"Tricky Dick" or Frosty-Lost(y)...

Today's blog is a jumble of things...Last night's episode of Lost; and my attendance at the Boston premiere of "Frost/Nixon" (the play).

First of all, last night's Lost was truly a home run. It combined two of the more mysterious characters on (and off) the island: Richard Alpert, the seemingly never-aging, yet ever present man-about-the-Island, and Charles Widmore, Penny's dad and (apparently) one-time cohort of Richard himself back in the 1950s. Add in a little touch of island intrigue -- just where did that H-bomb come from? -- and you've got yourself a recipe for TV deliciousness.

My prediction: this H-bomb, which was ensconced in an A-frame tower very similar to the one used in the John Adams/Peter Sellars opera Doctor Atomic, needs to be protected, right? Well, Daniel Farraday said that it was corroding and claimed that the Others (pre-Dharma) needed to enclose it in lead and concrete. My guess is that the Others, since there's most likely a shortage of concrete and lead on the Island, will take it to the Temple -- that hitherto unseen location on the Island where the Others (post-Dharma) went to hide from the Boatpeople.

Other thoughts:
1) Who was that Other guarding Farraday and why did she look familiar to him? Was it, perhaps, the girl that he supposedly rendered comatose in Oxford with his time-space continuum experiments? It was hard to tell from the photo that we saw, but all things are possible on Lost, aren't they?

2) I love Miles' ability to speak to dead people...his reading of 4 dead soldiers early in the episode helped Farraday to pinpoint the era (1950s) so that he was able to convince Alpert about the H-bomb.

3) We had another illusion to the uber-mysterious Jakob. Who is this guy/spirit/deity/mapmaker?

4) I just love the time travel...will we be informed about the other, older mysteries on the Island? I'm talking about the Black Rock -- that whaling/slave ship from the 1890s -- and the Adam-and-Eve skeletons back in the Cave? What about Rousseau's expedition?

5) I'm a little tired of the "Oceanic Six." We had a whole session devoted to their exploits back on the mainland, and frankly, I'm sick of them. Give me all Island, all the time...



Two nights ago I went to see "Frost/Nixon" -- not the movie, but the play. It opened here in Boston, on Tuesday, and starred Stacy Keach as Frank Langhella as Richard Nixon. Although his performance was satisfying, I couldn't stop comparing his rather stocky body to the guy presiding over the marriage in that (fantastic) movie, Beetlejuice.

But, back to the play: as you know, it is about a series of interviews the British talk-show host turned journalist David Frost obtained from Richard Nixon -- Nixon's first interviews after Watergate. Apparently the play takes a few liberties from the exact interviews, but it nonetheless creates a narrative that is intriguing. By the end of the play, the audience sees a detente between the two men that were prior combatants, and you can easily begin to understand the actions on both sides.

The set is dressed to remind you that the initial format was TV: a giant screen hangs atop the stage and shows a closed-circuit video feed of the actual stage production. This produces an effect where the audience is torn between watching the stage and watching the screen; a not-so-subtle reminder that TV is all powerful...Nixon obsesses about his appearance; after his disastrous "sweaty debate" debacle with Kennedy, Nixon continuously wipes his brow and lip, and asks many times to fix his collar.

The climax of the play centers on Frosts ability to get Nixon to apologize; and it's in this moment that the huge TV comes to life. Instead of staying on the full body shot, which they've used throughout the entire play, the camera closes in tight on Nixon's face as it's clear that he's agonizing about his role in Watergate. This creates, at least for me, a very sympathetic portrait of the ex-President.

My two quarrels with the play are technical...First, every actor/director knows that the first rule of stage direction is that you -- as an actor -- need to open up your body to the audience. Now, I was sitting in the center section -- my normal seats! -- and, half of the time, characters were talking upstage!! Perhaps they were just lazy, or it was their first night in a new theatre, but for whatever reason I spent a majority of the show watching people's backsides. The second half of the play is set around the TV/interview stage setting, which emphasizes just two chairs -- center -- so perhaps the actors are used to standing aside and watching the action, but it's no excuse.

My other complaint concerns the actual structure of the play. To make it cohesive, the playwright uses voice-overs as narration and I just think it's lazy. Frost hires a coterie of assistants to prep for his interviews, and one of these assistants is charged with connecting the dots, so to speak.


My dissertation year fellowship is due on Monday. I've spent the past few days rounding up the necessary items: transcript; ABD certification; and letters of recommendation, or at least letter of recommendation. I'll spend the weekend polishing up my first chapter and the prospectus that I've created...I think it'll be a pretty good looking proposal -- once it's all done!


