RBOC: STL Edition

Hello all and sorry for the prolonged absence...two days in between blogging felt like an eternity! Holiday exhaustion is setting in, and even though we haven't done too much the last few days, we've not sat around like bumps on a log. Therefore, today's blog will consist of Random Bullets of Crap highlighting my current trip to STL:

* 4 Foodie stops: 2 trips to the Fatted Calf, 2 trips to Lion's Choice (both, un-ironically beef related); 1 trip remaining to the Pueblo Nuevo (tomorrow night) and Hunan Kitchen (kind of running out of time for this one). X-mas Eve and X-mas kind of kill the eating out that I can do...

* 3 Good friends seen: most of these visits have coincided with trips to the Fatted Calf--talk about killing 2 birds with 1 stone. It's always great to see Chris, Sarah and Kevin; I loved seeing you all, and hope to get together soon!

* 2 Grandma visits: I've seen both grandmas twice, and we're scheduled to meet up with each one at least one more time. Now that they're approaching that age, you know, it's important to see them as much as possible.

*1 Friend's wedding: one of my best friends from high school got married last night, and TW and I were invited along with 241 other guests--seriously, 243 people were there! It was nice to catch up with old friends and meet some new ones. My brother schooled the open bar: he was on fire last night as he got one phone number, and followed around, with his tongue hanging out, another woman.

* And a patridge in a pear tree: I'm sitting on the couch now rooting on Mizzou in the Alamo Bowl vs Northwestern (I know that Michael Wilbon, of PTI fame, will be rooting for his alma mater, so I'll have to put out my rooting interests as well). Jeremy Maclin is sick, that's all I'll say in the matter...

If I get any sleep at all, I'll try to include another of my "stories." I can think of two good ones: "First Vegas Trip" or "Ripped Jeans (Watch out for the T tracks)." I'll leave it up to you, my faithful readers.


"Under the table, Mabel"

For me, the holidays always provide multiple opportunities to play cards. In addition to the tripoly (or Michigan Rummy) game for pennies, which everyone plays, we also have a game of 'kitchen table' games (or dealer's choice), which not everyone can play, for silver: nickels, dimes and quarters. These games are always fun, and the night inevitably ends with people divided between the two games.

The last two nights I've ended up playing dealer's game, although tomorrow night I'm sure I'll be playing tripoly. Seeing as I've been up way too long today, the remainder of this post will consist of a list of my favorite dealer's-choice games:

5) Pass the Trash; everyone knows this one: you literally pass the trash (i.e., the worst card) until it gets to the dealer or someone has a King...the loser pays the pot.

4) Black Mariah; this is Chicago (highest spade in the hole splits the pot w/the highest poker hand) with a twist: if the queen of spades comes face up, the hand is dead and everyone starts over.

3) 5-card draw, Jacks or better to open; when I was just beginning in the kitchen table circuit, I didn't quite understand the "or better" part: I thought you needed exactly a pair of jacks to open. I remember throwing away three 9's in disgust one Thanksgiving evening--ugh!

2) 5.5/26.5; this one's a big pot builder...it's not a poker game at all, but it does have roots in blackjack. You're cards equal their number, w/Aces as 1 or 11 and face cards equal to a half a point. The object is to get closest to 5.5 or 26.5. The hardest part is remembering the name of the game!

1) My favorite dealer's-choice game: "Under the table, Mabel." This is a five-card draw, hi-lo split game in which you don't get to see the cards that you draw. They are placed "under the table" and I'm convinced that my Uncle Jim named this game after my maternal great-grandmother Mabel. It's either that, or he just liked to say, "Under the table, Mabel." Who knows?

Don't forget "Acey-Deucy," "Guts" and "Iron Cross!" See you at the table...


A picture is worth a thousand words...

Me, my mom and brother spreading a little holiday cheer!

My mom and her twin sisters, along with my Grandma and Aunt: notice that Grandma bought her daughters the same sweater that she's wearing!
"One of these things is not like the other..."

Not mother and daughter, but niece and Aunt...with a little bailey's fueling the fun!

The following shots are from Tilles Park, a lighted drive-thru park in St. Louis that TW and I went to the other night...lots of fun!

Mice decorating the tree...
Not quite Frosty, but close!
The best scene there,
TW's attempt at an 'artsy' shot!
My favorite...

Happy Holidays,


"To defend everything is to defend nothing"

Family holidays often include lots of games/competition: we have ping-pong and pool in the basement, and a wide range of board games as well. Since I've been home we've played Cutthroat and 8-ball, ping-pong, poker, dealer games and our on-again, off-again favorite: RISK.

Now the last few games of RISK were short, as our Dad would always fortify and hold Australia and attempt to win from there; the remainder of the family, naturally, would just gang up on him, and after wiping him out, we would just quit. But yesterday, we actually completed an entire game; and there was a little more interest in it because we had five players, instead of four (can't forget TW!).

The game started w/the five of us claiming general areas: I was in S. America, my brother was N. America, Dad of course in Australia, Mom in Africa and TW in Asia. My plan was the lay low a little bit and hope that other people would get delusions of grandeur and march off to battle. My brother was the first to attempt that as he went east, through Greenland, and west through Kamchatka. His battles never really conquered much, but they certainly increased the ire at the table.

