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

Things I've Learned Thursday is back! If nothing else, these posts will ensure that I don't forget what I've learned. Maybe. What was I saying?

* Venom might be spun off into his own film.

* The Northern State Parkway, while mostly parallel with the L.I.E., runs sharply South at one point because when it was being constructed, it would have run into an estate owned by Marcus Loew, best remembered for his legacy of movie theaters. After veering around the area that once was this estate, the Parkway eventually meets up with the L.I.E. again and crosses it, switching places to become the Northern most highway as you travel East on Long Island. I can't confirm that it was Loew's estate the builders were avoiding, but my friend Bill the trumpet player is in his 80s and has a good memory for this sort of thing.

* There are some benefits to having missed certain movies growing up, as actors take on more significance in hindsight when you get to see what they did before they were stars. Such was the case when I finally saw Adventures in Babysitting last night and realized why some of the young cast looked familiar, including Anthony Rapp, Bradley Whitford, George Newbern, and Vincent (Phillip) D'Onofrio as “Thor”. Actually, I wasn't sure if Newbern's character was Noah Wyle, Paul Rudd, or Jonathan M. Woodward. I mainly know Newbern for his voice work, so when I saw the credits I was like, “That's what that guy looks like!”

* By the way, a sequel/remake called “Further Adventures in Babysitting” is planned starring Raven Symoné. WHY?

* When I watched Bridget Jones's Diary last week, I thought for sure I spotted Steven Weber, and wondered why they had two Americans putting on British accents. Then I realized it was James Callis. Who knew Brian from Wings looked so much like Gaius Baltar?

* If you don't check your Netflix queue for a few months and don't move new additions to the top immediately, chances are movies lurking at the bottom of your list will finally start slipping through.

* The New York Post has awesome headlines. I actually saw that cat cover that while I was standing in line at a deli on Wednesday and had to do a double take. Seriously, it's like something I or my college friends would come up with for a spoof.

* That reminds me of a joke I caught recently on a Family Guy rerun. At an awards show, Madonna objects when Ja Rule wins the award for “Biggest Posse”, so the presenter has to clarify that he said ”Posse”. No, I'm not explaining that.

* Subdivide. It's one of the greatest lessons my late music teacher taught me. “You're not Superman; don't try to do everything at once.” Though the focus was on music, breaking down a complex piece measure by measure, and note by note, the applications are endless. Worried about a long drive? Just think about getting to the next traffic light, and worry about the one after that when you get there. Overwhelmed because you have twelve flyers to design? Just think about one or you'll never get started. When you break a large task down into its component elements, it's never as daunting as it might seem, and it's done before you know it.



PBW: Mini Car Show

Sooner or later, Summer will be over and I’ll finally have some band-free weekends to roam with my camera. Maybe I’ll hit a car show one of those weekends. For now, Photo Blog Wednesday will have to make do with a mini car show:



Just the Chauffeur

”I have no idea,” said my father to the band leader's son on the other end of the phone, “I'm just the chauffeur!”

After a long procession in New Jersey on Saturday, we had some time to relax before heading out Sunday night to another gig in Brooklyn. I even found time Saturday night for a get-together with some old college friends consisting of home-cooked Indian food, nostalgic Wu-Tang music, and teaching one friend's two-year-old daughter how to make paper airplanes. But one thing that was unresolved was the status of our friend Bill the Trumpet Player. He can't see welll enough to drive anymore, so my dad and I usually pick him up for gigs with the Brooklyn band we're all in. The band leader for that group was with us on the New Jersey band's job on Saturday, and confirmed that he had spoken to Bill and he was on the Sunday job. But when we got home and my dad called Bill to confirm, he not only didn't know about a gig Sunday night, but had prior plans with a birthday party.

So, as I was heading out the door to my friend's house on Saturday night, I heard my dad talking to the band leader's son, explaining the conversation he'd just had with Bill. Either the son or the band leader in the background had asked why Bill wasn't calling to say he couldn't make it, at which point my dad uttered one of his trademark phrases. I found it ironic that, while we often take my dad's car to these things, I always do the driving. He did his share of driving back in the day though, and though he's often used the expression to downplay his musical contributions, neither of us would even have these jobs if not for his influence and connections. He always pushed me to practice growing up, got me in to the fire department bands he played for, and eventually through those we made contact with the Italian bands. He's far more than a chauffeur in my book.

In any case, it was something of a relief that we didn't have to pick up Bill on Sunday. I like the guy well enough and don't mind helping him out, but sometimes we think about the time lost detouring to pick him up. It'd be nice to leave a half hour later for a gig, or get home from one a half hour sooner. Of course, when storms raged across Long Island on Saturday, and the radio proclaimed a story of four soccer players getting struck by lightning, I was sure I was off the hook. After walking in the sun all day on Saturday and going out at night, I was pretty beat. The wise move would have been to skip the dinner party, but I'd already missed a housewarming because I got home too late from an out-of-state job and a midnight movie because I would have been a wreck at my day job the next day. I don't see these friends that often anymore and, at the risk of sounding melodramatic, sometimes I feel like I'm always working. That's hardly the case, but I feel that way nonetheless. So, against my better judgment, I decided to go out instead of rest.

I was sure by around 5 PM that the job was canceled, when I got out of the shower and saw a missed call on my cell phone from the band leader's son. I called back and, alas, he was only calling to tell us the job was still on, that the weather was much dryer in Brooklyn. He was still stuck on a train with his parents, pregnant fiancée, and soon-to-be stepson, as electrical problems were causing all kinds of delays with the trains. I honestly don't understand why he still hasn't gotten his driver's license. When their family lived in Brooklyn, owning a car didn't make sense. But they've been living out East on Long Island for close to a decade now. Trains and cabs must surely get expensive, not to mention the hassle of being on someone else's schedule. There have been times that the only way he and his father could get to a job was to take the train in to the city then catch a different line back out to the island. There have been plenty of occasions where we've had to meet them at a train station and drive them to a job. On rare occasions when they offer to pay for gas or a toll, we accept.

What really boggles my mind, beyond the fact that a 34-year-old about to enter into marriage and fatherhood for the second time(though first time concurrently), is that he owns a minivan. When he plays drums with a bar band or has to get somewhere with his DJ equipment, he pays one of the neighborhood kids to drive it. Otherwise, it sits in his yard. “I drive up and down the driveway,” he says, when we ask if he's practiced or made any moves to learn. I can understand his father's apprehension, as he's spent a lifetime without driving and is getting close to a retirement age, but the son is definitely a different story.

