Want your head to explode? Read this article explaining the Seattle Seahawks' "strength of victory" win under an obscure NFL rule...kaboom! And I thought football was boring...
Paris Hilton beat Hans Blix -- on the Top Ten Personal Names of 2003 List, anyway...the mind reels at the alternative...anyway, check out the most popular regular words ("blog" is among them, duuhhhhh), entertainment words, and of course Enron-related words. Fun!

UPDATE: And here's this year's good ol' Banished Words List, including the very deserving "extreme," "as per" and "on the ground." Phew.
The economy according to EBay -- even I can grasp the simple relationship of Prada handbags to economic stability. Sort of.
Officially the weirdest headline of the year...god I hope so, anyway.
Hey, cool, I have my own Pentaveret -- thanks to the good offices of Nathaniel, a.k.a. He Who Cares Enough to Blog With Photo Links. :) (Scroll down to 12/29)
This one goes out to Miss Kim: Betty Crocker and the Bundt-Pan Mystery! Ever wonder who answers the phone at General Mills? Surprisingly, it's not Betty, the Pillsbury Doughboy, or the HoneyNut Cheerios Bee. Oh well.
"Clear-eyed realists agree: DEAN CAN'T WIN!" -- oh ho ho, Tom Tomorrow. With apologies to the Kucinich supporters who will rightly view this as yet another preemptive crowning of the Dem candidate...but still.
For all your post-holiday gift-giving needs (even if it's a gift to yourself), how about a copy of Red Sox GM Theo Epstein's CD? Well, it's not just him, it's got Pearl Jam, Letters to Cleo, and Paul Westerberg too! How cool is that? Quite.


I got some really cool Christmas presents this year...but none as exciting as my dad not having two of these. In the name of Alex, learn some back-saving tips, to lessen your chances of having four hours of spinal surgery on Christmas Eve!
Some women never learned to type because they didn't want to wind up working as a secretary (note that these days a steady gig making $60K as a legal sec. doesn't seem so bad). My mom always hounded me to take a typing class in school, and I refused out of laziness and a vague feminist sensibility. Now I can type really fast, though improperly, thanks to my internet addiction! And it appears that typing is becoming a lost basic skill, sort of like cursive handwriting and common courtesy. Oh QWERTY, we hardly knew ye...
If you're feeling germy, enjoy a nice clean visit to sope.net.
"Repeat, repeat the sounding joy." That line from a familiar (?) Christmas tune has been running through my mind, appropriately enough, for days...it's been a very weird Christmas in Durandland, and I guess my subconscious is trying to tell me to focus on the positives, or something. I'll tell the story of the last week through some random linkage...and of course there's plenty to catch up on in the realm of internet curiosities. Let's just hope the last 2.5 days of 2003 are less eventful than the first 362.

First of all, though my sweetie has beaten me to the post, you must check out the El Greco retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC -- only two weeks left to see it in person, but it will last forever on the internet, aaahhhh. Going to the Met during Christmas week is practically a requirement, and though it was crowded the paintings jumped right off the walls, they are so proto-modern and trippy. Nat admired this landscape, I got to visit my favorite portrait of the Grand Inquisitor, but one of his most famous works was missing, The Burial of Count Orgaz. The Met is teeming with tourists at this time of the year, but people seemed to really enjoy these paintings. It's an especially nice way to spend an unusually warm December afternoon in New York, wandering around the Temple of Dendur with your favorite person in the world -- I recommend it.


Sometimes, it's nice to be Lithuanian -- like when bananas wash up on the shore. Na zdorovje, and I sveikas to my Baltic brethren!
"I like Australia. I have a good time there." -- If it's good enough for Jack Black, it's good enough for me! Only The Believer could come up with this sort of oddball interview, with JB peppered with questions by Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket. Neato!
And for yet another entry for the now-completely-dominated-by-Lord-of-the-Rings blog: the New York Times wonders, "Are Women Just Bored of the Rings?" Answer: grrrrrrr! Caryn James opines, "The final entry in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy reveals once more that what the chick flick is to men, this trilogy is to women." I'm not even sure what the hell that means, but I have a feeling it's that Caryn James likes chick flicks, which is enough of a reason to not let her write film content in the Times henceforth. I'm note even sure she actually watched "Return of the King" -- she declares the trilogy "an FX extravaganza tailored to an adolescent male's fear of sentiment and love of high-tech wizardry." Lack of sentiment, you say? I'd like her to point out another "male" movie where EVERY SINGLE MALE LEAD CRIES (ok, except Legolas, but he's an elf)! Weeps openly! Embraces the other male leads! Stares into the other male leads' eyes in platonic (?) devotion! Thank goodness for Stephanie Zacharek over at Salon, she takes the piss right out of this dimwit, calling the article "the latest entry in the "blue is for boys, pink is for girls" school of criticism." Yeah!
Well the holiday season is mercifully drawing to its zenith -- which means its close is not far off. I am wiped out from distributing holiday cheer yesterday -- and let me give another shoutout to my inspirational battalion of hard-core volunteers, you all deserve a medal and a massage for what you did!

To match the wintry mood (of course it's the shortest day of the year, it's the day I have the most things to do!), the Globe presents its Year in Pictures Gallery for reflection. Some of these images are already iconic; some of the events seem an impossibly long time ago. It was a long, tumultuous year on every front: political, international, personal. I stood in Sydney, Australia and Albuquerque, NM, and many places in between this year...who knows what '04 will hold?


And now for a few obscenely useless luxury designer Christmas gift ideas: how about a Burberry plaid golf bag? Don't forget Fido's lust for quality leather goods: get him a Coach collar and leash. And for yourself, something basic, like a $350 cashmere letter sweater a la "Laverne and Shirley" from this fine establishment. Sigh. OTOH, it might be better to get an overpriced trifle than a baffling yet reasonably priced (I guess) yet totally useless appliance from Hammacher Schlemmer -- Exhibit A, this Pop-Up Hot Dog Cooker. WTF??
Celebrity defense lawyer du jour, Mark Geragos -- aka The Man Who Will Try To Get Michael Jackson Off -- is active in his local Armenian church. How nice.
ACB radio -- streaming music by blind musicians from around the globe. Okay!

