7.31.2009

23

1. Do you like to celebrate your birthday, or does getting older make you sad and pissed off?
I think when I don't celebrate I feel sad and introspective. Getting older doesn't piss me off; we're aging every second. Birthdays are just milestones on which we inevitably look back and wonder where it all went so fast, and why we haven't done more. But as long as I can enjoy a nice meal and some cake with my folks, and get out for some drinks with whatever friends I can rustle up, then it's not a bad time at all. Honestly, Valentine's Day and New Years Eve have often made me sadder than my birthday ever could. At least on my birthday I get presents, snacks and a free lunch.

2. If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?
If I could afford it, I would love to live in midtown Manhattan. The city never sleeps, with bars, museums, movies, and other forms of entertainment, and it's a hub from which I could catch a train to just about anywhere. I'd probably have to maintain some sort of home out on the Island and keep a car there, though. I wouldn't want a car in the city, but it would be impossible to get around the Island without one.

3. What is your favorite cuisine?
Burgers, barbecue, and pizza baby! 34 years and still no heart condition!

4. What foods do you dislike?
I'm not a fan of vegetables. I grew up limited to corn and potatoes, and only in the last 10 years or so did I start eating lettuce and tomatoes. I despise broccoli and cauliflower, and I'll only eat zucchini if my mom bakes it into a bread, which she hasn't done in years. Carrots made me ill as a child, but I can endure them now if raw. Shavings and carrot sticks are fine but I don't like the taste of cooked or mashed carrots. I also don't care for seafood, especially shrimp, which was like eating giant white roaches with no flavor, and I don't get the sushi thing. I like tuna, and I've tried flounder and some of the more chicken like cuts of fish.

5. Favorite Place to Eat?
I've always been partial to Sizzler, though Long Island is down to maybe one or two. We're dreadfully short on Arby's and Roy Rogers these days as well. I have to say that more recent opportunities to eat at these establishments did not live up to my childhood memories from when they were more abundant and I ate there all the time, so either they've declined in quality or nostalgia is a big factor.

6. What are your favorite clothes?
Anything loose and comfortable; I like shedding my clothes after a long day and trading them for shorts when it's warm and sweatpants when it's cold. I love wearing short sleeve shirts in the Summer too.

7. Where would you visit if you had the chance?
Italy, especially Venice and Rome.

8. Favorite time of day?
Lunch time.

9. Where were you born?
In a hospital on Long Island, which is as specific as I can get right now.

10. Favorite quote?
”Ha ha! You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia, but only slightly less well-known is this: never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line!” I also have a brain chock full of obscure Simpsons quotes that resurface when I least expect them; sometimes I don't even know that I'm doing it. I think that's a topic for another post, though. I'm cold, and there are wolves after me....

11. Vegetarian or carnivore?
I've learned to eat some veggies, but I'm predominantly a meat eater.

12. Are you a morning person or a night person?
I am definitely a night person, which negates any chance of me being a morning person, or even fully cognizant of my actions and surroundings before noon.

13. Any new and exciting news you'd like to share?
Yes! I just saved a bunch of money on my car insurance...no, not really.

14. What did you want to be when you were little?
A detective or an architect.

15. What is your best childhood memory?
My dad coming home from work and letting me stand on the tops of his feet while he held up my arms and walked up and down our hall.

16. Any pet peeves?
Tailgaters, horn abusers, liars, the mispronunciation “nuke-you-lar”, and that kid in the cubicle outside my office who won't stop tapping his damn feet. Either start smoking again or put a pillow on the floor when your headphones are on. At least I have the option of closing my door. At my last job, I had to change cubicles when I finally had enough of “DAMNIT, CAITLIN! PUT GRANDMA ON THE PHONE!”, “Do you know what my Jeffrey did today?”, nail clipping, and other melodic sounds that I was surrounded by in my original spot.

17. Favorite Flowers or Plants?
Crocuses.

18. Favorite ice cream?
Cookies ‘n' Cream.

19. Do anything spontaneous lately?
I wanted to do something spontaneous because I was feeling bored, but I wasn't creative enough to think of anything spontaneous, so I did the same stuff I always do. I did go for a run half an hour before my 3.5 mile race the other day, which was sort of spontaneous, but it was my friend's idea that I just went along with.

20. What is your favorite color?
Red.

21. Most attractive trait in the opposite sex?
I usually try to be politically correct and say something romantic like “eyes”, and that's not a total lie, but a lot of cute girls in the race the other day gave me a lot of incentive to run faster and keep up, reminding me that I appreciate a tight bottom as well. Sorry to answer so crudely, albeit honestly....

22. Where/What would you like to be 10 years from now?
Wherever I am, and whatever I'm doing, I hope to still be alive, I hope my friends and family would still be doing well, I hope I will have finally started really living, and a six figure income would be nice as well.

23. Do you think that blogging is a silly narcissistic indulgence?
Absolutely not. It's mostly a fun, narcissistic indulgence, even if there are some nights when it feels like homework...

7.30.2009

Now What?

It's important in life to set goals for ourselves. It's very good to establish a time frame for these goals. My major goals sort of lie in a vague timeframe and I continue saving and hoping indefinitely for whenever I finally buy a house, get married, have kids, and put them through college. Obviously I don't have forever to achieve these goals, which seem impossible sometimes, but in the back of my mind I think I use my father as a gauge, who didn't settle down until he was 40. So I still have six years, although I know how fast time flies as we get older.

Short term small goals are a lot easier to achieve. I make lists at work everyday, and at the end of the day check off the things I've accomplished, and then cross off the day at the top of the list and write down the following day. Even on weekends, I know I can work in mowing the lawn, doing laundry, and any other tasks I need to accomplish between musical engagements. The timeframe and the tasks are both realistic in proportion to one another.

Two months ago, I set a goal to get in shape for a race. I was certain it would take me close to 40 minutes to complete; I did it in just over 34 minutes. It was a great feeling, followed by an enormous sense of relief. I was nervous with anticipation all day, moreso than I have been in previous years. I had trained and I'd cut out a lot of the snacks I enjoy, and though I wasn't dieting completely I'd still managed to drop 10 or 11 pounds when I wasn't looking. Had my jeans gotten stretched out? Why did my belt need a new hole? It wasn't until a few people at my last gig asked me if I'd lost weight that I got on a scale to confirm it.

Naturally, the first thing I did after the race was pig out on the wraps, granola bars, potato salad, and other assorted goodies my company had provided. I regretted it later, but at the time I was ravenous. And the next day, I thought for sure I might reward myself with a visit to Starbucks or Carvel. Fortunately, cutting out a little early the day before to go to the race left me with a lot of work to do the next day, and I ended up taking a shorter lunch. Gathering storm clouds were also an incentive to race back to work rather than get caught in the rain dallying for snacks.

