The Eve before Hallow's*

Twas the Eve before the Eve of Hallows,
here in my parents' house,
My computer was whirring,
Me clicking my mouse.

My costume was assembled,
with the usual care,
with pieces all found,
right here in my lair.

My parents and cats,
all snug in their beds,
Visions of me leaving,
likely dancing in their heads.

I needed not a kerchief,
but maybe a cap,
I settled on ideas,
resolved in a snap.

When out in the hall,
I heard some blood spatter,
With uncharacteristic courage,
I checked what was the matter.

I flung open my door,
with the speed of The Flash,
Suddenly wished for a chainsaw,
like my hero, Campbell's Ash.

For there in the hall,
with an eerie fiery glow,
stood Freddy Kreuger,
a nightmarish foe.

Why, to my wandering eyes
should appear,
that macabre icon,
of subconscious fear?

With his glove tipped with blades,
so vicious and quick,
I felt in that moment,
I was going to be sick.

“Uh, Freddy....”
I sputtered his name,
slowly retreating to my room
from whence I came.

“No danger...no stranger...
no problem...needs fixing...
Please stop it....so stupid...
I'm dumber...mind frizzing...”

I babbled in my room,
at the end of the hall,
“Just go away, go away,
don't cut me at all.”

He cleaved through my door,
this menacing guy,
It was barely an obstacle,
as he entered my sty.

He grabbed me and threw me,
across the room I flew,
with a mouth full of blood,
and broken bones too.

There in my suffering,
I cursed my bad luck,
and I prayed and I prayed,
that I should wake up.

Freddy held out his hand,
he made not a sound,
I thought it was strange,
no mocking around.

Into my house,
terror had set foot,
was it only a dream,
or would I go kaput?

Still on the floor,
old toys in my back,
I waited for the monster,
to press his attack.

His eyes, how they stared!
His intentions, so scary!
His cheeks scarred and burned,
that visage made me wary.

His twisted mouth
wrinkled below,
a pointed nose that
dipped down too low.

I saw my reflection,
in his wall of teeth,
they grew to encircle,
my room like a wreath.

“Not real...not real.”
I crawled on my belly,
I shook and I whimpered,
the mouth-room was smelly.

What was wrong with my brain,
Why do that to myself?
I laughed at the madness,
my strange mental health.

I opened one eye,
I was curled up in bed,
And I knew then and there,
I had nothing to dread.

I spoke not a word,
of that nocturnal quirk,
I just sat up and breathed,
and allowed a small smirk.

My computer still on,
a blank document glowed,
So I started typing,
in rhyme rather than prose.

I read what I'd wrote,
and I let out a whistle,
When a machete pierced my chest,
soaring like a missile.

I heard Jason exclaim nothing,
as he ended my life,
That dude may be mute,
but he's good with a knife.

Happy Halloween!

* With deepest apologies to Wes Craven, Victor Miller, and Clement Clarke Moore. Also, this whole piece reads a lot better if you imagine The Fresh Prince rapping it....


Go with the Flow

Water has a remarkable, calming effect on me. A few years ago when I went temporarily crazy, feeling lightheaded and dizzy in stressful situations like driving, important meetings, or playing feasts, one of the things that helped me get right again was driving past the beach on my commute home. And I distinctly remember one break during a 12 hour procession in Hoboken where I walked out on this grassy plain jutting into the water, sat down and listened to the waves, and felt everything level off and normalize. It was a great, zen state of peace and I've achieved it many times since, whether finding a trickling stream while hiking in the woods, or just taking my lunch at one of the beaches near my office and listening to the waves. When I get back to work, any challenge that seemed insurmountable before I left suddenly presents a smooth solution.

I'm not sure why water, particularly the beach, has that effect on me. I hated going to the beach with my mom when I was a kid. I associated with swimming lessons, which didn't go well. Stick my face in a bucket of water and blow bubbles? What was that going to teach me? My homework seemed like torture, and I wasn't any more inclined to do for my mom what I wouldn't do for my instructors. It may have only been a few inches in a basin, but I thought she was trying to drown me. I think I was in high school before I was willing to open my eyes under water. I thought for sure it would sting, but was surprised to learn I could see after a second or two of adjustment. I still didn't like it, and barely passed the class, learning to at least propel myself while wearing a life vest.

Twice in my life I almost drowned. The first time, when I was only in 1st or 2nd grade, I was playing in a friend's pool. I would go in the deep end by hanging on to the edge. My mom may have gone inside for a minute, and when my parents aren't watching me is when I get in the most trouble. I slipped, scrunching my eyes shut and panicking. I flailed, but could not break the surface or tread water. I would get about an inch from air before I sank again. My friend's older sister was sitting poolside, and dove in immediately. There was this sudden rush of movement as she pushed me to the safety of the shallow end, and in an instant I was leaning on the edge, coughing up water. That was the last time I played with that kid, and my mom started keeping a closer eye on her accident-prone only child.

The second drowning came when I was much older, after a buddy's parents moved out to Montauk and would let him and his friends spend weekends there. I was walking around in the ocean, careful not to venture too far from shore, but it was the Atlantic freaking Ocean, bigger and more powerful than I can ever hope to be. So when I saw a wave coming that was larger than I was comfortable with, I turned and started to run to shore. But an undertow was tugging at my legs, and in one horrible instant the current yanked me back as the wave crashed on my head. I spun around in a vortex of sand and saltwater, realizing I was in serious trouble but remembering for once in my life not to panic. I opened my eyes in the murky cloudy depths, and began to actually swim! Like a fat frog, I kicked my legs back in opposing directions as my hands cleaved the water in front of me, and eventually struck...sand. That's right, I was swimming down. Somehow, and I can only credit divine intervention, I still kept my cool, and saw the sand as a good thing, because I now had a point of reference and knew which way was up. When I broke the surface, I was quite a ways out from shore, and the people on the beach were specks, unaware of my predicament, especially since I was pulled out and down a ways. I pressed forward, the tips of my toes just barely touching bottom, and felt more confident as I got into shallower water. I tried not to think what would happen if another big wave came along, and I just kept trekking toward land, shivering and shaking when I was finally, fully out of the water. And I never went in the ocean again.