And for another link shamelessly poached from Bifurcated Rivets, try The Four Word Film Review.
"America is not a Christian nation" -- a refreshing primer for those who can't grasp "church over here, state over there."
So let me tell the tale of the LOTR Trilogy Tuesday, a long journey but worth every minute of ass-numbing entertainment. My brother Josh (who drove up from NJ, and made banana bread!), Angus the Namesake, Peter (in place of a very sad, sick Jack) and I met for breakfast in the Heart of the Commonwealth -- that's right, Worcester -- at Tatnuck Bookseller, a very cool bookstore/restaurant. After consuming a variety of breakfast meats and carbs, we drove to the somewhat secluded (in an industrial park, anyway) Showcase Cinemas Worcester North, a twin to my favorite local multiplex in Woburn. I have to say, the theater ran the event flawlessly -- it was organized, well-thought-out, and basically quiet and enjoyable, not the insane melee in a stuffy, stinky theater I was fearing. They showed the marathon in two theaters instead of just one, so there was room to spread out a bit, and nobody had to sit next to the wall or in the back corner. We had hours to spare before it started, so we played a little Scrabble in the lobby, and watched the becloaked college kids come in -- yes, we had one or two damsels in elf garb. At 1:15, the extended "Fellowship" came on, to a silent, riveted crowd, and the print looked absolutely pristine, it was like watching an enormous DVD. I had forgotten how much I like the first movie; I haven't decided yet which is my favorite overall, but it might be that one. After a half hour break -- spent mostly cramming in hummus, crackers, clementines, and cookies -- the extended "Two Towers" began, and it was equally well-received. There was almost an hour of added footage, whole scenes! By then end, we were all charged up for the third installment -- I celebrated this by eating some quite tasty mozzarella sticks and walking laps around the lobby to get the feeling back in my legs. I also picked up my Exclusive Collectible, the mysterious freebie we'd been told about, which turned out to be pretty darn cool -- they're going for almost $50 on EBay, of course, but I like mine too much to sell it. So at 10pm sharp, we became some of the first paying customers to see "The Return of the King," and it was mind-boggling...a blend of epic narrative and beautiful imagery, and music -- there's a lot of singing! People were weeping at the end, and not just because it was 1:25am. I can't wait to see it again by itself...I guess that's praise enough! SO my hat goes off to the theater staff, the entire city of Worcester (from what I can tell, it was a good choice not to go to the Boston show), and of course Peter "King of the Hobbits" Jackson.
To get back into the swing of things, let's go with a very appealing Friday Five:

1. List your five favorite beverages. Diet Coke; Bass Ale; a well-made cappucino; fruit-flavored seltzer; real iced tea.

2. List your five favorite websites. MetaFilter; The Obscure Store; Salon; The NYTimes; and, uh, this one.

3. List your five favorite snack foods. Mmmm, snack foods. I'll go with Pirate Booty, chocolate covered pretzels, a quality potato chip, Gala apples, and superpremium ice cream.

4. List your five favorite board or card games. Anything from GameWright, Fluxx, Othello, Apples to Apples, and of course Scrabble.

5. List your five favorite writing implements. Note: the original question was about computer games, which could not be less applicable to me, so I edited it. I like to write with Sharpies, black G2 pens, fat Crayola markers, fancy pens, and my elderly Gateway notebook.
Sigh...I feel I should apologize for my Blogging Breakdown over the last few days...between the post-LOTR Trilogy sleep deprivation and the coming holiday madness, I've been just to busy actually working at work to post! Ah well, in the words of Tom Petty: "Breakdown, it's alright."

Anyhoo, there is yet more LOTR goofiness to report, even BEFORE I post my recap of the event. Check out Once More, With Hobbits -- a geek fantasia combining the story of "Fellowship of the Ring" with the Buffy the Vampire Slayer musical episode, "Once More, With Feeling." That's right, these people re-wrote the lyrics from the Buffy show to fit the FOTR story...and soon they will post mp3's of same! There's no stopping nerd creativity, people.


Huzzah! Not only am I finally back in the blogosphere, there is much to report from the realm of Middle Earth, to start with. "The Return of the King" garnered four Golden Globe nominations this morning, for Best Picture, Director, Score and Song -- and as if it needs to be said, Peter Jackson is an utter lock for Director; he's a one-man cottage industry!

Before I get to my tale of the Trilogy, here's another exciting tidbit -- in August 2004, the Lord of The Rings traveling exhibit opens at the Museum of Science in Boston! It's the first U.S. stop on the tour, and while I fear it has just about nothing to do with "science," it will fill the coffers of the MOS like nothing else. That's the week after the Democratic National Convention happens in the Big Bean, too...it's going to be a jolly 2004 for the Chamber of Commerce, methinks.


In the spirit of "better not to post than post poorly," I'll be saving my detailed, rollicking tale of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy Tuesday for tomorrow -- what can I say, I actually had to work at work today, horrors! :P Until then, know this: "I am no man!"


AFI has released it's ten choices for Movie of the Year, and I'm going to see one of them tomorrow...along with about 8.5 hours of related content, actually. So tomorrow, dear readers, feel free to stroll down the Links list and read up on the thoughts of others...I will be back with a full report on Wednesday (if I am still sentient, that is).
Learning English with the BBC -- an idle click on the BBC News site led me to this amazing project, a way for those learning English to practice their skills and keep up with current events. Check out the FAQ -- "The site is intended to help you improve your learning of the English language." Good grief, here across the pond our "news" outlets are busy trying to prevent people from speaking, let alone thinking, properly...it gets in the way of the advertising. Though we do have TV411, which is also pretty cool...putting the idiot box to work for good instead of evil, what a concept!
For all you city planning, anti-sprawl types out there, check out the Eyesore of the Month, from Jim Kunstler, author of The Geography of Nowhere, and of course The Clusterfuck Manifesto. Brilliant. I could do one of each week, culled solely from my drive to work...sigh.
Rest easy, folks -- "fuckwit" has made it into the Oxford English Dictionary. Along with "harissa," "doofus," and "Thinsulate," which last time I checked was a trademark. Methinks Mr. N.K. Hottie McCraft-Craft is going to love this.
Just for the record I suppose I need to post something about the U.S. capture of a scraggly Saddam Hussein yesterday -- in a "very messy" hut in bucolic rural Iraq, of all places. I'm still not sure what the fallout from this bizarre turn of events will be; it's certainly better to have a criminal in custody than on the loose, but what about his cronies, or at least the nutters who continue to attack in his name? That grainy little video clip, repeated ad nauseam, of the tongue depressor: could we have chosen a more humiliating moment to broadcast to the world? The full cavity search, perhaps? Saddam was not really so popular among Islamic fundamentalist terrorist types (they have Osama to hang around with, after all), but this imagery will inflame their resistance of the probing American occupier, no? The fact that Saddam was sitting in a hole in the ground without a toilet, let alone an insurgent command center or even a cellphone, surely indicates that the daily guerrilla attacks can easily continue and escalate with him behind bars, right? The situation to me remains much the same as it was on Saturday: we have much larger problems to deal with...like the aforementioned Osama.