"...this rebuke to the exemplary..."

"In a triumph of the middling, in a nod to mediocrity, and with gorge rising, it gives me great nausea to announce Robert Russell -- Bingo Bob, himself -- as your New Vice President.

This lapdog of mining interests is as dull as he is unremarkable, as lackluster as he is soporific, this reversion to the mean, this rebuke to the exemplary, gives hope to the millions unfavored by the exceptional. As the vice-presidency was once being famously described as not worth a bucket of spit, let's all hock a big loogie for Bob Russell.

Not the worst, not the best -- just what we're stuck with."

This scene, from The West Wing's fifth season -- and the episode, I believe, is either "Constituency of One" or "Han" -- is fantastic. I love how Sorkin portrays writers, and writing! In fact, his discussions of the writing process are one of my influences in my writing.

I really enjoy my morning doses of West Wing: my DVR is set to tape any West Wings that appear, and Bravo has been showing them two at time from 8:00 AM to 10:00 AM. So, I eat my oatmeal and watch a West Wing...I love it!

Anyway, I discovered that in the episode "Constituency of One" Sorkin uses a joke that he later recycles in an episode of Studio Sixty on the Sunset Strip.* The joke goes something like this:
A jewish guy calls his mom.
He says, "How are you, mom?"
She replies, "I'm starving; I haven't eaten in 60 days."
The son asks, "Why haven't you eaten in 60 days?"
The mom replies, "I didn't want my mouth to be full in case you called!"
I like this joke...it seems more appropriate for the relationship between my mother and my brother; I, on the other, call my mother every Sunday like a good son -- right, mom?

* This is one my best friend's favorite straw-man arguments concerning Aaron Sorkin...hey Sarah, just cause he repeats himself doesn't mean that he's a bad writer! I said, just cause he repeats himself doesn't mean that he's a bad writer!


"The Soul of Philosophy, or Orpheus and Euridice"

First of all, ain't that the cutest little Taruskinian* title you've ever heard? Last night, TW and I went to hear the Handel and Haydn Society perform a concert version of the above-named opera. This little known opera is quite the little chestnut: it was written in 1791, right before Haydn went off to London, and despite getting paid to compose it, Haydn never saw the opera staged...seems like the cultural bureaucracy of London was a little disorganized and didn't grant the proper permits to stage the production.

I know that most of you know of Haydn (he's my dissertation topic, by the way), but I bet you didn't really think of him as an opera composer. That little shit -- Mozart -- stole a lot of the operatic thunder at the end of the 18th century. This opera, in particular, has a lot of precedents: the Orpheus myth is pretty much the oldest opera in existence.**

Last night's conductor, Sir Roger Norrington, is pretty much a rock star in the world of hip music. That's right, a Haydn opera written in 1791 is considered hip -- as in, Historically Informed Performance. He controlled an orchestra that featured historical instruments, such as Baroque flutes and clarinets, string instruments played with no vibrato, and my favorite: cellists with no endpins!

But last night's highlight was Sarah Coburn, as Euridice. She handled the coloratura passages with aplomb, and she's a looker to boot. Her partner, as Orpheus, Andrew Kennedy over-gesticulated a little too much for my taste. Maybe I'm a little biased, but I thought the music was on par with any Mozart opera out there...check out it and come back to me. I'm sure you haven't heard any Haydn operas, so it might take a little while. Good things come to those who wait...

In a slightly different cultural experience, TW and I went to see "Underworld: Rise of the Lycans." This prequel to the "Underworld" series was pretty entertaining; it was pretty violent, but when you're talking about vampires and lycans.*** We're both in the mood to re-watch the earlier movies now to see how they connect up to the prequel.

Haydn's Orpheus and a vampire flick in 12+ hours; not too shabby...

* Richard Taruskin is one of those people that knows juuuust how smart he is; he often titles his article with 2+ clauses, such as: "“Chernomor to Kaschei: Harmonic Sorcery; Or Stravinsky’s Angle,” JAMS 38/1 (1985).

** Something about the lyre, or something -- I'm not really sure why...

*** In case you don't know, lycans are man/werewolve mixes that originated as slaves to the vampires.


I can't go to Heaven or Hell or Asia...*

Ha...I love it. First there was this article about Yo-Yo Ma's carbon cello. "Why carbon, you ask?" Because he'll be playing in very cold temperatures, and a carbon cello will do just the trick. But today we come across this tasty little morsel:
"No one’s trying to fool anybody. This isn’t a matter of Milli Vanilli,” she [Carole Florman, a spokeswoman for the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies] added, referring to the pop band, stripped of a 1989 Grammy because of its lip-synching, that became synonymous with the practice."
Really, no one's trying to fool anybody there Carole? I didn't watch this live, but I don't imagine they made some sort of announcement that the music was 'pre-recorded.' So it turns out that that fancy carbon cello was just for show. How many times do you think Milli Vanilli and Yo-Yo Ma get discussed in the same context? I LOVE IT!!!!

