Dump Dick! -- is the VP a "millstone" around President Incumbentito's neck?
W.'s a deserter! -- or is Michael Moore playing with the facts again?
Evolve, Georgians! -- state Education Superintendent wants to replace the e-word with the phrase "biological changes over time," outraging liberals and conservatives both. Says her spokesman: "The discussion of evolution is an age-old debate." Uh, no it isn't.
Australia sucks! -- so says Germaine Greer...who's got more than one screw loose, if you ask me. Oz is none too happy with her right now, either.
Exploding whale! -- And it's dead. BBC Gross-Out Photo Du Jour Warning!
Four hours and ten minutes! -- The Extended Edition DVD of "Return of the King" is coming! In November, of course.
Yoda stolen! -- What is this crazy world coming to? :P


"His fame depends on others' failures" -- hey look, it's the Ctrl-Alt-Delete Guy!
It's Indiana Jones meets "The DaVinci Code" -- the amazing tale of discovering 200-year-old Native American murals at Mission Dolores, the historic church in San Francisco. Neat-o.

And speaking of "The DaVinci Code," my weekend plans have mutated into a visit to the Portland Museum of Art -- a well-curated and diverse little place, that is showing not only a retrospective of Eliot Porter photographs (my mom's favorite, hence the visit), but...wait for it...the "Mona Lisa"! Seriously! OK, it's a duplicate, painted in the same period as the original by Leo himself or maybe a student. But still, hey, pretty cool for Maine!
Look out, it's the Apostolypse!!! -- total grammar/geek alert. (LLL)
"She could do your $70,000-a-year programming job for the wages of a Taco Bell counter jockey" -- a timely article from Wired on the booming computer industry in India, which is siphoning/absorbing jobs from the Great American Tech Downsizing. In India, the $11,000/year salary for taking over a $75,000/yr American programmers job amounts to 22 times the average Indian per capita income. Now, in a country with a billion people, many in abject poverty, that's a lot of money -- but is it unethical for American companies to reduce HR expenses this way? Are they simultaneously abandoning their American workers and exploiting the developing techocracy of India? Probably.
"Will F*cked Company list Howard Dean's campaign?" -- Ouch, Gothamist...ouch. Dean is in Al Gore 911 mode this morning -- or is it "Bursting the 90's Tech Boom" mode? As someone -- OK, I -- said yesterday, "Politics is not about 'fair.'" :\
Now that is one badass frog.
Political (snow)fallout in Somerville -- the city I reside in has a certain old-school flavor, and yesterday's brouhaha over the no-show snowstorm Tuesday night was a classic example. Our brand new mayor, Joe Curtatone, expecting a foot of snow, decided to enforce a new snow emergency policy -- sounds benign, but the result was 200 cars towed and 3,000 tickets written (at $50 a pop!) on a night when not one flake of snow fell. Mother Nature may be capricious, but Joe isn't -- he refuses to forgive the tickets...good P.R. move there. If everyone paid the fines (and there's no way in hell that's going to happen), the city would reap nearly $180,000 -- what's to stop Hizzoner from declaring "snow emergencies" in August?! I'd guess it will cost the city most of that amount in administrative costs to process hundreds of ticket appeals, and to track down the resisters who don't pay. These are the times I'm glad I rent my apartment.

UPDATE: Curtatone caves!


"The rose always goes in the front, big guy" -- let's hear it for Kazuhito Tadano, a minor league pitching prospect for the Cleveland Indians, who once appeared in a gay pr0n video and thus ruined his career. It's less of a problem here than in Japan, apparently -- "If anything, he's guilty of being naive," says his agent. Of course he's not actually gay, but who knows what MLB stars this might encourage?
"I got down low and took his legs out." -- Boo-yah, Al Franken: he tackled a heckler (and "Democratic pre-candidate" Lyndon Larouche supporter) at a Howard Dean rally. Seriously! Maybe he can go on the road with this guy...
Gustatory note: the Rebecca's Cafe in my building makes the best peanut butter bars -- I allowed myself to purchase the smallest one in the display at lunch. How could they taste so good? All they have in them is peanut butter, butter, brown sugar, flour, eggs, and chocolate chips. Oh wait...duh.
"As an advertiser, you don't want to alienate 20 or 30 or 40 million women via the catfight beer ad" -- awww, that's sweet. Looks like this year the SuperBowl's underwriters will be pitching to the ladies as well as the beer-swilling, impotent men. After last year's parade of appalling Bud Lite ads, that's a relief. Surely this little diversion will pull in the female viewers too -- if they're not too busy rustling up snacks for the menfolk, that is. And look, the NFL itself is reaching out to its feminine fans with "NFL 101" classes...hmmm, remind me why I like baseball, again? Sheesh.

But speaking of the SuperBowl, it's going to be a battle of the one-pot meals, according to the NYTimes, anyway. Mark Bittman (the supergenius behind "How To Cook Everything" -- a cookbook I've had for 5 years and have yet to look something up in and not find it) prepares head-to-head Carolina chicken bog and Boston baked beans. Go Pats (and beans)!
Easy Reader for President -- Ever wonder what Howard Dean's favorite book is (of course, today it's probably this one)? What's on Wes Clark's nightstand? And of course, whether President Terr-ism can even read at all? It's all here...shudder. And conveniently, Kerry, Kucinich, Lieberman and Sharpton's faves are listed on BookSense. Choose wisely, America.
"IKEAphobia and its discontents" -- Adam Greenfield has it just right: if your life sucks, it's not Nike's fault. Right on!
Help spread the internet love -- here's a story which grows bigger and better by the day. Last week, I read on Jen Hunter's LiveJournal about Rebecca Ballard, a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend in Georgia, who lost everything in a devastating house fire. She and her daughters and brother (and pet rabbit) got out, but they were left with nothing. The LiveJournal and other internet communities rallied to get donations of cash and clothes -- but of course, the further the story spread, the more skeptical some folks became. Today the local paper ran a story on the fire and the outpouring of web-charity, thanks to PayPal -- which is what I used to send a few bucks, and you can too, now that the media has authenticated the tale! It's good to see some generosity in this world...I know there are many needy people and organizations out there, but I'd rather give to this family than to these twits, for example.
"Kerry Defeats Dean in New Hampshire" -- that's how the NYTimes headed this article on the front webpage. Uh, didn't he defeat Clark, Lieberman, Edwards and Kucinich too?? Grrrrrrr. Anyway, while you're reading about Kerry's "growing inevitability" as the Democratic nominee, think about that pesky political bugaboo, the margin of error. Amateur info-god Nathaniel has prepared an awesome multicolored exposé on the manipulation of polling data -- bravo!


From water and salt to fake Atkins candy -- check out The Food Timeline, a fascinating look at what humans have eaten throughout the evolution from prehistoric hunting and gathering to, uh, post-modern hunting and gathering. There's also a companion Culinary History Timeline, on how and why (and how well...or not) we cook things to eat. Hours of delicious diversion!