I made a few thrusts and parries: north into N. America and east into Africa, but never much to hold an entire continent. In fact, it was TW to get the first continent as she swept through Australia with ease (way to go, TW!--welcome to the family...).

The tipping point came when my brother was a little too overexposed after one of his 'boredom' attacks; I decided my best opportunity to win would be to wipe him out and take his cards. In an almost even fight, I roled big and took him out fairly easily.

After that, TW and my Mom made one fatal error. I was in the same position as my brother: over exposed after a battle and holding N. America with little-to-no armies at the borders. Neither TW or Mom saw the opportunity to break my chokehold on N. America and they stopped their rolls at my (weakly defended) borders.

Now for TW's point-of-view: "In my defense, I did see that celexo was in a weak position, but his Dad was also weak - only holding 2 countries. Whichever one I attacked I was trying to eliminate to take their cards. In the end I picked Dad because he had fewer countries. Unfortunately for me, he started rolling 6's and I stalled my attack because he was just too hot. I suppose I still could have come at celexo from the other side of Asia, but I just wasn't thinking about it after being decimated in Eastern Europe."

[How about a big round of applause for TW's inaugural appearance in the blog? Look for her "X-mas in STL" wrapup coming soon.]

Anyway, from my position of strength in the Americas, I was able to sweep through Africa from behind and wipe out my mother. At that point, I held 10 cards and had to immediately turn them in (per the rules), which garnered me 50+ armies in which I could fortify everywhere, luckily!

TW tried to take me out, but my stronghold in Europe held--it's those pesky Krauts, you know? From there I was able to sweep throughout the entire board and wipe out TW.

Luckily I declined the previous offer from TW for a royal marriage uniting the world; instead, I crowned myself Emperor (much like Napolean--Bonaparte, not Dynamite) and ruled the world! Fun times, as always...


"Remember, It Can Be Used as a Weapon" part II

This is part II of a story that I began yesterday (for more, click here):

Great advice there, honey, thanks! So, The VET and R&RM take off for their trip back to the Woody. I, on the other hand, embark on my trip to hell; or that's how I remember it now, I'm sure it wasn't that bad at the time. It takes about 10 minutes for the MWLVR to prepare the van for actual transportation: I don't think that he'd moved it for quite a while; there were blocks under the wheels and string tied from the roof to a neighboring tree.

And we're off! Not quickly however, because it takes a while to knock off the rust on this van, you know? But he finally gets it up the big road out of the state park and onto a dusty state road that will (eventually) lead us to a main intersection, and thusly into town. As we approach this intersection, the van slows to crawl and eventually stops. Without saying a word, MWLVR gets out of the van, which he's turned off, and disappears from view.

Here's a recap of my mental process: "He's walking around the van--I can't see him; is he going to just kill me here, leave my body by the side of the road, and then go back for The Vet?" I wish you could have seen what I looked like at those moments when he was walking around the van: my head was on a swivel so fast, it would've probably been a blur to the human eye. Eventually he came back into sight, through the passenger-side, front window, and completed his circuit of the van. He didn't say a word about stopping, or walking, or being deranged...to this day, I have no flippin' idea what he was doing.

After MWLVR dropped me off at a 7-11, with a pay phone, he left. I was freakin' out because I actually thought he was going back for The Vet. I called AAA and tried to make it abundantly clear that there was a psychopath on the way back for my girlfriend, and so it was in everyone's best interest that they hurry the heck up, but they took what I'm sure is their average response time.

Flash forward a very nervous 45 minutes for me, as I see the two truck fly around the corner. A fairly large woman, whom I'm calling Bertha for the shear irony, pops out and says, "Hi, are you Celexo?" I answer in the affirmative and gets things rolling, literally. Bertha's actually the wife of the driver, whom I meet as I get inside the cabin. I have to sit the middle, which is slightly awkward because the tow truck is a stick shift, and this particular driver has only one arm (for more on the def leppard drummer with only one arm, I particularly enjoy this song for a bit of nostalgia), and of course which arm does have? The left one...

So, here I am squeezed in between a one-armed stick shift driver, who's always reaching over w/his stump to shift and his rather large wife as we barrel around these country roads to come to the rescue of The Vet.

And for the climax of my story, the three of us arrive the stranded Woody, with The Vet and R&RM all intact. As soon as The Driver sees The Woody, he says "You know, there's a 4-wheel drive switch in the car, right?"

Um...no, we didn't try that!

As a bonus story, and because this story just isn't long enough yet, I've got to add this little nugget: later that night, after we made our tent by flashlight we heard what sounded like the end of the world coming from inside The Woody. The dogs were barking and I was refusing to leave the tent. In the morning it turned out that we had left a window open inside and a few raccoons were making a meal for themselves out of our marshmallows!