Two related news tidbits provoke me much more, though -- this morning on the Today Show, none other than Bill "Shut up!" O'Reilly looked right into the camera and urged "those of you who aren't happy about it" (i.e. Saddam's capture) to "look inside yourselves." WTF?! Was that a none-too-subtle "get with the program" from Mr. Doctrinaire himself, or just more condescending smugness of the sort that makes me want to kick the TV in when his mug appears? The dangerous thing about Bill is that if Saddam had instead carried out some kind of WMD terror attack yesterday, Bill would be right there in the spotlight *still* saying "I told you so" -- he's an equal-opportunity attention junkie. Only slightly less irritating, though far to the left, is Bill Delaney from WBUR, who smarmily wondered if GWB had "sealed his re-election" with the capture of Saddam. I guess even on NPR there are lazy kingmaker journalists who'd rather urge the country to take a collective decade-long nap than probe the tumultuous events of the day with any kind of rigor. Gah!
"She was very wired — a Samantha on `Sex and the City'-type thing" -- a fairly irksome article from yesterday's NYTimes Style Section on yet another manufactured-for-the-fluff-pages phenomenon, in this case younger, healthy men taking Viagra to ward off performance anxiety. Skipping lightly over the illicit, potentially heart-stopping misuse of a prescription drug, the author chalks up this trend to men's "fear of wilting in the face of a new wave of sexually empowered women" and " the acceleration of dating rhythms," whatever the hell that is. So let me get this right: men are anxious about being judged by their partners? Boo hoo hoo, fellas. Here's another gem: "But even those who successfully keep their use of impotence drugs secret from their partners have found that the medications only go so far in making relationships work." Shocking!
A wintry afternoon to all, and to all a good night -- I've just returned from our law department holiday luncheon, which was just a cozy table for four at a local restaurant, la de da. Christmas is getting closer and whiter with each passing hour around here -- we are up to our knees in pristine white slush. Just in time, David Sedaris has published this "Winter Story" in the New Yorker, "Let It Snow." The following exchange could so have come from the mouths of my siblings and I back in the late 70s, which is why he's such a fabulous writer: “Gretchen, go lie in the street.” “Make Amy do it,” she said. Ah, childhood...

On a similar nostalgic note, make a virtual paper snowflake -- thanks to Lindsay for digging up this old favorite.


I'm less than enthusiastic about today's Friday Five...but it could just be my Friday Malaise talking...

1. Do you enjoy the cold weather and snow for the holidays? "For the holidays," yes -- because I usually don't have to go anywhere in particular, I'm already in New Jersey and freed from shoveling out my car.

2. What is your ideal holiday celebration? I think a good holiday involves three different levels of celebrating, whether it's Christmas or your birthday or the Fourth of July -- enjoying it by yourself, with one special person, and with a huge gathering of friends and family.

3. Do you do have any holiday traditions? Last year, my sister Sara made me an exact replica of the felt Advent calendar we used when we were kids, the best and craftiest gift. So now I have that hanging in my apartment. Other than that, we are very loose with the whole "presents on Christmas Eve vs. Christmas morning" thing, we get to do some of each, ha ha. Actually my parents are on a very anti-commerical streak with Christmas these last few years (my dad tends to speechify on Nicaraguan orphans and the lessons of St. Basil, not so jolly), so we usually just get one small thing from them, and the fun stuff we (the kids) give to each other.

4. Do you do anything to help the needy? This question irks me -- is there some Dickensian law that designates December as the official Month To Care About the Needy? GRRRRRRR...I think I (and all of us) could stand to do a lot more for the needy thoughout the year, frankly. But at the holidays, yes, I'm involved with Christmas in the City -- and you can be too, it's next Sunday, email me if you want to volunteer! :-)

5. What one gift would you like for yourself? Leaving aside those big-ticket dream items (financial windfall, fancy gadgets, a pony), and the existential ones (a real job, time to myself, inner peace), I guess I'd really like a set of these. It's the perfect gift: beautiful, useful, collectible, and far too costly to buy myself. :P
Muzzle of Bees! Wilco are hard at work on their fifth album, yeeeeeha! 30 tracks -- be still my <3. And speaking of which, thanks to Nathaniel for reading the EW version of this story to me the other day...I just like linking to the horse's mouth. ;)
"Note to every hipster on the Lower East Side: evacuate now." -- The excellent NYC site Gawker discovers an unsavory bit of gentrification going on in one of the last charmingly grubby sectors of Manhattan, thanks to one Grant King (more like Drag King, if I may be so bold) and the Corcoran real estate group. Yeah, people with $16 million to drop on an apartment are surely swayed by their realtor telling them "this is where to cool people want to be." I guess the revolution will in fact be luxury-commodified. Sigh.
I've just finished eating what I believe was the best burrito I've ever had. Bar none! I stumbled upon it at Whole Foods' apparently "theatrical" Prepared Foods department, otherwise known as the Land of Discretionary Lunchtime Spending. The innocuous label read, "Cuban Style Pork Burrito," and I thought, "Hmm, that could be kinda good." Little did I realize the deliciousness packed within: lightly spiced pulled pork, rice, scallions, jack cheese, and a luscious chunk of steamed plantain. *Homer drooling noise* If it weren't $5.99 and probably 1000 calories, I'd have one every day.
"And now it's time to play 'Who The Hell Said That?'" -- Will Durst presents his 2003 Totally Full of Crap Award. Way to go, Rumsfeld!
Jesus is my jailer -- hold on to your constitutional hats, people, Florida governor John Ellis Bush (the brother who's not President and not a felon) is converting one of the state prisons into a CHRISTIAN state prison! Do they even have a constitution down there in Florida? Do you have to pass eighth grade civics to become governor? Apparently not.
Two TIME magazine journalists were wounded in Iraq yesterday, when a grenade was thrown into their Humvee. Senior correspondent Michael Weisskopf apparently picked up the grenade and threw it from the vehicle, losing his hand (!) and suffering shrapnel injuries, but likely saving the lives of everyone aboard. Unbelievable...and oddly similar to the plot of John Irving's "The Fourth Hand," minus the lion.
I can't remember posting this before, yet I can't believe I haven't -- James Lileks, everyone's favorite Twin Cities columnist and Curator of Hideous Foods, has a very cool online vintage matchbook collection...neato!
"Is the phrase virgin forest insensitive to virgins?" -- a chuckle-worthy analysis of "the worst editing guidelines in the world," fomented by the Bias Police.
"Believing in America" -- another excellent article from the Boston Review, this time on the slow decline of the American Studies discipline.
'Tis the season for ugly Christmas lights...or in my neighborhood, abundant Christmas lights. Which might be the same thing.