All-Atkins UPDATE: try some of these meaty treats from The Onion. Mmmm, Pigs-Sans-A-Blanket.
"Sex Slaves of West 43rd Street" -- it seems that Slate editor Jack Shafer has a bone to pick with the NYTimes magazine and Peter Landesman, who wrote the stunning article on international sex slavery I posted on yesterday. Shafer finds the article thinly sourced, and filled with "elastic," unprovable statistics about just how many individuals might be involved in the trade: "Nobody really knows the true answer, but we do know whose interests are served by any inflation of the numbers." Um, I think the interests of the children held in captivity -- whether there are 10 or 10,000 or 100,000 of them -- are served by investigative journalism, right? I admit the Times article was oddly lacking in hard data, but I think that's partly the nature of this unseen crime. Frankly, I'd rather have a sensationalist ring the alarm bell, and then be backed up by future investigations -- better to call people's attention to it at all, than to wait for hard evidence that may not be available.
I quote Ed Rooney: "He is just leading you down the primrose path." That'd be our President I speak of -- on Friday, yet another blow was dealt to the wee house of cards that was the "case for war" in Iraq. David Kay, who was chief weapons inspector for the C.I.A., resigned in disgust, because of course there is no WMD program to investigate. Allow me to quote: "Whatever was left of an effective weapons capability, he said, was largely subsumed into corrupt money-raising schemes by scientists skilled in the arts of lying and surviving in a fevered police state." Maybe this will start the dominos falling...Colin Powell, I'm looking your way...
Memo to Tom Daschle: WAKE UP! What do the Republicans have to do to get investigated, set fire to the Senate chamber carpet while hosting a clothing-optional kegger for Osama bin Laden? Latest treachery: GOP members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have been infiltrating Democrats' computer files, including strategy memos, and circulating them to other GOP'ers and slimy pundits like Robert "Valerie Plame who?" Novak. I hate to put it this way, but the Dems have nothing to lose these days, so let's start throwing our Congressional weight (if any) around!
Ahem...allow me to introduce: COMMENTS on The Angus Index! As you can see below, each entry now features a Comments Link -- click it, and the nice people at HaloScan provide space for you to vent your spleen, or your approbation -- including smiley faces: in the comment box, you'll see a blue question mark next to the word "Comment," click it at the end of your comment to add an icon. Even for an HTML novice like me, this was easy to install -- and it's free! Woohoo! Comment away!
"Always fat women! Now we want thin women." -- So says an eligible bachelor of Mauritania, where the tradition of overfeeding young girls to produce desirably obese wives is fading. Incontrovertible proof that "beauty" is socially constructed, no?
Music and art are permanently cancelled, but football still rules -- here's an Obscure Store link I can totally relate to. A small township in NJ is thinking of buying each of their winning H.S. football players a $450 gold championship ring. Meanwhile, the band parents had to raise their own money to save the annual school musical. In my NJ hometown, I attended the largest high school in the state, and we were awash in federal funding, but there was still incredible inequity like this. We didn't even have girls' soccer, only boys', until my senior year -- allegedly because of "lack of interest," but really it was just a lazy athletic director. Both girls' soccer and volleyball players had to purchase their own uniform shirts (though admittedly we got court shoes for free), while the football, (boys') basketball, and baseball players (who won their respective state championships each year I was there) got loads of free equipment (warmups, sweatshirts, sneakers, bags, varsity jackets, etc.) and, incidentally, hardly ever attended class. By the time I graduated the Board of Ed. decided every championship team or activity, from football to track to golf, had to get the same awards -- which is why I own a Jostens ring from the debate team.
It's that special winter Tuesday, folks -- no, not the New Hampshire primary, the Oscar nominations have been announced, and it's going to be a quality ceremony this year! Plenty of excellent costume opportunities among the Best Picture picks alone: The Return of the King, of course; Master and Commander; Lost in Translation; Mystic River; and Seabiscuit. From elf to jockey, the choices are endless! Peter Jackson is up for Best Director, and I'm 99% certain he'll beat out Sofia Coppola -- who's only the third woman ever nominated in that category. The biggest snub of the year goes to Cold Mountain, which isn't nominated for Best Picture or Director, but has two entries in Best Song...hmmmmm. And the biggest surprise to me is the Best Original Screenplay nod for Finding Nemo, which might be a first for an animated movie. Let the hypefest begin!


Beer spill shorts out Iron Maiden concert. Brilliant.
"Most men feel very nervous about wearing a pocket square, they think that will make them effeminate. What will makeup make them feel like?" -- Are guys the new girls? Uh, I have no idea. But for the record, let me utterly debunk that "effeminate pocket square" notion -- it's hot, period.
"It's impossible for the eye to calculate how many orcs are on screen" -- a fascinating article from the CBC on using special effects to make a movie look cool, instead of real. It's such an interesting question -- why is it that some elaborate computer generated scenes are so flat and uninspiring, when the most obvious fakery can be beautiful, or hilarious? This also made me think of Quentin Tarantino's amazing use of fake stunts, animation, and cinema verite to convey violent imagery in different ways in Kill Bill -- a movie where the most fake parts become funny and the least fake parts are uncomfortably realistic. Hmmmmm...
Overthrow the tyranny of copyright! -- A little NYTimes overview of the turbulent world of I.P., which is where I earn my daily bread: "Once a dry and seemingly mechanical area of the American legal system [hey!], intellectual property law can now be found at the center of major disputes in the arts, sciences and politics." Woohoo!
Sex and Park City -- a catty recap of the "officially dead" Sundance film fest, written by a true Carrie wannabe.
Josh Marshall, the sage of Talking Points Memo, has a piece in The New Yorker on whether America qualifies as an "empire" these days. He's also covering the NH primary in his signature wry fashion: "Sometimes Led Zeppelin is more important than politics." Indeed!
Today, "The Unforbidden is Compulsory" kicks off over at Salon -- that'd be Dave Eggers' biweekly serialized political novel. Excellent!
"My boyfriend keeps asking if he can touch me..." -- over at GuidePosts For Teens, a Christian youth site, this qualifies as a big problem, and their advice? "Read 1 Corinthians 13 together"! Yeah, that should quash that youthful lust for good. Maybe if they get some of that federal pro-abstinence, pro-marriage funding, they'll come up with something more substantive. Yikes.
On this frosty Monday, there's time to catch up on some powerful stories from the Sunday papers -- actually, the Sunday magazines. Yesterday's Globe Mag featured "My Late-Term Abortion," by Gretchen Voss, at once a blistering indictment of the federal "Partial Birth Abortion" ban and the story of Voss and her husband dealing with the termination of their first pregnancy. Voss discovered her baby had a neural tube defect and would most likely live only a very short, painful life if she did not abort. As she puts it, "Everyone said, of course it's the right thing to do -- even my Catholic father and my Republican father-in-law, neither of whom was ever "pro-choice." Because suddenly, for them, it wasn't about religious doctrine or political platforms. It was personal -- their son, their daughter, their grandchild. It was flesh and blood, as opposed to abstract ideology, and that changed everything." Something our elected leaders in Washington haven't yet thought about, apparently...and another reason to march on Washington! You cannot read this piece and remain unmoved.

The NYTimes Mag ran a cover story bringing to light a far less headline-grabbing issue -- sex slavery, right in the house next door. My jaw dropped as I read about the practice of luring, kidnapping, or outright purchasing girls as young as 11 or 12, from Eastern Europe and Latin America, moving them into captivity in suburban America, and forcibly pimping them out to dozens of men each day. Several "brothels" like this were discovered in Union County, NJ -- including Elizabeth, where I grew up! These girls are beaten, drugged, psychologically abused, and of course repeatedly sexually assaulted -- all for profit by these international cartels. And apparently, Homeland Security doesn't see a problem -- to them it's a "vice" crime that gets lumped in with generic prostitution cases. I was literally shaking with anger and disbelief as I read this -- we have a half-assed war on drugs in this country, but we can't do anything about cutting the demand for underage sex slaves?! This is an international problem as well...sorry to bring all the bad news at once, but this is utterly appalling. Also, find out what's being done to combat this at International Justice Mission.


Holy drunken, electrocuted elephants! The weirdest, saddest story of the day -- but ironically the one with the most darkly hilarious photo caption, another BBC gem...
What about the content of his character? -- Here's one that should get just about everyone riled up: a high school in Omaha, where 56 of the 1,700 students are black. Students put up posters on Monday (MLK Day, don't forget -- apparently that means a hushed reverence falls across the land and we are forbidden to speak of "race" or color in any but the most mealymouthed terms) nominating a South African student to win the school's "Distinguished African-American Student Award." One hitch: the kid's white. Lots of uncomfortable squirming ensues. Discuss!
"What if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open." -- so wrote Muriel Rukeyser. In salute to yesterday's 31st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, neo-feminist Jennifer Baumgardner speaks out on projects like the March for Women's Lives this coming April in Washington, and the startling website I'mNotSorry.net, a place for women to tell all the reasons they made the right choice in terminating a pregnancy. Heavy stuff. I'm very keen on attending the march on behalf of the 34 Million Friends Campaign -- who's with me?
Memo to Dean -- act more like W.! August J. Pollack offers some Presidential pointers for Howard as crunch time approaches in N.H. I would add, "Replace Dr. Wife with Stepford Wife." That oughta do it.

