december 26th, 2004 ~ saturday
tis the season to be movie-watching
     me and different pairings and groups of extended family members lazed away our Christmas Day yesterday by watching the movies I added to our respective collections. the first flick we screened out in the living room was Airplane!, the one I actually bought for myself, but knew I'd get maximum laughage out of, if I watched it with my cousin. some time back in the fall or late summer we discussed our favorite Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker spoofs, so watching Airplane! was something I'd been waiting for. and man, it didn't not disappoint. because I last saw it years ago, and in those intermediary years I've only remembered a few lines from the movie, yesterday's viewing was almost as good as watching it for the first time. it had me cracking up for a good 90 minutes straight. I was laughing like there was no tomorrow -- I can't recall anything else in recent memory that even approaches the level of hilarity that I enjoyed with Airplane!. at times in the movie I could barely get out words, due to the sheer force of my laughter. and there was one scene, the autopilot scene, that had me rolling on the floor, with my eyes welling up with tears of laughter. this was one of the few parts of the movie that I vaguely remembered before yesterday's re-watching, but even so that scene still caused me hysterics of a magnitude I so rarely experience. it took me a minute or two to wipe my eyes and fully recover from that comedic high. so until further review, Airplane! now holds a psot in my 10 ten list of favorite movies (probably close to The Naked Gun, another classic that blew my young, fragile mind with its definition of how funny a movie can be).

     Xmas day chugged along with me and my cousin savoring Uma and her bloody vengeance in Kill Bill 2, later on. Pai Mei's cruel tutelage, and beard-stroking, remain 2 of my favorite things about that movie. after dinner we settled in for yet another film: The Passion Of The Christ. which I bought for my aunt, who watched most of it with us (I think she or someone else in the room excused themselves in favor of skipping the final savage acts of ultra-violence being inflicted upon the Good Shepard from Bethlehem). I managed to keep my own eyes open for most of the Passion, with occasional eye-closing occurring not because of squeamishness, but just plain old tiredness. drained as I was, my day didn't officially end until my cousin and I watched nearly every one of the SNL clips (save for the Celebrity Jeopardy ones) that I've collected on my computer since college. thoroughly amused but spent, I finally succumbed to the comforts of my bed some early AM hour that now escapes me. and now, today (or tonight to be specific) the house is a bit emptier, as my extended family have gone back to their Long Island home. it was a pleasant gift-giving holiday I had with them, I'm sure I'll be able to think fondly of it in the future.
december 25th, 2004 ~ friday
happy birthday, Jesus!
     I'm having a very nice and present-laden Christmas day at home with the visiting familial folks. and in addition to the Long Island kin, my niece/goddaughter is here too. it's a little bit of a madhouse with all these people here, but it's the bearable type of madhouse that we can still enjoy ourselves within.

here's a list of family members and what I got them: Mom: a brushed-silver heart-shaped pendant (to the giver of life went this very dollar-intensive present)
Arno: a bendable, poseable Spider-man (he's obsessed with all things Peter Parker)
Ariel: a Barbie doll
Ajanae: a remote-controlled Barbie car (and the remote for it doubles as a toy cell phone. nice.)
Annette: a Diana Krall cd (couldn't find Norah Jones' first album, but hopefully this'll be similarly smooth and jazzy)
that ends the A-name section of this list... moving on:
John: dvd of Kill Bill, Volume 2 (to complete his set. Collateral was another cool option, but Tarantino won out)
Luke: a build-it-yourself, remote-controlled street-racing car kit (we averted a near-crisis this morning by finding a lost piece. whew)
Aunt Molly: dvd of The Passion Of the Christ
...and for various family members elsewhere: lil ca$h money

     so with a few exceptions, the gifts I gave were mostly of the plastic, electronic and digital variety. which was fine and dandy, if you factor in that whole time-honored "thought that counts" thing. yeah. and I'm though not being graded, I think I did well with gift-giving thing. smiles all around, I'm happy to say. and I think I enjoyed watching my relatives unwrap their presents as much as myself with the ones I received.

     and what, pray tell, did I get? well, a number of thoughtful and aw-shucks-inspiring presents. though I esteem quality over quantity, the sheer volume of gifts that came to me from students and co-workers was hard to ignored. I had a small mountain of wonderful treats to unwrap in the morning -- I kinda cleaned up. from the best students in the world came a photo album (a lovely, leather-stitched replacement for my currently inferior one); socks; a shirt; 2 bottles of cologne, from 2 different young ladies; a touching holiday photo of a student from her family, with a printed message on the back (this gift kinda got to me); a nature-themed set of boxes for future gift-giving. I also got a $25 Barnes and Noble gift card from a student, and another of the same value from the teacher I work with. I'm lightheadedly giddy about the books I'll soon be getting myself -- awesome, I can't wait for the book-buying fun to begin. and the irrepressible, hip-hop-loving 6th grader I tutor in math, he got me a swell sweater.

