Thursday, May 26, 2005

Dennis Casselberry 1944-2005

I never thought I'd be writing about this. Certainly not here. I wasn't even sure if I wanted to. Or if I could. I guess I'm still not sure. But many friends have been checking in to ask how my father was doing, worrying about what was going on. I am grateful to each of you for that. And so is my father. I wish I had better news to share with you. Many of you already know what's happened.

My father passed away last Friday.

What caused it? I don't know. The pulmonary embolism? A stroke? The doctors can't really say, and my mother wouldn't give them the satisfaction of an autopsy to possibly find some answers. Given how my mother, sister, and uncle have been torturing themselves, wondering what could've been done differently with my dad's treatment, maybe we could use some answers. But I don't know if they really exist.

I think all of his various health difficulties over the past 10-12 years - the heart surgeries, the stroke, the irregular heartbeats, the internal bleeding, the poking, the prodding, the pain - it all finally caught up with him. He never once complained. He never once asked "Why me?" He suffered through it all and continued to live his life. But his heart gave out. His heart stopped.

Calling my sister in South Carolina to tell her our father was gone is probably the worst phone call I'll ever have to make. Her crying, her weeping, her screaming - I hope I never have to hear my little sister suffer like that again. Along with my mother's weeping, they were all the worst sounds I have ever heard. I feel like I have to be "the strong one" for my mom and sister. And I'm trying. I'm doing my best. When I have a moment to myself, I finally let go too.

As I write this, my father's memorial service is almost nine hours away. It'll be held at our church in Ypsilanti, a place that meant so much to him, yet I stopped going there years ago. Before typing this, I finished writing what I'll say during the service. As soon as the Pastor asked if anyone would be saying anything, I told him I would. I have to speak. For me, for my family, and for my dad. If I didn't, I'd regret it for the rest of my life.

I also wrote my dad's obituary, something I hoped I wouldn't be writing for another 20 years. I don't know if you want to read it, and maybe it's gratuitous (and morbid) to post a link, but you can view it here. 300 words doesn't sum him up nearly enough, but I tried.

Over the past six days, I've spent a lot of time trying to think of a favorite memory of my dad. And I couldn't do it. But this is what I kept coming back to: As I said, he's been through a lot over the past 10-12 years. I know his life became more difficult as his health and energy faded on him. But when I look back on these most recent years, I feel good. Because he and I became closer. I got to know my dad, and he got to know me. We talked and we shared. And we found a lot of common interests - current events, politics, sports, film, literature, and music. My dad became so much more than my father. He became my friend. And I will always cherish that.

My dad knows how much this blog has meant to me. He was supportive of it all along, telling his friends and family to go read his son's "web log thing." ("Fried what? What do you mean by that?") And that's what I think about when I wonder whether I can go back to writing about all those things that right now seem so trivial. It might be a while before writing about severed fingers in food, my beloved Detroit sports teams, the media, or whatever else I noticed from the TV and newspapers strikes me as important enough to write about.

But I'll get there. Because it's important to me. And my dad would've wanted to talk about it. And also because I'm grateful to all of you who have cared and been interested enough to read this. Again, thank you for checking in to see if everything was okay. I promise I'll get back to you soon. I've never even seen or met some of you, yet you were concerned. That means a lot to me. And it means a lot to my dad.

Dad, I miss you. And I love you.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Tom Petty had it right

The waiting really is the hardest part. After getting home from the hospital last night and searching for something to eat, I found some chili in the fridge. Mom told me it was almost two weeks old, so I tossed it down the garbage disposal.

"Wait, wait, wait! The garbage disposal doesn't work!" my mother yelled.

Rats. So here I am, waiting for a plumber to come over and fix the #@$%ing garbage disposal, instead of spending the afternoon at the hospital with my father. Oh well, maybe he'll get more sleep without me in the room.

A touch of class

What Pistons coach Larry Brown did at the end of last night's Game 6 with the Pacers was one of the classiest, most respectful gestures I've ever seen in my lifetime of watching sports. With Indiana about to lose the game, Pacers coach Rick Carlisle took the soon-to-retire Reggie Miller out of the game so the Indianapolis crowd could acknowledge the 18 years he'd played with the Indiana Pacers. Knowing that the ovation would end as soon as play resumed, Larry Brown called a time-out so the cheers could continue. He also told his own players on the Pistons' bench to stand and cheer for Miller, whom Brown coached from 1994 to 1997.

It was a great example of sportsmanship, and probably the perfect end to games between Detroit and Indiana in 2004-05, which will likely always carry the taint of last November's brawl. (And as a Pistons fan, I think it was the exact opposite of an incident at the end of the 1991 season that has always bothered me, in which the Pistons - about to lose to Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls - walked off the court before the game officially ended, rather than shake hands.) Here's more from Terry Foster.

Eric Seals/Detroit Free Press

Don't worry, Reg. Come over and watch the rest of the playoffs at my house.

I'm not a huge fan of Reggie Miller. I always thought he received all the acclaim and fame that should've gone to Detroit's Joe Dumars, whom I will argue was a much better and more complete player until the day I die. But 18 years is 18 years, and Miller was a lethal jump shooter, especially from three-point range who won a hell of a lot of games for the Indiana Pacers.

