May you be Touched By His Noodly Appendage in the new year! -- Heading into the tail end of the holiday vortex, looking to shake off the bad vibes of '05 and start 2006 off right, it's going to be a wild ride....
End of the year Roadside Sightings:

1. At the Mobil station on I-95 in Lexington, the following items: on top of the garbage can next to the gas pump, an empty gift pack of 4 Fruit of the Loom men's boxer briefs, in black; on a short white man heading back to his tow truck after getting coffee, a grey longsleeve t-shirt with "SNITCHES ARE A DYING BREED" across the back and "SUPPORT BOSTON" on the front; on top of the gas pump, a large, unwrapped, unlit scented candle.

2. Pulling off the Rt. 3 ramp into Bedford, a black Lexus comes up very fast behind me. As the guy swerves around to race past me to the red light, of course, I see he is holding a cup of coffee in his left hand and his cellphone to his ear with his right. Presumably his car is K.I.T.T.
Owen & Mzee Update! -- My favorite story of 2005 continues happily, with an orphaned hippo and a 130-year-old tortoise still inseparable. :-)


"It's the idea that it takes a big fancy smart thing to make a lesser thing." -- That idea would be creationism, folks, and Dan Dennett, himself a big fancy smart thing, once again demolishes its foundations, this time in Der Spiegel. For example: " The critics of Darwinism just don't want to confront the fact that molecules, enzymes and proteins lead to thought. Yes, we have a soul, but it's made up of lots of tiny robots." Zing!


"New Jersey: Come See For Yourself" -- What better slogan for my home state than one with a touch of stubborn admonishment about it? You don't believe we have the best beaches on the East Coast, as well as a fine array of shopping malls and celebrity birthplaces? Well, see for yourself then, nyah. NJ is searching for an update to the old state slogan, "New Jersey And You: Perfect Together," a hard act to follow. There are 4 other finalists, vote early and often!

The National Geographic Best Wildlife Photo of 2005 -- "Sky Chase" by Manuel Presti, of starlings chased by a peregrine falcon over Rome.
Tsunami Girls -- poignant BBC news photo essay on three sisters who survived the tsunami in Sri Lanka.
"Happy Christmases are all alike; every unhappy Christmas is unhappy in its own way." -- So says Ann Patchett, one of my favorite writers, by way of Tolstoy, and I tend to agree. This Salon piece is a reminiscence of Christmases past with her lightly dysfunctional, blended family, including a whole fleet of field mice and a suitcase full of underwear. (Salon is a subscription service -- view the ad to read the entire article.)
95% of Boston high schoolers want to go to college -- that's the good news. In the same survey, 90% said they witnessed acts of violence; 50% are afraid of gangs, feel unsafe on public transit, or know someone with a gun. Predictably, the mayor is shocked by these results, and has appointed a new policy point person on youth issues, blah blah blah. I feel like calling Lawrence Fishburne in here to reenact the last scene from School Daze: "WAAAAAKE UUUUUUP!!" Do we have to wait until all 100% of the kids is personally assaulted before we do something effective, like an anti-violence curriculum, funding community policing, afterschool programs and jobs for kids? Oh right, whoops, we're talking about the Boston public schools here.
Sick of Christmas yet? -- For those of you recovering from the holiday weekend without an ounce of cheer left, how about a Festivus celebration instead? One guy in Erie, PA is taking the Gospel of Frank Costanza to heart, complete with feats of strength, airing of grievances, and a Festivus Pole. Me, I'll be happy to offload all the leftover Christmas sweets onto my coworkers...the spirit of sharing!


Bombs to the Bomb -- Rotten Tomatoes, my movie site of choice, has a "worst to first" movies of '05 feature, a roundup of the lowest scoring movies of the year (Elektra, anyone?) to counteract all those Top Ten lists. Speaking of which, here's Roger Ebert's -- did he see any movies he didn't like this year?


"So as I cut up another credit card over the kitchen garbage can, the mantra is: 'What am I worth? And to whom?'" -- Feel the wage rage, ladies! As the new book Getting Even: Why Women Don't Get Paid Like Men - And What They Can Do About It points out, women still earn less money than men in the same jobs, to the tune of 77 cents on the dollar. Gee, when I was a kid back in the 70's women only earned 59 cents, what an improvement! This seemingly paltry difference adds up to $700K to $2 million (for a law grad like me) over a working lifetime, though. Paging corporate HR, this is your wakeup call.