Memo to Kerry -- act more like Elvis! The inimitable Molly Ivins gives her summation of Iowa and notes that the new frontrunner "could take the excitement out of a soccer riot." Yikes.
Here's a very up-to-the-minute sort of Friday Five -- for all the vigilant FF fans out there, Kim... :P

At this moment, what is your favorite...

1. ...song? Cannot stop singing "Alex Chilton" by The Replacements.

2. ...food? Still obsessed with Fruit Breezers. For actual food, I'll say spaghetti carbonara, since I've been successfully resisting eating any for weeks now (bad carbs, bad!).

3. ...tv show? American Idol!

4. ...scent? I used some of my Aveda Universal Styling Creme last night, for the first time in a while, and I'd forgotten how good it smells.

5. ...quote? "What she's got you couldn't spell, and what you have you used to have." -- Gerry the Scriptgirl in "The Barefoot Contessa." Ah, Mankiewicz.
Viva Lingua Romana -- in other words, Latin's not quite dead. What with Mel Gibson's all-Latin & Aramaic movie coming out, and Latin versions of children's classics providing snobby fun for those of us...ahem...who actually took Latin in school (a dwindling demographic if ever there was one) and enjoyed it (four years, baby!), there may be hope for continued relevance. Or, we can just keep using it for fun: "Credo Elvem Ipsum Etiam Vivere!"
If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck...it's unethical, Mr. Vice President! Thanks to the ever-alert Ohioan, Melissa, for this one -- it seems US Supreme Court Uberconservative Antonin Scalia went on a duck-hunting trip in Louisiana with none other than VP Dick "Prince of Darkness" Cheney. Aside from killing some ducks, and discussing their respective fiendish plots for world domination, they surely violated some rules -- since Cheney is involved in a case before the Court. But hell, even if he wasn't, in my view the executive and judicial branches should be growing on opposite sides of the tree, if you know what I mean. Feh.
President "Nothin' Fancy" gets his ribs tickled by the press corps -- I must give full credit to Perhaps-Not-So-Apolitical-After-All Nathaniel for spotting this story...and wow, it's a lulu. Best bit: "Terry, would you like something?" "An answer!" We've entered the era of the President actually trying to dodge his press entourage with meat, people.
Chicken Varitek, get ready for the big time -- I'm entering a slew of recipes in the Boston.com Recipe Rumble, so should you! Judged by Todd English?! I am there.
CBS: The Censorship Broadcasting Network? You may have followed the hoopla over MoveOn.org's political ad contest, "Bush in 30 Seconds." The winning ad is a subtle but powerful condemnation of the towering Bush deficit, and the effect it will have on future generations of American workers -- it's not some crazed Bush-hating rant, and Bush himself isn't even depicted. So why is this "too controversial" for CBS to broadcast during the SuperBowl? Who the hell knows -- this is the same network that takes ads from tobacco companies (and will broadcast an SuperBowl ad prepared by the White House), and cancelled its miniseries on the Reagans after the GOP grumbled it was "too biased." To be fair, CBS also rejected an ad from notoriously over-the-top animal rights group PETA, and technically they have the right to turn down paid advertising...except when they seem to be lapdogs of the corporate right, that is.


Global Warming -- bringing the next Ice Age to Boston? Hmmmm, what will these kooky climatologists think of next? That was sarcasm, folks -- to mask the dread!
Bizarre British good-girl dating tips -- and also, some amusing ones for less-good girls.
Face transplants -- important scientific, ethical and cultural proving ground, or just totally gross? You decide!
Dean's Yawp -- "reinforcement of a perceived character flaw," or should everyone just move on already? I vote for the latter. People seem to be quite hung up on that one guttural syllable...what kind of fairweather voter turns off his support for a candidate based on something like this? Oh right, the American kind. It peeves me no end that Democrats are stampeding around like this; let's hope we can get it together before the convention, or we'll look like a bunch of ninnies going into the general. I've got nothing against Kerry -- he's my senator, for Pete's sake. But he's run a lackluster campagin, up until he started poaching ideas from Dean, anyway. He may be "Presidential" but he's also a rich, entrenched, millionaire Senator, and deeply boring...mybe that's what makes him so "Presidential," hmmm...I think maybe now's the time to think back to when Kerry voted for the war in Iraq, people...or we can just let CNN and Zobgy cast our votes for us, how would that be? Grrrrrrrrrr...

UPDATE: Maureen redeemed! Dowd makes some sense of both Dean's yowl and W.'s scowl.
"I enjoy reading Dave Barry more than I enjoy reading David Foster Wallace" -- ouch! Michael, one half of the Two Blowhards who run the blog of same name, has an interesting...or, if you're a book person like me, not very interesting...take on the differences between Book People and Movie People...hmmm, I will have to expound on this a little later...
Hmmm, today seems to be the Day of Natcentric Links around here -- to wit, a page from information design guru Edward Tufte's forthcoming volume Beautiful Evidence. Methinks Evidence Man himself will need a copy of this...
Love your CD burner, hate your CD burner -- Salon offers a point-counterpoint discussion today on the merits of making mixes on your home computer, instead of the old nostalgic cassette deck method, a la High Fidelity. Speaking as someone who still uses the tape deck in her car, to play ancient warped mix tapes I made on endless nights over a cheesy portable radio in my youth, I have to say there are advantages to the digital version: speed, speed, and speed. You may lose the "hand of the maker" quality, but I just don't have three hours at a stretch to sit around and dub stuff for the one I love...who, incidentally, is something of an expert in this area anyway. (Get the day pass to read the Salon content -- sorry, it's worth it!)


In all the times I've visited Textism, I never read Dean's jeremaiad on himself...chuckle. I usually just stop by to look at the Daily Oliver. Now you can too.
Is Kevin Smith a model Fatrosexual? This blogger is a poor speller and generally a bit of an ass, but there are some key points -- for example, James Gandolfini's status as an official "fat hunk," meow.
"The Leave No Bride Behind Act" -- the always incisive Arianna Huffington rips into President Yenta's pro-matrimony stance. (From Salon -- watch the ad to read the whole thing.)
It's time to play, "Whom does Frontrunner Flavor of the Week John Kerry most resemble?" -- Herman Munster? The severed head from "Re-Animator" (I think it looks like Charles Rocket)? Mr. Magoo? No no no. Three words people: Harry Dean Stanton.
"People will read a book or pamphlet only once, but a song they can sing again and again in their heads." -- no wonder he wants to become the black Woody Guthrie! That's Tom Morello, guitar god of Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave, and now his own solo gig, The Nightwatchman, as well as co-founder of Axis of Justice. This interview highlights his progressive yet deeply hip ways -- note his admiration for The Clash: "I thought the Sandinista record had more accurate and vivid portrayals of U.S. policy in Central America than Tom Brokaw was giving on the news." Right on!
Get ready for another boost to John Kerry in the "Veteran v. General" matchup in NH -- apparently Wesley Clark was a big supporter of the infamous School of the Americas, and he'd being birddogged about it on the campaign trail. The article notes that Dennis Kucinich is promising to shut it down immediately if he takes office (we can dream...). The School is a training center for torture, assassination, and military dictatorship techniques, run by the US Army. No, seriously -- your tax dollars are paying for guys like Manuel Noriega and the men who killed Oscar Romero to learn "counter-insurgency methods" in Georgia. In any case, let's see if some hay is made of this in the next six days...
I hate you, yet I answer your every call -- unsurprisingly, the technological innovation Americans loathe yet rely on the most is the cellphone. This must explain why I loathe mine and I never use it...though that's all going to change, as I've decided to become one of those landlineless people. Good thing this has an off switch...
"Your Honor, may I approach the bench...in my lobster costume?" -- Legal Affairs, "the magazine at the intersection of law and life," features a column, "The Prudent Jurist," tackling tough procedural questions like these. I once saw a woman in court in a skirt the size of a dishtowel, and a male lawyer wearing Tevas (with socks!), but no lobsters. Sigh.
Would the plural of "Egg McMuffin" be "Eggs McMuffin," like "attorneys general"? McDonald's apparently cares about grammar -- who knew?
"...in spite of everything he's ever said or done, he's actually in favor of healthcare." The Onion's take on last night's "State" of the "Union" address, which came off to me as more of a "Conjecture" of the "Elites." My personal favorite bits:

1. Thundering about how "America never needs a permission slip to defend itself from foreign enemies" [translation: F*ck you, France and Germany, I won't do what you tell me!], just moments after wedging the U.N. into a line about Iraq, something like "Now the U.S. will work with the U.N. and other nations to bring stability to the region." Did he think nobody would notice? Or are we're suddenly buddies with the U.N. again?

2. Cutting from the utterly non sequitur rant about steroid use in professional sports directly to Tom Brady sitting in the gallery! WTF?!

3. The many shots of a volcanic Ted Kennedy, looking like he would pop a rivet in his temple, he was so filled with rage over the torrent of lies about Medicare and those "personal health savings accounts" (i.e. privatization) and other anti-socialized-medicine rhetoric.

4. Laugh-out-loud lines like "The fundamental strengths of our economy have been revealed" ["Yeah, by the economic destruction wrought by your trillion-dollar deficit!"]; "The U.S. and all nations who love freedom are much safer now that Saddam Hussein is in custody" ["...and not down in his Danger Hole"]; and of course, the brilliantly evil, Rovian masterstroke of throwing the whole gay marriage issue back on Clinton, since he signed the "Defense of Marriage Act," and then giving the Christian fascists something to cheer about by actually endorsing a constitutional amendment proposal: "In some states [i.e. Massachusetts, I'm looking at you, liberal filth!] the courts are changing the definitions of marriage without the consent of the elected representatives of the people, and that leaves no recourse but the Constitution to protect this sacred institution." Ha ha ha ha! Oh wait, he's not kidding. Ouch.

5. Dick Cheney knocking a glass of water all over W.'s suit as they shook hands at the end of the speech. Priceless.

UPDATE, TOO LATE: We'll have to play Will Durst's State of the Union Drinking Game next year, dang.


"The president set a rigorous standard last year, constructing an apparatus of lies it will be hard to match tonight." -- James Carroll makes some predictions and dire pronouncements for tonight's State of the Union address in this Globe opinion piece. I'm expecting the most nauseating display of mendacity and hubris yet from this Administration...I'll pick up some fresh Pepto-Bismol on the way home.

And speaking of nauseating, I clicked over to NBC.com to check the broadcast schedule for tonight -- you'd think the major television broadcasters could, y'know, highlight the most important appearance the President makes all year, and this being a President who hardly ever appears in public, plus we're, y'know, in the middle of a WAR, not to mention a global economic tailspin, so maybe it's a teensy bit more important than "Average Joe 2" and "The Tracy Morgan Show"?! Especially considering that the networks LICENSE the airwaves from the American public, and are supposed to spend some time serving the public interest, right? Oh, feh, I give up.
Meet Dirkon -- The Paper Camera: one of the few good things about 70's Communist Czechoslovakia, I'd guess. Download the .pdf, snip snip, fold fold, load the film, and it really works. Amazing! I'll work on this one after I make a working paper clock and master scherenschnitte. And quilling.
Last night I succumbed to desire at the Harvard Book Store and purchased Nobody's Perfect, a collection of reviews and writings by Anthony Lane, the almost unbearably witty New Yorker writer. The man never fails to make me laugh aloud -- reading him is like riding in a convertible driven by a rakish movie star, with a scarf in your hair and a box of perfect chocolates in your lap; it's dizzying. I've only read the introduction, but check out this zinger on listening to fellow critics complain about the hotel Jacuzzis at an all-expenses-paid movie biz junket: "The thought that one could trim one's criticism in direct proportion to the fizziness of the water in which one had recently dipped one's ass had not occurred to me." Bing! And who knew, there's a bit about LEGOs in there too! :D
Are you a blueneck? I think I might be...and maybe that's not so bad (see #25)! Let me add a few more Blueneck Characteristics:

26. You shop at Target, but would never shoot at one.
27. You vaguely wonder if NASCAR is some sort of joke.
28. You buy the $4-a-pint ice cream at the supermarket, with no toppings.
29. You don't think t-shirts are funny.
30. The last time you drank beer from a can was in high school.

[Laundered Link aLert -- ta, Bifurcated Rivets! :)]
Stare Decisis v. Wade -- with the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision coming up on Thursday (note to Catholics: don't forget to go to the special church 'n' state Mass!), it might be a good time to review the philosophical arguments on both sides of the abortion access divide...and hey, it's an election year, it's got to come up some time...though I doubt President Brainiac will be using his subtle rhetorical skills on this issue anytime soon.
Help, help, my computer ate my garage band! Oh Apple, what will you think of next?
In other news, Martha Stewart, my fellow Jersey girl, goes to trial today for lying to federal investigators, always a faux pas. Hmm, I'm not sure why, but this makes me vaguely nostalgic for the go-go 90's, when Martha's darkest secrets were a taste for liverwurst and an unhealthy preoccupation with her chickens...sigh. Head over to MarthaTalks.com to hear...her side of the story.
Massachusetts gay teens dreaming of wedding bells -- aw, that's sweet...somebody get Gus Van Sant on the phone!
Howard Dean's No Good, Very Bad Night in Iowa -- according to Slate, anyway. One word for last night's caucus results: wow. Not only do I agree that Howard just got sucker-punched, possibly for good, this also proves two maddening truisms about American presidential politics: Iowa doesn't mean anything, and Iowa means everything. The press is tripping over itself to re-anoint John Kerry and find out the first thing about John Edwards, while simultaneously purring "I told you so"s at Dean. What a bunch of Chicken Littles -- they're still just running after the easy story. Gephardt was just ruined from politics forever, where's the post-mortem on that? Is Kerry now the "front runner," and if so, what about Clark in NH? It's really starting to annoy me that all political journalism these days is either prognostication or post-game analysis, not actual reporting! My own post-game on Howard goes something like this -- get back to your roots, and quick, and stop trying to out-Democrat the other Democrats. John Edwards (who is this guy?) has it right with the "positive" campaigning -- give it a whirl, it'll be good for your blood pressure!