Here's the hometown take on Miller from Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star. Me, I'd rather read about how the Pistons will play the Miami Heat in the next round of the NBA playoffs. 8 down, 8 to go.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Every time I think I'm out....

My two-day career as a personal nurse took a rather serious turn yesterday when my father said he was having trouble breathing. After I foolishly let my dad convince me to wait until we heard from my uncle (who used to be a real nurse) and the doctor's office, I called an ambulance and he was taken to a hospital.

Hours later (and you know I'm not exaggerating), the diagnosis finally came down: my dad had a pulmonary embolism. When I looked at the doctor like he was speaking Chinese, he dumbed it down for me - my dad had a blood clot in each of his lungs, and the lower lobe of his left lung had collapsed.

I've spent most of the last 36 hours at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, a place which has become all too familiar to me. I've been there way too #@$%ing often, checking in on various members of my family. Heart surgeries, strokes, depression, cancer, drug overdoses, and even a brain operation have all brought me to St. Joe's over the past ten years. I've watched two people die in that building.

But my dad is getting great care and his condition is stable. Of course, I'm beyond grateful to the medical staff at St. Joe's, but I've really grown to resent that place.

How do you know you've visited a hospital too often?

▪ You look around the ER and think, "Wow, they've done a lot of work on this place. It looks nice in here."

▪ The woman at the front desk says your father has been moved to the medical intensive care unit and you say, "Oh, I know exactly where that is. Thanks."

▪ You can navigate your way from the ER to the cafeteria to the radiology wing to the medical intensive care unit all without looking at a single sign or arrow.

▪ You see that the main hospital entrance now closes at 10:30 pm and say to yourself, "It used to be open 24 hours a day! When the #@$% did this $#!+ start?"

▪ You remember the hospital cable system doesn't carry Comedy Central. (No 'Daily Show' for me last night. I did, however, get to see some of Pistons-Pacers on TNT.)

▪ You know that Wednesday is "Italian Food Day" in the hospital cafeteria.

▪ You hear the sentence "Mr. Casselberry, I'm sorry that your father's back here" ten #@$%ing times from ten different doctors or nurses in an six-hour span.

▪ On your way to buy a magazine from the hospital gift shop, you remember that you don't like the magazine selection in the hospital gift shop.

▪ You know that the waiting lounge in the critical care wing has more comfortable chairs and sofas to sleep on than the other lounges.

▪ Somebody asks where's a good place to eat near the hospital and you can rattle off at least six or seven restaurants.

▪ A nurse says to you, "Oh, I thought you looked familiar. How's Iowa?"

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

You think Op-Ed columns grow on trees?

Remember the scene in Trading Places when Dan Aykroyd's character is trying to hock his $6,000 Swiss watch in a pawn shop? What does the pawnbroker say to him?

"In Philadelphia, it's worth 50 bucks."

Would you pay 50 bucks a year to read the New York Times op-ed page online? Beginning in September, you'll have to. Reading Maureen Dowd, Thomas Friedman, David Brooks, and Paul Krugman is gonna cost you, Jack.

I suppose the luxury of reading newspapers like the NY Times and Washington Post online for free is something we've all taken for granted. Newspapers need to make money, just like any other business. But I think this move will end up backfiring and result in fewer readers checking out the op-ed page.

Andrew Sullivan sums it up nicely on his blog:

"By sectioning off their op-ed columnists and best writers, they are cutting them off from the life-blood of today's political debate: the free blogosphere. Inevitably, fewer people will link to them; fewer will read them; their influence will wane faster than it has already. The blog is already becoming a rival to the dated op-ed column format as a means of communicating opinion journalism. My bet is that the NYT's retrogressive move will only fasten the decline of op-ed columnists' influence."

I'd probably read the Wall Street Journal's op-ed page regularly if it didn't require a $80 yearly subscription fee. Something I do pay for (somewhat reluctantly) is Salon, though I think the site really hurts itself by charging $30 a year to read most of its content. I'd link to its articles a hell of a lot more if I knew everyone could read them. (Speaking of Salon, here's its take on the story, by Farhad Manjoo.) Ultimately, I pay the $30 because I enjoyed its coverage, columnists, and overall politics back when it was free and didn't want to miss out.

Obviously, the New York Times is hoping plenty of its readers feel the same way about its columnists. I don't think I'm among them, however. Maureen, David, Paul, and Thomas - it's been fun - especially when you rip ol' George W. But come September, I'll wait to see what the blogs have to say about your stuff - if they're willing to pay to read you.

Everybody Loves Mitch -- well, maybe

Yesterday, the Detroit Free Press appeared to close the book on its investigation into Mitch Albom, with a large report that detailed its findings and determined Albom's now-infamous April 3 column was an aberration. He didn't escape completely unscathed, however. It seems Mitch has a bit of a problem with lifting quotes and properly attributing their sources. Here's a snippet from the article:

"... the inquiry found that Albom at times has used quotes from newspapers, TV programs or other publications without indicating that he did not gather the material himself, in violation of Free Press rules on crediting sources. In several instances, Albom did not credit quotes exclusively gathered by another media organization."

