11.30.2008

Fitty Q

Kev Bayer posted the following Fifty Questions:

1) How do you like your grilled cheese?
My mom used to make it for lunch every day when I was in elementary school, until I couldn't stand it anymore. I used to love it, and it's been years since I had it. I liked the edges slightly burned, and I liked that she'd put a dollop of ketchup under the cheese before putting it in the toaster oven.

2) Where did you go on your last vacation?
Defined as staying someplace overnight other than home, I'd have to say my 2006 NASCAR excursion. Defined as time off from work, which is where I'm at right now, so far I've been bar hopping with friends from my old job, to my uncle's house, to another bar to meet some old neighborhood friends I haven't seen in fifteen years, to play in a holiday parade, and I'll probably be doing some photography, shopping, and maybe catch a movie before the long weekend is out.

3) Who are your godparents?
My “Uncle” Dean, who was my dad's friend who fixed him up with my mom, and my “Aunt” Eileen, who used to work at the phone company with my mom, was friends with Uncle Dean, and fixed my mom up with my dad. I'm not sure who I would have had to live with if anything ever happened to my parents since my godparents weren't actually a couple and were married or with other people, but thankfully nothing ever did happen to my parents.

4) Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I'd love to be in my own house by then, and obviously I'd like to still be employed. Hopefully I'll still be at my current job, having gotten five years' worth of decent raises and/or promotions. If not, 5 years is probably the right amount of time to start looking for a better position in another company. I guess it depends on the economy, and how comfortable I've gotten. It took getting laid off to give me the kick I needed to upgrade last time.

5) Where are you at noon everyday?
During the week, I'm sitting at my desk trying to work as my mind wanders to where I'll be going to lunch, and how conducive the weather is to walking. On a Saturday I'm usually running errands if I'm not at a parade or feast, and on Sunday I'm usually out taking photos or at a movie if I'm not at a parade or feast.

6) How many speeding tickets have you gotten?
After that one, I've been extremely careful, keeping my eyes peeled for police cars and never letting the speedometer get much higher than 5-10 MPH over the limit.

7-14) Why do these questionnaires always skip some numbers? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?
I think they originate on social networks, where the youth of America can't be bothered to know math or count. Also, I think as these things get passed around, sometimes people skip questions they don't want to answer, and the next person picks up the truncated version, and so on. In the past, I've actually tried to trace the meme thread back to the source and retrieve the original questions, but these days I find that to be too much trouble.

15) When was the last time you swam?
I never really learned how. In high school I got to the point where I could propel myself as long as I had a life jacket on, but I've only been to beaches or water parks a handful of times since then in my early 20s. I remember taking my girlfriend to a beach and using my weakness as an excuse to pull her top off when she tried to help me up. It's funny how hindsight keeps explaining the actions that let to me still being single. The last time I was in the ocean a few years after that incident, a wave and an undertow pulled me out about thirty feet and I'm lucky I didn't drown. That was about 10 years ago, and I don't think I've been in the water since.

16) What do you order at Subway?
I always order a six inch hero on Italian herbs and cheese bread, usually their Spicy Italian, Subway Melt, or Chicken and Bacon Ranch. All of these items are from their toasted menu, and yet they always ask if I want it toasted. I've learned to just accept that they're never going to do it automatically, and find amusement when people behind me on line have trouble with the server's accent and reply, “Yes, that's to stay.”

17) Do you keep your closets organized?
Sort of. Jackets and dress pants are on the left, followed by dress shirts, followed by nicer jackets in plastic bags, and the top shelves include all the folders of my homework assignments and textbooks from high school. The beam in my closet is usually full, and I've acquired more clothes than actually fit over the years, so many hang from door knobs and additional metal hooks that fit over the top of doors. I also have piles of shirts, sweaters, jeans, and other clothes stacked on my radiator, since my dresser filled up a few years ago too. I really need to either part with some things, or get a house.

18) How do you make headaches go away?
I try to ignore them until they get bored and leave me alone, but sometimes that just makes it worse.

19) Have you owned a Beta before?
No, and I'm pretty sure VCRs were around for at least five years before my parents bought our first one.

20) If you moved out of state where would you go?
I don't know that I ever would leave New York, but I suppose if I did I wouldn't venture much further than New Jersey, Connecticut, or Eastern Pennsylvania. I'd still need to be in driving distance to Long Island, where the majority of my family and friends reside.

21) Another skipped number?
It sure looks that way. Thank you, social networkers.

22) Did you attend pre-school?
Yes, for a few months before starting Kindergarten. I have a vague impression of a room with green walls, beige carpeting, and blocks, and my mom always tells the story of how I came home repeating the word “butt” because I heard some girl use it and everyone else laughed. At the time, my mom wasn't amused. Now when she brings up the story, she thinks it's funnier than I do.

23) What do your shower curtains look like?
They're a solid light blue, to match the tiles in the bathroom.

24) Did you have an imaginary friend as a child?
Believe it or not, I had actual friends. When I was playing by myself, I usually ascribed personalities and back stories for all of my toys, so I suppose that's the closest to an imaginary friend. I somehow avoided that phase some kids go through in which they freak out if someone sits in an empty chair they think is occupied.

25) How do you make eggs?
Ask a hen, or a farmer if you want an answer in words. I usually crack the things open and scramble them with some cheese.

26) Where do you wash your clothes?
In the washing machine in my parents' basement.

27) Can't these people count?
Yes, there was no “27” either, and clearly they cannot, as evidenced by the lack of a “7-14” and a “21”. I do sometimes wonder if there's any code or hidden meaning the missing digits, but I've yet to find one. If the pattern were multiples of 7, “8-13” would not have been omitted and “28” would have been the next missing number. I stand by my original assessment that these kids can't count and/or some questions are lost in the grapevine over time.

28) Who are the neighbors who live to the right of you?
The guy that lives there now with his wife and three kids bought the house he grew up in from his parents, and was a teenager when I was a kid. I used to play with his nephews before his brother died and that family moved out. He's a good guy, keeps his trees trimmed, fence maintained, and sometimes helps us shovel snow.

29) What are your thoughts on Tom Cruise?
I like Tom Cruise as an actor and have enjoyed most of his films, but as a person I think he's more than a bit wacky. My religious beliefs date back thousands of years, while his include aliens and were written mere decades ago by a Science Fiction author. Also, jumping up and down on a couch to convince people he loves his too young female bride? Not too convincing...

30) What is the next vehicle you wish to buy?
I just bought my first new(ish) car about nine months ago, so I'm not even thinking about a vehicle yet.

31) Do you pay bills online or by mail?
I write a check each month for my credit card bill since that's how my mom does it and she taught me. Since all my other bills are online things charged to the card like internet service, gym membership, or Netflix, sitting down on the first of each month to write that check insures that I actually look at the charges, and take a tangible action in addressing them.

32) What would be the best gift someone could get you right now?
A house, although that would just bring in more bills and more work. I'm going to ask for a spine, instead.

33) What is something stressful you will deal with next week?
My work itself won't be stressful, since after a few busy months during our biggest sweepstakes season things have finally quieted down again, but I think just getting back into a work mindset after so many days off will be stressful initially.

