My Second Soprano

A few years back, I found myself in the Bronx with one of my Italian bands, playing in a procession. Along the way, we took a break in a local restaurant and met who I assumes was the owner, former Sopranos star Vincent Pastore. This was before I'd watched the series, though he did look familiar to me. Anthony, our drummer and the band leader's son, knew all too well that we were in the presence of a celebrity, and asked for an autograph. Happy to oblige, Pastore took a black marker and scrawled the name of his character on the top of Anthony's white cap. And so, when we resumed our procession, the kid walked through the streets of the Bronx banging a snare drum and wearing a hat with the words ”BIG PUSSY” emblazoned across it.

Flash forward to the year 2009. The Sopranos concluded its six season run two years ago, and I've since seen every episode. On the last Saturday of May, I found myself in Queens with another Italian band, this time playing for a 3 mile walk supporting a diabetes research foundation. We gathered around the SUV of Johnny, the band leader, as he handed out Italian hats and t-shirts specific to the event. As we got organized and generally milled about waiting for the day to start, I spotted a flash of silver across the parking lot. Johnny and his cousin were posing for a photo, flanking a man with the unmistakable hair of one Tony Sirico, a.k.a. ”Paulie Walnuts”, one of my favorite Sopranos characters if not my favorite. If you're unfamiliar with the character or his mannerisms, check out this clip showing how he deals with gardeners moving into his friend's territory(some NSFW language):

That's Paulie. And there he was at the event posing for photos with fans, while my digital camera sat uselessly at home. I never have time to take pictures while I'm working, and prefer not to carry anything other than my instrument. Fortunately, since my father has had trouble walking and couldn't finish the last three parades he'd attempted, my mom had joined us to keep an eye on him. As I explained who Paulie was and lamented my lack of a camera, she pointed out that she had one in her purse and asked if I wanted her to take a picture. It was my old 35mm, but it would have to do.

We made our way through the crowd, where Paulie was now posing with some of the police officers chaperoning the event, gleefully snapping away with their cell phone cameras. Finally, there was an opening, and I shook Mr. Sirico's hand and asked if he'd mind taking a picture with me. “Playin' the horn, ah?” he asked, sounding exactly like he did on the show. My mom took two photos to be safe, one portrait and one landscape oriented. As I thanked him and began to walk away, he addressed my mom.

“That's a beautiful outfit you got on,” he said, “You wanna picture too? Come on, sweetheart...”

My mom was wearing typical “old lady” clothes, and a wide-brimmed straw hat I'd bought her for gardening. Hesitantly, she walked over, handing me the camera, and stood by Paulie's side. “Beautiful,” he repeated, after I'd taken the photo, “Thanks, sweetheart!”

And so, I've now met my second Sopranos star. I can't wait for the film to be developed so I can scan in the photos. I joked with Johnny that my mom wasn't old enough to have seen the show when he asked if she knew who she'd taken a picture with. He told us that Paulie was the only one on the show to have a criminal record in real life, and I verified when I got home that Sirico had indeed been arrested 28 times in his youth and had been affiliated with a real-life crime family before turning to acting. With credits like The Sopranos and Goodfellas to his name, he's clearly left that life behind and made a better one playing fictional versions of the people he once associated with. Now police and ordinary citizens clamor to have their picture taken with the star as he appears at charitable events. Every now and then, this Italian music thing opens up new doors. There's no telling who I'll meet next...


Smoke R

I'll always remember my mother's keen sense of smell. If I just stepped into the foyer of one of my neighborhood friend's house, one whose parents smoked and who had a dog, she would know the second I set foot back in our house. Her asthma made her especially sensitive to such things, though she wasn't born with it. Her two older brothers teased her when they were kids, throwing a blanket over her and blowing smoke into it. As their teenage years fell behind them, they outgrew both smoking and teasing their kid sister. My mom only had asthma ahead of her, some seriously scary attacks. I remember being 8 or 9 years old and being picked up from religion class by the police because my mom was in the emergency room and my dad was still at work. I remember how hard pneumonia would hit her, and her long stays in the hospital. Over the years, asthma medication has greatly improved, and I couldn't say for sure when her last attack was. I definitely wasn't going to grow up to be a smoker, even if I wanted to. My first job once had an office party at which the boss handed out cigars, my first and last time voluntarily putting crap into my lungs. It was not for me. I remember going to clubs in college when people could smoke anywhere, coming home with my dry eyes tearing up and my clothes saturated with a smell that took two washings to remove.

There's some debate over at Newsarama about a proposal to give an R rating to any films depicting smoking. The columnist himself admits to that trait of human nature we all share, the desire to do the opposite when someone tells us not to do something. I found it interesting how many people agreed that smoking was unhealthy, but defended film's ability to depict it. It's not as though a ban is being proposed, and honestly, an R rating has never stopped kids from seeing much worse. If anything, I'd expect ticket sales to increase. Imagine the disappointed teenager expecting to see nudity, only to see a scene or two with a cigarette? I think that's hilarious.

Joe Quesada, Marvel's current editor-in-chief, made a decision a few years back that there would be no more smoking shown in their comics. Some fans were outraged that Wolverine, Thing, and Nick Fury would no longer be shown chomping down on their iconic cigars. Personally, I applaud that decision. I understand the addictive qualities of nicotine, and why it's so hard for people to quit. I recognize smoking as a method for coping with stress. I tend to turn to snacks, and not healthy ones either. But it always puzzled me as to what got people on their first cigarette before they had to have them constantly, no matter how expensive they got. These comic book characters were given their cigars as a way of showing that they were tough or cool, much the way heroes of Westerns, film noir, and other genres were shown. So the real question is, were these characters cool because they were smoking, or did smoking become cool because cigarettes were hanging out of the mouths of the Clint Eastwoods of the world? There's no question that smoking has been glamorized over the years, to the delight and profit of the tobacco industry. There was a time when doctors endorsed smoking.

The fact is, responsibility does lie with the parents, but the rating system can only help parents be more informed in deciding what they allow their children to see. Some see it as an infringement on our freedom, that it should be our decision if we do things that might harm ourselves. My friend Bill the trumpet player is an 83-year-old chain smoker with a raspy voice who defied the odds, as genetics do play a factor. Even if it hasn't killed him, it's certainly done some damage, and I'm sure the secondhand smoke wasn't good for those around him. He has respected my wishes not to smoke in the car when we drive him to various gigs, though we'll sometimes have to wait for him to either finish a cigarette, or extinguish it with his fingertips to save for later. I'm reminded of the effect the one Ring had on Gollum.

Cigarette smoking isn't going to become illegal any sooner than alcohol, and banning cigarettes would probably have the same effect as Prohibition. At the end of the day, it still comes down to an individual's decision whether or not he or she will start, and when to quit after crossing that first line. I don't have a problem with an R rating or at the very least a viewer discretion warning at the beginning of a movie. Smoking was depicted positively for so many decades, that the population isn't truly free to make an informed decision without all the facts, such as those provided by the outstanding and often terrifying Truth campaign. We all do things that are unhealthy, and though knowing what we're doing is bad for us doesn't always stop us, it's an important first step to at least think about it. I know I could use a vending machine with a mirror, or a scale that wouldn't let me buy anything if I exceeded a certain weight. That will never be invented, because the purpose of a vending machine is to sell snacks. Cigarettes are sold when characters are depicted smoking or their logos appear on racecars. Someone is always trying to sell us something; I'd just prefer to know up front what that something is...


Shuffle Bored

It's interesting that, in the digital age, with a click of a button we can stir up nearly every song we've ever listened to at various times in our lives. We all have a range of tastes, and go through various phases or rap, rock, metal, and more. Just how varied are my tastes? If I were to shuffle around my MP3s, and list the first 25 songs that came up, it might look a little something like this:

1) What's the Frequency, Kenneth? - REM

2) Love Shack - THE B52S

3) Bombs Over Baghdad - OUTKAST

4) Two Tickets to Paradise - EDDIE MONEY

5) Ghostbusters II Theme - RUN DMC

6) Vampires - GODSMACK


8) Every Rose Has Its Thorn - POISON

9) To Be With You - MR. BIG

10) It's My Life - BON JOVI

11) Break Stuff - LIMP BIZKIT

12) Beds Are Burning - MIDNIGHT OIL

13) Duality - SLIPKNOT

14) Janie's Got A Gun - AEROSMITH

15) Jump Around - HOUSE OF PAIN

16) Water's Edge - SEVEN MARY THREE


18) Sister Christian - NIGHT RANGER

19) Ode to a Superhero - “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC

20) Buddy Holly - WEEZER

21) Daydream Believer - THE MONKIES

22) House of the Rising Sun - ANIMALS

23) Crazy Mary - PEARL JAM

24) Bodies - DROWNING POOL

25) No Woman, No Cry - BOB MARLEY

As for how that all sounds together, you'll have to use your imaginations, or shuffle your own players...


