The Empty Canvas

Michelangelo believed that sculptures already existed within blocks of marble, that a sculptor was merely freeing them with his or her chisel. He also believed pizza was totally awesome, although I may be thinking of a different Michelangelo. I know that one was a great creator, while another was a great creation. Art comes in many forms, from the visual to the auditory, from commercial to entertainment.

For me, as a graphic artist, the blank page is the greatest challenge. I deal with different forms of stress at various points in the creative process, and revisions and corrections can overwhelm as deadlines approach or pass by. At the end of the day, a lot of work is a lot of work no matter what your field, and the end of the day may vary with workload. But as long as there's something on that page, as long as that canvas is no longer blank, I have something to work with. I can make a concrete list and prioritize, knowing what to do first and seeing which elements need to be shifted, or which colors need to be adjusted. Getting started is the hardest part of every assignment.

I struggle sometimes, and wonder if that's common among people in my field or if I'm just creatively challenged. Often, a strategy meeting sometimes consists of a group of people telling me, “Here's what we've done; we need something new.” I can never come up with an idea in those moments, not without further thought and research. Give me a reference as a starting point, tell me to do something similar, or to improve on something that exists, and I have a million solutions. Tell me to fill a blank page? I just can't conjure that kind of inspiration.

I guess we all have our strengths and weaknesses. I'm a decent musician, and only need to hear a song a few times before I can play it without reading music. But I'm absolutely incapable of composing a brand new melody. I can play the songs of others; just not my own. Writing doesn't always flow naturally either. There's a lot of surfing, and thinking, and procrastinating before I come up with a topic. I open a document, and stare at a blinking cursor for a long time some nights. Other times, I know what I'm going to write about as I'm driving home from work. And even when I am stumped, once I finally start typing, the words finally pour out. I don't know if it's supposed to get easier or harder after 1,635 consecutive days of posting. Maybe one night I won't think of something to write about. Maybe when my brain is pudding and I have absolutely nothing interesting to write about, nothing will be my topic.

A post about nothing? I'd like to read that...


Phantasmic Links 3.30.09

Has anyone seen my weekend? I had it a second ago. Some yardwork, church, and a few DVDs later and here we are at Monday all over again. And again. And again, faster and faster. It's ridiculous. While I ponder the unsolvable problem of accelerating time, pass your time with this week's PHANTASMIC LINKS:

(1) Headmaster announces school to be vampire-free. That has to be a relief to parents who worry about that sort of thing...
Hat Tip: Darrell.

(2) Here's a truly bizarre tale about a gremlin on Dancing With the Stars. Maybe I should watch that show after all...
H.T.: Rhodester.

(3) Gen is simple: be a cell, attract other cells, and draw them to a good cell without being destroyed. Actually, it only sounds simple...

(4) What was Barcelona like in 1908? This video is like time travel.

(5) The Strangest Music Videos of All Time. Here's my favorite...
H.T.: Darrell.

(6) At the Insect Lab, dead bugs are refitted with gears and other machine parts. That's just as cool as it sounds, and I for one welcome our cyborg insect overlords...

(7) I'm amazed that, from the ground, a photographer captured this image of the Space Shuttle Discovery docked at the International Space Station. I can't even get a decent shot of a plane...

(8) Sheep + LED lights=Endless Visual Possibilities...

(9) At my exact age, Jesse William Lazear, an assistant surgeon for the U.S. Army who discovered that mosquitos transmit yellow fever, died of yellow fever from a mosquito bite. Rey, who recently celebrated a birthday, has now outlived mass murderer George Hennard. Find out who was Dead At Your Age.

(10) Finally, try your patience and skill at TETORIS, a massive version of a classic favorite. Arrow keys move and rotate; space bar speeds things up. You will need that space bar...

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!



My Candy Five

When it comes to snacks, I'm more of a chips person than a sweets person. That isn't to say I don't I have a sweet tooth; I love ice cream and cake and any combination of the two. Even though I don't raid the candy machine all that often, I don't think I'll have any trouble coming up with a quintet for the latest edition of my fives:

1) Kit-Kat:
In my candy world, Kit Kat is king. It's a stack of crisp wafers surrounded by dark chocolate and divided into two to four bite-sized strips. I'm mostly familiar with the Hershey variety, and only now learned that Nestlé produces these awesome bars everywhere other than the United States. At my old job, my friends and I would sometimes go to an international candy shop at a local mall, that included imported Kit Kats from Great Britain. They were quite expensive, but well worth it. Something about the chocolate in those “Brit Kats” was much richer than ours. I've also enjoyed the “Big Kat” variety, which is just a double-sized version of the regular bar.

2) Smarties:
There's nothing I like better around Halloween than these little plastic rolls of sugar pills. They don't last long in any home or office where I'm around. I don't know that I've ever consumed one at a time, either, normally crunching down on a minimum of half a roll and enjoying the explosion of sweetness. (Yikes, that sounds like the sort of sentence Jerry might write; I should move on.)

3) M&Ms:
Who doesn't love these little handfuls of chocolate with bright candy shells? If I had to rank them, I'd put the dark chocolate variety at the top of the list, followed by peanut M&Ms and finally the original variety. Chocolate alone can be boring, but the inclusion of a candy shell and/or peanuts is genius, elevating it to a much more interesting and enjoyable level.

4) Starburst:
I didn't appreciate or understand Starburst fruit chews the first time I tried them. What was the concept? It wasn't gum; the whole thing dissolved pretty quickly when you chewed it. And it wasn't a hard candy, since it was chewable. But there's a certain zing to these little cubes that sparks the taste buds along the back corners of the tongue, and once you master the slow or partial chew and savor method, you understand how these put hard candy and gum to shame. Like Smarties, Starburst are more of a Halloween indulgence for me.

5) Mr. Goodbar:
This is another Halloween treat for me, specifically the Hershey's Miniatures variety. Again, while chocolate alone might bore me, with the exception of some of the finer dark chocolate bars out there, the inclusion of something crunchy like peanuts makes Mr. Goodbar the best miniature in the bag. I'm just glad I wrote about these treats after the supermarkets were closed, otherwise Kit Kats and M&Ms wouldn't be the only ones on the list I enjoyed outside of Halloween...




As I drove back to the office after lunch on Friday, one of my friends commented on some kids we passed on a playground, fondly remembering the days of recess. Indeed, I can understand the appeal of a simpler time, a time before meetings, deadlines, finances, and all the fun stuff that comes with being an adult. I don’t know that I miss the more clearly divided social caste system of the playground, getting beat up, or futilely trying to recover my hat from an impromptu game of keep-away by the cool kids. And I definitely don’t miss homework. Even at its worst, when office work demands a few late nights, I still get to go home and leave it all behind when I’m finished. I can turn on the television or computer, and just let my brain go limp until the next day. I definitely don’t miss homework, and I told my pal as much.

He pointed out that there’s actually a movement right now to cut down on or eliminate homework from public schools. He agreed with the proposal, postulating that if a teacher wasn’t getting his or her lesson across during the day, they weren’t successful. There was time allotted to teachers, but after school should be personal time. As much as I hated spending 2 or 3 hours struggling to concentrate and get my homework done, especially when the weather was nice enough to play outside, I don’t agree that homework is a sign of failure on the part of the teacher. So many of the basic subjects consist of repetition, that a student really needs to cement the knowledge through various exercises. You can tell someone how to run, to put one foot in front of the other over and over again, but he or she must then actually run in order to get better at it. A teacher provides theory; it’s up to us to practice.