"Remember, It Can Be Used as a weapon" part 1

In lieu of an actual blog, in which I describe the series of travels I have undertaken in the past 24 hours, I'd rather include here one of my many "stories." I'm sitting on a plane, in the second leg of my journey home, and the atmosphere in very conducive to (not) writing (my dissertation). These stories are formative moments in my life--all events described herein are true events, although I'm sure that the rough edges have been thoroughly smoothed out in my memory. TW insists that my penchant towards hyperbole ruins such stories, but I believe that any good story needs a little juice here and there.

The players in this story are:
Celexo, a college sophomore home for summer break, on a weekend vacation down in the Ozarks with his (then) girlfriend;
The Vet, a college freshman, whom as her name implies, is "animal crazy;"
The Woody, an ancient Forerunner that The Vet's dad had just purchased for her--it was so-named because of the faux-wood panels running down the outside (not quite this color, but exactly the same wood panels;
Rio and Rio's mom (R&RM), two Labs that The Vet brought along on every camping trip;
Man, who lived down in a Van by the River (MWLVR), self-explanatory;
Driver, from AAA and his wife Bertha, who came to the rescue

The setting:
Inside the Woody, as Celexo, The Vet and R&RM drive many hours south from St. Louis.

"After a few hours, The Vet pulls into a gas station--yes, she was driving as this was her inaugural trip in The Woody (this info becomes in important later, trust me!). In addition to filling up the tank, go figure, we head inside to--I swear to God--to fill out my application for a fishing permit. Apparently, all you need is $15 and the ability to read & write (and all those years I was afraid of the multiple choice test). Beaming from my newly minted status as a (redneck) fisherman, I jumped back into the driver's seat: this allowed The Vet to pull out the map and find our destination for the weekend.

I forget the name of the river we were at, but shortly before dusk we pulled into the state park and we settled on a particularly nice setting. I followed the dirt road, which led us directly onto the rocky riverbank, and settled on a nice bend in the river. I put the Woody into reverse, yet nothing happened; I tried the gas a little harder--no movement...shit, we're stuck in the rocks.

As I mentioned earlier, this was our first 'real' trip in the Woody so we were a little uncertain about its off-road capabilities. Before we messed around with the jeep itself, we tried digging out the back tires--no dice; we tried putting the floor mats under the back tires--no dice; and we even dug around for some planks of wood--no dice! At this point, the sun is setting and I've got no cellphone reception down in this canyon. I'm seeing images of flash floods shooting around the bend and washing the Woody away.

So, what do we come up with? Well, The Vet and I decide to go find someone else at another campsite and have them drive us into town so that we can call AAA and have our car towed. Now, at this point, Celexo, The Vet, and R&RM, armed with only a hunting knife strapped to The Vet's leg and a huge-ass Maglight flashlight, strike out for someone else's camp.

We stumble upon MWLVR at the next campsite over from us. We turn the corner, still about 100 yards away from his plot, and check out the surroundings: in the middle lies a smoldering campfire; a clothesline is strung up between two trees near the river, with a long-sleeve shirt still hanging there; a lantern sits on a log stump at the base of the clothesline. Parallel to the clothesline sits an old, beat-up van with a pop-up roof and a window-unit air conditioner coming out of a whole cut into the driver's-side halfway back of the door. Other detritus lays around the van: a pair of boots, a milk crate, etc...

Freaked out by the obvious parallels between the scene just described above and any number of bad horror films from the 80s, I stop from entering the campsite. "Perhaps we should try the next one over..." I suggest, weakly. The Vet, tough as nails, denies the request and prompts me further in toward the van. I stop short and voice an awkward, "Hello. Is anybody there?" No response; I take a few steps further and knock on the door. Finally, a fairly short and very round older man comes out the sliding, rear door on the passenger's side. It takes a few minutes to convince him of what I need, and during this conversation the MWLVR says fewer than five words. In fact, it's a little unclear if he understands me at all.

Fortunately for The Vet, and most unfortunately for me, the van that MWLVR lives in and drives around only sits one person--me! I can't sit in the front passenger's seat because that's where the MWLVR's dog sits, and nor would I want to because it looked (and smelled like) it hadn't been cleaned in years. Before I get in the van, The Vet gives me one lasting piece of advice: she hands me the huge-ass Maglight and says, "Remember, it can be used as a weapon."

Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion in tomorrow's installment...


"We Have To Go Back;" or, The Frozen Donky Wheel

Although most of my favorite shows are on hiatus until the beginning of February, they are mostly (let's be honest) placeholders until LOST returns on January 21st. For the newest teaser, please see below:

Foibles and Fables...*

I feel sorry for the fraud prevention department on my debit card. Within the span of 24 hours, I will be in three separate locations spread across three different states and two different regions starting on Saturday. I'm currently in Long Island, with TW and her family. We're driving back to Boston tomorrow afternoon, playing a soccer game tomorrow night (8PM--anybody want to play? We need subs, preferably women...), and then flying to St Louis Sunday morning at 8:30AM. Ugh...Long Island, Boston, St Louis; and then, the weekend after New Year's we're coming back down to Brooklyn to meet up with some old college friends, who've recently expanded their family by one! Fun times...

