Dooce outdoes herself -- Everyone's favorite accidental, drunken, ex-Mormon mommyblogger is celebrating the 5th year of her site by asking for comments on moms who work, either outside the home or in the trenches with the kiddies. Did your mom have a paying job? How did it affect you (and her) back in the day, and does it color your thinking about what you (will) do with your own kids today (or in the future)? Judging by the *nearly 1200* comments so far, this is a topic many women wish to expound upon. Read it and weep (and/or smile, as often happens with Dooce)...

Portrait of Nick Wilder by David Hockney -- and there's more where that came from over at the MFA Hockney Portraits show. Unfortunately it's $22 admission, but art is art, right?
"Budge up, ye brimstone beast!" -- Well I've finished watching the Bleak House miniseries on PBS and have dived headlong into the 986-page novel itself, viva Dickens! Talk about absorbing...something really resonates when you have to wait week by week to find out what happens to the characters, and of course Dickens wrote the novel in monthly installments so I suppose that's how he wanted the story to be told, sloooowwly. Lost and The Sopranos operate on the same theory, but (so far) they are missing the delicious conclusion that ties everything together. The final two hours of BH had many more twists, turns, and dead bodies than I expected, plus a dusting of a happy ending. Watch for it on DVD, people...
"Just Big Bang: That's What Jesus Calls It, Too." -- The inimitable Sarah Vowell continues to shake up the NYTimes op-ed page in her substitute stint. I've stashed away this installment from the Times Select content for your free reading pleasure, shhhhhhhh...
Four delicious words, people -- New Bill Bryson Book! Coming this fall, a memoir about growing up in Des Moines in the 50's, entitled "The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid." Woop!


Run, Sox, run! -- Only 18 days til the Red Sox home opener...tick tick tick...
"Tell your wife that she looks pretty, even if she looks like a truck." -- Aha! That's marital advice from a 10-year-old, folks. I found this at an online wedding planning site, and it's chuckleworthy enough for TAI, though some of these kids could use some gender stereotype education, pronto:

HOW DO YOU DECIDE WHO TO MARRY? "You got to find somebody who likes the same stuff. Like, if you like sports, she should like it that you like sports, and she should keep the chips and dip coming." -- Alan, age 10
"No person really decides before they grow up who they're going to marry. God decides it all way before, and you find out later who you're stuck with." -- Kristen, age 10
WHAT IS THE RIGHT AGE TO GET MARRIED? "Twenty-three is the best age because you know the person FOREVER by then." -- Camille, age 10
HOW CAN A STRANGER TELL IF TWO PEOPLE ARE MARRIED? "You might have to guess, based on whether they seem to be yelling at the same kids." --Derrick, age 8
WHAT DO YOU THINK YOUR MOM AND DAD HAVE IN COMMON? "Both don't want anymore kids." -- Lori, age 8
WHAT DO MOST PEOPLE DO ON A DATE? "Dates are for having fun, and people should use them to get to know each other. Even boys have something to say if you listen long enough." --Lynnette, age 8
"On the first date, they just tell each other lies and that usually gets them interested enough to go for a second date." -- Martin, age 10
"When they're rich." -- Pam, age 7
"The law says you have to be eighteen, so I wouldn't want to mess with that." -- Curt, age 7
"The rule goes like this: If you kiss someone, then you should marry them and have kids with them. It's the right thing to do." -- Howard, age 8
IS IT BETTER TO BE SINGLE OR MARRIED? "I don't know which is better, but I'll tell you one thing. I'm never going to have sex with my wife. I don't want to be all grossed out." --Theodore, age 8
"It's better for girls to be single but not for boys. Boys need someone to clean up after them." -- Anita, age 9
"Wealthy Americans can purchase an expensive, “old-fashioned” cast-iron stove, but they cannot buy the experience it is intended to conjure: a cozy kitchen filled with the scents and signs of a person devoted to the domestic satisfaction of those who share a home." -- Very pointed article on the rise of "envy kitchens" that nobody actually cooks in, and the American obsession with gagetry that masks our chaotic, unbalanced lives. I personally would rather have less money to spend and more time to hang out over my plain old no-name stove, thanks.
Take This Job and Google It -- For those of us wishing we worked in some kind of cushy techie paradise, here's a voyeuristic photo essay through Google's palatial spread in Mountain View, CA. My favorite perk -- the "Nerd Patrol" lap pools where some schmo has to watch one pasty programmer at a time swim in place. Hee!