At any rate, while they could relax on one of several trains over the course of who knows how many hours before the actual job, I had no choice but to drive. Traffic proved fierce, I felt trapped, and after a few exits traded an expressway for local roads. With almost no cars on the road and good timing with traffic lights, we got to Brooklyn before the job started though after the time the band leader told us to get there. Over the years, understanding his obsession with time and nervousness that rivals my dad's, I've learned to add as much as an hour to whatever time he gives us. If he says be there at 6-6:15, you can bet the procession isn't starting before 7:15.

The rain let up though clouds remained, beautiful layers resembling silk or an oil painting or an oil painting of silk. Heading home, traffic wasn't too bad, although my dad was nervous on one particular road. A few months back I got him a ticket by driving through a yellow light at an intersection with a camera. We were mailed the ticket along with a screen capture of our car and a notation of what fraction of a second that had elapsed between the time the light changed and the time we passed it. There's a chance I got him 3 or 4 tickets on Sunday. I tried to anticipate, but lights change a lot faster out in Queens. On one occasion I was under the light when it changed. On another, a car was riding our rear bumper. “What car?!” shouted my dad. The next time I stopped for a light with a car tailgating us, it veered to the left and shot through a red light. My dad still didn't see the car or believe me. It's been almost two weeks since he had cataract surgery on his second eye, and I can say his night vision isn't coming along as quickly, though I wouldn't trust him to drive during the day.

Driving can be very stressful, not just from outside forces but those within the car. “What are you doing?! Stop STOP!!!” does not help. Ironically, the night before I heard him on the phone protesting that he was just the chauffeur. “That light is RED!,” he said, noting a light a good 200 feet in the distance. “Do you want me to drive?” he asked in frustration. I wished he could. A few years ago when I was having major anxiety issues behind the wheel, my dad was there for me, and drove me to work for a few months. Even after I got my senses back and got control of the problem, it was always nice to have him along as a passenger, as backup in case we needed to switch places. That's not an option now, at least until his eyes heal and he finds out whether or not he'll still need glasses, and if so how strong. I didn't like being yelled at each time we approached a traffic light, but normally I don't mind driving my dad. It's not like I'm going out of my way for him.

We got home in one piece, and I guess we'll know in a few months whether or not any of those intersections had cameras. Whether driving my dad, Bill, the band leader & his son, or any combination of the above, my limited experience with the stress of passengers has given me an appreciation for people who drive for a living. I'm glad I'm not just the chauffeur.


Phantasmic Links 7.28.08

My dad, nearing 80, seems to suddenly have game. We get to New Jersey on Saturday for a feast, and as we're walking from the train station I hear a young female voice ask, “Where's the party?” I turn and two beautiful young ladies are talking to the old man. I, still a good fifty years from anything remotely resembling game, reply with the name of the church we're going to. “Oh...well, have a good day.” she replied. As we continued on our way, I realized I should have answered her with something like, “Wherever you are, baby,” but then I never could think on my feet. Six hours later, as I stood on a train back to Manhattan gripping a bar, I glanced down the car and see that the old man found a seat, literally surrounded by beautiful girls. I glanced at some of the other musicians on the train who were just grinning. The little old guy just sat looking tired after a long day, oblivious to what was around him. It gives me hope for my future, but it's ironic that by the time girls notice me I might be too old to notice them. Such is my life. In other news, here are this week's PHANTASMIC LINKS :

(1) Click Myclofigia and get our city to #1!

(2) Don't forget, there's an all-new M.C.F.A.T. this week!

(3) What if there were no stop signs and a major corporation was tasked with creating one? No matter where I've worked, this is a frightfully accurate depiction of what designers face each day.
Hat Tip: Rey.

(4) TRON is BACK.

(5) Vultures are the last thing you'd want to see perched outside the window of your hospital room...

(6) The 40 worst Rob Liefeld drawings gather in one place. Not in attendance: Economy of line, proportionate anatomy, and feet.

(7) A guitar player proves that no hands is no problem.

(8) Can anyone save George Lucas from his Carbonite prison? Should they?
H.T.: Rey.

(9) Brothers from the same mother show that we can indeed all just get along.
H.T.: B13.

(10) The Periodic Table, broken down by videos. I think I need to adopt a British accent to sound smarter.

(11) Here's a handy history of Game Consoles. There are actually some on that list I've neither seen nor heard of before.
H.T. Darrell.

(12) Which beauties from today might become the Golden Girls of 2048?

(13) Check out some truly awesome images of Jupiter.

(14) Sad but timely: 10 Actors and Actresses Who Didn't Live to See Their Final Movie.

(15) Finally, work in three dimensions to tilt and Spin your block to the exit.

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!


M.C.F.A.T. Volume XIX

It's been a while since I've done a M.C.F.A.T., that's Mysterious Cloaked Figure's Astonishing Test for those of you who are new or have forgotten. This is a crazy busy weekend, with two gigs, one of which is out of state, so I hope you'll forgive me if I revive this concept well over a year since the last one.

As a reminder, what I'll do is post several questions below. You will have one week to complete the test and post the answers on your blogs, leaving a link in my comments section. Next week I'll post those links to your answers, and share my own.

1) Should film critics be genre-specific? Why or why not?

2) What are some of your favorite movies and/or episodes of television shows depicting time travel?

3) At this exact second, how did you get where you are in life?

4) Will there be sex in heaven?
(Hat tip to TheWriteJerry, who made this inquiry in an e-mail during the week that sparked an interesting discussion among the GeekFriends™. With their permission, I'll share some of their ideas next week.)

SPECIAL BONUS QUESTION: What is “that” one thing Meat Loaf wouldn't do for love? I'll accept both humorous and serious responses.

There's no right or wrong, and you can't fail if you answer. Good luck!




We've all been guilty of tailgating at one time or another in our lives. There you are on an empty road, save for one car in front of you, one car going inexorably slow. Maybe you're late for work, or some other appointment. Maybe a restroom beckons. Maybe you're just a New Yorker. Whatever the reason, you find yourself driving as close as possible to the other vehicle without the molecules of your bumpers meshing. It doesn't help. It never helps. In fact, more often than not when the situation is reversed, that kind of behavior actually encourages me to go even slower for spite.

