Two Almost Physicists With Almost Something To Say

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In Which I Pretend to be a Theater Critic

Providence actors Derek Smith and Victoria Ezikovich explore space hallucinations in The Final Voyage of X Minus One. Photo by Bert Silverberg.

Providence actors Derek Smith and Victoria Ezikovich explore space hallucinations in The Final Voyage of X Minus One. Photo by Bert Silverberg.

My wife* has a pretty cool gig writing theater reviews for the website Broadway World. For doing this, she gets all sorts of free tickets to various productions around town and yours truly comes along to a good fraction of the performances. She’s gotten pretty good at it, and recently even joined the American Theater Critics Association and got to travel to New York to participate in their yearly event where she moderated a lunch talk with Susan from Friends, her new best friend!

Last weekend we went to The Final Voyage of X Minus One by Counter-Productions Theatre Company at AS220 in Providence and my lovely wife asked me to pinch-hit on the review, since the show was a sci-fi anthology and I’m a huge dork. It was easy to write since the play was really excellent and fun. It’s not a new Aitchbar post, per se, but it’s a thing I wrote on the internet, so check it out! (And if you’re in the area, go see it!)

BWW Review: THE FINAL VOYAGE OF X MINUS ONE at Counter-Productions Theatre Company

(*): Oh, by the way, since I last posted here, I got married. Hooray!


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Terror at 24 inches

Between a wall and hard place (another wall).

Our town of Providence, Rhode Island isn’t known for much. The birthplace of American religious freedom in the colony founded by Roger Williams, the world’s 4th-largest unsupported dome, some crooked politicians, and an ad for a local pest control business in the form of an enormous blue termite overlooking the highway. But now we have something we can truly be proud of: a girl who managed to get herself wedged so firmly in an 8-inch wide gap between two buildings that it took dozens of police and firefighters over an hour to free her.

Last Friday, Courtney Malloy, a 22-year-old woman in a state of considerable refreshment, went out the back door of a restaurant and made the inexplicable decision to try forcing herself through a passage no more than 8 inches across, as an unnecessary shortcut to the street. And, with an indomitable will to prevail over the forces of physics and common sense, she managed to push herself into the narrow space so vigorously that she was totally unable to free herself.

So far, you’re thinking, well, that’s a little stupid and unlikely, but it’s not THAT strange. And you’re right, except that every further detail just raises more questions. How is it even possible for an adult to get herself stuck in something in such a way that she cannot become unstuck? Did she expand? How can someone become stuck in such a way that firefighters couldn’t simply pull her out? (They had to break through one of the walls from the inside-out to get to her). When the firefighters got there, she had no idea how she’d gotten stuck— whether she walked into the alley, or fell from the roof of one the 3-story buildings that form the alley (it was later revealed that she started on ground level). And then, most importantly, there’s the fact that they found her wedged in there horizontally and 24 inches off the ground. Let me repeat that: horizontally and two feet off the ground. Like an extremely low-flying, drunk and bewildered Superman.

Someone pushed themselves into a space far to narrow to accommodate them, thought “this isn’t working” and proceeded to keep trying. In this way, no other news story in the past year more richly deserves  to be written about on Aitch-Bar, a blog that is to bullshit as narrow alleyways are to confused college students.

Indeed, no other story so adequately expresses the essence of the American dream, that looks at life and says “I bet I can jam more stuff into this.” It’s the spirit that built the iPhone, that invented the spork, that made that pizza with cheese inside the crust. Every time a middle-aged woman tries fitting herself into her old pair of leather pants, every time a child tries pushing together two non-interlocking lego pieces, every time a father looks at a thanksgiving turkey and asks himself “how many more birds can I shove in this thing?” this spirit is renewed. Even Rhode Island itself, wedged tightly as it is into the confined space between Massachusetts and Connecticut, is an embodiment of it. And as the personification of this spirit, Courtney Malloy deserves to be honored with a full sized statue, which will then be ceremonially wedged into that now famous alleyway, so that future generations can squint at it through a narrow tunnel and reflect on how THEY can make the world a better place…through shoving.