I did skip the gym on Wednesday though. I know the cruel aspects of metabolism, how I could gain back in a week what I'd lost in two months, but I needed one day after so much intense training. Running outside in warmer temperatures on uneven terrain is also more exhausting than a treadmill in an air conditioned gym. I needed one day to recuperate, but that's all I should allow. Now I need to ask myself, “What now?” I feel like people have been looking at me differently, although it may just be my own altered perceptions. If I'm happy with how I look, I don't see my own disgust reflected in the eyes of others like I do when I'm not happy. So I definitely can't stop now.

It's been intense, though. I ran for an hour every night. I did stomach crunches and weights for another half hour. I spent more and more time in the gym and wasn't getting home until after 9 PM some nights. It's Summer; there's nothing on television that I care about or need to rush home for. But I do want to get home earlier. So the question now is how to modify my workout without going back up to 190 pounds or higher. I don't want to do as much as I've been doing, but I want to do more than I was doing before I set the race as a goal. Next year's race is too far off to use as motivation. In terms of time, I think I'll cut that hour on the treadmill down to half an hour. But to compensate, I may up my speed. The actual race proved I can run and maintain a faster pace than I thought possible. In the gym, I always operate with the subconscious fear of losing control and not being able to reach the “STOP” button before the machine flings me back and I injure and/or embarrass myself.

So I begin anew, with new goals, and I'll adjust my math accordingly. Maybe by this time next year, I'll be running the same distance in half the time. Even a few minutes will be a victory. It's good to have goals; it's crucial to take those first few steps before breaking into a run.

7.29.2009

PBW: New Phone. Old Sneakers.

The last time I ran the Workplace Challenge at Jones Beach, I had a bad callus on my heel from old shoes. This year, I got a bad blister on the side of my foot from my new shoes. In the end, I wound up sticking with the shoes I used three years ago. They weren't in that bad shape. For one thing, they were fully intact, which beat the previous pair with holes in them.

Prior to the race, my friend suggested a warm-up run on the boardwalk. I think his “warm-up” was close to a mile, and as we waited for the race to begin I was winded, heated, and thinking I'd made a terrible mistake. As the horn blew, I trudged out with the rest of the crowd, breaking into a jog around the next bend. People were passing me, and I wanted to stop, but I kept going. Clouds had rolled in and the humidity had dropped, and I wasn't about to let two months of training go to waste. A local radio station van was blasting U2's Vertigo, which gave me a surge forward. A few pretty girls passed me, which also prompted me to pick up the pace. And when I reached the one mile mark and saw my time was still under 9 minutes, hope rose.

I caught up with a lot of the people who'd passed me, now walking on the side of the road to catch their breath. Just before the two-mile marker, another van blared Eye of the Tiger, clichéd but effective. I reached two miles around the 18 minute mark, which meant I had a whole 22 minutes to do the last mile and a half within my goal of under 40 minutes!

Near the end of the race is a deceptive section. You can see the stadium in sight by the finish line, but suddenly past some bushes the course veers into a parking lot where you have to run out along some traffic cones and back. I was feeling the strain by that point and had a bit of a stitch from drinking too much water at one of the tables along the way. I pressed onward, and heard a familiar voice greet me as my department's vice president appeared out of nowhere and passed me. I tried to keep up with her, but there's a hill on that final stretch and she quickly disappeared. I was ready to break down and walk despite being so close, and I actually tried. The funny thing is, when you're moving at a steady pace for that long, shifting back to a walk is like stepping on the brakes while flooring the gas. My feet slowed but my legs pushed and resisted, forcing me back into a run. And when I saw the finish line and the clock around 33 minutes or so, I freaking sprinted, passing dozens of people. A few feet from the finish line I ran out of energy, and stumbled through at 34:21, which isn't a bad time for me, and better than I'd been doing in the gym. The best I'd done in the gym was 38:15, so I was more than happy. I think my approach of running every day for an hour and getting in close to 6 miles was a good one. If I train to run a longer distance than the race, then the race will go by that much quicker. So much about running is psychological. And as always, I kept imagining songs from The Transformers: The Movie soundtrack because I'm a geek and that's what motivates me. You have to go with what works.

A week and a half ago my cell phone wasn't working. I shared that tale and posted pictures of the old phone and the new one I'd bought to replace it. The old one started working again, but froze occasionally, and I only kept it on long enough to retrieve my contact information. The new phone, unlike the new sneakers, was a wise purchase. I made a lot of mistakes in buying those shoes, not the least of which was buying them because they reminded me of KITT. Yeah.

Old Phone. New Phone. Old Sneakers. New Sneakers. Photo Blog Wednesday has shots of them all, as well as the free t-shirt all race participants got at the end:







(Click below for larger size)




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7.28.2009

Could I BE more improbable?

Within the last 48 hours...

...I boarded a train bound for New York City, had the conductor punch my round trip ticket, and subsequently dozed off on an early Sunday morning. 40 minutes or so into the trip, another conductor repeatedly asked, “Ticket, Sir? Sir? SIR! Ticket, sir...” until I awoke. Groggy, I fumbled for my wallet, even as I looked out the window to see where we were. “He already punched it...” I muttered, as I showed him the ticket. “Who?” he asked, with the venom of a traffic cop on the verge of issuing a speeding ticket. “The conductor. When I got on. At the first stop.” He was still skeptical. “Did you move?” I just stared for a minute, trying to process how unnoticeable a chubby Italian guy in a bright red shirt cradling a brass instrument in a lime green cloth bag could be. “I've been here since the first stop.” I said firmly. He shrugged, punched the ticket, and moved on.

...I found that one ticket machine wouldn't accept cash, while another was down completely at the PATH station. The one that supposedly took credit wouldn't read my credit card, and kept canceling my transaction if it didn't get a response from me within five seconds. I was ready to run to the bank of machines on other side of the platform when one of the workers noticed my plight and asked me where I wanted to go. “They're workin' on the machines,” she explained, waving me over to the turnstile where she waved some pouch in front of it that probably had her own scannable card in it. When I realized I was getting in for free, I thanked her with some tinge of surprise; in NY, that sort of thing is improbable. In my life, that sort of thing is improbable.

...In New Jersey, absolutely no one was waiting for me, even though I was sure the Jersey band leader said he'd be there, as on past years. After about 20 minutes, I called the drummer from the Brooklyn band I play for, since he and his father were also working the Jersey gig. They were already up at the church and the band leader had no recollection of picking me up, and wasn't likely to give up his parking space. It was only a mile or so, so I walked. One more mile wouldn't kill me with the five hour procession I had ahead of me.

...The improbable niceness from NY continued in NJ when, at one of the food stops, two kids set aside a tray of sandwiches for the band so that when we were done playing the people into the break, we wouldn't find that the vultures in the procession had already ravaged the tables.