34) What is something in your home that you collect?
Dust. Probably the only other thing I've brought in here regularly since I quit my comic book habit 11 years ago are DVDs, and as I look around at the stacks of that nearly obsolete technology, I somewhat regret that habit as well. I'm at a point in my life and crowded room that I want more space and less material objects.

35) What did you do last night?
Friday night I went drinking with friends I grew up with that I haven't seen in fifteen years. On Saturday night, I played in a holiday parade with one of my Italian bands.

36) Who did you last see?
My cat.

37) How do you take your coffee?
I cut out caffeine nearly a year ago and I've never felt better. When I was taking advantage of my company's free coffee policy, I usually had three sugars and some milk with it.

38) What is the oldest thing in your fridge?
My mom has a habit of stocking up on ketchup, BBQ sauce, and other condiments when we go to fast food restaurants. There's a small plastic basket in the refrigerator, and since I don't use ketchup that much at home and grab from the top of that basket when I do, I imagine the ones on the bottom of the basket tend to stay there for some time. I'm going to give her the benefit of the doubt and assume that's one of the problems she addresses when she cleans, and I can't think of anything else that would stay in there that long.

39) On your keyboard what key is wearing out from pressing it so much?
Probably the space bar, between typing and games.

40) Where do you put your keys when you come home?
On top of my desk.

41) Where do you go for Thanksgiving?
Since my uncle is getting forgetful in his old age, and my mom was worried about him driving, she made food and we brought it to his apartment this year, rather than having him over our house.

42) How old will you you be in 2010?
I'll be 35 for most of 2010 until November, when I turn 36. I'm glad this question wasn't about 2014; my 30s are going too fast as it is.

43) What actor or actress would play you in a movie?
Ideally, John Cusack. Realistically, Rob Schneider.

44) How much cash is in your wallet?
$133.00

45) Would you have a one night stand with your favorite movie star?
Would she have one with me?

46) What color is your phone?
The land line in my room is black, the one in our kitchen is white, and my cell is gray.

47) If you were starving to death would you eat a pet?
Oh HELL no. I'd die first.

48) Ever been to Alabama?
No, and may I add this is quite the random inquiry. I wonder if the person who first wrote these questions was in Alabama? Now I almost want to trace back the meme....

49) What kind of accent do you have?
Nasal Eastern American, somewhat like Pidge.

50) What kind of alcoholic drinks are in your fridge right now?
Absolutely nothing. Somewhere in the house are wine bottles people have given us as gifts over the years, but my dad has never had a drop of alcohol in his life and my mom never had anything stronger than wine, and not in about 30 or 40 years. I only drink when I go out with friends, and usually pace myself and make one or two beers last, since I'll eventually have to drive home.

11.29.2008

M.C.F.A.T. XXIV Answers

Last week I posted the TWENTY-FOURTH batch of the M.C.F.A.T., or Mysterious Cloaked Figure's Astonishing Test questions. Here's what you had to say:

B13.

Darrell.

Jeff.

And as for me:

1) Is it good or bad when sitcoms feature celebrity guest stars?
I'll somewhat echo the sentiments of Darrell and Jeff, and say that the traditional sitcom model with the canned laughter or studio audience is all but dead. It was great in the ‘80s, and for a good portion of the ‘90s, but as I've gotten older I just don't find the things funny that a laugh track is telling me I should find funny. How I Met Your Mother is the sole current show with a laugh track that I still enjoy. It's those half hour comedies that break from telling me what's funny and let me figure it out for myself, while breaking away from filming in a studio, that still hold my interest, including The Office, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, 30 Rock, My Name is Earl, The Simpsons, Family Guy, and Scrubs(returning Tuesday, January 6 2009 on ABC).

I think the key to a celebrity guest appearance is to not call attention to the fact that the guest star is a “celebrity”. While the network promo departments are notorious for pointing that out as the sole reason to tune in to an episode, it's how that person is used that determines whether or not the guest is a good addition. Jennifer Aniston was one of the stars thrown at us in commercials for a recent 30 Rock, but it was the surprise inclusion of former cast members from Night Court in that episode that I really loved. The performance and the function these stars serve is the most important thing. Brendan Fraser is easily the best guest star to appear on Scrubs, but for his character's story arc, and not the fact that he was Brendan Fraser.

I think it's also important that a guest star mesh naturally with the regular cast, and not detract from their chemistry. If new viewers are brought in for a particular actor who isn't on the following episode, they might not stick around. Near the end of their run, Arrested Development had an episode subtly acknowledging the fact that the show was nearly canceled, and made fun of ratings stunts such as celebrity guests while incorporating several guests at the same time. Ironically, throughout their run stars like Henry Winkler, Scott Baio, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Ben Stiller, and Charlize Theron all made integrated appearances that contributed more to the story than just star power.

I think the most important problem with the “celebrity” guest is that when a network pushes that, as ABC has, giving Courtney Cox more time in a recent Scrubs commercial than the regular cast, they forget that their regular stars are celebrities too.

2) What is the most shocking thing you've seen on the internet?
B13 is responsible for 90% of it, though I won't be linking to his favorite animated gif of a “meat chopper”, or any of the other shocking things I've come across on my own. After a friend sent some of us a video of a man who shoots himself in the head while in police custody, something I'd seen before, I started thinking about this question. That particular video, perhaps due to the theatric liberties movies take, didn't seem that shocking. There was no loud bang, no shouting, and no musical score. Just a pop, a slump, and some mild swearing and griping on the part of the officers. No, the most shocking thing I saw was a few years ago at my old job, when curiosity got the better of me and I allowed a coworker to play a video of an American slowly being beheaded by a group of terrorists with a dull knife. There are a lot of ugly, horrible, and shocking things in this world, and with the internet there really isn't anything we can't see on demand. Whether we should or would want to is a whole other question, of course.

3) Is it possible to have too much free time?
Free time isn't bad, and amid the hustle of work, band, family, and friends, I sometimes wish there were more hours in the day. Then I come to a long weekend like this one in which I finally get the time I've been wanting all year, and I worry about being bored. Thus far, I've found ways to occupy myself, and ultimately I don't think free time is bad, only what we do with that time. Sometimes it can be a welcome respite, and other times it can inspire us to be creative and come up with things we'd normally be too busy to think about.

4) Inspired by a recent Dwight Shrute monologue, I ask you: what's your perfect crime?
I think it would be great to create a fake persona with my friends, for all of us to maintain a blog about this fictitious individual. We could have him be in his thirties, still living with his parents, not have a girlfriend, and have legendary bad luck. He could also have way too much knowledge about comic books, movies, and television shows. Perhaps once a week this guy could post photos of his “vacations” to local nature preserves. If I could convince people that a loser like that actually exists, maybe even maintain this character for five years or more, that would be the perfect crime. I'm sure most people would see right through it though, and it would be difficult for multiple writers to maintain a consistent voice, and junk.

