after last week's tooth hooky oscar movie marathon (juno, once, atonement, and there will be blood), i'm feeling better about talking predictions - even if the splashy ceremony itself is still up in the air. i'm hoping our local pub will have a pool again anyway, and there are still some serious viewing gaps, as you'll see - so hey, internets, want to make this a group effort? if you've seen some of these babies, add your predictions as comments and i'll transfer 'em up here. go go kidchamp critictron 2008!

as in previous years, my picks are italicized and movies i've seen get asterisks.

best actor

george clooney - michael clayton*
daniel day-lewis - there will be blood*
johnny depp - sweeney todd
viggo mortensen - eastern promises
tommy lee jones - in the valley of elah

daniel day-lewis was predictably great, though james dean as jett rink in giant was better in the same kind of role. johnny depp as a quirky and/or tim burton lead is old news, and i predict general clooney fatigue. don't think many people saw the other two. my money's on DDL.

best supporting actor

casey affleck - the assassination of jesse james by the coward robert ford
javier bardem - no country for old men*
hal holbrook - into the wild
philip seymour hoffman - charlie wilson's war
tom wilkinson - michael clayton*

it's a bit shabby that i'm again picking the one performance i've seen,** sure, but javier bardem gave me nightmares.

best actress

cate blanchett - elizabeth: the golden age
julie christie - away from her
marion cotillard - la vie en rose
laura linney - the savages
ellen page - juno*

i've heard the elizabeth sequel sucked, and i think cate blanchett has a better shot at supporting actress. for my beloved ex-boss's sake, i hope laura wins - she's her sister. ellen page was good, but she's so young. julie christie, for she has the golden globe already and i have a small hunch.

best supporting actress

cate blanchett - i'm not there
ruby dee - american gangster
saoirse ronan - atonement*
amy ryan - gone baby gone
tilda swinton - michael clayton*

the woman-as-dylan conceit is very sexy, and cate blanchett is made of magic.

best song

falling slowly - once*
happy working song - enchanted
raise it up - august rush
so close - enchanted
that's how you know - enchanted

i made the mistake of thinking that the hat trick flick would take something home in this category last year (it was dreamgirls, and the oscar went to the melissa etheridge song from an inconvenient truth). this time around, i think the three disney numbers will cancel each other out - and i think it's been a long time since disney's ashman/menken era of musical dominance. i know nothing about august rush, but i know that everyone who saw once will vote for glen hansard's entry. seeing him perform it live with marketa irglova* (c'mon, guys!) would maybe make my ovaries explode. in a good way.

best director

paul thomas anderson - there will be blood*
joel coen and ethan coen - no country for old men*
julian schnabel - the diving bell and the butterfly
tony gilroy - michael clayton*
jason reitman - juno*

the coen brothers directed no country for old men with such assurance that their choices seemed inevitable. i've heard that schnabel's work on butterfly was impossibly clever, though, and i'm desperate to see it; i might revisit this one.

best picture

michael clayton*
no country for old men*
there will be blood*

atonement's celebrated tracking shot is, unfortunately, seriously overrated. the best thing about that movie was keira knightley's green dress - it was epic, and i mean that in all seriousness. juno's big splash will be the writing nod for diablo cody, i think. especially if schnabel gets best director, no country for old men will get best picture.

*who was seventeen (according to the wall street journal review) when the film was made - damn.

**ETA: i finally saw michael clayton last night (02.23), so i'm updating my asterisks accordingly. i haven't changed my mind as to predictions, so i'm leaving commentary as is.


101 in 1001: 049 get my damn wisdom tooth removed [completed 01.24.08]
after all that yeti talk the other day, my tooth turned out to be more of a vampire. i got a local injection rather than general anaesthesia, so i was awake for the battle: my dentist spent ten extremely awkward minutes coaxing it out of the socket as it changed into a bat, then a wolf, then a clammy mist. when he finally got a good hold, the thing cracked and left a piece of root in place, so there followed another ten minutes of trying to kill that part, burning the remains, then salting the earth. i suspect that this piece will rise and come back for revenge, but i'm ready: i haven't needed the vicodin he prescribed.* bring it, you little shit!

i took today and tomorrow off in case tooth madness caused my head to fall off (and because i have like ninety-seven sick days), so i've been busy knocking down oscar movies with the spare time (juno this afternoon and once this evening; atonement and maybe i'm not there tomorrow). i'll be posting my customary predictions over the next few days, and i'll be needing help with picks for this year's pub pool - you game?

the missus is in the first night of darts championships this evening, so i'm off to talk trash and drink warm beer. wish him luck, o internets.