Maybe there's a grain of truth to my Yankees-loving uncle Bob's teasing that "Boston sucks." We didn't make the unofficial Top Ten Most Well-Mannered Cities in America...though Charleston, Chicago, LA, Peoria, and NEW YORK CITY did. This is enough to make one pause...are we really ill-mannered here in the Big Bean? Why, just the other night I assisted some lost tourists on a downtown street, even before they asked for help...although later that night I was almost run over by a Lexus SUV filled with clueless teenagers, after sitting through a movie with the woman next to me using her cellphone's text-messaging function during the film. Hmmmmm...I guess if I had to characterize the Boston temperament, I'd say there's a street war going on here between snobs and smart-alecks, and despite the much-claimed diversity of our neighborhoods, there just aren't enough different kinds of people on the streets, on the T, in the bars, or in the offices every day to make people loosen up. Or, maybe it's just the weather. Sigh.
Martin Luther King: domestic terrorist? An interesting look at how MLK's work might be perceived in today's Ashcroftian world of "homeland security" and "total information awareness." Is it true that King's message would fall on deaf, cynical ears these days, while the government would quickly crush his protests as "treasonous"? Maybe, but "King did far more than have a nice dream. Unfortunately, we don't hear his powerful indictments of poverty, the Vietnam War, and the military-industrial complex." His message is still relevant today -- it's just been co-opted, muted, and some would say "whitewashed" by the powerful majority...hmm, just like another famous social activist...
Test your knowledge of U.S. presidential trivia, courtesy of the BBC. I have no doubt that the average British quiz-taker will score better on this than the average American, if only because the Irony God rules the world these days...Full disclosure: I scored a 40%, and received the following comment: "Hmm. Perhaps you should have enlisted a running mate." Yeouch!

UPDATE: As predicted, I've been utterly bested by a Brit -- our man at Bifurcated Rivets reports, "I got 60% and would have had 80% if I hadn't changed my mind about a couple of them at the last minute. Don't you get taught all that stuff in school? Most of the world certainly thinks you do!" I say again, yeouch! :D
Who would assault Stephen Hawking?! This is just so wrong.
And for parity, here's some bad news -- Charles Pickering, notorious conservative yahoo, was surreptitiously appointed to the federal bench on Friday by President Sneaky, after his nomination was repeatedly rejected by the Congressional Democrats. How could this happen, you ask? Simple: Bush did the deed while Congress was out of town on recess! This unusual move wouldn't be a play to his base of conservative Christian voters as the election year kicks off, would it? Draw your own conclusions there -- People For the American Way is calling this an "insult to the memory of Dr. King, and to all Americans who are committed to equal justice under the law." Why is that? Read for yourself: Pickering is an acknowledged Scalia-phile who actually thinks the Voting Rights Act was a bad idea. Somebody should pack the Constitution away in a shoebox for a while...
There's such a tornado of press coverage over the vaunted Iowa Caucuses tonight, I think I'll skip right to the interesting bit -- the etymology of the word "caucus." If you, like me, assumed it had to be Latinate in origin, try this: "Etymology uncertain. Mr. J. H. Trumbull finds the origin of caucus in the N. A. Indian word cawcawwassough or ca['u] cau-as'u, one who urges or pushes on, a promoter." Straight from Webster's!
I like good news -- here's a great story from the Globe on the debut of an all-girl radio station, right here in Boston. Developed by girls who met in the after-school program at The Log School, R-LOG (540 on your AM dial) will be "Where the voices of young women are heard and respected." Most excellent!
Happy Monday indeed -- and I'm starting before noon, what a concept! It was quite an eventful weekend around here -- it was somebody's birthday, and we had a whole series of adventures to celebrate, including delicious shrimp, cinematic pleasure, a flaming blueberry muffin, and a rousing victory for the home team. My capsule review for "Big Fish" -- it's a chick flick for guys, which is a good thing, and absolutely beautiful to look at, go see it!


Since it's Friday afternoon already and I haven't had a minute to blog, I'll kick things off with the Friday Five, which is of a particularly self-indulgent nature today:

1. What does it say in the signature line of your emails? I don't have the .sig turned on anymore, so I'll use my Friendster quote: "Where's the man who could ease the heart like a satin gown?" -- Dorothy Parker

2. Did you have a senior quote in your high school yearbook? Oh dear...well, being overly-sentimental 17 year-old girls, my friends and I all put in this very Oprah thing about "I never thought I'd laugh at the times I cried, or cry at the times I laughed." *Cue "Wind Beneath My Wings"* In my defense, I also included my Career Goal ("To become Secretary General of the U.N.") and this Secret Plan: "To marry Harry Connick Jr. (?!!) and drive across the U.S. in a 1960's Porsche convertible"!

3. If you had vanity plates on your car, what would they read? That's not really my speed...yesterday I heard about an Audi TT sporting "FRODO" plates. See what I mean?

4. Have you received any gifts with messages engraved upon them? What did the inscription say? When I graduated from L-school, I got some nice desk accessories with my name on them. Really! I always liked those little erasers, stickers, and pencils with your name on them, back in the 80s, though...

5. What would you like your epitaph to be? It's hard to improve on Ralph: "Finish each day and be done with it." ;)


Do it like a real artist -- this very strangely designed site gives you how-to's from some avant-garde stars, like Matthew Barney (look him up under B), whose Cremaster Cycle is still utterly burned on my retinas...
Enter The Red Kitchen -- a group recipe-sharing blog, what a good idea! OK, try not to be afraid of the Chocolate Chip Cheese Ball recipe on the front page...
Need some schadenfreude? Try I Work With Fools, a cubicle drone's vent-blog. Or, there's a ton of new material over at Etiquette Hell, always good for a laugh at the hopelessly tacky.
"I was on the moon when you were born..." -- and I'm here to tell you that the local band Apollo Sunshine's [warning: their site is a Flash disaster] record "Katonah," which I finally bought today, is e-x-c-e-l-l-e-n-t. Allow me to quote the front of the packaging: "Bits of early XTC, Guided By Voices, and the entire Elephant 6 roster, all blended into a pop setting with some Flaming Lips weirdness." Not sure what that means, really, other than name-dropping by the Boston Phoenix reviewer. F.Lips, I can see, but there's a whole Ben Folds-ian thing going on too, and lots of elaborate instrumentation and goofy electronic noises, yet it comes together in a nice, mid-90's power pop kind of way. Yay!
"Physician, heal thy spouse." -- Maureen Dowd has a decidedly nosy take on the marriage of Dr. Dean and Dr. Steinberg (Dean), i.e. Howard and Judy. Dowd somehow thinks we won't notice that she praises Dr. Judy for not "gazing up from the front row" at her husband's political events in Iowa, but then a moment later clucks over it like a crabby mother-in-law: "He could use a character witness on the road to vouch for his core values." Not that it's anybody's business, but Judy Steinberg is a doctor, not a philanthropist, lawyer, or "former librarian" who can just take off months at a time to go on tour with her husband. They also have teenaged kids at home -- not at some boarding school. The Deans aren't millionaires, either, and if his campaign flops, she'll have been supporting them this whole time. Oh, and of course, this is what she wants to do! Shocking! Surely if/when Dean moves into the big time over the summer, things will change, but for now what good does it do for journalists to make the same old personal judgments? Buzz off.

UPDATE: Maureen catches hell from AlterNet! Nice!

Of course, there may be another woman in Howard Dean's life -- Carol Mosely Braun is set to drop out of the race herself and endorse him, as of this afternoon. This could be a real boost, once they leave Iowa and NH especially. And hey, did you know Carol was ambassador to New Zealand for a while? Ah, trivia.

UPDATE: It's done, Carol is now officially for Howard. Here's a quote: "Gov. Dean has the energy to inspire the American people, to break the cocoon of fear that envelopes us and empowers President Bush and his entourage from the extreme right-wing." Yeah! Memo to HD, though -- time to work on that camera face...
Champagne -- it's not just for sipping anymore, you can get crafty with those corks. See the lovely Champagne Chair design contest winners: my favorites are the woven ones. Or if you're lacking in fine motor skills, donate your corks to N@'s friend Boris Bally, he'll use them to make feet for his very cool Transit Chairs. Drink up!


Fools -- will you destroy them all? If yes/no, find out Which Historical Lunatic You Are! Brought to you by the good people at Rum and Monkey, lots of good stuff on there. And if you're interested, I happen to be Charles VI, the Mad King of France. Le roi, I guess, c'est moi.
Howard v. George -- who's the real butch? Richard Goldstein in The Nation makes the '04 Prez matchup all about attitude -- and about the new GOP formulation of the "Southern strategy," using gender instead of race. That is to say, Dean can connect with plain old white guys -- as can W., if his swaggering doesn't become a parody of itself, anyway. Hmm, it might be too late for that...