...Some random Jonathan Winters lookalike wandered into the band halfway through the job, playing a pair of small cymbals. He told us how, when he was younger, he remembered his father playing in the procession. He actually wasn't bad, and kept good time with our drummers. In the end, the band leader bought him a drink and kicked him a few bucks, as well as a business card. Now there's a successful audition.

...We played our last few notes just as the first few drops of rain fell. And within seconds of getting under the scant protection of a beer tent, a bolt of lightning struck a block away and it began to pour. Between the wind and the water pooling and spilling over the side of the tent, I got soaked, and feared I might ruin my new cell phone. Suddenly, carrying it in a small plastic bag didn't seem so paranoid.

...The storm let up, and the band leader offered to give myself and the Brooklyn guys a ride back to the PATH. We had a few more beers, and toasted my father, who I'd left home since I thought walking and taking several trains would be too much for him. When we got to the station, the band leader hopped out of the car, which was apparently still in drive, and only after our frantic shouting did he run back and jump in the car to step on the brake seconds before we hit a parked car.

...Back in Manhattan, a girl asked the drummer if it was okay where she was parked. Why he looked like someone who would know, racing toward a train station with a snare drum slung over his shoulder, I cannot say. He did tell her he thought she was fine, while I interjected to point out the “No Standing” sign a few feet away. “You don't even drive and she's asking you?”, I snarked. It's highly probable that I'm more sarcastic when I drink.

...After a typical Monday, capped with another thunderstorm, I headed to the gym for my final workout before the big Workplace Challenge on Tuesday. I started training for the 5K/3.5 Mile race about two months ago, and there have been some improvements. I managed to get faster and whittle my time down to around 38 or 39 minutes, my past average from previous years when I was in better shape. And surprisingly, noticing that my jeans seemed “stretched” and my belt could use a new hole, I got on a scale and discovered that I've dropped 11 pounds! It's not visibly noticeable since it's sort of proportionate all around, but I definitely feel better. Of course, my last practice run was not to be, as the gym was closed. There were only a few cars in the lot, and the staff was hanging around outside. “Uh, we're actually closed,” said one of the trainers. “Power outage. Should be back up around 8. Call first, and if we don't answer, we're not here.

I wasn't going to drive all the way home then back to the gym near my office. I took it as a sign to run outdoors in preparation for my outdoor run, since it is different than running on a treadmill. But when I went to my local high school, I found the track was under construction, with the gates padlocked and severe “No Trespassing” signs. I remembered another track behind my old Middle School, but when I got there all I could see was grass. There was a faint oval indentation and a slightly different green hue in the area where the track used to be. Smack in the middle was a sign warning people that no unauthorized field use was permitted without a letter from the superintendent. My last recourse was a local park, and with the setting sun I didn't have much time to beat the dusk closing. I found running in the park to be great until I hit the first steep hill. I made it to the top and found I was breathing heavier than normal. I managed to run for another ten minutes or so before it started getting dark, but I do think I was starting to get my second wind. I may have run a mile, which is better than not having run at all. I also ran in my old sneakers, and I don't think I'm going to use the new ones that gave me a huge blister. According to my friend “Triathlon”, part of the reason stores like the one I went to can afford to carry name brand products is because they often get defective ones, so the sneaker may be poorly constructed. With my luck, my old ones will explode or catch fire halfway through the race, or worse. i can't predict what improbable fates await me, only that the unlikely awaits.

Wish me luck...

7.27.2009

Phantasmic Links 7.27.09

I had quite a day on Sunday at a very fun but exhausting Italian feast, with plenty of food and drinks, and a serious thunderstorm that thankfully waited until after we were done playing and “safely” under a beer tent, which didn't offer as much protection as we would have liked.

Good day. Long day. Sunday.

Monday? PHANTASMIC LINKS day:

(1) Scotch tape turns opaque glass clear. Magic is just science we haven't figured out yet.
Hat Tip: B13.

(2) Now you can customize your Google homepage with comic book themes. It's times like these that I really love the internet, which seems solely designed with me in mind.
H.T.: Rhodester.

(3) In a related story, did anyone else notice Jim Lee's Google logo this week?

(4) Here's a really positive review of Watchmen. I'm looking forward to the DVD and it's nice to come across someone else who liked the film, given all the negativity I encounter online toward the movie.

(5) A very cool parent makes an AT-AT bed for his child.
H.T.: J-No.

(6) Scroll around to see just how many games the Mario character has appeared in. That's some game family tree!
H.T.: B13.

(7) Biologists create the first living computer, using bacteria. Funny, I always thought we were living computers...

(8) You don't have to be an artist or have any special supplies or software to sketch at Odopod.
H.T.: Rey.

(9) A father explains to his son through song and animation why he shouldn't kill a spider.

(10) Best. Lingerie Ad. Ever.


Have a link to a game, movie, article, or anything else you think might be “phantasmic”? E-mail me and it just might appear in an upcoming PHANTASMIC LINKS!

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7.26.2009

Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle

It's been a while since I've done one of these ”Answer in Song” questionnaires, and shockingly I've never used songs from Nirvana.

Using only song names from ONE ARTIST, the idea is to cleverly answer these questions without repeating a song title. Here's the latest variation of this exercise I've come across along with my song answers:

Your Artist: Nirvana

1) Are you male or female?
Been a Son.

2) Describe yourself:
Very Ape.

3) How do you feel about yourself?
Dumb.

4) Describe where you currently live:
On a Plain.

5) The first thing you think of when you wake up:
Territorial Pissings.

6) If you could go anywhere, where would you go?
Heart-Shaped Box.

7) Your favorite form of transportation:
Aero Zeppelin.

8) Your best friend is:
Floyd the Barber.

9) Your favorite color is:
Lithium.

10) What's the weather like?
Something in the Way.

11) If your life were a TV show, what would it be called?
Aneurysm.

12) What is life to you?
Lounge Act.

13) What is the best advice you have to give?
Come as You Are.

14) If you could change your name, what would it be?
Negative Creep.

15) Your favorite food is:
Big Cheese.

16) How would you like to die?
In Bloom.

17) My soul's present condition:
Verse, Chorus, Verse.

18) The faults I can bear:
All Apologies.

19) How would you describe your love life:
About a Girl.

20) What are you going to post this as?:
Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle.

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7.25.2009

WWW: Weekend Wrental Wreviews

Welcome to the first installment of Weekend Wrental Wreviews! Growing up, I had very narrow taste in films, and even missed out on some major ones within the genres I limited myself to. Thanks to Netflix, I've been on a slow quest to make up for lost time and catch up on the things everyone else has already seen. I try to see six films a week, excluding trips to the theater, but that's neither enough nor always possible. Still, despite my time constraints, I always thought it would be good to jot down even a few thoughts on my recent rentals. I don't know if WWW! is my next regular feature or a one-time exercise, but for now here are my thoughts on the last few discs my DVD player has spun:

1) Roxanne: I think Steve Martin needs to step away from family films, which aren't that bad admittedly, and remakes, which do seem bad, and get back to his roots. There's a lot more substance to this classic that I once dismissed as some goofball comedy about a guy with a big nose. There's real intelligence, as well as a great message about strength of character and substance winning out over physical appearance. It's not about how we look, but how we act, react, and interact.

