"Bison anyone?" Posted by Hello Please feel free to make up your own "Home on the Range" pun for today's ? du Jour.
Bullseye terrier vs. Happy Face -- Rob strikes again, with this entertaining and statistically sound comparison of prices on a cartload of consumer durables at Wal-Mart and Target. Frankly, I'd rather give Target an extra $4.86 any day...
"I was drawn to music that addressed the spirit, probably because my own needed to be addressed." -- The hipsterfication of NPR continues, with a 2-part interview of Bruce Springsteen. Be sure to listen to the audio clips!
"Again and again, in the course of the electoral battle, I heard striking tales of this tragically inverted form of class consciousness: of a cleaning lady who voted for Bush because she could never support a rich man for president." -- Have your Excedrin handy while you read Thomas Frank's article from the NYReview of Books, "What's The Matter With Liberals?" He sorts through the many, many answers to that question, from 30 years of "snob-baiting" John Kerry through the debacle of Election '04 and into our current woes. Thought-provoking, but in a blood-boiling kind of way.


"We sing from the diaphragm-a-lot!" Posted by Hello Ah, Monty Python never gets old, and this weekend's Broadway Ticket Stub proved it can also be adapted into any medium. Nat and I took in SPAMalot from the very last row of the Schubert Theater balcony, and it was well worth it just for the sound of Tim Curry's plummiest accent speaking lines like "We are all Britons" and "Bring forth the Holy Hand Grenade!" Since the movie had not plot, the show feels free to descend into wacky stagecraft (including a faux-Phantom exploding chandelier), goofy songs (they threw in "Always Look On The Bright Side of Life" from Life of Brian, which worked very well as a softshoe number), and lots of generally cheeky nonsense, complete with confetti cannons at the end and a tchotchke booth selling a Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog puppet. Nat even managed to snag two autographs after the show, woohoo! Highly recommended, unless you've never been to a Broadway show and never heard of Holy Grail and have no sense of humor whatsoever. (A)
"It is a generation for whom 900 numbers and scrambled scraps of flesh on the Spice channel have given way, in a few short years, to bulk e-mail ads for the Paris Hilton sex tapes and porn subplots on The O.C." -- Thoughtful LATimes piece on our "all-pervasive sexualized media environment" and how kids may be affected by nonstop internet smut as compared to to the laughably tame Cheryl Tiegs pinups of yore. Disturbing.
"I do have a penis! We called him 'Andy'!" -- That's Felicity Huffman, folks, talking about her new movie Transamerica (and a bit about Desperate Housewives, natch) in Salon. Would you believe in this movie she plays a transgendered woman named...Bree? Hmmm...


"Aw, Who'm I Kidding...I'll Never Top 21 Jump Street" -- so says Johnny Depp, in The Onion of course. I admit, I loved that show!
"Psst ... Justice Scalia ... You Know, You're an Activist Judge, Too" -- The NYTimes OpEd page finally dares to reveal the truth about those conservative judges: "they like judicial activism just fine when it advances their own agendas." So true...but in an era where Congressional "leaders" are not only violating the law themselves but openly threatening the judiciary, will anything come of it? Sigh.


"My Best Friend Liisa Is A Princess" Posted by Hello -- crayon on paper, by 6 year old Heli R. of Sotkamo, Finland. Brought to you by the Global Children's Art Gallery. Enjoy!
"Call upon Yoda"... for a Pepsi. -- This is so dumb. God, that movie had better be halfway decent, to make up for decades of dreck like this. Although, I'd still like a Darth Tater...
"Help! My Joe broke in half!" -- Everything you ever wanted or needed to know about G.I. Joe action figures, including what to do in the aforementioned crisis. I know The Namesake is a fan, and my brother had a whole bucket of them, so read on, boys.
Happy Patriots Day -- or, for those of you not in the Commonwealth and/or not working for a state agency or university and thus having the day off, Happy Plain Old Monday. While I toil, the 109th Boston Marathon is underway, the "shot heard round the world" has been reenacted, and the sky is a cloudless blue. I feel a song coming on...


"She got this headache when she was putting in her contacts in a Chicago hotel bathroom -- in 1991." -- Salon's Andrew O'Hehir interviews Paula Kamen, author of the new book All In My Head, on women, chronic pain and fatigue. Yes, she's had a headache for 14 years. Somehow this puts my quarterly migraines into sharp perspective.


"A Roshanda By Any Other Name" -- fascinating two-part Slate piece on differing trends in baby names by race and class over the last 25 years. Using birth certificate info from California, two researchers found that while name alone doesn't dictate an infant's success in life, there is a clear socioeconomic profile that correlates with very distinctive "black" names, and vice versa. Check out the top "blackest" and "whitest" names for girls and boys, and the "crossover" list that both choose equally. According to this, I'm a fourth-whitest girl, dating a 15th most popular crossover boy! Part two asks more broadly where baby name trends come from -- and points out that the trick is to look ahead several decades, not pick the latest fad. "Do Aviva or Clementine seem any more ridiculous than Madison might have seemed 10 years ago?" No way, I love Clementine!