SPECIAL BONUS QUESTION: What (animated) fictional town offers a whirlwind existence, race cars, lasers, airplanes, mystery-solving, time travel, and more?
I got some good answers for this, but the one I was looking for is Duckburg. I was thinking of Duckburg.

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11.28.2008

The White Room

The old man sat alone in his apartment, sunlight streaming beneath a barely raised curtain. A thin layer of dust rested on a small rug, slightly askew, and a stack of newspapers sat unread on a small table. He stared at a dark television set, too complicated for him to turn on, and waited...for something.

In the refrigerator were four cans of soda. He had purchased them that morning for some reason that now escaped him. As the sun moved lower in the sky, his apartment got brighter. Every now and then there was a ringing in the distance, often followed by strange but familiar voices. Nothing moved him until a buzzing at the door.

He shuffled across the room, opening the door. Outside was a young man, another old man, and a woman. As the woman hugged and kissed him and the two men carried in boxes of food, he recognized them as his sister, brother-in-law, and nephew. “I called you before,” said his sister, “Don't you answer your phone?” He mumbled a barely audible reply consisting more of sounds than words, as this somewhat nagging woman walked across the room to some kind of black device with a flashing red light.

When he heard one of his friends speaking through the device, he replied, “Hello! Hello! Hold on...Hold on...” The woman, who was familiar for some reason, sternly told him it was a recording. Who was she? Was it his sister? As other familiar voices played through the box next to his bed in the one room apartment, they told a tale of missed appointments and outings over the last week. At least two of these strange messages sounded a lot like the lady that was in his apartment now.

“JERRY??” cried the final message, “Where are you? It's CHRIS!! It's Thanksgiving, remember? I hope you're not still sleeping; it's about two o'clock!” Her voice got fainter, as if she was speaking to someone else in the distance. “Do you think he's on his way here? I told him we were going there this year...I bet he's on his way here...” She got louder again. “JERRY! I hope you're not on your way HERE! We're bringing food over. I'm going to leave a note on the door in case we miss you. I hope you're still there....”

Had he dreamt these words before? It all gave him a haunting sense of déjà vu. He stood against the wall while the invaders set about a flurry of activity, moving a table and arranging chairs, setting plates and folding napkins. The bossy lady with all the questions was rummaging around in his kitchen, pulling out pots from the boxes the others had carried in and setting them up on his stove. “Oh...” he said, suddenly recognizing his nephew again, “[MCF]y's here! I haven't seen him in so long. Where were ya, Sicily?”

His nephew laughed, reminding him that it had only been a few months since the last family gathering, although it was probably closer to a year. He started a familiar speech about traveling while young enough to appreciate it when the boy told him he had not, in fact, been to Sicily, but he forgot the speech a few words in and trailed off into silence. After some family photos and a prayer of thanks, the quartet enjoyed a nice meal. At one point, that ringing returned. What WAS that? “Jerry!” shouted the strange woman sitting across from him, “That's your PHONE! You have to answer that!”

He shuffled across the room, tentatively lifting the device. It was his old commander, from his army days! They chatted for a bit about a recent reunion he had missed, one of the messages that had been retrieved an hour earlier. When asked how he was spending his holiday, he replied, “My MOM came over, and my brother in law, and my nephew.” Something about that made the nephew laugh, while the woman shot him a glare of rebuke.

“I SAID, ‘would you like any tea?'” The old man looked around bewildered. Outside his window, it was suddenly dark. A football game blared from his television, which he was sitting in front of with another old man. A young man was nodding off on a nearby couch, and a strange woman was shouting in his ear about tea. “No...no...” he muttered quietly. A few minutes later, as he remembered where he was and who they were, he called in to her and asked if there was any more root beer left.

An old man stood alone against the wall of his apartment, his nephew vacuuming a dusty rug while his sister and brother-in-law washed dishes and packed a box. He watched as the young man helped his parents with their coats, and soon the family bid him farewell. An old man peered out the narrow window over his air conditioning unit, watching the family load the trunk of their car, and drive off into the night. Soon they were gone, and all that remained was the small apartment in the senior citizen complex. He returned to his couch, and stared at the darkened television set. Was today a holiday? Was he expecting company? He thought maybe he should go to the supermarket and get some soda, and wondered why it was so dark outside the white room....

11.27.2008

Thank God...

....that my parents are still around. For all their health woes over the years, my dad is nearly 80 and my mom is close to 70, and I'm blessed that they've been a caring and supportive part of my life for 34 years, and hopefully for years to come.

...for my friends, without whom I would surely go mad from boredom. I've met an amazing array of people from all walks of life, and amazingly they've stayed in mine. They push me to be better, put up with me when I'm not, and generally give me a better excuse to leave my room besides work, bands or church. I'm also thankful for all my online friends readng this, all the people whose lives I get to read about without leaving my room.

...for my health. I don't have the time nor the space to share once again all of my near death experiences, from drownings to poisonings to birth defects to shards of glass through my face, but it really is a miracle that I'm still here. I often see myself as someone with bad luck, and miss how much worse things could have been.

...for my career. I'm not creating the most glamorous or exciting designs these days, but in the midst of a shaky economy with declining stock values, it's nice to be in a solid company with a great boss and good coworkers. 2007 brought a bit of a scare when I lost my last job, but with a little luck and a lot of help from a friend, I got a new job and was able to transition seamlessly without having any days unemployed.

...for completed journeys. Whether driving to and from work, making all my train connections when meeting friends in the city, or driving home late at night after social gatherings, it's always nice when I finally arrive at my destination. May all my friends and family have equally safe and smooth journeys, and may all of you have a happy and blessed Thanksgiving!

11.26.2008

PBW: Cedarmere

Cedarmere is the former home to the late poet William Cullen Bryant, open to the public with a great view of the Long Island Sound, a pond, and some interesting structures on the grounds. I've often driven past there in my travels, and finally made it a Photo Blog Wednesday destination this past weekend. I braved the cold, as well as a bearded old man with a stick. He was always about 30 feet behind me on any given path, and when I'd stop he'd act like he was clearing twigs or refuse with the stick. Perhaps he was just a groundskeeper, although I do find it curious how much he resembles Bryant, now that I'm seeing some photos. Of course, running into a ghost in broad daylight would just be silly; what am I thinking?

Enjoy the photos:



















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11.25.2008

The Longest Weekend

Some days, I'm at work because I like what I do. Other days, I'm there to earn a living. And on other days, I'm there because I have nothing better to do and would go stir crazy staying at home with my folks. Still, everybody needs time to recharge and reset, and Thanksgiving weekend has always been my longest break. By just taking two vacation days in addition to the existing four-day weekend, the Wednesday prior and the Monday after, I can get six consecutive days away from my daily routine. In the past, this has been both a blessing and a curse. There have been years in which I lay around playing video games and sleeping, which is nice the first day or so but then I start to feel like my brain is turning to pudding. Fortunately, I maintain a running to-do list ranging from the fun to the necessary, and these long weekends are good opportunities to get caught up.