I think Dennis Kucinich might be getting jerked around -- he had his set-up date today with the winner of an online contest to meet The Single Candidate, and it turns out that Ms. Gina Marie Santore of Maple Shade, NJ (?!) has a lot to say about the issues that matter...like the fact that she has a live-in boyfriend! Poor Dennis, he was on a pity date and he didn't even know it...
Nerrrrrrrd Alert -- Michigan State grad student "discovers" a "new" prime number...sort of. Forgive my lack of enthusiasm, but it seems to me that Michael Shafer's sole accomplishment here was installing the software that actually ran the calculation before anyone else -- he didn't write it, and as he gamely points out, "It was only a matter of time." Thus, of course, eventually there will be a new highest special number, right? Maybe this item was planted by the company that wants to sell tshirts and posters with the number on it...dear god.
While the X-Files were (allegedly) not real, the FBI's Zero Files are, and they are one nutty ride. This story gives me a warm glow, as I've been watching the X-Files movie at home and reliving those halcyon late-90s days...cue theme music... ** woo WOO woo woo WOO WOOOOOO... **
Nat the Word Spy pointed out to me yesterday that the term "regift" was so seamlessly absorbed into our culture and language that people immediately began using it without needing to attribute it to "Seinfeld." Well, Larry David may not mind this kind of free meme flow, but William Dodd probably will, now that he's patented a method of online regifting. Apparently it's a bit trickier than just re-wrapping that bath gel and passing it on to someone new...
As I plan to cram in a lot of holiday shopping tonight (along with a slew of domestic tasks and a trip to the laundromat, yeah right, that'll happen) this article from the NYPost comparing the big department stores in terms of service, crowds, and bathroom cleanliness during the pre-ConsumeMas sprees makes a fine cautionary tale.
The latest issue of The Boston Review features "Rebuilding After Violence," examinations of Somalia, Rwanda and Kosovo in the aftermath of brutal strife. Check it out.
Memphis might be hip. You've been warned.
The flu is all over the news this week, and everyone at the office is buzzing about the "dwindling" supply of flu vaccine. For a little shot (!) of sanity, I headed over to the CDC website, which provides enough info to satisfy the most compulsive hypochondriac. I'm not ready to storm the Board of Health myself, but still, the fact sheet on Who Should Get the Flu Shot was a little surprising to me: "older" people includes people 50 and up (though they may not all be at risk, it depends on their other medical problems), and any adults with asthma as well as pregnant women are recommended to get it, news to me. Hmmmm, I think I'll be sealing myself into a big Ziploc bag all winter...
"Adventurer Stranded in Antarctica" -- now that's not the sort of headline you expect to see every day. Jon Johanson seems to lead a very exciting life...when he's not flying around the world in the plane he built himself, he's a nurse-midwife! Let's hope he enjoys his stay with the stingy scientists and penguins...
On an entirely light and frivolous note, I was driving past the teeming Burlington Mall yesterday, and I had to laugh at the sign out front, which advertised Paws and Claus Day this Sunday. That's right, you can have your pet's picture taken with Santa. Just to get it out of the way quickly, let me ask -- what the hell kind of a world are we living in? Would it be appropriate to go and specifically mug these people and give their money to charity, since they seem to have enough of it to waste on this? *Froth froth* OK, I'm losing the light and frivolous and heading towards Lefty Grinch Girl...anyway, let's think of the poor Santa, he deserves hazard pay for this! Imagine the guy who brings his python...actually, that might look kinda cool.
"Gratuitous and unhelpful" indeed -- the furor is growing today over the U.S. policy banning countries who oppose the Iraq Whatever from competing for reconstruction contracts. It does seem strictly fair for the Pentagon to spend taxpayer money only on companies who cooperate with American policies -- setting aside for a moment the pesky idea that those policies are deeply flawed, and that the Pentagon also tends to reward big Republican campaign contributors, but I digress. The issue of Iraq's outstanding foreign debt will prove even trickier -- most of it is owed to France, Germany and Russia, who are not going to play the forgiving creditors if they are blocked from cashing in on post-war "opportunities" because they stood by their principles (setting aside, in that case, that rather dicey moral arrangement, i.e. if they could cash in wouldn't that be war profiteering from a war they refused to participate in?). To me this is a great example of how this whole mess is really just about money. Feh.


