Ramblin' Manny -- Today's Globe has a rare interview with the Red Sox' lovable yet elusive slugger Manny Ramirez, on his day off in Illinois, just like Ferris Bueller. Posted by Hello Not only does Manny serve up the insights (he liked "The Village" and he drinks diet soda), he spends the day at a custom car garage, ordering work on a sweet vintage Lincoln Continental for his dad's 65th birthday...what a guy! Nat and I have often wondered what the hell it's like in MannyWorld...he's like the world's richest Muppet, seemingly fun-loving but how normal can you be when you get paid $90,000 per game? I pictured him at home, playing XBox games and folding $100 bills up to play tabletop football...but hey, he surfs the internet too. Check out the other photos -- love that fancy messenger bag. Viva Manny!
"At it's core, it's searing...and yet unputdownable!" -- Hot lava? Microwave popcorn? No, the meaningless lingo of a book review! Hilarious glossary of cliches from book jackets everywhere.
"I’ve always been impressed by the intelligence, imagination, creativity, and humor of the American people, then found myself wondering how we end up with such mediocre and milquetoast leaders in public office." -- Excellent essay by Cornel West, Ivy League professor and all-around cool cat, whose forthcoming book, "Democracy Matters," addresses the nihilism and plutocracy of the Bush Administration and how America is really a land of thoughtful, principled, even compassionate people, if only they would wake the f*ck up.
"All virtual girls will look the same." -- Yeah, that's what we wanna hear. Today's "technology run amok" story comes in the form of virtual "girlfriends" who appear on your mobile phone, and interact with you more the more (actual!) money you spend on them. Whaaaa? Here's the company developing the software...and they can't quite figure out how to make a Virtual Boyfriend version -- what woman would spend time on that when real world relationships are problematic enough? Sheesh.
Nerrrrd alert -- check out this 1982 Life magazine article on a championship arcade game tournament in Iowa. The photo alone will make your day -- I especially like the guy who printed up a sweatshirt for himself reading "Centipede 25,000,000." Wow.
There was never a better time for this Friday Five than today, Tuesday! It's all about catchin' up, and boy do I have to do some of that. Thanks, Miss Kim!

What was the last trip you went on? If I don't count the very trippy Olympic opening ceremony, it's the Lovell's Island camping trip this past weekend, a solid 36 hours of fun in the (pouring rain and) sun out in the middle of Boston Harbor. Thanks to my awesome new tent, a.k.a. "Maison Yoda," we actually stayed nice and dry...uh, when we were in the tent, anyway. Next year, Grape Island, 2 nights, baby!

What was the last major purchase that you made? Um, my new tent, see above. I also bought an audiobook for my upcoming road trip, and resisted buying a $99 digital camera for same...self control!

What was the last disappointment you suffered? Not getting a great job I interviewed twice for at this company -- the lobby of which is emblazoned with the motto, "Where Wizards Work." Sigh.

What are your plans for this weekend? Friday Minnesota, Saturday Iowa, and Sunday Chicago! Nat and I will be eating our way across the Heartland, from the University of Wisconsin Dairy Store, to the many treats-on-a-stick at the MN State Fair, to Chicago's famous Superdawg...gotta remember to buy some Lactaid and PeptoBismol today.

What is your last "overcoming procrastination" success story? I think it's updating this blog...


Wherefore art thou, Angus Index? -- Surely you regular readers have been asking yourselves this weighty question...and the answer is mostly, making another blog! But don't worry, it's for the class I'll be teaching this fall, and once it's set up it won't take too much precious time away from my true calling. Like Burger King is saying nowadays, "Respect the Angus." :P


Since Miss Kim is on her way to Cleveland this morning, I'll knock together a Faux Friday Five in her honor. Today's theme -- Summer Vacation:

1. What summer vacation trip was your all-time favorite? I'd say spending a week or two at the Jersey shore beats any other American vacation! Sun, sand, warm surf, nothing to do all day but lie around and read, play mini-golf and eat ice cream at night, watch movies, play games -- total bliss.

