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MCF's Nexus of Improbability



"What are the ODDS?!"



Updated: 2017-09-19T16:31:25.550-04:00

 



One Year Later...

2011-10-13T00:01:00.735-04:00

Is this thing on?No, no of course it isn't. There's dust and cobwebs everywhere, and flipping on the light switch took some effort. Nobody's home. No one is writing. No one is reading. I ended my six-year run of daily consecutive blogging one year ago, never to return. It’s perfect. It’s symmetrical. I shouldn’t post again and break the clean ending.It's funny how nature abhors a vacuum, how I found things to fill the time I once used to spend writing, how the days never seem long enough even with one less responsibility. Not much has changed. I haven't quit my job and moved out West to seek my fortune. Still single. Still working hard at the office and with various bands. Still alive.More importantly, my dad is still alive. He finally went to a new cardiologist for a second opinion, after bypass surgery last Summer did nothing to relive his angina. He was annoyed that they kept him in the hospital for tests, growing more impatient as the week went on. The doctor confirmed he needed a new aortic valve, and that being 81-years-old was not a deterring factor. Newer treatments such as getting a stent were still in the trial stage and there was no guarantee they would help. Being in good health otherwise, a new valve could get him as much as another ten years. Doing nothing in the condition he was in, with chest pain on even mild exertion such as walking through the supermarket, was an indication that he'd die in 2 or 3 years without surgery. I make my decisions based on math, and the math was sound.It was convenient that his hospital, one of the best heart hospitals in the nation, was within driving distance of my job. My boss was very understanding, and I was able to take long lunch breaks. I remember one afternoon when my dad dismissed an orderly while he finished his salad, then walked up and down the hall looking for his ride. The man of course moved on to the next patient who needed to be wheeled downstairs for testing. When I came back after work, no one had returned for my dad yet. “I canceled the test,” he told me. When a nurse came in, my mom and I asked if he could do that, and he chuckled that no, the patient can't just say he doesn't want a particular test. He wasn't staying at a spa where he could skip portions of his agenda.The day he was finally supposed to have the operation, we found him standing in the door of his room, waving his arms in disgust. We knew immediately something was wrong. When we calmed him down, we learned that the test showed blockage in his carotid artery, which we knew about. But it was apparently too serious for them to proceed with heart surgery, lest a blood clot be loosed upon his brain and he have a stroke. I got a nurse to patch me through to the cardiologist, who explained this to me, and that a vascular surgeon was on his way down for a consultation. The procedure, called a carotid endarectomy, had only a 1% risk of serious complications. He'd simply make an incision in my dad's neck, scoop all the gunk out of his artery, and sew him back up. Chances are that last year when the other surgeon opted to only do a single bypass, he was afraid of the stroke risk. They never gave us a satisfactory explanation, only that they didn't think the valve condition was that serious. And when my dad went for follow-up visits they told him his results were fine and shrugged when he said he still had symptoms. Thank God he finally found a doctor who'd listen and diagnose him properly.I went back to the office since I'd likely need the following Monday off for the big surgery. My father had the carotid surgery late on that Friday night, the same day we had the consultation with the surgeon. I work late when I have a print deadline; these guys stay late when they need to save lives. There's a little perspective. I arrived after work to find my mom distraught in the lobby, because the anesthesiologist, a weasely Jason Schwartzman-looking mofo had took her by the arm, told her my dad could die, and rattled off all the potential complications with no bedside manner. I did my best to reassur[...]



#2198 In a Four-Issue Limited Series

2010-10-13T11:09:24.318-04:00

I always knew how it would end. I just didn't know when. But perhaps I should start at the beginning.Once I decided I was going to start a blog like my friends Curt and Jerry, I began mentally composing my first post in my head. Every morning when I drove to work, my usual anxiety about passing out behind the wheel(a long story, told here many times and mostly resolved), was replaced by subconscious prose. No matter the variation, it always started with the same line: ”When I was five years old, I thought I was Spider-man.” On Wednesday, October 13th, that line became a reality. I didn't really have a theme like Curt did with marriage or my friend Rey had with the bible or my buddy B13 would have with photography. I just wrote about myself, how my accident-prone life took shape early on, how I lived a life of inverse probability. Something that had a 2% chance of happening to one person would have a 98% chance of happening to me. It would take me years to realize that, at one time or another, we all fall into that unfortunate 98%. That's just life.I didn't know how long it would last. For years I had occupied myself on the internet with a message board based RPG/fanfiction. It was where a “Neurotic O.R.B.” became a “Mysterious Cloaked Figure” and about 100 other characters. And in the ashes of a game that went from dozens of writers to me role-playing by myself, MCF the blogger was born. I wrote about obscure comic book characters(the “O.R.B.” in my original handle came from my college “Obscure Reference Boy” nickname). I wrote about cartoons and television shows. I wrote about my life and my family. The freedom of anonymity allowed me to be open and honest about my likes, dislikes, and fears. More than anything, it was a cathartic exercise. It was good to clear all that stuff out my brain at the end of each day. If no one but 3 or 4 of my friends read what I wrote, it would have still been rewarding. More than 3 or 4 people read and interacted with my posts, so it was amazing.Somehow, I kept things going every day. Even when there were technical difficulties, or family difficulties, I made sure I posted something. There were more than a few memes, which felt like cheating, and more than a few memes and games of my own creation, which felt slightly less like cheating. A lot happened in six years. Friends had kids and moved away. We had one cat make a miraculous recovery, while another has been slowly slipping away for over a year now. My dad nearly died from a shoulder infection, overcame that, and then survived a heart artery bypass operation at the age of 80. My mom spent time in the hospital and spent time at craft fairs. I played a lot of music on weekends with my Baritone horn. Loved ones left us. We lost my music teacher, my Aunt Irene, my Aunt Josie and my mom's cousin. My mom's brother is still with us physically; mentally not so much. I lost my job at a company I'd been with for 7.5 years, only to land on my feet at another for just over three years now. And we lost LOST, but that was kind of a good thing. Six years is a long time, and it's good that they didn't drag things out any longer like some shows. It was time, and I was glad I was here to see it end, and share my thoughts on that ending. I was glad my dad survived his surgery to see the finale. Truth be told, I'm of course glad he survived. It's strange to think that without LOST, 24 and Prison Break, he and I no longer have shows we watch together. It's just on the brink of going on too long, but maybe I should get the old man back into Supernatural, or as he referred to it back when it began, “The Brothers”. He’d ask, “What’s on, ‘The Brothers'?” then go to bed at the first sign of blood or anything gory.The first time I kissed a girl, I was stalling like crazy, talking about anything to avoid getting out of her car, searching for that awkward pause to make a move but never shutting up long enough to get it. Finally, in talking about Halloween costumes, she mentioned once dressing up like a [...]



The Ultimate Hat Tip.