Impatience is a human condition. I think tailgating bothers me more when I'm not the reason for the traffic. If there's a line of cars in front of me or construction, the guy behind me riding that close is not going to push me any further, not if there isn't anywhere for me to go. There are a few warehouses on the road to my office, and occasionally a truck might be backing up to one and blocking the road. Such was the case the other day when I was returning from lunch.

In these situations, I'm empathetic to the cars in front of me. I saw the truck back up, then roll forward, then back up again. I left a good three feet between myself and the car in front of me, and sat back to observe in amusement and disbelief. It was the middle of the day; I was in no rush. Neither, it seemed, was the truck driver. Just when I thought he was making it, he had doubts and rolled forward again, at one point hopping the opposite curb. I was glad for once it was too hot, or else I might have been on that sidewalk instead of in my car.

Finally, he seemed to be making it. Meanwhile, an SUV driver a few vehicles behind me rolled to the left and began passing everybody by driving on the wrong side. “Where's this guy going?” I said to the air. I rolled forward, closing the gap between myself and the car in front of me. With the truck across the road, the SUV jerk wasn't getting anywhere. “Don't...don't let him do it...” I said, as though the driver in front of me could hear. Narrowly missing her bumper on one side and the cab of the still backing up truck on the other, the SUV driver squeezed through and floored it down the road, saving all of the one minute he could have waited in line for the truck to be off the road allowing our lane to proceed.

On Friday, I was waiting to cross the street near my favorite deli. A car was waiting to make a left turn, and I thankfully didn't step off the sidewalk when the light began to change. The lady behind the turning car threw up her arms, floored it, and revved around on to the shoulder, her tires actually scraping the curb where I was standing. Impatience may be the death of the patient, unfortunately, as one last example will illustrate.

My instinct when I see a car turn on its right directional is to slow down, because I know they're about to slow down and make a turn. When I'm about to turn down my block each evening, the reactions of the drivers behind me vary from increasing speed to veering partially into the left lane so they don't have to slow down for the few seconds it would take for me to complete my turn. My street is a narrow one, with cars often parked on both sides, and coming in too fast means risking hitting one of these cars or an oncoming vehicle squeezing between them.

The other night, making this turn, I saw in my rearview mirror an SUV bearing down on me as usual, I took my foot off the brake, veering so sharply that the Powerade bottle on my passenger seat flew into the air, spun, and somehow landed near my feet, just under the brake pedal. And of course™, there was a car coming toward me down the road, which veered on to the thankfully open shoulder to avoid hitting me. The bottle rolled back down the incline of the floor, and didn't impair my ability to brake. It would have been a fluke that no one could duplicate. Going forward, I'll be keeping any water bottles on the floor of the passenger side.

The roads are full of obstacles. Other cars. Construction. Buses. Children playing. Cats. Dogs. Racoons. Squirrels. Birds. On Friday I watched in horror as a line of geese crossed a notoriously busy road, certain that someone would come around the bend and utterly splatter them. Miraculously, people waited, and they made it to the safety of the park across the street. There are slow drivers out there, people who are older or lost or from out of state. There may be times when the driver in front of you has no legitimate reason for going slower than you'd like. Maybe there's a cop with a radar gun around the bend. Maybe there was an accident. We'd all do well to give each other the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes a delay that seems like an eternity is but a matter of minutes, and a few minutes is nothing compared to loss of life or some other disaster that would haunt us and everyone involved for a lifetime.



I learned what smirking was in the 3rd or 4th grade. I found myself sitting in the principal's office during one of my myriad punishments, passing the time as I often did by shooting rubber bands into the faculty mail slots. Scoring was based on rank, so the principal's cubby was worth more than the vice-principals, and so on down the line. While I was sitting there, a somewhat androgynous looking girl, dubbed “Neuter” by those who come up with such things, began yelling at me. “Stop smirking!” she snarled. Quite literally, I didn't know the meaning of the word, but whatever it was, I assured her I wasn't doing it. This exchange went back and forth for a few minutes before she punched me and stormed out of the office. It didn't matter where they were in the social food chain; everyone hit me in those days.

I asked my mom and she explained that a smirk was a sort of smile, but sarcastic and with a lot less teeth than I used to show in class photos or when goofing around. I still wasn't convinced the accusation was accurate, and wondered if my scar had anything to do with it. Mind you, my deformity isn't quite as severe as The Joker's, but I theorized that my lip might pull up ever so slightly on the right due to my childhood injury. I was about 10 when I formulated this theory, and time would prove that it had nothing to do with scarring or muscle control and everything to do with self-control.

I'm honest because I have to be, because I can't keep a straight face when I know something funny or contrary to what I'm saying. I'm terrible at practical jokes in person, and could never pull one off unless I had a legitimate reason to be smiling or laughing through my delivery. My propensity for turning red when embarrassed, amused, uncomfortable, or, quite frankly, awake, doesn't help. The worst is when I think of something funny hours, days, or even years later. Sometimes my mind wanders in church, and I might think about a funny movie or something my friends said back in college. I feel the familiar tugging at the corners of my mouth, feel my face going warm. I can usually hold back the laughter, though occasionally an inarticulate syllable might slip out before I regain control. A lot of times it's like trying to restrain a sneeze.

It always happens at the worst times. Church. The dentist. Meetings. Funerals. This week, the gym was my downfall. As I made my way through the weight room to the locker room, I thought I saw my friend “Bob” with his unmistakable ponytail. Then he turned around, and while the “Bob” I know is quite caucasian, this guy had a face like Luis Guzmán. ”Hispanic Bob” I thought to myself, stifling a snicker but smirking. Then I realized I was walking through a room full of grunting weightlifters and mirrored walls. I could feel the eyes upon me, imagine someone shoving me and asking what was so funny. I let my eyes blur and tried to think of serious thoughts. As bad as it was to smirk across a gym, it would be worse to be smiling like that in the locker room. Whether someone in there was offended or flattered, I'd be in serious trouble either way.

Eventually, my thoughts moved on and the feeling passed, as a television on the wall broadcast some story about negligence in nuclear facilities. After changing and making my way back out through the weight room, I got another glimpse of “hispanic Bob” and nearly lost it again. I find way too many things funny sometimes. Once I was in the other room and on a treadmill watching an episode of Seinfeld, I had an excuse if anyone saw the corners of my mouth twitching. Sometimes, suppressing the laughter only makes it stronger. I wish I had better smirk control. Maybe it does have a little something to do with splitting my lip open when I was five after all. Maybe I need a t-shirt that says, “I'm not laughing at you,” but then again, sometimes I am.