I'm most definitely looking forward to the trip home for the holidays. It'll be the first time back since I got married, and I'm craving a trip back to The Fatted Calf. Best burgers I've ever had: flame-broiled, and topped with a soft-scoop cheddar cheese that is absolutely delicious, put a little scoop of that stuff on steak fries--you've got yourself a fine meal! I've got two separate dates at the Big Cow (as it's called amongst my friends), and I think that's all TW will allow me.

So, it's time for a little Rorschach test...take a look at the above picture, which happens to be the symbol of The Fatted Calf. What do you see: a cow's face in profile (we're looking at it's right eye); or, straight ahead (with the dot as the nose)? This is just a fun little game we play when we're passing the time waiting for our burgers to arrive.

Got to iron my shirt...yep, that's right I can kinda/sorta iron, but my closet is pathetically thin these days--I'm hoping to continue increasing my Gap giftcards over the holidays...hint, hint...

Signing off for now; next post will most likely come from the great state of "Show Me."

* Still singing Pippin...good stuff; I'm sitting here on the couch, in NY, and it's starting to snow--we're expecting 12", so I'm pretty certain that this is going to completely screw up the intricate travels plan we have in place.


Piven's out of "Plow"

Well, it certainly looks like my little trip down NYC last month to see "Speed-the-Plow" was well timed. Jeremy Piven, one of the three mega-stars in the play, has bowed out completely due to a high level of mercury. David Mamet, the playwright, commented that Piven was leaving show business to pursue a career as a thermometer--seriously, I couldn't make up a line that funny!

In a very weird connection of events, I am currently reading a book by Neal Stephenson called Quicksilver, which uses mercury to weave together its narrative thread--so to speak. Any mercury-ologists out there that care to comment?


"I've Fallen, and I Can't Get Up"

Well actually: a few hours ago, I fell but I was able to get up! Thanks for asking...

As you know if you've been reading the weather pages (hi Mom!), last night/this morning we had a lovely little 1" of snow followed by a wintry mix of snow/sleet/ice/rain. Normally in these conditions, my ass hits the couch and I fire a few episodes of West Wing or Star Wars--depending on the severity of the weather. Unfortunately, today is the second-to-last day of proctoring--so TW and I were up at school delivering blue books for all the little kiddies at 'Deis.

If you've ever been to 'Deis, you know that our campus is a little hilly; you know how this is gonna end, don't you? That's right, I hit a lovely little patch of ice, which was hidden under a puddle of (cold) water, and I was airborne...for what felt like an eternity (see pic above). After my aborted attempt at air travel, my tailbone crashed down to the earth with the force of a 185-pound man (that's me!) and my left elbow contacted shortly thereafter, which resulted in a nice little swollen bump where my elbow used to be.

I imagine that I looked pretty much like the above picture, which is why I included it; but of course, I wasn't in black & white--I was wearing a lovely little ensemble capped off with my new, silver winter coat and a pair of jeans. Of course, the butt of the jeans are now soaked--actually, they're not soaked anymore so much as damp.

Now I've been in Boston for 10+ winters and I've never slipped-and-fallen on a patch of ice before...I've fallen on ice before, but that was during a rather heated session of Broomball back in my undergraduate days.* Does anyone have that pic of our broomball team online? I have a copy of it, but it's analog...

So, I'm sitting here on a bruised tailbone (and ego), with soaked pants and a swollen elbow--ugh, anybody want to switch?

*One might assume, from this pic, that all I did in college was sit on my ass. I assure you, that is not the case! Perhaps more photographic evidence is necessary--I'll work on that.


Pippin: " Trapped, Which Isn't Too Bad for a Musical Comedy"

I've been in full Fosse mode lately, which is something I'm sure there's a cure for somewhere, but I haven't found it yet. So I'm indulging...my current occupation is perfect for such indulging, as I'm still sitting here at 'Deis waiting to finish up the finals period.

As you can see above, the current obsession is Stephen Schwartz's musical, Pippin. I first learned about this musical in middle school when I learned "Corner of the Sky" as an audition piece--just one more piece of gratitude indebted to Alycia! But Pippin doesn't get performed that often, and I lost track of it.

Fast forward to freshman year at BU as I audition and win a spot in a theatre club's production--unfortunately I didn't get the lead role, of Pippin: it was between me and the eventual lead, and of course I lost out. I finally got to learn it inside and out, and fell madly in love with the show. I think I even came home that X-mas break and made all of my friends sit down and watch it; and, I think I was a little dissappointed that it didn't have the same effect on them that it had to me...

I'm most familiar with the video of a touring production of Pippin, starring Ben Vereen, William Katt, Chita Rivera and Martha Raye. I love this film: I love the dancing, featuring all the classic Fosse-isms--you've got to see Ben Vereem do this hip thing; I love the sets, designed by Tony Walton, that perfectly suggest the setting without cluttering the stage; I love the music--you love the music, too! Sing "Corner of the Sky" just once, I dare you...

This musical is fascinating: the Players, as the chorus is called, are a travelling troupe--supposedly--that are in search of the perfect actor to portray Pippin. Night after night they continue their search, and night after night the Pippin-portrayer "fails" to live up to top billing.

How can an actor fail at his role (outside of the obvious, you know, sucking at the acting and singing part)? That's where this musical gets interesting because each little act that Pippin undergoes (war, sex, politics, family life) is supposed to leave him unsatisfied. Enter, "the Finale."

