"I don’t want her to be a fish without a bicycle; I want her to be a fish with another fish. Preferably, one who loves and respects her and also does the dishes and half the child care." -- Third wave feminist and mom to a preschool princess, Peggy Orenstein gets grouchy over the retro pink wave washing over American girlhood (again), compliments of Disney. Like her, I fondly remember the free to be, unisex-corduroy-overall era of the late 70's, but I also remember the sheer delight my friends and I had in the 80's pretending to be just like Madonna. Surely the best way to encourage individuality in your kid isn't to grouse about sex stereotyping at every turn...isn't that a little meta for a 3 year old?


It's not too late for indie Christmas music, folks -- and thanks to Nat, this one may make the rotation year round. Yes, that's right, Aimee Mann put out a Christmas CD. Yes, we are old, and yes, it is really, really good.

And in other old school Christmas news, you can watch the original "Christmas Eve on Sesame Street" special in seven parts on YouTube, starting here. I love the part where Kermit the reporter asks kids about how Santa gets into your apartment if you don't have a chimney.



Copyright be damned, I'm on Salon.com! -- I wrote in about my favorite book of the year for their Reader Picks 2006, and there I am on the 3rd page, praising Emily Barton's Brookland. I never new I had so much to learn about gin distillation until I read this book.


"You will appreciate the work ethic of Jason Varitek. He will be the best catcher you've ever had. Do everything he says. He will not tell you how to vote." -- But if he did, I'd listen! Globe leprecolumnist Dan Shaughessy offers some adjustment tips to Daisuke Matsuzaka, the Red Sox new zillion-dollar pitching savior. Konichi-wa!


Here comes the 2007 sun -- Very cool solar-inspired calendar gives new meaning to "at a glance." Designed by W. Bradford Paley and available in PDF for your personal planning pleasure.
"In movies, awesomeness only seems to really count if you’re a boy, and that makes me want to punch something." -- Right on, Mighty Girl! What is the deal with The Holiday, the new chickflick wherein through a series of contrived hijinks, Cameron Diaz winds up smooching the equally bronzed Jude Law, and the luminescent Kate Winslet winds up with the delightfully, yet unconventionally, (c)hunky Jack Black. Now let the record reflect that I personally would be happy with winning either Kate Winslet or Jack Black in the final reel, but Maggie makes a good point. There is no actress out there who's the female equivalent of JB, that is, hilarious and spunky but pudgy, short, and average-looking. The frightening thing is that actresses who are thought of as "average," like Toni Collette, America Ferrera, and even Kate Winslet, are in fact stunning specimens compared to the general population. And yet the Kevin Jameses of the world continue to thrive...and have hot TV wives! GAAAAAHHH!!
Everyone's favorite curmudgeonly Minnesotan, Garrison Keillor, offers his version of the annual family puff-piece Christmas letter -- and it sounds good to me:

"Dear friends. We are getting older but are in fairly good shape and moving forward insofar as we can tell. We still drink strong coffee and read the paper and drive the same old cars. We plan to go to Norway next summer. We think that this war is an unmitigated disaster that will wind up costing a trillion dollars and we worry for our country. Our child enjoys her new school and is making friends. She was a horsie in the church Christmas pageant and hunkered down beside the manger and seemed to be singing when she was supposed to. We go on working and hope to be adequate to the challenges of the coming year but are by no means confident. It's winter. God is around here somewhere but does not appear to be guiding our government at the moment. Nonetheless we persist. We see kindness all around us and bravery and we are cheered by the good humor of young people. The crabapple tree over the driveway is bare, but we have a memory of pink blossoms and expect them to return. God bless you all."


"A long resume of ass-kissing won't cut it." -- To get to the Oval Office, that is, despite all signs to the contrary. One of the many trenchant comments to this Salon story on Barack Obama and his rock star welcome in New Hampshire over the weekend.


Another in our occasional series of Surprisingly Decent Email Forwards -- once again, courtesy of Aunt Kathy!

1. The Wall Street Journal is read by the people who run the country.

2. The Washington Post is read by people who think they run the country.

3. The New York Times is read by people who think they should run the country and who are very good at crossword puzzles.

4. USA Today is read by people who think they ought to run the country but don't really understand The New York Times. They do, however, like their statistics shown in pie charts.

5. The Los Angeles Times is read by people who wouldn't mind running the country -- if they could find the time, and didn't have to leave Southern California to do it.

6. The Boston Globe is read by people whose parents used to run the country and did a far superior job of it, thank you very much.

7. The New York Daily News is read by people who aren't too sure who's running the country and don't really care as long as they can get a seat on the train.

8. The New York Post is read by people who don't care who's running the country as long as they do something really scandalous, preferably while intoxicated.

9. The Miami Herald is read by people who are running another country but need the baseball scores.

10. The San Francisco Chronicle is read by people who aren't sure there is a country, or that anyone is running it; but if so, they oppose its foreign policy and demand increased funding for the environment and public education.

11. The Philadelphia Enquirer is read by people who would be great at running the country but no one ever thinks to ask them.

12. The National Enquirer is read by people trapped in line at the grocery store.

13. And, of course, the country is actually run by someone who doesn't read a newspaper at all.
"You better start paying attention because its gonna be getting worse! One Love Walmart!" -- People are so, so dumb. Or is it just AOL users, or poor spellers, or WalMart shoppers? Nah, just people in general. Check out dadblogger Dutch's run-in with an angry, pitchfork-wielding intermob.


"Hey man, is that Freedom Rock?" -- Oh dear, the 50 Greatest Commercials of the 80's. Like, you can watch them, on YouTube, the Smithsonian Institution of popular culture. Frankly, I'd like to see the Monchichi ad in there. (via Kottke)
Do you know who's on the Iraq Study Group? -- They're delivering the (presumably) bad news to Congress right now, and the full report will be available later on today. I was clicking throught some excerpts and realized that beyond James Baker I didn't know who else was in the group. GOP stalwarts like Lawrence Eagleburger and Ed Meese, yes, but also Leon Panetta, Sandra Day O'Connor, and, perhaps oddly, Vernon Jordan! He's a powerful guy, but not exactly a foreign policy specialist. Hmmm, I guess having Colin Powell in there would be too weird.


It's beginning to look a lot like youknowwhat... -- As it's December 1, my holiday shopping odyssey has begun, and there's no better place to start than Etsy, the hipcrafting paradise. This delightful mosiac tile pendant is just the beginning, muahahahaaaa...
A command performance post from The Planning Committee, you know who you are! -- For your consideration, it's a political thriller of the highest order: Apron Parking! Produced by The Dukakis Project, it's a high-stakes game of municipal chess, with the former Mass guv and adjunct UCLA prof taking on LA's high-density, car-loving lifestyle. "Maybe those parked illegally should take the bus. She looked at me like I had 10 heads or something," Dukakis said. Powerful stuff indeed.


"If you are having so much fun that you start perspiring, take a moment to dry your hands." -- Sounds like fun already! Nintendo's new Wii gaming console comes with some enlightening safety tips, like Watch out for the TV and Don't throw the remote across the room while virtual bowling. I am no fan of videogames but I'm somewhat intrigued by this contraption...