2) Hellraiser: Deader: The only thing deader than this film is the Hellraiser franchise, despite the fact that I have one more of the original eight films to see and a remake of the original is on the horizon. I'll go through these in reverse order since they get progressively worse, and this 7th film barely qualifies as a Hellraiser, continuing the trend set in a few previous installments in which Pinhead barely makes a cameo appearance to say a few things that always sound sinister and cool in a British monotone. Honestly, he could be saying “Ruffles have ridges.” or “These pretzels are making me thirsty”, and it would raise my hackles. But that doesn't save a bad movie that doesn't make a whole lot of sense, and doesn't go anywhere. I didn't miss much skipping these sequels growing up.

3) The Kid: What would you do if a younger version of yourself suddenly showed up, and wasn't too happy to find out he turns into you someday? That's the problem Bruce Willis faced in this mostly light Disney comedy, and it's a very interesting one. The mechanisms of time travel or magic or whatever makes it possible isn't as important as the message about how life can beat us down, how we can choose to become numb and block things out and get caught up in stuff that isn't that important. We're all still the kid we used to be, but we tend to block out or forget that aspect of ourselves.

4) Hellraiser: Hellseeker: Out of all the terrible sequels after the first two films in this series, the sixth one is the least terrible. Ashley Laurence reprises her role as Kirsty, the protagonist from the first few films, and Dean Winters(30 Rock/Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) does a pretty good job in the lead this time around. The twist is parallel to that of the previous film in the series, but the execution and payoff are far better. Most importantly, it feels like a Hellraiser film, with a unique look into a person's psyche and what constitutes a personal hell.

5) Hellraiser: Inferno: Much like Deader, this fifth installment is a bad movie with a Pinhead cameo. While Deader followed a reporter investigating a cult, this one is a bad cop drama with a particularly corrupt Craig Sheffer justifying his drug habits and marital infidelity in poorly delivered voiceovers. When you're rooting for the demons to show up and do bad things to your main character, something is terribly wrong.

6) Bad Boys: Well, of course I've seen the Michael Bay buddy cop movies, but this isn't those at all. No, this is a gritty early ‘80s piece in which Sean Penn plays a juvenile delinquent whose actions lead to a horrible tragedy and land him in reform school. It's a scared-straight prison movie that doesn't pull any punches, and its notable for the performances of many young actors early in their careers, from Penn to Ally Sheedy to Clancy Brown. It's the type of film I could only see once, and the type that's absolutely essential to see that one time. It's a little gritty and its age shows, but it makes up for low lighting and budget with its intensity.

7) Hellraiser: Bloodline: I think this is where the series should have ended, or if they had to make one more after this one it should have been Hellseeker. Bloodline is split into three segments and covers three generations of the same family. One segment is set in the 1700s and finally gives us the origin of the Lament Configuration, the puzzle box that serves as the gateway between our world and that of the demons in all of these films. It's a little over the top, but not a bad sequence. Another segment is set in the present, and follows the descendant of the toymaker Lemarchand who created the box. This section is notable for picking up where the third film left off, in an office building whose architecture resembles that of the box. Such continuity between films would be discarded beyond this point. Now the part that makes this film absurd is the framing sequence, which is in the future on a space station. Mixing genres like this always works, right? Remember Jason X? This is where I think the writers painted themselves into a corner, because if Pinhead was defeated in the present only to remain dormant until the future when he's supposedly destroyed, then when do you set subsequent films? Does he resurrect even further into the future? Do the other stories take place in between the office building and space station sequences? Or is continuity completely ignored going forward? If you chose that last option, you've probably seen more and better films than I have.

8) Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth: What can I say about this third one? Pinhead returns, which is cool. We learn of his origins as a human before the box turned him into a Cenobite, which is also cool. But even as we explore his human side, his demonic side is played more as a simple antichristian villain, massacring a night club and desecrating a church. In the first two films, he was more of an enforcer, a neutral party who made sure people played by the rules. You open the box; he makes sure you go to hell. In 3, he just sort of kills everybody, and then brings a few random people back as subpar Cenobites like a guy with a television camera on his head or one whose head shoots CDs. It's like the ‘90s threw up on the film and he worked with what he had. It's not as bad as the majority of the films that follow it, but it doesn't hold up against the original, which is the most horrific and timeless despite a lower budget. I've owned that one for years on VHS, and when I finally got around to the rest of this series with Hellbound, I was optimistic. That second film, with its twisted journey into a nightmarish Escher drawing, is probably my favorite.

9) Nightbreed: Here's another Clive Barker flick, and another Craig Sheffer vehicle, but this one is actually good. A race of undead mutants and misfits live beneath a cemetery--think of the comic book version of Morlocks or some of the creatures in the Hellboy films--and Sheffer's character is drawn into this world first through dreams, then direct contact and transformation. The makeup and character designs are great, as are the costumes; David Cronenberg wears a particularly awesome mask of burlap with button eyes. In the end, it feels like they were setting it up for sequels that were never made. If the Hellraiser series is any indication, maybe that's not a bad thing.


Well, there you have it; nine of the last few films I've rented. I may cover more or less in the future, depending on the response to this installment. And hopefully there will be more variety, if it's at a time when I'm not working my way through a series. I've rated 2,204 discs on Netflix, which includes television series as well as movies. I'll never be able to review them all, but it's a good start...

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7.24.2009

Bent

I'll always be a big kid, and always appreciate good animation and storytelling. There are definitely cartoons for which I am not the target audience, but in the last few decades I've seen an increase in continuity, in series having story arcs and character development on par with any of the hour long live action dramas I watch in the evening. Gargoyles. Beast Wars. Digimon Tamers. TMNT (2003 series). And of course pretty much every series in the DC animated universe, culminating in Justice League Unlimited. Of course, for every series with tight animation and a rich plot behind which the writers clearly seem to have a plan, there are dozens of “seizure” shows, crude drawings and flashy colors while characters shout gibberish. The only people my age who watch those shows are probably unemployed and smoking a very particular type of homemade cigarette.

A few years back, some coworkers were singing the praises of Avatar: The Last Airbender. I'd occasionally see DVDs in the store and they didn't interest me. The box art, which didn't always represent the actual animation style, seemed juvenile with overly primary color schemes. Most featured some goofy little bald kid with an arrow tattooed on his head, sometimes surrounded by creatures I assumed were Pokémon ripoffs. No doubt, it was just another one of those badly dubbed seizure shows based on a card game or video game or whatever Japanese phenomenon was just making it to our shores. I forgot about it, and went on my merry way.

