I recently started a graduate program in Digital Media, where I will better sharpen and develop the technological skills necessary to best utilize my creativity and interest in…um, Digital Media. One of the classes I am taking this term is a Design class focusing on visual design using software such as Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. Each class begins with an activity called a “Jumpstart,” where the professor poses a creative challenge for us to complete. These jump starts are designed to stimulate our imagination, but also to play into his bigger plans for the semester, where we will ultimately be creating a superhero (perhaps for animation in a later course?).

I think the whole process and the steps the professor has us taking for this project are incredibly awesome, practical, and fun and I want to share it. And thus begins this series of blog posts, entitled “The Birth of a Superhero,” which will document the creative process as I bring Hydrator (formerly “Hydration Man”) to life. Stay tuned for part 1, where a Jumpstart asked me to declare my super power!

Ok, so “today” is actually 8 weeks later.  My wife posted her entry on the benefits of a fall birthday on April 10, and I started writing mine the next day. Then, I encountered other priorities, a best man speech, podcasting, a lack of motivation, and a hard drive crash after finishing, which required a rewrite. Excuses aside, the summer is approaching and my rebuttal is below. Hopefully you judge my side of the argument for its content and not for its delay. Laura, a dedicated reader who was disappointed by this delay, has a spring birthday. Maybe she will add her thoughts on why it is better to have a spring birthday?

Summer is the best time to have a birthday. Without a doubt. After all, most people spend nine months of the year looking forward to the summer, which is arguably the best of the four seasons. That’s because summer represents freedom, fun, and friends – which are all part of a good birthday!

I cannot imagine any worse way to spend my birthdays as a young Brando than to have been in a classroom listening to a teacher lecture on something that really won’t be useful in 10 years, like the Medicis, isosceles triangles, or mitochondria (I can confidently make this claim because it is now 10 years later and I only use this knowledge for quizzo). Fortunately, I never once had to sit in a classroom on my birthday because my birthday is in July.

But the perks of a summer birthday don’t end with an educational vacation. My first 15 birthdays were an endless stream of awesome, including pool parties, picnics, and even Phillies’ games featuring serenades from ballpark hosts. I then became a counselor at a summer camp, so the past 13 birthdays have been spent with 500 of my closest friends. At summer camp, you can experience 500 people genuinely singing and wishing you a “Happy Birthday” – after parading you on a chair for a shower of High 5’s! Do they do that at winter camp? Oh wait, they don’t exist!

Forget eating stale donut fillings with your classmates while wearing mittens; nothing beats a summer birthday!

What do you think? Is it better to have a fall or summer birthday? Or do you prefer winter or spring? Make your argument, and keep it to 250 words or less!

Also, feel free to suggest Topic #2 for our He Said / She Said series!

I know I should be posting my He Said / She Said about why it is better to have a summer birthday, but I had an encounter this morning that I wanted to share.

I dropped my wife off at work this morning and then headed to the neighborhood Wawa for a coffee during the busy morning rush hour.  I was about three people deep in the cashier line when a very confused-looking man walked in.  He removed his  old fashioned sunglasses from a head covered with a full-blown mullet, and revealed an expression suggesting that whatever was on his mind was the most important thing in the world.  It wasn’t so much a panicked look as it was a “caught up in his own situation” look.

The cashier was in the process of accepting payment from a customer when Very Confused Looking Man glanced at a paper in his hand, looked in her direction, and blurted out, “Can you tell me where the nearest payphone is?”  My initial reaction was, “Huh? Did he just interrupt her to ask for a payphone?” I first obtained a cell phone for work purposes in 1998 and, without finding any definitive data online, recall them exploding in popularity about 2-3 years after that.  I also recall reading and hearing news stories at that time that more and more companies were removing pay phones from public facilities since they were no longer producing enough income to justify the hassle of maintaining them.

The cashier, who appeared just old enough to legally work, had a blank look on her face as she handed change to the customer in line. Her quiet reply to Very Confused Looking Man was, “Honestly, I have no idea where that would be.” Since the cashier is young enough to have never even manually rolled up a car window, she could have just as easily said, “Honestly, I have no idea what a payphone is.”  Very Confused Looking Man looked very disappointed and resumed a hurried pace through the store.