Depending on who you talk to, this ranges from nitpicking to a potentially serious breach of ethics. If Albom got a quote for a story from the Today show or another newspaper, should he say so? Some writers might say that leads to clunky, cumbersome prose. Washington Post columnist Tony Kornheiser (an admitted friend of Albom) said just as much on his radio show this morning. To me, it's straight out of Journalism 101 - if you did not directly acquire quotes or information in an article you wrote, you give credit to the source of that material. Hell, I even do that here on this blog. It's an extra four or five words: "he said on the Today show." If anything, it's a professional courtesy.

What's even worse is that Albom appears to have occasionally embellished quotes.

"At times, quotes cited by Albom were worded slightly differently from how they appeared elsewhere in the media, with the quotes seeming to be livelier in some cases. Asked about those quotes, Albom insisted the passages were 'essentially accurate.'"

How about that one, kids? "Essentially accurate." I might use a variation of that with the ladies. "C'mon, I'm essentially good-looking."

There are a few other questionable instances mentioned in the article, such as Albom writing about a Lions-Bears game he watched from home and taking quotes for a Tigers game from TV and radio interviews during the commercial breaks of his own radio show. Maybe that doesn't seem like a big deal to most people, especially when compared to what's happening at Newsweek . But I think it's a bit shady to portray yourself as having attended an event when you actually didn't. I can just imagine trying to justify that tactic to one of my journalism professors. Guess what grade I would've received for that assignment? Just because you're Mitch Albom doesn't mean the rules don't apply.

Free Press publisher and executive editor Carole Anne Hutton wrote a mea culpa today, explaining the paper's new system of checks and balances that should prevent this sort of thing - which apparently is running rampant among Free Press columnists - from happening again. But given her past history of coddling Albom, I wonder if she's more interested in just getting past this incident and hoping this all goes away quietly.

I'm not sure it will, though. One of the reporters who contributed to the Free Press investigation, David Zeman, is already disputing how the story was edited for the paper. According to this story in Editor & Publisher, Zeman thinks the article's headline - "Albom probe shows no pattern of deception" - is, well, deceptive.

"'I think some people may find a disconnect between what the headline says and what the story below lays out,' Zeman said...

[He] also contends that the investigation found that Albom more frequently used quotes without credit than did other columnists. 'I think it is unfair to give the impression that any of our columnists have been shown to be lifting quotes to the extent that Mitch has,' Zeman said. 'I would hate to see all of our columnists lumped in to the same group as Albom.'"

Hutton told the Detroit News that the story and headline were edited "to be more clear and more newsy."

Hmm... is this really the end of this story? I'm not necessarily saying Hutton will be fired eventually, but doesn't someone's head have to roll for this - especially given the current mistrustful climate the media finds itself in with the public? Check back to see if she has the same job a year from now. We know Mitch Albom will.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Never underestimate the need for "me time"

My ruby-tressed blogging buddy, Raging Red, has been following the recent Dave Chappelle news pretty closely (i.e., she wrote about it before I could), but this story in yesterday's New York Times was still pretty surprising to me. Check out this quote from Doug Herzog, president of Comedy Central:

"We're now approaching life and the year as if the Dave Chappelle show doesn't exist, because it doesn't. We don't know what to plan for, so we're not planning for it. I keep on telling my guys that we're now the San Francisco Giants, and Barry Bonds, our cleanup hitter, is not available."

It's like a line from The Sopranos - "Dave Chappelle, that #&$%er's dead to me."

But Chappelle has returned from his sojourn to South Africa, and quickly tried to shoot down any talk about him being crazy or a drug addict. Here's what he said in an interview with Time magazine:

"Let me tell you the things I can do here which I can't at home: think, eat, sleep, laugh. I'm an introspective dude. I enjoy my own thoughts sometimes. And I've been doing a lot of thinking here."

Chappelle sounds like a guy who's disenchanted with all the "yes men" around him, people just nodding and smiling, afraid to cancel their meal ticket. Even worse, some of them might be pushing him to produce sub-par material, so those big Comedy Central paychecks can be cashed.

That's certainly nothing I can relate to, nor is flying to South Africa to clear my head, but on some level - narcissism alert! - I understand the frustration of trying to create something good, questioning its merit, and wondering whether you're getting the kind of feedback you really need or people are just being polite to you. I'm lucky enough to have a circle of friends who I trust to give me good criticism, who will let me know when something's not quite working. (Once I'm famous, however, they're not allowed to say anything negative. "Oh yeah? My one million green friends here say the novel is just fine.") Maybe I should pass their e-mail addresses along to Chappelle.

By the way, do you think Simon Robinson, the Johannesburg bureau chief for Time magazine, ever thought he'd hear the words "We need you to find and interview Dave Chappelle" from his editors?

The future is now

I remember when Mis Hooz showed me her coffeemaker with a timer that started brewing coffee at 7 am. I thought our society had reached a pinnacle of technology.

"It brews for you?" I asked, stroking the coffeemaker and jumping up and down, much like the monkeys at the beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

It brews by itself, mother#&$%er! Brilliant!

But that was just the beginning. Now, thanks to Wolfgang Puck, we have cups of coffee that can heat themselves. Who has time to stand in front of the coffeemaker, waiting for the brew to drip into the pot? Pod coffeemakers? Soooo 2004!

Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

Just push a button on the bottom of this sucker and six minutes later, you've got a cup of 145 degree coffee. Heating through chemical reaction, people! That has to be better than the 15-20 minutes in line at Starbucks in the morning. And it beats my routine: boiling water, and then pouring it through a small drip cone. (Or even worse - using those coffee "teabags." Ugh.) The waiting! Oh, the #&$%ing waiting!

It's not just stopping with coffee, either! Hot chocolate! Oatmeal! Baby formula! Sake! Sake? Yes, sake! Microwaves? They're for pussies, my friend. Give 'em away now; you won't need 'em. That's the past, man. The future is self-heating food. I'll be able to bring a Tombstone pizza on a road trip with me, hit a button and - whoosh! - a cardboard-crusted pepperoni pie ready in minutes, right there on the passenger seat. (Hopefully, the upholstery won't be affected.)

Of course, it'll all taste like $#!+...

Back in Michigan

Well, I'm back in Michigan a bit sooner than I anticipated, and will probably be here for a while. After finishing school in Iowa (not to be confused with Finishing School - I did not spend the last two years learning how to properly set tables, drink tea, or walk in heels with a book balanced on my head - though I would be an outstanding society wife), Mama Casselberry asked if I could come home right away to help out with my father, who was released from the hospital last Thursday.

So for the next two weeks or so, I'll be playing the role of Dad's personal nurse. Fortunately, Dad doesn't share Jack Byrnes's opinion of male nurses. No, we're more like Jason Robards and Philip Seymour Hoffman in Magnolia.

Don't worry, Dad - you're looking much better than Jason Robards.
Thanks, son. Why the hell are you wearing that hat?

Okay, it's not that bad. But Dad's in pretty rough shape right now. He's still quite weak; just getting up to use the bathroom is a big physical exertion for him. (Thankfully - at the risk of sounding shallow - he can use the bathroom by himself. We did not have to see just how far a son's love stretched.) But he's slowly - slowly - getting a little stronger each day. Most of the time, he sleeps, which leaves plenty of time for a young blogger to frolic across his keyboard.

Alas, my two-week farewell tour was scrapped - or more specifically, crammed into one night. (If you'd like to know how that went, just refer to any Kid Rock video. I will say, for the record, that nothing was ingested that would require the use of The Original Whizzinator for the next couple of weeks.) Save your goodbyes for a couple of weeks, fellow Hawkeyes. My loose ends in Iowa will have to be tied up over Memorial Day weekend.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Mr. Whizz-ard

I imagine some of you have heard about this already (I caught it on yesterday's Pardon the Interruption), but for those of you who haven't, you can thank me later. While searching through the luggage of pro football player Onterrio Smith, airport security found vials of white powder and a prosthetic penis. Hey, someone's going to a party, right? Well, no.

The white powder in those vials was dried urine. Seriously. Smith told the police that the urine and fake penis were parts of a kit called... "The Original Whizzinator."

No, Smith wasn't high at the time. There is really something called "The Original Whizzinator." Check it out. (Remember, a fake penis is part of the device, so you might not want to check this at work.) It's used to pass drug tests. Well, I hope that's what it's used for. If you're creative enough to find other uses for it, maybe you should be working for NASA or making gadgets for James Bond.

So this is how the Whizzinator, um, whizzes: The prosthetic penis is attached to a jockstrap and a plastic bag. Mix the dried urine with water, put it in the bag, and voila - you're passing a drug test, Cheech.

Friends, the Whizzinator is also an equal opportunity device. You can order penises in either white, tan, latino, brown, or black. (Maybe you shouldn't order one while you're high. "Sure, that's mine. It's that color because I have a skin condition.") And Whizzinators aren't just for the guys. The ladies get one too.

These guys have all the bases covered. Dried urine can be ordered separately, if that's all you need - or if it's time to restock your supply.

By the way, Onterrio Smith has tested positive for marijuana twice in his two-year NFL career.

The streak is over - for now

Just in case anyone was wondering, I did not watch the first quarter of last night's Pistons-Pacers game. So as much as I'd like to, I can't take the blame for the 92-83 loss. I did all I could. No, all the mojo was with Indiana's Jeff Foster last night. Dude was a man last night, with 20 rebounds. (I thought Ben Wallace got all the rebounds.)

But that's okay; I never said the mojo had a perfect record. We'll start anew on Friday.

No, it's supposed to look like that

Found this at The Beat - there's a new hair gel called "Manga Head" that'll give you that "Dragon Ball Z" look you may have secretly wanted. I need a haircut, but I don't think this is the way I'll go. As I see it, the less product in my nest, the better - especially when the weather gets warmer. Anyway, this looks like a lot of work, man. And I don't even like manga that much.

Image via Drawn!

Besides, if my hair was going to emulate a comic book character, I'd go with the Wolverine look.

Better get to work on my mutton chops and pecs.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Honey comb? No, no, no!