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

I haven't written a Things I've Learned Thursday column in a while, but that doesn't mean I haven't been learning, or at the very least that it isn't Thursday...

* Rudeness and selfishness are taught. In my favorite deli, the system is fairly simple. You walk up to the counter and the line forms behind you, leading back to the entrance. The guys behind the counter ask for the next person who isn't being helped, and as they finish each order move on to the next person. I'd placed my order and was waiting for the guy that was helping me, when a woman came in with her daughter. “Stop that, Caitlyn!” she scolded halfheartedly, as the little treasure slapped her hands against the glass case in front of me, communicating that she wanted the chocolate pudding beyond. The pair had bypassed the entire line, and now moved ahead of me. The woman kept sighing loudly and looking around impatiently, occasionally trying to discourage the kid by saying there were too many people. Indeed, the line was getting longer, but they technically weren't on it. Finally, she got the attention of one of the guys rushing about behind the counter. “I'm helping someone else right now,” he said, but she was insistent. “I just need a cup of that!” The deli guy sighed and asked how much. She didn't know, so he held up empty cups until he hit a portion she wanted. The child got her pudding, and the mom got waited on before everyone else in line, interrupting the making of someone else's sandwich. It's a nice lesson for the little one who will grow up the same way if not worse.

* Six ice cream sandwiches before bedtime is a bad idea, for a plethora of reasons I won't go into here.

* Approach every stop sign in wealthy neighborhoods as though the police are right around the corner. Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't actually there. On my way to work Wednesday, they were arbitrarily stopping people, I guess to check inspections or something. They waved me on ahead when I started to roll down my window, and my breathing went back to normal.

* I use so many key commands in my Photoshop work that I tend to keep all my tool palettes hidden so I have the full use of my monitor. At work I have two mirrored monitors, so I can keep all the tools on one screen and dedicate the other to my artwork. The downside of working blind is missing something crucial, and a similarity in key shortcuts and a simple typo led me to merge all the layers of a document without realizing it after I'd done a bunch of work and opened my layers palette, to find only one layer. I guess what I learned is to check the state of any given project more often, or that I need a second monitor at home.

* Comic books, like soap operas, have certain tried and true methods of maintaining a status quo, so that any major change in a classic character will always regress to the basic state that everyone has been familiar with. That's why I'm sure that the six part Archie Marries Veronica story won't end with the couple wed, even if it is set in the future. If it doesn't turn out to be a tale of what might be and actually is the fate that awaits him, he could always ask Mephisto to get him out of it.

* A Buffy movie without Joss Whedon is more than likely a bad idea, but it's failure will still leave the television series intact, and potentially it can make the Kristy Swanson version look a whole lot better.

* 1(x) + 2(x) will always = 3(x).

* If the treadmill in my gym is clearly on but none of the buttons are working, check to see if someone hit the “stop” button too hard and jammed it. Also, when the televisions don't work on the cardio machines in the second row, trace the cord three machines down the line to the point where people always trip over it and yank it out of the outlet. Follow these instructions and you'll do fine when you're at my gym. And while you're there, the best way to recognize me is by my--what? Oh, I'm sorry; we're out of time. Maybe we'll continue this next time, unless I learn better things to share....



PBW: The Beach After

Memorial Day weekend is traditionally the unofficial start of Summer, and often the biggest beach weekend of the year. But what does the beach look like the day after a holiday weekend, when everyone else has gone back to work and real life? Photo Blog Wednesday is here to answer that question:



Everybody to the Limit

Well, I survived the crazy Memorial Day weekend, as did everybody in my family, though it wasn't easy. I flew solo on the Turkish Day Parade, which would have been too much for my dad. I walked something like twenty blocks from the train station to the start of the parade, which itself ran for about ten blocks, and then somehow left me thirty blocks away from the train. On Sunday, I had to park a mile away from the beginning of a parade because the cops wouldn't let us through, and then when my dad was recruited at the last minute to help out the band because someone didn't show up, I had to run back to the car, grab his instrument, and race back to the beginning. Then I actually had to march and play in the parade.

And then there was Monday.

Monday should have been the easiest day of them all. I've been playing the parades near my house with various bands for pretty much as long as I've been playing my Baritone horn, for over 24 years now. For most of those years, I've done those two gigs with the band of my late music teacher, which his son has taken over since his father passed away. This year, our friend Bill the trumpet player from the Brooklyn-based band was joining us. Bill lives several towns away, too far for his wife to drive and impossible for him to drive, since his one real eye suffers from advanced macular degeneration and he can't read signs or see lights. So I had to get up about an hour earlier than usual to go pick up Bill, and bring him back to the next town over from where I live.

As usual, my dad was impatient and halfway down the block before we'd even finished unpacking the car. He hadn't made it through the parade the day before, and rather than pace himself he was “testing” himself, to prove he could push through his heart problems, arthritis, and other limitations. There was a small ceremony overlooking the water, at which the deacon from our church said a benediction and some kind words for the soldiers who give their lives for us. After the firing of the rifles and echoing trumpets playing Taps, the parade was on. We'd heard it would be shorter this year, cutting out a stop at a park in the middle of the route, but that proved to be a bigger problem than anyone could have anticipated.

After each song, I'd look over at my dad, who was looking worse and worse. The color was draining from his face. His mouth hung open as he panted for air. Meanwhile, we continued down the road at a fast pace without stopping. Most parades, you take a few steps, pause for a bit, then walk some more. By the third song, my dad told me he was dropping out, that it wasn't chest pain but his knees were locking up and it was hard to walk. He looked like he was going to cut through a parking lot on a diagonal and meet us around the corner, but he wasn't there when we made our turn.

We got to the end of the parade with no sign of my father. Walking back to the car, I had to fight the urge to run as Bill, who's about 4 or 5 years older than my dad and a heavy smoker, breathed heavily and lagged behind. I found my dad sitting on a wall near where we'd left him, talking to one of his friends from the area. Back home, he ate some pasta to get some starch in his system and build up his strength. My mom made hot dogs for the rest of us, and by 11:30 she dropped us off for the second parade in our own town. My dad was looking a lot better, and I knew from experience that the pace would be slower with more breaks. It seemed like he was going to get through the whole thing, but about 2/3 of the way he told me he was dropping out and headed in to the crowd.

The route rounded a few more corners before doubling back to a reviewing stand. My dad took the short cut and was waiting on the next corner with my mom, but did not rejoin us until the parade was over. He was clearly embarrassed and disgusted while my mom was concerned. She said one of my old friends' mothers had offered him a bottle of water when she saw him sitting down, and that he got up and walked off because he didn't want to be treated like an old man. He tried to give the money back to my old music teacher's son, who refused to accept it and understood that my father had done as much as he was capable of, if not more. Walking back to the car, I had trouble keeping up with my dad, who was walking faster than everybody to prove something. He seemed angry that I was lagging behind, thinking I was trying to slow him down, but in truth I was getting a blister on the ball of my left foot and I was genuinely exhausted. Bill had the most wisdom to offer on the situation, understanding how hard it is on a man's pride to hit limits that were never there before, to suddenly need to depend on other people for simple things.

After a brief rest at home, I was ready to drive Bill home. My dad insisted on coming along in case I “fell asleep” at the wheel. At the time, the remark made me pretty angry, but I now realize it was his way of feeling needed and useful, and not a comment on my own sanity or limits. About an hour later, when we were home to stay, I finally gave in to my limits, collapsing for about an hour before calling a friend to tell him I probably wasn't going to make his barbecue. After passing out for another three hours, I felt a little depressed and disoriented. A beer and some burgers, or a burger and some beers, would have been a much-needed coda to a long weekend.

