kinda faggy, especially if he's some science nerd being all sentimental with his ho and sh*t.”

Night: “I'm sorry, didn't you just win an award for The Departed? Look, never mind, play it any way you want, just so long as you'll take the part. Your name should sell a few tickets.”

Marky-Mark: “Aw, yeah! It's such a good vibration! It's such a sweet sensation!”

Wahlberg spends most of the movie running around with his eyes wide open, speaking slowly, deliberately, and a bit higher than normal. 90% of his dialogue is explaining the plot of the movie, even things that you're watching. And when he flees from whatever it is that causes the “happening” to happen, he'll often pause to turn and look in to the camera. You'd think this would defeat the purpose of fleeing if you stop short of sanctuary, but somehow things work in his favor. His best unintentionally funny scene involves a conversation with a plant, I kid you not. The funniest character has to be the hot dog afficianado. Someday when you pick up a discount DVD of this movie, you'll understand what that means.

Save your money. The trailer showed every good scene, which happens in the first fifteen minutes. The next hour has people running in fields trying to outrace the wind, and doing other inexplicably dumb things. Then we go to France. There's a lot of atmosphere without substance, and there's almost a good concept in there somewhere. Unfortunately, between bad acting and no true payoff, I walked away quite disappointed, and I'm normally very forgiving of movies most people hate. I had fun only because my friends and others in the audience kept cracking up.

From the trailers, you might surmise the premise involves people suddenly committing mass suicide. The film offers a possible cause, which I'll SPOIL to save you money: plants adapt to defend themselves against people ruining the planet, and release toxins that affect people's brain chemistry. Why they only do this for one day in Northeastern America is anyone's guess, though early signs of the problem seem to be the mass disappearance of bees mentioned in the trailer. For his first “R” rated movie, the gory scenes are comical. Honestly, one video capture of a dude running around in a lion's cage after having his arms ripped off looked like an SNL sketch. Since they talk so much about the plant toxin being the cause, especially so early in the movie, I doubt that was the true reason everyone started killing themselves. I think they saw this movie.

So, to sum up:

1) Wahlberg acts like a wuss and has wooden line reading.

2) Plants make people kill themselves.

3) People try to outrun the wind.

4) Wahlberg talks to a plant.

Spend theater prices at your own peril....



I have no idea if “schieve” is the right spelling, or even if it's an actual word. It may simply be old Italian slang or a form of ”skeeve”. My mom claims to have picked up the expression from her grandmother, and usually pronounces it shhh-keeve. In any case, she usually uses it to describe when I'm disgusted by or shunning something, be it a type of food I don't like or thinking a plate is dirty. I'm particularly particular about food, and my folks think this is unusual since I'm such a slob in every other aspect of my life. Honestly, I'm not eating off the floor in my room so dust or laundry doesn't bother me.

I guess that's why I freaked out on the little boy who grabbed my instrument over the weekend. It wasn't that he was touching my property, or even that he nearly pulled a $600 piece of equipment to the ground. It was where he was touching it, that he had his fingers on the mouthpiece. You know those television commercials for disinfectant soap that show the kids running in the mud, picking up frogs, wiping their nose, then reaching for a sandwich while a green glow is added to accentuate the aura of germs they've picked up? That's the mental image I had in my head in that moment, reinforced when the kid was scratching his behind with the same hand a moment later. My mom would say I was schieving.

Thursday, I stopped in a supermarket on my lunch hour to pick up a card, some healthy snacks, and some other items for Father's Day. When I reached the self-checkout, I noticed my shoe was sticking to the floor. “Not gum...” I thought to myself, looking down. There were a few red spots on the floor, most likely melted candy. Something that might have been in someone's mouth now coating a floor was disgusting, but not as bad as gum. I finished my transaction, careful to avoid the sticky spots on the floor.