2010-10-12T00:27:04.830-04:00

Hat Tip: Curt, the first of my friends and coworkers to start a blog, which inspired me to do the same. Though his blog is retired, he remains a Happy Husband and currently a Happy Father of two.Hat Tip: Jerry, who introduced me to Curt and whose own blog covered a wider variety of subject matter, including comics and other geeky things, cementing my interest in joining their ranks. Though being a husband and a father eventually took Jerry away from blogging, he continued to send great links and support the Nexus.Hat Tip: Rey, my oldest real-life friend who also became a blogger. An old college pal who got me the job where I met Curt and Jerry, the self-proclaimed “GeekFriends”, Rey already had a Bible blog when he started his personal one. He also designed the nifty icons that topped my blogroll for the past six years.Hat Tip: B13, another work buddy who got into the blogging game after I told him about my “secret identity”. His skill as a photographer made his daily photoblog a pleasure to check every day, and inspired me to push my own photography at a time when my interest in the hobby was waning. Though he's moved on to other hobbies and updates his site far less frequently, I could still depend on him for the occasional comment or link. He is also partly responsible for the largest number of comments I ever received for a single post, thanks to his campaign to defeat the Unseen Blogger in a competition I was running.Hat Tip: Kev and Rubi Bayer, who if memory serves were the first readers I didn't already know in real life, who found the Nexus through Curt's Happy Husband site and have been readers and supporters ever since. Their appreciation of things like The Transformers or Joss Whedon made them welcome additions to the ranks of the Cloakfriends™.Hat Tip: Janet, found through Jerry, whose blog was arguably once the most popular on my blogroll. Her grasp on pop culture and penchant for audience participation through her Tell It To Me Tuesday features would prove anyone wrong who found people disappointing, making her blog one of the most missed active ones.Hat Tip: Darrell, film geek and Southern conservative who stood by his views with persistence and faced personal and medical problems with a good sense of humor and a strength of spirit. Always a good read and a good online friend.Hat Tip: Lorna, whom the blogosphere could always count on for wisdom, comments, support, and encouragement. She was like a virtual Aunt May, though a bit hipper and wittier.Hat Tip: Rhodester, hands down the funniest blogger out there and unsung star of Seabiscuit, and his better half CoffeeSister, whose experience in a video store first brought this dynamic blogging duo to light.Hat Tip: All my former message board RPG peeps who made the transition at one time or another to blogging and/or commenting on blogs, specifically Neb, FawnDoo, Motocron and Spaceman Bill. Some of them are even still at it.Hat Tip: Cube, for her great cat pictures, political quick hits, and of course inadvertently being the Samus of the blogosphere.Hat Tip: Sean, who always posted the best links and pictures of pretty ladies, and whose countdown device I recently borrowed.Hat Tip: Lyndon, honorary geekfriend with a similar love of robots and music, discovered through Janet's blog.Hat Tip: SwanShadow, another great find from Janet, a patriarch with determination in adversity and a fantastic collection of commissioned comic book art.Hat Tip: Sarcasmo, a witty blogger who left this world far too soon, only for her mother to keep the site going a while longer as a tribute to her.Hat Tip: D. Prince, for keeping the blogosphere abreast of the absurd goings-on of celebrities with humor that rivaled Rhodester or Darrell and photos that rivaled any tabloid.Hat Tip: Chris Sims, and Bully, my favorite comic book bloggers. Thanks for making me laugh and showing me I'm not the only one with an obscure knowledge of and appreciation for sequential artHat Tip: Spockgirl, the latest addition to the Cloakfrien[...]



PBW: NYComicCon 2K10: Day Two.

2010-10-11T01:06:38.559-04:00

The weekend may be over, but Photo Blog Weekend is not! Yesterday I shared images from my visit to the New York ComicCon on Friday. Saturday morning was a little tough since I had to play a parade in Queens in the morning with one of my Italian bands. I was optimistic when we seemed to be done by 12:30, but then had to stick around for the ceremony to play an Italian anthem. Then our band leader played another song. Then his son told us not to go anywhere, because he wanted us to play “Happy Birthday” for his daughter. Now it was after 1 PM, and less and less likely that I'd make it back to Long Island in time to drop off my dad, change my clothes, grab my weekend pass and camera, and drive to a train station to make it in to the city by a decent hour. We couldn't play while the politicians were still speaking, and I asked the drummer what we were waiting for. His wife got a little annoyed at my impatience, but he finally relented and said if I had somewhere to be, they had enough guys to cover the song. I explained I had tickets to “something” in the city and needed to catch a train. I met my dad on the corner, and he told me to get the car and drive around the block to pick him up, so he wouldn't have to rush and get chest pains. Somehow, he miscommunicated which block he'd be on. By the time I got to where I left him, which was near the entrance to a highway, he was gone. I found him two blocks up, looking down a one-way street, and he didn't hear me yelling. I couldn't stop, so I had to go around that block. By then he had walked away, but thankfully reappeared before the light I was waiting for turned green again. Now I had to drive around again to get to the block with the highway entrance. By some miracle, I navigated traffic and got home with a half hour to get to the train station in the next town. I ran inside, changed only my shirt and shoes, and was back out the door in less than a minute, with a granola bar in my pocket as my lunch. I got to the train station four minutes before the train I was trying to catch, ran full speed, and got on it just in time. If I missed it, the next train wasn't for another hour. So it was that I was able to catch one more panel, some entertaining performances, and a lot more great costumes and sights. Next year, the convention is a week later, and shouldn't conflict with my band schedule. I still ended up with more swag than I wanted, as people were handing out posters, comics, and buttons every time I turned around. Every year I say I'm going to travel light, but it's impossible to come home with nothing. And the greatest thing I walk away with from the convention is inspiration, the urge to pick up a pencil and try my hand at drawing again. By the end of my second parade on Sunday, it was too late to make it to the city for a third day at the ‘con. It was just as well, since Sunday was also my parents' 40th wedding anniversary and I was also exhausted by then. At least parade and feast season is pretty much done for the next few months, with only one gig in November. During the week I don't want to do much more than watch television after a day at the office and a night at the gym, but maybe I can be creative on weekends if inspiration and free time are in abundance. If nothing else, I'll certainly still be creative through photography, even if capturing the creativity of others. To wit:Sarah Douglas (Ursa in Superman II):Katie Sackhoff:A working cello by Nathan Sawaya:What not to do if you walk in front of my camera while I'm taking pictures of a steel-bikini beauty:Much better than that last attempt:The hilarious and knowledgeable staff of Comics Alliance(including Chris Sims, the internet's foremost Batmanologist, center):2[...]



PBW: NYComicCon 2K10: Day One.

2010-10-10T00:00:00.844-04:00

Those of you with a firm grasp on a calendar probably realize this isn't Wednesday, but since I have something else planned for Wednesday this week, and had an exciting weekend that I can't wait to share, let's let the “PBW” stand for Photo Blog Weekend for once. Besides, 10/10/10 only happens once every thousand years.I took off from work on Friday since I wasn't sure I'd be free any other day this weekend for the New York ComicCon. I actually did make it in for a few hours on Saturday, thanks to some amazing driving and running, but that's a story for tomorrow's post. On Friday, after taking the train in with a buddy from work, we discovered a fairly long line over an hour before the floors, open in the morning to professionals, would open for the rest of us in the general public. We met another guy from work who had never been to one of these, and he was absolutely starstruck. This is about the 4th or 5th one I've been to, so I've mastered the balance between walking around the floor and taking breaks to see panels, while taking famous people in stride. The crowd was insane since they combined the event with an Anime festival, and there were definitely a few claustrophobic moments when I was glad to get away from the shoving and random backpack strikes. The day went so fast, and they flashed the lights and sounded a horn when it was time to clear the floor. It was all a blur of celebrity sightings, great artwork and figurines, and awesome costumes. But don't take my word for it; see for yourselves:Erik Larsen:Todd McFarlane:Peter David:A highlight of the show for me was seeing the work of Nathan Sawaya, LEGO® Brick Artist:Christopher Judge:James Marsters:Lou Ferrigno::3[...]



