Enjoy your Memorial Day -- and click over to TreatAnySoldier.com to send a care package overseas to the kids who put their asses on the line, in one way or another, for your ability to barbecue and nap in front of the ballgame this weekend. You might also shoot an email to the governmental representative of your choice and tell them to stop making veterans ASAP.
Oh Mrs. Freshley, surely you jest. -- The vending machine in my office has reached a new low of self-deceptive snacking gimmickry with these sad, fake "healthy" Twinkies. Their website crows about preventing heart disease and "gradual weight gain" by glomming down two of these at 4pm instead of, say, one of these. Mmmm, preciousssss. But seriously, nobody should eat either of these things, except maybe active service members or triathletes. Yogurt creme is not the answer to good health and fitness, and if you're gonna be bad, be BAD, fer Chrissakes!
"Her boyfriend's pantlessness seems so unnecessary. Couldn't he at least have worn underwear?" -- Luckily we're talking about a pair of blue knitted poodles here, not people. Check out The Museum of Kitschy Stiches at Stitchy McYarnpants.com, a delight for frustrated knitters and lovers of hideous retro design, like me. God, this is awesome.
Big Time Theater TicketStub!

* Caroline, or Change -- SpeakEasy Stage outdid itself with this one. It played to all the strengths the company showed this season: stronger musical interpretation, serious set design, fresh and challenging material. Written by Tony (Angels in America) Kushner, the show weaves some of his favorite themes (childhood, race, American politics, Jewish identity, fantasy) into a winning but melancholy object lesson on families in transition. 8 year old Noah is an observant, sensitive kid whose mom died and who's trying to deal with his new stepmom by idolizing the family maid, Caroline -- herself stuck in a weird place, namely the family's humid New Orleans basement with the washer and dryer and the radio (each of which is personified onstage by a deliciously over-the-top performer or, for the radio, a trio of coiffed pink backup singers). Gruff and stoic Caroline, at 39 a single mom of four, is prickled by her deferred dreams, vague though they might be, at every turn -- all her songs have a tone of bitterness and lament. But she's everything to Noah, who has a habit of leaving pocket change in his pants. When stepmom Rose tries to teach Noah the value of money by telling Caroline to keep any change she finds in the laundry, uncomfortable lessons are learned all around. This simplistic setup sounds like a fable, but there is no simple happy ending -- each character (and there are plenty, everyone gets a good line or soliloquy or solo passage, from Grandpa to the Moon to Caroline's sassy daughter Emmie) changes a bit, but just a bit, and maybe not for the better, just like in life. The score is that sort of modern mishmash of pop music, gospel, arrhythmic a cappella and lush Sondheimian piano that signifies "thoughtful Broadway" these days. There were a few "numbers" I could've done without, and a few heavyhanded moments, but the overall effect was transporting -- particularly the image of The Moon, a statuesque silver goddess with a Lucite staff, backlit against a huge lunar cutout like an Alphonse Mucha poster, as her shimmery voice blended with the other characters. I didn't think a Kushner play would work as a musical, but I was wrong -- this is sort of like A Midsummer Night's Dream meets Anna Karenina and that old NBC show I'll Fly Away, with a dash of Hairspray and Porgy and Bess, just right, an American pastiche. (A+)


"We’re terrible, there’s no doubt about it or I wouldn’t be able to write this blog, but we aren’t the worst." -- Check out Boston Crazy Driving, the blog that attempts to capture, well, you get the idea.
Today Is The End Of The World! -- At least, according to this clairvoyant Frenchman who predicts that May 25, 2006 is when the 200-ft. tsunamis will wipe out the Eastern seaboard. And presumably France, too.
"Here At Last He Is Happy" -- So reads Edgar Allen Poe's tombstone in Baltimore, and I cannot wait to read Matthew Pearl's new book, The Poe Shadow, to get into the literary mystery that shrouds it. Pearl's piece in the Telegraph hits the highlights...booOOOoOoo!