     I also got enough chocolate from my students and co-workers to feed a small nation. gonna have to enlist my family's help to eat them, otherwise I'll be well into January before they're all done. speaking of family, from them came clothing, 2 redeemable-anytime-in-the-next-6-months movie passes (a Napoleon Dynamite "sweet" to that), and a matching set of some money and an explanation. huh? see, a day or 2 before Christmas, I was relayed a question from my older cousin (mother of my 16 year old second cousin). perhaps following a suggestion of her son, she wanted to know if there was a CD I might like to get as a gift. I relayed back that an album called Funeral, by the Arcade Fire (whom I rambled/raved about in my December 21 entry) would be nice to have. it took a moment to distinguish between the band's name and their disc's title -- there was some funnto hery generation gap stuff going on, cuz I''m sure the names of both had her scratching her head (there's no way in a million years that she's heard of the band, and her interest in "that"/my kind of music, rock-wise at least, is less than zero). but with the info, comprehended or not, in tow, she scoured her local entertainment chains in search of the album, I learned afterwards. alas, she couldn't find it though, so come Christmas morning, she recounted her fruitless treks to me, and deciding that I might have better luck, she presented me with monies with which I should buy Funeral myself. my cousin's heart was in the right place, and she possibly went out of her way in all that album-non-finding. listening to her recall her attempt was mildly amusing, as was the mental image of her confusedly asking a salesperson to help her find my wayward and completely-alien-to-her music -- I'm reminded of that American Express commercial of the dad trying to redeem a gift card in a music store as heavy metal drowns out his words and his hopes. good times, good times. more of which I write about tomorrow, as this Christmas Day's full of more hilarious and entertaining consequences.
december 24th, 2004 ~ friday
Christmas Eve
     as of 12 pm yesterday, I'm on my holiday vacation (how I spent the first few hours of freedom were detailed in yesterday's entry).

     things to do today, on this Christmas Eve (in some particular order):

· tidy up the homestead a wee bit, as the Long island fam (Annette, John, Luke and Aunt Molly) are coming over for the Christmas weekend

· throw myself again in the yule log fire that is last minute Christmas shopping -- thankfully the Atlantic Center mall is only 20 minutes away

· entertain, act a durn fool and laugh my head off with my cousin

· remind my cousin that all present-opening will have to wait until Saturday morning, like the rest of the (relatively-sane) Christmas-celebrating world. last year for some reason at 12 am, when it was literally and superficially Christmas Day, the unwrapping commenced. not on my watch, this year.

     ok, as the second bullet point said, it's time to jingle all the way down to the stores, to make a merrier Christmas tomorrow. can't wait.
december 23rd, 2004 ~ thursday
Toys R Nuts (but that's ok)
     "I hate Christmas" -- not my words, but those of a shopping-weary woman I passed by on my way out of Toys R Us today. I will admit to being similarly fatigued and somewhat annoyed when I had brave the ravenous hordes and serpentine lines that are the bane of a last-minute shopper like myself. in retrospect I now believe that those lines were in fact the eigth circle of hell. after carefully and methodically choosing an armful of toys for my younger relatives, I and said armful entered the check-out line, one where I spent 10 to 15 minutes of my life. thank god for my iPod, without it I'd've gone stir crazy. I thought I saw relief as I approached the beginning of the line, and closer to the cash registers, but my impending joy was quickly negated: I saw the front line people being chosen, four at a time, to enter a new, SECOND line, one that looped in the opposite direction of the registers. I'd've reached for a handgun to shoot myself, but I wasn't in Walmart. I was forced to accept this new form of line torture, I had no other choice. so I continued to shuffle along, every minute or so advancing the small pyramid of gifts I was buying by gently nudging it with my foot. some time later, just before I performed hari kari I found myself at a register, actually making the purchase.

     yet for all the torture I went through (and, well, pretty much put myself through by procrastinating), I can't lambast the holidays like the Christmas-hater, the woman in the first paragraph. yeah, it's the most horrendously commercialized holy day of the year, that goes without saying. when all is said and done, though, I still feel myself getting into, and very much enjoying the holiday spirit. there's a few reasons why. one that's been constant this past week has to do with my students. one by one they've been walking up to me, to give me a wrapped-up present or card from them and their family. and not to be rude or unappreciative or anything, it's not the gift-receiving or the gifts that I've been enjoying. no, what I've been treasuring is that at the heart of each moment of gift-giving is their desire for me to feel the joy and happiness that this season, at its best, is really about. and I hope that every thankful word and smile from me has shown how much I value their thought, and made my students as happy as they've made me.

     another reason for my late December cheer is that I'm something of a sap for certain holiday songs. I can't remember if I was the same way in 2003, but right now I'm really getting into the spirit of music for this time of the year. a lot of the songs are from a time period that I hold as sacred, the 50s and 60s, when their was a purity of sound, production, vocalization and sentiment like no other period. the same strong way I feel about doo-wop is one way I relate the kinda-moving effect of those cherished and undying holiday favorites. songs like Andy Williams' The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year, Bobby Helms' Jingle Bell Rock, and Burl Ives' Have A Holly Jolly Christmas -- there's something warm and endearing about each of them. Skating by the Vince Guaraldi Trio (and from a Charlie Brown Christmas special) is a jazzy instrumental I fell in love with earlier in the year. if that song doesn't melt your heart, I don't know what will. and Eartha Kitt's slinky Santa Baby is a recent addition to my collection that had my students singing along after a listen or two. another classic that I'm glad to now be acquainted with (thanks, Marsha).