In other news, LOST premiered two nights ago. I was totally on fire (although not from a flaming arrow) in my predictions: 1) I called, almost down to the exact dialogue, that Daniel Farraday would that the camp wasn't gone, but that "it hadn't been built yet;" 2) I also called Ana-Lucia pulling Hugo over...totally called it! And I absolutely loved the woman in the cloak working on physics problems on a chalkboard with the pendulum swinging in the background.

I find that this show is completely engaging, and its more esoteric aspects really appeal to me. The fact that time travel is an integral aspect of the show now, which has been foreshadowed from the very first episode, is pretty good. Now that the flash forwards started to appear right at the mid-point of the show, I'm in awe of these writers -- they are fantastic.**

I'm going to see a Haydn opera tomorrow night (hand to God!), and then hopefully TW & I will be seeing the Underworld prequel on Saturday -- TW just loves a good vampire story...

*This was my favorite line from tonight's episode of Grey's Anatomy. The whole broken penis story line, coupled with the whole Izzy sleeping the Denny thing, has pretty much illustrated that Grey's Anatomy has jumped-the-shark, so to speak, or in modern parlance, moved-the-island.

**I'm a sucker for palindromes (See the Act III interludes music from Lulu!).



It's no mystery around my corner of the internet that our current president wasn't my first choice in election '08. I supported his (just confirmed today!) choice for sec-of-state, but whatever...I'm totally on board. It will be fun watching (seemingly everybody and their brother) people soon realize that 44 is just another politician. I came to this realization once I read one of the New Yorker's bio pieces about Chicago's impact on 44's life. The extent of my inaugurational commentary is this: try to find Jon Stewart's joke about Cheney and the wheelchair -- hilarious!*

My own political impressions have been influenced lately by Jeffrey Toobin's book The Nine. In it, he tells the story of the Rehnquist court, which had the most stable tenure of any collection. Toobin writes of all the big cases: Roe v. Wade and its subsequent cases; Bush v. Gore; Hamdan v. Rumsfield; and many others...and he writes about them with a fluidity and ease that makes reading this book almost like reading a novel. Bush v. Gore is especially heartwrenching, for me, and it definitely takes a toll on the judges as well, or at least some of them.

Did you know that we had a Supreme Court justice named "Learned Hand?" Go figure...

I'm tearing through this book, so the big question is: what to read next? Do I go fiction or non-fiction? Do I read about food or the Middle East or John Adams? I'll open the floor for suggestions, but make sure you pick from my list.

* Other observations: wow, did you see 41 hobbling around the stage? Holy crap! Also, the oath of office was pretty hilarious: what, did neither of these guys look over all of three sentences they had to repeat? I did better at my wedding...


Another day, another snowstorm...

Sitting here at the computer, it's very pretty to look out and see 8+ inches of snow covering everything. Yesterday morning, as I was driving into work during the heart of the storm, it was not so pretty. It seems now that every Bostonian w/a plow believes that he owns the road -- relax there, Tiger, you do not get a license to continuously stop and start, back and forth, all the way down the street; just because it's snowing out doesn't mean that you own the frackin'* road.

In honor of the work I've already done this morning (2+ hours, and 1 car shoveled out), I'm including a little RBOC** action:

  • On Saturday, TW and I spent some hard-earned cash at Crate&Barrel. Actually, it wasn't hard earned and it wasn't cash: it was a gift certificate leftover from our wedding...anywho, we ended up getting a whole range of stuff:
  1. A Dutch Oven by Mario Batali. We lucked out because right next to the $89.95 red one, there was a green one that was identical in everything but color and price ($59.95). Green's great, in the cart...
  2. A number of footed soup bowls perfect for Onion Soup (because they are broiler safe).
  3. A bitchin' vase that was totally a splurge, but I like it and it just happens to match a Marc Rothko print that we have in the front room.
  • MLK moment: in preparation for our dreaded downgrade into economy cable land, we've been watching a number of documentaries around the house lately. Of course you remember my blog imploring you all to find "HELVETICA" online, right? Well this one was just as good: "The Night James Brown Saved Boston," was about a concert, at the Boston Garden, that James Brown gave on the night after MLK was assasinated. The mayor, Kevin White, initially wanted to cancel the event but was convinced that a cancellation would do more harm than good. Many interviews are spliced into the actual footage of the concert, which by the way, pre-empted a production of Anton Checkov's Uncle Vanya starring Lawrence Olivier...
  • We're currently watching another documentary, also by [i]ndependent lens, called "Wordplay," which is about crosswords and the editor of the NYTimes crosswords Will Shortz. If you enjoy doing even the easiest of puzzles, you'll love this documentary.
  • I think we've had about 4 snowstorms this winter with at least 8+ inches each times. This means that on the plus side, we've had a white blanket of snow on the ground since about December 20th; on the negative side, WE'VE HAD A BLANKET OF SNOW ON THE GROUND SINCE DECEMBER 20TH!!!! I'm a little tired of it all...
The last few weeks have seen me hard at work on my little fellowship application. It's coming along quite nicely, although I'm haunted by the terribly small faculty. We currently have 3 professors: 1 of whom is my advisor; 1 that I haven't had a class with, or TA'ed for, or even spoken to in 2+ years; and 1 brand-spanking new professor that I couldn't even pick out of a lineup. So, I'm hoping prof. #2 checks his e-mail and recognizes my name because I need a letter of rec ASAP...

* That's right, TW and I are now watching Battlestar Galatica -- albeit four seasons behind; we are loving, by the way!
** Random Bits of Crap, in case you missed the memo...


"Answers me these questions three..."

Bridgekeeper: "What is your favorite name?"
Gallahad: "Sir Gallahad of Camelot"
Bridgekeeper: "What is your quest?"
Gallahad: "To seek the Holy Grail"
Bridgekeeper: "What...is your favorite color?"
Gallahad: "Blue. NO yel...aaaagh!"

In response to my good friend Al's top ten list, I've included mine below:

1) Singin' in the Rain; I mean, come on: Debbie Reynolds is as cute as a button in this movie, and it's incredible to watch her try to keep her own with such greats as Gene Kelley, Donald O'Connor and Cyd Charisse -- wowsers, great legs on that one! The songs are great, the dancing is great: overall, it's a great piece of film history.

2) Star Wars; speaking of film history, Daa-Daa, da-da-da-DAAAA-da, da-da-da-DAAAA-da, da-da-da-daaaa (that's the opening credits music, by the way...I couldn't get the rights from John Williams ((greedy bastard)). Ironically, my top-two favorites movies of all time feature Reynolds women: Debbie Reynolds and, her daughter, Carrie Fischer.

3) Pulp Fiction; I learned alot from this movie: how to curse; what drugs you should and shouldn't mix together; that people had sex using more than one orifice...thanks Quentin! But beyond these factors, my favorite elements are the non-linear storytelling and mystery of what the hell's in the briefcase? Gotta love the dialogue, which I can't exactly quote here, so I won't bother...

4) CLUE; well this little chestnut is the movie that keeps on giving, literally. Tim Curry provides an absolute tour-de-force, and he's got quite the little cast of characters around him. This movie was my high-school get together go-to: we watched it all the time, including, I think, on multiple New Years Eves, right Sarah?

5) Hunt for Red October; Alec Baldwin in a big-budget movie? Yep, and held his own that's for sure. One of my favorite moments occurs when they push in on the Soviet officer speaking Russian, and as they reach a close-up on his mouth his dialogue switches from Russian to English.

6) Monty Python/Holy Grail; I can still quote whole sections of this movie -- and it's so outlandish a concept that it still seems fresh and original every time I watch; but I absolutely howl when I see the Killer Rabbit -- and my laugh is not your average exhortation, you know?

7) Psycho; Another Perkins, what more needs to be said? Oh, well of course there's the music by Bernard Hermann.

8) West Side Story; Two musicals in the top ten...it's pretty hard to disagree with this choice, though, isn't it?

9) Russian Ark; this 90-minute film was shot entirely in one take throughout the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. Using a cast of thousands, including multiple string orchestras, and set over two different eras, this film grabs you by the scruff of the neck and doesn't let go...rent it immediately! This film was so amazing that my father could sleep through it, almost entirely, and wake up clapping.

10) Jaws; da....dem, da....dem, da-dem, da-dem, da-dem, da-dem, da-da-DEM. Another great score, great story and great one liners ("I think you're gonna need a bigger boat"). To this day, I still get freaked out in the ocean.

Runner ups: Blade Runner; Rear Window; Batman -- the Tim Burton film w/Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson and a soundtrack by Prince!; Amadeus; My Architect, a documentary about the architect Louis Kahn.


"An artist must regulate his life..."