And if you'd like more specious evidence of Dean's electability, take up Arianna Huffington's mantra: "Unelectable, my ass!" Um, if you say so. To be fair, see this relevant bit: "Far from Dean not being able to "compete" with Bush on foreign policy, he's the one viable Democrat who isn't trying to compete on the playing field that Bush and Karl Rove have laid out. No Democrat can win by playing 'Whose swagger is swaggier?' or 'Whose flight suit is tighter?'" I don't think we want to find out, really.
"Wal-Mart must be nirvana for black people" -- or, possibly, not. A very smart piece on how big-box retailers are just as much a Trojan horse for urban communities as they are out in suburbia.
One week before the President's sure-to-be-fib-filled State of the Union address, check out the State of the World instead -- a very gloomy report from the Worldwatch Institute. Basically, the "unprecedented consumer appetite is undermining the natural systems we all depend on, and making it even harder for the world's poor to meet their basic needs." I bet President Pollyanna doesn't mention a word about this in his speech, though.
The Elijah "Frodo" Wood rallying cry? "I'm 21!" I certainly hope so -- check out the scoop from Page Six today:


FRODO is now the Lord of the G-strings. Elijah Wood and his "Rings" co-star, Billy Boyd, hit East 60th Street mammary mecca Scores at 2 a.m. Tuesday with two horny hobbits and, says our witness, "They didn't leave until the lights went on." Wood and company tossed back Heinekens and were surrounded by about a dozen topless dancers. When one exceptionally cute waitress named Nicole grabbed Wood's eye, he invited her to sit down with him, saying, "You're really pretty." He finally rolled out at 4:30.

"Lord of the G-Strings"...oh dear.
Meet Madam Marta -- a story straight out of Carnivale...or possibly this classic film!
And let's continue the rainbow-tinted theme by examining the latest wacky proposal from the White House: a $1.5 Billion drive to promote marriage! Hmmm, first the race to Mars, now ringing the wedding bells...perhaps next the President will issue checkered aprons and Perry Como cardigans to all Americans, along with a nice pot roast, 2.3 children, and a big bottle of Seconals: bring on the 1950's, again!

OK, let me first admit that in theory, I see nothing wrong with the government helping people form stable, lasting partnerships. Of course, that's not what's going on here -- just look at the language. "Marriage," not partnerships, for "low-income people," i.e. poor minority women with dependent children, and maybe if President Papa can get them married off to one of their babydaddies the government can stop handing out welfare checks once and for all, right? Allow me to quote one tactless White House aide: "The president loves to do that sort of thing in the inner city with black churches, and he's very good at it." Uh-huh -- maybe Al Sharpton can take a break from pestering Howard Dean and mouth off about this for a while...

The White House all but admits in the article this whole scheme is a sop to Christian conservatives, who of course want Bush to drive through an anti-gay-marriage amendment to the Constitution -- and I must give him a point or two for refusing to sign off on that one, as even Karl Rove must know that would be a big, hairy mess. And again, offering programs "to teach problem-solving, negotiation and listening skills" seems only to the good. But it chafes me no end that thanks to the Clinton-signed "Defense of Marriage Act," this will be made available only to het couples -- not even to single people, who one would think might at some point be part of a couple?! It's just got a real Christo-fascist stench about it -- I'm picturing "Got husband?" ads, and big kickbacks from DeBeers...blegh.
In other vaguely gay news today, the Fab Five of "Queer Eye For the Straight Guy" appeared in...you guessed it...Milwaukee, to a crowd of adoring Green Bay Packers fans. Really. You have to wonder these days whether there is a more effective way to fight homophobia than with hair care products...I think maybe not.
Are American moviegoers ready for a big-screen smooch between Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal? I think I speak for many when I shout, "Hell yes!" One of my favorite directors, Ang Lee (of "Sense and Sensibility," "The Wedding Banquet," and "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"...OK, plus "The Hulk") is working on "Brokeback Mountain," a cowboy romance. Get the day pass to read the whole Salon article -- it's, let's just say, inspirational. I think if they threw in Orlando Bloom as the teenaged runaway, Jude Law as the mysterious drifter, and Russell Crowe as the moody, widowed sherriff, they'd have an all-time blockbuster!


I'm 10 points. What about you?
Humiliation as the source of terrorism -- Jessica Stern, Kennedy School lecturer and author of "Terror In The Name of God", writes thoughtfully on what motivates extremists (like, perhaps, the Amazon reviewer who gave only one star).
"Why Gollum Shouldn't Get An Oscar," by Roger Ebert -- a convincing argument on the uncanniness of Andy Serkis' cinematic doppelganger.
I egged the chicken, then I ate his leg -- now I know I'm old, the Beastie Boys' Grand Royal record label is defunct, bankrupt and on the auction block. Sigh.
Key West Chicken Wrangler -- now that is a job I'd apply for. Seems the lovely key is overrun with "wily" chickens -- not to mention the Hemingway cats and their many toes, and Papa-lookalikes too.
I'll have a Whopper, but hold my bun, please -- that's right, Burger King joins the anti-carb brigade. Surely poor, dead Dr. Atkins didn't mean for people to scarf down fast food like this...did he? I for one stand by the immortal words of Sofia Loren: "Everything you see, I owe to spaghetti." Right on, sister.
Sing A Song of Howard Dean -- or, please God, don't! This one's from The Namesake himself, people, and The Weekly Standard, on the revival of the campaign song. Witness songsfordean.com, a collection of decidedly "A Mighty Wind"-esque numbers described in the article as nearly unbearably, well, white: "From coffeehouse bluesmen who over-enunciate every whitebread word, to hot blasts of undiluted folk so earnest that it could make the Weavers cry uncle, the songs are by and for white people." Eeep.

I'll leave it to you to determine the relative funkiness for yourself, but this certainly ties in to Al Sharpton's attack on Dean at the last debate re: Dean's lack of minority hiring while governor of a nearly-all-white state. Salon has an excellent article on this and what it means for the Democrats' relationship with black voters in general this time around -- get the day pass to read it.
"Pirates of the DVD" may beat out "Pirates of the Caribbean" at Oscar time -- there's a scandal brewing about illicit copying of movies sent to Academy voters despite massive anti-theft efforts. It seems a copy of "Something's Gotta Give" (loved it!) turned up on the internet, and it had been sent to one Carmine Caridi (of "Godfather II" and apparently not much else) for viewing and immediate, furtive return. Looks like Uncle Carmine has a technologically adept grandkid (or maybe pool boy?) in the house...
My aunt Kathy forwards me a lot of random email, but there was one today about American life in 1904 that caught my attention. Here are some tidbits:

The year is 1904, one hundred years ago... what a difference a century makes.

* The average life expectancy in the US was 47.
* 14% of the homes in the US had a bathtub; only 8% of the homes had a telephone. Home record
players or radios, gas or electric kitchen appliances, and of course televisions were unknown.
* There were only 8,000 cars in the US and only 144 miles of paved roads.
* The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph.
* Alabama, Mississippi, Iowa, and Tennessee were each more heavily populated than California.
* The average US worker made between $200 and $400 per year. A competent accountant could
expect to earn $2000 per year, a dentist $2,500 per year, a veterinarian between $1,500 and $4,000.
* More than 95 percent of all births in the US took place at home.
* Sugar cost four cents a pound. Eggs were fourteen cents a dozen. Coffee cost fifteen cents a pound.
* Most women only washed their hair once a month and used borax or egg yolks for shampoo.
* The five leading causes of death in the US were Pneumonia and Influenza; Tuberculosis; Diarrhea;
Heart disease; and Stroke.
* The population of Las Vegas, Nevada was 30.
* There was no Mother's Day or Father's Day.
* One in ten adults couldn't read or write; Only 6 percent of Americans had graduated from high school.
Women would not have the right to vote for seventeen more years.
* Marijuana, heroin, and morphine were all available over the counter at corner drugstores. According
to one pharmacist, "Heroin clears the complexion, gives buoyancy to the mind, regulates the stomach
and the bowels, and is, in fact, a perfect guardian of health."
* 18% of households in the US had at least one full-time servant or domestic.
* There were only about 230 reported murders in the entire US.