The Essential MCF: 2K9-2K10: Part 9

2010-10-13T00:12:19.070-04:00

This is it, the final ESSENTIAL listing of Cloakfest 2K9-2K10! After September 2010, that just leaves the first 13 days of October, for those of you who remember the date of my very first post. Admit it; it's on your calendars. Don't be ashamed. Now for those of you who realize we're four days from that anniversary, fear not; if I write anything significant in the next four days, which is a slight possibility, I will be back to edit this post.October, 2010Metaphysics 101In my disturbingly crowded brain, every facet of my personality manifests, some avatars more dominant than others, on the verge of a potential power shift.My Nexus Feature FiveBecause six years of Essential POSTS isn't enough, I use My Fives to revisit my favorite features through tags/labels.T.I.L.T. Things I've Learned Thursday IIIVIAnd one last time, I share some of the things I've learned, useful or otherwise, on a Thursday, mostly for the sake of an acronym.A Boy Called "Spider-Man"Reminiscing about a high school nickname takes me back down the path that led to a hobby, and a career, and an overall life philosophy.PBW: NYComicCon 2K10: Day One.PBW: NYComicCon 2K10: Day Two.I'm glad that my final PBW photographic adventure got to be at the NYComicCon.The Ultimate Hat Tip.By the time I'm thanking everybody I ever interacted with, it's probably pretty obvious what those numbers at the end of each post are counting down to.#2198 in a Four-Issue Limited SeriesI always knew it would end this way someday, and 2198 consecutive daily posts isn't bad, but I can't believe it's over.* * *But wait; there's more! Here's a listing of EVERY Essential collection from the past six years:The Essential MCF 2K4-2K5The Essential MCF 2K5-2K6The Essential MCF 2K6-2K7The Essential MCF 2K7-2K8The Essential MCF 2K8-2K9The Essential MCF 2K9-2K10 Part 1The Essential MCF 2K9-2K10 Part 2The Essential MCF 2K9-2K10 Part 3The Essential MCF 2K9-2K10 Part 4The Essential MCF 2K9-2K10 Part 5The Essential MCF 2K9-2K10 Part 6The Essential MCF 2K9-2K10 Part 7The Essential MCF 2K9-2K10 Part 8The Essential MCF 2K9-2K10 Part 9* * *4[...]



A Boy Called "Spider-Man"

2010-10-08T08:28:31.760-04:00

When I was in high school, one of the Long Island Railroad train conductors would often call me “Spider-Man”. The nickname was not derived from the fact that I bore any resemblance to Tobey Maguire, or spun webs, or had an unhealthy obsession with insects. And he certainly could not have known about my Secret Origin, how I scarred my face for life as boy while emulating my favorite superhero. Don't blame the cartoons; blame my own stupidity in sliding face first down a tree stump, and blame whatever teenagers left broken beer bottles in the underbrush at the base of that stump. My mom kept me away from comic book cartoons for as long as she could, but I'd always sneak a few when she wasn't looking, reruns of those bad ‘70s Marvel shows where they'd just use art from the comics and add slight animation, kind of the predecessor of motion comics. And of course Spider was on The Electric Company, one of those shows my mom did approve.After years of public school, my folks decided to send me to an all-boys Catholic High School, for a better education and to assuage their fears that I'd become a drug addict or worse. I guess the constant nagging worked since I never did try drugs, but I wonder if I really would have if they weren't constantly asking me if that's why I acted so weird. In any event, while I grew up with a love of comic books, I mostly read them in supermarkets while shopping with my parents. The phrase “This ain't a library!” was well-known to me. Thanks to ‘80s cartoons, I didn't need to read to know who many characters were, and thanks to my favorite, The Transformers, I came full circle from cartoons back to comics when a Transformers comic book featured the wall-crawler. I began buying comic books on a weekly basis thanks to my change in schools. It was several towns away and I had to take the train. I could either rush to leave at the end of the day, with only 20 minutes to make the mile or so to the station from the school, or I could stay over an hour later and catch the next train. Since band was my last period, and local public school toughs would harass students cutting through the park, I was never in a hurry. Once two chased me laughing maniacally, kicking my Baritone Horn case so it kept making my arm swing up in the air. Soon I was taking the long way to the station, which led me to a nearby comic book store, and a place to spend my afternoons while waiting for my train.And so, every week I'd have a stack of new comics to read on the train. I didn't have a job, but I'd buy smaller lunches and use what was left of the money my mom gave me to work on my collection. Since I always had a comic book in my hand, I was usually greeted with a “How ya doin', Spider-Man?” when the conductor came to get my ticket. A stack at home grew into two stacks, then four, and eight years later I had a bagged collection numbering well over 4,000 issues. When I graduated college and finally got a real job, I also got a real girlfriend, and started spending my money on her instead. There was a pattern to comic book stories, and I had read them long enough to realize the status quo, that there was never any lasting change. It was a perpetual soap opera. A character could be killed off and brought back, someone could be wounded and healed, and any major change would eventually revert to something familiar and old.I never regretted stopping my hobby any more than I regretted starting it. Comic books inspired me to draw and create, and led to my becoming an art major in college. Good professors steered me away from that dream to the more stable field of graphic design, and I might not be doing ads on a computer today if not for the path I was set upon by my hobby. I made some of the best friends I'd ever make in college, kindred spirits with the same love of the geeky stuff a lonely high school boy buried himself in. We'd go on road trips to convent[...]



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

2010-10-07T00:17:46.243-04:00

It's somewhat fitting, at least to a guy as enthralled with numbers and probability as I am, that my 36th Things I've Learned Thursday falls less than a month from my own 36th birthday. It probably means nothing though, because numbers don't always have meaning.* We're always the people we were in elementary school, high school, and college. Our formative years are just that, the years which form us. This is not to say that we don't grow beyond our own pride and/or insecurity, beyond whether we were a popular kid or an unpopular one, a smart one or a dumb one. But these early roles are our foundation, and the root of any decision we make. And while this level of self-awareness is important, looking back in order to move forward, the greatest strength we might overlook in our arsenal is the realization that we are not alone in this. Everyone around us has his or her own core. If you can recognize who a person was, where he or she came from, you can better understand how to reason with that individual. It's not always easy, but if you look hard enough, you can see who you're really dealing with. After that, no argument is insurmountable.* Somewhat related to my first point, my mom is starting to see living with my aging father as being akin to having another child. It's not that he's losing his facilities or that you can't reason with him. It's just that some of his common sense is waning, and his impatience, always a part of him, has now become exaggerated. He easily gets in trouble if no one is watching him for a long enough period of time. Anticipating the arrival of the oil guy to check our tank, and having too much free time, he decided to clean the basement on Tuesday afternoon. Apparently, upon finding a mysterious piece of plastic on the floor under the oil tank, he broke it in half, and immediately came upstairs to complain to my mom because his hands were now sticky. What he didn't realize was that this object was a glue trap which my mom had been successfully using to eliminate the Camel Cricket population down there. She couldn't understand why he'd pick something up without knowing what it was and break it, let alone why he didn't remember she had traps down there. She told him there was another one under the stairs; hopefully he remembers. Meanwhile, it took a while to clean the glue off his hands, and she later discovered the sink handle was sticky too because he had touched it. It's like me as a little kid all over again. And on Sunday, when we got home from the Fall festival, I left my ticket on the kitchen table. Within seconds of leaving the room to tell my mom where I put it, I heard ripping sounds. “I threw it away,” called in the old man, overhearing me start to tell my mom it was on the table, “You didn't want it, right?” So I've learned not only to keep an eye on my dad, but to not leave anything in his line of sight when he's bored and/or in a cleaning mood.* It is very difficult to shop for my parents, but it's especially difficult that their wedding anniversary falls in the same month as Halloween. I decided to shop for them on Wednesday night since the anniversary is this weekend(along with about 4 or 5 other things on the busiest weekend ever), but I kept getting distracted by ornaments and costumes. For once, I don't know exactly what I'm going to dress up as, although I have it narrowed down to two or three ideas. It all depends on what props I can find, and which items will be the least disruptive to my normal appearance. As for my folks, while I thought I had a great idea with buying them an air conditioner, which they desperately need, at a time of year when they'd be more affordable, I found that every store I went to was only selling heating fans and room dehumidifiers. Foiled by seasonal merchandising! So I had to settle for a gift card in the amount of an air conditioner, and then the usua[...]



