Welcome to the Home of the Solar Death Ray! -- So cheerful, for such a diabolical device. Inspired by genius Rob Cockerham, this dude built a solar reflector to basically heat stuff up a lot with...like, for example, marshmallow Peeps. Rock on!
Ticket Stub: Last week's Ladies Movie Night choice was a delightful blend of story, music, dance, and enough goofy lightheartedness to melt the leftover winter chill in the air. Gurinder Chadha's Bride & Prejudice is a Bollywood musical wrapped around the classic Jane Austen story of "spunky heroine discovers insufferable snob to actually be love of her life;" see also Bridget Jones, of course. In this version, the four "Bennett" sisters are unmarried in an Indian country town and their gold-digging mother's desperate to match them up. Suitors (including the luscious Naveen Andrews) come and go, and the story spins from India to London to L.A. and back again. The lovely Aishwarya Rai manages to be bright yet earthy, even as the musical numbers swoop around her -- and what great numbers they are, with frenetic dancing, elephants, moonlight, gauzy costumes, surfers, a gospel choir, you name it. It's all in English, which actually seems weird because the whole approach is classic Bollywood, and I think I might enjoy the dubbed-in-Hindi version even more. You have to be in the mood, but if you are, it's a gem. (B)
"Ben Stiller, who's lately made boatloads of money in films that feature cursing babies and dogs dyed blue by toilet water" -- art vs. commerce, friends vs. enemies, Janeane Garofalo vs. Ben Stiller, this Low Culture rumination has it all! Remember when Janeane was the 90's comedy It Girl and Ben was a nobody? My how times have changed.


Run, it's a Mary-Kate-O-Saur! Posted by Hello This monstrosity is a creation of the Toy Lab in Cincinnati, a place where kids reassemble recycled toy parts however they like, give the new creation a name and special powers, and take it home after posting a pic in the online Toy Zoo. Neato! It's funny how those long Barbie legs are tricky to incorporate...and I didn't see any Barbie torsos, too pointy I guess.
"We All Have A Life. Must We All Write About It?" -- Um, a touchy question for a blogger, but hey, why not? Former NYTimes food critic and chicken guy William Grimes takes on the latest mountain of memoirs in this memoir-lovin' age, including Job Hopper by the fabulous Ayun Halliday. I agree that there's a memoir for every other person out there, but some of my favorite, most re-read books fall into that category, so I guess I'm hooked.
Fear not, loyal TAI readers, I have returned! From Austin, from my sofa/sickbed, from a week+ of incommunicado madness! Do I even remember how to type? Let's find out...but first, a word of advice: never try too hard to outsmart germs, it just makes them angry and vindictive. Cough cough.


This is just the kind of mood I am in today. Posted by Hello Thank you, Wayne Thiebaud.
Veiled Conceit indeed -- this is a blog that critiques the wedding announcements in the Sunday NYTimes, and the people in them. Did somebody say h-e-a-v-e-n? (Via La Sushiesque)
Welcome to the Annie Hall of Mirrors -- Low Culture strikes again with a gallery of actors who've played the protagonist in Woody Allen's films. That is, they stood in as the young or handsome version of Woody when he opted not to star in the film himself. Priceless.
"Move Up The Date For Armageddon" -- The excellent Molly Ivins takes on the Bush Administration's deadly sense of humor in her latest column, on the nomination of John "There is no such thing as the United Nations" Bolton as U.S. Ambassador to...wait for it...the United Nations! Ha!
Please pass the ostrich ragout, Caesar -- Today is the Ides of March, what better day to celebrate Roman tastes? In this case, for good food, not regicide. Around the Roman Table includes recipes (in Latin!) for everyday fare and feasts in the ancient world -- who knew veal scaloppine had such a long history? Mmmm, veal. Or should I say, vitella deliciosa.

A big day for Gavin Newsom. Posted by Hello San Francisco's dashing mayor at a press conference on yesterday's SF Superior Court decision that denying civil marriage to same-sex couples is unconstitutional in California. Woohoo, welcome to the club! Well, let's not be too hasty...there will be appeals, plus there is a voter initiative to amend the state constitution to enshrine homophobia, oops, I mean protect the children, of course. We will see...