The tough thing about school before college is that most of us don’t have a major. Because we’re getting a general education, we’re going to like some subjects better than others and, like my friend, have this sense that we’re giving our time to teachers and not the other way around. Learning is for our benefit, though we often don’t appreciate that until we’re older. My high school education consisted of six subjects: Social Studies, Math, English, Science, Foreign Language(I took French), and Theology(Catholic high school). Each year was divided into trimesters. We had first trimester exams at the end of December, which covered everything from September on, and second trimester exams before Spring break, which covered everything from January on. At the end of each year we had Comprehensive Exams, which tested us on everything we’d learned that year. The dreaded “Comps” were divided among three days, with two three-hour exams each day. I can’t really sweat meetings or presentations when I think back on what I survived in high school.

Math was my best subject, and I was in a program that was supposedly one year ahead of everyone else, so by Senior year I was taking college level Calculus which I loved(X squared becomes two X! Derivatives!). I’ve since compared notes with other friends, and these programs varied from school to school, so I’m not sure how advanced my math actually was. I do know that I breezed through math homework in about 20 minutes each night and ended up with a 99% average after four years of high school, which granted means almost nothing to my career as an art director. But at the time, it definitely boosted my confidence and gave me a sense of accomplishment. Other subjects didn’t come as easily to me, notably science and social studies. As good as I was with equations, I had trouble remembering specific dates for historical events. And while I did good with the theoretical aspects of Earth Science, Biology or Chemistry, when it came time to do actual experiments and measure results, my math always seemed to be off. By Senior year I was taking Physics, and I think that was my favorite of the four years, but there are still concepts I’ll never grasp. Is light a wave or a particle or both?

College was a different story, and not just because I chose to major in graphic design. Art courses require a lot more skill and patience than people might realize. The thing about college is that, whatever your major, suddenly you’re choosing the classes instead of the school choosing for you. You have certain requirements for credits, but within those requirements you have choices. You pick things that interest you, and suddenly you don’t feel like you’re doing the work for someone else. In high school, even though you’re doing the work for yourself it doesn’t feel that way. My parents thought I was doing something wrong in my college Freshman year when I suddenly had little or no homework. A lot of things I could accomplish on campus in studios or computer labs, or on breaks between classes. Many classes alternated days, and the Monday-Wednesday-Friday courses differed from the Tuesday-Thursday ones. In high school, I had the same six courses five days a week. Six classes with approximately half an hour of homework each guaranteed a minimum of three hours work after school every single day.

I never thought I’d be looking back and defending homework. I don’t think free time is a good thing for people too young to know what to do with it. I never did drugs or got anyone pregnant or any of the other things a parent fears. A busy child stays out of trouble. And even if I don’t actively speak French, dissect frogs, or recall the original names of old countries in my everyday life, a rounded education gave me a little knowledge in various areas, helped me discern which subjects were my strengths and where to focus when it came time to take charge of my own acquisition of knowledge, and taught me to multitask. I wouldn’t have known if I liked English or Art or Math better than History or Chemistry or Theology if I didn’t try all of them. Now, a case could be made for a touch of a college structure with majors in high school, certainly for Juniors and Seniors whose grades reflect a possible maturity level equipped to make such a decision. A child will do better if he or she is studying something he or she wants to study. But eliminate homework completely? I think that would be a mistake. If I didn’t, I probably wouldn’t feel compelled to come home after work and write this essay on the subject.

Ironically; I preferred multiple choice and hated essay questions back in my school years. What do kids know?


Speculative Sitcom Spin-off Showcase

There was a time when sitcoms ruled the airwaves. There was some drama, and thankfully almost no “reality”. Times change, but there are still one or two bright spots where laughter is concerned and, thankfully, no laugh track to tell us what we're watching is hilarious. Just as The Simpsons once poked fun at a fading practice with hypothetical spin-offs, I thought it might be fun to consider other untapped gold in the ashes of existing series:

1) Afterscrubs: Fans of Scrubs were certainly happy that ABC picked up the show for its 8th and likely final season. Yet rumors abound that they may want to continue the show beyond this season, even if the creator and some cast members don't return. It's hard to imagine Scrubs without Zach Braff, but if he does go on to have a career of Jamie Farrian proportions, some new young cast members are waiting in the wings to take center stage. Would people watch a spinoff focusing on young interns? Can the butch chick, overly cheerful chick, other blonde chick, weird nerd, and outspoken young black man carry a show on their own? I wouldn't even care if the name playing off After MASH didn't make any literal sense if the stories still took place in the same hospital; as long as the Janitor inevitably stuck around, I'd watch the 13-22 episodes produced before cancellation.

2) How I Left Your Mother: In How I Met Your Mother, Bob Saget plays a guy telling his kids the story of, you guessed it, how he met their mother. We only hear Saget's voice in narration and see his kids on the couch listening, as the show takes place in the “past”(our present) in New York City where a younger actor portrays his character. But what if a follow-up series took place in the future, putting Saget back in front of the camera telling the statistically inevitable tale of his marriage's demise? He might have a different tale about the kids' ”Aunt Robin” then...

3) Clavin: Cliff Clavin was one of my favorite characters on the long-running Cheers, a lovable loser of a mailman who lived with his mother and spent most of his free time rambling on in a bar to anyone who would listen, making things up but delivering his words with the utmost conviction. Frasier was a successful spinoff, and I think it's past time to see how another character would work on his own. Retired from the mail service, but still needing to stay occupied, Clavin soon finds a new career doing voiceover work for various Pixar cartoons. This show practically writes itself!

4) My Name is Monroe: Most spinoffs tell us what happens to our favorite characters after their previous series concludes. In this My Name Is Earl spinoff, Eddie Steeples would reprise his role as Darnell “Crabman” Turner, but pre-Darnell. We've only recently gotten glimpses of his life as Harry Monroe before he was forced into the witness protection program. A prequel series could expand on all the adventures he had as a government operative before settling down in a trailer park.

5) Joey: Friends enjoyed a healthy ten seasons, but it was still sad to say goodbye. Each of the cast had shining moments, and while it might be interesting to follow Chandler and Monica into the suburbs to see how they adjust to life outside the city, I think a show about Joey Tribbiani has more potential. Oh, he might not have been the brightest bulb in the bunch, but he was entertaining. He did well with the ladies, and could pop open a blouse with one finger without breaking any buttons. He loved his food, and was always prepared to whip out a utensil at a moments' notice. Of course, Joey in Manhattan wouldn't be enough of a change to merit a spinoff. I say let his struggling acting career finally blow up, maybe move him to the West coast. It'd be a great fish-out-of-water situation, although the cast would need some rounding out. Certainly an eccentric agent is key, and since it was established on Friends that he came from a large Italian family with a ton of sisters, why not have him move in with one of those sisters out West? Maybe they could get someone super-Italian like Adriana from The Sopranos. Maybe she has an adult son played by that Italian kid from Road Trip. Of course, every great show needs a love interest, and after 10 years of casual interactions with girls predominantly at or below Joey's intellectual level, maybe we can find a more grounded foil. What about someone like Andrea Anders from that new show Better Off Ted as a wacky neighbor? Oh, there will be things to keep them apart in the beginning, but they'll get together eventually, and when they do...

You know what? That's just too ridiculous. None of this stuff would ever happen, so I'm going to quit while I'm ahead and leave television to the professionals...



Poll of Randomosity

The title says it all:

1) When you see Kurtwood Smith, do you think ”Red Forman” or ”Clarence Boddicker”?

2) Do our social roles during our school years lock us in to who we will be for the rest of our lives?

3) Do you typically come to a full stop at a Stop Sign?