You thought I had food issues? Woof, check this out:

"My only nourishment consists of food that is white: eggs, sugar, shredded bones, the fat of dead animals, veal, salt, coco-nuts, chicken cooked in white water, mouldy fruit, rice, turnips, sausages in camphor, pastry, cheese (white varieties), cotton salad, and certain kinds of fish (without their skin). I boil my wine and drink it cold mixed with the juice of the Fuschia. I have a good appetite but never talk when eating for fear of strangling myself."

This is taken straight from Erik Satie's "A Day in the Life of a Musician," and it's not even the weirdest thing about him. In his apartment, he kept stacked pianos -- apparently, the top piano held his correspondence; he kept open umbrellas; and my personal favorite, he kept jars of his own urine.* In case you can't place the name, Satie was a French composer and compatriot to Les Six -- you know, Poulenc, Honegger, Milhaud (my favorite), et al. -- around the turn of the century. He's most famous for his Three Gymnopedies; check them out, they're great.

While I'm recommending things, once you visit the link above stay there and check out the website Ubu.com. It's a real time suck and a repository of material...enjoy!

* I got this straight from my old Music History professor, Joel Sheveloff. I've done a cursory internet search and found no mention of the urine jars, which makes one ask, "How crazy does a story have to be to not show up anywhere online?"

Will Obama's West Wing look like Bartlett's?

Discuss amongst yourselves...(Obama-West Wing mashup)


Books and books, ad infinitum

I like learning and I like reading, so it seems only natural that I would like books; and oh do I like books.* But, I enjoy books for reasons beyond learning & reading: I like books for very tactile reasons. I like how they fit in my hand -- I prefer smallish paperbacks that I can squeeze into a back pocket, if need be.** A good book, or even a passable one that fits the size requirements, can make an indelible impression: every time I grab Kerman's book on the LvB string quartets, I am brought back to my initial viewing of the jackass movie -- don't ask, it just happens; every time I read, or even hold, Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead I remember my first apartment in grad school and the 9/11 attacks.

This passion for books has an unfortunate, financial corollary: I spend too much money on books. Since the holidays passed with me getting a score of new books -- ok, seriously not a score, but double-digits nonetheless; see the list here -- I've decided to implement a new non-buying-of-books policy. Just in at the wire, however, is my $25 gift card to Borders, which I'll use to round out the rest of my year's worth of reading: I'm thinking David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest; but it'll have to be way down on the list because I can't start another book of fiction right now.

Which brings me to the great "Fiction vs Non-Fiction" debate. My friend Sarah checks in on the non-fiction side here, and I completely sympathetic to that viewpoint. It's pretty hard to think about the amount of knowledge I don't know -- "amount of knowledge I don't know," who let Yogi Berra into this blog?-- without burying my head in the sand. That being said, it is incredible to discover new worlds, as you let the author guide you deeper and deeper into their universe. I just finished Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, and I've blogged about it, or the author, here and here.*** What another fantastic book with a completely original point of view: if you like any combination of hackers; or samurai; or linguistic deep structures; or the worlds of religion, fantasy, science fiction or the Aluets & the Mafia; or binary code, which is Stephenson's go-to metaphor (did I mention he likes hackers?); or future apocalypse than this is the book for you...this is a good gateway drug into Stephenson's authorial world, not only because it's short (the other 2 books I've read topped out at over 900 pgs), but also because it's imagery is incredibly vivid. Two thumbs up, seriously!

But I've been reading alot of fiction lately, so it's about time for a change...Jeffrey Toobin's The Nine, here I come!

* If you want (or need) to give me a gift, books are always good! (Ahem...paging STL-Sarah to aisle 7)

** They must be taller than they are wider, much like myself.

*** It strikes me as odd that my two favorite books (IT and The Fountainhead) are the exact same shape and size, and one of my more recent favs (Cryptonomicon) is also the same. I might have a little chicken-and-the-egg problem here: do I like that shape and size because of those books, or do I like those books because of their shape?



I watched an absolutely fantastic documentary last night on PBS called "HELVETICA," which was produced through a program called [i]ndependent lens. I've seen a number of their documentaries, and I heartily recommend them all. Off the top of my head, I can think of three: the Isabella Steward Gardner Museum robbery; the making of "Dr. Atomic," the John Adams/Peter Sellars opera about Robert Oppenheimer; and "The Chicago 10," which is about the trial of the leaders of the protests surrounding the '68 Democratic Convention in Chicago -- it's animated, and it uses the voices of Nick Nolte, Samuel Jackson and Roy Scheider among others to bring the court transcripts to life--absolutely brilliant.