Water is a funny thing. It cleanses, you know, washes dirt away, makes new. It can be beautiful to look at, and calm, or it can be a force to be reckoned with, be it fierce rain or strong currents. As ice and snow it can be a nuisance or even deadly. It can kill me. It's already tried twice, and may someday succeed. So why am I drawn to it? They built this brand new pier near my office, and I've been having lunch on it nearly every day since it opened. It's awesome. It has a little covering at the end over a couple of park benches, which came in handy one day when there was a light drizzle. The next day it poured so I skipped it. But on those nice days, sitting watching the boats, and the sun sparkling on the waves, it's like I've gone to Bermuda for an hour. I do my best thinking out there. It may well be the best thing to happen to that town since I started working there. Most days, it's hard to get up and make the 10-15 minute trek back to the office.

Improbably enough, I've been attacked twice. The first time, five geese flying in perfect formation over the water, veered toward land. I sat watching them get closer, and began to realize they were headed straight for me as they descended. They flew over the covered benches, and as two or three of them dropped loads in mid flight, I was very grateful for that wooden roof over my head. The second time was on Thursday, as I was enjoying a delicious roast beef sandwich with bacon and mozzarella, and looked up to see a HUGE bee right in my face. I stumbled up from the bench as it erratically followed me, stopping when my back hit the railing. What are the odds that a bee would fly out to the end of the pier, especially on a cool day in late October? It won't stop me from having lunch there, though I have to wonder what the odds of me being chased off and into the water by a little bee are. With my luck, it's probably greater than it should be. What say, you, WATER? Was that attempt #3?


My Scary Movie Five

It's almost Halloween, a day not just for eating candy, but most importantly when it's socially acceptable for people of all ages to wear costumes. I won't dress up for a comic book convention, where it's just me and my fellow geeks, but on Halloween I can dress up and no one can tell me from the norms. And as the day draws near and I ponder what identity I can bury my regular self behind this year, I find myself thinking about scary movies. It's easy to get desensitized, and things that were scary when we were younger don't phase us now. Sometimes special effects don't stand the test of time, or we simply see through the illusion. I remember being a toddler, cowering in the next room, peeking around a doorway, whenever the witch from The Wizard of Oz was on screen. She terrified little MCF, with that shrill voice, green complexion, and wart on her nose, and I was glad when that b*tch melted. Flash forward about 20 years when I finally see The Exorcist, and I don't see why so many people consider it one of the scariest movies of all time. I liked it and thought it was a great movie, and hearing that little girl uttering foul things in a demonic voice was definitely creepy. I think if I'd seen that when I was a kid, I might not have slept for years. But seeing it in my late 20s, after I already knew the gist of the film and had caught clips over the years, the impact was reduced.

I figure the absence of The Exorcist would be the biggest thing people questioned, and now that I've explained it I can move on and list My Fives scariest movies, in no particular order:

1) Event Horizon:
It must be really challenging for writers to think of good reasons why someone wouldn't leave a house that was clearly haunted. Eddie Murphy hit the nail on the head in Delirious. There have been increasingly clever ways of trapping people, from haunted locks to having the house on a cliff and more, and I give 30 Days of Night credit for taking the concept of being snowed in for a month of darkness in Alaska, at which time a pack of vampires would take advantage. But Event Horizon put its protagonists on a ship in deep space, with nowhere to run, which in itself wasn't an original concept. What made it super terrifying, was that they were on a ship whose power source apparently tapped into some kind of portal to hell or a hell-like dimension, and Sam Neill being haunted by a twisted shadow of his dead wife was only the first of many psychological torments that crew would endure. It didn't help that, on my first and only real camping trip with tents in the middle of the woods, my college friends and I drove in to the nearest town on a rainy night and chose to see that. The isolation and hopelessness on that ship didn't exist once we left the theater, until we realized we were driving into dark woods in Virginia with no ambient light, and a hopeless isolation that did exist. Our subsequent trips would be at campsites where we could rent trailers with electricity.

2) The Ring:
America doesn't have a great track record with adapting Japanese horror films, and I kind of hope that trend is over, because every remake since The Ring has been hugely disappointing. I liked our version of Ringu better, possibly because I saw it first, and possibly because it didn't have weird tangents like someone having psychic powers because his grandfather was exposed to radiation after the atomic bombs were dropped. In both instances, you have that freaky, surreal video with such odd, disjointed clips. The woman is brushing her hair. Did she just look at you? Is that possible? And holy crap, did she just pull a fly through the screen? That bit of foreshadowing was nothing compared the real moment of horror, when you find out just what happens 7 days after viewing the cursed tape, when I literally jumped in my seat because of an effect that's now done to death but was original at the time, and redefined the way ghosts and evil spirits were shown on screen. It was also one of the first films that made good use of a viral campaign on the internet, including the ability to chat with one of the characters and ask questions. All I had was a name, and didn't know until I saw the film who that name belonged to.

3) The Blair Witch Project:
I suspect that this film wouldn't have the same impact on a second viewing, but when I saw it in the theater, I allowed myself to be fully immersed in the experience, to accept that it was actual documentary footage of three dumb kids who got lost in the woods. And given my own experiences with camping, putting myself in their shoes wasn't hard to do. I was the kid who'd walk down an empty street, hear the change jingle in my own pocket, and scare myself because I thought it was the jingle of a dog's collar. That's the mindset of this movie, and you take from it what you bring to it. Being lost is frightening, but all the rock piles and people standing in corners won't be anything more than what it is unless you let it. And I did, had trouble sleeping that night, and was sufficiently freaked out enough to list it here.

