Monday, May 11, 2020

Losing Weight In Quarantine.

Today is exactly 8 months since I decided to start exercising every day.  I started on Sept 11, 2019 and I haven't let up since, so that makes 243 days in a row!  Which is pretty, pretty good, if I do say so myself.  You can read more about my motivations and my first 180 days here.

I'm not exactly sure what has kept me on track and motivated, when in previous times I've gone 3 days or so before finding an excuse to quit.  At this point, I feel like I've incorporated this exercise into my life, I know it's what I need to do, and I feel compelled to keep on going on, even when I don't want to.  oh my gosh, I have a habit!

Of course, diet is part of that (or really probably most of the weight loss).  I'm doing Intermittent Fasting (approximately 12 hours or more everyday from 9 pm to 9 am, I don't eat.)  When I do eat, I write everything down, and stay under the suggestion that LoseIt (the App) gives me.  And it's been working!

I didn't really take process photos along the way, but I managed to cobble together these three photographs in the same shirt  and pants (and now will continue to take these pictures once a month or so)

As you can see, I've lost approximately 73 lbs since I started 8 months ago in September.   That's 9 lbs per month! A little over 2 lbs a week.  Which means I'm right on track!

More importantly,  I've lost almost 20 lbs since March, (we locked down on March 13, so it's been 8 weeks in quarantine!)

Obviously, before quarantine, when I was swimming a mile twice a week, going to the gym to use their machines, and in general switching it up, I had much more variety in my exercise diet.  Now, I'm primarily doing a 30 minute + workout on my recumbent bike.  But because I want to get stronger and more flexible, about 35 days ago I started doing television yoga.

Yoga With Adriene is on Amazon Prime
I did yoga 30 years ago as part of my acting training, and have been doing it on and off (mostly off) for the last 20 years.  After trying a number of different practitioners, I settled on Yoga With Adriene's Amazon Prime Series True.  It's a 30 day series of approximately 25 minutes each day.  Sometimes longer, sometimes less. 

I like her style, which is a little quirky and a little goofy, but also heartfelt.  She went a little fast for me, which I think is better than too slow.

I stuck with it, and everything up until the 30th day was great.  On the last day, Adriene said something which was both great and terrible.  She was-- now that you have practiced for 30 days, you have, whether you like it or not,a yoga practice. Today, I'm going to let go of the mic and we will practice together.

Which sounds great as an idea, and certainly honors the people that know what they are doing, but that ain't me!  I had no idea what was next or what we should be doing.  I'm still at the point where I need somebody to tell me "Push into the knife point of your foot."  "Don't forget to breathe"  "Let go of your tension."  Not having a teacher was pretty difficult.

I'm not ready to be responsible for my own yoga practice!  I am now doing a 14 day spinal reset, and after that I think I will do Adriene's first 29 days.  Whether or not I do the 30th day remains to be seen.

And hopefully I'll be 8.3 lbs less next month!

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Edgewater Chamber hosts Virtual Business Conference

I've posted about this before, but I'm a board member of our local Chamber of Commerce. 

With all that is going on with COVID-19, I'm happy to say that the Chamber is hosting an educational forum for local businesses on how to meet the challenges brought to the forefront by the pandemic.

RESCHEDULED!:  Due to a technical glitch in the presenting software, this has been rescheduled to Thursday May 28.  

Same bat time, Same bat place.  Different bat day! 

(A reference to the original Batman, starring Adam West?  Okay, Boomer!)

It's going to happen on Thursday May 28 from 9 am-3 pm.  And my wife Stephanie Schwab (who as many of you might know, is a super-dynamite marketer and thought leader in digital marketing) is going to be speaking at one of the forums. 

(She's also going to be teaching separately a class on how to switch your business from offline to online and go from stuck to productive in 3 short weeks)  
SWITCH: Go from stuck and overwhelmed to bringing in online revenue - in just three short weeks!)