So a few weeks ago, I saw the teaser trailer for M. Night Shyamalan's The Last Airbender. It looked good. Compared to his last film, from just those short scenes I knew this would be a film in which something was actually happening. So, I went back to check out the source material, to at least see the first episode and understand what it was all about. The world of Avatar is divided into four nations separated by the classic elements of Water, Earth, Fire, and Air(I told you I'd come back to the elements). Within these nations are benders, spiritual artists who, through training, discipline, and some natural ability, can actually control or bend the elements of their nation to their will. This world exists in harmony until the Fire Nation rises up to attack the other nations. The mostly peaceful Water Tribes are vastly weakened and relegated to the polar regions. The Air Nomads are seemingly obliterated. Only the Earth Kingdom manages to remain standing, though behind the walls of its most formidable city its king sits as a figurehead, his advisors keeping him unaware of the war.

In each generation of this world there is an Avatar, an individual with the ability to master all four of the elements. Through a cycle of reincarnation, the Avatar is reborn into a different nation each time. A Firebender was the last great Avatar to fall opposing his nation's devious turn, and an Airbender named Aang was next in line. But the 12-year-old boy had a hard time adapting to the fact that he was no longer like his friends, and he fled his temple when he heard he was to be taken from his favorite monk and given over to someone else for training. Caught in a storm and knocked into the ocean on his flying sky-bison, his instincts take over as he enters the “Avatar State”, in which his eyes and tattoos glow and he taps into the cosmic energy fueling the entire line of Avatars before him. He encases himself and his bison Appa in a sphere of ice, where he remains for 100 years until a brother and sister from the Southern water tribe discover and free him. As the series unfolds, Aang learns of how the world changed in his absence, how his people were exterminated, and realizes he needs to learn the other three elements in order to defeat the Fire Lord and restore balance to the world.

If that seems like a heavy premise and a lot of plot for an animated series, consider the fact that the preceding paragraphs only describe the first few episodes. The series ran for a total of 61 episodes broken into three seasons. Seasons were referred to as “Books”, while each episode was a “Chapter”. And it felt like reading a great fantasy trilogy. Characters were introduced and would return in later episodes, even if their role seemed small initially. Aang is initially pursued by the exiled prince of the Fire Nation, Zuko, whose own father challenged him to combat and burned one side of his face to teach him a lesson. When Zuko learns of the Avatar's existence, he decides that capturing him and bringing him home will restore his honor and get him a seat at his father's right hand. Zuko's hotheaded nature is balanced by his kindly uncle Iroh, a chubby old man who enjoys tea and games and serves as both comic relief and Zuko's moral compass. As the series unfolds, we learn that Iroh was once the greatest general in his nation, and find out just what tragedy in his past shaped his present state. Everything is initially black and white, with good guys and bad guys, but shades of gray are soon introduced. These are people, with complex emotions and motivations, and both the heroes and the villains are given opportunities to question themselves. Heroes don't always make the right choices. Villains don't always make the wrong ones. And it is EPIC.

I hate to give too much away, but it was a very addictive series that got better and better. Aside from moral and spiritual growth, there were style changes too. Characters changed hairstyles and outfits and didn't follow one set model. Items lost and items found were kept track of, as were little details that were noticed and appreciated. One character suffers an injury at the end of one season, and by the end of the next one you see he's still healing and still bears a mark. It's a show that must have had a clear outline, with a solid beginning, middle and end. And for all the drama and tragedy, there's a good blend of humor. Aang is still a kid. His friends have their own comedic turns. And before the series ends, there's one particularly great and clever recap which offers meta-commentary about some of the plot twists on the show, from the great to the ambiguous.

So what does this mean for the film version? I think the visuals and the effects in the teaser echo the show. There's some controversy over the casting, for though Avatar is set in a fictional world, its inhabitants bear resemblance to Asians, Inuits, and Indians. The mostly-Caucasian cast seems to have angered many people who feel it was intentional. I can't really comment on this until I see a real trailer, and see whether the actors capture the spirit of their animated counterparts and deserve the roles. Hollywood has ignored race in source material in the past, such as when Michael Clarke Duncan portrayed Kingpin in Daredevil. I think my real concern is that the series set the bar so high, that no adaptation can possibly live up to it. This thing has Harry Potter or even Lord of the Rings potential, but I don't think we'll get that. I hope I'm wrong. I do think at the very least it will be the best thing this director has done in a while, and I hope I'm right about that. The film will adapt the first season, which covers Aang's awakening and his journey to find a Waterbending master. If successful, the film will spawn a trilogy with adaptations of the Earth and Fire seasons as well. With most of 2009's most anticipated films now behind us, this is a good start for things to look forward to in 2010....

7.23.2009

Flat Tire.

I'm my own worst enemy. If this comes as new to you, I hope you enjoy reading your first post here at the Nexus, and stick around for similar tales in the future.

While I bear many similarities to George Costanza, while he feels that God would never let him be successful, I know that in my case the blame lies with my own subconscious and my passive ability to twist fate and probability against myself. As the big race approaches next Tuesday, the one I've spent two months training for, I'm starting to wonder what will go wrong, and I'm starting to find out.

Over the weekend, on the advice of a friend who regularly participates in triathlons, I set out to a very specific store for very specific new sneakers. The ones I use now are comfortable and broken in, but they were purchased a few years ago when I last ran this race, and they're showing their age with wear and looseness. And while I'm not all that athletic, I do have enough experience to know that a race should not be the first time new sneakers are worn. But I got a late start on Saturday, and needed to be home in time to take my mom to 5:00 mass. I realized I couldn't make it to the store my friend recommended and back in time, so I opted for my usual place.

That in itself wouldn't be so bad, as I've found many great shoes and sneakers at DSW over the past few years, and while the prices are higher than Payless, it's worth it for the quality. Some of those Payless shoes are cheap for a reason, barely glued together scraps of plastic. Now while the place my friend recommended targeted athletes and their staff would have assisted me in finding the ideal fit, it probably would have cost me twice as much. It probably would have been worth it, but my real mistake was rushing and buying the first pair I tried on, because I only had about 15 minutes to shop before I had to get back home.

Still, I was happy with my purchase, a slick looking pair of red and black Adidas with springy, cushioned heels meant for running. They were a little tight on the sides as I have wide feet, but had the right amount of room by the toes, crucial as I've been informed feet expand when we run. And if I put a week in on the treadmill with those, they'd definitely mold to my feet, or vice versa.

On Monday, I felt amazing as I began my run. Maybe it was the psychological factor and the new footwear was doing nothing, but I was soaring for about ten minutes before I hit a wardrobe malfunction. Surprisingly, it was my underwear and not my sneakers. I've lost some weight since I've been training, though only about 5 or 6 pounds, but the combination of a reduced weight and a worn elastic band on a pair I probably should have gotten rid of already proved tragic. Hopefully, no one in the gym was aware of the slippage that had occurred beneath my shorts, and I tried to play it cool, taking my run down to a brisk walk, and then casually changing the time from an hour to fifteen minutes, slipping back to the locker room when I was done.