I’m smirking right now.


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

Does Things I've Learned Thursday teach anyone anything? Are these really things I've learned? And how long does it take for a foot puncture to heal? Read on for the answer to none of these questions:

* When the weather forecasts rain, it's probably a good idea to start typing before your lights start flickering, to avoid some pressure.

* This week we lost my favorite Golden Girl, the inimitable Estelle Getty. It's a little known fact that she was actually a year younger than Bea Arthur, who played her daughter. She told a makeup artist that her career depended on looking 80, and his success in adding 20 years to her appearance gained her one of the most memorable roles on television. May she find peace in the Shady Pines in the sky.

* For a truly surreal Val Kilmer double feature, I highly recommend watching Real Genius back to back with Felon. It's like watching Ryan Reynolds turn into Jeff Bridges.

* Every ‘80s film that matters must contain a minimum of one montage set to appropriate music that both evokes the era and describes how the characters are getting things done.

* Between the aforementioned films and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which I watched last week, I've been gaining more respect for Mr. Kilmer as an actor. That respect increased when I found out he broke a contract and refused to work with Joel Schumacher again on Batman & Robin over creative differences regarding the darker tones he rightfully felt the character demanded. Word has it he's had praise for Christopher Nolan's vision of Batman, which matches what he unsuccessfully was pushing Schumacher to do.

* I need to start keeping notes for this column. Over the course of the week I make observations that I think would make great inclusions, but I never remember them all when I finally sit down to type it up.

* The next time you order a regular order of nachos with cheese dip from Taco Bell, try mixing a packet or two of hot sauce into the cheese first. I don't go there very often these days, but that's what I do when I'm there, and that's how America should do it.

* Half the people you think are dumb are smarter than you think, while half the people you think are smart are dumber than you think. You're never as smart nor dumb as you think you are.

* Monk is a hard show to understand if you're watching at the gym without benefit of headphones or subtitles. Somehow, playing cards in a casino helped him figure out how a guy killed his girlfriend in an elevator, swapped her with another girl hiding above the car so the press got pictures of them leaving, and how the second girl later went back and planted the body so it looked like the first woman's scarf got caught in the door and choked her to death between floors. Actually, I made more sense of it than I thought, except for the leap from Blackjack to murder. But, that's why I'm an artist and not a quirky private investigator.

* If your gym tends to run out of towels after a workout but has plenty when you first get to the gym, it’s a good idea to grab one initially and keep it in your locker. This prevents the unfortunate quandary of having to dry oneself with a hand towel, not that I’ve ever done that.....

* The controversial Spider-Man clone saga of the ‘90s apparently had a televised predecessor on an episode of the ‘70s CBS show. I like the conciseness of the original: “I'm you, and you're me, and this is a gun!” They just don't write television like that anymore.



PBW: Hot & Horn-y

Photo Blog Wednesday

Anything above 90 degrees is hot for New York, in my opinion, and when temperatures get close to 100, I feel like I'm cooking. When I went out to my car to go to lunch on Monday, I did a double-take after glancing into my backseat where I'd left a couple of CD cases. Of the two, only one contained a CD, the one on the bottom. The empty case on top didn't fare as well sitting in a black car in the hot sun, and this was the result:

Looks a little bit like Darth Vader, doesn't it? Folks, the next time you leave a kid or a dog in the parking lot and think cracking the window is enough, remember this image. I also caught an accidental desktop pattern while playing with exposure settings and not keeping the camera stationary, resulting in this interesting design:

Often, it's working with various bands on the weekend that keeps me from taking photos during the Summer, though I'm getting proficient at killing two birds with one stone and taking my camera with me, such as I did last week. This past weekend I almost had a last-minute job in New Jersey that thankfully fell through, and it was only the extreme heat that kept me from going out with my camera. As big a part of my life as my Baritone horn is, I'm surprised I've never made it a photography subject, beyond that one Video Blog Wednesday, so I'm remedying that now:

The scratches and scuff marks show the age and use of an instrument I've had for over 20 years. I'm afraid a fresh coat of lacquer might alter the tone, which has settled into where I and my band leaders like it to be. Here's one last shot at an interesting angle; click to enlarge:




I don't understand how I can get up early after a full night's sleep, and still leave for work at the exact same time. I think psychologically I take longer to do things because I'm aware that there's more time. I also know my clocks are set fast so they don’t fool me anymore.

Traffic mystifies and vexes me. It bothers me that one can be zipping along, round a bend on a single lane road, and suddenly be at a dead stop, inching forward in minute amounts as 15 minutes elapse.

Heat. Enough already. Something solid in my car actually melted; tune in tomorrow for photos.

Explain the grunting that weightlifters do. Are they exceeding their limits? Is it that heavy? Is it some primitive mating call to attract females? It honestly sounds like their straining at a bowel movement, and it's always followed by a loud crash as they let the barbell drop. Do women like that? Should I be doing that? I'm self-conscious if I exhale too loudly.

Is the grass ever browner or patchier on the other side?

I saw a trailer for Starship Troopers 3. I had no idea there was a second movie. I can't believe Casper Van Dien has nothing better to do than return to a pretty awful-looking direct-to-DVD sequel. Actually, that I can comprehend. Jolene Blalock can surely do better though, no?

What's with all the trolls whose sole purpose on IMDB seems to bash popular movies? I understand the cry for attention, the guarantee that hating on something as universally acclaimed as The Dark Knight will prompt responses. I see this phenomenon on a lot of boards for a lot of films and television series. Often, the “discussion” degrades into way off-topic sparring about religion or politics with remarks like “I should have expected that from an American” or “That's just like you Christians”. I don't get it, and I have no desire to participate in such discussions. Blogs seem to be a much more civilized environment for the most part.

Speaking of going off-topic, my literature memory may be a little rusty but the recent computer-animated Beowulf contained a lot more burning crosses than I remembered from the old English version, and Malkovich's Unferth is portrayed as the sole voice of Christianity, though he's shown as an unfavorable jerk who mistreats his servant, and schemes to undermine Beowulf out of jealousy. There's a point in the movie where Unferth suggests the new God over their old pantheon, and the king muses that they don't need any god; they need a hero. These all seemed to be stranger choices on the part of Zemeckis than the way he tied the dragon in the third act to the first two acts. Even though that last bit isn't faithful to the original tale either, it at least made sense from a narrative standpoint in telling one cohesive story.

