Sometimes you just need a good Transverse Cylindrical Equal Area Projection of the world -- note that this mind-bender is "used sparingly," hmmm, wonder why. To make your own map, click over to the very cool National Atlas MapMaker site and zoom in on an area, then overlay geographic and political features, historical landmarks, climate, transportation, or census data to your hearts content. Nerd alert!
"He’s not here simply to hit, catch, and run. He’s here to remove the stick." -- That's Johnny Damon, The Judas of the Outfield, and that stick is up his fellow Yankees' asses. In this fawning, all-access interview with New York Magazine, Johnny makes it clear why he followed the money down to the Big Apple -- he'll say and do anything to get famous. Exhibit A: "This is Alex and Derek’s team; I’m just proud to be part of the tradition." Blech!
Slavery = " the ticket to America for black people"! -- Sort of like how Guantanamo is the Club Med for political prisoners, I guess. Way-right-wing columnist in Washington state tries to condemn Democrats and teachers unions with a shoutout to slavery: "A harsh life, to be sure, but many immigrants suffered hardships and indignations as indentured servants. Their descendants rose above it." Behold my expression as I read this here.
"How would you drop huge bombs on urban neighborhoods in a competent way? How would you deploy cluster munitions that shred the bodies of children in a competent way? . . . The only way to do this war right is to not do it at all." -- Right on! A thoughtful column on the need for a "peace effort" and an end to "the charge to slaughter in the name of freedom to serve profit," from Norman Solomon.
"Unlike the majority of plastic action figures, Duke can actually arch his back and raise his head somewhat." -- Which makes it easy for him to do yoga! From the mind of Fussy comes Yogabeans, people. Makes you wonder what sort of photographic fun you could have with those old Strawberry Shortcake dolls, doesn't it? A stop-action soap opera, perhaps? Hmmm...


Pointlessly Raunchy Roadside Sightings -- beware!

* Driving along Garden Street in Harvard Square, I spot a gigantic decal across the back of a parked, beat-up white Taurus. At 5 or 6 inches wide, spanning the top of the rear window, it reads: "100% LOVER IN" and then there's a drawing of two copulating toads. Not a photograph, and not a silly cartoon a la the peeing Calvin. Just two dull, businesslike green toads. So, so disturbing.

* Behind another white sedan in Burlington, I see it's festooned with goofy slogans like "Hang Up And Drive!" and the like. But front and center on the trunk lid is a large red, black and white sticker emblazoned: "I (HEART) INTERCOURSE PA". Har de har har, Intercourse Pennsylvania, I get it! Note that the town is smack in the middle of Amish country and nobody thinks it's funny but 6th graders on class trips (take my word on that one).
"So meaningless are the daily disgorgements from the White House that Schieffer says he's contemplated sending an intern there to take notes and sending the reporters to Capitol Hill." -- Wow, Bob Schieffer himself agrees that the White House beat has lost its cachet. Gee, I guess when there's nothing but marshmallow fluff on the force-fed menu, you're unlikely to find a thick juicy steak of a story. Note the pathetic justifications of David Gregory, former White House go-to-guy who now subs on the Today Show, with its "interesting mix of hard news and lighter fare." Right.


"If my wife dressed better, would gay guys stop hitting on me?" -- Ask a stupid question, well...you know what happens then. Salon's advice columnist tackles this with aplomb, but be sure to read the comments for some real spoonfuls of sugar.


The March Madness Edition of Theater TicketStub is finally here!