4) Wes Craven's New Nightmare:
Of all the Nightmare on Elm Street films I have to choose from, why this one? Freddy became less and less scary with each subsequent film, less of a villain and more of an anti-hero. He cracked jokes, and you weren't rooting for the annoying teenagers, but the guy who was going to murder them in their dreams as creatively as possible. And I'm not saying that was necessarily a bad thing, but good horror makes you feel empathy for the victims, and imagine how you would feel in such a situation. With “New Nightmare”, Wes Craven brought the series back to its roots with a brilliant concept, that Freddy was “real” and trying to break out of the movies and into our world. He brought back the actors from the original film, and we got to see Robert Englund not only reprise his role as the striped-shirted slasher, but play a tortured version of himself, painting increasingly dark portraits as his nightmares took over and he became a vessel for Freddy to cross over into our world. There's always that safety zone that you're just watching a movie, so showing how the nightmare can become a reality in “our” world scores major points on the scary scale.

5) Alien:
Event Horizon isolated its crew on a ship in deep space, but Alien did it first. Event Horizon combined a ghost story with science fiction, while Alien combined a monster story with that same genre. In 1979, just because “in space no one can hear you scream,” didn't mean the victims wouldn't. Giger's creation was a masterpiece, a faceless creature with sharp edges, and a mouth within a mouth that drooled acid. But the worse part was how they reproduced, facehugging horrors bursting from pods to implant seeds to later burst out of the victims stomach as violently as possible:

That...might not be the right clip. But I think I’ll sleep easier watching that version instead.

What say you? Did I pick a truly scary selection, or is this all kid stuff compared to the movies you're afraid of?



PBW: Old Westbury

Old Westbury Gardens is, like many of the great preserves on Long Island, the former estate of one of the Gold Coast's wealthy residents, in this case one John S. Phipps. The sprawling estate offered a mansion, fountains, a pond, a bridge, sculptures, a walled garden, a rose garden, a thatched cottage, and more than I could capture in a few hours on a Sunday afternoon as the sun was setting. As I sometimes do, I joined forces with my pal B13, and you can check his blog throughout the week for some truly spectacular shots. As for me, my photos can be found right here, in this week's Photo Blog Wednesday:



Who Doesn't Like T?

Did you know that Mr. T, ‘80s icon and one of my personal heroes, is now endorsing a turbo oven? You have to watch the infomercial, if only to hear him “pity the fool”. It looks like a fairly substantial product too, one to endure the inevitable comparisons to the Foreman Grill.

I loved The A-Team growing up, often playing out episodes on the playground in elementary school, ambitiously taking on the role of Hannibal. We didn't have a big black guy in our group at the time, so I gave the B.A. role to the largest of my friends, unfortunately a blonde Dolph Lundgren looking kid. We were all role-playing anyway, so we didn't have to be super-accurate--our Murdock was Indian and it's not like the B.A. kid shaved his hair into a mohawk. The series itself defied all logic as this group of soldiers framed for a crime they didn't commit would frequently take down bad guys who would survive a jeep flipping over but crumble once a solid right hook connected with their glass jaws. Man, I miss hearing this each week:

Mr. T was definitely the standout member of the cast, certainly the most quotable(“Crazy fool!” “I ain't gettin' on that plane, Hannibal!”). I love the shot of him smashing open those doors and I always thought a similar shot in the opening credits to Angel was a bit of an homage. A former bodyguard who gained fame in Rocky III before landing the A-Team gig, he would also voice himself in an Saturday morning cartoon:

He led some kind of group of young acrobats or something, but all you really need to know is yes, the dog had a mohawk, yes, there was some little boy who dressed just like his idol on the show, and yes, there will never be a decade that rocks as hard as the ‘80s. NEVER.

It's a shame T's career waned in the ensuing years, partly due to some shortlived show I don't even remember, and partly due to health problems from T-Cell Lymphoma. He’s so into branding that even his cancer had a “T” in it, but seriously the man is a fighter and has endured. It would be awesome if he made a cameo in the upcoming A-Team movie. He has to. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson might be taking over the B.A. role, but there's only one Mr. T, and his presence would make the movie worth seeing even if the rest of it was horrible. They've got Liam Neeson playing Hannibal though, and he almost always classes up whatever project he's in.

Mr. T is sheer awesome, and television stars today just don't have that same presence. It's a different time, a less campy time, but the time of T was timeless. I pity the fool who says otherwise.


Phantasmic Links 10.26.09

Well, I had a much better weekend than the last one. Finally over my cold, once the lousy weather on Saturday cleared up I got outside to mow the lawn one final time for the year, and headed out for a photo shoot for a few hours before the daylight was spent. I even found a crucial ingredient for my Halloween costume. It's amazing that I spent weeks checking online and physically going to stores for something that turned out to be in my room the whole time. I don't know half the things I have in here. I bet have one of those Nazi face-melter boxes in here somewhere too. There are a few things that can't be found in my room, although I can find some of those while in my room, such as this week's PHANTASMIC LINKS:

(1) I literally lost hours completing Time Fcuk as I navigated rooms increasingly difficult to escape, all the while “helped” by messages from myself at different points in time. It gets especially creepy when the growth on my head gained sentience, as my future self foretold....

(2) Comedian and former Arrested Development star did what near the president??

(3) Tilt shift turns Disney into a model Magic Kingdom.

(4) ”Build Your Own Pumpkin Cannon to Shoot at 600 MPH. Why? Why not?

(5) Finally, with all the exceptional felines on the internet, someone made a site dedicated to the Average Cats


(7) Hulu to start charging for streaming video next year? Good luck with that...

(8) GUIdebook Gallery preserves your favorite classic Graphic User Interfaces. The MacOS page certainly took me down digital memory lane...

(9) Michael Shanks is going to portray Hawkman in an episode of this season's Smallville. They continue to raise the bar with that show, but after 9 (mostly mediocre) seasons, and a move to Fridays, how many of us are left to appreciate how good it's gotten these past two years?

(10) Finally, Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths looks hot. These animated DVDs get better and better...

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!