     and lastly, spreading some happiness through the gifts I'm giving is also motivating my good holiday mood. I don't think I've done too shabby a job as Santa this year; actually I think the gift-getters in my family will be pleased. if the end result of my gift-giving is smiles on a number of faces, then I'll be happy. it'll be the only thing I really want, this Christmas.
december 22nd, 2004 ~ wednesday
eat at your own risk
     this afternoon nine of us Our Lady Of Pompeii staff had our own little holiday get-together (following last Thursday's Cooke-wide event, that numbered over 100 people). we Pompeiians walked about 2 blocks down Bleecker to Caliente Cab, a Mexican taxi-themed restaurant on the corner I pass by every day. just yesterday it unwittingly provided an curious start to my workday: as I'm walking by, about to maneuver around the guys loading coal into the restaurant's basement (which made way too loud a sound for that time in the morning), I see a group of pigeons feasting on a plethora of red and yellow nachos that had somehow found its way onto the sidewalk. huh. feathered rats ain't picky, I guess. but fast-forward to the afternoon. it was a nice, year-ending, unwinding time we had. one of our conversations focused upon the insanity that is the modern reality tv show phenomenon. I learned that one of my co-workers had applied for Survivor, sending in a tape & all that. he even got a number of callbacks (or emailbacks, to be specific). he advanced through the first screening round or two, but didn't make it further. undeterred, he's also applying for a 2006 season of the show. we all continued our reality tv show bashing by talking about Fear Factor, the crazy shite they make the contestants eat in the middle of the program. according to the Survivor-trying co-worker, nothing topped the time when Joe Rogan presented a mouth-watering bin full of deer penis for the hopefuls' consumption. delicacies differ around the world, our table agreed, but deer penis, y'know, it struck us as something of a deal-breaker.
december 21st, 2004 ~ tuesday
Song Of The Moment
     Wake Up, by the Arcade Fire -- this song has pretty much been defeating me with greatness since last week. it's the kind of song I live for, built upon a soaring chorus that's both celebratory and bittersweet, full of awe that carries some transcended tragedy with it. I was mesmerized way before the lyrics drew themselves between the chori. what a satisfying escape in musical form, a new favorite song that's far and away one of the best I've heard all year. it came courtesy of Jon (Braunstein), who, a coupla Fridays ago when he was here in the city, bent my ear and made the case for a possible new favorite band of mine. he went so far to play a few Arcade Fire songs from the album Funeral for me at Mike's place that evening, but it wasn't until I bought Wake Up (iTunes) and played it in solitude at home that I succumbed to the track's magic. so while VHS or Beta remains the newest band I've recently been most excited about, if the rest of Funeral approaches the quality of Wake Up, then I may latch onto the Arcade Fire with similar fervor. they're definitely on my cool list, though, having provided a daily must-play. part of Wake Up even made it onto my aforementioned, unplayed mix -- yeah, that's how attached I am to the song.
december 20th, 2004 ~ monday
another night on fire
     VHS or Beta / Scissor Sisters show last night: an a plus of a time. but first...

     I met up tonight with David (fellow Cooke employee and mentor-like friend David, not to be confused with New Bedford's prodigal son Dave) for one of our monthly-or-so coffees. actually we didn't get coffee, but instead taking a cue from the weather, we decided to get something more apropos: hot chocolate. and, mein Gott, it was probably, no, definitely, the most delicious cup of said beverage that I've had in my life. I'm not exaggerating here, it was that damn good. it was well-worth the icy, wind-blown trek that David and I made to Vosges Haut-Chocolat, a small but stylish chocolate shop in Soho. there, in my occasionally askew way I ordered a cup of white cholocate, one that produced the unminced delectable reaction described above. I'm mentally salivating over the memory of that drink. this season or the next, it'd be nice to return there and relive that fatefully pleasurable cup.

     afterwards I offered some sartorial advice to David at a few of his favorite clothing chains in the area. I was tempted a few times by some items I saw, but I decided to leave the financial bloodletting for another day.

     now, about last night's double-bill of live music. VHS or Beta reminded me why I love their sound so much, in their opening set. I got much joy outta hearing most of their album come at me live again, especially Nightwaves, No Cabaret! and Night On Fire, versions of which rivalled the ones I heard back in October, that first got me hooked on the band. hearing You Got Me, a current new fave since getting the album, was awesome too. can't get enough of VHS or Beta, surely they converted a few more hearts and minds to their cause, as they re-rocked my musical world last night.

     and as for the Scissor Sisters, they put on a SHOW, all caps. very flamboyant, very out and proud, and very very good. coming in knowing solely this fact or that about the band, and only having heard their cover of Franz Ferdinand's Take Me Out, I was actually very unprepared for them -- their live act is a sight to behold. I completely understand why they're getting all this attention right now. they deserve it, as they pretty much damn near tore the roof off the Hammerstein Ballroom with their performance. they've got their schtick down cold, and they had the masses of fellow Sisters in the audience in the palm of their collective hand. way before their four-part encore, and for most their performance, the Scissor Sisters had even us mezzanine people out of our seats. rampant dancing surrounded me for most of the evening, people could not contain themselves. that show was something else, something I didn't expect beforehand, but found very enjoyable. it was definitely "one nation under a groove" last night, as the Sisters strutted their way through New York City.
december 19th, 2004 ~ sunday
tonight's the night
     man, I really typed a term paper of an entry yesterday. cut and pasted it into a Word document to see that it was over 2 pages in length, single-spaced. and I spent at least 3 hours on the entry, when all is said and done -- whoa.