But enough spousal promotion (for now)

At the Edgewater Essentials Virtual Forum, there will be 5 education sessions with more than 15 presenters, and topics ranging from managing your online presence to how to protect your business and its employees, to how to establish healthy routines.   I've included the schedule below.

There will also be chat and networking rooms, so that registrants can expand their professional circles, collaborate with others, and provide (and receive) personal support.

And at 12 pm, you can attend our annual business meeting, and find out about what's going on with the Chamber, about our recent merger with the Edgewater Development Corporation, and how our new 3-year plan can help our community.

Attendees will be able to diversify their skills through these presentations, facilitated discussions, workshops, networking opportunities, and other virtual activities, all from the privacy of their own home.

This event is meant to be a springboard for the community to share experiences and interact with like-minded business owners and professionals. Everyone is welcome to participate, even people who are not yet members of the Chamber.   Attendees can join for one session or stay on for the full schedule of events featured in the day-long program free of charge.

Registration is free, and all of the conferences will be recorded, so all registrants will be able to view all of the sessions, even if they can't attend all of them.

Register online for free tickets to the Edgewater Essentials Virtual Forum.


9:00 AM Managing Your Online Presence  

10:00 AM Establishing A Healthy Routine

11:00 AM Spinning Straw Into Gold: Email Marketing
11:30 AM Moving Forward Together: Breakout /Networking Sessions
12:30 PM Edgewater Chamber Business Meeting

1:00 PM Putting Your Best Face Forward

2:00 PM Pivoting Your Business

2:30 PM Incubate Your Brand

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Jet's Pizza has a Buy One, Give One Offer that shows they get it.

This is the logo from the Jet's Website.
I was introduced to Jet's pizza when we got to Chicago. There wasn't one near me at the time, but we went to three birthday parties in a row where Jet's was featured. What I like about it is that it is square, like the Pizza of my Providence, RI based youth. It's not the same (no offense, Jets, but what can compare to Caserta's?) but it's close. And in deep-dish obsessed Chicago, it's a welcome relief from not even close to NY Style and the Sausage and Cheese Bombs that are deep dish.

There's now a couple of Jet's Pizzas closer to us, and although I'm not eating much pizza lately (Hello, trying to keep the weight off), it's comforting to know that they are there.

I also really like how they've stepped up during the Corona Crisis. Last month they donated over 1000 pizzas to charitable organizations. This month, they are allowing their customers to help in the fight.
Photo from the Jet's Pizza Facebook page.

For every large, regularly priced pizza purchased from select Jet’s Pizza’s Chicago locations on Mondays and Tuesdays through the end of May, using code FRONTLINE, the local stores will donate a pizza to a Chicago organization helping to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Benefiting organizations include Rush University Medical Center, University of Illinois Medical Center at Chicago, Illinois Masonic Hospital, Roseland Hospital, Ingalls Hospital, Common Pantry, Metropolitan Family Services, One Patient – Global Health Initiative, Catholic Charities and more.
Photo from the Jet's Pizza website.

Participating Jet’s Pizza Chicago locations include stores in Irving Park, Lakeview, Logan Square, River North, South Loop, West Loop and Wicker Park/Buck Town. To participate, guests may place their order for contactless delivery or curbside pickup online or over the phone.

So remember:  Mondays and Tuesdays, use code FRONTLINE.  And get those essential workers some essential dinner.

For more information, visit and follow Jet’s Pizza® on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.


Wednesday, April 15, 2020

The Poorly Worded Math Question

This homeschooling/remote learning thing is kind of getting to me.

My son is now in remote learning mode, which means I have to go over all of his work to make sure he's done it.  He's in fifth grade, but his class is doing sixth grade math.  They are using Big Ideas Math.

He recently had this question on his homework.

This is the last problem on the page.  The previous problems are all straight calculations   (of which he got 3 wrong)

He came up with 96, by figuring the surface area of each triangular side.

(6*5)/2 =15 

There are 4 sides so he multiplied by 4 to get 60.