* Forbidden Broadway: SVU -- A revue for all the closet Broadway babies out there, you former theater geeks who can lipsync along with The Fantasticks and belt out "Tomorrow" or "I Enjoy Being A Girl" in the shower...ummm, not that I know what that's like. Two jam-packed acts, four solid troupers, and a nonstop cavalcade of parody makes the show move along at a good clip -- despite the fact that I was in the throes of nausea and feared I would have to claw my way to the aisle from dead center in the middle of the action, I was caught up in the hilarity from the start. From the washed-up, middle-aged Annie to the horny Avenue Q puppets, no Broadway sacred cow is safe, especially not Harvey Fierstein, ha ha. The more you care about theater in-jokes, the more you'll like it, but even the casual viewer can chortle at the overblown Phantom and his diminutive chandelier, or the acerbic Mamma Mia sendup: "Compared to the new shows/ABBA looks like Shakespeare," ouch! And the classic sketch on the marathon grubbiness of Les Miz was priceless. Run don't walk, as they say. (B+)

* The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? -- Kim and I joined the matinee herd, yuk yuk, to see what all the fuss was about Edward Albee's controversial (as in, could be genius, could be a waste of time) but Tony winning play. The fuss, dear readers, is over bestiality, and more specifically how it brings the comfy upscale marriage of one couple crashing down in ruins. How Albee-esque. Martin, a lovesick successful architect, is acting strangely and both his wife and best friend joke with him that he must be having an affair, ha ha ha. This cavalier treatment of infidelity (from the wife because she is rock-solidly secure in the marriage, from the friend because he's often strayed and can't believe Martin hasn't yet) quickly bites all three of them in the hindquarters, when Martin blurts out that yes, he is, with Sylvia, darling Sylvia, a goat he met upstate at a farm stand. No, really. And it's been going on for six months! The audience reaction to this revelation (which is of course not much of one, since we know the play's title and thus the "secret") morphs from naughty snickering to rueful chuckles to silent thrall at the unspooling mess onstage (literally, once the wife starts trashing the set). That's Albee's genius here: he makes us ashamed of the husband and of ourselves too, for our smug schadenfreude at his downfall. Steven Schnetzer, who played Martin (and, back in the day, Cass on Another World!) was spot on and somehow made the character truly pitiable, growing more pathetic as he starts to admit his "love affair" is really a disastrous compulsion. The other three actors were all second fiddles, but that seemed to fit the theme. And poor Sylvia herself makes only a brief, doomed cameo. Thought-provoking stuff...unfortunately the Lyric Stage theater was so overheated that several people walked out, and I thought my brain would melt. (A-)

* Brooklyn Boy -- SpeakEasy Stage is batting .1000 so far this year, with another compelling production, this time with the entire cast making their SpeakEasy debut. Donald Margulies, who wrote Dinner With Friends, delves into his autobiography here with the story of Eric Weiss, a Jewish boy, the "sensitive" type, from Brooklyn -- that is, the Brooklyn of yore, not today's hipster enclave -- who's finally become a flavor-of-the-week author, appearing on the Today Show, flying out to Hollywood, the whole bit. But his crusty old dad is dying of cancer, his wife's divorcing him, and everyone from the old neighborhood wants to know who will be playing them in the movie. "But it's a novel, a work of fiction!" he protests, not very convincingly. The play vividly bounces Eric's neuroses against the robust Brooklyn characters he's been carefully distancing himself from since he went off to Columbia years ago: his unapologetically dyspeptic father, a friend who's mired like a Springsteen lyric in the same old routines his own father laid down. Americans tend to use a euphemism, "background," for those elemental forces like religion, class, and ethnicity that are anything but as they shape our character and outlook on life. Here we see one "local boy made good" coming to terms with the fact that even after you move out and your parents pass on, you still live under their roof -- a revelation brilliantly executed onstage with a last-minute set change that takes us right into the shabby, shmutzy, ever-loving heart of Brooklyn. Wonderful performances by the dad (David Kristin) and old friend Ira (Ken Baltin) made it a wryly funny and poignant night. (A)
Hmm, why not serve the guinea pig over pasta? -- Thanks to Miss Kim for the BBC's Top 50 Things To Eat Before You Die list! I am doing pretty well, with 39 out of 50, including the delicious Moreton Bay Bugs I supped on in Sydney, mmmm. I'm all for respecting global foodways, but who out there is entirely unfamiliar with #24, sandwiches? Perhaps I can combine some of the remaining delicacies, like "reindeer haggis pie" or the like. I would personally add the Roman lunch tradition of porchetta con sale, as well as those kooky Japanese ice creams, to the list.