     well there's no time for such rambling today, as I gotta make my way Manhattanward for the return of my favorite Kentuckians, VHS or Beta, as they open up for the Scissor Sisters tonight. so Hammerstein Ballroom, here I come.
december 18th, 2004 ~ saturday
push it
     last night got off to a good start. I was the last one to arrive at Dana's for her birthday, but I think I made up for it with my entrance: as I was walking up the staircase to her apartment, I heard Dana singing the first, eponymous line of "Strangers In The Night" as she opened the door. so I, not one to miss a chance to sing some Sinatra, crooned back in a rolling, larger-than-life voice, "exchanging glances" -- as I greeted Dana I heard peels of laughter emanating from her living room. Mike and the other guests were apparently very pleased with my vocalizing. cool. post-entrance we had a nice time sipping champagne, eating pizza and playing board games. my team lost the the Hoopla one I belatedy joined in, but my Trivial Pursuit team kicked all kinds of ass and emerged triumphant. even though we unofficially ended the game by saying "whoever answers the final question first, wins." whatever, at least I got to put my usually useless and overabundant mass-media minutia to excellent use, as we played some new-fangled DVD version of Trivial Pursuit (there's an SNL version out there too, also with DVD clips, that I have to play sometime before passing this caste). a good number of those questions I singlehandedly answered, like "who sang the theme song to Freaks and Geeks?" Joan Jett, of course. (and the song's Bad Reputation). who invented that spray-can-bald-spot-coverer from the informercial? answer: Ron Popeil. and who was killed in Mos Eisley's Cantina? I answered Boba Fett first, but then remembered that he actually fell into the Sarlacc pit, so I re-answered "Greedo," cuz I remember reading how some Star Wars fans think Han preemtively shot him before he did anything (yes, I know way too much about certain things. but that is the essence of trivia, me being something of a sci-fi nut notwithstanding).

     towards the end of the game I threw one of the 2 mix cds I tailor-made yesterday afternoon for the night's festivities. now lemme digress a little about the current art and science of mix-cd making. I do not claim to be an expert in the field, but I've gleamed a thing or two about the process of putting together a cd's worth of music for others to enjoy. one obvious consideration for most mixes is the lynchpin song(s), that one or two sometimes-unexpected songs that you add cuz you know it'll get a specific reaction from someone or the group you're playing it for me. sometimes you put the song first, to immediately grab people's attention. other times you build up to it, track by track. last night the so-called lynchpin song for one of the mixes fell into the former category, and the track itself was Push It, by Salt-N-Pepa. riding the train earlier in the week I devoted a bit of brainpower to planning the mix, and selecting that track was like a small epiphany to me. I had it, an innocently raunchy old skool classic that's not played so often, but instantly recognizable by urban-types (especially the ladies). so shortly after coming home from work I hit up iTunes and bought the song my mix desperately needed. and it was the best 0.99 dollars I've recently spent, cuz it got the exact, the EXACT response I wanted from the person it was targetted at, that is, the birthday girl and fellow NYer Dana. she immediately got up and started singing along. the song was a hit in my mind, a point driven home when Dana danced the corresponding moves to the song, from back in the day. I loved it, cuz she was loving it. she commended my song choice, and I complimented her on the her enthusiastic appreciation. so Push It was definitely the song of the night, as far as I'm concerned. and here's the tracklist of the first mix CD of last night's 2, one that debuted at Dana's:

01. Salt-N-Pepa - Push It
02. Mary Jane Girls - All Night Long
03. Soho And K-os - Hot Music Superstarr Part Zero
04. Rob Base - It Takes Two (96 Mix)
05. Evelyn "Champagne" King - I Don't Know If It's Right
06. Slick Rick - Mona Lisa
07. Van McCoy - The Hustle
08. Kool And The Gang - Jungle Boogie
09. Bell Biv Devoe - Poison
10. LL Cool J - Around The Way Girl
11. India - Yemaya Y Ochun (Prelude)
12. India - Yemaya Y Ochun (Con Eddie Palmieri)
13. Morrisey - The More You Ignore Me
14. Caviar - Tangerine Speedo

     Poison's another decadent, fun track that's been revived from early nineties posterity, and last night I finally had an excuse to throw it onto a mix to get some sort of crowd reaction. a few of us sang along to it, so that was cool too. also, track 3, Hot Music Superstarr, as far as I know, exists nowhere but on my PC and iPod, as it's a splice I did of two songs (K'os's Supertarr Part Zero samples Soho's Hot Music).

     so after the game, a brief discussion of how the sense of smell is put to differing uses by men and women, and Dana playing Push It one more time, we left her place, with Mike and Alex bound for home, and with Dana, Dani and I headed for Jess' party, crosstown. after a taxi driver denied the five us from boarding his cab, the fiances got in, and seconds later my trio flagged down and got in another taxi. inside the cab, with her thoughts still shaped by my DJing, Dana led some reminiscing about other essential Salt-N-Pepa songs. Whatta Man came up, and in a minute I had Dani and Dana, who where sitting on either side of me, each holding one of my iPod's earphones as I cranked the requested song for our mutual enjoyment (and maybe the taxi driver's enjoyment too). after that we shared a laugh as Dani told us the story of a family vacation of hers that forever links Salt-N-Pepa's Let's Talk About Sex with Joan Rivers in her memory.