WOOOHOOO! Posted by Hello Sunny day, World Series rings, smiling old timers, James Taylor, young soldiers, brand new grass, beating the Yankees 8-1: could Opening Day be any sweeter? Methinks not. I can't decide on my favorite moment...Jerry Remy getting his ring on-air in the booth, formerly invincible Yankee closer Mariano Rivera laughing and tipping his cap when the crowd applauded him as he was introduced, or when the camera picked up Johnny Pesky greeting the younger players ("Leskanic, you sonofabitch!"). Keep it alive in '05!
"The trip planner will show you a route to your destination using major interstate and state highways. Plus, it will map out all the McDonald's along the way." -- Oh dear.


Multi Ticket Stub: For this installment, I'm cramming in theater, film, and fiction, ooh la la! Better get to it...

* My Price Point by Mike Albo -- Imagine Spalding Gray, George Carlin, and David Sedaris collaborating with your yoga instructor to write a zinging, hilarious critique of what passes for American "culture" these days. I went on Friday night and nearly split my pants from laughing: "I'm trapped inside a Pilates ball!" Hoo! OK, maybe you had to be there -- and you should go, it's witty, goofy, pointed, and intensely creative; the guy is onstage the whole time, talking, dancing around, sitting in the lotus position, railing about "TiVo guilt," prescription drugs, and his "D-list celebrity stalker." Brilliant. (A+)

* Fever Pitch -- Why this movie is getting such mixed reviews is beyond me. Critics seem to be disappointed that it's not a typical Farrelly yukfest, and I bet some viewers are avoiding it because they assume that it is. Miss Mandy and I caught a matinee right down the block from Fenway Park, and I guess if you're not in Boston you won't get that crackle of recognition when "Dirty Water" plays over the opening credits...but still, what's not to like about a cute, competent RomCom in this Season of Garbage before the big summer movies open? It's not a baseball movie, and it's not a dumb comedy -- it's the successor to High Fidelity in the Modern Relationship Movie Pantheon, and not just because it's based on a Nick Hornby book, thank you. Jimmy Fallon was stunningly likable and...dare I say it, subtle as a math teacher who falls for Drew Barrymore's reliably pert career woman, and their onscreen chemistry keeps the movie chugging. She's a workaholic who wants to commit, he's a nice guy but he schedules his life around the Red Sox. They break up, make up, and the Sox win the World Series (!) as almost an afterthought -- and that's OK, because the movie is really about learning to be flexible in love. Speaking of which, everyone's favorite gay sidekick, Sex & The City's "Stanford Blatch," has a funny turn here as an ambiguous anesthesiologist. Extra points for prominently featuring Jason Varitek! (A)

* I guess there's technically no "stub" when you read a great book, but I wanted to note my best read of 2005 thus far: The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. I'm a latecomer to her work because of the Buzz Factor -- sometimes the more awards and recommendations a book/film/record gets, the less I want to read/see/listen to it. Anyway, I was totally taken in by the "Buy 2 Get 1 Free" table at Borders a few weeks ago (the shame!), and this was one of the 3. The writing is so light, effortless and assured, she makes a meandering family story seem like the freshest, most original idea in the world. It's funny without being catty, nostalgic but not sappy, serious but not self-important. The Gangulis are Indian/American, and the details of their life in Boston, growing up in the 80's, are perfectly rendered, right down to the corduroy pants and chunky plastic eyeglasses. The narration shifts from the parents, Ashima and Ashoke, whose marriage was arranged and who long to return to India for good, to their son Gogol, named after the Russian writer in a quirky twist of fate. His coming of age and star-crossed love life drive the novel to an elegant, bittersweet conclusion that literally kept me up half the night. Highly recommended! (A)
Don't blame me when you spend the rest of the day trying to write your name (in cursive) on this Online Etch-A-Sketch. Remember, I warned you!
"Cookie Monster Curbs Cookie Habit" -- and it's not an Onion headline. Looks like everyone's favorite furry blue glutton ("AMM-NAMM-NAMM-NAMM...COOK-ieeeees!") is learning that carbs count, fruit is nature's candy, and that "A Cookie Is A Sometimes Food." Good for PBS, but...sigh. *scarfs down cookies disconsolately*
Here's my favorite photo from the wedding of Charles & Camilla this weekend -- those pesky activists, seem to pop up everywhere...