Giant LEGO crayons, or multicolored Chrysler Buildings? -- If you guessed that this guy built a 3.5 foot, 80 lb. model of a Crayola box, you're correct.
"Ladies and gentleman, my name is Matt. I am a Snail Wrangler." -- Actually, Matt had so many snails in his organic vegetable garden that he rounded them up, cooked them, and ate them. Took lovely photos, too!
Here are two Indie TicketStubs for your perusal:

* The Notorious Bettie Page - Our choice for Ladies Night was richly rewarded but not without controversy. Gretchen Mol plays the pinup queen as a bright but enigmatically naive vixen, sort of like a brainy Marilyn Monroe character brought to life. Made by three powerhouses of lesbian/feminist Hollywood (Mary Harron, Guinivere Turner, and Christine Vachon), the film has some strong political undercurrents despite its glossy looks -- it was irritatingly similar, in fact, to Good Night And Good Luck, down to the silvery B&W lighting and David Strathairn. Bettie's life is presented anecdotally, from a Nashville church service to the hard luck life of a struggling starlet in NYC. She falls into being photographed in progressively more daring (or nonexistent) clothes with a no-nonsense, "Heck, why not?" laugh in the face of convention, and only begins to see the raw urges that drive the photo shoots for what they are after she's confronted by creepy fanboys and the US Senate. I liked the fact that it didn't try to be comprehensive or omniscient (a la Ray), but others thought it was too arty and distorted for a biopic (the fact that a few scenes are in glorious Technicolor, for whatever reason, didn't help). Extra points for Lily Taylor as the S&M stage mother Paula Klaw. (B)

* Primer - Nat got this from Netflix and we both liked it, though for very different reasons. It's a $7,000 debut film, written directed and starred in by a former engineer, shot on digital video. And it's about time travel. The twisty, overlapping dialogue swirls around a simple premise -- two guys inadvertently build a time machine in their spare time, and open a Pandora's box of philosophical dilemmas about free will, causality, mortality, and other sunny topics. Nat loves time travel stories for their surprising twists (and this film has them) and brain-prodding paradoxes; I get fed up because they generally avoid the sticky time-space problems that will inevitably result, and in this case those problems are the heart of the story. It looks like a screen test shot on the set of Office Space, and the "acting" is beside the point, but its dark, brainy glow will stick with you. (A)


ALL SIGNS POINT TO DAVID ORTIZ -- Check out the Boston.com Red Sox Magic 8-Ball! Tonight we meet the Yanks again, looking forward to some further razzing of Judas Demon as he makes his second pinstriped appearance at Fenway.


Rockin' the nerd dorm -- This one goes out to Miss Kim, who should take a stroll over to this fully automated disco dorm room at MIT. At least watch the video! Those crazy kids, what will they think of next? Wait, I probably don't want to know.
"Arockalypse Now!" -- Check out the finalists in this year's EuroVision contest, sort of like a regional American Idol. Do I even need to specify that I'm rooting for Lordi, the GWAR-esque Finnish death metal group?


For some reason, I'm having a day of small triumphs today -- behold!

1. The project I thought I'd have to rush to finish by this afternoon has been put off until next week, yessssssss.

2. At the library, there were a bunch of books I've been dying to read available, including Julie & Julia.

3. The mealhada roll I got for lunch had perfect brown caramelized points on it, yum.

4. The ever-reliable Julie Kramer played the following trifecta at the end of "Leftover Lunch": Don't Let's Start by They Might Be Giants, Debaser by The Pixies, and Alex Chilton by The Replacements.

How's that for getting you through the day?