     a little while later we made it to Jess's, which was fairly well-attended. mostly with people I didn't know (I assume many of them were friends and friends of friends of Jess's roommates). it would take, and did take some patient crowd-maneuvering just to make to the kitchen for a drink. chit-chatted and caught up with Jess, who's semi-convalescing from not-so-nice dental work (I had to hug her mainly from the left side of her body, to avoid contact with the sore side of her face). in addition to saying hi to the coupla people I knew there, also talked with someone who's face I've known since 1997 (over 7 years, jeez) but have never spoken to before, a fellow Brandeisian named Jeff. even though he had said he's seen me around too, Brandeis being a place where everyone's connected by 2 degrees of separation, the real reason why his face is so particularly familiar to me is because I have a very vivid memory of him from freshman orientation, when, during one first-week event he was hypnotized onstage for our mass-entertainment. he was made to believe that he was "Bud Chan," the younger and equally martial arts-gifted brother of Jackie Chan. Jeff briefy and humorously demonstrated such powers as having an arm made of iron, with which he tried to destroy a nearby microphone stand, in a single blow. I told Jeff that that was how I "knew" him, and Dana, who was previously trying to place Jeff's face, chimed in with "so THAT's how I know you." beyond hypnotic first-year memories, Jeff, impelled by the other mix cd of mine that he was holding, asked if I had heard of Aesop Rock and others Def Juxx labelmates. I had, and through the musical exchange we each now know a little more about the other.

     and about that second mix cd I made yesterday and brought, thinking I'd get to play it for Jess and her party. well it never made it into a CD player. during my short stay at her place the music was dominated by one of her roommates' computer, and someone who was already warned to not touch his PC recommended the same to me. alas. I had been looking forward to introducing friends to songs and artists I've recently become smitten with (like VHS or Beta, whom I'll be seeing live again on Sunday!), songs more in the rock canon of music I generally listen to. to be sure, this other cd's the complete polar opposite of the Push It one. I also thought the rock mix might be a sequel to the last one I made and played at Jess's; that one went over pretty well, back in September. and this new one could maybe stimulate some dancing, as well. but its time did not come last night. I quickly got over it, I wasn't super-disappointed or anything. good things come to those who wait, and the responses I got to the earlier music I played were enough to tide me over (and I don't know when, but the second mix, like the South, shall hopefully come again).

     ok, so not much longer getting acquainted with Jeff, I, Dani and Dana departed Jess's apartment. Dani retired for the evening, and Dana and I caught another cab to get downtown and meet up with James Holley at a Bulgarian bar on Canal and Broadway (I pointed out my job as we cruised by it in the Village). on the way there Dana played around with, and commented on songs and artists on my iPod, which, I reminded her, has only some 1300 tracks on it, and does not represent my entire musical collection (unlike Mike whose iPod does, I think). I did a little iPod 101 with her, as I don't think she'd had much experience with one before -- she said something to the effect of, "oh my God this is so cool," which I think confirms that. anyway we get to the Bulgarian bar (which I've been to before, and I don't remember the name of it cuz that was like a year ago) and the conspicuously line-free sidewalk outside betrayed the actual line going up the stairs, to get in. we spent no more than a minute on the line, though, but when we got upstairs, there was simply a sea of people inside. it was ungodly packed, maximum-capacity/fire-hazard packed. I'd forgotten or perhaps didn't actually know how popular a spot it was. miraculously we stumbled upon James, after some short-lived but intense nudging and squeezing. it was cool to see him again (I last saw him at his also-jam-packed Halloween party), and it was even cooler when he got shots for me and Dana and a few others. and that's on top of the Stella he also hooked me up with (Stella being the bottled alcoholic drink, not some lady by that name). let it be known, or rather repeated cuz it's already well-established, that James is a most excellent friend, and one whom I own a drink. so amid and after our drinks, we socialized and balanced jockeying for personal space with joining in the rampant dancing that was going on there.

     I left the Bulgarian bar sometime after 3 am, and I didn't stay as long as Dana and the others. but I'll give the place bonus points for: playing music whose lyrics I can't decipher but found danceable; having TVs which I usually detest in bars cuz they distract me, but this time I was fine with, as they were showing eastern Europe's version of Candid Camera, which necessitated no translation; and also using an honest-to-goodness reel-to-reel projector to screen Cold War-era Marvel superhero cartoons on one of the bar's walls. ah, anti-Communist propaganda -- now that's old school.
december 17th, 2004 ~ friday
party, times two
     heading on out to Dana's birthday get-together, and then later to Jess's, cuz, as she said via email,

"The roomies and I are having a party. You know the drill and you love it."

ha ha, I do. just finished burning some music (more about these 2 mixes, yeah 2, tomorrow) -- hopefully the crowds'll enjoy them, at tonight's respective parties.
december 16th, 2004 ~ thursday
Zen Palate
     I have another work-related social outing tonight. this time it's the Cooke Staff Holiday Party, at Zen Palate in Union Square. a big impetus for going this year is the "Holiday gift" being handed out (*cough cough holiday bonus cough*), and some on-the-house drinks will be kindly partaken too, amid all the co-employee socialization. I even overheard that some forward-thinking individuals may be bringing their own alcohol, lest the restaurant's supply proves insufficient. to each their own. hopefully it'll be a nice early evening out. I'm whipping out another tie and blazer combo, as I deem tonight kinda worthy of said accoutrements, much like Tuesday.
december 15th, 2004 ~ wednesday
parents just do understand
     I had a really good time at my organization's annual Holiday show last night. the past 2 months of my students' weekly dance classes culminated in a piece that that they performed so very very well, in front of their parents and the entire Cooke Center. even I was beaming as they went through their choreographed moves. I couldn't have been more proud of them. and the evening was also a reunion of sorts, as I saw former students of mine that I hadn't seen in months, if not the better part of a year. several of them greeted me with hugs, and I was all smiles as I asked them how they were and how their school year was going. I can't remember a recent night when I smiled as much as I did last night. and I feel like I spent more time smiling than not, too (this was confirmed this morning when a co-worker told me that I was smiling practically the whoel evening). I dunno, caught between a number of kids whom I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for, and their warm, friendly parents, parent who respect, support and welcome us -- it felt good to be where I was at that moment in time, amid a crowd of people with whom I share a common thread. I often find other people's joy infectious (that's a good thing I think), so the atmosphere of cheerful ready-to-perform students and their loved ones was bound to have the aforementioned pleasant effect on me. what also helped was a string of kind compliments I received on my attire; my only additions were a tie and blazer (the Collegiate legacy lives on), but they were two of my admittingly snazzier ones. hey, it was a special night, so I couldn't help but doll myself up a tiny bit, be presentable and to try and match the occasion. and the blazer, by the way, kept me sash-free while I was onstage.