I was not the only person in disbelief of Very Confused Looking Man’s question.  The customer who had just received his change was an elderly man, old enough to still have a ‘new’ rotary phone, but even he looked at the cashier and asked, “Did he just ask for a payphone?”  The elderly man asked this in a hushed tone, careful to preserve Very Confused Looking Man’s dignity after asking such a ridiculous question.  The cashier nodded and then let out a nervous laugh, which made me smile.  We were all temporarily lost in our own thoughts when Very Confused Looking Man asked the question, but now realized that we had shared this moment of anachronistic realization together. Today, in this age of cell phones, someone asked for the location of the nearest payphone and none of us could provide an answer. 10 years ago, my answer would have been, “Gee, did you look right outside Wawa?” but obviously not anymore.

It wasn’t until I got home that I properly processed the details of the situation and realized the truth. Think about it: a preoccupied outsider, the old fashioned sunglasses, the full-blown mullet, the bizarre request for a payphone. This man was clearly a time traveler from the past! And we had all laughed at him, instead of recognizing the awesomeness of the experience!

I leave you with two very important questions:

  1. Why is Very Confused Looking Man here in the future?
  2. Do you know where you can find a pay phone?

As you may have noticed, the preceding entry was posted by my wife, Ali.  The idea behind that entry was that we were looking for a way to promote a little creative writing between us, and the idea we came up with was to pick a topic and then take a “He Said / She Said” type of approach to the topic.  The only rules, or guidelines, are that we cannot read the other person’s post before we upload our own, and that we limit our posts to 250 words or less. We are experimenting with the idea and format, so we wanted a simple topic just to kick things off.  Since her birthday is in November and mine is in July, we decided our first topic would be “Why it is better to have a (Fall/Summer) Birthday.”  Ali posted her entry on Friday, and I will add mine today.  I promise I have not read Ali’s entry yet, and have only copied the URL for linking purposes.

Feel free to share your ideas for a topic you’d like to see us debate in this space.  We plan on getting a little more philosophical and provocative than “Best time to have a Birthday.”  We are also debating whether or not to adapt Twitter’s 140 character limit by limiting ourselves to 140 words instead of 240. If so, would this format be called Twlogging? Twentries?

Brandon’s wife speaking here…just a random little post for everyone. My birthday is November 13th. I share this birthday with Robert Louis Stevenson, Chris North, and Whoopi Goldberg-quite a diverse bunch, if I do say so myself. To convince you why the timing of my birthday is the best, let me first get specific, then I’ll get general.

Specific: having a birthday in mid-November is the best because mid-November is 9 months from…Valentine’s day! This means anyone born mid-November was definitely conceived out of love. The rest of you…who knows?

General: Fall birthdays are great because everyone is around to celebrate – in the Winter no one wants to leave the house; in the Spring people are busy with graduations, weddings, and whatnot; in the Summer everyone is out of school and on vacation. However, in the Fall, people stay put as they recover from vacations and school starts up again — but people are also still willing to do fun birthday things with you because the weather is still decent.

Now who’s in the mood for some birthday cake…?

I finished last night’s LOST episode, “Dead is Dead” (04/09/09).  I won’t post a recap/summary (unless necessary for a point I am trying to make) or any theories because there are enough blogs and websites dedicated to those topics, but here are some of my questions and observations from last night’s episode:

1. First of all, I was plagued throughout season 4 in noticing that Penny (played by Sonya Walger) bears a striking resemblance to some other celebrity, but could not figure out who. It was not until early in season 5 that I put my finger on it: John Travolta. I don’t know if  it is the eyes, cheekbones, similar femine demeanor, or what, but every time Penny is on screen, I can only image her exclaiming “Sandy! in a British accent.  I brought this observation up to some friends recently and even produced pictures of each actor, but I was dismissed as crazy.

Until today.  My wife received this email from a co-worker who was involved in that conversation: “Ok, I can kind of see the Penny – John Travolta thing.”  It is a small statement of pseudo-agreement, but a huge victory for my celebrity matching self-esteem.

2. Ben is certainly becoming more and more intriguing to me as we slowly discover his soft, compassionate side — particularly his mercy towards mothers with children. In last night’s episode, present-day Ben says to Jin, “Find Desmond Hulme and tell him I am sorry…he’ll know why.” This statement is then followed by a flashback of Ben walking on a dock to kill Penny, and I was disgusted by his savage disgustingness.  Then, he is redeemed as we see that he reacts to Widmore’s daughter (and grandson) the same way he reacted to his ‘own’ daughter 20 years earlier — and that earlier move had terrible implications on Ben and Charles’ relationship. I wonder if this consistency and mercy from Ben will resolve some of the animosity between the two (assuming his phone call with Charles just moments earlier did not do irreparable damage already).

Either way, I find myself conflicted: is Ben a decent human being worthy of sympathy and compassion, or is he a manipulative monster who should be loathed and condemned? Or both?  Just another example of brilliant writing from LOST’s crew.