But back to the topic at hand: HELVETICA. I know, I know -- I'm raving about a documentary on the font HELVETICA; but, it wasn't just about the font. Over the course of 60 minutes, the documentary illustrates how the strands of post-war idealism generated a new Design aesthetic; how that aesthetic spread throughout the world like wildfire; and how through its shear ubiquity, that aesthetic practically choked all the life out of Modernism.

Now for the font: it was originally created in Germany, yet modeled after the Swiss; in fact, HELVETICA is a version of the Latin word for Switzerland. This font was a Sans Serif font, which meant that all the little extraneous feet and curly-cues were left off: in the language of typography, "Serifs are the little feet on the principle strokes of the letter." All the strokes were equal in size, shape and dimension -- so much so that it's now equated with Socialim, in its equality for all (the letters). In the world of Design, the exposure to WWII generated a new sense of idealism and hope, despite Adorno's critique that "writing poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric."

I loved all the interviews with typographers. The first, from Massimo Vignelli, argues for the minimalist approach of HELVETICA: "I don't think type should be expressive: I can write the word dog in any typeface and it doesn't have to look like a dog; other people when they write the word dog, it should bark." He was a grand master of Modernist design -- he created the AmericanAirlines logo, as well as the NY City Transit signs in 1968.

But the most interesting was Erik Spiekermann. When asked why, fifty years after its design, HELVETICA was still so popular, he answers, "Bad taste is ubiquitous. Now it's become a default...it's air, it's just there. You have to breath, so you have to use Helvetica." And you think I'm a snob?

Our tax forms are in HELVETICA. Just think about each of these logos:
The Beatles (the white album)
The Office (the TV show)
American Apparel

Throughout the documentary, they include little montages of the font all over the city of New York. It's on posters, trash cans, taxi cabs and many other things...the shots are absolutely beautiful. If you get a chance, check out this documentary: it's on a PBS program called [i]ndependent lens, and the show is entitled "HELVETICA."

Ironically, Blogger doesn't have the font HELVETICA, but it does have a very close approximation. ARIAL is a font created by Microsoft Windows to resemble HELVETICA.


Celexo's "Top Five Favorite Things (to HATE)" List

I'm writing today's blog from the Copley Square B@#tix booth...despite my not being on the schedule today, at all! Go figure, right? Well, at 9:56AM I got a call that the current manager is "really sick" and she needs to go home, and "can I come in for the remainder of the day?"

Sure, it's not like I had a meeting with my adviser or plans with TW, or anything like that scheduled. Well, I did end up going to the adviser's house--and the meeting was good, productive and entertaining for both me and TW. We've been doing this joint-advisement sessions the last semester or so, and I think it's been successful for everyone involved (Sarah, the swingy one; we missed you today!).

After the meeting, I drove into town with TW and got dropped off at the booth for the remainder of the day. At least I finagled a ride home from TW--thanks babe! So here I sit, answering questions, and never selling a ticket! Business has been slow this week: crappy (or non-existant) product + even worse economy + bad weather = not a lot of business at the B@#tix booth.

Combine my present location with a particularly funny quote from ER(1) last night, just add water and a little elbow grease: voila, you've got a blog entry. If you know me at all -- seriously even a little bit -- you know that I hate five things with a deep-seated passion. The following annotated list is not ranked, in fact the list probably changes according to my (ever volatile) mood:

#1: Yo-Yo Ma; His mention last night on ER really got my dander up. A little girl is in the hospital because her gall bladder failed; unfortunately, this means that she has to miss her flight (!!!) to NYC to see Yo-Yo MA. Her quote about it is priceless, "It's my destiny to not only meet but play with the great Mr. Ma..." Sheesh, really? I think I've been on high-Ma alert after hearing that he'll be involved with a Super Bowl ad this year; when will this guy go away? In case you were wondering, I don't like his playing or his personality and that's all I'll be saying about that!

#2: Tiger Woods; everybody likes him for no other reason than he's good at golf. Well, that doesn't mean that I have to like him too, does it? Perhaps I just have higher standards. I like Greg Norman and Phil Mickelson; perhaps I like them because they never win, I don't know...?

#3: PEPSI; I absolutely loathe the taste--loathe it. As I have said on video, Coca-Cola is, "God's sweet nectar."

#4: NIKE; I absolutely loathe the shoes--loathe them. They just don't fit my foot, whereas ADIDAS, Puma or Diadoras all feel great.

#5: Cuba Gooding, Jr.; This has got to be the biggest Oscar screw-up of all time.(2) Presumably, the Academy rewards Cuba for screaming at the top of his lungs on camera, which is basically all he did in that movie; then, what does he do to celebrate his win? That's right, he gets up onstage AND STARTS SCREAMING again...

