Wednesday, December 31, 2003

New Year's Eve is here again. My inadvertent alternating schedule of staying in to welcome the odd years and going out to usher in the even has asserted itself once again, this year in the form of a party with friends. Both hosts are exemplary cooks and exceptionally gifted at wine selection, so the evening promises to please my palate as well as my spirits.

What can I say about 2003? Plenty, as it turns out. Here's a look back at my experiences over the past twelve months, in no particular order:
  • I only did one play all year, but considering I got to do a role in it (Harold Hill) that I've wanted to take on since I started that crazy hobby sixteen years ago, I'd have to characterize this as a great theater year for me.

  • I lost my last grandparent, a sad milestone to be sure. But my family carries on, enriched by all she brought to our lives, and with a greater appreciation of what we all mean to each other.

  • I got a new place to live, in which I'm quite cozy and pleased. Sadly though, I've been forced out of it by minor flooding three times now. The situation seems finally to be well and truly resolved, so I look forward to much drier domesticity in '04.

  • I shoveled and trudged through more snow than I ever thought I would. As a resident of the DC area, we just aren't used to such a tremendous volume of the white stuff.

  • The United States went to war, and one of my oldest and best friends fought in it. He came home alive and safe. Hundreds of other men and women, our fellow citizens, did not. Though "major combat operations" have been over for more than seven months, the fighting and violence continues, sporadic but still deadly.

  • The Chicago Cubs had an outstanding season and came within five outs of making the World Series. But it wasn't to be, and Hell's supply of road salt remained untouched for yet another year.

  • I saw my favorite comedian, Eddie Izzard, up very close and personal. Whether it was from being in the front row, the over-the-top lighting, the Tom Jones music blaring before the show and at intermission, or the pure undiluted talent of the man himself, I cannot say, but I found the whole experience a tad overwhelming. I know I had fun though, because my sides were hurting when I walked out, having been split by laughter.

  • The celebrity passings that touched me most deeply were those of Fred Rogers and Katharine Hepburn. I like to imagine that the two of them have gotten together for tea or a drink Up There. That'd be one amazing conversation.

  • I got a piece posted on one of my favorite sites, TeeVee. As the writing over there is part of what inspired me to start this blog in the first place, it's an accomplishment of which I'm extremely proud.

  • My main fantasy football team, the Lost World Warriors, went undefeated on its way to winning the championship. To say that I'm pleased with the way this inaugural season of the Bot Bash Football League turned out is a severe understatement. Even more pleasing to me, though, is the fact that several of my fellow owner/coaches have already expressed enthusiasm for doing it again next year.

  • I made a number of wonderful new friends, enriching the tapestry of my life that much more. I tried my best to keep in touch with all those dear to me, both old and new, with my usual varied results. If I have a resolution for the next twelve months, it's to be a better and more constant friend to all those I care about.

Now 2004 is just twelve hours away here on the East Coast. What does next year promise, aside from elections and Olympics? In my case, I know exactly what's in store for me, at least through the first half of the year.

I mentioned back in November that I was taking on a big project, something I'd never done before but had been contemplating for years. Now, with the start of said project just nine days away, I'm ready to unveil it.

For the first time since I started doing theater back in 1987, I'm going to be on the other side of the audition table. Tryouts for my debut as the director of a full-length show are set for January 9th and 10th. The venue is the McLean Theatre Alliance. The show is Anything Goes.

This will be a gigantic challenge for me, but it's one I'm eager to tackle. I've assembled a talented, energetic, enthusiastic production team around me, and I've got the support of the wonderful folks at MTA. Now I just have to pull it off.

Good thoughts and encouragement would be most welcome. And if you live in the DC area and would be interested in trying out for the show or pitching in behind the scenes, drop me a line. The more good folks we have along for the ride, the better.

Tales and details about my first time in the director's chair will come as the days and weeks roll on. But for now I'm going to take advantage of the last few hours of this waning year and relax for what might be the final time until the show opens in late April.