Last week, Raging Red wrote about birds building a nest in the light fixture above her front porch. This morning, I noticed my own version of spring subleasing while fetching my newspaper. Bees have recently been hanging out in the space between my front door and screen door. I attribute their presence to the recent roof work that was done on my apartment building, but that's pure conjecture. They've been getting inside the screen through a hole I had to tear in it last summer. (The screen door slammed shut and locked while I was taking out garbage.) Fortunately, the bees don't fly into my apartment when I open the door. But I think that's because they've been occupied with something else.

They've been building a frickin' hive inside my screen door.

When I opened my door this morning, two bees were hard at work on something in the door frame. Given their closeness and level of activity, I thought I might've caught them in an intimate moment, so I tried to get my newspaper quickly. However, the delivery dude tossed my paper a few steps away from my door so I had to step outside. While stepping back into the doorway, I looked up again at the bees and saw what they were working on. It was about the size of a nickel, but I could see small hexagonal shapes within the little ball. (I wish I had a picture for you.)

So I did what any macho man would do: slammed the door shut, got mold remover from under the sink, and soaked those mother#&$%ers in bleach through the crack between the door and the frame (all while swallowing the impulse to shriek). I opened the door again, found the bees twitching on the ground, kicked them over the railing, grabbed the hive ball in a wad of paper towel, hurled it into the courtyard, and then sprayed the entire door frame with bleach. Oh, and I put a glass panel back over the screen.

I'm heading back to my apartment in a couple of hours, and expect a gang of bees to be waiting for me, smacking fists and baseball bats into their palms while glaring menacingly at me. But I'm ready for 'em; I have a baseball bat in the truck of my car. I ain't scared of those %@&#suckers. Well, maybe I'll stop at the drugstore before I get home and pick up some matches and lighter fluid.

The return of Rickey

Yesterday, 46-year-old Rickey Henderson signed with a minor-league baseball team, the San Diego Surf Dawgs, in yet another attempt to prolong his athletic career. And what a career it's been. I'd argue Henderson is one of the best baseball players I've ever seen. He could seemingly do everything on the field. He's Major League Baseball's all-time leader in career stolen bases and runs scored, holds the record for most stolen bases in a season, and had the most career walks until Barry Bonds passed him in 2001.

He's the greatest. Just ask him.

But Henderson is probably best known for his eccentric personality and an ego that a ballpark could barely contain. There have been some great stories attached to Henderson over the years, many of which were retold in response to yesterday's news.

▪ Immediately after breaking Lou Brock's stolen base record, the Oakland Athletics held an on-field ceremony commemorating the occasion. Rickey ended a relatively gracious speech by saying, "Lou Brock was the symbol of great base stealing. But today, I'm the greatest of all time. Thank you."

▪ Henderson often referred to himself in the third person. He once called the general manager of a baseball team, looking for a job, and said "Rickey wants to play another year and he thinks he wants to play for you."

▪ While playing for the San Diego Padres late in his career, Henderson got onto the team bus and was looking for a seat. A teammate, Steve Finley, said, "Sit anywhere you want, you got tenure."

Rickey's response? "Ten years? What are you talking about? Rickey got 16, 17 years."

▪ This one apparently isn't true, but it's so funny that it should be: While playing for the Seattle Mariners, Rickey approached John Olerud, who wears a batting helmet on the field because of a brain aneurysm he suffered, and said "I used to play with a dude in New York who did the same thing."

Olerud's response? "That was me." Olerud and Rickey had previously played together with the New York Mets and Toronto Blue Jays.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Temporary setback? Or putting a dead dog down?

Over at Orotundity, Evan's latest edition of "Versus" has Lord of the Rings pitted against Star Wars; a battle of fanaticism and nerddom that could tie up movie theater lobbies, comic book shops, chat rooms, message boards, and blog comments for generations to come. (I fall on the Star Wars side of the equation. I grew up with Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, not Frodo Baggins and Gandalf.)

Evan's timing is interesting, since the Star Trek TV franchise might be coming to an end this week with the last two episodes of Enterprise on UPN. (Frank Ahrens wrote a great feature on the Star Trek flatline in yesterday's Washington Post. And today, hosted an interesting chat on the subject.)

I wonder if Trekkers think their beloved TV shows, movies, and books belong in the Lord of the Rings vs. Star Wars discussion? I emphatically say no. (Raise your hand if you've watched Enterprise. I rest my case.) I'm not much of a Star Trek fan, but I think it's notable that its train has screeched to a halt. After Friday, there won't be any new Star Trek shows on television for the first time since 1987. And no new Star Trek movies are currently in development. "Live long and prosper" ain't happenin' right now.

I don't think Star Trek is permanently dead. If you flip the channels, you'll find that sci-fi television is still doing well in syndication and on cable. But Star Trek probably needs to go away for a while. In the meantime, maybe someone creative can figure out a fresh take for something that's gotten as stale as William Shatner's schtick and as ill-fitting as one of Captain Kirk's Starfleet uniforms.

Huffing and puffing?

I'm sure many of you have heard of Arianna Huffington's newest venture, a group blog called The Huffington Post. (If not, check out this article from Howard Kurtz in today's Washington Post.)