Now that is a weird field. Posted by Hello What will those MIT poindexters think of next? Just kidding, Miss Kim. This is the winning entry in a physics class contest for visual representations of a vector field -- and thanks to the OpenCourseWare project, you can learn all about it too.
Ticket Stub: What better place to spend a gloomy Saturday afternoon than the local movie house? Miss Kim and I made it through the rain and took in The Upside of Anger, a darkly comic take on the "wronged woman" weepie. Joan Allen burns up the screen (Oscar clips everywhere!) as irritable, narcissistic Terry, mother of four daughters (who never seem to fight with each other, only with her) whose husband disappears one day, leaving her staring into the bottom of a Grey Goose bottle. Kevin Costner totally returns to form as her drinking buddy and paramour, a goofy but bitter retired baseball hero -- he needs to stick with what works! The plot is a bit overburdened with sidelines that go nowhere, though they add quirkiness, and casting Kerri Felicity Russell as a high school senior flops. I should add that I thought this was the director's first movie, so I was willing to forgive the uneven spots. Turns out, his earlier movies probably shouldn't count anyway, but they do make it even more surprising that the guy could write such a fresh, estrogenic script, successfully handle such a strong cast, and even put himself in as the lecherous schlub (hmm, he played the alleged child abductor in Minority Report, too). The movie is pleasantly familiar, a little confused, has great dialogue and a bit of a twist ending -- a solid (B).
In the spirit of my new "one post only on giant news events" policy, here's my $0.02 on PJP2 -- the NYTimes pretty much said it all in their Sunday editorial. He was a charismatic but thoughtful man who spoke out against some of the greatest evils of our time -- Communist repression, apartheid, war. Yet he couldn't accept changing social dynamics and instead of listening with compassion to his troubled flock he chose to consolidate power and enforce rigid orthodoxy. His funeral seems like that of a mafia don, not of a humble servant. Sigh.
"I've always wanted to rob a bank." -- Jon found Post Secret, the blog that posts anonymous secrets people mail in, to be creepy and depressing. The voyeur in me finds it addictive. Maybe that's my secret? Um, not anymore.


Mmmm, spaghetti. Posted by Hello The BBC looks back on its own greatest hoax, The Spaghetti Harvest, on April Fool's Day 1957. I'd like to think people are much less gullible these days, but sometimes I'm not so sure...
List of Schiavo Donors Will Be Sold by Direct-Marketing Firm: I think this will be my one and only post about this debacle. Her parents, through their new best friends in the pro-life industry, are selling the names and emails of people who sent them money for their "cause." Wow.
Do you have a cat? How 'bout a computer? Do either of these items amuse and entertain you? Then enjoy The Infinite Cat Project, you total, utter geek.

In other compu-feline news, over at The Amateur Gourmet it appears that Lolita is now running the show! "Can I get a wutwut for dead fish and mice?" Mon dieu! I'm sure it has nothing to do with today's date...tee hee.
Ticket Stub: Nat and I rounded out his week o' noir at the Brattle Theater with Collateral, Michael Mann's shiny, satisfying thriller of a hapless cabbie and sociopathic hitman rolling through a misty Los Angeles night. Mann's films are always delicious to look at, and here he makes digital video an art form instead of the usual pixellated lo-fi cop-out. Jamie Foxx is well-cast as the dreamy, timid Max; can't say the same for Mark Ruffalo, who looks like a kid in a Donnie Brasco Halloween costume, ugh. Tom Cruise is a bit of a cipher here: his usual clipped, focused, tightly-wound thing comes across more dangerous and menacing because his character is such a heartless psycho, who seductively charms and ruthlessly manipulates everyone around him by turns. On paper, this seems like a clone of his Vampire Lestat, but that character had an interior vulnerability, a needy streak -- here, Vincent is a soulless shark, unrepentant to the end. Of course, he does get a few chances to do the Patented Tom Cruise Run. The last 20 minutes start to drag like a bad TV movie, and there are a few moments of stale 80's machismo, but overall it's a thoughtfully gripping example of the genre. (A-)

In other pop culture news, I promise to post a full SXSW Stub this weekend -- I can't believe two weeks have blurred by since our awesome trip to Austin. Thank you, lingering winter viruses. And for those of you looking for a little good TV, I recommend the new adaptation of Little House on the Prairie -- don't laugh! OK, it's totally chicktastic, but it's nothing like the old Michael Landon show: it's all hand-held and gritty and Frontier House, without all the whining. You will want to avert your eyes from Michael Eisner's smarmy introductions, though -- it's part of The Wonderful World of Disney on ABC, unfortunately.

It's Sin City Fool's Day. Posted by Hello Robert Rodriguez's long-lusted-after graphic noir-vel flick opens today, and for once NPR proved itself the hipster network, with a rambling interview of Rodriguez and co-director Frank Miller by none other than Kevin "Silent Bob" Smith. Yeeha!