PBW: MCF Acres

2010-10-06T00:01:02.445-04:00

My mom volunteered this year, as she's done in the past, to participate in and help out with a craft fair at the Old Bethpage Village Restoration. I went with my folks last year and got some great shots. This year didn't go as smoothly, and I almost didn't get in. Volunteers get free passes, and on Sunday my mom had a bunch left over that she didn't want to throw out. As we were walking in, she spotted a couple waiting near the line and started to offer the tickets, but when they turned around, they both had the same volunteer ribbons as my folks. The man launched in to a lecture starting with “Please ma'am, don't do that....” and went off on a near-rant about how they're losing money and might not be back next year. She explained that she didn't want the passes to go to waste but the guy, who actually had a gold ribbon indicating he was some sort of higher ranking volunteer, wasn't hearing it. So I began walking back to the car, while my mom called after me to ask where I was going. I said I'd just wait there until it was time to go home, since I now felt wrong going in with the free pass. So she kind of embarrassed me(and herself), by trying to get the guy's attention again. “Sir? Excuse me, sir? My son could use the pass, right? He feels funny...” This only made me want to walk further away, so I couldn't hear his actual response. Eventually, she talked me in to riding in to the grounds on a tram with her and my father, and I spent the next few hours keeping to the back woods and away from the main festivities just in case they threw me out, or whatever my weird paranoid brain was thinking. That thing has a mind of its own sometimes. In any case, it was kind of cloudy, so the low lighting made getting my shots a challenge anyway. But Photo Blog Wednesday has always focused mostly on the great outdoors, so this one will be no different:7[...]



My Nexus Feature Five

2010-10-05T21:15:42.128-04:00

Excuse me while I get a bit meta for a moment, with a strange piece of self-referential commentary on the regular features we've seen here over the past six years. Some did better than others, but there will always be a few that stood out for me as a blogger and a reader. In case anybody ever wondered for some inconceivable reason, these were My Five favorite features:5) My Fives:So of course #5 in my fives is My Fives. It started with Five Bill Murray movies, and over the course of 45 posts covered music, movies, television, beer, candy, video games, and in more than one instance comic books. I tend to ramble on about the things I love, and this format helped me break those things into bite-sized portions that were hopefully a little easier for my readers to digest.4) Blogroll Villains:Here's the one inclusion that took me by surprise, but looking through these, I'm remembering how much fun I had. Basically I took what I knew about my fellow bloggers, their likes, personality, and rough physical traits, and used HeroMachine to transform them into super-villains. There was a fun interactive aspect to these posts too, as people tried to guess who was who. I had actually done something similar a year prior with heroes, but the villains were definitely more fun. And if that wasn't enough to sate my subconscious frustration at never working in the comic book industry, a few months after the villains I turned my graphic design skills to designing comic book logos for my blogroll(many of whom actually put them on their blogs; including The Bayer Family and Swanshadow, who still have theirs up as of this writing). I miss the good old days of having that much free time....3) Phantasmic Links:On 2.6.05, Phantasmic Links were born, in a much rougher state than they are today. Inspired by the weekly links my friend Curt would post at his blog, it was basically an excuse to do an “easy” post on a Sunday night when my brain was shot. At a whopping 292 posts, it was my longest running feature, and wasn't always so easy. Sometimes I had a lot to say about my weekend, whether there was some major family event, holiday, or music story to share. Other times all I could manage was a “Wow the weekend went fast; here's some links” style short introductory paragraph. As for the links themselves, since I'd spend time reading each article and watching each video, they sometimes took hours longer than a regular prose post. And the worst would be the games, which I had to beat before posting. Anyone who clicked all or most of the links really had insight into what surfing the net was like for MCF.2) PBW: Photo Blog Wednesday:While I never reached the level of photography as friends like B13, it was definitely a fun hobby that gave me an excuse to turn off the computer and get out of my room on weekends. It started as with a few shots from a cheap digital camera, and by the time I reach 287 posts, it will be rivaled only by my P-Links. Over time, with practice, I got better, and by the time I went to my first NYComicCon, I realized I might need a better camera. I got one just in time for my friend Rey's Star Wars®-themed going-away party, and the transition to better equipment was great to see. Over the last five years I feel like I've explored every inch of Long Island, and a few inches of Manhattan, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. I've definitely revisited places, sometimes finding new sights and compositions. It's one hobby that I might grow tired of sometimes, but hopefully not one I'd ever give up completely.1) Blog Party:Sometimes, when a person moves to a new neighborhood, he or she might throw a little shindig to socialize and meet the neighbors. When I'd been doing this for a few months, I came up with a pretty good virtual equivalent, and my first party was a success! I didn't know about [...]



Phantasmic Links 10.4.10

2010-10-04T01:10:13.397-04:00

It was somewhat interesting to play with the only Italian band marching in a Korean parade through Manhattan on Saturday afternoon. Still, after waiting a little over an hour to get started, we walked a few blocks in less than an hour and I made it back to the train station a lot earlier than I expected. I need not have rushed, as my train was delayed for about ten minutes anyway, and I still got home too late to drive out East to make the paintball excursion I was missing because of the gig. It was still nice to have a few hours for myself on Saturday, to rest up for next week's ComicCon. Due to the inexplicable stupidity of scheduling it on Columbus Day weekend this year, I will miss large chunks of the event on Saturday and Sunday. But on Friday I will be taking off from my day job, which unlike the bands does pay me even if I'm not there. And after my parades, I'll see if I can get over there for a couple of hours each day of the weekend as well. It's sure to be a busy weekend, which also includes my parents' 40th(or is it 39th?) wedding anniversary. So, taking advantage of this weekend's relative quiet, here's a double-sized edition of PHANTASMIC LINKS for you to enjoy!:(1) As an artist and/or art-lover, I can certainly appreciate a difficult medium. These leaf-carvings are far more intricate and detailing than things I'd be able to draw on paper.(2) Rest in Peace, Stephen J. Cannell. My personal favorite of yours will always be The A-Team, and of course your signature production credit.(3) Laura Vandervoort is back on Smallville as Supergirl and, as this gallery shows, more comics accurate than ever, minus one or two finishing touches....(4) Here's a mercifully work-safe collection of ten of the greatest nude fight scenes in comics. I don't want to know what they were thinking when they had Bruce get attacked by Dick in the shower....(5) Break down the population of Gotham City by occupation with this highly accurate pie chart.(6) Parents will naturally take pictures of their children, but this father gets especially creative with his.(7) Generate random music or experiment with different button combinations to create your own rhythms and melodies.(8) The Midiclorian Rhapsody condenses the Star Wars® prequels into six minutes, so you don't need to suffer through those movies!Hat Tip: J-No.(9) Wake Up The Box 2 is a sequel with the same rules and some new surprises. Strategically place wood and use simple machines in this physics puzzler to wake up the box. In most cases, there's more than one solution....(10) Unsheets are movie posters made after a film has been released, usually by fans, and manage to capture recognizable iconic imagery through simple graphic design.(11) History was never my strong subject in high school. Here are 10 historical myths that might surprise all of us.(12) Chris Evans has transformed himself quite successfully into Steve Rogers, much to the surprise of the internet.(13) In case you were wondering, here's a breakdown of the Morgan Freeman chain of command. God trumps chauffeur; seems about right.(14) The owner of Segway, Inc. died earlier this week after driving one off a cliff. Is that irony or poetry or something else entirely? Sadly, it's not satire.H.T.: Rey.(15) Isaiah Mustafa(The Old Spice Guy) as Luke Cage is a scenario that practically writes itself. I think there was potential for that to be a lot funnier than it was, but the ending is definitely a great payoff.(16) I don't know if I'd read a comic bookin which the Seinfeld cast were the greatest heroes of the DC Universe, but I'd watch the hell out of that as a sitcom.(17) This Utility Belt replica has everything an aspiring Batman needs, including a holster for your cell phone!(18) This minimalist superhero t-shirt breaks down a couple of heroes using simp[...]