4) Which is prettier: a sunrise or a sunset?

5) On a recent episode of Reaper, one of the characters uses Les Nessman as a fake name. On a recent 30 Rock, a character was referred to as a ”Radar O'Reilly”. I love such pop culture nods, but as I'm getting older, I wonder: does anyone under the age of 30 get these references?

6) Does your imagination ever cause you to wince?

7) Is there a place in science fiction for more fantastic elements such as intervention from a higher power, celestial beings, or shared visions?

8) Baked or original Doritos?

9) Can crazy people see this question?

10) Does anyone still use rotary phones?

11) Should the Poll go up to 11?

For me, the answers are Boddicker, absolutely, usually especially if I want to annoy a tailgater, sunset, no, sometimes, yes, original, apparently not, my parents up until 3 years ago, and it did. I'd love to know what you think...



PBW: Springset

Like flowers struggling to break through the barren ground and put color back into our lives, Spring is fighting through persistent cold temperatures. Despite a chill in the air, I can sense the inevitability of Spring, and I intend to enjoy as much of the outdoors as I can before we get to unbearably hot Summer weather. Here is a chilly but beautiful Spring day for this week’s Photo Blog Wednesday:



Just Because You're Paranoid...

There's a place in the world for the angry young man
With his working class ties and his radical plans
He refuses to bend, he refuses to crawl,
He's always at home with his back to the wall.
And he's proud of his scars and the battles he's lost,
And he struggles and bleeds as he hangs on the cross-
And he likes to be known as the angry young man.
--Billy Joel, “Angry Young Man”

We all have our character flaws, and among my many shortcomings I count my temper. I'd say that problem peaked about 5 or 6 years ago when my mom, in an effort to persuade me to change a pair of dress socks she didn't like, told me they made me look like a nerd. “DON'T...CALL ME...NERD!!!” I screamed, Hulking out and putting my fist right through the sheetrock in our hallway. I'd never punched a hole in the wall before, and the one time I put my fist through a window as a kid was an act of stupidity, not anger. I was talking to a friend through my window and he kept swinging it closed. I'd shout ”COLOSSUS!” and tap the window back open, but on one of the swings the latch caught, so the window stayed put while my fist went through it, of course at the precise moment my mom was walking up the driveway with a bag of groceries. “I gotta go!” said my friend, darting past my mom and down the block back to his house.

We have to learn from our mistakes, lest we repeat them. When I put my fist through that window I learned not to throw fists at glass, even in play. When I smashed through that wall, I learned how to spackel. I also realized that when people push certain buttons, I need to restrain myself because I only end up looking foolish and feeling immediately guilty. I'm fairly diplomatic in my business dealings, and remain cheerful and nonconfrontational in the office environment. The unfortunate truth is that I'm so comfortable around my parents, I tend to let out anger that I might have been holding in from something else that was bothering me during the day. My mom once cautioned me that the way we treat our mother is the way we'll treat our wife. I don't want to be the type of husband who snaps at his wife at dinner because he's stressed over an insurmountable workload, or something equally insignificant in the grand scheme of what's really important. If I can't learn patience, I might as well not inflict myself on anyone else ever.

I've gotten much better over the years, and I don't hit walls as much when I get angry. I'm not perfect nor mature, so there's still the occasional verbal outburst. A lot of time this is frustration over having to repeat myself. My folks are getting older, and sometimes they forget things. My dad doesn't hear very well, so I end up shouting by the third or fourth time he asks me the same question. I'm getting older too, so I sometimes forget whom I told what. My mom might ask me a question I think I've already answered, when it was in fact something I'd told my father. After 12 hours of driving, working, exercising, and driving again, I'm often too tired to converse with anyone. Again, this is a flaw I'll need to overcome if I ever become a husband.

My dad has an interesting hit or miss technique to deal with my temper tantrums: “Stop yelling; the neighbors are all laughing at you.” Sometimes, embarrassing me sobers me up quickly, and the idea that other people hear me shouting and carrying on like a child is enough for me to catch my breath, and discuss things rationally. There are, unfortunately, plenty of times in which this psychology has the opposite effect, and makes me angrier. It works a little better if we're outside, perhaps arguing about shoveling snow, since on those occasions there are other people around who can hear me and I'd be better off working faster instead of wasting time trying to get my dad to go back in the house. When we're inside, I would hope that I'm not so loud that all the neighbors can hear, which means that line is less of a deterrent. No one has called Cops yet, so I'm hoping it all sounds much worse from inside my skull than from outside the house.

What was a semi-regular problem in my teen years and part of my twenties now only happens once a month or so, if that often. I've been especially careful to be patient with my dad since we got him back from the hospital; he doesn't need that kind of stress. On Sunday, we went to check out how his lot endured the Winter. I evened out some hedges with electric clippers, since he can't lift his arms above the shoulder anymore, and I pulled down some rose vines in the back by out pear tree and cleared the ones tugging down the neighbor's fence. I needed thicker workgloves, I can't see the tiny cuts from the thorns that still hurt now. I also tried to fix a wobbly gate hinged on a buried pipe. After hammering down another piece of metal alongside the pipe to no avail, my dad not hearing or not listening as I told him it wasn't working and he kept telling me to hit it, I pulled the whole gate out of the ground and tossed it aside in frustration.

I cleared debris from around the hole and gathered some rocks. Cement would have been ideal but we had neither that nor running water. We didn't even have a proper hammer, only another smaller section of pipe. With a clear opening in the ground, I repositioned the gate and tried to push it down. I tried to discourage my dad from supporting the gate and putting strain on his shoulder, but I couldn't hold it up on my own. I also had to raise my voice, moreso because he wasn't hearing me than because of anger. “Be quiet; people are laughing at you!” he admonished. To my credit, I suppressed my next outburst into a literal biting of my tongue, and kept working.

I got frustrated earlier because every time I thought the gate was almost steady, he'd decide to shake it and “test” it, loosening the dirt around the pipe again. This time I hammered at the top of the pipe with the smaller pipe, supporting most of the weight while he held it steady and told me I wasn't hitting it hard enough. I apologized half sarcastically for having a desk job and not developing the strength he had in his career as a mechanic. “How's it going?” murmured a pedestrian, some random dude walking past. I muttered a greeting without looking, and continued hitting that pipe. Weak as I am, I ended up cracking the metal cap that covered the top of it. But I did get it far enough into the ground to remain steady long enough to add some rocks around the base. When all was said and done, the gate was straighter and steadier than it had been in years, and my dad was actually pleased and proud.

On Monday, it was back to the grind of the office where deadlines might cause stress, but they won't put little cuts and calluses on my hands. This is our busy season, and I haven't even had time for the gym in about three weeks. I'm just about caught up, which means of course that I got a few more extra assignments. Still, I know exercise is important not just for my physical health, but for my mental health. If I can run out the frustrations of the day on a treadmill, I'm less likely to snap at the old people for asking me simple questions. “Did I see you yesterday?” asked the gym manager as I walked through the door. “I don't think so,” I replied, knowing full well that I hadn't gone to the gym over the weekend any more than I'd been in there during the weekdays this past month. “Are you sure?” he persisted, walking along with me, “I didn't see you helping someone in his yard? Putting up a fence or something? Over on Avenue X?”

I work in the same town where my dad and my aunts grew up, where he still owns that small bit of property. And now that I know people in the area from my office and my gym, it never occurred to me that I'd run into people I knew. “You were frustrated or something because you wanted to do one thing, and he was doing the opposite. I said hello to break the tension.” Not only had the guy spotted me, but he was the random pedestrian that I barely acknowledged, that walked by uncomfortably as I was snapping at my dad! “Sorry, man,” I apologized, for not giving a better greeting. I found myself spilling more information than necessary, about how my dad was from the area and the lot once belonged to my grandfather, and how my dad needed my help since he's almost 80 years old.