Riding the Omnibus to Nowhere -- check out the Daily Outrage's dressing down of the gargantuan Congressional spending bill now lumbering about on Capitol Hill, including provisions for squelching opposition to drug law reform, and an NRA-backed stipulation to destroy gun purchase records after 24 hours. Now that's just what we need in this country, more privacy in our gun-purchasing -- just ask John Muhammad and Lee Malvo!
The Onion AV Club has posted it's Least Essential Albums of 2003 -- and Russell Crowe has, unfortunately, made the list. When he gets time away from making movies, flexing his excellent thighs, and other assorted celebrity activities, he plays in a band, 30 Odd Foot of Grunts...which in Australian apparently means "Marginally Better than Dogstar." O-u-c-h.
Counting Crows are "doofus rock"? Um, I thought that category was all sewn up.
"On TV, vows don't seem so sacred" -- Matthew Gilbert sharpens his knives before the fake-o reality wedding tonight.
How can something so silly be so amusing? Well to me, anyway. Decide for yourself at the Scratch 'n' Sniff site.
Here's another shamelessly poached Kottkean link: the "uncanny valley" as explained by The Word Spy, an excellent site I believe I need to add to my link list. Not only does the U.V. concept make me want to watch the heavily underrated "A.I." again -- since that's one of the central premises of the film -- it makes me think of the fantastic new phrase circulating at my house, which I'll now share with all of you...has it been one of those days at work? Annoying coworkers, endless projects, bad soup in the cafeteria? And is there nothing but a hungry cat and a pile of dirty dishes/laundry/movies waiting for you at home? Well friend, on nights like that, you need to relax, unwind, and "take a dip in Lake Me"! We have Amy to thank for this bonne phrase...
Jason Kottke's post today on his foray into book cover design led me to the astonishing discovery that CafePress.com, those purveyors of goofy bumper stickers, t-shirts, and totebags to every blogger and her brother out there, also does on-demand book publishing. You get an ISBN number and everything...think of the possibilities..."The Angus Index, buy your copy wherever books are sold!" Hmmmm...
Last night at our weekly Scrabble matchup, I suffered one inglorious defeat to Peter by about 100% (149 to 303, or something), but then rallied to win the seond game by a few points -- by playing, wait for it..."poo." Now, this wasn't my finest Scrabble vocabulary moment, of course; let the record reflect that I've played "serif," "argyle," stinted," "guilder" and my trademark "bezels" in the last few months too. But even worse -- we never looked it up, but apparently "poo" is NOT in the Scrabble Dictionary! Quadruple embarassment! I'll blame Peter for playing "pee" in the first game (which *is* acceptable) and setting the scatological tone. Sigh...sometimes those pesky three-letter words come in handy, so study up!
I think I've reached full blogging saturation, people -- last night, I dreamed of something I wanted to post to my blog, and of course upon awakening I couldn't remember it for the life of me. Horror!

So in the meantime, check out one of my favorite writers, R.W. Apple, analyzing the Gore endorsement of Howard Dean yesterday -- and a few juicy tidbits of gossip from the campaign trail.


Katha Pollitt writes poetry -- who knew? I am usually savoring her acerbic columns in The Nation (and here's an excellent one on the gay marriage issue)...but this will do nicely too.
The Most Annoying Christmas Songs of 2003 -- each one worse than the last, and the San Francisco '49ers are not even at the bottom! :-o
A movie based on a novel based on a painting is opening on Friday. Discuss.
Do writers take more drugs than the rest of us, or do they just like writing about them? Hmmmm...
Yet another reason to visit Japan ASAP -- the Ramen Noodle Museum!
Why get married (or shop) at Wal-Mart when you can have a performance art happening there? Kudos to these UGA students for shaking it up in the "fluorescent-lit wasteland"! (For extra amusement, be sure to read the one "Reader Comment" at the bottom.)
I'm a little behind the pack in posting this one, but really, is it ever too late to criticize a fake football game advertising, oddly, Dodge trucks, to be broadcast on pay-per-view for $20 during halftime of the SuperBowl? No, it isn't -- when the "game" will be played by lingerie-clad supermodels, that is. Perhaps Dodge shareholders would be better served by the company simply sending a stripper to the home of each and every man in in America on that sacred Sunday. Gee, what will the actual halftime show have to stoop to in order to keep viewers -- Justin Timberlake kissing Steven Tyler? Synchronized striptease by the Olsen Twins? Kangaroo court trial of Michael Jackson on the 50 yard line, followed by stoning? Next year, why even have the football game at all -- just show five hours of Cinemax porn and beer commercials, and surely the ratings would be at an all-time high -- and the game can be on pay-per-view. Gaaahhhh.

UPDATE: Vent your spleen by reading the mealymouthed apologia of Mitch Mortaza, brainiac behind the Lingerie Bowl: "We don't want to compromise the girls." GRRRR! First of all, was I misinformed, or will there only be WOMEN participating in this shenanigan, not girls? Second...oh LT, why, why?? I think I'll be sending off some fiery email today to the board of Daimler-Chrysler...I'll give you a "refreshing, sexy alternative," Mortaza! :P
Even on reality TV, nice guys apparently finish last. Not that I watched one second of this show, but apparently last night on the finale of "Average Joe" the blond cheerleader picked the generic cute guy (who lives at home with his parents) over the dorky, less-cute guy, shocker! There is a flipside phenomenon, though: men who can't stay away from dating crazy women (at least in New York). I think the Boston version of "crazy" is "twenty year old."
Oh my, are The Pixies reuniting? And opening for the Red Hot Chili Peppers?!? Hmmm...maybe, and maybe not. Love those internet rumors...
Is there really "Bush hatred" out there, being fanned by the blogs of Democrats? Perhaps...it's pretty funny to read this article with the "Anyone But Bush 2004" pop-up ad on the left, though...
And just in time for your holiday shopping/pet-tormenting needs, check out this array of Japanese cat costumes! And by that I mean, costumes for your cat made (and quite hilariously promoted) in Japan, not a costume for a human to dress up as a Japanese cat. Oh, just click the link already. Thanks Peter!
What's wrong with this picture?
"Howard Zinn and Thom Yorke have never done lunch, waved to each other along the red carpet, or even had a conversation. But what if they did?" Here's your chance to find out. Thanks, AlterNet!
Now that we are T-minus one week 'til Lord of the Rings Trilogy Tuesday, we may contemplate a possible prequel to the series, i.e. "The Hobbit." If Peter Jackson can make the film, surely we will all go see it -- after we see his forthcoming "King Kong" remake, of course. In the meantime, some fans simply couldn't wait and made their own (rather professional) "trailer." Dear me.
I am back on the scene, after too much snow and spinning tires, grrrrrrrr...note to self: when the UPS truck gets stuck on your street, you know it's not just your imagination that they never came to plow. Anyway, now that I'm here at the office (and I may stay here to avoid driving across the glacier again tonight), it's time to blog some of the big news of today: Al Gore is endorsing Howard Dean for President today. When I heard the sonorous voice of Carl Kassell announcing this on NPR this morning, my first thought was, "Another kick in the teeth for Kerry!" But of course, Kerry's not even part of the equation; the real recipient of the diss is Joe Lieberman, Gore's former running mate for Pete's sake...there's plenty of analysis to be had, but I think the bottom line is that Joe should've maybe waited a week before signing that lease...