*after i asked.** my dentist is a frontier type - he told me to pack my gums with teabags ("real tea, not that herbal stuff") if i ran out of gauze, and to stick to warm beer ("and no beer through a straw!") for a few days. people respond in fascinating ways when i wear my monster truck shirt in public.

**i was coached to ask for percocet and chickened out at the last minute. i'll respect the amateur pharmacist's privacy; let's just say it's someone who's married to me.


twelve things, concluded:

09 if i had $109.99 to spare and could remember what happened to the mix tapes i made and received for my car* in san francisco, i'd be all about buying the plusdeck 2c, a PC gadget that rips digital files from cassettes. who doesn't want a digital version of their high school boyfriend's courtship mixes, even if they were a little heavy on chicago and metallica (cough)?

10 if you haven't yet seen jim of sweet juniper's photos of the detroit public schools book depository / roosevelt warehouse (his blog post about it is here), take a stroll through the set - it's breathtaking. in short, the warehouse is a giant, derelict building where school supplies (including textbooks still in their packaging) were left in heaps to burn, rot, and generally become decrepit over the course of decades. the space is weirdly futuristic, and jim's shots of trees growing in the remains of burned books have to be seen to be believed. it's a shame that he's been forced to restrict viewing options on his flickr photos - i'd love to be able to crawl around in giant versions of them.

11 some people are mature enough to look at things like the cover of do me: sex tales from tin house** without flushing or fleeing. prude that i am, i am not one of those people - which is a bit of a problem, as the book piqued my interest to the point where i want to request a review copy. smut isn't very satisfying as a general proposition, and Serious Writers handle sex about as successfully as pornsters handle literary fiction, at least in my experience. do the do me authors, like the guy who taught my college fiction class, limit themselves to images of baked goods? could the title, as paul and i both theorized, be a reference to bell biv devoe? if an imagery betting pool ever comes together - and i sincerely hope one does - my $5 is on baked goods. predictions, anyone else?

12 subversive handcraft, a guest blog post from kathreen of whipup (a kick-ass tutorial site), makes me so happy: cross stitching on public train seats! embroidered yeti! chalk dust rugs! sweet jesus i love craft!

*though i was offered a free upgrade to a cd player, i refused to part with the tape deck that came standard on my '00 VW golf (the greatest car ever, incidentally); i thought that choosing to sit through entire cassettes instead of flipping through tracks demonstrated strength of character or something. i also developed a habit of leaving the radio on 'scan' and listening to stations in 15-second snippets; i'm a masochistic listener.

**a well-known portland literary magazine. has its own martini.


if only we had a fancy wedding scrapbook. from the kidchamp mailbag:
Hi LaurenNYC,

Know the review of Nanford Guest House in Oxford you wrote on TripAdvisor? You weren’t the only one who thought it was a dump!

Nanford Guest House was chosen by millions of travelers as one of the Dirtiest Hotels of 2008! Think that hotel was scummy? Wait ‘till you see which other filthy finds made the top 10 list!

i'd like to point out that we took the "go big or go home" approach to shitty-hotel-visiting: we didn't stay at one of the dirtiest hotels on our scouting trip with my mom, we stayed at THE dirtiest hotel. that's just how we roll.


(not quite) twelve things (i have been carrying around in my bag):

01 a postcard advertising herbert hoover's hand cast pewter food. i met herb when i was one of the lucky people who got to bust magazine's holiday craftacular before a horde of hipsters with strollers made it impossible to see or shop for anything. he sold me a pewter pretzel that became part of my sister's boyfriend's christmas present. said sister's boyfriend gave me a titanium spork, proving that there is order in this universe of ours.

02-03 two mini-cds from douglas's dark beloved cloud records: DBC250 (the cannanes) and DBC252 (melt-banana with fat day). the dbc singles club is pretty nifty:
Every month or two, you'll get a 3-inch (small!) CD (like the current Singing Catalogue--yes, they play in virtually any CD player). They're songs exclusive to these singles, and they're by some pretty amazing bands. Small, simple, cute, great.