Lisa Simpson is super cool, but then again, she's fictional -- CNET proffers a list of the Top 10 Girl Geeks...well, I guess they're female geeks, since only one isn't yet a woman and one is more of a stick insect. I'm all for celebrating Madame Curie, but how about updating this rather anemic list with some current go-getting, tech-savvy gals? For example:

* Meg Hourihan -- godmother of Blogger (and fellow Jumbo) who's now into food
* Helen Greiner -- founder of iRobot, who gave us the Roomba
* Meg Whitman -- queen of successful branding and thus, CEO of eBay
* Victoria Hale -- founder of the world's first nonprofit pharmaceutical company and reciepient of a 2006 MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant
* ...and no Girl Geek list would be truly complete without our overachieving, football-loving, classical-piano-playing, somewhat deluded but nonetheless brainy and dedicated Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice.


Ah yes, the Truffle Schnuffle -- this is the upscale German toy version, not the Goonies version. I love all things Haba, but does this seem even a little fun? Or fun enough to be worth sharing all the germs in that plastic nose? Mmmmm.


From fictional worms to Satan Claus! -- The Wikipedia Knowledge Dump is a blog collecting articles slated for deletion from Wikipedia. Talk about not wanting to belong to a club that will have you for a member...
Boobs On A Plane -- The kerfluffle over a breastfeeding mom being booted off a flight in VT for "offending" a flight attendant has reached new heights: lactivists are converging on Delta counters today to breastfeed in protest! Good for them -- I cannot believe this Globe article actually mentions Janet Jackson's NipGate in comparison to breastfeeding, no wonder people are so screwed up about this.


"Most men are acutely aware of how most other men think about and treat women when women aren't around, that whole galaxy of slobber and villainy most women aren't even aware of." -- Awesome parentblogger Dutch waxes philosophical about why men get anxious about their children's future budding sexuality. As the eldest daughter of a caring dad who was (and remains) a product of K-12 Catholic schooling (he went to an all-boys Jesuit high school, for pete's sake!), who would erupt randomly with proclamations like, "All men want to do is ejaculate," "Don't ever call someone a jerkoff, that means he masturbates!!" and, as he was about to drive away from dropping me off at freshman orientation, "Listen to me, no sex. No drugs. Please!" let's just say, I can relate.


Will do! -- London street art group The Wooster Collective reports on a subtle switcheroo of Underground posters in the King's Cross area, now that the 2012 Olympics folks are trying to gentrify, spiff up, and otherwise de-undesirable the neighborhood.
Dang, I forgot it's Celebrity Jeopardy! Week -- and that means I missed Soledad O'Brien choking last night on "two states whose names have a double N." Wow, dude, I came up with Indiana and Washington right off the bat...and don't forget about Connecticut, Tennessee, North Carolina, Pennsylvania....ouch!
"Knowingly and Obstinately" -- That's the phrase that really gets me. The US Catholic Bishops conference sent out a big fat missive yesterday warning the faithful not to take Communion if they reject church teachings about birth control (don't!), the gays (don't!), and other immoralities. Catholics who are "knowing and obstinate" -- that is to say, those who make up their own minds about their own sex lives -- aren't wanted. How very Jesus of them. Obstinate means "stubborn...difficult to manage, control, or subdue." Hey, speaking of Jesus...


Watch carefully...it's the Dueling Magicians, Final Countdown, ABRACADABRA! Edition of TicketStub:

* The Illusionist - Keep your eyes on Paul Giamatti's fine walrus moustache, and all will be revealed. This sepia-toned fable weaves a gentle illusion of lost love and hoodwinkery, sort of like Romeo & Juliet crossed with Robin Hood and a dash of The Usual Suspects. Everybody's favorite black-eyed rogue, Edward Norton, plays Eisenheim, a poor but noble boy whose aristocratic childhood love, Sophie, is taken away and later engaged to the ruthless, arrogant Prince Leopold, played by go-to slimeball Rufus Sewell. Can you see where this is going? Jessica Biel, the anachronistic hottie playing Sophie, is the only thing that looks out of place in fin-de-siecle Vienna -- this movie was made on a certain budget, but it was well spent on authentic settings and simple but effective stagings of the illusions, which, while enhanced by computer, are delightful. The gaslight and gloom are as palpable as the plummy Slav-ish accents. Paul Giamatti hams it up winningly as Police Inspektor Uhl, a canny bureaucrat charged with discovering Eisenheim's secrets by the Prince. Once Sophie turns up murdered, though, those secrets turn far more convoluted -- and their resolution more fantastical. Unlike Nat, who spotted the twists a mile off, I got caught up in the tricksy plot and thoroughly enjoyed it. I like a movie that sprinkles the fairy dust judiciously and doesn't get in over its head. Extra points for terrific sound editing! See, that sounds dull but it goes a long way. (A-)

* The Prestige - This movie sells itself: Batman vs. Wolverine! Or alternatively it's Battle of the Tall, Dark & Handsomes...or something. OK, so Hugh Jackman might walk off with that prize, but Christian Bale is no slouch. The two play professional magicians in fin-de-siecle London, under the tutelage of a grizzly Michael Caine and battling for audience domination and eternal glory. Who can perfect the better illusion, and at what price? Told by Christopher Memento Nolan in a craftily unfolding, time-stuttered way, the story absorbs you in stages, just like a magic trick's three steps: the pledge, the turn, and the prestige. I liked how the themes of hubris, deception, and surprise chimed again and again throughout the unspooling plot, but they were a bit dark and weighty, dare I say existential. Both men are broken by their ambition to become the "real" Transported Man...again, it's so Jungian, and yet by the end they're both so beyond redemption you kind of want to see them both dead. Wait, does that happen? It's sort of hard to say. Actually, I was the one who spotted the essential plot wrinkle way ahead of Nat, which in this case filled me not with smug satisfaction but rather moral dread. The film is thoughtfully made, but a little too sinister to bear repeated viewings just for the plot puzzle. OTOH, David Bowie's fantastic cameo as Nikola Tesla (!), assisted in his mountaintop lab by none other than Andy Serkis (!!), deserves to stand alone as a short film. Also on the upside, the illusions look really cool. And when your lovely assistant is Scarlett Johansson, how wrong can things go? (B+)
"There would have been much less for the Democrats to celebrate on Election Night if Howard Dean hadn't been so 'crazy' -- and so persistent." -- Nice shoutout to Governor Dean and his internet-heavy, 50-state strategy for building up the Democratic party. Be sure to click through the comments from feisty, angry progressives who've been waiting for Dean to get some credit. Looks like he was right, YEEAAHHH!
Hey, it's Friday...why not saunter over to Kim's for the 29 Questions Meme?