Here's one for the "But I Never Win Anything!" file -- Today at lunch, I popped in to the local Trader Joe's as usual, and as I stepped up to the checkout line I noticed the checker pulling out a big box of chocolates from under the counter and adding it to the bag of the woman in front of me. Hmmmm....lo and behold, she asked me as she rang up my groceries, "May I add a free box of chocolates to your order today?" Umm, yeah! The box was crushed in shipping, but the 48 little truffles (minus 3 or 4 squashed ones) are all mine, in 7 delectable dessert flavors, from tiramisu to chocolate cheesecake. Finally, I was in the right place at the right time!


Mmmmm, lunchblock -- For my many toddler-parenting friends out there, this could be a helpful tip for you. For the rest of us, a mere moment of mac & cheese hilarity -- be sure to click on the "bloated face of Arthur." ;)


For the kindergarten bride & groom! -- My favorite selection from this creepy page of "boy & girl" themed wedding invites. If Disney or NASCAR is just too adult for your tastes, go with child marriage, I guess. It could be worse...much, much worse.
"Hell is Other Walgreens Patrons" -- a new play by Jean-Paul Sartre, or a hilarious post by the Defective Yeti? Hint: it's way too funny to be Sartre.
Lindsey Jacobellis: the Bill Buckner of snowboard cross? -- The most exciting event so far of the Winter Olympics is this new amalgam of downhill snowboarding and a Darwinian free-for-all. 20 year old VISA spokesgal Jacobellis managed to secure a huge lead and was yards away from a gold medal when...ah, the agony of defeat. Read more on the SBX phenomenon here.
"During My-Time you will not be distracted from me, by other things." -- The Smoking Gun does it again, with a document straight from the mind of an original male chauvinist pig. One Travis Frey is on trial for attempted kidnapping of his own wife, for whom he drafted this ridiculously detailed "Wifely Expectations" contract. Um, I think Travis might be confusing the Spice Channel with reality TV...


In a blockbuster move, I'll be combining today's Ticket Stub and Roadside Sightings for today:

* Casablanca on V-Day@ The Brattle, Year 4! -- Nat and I showed our growing maturity as a couple by planning way ahead, to avoid last year's seating in the sweltering theater balcony. We ate leftovers, met up in Harvard Square, and primly walked up to the box office to claim our tickets: we're pros! And surprisingly, so is my boss -- he and his wife and four friends were in the audience too, who knew? It's a classic -- and the Brattle kept its dignity by not begging too forcefully for money on one of it's busiest nights of the year. Ah, the tribulations of a nonprofit movie theater that only shows stuff you want to see about half the time. Anyway, the film was luminous as ever, and the audience was much more enjoyable than last year, far less tittering at the dialogue (?!). It had a sort of melancholy effect this time, I thought, and something about Ingrid Bergman finally clicked for me. I admit I've always thought of Ilsa as a bit...bland. Pure and lovely, sure, but the whole "betraying my husband and my lover by turns" thing always seemed at odds with her sleepy naivete. She seemed buffeted along by these larger forces, and never really committed to either Laszlo or Rick. But...something about her eyes, these clouds of doubt or frustration passing over and then quickly masked by that eager smile...something convinced me that she did have an agenda of her own. In fact, I could be persuaded to join the Sally Albright school of interpretation: that Ilsa didn't really fall back in love with Rick, but wanted to become the First Lady of Czechoslovakia and led the men in her life into doing what she wanted to make that so. Hmmm! In any case, the film still grabbed me -- this time I noticed how consistently the scenes are blocked, always with a figure or two close to the camera and an unrelated (or parallel) story playing out in the background. The background is where the action of Casablanca roils on, despite the petty problems of the foreground characters...interesting. Here's looking at another viewing next year...maybe in a different theater, but with a marriage license! (A+)

* On my way to pick up Kim last night for our trip to the thee-ah-tah, I witnessed yet another unprecedented Masshole roadrage move. On Concord Ave. in Cambridge, the city has installed some "traffic calming" (*bitter laughter here*) concrete islands in the middle of the road. It's a 2-lane street, and basically they force you to slow down and swerve a little to avoid them. Coming off the Sozio rotary, there are 2 cars ahead of me: a slooowwww green sedan, with an impatient silver Mitsubishi tailgating him. As we roll towards the island, the Mitsubishi suddenly veers into the oncoming lane and zooms around, "passing" the green car by crossing the double line and looping around the island "backward." OMG! He races off at top speed, only to hit the red light at Huron Ave. 6 blocks later, what a tool.