2. What did you do as a kid on a typical summer day? Woke up late, ate cereal and watched reruns for a while. Walked or biked a few blocks to the local playground, where there was a swingset under a big shade tree -- we would swing as high as we could and fling off our shoes, which sometimes landed atop the fieldhouse, and we'd have to throw rocks and branches up there to knock them down. In the afternoons, it was too hot to play outside, so we'd go home and eat lunch, then my mom would pack us all into the car and drive over to the pool club we belonged to, and we'd stay until dinner or later -- sometimes my dad would drive out after work and we'd order pizza to the front gate. If it rained, we'd drive my mom nuts playing in the house -- sometimes she let us rollerskate around in the basement! We went to the movies on the weekends with my dad, and my mom liked day trips to New York or to a museum or to visit friends. Our vacation was either at the shore or camping at a lakeside state park. We went to day camp and made crafts, spent hours in the public library, caught lightning bugs and played badminton in the yard until it was too dark to see. It always seemed like it would go on forever.

3. Where are you spending this year's summer vacation? In 13 days Nat and I head off on our Midwest Ramble, with stops in Durand, IL (for obvious reasons), Madison, WI, the twin cities and the Minnesota State Fair, Davenport, IA, and culminating in Chicago, a.k.a. SherTown. Can't wait!

4. If you had $5,000 to spend and the next two weeks off work, where would you go? Despite the constant allure of a return trip to Australia, I think given the season I'd rent an RV and extend the Midwest Ramble with a cross-country swing, from Chicago to L.A. then up to Seattle, Kerouac style.

5. What was your favorite item for back-to-school as a kid: spiral notebooks? new lunchbox? I was always a sucker for a new backpack. I also spent weeks, literally, deciding what to wear on the first day of school. On my first day of high school, my ultra-preppy ensemble (plaid shorts, white button-down, black penny loafers) caught the eye of my friend-to-be Paul McRae, a hunky junior, in Choir class, who teased me for wearing "a Catholic school uniform" until I almost burst into tears (he apologized profusely, that's how we became friends). Good times!


Today's ? du Jour -- enjoy. Posted by Hello
"I don't see why, after all the money that Greek taxpayers will end up paying to host the games, McDonald's should dictate what I can eat in my own city." -- Right on, Kostas Giannis. Read all about the total branding of the Olympics by corporate "sponsors," whose money "makes the Games happen" and therefore apparently gives them the right to eject all rival brands and logos to prevent "ambush marketing." It's everywhere you wanna be for the spirit of international cooperation and spirited competition! GAAHHH!
"Michael Moore's cookie-wielding Fresno peace activists look almost dangerous in comparison." -- My fave legal columnist, Dahlia Lithwick, has a guest spot over at the NYTimes op/ed page this month, la de da! Today's piece rails against the "speech-free zones" so popular at the political conventions, and the growing abuse of the Patriot Act and the Secret Service to squelch lawful dissent. For more on the overreachingly long arm of the law in the Era of Terror (*thunderclap*), check out this anecdote of attempted confiscation of reading material on...gasp...a ferry to Manhattan! Grrrrrr.
It's time for...On the Road to Work:

1. Spotted: a tractor trailer going southbound on 95 emblazoned in huge green letters: "KANE...is able!" Some of you know my interest in truck graphics, and let's just say I almost crashed the car gawking at that one, and wishing I had a digital camera implanted in my left eye...

2. A small dump truck pulled out in front of me on a side road in Waltham, and as it sped up a foul tide of brown water cascaded out the back, ewwwwwww. I think the truck had just been hosed out, so it wasn't like garbage-water (ever been behind a garbage truck when that starts slopping over the side?), but still. A gold Jeep Cherokee behind me honked as I braked, and then cut around me...only to have to drop back behind the dump truck and directly into the spray! Ah, sweet justice.