This thing (the new-new-new thing?) probably doesn't need any more publicity, especially from small fish bloggers like me, but it debuts today with a rather impressive roster of contributors. There are too many to list here, but here's a sample:

▪ Celebrities like John Cusack, Ellen DeGeneres, and Russell Simmons.
▪ Directors Mike Nichols and David Mamet.
▪ Humorists Harry Shearer and Peter Mehlman.
▪ Traditional columnists, reporters and analysts, such as Byron York, David Corn, James Pinkerton and David Frum.

On a closer look, the first-day offerings aren't as notable as they hopefully will be in the weeks to come. (Otherwise, this could be an entirely indulgent, gasbag endeavor.) Some of the writers are just letting you know they'll be blogging, while others have fully formed thoughts and opinions to share. Reading through everything would be a delightful exercise in procrastination today, but nothing strikes me as immediately thought-provoking yet (other than this piece by Cable Neuhaus, which questions whether magazines are dead).

Mike Nichols seems to address the white elephant on the computer screen with his post:

"In directing a play or a movie-- whether a farce or a tragedy -- the problem to solve is really the same. There are the same questions. First of all why are we doing this? What's our point? What are we telling? The audience says silently - so, now, why have you called us together? And you have to have an answer. The first thing I think you have to do is make clear that they are in good hands, they mustn't worry, we know what we are doing. The next question the audience asks is: why are you telling me this? And you have to have a good answer for that one."

I'm hoping the answers are pretty good over the next few weeks. This could be something cool if there's some substance and significance to it.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Cecilia Casselberry, today's your day

Of course I called my mother this morning to wish her a Happy Mother's Day. As we were talking, it occurred to me that, with my father currently in the hospital, she's probably had much better Mother's Days. I know that's the furthest thing from her mind right now, but I'd be a bad son if I didn't type a few words of praise for the woman who's held our family together through several of these scares over the past 10 years.

I can't help but curse the current circumstances that keep me from fully giving her the support she needs right now. (But she would say it's appropriate and point to one of my early college report cards as the worst Mother's Day gift she'd ever received.) Yet I wouldn't be in Iowa, following my ambitions and dreams, if not for her love and encouragement. I can't imagine a mother giving more to her child.

But I'll try my best to return the favor. I know she could go for a Mother's Day brunch, since she's been eating hospital cafeteria food all weekend. Mom, when I come home next week, we'll have a belated feast at your favorite restaurant, Tuptim. And I promise my report card will be better this time around.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Hey, finger people!

Hello to the dozens of people who have found Fried Rice Thoughts while searching Google for Clarence Stowers, the man who found a finger in his frozen custard last weekend. (I especially appreciate those coming over from The Original Musings, which was generous enough to link to my original blog entry.)

Clarence, I'd raise a finger in salute to you, telling you "You're #1!" but a finger is probably the last thing you want to see right now. Or it's the biggest meal ticket you've ever had.

This article from the Charlotte Observer depicts the timeline of the incident, which is much tighter than I originally thought. I was under the impression some time had passed between the finger (which belongs to Brandon Fizer) being cut off and being served to Stowers. But the progression of events occurred almost immediately. The finger was cut off, it fell into a bucket of frozen custard, and that custard was served to customers right away. That, my friends, is fast food.

Worst of all, Fizer still had a chance to have his finger re-attached. But Stowers wouldn't give it back, wanting to keep it as evidence for TV stations and lawyers. Is he in store for some bad karma (maybe an attack by the severed finger come to life, like in the awful 80s horror movie, The Hand)? Or does he get a free pass, because that finger was in his food?

Friday, May 06, 2005

Friday fretting

Bringing up personal business on the blog can often be awkward or uneasy, but I just got news that my father's suffered complications from his hernia surgery earlier in the week and checked into the hospital last night. I've been climbing the walls, agonizing over whether or not to drive home to Michigan, but my mother talked me out of it last night, since I have final papers and portfolios due next week. (Direct quote from Mom: "If you come home, you won't get that degree! Stay there! We're fine!")

As I'm sure many of you can relate to, the feeling of helplessness that comes from being 450 miles away from your family when someone is sick is an awful one. 450 miles has never seemed so far. But I guess I have to trust that my father is in good hands at the hospital and accept that there's not a whole lot I can do other than sit by the phone, check e-mail, and finish what I started here in Iowa. And, of course, use this blog to keep me from going crazy. So if I post a bunch of nonsensical entries today, you'll know why.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Are people drinking less beer?

Apparently, the answer is yes, as this Slate article explains. Both Anheuser-Busch and Molson Coors (that doesn't look right, does it?) reported losses for the first quarter of 2005. And news isn't likely to get better for domestic brewers, as costs for materials are only going to increase.

But here's the thing: we're actually drinking more. We're just not drinking beer. People are buying more imported beer, but not enough to make a dent in Budweiser and Coors sales. No, what's causing the losses is people buying more wine and hard liquor.

Hmm, I have been drinking more whiskey lately, thanks to my infantile Deadwood drinking game...

EDIT: This week, wine critics are sticking up for Merlot, which was famously dissed by Paul Giamatti's character in Sideways. Both Slate and the Washington Post have articles on Merlot this week.

Good news/Bad news

Good news: Stephen Colbert of The Daily Show is getting his own show, "The Colbert Report."

Bad news: That means less (much less) Colbert on The Daily Show.