I've got to close with a great line from Clerks: "I'm not even supposed to be here today!"(3)

(1) I know that TW and I are probably the only two people left in America that actually watch ER, but we do and we are, so deal with it. I've watched it pretty much continuously from the beginning, which is either an accomplishment, or just plain sad...

(2) I know that my good friend Al thinks that the Academy's presentation of Best Director to Bob Fosse, for Cabaret, over Francis Ford Coppola and the Godfather II, is crazy, but dem's the breaks.

(3) This is my second-favorite line from a Kevin Smith movie; my all-time favorite, in a slightly-abridged version, is from Chasing Amy, "Variety's the spice of life...sometimes -- not often, but sometimes -- I like the idea of a chick with a horse."


Neal Stephenson

I'm not quite done with "Snow Crash" yet, but I've had this post bouncing around in my head for quite a while now and wanted to just publish it. This is the 3rd book by Neal Stephenson that I've read in a short period of time (see my previous write up of Cryptonomicon here), and I'm just astounded at not only how readable these diverse books are, but also how enjoyable the little details are.

In "Snow Crash," Stephenson creates a world in the not-so-distant future where the United States has ceded most of its land to franchises, such as sovereign burbclaves like "Mr. Lee's Greater Hong Kong" or the pizza chain "Uncle Enzo's CosaNostra Pizza, Inc." The two main characters are Hiro Protagonist, a pizza deliverer for the above-mentioned Uncle Enzo, and Y.T. (Yours Truly), a 15-year old skateboard "Kourier" who harpoons moving vehicles. Most of the action takes place in the Metaverse, a "Myst"-like virtual-reality based Internet, where everyone signs on with their own avatar (this book is where the term took hold!) and conducts any business they prefer, from hanging out at clubs to doing the grocery shopping. Hiro and Y.T. chase down the enigma of a new computer virus that's shorting out computer hackers everywhere threatening to overun the Metaverse.

The level of detail in this world is amazing, but the one quote that sticks in my head is of the vulgar variety: "Hiro answered the phone as the grocery carts performed their anal copulation."

The previous Stephenson book that I read was "Quicksilver: Vol. One of the Baroque Trilogy." This book is diametrically opposed, in setting at least, from "Snow Crash." Bouncing between characters in Versailles, London and the Hague, circa the 17th century, Stephenson creates a world in which Science is beginning to triumph over religion, and worldwide politics, intrigue and finance all play a vital role. I can't even begin to summarize the plotlines here; suffice it to say, it's one of the most enjoyable 900-page romps I've ever read!

Here are two passages, about ice-skating of all things, that illustrate Stephenson's attention to detail: "She'd looked like a windmill--flailing without moving." This image just got stuck in my brain: haven't you ever had that moment on skates where you know you've lost your balance, but you do everything possible to try to save it? I imagine you'd like just like a windmill...

Also, a picture of a more graceful skater: "She carved a long sweeping U round the west end of the Hofvijver, spun round to face forward again, built more speed without lifting her skates from the ice, by means of sashaying hip-movements that took her down the long front of the Binnenhof, in a serpentine path, and finally stopped just before running into d'Avaux by planting the blades sideways and shaving up a glittering wall of ice." [p. 522-523]

As radically different as these three worlds are (WWII/cryptography; 17th-century science and finance; 21st-century science fiction), Stephenson is able to unite them through his apparent first love: binary code and cryptology. Every book, thus far, features hacking and binary code (even the Baroque Trilogy, to a certain extent), which is a world far removed from my comfort zone; but Stephenson makes it feel completely natural and organic.

Have any of you tried condensing a (as yet unwritten)document down into a 7-page proposal? This is what I've been working on lately, as I'm trying to get my dissertation-year fellowships turned in by their deadlines. I keep plugging away; as Woody Allen says, "80% of life is just showing up," which is my inspiration to get my butt glued in front of the computer at my desk!


RBOC: Back-To-Work Edition

* 99¢ "Poorman's Special"; I had a special customer today at the B@#tix booth--you know, one of those people that, without any sort of prompting, divulges their entire life story. Anyway, this particular customer felt the need to inform me of Durgen Park's old "Poorman's Special": for 99¢ you got the roast beef and a very special dessert, which consisted of the leftover coffee grinds in a jello mold. Seriously, I made a face --who wouldn't--and she confirmed that not only did they actually sell this, but that she's tasted it...wow!