WWW: Weekend Wrental Wreviews 14

Let's see what I saw this week for Weekend Wrental Wreviews in my 14th WWW:

1) Forgetting Sarah Marshall:
I hadn't heard good things about this somewhat mediocre comedy, so going in with low expectations yielded some pleasant surprises. Granted, I saw way more of Jason Segel than I would have liked, but beyond an overly-long nude scene he goes on to play a very sympathetic character hitting rock bottom when the love of his life, played by Kristen Bell, breaks his heart. There's some great inside humor about the acting world, as Bell's character stars on a fictitious version of any of those CSI or Law & Order cop shows that have like twenty versions and spinoffs. There's also some great lines about Bell's character starring in a bad movie about people being killed by phones. When Segel goes to Hawaii to forget Bell's titular Sarah Marshall, it proves difficult when he runs into her along with her new boyfriend, an absurd British pop singer played by Russell Brand, who delivers some of the funniest lines of the film in his own unique accent. Mila Kunis is surprisingly likable as a hotel worker who may just be the key to helping Segel move on. She usually annoys me, but here toned down the shrill voice and genuinely was the preferable option to Bell. All in all, it was a nice vehicle for television stars transitioning to the big screen, with Jack McBrayer in the mix along with the others I mentioned. Segel stretches his talents with a funny rendition of a song about Dracula, one that later hilariously involves puppets. I still say he's a better supporting actor than a lead, and he was better in I Love You Man with Paul Rudd, who has a pretty good minor role in this film. I probably wouldn't have been too impressed in the theater either, but as a rental it had some likable characters and good laughs, and I couldn't ask for much more than that.

2) Poltergeist:
“They're heeee-eere!” Yes, it's another one of those classic films that somehow slipped through the cracks, although it's been referenced so many times in popular culture and spoofed by everything from The Simpsons to Family Guy, that I felt like I knew the whole story already. It's vintage ‘80s Spielberg, as a family begins to realize there's something terribly wrong in their house. Is it the fact that their little girl seems to hear voices in the static on the television? Maybe it's when furniture begins to rearrange itself, which they at first treat as novelty. A tree yanking their son out a window and trying to devour him during a thunderstorm is one major red flag, but also distracts them from the little girl being sucked into a bright light in their closet, and ultimately another dimension. The film played out as I expected it would, and I already knew the major quotes(“This house...is clean.”) There's a nice little coda at the end that I didn't expect, and just when they think it's safe is when they face one last threat. Everyone plays it straight, including Craig T. Nelson as the patriarch, but there are definitely a few unintentionally hilarious moments along with an intentional one at the end that made me smile. For 1982, the effects were decent, and I have the sequels lined up to watch this week, both on the same disc. I wonder if they'll hold up to the original, which is a classic, or disappoint as so many often do...

3) Kate & Leopold:
It amused me to think of this film as “Kate & Wolverine”, and imagine what it would be like if Meg Ryan was being courted by Hugh Jackman's most famous mutant role, rather than by a time-travelling duke discovered by Liev Shreiber. Even without a comic book connection, the time travel aspect would be enough to hook any comic book geek while the romance side would appeal to the ladies. So it's probably the perfect date movie for any geek lucky enough to get a date. And as long as you don't look too closely at tweaked historical facts, time travel paradoxes, or one familial connection made more explicit in the director's cut, these are all your standard, likable characters that you'd look for in a Meg Ryan movie. Jackman shows the audience, and Breckin Meyer in the role of Ryan's brother, just how a gentlemen properly made his intentions known and won a lady's heart back in the 1800's. As hard science fiction it stumbles, but as a romantic fairy tale it succeeds on many levels.

4) To Die For:
Nicole Kidman shines in this ‘90s classic about a woman so obsessed with achieving fame that she'd cross some serious lines, particularly in her marriage and in her relationship with some local students. It's a dark comedy and a cautionary tale of obsession and delusion, told through flashbacks and media coverage. I liked the style of the film as well as seeing Joaquin Phoenix and Casey Affleck in what must have been very early roles in their respective careers. Matt Dillon plays the unfortunate husband while the “attractive in a bug-eyed sort of way” Ileana Douglas has some standout scenes as her sister. I'm dancing around spoilers here, but there aren't too many surprises because one character's fate is revealed almost from the very beginning. It's more about seeing what led Kidman's character down the road she took, and what her fantasy perception of reality would eventually cost her and those around her. And somehow, amid the tragedy of it all, the film still manages an awesome little ending that would make any Italian-American smile.

More reviews to follow next week after I've spun a few more discs!



Milk and Toast

I was told this week by a coworker that I had a “good personality for this stuff,” as she acknowledged how I handle multiple requests from many chefs with different visions. One person tells me make something red, then another asks why it's red, then another asks for less words, then another asks for more, and so on. On one project in particular I was being pulled in several directions, but I remained calm, and I think that people appreciate my mannerisms. That's not to say that I don't question conflicting direction, or try to get people together in an e-mail or ideally the same room to work things out, but I have a way of doing so that differs from others who just blow up.

It's definitely a professional attitude, and the self that family and close friends see is one that shouldn't be let out in meetings. It's been a while since I put my fist through a wall when a comment from my mom about my socks making me “look like a nerd” set me off, but I think people in the office would be surprised to learn I'd ever had a reaction like that. Some of my calm attitude is professionalism, but I think my shyness slips in there as well, my tendency to consider my words carefully and not speak if there's a risk of looking foolish. I worry sometimes if that makes me a pushover, but again there are times I disagree and do so in a rational, convincing manner. I think therein lies the key, that it's possible to argue a point without it being a fight.

A coworker had recently relayed a story about how her son disrespected his grandmother. The boy asked her a question about his homework, and when she told him something was wrong, he began to mock her, doing that thing kids do where they repeat everything an adult says in a funny voice. The grandmother got very upset and sent the kid home. Later, it turned out that the boy was actually correct. His mother told him he was wrong for the way he talked to her mother, but she also seemed fixed on the fact that the boy was right. I'm not so sure being right is all that important if you give your elders or superiors attitude about it. There's a question of respect, not to mention maintaining a good relationship for the future. You catch more flies with honey.