Ticket Stub: For yesterday's impromptu Ladies Movie Afternoon, we wound up at the Kendall Cinema taking in a black-and-white classic of the French New Wave, Jean-Luc Godard's Masculin Feminin. Set in 1965 Paris, it's a slightly disjointed series of vignettes about Paul, a disenchanted loser, and Madeleine, an aspiring pop singer, their friends and errant romance. Juxtaposing grimy shots of Paris cafes and alleyways alongside the fresh faces, foul mouths, and slightly weary eyes of "Pepsi generation" youth, Godard explores the impact of Vietnam and American pop culture in France, and most importantly the way men and women relate at the dawn of the Sexual Revolution. My favorite scene involved a teenage beauty queen trying to be cool and giggling uncontrollably when pressed to talk about birth control methods. It's very stylized and a little self-indulgent, not to mention draggy in the middle ["It's agony!" cried poor Miss Laura], but far more original and vibrant than its many imitators (paging Mr. Tarantino), and there are plenty of tricks to imitate -- the bold title cards, the use of pop music, comic cameos, utterly arbitrary violence, the repeating sound effects of gunshots and camera shutters, the convincingly faked realism intercut with actual real footage, and so on. If you're in the mood for a sort of brainy, depressive, French version of a John Hughes movie, this is it. (B)
"I enjoy taking subjects that are generally dull and trying to make them interesting." -- And we love him for it! Bill Bryson talks to the BBC about his foray into science writing. And note the photo of him with QE2...should we hope for an essay on that surely droll moment?
Help BookThing! -- There's a place in Baltimore for all your unwanted books, and all your dreams of unlimited free books, too. BookThing is basically a way station: drop off books you don't want, take some you do, and it's all totally free. Man, is that on my itinerary or what? Anyway, they are moving to a new space and could use a few bucks. Let the good karma flow, people. You know, for all the zillions of books gathering dust in the homes, offices, cars, backpacks, etc. of greater Boston, continually refreshed by visiting our top-notch independent bookstores, I really don't think we could do something like this here...alongside Yankee frugality you get Yankee Hoarding Instinct, i.e. people would overwhelm the facility in about an hour with decades' worth of novels and textbooks, and would scoop up an equal number to take home, thus defeating half the purpose. Add to this the Masshole Factor, i.e. equal doses of skepticism and entitlement regarding one's fellow humans, and things could get pretty ugly. But hey, it wouldn't hurt to try...especially for kids' books, maybe? Hmmmm...


Think you've got the Worst Brother on Earth? Posted by Hello This guy went into his sister's room and covered everything with aluminum foil. And took photos. And wrote a churlish internet summary of said escapade. She wins!
You will, above all, not put nail-polish remover in the perfume!” -- New Yorker piece on how a new scent is made, in this case the scent of un jardin sur le Nile...lotus, jasmine, carrot, hold the crocodile.
"TV Conquers Remote Bhutan" -- so trumpets the BBC, in this article exploring the tele-deflowering of Bhutan, tiny Himalayan mountain kingdom that's on its 6th year of TV. Predictably, kids are glued to it and the adults are wringing their hands. Sigh.
Yo, what's your Goddamn Rock Solid Ghetto Shiznit Name? -- I think we've now officially run hip-hop slang into the ground. The other night Jon Stewart bombed with a weak "pizzeace in the Mizzle Izzeast" joke. Thanks, America! Signed, Ass Machine Dawg.

Nerrrrd Alert! Posted by Hello How excited was I to see that Harry Potter #6 has official cover artwork? A little too excited. Countdown to July 16...
Forgive, Internet...forgive -- it's been a low-post kind of week, thanks to the unreliable, no, let's just say quirky nature of Blogger. Ah well...let's all pray to St. Isidore of Seville (patron saint of the internet, doncha know) for a return to profligacy and procrastination over here. Amen!


Vote for your next UN Idol! -- The irrepressible Mr. Sun has a brilliant suggestion for spicing up international politics: replace the UN Security Council with Randy, Paula and Simon from American Idol. Think about it...they squabble, but they reach consensus; lots of personality; high recognition factor; global reach. Can't say the same for the current crop, now can we?

And speaking of my favorite...uh, make that only reality show, can we get some love for Anwar Robinson? He's the dreadlocked music teacher from North Jersey -- here's hoping he gets his deserved spot in the Top 12, instead of, say, Pudge Rock or Foolish Cutie. Go Anwar!


Yeah, we all feel like this sometimes, don't we? Posted by Hello Today's ? du Jour was snapped by some clever press photographer last week, when the Red Sox visited the White House and Jackie Robinson was awarded a posthumous Congressional Gold Medal. Oh John Kerry...now do you think you should've spent that last $15 million?
Ticket Stub: First of all, an idea whose time has come -- The Bad Review Revue, the latest one-line bad movie reviews in convenient list form.

Second, a movie that wouldn't appear on that list -- Finding Neverland, which I saw for the second time with Kim yesterday. I saw it back when it first opened, and I correctly guessed it would reward a repeat viewing. It's even more poignant, if that's possible, and still better at eliciting emotion than a certain tawdry melodrama that won Best Picture. The story is simply told, with just the right touch of magical realism sprinkled over the stellar acting. Kate Winslet is always great, Johnny Depp is I think the most versatile actor in Hollywood, and Julie Christie is excellent as the severe, sad grandmother. But Freddie Highmore steals the movie as the shy, seething Peter: I'm looking forward to seeing him and Depp together again in this! (A)
"There were little white wires hanging down from their ears, or tucked into pockets, purses or jackets. The eyes were a little vacant." -- Eek, it's the iPeople! Andrew Sullivan laments the subculturification of our culture. If that's even a word.
Blink-O-Rama -- a celebrity blink blog. Question: doesn't Snoop Dogg always look like that?
"What happened to the anti-porn feminists?" -- Oh, I'm sure they're around here somewhere. This article follows up on my own question after seeing the Inside Deep Throat documentary -- though our culture today is swimming in X-rated imagery (thank you, internet) the only outcry seems to come from the Christian Right, not from feminist groups and certainly not from academia. Why not? Are we all desensitized, or is it just not cool to say, "Hey, that objectifies women" anymore? Gee, was it ever cool? Be sure to click on the "Closer Look" graphic for some scary 70's hair.