And how do you get them? You can get a six-disc subscription to the dbc singles club by sending us your name, your address, and six hand-decorated 3" x 3" cards. They will, in turn, become the "cover artwork" for six other subscribers' singles.

04 an old vinyl pouch painted to look like a nintendo controller. no story here, unless "full of tampons" is a story.

05-07 three cards from joe's aunt's videography business. when we were in arizona in december, she presented us with a dvd of our wedding ceremony (adapted from another aunt's footage); when you're at the title screen, dave matthews band's "crazy" plays in the background.* i secretly hoped i'd never see actual footage from the wedding - i liked my subjective memory of it - but i wanted to be polite, so we let 'er roll (with joe's extended family watching - no pressure!). i wasn't nearly as freaky-looking or -sounding as i'd feared i'd be, but i was shocked by how fast everything was - we all barreled down the aisle, and joe and i both nodded so frequently and so quickly that we looked like we were about to flee the country. i thought weddings were supposed to seem to fly by (at least to the couple themselves) and actually take a while - whuh?

08-10 three don ho polynesian palace souvenir lowball glasses. we found three of these at the city opera thrift shop shortly after we moved to the city; i get a few more via ebay every few years. we don't really drink cocktails, but they're spiffy for wine (i avoid stemmed glassware, having never really recovered from the trauma of breaking my gorgeous 21st birthday gift glasses from val and grant roughly ten minutes after receiving them).

11 little i mirror mints, snagged from the free shit table here at the ladymag. life after cigarettes is pretty cool, but without daily trips to the smoke shop around the corner, i keep forgetting to stock up on tic tacs and matches (crucial for a smoker, important to a smoke-free garlic fiend who decorates with candles). mirror mints, you are no tic tacs.

12 on my digital camera, in an ugly sequined pouch from my ex-boss, the darts boys. i did not force this shot, internets; they came to me.

*...no comment.


twelve things, continued-continued-continued:

07 from the new york times's city room blog, mayor bloomberg and the cheez-its:
On Wednesday, Newsday and its sister publication amNewYork published an article noting that a photo of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in Wired Magazine shows the mayor evidently reaching for a bag of Cheez-Its. The snack contains trans fats, which the Bloomberg administration has prohibited city restaurants from using.
so much for that potential third-party run for the presidency! as someone who is paid to think about such things, i am amused. first, obviously, the trans fat ban had/has nothing to do with packaged foodstuffs. then there was the misguided smug backlash from people who noted that cheez-its contain "zero grams" of trans fat - but didn't know that per the fda, "zero grams" means "less than 0.5 grams of fat per serving."* last and lustiest were those who simply noted that cheez-its are delicious, and right they are! i limit myself to the little bag i'm offered at the blood bank after donating platelets - they (the crackers, not the platelets) really are nutritionally disastrous - but what a bag it is. glad to see the uptick in cheez-it-related news stories.

08 didn't hear of cheezgate? perhaps you heard of our neighborhood weekend at bernie's revival.
After [Hell's Kitchen resident] Mr. [Virgilio] Cintron recently died, Mr. [James] O'Hare, 65, and another friend, David Daloia, also 65, whose last known address was in Queens, tried, without success, to cash a Social Security check of Mr. Cintron's, the police say. They realized that they needed their dead buddy's help.

So on Tuesday afternoon, the police say, they dressed Mr. Cintron's corpse, carried him down a flight of stairs and heaved his body into a computer chair with wheels. Outside, they rolled him over the uneven sidewalk, pulling the chair toward Pay-O-Matic, a check-cashing shop on Ninth Avenue.

But as the men turned the corner, trying to steady the floppy corpse, they ran into the law. At Empanada Mama,** a restaurant next door to the Pay-O-Matic, Travis L. Rapp, a detective, had sat down to lunch.

Detective Rapp looked out the window and saw the unwieldy trio. Something about the way they struggled to balance the man in the chair caught his eye.

"At this point, when they approached closer, I saw the body and I said, 'Well, this is a dead guy,' " Detective Rapp said on Wednesday in a phone briefing.

those of you who have crashed at our place might recognize that stretch of ninth avenue, as i did when i saw the news the other day - it's two blocks away, just north of our vet and the amish market. to give you a sense of our neighborhood's identity crisis, about half of the locals i know found the whole thing quite retro-charming. that darn hell's kitchen!