3. I am very interested in seeing how Ben’s orders/threat from Alex the Smoke Monster (A the SM) to loyally follow Locke will unfold.  He seemed genuinely shocked and in awe at the end of the episode, when Locke reappeared with the vine.  His orders/threat from A the SM seem to have been set up by a statement from Locke earlier in the episode. I don’t remember the exact quote, but Locke, responding to a barrage of questions from Ben about where they were going, says something to the effect of, “It’s not easy to blindly follow someone on the basis of a leap of faith without knowing answers, is it?”  Thanks to A the SM, it seems that blindly following someone (Locke) on the basis of a leap of faith is exactly what Ben must do from this point forward.

Questions from “LaFleur” that have been answered:

1. Horace and Amy’s son is Ethan. Ethan appears as a baby in one of the subsequent episodes, and as an adolescent in “Dead is Dead.” This raises a new question: Is Ethan more significant to the overall story of the island than we currently know, or, as my wife suggests, is he merely included in episodes to serve a reference for the time period of events so that viewers don’t get too confused.

Those are just a few thoughts / observations I have after watching last night’s episode, “Dead is Dead.”  Please feel free to comment, respond, share your own thoughts or questions, or otherwise let me know you enjoy reading mine!

It has been almost one full month since I presented the TV Channel Challenge, and the results were less surprising than I thought.  In fact, I stopped officially tracking after about 2 weeks because of how predictable my viewing is.  I basically watch about 5-6 shows on a regular basis (thank you to whomever created DVR!) and don’t really have much time to watch anything beyond that.  Here is the breakdown:

  • NBC – 2 – 3 hours per week (The Office, 30 Rock, Heroes, and occasionally a bit of SNL or Chuck, which leads in to Heroes)
  • ABC – 2 hours per week (LOST and Scrubs, when it isn’t on a 4-week hiatus)
  • HBO – 30 minutes per week (Flight of the Conchords)
  • ESPN, National Geographic, History Channel, or Discovery – a total of 30 minutes per week for all four channels.  I rarely channel surf anymore.

I will have to add 30 minutes of FX to this list once It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia returns, as well as 30 minutes of Comedy Central for South Park.  I would absolutely love to pay my cable company as reduced rate to only receive those 7-10 channels!!!

I watched last night’s LOST episode, “LaFleur” (03/04/09).  I won’t post a recap/summary or any theories because there are enough blogs and websites dedicated to those topics, but here are some of my questions from last night’s episode:

1. Why won’t the “sonic fence” keep Richard and his people out of the compound.  He mentions to Horace that the fence “may keep somethings out, but not him and not his people.”  Do the Hostiles know the code to deactivate its disintegration powers, or is there something special about them?

2. What happens on the island between the 1970’s (which is the current time for Sawyer’s Five and the Oceanic Six) and the present day that results in the death of women giving birth?  Is it because the Losties are in the 1970’s and interfering with the natural progression of events, or is there some other event that happens?

3. Who is Amy and Horace’s son?  Will he grow up to be someone we already know from watching the first four-and-a-half seasons , or is it an insignificant character shown only to signify that Amy gave birth without dying?

That’s all I’ve got for now.  More questions (and hopefully answers) may pop up as I have discussions with my wife and friends, and listen to Preston & Steve’s LOST discussion!

My wife’s cousin, Emily, and her boyfriend, Dan, visited us last night as part of their 12 hour trip down the East Coast. We spent a great deal of time talking about Lost and other TV shows in general, and then Dan raised an interesting point: he only watches about 5 channels on his TV.  He pointed out that this seems like a waste of his cable package, since there are approximately 800 channels that he never even visits. Dan expressed a wish that cable companies would offer a service where customers can select the channels they receive, and different subscription packages would determine how many channels each customer can choose.

I recognized the genius in this idea as soon as I heard it, and I quickly guesstimated that my wife and I watch no more than 15 channels on our TV.  I also wondered how many channels are ‘used’ by the average household.  With those questions in mind, my wife and I are going to keep a “TV Diary” for one month to figure out how many channels we actually watch/use/need, and how long we spend on each of those channels.

What about you? Do you ‘use’ the entire spectrum of your cable package, or are you more like us in that you only use a small percentage of channels? Feel free to keep a diary of your channel habits (what channel and how long you watched) and share the results in the comments section so that we can compare our channel ‘usage.’

UPDATE: I have created an excel sheet that calculates elapsed time to make it easier to track the time you have spent watching each channel.  Click here to download your Rubywahoo Channel Challenge Tracker