If nothing else, I think my dad needs to cut back this year. He definitely wouldn't be able to handle fire department parades or strenuous city jobs. I know even if he doesn't play, he'll still want to come watch me on the all-day New Jersey processions, but that will be too much for him and I won't be able to keep an eye on him all day. Next weekend we have some kind of small job playing for some children's diabetes charity, and I confirmed with the guy who hired us that there won't be a lot of walking involved. I think my dad needs to do some walking on his own, just a little bit each day, to stay limber and get his heart pumping better. He can't expect to jump back in to full capacity, and it's a mystery to me why a guy who once managed his own baseball team can't grasp that. I also suggested a portable heart rate monitor, so he can see what his pulse and blood pressure are when he does get chest tightness or weak spells. He doesn't understand why those feelings pass after he stops and sits for a minute or two, while it seems obvious to me that once he isn't exerting himself, carrying a heavy brass instrument and blowing in to it, that his heart slows down and isn't working as hard. In time, he might be able to do some of what he did, and there may be things he never does again. He inspires me to push myself when I feel like giving up. If you take just one more step, then one more after that, and repeat, sooner or later you do reach your goal. Everybody reaches limits, and even when they're easy to recognize, they're always hard to accept.


Phantasmic Links 5.25.09

Happy Memorial Day, America! I survived my second parade of the weekend, despite the high humidity and other challenges. First, the cops blocked the roads off an hour and a half before the parade was to begin, and wouldn't let us through despite our friend Bill the trumpet player waving his instrument at them. So I had to park a mile away. Then, despite saying he had no intention of marching, my dad brought his horn and a white shirt and tie to change into. So when one of the players was running late, the band leader asked if my dad could step in. Besides being a bad idea for him to march while he's still recovering from his infection and the heat was so brutal, his horn and shirt were in my trunk several blocks away and the parade was about to start. So I handed him my horn and had to run all the way to my car and back. My sweat-stained dress shirt had to be quite a sight for the pretty young ladies on the float in ‘40s era costumes; I got to go on a diet. As I expected, about halfway into the parade my dad started getting the tightness in his chest and tried his nitro spray, but I advised him to wait on a nearby corner and skip a portion of the route that would take us up some pretty steep hills before looping back around to where we were leaving him. My mom came out to watch, so I knew he'd be in good hands, and he met up with us again for the last leg of the parade with no difficulties. I feel exhausted, achy, dizzy, and slightly nauseous, and I still have two more parades to do before I can rest. Of course, it's a good time to remember that our soldiers have never rested, and have gone through a lot worse to maintain our peace and safety. Recognizing those sacrifices makes a little physical labor a lot easier to bear.

After the parade we dropped Bill off and then I took my parents to my uncle's house so my mom could make him some food and give him his medication. I felt somewhat rejuvenated after a nap on the couch, and a sandwich when we finally got home gave me more strength. So, before I crash again, I'm going to collect a healthy helping of PHANTASMIC LINKS:

(1) Who are...what are...The Transforminators?! I totally want to see that. I really, really do. Sand stealing sons of b*tches....
Hat Tip: J-No.

(2) ”Some comedians you just shouldn't mess with. Especially if they've been trained by the Marines.”.

(3) You never know what your kids might cost you online when you aren't looking...

(4) Enjoy the unique miniature art of Thomas Doyle.

(5) Will Battleship be the first of many board game movies?
H.T.: J-No.

(6) Paper Towels! They're amazing! Order today! Paper Towels!
H.T.: B13.

(7) New York Harbor's depths conceal a freight train, corpses, four-foot long cement-eating worms and more!

(8) A Chinese man uses an unconventional method of getting a would-be suicide jumper off a bridge: pushing the “selfish” guy....

(9) Reagan was hilarious!

(10) Junk Shop Photos are pieces of discarded history rescued from boxes in dusty corners of small shops.

(11) Behold the epic independent film greatness of The Hunt for Gollum. And no, he's not sitting at my computer typing right now, wiseasses...

(12) Peter Parker was only dreaming that he wasn't married to MJ anymore...at least in the syndicated newspaper strip. I wonder(but doubt) if the comics will go the same route.

(13) Nathan Fillion is Green Lantern, at least according to one well done fan-trailer. Hopefully the real thing bears some resemblance to this...

(14) It's definitely a good idea to pay attention to warning signs...

(15) How high can you navigate in the Tower of Greed? It's all about knowing when to keep climbing and collecting, and when to quit while you're ahead.

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!




One might think a parade is a simple thing, a trip from point A to point B. But, like our trip through life, there are delays and distractions along the way, without which it would not be as interesting.

I arrived in Manhattan bright and early on Saturday morning, with little information more than a street corner. The band leader for the main Italian band I play with from Brooklyn had called me during the week to see if I was available to play a gig for another band from New Jersey that we play with. Though I had a Memorial Day parade to play on Sunday with his former partner's band, as well as two more on Monday for the son of my late music teacher, my Saturday was clear and so I agreed. Idle threats of rain had resulted in a beautifully cool sunny day, and I enjoyed a twenty-plus block walk through the city. I found the Brooklyn band leader and his drummer son waiting on the corner, as various floats and other groups assembled nearby.

We conversed while waiting for the rest of the band to show up. The son told me that the sonogram revealed he was having another daughter. His fiancée had just given birth to their first daughter back in October, and his father clearly looked exhausted at the prospect of another mouth to feed. The son did tell me he had finally gotten his own computer, a laptop through which he was able to procure any songs he needed for his DJ business, so hopefully he'll be getting more work and be better prepared to support his own growing family.

As we waited, I began noticing some of the flags and costumes of the parade participants, which I at first mistook for Russian. But instead of a sickle and a star on red, it was the crescent moon and star of the Turkish flag. Apparently, I was at the Turkish day parade with an Italian band. As the morning wore on, more and more band members showed up, many asking after my father's health and sending him their regards. As he continues to regain his strength after the ordeal of his shoulder infection over the Winter, a parade in the city would have been too much for him, even if he just came down to watch. If he had come along for the ride, I would have had someone to hold my jacket and the bag I carry my instrument in, but I managed to combine the two and tuck them under my arm for the duration of the event.

At one point I noticed a strikingly beautiful young woman akin to a young Lynda Carter pulling along a small wheeled suitcase and looking around as though she was supposed to meet someone. In my mind, I walked up to her and led with “here I am”. In real life, I continued to observe through my mirrored sunglasses like the creepy little band geek I am. She made a call on her cell phone, and was soon joined by a couple. The boyfriend was pulling along another wheeled suitcase while the girlfriend wore a red dress with the moon and star symbol on the front and looked a lot like a comic book superhero. She handed Lynda Carter a small scrap of red cloth that was obviously another dress. Carter now looked around for somewhere to change, and in my mind she just spun around like Wonder Woman. She walked down the block and vanished into the crowd, and emerged an unusually short time later, her black shirt and blue jeans replaced with her Mary Marvel costume. It was going to be a good day.

By noon, we finally lined up on Madison Avenue, only to wait some more. A young lady with a notepad approached the Jersey band leader, and I overheard her telling him she was a casting director. She asked if his band would be available to appear in an upcoming movie starring an actress who spent ten years on a popular sitcom playing a waitress and the on-again off-again love interest of a dorky paleontologist before she moved on to a film career. On the off-chance that they actually use his band, and I'm one of the musicians he calls, and it's on a day when I'd be able to miss work, I probably shouldn't say too much as there would probably be some confidentiality agreements. So I won't even give a hint as to who the actress is, or wonder if I'd have a shot with someone Vince Vaughn had dated. I doubt any of it will actually happen, although the alleged casting director and her partner did take a picture of our group. I was definitely regretting the form fitting t-shirt of our uniform.

By 1 PM, we began one of the most disorganized parades I've ever been a part of. At first, we were right behind another band. Anyone with any experience in this area knows you always space out your bands with floats or groups of people so they're not playing over each other. At each corner, the police would stop us to empty floats and other groups out from the side streets. Initially, I had heard we were going to be one of the first groups in the parade, but as the afternoon wore on we ended up being practically last. The floats were filled with dancing girls and booming speakers. I couldn't translate any of the lyrics, but those songs will be in my brain for some time to come. The day felt less like marching in a parade and more like waiting in traffic, and on the rare occasions we did have some forward momentum and weren't too close to a deafening float, we managed to get in four or five songs. Our harshest critic was a possibly mentally challenged Bill Haverchuck-looking adult who ran out into the street and began yelling at our leader, “Left-Right Left-Right MARCHING band!” over and over again. The boss had a few beers in him by this point and just took it in stride and smiled until the guy ran back to the sidelines, almost knocking a baby out of a woman's hands along the way. Most Italian bands are strolling bands and not subject to the same rigid steps as fire department and military groups. The downbeats of the bass drum are also quicker and too close together to keep the left foot hitting the ground in step with it, lest we break into a run. Fortunately, we were close to the end of the parade and suddenly left the street for the sidewalk ourselves.