It's dark out; why is it still so damn hot?


Some people have something interesting or significant to say every day. How is this possible? Help me comprehend the incomprehensible.


Phantasmic Links 7.21.08

Okay, you people need to save your money. I can't begin to tell you how awful The Dark Knight was. I don't even know where to begin. The explosions were deafening and the music was way too epic. Heath Ledger, may he rest in peace, clearly had no idea who The Joker should be. He's not some elemental force of chaos and sheer insanity of unknown origins, here to simultaneously amuse and terrify you. He's supposed to be campy funny, like a clown, like Cesar Romero. Failing that, he should behave exactly like a bleached Jack Nicholson, maybe even dance to some Prince music. That's who the Joker is. Then there's Maggie Gyllenhaal, certainly no Katie Holmes. Who wants a leading lady who can be competent and sexy while stepping perfectly into a role and surpassing her predecessor? Certainly not me! About the only good thing the movie had going for it was the grating rasp Christian Bale put on every time he was in costume. Hey Chris, need a cough drop for that sore throat?

I seriously can't wait to see it again. Here are this week's PHANTASMIC LINKS :

(1) Click Myclofigia and get our city to #1 so I can stop asking every week.

(2) Want to refuel your car for only $2.00? Maybe an air car is the way to go...

(3) Letterman sums up why you need to see The Dark Knight.

(4) YouTomb tracks YouTube videos removed for alleged copyright infringement.

(5) The Watchmen is definitely the next epic comic book movie I'm excited about. Superheroes notwithstanding, it's probably more accurate to call it a graphic novel movie.

(6) Meet the very model of a modern sf novelist.
Hat Tip: Curt.

(7) A skeleton is the perfect thing to make out of your old cassette tapes! Hopefully you have all those albums on CD or digital though...
H.T.: B13

(8) This is sand. Be sure to click the square in the upper left hand corner for instructions.

(9) The Oracle of Bacon calculates how many degrees any given actor is from Kevin Bacon. Finally.

(10) These 8 forgotten kid shows are sure to give you nightmares. I'm glad I don't remember any of them. That last one can't be real, can it?

(11) A wrestler makes the mistake of asking someone in the audience to throw him a chair. Everyone complies.

(12) Finally, build a Fantastic Contraption and let physics guide you to your goal!

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 House That Kane Built

Just when I thought it was safe to be on this planet, New York is suffering another heat wave. I thought Wednesday was rough, playing with one of my bands in a four hour procession through the streets of Brooklyn with few stops in 90 degree weather. The thermometer on Saturday wasn't more than a degree or two higher, but it feels so much worse. Fans helped, as did lying amid bottles of frozen water, but for the most part I'm useless when it gets this hot.

I let the lawn slide, either until Sunday or next week, but other errands forced me out of the house in the morning, notably some important checks in need of depositing. Thank you for the relief check, United States, and thank you for my pension check, struggling unnamed former employer. I'm slightly closer to catching my savings back up to where they were before I splurged and bought a car a few months ago.

On the way to the bank, I passed a novelty store and noticed a box on the sidewalk with a window cut out in the front and tiny curtains, making a mock “theater” for children to act out puppet shows. I flashed immediately back to the third grade, and my only acting experience. Somehow I got the “lead” role in a performance of The House That Jack Built. Each child in a row would read one line of the poem and hold up a corresponding prop, until they reached a cardboard house at the end of the row. Inside, I'd open a window and pop out my head to proclaim my line, “...and THIS is the house that JACK built!”

Back then, I was the class clown, ever striving to make people laugh, vying for what teacher's described as “negative attention.” It didn't matter if jokes were at my expense, only that I was focused on. So, at some point in rehearsing I started adding a little something to my line reading, a super cheesy toothy grin, sort of a Joker face but goofy instead of demented. I'd read the line, and flash my teeth and wiggle my eyebrows. The teacher didn't like this of course, and by the time the actual performance went on, I think I was given the choice of being demoted playing “the cat that killed the rat” or just doing a straight line reading. I can't quite remember which I chose, but I think I opted for a flat, unemotional delivery of the line with a serious face, and I was done with acting after that.

After errands and reminiscing, I collapsed in front of the television for a few hours until the blissful air conditioning of the 5:00 mass. My 2-disc edition of Batman: Gotham Knight had arrived, and I was ready to immerse myself in interpretations of one of my favorite American comic book heroes by some of the top names in Japanese animation. The first story was decent, several kids giving their disparate views of the hero, from a shadowy force to an actual bat to some kinda robot. I thought this conceit was better handled a few years ago in an episode of the animated series. Each short gets progressively better however, showcasing different artistic styles and takes on the character, delving into the psychology which drives him, all loosely connected by subtle plot elements and the inimitable vocal talents of Kevin Conroy, as synonymous with this hero as Peter Cullen is to Optimus Prime.

The real draw for me, as is usually the case with these comic book DVDs, is the special features. At one point in the audio commentary Conroy shares this great anecdote about 911, how he volunteered to help cook for the relief workers after the attacks. After a grueling week, one of the workers asked him if he was an actor or something, because he sounded familiar. He said he'd done some voice work, and when the guy pressed further he had to admit that he was Batman. Excited, the worker rushed out to the dining area to ask the others if they realized who'd been preparing their meals. After some disbelief and demands to prove it, Conroy shouted from the kitchen: “I am vengeance! I am the NIGHT! I...am...BATMAN!!” Needless to say, the room went wild and morale was elevated, a testament to the lasting popularity of the character and his impact on society.

There was also a fascinating 40 minute documentary on the life of Batman's creator, Bob Kane. His widow, Mark Hamill, and others shared stories of Bob's life interspersed with old radio clips and footage from interviews with the man himself. Stan Lee, who seems to appear in every comic book documentary I watch these days, recalls Bob ribbing him when Batman hit the big screen in 1989: “Don't worry Stan, if you're lucky maybe someday they'll make a movie about one of your creations!” Stan regrets that his friend wasn't around long enough to see Spider-Man.

I have not seen The Dark Knight yet. Chances are, by the time most of you are reading this I will be sitting on the edge of my seat in a darkened theater, absorbing what many are calling the greatest comic book movie of all time. Can it live up to the hype? I'm pretty biased as I've been a fan of the character since I first saw reruns of the campy ‘60s series as a child. Some of my friends caught the midnight show on Thursday, but there was no way I could see a 2.5 hour movie the day after playing a feast and be remotely useful at work on Friday after 3 or 4 hours of sleep. So, I'm carefully avoiding the internet, easy to do when the extreme heat forces me to keep my computer off most of the day for fear of the fans burning out or the circuits melting. It's better to be safe than sorry.