Good news: This could essentially extend The Daily Show to one hour.

Bad news: Or it could end up diluting the overall product, and both shows could suffer.

Dear 1-800-FLOWERS.COM -

I get it. Mother's Day is this coming Sunday. You can stop sending four e-mails a day to remind me. I've already taken care of it. The gift and card are in the mail, okay? For the love of God. I am a great #$&%ing son. Just ask my mom.

"Ian is a great #$&%ing son." -- Ian's Mom.

Thanks, Mom. You're the best. Wait'll you see the #$&%ing gift I got for you! You're gonna $#!+ your #$&%ing pants.

Hey, 1-800-FLOWERS.COM - how about sending your own mother some flowers? Your mom's right here next to me; she says you never call or write. She makes great oatmeal, you know. Uses the condensed milk. That deserves at least a card.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

4 down, 12 to go

Lebron "Stevie Wonder" James congratulates Detroit's Tayshaun Prince
(Daniel Mears / The Detroit News)

Sorry, Liz, the Sixers are going home for the season. (It was set in stone. I was picking up Chinese food take-out during the first quarter.) Detroit beat Philadelphia last night, 88-78, to end their first-round NBA playoff series and now await the winner of Boston-Indiana. And this might be the only time I ever type this, but I'm rooting for the Celtics. We don't need to see video of November's brawl between Indiana and Detroit played 64,000 times over the next week. (But what the hell, I'll link to my blog on the subject one more time.)

The more, the merrier

I just found out that one of my favorite sportswriters, Terry Foster of the Detroit News, has started a blog. Check it out; it's not all sports-oriented, which is kind of cool. I've often wondered what else Foster would write about, if given the chance. I've read his work ever since he was a beat writer for the Pistons in the late 1980s, and always wished the News would've made him their #1 sports columnists.

As I said last week (it's in there, trust me), "T-Stack-Money" is one of the nicest guys I've ever met. He was always generous with his time, despite his writing and broadcasting commitments, whenever a younger Ian bugged him with e-mails about Detroit sports or the sportswriting business. (Now that he has kids, I doubt he'd have as much time to respond to my pestering.) Maybe I can talk him into adding me to his blogroll. Oh, that'd be cool.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Steroids? No, contact lenses!

I was innocently flipping through The Sporting News, waiting for the bus, when this picture jumped out at me:

Thomas Witte/ The Sporting News

A scene from some new werewolf flick? Nope. Bill Bixby about to turn into the Incredible Hulk? Nice try. No, those freakily orange peepers belong to Brian Roberts, second baseman for the Baltimore Orioles, who's been knocking the crap out of the ball in this month-old baseball season. (Before this year, Roberts had never hit more than five home runs in a full season. He already has eight in 25 games.)

Should Roberts's eyewear get the credit for his sudden Babe Ruth-like success? He's been wearing new contact lenses, created by Nike and Bausch & Lomb, designed to help a player see the spinning seams on a baseball and protect his eyes from the sun. (It's not all in the lenses; they're not as useful at night, when Roberts plays most of his games.)

These things could soon become all the rage in sports. Several other baseball players are currently testing out or being fitted for the lenses. And they're popping up in other sports, such as tennis and golf. Golfers will actually get a gray-green set of lenses, which should help them to distinguish the shades of green on a particular course.

I think equipment and technology are the "secret sauce" of sports, and don't always receive the attention they should. It's one reason I think it's difficult to compare athletes from different eras. Everyone has better equipment than their predecessors, whether it's in baseball, football, golf, or track & field.

But these lenses - which will be available under the name MaxSight - could eventually have a practical, everyday use too. Would you give up your sunglasses, and the cool they convey, for contacts that sit directly on your pupils and protect your eyes from sunlight even more?

She took my balls to Albuquerque

I wasn't going to write about this ridiculous "runaway bride" story that received way too much attention from the cable news networks over the weekend, but after I signed on, I saw this eye-popping headline.

Groom Still Wants to Marry Runaway Bride

You, sir, are an idiot and a moron. You got a Get Out of Marriage Free card, and you're blowing it.

"Just because we haven't walked down the aisle, just because we haven't stood in front of 500 people and said our I Do's, my commitment before God to her was the day I bought that ring and put it on her finger, and I'm not backing down from that," this dip$#!+ said in an interview with FOX News's Sean Hannity.

She did you a favor, pal - she showed you she was bat$#!+ crazy before you got married. Better to find out now, rather than two years from now when she completely loses it because you fart in bed and still won't leave the toilet seat down.

This wasn't just "cold feet." Cold feet is hiding in your mother's basement the week of the wedding. Cold feet is driving to Mexico before the ceremony. Cold feet is asking your best friend to run his car over your legs so you have to be in the hospital instead of at the chapel. Cold feet is just flat out telling the person you're about to marry, "Hey, I don't want to get married. I still want to #$@% other people."

This crazy b!+@# bought a bus ticket a week before the wedding. She took a Greyhound from Atlanta, stopped in Dallas, and then went to Las Vegas - exactly the place to go when you want to clear your head. From there, she bussed to Albuquerque, where she finally called police and lied about being kidnapped, concocting a story about a man and woman jumping her from behind and sticking her in a blue van at gunpoint. Oh, and she cut her hair to change her appearance. (If only she'd taken that left turn at Albuquerque...)