He then added the bottom rectangle. 


For a total of 96.


I thought clearly this was a trap question because it says the TOP of the lantern.  Therefore the answer should be 60, because the bottom is not part of the top of the lantern.  I was captain of the math team in high school and varsity all three years, state champions all three years, and this is just the kind of gotcha moment that math teachers and tests love.

I wanted him to redo the question- and the other three problems he got wrong.  (And to top it off, despite my admonitions, he didn't show his work)

He insisted that he was right, and bet me that if it was, he wouldn't have to redo it or the other three problems.

I took the bet, confident that I was correct.

I looked up the answer online and it lists the answer as 96.


Am I crazy?  (Don't answer that!)  

This can't possibly be right.  The bottom is not part of the top.


 I don't want to be a math teacher unless I get to write the problems.

Come on COVID-19.  Go away!

So l lost this bet.  But am I wrong? Based on the question, shouldn't the answer be 60?

Monday, April 13, 2020

The Donald Trump Passover

I wish I had written this.  Instead, I am sending it around and posting it in all of its apocryphal glory.

It's clearly not true, but it has truthiness written all over it.

Donald Trump's Remarks at a Passover Seder

Welcome to this very special dinner. Tonight is when Jews observe Passover, otherwise known as the Festival of Lights, the celebration of the Jewish New Year that started when the Hebrews left Egypt. Though I am not Jewish, I actually know more about Judaism than almost anyone. My daughter Ivanka’s in-laws, the Kushner’s, who are super-Jewish, told me that they are amazed at how much I know, that I even know more than their Rabbi, which is saying something.
To begin with, let’s all put on these little beanies, which are called “chutzpahs”, and are worn to remind the Jews that when they were slaves in Egypt, they couldn’t afford proper hats, not even brims on hats. Now, of course, they can afford hats and lots more, but no one really wears hats anymore, so it doesn’t matter. 
We eat tonight from a Cedar plate, which apparently in ancient times was made out of wood, from the famous Cedars of Lebanon. Today, of course, we eat off fine china, just like the incredibly gorgeous plate ware that you will find at all Trump hotels and resorts. And why do we have to call it china? Let’s give it a better name – like “America”.

On the Cedar plate are all sorts of strange things. There is a bone, to remind us that if God had not given us bones, we would just be flopping around like jellyfish. There is a bowl of salt water, and some greens you dip in the saltwater, to remind us that life is best when you have greens by salt water, just like the golf course at my fabulous Mar A Lago. There is some horseradish, but somehow there is no prime rib to put it on, which I don’t get. There is a hard-boiled egg, to remind us of the chickens that the Jews had to leave behind when they left Egypt. Which was really tough, because they couldn’t make chicken soup, which as you know is a basic part of the Jewish diet and kept the Jews healthy during their servitude in Egypt. 
The plate also has giant crackers called “matzah”. “Matzah”. Funny word. Anyway, God told the Jews they had to leave Egypt so fast they couldn’t take time to make proper bread, so all they could prepare were these big crackers, which was a problem, because once they were out in the desert bouncing around on their camels the crackers broke up into crumbs. There is also some chopped up apples and nuts mixed with wine that you can spread on your crackers, to remind you that the Jews were slaves and did not have any proper desserts like crème brulee or Key Lime pie, so had to settle for not so tasty apple and nut mush. 
Moses was the guy who worked with God to get the Jews out of Egypt. They say he was a Jew, but he was raised by Egyptians, and there was no birth certificate. There’s some cockamamie story about being put in basket and dropped in the river, where he was found by some Egyptian princess, but who would believe such a fairy tale? Where is the proof that Moses was a Jew? It’s fake news.
In any event, Moses goes to Pharaoh, and asks him to let the Jews leave Egypt. And Pharaoh is going to grant the request when God HARDENS HIS HEART! How unfair is that? Pharaoh – who otherwise seems to be a great, great guy, who kept unemployment low -- gets a bad rap, but it’s really GOD who is keeping the Jews in Egypt! And then the lamestream media goes and makes Pharaoh the villain and God the hero. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
So God sends plagues to torment the Egyptians. Like pestilence and boils. Those I get. But frogs? Yeah, he sends frogs. What kind of plague is that? I’ll tell you this, we wouldn’t be sheltering at home right now if there were lots of frogs hopping around, would we? In the end, God kills all the first-born Egyptians, but the Jews are spared because they take hydroxychloroquine. So definitely, at that point, God is winning bigly. Also, it’s worth noting that the service involves washing hands at the table, to remind us that even back then the Jews knew that washing hands was important to avoid getting plagues.
After the tenth plague, the Jews are allowed to leave Egypt – which was huge -- but they get to the Red Sea, which they can’t get across because everyone knows Jews are lousy sailors. So Moses parts the Sea, and the Jews cross over, and on the way they gather food from the muddy bed of the Red Sea, in the form of a very terrible tasting fish called “gefilte” which we eat tonight to remind us of how lousy the food was that the Jews had to consume. At that point, just when the Jews think they have it made, Pharaoh changes his mind and comes after them, but God and Moses stop parting the sea and the Pharaoh’s army gets drowned, which is why the Arabs and the Israelis don’t like each other to this very day. The Jews then give thanks to God, who rewards them by letting them wander aimlessly through the desert for 40 years, corresponding to the 40 days of Lent when Catholics stop eating good food like the Jews were forced to do in the desert. 