     I was also entertained by some clever things parents said to me last night. I just had to laugh when the mother of one of my current students came over to jokingly tell me that she and another mother bet $50 on the chances of me dancing onstage alongside my students during their performance. a father humorously reminded me that he had me on videotape. and today, the day after the show, that same betting mother had me smiling again when she asked, in front of another parent or two, why I didn't dance at all (there was an all-ages, everybody-join-in, mass Macarena that ended the show). my reply: "I decided to leave it to the professionals" -- it amused them as much as the question amused me. she, the joke-telling mother, has quickly become one of my favorite parents, both because of her friendliness, and because I sense from her an understanding that we, like her, mean the best for her son. last night she also related how her son was picking up some teacherly poise and mannerisms from me; for me that was certainly the kindest compliment of all.
december 14th, 2004 ~ tuesday
holiday show tonight
     5:30's the "be there by" time for tonight's holiday show, which'll end with a dance my students have been practicing for since October. they're super-excited to get on stage and do their thing, and I know the audience'll be impressed, just like I am.

my personal itinery for tonight will surely also include:
· catching up with my former students
· schmoozing and mingling with parents of the aformentioned students
· maybe finding an inconspicuous spot onstage alongside my students, maybe not
· but definitely trying to avoid wearing a sash like them and the other teachers
  (I have a plan)
december 13th, 2004 ~ monday
surprise, surprise
     super-short story: so, as usual, I was the last person to go home today, out of all the Cooke staff on our floor. I step into the hallway, and notice two girls who are looking at the paper angels made by students upstairs, that adorn the wall between the classroom doors. "oh no, he's here!" one of them blurts out, thinking that I caught them redhanded in their actually innocent angel inspection. so I walk by them, throw up my hands in mock-confusion and say, "he's here?" -- one of them laughed or something as I walked away.

     in other news, I put my iPod's new, day-old replacement battery through the paces today. meaning, I saw how it did with heavy usage during my two commutes, along with some morning and lunchtime music-playing. it didn't crap out on me by the afternoon, instead delivering a constant and reliable stream of energy without fail (things a battery should do without much asking, but remember I had grown unfamiliar to such commonality over the past few months), so I'm happy about that.
december 11th, 2004 ~ saturday
bee kay to the fullest
     sometime after 2 am in the morning I parted ways with the crew in Soho. last night's crew consisted of Mike, Alex, a friend of Alex's named Elizabeth, if I'm not mistaken, Dana, and Jon Brauntein, not a NYer himself, but on vacation from Beantown. it's always great when Jon's in town, and last night was no exception. first we meet up for dinner at Sabor, a Mexican restaurant in Mike's uptown neighborhood. to start, the six of us ordered ALL but 4 of the kinds of tapas on the menu. most were tasty, but not enough to sate our appetites, so we went for a second round of 2 more entres for additional communal comsumption.

     after dinner, and agreeing that Sabor's fare was occasionally delicious but we could do better, we caught a coupla taxis and headed to Sugar, a spot downtown on Church street. there...

     erks, insert screeching sound here. gotta take a pause for the cause, the cause being tonight's engagements that I gotta start getting ready for. the first being a poetry reading at a Williamsburg gallery that Victoria told me about yesterday, that's being hosted by mutual acquaintence (Lauren). and as it happens, Jon'll be hanging out with a friend tonight in Williamsburg too, so I'll give him a ring post-poetry, and meet up with him and company. go Brooklyn.
december 10th, 2004 ~ friday
VHS or Beta -- another show (and my new raison d'etre)
     coming soon to an inbox near you...

they're coming back! who? VHS or Beta! (didn't you read the Subject line?) yup, my new favorite band of the moment/band I'd die for, have added a NY gig to their ongoing tour. oh yes, life is good.

me and George caught VHS or Beta when they opened for the Concretes' first NY show, back on October 14th. to me they were just devastingly cool; they definitely put out the most energy of any of the 4 bands I saw that night. how could you not love a band whose frontman Craig Pfunder praised Sondre Lerche, who played a little earlier, by comparing him to Prince, saying, that just like the Purple One, "you kind of want to kiss him, but you kind of don't because...he's a guy."

as for their sound, VHS or Beta make music you can dance to. at the show their songs were irrestibly grooveworthy. just in case the aim of their songs wasn't crystal clear, at one point the frontman commanded the crowd to, quote, "dance you f*ckheads." as many already were, others were only too happy to oblige.

they were stellar live, and I'm still loving their CD, Night On Fire. facts already established on my website/online journal. scroll back to October if you haven't already read the entries.

but wait, there's more. VHS or Beta are actually NOT headlining this gig. they're opening for the equally fantastic (or so I've read) Scissor Sisters. who themselves have opened for Elton JOhn and Duran Duran in the past year (the Scissor Sistors do a sweet cover of Franz Ferdinand's "Take Me Out," by the way). recently I heard a piece on NPR about the Sisters, who are all guys if you didn't know, and got the impression that they're a fun band. so after my beloved VHS or Beta, the night should continue to be entertaining.

ok. date/time/place/venue info: show's on December 19th, 2 Sundays from now.
it's taking place at the Hammerstein Ballroom.
doors open at 6:30 pm.
tickets can be procured via Ticketbastard, er,

do yourself a favor, hit up iTunes or something and check out VOB's "Nightwaves" and "No Cabaret!" -- for the past 2 months, those tracks have been my personal anthems.