• Music: I ordered the long-awaited Chinese Democracy, and should have it in the next couple of days. I'm looking forward to it based on the first track that's been released, although a friend who got an early copy described it as “horrible” because it was mostly ballads. Now, I definitely like November Rain and other GnR ballads, but they were usually paced out between shorter, heavier songs. We'll see how I feel about several songs like that in a row. I've also started listening to the most recent AC/DC album, and like what I'm hearing so far.

Just when I thought it was safe to put my horn away until March, I got the call that we'll be playing a holiday parade on Saturday night. It's less than a mile, but it's going to be freezing. We haven't done the job in a few years, and were “lucky” enough to get it back. My dad actually declined a month ago when that band invited us, so I'm glad he won't be enduring those harsh conditions, especially with his shoulder woes.

• Socializing: I'm not sure what's going on for Thanksgiving itself, yet. Usually, one of my Uncles comes over and my mom cooks, but he's been so forgetful lately, losing track of days and sleeping through them, that my mom is concerned with him driving. We might just make food and bring it over there. Or just have dinner with immediate family and have another dinner on Sunday when my other Uncle would be free to drive his brother. I've also heard of at least 3 happy hours over the weeks with various groups of friends, and hope to make it out to at least two of them.

• Movies: Transporter 3 opens this weekend. I still have several hours of commentary and special features to get through on my Incredible Hulk DVD. I expect to get through at least 3 films from Netflix if not more. And maybe I'll finally have time to get through all the B-movie screener DVDs B13 has loaned me throughout the year; I've fallen behind and have something like 26 stacked up. I'll see if I can't make a long-overdue dent in those.

• Books: The last novel I read was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, so it's been well over a year that I've read anything that wasn't on a computer screen. I doubt I'll get in any reading this weekend, but I really should get to the next one on my list, A Feast For Crows. It's the fourth book in a series I haven't read in a long time, and if I put it off much longer I'm going to start forgetting what happened in the first three books.

• Missed Television: 2008 was the year I tackled all 10 seasons Stargate SG-1 as well as its direct to DVD film sequels, and I got all caught up on Stargate Atlantis, up to the most recent episodes of its fifth and final season. I finally saw the final two episodes filmed for Drive, though that led to an even larger cliffhanger and made me even more mad that it was canceled. I've watched 36 out of 53 episodes of Arrested Development, 3 out of 33 episodes of Eureka, and 6 out of 12 episodes of True Blood. I also have an unopened boxed set of From the Earth to the Moon that my cousin gave me as a present last Christmas. I'm terrible, but someday I will catch up with the rest of the world.

• Photography & Blogging: Weather permitting, you can bet my camera and I will find at least one day to get some shots in this weekend. And after 1,500+ days of uninterrupted posting, I’m not about to stop.

• Errands: Speaking of Christmas, I really should start shopping, though certainly not on Friday. Maybe Monday will be better, when everyone else is back at work. I think the leaves and the lawn are chores that I won't have to worry about for a while, though with my luck I'll end up shoveling snow. There's some paperwork to fill out as I renew my benefits for next year, and probably some other minor things like laundry. It's nice that all of these things come after my entertainment items, but I am who I am.

* * * * *


Yes, it promises to be a long but fun weekend, after which I expect to have a sense of accomplishment, relaxation, and the desire to go back to work!

11.24.2008

Phantasmic Links 11.24.08

Well, as of this past Saturday, our leaf blower is dead. It was only the second time I'd used it, but after gathering all the leafs in our yard into a single pile and going back for strays, I found it wouldn't turn back on. I ruled out various extension cords, ultimately plugging the thing directly into an outlet, and had no luck. My dad, hard of hearing, had no idea I was even outside using it in the first place. We took it apart, checked all the wires and connections, and other than a dried leaf or two in the motor, couldn't find a problem. My mom said not to worry about it since it was old, and actually a secondhand model her friend had given to us, but I got kind of spoiled. I think after the holidays, I might look into getting us a new one. After making fun of them for years, I finally found out that they really do make the job easier, when properly directed. For now though, I'm just going to look into PHANTASMIC LINKS:

(1) Watch how this laser system targets and eliminates missiles. I love living in the future.
Hat Tip: Rey.

(2) This guy gets a slight bee problem in his barbecue.
H.T.: B13.

(3) It's the evolution of dance--robot style(in which he does more than The Robot....)
H.T.: J-No.

(4) I can't believe some of these challenged ballots. I also can't believe there are places where people vote with pencils; I thought the lever and curtain in my area was outdated.

(5) QWOP only requires four keys to make your character run, but I feel like I'm learning to walk for the first time. If anyone gets the trick to it, let me know...

(6) Poke virtual creatures. It's not what you think, although I'm sure someone will get to that application sooner rather than later...
H.T.: J-No.

(7) Enjoy some more of those literal videos: Head Over Heels and Under the Bridge.

(8) I'm sure an unaccounted for space spider won't be any problem at all....
H.T.: J-No.

(9) ”We got a job to do. The world needs the X-Men.” I'm looking forward to the new series and I like that the animation style is reminiscent of X-Men Evolution, making it feel like an unofficial continuation of that great series.
H.T.: Sean.

(10) Check out this awesome holographic interface! It's still in the conceptual stages, but have I mentioned how much I love living in the future?

(11) I'm sure everyone has seen the Roomba cat this week; my mom actually caught it on the news the other day.
H.T.: J-No.

(12) Zilch is a dice game combining skill and luck, and with 120 unlockable awards, has definitely been my biggest addiction this week.
H.T.: B13.

(13) Finally, a late entry at lucky #13: creepy ghosts(?) lurking in photos...


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!

11.23.2008

Balanced Equations

As of this past Thursday, both Smallville and Supernatural aired their Fall finales. While January seems a long way off, I know just how fast the holiday weeks will fly by. And with all the television I watch, especially on Thursday nights, I don't mind the break. It will free me up for other important tasks, such as catching up on movies and old television shows on DVD.

Smallville has been building all season to the reveal of Doomsday, a character infamous for once killing Superman in the comics continuity. I was skeptical over the Summer when I first heard of plans to introduce the character, especially when I heard he would be introduced as a regular mortal who eventually changes. The show has been building its own mythos over the past eight years, and has already deviated well beyond the source material. They've adapted some villains successfully, including Lex Luthor, Brainiac and even Bizarro. Other villains, most notably Mxyzptlk, have been unrecognizable. Superman's never been the kind of hero notable for his rogues gallery though, not like a Batman or a Spider-Man. He's always followed the archenemy archetype, with Lex Luthor serving as his opposite equal. Before leaving the show last season, Michael Rosenbaum filled that role successfully, and was one of the show's strengths amid ridiculous soap opera subplots and “freak of the week” Kryptonite-powered mutants.