"Excuse me, excuse me. No President wants war." -- That's our President speaking, in case you were expecting someone else. Check out his flailings under some direct questioning by Helen Thomas of the White House press corps -- yes, it's gotten to the point where he can't remember which flimsy excuse of a talking point to regurgitate on command. "Well 9/11, uh, I mean the Taliban...er, uh, stay the course, yeah, that's the ticket." I think Rove and Cheney might want to take him in for a tuneup.

As a bracing antidote to such buffoonery, check out this Pew Research Center poll on the Prez's performance rating, bottoming out at 33% last week. Scroll down to the part where they track people's choice of a one-word description of W. Let's tick off the top ten most popular: Incompetent, Good, Idiot, Liar, Christian, Honest, Arrogant, Strong, Integrity, and of course Ass. Even assuming that people are not using "good" or "Christian" ironically, I'd say the guy's in trouble.


I must have a Wee Sticker, if I cannot have Pocket Pork. -- No, that's not some poorly translated Japanese junk food label, it's my expression of desire for a little stuffed plush potsticker, as seen above. MyPlasticHeart, I <3 you.
It's Weekend Ticket Stub time -- though I'm saving all 3 onstage performances this month until this Friday, so stay tuned for Forbidden Broadway: SVU, The Goat, and more...

* The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada -- Sometimes the smallest movies are the most rewarding, and this directorial debut by Tommy Lee Jones is a great example. A deceptively simple border fable, written by Guillermo Arriaga (Amores Perros), the film flickers back and forth in the life, untimely death, and unsettling afterlife of the titular Mexican ranchhand. Melquiades is accidentally shot by a callow young border patrol agent, played with perfect All-American detachment by Barry Pepper. As we find more unspoken (and illicit) connections between the inhabitants of this dusty backwater, they start turning on each other, with Jones' grizzled gringo finally kidnapping Pepper, barefoot, to carry Mel through the desert back to his homeland. With such a simple structure, the film quickly draws you into these small lives and their surprising twists and turns. A few scenes of gruesome cruelty are all the more vivid compared to the alternating moments of humanity and connection. The story is carefully paced, and the smallest details are used to evoke so much -- you hear the faint clank of spurs as the men walk, without a gratuitous shot of their boots. Jones seems to know just how to group and shoot his actors for devastating effect, as in Levon Helm's cameo as a generous, blind hermit, or when his own character gets ruefully tanked at a crumbling country taberna draped with twinkling white christmas lights. It takes a deft touch to swing convincingly from border politics to the ineffable mysteries of friendship and back again, and here Jones succeeds. (A)
"Now we want chocolate, cigarettes, and a trashy movie. In the future, we want to eat fruit, to quit smoking, and to watch Bergman films.” -- So, so true...well, I would substitute "refined sugar" for smoking, but still. Interesting article on "The Marketplace of Perceptions" and why human nature gravitates towards procrastination (yes!).
"But when you buy a DVD you are giving your money to criminals who are in the business of investing in nothing but their greedy souls." -- Well, not just any DVD, that is. Pirated copies of the Oscar-winning South African film Tsotsi are out on the streets with a different ending! Caveat spectator.
Happy 3rd Anniversary, here's a nice leatherbound panic button -- Hard to believe (or is it?) but it's now Day 1 of Year FOUR in the US occupation of Iraq. Read up on the top ten mistakes of the past year, or if you prefer, absorb some sunshine from our ever-optimistic Prez. Check out the somewhat diminished protests around the world, and observe that things are business as usual in Baghdad. Maybe chin up a little by sending lone-pine-Democrat John Murtha an email of support. Sigh.


_ _ _ N _ _ T? -- Check out this addictive little Hangman game, brought to you by the brainiacs of the Oxford English Dictionary.