That's right, kitties in snowsuits -- play to your heart's content, thanks to Chaos Kitty.
52 Weeks, 52 Questions -- how much do you remember of 2005? The BBC version, anyway.
Name Etymology Haiku Meme -- What do those four word have to do with one another, you ask? I poached this idea from Jon: look up the meaning of each of your names, and construct a haiku that incorporates them all. I like this idea, but coincidentally all three of my names have contested etymologies. Emily comes from the Latin surname Aemilius, meaning "rival," but it's often conflated with Amalia/Amelia, from the German for "industrious." Katherine is all over the place: Greek words for "torture," "purity," "consecration," or the phrase "each of the two" are all possible, as is the goddess Hecate (three-headed mistress of hounds from the underworld, of course). And as for Durand, it's back to Latin: from the root duro, to abide or bear, to make strong. Thus:

Race me to Hades
I'll get there first, stay a while
I can stand the heat
Lamb shank or poussin? -- Praise Allah, I am lucky enough to be going to Blue Ginger, my gastronomic Valhalla, for the first time this week! It's Nat's parents' 40th wedding anniversary next Tuesday, and I will be selling my plasma to raise the necessary dough. Well, not really. But here's the crucial question -- what to order, at these prices, for a memorable experience? I'm sure everything is beautifully prepared, and I'm generally a good orderer, but I don't want to get stuck in some tea-smoked, mole-aoili corner for the night. Hmmmm...off to Chowhounds!

UPDATE: I had the poussin, and it was sublime -- though nearly outshined by Nat's scallops and the awesome warm ginger donut holes, mmmmm. The place is small and friendly, and the food is expertly prepared, though it doesn't show off. Expensive, yes, but not exhorbitant, for what you get in flavor. As Dee said, here's to arthropods in pepper sauce...
Tis the season for more Roadside Sightings:

1. Hard by the side of Columbia Road, next to the JFK T stop, there's a little niche to pull over and drop off passengers. Several signs indicate "LIVE PARKING ONLY." In a town with a zillion "No Stopping" signs, I guess they needed a way to subtly delineate that it's OK to sit in your parked car here...though not if you're dead.

2. Northbound on 95/128 this morning, a silver pickup truck with the following bumper sticker: "FISH ON!"

3. In the Bedford Whole Foods spice aisle, a mom is shopping with her loquacious 3ish year old son in the cart. As I peruse the sea salt selections, the kid is yammering away to himself in an "outdoor voice." Mom says, "Lower your voice, please. Now what does it say on our list that we need?" The kid says, "It says we need poo poo!" "No it doesn't," Mom says firmly. "Yes it does," he chortles, "we definitely need POO POO! Ah ha ha ha hahhahaaaaa!" He laughs and kicks his snow boots against the cart. I am standing right there and doing my best not to laugh or give the kid a hairy eyeball. The mom says, "That's enough!" and this is where it gets good: the boy replies, "Mommy, we should just move on!" She laughs and agrees, "Yes David [name changed to protect the mouth of babe], we need to just move on!" And off they go.


More entries in the Holiday Ticket Stub rush!

* Syriana -- Despite its strong similarities to Traffic (same production team), this densely packed fauxcumentary of the global oil-terrorism complex still packs a serious wallop. Cutting briskly between four plotlines, the film traces the consequences of poverty, political will, and unchecked corporate greed in the final years of the oil economy. The four main characters are well drawn and united in being dwarfed by these larger forces -- particularly Mazhar Munir as a young Pakistani worker in the mideast oil fields who is shunted into a fundamentalist madrassa after losing his job thanks to a shady corporate merger. At every turn, idealism and the hope of reform are thwarted by a multilayered smog of corruption. By the last frame, you'll want to ditch your car by the side of the road and/or move to the moon. Points off for laughably minor female roles, and a brutal sequence of poor pudgy George Clooney being horribly tortured and beaten. Still, it's worth seeing: what does it say about our country that the most serious foreign policy analysts may be in Hollywood these days? Reminds me of Tom Morello saying that he learned more about US intervention in Central America from The Clash's Sandinista than by watching the evening news. Word. (A-)