It's also a matter of picking your battles, and knowing when to stand your ground and when it will be easier to just do as your told. The paycheck is the same either way. I'm not so concerned about my easygoing manner in my professional life, but it does leave my personal life flat at times. I've avoided more embarrassing situations than I've created by opening my mouth, but I think there are a lot of regrets and missed opportunities out there. Sometimes I dip my toe in the water, and the water seems fine, but I never go for a swim, no matter how much I think about it.

There are a lot of moral questions surrounding the premise of the show Dollhouse, and I particularly enjoyed seeing one apparently amoral character finally questioning the consequences of his actions, of wiping people's memories and sending them out with false, programmed personalities. But it does make me think about the possibilities of programming our own personas, either adding or subtracting bits we don't like, or just adjusting the balance of what's already there. Maybe we bring out some things we suppress, and suppress the memories and experiences that cause us to be so cautious in the first place. It's a nice fantasy, but is it? We're shaped by outside events, but don't we control how we respond to them? Are we forever shackled by who we were in elementary school. or can we make a conscious decision to be someone else, to be the best we can be?

Good questions. Damned if I know the answers....


The Other 44

It's funny how these sets of questions make the rounds on the internet. I've never come across the exact same set twice, and there's always a different arbitrary number, but there's a lot of overlap among the sets. Still, I think there are more new questions in this set I found at Kev Bayer's than old ones, and I think I'm in a constant state of flux like most human beings, so it's possible my answers may have changed on the ones I have seen before:

1. Do you like Blue cheese?
See? Right off the bat I know I've seen this question before. And the answer is still the same, that I've never tried it, but the description of it makes it sound unappealing.

2. Have you ever been drunk?
A few times. After one vodka-riddled karaoke party in my mid-20s that literally had me dancing in the streets of Manhattan after 2 AM, I definitely learned when to say when. Back then, I could crash at a friend's place in the city so I drank without thought of consequence. These days, knowing I'll eventually have to drive home, I try to pace out one or two beers and stop a few hours before I get behind the wheel. It's been a while since I've been drunk, and my tolerance may be slipping. Last week, after one beer with dinner and a burger with beer mixed in the steak sauce, I was a bit more forthcoming with some buddies and shared some things from my past I normally wouldn't.

3. Do you own a gun?
I own a cap gun that I got as a birthday present when I was a kid, at which point my mom hid it from me until I was older. I also had a few waterguns, and that's about it. Considering I once stapled my fingers together with an ordinary stapler, I'm probably the last person who should be handling a firearm.

4. What flavor of Kool-Aid was your favorite?

5. Do you get nervous before doctor appointments?
Surprisingly no, at least as long as it's for a regular checkup. I probably would have been nervous that time I had massive internal bleeding, but then I was pretty sedate from the blood loss.

6. What do you think of hot dogs?
I prefer tacos.

7. Favorite Christmas movie?
Die Hard

8. What do you prefer to drink in the morning?
Milk with my cereal, and occasionally water.

9. Can you do push ups?
I haven't tried in a few years, but I remember one competition at my old gym in which I almost made it to 30, which was good for a guy who struggled to reach even 10 in high school.

10. What's your favorite piece of jewelry?
On me? Nothing. I used to wear a crucifix until the metal gave me a rash. And one Christmas my folks got me one of those super-Italian tight gold neck chains. I've never worn it; I'm just not that guy. On a woman, I don't really notice jewelry unless it's glaringly obvious, like oversized hoop earrings or something, and that's not a good thing. And of course I always keep an eye out for a wedding ring when I meet someone new.

11. Favorite hobby?
These days I'd say my photography, with movies and blogging not far behind.

12. Do you have A.D.D.?
I'm sure I had it when I was a kid, but they didn't have a name for it yet back in those days. Things like climbing out a 2nd story window in 4th grade because I was “bored” would certainly lend credence to the theory. I either outgrew it or learned to control it, but there are days when I struggle with it. Like I'll design an ad, check my e-mail, start to design another ad, check my e-mail again, continue my work, go back to the internet, finish the ad, check the e-mail again even though it had only been five minutes, and so on. Some days I get in a good groove and concentrate on one project for hours, while other days I can barely go five minutes before my mind wanders. I still manage to be functional and productive though, so I don't think medication or therapy are required.

13. What's your favorite shoe?
I like whatever covers my feet and could care less who makes it, as long as it's not falling apart. Even when it is, I probably wait a little too long before getting a new pair.

14. Middle name?
Joseph. Or was it Christopher? Or Wayvid? What is it this week again?

15. Name 3 thoughts at this exact moment?
I'm exhausted and I'm only on question 15?? Why do digital televisions have so much trouble getting a signal for channel 4? I'm way over my head.

16. Name 3 drinks you regularly drink?
Powerade, water, decaffeinated green tea.

17. Current worry?
Answering the rest of these questions by a decent time to get some sleep overshadows any other concerns, which in themselves would probably make for an entire post.

18. Current hate right now?
Political extremists and sports enthusiasts.

19. Dum da dum dummmm; What is that?
That's clearly the onomatopoeia for the Dragnet theme.

20. How did you bring in the new year?
I had some Chinese food with my folks, watched some DVDs, and tried not to think about all the snow that was accumulating outside that I'd have to deal with the next day.

21. Where would you like to go?
To bed!! Why did I think 44 questions would make for a quick post? These things always end up taking longer than my normal rambling prose! Also, someday I'd like to go to Italy, if not on my honeymoon, then after I retire and have the free time and disposable cash to do so.

22. Name three people who will complete this?
I'll be glad if I finish this.

23. Do you own slippers?
I did, so they're probably in this mess of a room somewhere, but I haven't seen them in more than a decade.

24. What color shirt are you wearing right now?
Gray. See, the nice thing about answering one of these things when it's cold outside is that you're all spared my usual answer of “skin and hair”.

25. Do you like sleeping on Satin sheets?
I reject him, and all his works. What? Oh, satin. I probably would, but I don't believe I ever have.