I thought it was an odd move, but other bands were on the sidewalk as well, leaving the floats to continue on their journey to some water front park. The Jersey band leader and some of the other musicians hopped in a cab to get back to wherever they'd parked, while I walked back to the train station with the Brooklyn band leader and his son. I remember getting on my train and handing the conductor my ticket, and then I woke up about three stations before my stop. My long and winding journey had ended, though there would be more journeys and more tales in my future...


Poll of Randomosity Nine

You know the drill by now. My Poll of Randomosity consists of ten very random, often insignificant inquiries that can be answered in a few short words. I'll get back to longer essay questions someday....

1) If you've seen Terminator Salvation, what was your favorite homage/reference to the previous films?

2) If you had to lose one of your senses, which would you prefer?

3) What's that noise?

4) Is it possible to be too polite?

5) Do you ever cancel out your own actions?

6) Do you have any sixes?

7) If a man had a hat, and the hat was tan, what is the square root of 144?

8) What is your least favorite color?

9) Does being confident make you cool?

10) What's the worst thing about the new Fall television schedule?

For me, the answers are:

1) My least favorite were the painfully obvious catchphrases shoehorned in at odd times, from “I'll be back” to “Come with me if you want to live.” I liked some of the more suble nods, such as one character learning a trick with a gun and a strap. Without spoiling some of the major ones, I'll say the brief inclusion of You Could Be Mine.

2) Smell. I know it would also affect my sense of taste, and I wouldn't be able to detect a gas leak, but I wouldn't miss it as much as seeing or hearing or feeling, all of which are crucial to fully appreciate this life.

3) Aw mom, you're just jealous; it's the Beastie Boys!

4) I don't think people are polite enough, and my naive wish is that my example will inspire others. At the movies on Friday night, B13 thought I was too nice in agreeing to move down one seat so some young ladies could sit next to their friends. In doing so, I lost an empty space in front of my chair where I could stretch out my legs and spent the next two plus hours cramped and numb. I'd probably do it again.

5) I take long walks at lunch to get in shape, but on my way back to the office I often stop at Carvel or Starbucks. Since the weather has been nicer and I've been walking more, I've actually gained weight. I need to start walking past those temptations lest I start to look (more) like Juno.

6) No. Go fish.

7) Twelvehattan.

8) Chartreuse. I hate the name and the shade and the fact that a woman at my first job consistently made me pair it with magenta. Ugh.

9) I honestly wouldn't know. Cool people certainly seem confident, but is it their confidence that makes them cool or are they cool because they're confident? It's really a chicken and egg scenario. Any cool people want to weigh in?

10) It's definitely a toss-up between Fringe being pitted against Supernatural, Smallville moving to Fridays, and Chuck turning into a Subway commercial that will only air when Heroes isn't taking up the same timeslot. But mostly, I don't like the absence of some of my other favorites, like The Sarah Connor Chronicles or Reaper.

I'd love to know what you think...



My Only in America Video Five

Memorial Day weekend is upon us! When did that happen? I thought it was a week away, and it snuck up on me. We all associate different things with the occasion, from beaches to barbecues to parades and more. In unconventional honor of everything that makes America great, I'm choosing my five videos that could not have come from anywhere else but this great nation. Take a look and relive horror or awesomeness or both, and let me know if you agree with my choices or if there are better candidates I may have missed....

5) Ice Ice Baby (Vanilla Ice):
They just don't make videos like this these days, and that's a tragedy. Seriously, look at those coordinated moves! And check out how the narrative structure of the song matches what's going on, for the most part. I never noticed that the girl who appears when he sings “less than bikinis” seems to be wearing more than a bikini. You see something different each time; each viewing is a gift.

4) Love Shack (B52s):
I've never done drugs, but I imagine they're a lot like this video. It's a real trip. In a convertible. With colorful characters. And a love shack, or “shaque l'amour”, if you will.
I want to go to there.

3) No Rain (Blind Melon):
Rest in peace, Mr. Hoon. I don't think one could ask for a greater legacy than the chubby bee girl.(Who as of this writing is 26 years old--where does the time go?)

2) I Wanna Sex You Up (Color Me Badd):
Honestly, there's nothing I can say about this video that Beavis and Butthead didn't already say better. Just...look at these guys; did they seriously appeal to women??

1) Hooked on a Feeling (David Hasselhoff):
This and this alone is why I live in the greatest country in the world, a country in which a man with a talking car and a wristwatch communicator can go on to fly and dance in the air in a safari outfit, and be huge in Germany. Of all the videos I've chosen, this is the most indisputable.



On Towel Throwing

Last week, my mom's 1999 Oldsmobile 88 stopped working while my parents were visiting my uncle. Unable to get it running again, my parents had to have it towed. I arrived home to find it facing in the opposite direction in our driveway, propped up on a safety jack with wood blocks behind the rear wheels. My father may be 79 years old, but he will always be a mechanic.

Logically, the first suspect in a no-start situation would be the battery. But the dashboard lights were working, and the battery tested out okay. The engine simply would not crank, which led to the starter as the next culprit. My dad replaced that, and it still didn't fix the problem. I began to have deja vu, remembering one long Winter with my old car in which my father practically replaced everything. The car would start fine, but after driving for a while if I shut her off, I couldn't turn her over for at least half an hour, until she cooled down. After replacing sparkplugs, the starter, the fuel pump, a thermometer and more, it turned out to be a faulty wire inside a MAF sensor. It took months, and even though we used refurbished parts from a junkyard, we still ended up spending more money than the car was worth.

I pride myself on being able to find answers. When people are stuck with something technical at work, they often come to me. When people are stuck with something trivial such as an actor's name, they also come to me. What I don't know, I seek out online. Someone else's question becomes my own, and I don't rest until it's resolved. It's how I continue to learn new things as an adult. Automotive issues tend to be inexplicably challenging. Oftentimes, a question might be too specific as far as a make and model are concerned. In the case of my mom's car, 1999 was the last year that model was made. I didn't even know all Oldsmobiles were defunct until my dad told me. He thought the company went under in 1999, but it was actually 2004 that the last new vehicle was produced.

My search led me to various message boards and question sites, and a lot of times I'd find people with the same questions as we had, with no answers posted. Broadening my search to more general terms led to the possibility that it was the ignition switch, though my father had his doubts. Still, with my help, he removed the mess of wires underneath the dashboard. On Tuesday evening when I arrived home from work, he asked for my help putting the new one in. I knew I wouldn't have time on Wednesday morning because of the construction induced traffic I'd been encountering on my commute. With ten minutes to spare before Reaper began, I struggled with what should have been an easy job while my dad held a hot drop lamp a little too close to my face for comfort. He grew impatient and I got frustrated with some of his inquiries: “Turn it clockwise; are you turning it clockwise? It should turn clockwise. You know what clockwise is? Clockwise is like this. Look; are you looking? Clock--”

“I KNOW what ****ing CLOCKWISE is! Stop talking to me like I'm an idiot!” I snapped, in a moment of weakness. I stormed into the house, regaining my senses, and set the VCR to tape my show. My dad was already coming back in the house, muttering that he didn't need this and that he had friends who could help him, who would work with him. I get too sensitive sometimes, but sometimes there's something in his tone that makes me think he sees me as a child, and that without his years of experience it would be impossible for me to see or comprehend something that he can. I'm sure a lot of that is me projecting my own insecurity into what he sees as innocent remarks, but it's definitely counter productive when I have those little fits. I managed to apologize and get him back outside, because I wasn't ready to throw in the towel. My dad is someone who never gives up, and I want to be like that someday. For me, if something is too challenging, I tend to take the path of least resistance. From relationships to career moves, when the going gets tough I take naps or watch cartoons.