* Five By Tenn: Our Speakeasy Stage subscription pays off again, with their most polished production yet. Five recently unearthed one-act plays by the classic American drama queen Tennessee Williams are woven into a loosely connected, atmospheric whole. It was like a lineup of his greatest character types (and I mean that in a very positive way), brought together in brief but masterfully arranged moments: the dreamer, the depressive, the harridan mother, the washed-up artist, the rogue, the ingenue, and in my favorite performance, all of these bundled into an exquisite, aging yet hopeful tranny interior decorator. Yep, Williams is flung full force out of the closet here, and the overt gay themes are not a surprise as much as a highlighting of the threads that ran through his less "scandalous" works. The shabby chic set, complete with wrought-iron railings and a wicker armchair, made a nicely decrepit backdrop for the flowery, bittersweet, often sharply ironic (and hilarious) dialogue. This was by far the most seamless, invigorating production yet at the new theater, and we have two more to look forward to, especially Caroline, or Change. KUTGW! (A)

* The last two days have been a bit of a roadside rollercoaster. After finding an empty parking meter near the theater, Kim and I scooted off to dinner at the delicious (if poorly serviced) Picco. Had the winter vegetable pizza...but I forgot the leftovers (that is, our waiter just didn't make it back with them before we had to leave to get to the play, grrrr). The play was great, but then there was a $25 ticket on the car -- d'oh, you have to feed the meters until 8pm, not 6, and did the City of Boston put up signs about this? Nope. Have I gotten a ticket the other dozen times I've parked after 6 at a meter? Nope. So I drive Kim back to her parking lot at MIT -- where we come face to face with a huge grey rat next to her car! Eeeek! Seriously, it could have been a possum....blegh. I had to get to work this morning in time for an 8am breakfast meeting, so I pull in with my coworkers at 7:45. At 8:25 we figure out the visiting lawyers had the time wrong, and have eaten at their hotel down the street and are just hanging around there to kill time. Gaahhh! But then I get a free muffin, OK. So I go out at lunchtime to run a few errands, and stop for gas on the way back. The sky has darkened from cloudy grey to black and menacing, with a few sprinkles of rain. The woman at the next pump and I watch as the apocalyptic front crosses right over our heads, an invisible broom of wind swishing leaves and branches down the street like a special effect. Then, sploosh: an instant, drenching downpour of cold rain and gale force winds from the west! I spilled gas all over my shoes and leapt into the car -- the poor other woman was drenched! As I pulled into the street, little hailstones came clinking down! Woah! And not 10 minutes later, I kid you not, bright blue sunny skies. Mark Twain was right on the money. It's much colder and still windy, but it's like a totally different day around here now. I need a nap.
"Everywhere, in the innermost reaches of America, you can meet men and women who hope for great voices capable of echoing their impatience in a momentous way." -- Eurollectual of the mo, Bernard-Henri Levy, wrote a Wake The Fuck Up letter to the "semi-comatose" American Left in the forthcoming issue of The Nation. Hey BHL, whaddya mean semi comatose? The national Democratic leadership is so detached from reality and the indignation of their base they're practically a phantom limb. They've painted themselves into a corner with mealymouthed accommodation of the Bush regime, and are afraid to speak out on corruption thanks to their own scandal-tainted wallets. IMO, they need to be destroyed to be saved -- I'll leave it to Dean to deal with. Meantime, bring on the next pretty face who might be able to pierce the veil of American political indifference...Barak, or even Chuck, I am looking in your direction...
"Call me Ishmael, the Whale-Killer." -- What if Herman Melville had gone with an alternate ending of Moby-Dick? Apparently there is a whole online cult of Melville marginalia, tracking down the sources he used to write all those ultra-detailed chapters about whaling. Arrr!


Oddball Mutant "Jesus Fish" Roadside Sightings of late:

1. On the Park Ave. offramp to Rt. 2 in Belmont, I pull up behind a gold Corolla with a silver "Gefilte" fish emblem. OK. But taped inside the back window (because apparently it's OK to glue the fish on permanently, but the vinyl stickers will ruin the paint?) is this missive: "MASSACHUSETTS: Live Free or [Die] Here" (the word "Die" is crossed out). Hmmm, is this the one example of the Mass. Jewish Libertarian demographic?