Yet more challenges for American troops in Iraq: Leishmaniasis! Good grief, 120 degree heat, unchecked guerilla warfare, and now this. Ugh.
Since we seem to be celebrating all things vaguely tacky today, say hello to The T&A Gentlemen's Car Wash, in Memphis. All aboard -- next stop: Hell.
In Unsurprising News today, it's official, Sofia Coppola and Spike Jonze are headed to Splitsville. But this link is more notable for it's many irritating attributes of Celebrity McNews: annoying half-pseudonym of writer ("Joal"? Give me a break); bad puns in headline and opening line; random jokey/tacky reference in last paragraph; breathless, insubstantial tone to rival the best faux journalists. B-l-e-g-h.

Dear god, another example has appeared -- this time for a happier occasion, Danny Elfman's marriage to Bridget Fonda...which surely makes him the envy of all nerdy young composers.

On a related note, check out Banterist's rant, "Making It, Made Easy": "Celebrity of late has been handed out en masse, like driver’s licenses." I'd say it's more like fake I.D. driver's licenses.
In lieu of the Friday Five (since there isn't one today), I'll take this seemingly innocuous 20 Questions quiz on my own personal regional English dialect...poached directly from the LiveJournal of the devilishly clever O.B. Jonathan:

1. A body of water, smaller than a river, contained within relatively narrow banks. A stream.
2. What the thing you push around the grocery store is called. A cart -- though I always prefer a basket.
3. A metal container to carry a meal in. A lunchbox (one word, folks).
4. The thing that you cook bacon and eggs in. Hmmm, could be the microwave, but I'll say a pan.
5. The piece of furniture that seats three people. If it's in the parlor, then it's a sofa. :)
6. The device on the outside of the house that carries rain off the roof. That would be the downspout.
7. The covered area outside a house where people sit in the evening. At my parents' house, it's the screenporch, but I think they're getting at a patio.
8. Carbonated, sweetened, non-alcoholic beverages. Sweet nectar of life! uh, that'd be (diet) soda.
9. A flat, round breakfast food served with syrup. Pancakes.
10. A long sandwich designed to be a whole meal in itself. A sub, baby!
11. The piece of clothing worn by men at the beach. swim trunks (hopefully not a Speedo).
12. Shoes worn for sports. Sneakers.
13. Putting a room in order. At home I call this "puttering," but I guess it's really "straightening up"?
14. A flying insect that glows in the dark. A lightning bug.
15. The little insect that curls up into a ball. A pillbug! My favorite!
16. The children's playground equipment where one kid sits on one side and goes up while the other sits on the other side and goes down. A see-saw -- sworn enemy of plus-size grammar school gals everywhere.
17. How do you eat your pizza? With mushrooms, and sometimes sausage and ricotta. If only I could have it delivered from the best pizza place in the universe, sigh...Pini's will have to suffice.
18. What's it called when private citizens put up signs and sell their used stuff? A garage sale (even sans garage).
19. What's the evening meal? Now I call it dinner; as a kid, supper was at 6pm weekdays, dinner was Sunday at noon.
20. The thing under a house where the furnace and perhaps a rec room are? The cellar -- boooooo!
"They have called it Colymbosathon ecplecticos, which means 'amazing swimmer with a large penis.'" Well, "large" for a 5mm-long, 425 million-year-old fossilized water flea, anyway. Thanks to Peter for the unquestionably finest BBC headline (and second photo caption, too) of the day!
My boyfriend is in love with Janeane Garofalo, people. Conveniently, I am too. : )

UPDATE: Over at Salon today, Damien Cave has a provocative article about Janeane and her fellow travelers on the Tell Us the Truth Tour, and how acts like this are possibly alienating as many fresh young liberal voters as they're recruiting...or not, in my opinion.
Monty Python's Eric Idle is on a grand, "Greedy Bastard" tour of North America, and is keeping a very funny journal along the way, sort of Bill Bryson meets...well...Monty Python. Ahem. Anyway, may I note that Idle is not my personal favorite Python, though he has some of the best characters...I will always be a sucker for Michael Palin, I literally cannot even look at him on screen without giggling, it's that face he makes, hee hee hee hee!
There is a god (of design, anyway) and his name is Vern -- that's right, everyone's favorite anal retentive architect-designer from Trading Spaces, Vern Yip, has an online store! Bring the magic of Vern -- his snug black tshirts, spiky hair, unerring eye, and vaguely Southern ability to be gracious and bossy at the same time -- to your house...for me, that would take the form of this pillow. La la la.
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow...we are expecting the first nor'easter of the season here in Boston, so go buy your bread and milk now! To keep your spirits up while shoveling tomorrow, check out this tale of technology triumphing over law enforcement bureaucracy: NJ driver renews registration online during traffic stop. While the copper was writing out the ticket for an expired registration, the guy called his friend and used his credit card to renew online, thus avoiding the towing charges. SWEET!