WWW: Weekend Wrental Wreviews 63

2010-10-03T00:35:50.129-04:00

Let's see what I saw this week for Weekend Wrental Wreviews in my 63rd WWW:1) Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in the Land of Demons:The fifth film based on the manga finds Ogami Itto and his son Daigoro back on the road. After the injuries he sustained battling his archenemy Retsudo at the end of the fourth movie, I wasn't sure what condition our hero would be in. Japanese culture continues to baffle me as a clan intent on hiring the assassin send several messengers to test him, knowing that Itto's success will mean their death. Each one carries another piece of the message, until he has his complete assignment. The clan's honor is at stake, with the daughter of their previous leader masquerading as her brother, the true successor. This is one of the darker films in the series as we see how soulless a killer Itto can be. I thought his personal experience might give him pause, and at one point in the movie he actually spares someone. It could be a turning point for a man who considers himself and his son to always be at the crossroads to Hell, but sooner or later a road must be chosen. Spiritual matters, family tragedy, nor masked warriors can stay the blade of the deadly ronin, much to Retsudo's fury. Once Itto has accepted an assignment, he sees it through to the end.2) Lone Wolf and Cub: White Heaven in Hell:The sixth and final film in this series is on par with many of the others, though not as final as I would have liked. I had made the mistake of reading how the manga ended, so I suppose I should be grateful that I didn't spoil the film series by doing so. Retsudo's actions finally catch up to him as he faces disgrace for continually allowing Ogami Itto to slip through his grasp. The Yagyu patriarch has already lost three sons, but now sends his daughter and her deadly knife juggling technique against Ogami Itto's deadly Suioryu “horse-slaying” style. The film has a certain finality as our protagonist's visit the grave of Itto's wife and Daigoro's mother, with a few clips of her demise from the first film thrown in to remind us why father and son live the life that they do. The baby cart is in full effect, with guns that penetrate concrete, hidden blades, and Itto's bladed staff all making their last appearance. Retsudo is so desperate, he even turns to an illegitimate son living in the woods with a fairly creepy clan. The son refuses to kill the ronin for his father, but pursues him in the name of his own adopted clan. Their technique includes burying warriors alive for well over a month, a ritual they believe creates beings above life and death. Though not actual zombies, they're still pretty resilient, and pretty scary as they kill from the shadows and burrow underground like serpents. Itto continues to be a master strategist, and while his enemies' technique of instilling fear by killing all the innocents around their target initially works, he once again proves that choosing where to fight can greatly improve one's odds. And so we go North, to a snowy plain where burrowing underground is no longer an advantage. Ever the master of overkill, Retsudo soon follows with a full army in tow. We get to see ski-attachments on the baby cart and we see snow stained red with blood. In the end, this one concludes much like the others in the series. I liked that they managed to keep the same cast through six films. Harry Potter will end up with eight films, which I though was unprecedented, but then here's this samurai series from the ‘70s. I wonder if more were planned, but except for one loose end, this did seem to be wrapping things up. As I understand it, there was a 78-episode television series with different actors that covered the books more completely. Thematically, the balance of the stern, stone-faced killer and his [...]



Metaphysics 101

2010-10-02T00:33:50.764-04:00

”You’re going to Hell, you know.”The Party Man in Black leaned forward, allowing his sunglasses to slide down his nose. One hand gripped the door frame with the same intensity his other hand held on to his beer bottle. He regarded Altar Boy with a mix of disdain and amusement.“A little old to still be carrying that thing, aren’t we?”“I don’t think 8 years was a long time.”“Yeah. 8 years out there. Here, maybe you can recycle this.”The Altar Boy sidestepped to avoid the flung bottle, which was deftly caught by a short, balding man with thick spectacles. It clinked as he dropped it into a large sack. The Party Man in Black snorted.“Nice catch, Math Boy.”“3.14159265....”“Whatever. It’s 6 AM. Try not to calculate too loudly while I slee--”All three individuals clasped their ears as the lower brass portion of an Italian march suddenly blared.“Enough. With. The. TUBA!” they shouted in near unison.“Hey, eeets-a no too-bah! Ees Baritone Horn!” It was hard to see the Musician’s smile underneath his thick black mustache, or read his eyes beneath the brim of his red-white-and-green cap, but there certainly seemed to be mirth in his voice, with a hint of weariness. The music faded slightly as he strolled down one of the many long, labyrinthian corridors surrounding them.“All of you. You’re all driving me to drink.” The Party Man in Black fell face forward on his mattress and began snoring loudly.“Sinful.” scoffed the Altar Boy.“Actually, by my calculations, he goes out an average of 1 to 3 times per year. The percentage isn’t that bad when compared to how often Worker is out there. It’s a necessary evil to alter other probabilities.”The Math Boy nodded to various coffin-like metal boxes lining the shelves of one row. Plaques with words such as “Homeowner”, “Boyfriend”, “Husband”, and “Father” were visible, and each was hooked up to a monitor. Lines ran across each screen, along with a faint beeping, and each component was linked in a daisy chain of wires. A thin film of dust lay over the entire set-up.“Monitoring these screens requires an increase in focus by seventy-three point--”“Shhhh!” came an aggravated admonition from a nearby couch, “I’m trying to watch THIS screen!”Math Boy shook his head sadly upon being scolded by the potato with the googly eyes. Spud was a creature of singular focus when his shows were on, and when his shows weren’t on there were DVDs. When there weren’t DVDs, he’d borrow Surfer’s computer and watch his shows there.“I need to update my census,” muttered the Math Boy to everyone and no one in particular, “I’m beginning to lose track of everyone. Who’s active? Who’s deceased? Who’s dormant? Has anyone seen Singer? Music Lover? Dancer? Breakdancer? Shutterbug is barely around anymore. Runner comes through here 4 or 5 times a week, but at an average speed of 7.5 MPH, he doesn’t hear any of us. We might as well not exist. I’ve tried to warn him that the levels on Snackingest are increasing exponentially in proportion to the cooling weather, that Snackingest will trip him up at the first opportunity. At that speed, the result will be catastrophic.”“Shutupshutupshutup!” came Party Man’s muffled voice from within his pillow. “We. Don’t. Care. And since when do you wear glasses?”“Our parents wear glasses. I’ve always worn glasses. In here. For well over 11,000 days, if not more. There’s an algorithm which....”But the Party Man in Black wasn’t listening. He was already out. His mattress was now a sealed metal cylinder, his name etched at the foot of it. The lights in the labyrinth dimmed. The blue walls and red linoleum faded. In the void, only the met[...]