1. Explain what ended your last relationship? It started with an argument over an NPR story! But it all worked out in the end, we're still friends and happily married (to other people, duh).
2. When was the last time you shaved? Hmmmm...
3. What were you doing this morning at 8 a.m.? Eating Raisin Bran, watching the TiVo'ed Weather on the 8's
4. What were you doing 15 minutes ago? Writing email
5. Are you any good at math? H4lls no.
6. Your prom night? Suuuuuuuucked!
7. Do you have any famous ancestors? Nope...possibly this dude, or him? Or, by marriage, this one!
8. Have you had to take a loan out for school? Oh yeah...but it's the interest that kills ya...
9. Do you know the words to the song on your myspace profile? WTF? I am old.
10. Last thing received in the mail? A diaper pail, and it ain't for me!
11. How many different beverages have you had today? So far, just water w/True Lime. DietCoke to come.
12. Do you ever leave messages on people's answering machine? Um, duhhhh.
13. Who did you lose your CONCERT virginity to? Without my parents, U2!
14. Do you draw your name in the sand when you go to the beach? Hmmmm...
15. What's the most painful dental procedure you've had? Recently, getting a crown. Before, braces-tightening, ow ow ow ow.
16. What is out your back door? A big porch, little yard, trees, and Blue Ribbon BBQ.
17. Any plans for Friday night? You wouldn't believe me if I told you.
18. Do you like what the ocean does to your hair? Actually, yes - it gets soft and dready after a few days.
19. Have you ever received one of those big tins of 3 different popcorns? Yup! I love this question.
20. Have you ever been to a planetarium? Yes. I am still waiting for Laser Ben Folds, though.
21. Do you re-use towels after you shower? Indeed.
22. Some things you are excited about? The next episode of 30 Rock.
23. What is your favorite flavor of JELLO? SugarFree Raspberry, mmmmm.
24. Describe your keychain? 2 current keys, 1 old key, 1 friend key, 1 skeleton key to my parents' back door, Honda key, LED light.
25. Where do you keep your change? In my desk drawer, it's full of pennies.
26. When was the last time you spoke in front of a large group of people? Do undergrads count?
27. What kind of winter coat do you own? Grey pea coat from J.Crew, parka from LL Bean.
28. What was the weather like on your graduation day? Each of the last 3 have been balmy.
29. Do you sleep with the door to your room open or closed? Open, for the kitty.


WooHoo, Governor Patrick! -- Landslide by 19% is sweet, indeed. I quote Kang: "The politics of failure have failed. We need to make them work again!" Read Andrew O'Hehir's bemusement at watching FoxNews last night for some perspective on the blue wave of victory: "Absolutely everyone has finally grasped that the president is an idiot." And not just him, Rumsfeld too! Man, what's next? Condi Rice brokers a peace deal in Sudan? Dick Cheney shoots somebody else in the face? Whew, I feel dizzy.


Today's Election Day, so we have some Campaign Trailside Sightings: I was standing in front of Arlington Town Hall on Mass Ave from 7-9am, holding two Deval Patrick signs, and I got:

1. Many waves, honks, and thumbs-up, from MBTA bus drivers, truck drivers, landscape pickups, minivans, a few Mercedes, and of course all the Priuses and people biking to work.

2. No negative looks or salutes, but a few frozen stares from guys in shirts and ties. Odd.

3. Greetings from a Portuguese Water Dog named Molly, whose human told her, "Tell this nice lady that you're a Deval Patrick dog!"

4. Really quite cold.

5. Alerted by a young woman with Down syndrome, "I'm voting for those two this afternoon!" as she pointed to my sign and walked by.

6. To vote at 9:05 am, and things were hopping in the voting room...until the ballot scanner stopped working, and the election cop was summoned, but then it started working again, etc etc. Maybe it's the Sharpies we filled in the ballot with? I say, back to #2 pencil and some Iraqi-style purple ink next time!

If you haven't yet, VOTE already! Looking forward to a night of solemn, respectful election coverage...


JPG: The Magazine of Brave New Photography -- Check it out. Submit!
It's been too, too, too long since we had any Roadside Sightings around here:

1. In the space of one week, the following: a truck emblazoned "MR. WHEELCHAIR," a portable toilet labeled "MR. CESSPOOL," and a pickup with the logo "MR. VOLTS ELECTRICAL, 1-800-MRVOLTS."

2. Driving behind a red CR-V, I notice something that looks like a big rust spot next to the rear-mounted spare tire. Upon closer inspection, I see that it's a large red and black sticker, in the shape of....what? An island nation, apparently, but which one? The Phillippines? Fiji? Key West? Unclear.

3. Things which have caused me to swerve/pause by appearing suddenly in the road lately: large crushed cardboard box, large crushed skunk, freewheeling empty garbage can, senior-piloted Corolla, swags of red tinsel garland, trick-or-treaters, poorly patched post-construction trench on Highland Avenue, freshly patched post-construction trench on Highland Avenue (woohoo!).
Heartbreak du Jour -- I don't know what the saddest part of this story is: that people wrote anguished letters to God, that someone threw them into the ocean without opening them, or that the guy who found them is auctioning them on eBay. Sigh. Maybe the PostSecret dudes will buy them, though...


"Colbert and Stewart came to blows over the melon." -- NYTimes columnista Maureen Dowd interviews America's most trusted fake newsmen in the new Rolling Stone. Message to Nat -- buy this in the airport on your way home!
"They've stepped over the line of common sense" -- Gee, we can say that about so many Bush Administration policies, which one could this be referring to? Oh yes, it's the one where they spend $50 million advocating abstinence...to adults. Yes, those 19-to-29-year-old scamps should keep it in their pants until the wedding day, because the sinful alternatives of safe sex (gasp!) or, heaved forbid, unmarried mothers (ack!) simply cannot be tolerated. What a bunch of sexist, Christo-prude, neo-Victorian nonsense...I assume the snowy pure Bush twins will be the poster girls for this campaign, right? Save me, Jebus, from your "followers" in Washington.


CBGBay -- Maybe things can return from the dead...infamous and now defunct NYC club auctions its guts online.


"Waiter, there's an AAAIIIIIEEEEE!!!" -- Mmm, mmm, crawly cakes taste good! From the dedicated mind of Not Martha. I foresee a Pink Snowball version in my future...or a whole flock of them for our Halloween Grill & Chill party this weekend...muahahahaaa!
"What movies have left you feeling smarter and sunnier afterward?" -- Miss Better Blog Bureau herself, Mighty Girl, has an interesting thread going on movies that are enjoyable but not dumb, i.e. somewhere in between Hotel Rwanda and Nacho Libre. There are a lot of repeats on the list, but I will add:
1. The Commitments
2. The Wedding Banquet
3. Pieces of April
4. Love Actually
5. Serenity (for something with a little action!)