The players tell Pippin, in the Finale, that he is destined for "one final, great act," in which he'll become one with the Sun, an object Pippin has alluded to throughout the entire show. And it soon becomes clear that the troupe wants Pippin, they need Pippin, to commit suicide on stage to satisfy their need for fame/infamy/desire, et al.

In the video recording, my favorite moment occurs in this passage. As the players are imploring Pippin to, "think about the sun," you can see Pippin convincing himself to go through with it. I always get chills, always, at this spot--and as he accepts the torch, the players echo a line from "Corner of the Sky:"
"Rivers belong where they can ramble/Eagles belong where they can fly..."

At this point, Pippin comes to his senses...the players leave in disgust, the Leading Player gets visibly angry about 'losing' another such actor, and Pippin is left alone center stage with 'no lights, and no glory.' His final lines are a response to the question, "how do you feel?"

His answer: "Trapped, which isn't too bad for a musical comedy."

Just a short note about the first time I encountered the finale...I still remember it clearly tens years after the fact. The director made the smart decision, I think, not to read the finale until the latest point possible, so it would be fresh in our minds. I sat down, and as we were reading this scene, I said--"Wait a minute, we want him to kill himself ...seriously?"


on writing...

Jonathan Safran Foer on writing and music...

What helps about listening to music?

I think music is probably the most directly impactful art form. I mean, it’s the one that, within three minutes, you can find yourself screaming at the top of your lungs and banging your fists. And a novel never does that.

Found this over at a blog called Daily Routines about how writers organize their day...which one works for you?

A Picture Says a Thousand Words

Just a quick note today because I'm straightening the apartment up before I settle down for the Survivor finale. By the way, who you like: Bob (all brawn and all brains); Matty (all brawn, no brains); Kenny (super manipulator-cum-wackjob); Sugar (she's a model, seriously?); or, what's-her-name (tag along)...

Anyway, I think the picture of our President cowering behind the hand of Iraq's president deserves a caption contest, ala The New Yorker. So, I'll get the ball rolling; but I'd love to hear from my lurkers...I mean, my loyal readers!

How about:

"One-armed Iraqi passionate about 'jazz hands'; one-armed American opts to stay on 16."

"American President tries, once more, to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq: unfortunately, his massive sneeze is only a result of the cache of pepper stored within his podium."


Weekly TV Roundup: "What Exactly is the Point of a Rubber Duck?"

I'm thinking that Saturday mornings should continue the tradition, began here, where I review my favorite TV shows from the previous week. For me, this week was a killer from Tues to Fri: I was gone from 8:30AM to 10:00PM each day (Trivia on Tues; "Chicago" on Wed; Proctoring on Thurs and Fri). Thursday and Friday were the first of the finals, for which I'm a head proctor up at school. This entails me to overseeing all the proctors, including all the extra-time exams. Unfortunately this means that I'm at school, with TW and another colleague, from 8:45AM to 10:45PM--ugh, they pay well, but the commitment's a killer.

Luckily, we got out early last night because of services, which meant that TW and I got caught up on a few DVR'ed shows.

30 Rock
Not quite on the par w/past X-mas shows (see 'A Very Kenneth Christmas' season 2, episode 9), but still a quality work. Anytime you get to hear Elaine Stritch sing, you're in for a good time. TW, by the way, thought Stritch was Phyllis Diller...not much else to say here, right? I thought that this episode was pretty thick with Tina Fey's liberal, bleeding-heart guilt about racism: from her "(w)Rapping Santas" to her asking Tracy to help w/the (black) Postal Worker, black-white relations were certainly a major theme of this episode. Of course, the secondary story line about Jack almost killing his mother was the best--two many funny lines to even quote them. My two other favorites are below:

Tracy: “What’s the past tense of scam? Is it Scrumped? Liz Lemon, I think you just got scrumped.”
Jack: “We had a falling out over the Jerry Garcia stamp. I mean, if I wanted to lick a hippy, I would just return Joan Baez’s phone calls."

Well, we are certainly getting down to the nub of things; 5 contestants remain, and I believe that this could be the strongest group of 5 that I can remember: 2 athletic competitors (Matty & Bob), 2 so-called masterminds (Kenny and Sugar) and 1 tag along (can't quite place her name--oh well). Krystal sealed her fate, and she knew it after the fact: why were Kenny and Krystal so mad at Matty? Talk about deflecting...ugh!

Could this be the first season where two of the best competitors make down to the final three? I think that Matty, Sugar and Bob could and should team up to vote out Kenny and Susie (that's her name!)...I've had a little love affair with Kenny this season, but he's finally cracked, it seems. I've been won over to Bob's side now; TW loves this guy, just like Gary from a few seasons back.

I've still Pushing Daisies to watch today, and I'll probably post an update later this afternoon...I'm trying out the left foot tonight at our game, but I'm not gonna play--just give it a whirl warming up, and possibly even giving it a go. We're kind of in a lazy mode right now: watching Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (hence the title of the blog!).
Enjoy your weekend...