3. On another small side road, I came upon a squirrel walking across the road. Not hopping along, as squirrels usually do, but walking at a slow, steady pace, like a horse or a dog would. I slowed, but it continued at the same pace until it reached the curb, unperturbed. Is this weird or what?


"How well does your city cultivate literate, 'bookish' behavior in its citizenry?" -- Fear not, fellow Bostonians, we're #8 in bookwormitude! This U. of Wisconsin study ranks Minneapolis #1, in a top ten devoid of NY, LA, and the other usual metropoli. Some notes: St. Paul in MPLS' twin, but it ranks 16th, how is that possible? NYC is bested by Tucson, Akron, and Virginia Beach, hee hee! And note that the entire Bottom Ten are located in CA or TX. Hmmmmm...in any event, I suggest we celebrate with a city-wide spending spree at my favorite local bookstore, woohoo!
"Voldemort can't stop the rock!" -- Meet quasi-fictional dork/punk band Harry and the Potters. Complete with round spectacles, they have two albums, recorded at their parents' house. They silkscreen the t-shirts in their basement. Now that's derivative work!
"I wish he wouldn't interject his music with politics." -- So says MN governor and alleged Springsteen fan Tim Pawlenty of The Boss, who's headlining the Vote For Change swing-state tour in October alongside R.E.M., Dave Matthews, Bonnie Raitt, and other regime-change-minded musicians. First of all, if Gov. Pawlenty thinks Bruce's music is non-partisan, he might want to revisit "The Ghost of Tom Joad," just to name one glaring, populist example (or even better, this rousing cover version). Secondly, let me get this right: it's not OK for popular musicians to play a show for a partisan cause, which anyone may attend, but it is OK for our sitting President and Vice-President to run a re-election campaign where the public is required to sign away their vote to attend a stump speech? If these music fans are annoyed over where R.E.M.'s money is going, maybe they should examine where their own tax dollars are going at the hands of this Administration. Sheesh.

And speaking of InDecision 2004...none other than Bill Clinton appeared on The Daily Show last night, a big coup for Jon Stewart (except for the shot of them shaking hands and Clinton towering over Stewart by at least a foot, ouch!) Posted by Hello Bill was his usual charming yet knowledgeable self, holding forth on the dirty tricks of the Republicans and the strange reticence of the Democrats to fight fire with, uh, smarter fire. Speaking of smart, Clinton's big applause line was, "Democrats win when people think." Ouch again! He went on to quote some GOP colleague who said, in admitting the lowdown tactics used against Clinton, "Yeah, we play dirty, but if we played fair y'all would win all the time." Memo to Tom Daschle: it's official, we have nothing to lose! Somebody light a fire under that guy!

And in other political interview coups yesterday, NPR's afternoon host Michele Norris made mincemeat of Illinois GOP puppet-candidate Alan Keyes on the air (click on that link, it says it all). As you may have heard, there's such a dearth of Republicans in Illinois to run for Senate against Dem star Barack Obama that they had to import one (and a black man at that!) from Maryland. Norris first asked Keyes about his statement in 2000 that Hilary Clinton's Senate run in NY was a "corruption of federalism," that he would "never imitate." [Note: Tim Russert used this same quote on Sunday's "Meet The Press" in an interview with Sen. Dennis Hastert R-IL, who actually said, "Uh, I was out of town when they made that decision" to make Keyes the candidate!] Keyes slithered out of that one by saying he wasn't "imitating" Hilary's carpetbagging, instead he's responding to "the call of the Illinois voters." Next, Norris asked if Keyes thought race was a factor in selecting him to run. "Yes, I definitely think it was," he replied -- because race would be "taken off the table" by having two men of the same race on the ticket. Uh, OK. But the trap is laid: Norris asked, "How can you square your consistent opposition to affirmative action programs, and selection criteria based on race rather than merit, with your being chosen as a candidate?" D'oh! Keyes totally backpedaled, insisting he'd been chosen for his "unique, individual" strengths and views on the issued, not his race. Sure. This one is shaping up to be very interesting -- I'll be in Illinois in a few weeks, I'll be sure to check out the political scene.