Whatever the form, the legacy of Kane lives on. He came from poverty and created an iconic figure that still thrives in multiple media, from comics to animation to live action movies. And that is the house that Kane built. You can't see me, but I have a big cheesy grin right about now.



On the pathetically long list of abilities I lack, include the ability to use chopsticks. Maybe it's because I didn't eat real Chinese food until I graduated college, or the fact that I never got in to the sushi craze that afflicts so many friends and coworkers. I don't care for seafood in general, so not cooking it only makes it less desirable. Why don't I just stick my face in a river like a bear and see what I can grab in my maw?

The irony is that I own a pretty nice set of chopsticks, given to me one year as a Christmas present from my mentor at my first job out of college. He taught me quite a bit about printing presses and traditional photography, how to determine the quality of a transparency and whether or not it was duped or blown up by checking the notches. When that crappy, now out-of-business, publisher forced him in to retirement, I think they were counting on the assumption that he'd taught me everything he knew, and that I'd provide the same expertise for a fraction of the salary. They even gave me some bogus new title like “assistant technical director”, to encompass my technical responsibilities, from designing to maintaining the computer network to rating photographs and scanning the best quality shots for our books. I was underpaid when I was doing one job let alone three or four, and I didn't stay with that company much longer after that.

I still have those chopsticks though, stained wood in a highly crafted box with a sliding top decorated with dragons made out of inlaid seashells. They just seem too nice to use, plus I'm not sure I trust stained wood as an eating utensil. Mmmm, varnishy! When I finally did get talked into going to a Benihana at my last job to bid farewell to a coworker, I fumbled with the chopsticks for a bit before opting to go for the knife and fork option, especially useful as I'd of course ordered some cooked mammal, either beef or chicken.

Life has a way of putting us in situations we try to avoid. A few months ago I was invited to a friend's birthday dinner at a sushi buffet in the city of her choosing. Turning down a gathering for an occasion is considerably more difficult that a sushi outing for sushi alone, and after consulting the restaurant's online menu I found that I didn't need to be rude; there were other options besides fish. There were chopsticks on the table, but knives and forks at the end of the buffet where we grabbed plates. I didn't even unwrap my ‘sticks.

Friday was the last day for a writer at my current job who was departing to spend more time with her 10 month old baby. I've turned down lunch invitations from my new coworkers before because they always seem to be going to this sushi place, but I couldn't very well miss saying goodbye to my writer friend. Besides, it couldn't hurt to make more of an effort to socialize with my fellow employees, especially now that I've been there nearly a year. To the surprise of a few who've asked me along before, I accepted.

“Oh! You have new friend!” said the waitress as she showed us to a table. Apparently the others were all regulars, and our hostess even asked for one by name who'd taken a vacation day. Four out of the eight people at the table ordered Chicken Teriyaki, including the girl who was leaving, so I didn't feel like such an oddball. It was a pretty cool set-up with the booths, wooden benchs that we could grab seat cushions for, fit so tightly with the table that it gave the illusion we were crouching, but the floor was hollowed out underneath.

“You know...they'll give you a fork if you ask them,” noted one woman as she observed me spearing a piece of lettuce. Eating salad with chopsticks is hard. Still, I always reach this point where I get tired of whining about the things I can't do, and actually try to learn a new skill. It takes me a while to reach this point, and I often fail and get discouraged, but it never stops me from trying again eventually. “You just need to keep one stick stable,” she pointed out, as I tried to mimic what others at the table were doing. I sort of braced one stick on my thumb, and everyone else seemed to be using their index and middle finger to move the other stick. I couldn't quite get that bit to work, and ended up making my thumb do double duty, holding one stick stationary while working with my index finger to move the other one. It was sloppy, like the wacky way I hold a pen, something else I never learned, but it worked.

By the time the main course came out I was manipulating chicken like a ninja. I never let a little thing like lack of dexterity stand between me and my food. The rice was considerably more of a challenge. When stuck together in clumps I could grab it better, otherwise I found myself keeping the sticks crossed and using them as a sort of fake “spoon” to scoop up the rice.

I'm way too immersed in the West in general and my ways in particular to ever fully grasp a utensil that doesn't pierce my food, spoons the only notable exception though the milk and cereal on my chin most mornings can attest to my struggles there as well. I did fine with the chopsticks on dessert as well. If you've never tried a fried banana, you're missing out on something. I don't know if they added sugar or it was the natural flavor, but that was a damn tasty treat with a crispy shell and soft center. We can't all use chopsticks and even if we learn, we may never have a full grasp on the art. If we don't try though, we might miss some important discoveries.


Ay to Zee

Saw this over at Kev Bayer's:

Accent: Nasal and whiny Long Island nerd; think Pidge from Voltron. (Side note: I just read that Pidge was voiced by Billy West, Futurama's Fry among other characters and of course the Honey Nut Cheerios Bee. I can't believe I never made that connection before.)

Breakfast or no breakfast: And, speaking of cereal, I don't leave the house without having a bowl or three.

Chore I don't care for: I'm not a fan of mowing the lawn. I like the fresh air and exercise, and I certainly wouldn't make my elderly father or asthmatic mother do it, but some days it's rough pushing that thing up hills, and the grass clippings always make my eyes tear and give me sneezing fits until I've taken a proper shower and blown my nose a dozen times.

Dog or Cat: You're new here if you expected anything other than “cat”. My mom's always had cats; they were essentially my “siblings” growing up. There's nothing like coming home after a hard day of work and talking to one's parents while the cat tries to get your attention, jumping on the kitchen table and eventually standing up and resting his front paws on your shoulder until you acknowledge him and scratch behind his ears.

Essential Electronics: I honestly can't remember life before the internet, but I guess the television is the natural second after my computer. These days I use both devices in conjunction with one another, researching shows and reading message boards about them.

Favorite Cologne: I don't really use anything beyond a strong antiperspirant, although I did used to use a splash of this stuff called Gravity that drove my ex-girlfriend crazy as she shed her quiet, bookish facade and turned into a lascivious....actually, I'm not going to finish this thought.

Gold or Silver: Platinum!
(What else would you expect from this geek?)