It's time for the Be Careful What You Wish For Edition of Ticket Stub:

* Little Children - What if both Peter Pan and Wendy stayed young forever, had a torrid adulterous affair, brushed with death and destruction, then came to their senses? If it were directed into a 2.5-hour psychodrama by Todd (In The Bedroom) Field, it would be this movie. Fine acting carries the story along, despite the pungent unlikeability of nearly every character, and the dreamy summer-in-New-England mood is laced with tension, reinforced by a recurring train whistle sound that portends doom. Kate Winslet glows as Sarah, an ambivalent mom and frustrated wife (to a dull older man with a raunchy secret), who throws herself into an affair with hunky dad Brad, played with bronzed melancholy by Patrick Wilson. They risk toppling their children's idyllic lives and (at least) Brad's chilly marriage to the stunning Jennifer Connelly, but are sucked into a Romeo & Juliet fantasy of running off in the middle of the night...almost. The parallel tale of a paroled sex offender moving back in with his mom, and the unstable ex-cop who harrasses him, is so convoluted it pushes the movie into cynical American Beauty territory (coincidentally, that film was directed by Winslet's real-life hubby, Sam Mendes). But for all the soap opera twists and surreal set-pieces, there is something compelling about these characters that keeps you involved, and mostly squirming. The inescapable theme of adult immaturity (enhanced by an omniscient voiceover by the Frontline guy) leaves you feeling sour and superior, by turns. It's a bit grueling. I said to Kim at the end, "I feel like I lived a year in these people's lives!" Heaven forbid. (B+)

* Marie Antoinette - Anarchy in La Republique! Sofia Coppola presents a lavishly anachronistic story, either of the ill-fated French queen or of her own gilded Hollywood youth, or possibly both at the same time. It's a pastiche of formality and slang, intimate emotion and remote tableau, poofy silk gowns and a much-maligned Converse sneaker. The opposite of a historical opus like Amadeus or Gandhi, the film dispenses with accuracy, narrative, and even consistent accents -- Kirsten Dunst uses a generic post-Valley Girl Amerispeak, which somewhat trivializes but also humanizes Marie. She and her husband, the nerd-king Louis XVI played to nepotistic perfection by Jason Schwarzman, are sheltered teenagers wed to seal a political pact, and their marriage is unconsummated (though conducted entirely in view of dozens of courtiers) for seven years. This innocence eventually fades to a delicate ennui, then adultery, and then comes the revolution -- oddly truncated here, with the film fading out as the royal family flee Versailles. They were imprisoned for several tumultuous years after that, and eventually guillotined in the Reign of Terror -- I guess if Ridley Scott had made this movie, Sofia's version would be condensed to 40 minutes and the remaining 85 would be all action, action, action. I think Kirsten Dunst could've handled it, but that is so beside Coppola's point here -- it's a selective, evocative portrait, not a documentary. Like a courtly portrait painter, she selects flattering angles and poses and backdrops for her subject, but manages to convey something essential, maybe brutal, about her too. Marie is utterly unworldly even as she sits atop the world, with no concept of money, work, or even time, as hers is filled only with the pursuit of pleasure. And it's pleasurable to watch, with sumptuous costumes, locations, and towers of champagne and pastries. Apolitical to a fault, Coppola examines this rare bird so closely you don't even notice the bars of her cage, or palace gates. Extra points for an unabashedly bizarre supporting cast, including Rip Torn, Judy Davis, Molly Shannon, and Marianne Faithfull as Marie's mum, Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, who doles out guilt-tripping advice on seduction in her letters. Oh and, of course, the soundtrack rocks. (A for effort, C+ for achievement, but that's overrated anyway)
"People from the Back Bay aren't going to go to Dorchester to see memorials" -- and thus, the memorials come to them, in the form of a city bus. "Remembering Boston's Children 1980-2005" is a public art project and rolling epitaph to young victims of violence from all over the city. Sigh.


Take the Pickle Challenge! -- One of my favorite bloggers, Melissa, is "motivating" her husband's fundraising campaign for the Making Strides Against MS marathon with, yes, a pickle. Click over, donate to a worthy cause, and stay tuned for pictures as he samples the briny taste of victory!
"But the final straw came when Borat asked the women to lift up their shirts at the end of the interview." -- BBC article on those poor saps who were taken in by the naive, hairy bumpkinery of Borat. Don't any of these people have cable TV?


"Do we want someone who listens to men in POWDERED WIGS to be our governor?" -- Hell yes! Hilarious Blue Mass Group contest for the dirtiest, lowest-down, spittle-flecked anti-Deval Patrick TV ad, now running.

UPDATE: This contest is for real, posted by Adam Reilly of the Phoenix. More entries on their site, and the prize is a $10 gift certificate to local delight El Pelon Taqueria, mmmmm. My favorite so far: "But isn't Deval Patrick a man?" "He sure is, Meg."


"Young man! There's a place you can go..." -- Yes, that's my little brother, the chief of his wedding reception. This past weekend marked the long-awaited end of his 18+ month engagement to the lovely Daria, in the middle of which I myself got engaged and hitched. The 2006 Durand Matrimony Marathon is over, sigh. This "YMCA" skit by the groomsmen is a signature feature of DJ Delight, who provided a Big Fat Jersey Wedding experience for all...they actually played "Glory Days," people. And also "It Takes Two," "Jesse's Girl," and my sister Becca's #1 wedding request, "P.Y.T." Woop woop!


Stick 'em up! -- It's time for the Good Noir, Bad Noir installment of TicketStub:

* The Black Dahlia -- This is the bad one. Brian DePalma's grand disappointment managed to simultaneously bore and repel me, especially in the maudlin final moments. Each element of the sprawling, seedy plot gets short shrift -- instead of layering together into a dark symphony of brutality and perversion, the pieces fracture and fade, to the point where you just don't care to sort them out anymore. The basic notion of a good cop/bad cop duo sharing the love of a good woman and a compulsion to fight (and sometimes do) evil in amoral 50's L.A. would be interesting enough without the gothic baggage of, let's see, ghoulish murder, shady mob connections, disappointed starlets, underground stag films, mental illness, real estate code violations, boxing, and of course, lesbian speakeasy nightlife. Oy. Josh Hartnett is appealingly blank but gets lost in the fray, which even Aaron Eckhart and Scarlett Johanson can't commandeer for long. Hilary Swank starts out a convincing femme fatale, but, like the rest of the flick, combusts into parody before the end. There is exactly one interesting camera shot in the whole movie -- everything else is torn from DePalma's own playbook or cribbed directly from L.A. Confidential, like he ran out of money and/or interest to do anything new. If I hear a mournful trumpet solo in another movie this year, I'm gonna scream! Additional points off for lazy incidental music and costume choices (Scarlett wears beige in every scene, Hilary black, oooh, deep), as well as some truly bush league continuity flubs (key props change appearance, wine is poured and re-poured, etc.). Gratuitous blood, gratuitous sex, gratuitous bad lighting. From the man who directed my all-time favorite gangster movie, this was monumentally lame. (D+)

* The Departed -- Bravo, Marty! A return to form for Scorcese and a chance to show off fine actorly chops across the board, all set against a panoramic Boston backdrop! Well, actually, the fakey backdrop of the Massachusetts Statehouse was a little silly, but the grey skies and neon streets of the real locations looked great. A tightly paced, grimy, backstabbing opus, the film follows the parallel paths of two cops, one crooked and one just pretending to be, on the trail of Whitey Bulger stand-in Jack Nicholson. Jack's at his most florid in a few scenes, a sociopathic ham with a taste for leopard print and sprinkling hookers with blow, but it's all in good fun. His two "proteges," DiCaprio and Damon, are wonderfully twinned but doomed to collide -- both from Southie, both ambitious, both corrupted, but only one salvageable. Of course, that doesn't actually happen, it's a Scorcese picture! Blood gouts all over, but it's balanced here with gallows humor, from the cops (especially Alec Baldwin in a winning bloviator mode) all the way down to the very convincing Irish mob thugs. Vera Farmiga holds her own as a part that could easily have withered away, the shrink caught between good cop and bad. Damon applies an arrogant sheen to his boyishly competent persona and by the end you'll be hoping he gets what he deserves; not to give it away, but Mark Wahlberg gleams as an authentic Masshole who takes shit from nobody. But in the end, Leo the antihero keeps it clicking -- by turns enraged, cagey, and distraught, he tries to keep one step ahead of the doublecross and nearly succeeds. He outsparks Nicholson and out-gravitas-es Martin Sheen, for pete's sake. By far the best movie of 2006 so far...which it would be even with stiffer competition. A heap of extra points for brilliant, lucid, fat-free editing -- every director in the land should have to take a master class with Thelma Schoonmaker, we'd all be a lot better off. (A+)