Also, at this stage of the service, we now spin a top, called a dreidel, which has letters on each of its four sides standing for “a great miracle happened here” to remind us of the miracle of the sea parting. And let me just say, if Pharaoh had built himself a big, beautiful wall instead of relying on the Red Sea to keep people from crossing the border, the Jews would probably still be slaves in Egypt. 
On Passover, there are four sons. One evil, one simple, one wise, and one who doesn’t yet know how to ask. Sort of like Eric, Donald, Jr., Jared and Barron. They ask four questions. I won’t bother with that, because the questions are probably stupid and just asked to try and make me look bad.
You get to drink several glasses of wine tonight, but unfortunately, it’s some horrible kosher stuff that no one would drink if they didn’t have to do so for the holiday. And you have to leave a glass of wine for an invisible man to drink, who never comes, by the way, and the wine goes to waste.
We could also sing some songs. Or not. I haven’t decided yet, it could go either way. There’s one about a baby goat. And one about the invisible man. But believe me, they are not so great. 
There’s lots of praising God, and his mighty hand and outstretched arm, as if we didn’t all know that God is very strong and tough, like me. Very strong and tough. But do you see anyone praising my mighty hand and outstretched arm? Or the fire and fury I can unleash? No. So wrong. So wrong. 
Now we reach the end of the Passover service, and anyone who wants to can search for a broken piece of matzah I hid. And if you find it, I’ll give you a dollar, which is all that’s allowed, because even on a holiday you can’t get Jews to part with more than a dollar.

 Well, that’s Passover. Now let’s finish so we can order in a decent meal. Hallelujah!

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Twelve Years of Wedded Bliss!

Our wedding invitation, designed by Erminio Pinque.
Today is our anniversary of marriage.

12 years ago today, my wife and I rented out a former dance hall in Yonkers, gathered 150 of our closest friends, family members, and co-workers, went under the chuppa, got our rings out of a crackerjack box, and then we said "I do."   

I then crushed glass with my feet, in an ancient Jewish tradition.  (It's also a joke that this is the last time a man can put his foot down in the marriage!) 

 There was klezmer music, and food and wine flowed and so did some harder libations.   We had cake, and we invited people to come up and entertain us, which they did.

If you weren't there, you can still read about it, because the NYT was kind enough to write a feature article about it.