Handtools or powertools: Sometimes, there's no substitute for leverage and exertion. Other times I'll use an electric screwdriver and marvel at how much time it saves. Like Kev said in his answer, it depends on the job. Last Summer I was glad of that electric screwdriver when I built a new gate for my dad's lot. But there are bolts in cars that are best removed with a ratchet, especially in tight spots where we couldn't fit anything bigger.

Insomnia: Not in years. I used to lie awake worrying about homework and tests when I was a kid, but now I stay up late so regularly that when I do finally shut down for the night, I'm out almost as soon as my head hits the pillow.

Job Title: Art Director.

Kids: I hope not. ;-) Actually, I wouldn't mind a son someday to carry on our family name and honor my parents, but I'd have to find a woman that would not only put up with me, but have the right genetics to counter mine so the kid didn't turn out to be another me. I don't think I could handle the kind of brat I was. The older I get and more I see kids running rampant in shopping malls though, the less certain I am that I want a family.

Living Arrangements: Two older roommates that gave me life and now can't get rid of me.

Most Admirable Trait: I always try to put others before myself. I don't always succeed mind you, but trying puts me ahead of a lot of the people I encounter in the world.

Naughtiest Childhood Behavior: Wow, this could be a post in itself. I once climbed out a second story window in the fourth grade. I started a food fight in third grade. I used to gross out other kids by putting my handkerchief in my mouth. I once spun an entire roll of toilet paper into the toilet and flushed, flooding the music classroom. I used to be addicted to a sex hotline until my mom got the phone bill. During mass, I used to get bored, slide down on to the floor, and crawl under the pews. I could never keep quiet when parents or other relatives asked me to stop chattering. In high school it took me at least 3 hours to do my homework, and on weekends I'd often let it slide until late Sunday and go out and play on Friday. I guess that's enough. Man, why do people want kids?

Overnight hospital stays: When I was 25, I spent 11 days in the hospital due to a rare birth defect called a Meckel's diverticulum. Because it only affects 2% of the population and is normally detected in infants, it took the doctors a few days to diagnose. It didn't help that I went in on a Friday night. It wasn't one of my better experiences, although the surgery did get me out of work for a month.

Phobias: The on-again off-again spells I get while driving might suggest a fear of being behind the wheel, but the actual fear is losing control and passing out during a situation in which passing out would be bad. If traffic is good and I'm distracted or thinking about other things, I'm usually fine. Ultimately, the fear is “What if it happens?” which causes it to happen. I fear fear itself. My main phobia used to be dogs, although friends like B13 have helped me overcome that. I'm fine with trained animals in controlled conditions, where they know I'm no threat to their owners. I still remember the Dogless Route of my childhood, the dreaded streets where the jingle of change in my pocket could just as easily be the jingle of a collar as a toothy monster gave chase. When I go on nature hikes, I'm actually more concerned that the rustling in the underbrush is a savage stray dog than any other wildlife.

Quote: “Seriously; FIFTY!

Reason to smile: The Simpsons, Family Guy, The Office, Scrubs, yadayadayada, bing bang boom, Seinfeld.

Siblings: Only child, raised with cats.

Time I wake up: Wake up? 7:30 AM. From there it could take about 15-20 minutes to get to my feet and trudge out to the kitchen.

Unusual Talent or Skill: I can play the Baritone Horn just like ringing a bell. Actually, I can play the Baritone Horn just like playing a Baritone Horn, which seems good enough for all the band leaders that keep booking me for gigs.

Vegetable I Refuse to Eat: It would be quicker to list the ones I do eat, lettuce, tomato, potato and occasionally carrot sticks. Broccoli tops the list of everything else I refuse to eat. She denies it to this day, but I swear my mom once tried to trick me by mashing Broccoli and disguising it as potatoes. Either that, or it was just a bad batch of potatoes.

Worst Habit: Procrastination combined with being a packrat. Clutter piles up but I don't get to it right away. I go through stacks of junk mail every month or three, as I pick out the mail I want and leave the rest in a basket in the hall. When I come home from work, my clothes go on the floor and I don't gather them up until I do laundry on the weekend. I do have a hamper, but I normally have it turned upside down so I can keep a small fan elevated. Did I say procrastination? I'm a pig; that's my worst habit. People who've seen me eat know what I'm saying.

X-rays: Intestines, obviously, a few chest x-rays, an x-ray of my fingers when I jammed one playing dodgeball in the seventh grade, and of course dental x-rays once a year. I still haven't developed powers.

Yummy Stuff: Doritos, Quizno's, Cozymel's, Cookies ‘n' Cream, Kit Kat, Milanos, and much, much more. This is why the gym does nothing.

Zoo Animal I Like Most: I like The Gorilla. I like the high forehead and contemplative gaze. I like how the young ones hang from the big ones. I have this awesome postcard of one that my ex-girlfriend bought me when I took her to the Bronx Zoo. I don't know why I was so enamored, but for some reason I identified with the big hairy beast with the intelligent facade. I always like seeing monkeys, except for the whole deterrent of poo-flinging. If I had to pick a second favorite, it would be the creatures that I only recently learned existed, the Axolotl. Those things are wonderfully freakish and weird...like me!


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

I'm not quite done learning yet, though I'm not sure how much educating Things I've Learned Thursday accomplishes:

* The Long Island laws of traffic state that if an Italian feast should fall on a weekday, even if you're on the road an hour before commuting time you'll still encounter horrible, horrible traffic and merging three exits from your destination that still makes you late for your gig.

* Powerade from a spigot in a White Castle is surprisingly like the stuff in bottles, nigh identical.

* When parading through the streets of Brooklyn for several uninterrupted hours, you might be inclined to decline beverages along the way as there are no bathroom breaks. When the temperature exceeds 90 degrees and there isn't a cloud in the sky however, drink freely and frequently. You'll feel a lot better and be surprised that after five bottles of water in a four hour span, there's no urgency.

* The Long Island laws of traffic also state that if an Italian feast should fall on a weekday, even if you're on the road after lunch time but several hours prior to the end of the work day, there will still be a ton of traffic. Don't people work anymore?

* When watching The Onion Movie, exercise extreme caution. Of all the risqué language and vulgar skits in the film, the odds are dangerously high that one's mother will walk through the film during a mock advertisement for a gay cruiseliner.

* I am so George Costanza.

* Always write down messages people leave on your parents' answering machine. You never know when they'll overwrite something important like a phone number.