What's that in the air? Is it the rich, loamy scent of Catholic irony? -- 'Tis! Looks like the Archdiocese of Boston is back on track, now that it's shutting down all adoption services to avoid the errant gay parent. Sorry, unwanted foster children, looks like Jesus was more concerned about eating corned beef on a Lenten Friday than about us caring for the least of his people. Now that those pesky non-discrimination laws have been overcome, the Diocese turns its attention to the truly pressing needs of its flock: a special dispensation so people can celebrate St. Patrick's Day with corned beef, even though it's on Friday this year. Whew! I'm sure we'll see lots of sober, sensible celebrations around town, as all the conservatives who backed the Church cop-out on adoption give thanks for being on the right side of canon law once again. Right. Just so we're clear -- the Church has no problem bending the rules for pederasts and carnivores, but upstanding gay citizens who want to provide a caring home for special needs kids? No luck. WWJD, indeed.


Summer Shack Stub -- Just a note about the unusual dinner shared by me, my sisters, and my mom on Saturday night, the culmination of Ladies Weekend 2006 (before we got to the Flower Show, anyway). My sister Rebecca was lobbying for dinner at the Summer Shack from the get-go, and while she and I did have a great meal there in the past, I'm still sort of opposed to the place on principle, and that principle is thrift. Yes, the food is delicious, simple, and beloved (the place is always packed), but isn't it sort of wrong to pay $5 for corn on the cob to eat alongside your unadorned $19 grilled fish entree? Hmmm. Well, I may stop holding that against them, because not only did we eat very well (mmmm, spinach salad with beets, blood orange, and sweet fried shrimps), we spotted some local celebs over our cornbread basket too. First, I thought the two women at the next table looked sort of familiar, though quite ordinary. In fact, they were Julie and Hillary Goodridge, plaintiffs in the Massachusetts gay marriage case, along with their young daughter and a friend. Cool! Then Rebecca goes, "That guy in the kitchen, is that Jasper White?" Indeed, the head chef himself was in there, plating up food and expertly prepping boiled lobsters with a big knife, a la Iron Chef. What gave him away, aside from his commanding manner? Yes, the subtle "J.W." on his white coat. :)
"Of course you are not required to love everything about the United States, and certainly not those grossly overweight Americans on the Las Vegas buffet lines." -- This is totally awesome...OK, it is if you find highflown debate among the preening intelligentsia occasionally hilarious, like me. Here we have conservative powerhouse Francis Fukuyama carping on the infamously Gallic Berard-Henri Levy for not finding Las Vegas "sinful" enough, basically. BHL retorts by calling FF a Hegelian, ohhhh snap!
In an effort to both catch up and share some hard-earned health advice, allow me to post some tips on the various maladies that have befallen yours truly in the past 7 days -- fun! If you get the stomach flu, I recommend Mott's Natural Style 100% apple juice. When you eat nothing but this, Eggo waffles and Stonyfield plain yogurt for 3 straight days, interesting things start to happen! Midway through your gastric journey, watch out for crippling headaches caused by caffeine withdrawal -- ouch, those daily cups of tea and precious Diet Coke will be missed. Once the bottom system returns to normal, watch out for infection in the ears, nose, and throat. If you lose your voice, try soothing tea with honey, ice cream, and good old Nyquil to end the torment and get to sleep. Just look on the bright side -- it could be worse, right?


Oscars Weekend Ticket Stub Recap -- Well, it's been a crazy few days in the land of the movie fan...but before I get to the big finale, allow me to back up through all the fun had by my household leading up to it...

* On Friday, I spotted a car with two bumper stickers that seemed to prophesize a liberal Hollywood, blue state Best Picture win for everybody's favorite cowboy love story: "Wackos For Peace" and "Save A Horse, Ride A Cowboy!" Yeeeeeeeeeha!