26. Can you whistle?

27. Favorite color?

28. Would you be a pirate?
I can't swim, I've cut myself with the smallest of blades so a saber is a bad idea, and I wouldn't want my limbs replaced with wood. Pass.

29. What songs do you sing in the shower?
I save all my singing for in the car.

30. Favorite Girl's Name?

31. Favorite boy's name?

32. What's in your pocket right now?
These particular sweatpants don't have pockets.

33. Last thing that made you laugh?
Treehouse of Horror XX

34. Best bed sheets as a child?
Nothing, and I mean nothing, will ever top the Transformers bed tent I had, not even if I someday get those aforementioned Satan sheets. And no, that's not me in the picture, though now I want to check old photo albums to see if I have any shots of me in mine.

35. Worst injury you've ever had as a child?
I would say landing on a broken beer bottle face first and giving myself a borderline harelip ranks at the top of a long list of childhood injuries.

36. Do you love where you live?
I must. It's been nearly 35 years, and I haven't budged. I do love the area, especially the proximity to the shore. I can't swim, but I ironically love the water. If, nay, when I finally buy my own house, I'll hopefully be able to afford one not far from here.

37. Revenge of the Nerds or Fast Times at Ridgemont High?
Fast Times. Believe it or not, I've yet to see Revenge. I think the fact that all the kids in elementary school said I was someone named ”Booger” from the film made me never want to see it. I get the same “I can't believe YOU never saw--!” incredulity for that film as I do with The Big Bang Theory. It'd be like a psychiatrist getting a hard time for never catching Frasier or a doctor who hadn't watched Scrubs. Sometimes, a person will be drawn to that which he aspires to be, and not always what he identifies with.

38. Who is your loudest friend?
Drunk Ravindra, which everyone will now probably think is his name, and not a reference to the affects of alcohol on his volume. B13 doesn't hold back in any state.

39. How many dogs do you have?
Two cats; no dogs.

40. Does someone have a crush on you?
No one ever does. And why does some form of this question always pop up? I swear these things are written by teenagers on social networks before they spread to the internet at large.

41. What is your favorite book?
I can't pick just one, so rather than go with the rote expected answer of some installment of a popular fantasy series that has made it to the big screen in the last decade, or anything by Stephen King, I'm going to go old school and list one of my first favorite books: Flat Stanley.

42. What is your favorite candy?
Kit Kat

43. Favorite Sports Team?
I Don't Care. I really DON'T.

44. What song do you want played at your funeral?
This One:


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

It's time for yet another installment of my semi-regular Things I've Learned Thursday feature. Here's what I know so far:

* I'm sorry to report that Falco is dead. You may remember him from such “hits” as Rock Me Amadeus. And apparently, he's been gone since colliding with a bus in February of 1998. In my defense, I was probably too distraught over my girlfriend breaking up with me that month. Or maybe I just forgot about his demise until now. Oddly enough, I stumbled on this bit of information while on a message board about Heather O'Rourke, the young star of Poltergeist who apparently died of cardiac arrest in 1988. I live in a cave. The actress who played her sister also died young, strangled by a chef in 1982. Have any of you ever had these “Whatever happened to...?” moments where you look someone up only to discover the sad reason why they haven't been seen in a while? In happier news, I'm glad to report that Abe Vigoda is still with us.

* If you're going to cook in your kitchen naked for some reason, make sure the curtains are drawn, because if people cut across your property and happen to see inside, you may risk an indecent exposure charge. It seems like common sense, but I think we all get too comfortable in our own homes sometimes. I've never gotten that comfortable because I live with my folks and have the body of a hairy pregnant woman, but there are definitely times in the Summer when I walk around in briefs. Now if that's not the greatest argument to finally get air conditioning, I don't know what is...

* Earlier this year, the town in which I work closed down the sidewalk along the beach for repairs, eliminating one of my nicer lunchtime walking spots and making it more difficult to get to my favorite deli, since the other side of the street has more side roads and parking lot openings. I'm not sure when they finally opened it, but Wednesday morning was the first time I saw people walking there, and sure enough I found myself there a few hours later, enjoying unseasonably warm temperatures that had me shedding the Winter jacket I'd just reluctantly started wearing. There's a ton of park benches facing the water, rows of lamps which will make it a great place to walk at night, and a new pier jutting out into the water for even better views. And the path is unnecessarily winding, a snake shape more interesting than the old rigid sidewalk. I didn't have my camera with me, and I apparently filled up all the free space on my camera phone(that went fast), but I'm sure a shoot is in order within the next few weeks.

* A flu shot triggered a rare neurological disorder in one 25-year-old girl, a cautionary tale for anyone considering it. There are plenty of possible side effects, first and foremost getting the flu itself, since you're being injected with a trace amount of the particular strain doctors think will be prevalent in a given season. Viruses always adapt, so it's always a gamble. We definitely need a better solution, though I'm not remotely qualified to have an inkling of what that might be. My best guess would be a vaccine that works the way a virus does and adapts to counter whatever strain it faces. That's probably science fiction...for now. (Hat Tip to Rey and B13 for the video)

* Speaking of the flu, apparently it is possible to outrun it. Feeling slightly better on Tuesday as my head cold moved into my lungs, I ran over five miles in the gym. The more I ran, the better I felt. Sure, I was achy and wheezy by the time I got home, but Wednesday night was much better and I ran over six miles. Honestly though, it probably was a bad idea and I shouldn't have let my self-consciousness over regaining 5 pounds since I got sick push me to get back on the treadmill too soon. Kids, don't try this at home.

* Eddie Murphy was originally considered for the role of Winston Zeddemore in the original Ghostbusters. Had he taken the part, I think the group dynamic would have been very different, and some of Bill Murray's jokes might have been coming out of Murphy's mouth. I guess that's why his character always seemed tacked on, showing up halfway through the movie and being there mostly as a device for the other characters to explain things to, and thus the audience. I'm glad they went with Ernie Hudson though, and I liked whatever contributions he was able to make. Hopefully the rumors about everyone returning for Ghostbusters III becomes a reality. Hudson, Aykroyd and Ramis have all claimed to be on board, while Murray has said he'd want to see a script first. They need a good one, something to erase the bad taste of Ghostbusters II. And if not, we'll always have the first movie and The Real Ghost Busters, one of my all-time favorite animated series.