Attack Kitty! -- In an effort to cheer myself after TAI's Official Mascot Cat (mascat?) Minerva shuffled off this mortal coil on Monday afternoon, I turned, naturally, to the blogosphere. And I was not disappointed! Check out The Amateur Gourmet's video of his own feisty feline, Lolita vs. the glass-topped coffee table. I laughed until I, well, cried.
That's "harmjoy" to you -- An interesting Morning News piece on schadenfreude, that devilish emotion springing from the moment you take pleasure in the misfortune of others. Not like the refugees in Darfur or anything, more like Plagiarist du Jour Kaavya Viswanathan. And on that note, I picked up the latest book by Megan McCafferty, from whom Kaavya allegedly cribbed, expecting chicklitalicious, solid gold crap, and...it wasn't so awful. Huh.
A few rainy Roadside Sightings today:

1. An UPDATE: The sandwich board on a backroad near my office that used to say "KARATE / FENCING" now reads "SWORD ARTS / FENCING." You've been warned.

Speaking of karate, have you seen that new Dunkin' Donuts commercial with the soccer mom yelling "Kara-TAYYYYY" into the camera? Word on the street is, that's They Might Be Giants music in the background!

2. On the back of an unremarkable red Ford pickup, driven by a dude with flowing silver mustache and beard, an American flag sticker and one with a big P on it...just like this. ROCK!


"It is only a matter of time before clothing sizes are available in negative integers." -- Witty Globe article on the incredible shrinking women's clothing size: the skirt that was a size 8 a few years ago may be a "zero" today. Wait, does this mean I could someday be a size 6? OK, that's just wrong.


"Yolkback Mountain" might be my favorite -- behold, the winners of the St. Paul Pioneer Press 2006 Peeps Diorama Contest! As you can see by some of the entries, there is a real sense of dark comedy in the Midwest, not to mention political commentary, popculture references, and a strong, sugary craft tradition. Mmmmmmm...


L'affaire Colbert UPDATED with the above awesome photo, from this NYTimes piece.
"Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know - fiction!" -- Zing-a-Zing-Zing! After catching a video clip or two, I finally read the entire transcript of Stephen Colbert's gutsy performance at the White House Correspondent's Dinner on Sunday night, and wow...his truthiness speaks volumes! In a room full of actual reporters, he spoke the truths they are all too scared or lazy or ratings-skittish to contemplate. You can tell by the nervous laughter that irony and satire are not, in fact, dead! You can say thanks to Stephen for that. Unsurprisingly, Bushie didn't take the thinly-veiled criticism very well -- poor guy, he must be reading his 34% approval ratings upside-down or something. Mr. President, you're on notice!

The Return of Judas Demon -- It wouldn't be a Sox-Yanks game without a few wild surprises, and last night's 7-3 Sox triumph served it up right. Despite the raw, windy "spring" weather, there were 36,000 fans on hand to mark Johnny Damon's first Fenway appearance in the dreaded pinstripes, many bearing signs, from the clever (see above) to the historic ("Johnny Damon = Benedict Arnold") to the typical ("Johnny, you really are an idiot!"). To be fair, there were some cheers mixed in with the boos and chants (and dropping dollar bills into the outfield)...Johnny was a class act, tipping his hat and pointing to his old friends in the dugout, some of whom were probably quaking with relief that they hadn't gone over to the dark side themselves. But nearly eclipsing that first at-bat was the dramatic arrival of Doug Mirabelli, literally whisked to the park in a state police SUV -- he'd just flown in from San Diego after being traded back hours before! He changed into his uniform on the MassPike! Even better, he saved Tim Wakefield and the Sox from another frustrating loss. And let us all bow down before David Ortiz, who defied the laws of physics with his towering 3-run homer in the 8th -- huzzah!