* Guys like Pacino and De Niro are great performers whose work I enjoy, but I think what they do is very specific and more and more play the same type of characters. Nicholson falls somewhat in the same category. Johnny Depp, Gary Oldman, and Daniel Day-Lewis however are frakking chameleons in their acting and have a remarkable range. I finally caught Lewis' award-winning performance in There Will Be Blood, and it was amazing. He almost single-handedly carries nearly three hours with one of the most brutal and complex characters to grace the screen.

* Previews for Disaster Movie have me convinced that a lot of these low-budget spoof “Movie” movies are now being shot concurrently with the mainstream films they parody. One of these days a spoof is going to be released before the real movie. It reminds me of the whole “When will then be now?” VHS gag from Spaceballs and makes me sad that Mel Brooks hasn't directed a movie in like 13 years.

* THERE'S A SPACEBALLS ANIMATED SERIES! I literally just learned this! Apparently the show has already aired in Canada but keeps getting delayed here.

* Don Rickles is still alive and still performing, at least according to a billboard in New Jersey I saw coming back from a gig over the weekend. Listen for him to appear in Toy Story 3 as well.

* I can't fly unassisted...yet.

* I exist in the same physical reality as the rest of the world, but my own mental reality, as we all do. Be afraid.

* If you leave your jeans lying on the floor when you come home from work, you risk stepping on the pointy part of the belt and getting a nice hole in your heel. If you immediately soak your foot in cold water then apply a bandage, a few days later you'll have a dark red spot where the hole used to be. Time may or may not yield more lessons from future observations.



PBW: Pio

Over the weekend, I took a mini vacation of sorts and visited the National Centre for Padre Pio, in Barto, PA. After stopping for mass at a local church(steeple shown above), our buses took our group on to the main attraction. Here's what I brought back for this week's Photo Blog Wednesday:

I think this statue set against the brick wall makes for a pretty cool desktop image:

A set of stained glass windows chronicled the Padre's life:

We'll see who's as big a geek as I am and thinks the same thing I did with that last window.

The main chapel had this really cool miniature display in the corner that seemed to have every nativity action figure ever:

Click those last two miniature images to maximize the detail to dynamic desktop proportions. I moved on to the museum to see paintings, statues, inexplicable hanging fish, a replica of the Padre's birthplace, and a recreation of his car.

And such a day wouldn't be complete without great food, wine, and some old Italian guy with an accordion:



Cardio TV Facts

My old company had a great gym. It wasn't very large, but it was on the premises and cost only $10 per paycheck. We had three televisions mounted on the wall, four treadmills, 4 elliptical machines, 4 bikes of varying heights, and several weights. The three televisions were controlled by standing on your tiptoes, reaching for the channel button then pausing, turning to face the gym and mouth to the other members “Are. You. Watching. This?” All the sets had closed captioning on, which was good since every attempt I made to use headphones while running 8 MPH was disastrous.

My new gym costs a bit more, $65 a month with my company discount, but has easily four times the equipment of my old one. Every piece of cardio equipment, from the treadmills to the bikes to the stairmasters to the ski machines and more has a flatscreen television attached. Everyone has his or her own televisions, the facts of which are these:

1) You control the volume(if you have headphones) and can change channels, but I've yet to discover a button to access the menu and turn on closed captioning. So far it seems to be a matter of luck. Maybe I have subtitles on the machine I've chosen, and maybe I need to read lips.

2) You would think lip-reading wouldn't work for animated shows such as Family Guy, so I'm guessing I've simply seen the episodes enough times to have the dialogue memorized, as well as “hear” the characters' voices in my head.

3) I used to love Friends not just for the humor, but for the realistic portrayal of young people living in Manhattan and their various relationships. I thought someday I'd be hanging out in coffee shops with my friends. When you watch the show without sound however, you realize just how excessive their physical comedy was. No human being leaps around as much as they did, gesturing wildly and waving their arms like more than one of them was Italian. Could they be more obviously putting on a sitcom?

4) The last channel is the monitor for the daycare room, which always seems to be empty at night when I go. It's a very bright room with a colorful carpet and toys stacked along the wall. I wonder if it would freak people out if I left it on that channel and worked out watching an empty room. It probably would be weirder if I worked out during the day watching people's kids.

5) Even without sound, I can't leave a feminine hygiene commercial on for more than .5 seconds. It’s like that one aisle in the supermarket we guys walk past more quickly than the others.

6) There's something about Rachael Ray that makes me linger a bit too long when channel surfing to find an episode of Family Guy or Friends. It's either the food or the sweater.

7) Every police drama has bad lighting.

8) Jim Cramer is more animated than all six Friends combined. If the televisions were 3D, I'd have a harder time resisting the urge to duck every time he chucks something at the camera. Gyms must never implement 3D televisions on their equipment.

9) At certain times in the early evening, it is entirely possible to cycle through 22 channels and not find anything to watch.

10) And finally, a personal television makes any workout fly by.


Phantasmic Links 7.14.08

5 AM is an ungodly hour to wake up on a Sunday morning, even if it is to make a pilgrimage to a shrine out of state. Pictures to come later this week; PHANTASMIC LINKS now :

(1) Click Myclofigia and help build our city.

(2) Nine Inch Fever combines NIN with Saturday Night Fever...finally. Hard to believe I haven't gotten to that movie yet; I bet it's not as good with the original music.
Hat Tip.: Sean.

(3) ”Miss” is a short film that puts an interesting spin on Russian Roulette.

(4) Now you too can have a Hidden Passageway in your house. I'm going to use mine to hide from Ma'am and George when I get into mischief...
H.T.: B13.

(5) Things They Don't Tell You (But Should) is a short series of comics that I really wish I could have read 24 years ago....

(6) Totem Destroyer is my latest online obsession. Oh, I've toppled all 25 levels, but I'm still earning the various in-game achievements....

(7) Worried about bulbs burning out and changing the message of your sign? Check the Brilliant Text Generator to be safe. “Reynaldo” and “Joseph” yielded dangerous results while my real name proved surprisingly safe. Check your name today!

(8) The Paintball Sentry automatically detects and attacks moving targets. Imagine having a few of these out on the field!

(9) You can make a lot of funny faces with just your chin, apparently.

(10) Woman kills husband with folding couch. This is why it's not a good idea to pass out drunk(or why it's not a good idea to get married). One of those is the moral...

(11) Learn how to make a giant slip ‘n' slide and enjoy your Summer! I so need one of those...

(12) Finally, get back in shape, Jedi Style!.

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!