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

The Twenty-First edition of the Mysterious Cloaked Figure's Astonishing Test didn't draw as many answers as previous editions, but I do appreciate the responses I did receive:


Perhaps it was just a busy week; I know mine was busy. Possibly some of these were hard questions; I know I'm going to struggle with some of them:

1) At what point would you say some of your favorite shows ”jumped the shark”, and did you continue watching them anyway?
Smallville certainly tops the list, although it jumps back every few weeks, just enough to keep me watching. Hopefully after eight years, the main character will finally move off the farm and become the hero he's destined to become. It's a little ridiculous that he never finished college, lost his father, had his mom move out before he did, has met the Justice League as well as his cousin, and yet after all that he still spends most of his time hanging out in a barn. I'm wary of the upcoming season's version of Doomsday.

Beast Wars is as close to a perfect series as I've ever encountered, with great characters, beautiful computer animation, and a solid story that plays out after three seasons to a solid conclusion that flawlessly illustrates what happens when writers plan ahead. I was floored when I learned how the show really tied in to the original Transformers, and it may be the only animated series with an episode that made me cry. That being said, the sequel series Beast Machines proved to be one giant shark jump, and I wish they'd left it to our imagination what happened when these characters finally got back to their homeworld of Cybertron.

Gargoyles was another epic series that started on a small scale with medieval creatures waking up in modern Manhattan and grew in scope until they were tackling more complex storylines inspired by Shakespeare. By the third season, they jumped networks along with the shark, and without the direction of the series' creator they got bogged down in stories of the Gargoyles trying to fit in with the humans.

I can probably think of more examples of shows that have jumped, but there are very few that I stopped watching entirely. Enterprise is one of the few I can think of that I dropped after a season or two, but then it jumped early on.

2) What was your greatest pain, and how did it change your life?
Honestly, at the age of 33 I'm fairly certain my greatest pain is yet to come, so I probably should have qualified this question with a “so far”. My greatest emotional pain was when my girlfriend left me after two-and-a-half years, and it threw my life into turmoil as I suddenly didn't know my future. I was sure we'd end up together. It pushed me to eventually seek a better job after months of wallowing, and lots of free, boring weekends led me to accept more and more band jobs just so I'd have something to do. I became wary and cautious, and even when she stayed in touch for a bit and raised the possibility that we might get back together “someday”, I couldn't trust that she wouldn't leave me again. It was years before I even considered another girl, promising “her or no one” to God if He'd bring her back, though realistically I couldn't dictate such terms to Him, and once I found out she'd married someone I regretted the corner I'd painted myself into with that “deal”. I regressed to a previous and familiar state of shyness and antisocial behavior, and even now I'm still crawling out of my shell. On the advice of friends, I've started paying attention to things like body language when I go out to bars, and avoid folding my arms or leaning on the bar around a bottle with my back to everyone else. I've made efforts to engage girls in conversation, though sometimes that's a challenge. The other night I met a girl who neither owned nor watched a television; that limited my range of topics.

Physically, my greatest pain so far occurred after intestinal resectioning to correct a birth defect known as a Meckel's diverticulum. The dizzy spells, blood loss, and sharp pains in my side preceding my hospital stay were bad, but I think the pain I felt when I woke up with twenty staples holding my abdomen together was worse, not to mention the discomfort of the nasogastric tube that remained in place for a few days until I healed and was allowed to eat and drink again. I'm not quite a hypochondriac these days, but the experience did make me more sensitive to certain symptoms and more concerned if I felt lightheaded or had a stomach ache. It was at least a year before I stopped checking for blood.

In some ways I'm fortunate. For all their health problems, I still have both of my parents. I've seen friends go through that pain, and I know it's inevitably in my future. And if I ever do settle down and get married, I know there's a chance that years of joy will be capped with my wife's death. I probably should keep an eye on younger women to increase the odds that I'll die first, as selfish as that seems. Pain has a way of improving our lives, but my biggest surprise has been how little things change. I almost regret that my life went back to normal after a near-death experience, that it led me to be more cautious and not to go on vacations or take more chances with my social life.

3) What are three of the worst things you've ever done?
Do these questions count? Yikes. In no particular order:
a) Up the block from my house there once lived a mentally challenged girl named Gina. I remember one Summer playing at my friend’s house across the street from hers. She was older than us but acted younger, and was running around laughing and giggling with the smaller children. There was a metal pole on the ground that I picked up and started carrying over to a fence. I'm not sure if I was thinking of building something or pretending to joust or what I was playing at, only that when one of my friends called to me, I turned around with the pole balanced on my shoulder and heard a loud “CLONK!”. I saw Gina standing there looking stunned, and I didn't realize that she’d been following me and I'd hit her when I swung the pole around, until she put a hand to her head and ran to her house crying. After that, her parents didn't let her out of the house much.