May 2004 be a happy, healthy, adventurous, and fruitful year for us all.
Posted @ 11:53 AM

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

I wasn't sure I'd get it all done in time, but the presents are bought, wrapped, and under the tree awaiting delivery tomorrow. I've just finished watching A Christmas Story (thanks, TNT!) and after I prep the stuffing for the Christmas turkey It's a Wonderful Life is up next. All in all, a very good Christmas Eve.

May you all enjoy a wondrous Christmas, filled with the joys you most desire.

And now, the third annual "recitation" of A Ph.D.'s Visit from Saint Nicholas:
'Twas the nocturnal segment of the diurnal period preceding the annual Yuletide celebration, and throughout our place of residence, kinetic activity was not in evidence among the possessors of this potential, including that species of domestic rodent known as Mus musculus. Hosiery was meticulously suspended from the forward edge of the wood burning caloric apparatus, pursuant to our anticipatory pleasure regarding an imminent visitation from an eccentric philanthropist among whose folkloric appellations is the honorific title of St. Nicholas.

The prepubescent siblings, comfortably ensconced in their respective accommodations of repose, were experiencing subconscious visual hallucinations of variegated fruit confections moving rhythmically through their cerebrums. My conjugal partner and I, attired in our gender-differentiated nocturnal cranial coverings, were about to take slumberous advantage of the hibernal darkness when upon the avenaceous exterior portion of the grounds there ascended such a cacophony of dissonance that I felt compelled to arise with alacrity from my place of repose for the purpose of ascertaining the precise source thereof.

Hastening to the casement, I forthwith opened the barriers sealing this fenestration, noting thereupon that the lunar brilliance without, reflected as it was on the surface of a recent crystalline precipitation, might be said to rival that of the solar meridian itself - thus permitting my incredulous optical sensory organs to behold a miniature airborne runnered conveyance drawn by eight diminutive specimens of the genus Rangifer, piloted by a minuscule, aged chauffeur so ebullient and nimble that it became instantly apparent to me that he was indeed our anticipated caller. With his ungulate motive power travelling at what may possibly have been more vertiginous velocity than patriotic alar predators, he vociferated loudly, expelled breath musically through contracted labia, and addressed each of the octet by his or her respective cognomen - "Now Dasher, now Dancer..." et al. - guiding them to the uppermost exterior level of our abode, through which structure I could readily distinguish the concatenations of each of the 32 cloven pedal extremities.

As I retracted my cranium from its erstwhile location, and was performing a 180-degree pivot, our distinguished visitant achieved - with utmost celerity and via a downward leap - entry by way of the smoke passage. He was clad entirely in animal pelts soiled by the ebony residue from oxidations of carboniferous fuels which had accumulated on the walls thereof. His resemblance to a street vendor I attributed largely to the plethora of assorted playthings which he bore dorsally in a commodious cloth receptacle.

His orbs were scintillant with reflected luminosity, while his submaxillary dermal indentations gave every evidence of engaging amiability. The capillaries of his malar regions and nasal appurtenance were engorged with blood which suffused the subcutaneous layers, the former approximating the coloration of Albion's floral emblem, the latter that of the Prunus avium, or sweet cherry. His amusing sub- and supralabials resembled nothing so much as a common loop knot, and their ambient hirsute facial adornment appeared like small, tabular and columnar crystals of frozen water.

Clenched firmly between his incisors was a smoking piece whose grey fumes, forming a tenuous ellipse about his occiput, were suggestive of a decorative seasonal circlet of holly. His visage was wider than it was high, and when he waxed audibly mirthful, his corpulent abdominal region undulated in the manner of impectinated fruit syrup in a hemispherical container. He was, in short, neither more nor less than an obese, jocund, multigenarian gnome, the optical perception of whom rendered me visibly frolicsome despite every effort to refrain from so being. By rapidly lowering and then elevating one eyelid and rotating his head slightly to one side, he indicated that trepidation on my part was groundless.