It's time for a big TicketStub catchup around here:

* Thank You For Smoking -- Aaron Eckhardt steps up to leading man status in this dark yet gentle satire of the tobacco lobby circa ten years ago. He plays Nick Naylor, the shameless goldenboy spin doctor for Big Tobacco (embodied by a drawling, julep-sipping Robert Duvall), who unapologetically excels at his job and embraces a "Yuppie Nuremberg defense" of it: "I do it for the mortgage, like anybody else." But things get a little trickier when his bright young son tags along on his business trips, and he falls prey to a fickle young journalist [Kat(i)e Holmes] and a pack of antismoking zealots. The film deftly skewers both the corporate shill machine and the self-deception of those who drive it, but it wasn't as harsh or bleak as I expected -- in the end Nick makes a convincingly likeable antihero. Extra points for Rob Lowe as a hilariously faux-Zen Hollywood power player. (B)

* Christine Jorgensen Reveals -- Boston's Theater Offensive snapped up a limited run of this unusual show, and the day Kim & I went it was nominated for an NYC Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatrical Experience -- and so it was, and gorgeous and moving too. Christine was a megacelebrity in the late 50's, by virtue of her being born George Jorgensen in the Bronx, serving in the Army, and then traveling to Denmark for sex reassignment surgery. Five years after returning to the US and launching a successful nightclub act, she made a "party record" with Nipsey Russell, an hour of answering all manner of personal, banal, and improbable questions ("Do you have a love mate?"). The show takes that original audio track and places actor/creator Brad Louryk, in full blonde bombshell mode, on a simple set lip-synching along impeccably to Christine's poised answers. Like a lot of things in life, it starts out odd and jarring, but after a few minutes you feel it's utterly normal. The show is layered with all kinds of subtle lessons on celebrity, identity, and self-acceptance -- if only Oprah and its ilk were this sophisticated! (A+)

* Neil Young: Heart of Gold -- Nat and I walked down to the Capitol Theate, and for $7 got front row tickets to a Neil Young concert! This small, well-crafted film showcases Young in his element -- surrounded by longtime friends and collaborators, performing new work and old favorites, and baring his soul through song in the most unassuming yet piercing way. Shot on one night at Nashville's storied Ryman Auditorium by none other than Jonathan Demme, the film manages to zoom right up close and capture the twinkling eyes and furrowed brows of the musicians, without seeming staged or intrusive. I'm so glad we went to see it in a theater -- on DVD the music would still be great but you'd lose that live audience feel. Features a fantastic close-up of the "Harvest Moon" broom. (A)

* Friends With Money -- I finally caught the latest Nicole Holofcener movie and, as I expected, she's done it again. I've never seen more believable characters onscreen -- not necessarily likeable, but so ordinary in their bumbling, petty way, it makes you think you might bump into them sometime at the Santa Monica farmer's market. If only you lived in L.A... and had an L.A. figure, bank account, wardrobe, low-grade depression, job working from home, and messy marriage. That describes three of the four women of Friends to a tee, and Jennifer Aniston plays the odd one out, Olivia the aimless, potsmoking teacher-turned-housecleaner. Reprising her role in The Good Girl (wherein she unwisely bedded Jake Gyllenhaal, just like Catherine Keener in the last Holofcener flick, Lovely & Amazing, what are the odds on that?), Aniston shows she does have a set of acting chops -- you can't fake it up against Keener, Joan Cusack, and Frances McDormand, folks. The plot revolves around this set of women friends (exactly how and when they met is irritatingly never discussed, just like on Sex and the City) and their respective troubles with work, ageing, men, and most importantly money, the unspoken stressor and stress-reliever of consumer-capitalist American life. It's no accident that the wealthiest couple has the most satisfying sex life here...but are they the "happiest"? Keener and McDormand struggle with a crumbling marriage and perimenopause, respectively, but in the end they seem quite happy too. It's Aniston who hits the jackpot with a sweet, mysterious guy in the end, after putting up with the most bullshit. So what's the lesson -- live simply so that others may simply live? Hardly -- Holofcener is deeply apolitical, and the movie enjoys its brand-consciousness and "aspirational" lifestyles rather than critiquing them. It's more like the end of It's A Wonderful Life, the richest gals in town are the ones with good friends. Awwww. Extra points for McDormand's awesome freakout in an Old Navy store! (A-)