The Essential MCF: 2K9-2K10: Part 8

2010-10-08T22:43:17.572-04:00

Cloakfest 2K10 is almost over! August 2010 is behind us, which leaves me only one more complete month to recapitulate:September, 2010PBW: Light ShowA little experiment with a small keychain flashlight and long exposure yields surprisingly fresh results.My Plate Runneth OverI'm almost always a busy guy, between my day job and my weekend gigs, so the last thing I need added to the list is a property dispute. But when a jerk goes after my dad, he goes after my whole family....MCF vs. the L.I. UniverseIt took some extra effort to see Scott Pilgrim vs. The World after poor ratings took it out of most theaters after a mere two or three weeks, but it was totally worth it, easily in my top 3-5 movies for the year.MCF's 2010 WatchlistI may be a busy guy, but I make time for television, though this year brings fewer shows and, thus far, not many promising new ones. Maybe I'm not busy enough.The Miracle of CubbyThey say cats have nine lives, but I think my mom's cat has used far more than that. I've lost track of how many times we thought we'd have to say goodbye this year, only to have him make a comeback. Our vet rocks. My mom rocks.AFK in ACI'd only been there once before, and missed two other opportunities to go earlier this year. Acting against type, I plan to play hooky and have some fun for a weekend getaway.Always Bet on OddI have a great time on my mini-vacation, and even win a few games of roulette, applying my powers of improbability to my own benefit for a change. But nothing lasts forever, and all things must end some time....PBW: Boardwalk QuagmireBehold day one of my weekend escape!The Monday of all MondaysThe last week of our last September begins with gloomy weather, corrupt computer files, and bad television reception. But a Monday like that can't last all week...or can it...?PBW: Fountains of WinDay 2 of my weekend escape was mostly about checking out of a hotel and sleeping on a train for a few hours, but that didn't stop me from getting a few more cool pictures before making a reluctant return to reality.Shifty PrioritiesGuy works for band. Band leaders lie to guy about job being canceled and screw him over. Guy later gives up personal plans to play for band, and screws self over. Guy begins to question priorities.* * *And that's what I wrote about in September 2010 in my sixth year of doing this.The Essential MCF 2K9-2K10 will conclude with a review of the next twelve days, and something more....12[...]



Shifty Priorities

2010-09-30T00:00:07.028-04:00

Sometimes, I just don't understand the way my own mind works.For about three years now, one of the Italian bands I play for has made a pilgrimage to a shrine in Pennsylvania to play in honor of Padre Pio. It wasn't a bad gig, especially since we were able to hitch a ride on tour buses taking visitors there from Long Island and Brooklyn. It was always a nice day, and on two occasions my mom even came along for the trip. Back in April of this year, the woman who usually hires us came to one of our feasts in Brooklyn, and told us she was looking forward to seeing us in September. However, as the year went on, the band leader and his son told us that the job had “fallen through”.Part of me was disappointed, but I got over it quickly enough. I had plenty of gigs with them this year, along with four other bands. One day off wouldn't kill me financially, and might even be good for me emotionally. My father, meanwhile, was suspicious. Last year they lied to two of their regular trumpet players and used a band leader from a New Jersey group and some of his guys instead. I didn't understand why they would lie. If you're a leader, it's your decision who you use, for whatever reason. I don't think it's so hard to man up and say, “Hey sorry guys, I've got someone else on this one, but I'll hire you next time.” I'm not a leader, though. Still, lying seems worse and compounds getting passed over for someone else.I guess I fall victim to my ego, sometimes. For all the times my dad has said things like, “You're the whole band! They can't do it without you carrying them!”, I've actually started to believe it, like I'm some kind of lower brass quarterback. The truth is, anyone is replaceable. About a week before the job was originally going to take place, the band leader's son and I were playing a gig for the Jersey band leader. At the end of a long day, the leader told the guy he'd see him the following Saturday. I asked him if he had something but he denied it. Perhaps I had misheard. In any event, I had already made plans since the weekend was free, and would be enjoying a mini-vacation in Atlantic City. I have almost no regrets about that, save for getting my credit card bill and realizing I didn't “break even” when I factored in travel expenses.The following week, I had a job with the Brooklyn group in Queens. They had a big band of about 14 musicians, consisting of their regular members, as well as a few “ringers” from the Jersey group. When some ladies from the society in Pennsylvania showed up and commented, “Hey it's the same band from last week!”, I couldn't help but be suspicious. The band leader just looked really uncomfortable, his eyes darting back and forth and then to the ground. Later in the day, at one of our food stops at someone's house, the woman who runs the Pennsylvania job said hello to me and the two trumpet players. “This is a different band than we had last week,” she commented, fully aware of the situation. We all just smiled uncomfortably, not knowing how to respond. “I know, you guys are the New York crew!” This was true, although not the truth as to why we weren't included.I was a little mad at my Brooklyn leaders for the rest of the afternoon. I really didn't care if they didn't use me for the job, especially since it freed me up to have some fun with my friends. I could even guess their reasons. Neither of them drive, and on one occasion when no tour bus was available, they rented a van and had our bass drummer drive us. But he's been out of commission with a torn tendon in his ankle, and they probably lost money on the rental that time anyway. The son expressed surprise when I told him the bill incl[...]



PBW: Fountains of Win

2010-09-29T00:00:04.409-04:00

My Saturday in Atlantic City didn't end when the sun went down. After a nap, I left my camera in my room, and began a series of adventures which didn't end until 6:30 AM, an official new record for the latest I ever stayed out. Yet somehow I had enough energy on Sunday morning to play(and win) a few more games of roulette, and get a few pictures in a nearby pier/mall before reluctantly making my way to the train station, and my journey back to New York, and reality. This is the conclusion of my AC Photo Blog Wednesday:Yeah, that bit of train graffiti confirmed that I was back in New York.14[...]



The Monday of all Mondays

2010-09-28T00:00:10.080-04:00

Maybe it's my imagination, but it seems like every Monday has been dreary and rainy lately. Granted, since I took a vacation day last Monday, and the weather was actually nice enough for me to do yardwork, I can't complain about last week. Tuesday may or may not have been a rainy “Monday”. The week prior, Monday did fit this bleak description. And this week, the cold drizzle returned with a vengeance.I’m one of those people who find days without meetings to be the most productive. I'm one of those people who, when faced with a clean slate, will inevitably face a barrage of interruptions. I used to think I was unique in such improbability, but as time goes on, I realize I'm no different than the rest of you. We all have bad luck and bad days, some more than others. We all have our challenges; it's how we face them that sets us apart.Other than crummy weather and a few interruptions, my Monday wasn't all that bad. I didn't get done as much as I wanted to, but then I never do. Part of it is setting my goals too high, and part of it is reality. And for some reason, my most productive hour is often between 5 and 6 PM. I accomplished quite a bit in that key hour on Monday afternoon, but I did notice some images in the file I was working on were not displaying properly. It looked like some kind of memory issue, and the fastest solution in those matters is to save, quit, and relaunch the application. That's exactly what I did, and that's exactly when my Monday became a MONDAY.“Your file cannot be opened with this version of _________” was the message I got when I tried to reopen the file. I wasn't panicking yet. I opened a few other files to make sure it wasn't the application, then I opened an older version of the file from my manual backup folder. I've been burned by this particular Program-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named before, so I make a point of saving copies of my work at various points of progress. My older version was fine, but of course didn't reflect the work I'd done in the past hour. And I'd done a lot.I looked online for solutions. I tried renaming the file, and changing its extension. I even found an auto-backup on my harddrive that the program creates. For some reason, this file was 250X bigger than the original, and gave a new and (in hindsight) hilarious error message every time I tried to open it. “You cannot anchor that item to text box.” “Thank you your trial version has expired.” Not one message made any sense, and finally I gave up, went to the gym, and ran four miles.The weather was still crummy when I drove home, and Chuck was definitely the high point of my day. Technology burned me again when I checked my digital converter box and discovered it was off. Apparently, we'd had a brief power outage during the day. It wasn't enough to mess up my VCR, which was still recording, but with the box off, all I got was static instead of How I Met Your Mother. And then the reception on my box began to act up during The Event, during crucial scenes. I think The President's advisors told him a group of people were aliens, but I'm not sure. The scene was like, “These people are R-R-R-R-R-R-R-R...” and suddenly it was like I was watching Max Headroom. Thank God TV shows are also available online nowadays. As much as technology was the bane of my existence on Monday, it also helped me.Tuesday is another day. Remembering what I'd designed, it won't take an hour to get back to where I'd left off. It's just annoying to have to do the same work twice. But these things are bound to happen. Whether I'm doing work or watching television, a storm, surge, or random glitch can make for a[...]