b) Of the girls that caught my eye in college, there was one particularly quirky but cute girl that I thought I might have a shot with, despite terse conversations about how she didn't understand the “meaning” of the Metallica songs I'd put on during art classes. We had one sort-of “date” in which my friends set up a group visit to see the tree lighting in the city, and then all backed out so that it was only she and I. We got lost, never found the tree, and ended up walking and talking for a few hours before catching a train back to campus. I had barely enough money for the subway, so I didn't even buy her food. Undeterred, I tried two more times to ask her out near the end of my last semester of classes before I'd be leaving for an internship. The first time, I rushed out of a class as she was leaving and asked her in the hall if she'd like to see a movie “sometime”. She sort of gave me a maybe and excused herself quickly and easily, especially since I neither specified a movie or a time. My final attempt was the worst. I asked if she'd go to my friend's Christmas party with me and she scrunched up her face and shook her head like a small child refusing broccoli. After mustering the courage to just take one final definitive swing and a miss, I couldn't take it. “WHAT'SA MATTER?” said an angry voice that sounded like an evil Brooklyn version of myself, “DON'TCHA LIKE ME OR SOMETHING??” She looked a little afraid at that point, and I was pretty much finished. A few months later I had to visit the campus to check in and report on my internship. I saw her in a class, and as she was leaving she kissed a guy I was friends with. So not only did I yell at the girl for turning me down, but there's a very real possibility I was hitting on my friend's lady. Whoops. It wouldn't be the last time I'd inadvertently approach someone who was already in a relationship, but thus far it's been the last time I've yelled at a girl. A few years after that incident when my own girlfriend was breaking up with me, between the tears and literary quotes I was remarkably civilized, telling her that while I was sad she was leaving me I'd be grateful for the time she spent with me, opening my eyes to the possibility that sometimes, just sometimes, geeks find love in real life.

c) When I was a kid, I once turned the top hooks on a wall mirror in the dressing room of a department store. It held to the wall for a few minutes, and it was only after I'd left that the thing finally tipped forward and crashed to the floor. “What was that?!” asked my mom, turning in the direction of the shattering noise. An 8 or 9-year-old imp just shrugged innocently, and it was years before I told my parents the full story. I did a lot of things like that when I was a kid, and if I didn't limit this question to three items I'd be typing all night.

4) Are there any habits or rituals you engage in on a daily basis? How do they assist or harm your life?
I find chewing gum helps me when I get those anxiety spells while driving. I know which stretches of road will cause me to worry and induce the lightheadedness, shortness of breath, and or swollen temples, so I pop in a stick of gum in psychological anticipation. Most days I don't even think about it, and get to my destination before I realize my mind was elsewhere and I didn't need the gum. The habit reinforces the fact that the problem has a psychological trigger and reduces the need to think about it. And if I don’t think about it, it won’t happen and I’m fine.

One thing I almost always do when I reach a destination is think or say aloud, “Park, Brake, Off.” That little mantra helps me remember to shift the car into park, engage the parking brake, and turn off my headlights if they're on.

Before I start working each day, I check my personal e-mail as well as any blogs, online comics, or other sites, often before my work e-mail has even loaded. Sometimes throughout the day, I'll stop in the middle of designing an ad with the sudden A.D.D. urge to check my e-mail or read a synopsis and message board comments for a television show that I watched the night before. I still get my work done, but long gone are the days I'd work for four or more hours steady without distraction. It's a bad habit that spills over into the evening when playing one more game or checking one more blog adds up to a bedtime of 1 AM or later.

Another positive habit I've developed in the last few years is staying well hydrated throughout the day. I drink at least one 32 Oz. sports drink a day, refilling the bottle with water before I leave the office to go to the gym. I drink half of it throughout my workout, and finish the other half after dinner when I take a Multivitamin, a Vitamin C, and two B12s. So I consume 64 ounces of liquid a day or more, which is pretty good. This past Friday I had several bottles of apple juice and orange juice after donating blood, in addition to the tea I had with my lunch and my regular daily fluids. Then I went out drinking for a friend's birthday, pacing myself with Guinness and beer only to find myself sipping bourbon by the wee hours of the morning. If I drank as much alcohol as everything else I drink, I probably wouldn't be here right now. I definitely develop habits and get addicted to things, but thus far I haven't become an alcoholic like my uncle, which my parents always feared. One night a month or less is enough for that particular habit.

SPECIAL BONUS QUESTION: What is the significance of 926535?
I can never remember more than the first four decimals to Pi. If I were able to retain the sequence to ten digits after the decimal point, 3.1415 would be followed by 926535. I guarantee I've forgotten that already. Maybe I do need easier questions in the future...



Blogger Lorna said...

Damn it, you make me feel so motherly---I can barely refrain from giving what I know is really, really good advice.

9/14/2008 5:09 AM  

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