Monday, October 27, 2008

Yippee ki yi yay

This cracked me up. Although if it had happened on my flight (tomorrow), I would have been irritated...

Poodle escapes, delays 8 flights at Logan
Cramped after a Saturday night flight from Detroit, Choochy the poodle broke free after her plane landed at Logan and for the next 17 hours, the tiny white fugitive managed to elude nearly a dozen Massport employees and State Police, holding up runway traffic as she cavorted on the tarmac. . . .

Yo ho ho

While we were wandering around a fair trade fair in the West P on Sunday, Pastor X reminded me that I hadn't blogged our recent trivia win.

Bob Loblaw's Law Blog came in second at the Squealing Pig, and won a big wonking bottle of coconut rum, which will be consumed at a party sometime after midterms.


Saturday, October 25, 2008


Several friends posted this on the FB, and I can't believe it's been eight years since the Budweiser ads! Lordy, time flies...

Also, one of my first reactions was "What PAC paid for this?" But I think it was just the five actors, unaffiliated with any 527.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Oh, there was a hockey game?

Normally I dislike interacting with the undergrads, but last Friday was Northeastern's Homecoming Week, and Jon Stewart was the guest speaker. Normally I dislike paying more than $8 for on-campus events, but it was Jon Stewart. So I forked over the significantly higher ticket price (and I was lucky -- it sold out really quickly), dragged Lady Grace because I owed her dinner anyway and needed to pay off the debt, and endured the undergraduate hordes.

I was impressed -- he spoke for an hour and a half, and then also took questions from the packed house! Sure, he recycled a lot of his jokes from The Daily Show, but it was live and therefore somehow funnier. The coolest thing was that he engaged the sign language interpreters. So now I know how to sign both "blowjob" and "fuck" in ASL.

And, as promised, he mentioned Northeastern in his Monday opening dialogue as well as right before the moment of zen:

Monday, October 20, 2008

Avian flu

A friend recently showed me video of his first skydiving trip out in Snohomish County; since we're both in Boston now, we went to see Adrenaline Rush: the Science of Risk at the Museum of Science IMAX Theatre. The short, 40-minute documentary follows skydivers and base jumpers around; record-holding skydivers also team up with researchers to build and test Da Vinci's 500-year-old sketch of a possible parachute, which was pretty cool.

Sure, there's some cheesy analogy about a kid's first day of school and the "fight or flight" instinct. But there's some seriously awesome footage of skydivers playing a ball game while falling though the air, as well as some breathtaking views of a drop off a cliff in a fjord. Except for the base jumping, which looked thrilling but has a high casualty rate (I didn't know they don't carry a spare parachute), it all looked really fun. I felt like running out and going skydiving after the film. But we opted for Belgian beer and talked about Seattle and Boston instead.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Scrambled and unfertilized

Since I read and loved all of Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series, I finally got around to starting his other equally zany Nursery Crime Series.
Detective Jack Spratt, with his new assistant Inspector Mary Mary, investigates the death of Humpty Dumpty. Half the nursery rhymes I never knew I ever knew become part of the main plot, a side plot, and various other twisting plots. Brilliant as always.

I couldn't help but draw a comparison to Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse, which I read during last winter's inadvertent week of nursery rhymes and fairy tales. The Big Over Easy, which has the same basic underlying principle of nursery rhyme characters living amongst real-life people and then getting murdered, upstages Chocolate Bunnies. Fforde's familiar plot devices, puns, and creative histories are still as enjoyable as they are in the Thursday Next series. (In fact, they sort of overlap, or at least reference each other.)

I left the second book in Seattle, so I'll have to wait a week and a half to read it.

Where the streets have no name

Lesson learned the hard way #1762: Clarify the exact type of establishment a friend recommends before heading there solo to check it out.

Speaking of nerds, when a certain MIT post-doc friend who should know better says there's this "cool bar" with karaoke that you should check out, that sometimes translates as "in a dorm" with "two card-key entries and a security guard" who assumed I had an assignation with a student ("Hey sweetie, you meeting a friend there?") and gestured across the gated quad; said student patrons (all six of them, all male) ranged in age from 21 to 24, and were not singing but watching the Red Sox in the playoffs.