There was a big void left with the departure of Lex. Justin Hartley returned to the role of Green Arrow as a full cast member, while Cassidy Freeman and Sam Witwer signed on as antagonists. Freeman plays Tess Mercer, an associate of Lex who takes over the Luthor business after he goes missing. It wasn't until her past with Green Arrow was revealed along with his nickname for her that I realized she was based in part on Mercy Graves, from animated continuity. Witwer meanwhile played seemingly good EMT Davis Bloome, and the season spent time developing his character while alluding to horrible things that happens when he experiences blackouts and memory loss. It seems that unbeknownst to him, he is actually the “son” of the villainous Kryptonian General Zod, a genetically engineered force of destruction raised as a human with no knowledge of his true origins. In the Fall finale, we finally get a glimpse of the creature in shadow, during a horrific wedding massacre shot on a hand-held camera in a technique reminiscent of Cloverfield. You see the basic outline as well as hints of gray skin, bone fragments, and glowing red eyes. It was a very effective presentation, far better than I would have expected, and that wasn't even the biggest revelation or cliffhanger of the episode. Finales and premieres are consistently excellent with that show, no matter how good or bad the rest of the season is. I can't wait for January.

Balance of good and evil is a common theme in comics. Contraries are a basic part of life itself. You can't have shadow without light, or have land without sea. Supernatural took a bold risk this season with the introduction of angels. For some reason, demons are easier to work into fictional television. People can accept vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and other monsters. Presenting their contraries tends to be trickier. If you follow the lore of any particular religion, you risk alienating those with different beliefs, and you're certain to alienate atheists. Even if a viewer shares in the beliefs presented by a show, there's a fine line where it could cross into blasphemy and offend the person. Even though such entertainment is fiction, monsters are safer. I could be wrong, but to my recollection Buffy went seven seasons without running into any actual angels(although she was involved with vampire named Angel). She did die at one point and eventually revealed that she thought she was in heaven before her friends cast a spell to drag her back to her old life, but that was the extent of that side of the equation.

Supernatural tells the story of two brothers who drive around the country vanquishing demons and other creatures, a mission passed on to them by their parents. They lost their mom to a demon at a young age, causing their grief-stricken father to become a hunter and train them as well. Over four seasons, that story has unfolded with some twists about their mother and why that demon visited them that fateful night. When one of the brothers was killed at the end of the second season, the other sold his soul to bring him back. The third season dealt with his final year on Earth before he had to honor that deal, and amazingly the season ended with him being dragged to Hell. Four months later, which we eventually learn was forty years for him, he finds himself alive again, unchanged save for some scars and a burned hand print on one shoulder. The real twist comes when we learn that an angel personally dragged him from the pits, to carry out a mission on Earth. A demon is setting about breaking seals that will eventually set Lucifer himself free, and armageddon is brewing.

It's heavy, apocalyptic stuff, risking offending viewers who don't share Judeo-Christian views of heaven and hell as well as those that do, but so far they've done a good job. There have been a few humorous stand-alone episodes to break the tension of the epic back story, and I have to admire the writers for taking a chance and exploring the other side. In a series that has demons walking the Earth, its only logical and inevitable that we'd eventually see angels. They take on human form in the series, seeming like enforcers or detectives, as their true form is too brilliant for mortals to behold. One character had her eyeballs boil right out of her skull after looking upon one of them. It's the type of stuff I've read in comics like Spawn or Preacher, or watched in films like The Prophecy. I like that they've gone in this direction, and can't wait to see how the rest of the season plays out in 2009.

Good and evil face off for two hours every Thursday night, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

11.22.2008

M.C.F.A.T. Volume XXIV

Welcome to the TWENTY-FOURTH edition of the M.C.F.A.T., or Mysterious Cloaked Figure's Astonishing Test! From time to time, I still like to ask my readers questions. Maybe I like to know you're still out there. Maybe I'm tired and it's easier to write questions than paragraphs. The reasons aren't important. In any event, please answer the questions below in the comments or on your own blogs, and check back in a week or so when I link to your answers and post my own:

1) Is it good or bad when sitcoms feature celebrity guest stars?

2) What is the most shocking thing you've seen on the internet?

3) Is it possible to have too much free time?

4) Inspired by a recent Dwight Shrute monologue, I ask you: what's your perfect crime?

SPECIAL BONUS QUESTION: What (animated) fictional town offers a whirlwind existence, race cars, lasers, airplanes, mystery-solving, time travel, and more?


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

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11.21.2008

Holey Shoulder

For over a year now, possibly two, my dad has had a lump on his left shoulder. It started out small, but eventually got to the size of a golf ball. It was painless, but he finally had a doctor look at it, several actually. Most determined that it was a “wound”, some subdermal tear in the muscle of his worn away rotator cuff that was leaking fluid. They didn't advise surgery, and the best they could do was drain it with a syringe. This proved to be a temporary solution, and each time the swelling came back larger, like a water balloon inflating.

It got to the size of a softball at it's largest, and about three weeks ago he developed a red spot on it. My mom is fairly certain he burned himself by leaving a heating pad on there too long, but he stubbornly denies it. Eventually, that red patch of skin withered, and last week at my mom's request, I took some photos to document the mess. The lump has now been replaced with a crater, and I initially thought he had some bone jutting out. It's kind of like he has a pudding cup on his shoulder, and portions of the pudding have burned creating a film. If that sounds disgusting, imagine the photos, which I will not be posting.

So, earlier this week, he finally went back to his doctor. He was frustrated from previous experiences of being bounced around from doctor to doctor, never getting any answers. Perhaps surgery isn't advisable at his age, but I don't think any of us are completely clear on what the thing was. One thing is certain, which his doctor confirmed at a glance; it's now an infected wound. He prescribed some strong antibiotics, and sent him to a specialist, whom he met with on Thursday.

I could tell my dad was nervous about it, even hesitant, as the first doctor thought he “might need a new shoulder”. I reassured him, told him that kind of thing was common and easy with today's medical technology, a statement made with zero basis in actual knowledge on my part. I just wanted to make sure he kept his appointment and got the thing taken care of before the infection spread and got more serious.

When I came home on Thursday night, they still didn't have any definite answers. The specialist also glanced at the wound before replacing the bandage my dad had over it, and confirmed that it was infected. He wasn't sure if shoulder surgery was needed, but did say another specialist needed to see it, and my dad would likely need to go to a hospital if it got worse, and get antibiotics through an IV. I'm starting to get annoyed that they keep bouncing him around while the problem persists and mutates. “I don't want to go to the hospital; maybe I'll just forget the whole thing...” he muttered in disgust.

I turned to my mom, not getting much more in the way of answers. Sometimes, a lack of clear direction from a doctor comes from the fact that my dad doesn't hear very well, and is too embarrassed or stubborn to ask people to repeat themselves. But my mom was with him, and apparently this specialist was in and out of the room, too busy to spend much time other than to give them the card of yet another doctor. For now, my dad is going to continue with the antibiotics and keep an eye on the thing, and try to get an appointment with the next specialist by Monday at the earliest. “You should just go to Dr. House,” my mom told him, “He'd figure it out for you.”