I held my tongue as he once again asked if I had everything plugged in correctly. There was really only one way everything could fit together, and conceptually it was similar enough to the old SCSI hookups I used to maintain on the computer network at my first job that I could figure it out. In the end, my dad had to climb under the dash to check, and discovered that, as I suspected, he had given me the wrong size ratchet. He had argued that with me because it was the same as the old ignition switch, but the new one was slightly different. With the screw finally snug, he hooked up the battery again and asked me to start it. Unfortunately, while lights worked on the dash, there wasn't so much as a click or crank when I turned the key.

More research was required. I'd already missed enough of my show to wait until the whole thing finished taping, and I was determined to prove myself to my dad while making amends for my outburst. As when my old car gave me problems, I could not find a wiring diagram online. I have no idea why those are so hard to find. My dad gets books easily enough, but I've yet to find a digital resource with updated information. Occasionally a site will promise a wiring diagram in exchange for a small fee, but none of them strike me as trustworthy enough to use my credit card. Honestly, if I have to pay for it, my dad might as well go out and buy a new book. I did come across some other possibilities, from a flaw in the security system to a faulty sensor inside the car's computer. My dad still had his doubts, and was leaning toward the neutral safety switch. That keeps the car from starting when it's not in park or neutral, but if it malfunctioned it might not recognize that the car was in a safe gear.

I asked my dad once more to call me if he needed help, telling him I'd be perfectly willing to skip the gym and come straight home after work. He called me around 5:30 on Wednesday, not to ask me to come home but to tell me to go to the gym. His mechanic friends, after visiting, determined that the problem lay elsewhere, and ended up towing it to their shop for one of the younger guys to work on. Among the possible problems were things I'd found in my own research, which my dad had been skeptical about. He didn't think the car had a security system, but apparently there's a chip in the key that could malfunction. It may also be the computer, but we'll know soon enough.

I could hear in my dad's voice that it had been a difficult decision to give up. With his shoulder problems, arthritis, and age, it's becoming more and more difficult to do this work physically. But as cars change, he's falling behind on some of the mental aspects, and the old ways may not be correct. Even before he retired, the introduction of computers in cars was starting to make some of his knowledge outdated. Just as I have trouble deferring to his expert opinion sometimes, and my pride won't let me admit that I can't do something, so too does he have trouble turning over the problems with our vehicles to another mechanic. Money isn't an issue, especially since he'll end up spending more through the process of elimination than he would if he took it to another mechanic to begin with. It's definitely pride. At his peak, he was known for his diagnostic skills and ability to save his customers money by repairing the correct parts and not replacing things that didn't need replacing. It must be very difficult to go from being the guy that fixed something on his first try to the guy who fixed something on his eighth, to the guy that failed to fix something after nine tries and then gave it to someone else to fix. I guess we all reach that point eventually. I hear some of the younger guys in the cubicles outside my office, and some of their web design jargon is practically a foreign language. Eventually, print design might be obsolete. People will always need something tangible, and paper will never go away completely, but there's definitely going to be a shift toward online communication. I'll do my job for as long as I can, and in the next 30 or 40 years will take whatever classes and do whatever independent research I need to stay sharp. But there will come a day when I have to defer to someone else to do what I can't, and I'm not looking forward to throwing in that towel. And so, as I've realized many times before, my dad and I don't argue sometimes because we're so different, but because we're so much the same.


PBW: High-Jinks

Well, our new secret room works! Getting out on our roof is a snap! Now all I need is some powers and/or a nifty costume, and I can leave my house to fight crime without the neighbors suspecting a thing. Of course, with my luck, they'll somehow spot me on the roof and report me as a criminal.

For this week's Photo Blog Wednesday, I visit the world above my head and find, if not dancing chimney sweeps, then a new perspective:



More Stupid Questions...

...because I am forgiving after all:

35. Ever been in love?
I've thought so in the past, and was either mistaken or chose girls who didn't reciprocate. I'll find one someday...

36. What is your best friend(s) doing tomorrow?
Work, probably, and spending time with their spouses and offspring.

37. Ever have cream puffs?
On occasion. They're very rich...and very addicting.

38. Last time you cried?
Last Friday night at 10:03 PM. Thank you Prison Break; that paper swan got me.

39. What was the last question you asked?
“Did you want me to put the wiring back together?”
(My mom's car hasn't been starting, and after replacing the starter and confirming that the battery was still good, our next suspect was a faulty ignition switch. My dad couldn't get a new one on Sunday, but I helped disconnect everything he couldn't reach or wasn't dexterous enough to disassemble. He was ready to just start cutting wires with a razor blade, but it's all modular if you just take the time to study the various plastic clasps and snaps. On Monday night when I got home from work, I looked in her car and saw all the wires were still spilling out like spaghetti, because he didn't get the part until late in the day. Hopefully he can get one of his friends to help him, because with my day job I probably won't be around until Saturday.)

40. Favorite time of the year?

41. Do you have any tattoos?
I've been called Tattoo, but I don't have any.

42. Are you sarcastic?
No, I'm sincere to a fault. I say what I mean and I mean what I say. Yeah.

43. Are you getting sick of answering questions by now?
I got sick of it back around #34, which worked out because it left me questions for another day...

44. Ever walked into a wall?
A wall? No. A concrete pillar jutting out of a sidewalk near some train tracks at an unfortunate crotch height that I didn't notice because I was looking at a hot girl in a lavender sun dress? No comment....

45. Favorite color?

46. Have you ever slapped someone?
I tend to redirect my anger at walls whenever someone prompts me to raise a fist; I've never really struck anyone to my recollection.

47. Is your hair curly?
It's straight unless I try to let it grow out. After a certain length it starts to curl back, so it's impossible for me to have long hair without getting a “duck's ass” in the back. I just shave it down really short which is the easiest way to manage it.

48. What was the last CD you bought?
Chinese Democracy, and that was a mistake.

49. Do looks matter?
Only in America. And on Earth, apparently...

50. Could you ever forgive a cheater?
No. Fool me once....

51. Is your phone bill sky high?
I don’t use the phone very often. (See #57)

52. Do you like your life right now?
Most of it. Parts could be better, and occasionally my mind wanders and I yearn for things I've lost, will never have or won't have for years. But for the most part, my family and pets are healthy, I stay in touch with my friends, I have more band gigs than ever and I have a stable job where people appreciate me. I can't complain.

53. Do you sleep with the TV on?
No, because I don't have a TV in my room. I have on occasion fallen asleep with either my computer or my portable DVD player still running.

54. Can you handle the truth?
You're damn right I can! In the long run, even if something is hard to hear initially, I do appreciate having all the facts.

55. Do you have good vision?
Against all odds, I do. My parents both wear glasses, and have done so for more than half of their lives. They often warned me of the dangers of all the comics I read and television I watched, and now I spend even more time in front of computers. I won't avoid glasses forever, but I'm glad my vision lasted at least 34 years

56. Do you hate or dislike more than 3 people?
I don't think I've ever met anyone that I hated, although I can think of 2 or 3 people in my lifetime that have pushed me to the brink. There's a few I've disliked, although I'm sure there are a lot more people out there who dislike me...

57. How often do you talk on the phone?
Very rarely, outside of work and getting booked by band leaders. I hate the sound of my own voice and I prefer e-mail which gives me time to consider my responses and not sound like a moron with all my “uh's” and “like's” and repeating what people said back to them to buy my slow brain more time.

58. The last person you held hands with?
Does a paw count as a hand? What about a tail? If not, then I guess it was with whatshername, back in nineteen mumblety peg.....

59. What are you wearing?
Blue shorts.

60. What is your favorite animal ?

61. Where was your default picture taken?
My what? You mean that bad drawing in my sidebar that's supposed to be me with red eyes and a blue cloak? I had that done at Sears....

62. Can you hula hoop?
I could use one as a belt in a pinch, but it would be really hard to remove it let alone spin it...

63. Do you have a job?
Yes, thank God.

64. What was the most recent thing you bought?
A Volcano Taco! I'm so glad it's back!

65. Have you ever crawled through a window?
When I was a kid and I'd forget my keys, I'd sometimes pry open a screen window and pull myself up into the house. In fourth grade, I climbed out on to a second story ledge because I was bored during class. And just this past weekend, I climbed out the window in our new turret room to take photos on our roof. The weird thing is, I'm not a fan of heights. Climbing isn't bad; it's looking down on my way back that causes me to freeze up.