I fled, stopped by a real bar to grab a quick slice of pizza and pint of beer, then went grocery shopping. And emailed my friend...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

404 File not found

I realize I'm cross-posting this several times on Facebook and Delicious (which re-feeds to my Facebook wall), but I'm in a hate-the-world-for-telling-women-to-change-just-to-bag-a-man mood.

I fully support ogling hot bodies in fundraising calendars as well as posing in them (seriously, how fun would the photo shoot be?!), but the general trend of commodifying and oversexualizing the appearance of intelligence (not intelligence itself) is a tad repulsive.
Bostonist | "Nerd Chic" not really "Nerdy"

... Maybe we wouldn't be so annoyed by this if it didn't seem to be part of a trend. Tufts' "Nerd Girls" proclaim, "Brains are beautiful, geek is chic, smart is sexy, not either/or"--subtly suggesting that if you're smart but not sexy you're not actually smart. That strikes us as pretty problematic. The club was supposedly created to "empower" female engineers, but slapping on some makeup and a halter top is not necessarily empowering--it's just a way to dress, nothing more.

The Nerd Girls recognize only attractive, skinny women as "chic geeks," recreating exactly the type of exclusionary social structure they're pretending to subvert. They laud a cheerleader and aerospace engineer as though there's something wrong with just being a plain ol' aerospace engineer, and praise Natalie Portman for her "intelligent hotness," as if intelligence alone isn't worthy of note.

... Of course smart and sexy aren't mutually exclusive. But nor are they the same thing. Putting on a skimpy top doesn't give you brains--and knowing the answer in math class doesn't make you unattractive. Smarts should be appealing, and all women (and men) should be able to flaunt their sexuality (without being labeled stupid) if they so choose. But being sexualized is not a required part of being smart. It's okay to be dumpy and dowdy at times. Self-worth should come from personality and intelligence, not appearance. By overemphasizing the physical, the Nerd Girls are de-emphasizing the intellectual and undermining their own stated mission.
And now, off to an MIT karaoke bar that a friend recommended...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

My fellow prisoners...

Tonight's third and final presidential debate between Obama and McCain was the first debate I've watched this election cycle without alcohol. That sounds bad, I know, but I thought this debate was the best, and I have no idea if the absence of beer or wine was indeed a factor.

The Common Man's hilarious liveblog-style post on tonight's debate
summed up almost all of my sentiments exactly. Hats off to my old roomie for capturing the spirit of the debate with such humor!

On my entirely sober ride back to my apartment from the Political Science Department's debate-watching gathering on campus (there was free pizza, so naturally half the attendees were graduate students), it occurred to me that, since I was born in the last quarter of the Carter administration, Bill Clinton is the only Democrat elected President in my lifetime. And I wasn't of voting age either time he ran.

I might disagree with Obama on a few issues (yeah yeah yeah, I'm way farther left), but in the past twelve years I've learned to live and work pragmatically within the two-party system. And damn it! I want to see a Democrat in the White House --one that I voted for!

Getting very excited for Election Day...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Four corners

Via the FG:

Four places that I go to over and over: campus (duh), Trader Joe's, CVS, and The Dubliner

Four people who e-mail me regularly: Mi Hermana, La Madre, Lady Grace, and my friend Jenn in LA

Four places I would rather be right now: here in New York for a few more days, London, Seattle, and someplace warm and tropical

Four of my favorite places to eat: Phoenicia at Alki, Thai on Alki, Zoe, and La Madre's (the grad student budget doesn't allow for eating out much in Beantown)

Four people I'm tagging: the FG, Trivial Kate, Xtina, and The Common Man

Four TV shows I watch over and over: The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, The West Wing, and CSI:New York

And then there's:

Clothes Shop: Nordstrom
Furniture Shop: IKEA (grad student budget!)
Sweet: tiramisu, and anything involving raspberries or lemons
City: Seattle has my heart, London has my imagination, and New York has my shopping addiction
Drink: scotch, Mac & Jack's, red wine
Music: blatantly cheesy remixes, and whatever else is in my voice range
TV Series: The West Wing
Film: I Heart Huckabees, The Matrix
Workout: the elliptical
Pastries: rarely, but whatever has raspberries or is raspberry-flavored
Coffee: drip, with whole milk and honey

Thursday, October 09, 2008

These vagabond shoes

Four years ago in October, on a visit to DC, I went to the recently-opened National Museum of the American Indian. Since it was still new I thought it was really well done. And because I also am bizarrely fascinated by museum cafes, I thought the idea behind the NMAI food court was really cool too. What I found really positive was the emphasis that what happened to various peoples (oh, say, annihilation by disease or massacre, forced reservations, broken treaties, etc.) significantly shape but do not solely define who they are. So the Museum highlighted various ways that different Native peoples are empowering their communities.

That was Columbus Day weekend in '04. To come full circle, it's Columbus Day weekend again, and the irony of my visiting the New York branch of the NMAI is not lost on me. I didn't actually intend to go to this particular museum, but now I'm really glad I did.

The "Chinatown bus" got me from Boston to New York in a shocking 4 hours, so I had an extra two hours to kill before meeting my hostess. Wandering around Battery Park across the street, I noticed the Museum had large banners advertising free admission, so of course I went inside.

The main exhibit was Native Women's dresses in the nineteenth century. I learned a hell of a lot! I can't stitch worth beans, so the art of sewing and making clothes is lost on me. But the thing I'll walk away with is the differences between one-hide, two-hide, and three-hide dresses, which were also regionally based, to some extent. (For the spatially challenged, there were computer aids to diagram exactly how the number of hides is made into a dress. I had to study the digital aids frequently...)

The exhibit also showcased dozens of gorgeous, intricately detailed dresses from across the continent. (At one point, when I was stooping down to examine the beadwork on one dress, a security guard came over and offered to shine his flashlight so I could see exactly how extraordinary the handiwork was.)

Lesson learned the hard way #1761: The bottle of wine you bought for your hostess does indeed show up in a museum security detector.
"Miss? Do you have a bottle of wine in his bag?"
Blink, blink. (I'd forgotten.)
"Wine? Do you have any in this bag?"
Blink, blink. (Travel fatigue.)
"I see a bottle of wine here. Is it open?"
"Oh! OH! No, it's not. Open. I didn't open it. It's a gift for a friend...."

Sunday, October 05, 2008

A pulse in the eternal mind

I didn't plan on going from the quintessentially English murder mystery to the quintessentially English garden show, but it turns out it worked. I also didn't know that Greenfingers was loosely based on a true story about prisoners-turned-gardeners, and that it also crossed genres into the field of prison reform stories.

Clive Owen leads a motley crew of fellow prisoners who enter England's most famous gardening contest; the always-wonderful Helen Mirren plays a world-famous gardener and horticulturalist whose daughter falls for Clive. (Who wouldn't fall for Clive, though?) It's your typical underdog tale, told with a good cast, in a short and enjoyable manner. As a prison-reform story it sort of fails (the audience has to take for granted that workforce training is good for society), but its heart is in the right place.

Then, still on the English theme, I read Jerome K. Jerome's sequel to the hilarious Three Men in a Boat. Three Men on the Bummel, however, lacked the same level of humor and hysterical insights of the first book. The premise is the same: the three friends go on a two-week trip together (this time a bicycling journey through the Black Forest), and most of the book is actually anecdotal ramblings about funny social situations or sometimes less-than-tolerant cultural observations. This time, the fellows are a decade older, and are angling to escape their wives and children. So they go biking across Germany. (It's worth noting that the book was written less than thirty years after the unification of Germany, so Jerome's observations about regional differences, though told from the humorous and bumbling tourist's point of view, are actually rather interesting. My great-great-grandfather roamed all over the regions Jerome mentions, avoiding Bismarck's wars, before ditching Europe and settling in Michigan. But I digress.) The chapters in this sequel, however, are longer; and the collection of humorous diversions seems forced and less fluid.