Girl With Berries? Posted by Hello This image is part of a Library of Congress collection of early color images taken by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii in the last years of Tsarist Russia. He surveyed rural life by train between 1909 and 1915, using a 3-color glass plate technique which, blended together inside a "magic lantern," project a full-color image. A few years later, WWI and the Revolution overturned this way of life. There are hundreds of images here -- click and enjoy.
Enjoy three silly links. TGIF...

* "Have at you!" -- prepare for the antics of the Tiny Plaid Ninjas.

* Directions for making a tin-foil hat -- to protect from radio waves, alien lasers, etc.

* How To Dance Like A Goth -- I laughed for a long, long time.
"I had hopes for another full-time officer through the federal COPS program, and it isn't going to happen now." -- Meet Ethan Ward, police chief of a tiny Pennsylvania town who runs the entire 3-person department on $88K per year. He finds equipment bargains on EBay, applies for grant money, and voluntarily went without pay for 10 weeks in the aftermath of Hurrican Ivan. On the one hand, I'd love to see this kind of dedication rewarded. He puts the bloated patronage and shenanigans of other departments to shame. On the other, I'd hate to see him held up as an example of "doing more with less" by the twisted logic of the Bush Administration. It's really a crime that he has so little to work with, and in urban areas this kind of austerity just wouldn't cut it. Grrrrr...
Ten Books Meme -- I've seen this punting around lately, and since I'm not much of a "series" reader, I thought I wouldn't have many authors of 10+ books I've read on my list. Wow, that sentence sucked. Anyway, I was surprised:

Dr. Seuss
Laurent & Jean de Brunhoff (Babar)
H.A. Rey (Curious George)
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Elizabeth Levy (Something Queer series)
Donald J. Sobol (Encyclopedia Brown)
Judy Blume
Carolyn Keene (Nancy Drew)
Mark Twain
Anne Tyler
Stephen King
Danielle Steel! (ah, junior high)
Bill Bryson
Ellis Peters (Brother Cadfael series)
Vladimir Nabokov (I think)

Since only the last 3 were read beyond high school, I think it's safe to say I'm getting more fickle as I get older. Or, writers are becoming less prolific. Yeah, that's it.

Behold, the Sumo Rat! Posted by Hello Indian nutrition researchers have genetically engineered a group of obese rats (yeah yeah, paging PETA...) to study their overeating habits. I bring this to your attention merely for a) the shock value of the second photo in the article, and b) the hilarity of the tagline on the third photo, classic BBC.
Martha is free, free! -- Well, except for the Lo-Jack anklet she has to wear for 5 months of house arrest. But still! She released a statement, noting that her time inside made her feel fortunate for her family, education, and opportunities in life. In an earlier note she railed against mandatory minimum sentencing for first-time nonviolent offenders -- wouldn't it be interesting to see a corporate heavyweight become an advocate for sentencing reform? Stay tuned...and consider a K-Mart shopping spree.
It's that time -- time for some recent Roadside Sightings:

1. I pulled up behind a black Mercedes E-200 sedan at a red light. It had a big honkin' pink ribbon magnet on the back, as well as this NH vanity plate: CLAS-E. Or not.

2. At a forlorn intersection near my office, someone slapped this sticker on the back of a speed limit sign: I (HEART) ASS.

3. A truck drove past me this morning with the following emblazoned on the side: "The MOX Solution -- Massachusetts Oxygen & Gas Suppliers: The Pressure's On Us!" Yuk yuk yuk.


Note: Right now outside my office window, it is snowing steadily and the sun is peeping through the clouds. It's been snowing for almost 18 hours straight. This brings our seasonal total to over six feet of snow. I am starting to think about those indigenous winter myths of the sun disappearing forever...
"Don't Blame Wal-Mart" -- you might find this a surprising perspective coming from Robert Reich, former Labor Secretary, Mass. gubernatorial candidate (for whom I stuffed many an envelope), and founder of The American Prospect. But he's got a point in this NYTimes OpEd: "Today's economy offers us a Faustian bargain: it can give consumers deals largely because it hammers workers and communities." That is, we all love a bargain, though we claim to loathe the corporations who offer us dirt cheap airfares, toilet paper, and cellphone minutes. A solution? "Make our purchases a social choice as well as a personal one." That is, "tax" yourself by choosing goods and services from responsible companies, even if they cost more. What a concept!