This is the start of the NYT feature article about our wedding.  READ THE REST

You can also see what we thought the day after the wedding, because the NYT also sent a videographer to do a little story.  (Sometimes, having a flea circus can be a positive!)

I'd be lying if I were saying it has been all bliss.  There's been plenty of dark moments, and frustrations, and moments of feeling terrible, and a fair amount of yelling on both of our sides.  But there's also been laughter, and engagement, and games, and fun, and moments of beautiful and strong connection and intimacy.

No one is perfect, least of all me.  I told my wife when we started that I didn't expect to have a 100% happiness level.   But I am very clear that there is no one else I'd rather be a partner with, and that somehow we can and will work through any and all hiccups, disagreements, and discouraging spells. 

It seems all a blur, being married, like it is both an immutable fact of life that has always been, and simultaneously like it just happened yesterday.  I'm guessing that 12 years from now I will feel similarly.  I sure hope so.
Now.  (Actually, last year.  We haven't been wearing fancy clothes lately.)

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Virtual Vaudeville This Saturday: Featuring The Acme Flea Circus!

I'm very pleased to announce that I'm getting into the remote performing craze.

This Saturday, from 3 pm to 9 pm (Chicago time), I and 8 other performers are creating a "Virtual Vaudeville" show that will feature 6 hours of continuous entertainment from some of the top vaudeville and variety artists in the country.

The show will take place on Instagram Live on the account phonographdjmac.

You can find out more about it on the following facebook event:

Over the course of the 6 hours, each performer will do a show or piece of their show at least 3 times.

UPDATE:  I will be on at 3:50 pm, 5:50 pm, and 7:50 pm.  All times CST.  Tune in a little before that to make sure to catch the whole flea circus act. 

Viewing is free, but we are asking for donations that will be split equally with all of the performers.

In addition to my show, the performers include some of the best in the business, including:

The performers of the first Virtual Vaudeville (Listed below top left to right, middle left to right, bottom left to right.)

I've seen and worked with a few of these people before, and they are great.  And what I've seen from the other performers shows that they will also be a lot of fun.

I've got a few technical issues to solve, like where in my relatively crowded apartment I'm going to perform the show, and whether or not I have enough lighting for it, and how I'm going to adapt my heavily audience-involved show happen without being able to see the audience!

 All solvable and all worth the challenge.

 I look forward to you seeing me (and the fleas!) and my friends on Saturday!

Sunday, March 29, 2020

You've Come Too Far To Have Come This Far And Stopped.

There's an old joke about someone who was swimming the English Channel.  Halfway through she said "I'll never make it!" and swam back. 

I'm now on Day 200 of my fitness streak, assuming that I work out 30 minutes today.  (Which I will, short of being struck by a meteor).  And I've definitely had a few moments of "I can't make it."  But I know that if I swim back, I will have been able to make it.  So I'm following Dory's advice from Finding Nemo.  "Keep On Swimming, Keep On Swimming!"  (although, sadly, the pool is closed)

I'm keeping on swimming just like Dory.
(It's good when you can get your
wisdom from animated films.)
[ In case you missed it, Since September 11, 2019, I've been on a streak of doing the following:

  • Exercise 30+ minutes every day
  • Write down everything that I eat.
  • Don't eat after 9pm- Don't eat before 9 am.
You can read more about why, and see some embarrassing photos here.]

(I'm not particularly embarrassed by the photos, other than that they document how fat I actually was, and even now how fat I still am, despite losing 60 lbs. )

Okay, here's the embarassing photo.  Why make you have to go elsewhere:

I've definitely lost a lot of weight, but I still have a long way to go.


During this enforces Stay At Home Order, I've been doing just that, staying at home.

And following my program!

This is the Yoga series I've been doing every day.
True:  Yoga With Adriene
I can't swim or go to the gym (hmmm... wonder if I'll get a rebate on my gym membership?)  but I've been doing the recumbent bicycle at home, occasionally doing wall pushups or lifting my 12 lb dumbbells, and over the last few days have also started doing a yoga practice using the television.