Without utterance and with dispatch, he commenced filling the aforementioned appended hosiery with various of the aforementioned articles of merchandise extracted from his aforementioned previously dorsally transported cloth receptacle. Upon completion of this task, he executed an abrupt about-face, placed a single manual digit in lateral juxtaposition to his olfactory organ, inclined his cranium forward in a gesture of leave-taking, and forthwith effected his egress by renegotiating (in reverse) the smoke passage. He then propelled himself in a short vector onto his conveyance, directed a musical expulsion of air through his contracted oral sphincter to the antlered quadrupeds of burden, and proceeded to soar aloft in a movement hitherto observable chiefly among the seed-bearing portions of a common weed. But I overheard his parting exclamation, audible immediately prior to his vehiculation beyond the limits of visibility: "Ecstatic Yuletide to the planetary constituency, and to that self same assemblage, my sincerest wishes for a salubriously beneficial and gratifyingly pleasurable period between sunset and dawn."
Posted @ 10:11 PM

Monday, December 22, 2003

For the first time since I added it to the front page, and just in time for Christmas travel, my Sesame Street-themed Terror Alert Level indicator has risen from Bert, or elevated risk, to Ernie, high risk.

Here's hoping as few folks as possible have to spend time standing in airports with their arms raised and shoes off over the next few days.

My mom is recovering nicely from a bout of laryngitis. I didn't even know she'd been sick, so I was surprised to hear barely audible croaking rather than her normal melodic speaking voice when I called her a couple nights ago to consult on gift choices for other family members.

She was at the worst stage that night, full blown laryngitis. We've spoken two or three times since then, and she's rapidly moved through what I like to call the Celebrity Stages of Laryngitis©, a blogworthy little invention of mine I hadn't thought to share here until now.

Please note that while the performers listed are women, I apply this list to all genders.

The stages are:
  1. no voice, barely audible
  2. Brenda Vaccaro
  3. Suzanne Pleshette
  4. Debra Winger
  5. normal

Another celebrity-related item I've been meaning to mention: it amuses me immensely that the two biggest home improvement chains in the US, Lowe's and Home Depot, are currently using the most influential men in Superman's life to do the voice-overs on their commercials. Lowe's is repped by criminal mastermind Lex Luthor. Home Depot uses the infinitely less threatening Jonathan Kent.

Who should you trust in this battle of the Superman cast members? I guess it depends what you're looking to do with your home. If you want dependable products built to withstand the often violent weather in America's heartland, trust Pa Kent and Home Depot. If, on the other hand, your aim is to reinforce a secret, possibly underground lair and stock it with weapons capable to taking down a Kryptonian, Lowe's and Lex are the way to go.
Posted @ 11:26 AM

Saturday, December 20, 2003

It's been almost two months to the day since I last directly linked to an item on John Scalzi's wonderful blog, so it's probably safe to do so now without simply appearing to be his slobbering, sycophantic fanboy. Which, of course, I am. But that's beside the point.

Today's bit of brilliance covers a topic near and dear to my heart: why middling to near-great books make for truly great cinema. It's a sentiment I've long held, but never expressed quite so well as John does here.

I fear for him, though. His explanation is illustrated using the Lord of the Rings books and films as a perfect example of this truth.

I can't help but worry that orc-like hordes of Tolkien fanatics are at this very moment converging on Ohio, scouring the countryside for his home and screaming for his blood.
Posted @ 10:57 AM

This one's been making the rounds for a while now, but as I've not seen anyone in my circle of blogging friends put it up, I'm going run with it.

Folks in my age group (and you know who you are) can now relive another piece of their childhood in convenient online form at the Speak & Spell interactive site.

Go ahead, spell out something naughty! Your mom won't find out this time (though Santa might).

Gina, I feel your pain. Even after a relatively successful shopping trip yesterday, I remain woefully behind on both my Christmas shopping and shipping. If the coffee ever kicks in, I'm hoping to wrap things up (pun intended, pathetically) today.

Three days of trading have passed since I revealed I called the Dow-over-10,000 thing six months ago and the DJIA continues to rise. With just seven work days left in the year, I'm feeling pretty confident it'll remain there into early 2004

Speaking of work days, I've been off on my Christmas break since 5:30 Wednesday night. My employer graciously gives us the entire week around the 25th off. Add to that the compressed days off I get biweekly and a couple vacation days I had to burn, and I'll only see the inside of my office two more times before 2004.