* RENT -- A holdover from Thanksgiving, finally went to see it for Ladies Movie Night. In a word, meh. I was fanatical about the Broadway show way back a decade ago...but like so many things from the 90's, including me, the concept hasn't aged perfectly. RENT the show was a rough-edged masterpiece, a florid rock opera in a cynical post-Phantom of the Opera world, drenched in AIDS sorrow and youthful verve in equal measure. The songs hold up very well onscreen -- the walls of the movie theater literally reverberated -- but then, how could they not? They are the essence of and the best thing about the show -- plenty of RENTheads have only experienced it through the cast album! The acting runs from decent right down to flat, unfortunately, with Jesse L. Martin (of course) and Rosario Dawson at the top, probably due to their experience off the boards. Taye Diggs manages to come off waxen, though he plays the dull yuppie heel, and his live wire (real-life) wife, Idina Menzel, is nothing short of grating, a theater geek gone mad in front of a camera lens. They all have great pipes, but chugging through lyrics like "In the evening I must roam, Can't sleep in the city of neon and chrome" just doesn't work as well in the "real world" of the movie. And therein I shall place my blame -- director Chris Columbus, already renowned for his ability to suck the life out of beloved artworks, badly misjudges the material here, playing up the background settings (including some truly ludicrous location work) more than the songs. RENT could be staged in a cardboard box and be powerful. Here it seems...trivial, despite being at least 30 minutes too long! Even as a nostalgia trip back to a more innocent version of New York, it doesn't quite hit the mark. (C)
"If your Christmas tree is upside down, you do too much yoga." -- Find out what your choice of Xmas decor says about you. At our house we've had our low-key tree in the window for over a week, but now it's competing with the icicle lights, wire-frame reindeer, and red and green conical tree-shaped disco rope light thingy our neighbors crammed into the front garden over the weekend. Ho ho ho!
Lyra v. Lucy -- Philip Pullman, author of the IMO best children's fantasy series not being made into a movie this year, says Narnia is sexist, racist, and stuffed with Christian propaganda. I'm sure that's what the fundies are hoping, but it doesn't seem quite right...though I still like Pullman's work better.


We had the first true snowstorm of the season (though certainly not the calendar year) on Friday -- luckily I stayed home from work to enjoy the scenery...and the power outage, and the shoveling, and the howling winds, thunder and lightning. Old Man Winter, nice to see ya!
The War on Christmas begins! -- Mr. Sun is on the front lines in "The Taking of Frosty"! After braving the Christmas Tree Shop in Somerville for the second time this weekend, I'm starting to think war might not be such a bad idea after all...
"...and they lived happily ever after." -- From Jane Austen to Nick Hornby, what makes the last line of a novel so memorable? Is it more satisfying to wrap up the plot definitively, or to leave a lingering doubt in the reader's mind? I tend to favor the former, but then again probably the most amazing last line I ever read was "There is no resolution." Gahhh!
Meet Michelle Bachelet -- are you aware that this socialist, divorced, single mom is poised to become Chile's first woman president?
"Sexual relationships often lower the self-respect of both partners—one feeling used, the other feeling like the user." -- A direct quote from the pro-abstinence teaching materials provided to your local high school by the Bush Administration. Don't miss the Freudfest about the "dragon" and the "noose" either.


It's never not a good time for some Roadside Sightings, right?

* On a sandwich board outside a nondescript industrial building in Burlington: "KARATE FENCING." Presumably two separate events, but you never know.

* I bought a baked potato from a Wendy's drive through. The following things were stuffed in the bag alongside: napkin, plastic fork (but no knife), receipt, mini tub of Wendy's brand Buttery Best Spread ("0 Grams Trans Fat!"), strange beignet-shaped package of Wendy's brand Reduced Fat Acidified Sour Cream which had so many ingredients the list took up nearly the entire package. Mmmmm!

* Sprinting across a side street near my house late last night: a little brown bunny. Hope he has somewhere warm to wait for the snow tonight...

UPDATE: The latest, greatest bumber sticker sighting! An unremarkable tan Corrolla displayed an AAA seal, a Marines seal, and a purple "I AM JANE EYRE" sticker. Um, OK.