Once everything was back up where it was supposed to be, I knew there was no guarantee it would stay there. I opted to finish my workout on a stationary bike instead, on which there was no danger of clothing falling off. I pedaled 15 miles in an hour, hopefully the equivalent of my usual 5 mile run. I had a decent workout, but no true test of the new sneakers. That came on Tuesday. Armed with a newer, more durable wardrobe, I proceeded to run my best run ever. Halfway into it, I felt a pinching on the inside of my left foot, as though the arch had worked itself into the seam between the base of the show and the side. But I was really hitting my stride, going faster and faster and not feeling any physical need to slow down. I pushed through the pain, and I hit the 3.5 mile mark at just over 39 minutes, which is my goal for the race. That's around the time I've done it in the past, and at my height, weight, and age it would be an accomplishment just to match that. By the end of my hour and five minutes, I'd run a total of 5.95 miles. Two months ago when I started, I ran 5.13 miles. There's definitely been improvement.

After my run, I carefully removed the shoe, hoping there wouldn't be a bloody sock inside. There were no marks of any kind, and the skin thankfully hadn't broken. But it had been pinched, and a blister was forming and filling with fluid. By the time I got home, it was a red spot as big as my thumb. I knew from childhood experience how tender the skin and exposed nerve endings underneath would be. I soaked the foot and stayed off it until morning. I put a callus cushion on it which helped me walk through the day, and kept my foot from falling back in that same seam when I ran again at night. But under the cushion it was still tender, and I could only endure about two miles.

So here I am a few days away from the race in the best shape of my life, with a lousy “flat tire”. When the running was too much for me on Wednesday, I moved to one of the elliptical machines, where I could keep my foot flat on the swinging surface instead of constantly lifting it and pounding it into the ground. I can't stay off it until the race; I have to keep exercising and stay in shape. And on Sunday I need to walk a six hour procession with one of my bands. Walking isn't a problem with one of those cushions stuck on it, but when I run it hurts. I've been finding lately that sometimes the things we think are impossible may only be that way because we think they are. When I'm distracted, I find I can go further and faster than I would if I was paying attention. Hopefully I can shut out the pain, or this thing will heal and grow back tougher skin. I just hope it can do so in less than a week. It figures that something like this would happen now when I'm so close. After all, I would never let me be successful.

7.22.2009

PBW: Cathedral Withdrawal

One week after my Padre Pio pilgrimage, I found myself with a rare lazy Summer Sunday, and set out in the afternoon to enjoy the nice weather and take some local photos. I didn't have any specific destination in mind, and the first place I thought of had already closed. At that point, I was halfway toward the town where I'd worked for seven years of my life.

I love where I work now, especially the proximity to the beach, but there are definitely things I miss about my old job and the surrounding area. I miss the people and the restaurants and the sights. While I worked there, I would never have dreamed of going anywhere near there on my two days of the week off, but since that wasn't a problem anymore, that's exactly what I did. Specifically, I wanted to get some shots of a cathedral that was always being renovated while I was there, the scaffolding literally removed within months of my last day. Those shots make up the bulk of this week's Photo Blog Wednesday, with a few other nearby photogenic attractions thrown in:






















Those bells could use some tuning. Meanwhile, a block away, I found a baby bunny nibbling grass:


Click this next one for desktop sized cuteness:



And finally, the rest:








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7.21.2009

The Secret Origin of the Artist MCF

My Uncle Jerry always encouraged my art. He would often go on about some drawing I did when I was a little kid, but the only thing I could remember was a spiral I drew in crayon once when he was watching me, which I called a “space warp”. In college, he often came with my parents to my art exhibits, and he'd often ramble on about the time he took an art class in college and the professor told him he had talent. He, like his older brother my Uncle Ciro, went into a career as a draftsman working on engineering designs and blueprints.

A few years ago, the house where he'd lived with my grandmother up until her passing became too much for him to take care of alone. He was in his 70s and had never married, and the place was in an increasing state of disrepair. My other uncle helped him settle in to a nearby assisted living apartment complex, and we helped clear out the house before it was sold. Some things were sold, some were kept, some were trashed, and probably too much ended up in our basement. My mom and her brothers are packrats, and I think I take after that side of the family.

A few months ago, it became apparent that Uncle Jerry was no longer himself. His rambling stories, which once had a point, began to meld with other tales or end abruptly. At times, we'd address him directly and he would stare off into space, not immediately acknowledging or recognizing us. It started out with little things, but by the time my mom got a call from a hospital in Staten Island that he'd been pulled over for making a U-turn over a concrete divide, we knew it was more serious. My folks and my other Uncle made the drive out to retrieve a disoriented Uncle Jerry and his car, and the car would end up with us until it was sold. Shortly thereafter my Uncle was diagnosed with the early stages of dementia.

My mom and my other uncle took turns visiting Uncle Jerry to give him his medication and make sure he was eating. He began to lose track of the time and days, sleeping at odd hours and letting answering machine messages collect on the machine. When he did answer the phone, he'd sometimes hold it the wrong way. His kid sister, my mom, is 70, while his older brother is in his 80s. When he left a cup on the stove and it caught fire, they soon realized he needed care around the clock that they couldn't provide, and now he's in a nursing home.

According to my mom, he's pretty popular with the ladies there, who always ask about him when she visits and he always seems surrounded. That gives me hope that it's never too late to be popular; I just need to outlive all the cool guys. His new room is smaller than his apartment, so once more his family has to decide what he keeps and gets rid of. My mom is fighting her nostalgic instincts as we're still buried under junk from their old house. He, like myself, apparently saved every greeting card people ever sent him, every card indicating where he was seated at any given wedding. He'd probably have a hard time parting with these items if he knew what was going on. My mom is keeping things like photo albums, and she's debating whether to throw out his old paintings or find some artists who could reuse the canvas. I absolutely hate either idea, as the things we create are records of ourselves and maintain a kind of immortality after we're gone. I remember seeing various abstract paintings piled up around his last apartment, which had seen the light of day after spending years in the attic of his old house. The other day, my mom came home with this one:



“Here's another product of a psychotic mind,” she quipped, though I didn't think it was funny or understand why she did. It was abstract, which a lot of people don't get. I myself have always preferred art that depicts something, as far as I know, and it wasn't until college when I studied the likes of Kandinsky, whose work echoed musical compositions, that I began to appreciate abstract art a little more. Sometimes just swirls of color, and the choices made in layering them and grouping them together, are enough to be art. Whose to say that reality isn't more abstract, that it is a sea of swirling forms and colors that our brains translate and solidify into something that makes sense? Meanwhile, my mom turned over what I thought was my uncle's painting to reveal my name on the back, followed by “Age 4”.

Huh.