Just think what daily life will be like 100 years from now. It boggles the mind.


"The perils of living in a consumer paradise" -- a review of The Paradox of Choice, a new book exploring the link between the overwhelming number of choices American have in everything from their mate to their breakfast cereal, and the general epidemic of unhappiness: "Clinging tenaciously to all the choices available to us contributes to bad decisions, to anxiety, stress, and dissatisfaction - even to clinical depression." I like this spin on the "more stuff is bad" theme -- it's a partial explanation of why that is psychologically, not just a moralistic/environmental screed. I actually think back on my parents' hard-line stance against acquisition of material goods with fondness; it's the complete opposite of a lot of the parenting I see around me these days, which is of the "You can have anything you want" school. My dad used to stop at the Friendly's and order four small vanilla cones for my sibs and me, and we were quite happy (and, apparently, better adjusted), and he avoided the whole "Tell the nice man which flavor you want now, Kaitlyn" drama many parents put themselves and their fellow customers through. A simplistic example, perhaps, but in my experience, kids/people who have no limitations on what they can choose turn out pretty warped.
"Britney Spears is an instrument of Satan" -- true, but is she also a reason to block same-sex marriages? Here's a column from...gulp...the National Review that takes some amusing potshots at the pop princess and her recent nuptial mayhem. I agree that the sort of "weekend wedding" values exemplified by this escapade don't exactly strengthen the American family -- but why is it that normal, non-celebrity gay people would do the same? The author argues, essentially, that "two wrongs don't make a right," i.e. neither Britney and Jason nor Justin and Jason should be allowed to wed. Check out this quote: "Things are for whom they are for. Voting is for law-abiding adult citizens of sound mind; marriage is for men and women; the fact that either institution might have been abused in some particular instance does not make a case for altering fundamental definitions."

Wow, that first sentence has a real air of authority and gravitas, doesn't it? Too bad it's baloney: who exactly makes this pronouncement of "whom things are for"? Not even 100 years have passed since American women were granted the right to vote -- before then, that second sentence would've read, "Voting is for law-abiding men of sound mind," with an implied "white" in front of "men." Sorry, but if we didn't get out there and subvert the dominant paradigm once in a while, we'd all still be fighting over the last slice of woolly mammoth steak. Thanks to Dan and his sometimes-guest-edited blog for this one...
Behold, the Abandoned Bicycles of New York.
And speaking of President Compulsive Conservative and his Gang of Evildoers...I missed the 60 Minutes interview with Paul O'Neill last night, but it sounds like a real stunner...this could be the next "Valerie Plame/yellowcake"-type story, peeling away one more layer of duplicity and greed from the smug public face of the Bush Administration. Or at least I hope so. The story is this: O'Neill gave lengthy interviews and thousands of documents to Ron Suskind, Wall Street Journal journo and author of The Price of Loyalty, a new book on what some disgruntled former Bush insiders, like O'Neill, say really goes on in W-Land -- and the book, coincidentally, has rocketed up to #1 on the Amazon Top Ten this morning.

Here's the bombshell -- O'Neill was present at meetings in January and February 2001 (that is, days after W.'s inauguration and 9 months before Sept. 11th) planning the invasion of Iraq, removal of Saddam Hussein, and division of Iraqi oil spoils to global corporate suitors. Let me quote: "[O'Neill says] he was surprised at the meeting that questions such as "Why Saddam?" and "Why now?" were never asked. 'It was all about finding a way to do it. That was the tone of it. The president saying ‘Go find me a way to do this,’' says O’Neill."

Let me emphasize: The Bush Administration planned to make war on Iraq from the moment W. took office, and they've been using Sept. 11 as a P.R. cover story, says a former Cabinet Secretary. Not a conspiracy theorist, crazed left-wing ideologue, or traitorous insurgent: a former Administration official. What more do we need, people? If Tom Daschle can't get it together to start an investigation and move for impeachment based on this, what is left of the checks-and-balances mechanism of our government? And let's just repeat this to ourselves quietly: Clinton lied about sex, Bush lies about war...

Not to lay it all on W., who O'Neill describes as a sub-moron when it comes to leadership: "like a blind man in a room full of deaf people" at Cabinet meetings. Who's running the show? Mr. Cheney, I'm looking in your direction: "The former treasury secretary accuses Vice President Dick Cheney of not being an honest broker, but, with a handful of others, part of "a praetorian guard that encircled the president" to block out contrary views. "This is the way Dick likes it," says O’Neill." Fantastic -- I live in the Unites States of The Way Dick Likes It. No thanks!
In the "Be Careful What You Commission A Study For" department, a psychological inquiry into "Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition," concluded that hard-core cons like, oh, say, Hitler, Mussolini, Reagan, Limbaugh and W. himself suffer from neuroses rooted in "fear and aggression, dogmatism and the intolerance of ambiguity" -- no surprise, really. Well, the surprise is that the study was paid for by $1.2 million in federal grant money -- oops! Or should I say, finally!
"Sculptor who works with butter has his technique down pat" -- zing! I must credit the mighty Jim Romenesko for this delicious pun, but Harrisburg, PA dairy artist Jim Victor has heard it all before. The man carved busts of Andy Rooney and Ann Miller from chocolate! Not to mention Kissinger, Carter, and a life size Jim Rice (in clay, plaster, and butter, respectively). Mmmmm, all this butter makes me long for a trip to a special place...
"Do you, Arwen Barbie, take Aragorn Ken as your husband?" Oh my...maybe now JRRT is spinning in his grave...
Feel free to take the law into your own hands -- by making your own law. The World Question Center provides dozens of inspirational laws for your perusal. I think I like Alison Gopnik's the best. Here's mine:

M's Law of Camry Operation

The more erratically the car up ahead causing your traffic woes is weaving across the road, the more likely it is to turn out to be a Toyota Camry upon visual inspection while finally passing said car in a burst of angry speed.

Just keep your eyes peeled -- you'll see what I mean.
Look out Seattle -- it's the Invasion of the Aging Hipster Bands! Aiiieee! Radio stations across the land are ditching the 80's and the current Top 40 for...wait for it..."classic alternative." *Feel old here.*
There's a wee frosting of snow across New England this morning -- just enough to spark plenty of slip-n-fall lawsuits, I bet. Lawyers are all over the place, as the Boston Globe Magazine published an article on holistic lawyering yesterday. Shocking facts include: lawyers hate their jobs, 50% would not recommend a legal career to their children, and 70% would start a new career if they could. Ouch! And why is this? 84% say they are not helping to make the world a better place, as they had hoped. Enter my alma mater and the progressive lawyering movement, though -- maybe there's hope!

In the meantime, enjoy a little lawyer-loathing: the group Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch announced the winners of its annual Wacky Warning Labels contest. Past winners too. My favorite: "Never use hairdryer while sleeping." Whaaa?


I'm weeks behind on the Friday Five, but this one has a nice, end-of-the-first-week-of-the-year feel to it:

What one thing are you most looking forward to . . .

1. ...today? I'll stretch this into the weekend, and say, "Seeing LOTR:ROTK with Nat for free!"

2. ...over the next week? Keeping up my near-daily workouts at Curves: so far, it's fun, easy, and fast.

3. ...this year? Welcoming the plethora of new babies my various friends are expecting!

4. ...over the next five years? Hopefully, a new new world order under President Dean.