As I walked away, I kept hearing a sticky sound, like some residue was still on my sneaker. I looked on the sole and saw a giant red circle of candy completely mashed in to the design. Dragging my feet in the parking lot got rid of some of the surface candy, but dragging my feet on the lawn back at work only added grass, and the next time I looked I thought there was a tomato under there. I tried not to think about it the rest of the afternoon, though every once in a while I'd pick up my foot and the carpet would briefly rise with it before falling free.

When I got home, I immediately turned on the hose to full power, took off the shoe, and let water pressure power wash the mess from the grooves. A few times I turned the sneaker the wrong way, and water splashed in my face. I definitely schieved that, my lips pulling taut as I tried to make my face water tight. I carried the shoe around to our verandah to dry, and heard skittering in the corner. A huge squirrel leapt up on to the wall and froze, staring at me. I froze, and stared back. For a moment, I thought it was going to make a run for the steps behind me, but then it looked over it's shoulder, and braced itself to run down the wall. For a moment its tail was sticking up as it clung to the stucco on the other side, then it scampered down into the yard. In hindsight, it was a lot like that scene in The Fugitive where Tommy Lee Jones has Harrison Ford cornered in that drain pipe.

Walking back around the house, I reached a patch of wet grass and hopped the rest of the way on the one foot that still had a sneaker. The neighbors really don't need Cable for entertainment. Inside, my parents asked how my day was otherwise, but my face was still sealed. I rushed to the bathroom and washed my hands and face vigorously with soap and water, then rinsed my mouth with mouthwash.

I took my plate of dinner in my room so I could surf the web while I ate. In the kitchen, I heard a WHAM! followed by my mom shouting to my dad. “Where did it go? I think it ran by your foot!” WHAM! WHAM! “I never saw something so fast; how did that get in the house??” A few minutes later, I returned to the kitchen with an empty plate and found them eating peacefully. As I put the dish in the sink and began washing it, my mom asked if I didn't like the chicken since I wasn’t having seconds. In truth, it was quite delicious, but I lied and said I'd had a big lunch. Whatever spider or other bug darted across the floor in my imagination based on what I'd heard had tainted my appetite. It's not always logical, but when it comes to things like bugs in the kitchen I schieve.


T.I.L.T. Things I've Learned Thursday II

Things I've Learned Thursday returns for a second installment! This feature collects a series of arbitrary information, mostly trivial, that's come to my attention recently.

* The Unseen Blogger reminded me that he used to run a similar feature, but it's been so long since he wrote a ”Ten Things I Learned This Weekend” that I'd almost forgotten about it. I think T.I.L.T. is an easier acronym than T.T.I.L.T.W. though, not to be confused with Janet's T.I.T.M.T., which shares some letters but is an otherwise different concept. There's a lot of overlap in blogging.

* Last week I learned that Jeff Goldblum had a role in Death Wish early in his career. After a marathon viewing of that increasingly comic bookish series, I discovered a few more actors who became well known later in their careers: Alex Winter(Bill S. Preston Esq.) in Death Wish 3(the greatest bad movie of all time; loved it), Danny Trejo and Tim Russ(Tuvok) in Death Wish 4, and Saul Rubinek in Death Wish 5.

* What fails in 2004's The Punisher is perfectly acceptable in the Death Wish series because: A) It was the ‘80s; and, I can't stress this enough, B) Charles Bronson was the MAN.

* Hillary Clinton is NOT SEXY. We already knew that, but I needed to clear up some confusion from last week.

* My favorite sunglasses keep trying to leave me, but something, perhaps God, won't let them. Moshing at a Pearl Jam concert, I nearly lost them when the contents of my shirt pockets flew into the air. I had a choice between grabbing the glasses or my ticket stub, and that stub is probably buried in the mud of Randall's Island somewhere. I almost lost them again on a road trip with my friends a few years ago, and several weeks ago they vanished for like a week after I was rushing to get to a band gig and caused a mini avalanche on my desk by pulling a tie out from under some loose change. On Wednesday I was attending a Direct Mail Conference at the Javits Center in Manhattan. I was very concientious of the glasses' presence hanging from my collar at all times. Toward the end of the day we stopped by a bank of computers so my copywriter could check her train schedule online.