If it comes to a few days in the hospital while the wound heals properly, it will drive my dad crazy. But, it will also force him to sit still, and not carry ladders, work on friends' cars, rake leaves, or other things he does while I'm at work and my mom is running errands. “It's not raking leaves!” he insisted when my mom suggested that was one of the things that exacerbated the situation. If the initial problem was a worn rotator cuff leaking fluid, I can totally see how the raking motion would cause more bone abrasion. I'm glad my dad stays active, and still has a fire under him. It's part of the reason he's still going after nearly 80 years. But he needs to remember that even in his prime, when he had his own baseball team, he had to give an injury the proper time to heal. Maybe he never did have that kind of patience. All I can do is keep pushing him to stay after the doctors until they fix this thing, research the situation online, and rake up as many leaves as I can over the weekend.

Don’t get old, kids; don’t get old...

11.20.2008

More Rude

I didn't think I'd be adding to my ”more” list so soon, let alone that “rude” would make the cut. But I'm coming to a sad realization.

I braved 34 degree weather to walk to what I like to think of as the Sopranos pizzeria, since the staff resembles the cast far more than any other pizza place near my office. It's one of the smaller establishments, a nice one near a beach I like to walk to when I'm neither freezing nor sweating. As I waited in line, I noted that there were only two tables free, and I hoped the people ahead of me were placing orders to go.

Finally, it was my turn. I ordered a pepperoni roll and a buffalo chicken slice, and watched the guy place both in the oven. I walked over to the refrigerator to grab an iced tea while I waited, and decided to put my jacket on one of the empty chairs to reserve a spot. Somehow, it didn't seem enough, so I got some napkins as well as a plastic knife and fork, and set a place for myself. Satisfied, I made my way back to the counter.

The pizza man opened the oven, and removed its sole contents, a pepperoni roll and an impossibly green buffalo chicken slice. “No...not BROCCOLI...Buffalo...” I said, with a tinge of disappointment. “Hey FRANK! What'd you do with the chicken slice?!” Frank came over in a huff, opened the oven, and looked confused that it was empty. It was like they'd performed a magic trick. They both looked around the crowded room in confusion, trying to figure out who had my slice, which was of course the last slice of that variety. “You wanna wait a few minutes?” asked the guy. I looked at what was left, and opted for a barbecue chicken slice instead. It was close enough, and there were two of them, so if more magic transpired there'd still be a backup.

As he put my slice in the oven, I looked back across the room at something I subconsciously caught when we were scanning for that elusive buffalo slice. Sure enough, three middle-aged men were sitting at my table, one guy in the chair on which I'd left my jacket. I marched over, and leaned in, the guy's eyes bugging out in confusion and indignation. I grabbed my jacket, and he leaned forward as I yanked it free. “What...where's...where's my jacket?” he feigned, looking about and seeing his jacket on the chair next to him. I just shook my head at the nerve. Meanwhile, one of the pizza guys brought over a tray with my pepperoni roll, and set it down on a table occupied by a lone old woman. “You can start with this he said.” I placed my jacket on the chair, and kept an eye on both chair and food as I got myself new utensils and napkins.

More and more, it seems like it doesn't pay to be polite, to be the guy who always waves people on with a cheerful “after you!” I still recall a school picnic years ago, a young MCF standing at a buffet table shoveling cookies into his mouth before his mom yanked him away by the wrist, pointing out that he should save some for others, and also that it was gross to have my crumbs falling on a tray that other people would be taking food from. I still think she was right, but I've found the majority of people in this world aren't courteous, and aren't thinking of the next person. People cut in line and cut ahead in traffic. When I was buying my tripod the other day, I was called to an open cash register when someone who was at another register with a friend stepped over and took my spot. Another cashier became free behind me, but the person who was behind me in line stepped over. I was lost, and considered going to the back of the line again or simply giving up on my purchase, but then the next person in line asked if I was ahead of him, and I pointed out that I was. There are polite people out there; we're just in the minority.

I even see nerve in my gym parking lot. There are clearly marked spaces, as well as areas with diagonal yellow lines indicating no parking. There's parking on the street, as well as painted sections of curb where they don't want you to block the sidewalk or get too close to the driveway. People park across those lines, and park in front of the walkway. I usually park in the street just short of the no parking zones, and on nights when I get out early, I usually find myself blocked in by people who've squeezed in to the little space left in front or behind my car. On Wednesday night, it must have taken me about 10 or 11 swings to get out of my spot. I'm not the best parallel parking judge to begin with. Of course, the worst offense occurred on Tuesday night when I looked down and noticed someone had spit his gum out in the shower. At least I saw it before I stepped on it barefoot, but people are still nasty. Suddenly, the rows of open lockers and towels discarded on the floor instead of the basket didn't seem as bad, although that crap annoys me too.

A selfish world view is inevitable. We are each the center of our own universe, and it takes effort to attain empathy and put ourselves in someone else's shoes. I think that's why most people, myself included, always deliver a “thank you” with a note of pleasant surprise. No one can believe that someone is holding a door, or waving us ahead in line, or letting us change lanes in traffic. We're conditioned that we have to take what we want because that's what everyone else seems to do. It's rare that someone gives us something. I wonder if it's just a New York thing, if people are more polite in less crowded areas. The environment may be partially to blame, a region where we need to push ahead to survive, lest we be trampled. I know in my rare travels out of state, I've always been suspicious when a driver waves me to cross the street, and waits patiently. I always take a few cautious steps before breaking into a jog for the opposite side. As the holiday season approaches, I know this aspect of human nature is only going to increase in public, so I'll just have to muster up my patience and brave the storm of rudeness.

Or maybe I need to start doing some shoving of my own...

11.19.2008

PBW: A Fine Park

Well, it finally happened. My photographic adventures in my quest for the perfect Photo Blog Wednesday have finally led to a run-in with the law.

On a gray, cloudy Sunday, I decided it was long past time that I got myself a tripod. I didn't need anything fancy, and could find something decent in the $15-$20 range. There have been occasions over the years in which lighting conditions have been less than ideal, and in order to get the photos I want I need to switch from the automatic setting and allow for a longer exposure time. Since no one has a steady hand to keep a camera perfectly still for one second let alone fifteen, a tripod is a must.

After finding one I liked, I decided to head to a park near the store to try it out. The conditions couldn't be any worse, and I remembered how bad my pictures came out the last time I shot the same subject matter with my older camera. I look back on those photos and cringe, as I'll no doubt do with the photos taken by my current camera the next time I upgrade.

I noticed a police truck driving slowly along one of the paths, and I paused until he waved me to cross. I got about twenty feet before he honked the horn. I turned, with “who, me?” body language, and the officer waved me over.

“Where are you going?”

“I'm taking pictures.”

“What for? Personal?”

“Huh? Yeah, taking pictures.”

“Personal though, right?”

“Okay....”

“Nothing else. You're not allowed to take pictures in the park otherwise, or you'll be fined.”

I carry a little booklet about photographer's rights, that my pal B13 gave me for just such an occasion. I considered drawing it, but it was cold and I didn't feel like arguing with the guy. He seemed young too, and may have just been overprotective of his route rather than versed in copyright issues. I was concerned if publishing those photos on the internet would be considered something other than “personal”, but since there's zero financial gain and I'm merely sharing them with friends both near and far, I'm going to say it's okay. If they manage to fine a mysterious cloaked figure for posting six low resolution images viewed by less than a dozen individuals, I'll be both surprised and impressed. Still, I’m not going to mention the name of the park this time around, just to be extra cautious....