5. ...for the rest of your life? Becoming a parent and writing a new family story.
"Advertising and commercials do not masquerade as journalism" -- oh honey, I beg to differ. Nathaniel is taking umbrage at the Boston Herald for basically selling its front page to JetBlue. Setting aside the entire realm of TV Action McNews, which seems to exist solely to fill dead air, provide weather forecasts, and scare old people, I just can't get riled. I would love to be able to get behind the free American press on this one, but the fact is newspapers are withering on the vine, or should I say the modem cable. They are desperate for readership, and will pretty much do whatever their advertisers want to keep generating revenue. I'll admit it's not entirely appropriate to hoodwink the readers, but a) the Herald is a tabloid paper, b) they were giving it out for free, and c) as they must so sorely realize, it's not like you can't get your actual news somewhere else...though I challenge you to find a news outlet untainted by its advertisers. Even PBS and specialty, subscriber-supported online sites like Salon aren't immune.

I remember taking a tour of the Boston Globe several years back, and I met Mark Morrow, one of the editors. He made a very witty remark in response to my friend's question, "How do you prioritize and trim stories to fit around all the full page ads?" [We were talking about the international news coverage, or lack thereof.] He said, "Well, if it were up to our advertisers, we'd have to start each story, 'Brought to you by Dave Dinger Ford dealership in Braintree.'" I think the papers, and the readers, are well aware of the hefty ad content -- the Globe comes to my door on Sundays literally swathed in ads, as the plastic bag is emblazoned and usually stuffed with a free sample or coupon. Caveat emptor, I say. Would we rather have state-run news, a la Al-Jazeera? Given the state of our Congress' impartiality these days, that seems...unwise. Or we could pay $12 for an ad-free version of the daily paper: no thanks. Hey, think of it this way, even the Simpsons have this problem: they read "The Springfield Shopper."
I bought some of these Fruit Breezers throat drops yesterday, after hearing some sort of siren call from their TV commercial. Maybe it's the graphics on the bag -- who doesn't have good associations with fresh fruit resting on a bed of ice? Anyway, I'm here to tell you these things are the Altoids of the cough drop universe -- they are tasty and fruit flavored, and they don't contain menthol (i.e. the tingly-burning mint extract that makes things taste "medicated"), yet they cause this bizarre cool sensation in the mouth...I can't figure it out! Active ingredient? "Pectin: oral demulcent." Hmmm, that sounds mighty vague. Pectin, as it turns out, has a complex molecular structure that helps things, like fruit jam, gel. But does it make your mouth feel cool? Something tells me that's a trade secret. Tune in next time for another installment of Inconclusive Product Research Lady! :P
Adjective + noun + lots of explosions = The Direct-to-Video Movie Title Generator...for the lazy screenwriter who dreams of producing more of the C-list actioners enjoyed by Homer Simpson...and my dad. :)
"I think it's dangerous...It's a very bad idea. I can't imagine anything worse." -- That's one Orinda, CA resident's reaction to a town plan to lease an unused library building for use as an overnight shelter for homeless families and elderly. That's right: homeless families and elderly people. It's an interesting issue -- an upscale suburb facing the fact that in their county, if not so much their town, there are people who need shelter services who aren't the infamous homeless hordes of downtown San Francisco. Can they turn their backs? Looks like no -- good for them.
Publishing Today: Are There Too Many Colons? That would be the punctuation mark, of course. A very crisp overview of the trendy titular demarcations and their pitfalls. Good thing they haven't outlawed colons in college term papers -- I was an English major, we're required to use at least one. I believe I wrote about Nabokov under this heading: "'She had tabooed my pin': Invented Language as a Signifier of Disgust and Desire in Lolita." A+, baby!
"In defence of Wacko Jacko" -- a verrrrry interesting take on The Gloved One's latest legal woes.
"In the River of Consciousness" -- speaking of spacey, try a little Friday mind-stretchin' with this article by the always erudite Oliver Sacks, asking the question "How does our perception of time shape our conception of ourselves?" Way existential, man.
Bang, zoom, to the moon -- you heard right, President Space Cadet wants the U.S. to build a base on the moon, and send humans to Mars! In some kind of desperate Kennedyesque motivational ploy, Karl Rove has apparently directed W. to the heavens. But OTOH, why the hell not? What else have we got to spend our money on? Certainly not any pressing problems here on earth, right? Maybe this will clear the way for the Republicans to befoul the planet completely and we'll all have somewhere to move to -- if we clear Martian Homeland Security, of course. Note the retired Air Force general quoted here: "This stuff is not cheap." But we're spending $1 billion a month in Iraq, what's another couple hundred billion? And who cares about the dangers of manned spaceflight -- it won't be the Bush twins rocketing into outer space. At least, not yet.


Baby, it's cold outside -- even colder in the Big Bean than in the Big Apple, but these suggestions for indoor fun will work up here nicely. Note that the NYC low temperatures will be our high temperatures this weekend -- eeeep! I want a full-body Polarfleece suit. Or at least flannel. And speaking of flannel, I'd add this to the list. ;*
Want to test your skills? Then try to Shuffle The Penguin, why doncha? Much, much harder than it looks. Poor little penguin.
"Life's a smelling success" -- sure it is! Check out the Smell and Taste Research Foundation, where they study important stuff like this. Sniff, sniff...thanks to Bifurcated Rivets!
WARNING: personal exegesis ahead. I went to CVS today at lunchtime, generally against my better judgment, and was once again parted from a large amount of cash in exchange for a very small number of items. Additionally, the more frivolous the item I needed, the easier it was to find, and vice versa -- that is, the greeting cards I bought were right in the front, just past the towering displays of Valentine's Day candy (!), and there was actually a besmocked CVS employee stocking the cards who offered to help me find one...um, no thanks, but where were you when I need to find Band-Aids? Hidden away in the overstuffed aisles near the pharmacy counter are all the things you really need, with all the especially nasty and embarassing items shelved right next to each other for, apparently, the employees' amusement. To wit, today I walked past the condoms, enemas, and anal itching creme (which, I'll grant you, provides a lot of entertainment for those of us unafflicted -- I mean, when the product is named "Anusol" do they really need to print "For external anal itching" in 20pt. red letters across the box?), to the Oral Care section. I am playing host this week to a mighty cold sore on my lip (all together now: EWWWW), and I decided to break down and get some Campho-Phenique, which is really just a topical pain reliever (i.e. doesn't really "speed healing" as it claims) but hey, I need some topical pain relief. Over the last few years there's been an explosion in cold sore treatments, seriously -- all the big players (Blistex, Orajel, Chapstick, Bristol-Meyers) have a medicated salve of some kind, and then there are all these odd "holistic" ones, full of Lysine and Zinc and other dubious compounds. And in the midst of all this, I see that Campho-Phenique is on sale, only $5 for the tiny tube, not $6 and a quarter, woohoo. So I'm hoping to just grab one and go, but wait...something's different...there are two different tubes for sale, one with a red stripe and one with a blue stripe. One is "Campho-Penique with Drying Action" and the other is "Campho-Phenique with Scab Relief." Good grief. The mind reels! Here I am in abject, pitiable, ragged-lipped vulnerability, just hoping to hasten the healing, and I have to stand there in the CVS trying to analyze whether I have a wet or dry cold sore, whatever the hell that means....again, EWWWW! Of course, when you stop to examine the back of a box in the Humiliation Aisle, the entire population of customers suddenly decides to walk behind you (and, of course, peer over your shoulder). So eventually I went with Drying Action, but bitterly. The kicker is, when I got back to work, I noticed that on the back of the "Drying Action" box, they actually recommend using "Scab Relief" also, "after blister has dried." That clinched it for me that there is no difference between these products -- it's a naked ploy to get people to buy twice as much Campho-Phenique. Sheesh -- they should be paying me $5.12 for this stuff.

Never forget, people, "CVS" stands for "Consumer Value Store," not "Discreet Neighborhood Pharmacy." >>:-W