2. Driving on Melnea Cass Boulevard on Saturday morning, I pull alongside a grubby silver Subaru wagon with a boxspring strapped to the roof and a huge futon mattress wadded into the back of it, with the hatchback hanging open and hazard lights on, the works. At the wheel: a petite dreadlocked hippe gal (like part dreads, part braided multicolor ribbons) in a chunky sweater, chatting away with her passenger while trundling along. So far, a typical Boston scene. But on the back of the wagon, these elements: a silver "Darwin" fish, a Free Tibet sticker, AND a red/white/blue ribbon magnet. Reclaiming patriotism, or...?
Here's your God It's Been A Long Time Since the 80's link for the day -- the Lloyd Dobler v. Jake Ryan faceoff! That's right, settling the question of who's the better sweetheart: Lloyd, dorky yet true blue hero of Say Anything..., aka John Cusack, or one-hit-wonder (unless you count Mermaids) Michael Schoeffling as Jake, the bland, preppy hunk of Sixteen Candles. Much as I love both flicks, and can quote each one ("Gimme my Firebird keys!!") line by line ("Female extraterrestrial?"), and discounting the fact that John Cusack is in both movies anyway....clearly this takes the cake. *cue "In Your Eyes"*
Happy Valentine's Day to my Diet Coke -- this is so totally awesome. But...I thought D.C. was my one true love?


"We are proud to participate in the industrialization of the nation!" -- Dateline China, 1954. This propaganda poster is one of a vast trove at the site of one Stefan Landsberger. Truly amazing stuff, from The Great Leap Forward to the one-child policy, straight through the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
Hey, it's Friday, I'm alone in the office, and the power of the Four Things Meme cannot be denied forever...so here is my duly customized version:

Four Jobs I've Had: puppeteer in the public library children's room; job coach for developmentally disabled adults; part-time mad scientist; litigation associate. Guess which one sucked the most?

Four Movies I Can Watch Over and Over: Raiders of The Lost Ark ("Just blow it up, blow it back to God!"); Four Weddings and a Funeral ("Vocal exercises. Big church."); Master & Commander ("Might we press you for...an anecdote?"); The Great Muppet Caper ("What color are their hands now?").

Four Totally Overrated Movies: The Right Stuff, The Natural, The Piano, Forrest Gump.

Four Places I've Lived: E-Town; 116th St.; "The Paris of the 90's"; San Francisco.

Four Current TV Shows I Love: Lost; Arrested Development (R.I.P.); The Closer; The NBC Office (suck on it, BBC snobs). I am also totally hooked on the Bleak House miniseries.

Four popular TV shows that I've never watched a single minute of: Everybody Loves Raymond; Survivor; Gilmore Girls; Alias. I watched one episode of CSI and just shook my head in disbelief.

Four Places I've Vacationed: Long Beach Island NJ; Oak Bluffs MA; Davenport IA; Newfound Lake NH

Four Places I'd Rather Be Right Now: See above, except substitute New Zealand for Davenport (that's really a summer place).

Four of my favorite dishes: fried chicken on the 4th of July; a well-made reuben sandwich; Wang's dumplings, panzanella from Centre Street Cafe.

Four dishes I will never eat again: un-homemade eggplant parmesan; passionfruit gelato (I had this in Australia and it was like trying to eat delicious gelato studded with dead ants, i.e. the crunchy, unappetizing passionfruit seeds, blegh); pick-your-own lobster (too sad); the dreaded dinner of childhood: liver, red beans & rice, grape juice. :-O

Four sites I visit daily: kottke, Salon, overheard in NY, The Amateur Gourmet.

Four bloggers I am tagging: if there's anyone out there who hasn't yet, go for it! ;)

How To Make 'Wanted' Posters -- Cool BBC article on police sketch artists and how they try to draw a witness' recollection of the perp. Unless he looks just like Mr. Potato Head.
Cool timeline of the history of movie special effects -- from A Trip To The Moon to King Kong...and, uh, King Kong again.
Watch out for that stuffed hacksaw! -- Odd, twisted, mostly bloody stuffed animals: you've been warned. Not sure whether these are actual toys, or an art installation...the monkey kayaking on a banana has got to be the latter.
Oh holy Jesus -- a recipe for "Husband-Catcher Cake." Hey ladies, just in time for Valentine's Day! GMAFB. Hmm, let me just click over to Google and type in "Wife-Snagging Petit Fours"....uh...ummmm.... *crickets*
"What they shared was a certain chilly pride, the overdetermined dignity of the often-betrayed." -- That would be Coretta Scott King and Hillary Rodham Clinton, of course. Civil rights author Diane McWhorter writes in Salon about the eerie similarities of these two ambitious wives of famously charismatic men.