You are a Providence DPW worker. You stand, shoulders slumped, mouth agape, on a busy sidewalk. Directly in front of you, a foot from the curb, is a traffic sign. This sign has made some grave transgression against the City, and it is your job to remove the iconoclastic guidepost completely, shaft and all, before it can cause further chaos. Somewhere in desolate, wind-scoured badlands of your mind, a lone synapse indolently fires once or twice before slouching over and calling it a day. “This sign doesn’t really look like an agent of mayhem,” it says. “It seems unnecessary to remove it wholesale. We could just remove the sign and leave the post, or replace it with a different sign.” But, meh, your brain just works here. We gotta get this sign out of the ground and then make sure rainwater is flooding the streets before we go to the bah.

You are faced with two choices.

  1. You can break into the concrete around the post and remove the entire assembly. This will leave a small crater in the sidewalk, approximately the same size as every other crater already in the sidewalk, including the one your right foot is currently in. Patching it is entirely optional. The job will likely require a jackhammer, or maybe just a sledge.
  2. You can hack the sign off midway through the post, leaving a four-inch razor-sharp nub protruding from the pavement, which will become a bangin’ night club for C. tetani. You can optionally allow tall grass to grow through the cracks around the nub, effectively camouflaging it from people who might be trying to watch where they are placing their sandaled feet. The job will require any sharp tool that might be in the back of your pickup.


Can you intuit, based on the fact that there is an article about it, which option you choose?


Providence actually has an app for reporting woes on the go, called ProvConnex. You can use GPS to report your exact location, and you can totally upload some sick hazard snapz. You have to choose a specific category under which to file these reports, but they have conveniently left “tetanus” out of the listing. Luckily the picture says it all. The DPW web team will review my complaint and wonder, is that rusty piece of metal always covered in blood? Not always. Only when it matters.

Do you remember the date and location of your last tetanus shot? If you’re like me, computerized records don’t stretch back that far. Computers don’t really stretch back that far. I was feeling particularly slothful after I was bandaged up, so I decided to ask Dr. Interwebs if medical treatment was truly necessary. Tetanus sounds like Tetris, which brings a deluge of fond memories of ten-pound monochrome Game Boys and that Russian squat-dance. I ignored all of the Google links to the NIH and CDC websites and went straight for WikPed. Fun fact: the first symptom of the disease is “lockjaw.” I read that word and didn’t even finish the rest of the sentence, just stood up and made a beeline for the doctor. I refuse to contract pirate diseases.

I suppose I should be thankful that the injury wasn’t massive, and that I could limp into Health Services for prophylaxis, and now that I have I can wrap myself luxuriously in discarded barbed wire for another 7-10 years. I am not thankful. They stabbed me in the foot with rusty negligence.

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This Week in Teak

I'm on (wooden) boat!

None of that fiberglass bullshit

Our local supermarket gives off an unavoidable essence of upscale-ness. It caters to the part of the city where all the Volvo drivers live, but isn’t so unspeakably epicurean that they don’t have normal food, or charge significantly more for those normal things–it’s just that they also have fine cheeses and 20 different kinds of gourmet cured salmon. This isn’t my natural environment, so I often find myself noticing things that denote this understated opulence, and the aspect that best expresses it are the magazines. So I’ve been noting down the best magazine titles around the checkout, and I think you have to agree that they are incredible.

Discover Britain
Harvard Business Review
Wooden Boat
English Home
English Garden
Newport Life
Newport Living
Jewelry Artist
Wine Maker
Luxury Pools
Cruising World
The Affluent Traveler
Ocean Home

As stand in line to check out, I wonder how Luxury Pools sustains a readership between the people who already own a luxury pool, and the people who simply envy the luxury pools in the magazine. But then I just pay for my frozen pizzas and think about where I would go if I were an affluent traveler.