Phantasmic Links 9.27.10

2010-09-26T22:34:02.794-04:00

After Atlantic City, I was pretty sure this weekend would suck by comparison. The trip to the dentist I was dreading on Saturday morning turned out great when I found out that I not only didn't have any cavities, but what I thought was a cracked tooth was merely an excess piece of a filling from my visit six months ago. “You had an extra piece,” explained my awesome dentist, “I have already removed it; I just need to polish it.” When I got home to check, it looked like a perfectly intact tooth; no crack, no white spot, no indication that there's even a filling there. On Saturday afternoon I played a decent gig, although the band leader's son apparently got into some kind of argument with the society president, so we might not be back next year. At this point I could care less. I found out there was a job last weekend that they didn't use their regular guys for, when the ladies from the out-of-state society were at Saturday's job and flat out commented, “Hey this is a different crew than last week!” I don't mind not going to every job; it does bother me that those guys feel the need to lie about it. I didn't mind having a weekend off to do something fun, and I want these bands to have back-up musicians so it's not such a big deal when I have another gig or a personal affair to attend instead of one of theirs. On Sunday, we played the world's longest short parade. It was only six blocks, but we didn't start for about an hour, and it took another hour to get to the end with everyone stopping to perform or make speeches at the reviewing stand. Financially, this was a better weekend than last weekend, and though it wasn't as much fun, it wasn't as bad as I feared. In other words, I can't complain. What I can do is relax, and surf through some PHANTASMIC LINKS:(1) I know it's a (very well done) fan-made trailer, but I would watch the hell out of Pokémon Apokélypse if it were a real movie.(2) Thinking about doing your own plumbing work? Here are 15 disastrous DIY plumbing attempts that might make you reconsider.(3) Charlie Brown + Hellboy = HELLBROWN. Awesome.(4) Listen to the Super Mario Bros. dungeon theme as it was meant to be played....death metal style.Hat Tip: B13.(5) This interactive map of Middle Earth is a true testament to the worldbuilding of Tolkien.H.T.: J-No.(6) Chris Sims, the internet's foremost Batmanologist, picks his favorite title cards from the animated series. Those things really were works of art in themselves; you can check out a gallery of them here. (7) After The Avengers, could these be the next Marvel properties to make it to the big screen?(8) Apparently, there's some kind of major spelling error in this school billboard. Me, I look at that, shrug, and think strippers need to go to school somewhere....H.T.: J-No.(9) And this week's “holy crap I'm getting old” moment comes in the form of the news that Teri Hatcher is going to play Lois Lane's mom in the final season of Smallville.(10) Speaking of final, I wonder if Robot Wants Ice Cream is truly the last game in that series. They've been so much fun.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!16[...]



WWW: Weekend Wrental Wreviews 62

2010-09-26T00:00:00.383-04:00

Let's see what I saw this week for Weekend Wrental Wreviews in my 62nd WWW:1) Youth in Revolt:While at first glance, this seems to be Michael Cera doing his usual routine, an awkward intelligent guy trying to impress his dream girl, there are a few things which set it apart from his usual fare. When Cera's Nick Twisp goes on a camping trip with his mother(Jean Smart) and her dirtbag boyfriend(Zach Galifianakis), he meets and falls for a girl named Sheemi(Portia Doubleday). Sheemi has a love of all things French and speaks with the same pretend pretentious air about things well before her generation as Nick does. The two seem to have that in common, escaping their trailer park lives by elevating themselves. Sheemi is already dating Trent, the most popular guy at her school who writes her some truly terrible poetry, and when Nick's trip comes to an end, he realizes he needs to step up his game. The kids work out a plan in which Sheemi helps Nick's dad(Steve Buscemi in a great but all-too brief role) get a job near where she lives. But convincing his mom to let him move in with his dad will require the docile teen to dig deep and find his bad side. This is where the movie had the potential to separate itself from other Cera films. He creates an alternate imaginary persona named “Francois Dillinger”. The 20-something actor ditches his slight falsetto, and adds a mustache, cigarette, and blue contact lenses. This aspect was what appealed to me in the trailers, and I wish the film spent more time with Francois, a far more interesting character. Obviously no one else sees him, but they do some clever things with split screen or simply having the “evil” twin interact when Nick is acting out. Overall, there's an independent film vibe to the piece, and its definitely a coming-of-age story. Sheemi's Christian parents catch wind of some of the things Nick-as-Francois has done, and end up sending her away to school. This leads to some standard teen sex comedy hijinks with Fred Willard as an eventual accomplice. Justin Long also has a great part as Sheemi's drug-addled older brother. He's definitely an actor who sinks his teeth into cameos extremely different from the starring roles he usually takes. In addition to some of the split screen stuff, there are a few interesting animated interludes. I've since read that this movie was based on a series of books about the Twisp character, and in light of that it comes in at a remarkably short running time of about an hour-and-a-half. With the exception of Year One(which was just awful), this is probably my least favorite Cera movie, even though I did like it(just not as wholeheartedly as Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Superbad, or Nick and Norah's infinite Playlist). They definitely could have had more fun with the alter-ego persona, but it does end on a great note, particularly the last line of the film which was excellent. 2) Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in Peril:Four movies in to the manga-based series, and ronin Ogami Itto is still wandering with his son Daigoro. Some key things happen in this one beyond his pursuit of a topless tattooed female warrior. He's finally separated from the kid for a while, and we get to see what Daigoro is turning into. Another warrior notes the lack of fear in the eyes of the child, even when he finds himself trapped in a burning field. He has seen death; he has walked the path of the warrior. Ogami's son is well on his way to following in his father's footsteps. Meanwhile, we finally learn the reason why Ogami was framed and disgraced by his enemies, and his usual one[...]



Poll of Randomosity Seventeen

2010-09-25T00:16:57.553-04:00

Hey! It's the Nexus feature everybody(or nobody) wanted to see one more time! Remember the old Poll of Randomosity? Here's my SEVENTEENTH set of TEN random questions for us to answer together:1) Did you catch the final season premiere of Smallville, and if so, what did you think?2) And if you caught the sixth season premiere of Supernatural, what did you think of that?3) How do you feel about going to the dentist?4) When do you stop working?5) Do you ever get head rushes?6) What will be the first new show of the Fall television season to be canceled?7) Would you rather be invulnerable but blind, or be completely paralyzed with all your other senses intact?8) Do you believe in randomosity?9) Have you ever suffered from ”Senioritis”?10) What's the deal with the numbers?For me, the answers are:1) I thought it was awesome, but the premieres and finales of this show have historically been great, even in the weaker seasons. I won't spoil anything, but it was great to see one original cast member make an appearance, and disappointing to see a sub-par stand-in for another original. I hope that particular actor makes a return in the finale. I do like how the gloves are completely off with referencing other characters from the comics, especially the little CGI tease of this season's true “big bad”. They managed in one episode to reference things all the way from the first season, while demonstrating how far they've come, and how far they potentially can go in the next 20 episodes or so. I just hope they don't mess it up.2) I was worried about it, because it was planned to be a five season show and ended so perfectly last year. After battling the devil himself for two seasons, I wasn't sure how they could go back to a monster-of-the-week formula. The premiere was average, and was fine as a standalone episode. When compared to what they had been doing, it fell a little short, but it's not as bad as it could have been. This probably should be the last season though. It's important to end on a high note.3) Normally, I look forward to the experience. I've only had four cavities, and that's four more than I would have liked, even though I made it well into my 20s before the first one. On my last visit I needed two fillings, and in the months since I've noticed what looks like a crack in one of my front teeth. I'm hoping that's just the seam of one of the fillings, since one side of the tooth looks whiter than the other. In any case, I have an appointment this weekend which had been delayed a few weeks, so while I'm nervous I'm also relieved that I'll finally find out what it is, and what needs to be done to correct it. I have a great dentist, so I'm sure he can help me.4) Officially, I should be done by 5 PM. Most nights I leave the office around 6:30, although some of my time after work is spent gabbing with friends about movies or photography. Mentally, my brain never stops and sometimes a solution to a problem I had during the day will pop in to my brain at night. In the middle of writing this post I had to stop to e-mail myself at work, since I'll never remember by Monday morning the solution I'd thought up. I don't get paid to think when I'm not at the office, but my brain seems to do it anyway.5) Once in a while when I stand up too quickly, the room may spin. It hasn't happened in a while, but I had a pretty bad one on Thursday. I got back to my desk after walking to the printer and felt very dizzy. My heart also raced as I considered the sensation that I might be passing out, but that was likely anxiety creeping[...]