I'd really love it if a group of three or more of us were going. I've been dying to have others share in the joy that is a live VHS or Beta show, which is why I bought two tickets. so it belongs to one of you -- just tell me and it's yours. George has already expressed interest, lemme know if you have some too.

it's gonna be a cool night.

-- Rog
december 9th, 2004 ~ thursday
     [nutha retroactively-posted-entry. forgive.]

     Mike Gmailed me (am I the first to verbify the service?) about making reservations for dinner Friday night. looks like it's gonna be at Citrus Sabor, somewhere in his Upper West Side area. and then "we'll be heading out somewhere fun from there (not sure where yet)."

     thus beginneth my weekend.
december 8th, 2004 ~ wednesday
back in business
     the site is back up -- joy. let the rambling continue... I got my staff development on earlier in the day, in the form of training we had at a Head Start school, on West 128th Street in Harlem. while I was up there I kept an eye out for formerly Murder, now Ministerial Mase, and Cam apostrophe Ron, but they were nowhere to be seen. maybe next time.

     Jess sent me this round noontime:

Hey Rog,

75% of the population has some form of HPV, only 20-25% has herpes. I'm not sure if that is really comforting, but I don't want the readers of laughter and forgetting to be scared. That article in New York was cuh-razy!


I stand corrected, Jess, thanks. so less need to worry, only 1 in 4 of us Nü Yawkers have herpes. uh, yeah, what a relief.
december 7th, 2004 ~ tuesday
website no input
     one day, in the final year of the previous century, I was sitting in a theatre-style auditorium, awaiting the projection of a slideshow to better illustrate the lives and creations of ancient Romans, as this was part of the focus of a college course on them that I was taking. as someone momentarily fiddled with the projector up behind us, the machine displayed a few words of non-readiness onto the screen in front of us. "video no input" were those words, and even though in the passing years I've not seen them again via any other device, they're forever entrenched in my brain. why? probably because at the time, my otherwise bored mind latched onto the pidgin englishness of the phrase -- I found myself amused by the projector's awkward attempt at communicating its plight. I even created a special accent, a particular inflection, for the words as I heard them in my brain.

     and now "video no input" is my occassional catch-all phrase for when technology goes bad or needs fixing. when there was some DVD or TV difficulty at my cousin's house during Thanksgiving the week before last, I uttered my three-word observation. it illicited a "what?" from a visiting neighborly friend of my cousin -- they both, in fact, found it confusingly funny. I quickly explained the phrase's origin; the acquaintance also asked me why I had to give it an accent. I emperically stated that that was the only logical way to pronounce the words, which produced the bemused and amused reaction from them, that I was shooting for.

     but riffing on the "no input" for this entry's title, I'm not all that amused myself right now, cuz it's obviously my website that's currently down and not working. argh. Jesse wrote me earlier in the day to tell me that he tried to visit, but was getting DNS error messages. so I came home, dug a little further, and confirmed that something bad is afoot with my host, whose own website is down too. thus my plight (and the plight of all those other unlucky souls being hosted by them too).

     so basically I just did a journal entry, about not being able to post my journal entry. huh. oh well. hopefully my host's mess'll be sorted out in the next 24 hours or so. and I'll save the kinda cool thing I wanted to write about today, for the near future.
december 6th, 2004 ~ monday
a great ODBituary from a while back
     A few weeks ago Jesse (aka J-Gritty) waxed poetic as he eulogized one of rap’s clown princes. Here’s what he sent, via email:

"To Russell":

I think that I shall never see

A rapper crazy as ODB

Smokin' crack and popping smack

Til he had himself a heart attack

You composed ghetto anthems that left me in awe

Like Hippa to da Hoppa and Shimmy Shimmy Ya

So good night sweet clown prince, sleep not in anger

But rest in peace in the 36th Chamber
december 5th, 2004 ~ sunday
radio free Brooklyn
     today “began” with me getting in at 4 am -- subtract the better part of a train-ride-home hour to show when my Saturday night, spent between the Tea Lounge and The Thirsty Scholar, actually ended. and in lieu of rewatching In The Mood For Love, my Sunday’s now ending with an amazingly trippy, existential, black hole of a radio story that I just heard on NPR. I don't know who read the 20 minute-or-so vignette, part of the Joe Frank program on NPR, but his voice and inflection spun a descending vortex of what-ifs and actions for the main character, Halsworth, an untouchably successful businessman who gets stranded in an urban nightmare of his own creation. wow, that story sucked me in, gotta find out where it came from.
december 4th, 2004 ~ saturday
everything's coming up Milhouse!
     or at least that's how it was Friday night. hanging out and doing the movie night thing again with Kim, and friends of hers whom I hadn't met before, but turned out to be as super-cool as her. in conversation I learned that I had a connection with 2 of them -- they went to the school I now work at, Our Lady of Pompeii, and Saint Anthony, another Catholic site of Cooke, where I have former students at now. small world. one guy told me the story of how his fellow classmates, in their youth, essentially "broke" a teacher, embarrassing and maligning her into quitting. ouch. though my high school classmates at Collegiate where equally as rowdy: we reduced a science teacher to tears once, if I recall collectly. fast times, man. aside the grade-school reminiscing, there was also a fellow teacher at Kim's place last night, one who works with at-risk students. which is akin to my field, so I verbally raise my fist up in solidarity.