Sorta destroys all that sympathy I was getting for being behind on the gift buying, huh?
Posted @ 9:58 AM

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

That mysterious thing I talked about a couple weeks ago? The one I was so worried about jinxing? Well, it came to pass last Thursday when the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above 10,000 for the first time in a year and a half.

As I mentioned when I first alluded to this prediction, the Dow going back into quintuple digits is a generally positive thing, although it's not a particularly substantive thing. Still, as someone who spent most of 2002 on the unemployment line, any and all good economic signs are welcome. Now if the actual jobless rate would just start decreasing a bit faster, we could all breathe a little easier.

I'm rather happy to report that this tease of mine prompted not one, but two good friends to call me (one of them long distance), wanting to know what I was being so coy about. I kept my mouth shut, though, and as a result my prediction came true.

Now that I've let the cat out of the bag, I wonder if I've doomed the Dow to plunge back below 10,000. Watch the market along with me tomorrow and see!
Posted @ 5:30 PM

Monday, December 15, 2003

Wow. It's only ten days until Christmas. Let me take a quick look and see how many presents I've bought so far... ah yes, that would be none.

I've never, ever been this late starting my Christmas shopping. The one thing I have going in my favor is that I only have to send out three or four packages; the rest will be delivered in person.

Maybe, if I hit the stores tonight and get the packages in the mail tomorrow, they will arrive on time. Failing that, I'll have to use my old standby line about having until Twelfth Night.
Posted @ 9:18 AM

Sunday, December 07, 2003

While watching the Rankin-Bass holiday favorite The Year Without a Santa Claus last night, it was pointed out to me that Heat Miser bears a striking resemblance to a certain British comedian of whom I'm particularly fond.

With a little digging for the right pictures to illustrate this similarity, I've come up with some pretty clear evidence to suggest that Eddie Izzard and "Mr. Hundred and One" may well have been separated at birth. Behold:

And you just know Eddie covets Heat Miser's fabulous sparkly top.
Posted @ 6:12 PM

Saturday, December 06, 2003

For the second year in a row, Washington has received a significant December snowfall. To say this is out of the ordinary is an understatement. Between 1982, when I first moved here, and 2001 I can count on one hand the number of times DC got even a dusting of snow before New Year's Day.

It's beautiful out there, and with a few Christmas errands to run today I'm thrilled to have such a gorgeous landscape to traipse through while I take care of them.
Posted @ 2:13 PM

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Late this summer I had one of those predictive flashes I occasionally get, a realization so strong and undeniable that it carried and continues to carry the weight of fact in my mind. I've assiduously kept this prediction to myself to ensure that it would come true, since the event in question is a generally positive one. As HoC readers know, uttering my insights out loud dooms them to never happen, keeping silent assures that they'll come to fruition.

I mention this now because I'm seeing signs that the prediction will indeed come true, though it's not a done deal yet. I'm feeling confident enough that I wanted to bring it up now in my usual infuriatingly vague fashion.

I'll say this much: regardless of whether I'm right or wrong, I'll know by the end of the year. Once we reach 2004, I'll spill the beans on this, and I will be honest as to whether I got it right or wrong.
Posted @ 1:29 PM

Monday, December 01, 2003

Since the redesign of this site has been postponed while I get a handle on CSS, I figured I'd go ahead and put up my old Christmas header again this year. It'll be featured above from now through Twelfth Night, giving us all a chance to enjoy it one last time before I consign it ever after to the virtual attic of my C: drive.

And in a related yet nearly unprecedented occurrence, I've actually remembered to look for online advent calendars in time to start visiting them from the get-go. My searches have turned up many more good-looking ones than I expected, so there are plenty to choose from. I'll play with them all at first, probably settling on one or two favorites by mid-month.

I've got a couple more yuletide items to pass on, but those will have to come later. Perhaps tonight, after I string the lights up on my tree.
Posted @ 7:08 AM


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