UPDATE: Check out this withering editorial on Keyes in today's NYTimes, comparing him (unfavorably!) to Mighty Mouse and Obi-Wan Kenobi, and calling him a "professional unsuccessful candidate." Yee-ouch!
Fun with the Electoral Vote Tracker -- Thanks to L.A. Paul for this infinitely entertaining link. The LA Times has a nice, wonky breakdown of electoral college voting and recent polling for each state, and on the Tracker map you can click on the states to change them from red to blue (if only it were so easy!) and alter the election results. Sort of like the Supreme Court...


It's never too late for the Friday Five -- Miss Kim came up with a few "Happy Thoughts," which are good for Mondays too:

What is your favorite dessert? Well, the Mounds sundae I had at Cabot's, the retro ice cream palace in Newton, yesterday was quite good -- you have to appreciate it when a place serves 4 different kinds of fudge sauce, from fat-free to bittersweet, mmmmm.
What is the best thing that happened to you this week? Achieving near-total unpackedness at my new apartment, woohoo!
What is the last thing that made you smile? Very silly cartoon on my tear-off desk calendar.
When was the last time you cracked up laughing? Last night watching "Old School" with Nat, and on Saturday talking to Mark about "Da Ali G. Show," hee hee.
Who would you most like to show up at your house unannounced tonight? Wow, there are so many ways to answer this question...I'll go with a shiatsu practitioner for an impromptu treatment, aaahhh...
"Every rally the president goes to everyone is cheering for him because they're handpicked." -- Want to go to a rally where your President or Vice President will speak? Sign a pledge to re-elect them first, please -- registered Republicans only, of course. It's sort of encouraging that they have to stoop this low to flush out supporters for the incumbents...but on the other hand, if Kerry tried this? Please.


"Orange Whip? Orange Whip?" -- 80's classic "The Blues Brothers" narrowly beat "Pulp Fiction" for Best Movie Soundtrack in a BBC poll. I could go on and on about this in "High Fidelity" fashion...in fact, I shall, and "High Fidelity" would be on my list of favorites. Leaving aside movie musicals for obvious reasons (and query whether "Blues Brothers" is disqualified thereby), my Top Five includes:

1. "The Commitments" -- my favorite music movie. For real deal versions of the songs and the story of struggling musicians, "Standing in the Shadows of Motown" ties for first, an excellent documentary and fantastic cover album.
2. "Until the End of the World" -- classic late 80's alterna-mood rock, from a movie I didn't even see until years later. For the indie high school student, a gold mine. See also the made-for-TV version, "Pump Up the Volume."
3. "Tous Les Matins du Monde" -- Gerard Depardieu plays a melancholy composer; breathtaking music for viola, cello to match.
4. The entire Cameron Crowe catalog -- the man was born to wed music to the moving image. Not only do his movies gain depth from the music, the soundtrack albums stand alone -- which cannot be said for Wes Anderson (sadly there's such a thing as too much quirk) or John Hughes (one or two great cuts can't make up for too many dull instrumentals).
5. "High Fidelity" -- a movie about music with a soundtrack like a mix tape. Perfect, nerdy blend of well-known artists' deep cuts and new bands, plus Jack Black's cover of "Let's Get It On" of which I seem to be the only fan.

Honorable Mention: I received my early education in mid-20th-century rock and pop from listening to soundtracks from "The Big Chill," "Woodstock," "Dirty Dancing," "Shag," "Mermaids," and "Forrest Gump," a movie I loathed.
In my own twist on the Friday Five tradition, I offer these five Friday Web Oddities for your perusal:

1. Wooden postage stamps from Switzerland.

2. U.S. government agencies' webpages for kids -- helpfully listed at the CIA Kids page.

3. Behold, Michigan: The Mitten of Plenty.

4. New sport alert: Segway polo.

5. Tofu action figures -- in milk, strawberry, and New Zealand flavors.
"Whenever his ratings dip, there's a new terror alert." -- One Julius Civitatus has put together a chart of what we've all been suspecting, the strong correlation betwixt GWB's plummeting approval rating and the increasing frequency of sometimes questionable TerrorAlerts (tm). See fer yerself.