Suddenly, without warning, I felt the strap on my backpack loosen as the plastic clip holding it snapped and flew forward. As I dropped to my knees to pick up the pieces, my hand went instinctively to my neck and I discovered my sunglasses were gone! I looked around the floor, assuming that the backpack going slack knocked them loose, but there was no sign of them. I checked a bag I was carrying in case they fell in there or I'd put them there. Nothing. I told my writer I'd be right back, and proceeded to retrace my steps through the entire crowded convention center. I actually found a woman's thin prescription glasses, but not my beloved cheap piece of plastic nostalgia. Dejected, I returned to my writer, who was on her cell phone. I made a “one minute” hand gesture, and backtracked once more down the aisles, checking every booth. Miraculously, in the Z-Card booth where I'd spent some time admiring their print format, I saw something small, black and plastic peeking out from a blue curtain around their table. I dodged, dipped, ducked, dove, and dodged my way across the aisle, and reclaimed my favorite sunglasses. Every time I think they're lost forever and find them again, their nostalgic value increases. I really need to just retire them, put them on display in a glass case, and get a new pair that I don't care about.

* By the way, I also discovered just now that Blogger deleted a comment Rey made, deeming that it “linked to malicious content”. As I recall, he was only accentuating his point that my glasses don't in fact resemble the glasses from The Matrix by linking to a photo of the film's core cast. I'm not sure how that qualifies as “malicious”, but it's interesting that they're scanning archives and edited something that was written two years ago. It makes me wonder if any other comments, or posts, have been censored as well...

* Marketers are now developing widgets that users can install on their PC. Instead of visiting websites and getting pop-ups, or those new annoying Flash-based pop ins that cover the content of the page you're viewing and conceal the button to close them, you might now find Disney characters popping up on your desktop, reminding you of upcoming shows, products, or events. Many include fun games, and the “prize” seems to be an annoying teenager shouting out a commercial. From a marketing standpoint, it's potentially brilliant. For a consumer, it's potentially irritating. I realize in an age of people fast-forwarding commercials(digitally or the old-fashioned way) and using pop-up blockers, it's harder than ever to reach customers. As a print designer, I'm torn sometimes, because I want people to see my work and know most of it is torn up in seconds because I do the same thing when I get advertisements in the mail. Ultimately, after discussing the topic with various vendors at the convention, I found that there's a fine line between awareness and annoyance. You want the customer to know you exist and have something good to offer, but it is possible to go too far in your efforts and drive them away.

* The Mexican Axolotl is nearly extinct, can only be found naturally in one lake near Mexico City, and has led to advances in both gene expression and neurobiology.

* Richard Dean Anderson appeared in 175 out of 214 episodes of Stargate SG-1. The other night I watched his 175th appearance and it was an amazing episode. I still have six more episodes to watch before I move on to the direct-to-DVD film sequels and the spinoff series.

* In writing, the technique of ”hanging a lantern” on something describes instances in which characters in a story will point out something unlikely, coincidental, or implausible. In doing so, the writer's goal is to show that the turn of events was intentional, and not simply bad writing. Stargate SG-1's 200th episode reminded me of this technique, which I'd actually learned of when I took a science fiction writing course a few years ago. I suspect the technique could have some social applications as well. For example, a public speaker pointing out that he or she is nervous removes the tension for all parties. Sometimes illuminating something reduces the anxiety caused by hoping people won't notice it. Once something is verbalized, it might not be as bad as your anticipation made it out to be, and you can move past it without fearing it.

* If you're a wife, daughter, girlfriend, daughter figure, or even just a friend of Paul Kersey, he'll care enough to avenge you should any horrible fate befall you. Unfortunately, if you're a wife, daughter, girlfriend, daughter figure, or even just a friend of Paul Kersey, he's guaranteed to need to avenge you after a horrible fate befalls you. Heck, it's not even safe to be the guy's housekeeper!

Tune in next Thursday for more random and meaningless insight!