I'm following along with the show Yoga With Adriene.

I like her style and her slightly flippant attitude, and the fact that she doesn't seem to judge me (which is ridiculous, since she is on television and doesn't know that I exist as I watch her)  But I feel like she's a good teacher, and although I can't do some of the things she does yet, I'm moving along to it, and working on things like my downward dog, my cobra, and my salutation to the sun.

She's got a bunch of yoga videos on Amazon Prime (which are free if you are a member)  I'm following True, which is a 30 day series, but there is a whole lot of Yoga content on Amazon Prime.  (And by the way,  if you are not a member, you should definitely try it.  There's a 30 day free trial, and now, coronavirus time, would be a good time to check it out!)  And if you start your 30 day trial by clicking this graphic, you will be helping this blog!


I have been cooking every day since we started self-quarantining on March 16.   We had gotten a good amount of groceries, and I've been out to the grocery store twice in the last 14 days.  (Typically I go to the grocery store 4-5 times a week.) 

We ordered out once since then (or it would be better to say we ordered in-- restaurants are still closed in Illinois)  It was Korean food from Crisp (our favorite Dak Wings, was closed, but it looks like they have since reopened for delivery and takeout)  The food was delicious, but it was so salty.  I literally gained 5 lbs the next day and my ankles were swollen.   Although I loved it, at this point, it's just not worth it.

A typical example of a soup I might make.
I've been making lots of smoothies for breakfast, and/or egg white omelets with meat, veggies, and maybe a side of Kim chee.  For lunch I will usually have a large homemade Vietnamese style soup, with veggies, meat, gochuchang, garlic, lemongrass, ginger, spinach, and even an egg.

Dinner is usually meat with a vegetable, and a small amount of carbs.  (The other night I made polenta with pork and kale in a rough marinara.  It was pretty good.)  We also did a veggie taco bar the other night that was very tasty.

I do eat snacks, but I measure them out and weigh them out and try to space them out throughout the day.  I usually eat Pretzel crisps, or a piece of fruit, or sometimes a couple of ounces of deli-turkey.

Over the last 200 days, there have been a handful of times I've eaten after 9 pm, but typically not, and if I do, I still try to honor that minimum 12 hour window of not eating.  At this point I can do easily 14 hours most days, and could probably do more if I had to.  I'm not trying to push myself to hunger, but rather with the idea of "Delay, Not Deny."


It would have been easy to give up now, during these special circumstances, to find an excuse to not work out, to eat poorly, to order out food that I know I shouldn't eat, etc.

 It's been tempting, and I even bought a pack of Good and Plenty at the drugstore during one of those moments (just in case).  There have been moments of temptation, of wanting to not work out, of wanting to crack open the Good and Plenty, to just eat chips from the bag without weighing them first. 

So far I've managed to resist.  Part of my resistance success is the success I've had so far-- It's been 6 and a half months, and I've lost a little over 60 lbs.  I've come a long way, and I don't want to blow it on something that is not worth it.

The progress that I've made on my health and my discipline and my wellbeing is too important to me to just toss it all away.

 According to my calculations-- I should be at a "normal" BMI somewhere during the summer if I can keep up doing what I'm doing.  (My app says June, but I think I'm going to stall at some point.)

I can do this.  I will do this.

I've come too far to have come this far and stopped.

Friday, March 27, 2020

REVIEW: Teenage Dick, Livestreamed (sort of) from Theater Wit.

I just got through seeing the Livestreamed production of Teenage Dick by Mike Lew.  I wrote about it a couple of days ago here, and they very graciously offered me a ticket to see the show.

In short, it's a great play, well worth seeing.