"He ran into my knife, he ran into my knife 10 times"

I would think that for most of you, the title of today's blog is self-explanatory; but, for those of you that are a little afraid that I've committed some sort of fratricide (sorry Aaron!) or something, I'm merely quoting a line from the show TW and I went to see last night (for free!) at the Colonial Theater.

The line in question is from a little number called the "Cell-Block Tango," which is one of TW's favorite songs in the show. It doesn't worry me that TW loves a song that begins with the line, "He had it comin'/he only had himself to blame..." (Should I be worried?)

As a big Fosse fan, I was encouraged to see such a high level of dancing throughout the cast. According to the program, this production used the original, 1997 choreography recreated by Ann Reinking--one of the original Fosse-ites out there, right next to Gwen Verdon. I found myself watching the back-up dancers as they curled, slinked and snaked themselves around the edges of the stage, and marveled at the sinuous commentary they provided on the action at the forefront of the stage. This is the most successful element of Fosse's choreography: saying so much with so little. I believe that this style translated into his directorial style as well; and it's no coincidence that Fosse's the only person to win an Emmy, Oscar and Tony for directing in the same year.

The two leads (Roxy and Velma) were both adequate to the roles. Velma, who was tall and lean, unlike Catherine Zeta-Jones, but very much like Gwen Verdon, sang well and but danced even better; Roxy was an excellent dancer, but apparently believed that she working a open-mic night at Ha-Ha's because she kept yucking it up every chance she got.

Mama Morton and Miss Sunshine were both excellent, as was Amos (Mr. Cellophane), but for my money (not that I paid--my wife did!) the leading characters in a Fosse show are always secondary to the chorus--without their energy and dedication to the part, the leads would have no foundation to work from**.

And the numerous references to Chicago's grease-the-wheel type of governance were particularly appropriate considering Gov. Blago's little tape-recorded incident earlier this week...what a perfect time to see "Chicago."

**You'll notice that I didn't even mention "Billy Flynn" played by Tom Wopat. I'm delivering about as much energy in typing up this blog as he put into his performance last night; although, he's got quite a career ahead of him in merchandising. He was out in the lobby by the table selling goods last night when my friend chatted him up. He ended up signing a CD for my friend, who thought it was a gift, but the girl behind the counter ended up charging him $20--what's he gonna do, say no now that Tom Wopat has signed over a copy of a CD to "friend of celexo"??


"For Whom the Bell Tolls"

Just a quickie today, for I'm in the throes of a solid dissertating day! I thought I'd convey some tidbits of conversations from my last two days at the booth.

1) Currently, I'm here at Copley Square. Directly across the street is the Old South Church, which is quite beautifully framed in my glass windows, and I've always enjoyed looking at it. Last week, apparently, the renovation of the Copley Square T Station caused a crack to appear inside the church, which sits directly above the T station. This has caused a flurry of construction lately...right now, they are testing the bell tower; how do I know this?? Well, they've been ringing the bell for over twenty minutes now...

2) Yesterday, I got into a prolonged conversation with a customer who saw my score opened to Haydn's Op. 20, #2. The conversation started congenially enough, but soon he tried to show off his classical-music savy. He asked me some questions about the quartets, which I quickly parried with deliberately short answers (I did not want to engage this particular type of person, if you know what I mean), but the die was cast: he immediately went off on tangent after tangent, as purposefully as fortspinnung in a Baroque melody; to make matters worse, he peppered his questions with common terms in foreign languages (just as I did in the previous clause)--for example, "Do you think Op. 20 was the first of the dialogee quartetti?" Ugh, you're not impressing me by making up words, dude...

This is what I get for working at work...

Speaking of work, I got in a solid 45 minutes on the train this morning. Mostly editing, but positive pruning of some really crappy writing. Next, I'm working on the closing section of the chapter--should be fairly easy, but nothing's been easy in this chapter, or dissertation, come to think of it. Back to the grind...



I've wanted to write up a little review of Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson, for some time now. I'll just get it out of the way right now, and say that this book is probably the best piece of fiction that I've read all year--and it's up there in the Top Ten of my all-time favorites as well.

You should check out this book, if you have even a passing interest in any of the following: gold; intellectual history; submarines; WWII; computers; mathematics; cryptography; the Pacific Ocean/culture/islands, etc...; history; conspiracy theories; music; or science.

Ostensibly, Cryptonomicon is a book about two generations of an American family named Waterhouse. We meet Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse, mathematical genius and captain in the Navy, in the first half of the 20th century, and then we fast forward to the present day to find his grandson, Randy, a crypto-hacker.

For Lawrence, the tenure of the war comprises codebreaking for a secret organization dedicated to covering up the fact that the Allies have broken the Axis' Enigma code. Leading the physical branch of this organization is Bobby Shaftoe: a gung-ho Marine who happens to compose haiku during his pre-mission time off.

For Randy, much of the book finds him traveling back and forth from an island in Southeast Asia that he and his company are trying to make into a leading 'data haven,' but he gets sidetracked into the salvage attempt of a WWII submarine that may unlock secrets that he's unable or unwilling to realize.