Happy Birthday to the Index! Posted by Hello Things have been so nutty around here that the one year anniversary of this blog slipped by unnoticed, un-celebrated, un-blogged. Oh, the irony! But it's never too late to take a trip down memory lane -- start by reading the archive of those first few days in late July 2003...good times, good times...

Next, let's get back to the future with a post suggested by The Namesake himself, to record the Presidential Gaffe o' the Week, and this one's a lulu: Prez says we're out to get us! A new Bushism is born, and as the campaign heats up the Index rolls on...hopefully a year from now I'll have nothing to blog about but seaside snapshots of President Kerry on vacation with Kofi Annan and Kim Jong Il, while Teresa tours the resettled villages of Darfur and hands out diplomas to girls in Afghanistan...*blows out birthday candle.*


"Is it all right to boil a sentient creature alive just for our gustatory pleasure?" -- Good ol' David Foster Wallace is getting into some hot water after publishing a lengthy critical article in Gourmet on the Maine Lobster Festival, where thousands of crustaceans are (tortured to death and) eaten each year. Ruth Reichl, editor of Gourmet and my favorite food writer, sort of didn't know what to make of DFW; note to Ruth: you might want to flip through some of his tomes before hiring him again, the footnotes alone will tip you off.
"Just go to your local bookstore and ask where the Bush-bashing section is." -- Author and former NYTimes guest op/ed columnist Barbara Ehrenreich does a little Q&A with Times readers. Hilarity (intentional and otherwise) ensues.


"We are worse off than we were before Brown v. Board." -- Henry Louis Gates, Jr. wrote this thoughtful op/ed in the NYTimes Sunday, ruminating on Barack Obama's DNC speech against anti-intellectualism in the black community and America as a whole. Allow me to quote: "Why the huge flap over Bill Cosby's insistence that black teenagers do their homework, stay in school, master standard English and stop having babies? Any black person who frequents a barbershop or beauty parlor in the inner city knows that Mr. Cosby was only echoing sentiments widely shared in the black community." Why indeed.
The Periodic Table of Dessert --- mmmm, precious elements C, Ce, and Fi...preferably drizzled with Gc.

Today's ? du Jour -- enjoy. Posted by Hello
For geeks only: PC Magazine's Bottom Ten Worst Laptops in History. -- Though it's not on the list, my once-trusty 8-pound 1997 Gateway is going to have to be replaced, sigh. For what I paid back then I could buy three of these. Gaahh.
Dr. Evil vs. Dr. Strangelove -- only on the BBC would we find a pop culture poll to decide who's the coolest scientist on the silver or small screen. Frankenstein or Spock? Bunsen Honeydew (interviewed by Kermit!) or Dana Scully? How to choose??!
"You got a drag queen to play me!" -- Tony Kushner, radical playwright behind Angels in America, has a new play in the works, "Only We Who Guard the Mystery Shall Be Unhappy," featuring First Lady Laura Bush and a copy of "The Brothers Karamazov." This is more controversial than you might think -- even among the hard-core theater liberals. Salon went to a recent staged reading, which included a scene Kushner had finished just hours before. Hijinks ensue.
"What Happens Is The News" -- imagine if a week's worth of headlines were drawn up and passed to you in junior-high note form. This is what it would look like. Kottke.org 's link of the week -- I concur.


The DNC tide is receding...slowly, slowly...and boy, that new Terror Alert (tm) this morning sure shook me out of my Democratic stupor! >:-X I've got some thoughts to share on my deluxe volunteer experience, but I may put them in list form...I'm still too fuzzy for paragraphs...