*"trans fat free," on the other hand, means just that. if you suspect that i've gotten stuck at the office in late-night arguments about this very issue, you are right!

**also delicious, by the by (want good local food? follow the cops). their dessert empanadas are the awesome.


twelve things, continued-continued:

06 o pleasing recipe! this week's design*sponge "in the kitchen with" offering, a roasted butternut squash, onion, and garlic soup from portland's amy ruppel, was quite easy to throw together and most satisfying. the version i made for us went something like this:

- 1 large butternut squash
- 1 large white onion
- 1 large head of garlic
- 1 1/2 qts vegetable broth (i used "better than boullion" vegetable base, for i am cheap)
- crème fraîche
- fresh thyme
- penzeys northwoods seasoning (a combination of salt, paprika, black pepper, thyme, rosemary, garlic, and chipotle)*
- salt and pepper
- olive oil

preheat oven to 425. cut squash in half, then scoop out and discard seeds and stringy bits. remove the skin with a sharp peeler (this was a bitch, as butternut squash is extremely sturdy and i have a right-handed peeler - if you're handy with a paring knife, that would work, too). peel some of the flesh into ribbons (i peeled about a cup's worth - this turned out to be joe's favorite part, so i'm setting aside twice as much next time) and set aside for garnish.** dice remaining squash and place in a large baking dish. toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and seasoning to taste. place on bottom rack of the oven. rough chop onion and place in a second baking dish; toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and place in oven above the squash. lop off the top of the garlic, place it in a nest of foil, drizzle it with olive oil, and wrap it up; place in oven beside the onion. roast squash, onion, and garlic for...about 45 minutes (amy was vague on this, but that's how long it took in our oven), or until tips of onion are slightly brown and squash is tender. scrape squash and onion (and now-flavorful olive oil from the dishes) into a large soup pot; remove garlic from oven and set aside to cool for a few minutes. squeeze cooled garlic directly into soup pot (i used a 4 qt one and had plenty of room), add stock, then puree with stick blender*** until smooth. warm soup over medium heat for a few minutes, then serve with a spoonful of crème fraîche, a smattering of the browned squash ribbons, and the leaves from a few springs of thyme. serves...3? as a second/main course.

*having this on hand was a lucky break; i picked some up the last time i visited penzeys at grand central station because my friend jacob had recommended it. smart man, that jacob.

**20 minutes or so before your roasting is done, toss these babies in some olive oil, spread them on a sheet of foil, and roast them at 425 in the toaster oven until they're curled and brown at the edges. amy puts them in the oven with the onion, garlic, and squash, but i liked how close they were to the heating element in the toaster. also, i'm not sly enough to handle roasting four things in the same general area without, say, maiming a cat.

***for my money, the stick blender is the single greatest kitchen gadget of all time.


twelve things, continued:

04 i've finally found a DVD that stumps both blockbuster and netflix, and naturally it's something i need to see right away. in the course of researching annette funicello beach party movies yesterday (for work), i was introduced to the seventh and final one: the ghost in the invisible bikini ("When a pretty ghoul trades in her bed sheet for a bikini!").* boris karloff as a ghost (not, presumably, the titular one) and nancy sinatra as, um, "vicki" are enough to sell me on the thing, but basil rathbone (!) is the villain; i love actors who played sherlock holmes more than, um, john edwards loves shitting on hillary clinton.

05 i haven't made up my mind about yesterday's weepy? hillary episode. it did look kind of staged, honestly, but she's had a hell of a week: iowa (and the news outlets' coverage of iowa, especially the questionable enthusiasm at her afterparty) was embarrassing, and i felt for her when she lost her temper at edwards in the debate. i do know that i love, to get a bit meta, commenters' dorky responses to salon blogger rebecca traister's response to john edwards's response to the hillary episode. here's traister:
Edwards, speaking to reporters in Laconia, N.H., later in the day, took advantage of Clinton's emotional display to helpfully point out, "I think what we need in a commander-in-chief is strength and resolve, and presidential campaigns are tough business, but being president of the United States is also tough business."

Hey, John Edwards! What an incredibly retro-crappy, desperate, sad thing to say! Congratulations on winning Broadsheet's first-ever daily award for Orc-like incivility!
and here are some of my favorite comments on traister:

Here's an award for you, Traister - you win my Lobelia Sackville-Baggins Award of the Year, for pettiness, mean-spirited finger-pointing, and overreaction to the point of inanity.