When I'd act up as a child, my mom would sometimes warn me that God was watching me. The idea of an omniscient being who could see me at all times, even when I was alone, made me very paranoid. It's one of those aspects of faith we sometimes dismiss or try not to think about, since we'd go mad with paranoia otherwise. And over the years, I've taken it less and less seriously when my dad tells me people are watching or laughing at me. And yet, there I was outside in a presumably neutral environment losing patience and baring my irrational side, not caring what strangers thought, only to learn that not everyone around us was a stranger that day. It all makes a good case for paranoia, to play it safe because you never know who's watching us. You never know...


Phantasmic Links 3.23.09

This was an interesting weekend. I unloaded a barrage of stress on a variety of fields at my annual paintball outing. I helped my dad out at his lot after a long Winter, tasks which included fixing a crooked gate, raking leaves, trimming hedges, and pulling down vines from a rose bush with thorns that went right through my gloves. I also heard from a lady I worked with at my first job, whom I hadn't seen in almost a decade. She's kept in touch with a number of old coworkers, including apparently my ex-girlfriend since she matter-of-factly volunteered the information that my ex was now the mother of two-year-old twin boys. My gut reaction was to write back, “So you're saying I don't have a shot?”, but of course I didn't do that. The more I thought about it, the more I was happy for her. She left a proofreading job she was miserable in and became a teacher, helping troubled kids. I always knew she'd be a great mother and hearing about her double-blessing confirmed that things worked out the way they were always supposed to, that time was running along the correct path, one I might have altered had I done a few things differently ten years ago. We really can't predict or control our own lives let alone the lives of others. The best bet is to hang on for the ride, especially through bad times, because there could be good things in the future. In our immediate future right now, of course, are this week's PHANTASMIC LINKS:

(1) Now that it's all over, we can look back and ask the all important question, ”Who frakked who on Battlestar Galactica?” Hey, why does every theme on that show have to be deep and meaningful?

(2) Real-life superheroes apparently have a way to network. This seems to make it too easy for a supervillain to infiltrate...

(3) 52 Pound Lego® Mon Calamari Star Cruiser. 52 Pound Lego® Mon Calamari Star Cruiser. 52 Pound Lego® Mon Calamari Star Cruiser!!

(4) Star Trek makes for an hilarious stage play. It's definitely worth getting through the two-minute intro to get to the actual play clips.

(5) LOST crosses over with Star Wars®, Batman, Heroes and more through the magic of this action figure parody series.

(6) Do you have what it takes to Open Doors?

(7) Steel yourselves for The 7 Most Depressing Songs Ever Sung....by A Muppet.

(8) Coming December 2010: Green Lantern.

(9) Travel back to the 1987 Marvel Thanksgiving float, complete with Robocop and the theme from Back to the Future. Folks, that's what superhero movies would have been like 20 years ago. Let's hear it for progress.

(10) Finally, slash away at cute creatures to gain powers and survive a Bloody Fun Day.

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!



Galactica: Ex-Machina

I'm genuinely developing a dislike for nerds. I realize the irony inherent in that statement if it doesn't include some self-loathing, but then I've never had a problem in that area. In any case, the specific nerd trait bugging me right now is the Comic Book Guy-like tendency to immediately jump on message boards and explain point by point what's wrong with a particular movie, television show, or comic book. I'm not saying this isn't the right of a fan or that everyone has to like everything, but there's a certain tone in the way these criticisms are phrased that gets to me. It's less “I didn't like this because...” and more “This is bad because...”, as though a fact is being stated instead of an opinion. These comments are especially jarring when I've had the exact opposite response to something I've just seen or read.

In any case, I know it's equally nerdy to list point by point everything I liked or was moved by from the Battlestar Galactica finale, but frak it(with SPOILERS):

1) The last few episodes have been quiet, bleak, and depressing, all building to an insane final space battle between Galactica and the Cylons on the edge of a black hole. I loved the tactics, from Helo's Raptor teams to the Viper strikes to Anders shutting down the Hybrids to Adama just ramming the ship right into their base. The old man wasn't messing around.

2) In a moment paralleling the movie that kicked off the series, Baltar is once more about to board a Raptor apparently to save himself, only to tell those aboard that he's staying behind to help in the fight to save Hera. It shows genuine growth for the character and lends credence to the notion that his role as a religious leader this season wasn't just another scam, but an actual shift in his motivations.

3) Boomer's final act is to save Hera and return her to her parents. “Tell the old man I owed him one.” First teary moment of the episode.

4) Caprica Six tells Gaius she's proud of him, that she always wanted to be proud of him, moments before they both realize that they can both see the idealized(Angelic? Demonic?) avatars of one another that has been a mystery for most of the series.

5) Fleeing from the Cylons with Hera, Helo gets shot up and orders a tearful Sharon to go on without him. They killed Helo, those bastards. Second teary moment of the episode.

6) Sharon pursues Hera through the corridors of Galactica. Laura Roslin pursues Hera through the corridors of Galactica. Gaius and Caprica Six find Hera and take her to the safety of the command center. These scenes cut between the parallel opera house dream/projection that these characters have been experiencing for the last 2 seasons, culminating in the appearance of five glowing beings in the dream sequence, and the Final Five up on the higher deck.

7) Gaius makes an impassioned speech to Cavil that stays his hand in slaying Hera long enough for Tigh to offer resurrection as a bargaining chip in a truce with the Cylons. More importantly, Baltar's speech manages to sum up the inexplicable aspects of the series to the satisfaction of some fans and frustration of others. The avatars he sees in the form of Six or himself he refers to as “angels”, but ultimately agents of some higher being or force guiding them from another plane of existence. Whether this being is the one true god of the cylons or the pantheon of gods the humans worship is irrelevant; these are just labels the finite beings in this universe assign to make sense of forces beyond them. I thought that was much better than some of the theories floating around on the internet over the years, such as Gaius having a chip implanted in his brain. I think it's possible for science fiction to include elements some might consider fantastic, provided they offer a plausible fictional scientific explanation for it.

8) The truce quickly goes awry and the Cylons don't get resurrection, all because the final five had to share memories to give them the information, and thus Galen learns that Tory was the one that sent his wife Cally out into space through a Viper launch tube. I always liked Cally, and was upset that her death went unavenged. Tory makes a laughable plea before the mind meld about no one getting upset about any dark secrets they might learn. She might have been better confessing before Galen relives her murder of Cally, breaks the link, and chokes her to death. About frakking time.

9) Kara Thrace fulfills her destiny as foreseen by a hybrid, and she is the “harbinger of death” who “will lead them all to their end.” Remembering the notes from All Along the Watchtower that Hera had drawn and equating them as coordinates for the FTL drive, she warps Galactica one last time, jumping away as the Cylon base is consumed by the nearby black hole. The evil Cylons are all dead, while humanity has reached the end of its journey on a planet much nicer than their Earth with blue skies, green fields, and primitive humans and wildlife.

10) On Lee's suggestion, they agree to forego their technology and start fresh on the new world. Adama flies the last Viper from his ship and has Sam take control of the fleet, guiding all the ships into the sun. While most believed Roslin was the “dying leader” prophesied to lead her people to a new home she would never see, I think Galactica itself was the dying leader, the ship that led the fleet to this world before being sent into the sun. Roslin on the other hand does get to see the planet...