And to round out our international news-o-rama, let's have a look at two really random -- and really Australian -- articles on the implications of sex and gender on celebrity. To wit, both screen siren Naomi Watts and rugby player Jonny Wilkinson are fighting the perception that they are not sexy/macho enough...whatever. I love that this is front page news in the Sydney Morning Herald, and I love the increasing weirdness as you get to the end of each article...hee.
Like anyone cares, the Grammy nominations were announced today, and once again they offer up a mind-numbing blend of frivolous and serious choices. I think the Rap Album category is the most exciting, with five strong artists (Missy Elliott, 50 Cent, Jay-Z, Outkast and The Roots)...the music snob in me leans towards The Roots, yet who can resist that 50 Cent lyric, "I'll do whatever it takes, I love you like a fat kid loves cake"? And then there's Missy, arguably the most influential of the five...but then Jay-Z's supposed to be retiring/pouting over his lack o' respect, and Outkast are probably just as genre-pushing as The Roots, and with better clothes...it's a toss-up! Meanwhile over in the sad, sad Album of the Year category, we have the possibility of these fools beating out The White Stripes, gaaahhh! I'd rather Justin Timberlake win than a fake-goth pseudo-Christian band. My final $0.02: much as I loved "8 Mile" that song is old news, Eminem, and thus I am all about Beyonce for Record of the Year. Once again, like anyone cares.
"The Bird Was Perfect But Not For Dinner" -- the Washington Post reveals that the Rockwellian uber-turkey President...uh...Turkey was shown hoisting on the front page after his Thanksgiving surprise visit to our troops in Iraq was -- *gasp!*-- a "trophy turkey"! The troops were fed from their usual chow line steam tables, and apparently Georgie Boy grabbed the bird in a fit of extemporaneous mugging for the AP cameras...or, alternatively, not, and really, who cares? Much as I enjoy the tackier foibles of this Administration (see: the "Mission Accomplished[?]" banner), does it really pay to make hay out of this? There are far darker dealings going on at the White House, and I'm starting to think that the whole Bush-as-Quaylesque-media-chew-toy thing is only working in their favor. Best line: "White House officials do not deny that they craft elaborate events to showcase Bush, but they maintain that these events are designed to accurately dramatize his policies and to convey qualities about him that are real. " Let's play Count the Oxymorons!
The (UK) Literary Review's Bad (Literary) Sex Award shortlist exerpts -- warning: cringeworthy unerotica ahead. Query, could any mainstream media outlet in the US publish this?
Play on, T musicians -- the MBTA wisely decided to rachet down its proposed ban of amplified music on the subway platforms of Boston, after much outcry from riders, fans, and some famous buskers like Tracy Chapman and Mary Lou Lord. Of course, trumpets and "trumpet-like instruments" are now banned, and there are "designated areas" for players in the stations -- not including the primo spot in Davis Square where the excellent Rachel McCartney usually sets up. Meh.
The fight for "potty parity" -- oh...boy. There's a saying in the legal profession, "Bad facts make bad law." Well, bad puns have the same effect...not to mention tired, sexist cliches. Yeesh. But then again...a 2:1 restroom ratio? Hmmmmm...
This is why Cary Tennis is the best advice writer in the universe:

Yes, her body, but not just her body, in her body but not just in her body, the woman but not just the woman -- the hair, the eyes, the sweat, the fold of flesh, the memories, the voice, the idea of her, the person she is, the things they've done, the wounds they've given, the food they've eaten, the walks they've taken, like falling to their deaths the whole thing flashes before them, and that's the ultimate thing, that's where in that moment it would be so silly for him to think, gee, I wish she weighed 3 pounds less, I wish I could see her hipbones, I wish her ribs were showing, that would really turn me on.

"Queen Elizabeth mingled with hundreds of lepers today and found them all cheerful" -- in 1956, that was the headline of QE's first trip to Nigeria, then still a British colony. This week she's visiting again, under only slightly less surreal conditions. Because of security concerns, she will not visit any actual Nigerians, but instead walk through a Potemkin village, a BBC television set with actors standing in for the hoi polloi. Um, OK.
Woohoo, send me my $12.60! The gigantic class action lawsuit against the record industry and music stores for CD price-fixing has been settled, and if you, like me, signed up as a plaintiff online about three eons ago, you'll be getting your fat settlement check...which i plan to put towards this. Thank you, corporate America!
In some not-at-all international news, It's All Happening is up and running -- our little guest blogger Nat is all grown up! As for the cryptic title, you might want to investigate and/or sign up at this site.
Former Liberian president Charles Taylor is now the Whitey Bulger of Interpol -- a "red notice" has been issued for his arrest to face charges of crimes against humanity. Taylor is hiding out in Nigeria after stepping down from his long, violent rule to, ironically, try to bring stability to West Africa. The BBC has a very juicy profile of Taylor, an "Americo-Liberian" with a degree in economics from Bentley College right here in Waltham, MA.
I've decided today will be International News Day here at TAI -- along with our usual twaddle, that is. So let's turn our attention to India, the world's largest democracy and one of the predicted global economic powerhouses of the 21st century...or as someone once opined, "Too large to succeed, too important to fail." In the regional elections held Monday, the Hindu-nationalist BJP party swept three important states, setting up a showdown general election next year for Sonia Gandhi, leader of Congress. And speaking of female Indian politicians, here's an article on that very group from today's NYTimes: "progress or window-dressing?" One could surely ask the same question here in the US.


Just in time for the holidays, select your own custom box of 64 Crayola crayons! Mine includes: the basic ROY G. BIV seven, 50 black, 6 silver, and 1 "radical red" (who could resist?). :)
Over at McSweeney's, there's some new new food.
Try the Substitution Chart for your daily dose of surrealism. 1 wasp = 14 ants -- right on.
By now you may have heard about 7 year-old Marcus McLarin, a Louisiana second-grader who was disciplined at school for using the word "gay" -- not as an insult, but to describe his parents, i.e. his mom and her partner Heather. His teacher apparently excoriated him for using a "bad word" (!) and now the school district is resisting an ACLU intervention for an apology to the family. The school board president opines to the Washington Post, "I feel like any discussion by a child of a parent's sexual orientation is inappropriate." Sure it is -- I bet all the kids talking about their het parents' anniversaries, re-marriages, new babies, or weekend afternoon nap schedule get into trouble as well. Right. Perhaps he should read about this shocking new trend of gay characters on TV -- or at least check out the dorkiest picture of Carson Kressley yet. Or read Dahlia Lithwick's notes on what's really undermining the "sanctity" of marriage (short answer: freedom).
What happens two weeks from today, friends? As if I have to ask -- that's right, "The Return of the King" opens (for those of you not coming to the Trilogy Tuesday marathon, of course...muahahahahahaaaaa!). So it's a perfect time to read about the brainy, creative friendship between J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis in today's Salon (get the day pass to read it all). And to whet your whistle even more, check out this BBC article on the Wellington, NZ premiere of the movie, and attendant hype.
Happy Wednesday -- enjoy this santorum wrap-up over at Savage Love. Either you already know what I'm talking about, or you might not want to know...caveat Index-er! :P


And now, the NYPost titillating tidbit o' the day -- they've actually managed to be a bit subtle this time, too:


Democratic presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich is trailing in the polls, but he's first in the hearts of left-leaning vegetarians. The Ohio congressman hosts a meat-free fund-raiser Sunday afternoon at Counter on First Avenue featuring "organic wine and beer," French lentil loaf, breaded mushrooms and other treats. Veggie vixens interested in diminutive, twice-divorced politicians would do well to stop by. Kucinich recently described his ideal first lady as a "dynamic, outspoken woman who wants world peace, health care for all and a full-employment economy." Go get 'em girls!