How about a little Weekend Fun Ticket Stub?

* On Saturday, Kim & I stopped for lunch on our way to the movies (see below) at the locally renowned El Pelon Taqueria, in the Fenway. Mmmmm, giant burritos -- she had bean, I splurged on carne asada, both with guac. They are the kind that can sit up vertically on the plate without assistance, muy grande. Totally hit the spot (and then some), and made us extra glad we didn't pop in to Burger King around the corner for the "Meat-Normous Omelette Sandwich" advertised in the window. :-0

* Something New -- After the filling burrito lunch, we trundled over to the AMC Fenway for a matinee, unfortunately too early to miss the blaring pre-show music and commercials, grrrrrr. I don't meant the trailers, I mean that annoying fake radio station they play in the auditorium, featuring forgettable recording artists' latest releases (like Tony Orlando & Dawn singing "Christmas in New York," how timely). Aaaaanyway, the movie was just what we hoped for: a solid romance with a sprinkle of social commentary, just a sprinkle. This is no "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner" -- for one thing, it's about class (especially perceived class) almost as much as it is about race, which is refreshing, and the quick-footed romance plot is comfortingly familiar, without being too dull. Sanaa Lathan plays uptight accountant Kenya with a touch of Monica Geller neurosis, not to mention some palpable loneliness, mixed into her high-achieving black professional attitude. Then she meets Brian, the sunbleached hippie landscape architect (and amazingly Simon Baker manages to give this idealized role some grit), and starts loosening up, bit by bit. It's a classic Pygmalion story, really. I could've done with someone other than dino-stud Blair Underwood as the "other man," but the rest of the cast acquit themselves well, without sliding too far into cliched territory. A juicy color palette and attentive editing keep it moving through the Cinderella finale. Extra points for Alfre Woodard, who continues to play against type here as the surprisingly shallow matriarch. (B+)

* On Sunday, Nat & I attended the SuperBowl of young opera singers. No, really. His parents and their friends (and apparently an entire auditorium full of other groupies) attend the New England Regional Finals of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions every year, to check out budding new talent and try to guess the judges picks. We were seated right in the front, so we saw and heard each intake of breath, and there were a lot of those. 9 women and 2 men (an unusally high number of sopranos) sang two selections each, one that they chose and one the judges picked from their repertoire at random. The stage was bare except for a grand piano and a large vase of flowers, and the women wore these amazing formal gowns, somewhere between a bridesmaid's dress and a costume. They ranged in age from 21 (!) to 28, and in vocal ability from "well-trained" straight on to "mindboggling" -- the 21-year-old was a guy who sings countertenor, what sounds like a soprano (or castrato?) except with great booming power behind it, and he took home the "Encouragement Award," as he probably has a long career ahead with his unusual range. I managed to pick only one of the 3 winners, but the gift of all that music was exciting enough. Who knew there was a opera of The Rake's Progress, let alone of Little Women? (A+)

* One last gustatory note, we had dinner at Brasserie Jo after the opera concert, treat after treat! If the little frisee garnish on the appetizer plates is better than most full-sized salads you get at most restaurants, you know your entree's going to be good. And then there was dessert....Just a few points off for slightly bumpy service, and a strange lack of everything Nat's dad wanted to order to drink, but hey, it was SuperBowl Sunday and the place was empty. I'll remember that next year... (A-)
"Bush could not even cite which constitutional duties he might mean because those would actually be quite hard to find in the Constitution." -- Prickly historical review of the powers of the executive branch in this country, from Jefferson all the way up to Mad King George. For more on this hot topic, check out Alberto "Toady" Gonzales' performance at the Senate today, insisting on the absolute, 100% Grade A constitutionality of the NSA warrantless surveillance program. *makes that half cough, half "Bullshit!" sound*


"My fellow Americans, we're not as royally screwed as everything Bush has done during his miserable term in office would have you believe." -- SF Chronicle columnist Mark Mofford coughs up his own version of the State of the Union Address. While it does not mention switchgrass, it's otherwise much more compelling than the real thing...not least because he compares the Bush Administration to a slow-healing genital rash. Ouch!