Phantasmic Links 5.18.09

I love having easy access to my roof. Not only is it easier to get to leaves. and not only did I get some great photos to share later this week, but it also opens new possibilities for mischief. I kept dropping twigs into the backyard where my mom was working in her nursery, even bounced a few off her. She kept looking around, and walked to the other side of the yard, but never once thought of looking up. I'm surprised she didn't hear the snickering...

Oh, the things I do to entertain myself...like PHANTASMIC LINKS:

(1) If you work hard enough, you can achieve almost anything. Just watch this biker for inspiration.
Hat Tip: B13.

(2) Megashark vs. Giant Octopus stars Lorenzo Lamas and Deborah Gibson. I'm not sure who is playing which...
H.T.: J-No.

(3) Those of you on that whole social network scene need exercise caution, lest your lame posts and drunken photos end up on Lamebook for the rest of us to mock. I probably won't be laughing once someone invents a Lameblogger....

(4) Murder is a serious business, but was this police sketch artist serious? I hope they catch that guy....

(5) A 30-year-old man gives birth...to the remains of his twin. Yikes.

(6) Russia has built a wooden supercollider replica.

(7) I was impressed with the photos I took of my roof, sadly enough, until I saw photos from the Hubble Telescope repair. Oh, the pictures I could take from that height...

(8) Epic Battle Fantasy offers turn-based RPG fun incorporating all three words of its name.

(9) Typography: Googlemaps style.

(10) You are what you eat, according to your refrigerator. I think I saw a snake in one of those...

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!



Poll of Randomosity Eight

Blah blah clever introductory sentence incorporating Poll of Randomosity:

1) When did the bad economy hit you?

2) Why was 6 afraid of 7?

3) How do you feel when you fall asleep a few hours earlier than usual?

4) Are you looking forward to a ninth season of Scrubs?

5) Do you hear what I hear?

6) Will it ever stop?

7) What's the frequency, Kenneth?

8) Who let the dogs out?

9) Is that too many questions from lyrics?

10) Do you support the Many Worlds interpretation?

For me, the answers are:

1) Initially when my 401K flatlined, but more recently when I drove past one of my old favorite Starbucks locations and saw it all boarded up. Those things never close and that franchise only expands. Is the universe collapsing? Am I putting questions in the answer section now? Who...okay, I'll stop now.

2) Because 789, as you well know.

3) Disoriented and silly.

4) Disappointed and concerned about the possibility that it will become a traditional four-camera sitcom. Ending a show so perfectly then continuing to make new episodes is potentially a huge shark jump.

5) Yes! How am I doing that? GET OUT OF MY HEAD!!

6) Yo, I don't know. Turn off the lights, and I'll glow.

7) Gosh, I'm sure I don't know, Miss Lemon....

8) I sure as hell didn't...

9) In the midnight hour, she cried “more, more, more!”

10) Yes, and I'd love to visit some of them.

I'd love to know what you think...



It's All So Finale...

I love this time of year. The weather starts getting warmer, but not hot. The skies are the crispest shade of blue, birds are chirping, and flowers are blooming. But most of all, it's season finale time! It means I can finally catch a break, and get to the things I've been neglecting throughout the past eight or nine months, such as my ridiculously long list of movies, or the last one or two George R.R. Martin books I've yet to read, or the cartoon I agreed to illustrate for my company's blog a few weeks ago without considering how rusty my drawing skills are and how 12 hours of commuting, working, and working out each day leave me a useless blob of mashed couch potato at night and on weekends.

There's still a few more shows airing their finales this weekend and early next week, and there will be some Summer viewing such as the return of True Blood and hopefully the airing of the final episodes of the prematurely pushing daisies Pushing Daisies. And with a ton of good movies in theaters, plus the full force return of band season which will be keeping me busy nearly every weekend going forward, it won't be long before I'm talking about season premieres.

I've already written in depth about the series finales of Scrubs and Galactica. I have just as much, if not more to say about how some of my other favorites ended up, especially Prison Break, the last five minutes of which left tears that are still drying on my face. I'll try to be brief though, and at times a little vague, as I touch upon each of the following in alphabetical order with a sentence or three or more with possible SPOILERS:

30 Rock:
This is the best written comedy on television, or at the very least the smartest. You have to listen to every line and watch every subtle gesture. I didn't get the M.A.S.H. reference right away about the chicken and the baby, but wow. The assemblage of musicians to raise money for the kidney was awesome, especially the line about “Declan McManus, International Art Thief”. As always, Tracy's expressions and delivery killed me, from his crying montage to calling Liz a “dumb cracker” to his speech to the high school kids(“Who told?”).

It would be an absolute crime if this show wasn't renewed for a third season. The balance of humor and action is perfect, as are the selections of songs. There was a line in the finale about “Sam Kinison and an Indian Lesbian” that was especially hilarious given the two guys it was referring to, while they sang Mr. Roboto. Adam Baldwin still kicks ass. Yvonne Strahovski still has great...assets. And Chuck? Chuck now “knows Kung Fu”. This show better be back.

I think Joss Whedon shows have a slow burn. He takes his time in introducing characters and setting up a premise. He carefully builds a house of cards. Then he shoots it with a leaf blower. That's what this season was like, a slow first few episodes that I wasn't sure of before the twists kept coming. If this Dollhouse wipes people's minds and plants new memories, who can you trust? How do you know someone is a Doll if they don't know themselves? And can you truly wipe the slate clean, or will there always be echoes, as with Dushku's appropriately named protagonist? As with Chuck, I really hope this gets renewed, although its ratings and timeslot both worked against it. Overall, it has a strong cast, but it was the amazing Alan Tudyk who stole the show in the last two episodes. And that's all I'll say about that, for now.

Here's another slow burn, J.J. Abrams' apparent homage to The X-Files. Except, all the threats in Fringe seem to be terrestrial in origin, and the FBI have the advantage of their very own mad scientist, whose missing memories and time in an asylum make for some humorous and frustrating obstacles. And though the threats all come from Earth, the biggest question now seems to be from which Earth. A surprise guest star showed up in the final minutes, playing a character who was talked about all season but never seen, and only heard once. And where this character showed up was one of the most shocking and powerful revelations I've ever seen, one that may or may not bother people. Within the context of the show, I understand why that location was chosen, as it gives the most immediate indication that where it is, is not where we are. Some things are the same; others are different. Fringe spent the last few months returning in 60-90 seconds, and will now return in 90 days, give or take a few.

Every season, this show manages to kill the same main characters without losing any actors. I wonder if the deaths that aren't deaths, twins, and doppelgangers arise out of comic book clichés or more popular stars negotiating contracts. In any case, they killed and kept one character in a very interesting way this time, and have left some of our heroes in the midst of a ticking time bomb who doesn't even remember the bomb part...yet. Next season, I can't wait to see how that plays out, but I'd also like to see some of the characters who were depowered or weakened regain some of the abilities they had earlier on.

Dear Lost: If you want me to cry about a character, you should spend time developing his or her relationship with someone else on the show. We feel the love, and we feel the loss when one of those people dies, especially if you do it in slow motion while we can't hear their cries of anguish, drowned out by your trademark sad string music that destroys me every time. If that's not enough, reveal that another favorite character might be dead while sheer evil is impersonating him or her, and then while we're recovering from that, go back and show us that first character isn't quite dead yet, until he or she maybe hits a nuke with a rock until it goes off and either destroys the island, resets history, or preserves history while sending a timelost bunch of ragtag heroes hurtling back to the future. As for my readers, if none of this makes any sense, you have until 2010 to watch five seasons of emotion and awesomeness.

My Name is Earl:
They finally address the paternity of those kids, at once revealing something I've suspected since the show began and something I didn't expect, and I'm hearing rumors that it hasn't been renewed yet. It's hit or miss, but it hits enough times that I'd miss these characters. At least this episode had TV's Tim Stack and the return of Norm MacDonald. That guy gets like one role a year; he must have another job, perhaps supports himself through stand-up.

Parks and Recreation:
A finale after six episodes? I'll watch if it comes back; I won't miss it much if it doesn't. It was a decent bridge show to watch in between better sitcoms.