In addition to these two storylines, a number of other major players enter the stage including Bobby's granddaughter, Amy, and a Japanese soldier named Goto Dengo. Neal Stephenson is able to entwine two different time periods, and multiple different storylines into one very compelling, and readable, conclusion that will keep your heart pounding...

Please don't let the enormous size of this book intimidate you (it's over 1000 pages), it's well worth the wait. Stay tuned for my review of his next work: The Baroque Cycle, a trilogy that consists of three books equal in size to Cryptonomicon, set in the end of the 17th century and featuring characters like Isaac Newton, Gottfried Leibniz, Louis the XIVth, and earlier generations of both the Waterhouse and Shaftoe families.

Yesterday's lack of posting once again equaled no work on the dissertation; but, a very successful run of days has left me in good position to meet my internal deadline of turning in a draft, albeit a very short one, by the end of this week.


Unconventional X-mas Favorites

Here in Boston, we received our very first snowfall. And although it didn't amount to much at all, it was quite beautiful to see looking out from my little booth in Faneuil Hall today. All told, it's the perfect capstone to our X-mas week...

I'm a little ashamed to admit it, but I've been listening to X-mas carols lately. TW broke the seal, so to speak, on our drive down to Long Island for Thanksgiving, and now I've got 2 separate radio stations programmed in my car that only play X-mas music. In that spirit, I'd like to proffer some of my favorite unconventional X-mas favorites:

In the number three slot, we've got quite a surprise decision. I'll admit it: every time I hear this song, I don't immediately think of X-mas--I think of Kiera Knightly. But TW likes the song, so in my tediously slow bid to get her involved in this blog, I'm including Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You."*

Like I said, unconventional is the name of this particular list, so in the number-two slot we have The Beach Boys and their X-mas classic "Little Saint Nick." I'm not sure why, but I just dig this piece--it always gets me in the spirit.

And finally, my all-time favorite (conventional or not) X-mas song is The Drifters "White Christmas." I first heard this song in the movie Home Alone, and I think it imprinted on my brain in a big way. The MoTown backups, and the very funky bridge solo (see when the backup reindeer is spotlit) make it particulary easy to love. Enjoy!

Other runner ups include: "Baby It's Cold Outside," "Santa Baby" and "Happy X-mas (War is Over)" by John Lennon, which only missed this list because of Yoko's vocal presence...ugh.

* Sorry for the youtube vids, but I haven't quite figured out how to post mp3s...



If you know me at all, then you know that I'm a dog person...but, when you couple hilarious clips of cats with a hip-hop/pseudo-gansta rap styling--I'm sold. You're gonna need to watch this at least twice to get all the references, and probably more than that if you're my mom (Hi mom!). So enjoy this fluff on Saturday morning...

Found over at Unfogged
I'm hoping that I can continue my streak of solid work this weeks straight on into the weekend. Thurs and Fri were good, but today and tomorrow will be even better. I'm working at Fanny tomorrow, but I'm all alone from 1-4PM so that should be prime dissertation time, if it snows!


"I Want to Go to There"

TV Roundup for the week:

30 Rock
Last night's 30 Rock was probably the funniest one this season. The main story arc involved Liz Lemon going to her 10-year high school reunion; ironically, the cool kids were just as tortured by Liz, as a nerd, as she was from the cool kids. Isn't your memory a wonderful thing? For me, some of the highlights were Janel Maloney's reappearance on NBC (last seen as Donna on The West Wing); and also, after Liz avoided the bucket-o-blood on stage, she grabbed the mic and said, "Lemon Out." But the best line went to Jack D: "We all have ways of coping: I use sex and awesomeness," but runner-up goes to Liz's confession that when she was younger she saw her grandparents having sex but didn't leave immediately--hilarious!

Last night saw a couple of pretty cool challenges (I particularly liked the toss the ball into the bulls eye one), and some mushy moments that I had to fast forward through (see Sugar's breakdown). Bob's the man, obviously...he's made 2 idols now that are more convincing than the real thing and basically convinced people that they're real. Unfortunately, the invincible duo of Kenny and Krystal got a little too greedy last night: instead of just blindsiding Matty, like Kenny wanted to do, they tried to do a two-for-one deal--1 blind side and 1 idol flushing out. Now they're stuck with Matty knowing that they were gunning for him, so much for all of his talk about being the best Survivor ever...

Grey's Anatomy
Has it jumped the shark? Is it possible to reason with this show years after they had Meredith jam her hand into a guy's body to defuse a bomb--I mean, come on...I have stopped watching this show with my full attention, but TW seems to enjoy it still. There were just too many "come on" moments last night: Izzy and Denny; Yang and the vented air; giving the surgery to Karev--come on!

Top Chef
cool idea for a challenge; hurray for Ariene, whom I really with a come-from-behind type of rooting interest.

Dissertation update: yesterday saw some quality work done, and the addition of a page and half of new material to Chapter 2. I know have a hard deadline steadily approaching in the form of of group dissertation meetings at our advisor's house, so today and tomorrow will hopefully be spent adding some more girth to the chapter. I'm hoping by next week to have a full, yet small chapter completed...so, we'll keeping our fingers crossed!


"Me, I want a hula hoop..."