PBW: Monster House

There is a house, not far from where I work, that is an ordinary house. Yet I've noticed a change come over it as we've gotten closer and closer to Halloween. I can't put my finger on what was different exactly, but at great personal risk I got close to it to get some shots for Photo Blog Wednesday, and returned after dark for one final shot. Click the first and last images for larger versions of each:



GTFU Songs

I'm still sick. My sore throat moved on, thankfully, leaving me with watery eyes and a faucet nose. Gross. I was well enough to go to work on Monday and get some stuff done, but I ended up taking an MCF Half Day™, which meant that I left shortly after 5 and skipped the gym entirely. A two hour nap before my shows helped, and now I just have some aches and mild congestion. I hate not being 100%, and every day I skip the gym and “feed my cold” is a day I undo any progress I've made on the weight loss front. I find cardio is a good idea when I feel a cold coming on, and sometimes getting the heart pumping helps me knock it out before it hits me. But once I am sick and in a weakened state, exercise would only make things worse, and possibly lead to some respiratory problems.

I had wanted to build off of Krispy's Evergreen Hits idea at some point, and go through the songs that I'll never tire of. In a way, the following songs do fit that description. But there are plenty of slower tracks that I can also listen to over and over, and these are more specifically the ones that will get me the **** up and get me moving. I need inspiration, motivation, revolution, and a sloth solution. I need to hear this music right NOW to jump start my POW.

Pedal to the metal, feet on the pavement, nose to the grindstone, Get The **** UP:

”We're Not Gonna Take It” (Twisted Sister):

”Song 2” (Blur)

”Smells Like Teen Spirit” (Nirvana):

”Summer of ‘69” (Bryan Adams):

”Jump Around” (House of Pain):

”Fight for Your Right” (Beastie Boys):

”Bodies” (Drowning Pool):

”Because The Night” (10,000 Maniacs cover):

”Again” (Alice in Chains)

”Blackened” (Metallica):

”Bullet With Butterfly Wings” (Smashing Pumpkins):

”Once” (Pearl Jam):

”Don't Stop Believin'” (Journey):


Phantasmic Links 10.19.09

I have had a truly miserable weekend. I awoke on Saturday with what I'd hoped was just postnasal drip from going to bed without wearing socks, but it only got worse as the day progressed and turned into a full-blown sore throat, which is the one cold symptom I cannot abide. I barely spoke all weekend, and all the fluids, ice cubes, and cough drops in the world couldn't get me into a functional state. I'm not myself when I'm ill. On the positive side, at least it happened during the weekend when I could stay home and recuperate without missing work. And it was so cold, rainy, and horrible outside on Sunday, that I didn't mind being confined. I'm still not happy; maybe some PHANTASMIC LINKS will cheer me up:

(1) As big a fan as I am of both, I somehow missed the time Samuel L. Jackson was on The Transformers. (Hilarious NSFW language)

(2) Got drunk at a party? In some cultures, an apology might come as a form letter.

(3) Submachine 6 takes you to the edge and beyond, but only if your puzzle solving skills are sharp enough to solve the challenges along the way. With five secret areas(of which I only discovered one on my first try), there's a lot to explore here.

(4) You will not believe what happens after a baby rolls off a platform into the path of an oncoming train!

(5) I wonder what wacky wedding idea the Archie folks will come up with next? That would sell some issues...

(6) Jon Favreau will not be directing the Avengers, as he focuses on continuing Iron Man, but he will be an executive producer with input.

(7) An asteroid just missed us. That's probably more common than we realize.

(8) Some old photos capture the joy of riding BMX bikes as a kid. Those were the days.

(9) That Balloon Boy was incident officially a hoax. Well they fooled me. People in the cafeteria at work were glued to the tube, and when I got back to my desk I kept checking news feeds for updates. So messed up.

(10) Looking for a snack while you game? Why not try some Metroid Cake Balls or Chocolate Dipped Cake Goombas? Who knew there was a whole site dedicated to video game cookies?

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!



WWW: Weekend Wrental Wreviews 13

Let's see what I saw this week for Weekend Wrental Wreviews in my THIRTEENTH WWW:

1) Staying Alive:
I have no idea what the hell happened or what Stallone and Travolta were thinking. Saturday Night Fever was a good movie, about a womanizing young man who eventually at the very least questions what he's doing, and whether he wants to spend the rest of his life working in a hardware store and going disco dancing on Saturday nights. But of all the directions Travolta's Tony Manero could have gone in, I never would have expected headbands, legwarmers, and bad Broadway dance shows. Manero competes with the passion of Rocky but most of the sequences are about as silly as the solo warehouse dance scene in Footloose. The sequel completely misses the flavor of the original here, and is probably one of the things that tanked Travolta's career until he made his comeback in Pulp Fiction. There's a weird love triangle that doesn't work because it's obvious who he should pick, especially when he ends up fighting one of the girls through dance. There's some shameless diva behavior and the girl doesn't act much better. And the last line of the film is so ridiculous, when the big show is finally over, that I need to post it here as a warning, spoilers be damned: “You know what I want to do now?” “What”? “Strut.” I even found video, though not in English, which makes it no less ridiculous:

Without that line, and with a better movie, that might have made a good parallel to the way the first movie began. Fail.