The basic idea is that they have transplanted the story of Richard III into high school, where a boy with cerebral palsy (Richard Gloucester, played by MacGregor Arney) has it in his mind to become the class president over the teenage football quarterback Eddie (played by Ty Fanning). Along the way, he reads Machiavelli, confides in his also disabled friend Buck (played by Tamara Rozofsky), falls in love with Eddy's old girl friend Ann (played by Courtney Rikki Green), and dupes his high school teacher Ms. York, played by Liz Cloud.  Also in the mix is Clarissa, a Christian goody-two-shoes who also wants to be class president.  She is played by Kathleen Niemann.

Although the play follows pretty closely the plot of Richard III, it is set in high school, so bullying, twitter, Instagram selfies, online taunting, and hooking up all have their moments in the show.   The play has heightened language (and some swearing, so kids beware).  Richard speaks about half the time as if he were a Shakespearian villain and half the time if he was in the HBO version of Glee. (After the show, during the post-show discussion, I imagined a Glee version of this show, which would be interesting, but not nearly so well written or acted.)

Top Left:  Richard and Eddie.  Top Right: Richard and Buck.
Bottom Left:  Richard and Ann.   Bottom Right: Ann, Buck, and Richard. 
All photos by Charles Osgood.  Provided by the theater.

Richard, very well played by MacGregor Arney.

All of the cast are great, but I thought that MacGregor Arney as Richard did an especially wonderful job of striking a balance between power-mad Richard and a boy trying to be a human.  It's a hard needle to thread, but he manages it. There's a moment at the end where it was a bit of a cliff-hanger as to whether or not the play would follow Richard III's tragic conclusion (and rather than spoil it, I will urge you to watch the play and decided for yourself. )

Ann, played by Courtney Green, in a moment of indecision.

 I was also taken with Courtney Green's Ann, who has a meta-moment late in the play where she tells her story for a minute.  This was haunting and wonderful and reminded me of a moment in another play about disability, The Boys Next Door by Tom Griffin.   In that play, one of the retarded men steps out of his retarded character for a moment, to speak about what it is that he really wants, and I remember wanting to weep.  (The production I saw at Trinity Rep featured the amazing Ed Hall, in what turned out to be one of his last performances there, and it may be a moment in the theatre that I never forget.)  Ann's last monologue had a similar feel, and there was a symbolic moment that gave me chills. At the post-discussion, I wondered if that scene was an homage to the Boys Next Door (there are a number of homages and references to other plays, including Macbeth, Hamlet, and Hamilton  -- Eddie says "Talk Less, Shower More")  The cast didn't know, and the playwright wasn't there, so I will ask him on Twitter and report back in the comments.

Ann and Richard go to the school dance.
The play is not actually livestreamed-- it was filmed the day before all the theaters got shut down with a live audience. 

When you buy a ticket, you get an invitation to login to Vimeo about 15 minutes before showtime.  They ask you to start the video at showtime, and then after the show, there is a GoToMeeting Livestream after the event.  I recommend doing that.  It was interesting to talk to the cast, and see other audience members from far away.  (Seattle, Boston, and Calgary were all in the house that night)

Although I would prefer to see a live play, this is the second-best thing.  You get a lot of the experience of the theatre, mediated by your phone, and you never have to leave your house.  The camera barely moves (Equity rules), but they capture all of the action in a way that is almost as good as being in the room.

Teenage Dick will be playing through April 19 at screens in your house.  Tickets are limited by Equity Union rules to 98 per show, so don't miss out.  To purchase tickets, visit the Theater Wit website.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Risk is in the approach, and knowing when to stop.

We played RISK on my wife's classic original set
from the 1970's.
I didn't really want to play RISK, but when my son brought it up a few nights ago and said, "It's Family Game Night! Let's Play!"

And then my wife said "Great!" 

I felt a little trapped.   Trapped isn't the right word.  Pinned down?  Unable to escape? Having two few men on a battleground that I didn't want but couldn't avoid?  Yeah, that's about right.

So I capitulated, groaning loudly.  We started the game.

It's not that I don't like RISK. 