I never did one of those Spam Poetry posts, but today I found one that is too good to be true -- it appears the departed spirit of Allen Ginsberg is writing spam emails from the beyond!

ballfield the pastel
it titmouse a diamagnetic
a soggy try
a dostoevsky or democrat
it's bestow a sigmund !
chronic a serviceberry !
busy or crawford
it's articulate
some homework
try adrian
see bundle
but campion
try excuse in raleigh
it muzzle
it's joyful !
tuesday a inclination
a teensy but specular
be southeastern,
see judd,
schematic !
see mould and
atomic some !
clarendon and declare
mustang on twombly
the levitate it.
"Our whole lives are built on a heap of skulls -- human skulls! ... I've compared this to kicking Julia Child in the teeth ... It disturbs me that while people are being force-fed in Guantánamo Bay, politicians are wasting an hour or a minute complaining about poor ducks." -- Don't get Anthony Bourdain started about the proposed NJ foie gras ban! He's interviewed by compadre food writer Michael Ruhlman in Salon.
"I think the secret to the future is quantity," Lucas said. -- Uh-oh, that's George Lucas, talking about moving from movies to...television. Dear god.


Sock it to me! -- Yuk yuk yuk. I bought these awesome socks at a craft fair in NJ over the weekend...fall is the crafty time of year, after all. I also bought some fimo vegetable earrings from the delightful Merrie, and a huge tube of Kettle Corn. Topsfield Fair coming up this weekend, too, wooo!
Things I Learned At Work Today:

1. It is really annoying to walk around the cube farm shouting into your cellphone...in Italian.

2. I could probably eat the LeanCuisine Lemongrass Chicken every day for lunch for the rest of my life, it is so frickin' good.

3. It is not a good idea to come to a job interview with your necktie on the outside of your shirt collar. Like, around your actual neck. Also, don't take recyclable cans out of the kitchenette garbage on your way out the door.

4. Do not speak the word "smegma" within audible radius of my cube, or I will embarrass the hell out of you by pointing out the inappropriosity of doing so. No, really.


"Students were exposed to nude statues and other nude art representations." -- This would be at a museum, of course. A Dallas-area art teacher is fired after parents complain that some of the statues glimpsed on a 5th grade field trip were nekkid. Backed up by the teacher's association and op-ed pages everywhere, but still fired. Lovely.


Plush of the Month! -- Oh my, oh my, I want ONE OF EVERYTHING made by Magic Yam!
Just when you thought I'd never go to the movies again...how wrong you are. TAI presents the "It's a Big Bad World Out There, Kid" Edition of TicketStub:

* Miami Vice -- Can the stars of the 80's ever grow up? Can adolescent favorites make the transition to a future era? On the basis of Michael Mann's "revival" of the classic pastel cop drama, the answer is no -- better to leave the past in the past. The movie sets identical characters in today's Miami, still steamy and drug-addled and oddly empty, fighting the same old Sisyphean war on drugs against a coalition of assorted brown baddies. Mann's consistency is his strength, because we still somehow care about Crockett and Tubbs despite the choppy plot, absent dialogue, and generally grim tone. Jamie Foxx manages to throw off more sparks by himself than with his partner Colin Farrell, who looks like a catfish stuffed into a deconstructed suit jacket. The visual atmosphere is everything, from the sparkling seas to the graphite sky above a stakeout, the humid colors of a tropical slum to the frankness of skin under fluorescent light (nobody looks good in closeup in this movie), the surfaces are what count. The camera moves and weaves and floats, keeping us engaged and mixing up the gritty reality of drug enforcement with the fantasy of undercover life. It's a moody, macho nocturne, but it doesn't really hold up without a viewer's fondness for the original. Points off for casting hatchet-faced Gong Li as the babe, I still can't decide if she was canny or terrible, and she was certainly incomprehensible. (C+)

* Hollywoodland -- Look, up in the sky! It's Ben Affleck, and he's acting! Excellent choice for a "turnaround" flick, he steps effortlessly into the cape of George Reeves, TV's Superman who met a tawdry mortal end in 50's Hollywood. An episodic docudrama, the film adds a fictional gumshoe, Adrian Brody, to the investigation of Reeves' death by gunshot at the early sunset of his career. Was he accidentally murdered by his shrewish fiancee, the tart and taunting Robin Tunney? Depressed into suicide by his fading hopes of stardom? Or rubbed out by his jealous lover's mobbed up husband? Juicy possibilities, and each is played out on screen in slow, golden pans so neatly copied from LA Confidential and Chinatown it seems more expected than unoriginal. Brody is game to play the twitchy P.I., and he shows vulnerability and menace in that whelpy face, but his character just gets in the way. A fine, snappy romance blooms between Reeves and Toni Mannix, an older dame perfectly played by Diane Lane -- why the movie doesn't revolve strictly on them is the real mystery. Extraneous scenes pile up like sandbags toward the end, perhaps because the director is used to The Sopranos' neverending story arc. Despite great bit parts all around, it would be considerably improved by a ruthless 25 minute edit; what starts as a collage winds up a dissipated epic. Major extra points for Bob Hoskins as the tough bastard studio boss with an open marriage, and Jeffrey DeMunn as Reeves' nebbishy agent. (B+)

* The Devil Wears Prada -- Ooooh, ah, FASHION! Last year's chick-lit bauble comes to the big screen, gussied up with Meryl Streep of all people, but still a simplistic trifle, despite great set dressing. Gawky overachiever stumbles into underling job at glossy fashion mag, put upon by bitchy "clackers" in stilettos and firebreathing boss, but steadied by down-to-earth friends and of course, a witty gay mentor -- oh, Stanley Tucci, I've seen you naked but was not prepared for you in that glen plaid suit! She struggles to prove herself by putting on the emperor's duds, falls out with her earnest Renaissance Youth boyfriend, blah blah, but then sees the cutthroat biz for what it is, blah blah, winds up in "real" journalism after all, symbolized by dull corduroys. Anne Hathaway brings the right youthful credulity to the role, and somehow stays believable under all that Chanel. Streep is a mama lion toying with a three-legged mouse here, delighting in pouring ice water all over everyone with the chilliest sotto voce this side of Michael Corleone. She plays the one "behind the mask" scene perfectly, letting the faintest shade of regret flutter by before snapping her game face shut. It's a fine afternoon diversion, despite the dopey incidental music and whiff of Garry Marshall about it. Extra points for the makeup artist responsible for Emily Blunt's monumental eyeshadow. (B-)