History is written by the winners. Orcs have been besmirched by elves, men, and hobbits for too long, and it's time for progressives like ourselves to stand up to this sort of ignorant, Second Age bigotry.

That picture comparison was just nasty. Shelob-like, if we're using Middle-Earthian metaphors.

in related news, jen linked to an amusing breakdown of the gop primary field in buffy villains. it's good, though i agree with the commenter who noted that rudy giuliani is one of the gentlemen ("hush"), not angelus.

*which is appropriate, i think. when offering variations on a teen sex comedy theme, throwing down a haunted house plot is the filmic equivalent of smashing one's guitar at the end of a concert. good night, cleveland!


i'll be closing the march issue of the magazine this week, so the epic posts to which you've become accustomed (oh hush) will have to wait until the middle-end of january. in the interim, twelve things (to be sprinkled across the next few days):

01 brace yourselves next tuesday (01.15), for i hit newsstands on page 8 of the new issue of the ladymag. it's not a large picture, but that's for the best, as i have a long and distinguished history of giving bitchface for posed photos, and no one wants giant bitchface. i managed to stay vertical on the photographer's wobbly box by popping my hip and my elbow, a la various amateur runway walkers on america's next top model, so that's my not-particularly-sassy arm erupting from the right side of my coworker's head. fashion!

02 101 in 1001: 049 get my damn wisdom tooth removed
my wisdom teeth are the yeti of the dental world: their existence has been debated for decades, as they seem to appear and disappear at will,* leaving only mysterious footprints and terrified mountain climbers in their wake. my new dentist got a rare photo of the troublesome one (so, you know, keep your eyes peeled for that on newsstands as well) and has agreed to pluck it out, which is such wonderful news that i feel like the masochist in little shop of horrors. that's fine; the prospect of not biting my own cheek is very exciting.*

03 we saw xanadu on broadway when my sister was in town (my vote was for pygmalion with claire danes or a few hours of the televised yule log at home, but i caved), and to my great surprise, it wasn't that painful - it reminded me of evil dead the musical, with roller skates standing in for the fountains of blood and glowsticks for (cough) boom sticks. the whole production came in at around ninety minutes, most of the songs were ELO's (many written for the 1980 movie, a few more brought in for padding), and we were given the aforementioned glowsticks. xanadu, you are fair-to-middling in my book. if we're going to continue adapting '80s cult movies for the stage, by the way, is it not time for labyrinth? david bowie will play himself, obviously. maybe ellen page from juno could take over for jennifer suddenly-too-cool-for-jim-henson connelly?

*do any of you have less than four wisdom teeth? i have but two on the left; something to do with being a lefty, perhaps? pseudoscience!


i is risen! i haven't died for anyone's sins and been reborn, or even really recovered from recent seasonal festivities, but i've been back at work for two days and am attempting to post, and that's something. apologies to those of you who continue to expect phone calls and messages from my sorry ass; what with the driving all over arizona with the in-laws and and the crawling all over new york city with my little sister and her boyfriend - and the running all over the damn place at the gym! nineteen times since quitting smoking! - i've been busy.

i've never been a big fan of the when harry met sally (or 200 cigarettes, or insert-movie-with-splashy-manhattan-party-here) approach to new year's eve. for one thing, the missus despises ritualized public displays of affection, and kissing him at midnight is like kissing your twelve-year-old son goodbye when you drop him off at junior high. for another, the nonsense in times square has gotten so overblown that streets are blocked off (in the afternoon!) as far west as eighth avenue and as far north as...something north of us in the 50s. i was too annoyed by having to prove my residence just to come back home from the grocery store to venture far beyond the door after dark. we went to a wee party at our friends' new apartment in brooklyn heights (a thousand square feet! we must leave manhattan posthaste!), gathered around the TV for a minute or two on either side of the ball drop, and streamed up to the roof for distant fireworks. the night's real and unexpected treat, for me at least: an unearthly garland of sounds that seemed to come from warehouses a mile away and lasted for twenty minutes after twelve. some were deep and mournful, like organ music, electric whalesong; others were higher and more insistent, like train whistles or coyotes. no oboe, george insisted, though i definitely heard oboe. he noted that it was awesome, and i agreed.

and how did you spend the evening?