"'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!


It's time for another installment of the ever-popular ? Du Jour -- And so, what the hell is this, anyway?

A) Mug shot of a Gallery of Regrettable Food reject.
B) Proof that even Martha Stewart has a sense of humor. (via megnut)
C) Prop from that episode of Friends where Rachel accidentally makes shepherd's pie-trifle.
D) A light midafternoon snack, washed down with one of these.
E) Happy Belated Birthday to TAI!! And many mooooore...
What's that? You're interested in land use in Maynard, MA? -- Well then, The Namesake has got a site for you. Woo!
"No matter how you feel about Spike, and I don’t like all his movies, people know about his integrity and his unrelenting commitment to African-American people, to tell our stories." -- That story is the struggle of the people of New Orleans to survive Hurricane Katrina. Coming up on the one year anniversary, Spike Lee's "When The Levees Broke: A Requiem In Four Acts" debuts on HBO later this month. Considering the man made one of the best films of the 1990's and received zero recognition for it, I think he is due for another masterpiece. Set that TiVo.


I hereby poach Kim's High School Meme, go Minutemen!

1. Who were your best friends? Andrea, Traci, & Alissa
2. What sports did you play? Swimming, softball, volleyball & marching band (yes, a sport!). Also did drama, speech & debate, academic tutoring...nerrrrd alert!
3. What kind of car did you drive? Ha! Barely learned to drive, didn't get my license until January of senior year, and never drove anywhere in my parents' legendary '86 Chevy Celebrity wagon.
4. It's Friday night, where were you at? Sleeping over at a friend's, watching movies, calling boys...maybe a little later on going out to a movie or concert, followed by disco fries at a diner!
5. Were you a party animal? Compared to my peers back then, not really; compared to today, I was a nun. Every party I went to was at someone's house, with older siblings and/or parents around, so even if we snuck a beer or something we couldn't get into a car or much trouble.
6. Were you considered a flirt? No way, I was funny and friendly, but also the uptight/judgmental/squeamish one about boys/dating/sex. This persisted until college, when all hell broke loose.
7. Ever skip school? Never a whole a day, though I wanted to (and probably should have) skip my entire senior year, it was so pointless. OTOH it was chock full of electives so I took many a long lunch, i.e. the rest of the day off, spent at a friend's house or eating french fries at the Chinese takeout place across from the library, where I worked.
8. Ever smoke? No.
9. Were you a nerd? Oh hell yeah, I was in the alternative school for gifted nerds from 3rd grade on.
10. Did you get suspended/expelled? No.
11. Can you sing the Alma Mater? There is technically a cheesy ballad for the high school, but my elementary school song is still burned in my brain.
12. Who was your favorite teacher? Ray Aklonis, Jill Palumbo, Lumina Pacheco, Fred Schneider -- all tied.
13. Favorite class? Those taught by #12: Modern European History, Creative Writing, AP English, Speech & Rhetoric.
14. What was your school's full name? Elizabeth High School, aka Big E.
15. School mascot? The Minutemen...and let's not forget the Lady Minutemen.
16. Did you go to the Prom? Not really...not a big deal at my school anyway, out of 700 seniors only half went.
17. If you could go back and do it over, would you? Unless I could re-do it knowing what I know now, even vaguely, about how things turn out, then absolutely not.
18. What do you remember most about graduation? It was on the football field and we were all staring directly into the sun, and thus got matching sunburned cheeks. Also, my stupid white gown was see-thru, it looked like a crappy plastic grocery bag.
19. Favorite memory of your senior year? Stage managing the musical, it was like a fulltime job/get out of class card for months on end.
20. Were you ever posted up on the senior wall? Huh?
21. Did you have a job your senior year? Worked at school as a tutor and at the public library in the children's room.
22. Who did you date? Nobody, but about 80% of my friends were also single, we traveled in a pack.
23. Where did you go most often for lunch? The circular courtyard inside the "donut" of the school building, it was a stepped, cement amphitheater with some grass and trees, very good (or bad) peoplewatching. Lunch consisted of cafeteria tater tots, Diet Coke, and Combos.
24. Have you gained weight since then? Sadly, yes -- even though I eat much better now, I am plumper and I used to think I was plump then! It must have been the walking to and from school...Mom turns out to be right, again.
25. What did you do after graduation? Spent the summer working with ARC and then packed off to Tufts.
26. When did you graduate? 1992...that was last century, people.


KA-POW!!! -- Let us all bow down before Big Papi, who delivered his gazillionth (OK, ninth) walkoff home run for the Sox last night in dramatic, Cleveland-whomping fashion. As Dan Shaughessy puts it in today's Globe: "Ortiz has turned major league baseball into Wiffle ball games you'd play with makeshift rules regarding rooftops, clotheslines, and summer winds." Wooohoooo!

UPDATE: Well, the smackdown from Olympus has begun -- not only is Jason Varitek on the DL for at least a month with a bum knee, but last night a little injured black bird hopped all over the infield, presaging some additional doom, perhaps? He's being nicknamed (I vote for Yawkey, calling him Larry is just...sad), should he survive -- and take it from me, I rescued a dying duck from my driveway once, those critters are tough. Take a lesson, Sox!