11) Roslin has 48 hours at best throughout the final episode before she finally succumbs to her cancer. Even the normally gruff Doc Cottle is moved when she thanks him for all he's done prior to the raid on the Cylon base. I think that scene was when I knew there would be a lot of teary moments. As she watches some gazelles on the plains with Adama, she begins to have trouble breathing. “Would you like a better look?” he asks, wrapping his beloved President in a blanket and carrying her to a Raptor. Teary moment three or four. Lee and Kara notice, and come to say goodbye, realizing Adama is leaving them as well. In the Most Devastating Callback Ever, Adama for the last time asks Kara, “What do you hear, Starbuck?” “Nothing but the rain,” she replies as always, cueing his final, “Then grab your gun and bring in the cat.” They embrace; bawling ensues.

12) We've been seeing flashbacks in these final episodes to what the characters were all doing prior to the Cylon attack that forced them to flee their homeworld. We saw that Gaius was the son of a farmer before he was an arrogant scientist. We saw that Roslin experienced unimaginable tragedy and lost her whole family, leading her down the path that put her in the president's staff and ultimately, to become the president when she survives the attack. We saw what led Adama and Tigh to be on the Galactica for one last ceremony before the ship would have been retired. And we saw how Lee first met Kara, who was once engaged to his brother Zak, who died in a flying accident prior to the invasion. While Zak is passed out on the couch, his brother and his fiancée have a drunken conversation that nearly leads to infidelity. More importantly, Kara reveals that her worst fear isn't death, but being forgotten. In the present, as Lee and Kara watch Adama and Roslin leave, Kara tells him that her work is done, that she understands why she came back. The strong implication is that she was another celestial being like the ideal Gaius and Six, that Kara Thrace did crash and die but her soul had unfinished business and manifested a new physical form(and Viper) in order to complete it. Lee scoffs at this idea, but when he turns around, Kara has disappeared. We see another scene of Lee back on Caprica, as a pigeon that had gotten into his apartment, flapping around and causing him grief as he tried to chase it out, finally rises, and soars out the open window. Damn.

13) Adama and Roslin soar over the plains. Roslin smiles, looking out the window and murmuring weakly, “So much life...” Adama goes on about the planet, and about the dream cabin he'll build for them, something they had discussed once before when they thought they'd found a new planet to settle on. Her hand slips from his grasp, but he's still a sentence or two from noticing. When he turns and sees that she's gone, he takes her hand in his, fighting the tears, and slips his wedding ring off his finger and on to hers. William Adama fights tears mortal viewers cannot, and I lose count.

14) Tigh's little “grunt laughs” throughout the episode killed me, and were bright moments amid the tearjerking ones. It was funny in the bar/stripclub flashbacks, and funny/poignant in the flashback after Boomer's death to Bill giving the rookie Boomer a hard time about landing the Raptor's cleanly. The best one was right after they land on the new planet and are surveying the primitive life. Cottle notes that they have human DNA and Gaius asks if that means they're compatible for mating. “You have a one track mind, Doc” says Adama, and when Baltar protests he adds, “...and no sense of humor.” The peanut gallery punctuation of Tigh's grunt laugh in that scene was perfection.

15) We hear Helo and Sharon talking as the camera pans across the tall grass. Helo lives! He's using a cane and Agathons are holding hands with their daughter. Helo boasts about teaching Hera to hunt while Sharon laughs, remembering his experience with a bug back when they met on Caprica. I'm glad the episode offered some tears of joy; I was so certain that family unit was getting a tragic end that it was a great surprise to discover it intact.

16) Gaius and Six witness Hera's safety and happiness with her family. Their avatars appear to them one last time, and now their journey is complete. But where do they go from here? We get one last flashback to Caprica, to the day Baltar agreed to let Six see the defense grid plans, an action that would open the doors for the Cylon invasion. Back then it was clear that these were the villains of the series. Baltar is smarmy, saying he's doing it for love then scoffing; he's only interested in one thing. Six is seductive and clearly using him as a tool in her invasion plans. But then we jump back to the present as she caresses his cheek, as they stand on a new world as redeemed characters wholly different from who and what they were in the first episode. Gaius tells her he knows how to cultivate the land and farm, getting choked up as this reminds him of his father. Six comforts him, and the two go off to live happily ever after in some valley.

17) Adama sits on a hill, still describing the cabin he's going to build there. The camera pans over to a pile of rocks, to the grave of Laura Roslin, as he tells her how the land is beautiful like she was. Enough with the tearjerker moments.

18) Epilogue: The show isn't over yet. Hera plays in the fields, and looks out over the landscape. The camera pans over trees and finally up to a city. My city. New York City. A caption tells us that it's 150,000 years later. This is our world; the Capricans were our ancestors. So that's where we got “All Along the Watchtower” from. In voiceover, Six is reading an article about scientists finding the bones of a woman who lived in Tanzania, whom they believe to be Mitochondrial Eve, the common ancestor of all humanity. We see the red-dress Six at a newstand with the black suit and crimson shirt Gaius. To the right, Ron Moore is reading a magazine and making a cameo on his show. Six and Baltar walk on, noting how this Earth has grown into a corrupt, technology bloated disaster like Caprica, Kobol, and the original Cylon Earth. “All of this has happened before...” These beings, which the original Gaius chose to describe as angels, are judgmental and carrying some of the worst traits of the finite beings they based their mortal forms upon. Six wonders if god will repeat the cycle and destroy it all to start over once more. “Don't call him that; he hates that...” says Gaius ominously, and I note that these two wear a bit too much red for angels. I expect to hear Sympathy for the Devil, which would fit the scene and give it a certain tone, but of course we hear “All Along the Watchtower” one last time, not the ancient version of the Cylons but one of the ones we're more familiar with. Various clips are shown of toys and robots that exist here and now in our world, including some of the more humanoid models being developed. Could it all happen again? Here and now?

The series left me thinking, and pleased with the overall outcome. Moore even provides further insight for all the slow viewers asking questions like “Why did they go back to Earth and why wasn't it nuked?” or “How was Kara the harbinger of death and what end did she lead them to?” or making comments like “Angels don't exist; what a horrible and unrealistic deus ex machina. These writers suck.” They don't have a problem with space ships jumping through space, killer robots, or humanoid beings that evolved from robots and can procreate with humans. But mention gods or angels, even in vague obscure terms that allow viewers to draw their own conclusions, and red flags go up. I don't get it, but I'm glad I got to experience this series.