     as for the movie, In The Mood For Love -- stunningly muted and sublime and endearing. I loved what I saw on the screen. it was a very moving and reserved film. what it spared, what wasn't shown or said, gave it its depth. a look can say so much, and accordingly much of the plot of the movie was written on the 2 main character's faces. faces framed by beautiful shots and color-play, that was just as haunting and captivating as all the subtext that defined the film. it was, in other words, the perfect Rog movie. Kim even lent it to me, AND gave a coupla blanks DVDs so that I could enjoy and duplicate a new favorite flick of mine. I'll probably wind down the weekend with another viewing at home.

     ok, heading on out soon for some Victorian birthday celebrating in Brooklyn, and hopefully some more tomfoolery in Manhattan afterwards. will I get my dance on tonight? we will see.
december 3rd, 2004 ~ friday
scenes from a sushi bar
     selected quotes from our group dinner at Sushi Hana, Tuesday night (yes, I've just copied Tuesday entry here. it's being reprinted in case you missed it):

     "do you guys wanna do sake carbombs?"
     -- Margalit, inspired by a past, abortive attempt at the Irish version of the drink

     "he's from the old country. Queens."
     -- Margalit

     "yeah, the American dollar is the Euro's bitch right now."
     -- me, addressing our currency's current global status

     "wait a minute, did you just bleat?"
     -- Jesse, to Margalit, overhearing her ovine conclusion to an anecdote

     "yeah, he had bigger breasts than me."
     -- Margalit, on a competitively sized, but lower quality than hers, male rack

     "Leet Bleats"
     -- Jesse's term for Margalit's aforementioned barnyard vocalizations

     with me laughing my head off for most of dinner, I'm surely leaving out some other great lines. please enlighten me, fellow dinner partiers, if your memory serves better than mine.

     ok, now for the other version of this entry:

     I was reminded of Kim's coolness this morning, which was when I received an Evite from her for the second Friday movie night at her pad, tomorrow. last month she screened American Beauty for the 5 of us (so good after not having seen it since it came out) -- tomorrow the movie du jour is In The Mood For Love. I've wanted to see that film for God knows how long, and finally it looks like I will. I'm so excited, and I just can't hide it. seriously though, I very well may be mesmerized by it, judging from my anticipation. and with In The Mood For Love under my belt, it'll make it all the more necessary for me to see 2046, the director Wong Kar-wai's latest film, which also I'm desperately dying to see (and I've got the trailers on my PC to prove it).
december 2nd, 2004 ~ thursday
     must add the following, if only for my own daily amusement:

     wanting to maybe talk to a parent post-dismissal, I asked a student
    "who's picking you up today?"
      his response: "my agent?"

funny, I found it. his comment forced a smile-like crack in my usual teacherly veneer.
december 1st, 2004 ~ wednesday
     scarfed up and with my little white, crappy-batteried music player in my hand, I was seconds and yards away from exiting the school and beginning my homely sojourn. as I was walking down the hallway, I noticed a sister, the nun who teaches 2nd grade upstairs, walking in my direction. she made it through the 2 blue doors that separate the main office area from our hallway just before I did. as she approached I was all ready to say a standard walking "goodnight" to her -- instead she stopped just in front of me, and said the following:

     "I just wanted to let you know that you have a good disposition with the students."

     I was very much taken aback by both the spontaneity and niceness of the compliment. I both accepted her kind words, and kinda deflected them: right after thanking her, I said that I was just trying to follow the lead of the great teachers I get to work with, at Our Lady Of Pompeii. the sister added how she also knew that ours are a tough bunch of students to have, as she obviously referred to their various learning issues. she acknowledged my "good disposition" once more before our brief conversation ended, and when I wished her good night, it was not the perfunctory habitual response we usually give -- I hoped she really would have one, a good night, as I would now have.

     half in a daze from what the nun just told me, I made my way outside. no more than a block down Bleecker Street I found my hands fishing in my bag for a pen and piece of paper. I didn't trust my brain to remember her words verbatim for any indefinite period of time; no, I better commit them to something tangible and later-on-readable. I scanned the sidestreet stores for a suitable, inconspicuous wall to use as a writing surface. it took me a few stores before I settled upon the façade between the local nail salon and an apartment building. I don't know if any passerbys saw me scribbling against the wall, not like I cared anyway. I was more concerned with preserving the niceness that had just come my way. niceness that melted away whatever frustrations and brow-furrowing that I had done earlier in the day.

     I'm further inclined to take her, the nun's, words with a grain of sugar, when I remember what she's going through. I can only assume and hope that her breast cancer is in remission. she did miss a string of days in September, and her treatment is surely in some stage of ongoingness. but she's still here, still serving her faith, still teaching. and she doesn't even know it, but her mere presence is something I value. having teachers and others who are equally committed nearby makes me feel like certain things are right in my world; I know good people who are doing good things. and their own good dispositions make me want to cultivate my own.