* The Last Kiss -- Dubbed "Garden State five years later," this one had surprising legs. Neither a date flick nor a true chuck flick, it blends elements of each to more closely resemble a really good episode of thirtysomething, somewhat oversold with a bigscreen soundtrack. Zach Braff goes back into post-adolescent zombie mode as Michael, 29 y.o., ambivalent about everything even as he's having a baby with his gorgeous, loving girlfriend. Too mild and well-bred to flagrantly cheat on her, he instead shrugs and grins his way into the pants of The O.C.'s Rachel Bilson, a painfully starry-eyed college girl. That's just one relationship falling apart -- Michael's gang of guy friends are all going through one version or another of, to quote Charlie in High Fidelity, "the What Does It All Mean thing," plus his quasi-inlaws separate over an old infidelity, and so on. It all shakes out and some couples reunite, etc., but Tom Wilkinson as the unflappable dad encapsulates the theme of "Grow up already, asshole!" a little more gently: "You have to do whatever it takes" to stay in love. Surprisingly decent supporting cast, including Casey Affleck (2006 is treating that family well!), makes enough of the somewhat flyaway plot to keep you intrigued. Jacinda Barrett shines as the wronged Jenna, believably freaking out over Braff's halfbaked cuckoldery. Mostly authentic, but with strange small flaws: would a guy really run off to Tierra Del Fuego rather than meet a new flame's parents? Would Blythe Danner's faculty wife actually wear a white leather duster coat in Madison, WI? Is Snow Patrol the made-for-TV Coldplay? Who cares? (B)
"The News Before It Happens." -- Finally, the media gives the people what they want. If they want fake news via the British version of The Onion, that is. Viva Newsbiscuit! My favorite headline: "Bottle of Tabasco Sauce Finished."
"Secure the oil. Build your empire. Fund & fight terrorism." -- This explains everything. Clearly Cheney & Co. have gotten their mitts on War On Terror: The Boardgame. Order now for Christmas delivery!
"Yes. No. YES! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!" -- If you, like me, think back fondly to the days of "Even Stevphen" on The Daily Show, you could watch this clip restrospective over and over and over.


"If Dawson's Creek had been about warlocks, it would look like this." -- Junky teen flick The Covenant scores a mere (and rare) 3% rating on RottenTomatoes, ouch! I love it when movie critics save their best lines for stuff like this...read on for some gems.


...into that dirty night. -- Behold the reverse-graffiti artist, who scrubs off urban grime to spread his message. Sort of like those "GO PATS" messages on trucks around here, but prettier.
Follow...follow follow follow follow follow... -- It's that time of year folks, back to school, back to real work and the dreaded End of the Fiscal Year, all kinds of things brewing all over the place. And also, Nat has his foot in a cast, ouch. So things are a little sloooow on the TAI front, but fear not, the world is still full of procrastinatory phenomena, like SuperGoose. Hang in there...


AAIIIIEEEEEEE, Congratulations!! -- Huzzahs are in order today for my new bro-in-law Jon and his lovely bride-to-be, Bobbi, who are now officially affianced! No word yet on costuming or theme possibilities for their nuptials, but since they attended DragonCon and collected the blessings of assorted sf celebs (including Darth Vader and Mr. Sulu!!) on their union, it should be a rockin' good time. Hooray!
Yesterday was Night of the Roadside Bicycles in Boston -- I witnessed/almost collided with the following, between 2 pm and 8pm in the greater metro area:

1. A guy riding a bike with his large pit bull on a chain galloping beside him.
2. A guy riding a bike while "towing" another bike with his left hand.
3. A guy riding a bike with a homemade trailer made out of a blue recycling bin.
4. A gal riding a bike with 3 or 4 large rolls of blueprint paper sticking out of her backpack.
5. Shirtless dude riding a bike with iPod headphone in one ear and cellphone on the other.
Bruce Springsteen and “the old weird America -- Interesting review of The Boss' latest record and how it's part of a trend to reintroduce jaded, terrorized Americans to their basic musical roots. See also Bob, Jeff, and even Jack & Meg.
Any Democrat For Governor -- We're gearing up for the gubernatorial primary here in the Commonwealth, only 11 days to go and the Democrats are still in a wobbly 3-legged race. Or maybe not, since last night's dismal, didactic performance by AG (and my former Watertown neighbor) Tom Reilly. He has left me cold so far, though I have no great love for Chris Gabrieli, and I think Deval Patrick is a sort of Romney-Obama hybrid with his eye trained on Washington. Sigh...at least I have 11 days to decide on the greater of three lesser evils, or something...


Summer's Over -- and The Scream Is Back! -- Just in time for Labor Day, and a cloudy rainy cool holiday weekend (not to mention my 32nd birthday), Edvard Munch's existential angst-o-riffic masterpiece was recovered by Norwegian police. Could the offer of a 2 Million Dark Chocolate M&M reward have turned the tide? I think I'm eat some over the weekend and think about it...
"Do Not Disturb: MOO" -- That's the sign hanging on the corporate cublicle of a working mom who pumps breast milk, a tricky scheme under the best of circumstances. Great NYT article on the growing gap between professional moms who get support (or at least privacy) to pump at work, and moms working at casinos, factories, or Starbucks who struggle and must give it up. Unbelievably jerky bosses who humiliate the nursing moms (or dress up like a breast pump!) make it hard on those who can't just shut their office door or pop into the corporate lactation room. Remind me again how this reflects America's "family values"?


"'Sup wit you, my tella?" -- The inevitable result of ATM interfaces getting friendlier and friendlier. Snort!


What better way to get into the Back To School, Back to Blogging mood than to steal Kim's Last Meme?

1. What is the last thing you ate without regret? Some Dark Chocolate M&M's. OK, there was some regret, but goddamn they are tasty.
2. Who was the last person you talked to? A very busy lawyer on the phone.
3. When was your last vacation? Just 3 days ago, to Seattle! Nat and I enjoyed a whirlwind weekend of beautiful blue skies, great food, sparkling water views, hipster pilgrimage and garlic fries at Safeco Field while watching the Sox tank. Remind me why we live in Massachusetts again?
4. When was your last hug and who did you receive it from? This morning from The Hubster. :)
5. What is the last thing you think about before going to sleep? I drift off like clockwork while reading every night, and I have those next-day-anxiety moments in the morning right as I wake up instead. Fun! The opposite of insomnia is the AM Grouch, that's me.
"In less than a month's time, I am going to burn every branded thing in my possession. Gucci shoes, Habitat chairs, even Simple soap." -- Check out Mr. No-Frills! On the flip side, there are people who willingly tatoo famous logos on their bodies, like, for fun.