Television Spoiler Twist Stream of Consciousness

I watch too much television. Let’s be honest; we all do. Lately, a lot of my favorite shows have been ridiculously good with a ridiculous amount of twists and “holy crap” moments. There’s no easy way to organize the jumble of plots and characters swimming around my overloaded brain, so I’m just going to lean over my keyboard and let it all pour out at random with no links, and no context. So there’s a risk of SPOILERS for those of you brave or foolish enough to decipher the following barely punctuated mess:

Hey Chuck’s taking down his Tron poster I guess he’s finally going to mature and HOLY CRAP look at that chart he has going on the back of that thing look’s like he’s been working on the problem all along because he is a smart guy and agent material even though they play him for comic relief most of the time that’s awesome I wonder how Jack is going to get out of this one oh good I knew he had a backup plan and hey what’s Bill saying I don’t like the sound of NOOOOOO not Bill well now Jack will be motivated and get the information so that won’t be in vain and wait what’s the guy in the ceiling up to oh now he’s screwed poor D I never saw that coming this show is getting especially dark and depressing and I hope there’s a bright spot and damn there goes Felix too this isn’t going to end well for frakking any of them is it oh cool Christopher Heyerdahl is playing a demon on Supernatural masking his Wraith voice with a bad Brando impression this show has gotten so cool since they brought the Angels into the mix and I like how they’re portraying them as supernatural cops and damn did Sammy just drink that demon chick’s blood wow this is crazy I’m so glad Reaper is back on and has it’s rhythm and Ray Wise is awesome as the devil and this new subplot about the dude who outwitted him is great it sucks that they put this on against American Idol and how does John know Cameron wasn’t the one who killed Riley and why is he now in Jesse’s hotel room and he knew the whole time wow this is so awesome and that subplot paid off far more than I expected it would earlier in the season and Derek told her he isn’t John right after explaining how he killed his friend for the greater good and the timeline is now altered and she better run but what I’m wondering is how far ahead in advance Lost writers are that they had Kate and Sawyer working on a runway on the smaller island three seasons before Frank would need someplace to land the Ajira plane and doesn’t little Ben look like a creepy Harry Potter and Dollhouse is going to be off the hook now that the FOX execs have given Whedon back creative control if this latest episode is any indication but is everyone in Ballard’s life an active all I know is three flowers in a vase is an awesome trigger phrase so who else was cheering when Michael actually told Wallace he quit there was a second there where I thought he was going to take that insulting party offer but after 15 years of service it’s about time he stood up for himself like that I wonder if they’ll beg him to come back when the Scranton branch starts losing sales and I kind of like Betty White with straight hair and didn’t recognize her until I heard her voice but some of the junk Tracy has been coming out with lately has been killing me like that “WAKE UP MOTHER--” line when Jenna fell asleep at the parade and I can’t believe some of the jokes they get away with on there like the BFF one and the red-blue blur is a horrible superhero name but the Doomsday story has been off the hook and damn Jimmy acted the hell out of that last scene with Chloe and like Michael standing up to Wallace, he was kind of right if overly harsh and unfortunately addicted to painkillers and that new Ted show was kind of funny although I don’t know if it will last how great is it that Lawrence found a way to appease the fans by putting Elliot and J.D. back together while simultaneously acknowledging his own boredom with that sort of cliché sitcom move by having no one on the show really care

So um, yeah. Who says TV rots brain cells?


Change is...Something Something

I'm a fairly consistent guy, dependable to a certain degree. It's good to be dependable and consistent, to have a solid anchor, although life should be shaken up once in a while to remind us that we're alive. In my travels I came across this interesting questionnaire to measure change; I think I can guess how this will go before I even fill it out...

****15 YEARS AGO (1994)****

1) How old were you?
19(until November)

2) Who were you dating?
I was a college art geek who wore flannel shirts like jackets and discussed comic books with the utmost sincerity and seriousness. Attempts to win over the opposite sex were predictably disastrous, although I was a good 2 years away from the “What's matter; don't ya like me or somethin'?” debacle....

3) Where did you work?
In addition to playing in various marching and Italian festival bands, I got a Summer job painting houses. Part of the job involved going door to door and asking people if they wanted Student Painters to actually paint anything in or around their homes. Most said no, and I was glad when people weren't home and we could just hang a little paper Student Painter sign on their door knob. I quit at the end of the Summer after my manager and some of my coworkers rolled some weed in the Sunday funnies in a client's kitchen and offered me some. No thanks.

4) Where did you live?
With my folks, on Long Island.

5) Where did you hang out?
With my friends, in Queens.

6) Did you wear contacts or glasses?
Surprisingly neither, despite how many comics I read and how much television I watched.

7) Who were your best friends?
I guess it would be Rey and the rest of my college “brothers” and “sisters”. I shared a lot of laughs and good times with those folks.

8) How many tattoos did you have?

9) How many piercings did you have?

10) What kind of car did you drive?
A Maroon ‘81 Monte Carlo that belonged to my father and originally, to my music teacher.

11) Had you been to a real party?
Yes, for the first time in my life thanks to some friends with an apartment near campus. And I was sincerely invited, not like on television or in movies where the cool kids invite the nerd as a joke.

12) Had you had your heart broken?
Not really.

13) Were you Single/taken/Married/Divorced?
Painfully single.

14) Any Kids?

***10 YEARS AGO (1999)***

1) How old were you?
24(until November)

2) Who were you dating?
No one. It had been just over a year since my ex-girlfriend Jenn had moved to Massachusetts and dumped me, and I was still feeling the pain. There had been one new girl in the office that was somewhat tempting and pulled me back out of my shell a little bit at a holiday party, but she literally disappeared. I don't mean she was just avoiding me, but that she just stopped coming in to work a few weeks later with no explanation. The rumor was that she went down South on vacation and just never came back, but our boss never told us the truth. All I had was an e-mail address, but I got no replies.

3) Where did you work?
I was still at my first job out of college working for a small design book publisher, handling both the gamut of graphic design responsibilities and maintaining our computer network. When I got into a much larger book catalog company almost a year later, I was impressed that they had different departments of employees for each responsibility I had at the smaller place.

4) Where did you live?
With my folks, on Long Island.

5) Where did you hang out?
I found myself in Manhattan a lot with an old high school buddy who threw karaoke parties, filmed them, and sent the tape in to a local public access station. I was drinking a lot of screwdrivers in those days.

6) Did you wear contacts and/or glasses?
Surprisingly neither, despite how much time I was in front of a computer and how much television I watched.

7) Who were your best friends?
I was kind of going through one of my phases where I dropped off the radar, never really sure if I was spending time alone because I thought my friends had reached the maximum level of MCF tolerance, or because I felt like spending time alone after my breakup. Other than going to the city to visit my old high school buddy every month or so, I wasn't hanging around with much of anyone, although I was slowly getting back in more regular contact with my college friends, especially Rey(who would eventually get me a better job).

8) How many tattoos did you have?

9) How many piercings did you have?

10) What car did you drive?
The used ‘89 Mazda 626 I'd originally bought to visit my girlfriend after she moved out of state during the few months we continued dating.

11) Had your heart broken?
Oh, hell yeah. She was in New York visiting her mom, and in hindsight I really should have been suspicious that she'd baked brownies for no apparent occasion. I took her to a local beach, and after she got back in the car and I closed the passenger side door, I popped in a mint in my mouth as I walked back around to the driver's side, taking her for granted and assuming one of our trademark 3 hour make-out sessions was about to ensue. Instead I got slammed with the old “We need to talk...” line which led to a long tearful conversation. At one point she tried “I just think we should slow things down” which I found ludicrous since I went from seeing her every day at work and dating on weekends to spending every other weekend with her. If things were any slower, we wouldn't be together, which ultimately was her point that I needed to accept. That's probably way more details than anyone needs to hear or this question requires, so enough about that afternoon. Let's move on.

12) Were you Single/Taken/Married/Divorced?
Painfully single.

13) Any Kids?
Not that I know of.

****TODAY (2009)****

1) Age?
34(until November)

2) Where do you work?
I design flyers, envelopes, and contest inserts for a large direct mail company.

3) Where do you live?
With my folks, on Long Island.

4) Who are your closest friends?
I stay in fairly regular contact with Rey, who now lives out of state with his wife and three kids, and B13, who still works at the company that let me go a few years ago. I've even been making an effort to see my college friends more regularly. Thanks to the internet, the world can be a lot smaller than it was 15 or even 10 years ago.