He saved it all these years, my first painting which my folks gave him as a present. Not having any children of his own, I guess my cousin and I have always been surrogate sons, whose endeavors he followed and encouraged. And all those times he talked to me about some piece of remarkable art I did when I was a kid, which I dismissed as him talking about one of my crayon drawings, was likely in reference to that piece. I didn't think I had any real interest in art before 3rd grade, when I started emulating the cartoon character drawings that my friends made, or 8th grade, when I started copying comic books. When I think about my childhood, I remember my detective agency, or my desire to be an architect because I loved blocks and other building toys. But it was always about solving puzzles in the name of creating, of making sense of the materials I had in front of me, whether it was a pencil and paper, clues, plastic bricks, or apparently paint.

We think we know ourselves better than anyone, but we lack the perspective that our family has, those who were there from the beginning to see a living creation become yet another creator.

7.20.2009

Phantasmic Links 7.20.09

Despite the fact that my old phone started working again, it was not to last. It went completely dead again. Then it worked for a few minutes but froze on one screen, and I couldn't turn it off without removing the battery. I managed a few more brief sessions, each time manually copying all my contact information to a text file on my computer. I could then input that at my leisure into the new phone, and now I have a double backup in case the new one ever fails, my computer and the memory card on the newer model phone. As for the old one, it seems fine now, but I wouldn't want to risk it in the event of an emergency. I guess it's now just a backup phone and memento of my first steps into a wireless world.

My mom made a remark the other night after we got the new phone that I always land on my feet, an odd remark to someone with my bad luck. I guess luck is a matter of perception, of choosing to look at the positive side of things when life throws us those unexpected curves. It's food for thought as we start another week, and as I gather the latest batch of PHANTASMIC LINKS:

(1) Will this little girl make both Michael Winslow and Lasse Gjertsen obsolete?

(2) In Russia, statues are made of you!

(3) Instant color schemes! Just enter a word or phrase and let that site do the rest! Could be a great resource for designers...

(4) Blob of arctic goo--fiction, friend, or foe?

(5) In this photo set, elements of science fiction have invaded postcard scenes... Having a good time; wish they were here.

(6) We're so sure that we're the dominant species on this planet, and yet there are things animals are better at. Monkeys open bananas a lot better than we do. Seriously, like the kid in the video, I always went from the stem too.
Hat Tip: B13.

(7) Unlock the full potential of your Mac with Applescript. I've never really used it, and there are tons of possibilities I've likely missed...
H.T.: J-No.

(8) FOX to recast Futurama?? I hope that it's just a negotiating tactic as some people have speculated...

(9) Take control of a hero and save your city from meteors.

(10) Project Rant collects a variety of anonymous posts from around the internet that people have written, and recreates them as videos.


Have a link to a game, movie, article, or anything else you think might be “phantasmic”? E-mail me and it just might appear in an upcoming PHANTASMIC LINKS!

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7.19.2009

My Name is Christina

Not that I was greatly surprised, but burying my old cell phone in rice for 24 hours did nothing to cure my no start problem. Part of me was ready to accept this new reality, this return to the way things used to be. But as I drove out to buy new sneakers for my upcoming race, I realized things can never truly go back to the way they were. I had a pocket full of quarters, but where was I going to find a payphone? I was running late and probably wouldn't get home in time to drive my mom to church, but without a cell phone I couldn't even call to ask my dad to drop her off so I could meet her there. So I ended up driving home first, seeing her car missing, and running in the house to get confirmation that, as it was ten after 5, she had already left.

No, it isn't practical to live without a mobile device of any kind. Next weekend I'm playing an all-day gig in New Jersey. It would be helpful if I could communicate with other band members and coordinate if I run late or hit any delays. So, after mass and dinner, I checked the hours for the Verizon store where my parents first bought our phones and, seeing that it would be open a few more hours, headed out with my mom, as the phones are under her name.

Picking out the last bits of rice from my phone, I headed inside where a helpful salesgirl led us to a computer console and asked for our information. I started to give my name, then remembered whose name was on the paperwork, glancing at my mom who nodded. “Christina.”, I told the girl. She then directed us to wait in the next room where a technician would call us. So the name request wasn't to bring up our records, only to put us in the queue.

Obviously, the technician was a bit thrown when he called “Christina!” and I approached the register. I kind of gave a sidewards head nod toward the old lady, but with the high counters, he may not have seen more than a tuft of curly hair peeking up. I explained the problem and handed him the phone, which he turned over a few times and studied. Most of the time he was talking to another girl behind the counter, and once or twice took a phone call and wandered into the back. When he finally did seem to remember we were standing there, he mumbled something about it being a five-year-old phone that they didn't make anymore and that we were eligible for an upgrade. He said they didn't have the equipment to even retrieve information and he didn't even have a charger. I'd brought mine, and I handed it to him. He plugged it in and stared at it which, like most of what he'd been doing, was something I'd already thought of with as much success.

He explained that if he could turn the phone on, he'd be able to copy my stored information to a computer and transfer it to a new one. You can see the irony. If I could turn the phone on, I wouldn't have been there. He pointed out that we were in a new queue and I saw the name “CHRISTINA” up on a television screen under “Sales”. On the floor we waited a bit and discussed our options before a salesperson showed us around. The way he spoke, it was clear he thought the phone was for my mom, and that she was some doddering old feeb. “Well, THIS one has large buttons...and it shouldn't be too complicated for her...” My mom quickly played along and acted the part, asking me questions about each phone or to translate some of the technical jargon. “What does that mean? You can take pictures?” After a bit, we were called back to the sales desk and gave our information once more. With the upgrade and some of the credit we somehow had accrued, the phone would only be $50, but there was a $50 mail in rebate, so we'd get it all back. As long as it was free, we were all for it. There was even a new plan that got us 50 extra minutes a month for the same price, assuming the primary user was over 65. “Oh yes,” said the 70-year-old sly Sicilian woman next to me to the salesgirl, “I am. But thank you for asking, dear.”

So, I now have a new phone, with precisely two numbers, my parents' home phone and my mom's cell phone. I can take 2 megapixel pictures, and set them as wall paper. I think I can go online with it, but the girl explained that there would be extra charges for that so I need to be careful. I also read something in the plan she showed us about “data” costing $1.99 per MB to send. A few photos that I took I e-mailed to myself, so we'll see what the bill looks like. I'm pretty sure the photos were both well under a megabyte. And like my last phone, I'm sure there's a slew of hidden features that I've yet to discover, and might never find or need. The number remained the same, so I kept my saved voicemails, some of which are real gems. It seems my old text messages are all gone thought, and I will need to rebuild my phone directory. The one good thing is that this phone does have a memory card, so the next time I do something stupid like carry it in the same pocket as a bottle of water on a hot day, I have a better chance of saving the information and moving it to my next phone. Hopefully, I'll take better care of this one, and it will last a little longer. After all, “Christina”'s phone, purchased at the same time as my old one, still looks brand new.