While many summer movies are light, some are not. Here's a Collision of Opposites Ticket Stub for ya --

* Little Miss Sunshine -- A perfect choice for Ladies Movie Night, this standard indie-issue "quirky family dramedy" puts each actor in the spotlight. The adorable Abigail Breslin plays the titular miss with verve -- some day she will be in a movie with Dakota Fanning and the screen will melt from their combined "old soul" authenticity. She's an aspirant in a cheesy beauty pageant, which necessitates a road trip for the whole f'ed up family: harried mom, thwarted dad, mute-by-choice brother, lewd grandpa, and gay uncle Frank who just survived a suicide attempt. Fun for everyone! But actually, it is -- the acting is so strong here (Toni Collette and Greg Kinnear together again!) that a real family bond is convincingly portrayed despite the whisper-thin plot, which rolls along effortlessly to a hilarious, cathartic conclusion. Obligatory synth-o-pop score and heavy overtones of Wes Anderson aside, it's a simple picture and I like those best. Many extra points for the bearded Steve Carrel, whose puppy-dog eyes are put to poignant use here -- more dramas, man! (A-)

* World Trade Center -- At home in NJ, a mere 12 miles from Ground Zero, this was not my first choice for a matinee. My dad vetoed Miami Vice at the last minute, so I acquiesced and was pleased to find the film nearly harmless. I didn't realize that Oliver Stone didn't write the script until the credits rolled, and aside from a few visual tricks the movie bears none of his hallmarks, except for Frank Whaley. It is a straight-up rescue story, deserving of the big screen because of the subject matter but otherwise indistinguishable from a tidy movie-of-the-week about trapped miners, for example. The unbearable tension that builds in the first minutes, from knowing what's about to happen on that ordinary sunny morning, is deftly handled by paying as little attention to the big picture as possible -- the camera stays with the (un)lucky Port Authority cops as the disaster envelops them, literally. The hijacked planes appear only as a shadow, or a sonic boom. The words Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, and even terrorist are not spoken once -- the men are just going to where the trouble is, trying to help. As they enter the WTC concourse, the first tower comes down on top of them, and eventually two are rescued from an elevator shaft. That rescue is what makes the movie watchable -- even Oliver Stone could not make a movie about all the horrors of that day. Just this one slice is enough. Nic Cage plays the somber sergeant with gruff aplomb, trying to talk the rookie, Michael Pena, through the night. The story clicks back and forth between them, their wives and families, their hallucinations, and their rescuers. We feel relieved when they pull through, but Stone doesn't squander the point that could have overwhelmed the whole film -- thousands of others didn't make it. The last moments pull us directly from the cops' celebrating families to those gut-wrenching "missing person" posters that blanketed NYC, and images of empty subway cars and sidewalks. That brief reminder is probably all we can take, even five years out. I'll never watch this movie again, but it was Ron Howard-esque enough to be recommended. Points off for Maria Bello's creepy blue contact lenses, though. (B)


"Every day they're seeing that closeted gay teacher up there and saying, 'Hmm, this must be something bad you shouldn't talk about. Look how Mr. Jennings never talks about it.' And I decided I couldn't teach that lesson anymore." -- Great Salon interview with Kevin Jennings, founder of GLSEN and inventor of the high school GSA, and author of a new memoir about growing up in a Southern Baptist world.


The terr'ists want us to be dirty? -- I just checked the TSA Prohibited Items list before flying on Sunday, and while I will can bring a toy gun, a cigar cutter, and "personal lubricant" onto the plane, I will have to check my precious hand sanitizer gel. This means I can stage a fake hijacking of the plane, fire up a stogie, and join the Mile High Club, but not clean up afterwards. I thought the Islamofascists were all about cleanliness and avoiding sex and tobacco? Grrrrr.

Yeeeha, it's Yankfield-McSox Showdown Weekend! -- Five games in a row between the embittered, overhyped, evenly-handicapped, ill-fated Red Sox and Yankees between now and Monday night, people. Be ready, have your smelling salts and chilled champagne on hand. I will be traveling to my hometown, across the great divide, deep in navy blue territory. I try to take a Baseball Zen attitude, but I think a little blood may be spilt this late in the season and with both teams boiling over with frustration at how the season has gone (Yanks weakly struggling to stay on top, Sox hobbled by injuries and the usual late summer, late inning sluggishness). If the Sox are ever gonna turn on the juice, this is it. If they cramp up, the Yanks will lurch into the playoffs and continue to deflect New England's hatred -- though it burns with the heat of a thousand suns! I predict a 3-2 split at best, for either team, and I give them about 75 pitches before the beaning, brawling, and bench-clearing begin. GO SOX!
"Be Civilized And No Randomly Drawing And Painting On The Wall." -- Here are some workplace regulations I came across in my daily toil, semi-translated from the native tongue of a foreign subsidiary. Makes me glad I work here in the USA:

1. Use the duplicating machines in a reasonable and efficient ways. Minimize the unreasoning duplicating.
2. The employees are prohibited from chatting in the dressing room and in the rooms for changing shoes.
3. The employees shall drink water in a civilized manner.
4. In case the parents-in-law, brothers or sisters of the employee pass away, bereavement leave is 1 day.
5. The chemistry articles and dangerous articles must be placed at the appointed safe location.
6. The employees shall pay attention to and properly decorate the individual looks and appearances to make sure the clothes are neat, decent and in good taste. The male employees can not have long hairs and shall shave cleanly the beard. The female employees can not have too much face painting.
7. The employees shall obtain the permission of the department manager for going outside during working time.
8. Employees are prohibited to say bawdry to customers or colleagues, which influences the presitge of the company or work order.
9. The employee must knock the door and can only enter the office after obtaining consent.
10. Do not throw sanitary towel, document paper, used tea, nutshell and other rubbish into the urinal so as to prevent the block of the drainage.

Number ten is my favorite. On the upside, the company "hopes that you will be in one with us soon and make progress together for our more splendid future." Indeed.
"The men could have the glory of fighting in battle. Women got to blow themselves up." -- Jill Carroll is in the midst of publishing an 11-part memoir of her time as a hostage in Iraq, and the fourth chapter is a riveting look at the women and families she lived with, the wives of the extremist radical dudes, and their children. How would it feel to be a prisoner in a family home, surrounded by little kids and having the man who shot your colleague making you tea? Unreal.
And now, the Dope-Slap Roadside Sighting of 2006 -- On the back of a green pickup, emblazoned with union, FD, and Red Sox stickers and, of course, a red-white-and-blue ribbon magnet, a big white bumpersticker reading: "I BREAK FOR HOOTERS." Yes, that one. Oh boy...if only!


"Please, Mr. Cheney, spare us your flag-waving rhetoric about the titanic struggle we are in and how Democrats just don’t understand it. It is just so phony." -- Copyright be damned, I'm posting this dead-on Thomas Friedman piece from the NYTimes "Select" content, it's too timely to be preached only to the subscriber choir:

Big Talk, Little Will

The defeat of Senator Joe Lieberman by the upstart antiwar Democrat Ned Lamont has sparked a firestorm of debate about the direction of the Democratic Party. My own heart is with those Democrats who worry that just calling for a pullout from Iraq, while it may be necessary, is not a sufficient response to the biggest threat to open societies today — violent, radical Islam. Unless Democrats persuade voters — in the gut — that they understand this larger challenge, it’s going to be hard for them to win the presidency.

That said, though, the Democratic mainstream is nowhere near as dovish as critics depict. Truth be told, some of the most constructive, on-the-money criticism over the past three years about how to rescue Iraq or improve the broader “war on terrorism” has come from Democrats, like Joe Biden, Carl Levin, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and Bill Clinton.

But whatever you think of the Democrats, the important point is this: They are not the party in power today.