5) Do you talk to your old friends?
Yes, mostly online, although as I mentioned my college friends have been trying to put together events once a month or so. Back in November, I even met up with two “kids” from my old neighborhood, one of whom is engaged and the other who is studying to be a doctor. The kid who was taller than me from the moment he outgrew his stroller is even taller, while the kid who was always shorter than me is also taller. That's why the internet is better than real life; people don't need to see how short and fat I've become.

6) Do you wear contacts and/or glasses?
Surprisingly neither, despite how much time I spend in front of a computer and how much television I watch.

7) How many piercings do you have?
Still none.

8) How many tattoos?
Still none.

9) What kind of car do you have?
2005 Honda Civic. I can't believe I've had it nearly a year now.

10) Had your heart been broken?
More like disappointed although, with a few exceptions, I've developed a thicker skin over the years.

11) How many kids?

12) Are you Single/Taken/Married/Divorced?
Resignedly single.


This Week...

...Liam Neeson lost his wife Natasha Richardson at the too-young age of 45 to a freak skiing accident that left her brain-dead. I haven't actually seen any of her films, but it's still a cruel loss for her family, how quickly a fun excursion turned to tragedy.

...we also lost 62-year-old actor Ron Silver to esophageal cancer. I remember him best for his role as the villain in Timecop. It hasn't been a great week for the entertainment industry.

...I found myself in a moment of reflection on potential and contributions after the umpteenth time someone at work called me “smart” or someone entrusted me with responsibility or added tasks. I know I'm not rocket science smart or disease curing smart, and in the list of things I could have become growing up, my skills might have led me to become a writer or an accountant. Don't get me wrong; I like my job and I'm grateful to have any job at a company in this economy that, thus far, seems to be doing well. Every now and then I just experience this reality check that my presence on Earth isn't really making a difference, that no one will live or die if I don't design a flyer, envelope, or other form of advertisement. The reward for working well and/or quickly is and will always be additional work. The real rewards, theoretically, come at retirement when I can be financially stable without sweating deadlines or critiques. Theoretically. I guess sometimes I need to check my ego and remember, especially as person of Catholic faith, that being here isn't about attaining any measure of fame. It's the little legacies that count, the small differences that add up and might go unrecognized by people, that will be tallied in the end. A paycheck and benefits are more than enough from a job so long as there's some fulfillment elsewhere in our lives. It's just hard for a machine to remain productive during flashes of self-awareness.

...I marched in a St. Patrick's Day parade over the weekend with an Italian band, wearing a white flat cap with the word “ITALIA” emblazoned across it. At least our shirts were green, and the crowd was way to drunk to notice or care. I wore a green shirt to work on Monday, thinking for some reason that it was the official holiday, like it was one of those floating holidays that always falls on the “X” Monday of a month. I related that anecdote to my mom when I got home, to which she responded, “That's green?” Everyone's a critic.

...my parents' phone went dead. We haven't had a dial tone in two days, and initially could only receive incoming calls. Now we don't even hear that. For some reason my DSL is still working so I can get online, but until the repairman gets here, my mom's actually been forced to leave her cell phone on, which she was always afraid to do for fear of using up the (rechargeable) battery. A friend of mine at work doesn't even use a landline anymore; since he and his wife always have their cellphones, they don't see a need for it. Perhaps wireless is the way to go, although a world without wires might make life a little harder for squirrels and birds. Another flaw in that world is pointed out by Campbell Scott in the film Crashing: “It used to be, when you didn't feel like talking, you could just leave the house...”

...the snow is all but completely gone, the temperatures reached just above 60 degrees, and Spring is just around the corner. Remember that, it might not be yesterday, or tomorrow, but today, when it counts, life is good.


PBW: Terragen™ Four

Technically, whenever I play with Terragen™, it isn't photography, but I'm calling this a Photo Blog Wednesday anyway:

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My Dumb Entertainment Moves Five

This is a fairly subjective topic for my fives. I wouldn't say these are the dumbest moves in music, movies, or television, but in my humble opinion they are five among many dumb moves that happen to stand out:

1) SciFi Network changes to SyFy:
What? One great thing about the Science Fiction network, abbreviated logically “Sci Fi”, was how they had that ad campaign in which every letter of the abbreviation vanished except the two in the middle, leaving “if”. Conceptually, that's what it should be, although I realize outside of the one or two series I've watched, it's become a melange of reality television and bad, bad made for SciFi movies. So I can understand wanting to expand the definition of what they represent to more than just science fiction, since they weren't focusing on that anyway. But for an intelligent audience consisting primarily of, let's be honest, geeks, a grammatical aberration like “SyFy” is just silly and offensive, especially in Poland where syfy has a genuinely offensive meaning. Yikes. Even the new tagline “Imagine Greater” is clunky, cumbersome compared to “if”. Within the tagline is the word “Imagine”, and perhaps they should have expanded on that to encompass fantasy, supernatural, and other series that appeal to their audience instead of making up a bad phonetic spelling of their existing name. Dumb.

2) KRock switches to talk radio:
In the year 2005, New York's number one rock station feared the loss of morning shock jock Howard Stern to satellite radio. Their solution was to change their format to talk radio, as the short-lived FREE FM. David Lee Roth headlined the new morning show, proving that he was better off singing behind a mike rather than talking. He was the worst. Eventually, he was replaced by Opie and Anthony, and the remaining talk shows throughout the day were replaced with rock music, which is what KRock listeners wanted to hear in the first place. Dumb.

3) CW puts Reaper on against American Idol.:
Reaper is the story of a young slacker who works in a Home Depot analogue and just enjoys having beers with his knucklehead buddies and spending time with the girl of his dreams. Unfortunately, for some reason his parents made a deal with the devil before he was born, and sold his soul. He meets the devil, played with devious charm by Ray Wise, and learns on his 18th birthday about the deal. As a result, he's obligated to capture souls that have escaped from hell, using a different vessel to do so each week. In the beginning, as with many shows of this supernatural or fantastic genre, it followed a basic formula, but eventually expanded upon the characters and the mythology. Lighter than Supernatural, some have made comparisons to Chuck, though I'd liken it more to the early seasons of Buffy. It's fun and unique, though certainly not likely to draw in a mainstream audience. The network granted it a second season, resurrecting it a few weeks ago in the middle of the television season. Tuesday night at 8 PM is Buffy's original slot(that's what she said--sorry), but pitting it against American Idol is setting it up for massive failure. I could care less about AI, and never really did, but millions of Americans feel differently. Reaper might have made a good companion for Supernatural next year before Smallville was renewed, but will probably be gone after this season to make room for another teen soap or reality show. Dumb.

4) KRock switches to Now FM:
Here's an idea; your rock station isn't bringing in the numbers you want. You already tried switching to talk radio, so this time you'll fire Opie and Anthony, who had better ratings than their predecessor, and switch to a pop dance format to compete with Z100 and a half dozen other similar stations in New York. It's not like anyone in New York needs to hear Metallica, Pearl Jam, or any other rock music, right? DUMB.

5) FOX cancels Firefly, Family Guy, Futurama, Drive, The Inside, Harsh Realm, The Visitor, Sliders, Tru Calling....:
Repeatedly Dumb. ‘nuff said.



Phantasmic Links 3.16.09

I am determined that this will be the week I finally get caught up at work. It's amazing how I'm still recovering from an unexpected snow day and an expected vacation day a few weeks ago. There were days where I could finally focus on one project, only to be interrupted by two previous ones, and suddenly those days were over. This is going to be a much more productive week, starting as always of course with PHANTASMIC LINKS:

(1) Stephen King's It may be coming to the big screen. They must have read my recent post; hope they do a good job with this adaptation.
Hat Tip: Darrell.