2) Be Kind Rewind:
I have mixed feelings about this one. I'll start with the ending, which on first viewing felt ambiguous, but after thinking about it, I realized it was pretty clear what happened, but that it wasn't the ending movies have conditioned me to expect. And overall, the film had a lot of heart, and veteran actors like Danny Glover particularly shone. Be Kind Rewind tells the story of what happens when Glover leaves Mos Def in charge of his video store while he goes on a quest to find a way to keep from losing both a business and a home should their building be condemned. Enter Jack Black, whom Glover wants kept out of the store until he gets back. Through a ludicrous, inexplicable sequence too silly to recapitulate, Black's character gets magnetized and erases every tape in the store. They probably could have come up with a better way to set up the next act of the film, but however they got there, the next act is the fun one, the one I expected from the trailers. The two set about making their own bad remakes of the lost films, because they're basically idiots, but in the process they find an audience and a community rediscovers its spirit. So I did like that, though I wouldn't have minded more with the spoofs. And while Black excels at playing a doofus, Def seemed uncomfortable in the role, and he fluctuated. He's done better and impressed me in almost every other role I've seen him in, but he just didn't seem comfortable with this character, who alternates from being simple to being the smart one in comparison to Black's. There's a buddy comedy formula that Abbott and Costello perfected, and another Dumb and Dumber coined, but this film suffers by straddling and never committing to either. In the end, it wasn't a bad movie and I liked it, but I wouldn't have minded if a few things were done differently.

3) Adventureland:
If you're expecting a Ryan Reynolds workplace comedy similar to Waiting, then this isn't the film for you. If you want an ‘80s period piece about angst and life's lessons as we figure out who we're going to be for the rest of our lives, then you'll probably enjoy it as much as I did. Based on the director's experiences with a Summer job at a Long Island amusement park, the film chronicles the romances and friendships of a college graduate(Jesse Eisenberg), who faces one rollercoaster twist and turn after another when his parents are unable to afford grad school and he goes to work at an amusement park. Martin Starr appears to loosely reprise his Freaks and Geeks role a few years later with a throwaway reference to a peanut allergy, and is just one of many characters that enter our protagonist's life as he learns who his friends are, and how people will invariably let us down, but as humans we all make mistakes. His romance with Kristen Stewart reminded me a bit of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. At one point he makes a mix tape for her of “downer” songs, a good metaphor for these types of movies with geeks and damaged girls and people in that awkward phase between school and the real world, or really any awkward phase. Because we can all relate, we've all felt that way, and somehow through empathy there's hope. We all go through it, but then we all get through it.

More reviews to follow next week after I've spun a few more discs!



Stroke of Genius

After 10 days of administering medication to our cat Cubby, my mom returned to the vet to find out why the poor guy seemed to have gone blind. He was feisty again, but the vet managed to give him a shot and a more thorough exam, and is now sure that our cat suffered a stroke. The good news is that it doesn't seem to have affected him in any way, apart from the blindness, and he seems to have responded to the medication. He's walking in circles less, and favoring the right may be because he's more comfortable on that side or his vision is less obscured on that side. There is more green around his pupils, and hopefully those big black saucers will continue to shrink. At this point, he could go either way in terms of his vision, but it's still a relief to have a diagnosis and a plan of action.

With one less thing on my mind, I was able to concentrate on work. One of my assignments is now a week behind schedule, mostly because the direction was changed and we had to start over, a situation entirely out of my control but still annoying, because I've never been a week late on anything in my life. My department also had a big lunch meeting in which we all critiqued new designs we'd come up with. It was a fun side project with writers, artists, and marketing people broken up into smaller teams with different assignments. Somehow, though I'm the quiet guy and terrified with public speaking, my partners volunteered me to do the bulk of the speaking. I was nervous, probably spoke too quickly, and likely missed some points even though I'd jotted down notes. At least we were allowed to speak from our chairs around a conference table, and didn't have to get up at the podium in front of the whole room. That junk would have knocked me unconscious. As it is, I'd had a scare earlier in the day when my car skidded on some wet leaves and I almost hit a car waiting at a stop sign in front of me, swerving into the oncoming lane to avoid it. That set my heart pounding.

It had been a long week, and I was glad when some friends invited me out to see Black Dynamite, an hilariously faithful send-up of 70s blaxploitation films. I expect it will be a huge cult hit for writer and star Michael Jai White, though a lack of advertising and a limited release make me think it won't do well in theaters. We had to settle for a subpar theater at a local mall, where there were only five or six other people there, sad for a Friday night. But the movie itself had us in stitches and my face hurts from the laughing while I need to drink water to replace the tears. It has everything, from the lingo, to the over-the-top expressions and scenarios, and best of all the low budget mistakes. A boom mike is visible and consistently distracts the star in one scene. Footage is recycled whenever a car drives off a cliff and explodes. A woman has a tear in her eye in every other frame. A stuntman accidentally gets hit and cries out, and a second later a different actor is spliced into the same fight scene. The film is choppy and grainy and all around authentic to the style of the movies it parodies. I'm sure we missed half the jokes from laughing and repeating lines. “I'm gonna shake the smack right out of you!” says the hero to a drug-addicted orphan. “No Black Dynamite!”, cries Salli Richardson-Whitfield, “We already TRIED that!” I couldn't do the dialogue justice, and the plot reaches increasing levels of absurdity, with crazy endboss upon crazy endboss until they finally get all the way to the top. I haven't laughed like that in a long time. They did their research on this one.

Afterwards, we hit a diner, even though we'd eaten prior to the movie, and instead of the small coffee and pie I was considering, I found myself ordering a deluxe belgian waffle and an espresso. The waffle was huge, covered with bacon and scrambled eggs, sitting on a disk of ham, and flanked by sausage. The espresso never arrived, nor did the waitress ever come back to check on us. I think she was upset that my friend's thickshake had apparently exploded on her blouse, though after she left he noted that the consistency and taste of his drink seemed more akin to a light, frothy chocolate milk. At least my beverage wasn't on the check, because there was no way I was going to pay for something they never brought me. I suppose the staff was tired; it was close to 1 AM, although there were only two other tables with customers.

Black Dynamite really was genius though, and I couldn't let little things like bad service get me down. It would be great if a chorus sang my name when I entered a room, if I could just sidestep machine gun fire and only have one bullet graze my shoulder. It'd be nice to be that smooth with the ladies too. Maybe I need to change my brand of malt liquor....