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11.18.2008

Words About Bond: Part VIX

A few years back, as some of you may recall, I set about watching every James Bond film and posting my thoughts in an almost weekly feature. I included films outside of the officially recognized franchise, which is why my count is slightly higher. Be sure to check out the previous installments of this feature as well as my latest review below:

* * *


Words About Bond, 1-3
Words About Bond, 4-6
Words About Bond, 7-9
Words About Bond, 10-12
Words About Bond, 13-15
Words About Bond, 16-18
Words About Bond, 19-21
Words About Bond, 22-24

25Quantum of Solace
Bond: Daniel Craig
Villains: Dominic Greene, Mr. White
Bond Girls: Camille Montes (Olga Kurylenko), Strawberry Fields(Gemma Arterton)

Daniel Craig returns for his second outing as James Bond, and the first explicitly direct sequel in the franchise. Other films in the series have brought back elements from past installments, from Bond's slain bride to recurring foe Ernst Stavro Blofeld, but this sequel literally takes place an hour after Casino Royale left off, with Bond seeking revenge on Mr. White for the death of Vesper Lynd. The film doesn't waste any time throwing us into a deadly car chase, before Bond and M(Judi Dench) are questioning White, a session that doesn't last long before we're thrown into another chase not quite on par with the parkour sequence of the previous movie.

It's a fast-paced film, the shortest in the series, and just as it slows down for exposition, something blows up or someone is shooting. Some critics and fans have likened it to the Bourne franchise, which is both a fair comparison and hardly a criticism, at least not in my book. It may be the most “realistic” of the series as well. Apart from futuristic touchscreen technology at MI6 that's not that far off from present interfaces, there are no gimmicks or gadgets, no magnetic watches that deflect bullets or cars that shoot jets of oil, although oil does play a significant role near the end of the film. The plot is fairly straightforward. Bond's relentless pursuit of White, which he continually denies isn't personal, leads him to Greene, a businessman with a hidden agenda in the desert and a deceptive smile. Greene's girlfriend Camille is with him to get close to one of his contacts, a general responsible for the death of her family when she was a little girl. Bond and Camille soon realize their goals are the same, as Greene can lead both of them to those who've taken important people from their lives. The film's title has a double meaning, as quantum both refers to the small amount of solace brought by revenge as well as Quantum, the evil and mysterious organization served by the likes of White and Greene.

While the film dispenses with the now cliché Hollywood portrayal of secret agents with gadgets and mustache-twirling cat petting villains in oversized lairs, it does retain signature elements of Bond, from the theme heard at the film's end to the opening graphics. I enjoyed the graphics, which races Bond through a desert environment eventually revealed to be the topography of the female form, and the new opening song by Jack White and Alicia Keys certainly felt like your classic Bond song, although to my tastes lean more toward Chris Cornell's You Know My Name. And the movie does work in one beautiful and disturbing homage to Goldfinger that makes one villain's comeuppance satisfyingly appropriate.

Quantum of Solace is a very exciting and enjoyable ride, a strong action movie during a time of year when that sort of fare is hard to find in the theater. It falls very slightly short of Casino Royale, in that it focuses more on the action and less on the character development of Bond. That isn't to say that character development is totally absent, and Bond does reach some measure of progress by film's end. But Casino Royale spent a little more time in establishing Craig as the new Bond and, since that wasn't needed here, he's often a mystery. We can guess what he's feeling by his actions and the commentary of those around him, most particularly M who seems to have the greatest trust and understanding of her agent. The movie feels very much like the bridging chapter of a trilogy, and definitely leaves me anticipating another sequel.

* * *


Words About Bond will return!

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11.17.2008

Phantasmic Links 1.17.08

This time of year, the temperature gets colder, the days get shorter, and clouds rule the skies. If that's not bad enough, the stores start getting more crowded. I'm looking forward to mid-January, when I can go shopping without people walking in front of me or shoving me aside if I stop to look at a particular item. At least the internet maintains a certain degree of controlled insanity, evidenced as always by that cross-section of sites we call PHANTASMIC LINKS:

(1) MSNBC trumps CNN's new hologram technology with something you have to see to believe!
Hat Tip: Darrell.

(2) How steady is your hand? You'll need precision and patience in Jelly Towers as you stack various colored gelatins for a finicky beast.

(3) 56 Leonard Street will change the Manhattan skyline with a challenging and precarious looking design.

(4) Somehow, I doubt the Iranian version of Basic Instinct did as well at the box office...
H.T.: Rey.

(5) Check out some truly awesome high detail photos of Antarctic Summer.
H.T.: Darrell.

(6) What happens when killer whales chase this penguin?

(7) Astronomers capture first photos of other planetary systems. Cosmic!
H.T.: J-No.

(8) This dog has mad b-ball skills!
H.T.: Darrell.

(9) With the iBot, no place is out of reach for anyone.
H.T.: B13.

(10) Don't try to take this kid's laptop!
H.T.: Curt.

(11) Creative ads depict the dangers of smoking. My favorite one is the ceiling painting of the view from inside a grave.

(12) Choose your own adventure with an interactive YouTube Time Machine! This may be the best use of that site yet....


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!

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11.16.2008

MORE

After a rainy day spent catching up on myriad television shows and movies, my brain feels like pudding. I like to think I’m not greedy, that my experiences and upbringing have taught me to be happy with the things I have. The danger with such complacency is a complete lack of momentum. I think we should be grateful for the things we have, but never lose that desire to evolve and grow. Here’s a list of things that, while I might not lack, I wish I had more of, and I suspect most people wouldn’t mind more of the same.

Looks

Time

Money

Aggressiveness

Space

Height

Hair

Fame

Confidence

Self-esteem

Money

Initiative

Courage

Ideas

Socializing

Fun

Patience

Energy

Talent

Money


Well, it wasn’t as long of a list as I thought it would be. I suppose that’s a good thing, so I won’t be wishing for more items to add to the list.

11.15.2008

Sure thing, Bunny Rabbit...

I've had a lot of nicknames in my life, not all flattering, and even the ones that sounded cool were usually dripping with sarcasm. For example, “a real winner” sounds positive on paper, but takes on an entirely non-literal meaning within a certain context with a certain tone of voice. In real life, unless you're an athlete or something, you probably don't get cool nom de guerres like superheroes. Add U.S. presidents to the list of people who get cool codenames, as I recently learned from Swanshadow.

Shad points out that the current president-elect gets to be known as "Renegade," while his bride is known as "Renaissance" and the kids are "Radiance" and "Rosebud." Yes, the family is coded too and there seems to be a theme. Our departing leader and his wife were "Trailblazer" and "Tempo", which I like because they sound like Autobots, not that the new family doesn't have cool names too. I for one welcome our new Decepticon overlords. And as Shad did, I'm going to consider some names that might fit me should this country every elect an overweight blogging graphic designer that still lives with his parents and spends way too much time in front of computers, televisions, or movie screens. Hey, stranger things have happened.