(2) What if Frank Miller did Peanuts? I'm not sure the internet can contain that much awesome...
H.T.: Rhodester.

(3) The internet also contains a site dedicated to bad paintings of Barack Obama. Fairly self-explanatory...

(4) Sometimes, signs “abuse” quotation marks. Think of the “grammar”; won't someone “please” think of the grammar?

(5) Click on this speed painting of Jack Bauer. It's the right play; believe me....just let it happen....DAMNIT!
H.T.: B13.

(6) Man walks again after spider bite. I love those accidental medical discoveries...
H.T.: Rey.

(7) Portal Defenders is classic side scroller arcade action with some familiar online gamers...

(8) These are some of the best photo manipulations I've seen in a while.

(9) Work it. Make it. Do it. Makes us. Harder. Better. Faster. Stronger. More than. Hour. Our. Never. Ever. After. Work is. Over.
H.T.: B13.

(10) Finally, repaint the world in Blobink 2!

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!




It was the end of the work day on Friday, time to leave the week behind and focus on the weekend. I sat in my car in the parking lot outside of my office, listening again to the message on my cell phone. The guy who plays the bass drum in one of the Italian bands I belong to had called to say he was at my house, saw two cars in the driveway(my mom's and my uncle's, the latter of which we'd confiscated after his dementia led him to wander off Long Island), and had knocked on the door. Since no one had answered, he was going to leave the bass drum behind the hedge.

Now, there were definitely some key pieces of information missing in that message. I knew we had a parade on Saturday, but didn't know why the bass drummer was leaving the drum with us. Did something come up? Was he planning to take his motorcycle to the job, making it impossible to transport the cumbersome cylinder? The bass drum belonged to the band leader and his son, a snare drummer primarily, and they often dumped the thing on other band members to avoid lugging it on a train, since neither drives. They must have left the drum with this guy over the Winter since our last gig in November, but neglected to inform us to expect us to transport the drum and, perhaps more importantly, to ask us if we could take the drum.

I wasn't headed home on Friday, but rather to a college friend's home, and then out to Queens to meet more college friends for a movie. To make sure that drum wasn't still sitting outside at 2 AM when I got home, I left my parents a message to check behind the hedge, and to ask if there had been any calls from the band leader's son to preface the bass drummer's arrival. My cell buzzed when I was about three minutes away from my friend's house, and I continued driving when I saw it was him. His wife greeted me at the door and thought he was still taking his afterwork nap, but he had just woken up since he'd left me a message. As we headed back West on the expressway and he joked that the beads of sweat on my forehead were caused by his interrogation of me regarding my girlfriend situation or lack thereof, and not because he had his heat cranking, my phone rang to inform me I had a new message, and save me from the inquisition. Sometimes I'll get a voice mail without ever being aware that someone had called in the first place, perhaps when calls come in while I'm out of tower range. In any case, my mom was letting me know that they had gotten my message, and would not have found the bass drum otherwise or known to look for it, since no one else had called. She ended her message with an ominous and grave, “...and I have something else to tell you.” It didn't sound good at all.

I called her back immediately, and my instincts were correct. On their way to my uncle's, a school bus had waved my father in front of it, to allow him to make a left turn. Some impatient idiot behind the bus cut around the other side of it, sideswiping my dad and ripping his left headlight right out of its socket. My parents saw the guy peel into a parking lot, presumably to exchange insurance information, and followed once the light was green and they could complete their turn. But the a**hole turned around in the lot, and sped off in the other direction, never to be seen from again. With no information other than “fat guy or lady in a small bright blue car”, I think my parents will never find the hit and run jerk. They called a police officer, who looked around for their light and claimed not to see it, but my mom thought she saw it in the road when they were on their way. On Tuesday, they'll have to carefully drive the one-eyed car to be assessed by their insurance company. It sucks, but at least no one was hurt.

The movie my friends had chosen, Madea Goes to Jail, was not quite what I was expecting. Sure, there was plenty of that cliché male comedian playing an older, ornery woman slapstick comedy. But it was almost like two movies in one, the comedy acting as a framing mechanism for a more serious drama in which Derek Luke plays an attorney who discovers a childhood friend, played remarkably by Kesha Knight Pulliam, has grown up to be a prostitute and a drug addict. His attempts to help her don't go over too well with his fiancée, and conflict ensues. Ms. Pulliam has come a long way from The Last Dragon and The Cosby Show. Afterwards, some of my friends lamented the limited screentime of the comedy versus the drama, while I liked the dramatic storyline better. They did tell me that the “message movie with a comedy outer shell” was a typical format for Tyler Perry's work, and my curiosity may be piqued enough to check out some more of his movies.

When I got home, I saw the damage to my father's car, the missing light and the torn bumper. I had detoured past the intersection where the accident occurred on my way home from my friend's house, but the light was long gone, not that much would probably have been salvageable anyway. My dad's not ready to resume playing music and doing parades and feasts yet, still getting his strength back after his infection ordeal in January and going for therapy to keep his shoulder moving, but he did come along for the ride in my car on Saturday morning to my parade. We asked the band leader's son why we had the drum, and he told us he would have called himself but his cell phone has been giving him problems, often only working in speaker mode. I silently wondered if keeping the phone in his back pocket and sitting on it might not be the best thing. My dad meanwhile insisted on walking alongside the parade to “test” himself, rather than wait by the car at the end of the parade. I became concerned when I looked over at the sidewalk after one of the songs near the halfway mark and didn't see him. When the parade was over, I prepared to put my horn, and the drum which we got stuck with for another month until the next gig, in my trunk and go look for him. One of the trumpet players spotted him, and he claimed the crowd was too big and delayed him. I had to wonder if a steep hill wasn't part of the problem, and he later admitted to having a touch of the old chest pains. He definitely wouldn't have been ready to walk and play a heavy brass instrument. I think he'll have to skip the next few jobs as well. When your body leaves you a message, it's always best to listen.


MCF's COMMON Bondz 5

I hope you all enjoyed the latest installment of MCF's COMMON as much as I enjoyed thinking it up!

20 items. 5 COMMON bonds. Here's what they were:

(A) Time Travel
(B) Death
(C) Amnesia
(D) Exile
If you guessed plot devices used to protect Clark's secret or undo game changing developments on Smallville, then you've probably stuck with the show as long as I have, or long enough to drop it because of those clichés. Still, the show has lasted a surprising 8 seasons, has actually had one of it's best seasons so far, and has been renewed for a 9th.

(A) Jan
(B) Wanda
(C) Natasha
(D) Monica
How many of you guessed these were the real first names of four female members of The Avengers? If you couldn't think of Wasp(Janet van Dyne), Scarlet Witch(Wanda Maximoff), Black Widow(Natasha Romanoff), and Captain Marvel/Photon/Pulsar(Monica Rambeau), don't feel too badly; you probably dated a lot more than I did in high school and college. And in life...

(A) Mark
(B) John
(C) Doug
(D) Carol
Lyndon recognizes classic ER characters when he sees them. I haven't watched in years, and it's been a long time since Mark Greene, John Carter, Doug Ross, and Carol Hathaway were together as regulars on the show. I've been seeing commercials that a few have returned in some capacity for flashbacks, cameos, and other contributions to the final season.

(A) Mason
(B) Driscoll
(C) Buchanan
(D) Yassir
Special Agents in Charge of CTU on the hit show 24 don't seem to hold the job for long, but we remember their contributions and often, their sacrifices.

(A) Roughs
(B) Comps
(C) Mechs
(D) Proofs
I may have been working too hard these past few weeks if I included four stages in the process of print design from conception and planning to execution and doublechecking.