She's going to jail, buddy. At the very least, she's getting sued by authorities for the cost of searching for her crazy @$$. ($40,000-$60,000, if you were wondering.) Drop her now, while you have the chance. No one would blame you. Everyone would understand.

"Ain't we all messed up? Ain't we all made mistakes?" Mr. Emasculated asked.

Dude, you are so p-whipped. You're not even married and you've already given her the pants. You're an embarrassment to your gender.

More finger food

Didn't we just get done with all this finger-in-my-food junk? Apparently it's the new thing. Over the weekend, Clarence Stowers of Wilmington, N.C., found a surprise in his cup of frozen chocolate custard.

"I thought it was candy because they put candy in your ice cream," Stowers said to TV station WWAY.

Yes, Clarence. Whenever I taste something long and fleshy in my mouth, I think to myself, "Boy oh boy, what did Dairy Queen put in my Blizzard today?"

"So I said, 'Okay, well, I'll just put it in my mouth and get the ice cream off of it and see what it is.'"

Clarence, I do the exact same thing whenever I get one of those really big chunks of peanut butter cup in a pint of Ben & Jerry's. I have to see the chunk to believe my luck.

After spitting the mysterious object out of his mouth, Stowers rinsed it off in the sink so he could see what it really was. Once it was obvious, he "just started screaming."

But this isn't another Wendy's, I-lied-about-the-finger-in-my-chili situation. The owner of the frozen custard shop confirmed that one of his employees recently lost part of a finger in the machine that processes the custard. Whoops!

According to the AP story, Mr. Now Fingerless lost his finger after dropping a bucket used to catch the custard dispensed from the machine. When he tried to catch the bucket, well, apparently his hand went where it shouldn't have. As co-workers tried to help the man, someone took the custard from the bucket and put it into the pint that eventually went to Clarence Stowers.

I'm guessing he didn't know there was a finger in the bucket. And that guy should be Employee of the Month. The job must go on. Someone's on the floor, writhing in pain, holding a bloody limb, and surrounded by co-workers? Hey, the people still want their custard, man.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Hi, my name is Ian and I'm a(n) ____________

Okay, it might be time to admit I have a problem. For the second time in less than two months, I have entered (and used) a public women's restroom. I'm not sure I have anything to say in my defense, other than I really, really had to pee. I got out of class and took the nearest stairway to the first floor where the restrooms were. However, this is a route that I usually don't take, so I'm going to say I was turned around when I got downstairs. I'm used to the men's room being closest to the south entrance of Macbride Hall, and figured that's where I was. I will also claim that the "wo" of "women" was blocked from my view by a museum exhibit when I quickly looked up to check the sign. But it was a quick check. As I said, I had to go.

I walked in and didn't see urinals, which should've sent red flags and sirens going off in my head. But I was moving in a blur, on a beeline for an empty stall.

My suspicions were confirmed after I finished. I opened the door to the stall and saw... a pink bag sitting on the sink. You're not going to see a pink bag in a men's room, so I knew I'd made a mistake. I poked my head out and two women turned from the sink to look at me with disgust. I just said "Good afternoon" and got the hell out of there. (I washed my hands in the men's room down the hall.)

What the hell is wrong with me?

Remember kids - always use protection

I know we've been heavy on sports the past couple of days here at Fried Rice Thoughts, and I can sense some of you looking at your nails and checking your watches. We'll get back to the pop culture potpourri that we're submerged in soon enough. But I have to follow up on one note from the weekend. As I mentioned in Friday night's slog of a blog (if you want to scroll down, it was the 8:55 pm entry), Tigers outfielder Craig Monroe was hit right in the package by a pitch from Chicago's Jose Contreras. Sam, over at Blue Cats & Red Sox, has posted visual evidence of the incident, courtesy of the Tigers' official website, for those of you who would like pictures in Zapruder film-like detail.

But a revelation in yesterday's Detroit News prevents me from leaving this behind and moving on. You see, Monroe wasn't wearing a cup. He wasn't wearing the piece of plastic protection that most athletes wear to prevent accidents such as these from leading to emasculation. The only thing between Monroe's crotch and a tightly wound ball of leather, cork, and thread flung toward him at approximately 80 mph (it was a curveball, not a fastball) was pants and probably an athletic supporter.

After reading this, I spent a couple of hours in the fetal position, waiting for my groin muscles to stop aching. Ye Gods. Craigger - I hope you've invested in a cup.

The streak continues

You don't mess with mojo, baby. Yesterday, during the first quarter of the Pistons-Sixers game, I was at the drug store, shopping for vitamins. I came back to watch Game 3 during the second quarter, with Detroit down by five points. But it didn't matter. I'd set the fates in motion.

Final score: Pistons 97, Sixers 92.

Okay, you won your game. Now go back to the kids' end while the adults win, okay? (Clarence Tabb Jr. / The Detroit News)

You're welcome, Detroit. No, Chauncey Billups, thank you.

Tuesday night, I'll be picking up dinner when the game begins. As Crash Davis said in Bull Durham, "Never #$@% with a winning streak."