What should really worry the country is not whether the Democrats are being dragged to the left by antiwar activists who haven’t thought a whit about the larger struggle we’re in. What should worry the country is that the Bush team and the Republican Party, which control all the levers of power and claim to have thought only about this larger struggle, are in total denial about where their strategy has led.

Besides a few mavericks like Chuck Hagel and John McCain on Iraq and Dick Lugar and George Shultz on energy, how many Republicans have stood up and questioned the decision-making that has turned the Iraq war into a fiasco? Had more of them done so, instead of just mindlessly applauding the administration, the White House might have changed course when it had a chance.

Not only is there no honest self-criticism among Republicans, but — and this is truly contemptible — you have Dick Cheney & Friends focusing their public remarks on why Mr. Lamont’s defeat of Mr. Lieberman only proves that Democrats do not understand that we are in a titanic struggle with “Islamic fascists” and are therefore unfit to lead.

Oh, really? Well, I just have one question for Mr. Cheney: If we’re in such a titanic struggle with radical Islam, and if getting Iraq right is at the center of that struggle, why did you “tough guys” fight the Iraq war with the Rumsfeld Doctrine — just enough troops to lose — and not the Powell Doctrine of overwhelming force to create the necessary foundation of any democracy-building project, which is security? How could you send so few troops to fight such an important war when it was obvious that without security Iraqis would fall back on their tribal militias?

Mr. Cheney, if we’re in a titanic struggle with Islamic fascists, why have you and President Bush resisted any serious effort to get Americans to conserve energy? Why do you refuse to push higher mileage standards for U.S. automakers or a gasoline tax that would curb our imports of oil? Here we are in the biggest struggle of our lives and we are funding both sides — the U.S. military with our tax dollars and the radical Islamists and the governments and charities that support them with our gasoline purchases — and you won’t lift a finger to change that. Why? Because it might impose pain on the oil companies and auto lobbies that fund the G.O.P., or require some sacrifice by Americans.

Mr. Cheney, if we’re in a titanic struggle with Islamic fascists, why do you constantly use the “war on terrorism” as a wedge issue in domestic politics to frighten voters away from Democrats. How are we going to sustain such a large, long-term struggle if we are a divided country?

Please, Mr. Cheney, spare us your flag-waving rhetoric about the titanic struggle we are in and how Democrats just don’t understand it. It is just so phony — such a patent ploy to divert Americans from the fact that you have never risen to the challenge of this war. You will the ends, but you won’t will the means. What a fraud!

Friends, we are on a losing trajectory in Iraq, and, as the latest London plot underscores, the wider war with radical Islam is only getting wider. We need to reassess everything we are doing in this “war on terrorism” and figure out what is worth continuing, what needs changing and what sacrifice we need to demand from every American to match our means with our ends. Yes, the Democrats could help by presenting a serious alternative. But unless the party in power for the next two and half years shakes free of its denial, we are in really, really big trouble.


Ceres is back, baby! -- We'll soon have three new planets in the solar system, folks. Time to freshen up those grade school mnemonics...how about: "My Very Educated Mother, Celine, Just Served Us Nine Pizza Crusts, Ugh!"
"I also wrote, 'Pesto is the quiche of the 80's.'" -- Let's salute Bruno Kirby, a.k.a. Jess from When Harry Met Sally..., who died of leukemia today. He was one of my absolute favorite character actors, up there with Luis Guzman and Charles Durning, for his ability to spin the straw of a meager role into comedy gold: "There are three kinds of people in this city. One, the guy who makes millions on Wall Street, gets laid in some tower every night. The other is the nutball eating Yankee Doodles on the sidewalk in Times Square. Everybody else? People like me? We are what I like to call...the glue of society!" Can't argue with that.
"Next time, Mrs. First Lady of Smartsville, you'll believe me when I say I think I'll read me a good book tonight. 'Cause The Stranger was cool, and even though it was in French, it read just like English." -- Georgie Boy reads Camus and reports to Librarian Laura. Hilarity!


Another lovely sunny day here, and it yielded some interesting Roadside Folk:

1. After 15 months it appears the road expansion project outside my office may actually be near completion. Today there is a big repaving job going on, and as I crept by I noticed something cool -- out of the 12 or so road construction crew members, including traffic cops, I spotted 3 women. One was riding the giant steamroller backwards on the new asphalt! I wished I had a carload of impressionable youngsters who might benefit from the sight.

2. At the Bedford Stop & Shop, a military service member in full fatigues toting a new garden hose and two gallon jugs of apple juice. OK.


Teeny + Chameleon = Chameenyon. -- Shake off today's bad vibes with this excellent Flickr set of wee animals perched on people's fingers...maybe life on Earth isn't so bad after all.
Liquids On A Plane, Not To Be Confused With, Y'know, Snakes -- It's hard to pin down one emotional response to today's discovery of an apparent terrorist airstrike plot centered on liquid explosives. Uneasy? Sure, I'm flying (domestically, but still) the next two weekends. Relief that British coppers did their jobs well and foiled the plot? Absolutely. A little suspicious and irritated about the potential exploitation of this as justification for the Mess O'Potamia? Oh yeah. But in the end, I mostly feel sort of defeated -- after all, these extremist fuckwits have already done their job just by disrupting everyone. People whine about checking their iPods, but what's next, an exploding sandwich? Infant seat? Colon full of plastique? As Cory Doctorow points out, "Until they handcuff us all nude to our seats and dart us with tranquilizers, there will always be the possibility that a passenger will do something naughty on a plane." I think air travel will continue to be more restrictive, maybe more expensive, and certainly more tedious in the future, not less. Read some interesting comments at the NYTimes and FOXNews, just to get that balance.



Today is feature-packed, people -- you're in luck! Like the long-awaited monsoon rolling across the dry plains, this weekend brought a flood of fresh Roadside Sightings:

1. At the drive-through ATM in Burlington, someone left a paper cup of hot tea, complete with lid and dangling teabag label, on the little ledge below the machine. Many questions arise: did they not have a cupholder in the car? Was it just too hot? Are they coming back for it?

2. Driving through Cambridgeport on Friday night, the glowing green sign of a certain yuppie supermarket chain appeared: WHO OODS. Who, indeed.

3. Saturday afternoon along Memorial Drive, at Flagg Street, a piece of plywood propped at a construction site emblazoned HOLE! in 2-foot high, orange spraypaint letters. Did not see any evidence of same.

4. On Sunday near the Kendall Square Cinema, Kim spotted an abandoned banana (abandoned banana abandoned banana abandoned banana...sorry) on a building ledge. Perhaps the tea bandit struck again.

5. On the way home from the movie, I fell in behind a white Ford Focus with Maine lobster plates, reading WKRP. Fans of the show? Cincinnati natives? Huh? Soon they turned and I pulled up behind a tan minivan from Florida, with this bumper sticker: "If God isn't a PENN STATE fan, then why is the sky blue and white?" This is a meteoro-philosophical conundrum I cannot even begin to unravel.
For these light summertime flicks, I give you . . . Haiku Ticket Stubs:

* Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

Zero to sixty
Can't stop Will & Ali G
Better than A-man!

* The Oh in Ohio

Mild Parker quirk-fest
Not quite Wes-with-sex, but close
Plus, Paul Rudd and...Liza!