The Best.

2010-09-24T00:14:34.661-04:00

The best comedy on NBC is Community.

The best old lady is Betty White. (sorry, Ma!)

The best ice cream flavor is Cookies ‘n Cream.

The best pizza comes from New York.

The best day of the week is Friday.

The best incarnation of The Beast is ape-like.

The best James Bond is Sean Connery.

The best time to go back to sleep is on a Saturday morning, after waking up from a dream that it was a weekday and you had to go to work.

The best returning drama on broadcast television is Fringe.

The best new drama is Boardwalk Empire.

The best number is 333.

The best live-action Lex Luthor is Michael Rosenbaum.

The best animated Lex Luthor is Clancy Brown.

The best timeless rock band is The Beatles.

The best grunge band is Pearl Jam.

The best things in life are free.

The best time to quit is while you're ahead.

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19



The Essential MCF: 2K9-2K10: Part 7

2010-10-08T22:43:30.016-04:00

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Cloakfest 2K10 lives on! July 2010 is done, which means we're up to August already! I can't believe it's going so fast.


August, 2010

Running Out of Time.
Every year I participate in a 5K run against other Long Island professionals, and every year I get a bit faster. I wonder before this year's race if I'll be fast enough, when there's no more time left to prepare...

faster.
Oh, I was fast enough. Surprisingly, so...

My Marvel Weapon Five
I know they're not real, but they're pretty damn cool anyway.

PBW: Cuz He's 50.
I can't possibly have a 50-year-old cousin yet, can I? Because that would make me....nahhh. I'm still a kid.

Sensitivity Zero
I usually keep things light and avoid tackling sensitive subjects, but after wrestling with one hot topic for a few weeks I need to work out my thoughts. Having the right to do something should not supersede taking how others will feel about doing that thing into consideration.

* * *


And that's what I wrote about in August 2010 in my sixth year of doing this.

The Essential MCF 2K9-2K10 will continue....

20



PBW: Boardwalk Quagmire

2010-09-22T00:09:00.159-04:00

Picture it: Atlantic City, 2010. A blogger and his friends find themselves with an interesting conundrum. Even after a night that ended around 5:30 AM, they have hours of sunlight on a Saturday afternoon to kill before they even think about gambling or drinking. Fortunately, the blogger brings his camera, and it’s a beautiful day to walk along the beach, not the dreary, rainy experience from his first visit. And so begins a Photo Blog Wednesday that does more justice to Atlantic City. Below you’ll see what I saw on Saturday, from our room to the beach and more, and next week I’ll share what I saw the next day before reluctantly journeying back to real life.21[...]



Always Bet on Odd.

2010-09-21T01:10:34.673-04:00

The first time I visited Atlantic City, I did what any self-respecting idiot would do: I fed $60 bucks into a slot machine and lost it all within minutes. I then went from machine to machine trying to win it back, printing out vouchers, popping in twenties, and generally acting like I wasn't playing with real money. Mind you, this all happened before I'd had my first drink.This was not a good time. In fact, I began to feel anger and remorse at letting my buddy talk me into going to the worst arcade ever. Then I settled in at a roulette table. A waitress brought over some drinks, on the house. The game was more interesting than the slot machines, and sometimes I actually won. In the end, I still walked away from the table with less than I started with, but then you don't win money playing video games either. You pay to be entertained, and I felt like I was doing that. The slots were just these super-efficient money donation machines in which you pushed the same button over and over and never had any control of the odds.I did a little better on my last trip. Oh, there was one slot machine that ate 20 bucks as a reminder of my first experience, but I was a little wiser overall. I stuck with roulette, and found three ways to play. One was the traditional kind with a dealer at a table and real chips. Another was completely virtual, played on a giant touch screen. A third was a hybrid, in which players sat around with individual touch screens, but an actual dealer and wheel stood in the middle of us. At the classic version I lost 20 bucks, then bought another $20 worth of chips, and played until I had $62, at which point I quit. I found I had better luck sticking with things like “odd” or “black”, where I had roughly a 50-50 shot at winning. Picking specific numbers for the ball in the wheel to land on paid more, but the odds were tougher. Like all things financial, more risk gets more reward.We stayed for two days, this time. I caught a train with one friend after work on Friday and didn't get there until 11 PM. It was a fun ride that included a conversation with a cute girl who needed to charge her phone near our seats. She was only a college student, heading home for a wedding, but despite being young, pleasant conversation helped us all pass the time. Two of my friends had driven up already. After one guy finished a poker tournament, we took a break to enjoy some 20-year-old bourbon then headed back out to the floors, where our adventures included my aforementioned roulette win. By 5 AM, it had been a long night, but didn't include as many of the mistakes I'd made my first time. I think stopping for breakfast at the hotel diner where a very annoyed waiter took 45 minutes to bring me horrible pancakes may have been the worst thing I did.Saturday was where things got dangerous. I didn't sleep well since I never do when I'm away from my own bed. I got 3, maybe 4 solid hours of sleep. We didn't want to start drinking or gambling too early, and wandering the boardwalk taking photos killed only so much time. I did discover the roulette video game which allowed bets as small as a dollar on which I actually doubled my money after playing for a bit. I also made the mistake of getting some pizza, after ironically chastising my friends the night before about getting pizza outside of New York. I should have taken my own advice. Back at the hotel room, watching Terminator 2 killed some time, especially as I doz[...]



Phantasmic Links 9.20.10

2010-09-20T00:00:06.629-04:00

I'm baaaaack! AC was more awesome than ever, and for once I actually broke even. Roulette is proving to be a good game for someone with my math skills and probability instincts. Of course, that's only what they want me to think, and the biggest lesson I learned this past weekend was learning when to walk away. I'm exhausted but content. I'll have some photos later in the week, and maybe some stories. Before I pass out from a weekend in which I slept a total of five hours in two days, let me collect this week's PHANTASMIC LINKS:(1) According to Jeremy Renner, Hawkeye probably won't be wearing his purple costume from the comics in the Avengers movie. I like the character, but I have to agree that the costume probably wouldn't translate all that well in reality.(2) Check out the web of a new species of spider in Madagascar, currently the world's largest web. I bet that thing could catch thieves, just like flies....(3) Hey, remember how Joaquin Phoenix supposedly was reinventing himself as a fat, bearded rapper? Now we know what that was about.(4) The people are pixelated. The background is not. A digital artist presents an interesting juxtaposition that challenges our perspective.(5) If you have a problem that needs a unique solution, this gallery offers ways you can fix that.(6) Speaking of unique solutions, the facade of this museum dilates in accordance with the level of daylight outside.(7) Is anyone really surprised that the originator of “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” has had to go into hiding?(8) Batman technology will support the U.S. special forces. It makes sense to me. Terrorists are a cowardly and superstitious lot....(9) I'm VERY excited by this Voltron concept art. Let's hope the actual movie can do justice to that art(and the original source material).(10) Seriously, do not start playing Epic Battle Fantasy 3 if you have any kind of responsibilities or a life. You may disappear for hours at a time in this progressively awesome RPG with surprising layers....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![...]