I say, give Dennis a break and let him court the veggie vote -- any man who's forthright enough to post a FAQ that highlights his biggest flaws (rather than spinning generic platitudes) on his campaign site is a-OK by me.
One of the things I want to add to the Index (besides a reader-requested comment button) is a search function, so that I could more easily see if I ever did post Blode and the Giant Bee, unquestionably the most diverting animated music video thingy ever made. Be prepared to be singing "giant beeeeeeeeeee, giant beeeeeeeeeeeeee..." all afternoon...
I've purchased 29.2% of these. Discuss.
Mr. Picassohead -- more arty click-n-drag fun than should be allowed on a not quite snow day.
I just looked up the actual Friday Five from last week, and it's highly relevant to my online activities today, so I'll run it:

1. Do you like to shop? Why or why not? I grew up in New Jersey, where the state pastime is shopping, so I am not immune to the lure of the spree. But I like to window shop, i.e. browse with no intention of buying (and/or while too broke to buy anything anyway -- this works particularly well in antiques stores). I have laser-like efficiency and speed at the grocery store or Target, though, I like to get in and out ASAP. And I absoultely loathe shopping for clothes and shoes, so that takes care of that.

2. What was the last thing you purchased? Yesterday I ordered some books and other holiday gifts online, and I stopped by the grocery store after work for a few things.

3. Do you prefer shopping online or at an actual store? Why? Online for the discounts and convenience, actual stores for speed.

4. Did you get an allowance as a child? How much was it? We sort of got an allowance, in the $5/week range, but we were always pestering my mom for funds anyway. I worked at the public library after school too, for about $4.50/hr., so I had money for the 3pm ritual of Diet Cokes and french fries with my friends at the Hunan Garden restaurant a few blocks from school...ah, good times...

5. What was the last thing you regret purchasing? Hmmm, it might be my law degree...naaahhh, I'd say it's either the Christmas lights that immediately stop working, or the clogs that just don't quite fit. Gaahhh!
It's official, IKEA is coming to Massachusetts next year...in a town beginning with the letter S...that's not Somerville, of course. Stoughton, MA will host the "Swedish phenomenon" and god help the traffic on the south shore. Somerville's local gadfly citizen action group has the Assembly Square IKEA proposal (now approaching 12 years in the making) tied up in court until 2006, yet the company claims it still wants to try to build there also. Whatever, I just want my tealights.
Ho ho ho -- homemade Kahlua. Seriously.
For the Weird Ad of the Day, check out "Oy To The World," a klezmer Christmas (!) album I found advertised on Talking Points Memo...for some random reason. I have to admit, a klezmer version of "Good King Wenceslas" would have to rock.
"Fair and Balanced Journalism (When It's Opposite Day)" -- that would be Faux News Channel. Countdown to lawsuit in 5, 4, 3...
In classic carnival freakshow flimflam fashion, the Museum of Food Anomalies promises a lot more than it delivers...but it's still a fine idea. I'll keep my eye out for one of those weird hollow Peanut M&M's with no peanut inside.

The American Package Museum, on the other hand, is even cooler than it appears to be. Old timey products and packages -- my aunt actually still has a tube of Camphor Ice just like this one!
The first true snowfall of the year is here, and what a disaster it is -- it took me an hour and 45 minutes to get to work this morning, which is approximately 400% longer than normal. Plus I spun about 100 degrees on some ice right near my house (way to go with salting the roads, Somerville), ugh. So here's the perfect link for today: Car Talk's Winter Driving Tips, including everything from turning into a skid to carrying Doritos and Robert Caro's biography of LBJ in the trunk. Brrrrr!


Gertrude Ederle, the first woman and arguably the fastest person ever to swim the English Channel, died yesterday at age 98. I was utterly fascinated by this feat when I was a kid -- I can still remember the Highlights magazine article on it, including a description of the support boat lowering baby bottles full of soup over the side for her to drink in the sea! Amazing.
Things you have to believe to be a Republican today. Hee hee.
"We became not only the generation that invented the phrase, 'never trust anyone over thirty,' we proved it." -- Sam Smith, editor of The Progressive Review, offers an apology to younger Americans on behalf of all Baby Boomers. Well, it's about time!
Read all about the Scandale du Buisson du Jour at the Daily Outrage -- Neil "Savings & Loan" Bush has apparently been dallying with southeast Asian call girls and taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in shady pay from Chinese business partners tied to Jiang Zemin, China's president. Woah! What's more, check out New Bridge Strategies, a company founded by Bushie insiders to "take advantage of business opportunities in the Middle East following the conclusion of the US-led war in Iraq." Take advantage, indeed.
Would you like fries with your focaccia sandwich and your latte? McDonald's introduces the McCafe -- a "faux-hipster espresso bar, complete with comfy chairs and Frank Sinatra on the sound system," according to the SF Chronicle. I visited a McCafe in Sydney, and to me it's no worse than Starbucks, if a little weird because the iconic logo still crops up and you're sort of looking around for a big plastic clown. Call me a middlebrow suburbanite at heart (OK, wait...don't), but I think we could do a lot worse as a culture than having admittedly ersatz cafe culture cropping up at the mini-mall -- how easily people forget the alternatives.
The NYTimes Magazine 2003 Design Issue is chock full of neato -- an excellent article on what's really inside an iPod (hint: not a gnome); another on retro-accessory It Designer Kate Spade's work for Song, the new airline; and a fantastic reworking of the campaign slogans and posters of the Democratic candidates -- this one's my favorite, sadly.
Bill Watterson is not only the genius behind Calvin and Hobbes, he's the J.D. Salinger of Cleveland.
Well, the Poultry Holiday is done, and the Winter Holidays are coming soon -- take your pick of the many gift-based options, or go for the full-on pagan Saturnalia ritual, it's all good. As I catch my breath and start assembling my many lists, I think the time is right to consider the dangerous toy. The annual Dangerous Toy List is out, featuring toys that look nice enough but in fact could choke, smack, impale, paralyze, poison, or otherwise hurt your kid. Who thought inedible candy-scented plastic glop would be a good plaything? Who??