Also, this history nerd couldn't help but cringe while reading Jerome's long descriptions of both the beauty of Dresden and the Jewish sections of Prague. It's only heartbreaking a hundred and ten years later.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Wonders to perform

After the Moonstruck disappointment, I watched a better-done dark comedy about a dysfunctional family. Keeping Mum features Rowan Atkinson outside of his usual slapstick role: as a country vicar whose wife (Kristin Scott Thomas) is involved with her golfing instructor (a hilariously self-parodic Patrick Swayze), teenage daughter is oversexed, and tween son is bullied. Enter Grace the new housekeeper (yes, the pun is significant to the storyline) and an upcoming sermon on God's mysterious ways, and the movie is a truly enjoyable twist on the quintessential English murder mystery.


Also, apparently the screenplay was written, in part, by Richard Russo, who used to teach at the old alma mater, and whose Empire Falls I've been inching through whenever I'm at Ms. Tungsten's.

When the world seems to shine like you've...

In preparation for my trip to the Big Apple next weekend (and also because my movie shipment was messed up for this weekend), I watched Moonstruck on Netflix Instant Viewing. I have bad memories of La Otra Hermana running around the house shouting "La luna! La bella luna!" so I finally wanted to see what the fuss was about. (She would also run around shouting "I lost my hand! I lost my bride! Johnny has his hand! Johnny has his bride!" and now I finally know what the hell she was referring to...)

I was not a huge fan; I didn't dislike the movie, but I didn't like it either. I could have been a fan, if I'd liked any of the characters a little more. But they all were sort of surface-level neighborhood caricatures. Also, I didn't buy Cher's superstitious widow (and, quite frankly, didn't really like it). I know some of the underlying themes were family and acceptance and time, but let's face it, most films about Italian-Americans seem to be. I didn't think it was anything special. Maybe it was too much carmenere, but I was slightly bored watching the whole thing.

The only character I thought that had any depth was (ironically!) Nicolas Cage's, and it was odd but refreshing to see him both younger as well as in a very different type of role. I am NOT normally a Nic Cage fan, but I actually found his hostile, broken character believable. Plus, he uttered my favorite line of the movie: "The storybooks are bullshit."

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Left a good job in the city

After reading Connie Willis' To Say Nothing of the Dog, which frequently references the Jerome K. Jerome original work, I finally got around to reading Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog).

I was hooked in in the first few paragraphs by the hilarious description of the narrator's hypochondriac panic attack, which drives him to go boating up the Thames with his two buddies and his dog. (One of the funny parts is that the narrator talks about the dog as if he were a fourth person...)

It's one of the funniest books I've read lately! (Then again, for full disclosure, this past week I've been reading about the history of the EPA, so my perspective might be a bit skewed.) It's not really about a boating excursion upriver, it's about the neurotic social tendencies and bizarre memories of the main characters. Each one tends to romanticize their trip or their fishing prowess or their singing abilities, and then abruptly swings the other way (often with the weather) to despise fellow travelers and curse the camping gear. The book is more a collection of very true-to-life anecdotes told in a skillfully hilarious fashion, with the boating trip as an excuse to throw together a bunch of character sketches. Jerome supposedly originally intended it to be more of a tourist's guide (boating the Thames was popular in the late 19th-century), and parts of the book definitely seem to randomly mention various pubs and hotels in small river towns. But it's still a great story!

Not to mention 55 electoral votes!

Something about the "No on Prop 8" ads just make me all sniffly and weepy, though it could possibly also be the meds or that I missed the cutest niece in the world's first birthday last weekend. At any rate, I like the videos. Especially the 5-minute montage of faith leaders in California explaining why they support the freedom to marry.

Then there's this one, which is just a lot of people and couples (gay and straight) reciting 1 Corinthians 13. I love how it's both subversive and affirming.