* Saturday afternoon, Nat and I drove up to Salem for an entirely witch-free evening at the Hawthorne Hotel. We checked out the teapots, penguin, and model Taj Mahal made of plastic wrap at the trendy Peabody Essex Museum, and then enjoyed a delicious dinner at the hotel restaurant named....Nathaniel's, where Nat did not get to eat for free but did enjoy the towering portrait of his namesake on the wall over the piano player. Coincidentally, there were two weddings going on in the hotel, one of which took place not 10 feet from our table. I thought the guests were assembling for the reception, but then the bride and her dad were standing next to us, waiting to be cued to go through the door! It was small and relatively informal, obviously, but still exciting, and we toasted the couple as they scooted out to take photos a few minutes later. Mazel tov! We watched 'The Italian Job' on cable and then had an overpriced room service breakfast before heading home.

* Our annual Oscars party was replete with costumed fun, including a whole slew of cowboys and cowgirls:

Yippee-ki-yi-yaaaaaayyyyyyy....Anyway, we were all vaguely disappointed that Jon Stewart wasn't his usual rascally self as Oscars host -- he seemed way too intimidated and deferential, although still dryly sarcastic, and the skits were hilarious. He seemed to warm up as the night went along, so maybe there's hope for another try next year. I couldn't believe how quickly the show went along, and by the time 'Crash' scooped up that final statue and Paul Haggis' wife exposed her breast to the camera while hugging him (and why no firestorm of 'wardrobe malfunction' proportions this time -- aired after 11pm? accidental? non-black?) we were like, "Uh, wait, it's over already?" I'll rent 'Crash' to check out the fuss, but I have a feeling it's going to be just like what I imagined when I decided not to see it over the summer, an overbudget after-school special. But I don't think 'Brokeback's loss had much to do with hidden Hollywood homophobia -- hey, for all we know it lost by only a vote or two. Hollywood loves navel-gazing way more than high-minded social commentary, and 'Crash' is an L.A. story. Just like when 'Shakespeare in Love' won over 'Saving Private Ryan,' the industry insider vote wins every time. Ah well, it's always more fun to grouse about being robbed anyway...Until 2007, see you at the movies...

Soak it up folks -- according to Blogger, this is the 2,000th post to The Angus Index...the mind boggles! It's been a long, intermittent road, hasn't it? In honor of this milestone, I shall post one of my favorite types of links, that's right, a LEGO link. In this case...brace yourself...scenes from Monty Python and the Holy Grail...rendered in LEGO. Check out the Knight of Ni! Here's to 2,000 more procrastinatory pleasures...


For some reason, today has been a day of weird, slightly gross Sightings:

* On 95 North at the Rt. 3 interchange, I passed a dually truck pulling a very large, long mesh trailer behind it, the kind that landscapers use to pull their equipment on. This one had been loaded up with something, maybe mulch, and covered with a big black tarp. Emblazoned across the tailgate: MAXI DUMP. Ugh!

* As I'm sipping my Prince of Wales tea at my desk, I turn around to look outside and check the progress of the predicted snowfall -- I am like the weathergirl in my office for the cubedwellers on the "dark side" of the wall, ha ha. What immediately trundles slowly into my view? A big red tanker truck with SANITARY PUMPING on the side in scrolly yellow letters. Mmmm!

* Our office recently installed a second microwave in the cubicle area, after months of grousing. This is pathetic because downstairs in our fully stocked cafeteria there are 3 more, but some people just can't break away for long enough to go down there, or have such social phobia that they would rather starve than stand around the caf twiddling their thumbs for a few minutes while their Lean Cuisine heats up. Whatever. This new micro is on a table between our two lovely new fridges, next to the vending machines and the restrooms. So it is a high traffic area, whereas the old micro is in a tucked-away vestibule near a large conference room. For some reason, the machine has been set in Spanish mode, so the keypad reads "100% Potencia" while it is running, and at the end a little pixillated chef, in whites and toque, appears above the word "DISFRUTE!" Okay, will do.