(1) Meatball: If I'm the first Italian-American in the oval office, we might as well get the obvious ethnic analogy out of the way first.

(2) Vandelay: Because in many ways, I'm just a badly disguised Costanza

(3) Spock: Though one of my least favorite childhood nicknames, it would be kind of cool to hear the secret service shouting it: “Spock is DOWN! Repeat, Spock has been HIT!” They...probably wouldn't be able to save my brain or beam me out of that situation, unfortunately.

(4) Chewie: College friends once referred to me as a “Sicilian Wookiee”, on account of my hairy Italian ways. With my height, Ewok might have been a more accurate description. Still, Chewie would work on two levels, since I love my snacks.

(5) Prime: It works for Autobot leaders, and as president I should be allowed a name that's simultaneously too cool for me while being incredibly dorky to the rest of America. My First Lady could be Elita One...

(6) Cap: I have to represent my vestigial comic book geek, and what better name than the familiar term for the sentinel of liberty himself? Plus, I'm turning yet another negative into a positive with an old college nickname.(I wore a lot of blue and was a white guy who embarrassed easily and turned red....”Cap” was usually reserved for my bowling screen name while they'd actually address me as the lengthier “star spangled boy”. Don't ask me how that same kid ends up in this hypothetical office...)

(7) Pacemaker: I love the double meaning here. Regular time on a treadmill barely keeps at bay the inevitable heart disease that genetics and poor diet have laid out for me. As leader of the nation, I'd effectively be setting the pace for those who follow me. Plus, truth be told, I kind of think this one sounds like an Autobot name as well. I know a lot of these are exceptionally nerdy, but at least I didn't actually change my name like this kid, who despite having the longest name in the world with the most comic book references, will probably still get married before me. But I digress.

(8) Trajan: What better name for a former art director of Italian descent who loves movies than the Roman movie font? Plus I bet there will be some dumb, hot intern who totally thinks the name refers to something else...

(9) Kodos: If you get the joke immediately, you're my kind of people. If not, watch this video, and you will be:


(10)Jack Bauer: I %^$%ing dare terrorists to mess with a president nicknamed Jack Bauer. Damnit!


I think that's enough of a list for now. Cool nicknames to anyone who got the reference in the post title...

11.14.2008

Watching Me

It's not quite 2009 yet, but I'm already looking forward to Watchmen coming to theaters. The latest trailer is very encouraging. I saw a Watchmen quiz over at A Golden World, and here's my result:

Your result for The Watchmen Personality Type Test...

Nite-Owl


You scored 61% Moral Imperatives and 56% Attitude!


You are outwardly altruistic yet neurotically obsessed.

Whether through a privileged background or being just plain naive, you try to act as a morally conscious individual while never fully attempting to understand the harsher sides of reality, torn between contemplating your own identity and being a good person.

Though compassionate and honorable, you suffer from an incomplete personality and your unresolved neurosis border on the egomaniacal leaving you in the dark.

Take The Watchmen Personality Type Test at HelloQuizzy


And, since I can never take just one quiz when I find one of these sites, here's how I did with ‘80s cartoons:

Your result for CARTOONS OF THE 80'S QUIZ...

80's Cartoon Super Ninja!


You scored 36 points on Knowledge out of 43 possible. Outstanding!
Congratulations--this is the highest score possible! You must have been seriously obsessed with 80's cartoons...You got so many right, you could've made a killing if you'd bet on your result!
Take CARTOONS OF THE 80'S QUIZ at HelloQuizzy


I'm shocked. Let's see how I fare with grown-up shows:

Your result for The Ultimate TV Theme Test...

Tube Titan


You scored 92%


Good Job! Since you scored between 81-100% on this test, you obviously know your TV trivia. Congratulations!


Take The Ultimate TV Theme Test
at HelloQuizzy


I have to start getting out more...

11.13.2008

Blackened Blues

Any comic book geek worth his weight in Doritos can tell you that Superman is a living solar battery. He absorbs and stores energy from our yellow sun, which powers his invulnerability, flight, heat vision, and other powers. Over the years, writers have used this battery metaphor to explain how the character could retain his abilities when his adventures took him out of our solar system. The longer he was away from a yellow sun, or if he was exposed to the radiation of a red sun, the less powerful he would become.

On some level, I think those of us in the real world are solar batteries. Night is bearable given the light we soak up during the day, and in Winter months some people suffer from a seasonal affective disorder when the days are shorter and the nights are longer. Some feel it worse than others, but I don't think long periods of time away from sunlight are good for any of us. As someone who's had his share of bad sunburns, I can vouch that the opposite extreme isn't much better.

On Wednesday, our department had a staff meeting at lunch. I've never been a fan of the lunch meeting model, the logic of a scheduler who thinks, “Hey, everyone is free between 12 and 2 for some reason! Let's make the meeting then!” For the most part, my current company is fairly good at scheduling meetings around that much needed break in the middle of the day, and I can count on one hand the number of times I've missed lunch for work in the past year. And, in all three instances, food was served.

It was a fairly good meeting, mostly new developments that our bosses felt would be better delivered in a group discussion rather than individually or in an e-mail. The pizza arrived at the beginning of the meeting rather than at the end, so they made sure to keep things brief so our food didn't get cold. I have enormous respect for those guys. A few slices and some garlic knots later, I was back down the hall in my office. It was a fairly relaxing day, but around 4:30 or so something felt...off.

At first I just thought I was cold. I felt like there were shadows sliding on the walls, and realized there was no sunlight coming in through my blinds. It was really dark outside. Every day I make a point of walking at lunch, at least during those months when it's neither too hot nor too cold to do so. I've been known to walk in the rain, with an umbrella of course. But as I noticed how dark and cold it suddenly was, I realized I'd spent eight hours not just in the same building, but within the same section of the same building. The conference room was right up the hall from my office, as are the restrooms. I had no reason to venture any further.

It was a strange feeling, not unlike how a bird must feel when a towel is draped over its cage. I just wanted to curl up under a blanket and take a nap. I couldn't even find motivation to get up and leave, though I was more than caught up with my work. Finally, by about twenty after 5, I forced myself to trudge out to the parking lot. I could sense a full moon through the haze of clouds in the sky, a faint white glow in the starless void. I was tempted to drive past my gym up the road, and continue home, but I forced myself to stop. The first few steps on the treadmill challenged me as much as the first few steps in the morning. I started at 3 MPH, then pushed it to 4.5. The more I walked, the more I could jog. The more I jogged, the more I could run. By the time I had the thing turned up to 7.1, I was feeling pretty good.

Exercise is no substitute for daylight, but that run definitely cleared some of the cobwebs from my head. When I left the gym, some of the clouds had broken and I tried to pretend the full moon was the sun. Obviously, it wasn't quite the same. I do like nights in the warmer months, under the right circumstances. In my youth, I enjoyed the crackle of a campfire, whether on a beach or in the woods. And Manhattan is great at night year-round, probably because it's never really dark. But this time of year, it's especially important to get outside during the day, if but for a few minutes, because hibernating until the Spring isn't an option.