Prison Break:
It was a concept that should not have supported more than one or two seasons, yet somehow did. One brother, framed for a murder he did not commit, is on death row. Another brother, an architect with a brilliant mind, gets himself arrested and sent to the same prison to save his brother. The first two seasons were phenomenal, while the third was okay as it balanced between repetition and unlikelihood. Season four saw a reinvention and a new quest, along with a different kind of imprisonment. Nothing was as it seemed, and betrayals were followed by revelations. In the end, the show was canceled, and the writers managed to get enough elements into the series finale to make it work as a season finale. It was the little things, from a pocket to a tattoo to a paper swan, that I really appreciated. It was hard to get emotional through the final scene, because my dad kept talking over it and asking questions as he missed key details(“Who's tombstone is that? Is that their mother's?”) After being glued to the couch for two hours, I went downstairs to empty my gym bag and the tears finally could be free. A proper direct-to-DVD finale is planned, which will bridge the gap between what was originally meant to be a season finale and a final heartbreaking montage. I'll definitely be getting that.

Surprisingly, for a show that's varied between great and trainwreck, this eighth season may have been the best yet. He made real progress toward becoming the hero he's destined to be and a ton of heroes, villains and other characters from the comics made their debut. That being said, for a show who's finales have traditionally been the strongest of the season, this wasn't one of the better ones. I don't mind that the big battle they've been building up to was so brief, because I know that it was round one and the real epic fight comes when he's an adult(even though technically the guy must be in his 30s by now). I'm a little concerned with the other heroes turning on him, but in a way it shows that they need stronger leadership and it may force him to finally step up. I think what bothered me the most was the death of an iconic major character, because he wasn't who we thought he was. At the funeral, we learn that the name they used for this guy was actually his middle name, and an unnamed kid brother shows up out of nowhere, who will probably grow up to be the guy we thought the first guy was. Sorry if that's vague, but those who saw the show should know what I mean and share my frustration. I guess it's better than the usual reset, which I was totally expecting from the moment someone disappears holding a time travel ring. Still, the image of a mysterious new threat over a burning “Z” at the end gives a pretty good hint about next year's villain. Hope they get it better than the last time they (sort of) used this character...

Heaven. Hell. Angels. Demons. The brink of armageddon. In the middle, two brothers, an unbreakable team in the fight against things that go bump in the night, are divided. One sides with the angels, making a vow that may bind him to a conflict he doesn't fully understand. Another joins with a demon, becoming the things they hunt in order to have the strength to destroy his prey. But nothing is as it seems, and destroying one threat is only the final seal preventing the release of a greater threat: Satan himself! As yet another show ends with a fade to white, I suspect the brothers are going to face something less charming and more diabolical than Ray Wise....

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles:
As a season finale, it was an amazing game-changing cliffhanger. Evil was good. Up was down. Robot was human. Past was future. Show was...cancelled? It doesn't look good, despite another theatrical film in the franchise coming out next week. Maybe I'll need to send someone back in time to change the minds of some programming executives....

The Office:
I'm sad that Michael Scott ultimately chose the old “wait and see” approach. I've let a lot of birds fly, and none of them have ever come back. Does that mean that they were never mine to begin with, or that the cliché is B.S.? Michael couldn't have made a bigger fool of himself after inadvertently revealing to a bunch of people that their branch was closing through an improv skit. He should have told her how he felt when he had the chance. As likely as it was that she would have rejected him anyway and gone back with her boyfriend, at least in that scenario there was the possibility. By saying nothing, he made it definite that she'd leave with the other guy. They told him they were building a house together, which makes his speech at the end about seeing her again the following year even sadder. Then again, it's television, so who knows. Meanwhile, I was pretty happy for Jim and Pam, who probably should move up their wedding date. Their reactions were great, and I loved that their expressions and gestures told the story when we couldn't hear their words. Also, the new receptionist is still cute and Dwight's new friend/clone was funny. I hope we see more of both next year. The company picnic wasn't quite as much fun as the café disco dance off from last week, but it was still a good note on which to end the season.


I'm So Queued!

RC posted an interesting suggestion, for me to share my Netflix queue with my loyal readers, who are always reading about how I'm always up around the 500 movie limit. My list is in a constant state of flux, as I'll rearrange the list and bump films to the top when they come up in conversations with people and I have nothing to contribute. Someday, if I haven't seen every movie ever made, I hope to have at least seen enough of the movies that everyone else has seen.

I'm sure there's an easier way to do this, some plug-in or widget that I'm missing. I tried copying the source code initially, planning to edit it down to just the movie list, but that gave me over 1,000 pages of text. Unfortunately, with a list of 485 titles, it's just not possible for me to make them all proper links, as I need to get in a few hours of sleep before going to the office. So, in some cases, it may not be clear that a title I'm listing is the original version of a remake I've already seen, or vice versa. There may also be three or four titles on there that I just wanted to see again, or they're there because they're on the same disc as another movie. For example, I've seen Desperado many times, but it's on my list because it comes with the original El mariachi, which I've yet to see. There are also a few instances of lesser known films with the same titles as more popular ones, and Jersey Girl and Bad Boys for example are not the ones you would think; I've seen those.

I'm sure this list will only remain current for a few days, as I once again reorder the list and add more titles. The select few privy to my secret identity of course have access to my actual queue through Netflix, which is a good thing. I'd hate to have to do this every day:

DVDs At Home (3)
1. Simon Birch
2. Valentine
3. Fear Dot Com

DVD (469)
1. Money Talks
2. The Amityville Horror
3. Be Cool
4. The Adventures of Baron Munchausen
5. The Great Outdoors
6. End of Days
7. House of Sand and Fog
8. Red Sonja
9. The Skulls
10. Torque
11. In the Bedroom
12. Bad Boys
13. Samurai Jack
14. The Kid
15. The Graduate
16. Roxanne
17. Uncle Buck
18. Sudden Death
19. Volunteers
20. Hearts in Atlantis
21. To Die For
22. Kate & Leopold
23. The Witches of Eastwick
24. No Good Deed
25. Formula 51
26. Cruel Intentions 2
27. Cruel Intentions 3
28. Wild Things 2
29. Empire
30. Brainscan
31. Legally Blonde
32. The Shipping News
33. Higher Learning
34. Dead Presidents
35. Unstrung Heroes
36. The Poseidon Adventure
37. Duplex
38. The Great Mouse Detective
39. Never Been Kissed
40. Varsity Blues
41. The Big Bounce
42. Body Double
43. The Thirteenth Floor
44. Conspiracy Theory
45. Fifteen Minutes
46. The Omen
47. Windtalkers
48. High Crimes
49. Domestic Disturbance
50. Murder By Numbers
51. Antwone Fisher
52. Against the Ropes
53. Hurlyburly
54. The Yards
55. Bounce
56. Gods and Monsters
57. Dark Star
58. Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron
59. Desperado / El Mariachi
60. Naked Lunch
61. Doctor Zhivago
62. A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon
63. Return to Me
64. Guinevere
65. The Opposite of Sex
66. F/X
67. F/X 2
68. Bad Company
69. Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart to Hades
70. Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in Peril
71. The Life of David Gale
72. October Sky
73. Sneakers
74. Saving Silverman
75. Say It Isn't So
76. The Music Man
77. Along Came a Spider
78. K-19: The Widowmaker
79. U-571
80. Enemy at the Gates
81. Hart's War
82. Less Than Zero
83. Little Voice
84. After the Sunset
85. Highwaymen
86. Newsies
87. Kinsey
88. Fail-Safe
89. Shine
90. Gandhi
91. Eight Crazy Nights
92. In the Line of Fire
93. Patton
94. Killing Me Softly
95. Man-Thing
96. What Planet Are You From?
97. Forever Young
98. School Daze
99. Girl, Interrupted
100. Femme Fatale
101. House of Flying Daggers
102. Suspect Zero
103. Jersey Girl
104. Entrapment
105. Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas
106. Panic Room
107. Changing Lanes
108. Rules of Engagement
109. And Now for Something Completely Different
110. Ben-Hur: Collector's Edition
111. I.Q.
112. Sabrina
113. Mind Hunters
114. How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
115. Taking Lives
116. Blue Steel
117. Intimate Strangers
118. Kickboxer
119. Invincible
120. Below
121. Dirty Dancing
122. Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights
123. The Pianist
124. The Piano
125. Undead
126. Beyond the Sea
127. Killing Words
128. Waterworld
129. Wicker Park
130. The Crew
131. Blind Date
132. Freaked
133. The Score
134. Wrath of the Dragon God
135. Cops & Robbersons
136. The Exorcism of Emily Rose
137. March of the Penguins
138. Sahara
139. Seabiscuit
140. The Dirty Dozen
141. About Last Night...
142. Asylum
143. 11:14
144. Sunset
145. I'll Sleep When I'm Dead
146. Now
147. Eros
148. Dear Frankie
149. Millions
150. Love Me If You Dare
151. The Hillside Strangler
152. The Purifiers
153. The Ice Pirates
154. Joyride
155. Joy Ride
156. Spy Game
157. The Matador
158. Shadows in the Sun
159. An Unfinished Life
160. Uptown Girls
161. 301/302
162. The Ice Harvest
163. A Good Woman
164. House of D
165. Unspeakable
166. Slums of Beverly Hills
167. Narc
168. Turner and Hooch
169. Zathura
170. Backdraft
171. Mystic Pizza
172. Rogue Trader
173. Network: Special Edition
174. The Edge
175. 8 1/2
176. A Perfect Murder
177. Jungle Fever
178. Trespass
179. The Fan
180. Trapped
181. Pulse
182. Running Scared
183. Running Scared
184. The Presidio
185. The Pelican Brief
186. Devil in a Blue Dress
187. Just Friends
188. The Benchwarmers
189. Malcolm X
190. Cyber Wars
191. Lifeforce
192. Monument Ave.
193. The Crossing Guard
194. Lost and Delirious
195. Monster
196. Hidalgo
197. A Night at the Roxbury
198. Code 46
199. Mo' Better Blues
200. The Job
201. Halloween II
202. Halloween III: Season of the Witch
203. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers
204. Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers
205. Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers
206. Halloween: H2O
207. Halloween: Resurrection
208. The Poseidon Adventure
209. Hollywoodland
210. The Wicker Man
211. You, Me and Dupree
212. World Trade Center
213. United 93
214. 10th & Wolf
215. One Last Thing
216. Just Visiting
217. The Sting II
218. The Thing From Another World
219. Down in the Valley
220. The Devil Wears Prada
221. The Ant Bully
222. The Wild
223. The Good Girl
224. The Unfaithful Wife
225. Dante's Peak
226. Zu Warriors
227. Texas Rangers
228. Catwoman
229. Saved!
230. Sylvia
231. Get on the Bus
232. The Minus Man
233. Reindeer Games
234. I Heart Huckabees
235. Alfie
236. Alfie
237. Big Fat Liar
238. Rumble Fish
239. Vanity Fair
240. The Cheap Detective
241. Escape from Alcatraz
242. Runaway Bride
243. Marie Antoinette
244. The Trouble with Harry
245. The Man Who Knew Too Much
246. CB4
247. Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever
248. A Perfect World
249. City Slickers II
250. Riding in Cars with Boys
251. The Forsaken
252. The Hustler
253. The Interpreter
254. The Manchurian Candidate
255. The Manchurian Candidate
256. Notes on a Scandal
257. The Good German
258. Shaft
259. Dracula 3000
260. 100 Women
261. Taxi
262. An Inconvenient Truth
263. Coach Carter
264. Mr. 3000
265. Guess Who
266. The Birds
267. Fay Grim
268. Thank You for Smoking
269. Mom and Dad Save the World
270. Super Mario Bros.
271. Man of the Year
272. Moscow on the Hudson
273. Fun with Dick and Jane
274. The Guardian
275. Swordfish
276. Flyboys
277. Winter Passing
278. Pollock
279. Bait
280. Employee of the Month
281. Melinda and Melinda
282. Jet Li's Fearless
283. King of New York: SE (Widescreen)
284. Isolation
285. Willard
286. Gotcha!
287. The Holiday
288. Target
289. The Raven
290. Chooch
291. Dead Silence
292. Turistas
293. Unhitched
294. Bandidas
295. Cloak & Dagger
296. Gallipoli
297. Dark Storm
298. Trust the Man
299. Vacancy
300. Shooter
301. Erin Brockovich
302. Primary Colors
303. Bulworth
304. City Hall
305. Captivity
306. Wild Hogs
307. Stephen King's Desperation
308. Mr. Fix It
309. Bad Santa
310. Coming Soon
311. Il Postino
312. All the President's Men
313. Necessary Roughness
314. King of Kings
315. Ghost
316. The Bodyguard
317. Nighthawks
318. The World According to Garp
319. Eraserhead
320. Hardcore
321. The Last King of Scotland
322. Hotel Rwanda
323. Message in a Bottle
324. Conan the Barbarian
325. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
326. Spiral
327. The Blues Brothers: Extended Cut
328. SherryBaby
329. Bowfinger
330. Tears of the Sun
331. Holy Man
332. Idlewild
333. Nurse Betty
334. Diggers
335. It Could Happen to You
336. Flashback
337. Rory O'Shea Was Here
338. Mickey Blue Eyes
339. Kramer vs. Kramer
340. Flags of Our Fathers
341. Annapolis
342. Casanova
343. The Assassination of Jesse James
344. Guarding Tess
345. The Journey of Natty Gann
346. Striking Distance
347. Intolerable Cruelty
348. 2 Days in Paris
349. In Bruges
350. Michael Clayton
351. Good Night, and Good Luck
352. Margot at the Wedding
353. Ira & Abby
354. Comedian
355. The Visitation
356. Doomsday
357. Population 436
358. The Color of Freedom
359. Careless
360. Numb
361. Veronica Guerin
362. The Invasion
363. P.S. I Love You
364. Strays
365. Toy Soldiers
366. A Bridge Too Far
367. Proud
368. Dave Chappelle's Block Party
369. Trade
370. Pride
371. Heaven's Prisoners
372. The Assassination of Richard Nixon
373. Desperate Souls
374. She's Gotta Have It
375. Hustle & Flow
376. The Longest Yard
377. The Longest Yard
378. The Client
379. Fracture
380. Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
381. CJ7
382. Be Kind Rewind
383. Critters 2: The Main Course
384. Critters 3
385. Critters 4
386. Palmetto
387. Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love
388. The Fly 2
389. The Fly
390. Saturday Night Fever
391. Staying Alive
392. Addicted to Love
393. Police Story
394. New Police Story
395. The Best of Times
396. Bandits
397. In the Heat of the Night
398. The Fighting Temptations
399. My Summer of Love
400. Invincible
401. Top Secret!
402. Father of the Bride
403. Father of the Bride
404. Father of the Bride 2
405. Alexander: Theatrical Cut
406. The Woodsman
407. Before Sunrise
408. Before Sunset
409. Porky's
410. La Bamba
411. Kwaidan
412. Three O'Clock High
413. The Door in the Floor
414. The Protector
415. Cherry Crush
416. Peaceful Warrior
417. She's the One
418. She's All That
419. My Girl
420. My Girl 2
421. Cheaper by the Dozen
422. Duel
423. Flashdance
424. Meatballs
425. Bad Influence
426. Fahrenheit 9/11
427. Disappeared
428. The Rival
429. The Dancer Upstairs
430. Fire Serpent
431. The United States of Leland
432. Haven
433. Diary of a Cannibal
434. XXX: State of the Union
435. Farce of the Penguins
436. Three... Extremes
437. Beneath Still Waters
438. Lone Star
439. Hot Rod
440. Godsend
441. Communion
442. Pride and Glory
443. Body of Lies
444. Traitor
445. American Gangster
446. The Bank Job
447. Revolver
448. Then She Found Me
449. One Crazy Summer
450. What Just Happened?
451. In the Mix
452. The Amateurs
453. 88 Minutes
454. Zodiac
455. The Fall
456. Rancid
457. Son of Rambow
458. Ran
459. Iron Monkey
460. All the King's Men
461. All the King's Men
462. Man About Town
463. Waitress
464. Bangkok Dangerous
465. Forbidden Planet
466. Hiding Out
467. Semi-Pro
468. Forgetting Sarah Marshall
469. Strange Wilderness

Saved DVDs (13) (Availability Date Unknown)
1. 1984
2. Beauty and the Beast: Special Edition
3. Fantasia
4. Happy, Texas
5. La Femme Nikita
6. Midnight Cowboy
7. Pin
8. Revenge of the Nerds Double Feature
9. The Accidental Spy
10. Cook, the Thief, His Wife, Her Lover
11. The Experiment
12. What's Up, Tiger Lily?
13. Wide Awake

Phew! And that doesn't even include the text file on my hard drive with another 51 titles to add when there's room, or the stack of about 20 screener DVDs B13 loaned me forever ago. I could get so much more accomplished if I didn't require sleep....