When I was a kid I loved it.  My best friend in second (or maybe third grade) Paul Squizzero had the game and on Saturdays, I used to go over to his house and he and I used to play rollicking games with his family on his kitchen table and his mom made us bologna and ketchup sandwiches, which I absolutely loved.

My mom was horrified, as bologna and ketchup were not what my mom wanted me to be eating, but there was nothing she could do about it.  I was nine, and I liked what I liked.  Mrs. Squizzero (Paul's mom) thought I was the politest kid on the planet.

But the thing about RISK that I don't particularly like is the element of luck.  You can have 20 guys in Mongolia and only one in Siam, and by the right rolls, that one guy in Siam could end up winning.   It's not the power of the Siamese training forces.  It's just plain luck. When I was younger I saw some kind of majesty in that, the romanticism of the one fighting for his ideals, but now, when I think of it, it just seems that it is one guy is forestalling the inevitable.  He won't be able to win, he should just give up. 

Is this the difference in outlook between youth and middle age?  

And the rolling, and the changing of armies, and the decision making, the game can be just interminable.  It just tries my patience.  (Boy, I sound like a cranky old man!)

But here we were, playing through it, and I was grinning and bearing it, like a good dad should.  (To be truthful, I was probably grimacing more than grinning.  I was dealt terrible countries, and my son, bless his little Siamese heart,  is an amazing roller.  He might get it from his dad!)

You can get this 60th-anniversary edition of RISK on Amazon.
That first night, it got to be about 9 pm, and we were about a quarter through the game.  I was in third place, far behind, and my wife was way ahead.  She's very good at strategy games, and she's a very lucky roller. (I'd like to think that she gets it from her husband!)

The board was set up on our dining room table, and over the next two days we ate around, over, and through the table, anywhere but where the game was set up.  Each time we played a few rounds, and things were moving.  I made an incursion into North America.  My son gained Australia.  My wife gained South America, and then turn after turn would lose one country only to gain it again.

After three days on and off of this, my son was in the lead, and I thought about giving up multiple times.

Day 3:  The Final Conquest. 

We played a quick round in the morning.  I conquered North America!  I set up strong borders.  I let my wife and son duke it out - she got greedy and tried to swallow Europe whole, but couldn't quite do it, and my son took it right back.   The cards kept on escalating.   We had to stop at my turn so that I could go to a telemedicine doctor's appointment, and my wife could get some work done.

Practicing social distancing in Australia
(photo courtesy of my wife stephanies )
After dinner, we sat down to play, one final time, and agreed we'd finish it off.   I had warmed up to the game. I was in it, to win it.  I fortified my borders.  I took over most of South America from my wife.   I managed to take my son's continents away while keeping two of my own.  My wife didn't have enough firepower to do anything. and flamed out on a spectacular set of rolls against my son. (I told you he was a lucky roller!)

Then it was my son's turn.  He turned in cards and got 62 armies.  He annihilated my wife's armies and grabbed her cards.  He tried to make an incursion into North America through Greenland and failed.  He tried to make an incursion into South America through Brazil and failed.  He decided not to try Alaska, and let me take my turn.  I turned in my cards for a total of 68 armies, and proceeded to romp through Asia, Africa, and Europe, and Australia, taking all of his continents away from him.

Rather than continuing to push my luck, I left strong troops in each of the continents and fortified my borders.  I thought he was going to win over the long haul, but he took a look at the board, realized that he was in for a much longer, sloggier mess than he had realized, and decided to give up!  I emerged Victorious!


There are actually a few morals that I can think of.

Thank you, Princess Bride.
  • Never get into a land war in Asia.   (Check)
  • Spending time with my family is fun!
  • It turns out that forestalling the inevitable will work when your opponent is young and impatient.
  • You should not always listen to your inner voice. 

    I had a fun time playing RISK, even though I groaned when it  was proposed  (I am sure that EMERGING VICTORIOUS had something to do with that.) 
  • Risk is as much about knowing when to stop as it is about taking actual risks.
  • I'm a lucky roller, and I get it from my family.