Today was that day that I look forward to and dread at the same time every year: getting the X-mas tree. TW gets into this anal-retentive zone when it comes to X-mas trees, and you don't really wanna mess with that mojo. We found this monster at the first place we looked today, and we eventually learned to love it. TW, channeling Edward Scissorhands below, had to work it over a little bit.

You can see the result of her 'trimming' here...

And here's the final product; it's nicer in real life, so everyone should just drop by and check it out!

By the way, we received our very first X-mas card today (Congrats go out to Sarah for that one), and TW's working on getting ours out tomorrow. Also, if you're having trouble placing my title, try singing it in a really high voice.


A Day in the Life at B@#tix

10:00AM No customers when I open...nice and quiet for a while, so I get to dissertating.

11:45AM Cranky old lady comes up to the window: "I need tickets for the Grinch next Friday." "Okay," I answer, "we don't sell that particular venue in advance because they're on Telecharge, and we don't have that system in advance." All of this sounds like white noise, apparently, because her next question: "But you sell the Grinch online." Au contraire crazy lady, the answer is in your statement--we do sell the Grinch, but online only!! She then proclaims, "I wish I knew this before I came all the way down here," to which both me and my boss reply, sotto voce, "ME TOO." Heads up Wang Center box office, crazy lady coming your way!

12:36PM Customer wants Neil Diamond tickets in Worcester; he saw good seats online last night, but didn't buy them..."I wanted to get actual tickets," he claims. Unfortunately, those "good" seats are now gone--duh!--and he has to settle for crappy balcony seats. Sorry, dolt, but them's the breaks.

12:55PM Middle-aged couple; Wife: "Will you tell my husband about Blue Man Group?" Um, okay...after my rather tepid answer, the husband asks, "So all you sell is the aaaahts?" I answer in a way that is guaranteed to interest him: "Yes," I reply, "We sell theater tix for 1/2 price." His face lights up like a X-mas tree; saving money, that's how we roll!

3:23PM Random question: "What show was Tom Wopat in, you know with the car?" First of all, Tom Wopat is a funny name...second of all, I don't have any freakin' idea. The only car/TV show that I know of is Knight Rider, starring Hasselhoff. Tom Wopat, by the way, is coming in Chicago next week for a one-week stint here in Boston. Let me know if you're interested...

4:21PM Am I making the customers stupid? I feel like they keep talking, but never stop to listen to the answer...listen to me, I am trying to answer your QUESTION!

5:01PM Signing off here for the day...I did include a picture, above, that a colleague found on someone's Flickr page. It's hard to tell, but that is the Faneuil Hall B@#tix booth. Two things to notice in the pic:
1) There are 3 legs visible: two by the picture-taker (presumably), and a third by a passerby--see the blur behind? I love that action shot, baby...
2) if you look closely above the mirror, you can see celexo himself (that's me!) through the window...that's right, I've been here so long that they've memorialized me online!

I did get a lot of work done this morning/early afternoon...I was unable to work on the commuter rail because I just can't type comfortably on those particular trains, and besides the train was packed this morning so that I could hardly open my New Yorker. I did get almost an entire page done, which is pretty good because it's a solid page and not just a brain dump.


"Fear leads to Hate, and Hate leads to..."

"...nervously baking pies!"

Aha, I got you there--you thought I'd say that hate leads to suffering, which everyone knows, but my title refers to the most recent episode of Pushing Daisies: "Robbing Hood", in which Ned--the piemaker--compulsively bakes when he's nervous. I love this show, and I'm really bummed about it's upcoming demise. I only hope that ABC gives PD a proper burial; who knows, perhaps Showtime or HBO will come along and give PD a second chance, much like Ned the piemaker himself.

Unfortunately, I'm still too zonked to offer anything substantial tonight. Therefore I'm including RBOC: Monday edition.

* Holy Seasickness Batman! TW and I took what was the sensible route home last night was Long Island by taking the Ferry from Orient Point. When we booked the tickets, however, we didn't anticipate the "moderate to rough" seas. This book was big--at least 6 car widths by about 25 deep x 2 stories; needless to say, once that boat started rocking side to side, every bone in my body started screaming abandon ship. Fortunately we made it off safe...although I was still feeling the waves last night before I fell asleep.

* This is the first year that I've finished the bulk of my X-mas shopping before heading home to the STL. I've got one more for TW, and a few others for my friends; but all family (both sides) are accounted for.

* As of now, I'm settling in for a nice night alone on the couch: I've got a list of DVR'ed shows to catch up on: MAN U vs Vil UEFA game; Chuck; PTI; a couple of West Wings and a few other odds and ends...

I did get back in the swing of things, dissertation wise, this afternoon. Tomorrow at the booth I imagine I'll be able to get a couple of pages done. Currently, I'm working on integrating an analysis of Haydn's Op. 20, No. 2, into my pivot chapter. I originally thought I'd lay out the general principles of the three-part exposition here, without recourse to any hard-core analysis, but I've been re-thinking that. Adding discussion of a concrete example should help me, and the reader, get a better idea of what I'm talking about...

Off to make my specialty: three-cheese popcorn!