* I got a record high 9 books for X-mas this year: 2 by Michael Pollan about food ("Omnivore's Dilemma" and 1 more); two by Neal Stephenson ("Snow Crash" and part 2 of The Baroque Trilogy, "The Confusion"); Junot Diaz's Pulitzer-Prize winning "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" (thanks Aaron!); Dostoevsky's "The Gambler"; a book about Henry James and Modernism (I forget the author); a huge-ass coffee table book about Star Wars (thanks Al!) that totally rocks--I've already used the temporary tattoo; and I used a gift card to buy Tom Friedman's earlier book about Israel and Palestine, which seems very appropriate these days. All in all, a totally awesome haul. I'm halfway through "Snow Crash" right now (look for the review after I finish), and I started "Oscar Wao" last night--I think that it'll be my nightstand book of choice.

* Physically, I'm starting to feel better: my foot is continuing to heal--I went to the gym yesterday, but only rode the bike. I'll try to start some more active pursuits soon; my back is completely better; and my sinus infection seems to be on its last legs. Unfortunately, I seem to have passed it on (are sinus infections contagious?) to TW.

* We're thinking about cutting back on our cable bill: the two options are 1) getting rid of the DVR (-$15) and reducing to a $30 a month package, which gets rid of ESPN and MTV, but keeps BRAVO; or 2) keeping the DVR, but reducing the entire cable down to extreme basic, which is about $10 a month. What do you think?

I was at the booth today, and my 'puter was acting a little strange, so I didn't get as much done as I'd hoped to. But I did get some work done, and I feel like I'm in a place where I can get back into the swing of things tomorrow. Currently I'm cleaning up my prospectus to turn in for two different fellowships that are due at the end of the month. So fun times here in Boston as I try to get my brain, as well as my body, back in shape.


Lists for the new year

I'm not much of a resolutions guy--mostly I just don't remember in June what the heck I was thinking in January. Just as this blog began as one more crutch to help me complete the dissertation, I will use this particular blog entry to help me with my resolutions for 2009. Herein find some lists of items that will be/should be/hope to be crossed off in the future:

List #1: Health
  • Fix my flippin' foot! I had a minor setback on the Saturday night before X-mas, and now I'm more nervous/cautious about forcing it. I'm hoping to get more aerobic work in during January, while entirely avoiding a soccer ball.
  • Lose some weight. During my 2+ month sabbatical from the soccer field I have packed on the pounds. I'm getting dangerously close to my "fat Celexo" weight, and that's just not pretty.
  • Eat (drink) better. I feel that, when I'm not on vacation (i.e., in STL), I eat pretty well. Much of that is because of TW, but I'm not exactly a heathen either. My biggest vice is of the Coca-Cola variety. The more I'm away from home, the more temptation there is to drink it, so I'm cutting back--I promise (I'm drinking a coke at the very instant that I'm typing this sentence).
List #2: Dissertation/Academia
  • Complete drafts for remaining chapters. In 2008, I drafted 2 chapters including the behemoth first one, which really consists of a combination of 2 older chapters, and in 2009 I'd really like to be done with the entire process. With an unclear future on the horizon, who knows how much work I'll get in on the diss but it can't hurt to dream.
  • Write my conference paper. Seeing as 2009 is the 200th anniversary of Joseph Haydn's death (my dissertation topic), there were many conferences out there. I was lucky to get accepted into two different ones: in Boston (May sometime), and Toronto (August). I'm excited that I get a test run here in my home city before my international debut...I know, Toronto ain't exactly Esterhaza or anything, but it's still pretty exciting.
  • Prep for my Beatles course. Even though it's only a summer course, I'm anticipating a big amount of interest for it, which will be quite a change from the grand total of 6 students I've had registered for my previous three summer courses (yep, that's right...you're doing the math in your head right now, aren't you?). I think this course would look great on a syllabus, and I'm just plain looking forward to researching & teaching it!
List #3: Friends and Family
  • Put in more face time w/the friends. This past semester has seen a shortage in the finances around the Celexo household. So, I'd like to have a few get togethers this year: you know, pot lucks or dinner partys that don't require going out to a bar!
  • Family--ya, well, when they live halfway across the country, what do you expect? I'm hoping to get home at some point during this summer but you never know.
List #4: Work
  • This is an unfinished list because I'm not sure what jobs I'll have in the upcoming semester(s).
  • Regardless, I'm going to try to implement a writing schedule: 2+2+1 on my off days; 2+ on my work days...it'll be interesting to look back at this list, in particular.
  • Either way, I'll continue to use this blog as a dissertating tool. My blogs will only appear after a good day of writing.
I think that I'll check back on this post once a month, and hopefully I'll be able to start crossing some things off the lists.