OLD BUSTED PHONE:


NEW HOTNESS:


UPDATE: So I see the old phone lying here and decide to try one last time to turn it on. You guessed it; the damn thing works now. So on the down side we bought a new phone for nothing, but on the plus side I can now retrieve all my old information and get it on the newer phone. I wish I hadn’t been in such a hurry to replace it. And I wonder why it didn’t work for two days. Was there moisture in there? Was it the excess humidity keeping it from drying properly? Did the rice actually do anything? I may never know....

7.18.2009

867-5-I-Am-Dumb

Well, my trademark bad luck was overdue for a big one. And as usual, my stupidity stemmed partly from my bad relationship with fate, and my tendency to retreat inside my brain away from my real world surroundings.

It was hot on Thursday for the processions I played with one of my Italian bands. Friday turned out to be warmer and more humid, and the first day I drove my car for lunch rather than walk, but it was still warm enough on Thursday that I felt every step of the ten plus miles I must have walked in the course of the day. I wasn't alone though, from the people in the societies we were playing for to the other band members, many of whom were decades older than I and managing fine. And all along, my father kept pace with us on the sidewalk for most of the day, definitely itching to come out of his partial retirement from long processions.

The other trusty companion by my side, in my right front pocket, was my cell phone. There was a time in my life when it, like so many other things like internet access or Netflix, was a monthly fee I didn't need. The idea is to increase my income as I get older, not add more things that drain it. But as with those other things, once I got it, it became more than a luxury, bordering on necessity.

Back in 2004, when I first started this blog, I was struggling with some kind of anxiety disorder brought about by the fear that I would pass out behind the wheel of my car. It was an irrational thought, but it was kind of an idea virus, one that I couldn't get out of my head once it was there, and when I found myself in certain situations on the road I'd get stuck in this loop where that subconscious concern made me tingly and short of breath, which made me more anxious, which made the symptoms worse, and so on. It took a long time for me to get over that, and it resurfaced for a bit last year, but one thing that came out of the experience was the value of a cell phone. I used to carry quarters and hope I was near a pay phone should I get an attack bad enough for me to pull over and call my folks to come get me. Once I had to pull over for more practical reasons, when I got a flat tire and then had the spare go flat a mile after I changed it. Miles from the nearest diner, it took me a while to call for help and get back to my car, at which point concerned residents had called the cops about the suspicious character parked in front of their big house.

Still, I thought a cell phone would be too expensive, and I couldn't justify the cost of something I'd only use for emergencies, most of which were apparently in my head. If anything, I needed one of those “pay when you use it” type phones, but even that seemed pointless to me. My parents thought otherwise by that point, and surprised me on my 30th birthday with a Verizon Samsung A650 cell phone. I was upset at first, but when they told me they had a matching one and got some kind of family deal, I gradually came around. In the early days, I rarely even turned my phone on and my mom's phone looks brand new because she sewed a little case for it and has maybe used it 10 times in the last 5 years. My phone is a different story. At first it was only for emergencies, but then I exchanged numbers with one or two friends. As time went on, more numbers were exchanged, and it became great for coordinating meeting for movies, happy hours, and other social events. I even exchanged numbers with various band leaders, so if I was running late for a gig or got lost, I could get in touch with them easily enough. Things that were once huge problems suddenly had a very easy solution that tucked nicely into my pocket.

Flash forward to this week's final band job on Thursday night, at the last of our stops, where I reached into a cooler to pull out two bottles of water, one for myself and another for my dad. Between the ice and humidity, my hand couldn't hang on to both and my other arm was busy cradling my instrument. One bottle slipped and bounced off the concrete below. I crouched, picked it up, and tucked it into my right pants pocket to make sure my dad got the good bottle. We then resumed marching, and I more or less forgot about the bottle, occasionally remembering and quenching my thirst. Exhausted when I finally got home around 10 PM, I plugged my phone into the wall to charge as I do every night, got caught up with my e-mail, blogging, and other online correspondence, and finally passed out.

Something wasn't right when I woke up the next morning. It felt late, like a Saturday morning when I sleep in, but I knew it was Friday and I had a busy day ahead of me catching up on the work I'd missed the day before. I flipped my phone open to check the time, and there was a black screen. The red light was on, so I knew it was charging, but I wondered why it had turned off. This had happened once or twice in the past few years, and never seemed like cause for alarm. But when I held the key to turn the phone on, nothing happened, and panic set in.

I raced to the kitchen, wondering why my father hadn't woken up yet. My brain danced between the fear that he'd overexerted at the feasts and passed away in his sleep, and my concern about what was wrong with my phone. When I heard his shuffling footsteps and he asked why I was up so early, I was able to focus on the phone problem. I wondered if the bottle in my pocket had leaked from being dropped, or if simple condensation had trickled down. I thought for sure I'd opened the phone at some point after drinking the water and it was still working. When my mom woke up, I tried swapping batteries, but my phone still didn't work. It wasn't the battery.

Completely disoriented, between getting up earlier on Thursday and not having a grasp on the true time, I ended up going to work an hour early, which wasn't a bad thing. In my frenzy to leave my mom had annoyed me by sharing an anecdote: “When Erica got her phone wet, she put it in a bowl of rice.” I explained that All My Children was not real life, and promptly rushed out the door. As I researched the problem online from my office, I came across a variety of solutions and suggestions, ranging from a hairdryer to the rice thing my mom had seen on AMC. Apparently, exposing a potentially water damaged phone to any heat source would risk melting the circuitry, but rice or desiccates would absorb any moisture. If done quickly enough, it could save the phone. Unfortunately, I had plugged the phone in the night before, another thing my research told me was bad; water and electricity do not mix.

So, to make a long story slightly less long, I picked up a two pound box of rice on my lunch hour and buried the phone and the battery separately. I need to leave them in there for at least 24 hours, and the suspense is killing me. I keep thinking about all the phone numbers, texts, and voice mails that might be forever lost; I'm not sure if this is the type of phone that lets you transfer that information to a new one. It doesn't use a SIM card. If by some miracle I do get the phone to turn on again, I'm totally writing down all the numbers I've gathered, even though that list is well into the double digits. My life is going to be so different without a phone, and water damage pretty much nullifies any obligation of the phone company to give me a new one. I'm not even sure how the deal with my mom's phone works, if we'd have to replace them as a pair. Hers is practically brand new, and makes me feel even worse about my inability to take care of anything. As the saying goes, this is why I can't have nice things.

And so I sit off a grid I didn't want to be part of in the first place, feeling wholly disconnected and adrift, and not having a clue what my next move will be if the rice fails. Why did I shove that bottle in my pocket? What was I thinking? Why was I not thinking? Even if I hadn't plugged it in overnight and had realized my mistake in time, with my luck the odds were already stacked against me. It may be too late, but I pray I'm wrong. My next cry for help might be via smoke signals....