Wednesday, August 31, 2005

I know, but still... !

I knew it was coming. We all did. The price of gas was $2.99 this morning at 9 am. By 5 pm, on the way home, it had soared to $3.20. And it's Wednesday! How #@$%ing much will gas cost by the holiday weekend? Any guesses? $3.50?

And I know this question always comes up when you talk gas prices, but for those of you that had holiday road trips in mind, is this giving you second thoughts? I thought about watching the Tigers play the White Sox in Chicago this weekend, but I'm thinking a good ol' cookout at home might be better. With a bicycle trip to the grocery store, of course...

(Image from "Get Fuzzy" ©2005 Darby Conley/ Dist. by UFS, Inc.)

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

I #@$%ing hate sports

Last night's Detroit Lions game technically didn't count. It was a preseason exhibition; the players and coaches compared it to a "dress rehearsal." But it was on Monday Night Football, broadcasted to a national television audience. Ford Field was packed full of fans, eagerly anticipating the upcoming football season and hoping that this is the year their beloved gridiron heroes become one of the best teams in the NFL.

Rams 37, Lions 13.

Exactly, Joey. Exactly. What the #$@%?

More crying and ranting about this #@$%ing terrible football team that clearly hates all of its fans…

(Image by Mandy Wright/
Detroit Free Press)

Maybe I'm a sucker for taking a meaningless game so seriously. Maybe we're all suckers. Most, if not all, Lions fans were excited about their team playing on Monday night and having a chance to show football fans around the country how good they're going to be.

We all could have done something else last night. I could've watched Prison Break on FOX, or that movie I rented. I could've read a book. I could've caught up on the e-mail I've been putting off. Maybe I could've called up a friend, gone out to dinner, and caught up on current events. Hell, I could've done some sudoku puzzles with my mother.

But no, I chose to stay home, park my @$$ in front of the TV and watch my Detroit Lions play a meaningless exhibition game. Why? Because I love that team. That's how excited I was to see them in the national television spotlight. I wanted to see them, in their stupid new black uniforms, show off their new players, give their fans something to cheer about, and for the love of #@$%ing Joe Schmidt, act like they actually know how to play professional football.

Instead, the Lions took a $#!+ all over their fans last night. And rubbed their faces in that $#!+ like they were #@$%ing dogs.

Two words for the Lions' offense: Block someone.

Two words for the Lions' defense: Tackle someone.

Seven words for the Lions' coaching staff: Come up with some plays that work.

And burn those ugly #@$%ing black jerseys!

I should've turned the channel and watched the Tigers play the Indians.

Indians 10, Tigers 8.

What the #@$%? They had a five-run lead in the first inning! Are you #@$%ing serious? I'm going to smash my mother#@$%ing &#$%sucking son of a #@$%ing TV.

And I'm taking up knitting. It has to be less frustrating and disappointing. You're all getting hats and scarves for Christmas.

Monday, August 29, 2005

I can't do it

No matter how hard I try, I can't call him Diddy.

But I understand. He had to drop the "P," because it was getting between him and his fans. And how can you not applaud a man who not only wants to get closer to the people, but bring them together. You can't have one side chanting "P. Diddy" and the other side screaming for "Diddy." Believe me, I understand.

Hopefully, Diddy brought everyone closer at last night's MTV Video Music Awards. I don't know, because I didn't watch them. I thought about it, but my TV wouldn't let me. It said I was officially too old to watch.

But I did manage to sneak a quick peek at the "pre-show." And age didn't seem to stop MTV's John Norris from dressing like a complete and utter jackass, with 70s-style sunglasses, a sleeveless purple t-shirt, and white linen pants. Not sure about the pants, actually. The TV switched the channel before I could get a better look. I wish I had pictures. I can't find any at this hour. Surely, someone more enterprising and tech-savvy will take care of that soon.

I would think Norris long ago became too old to be on MTV. Shouldn't he have moved to CBS News or someplace like that by now? Anyway, I'm off to have my oatmeal. Gotta do what I can to stay regular at my age.

EDIT (2:20 pm): And this via Fried Rice Thoughts' New York bureau chief Mis Hooz - Here's another example of "P" possibly getting between someone and his (or in this case, her) fans. (Scroll down to the bottom on this link.)

She's so tuned in.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Me, Jim & Lance

Did you catch Lance Armstrong on Larry King Live last night? If you're not familiar with the story, a French newspaper reported that six of Armstrong's urine samples tested positive for an illegal performance enhancer in 1999. But I'm not getting into that. (Beyond Boxscores does a fine job of breaking down the whole story and its validity. And King Kaufman looked at this with a somewhat wider scope yesterday in Salon.)

(Image via the Associated Press/ CNN's Larry King Live)

No, I want to make fun of how bizarre it seemed for both Larry King and fill-in host Bob Costas to be interviewing Armstrong. I know it's Larry King's show, but this was one night where he should've stepped aside for the sports guy (and frankly, a much better interviewer). First of all, King and Costas were tripping over each other like two guys trying to make a move on the same woman at a bar. But then you had instances in which Costas would ask Armstrong whether he was really interested in getting into politics, followed by King barging in with, "Are you and Sheryl Crow getting married?" (Don't believe me? Here's the transcript.)

The whole setup felt kind of awkward. But I don't watch Larry King Live that regularly (despite posting about it twice in a week). Maybe this sort of thing happens a lot now. Does King often share interviews with, say, the carnivorous Nancy Grace? I'll bet he wasn't sharing Pamela Anderson with anyone Monday night.

But there was other stuff on TV last night, too. Before watching Larry, Bob & Lance (I think you can find that in the curtained-off section at the video store), I was enjoying Me, Myself & Irene on F/X. To me, this is the Farrelly Brothers' most underrated movie. Everyone likes There's Something About Mary, and so do I, but I think Irene is better. Give me something funnier than Jim Carrey's three black children. And how about the breast feeding scene? Or the one with the dead cow on the road? I'll take those; you can keep Cameron Diaz's "hair gel."

EDIT: I also noticed that HBO ran a documentary about a porn star last night. So please indulge me while I link to my entry from last month, "Why I need my HBO back."

(Images from Me, Myself & Irene © 2000 Twentieth Century Fox)

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Heavy reading, with a bit of rambling

I found this at Bookslut. Paul Anderson might be a guy with balls the size of cantaloupes. His debut novel, Hunger's Brides, weighs in at a modest 1,360 pages. This New York Times article on the book puts that in some perspective. The book itself almost weighs five pounds. It's thicker than the Manhattan phone book. But maybe I'm just envious of Anderson's ambition. The book's website is impressive, too.

Actually, I just thought of something that might be funnier than a near-1,400 page debut novel about a 17th-century Mexican poet. Start up a book club, and make Hunger's Brides your first selection.

When I worked at Borders, a friend and I thought it'd be fun to run a book club. She let me choose the first book. "Cool!" I thought. "I'll pick something I want to read." So our book club's debut selection was Freedomland by Richard Price. 736 pages. I remember our store manager's reaction: "Don't you want people to actually show up?"

No one showed up. And I really couldn't complain, since I didn't even finish the book myself. Well, I almost finished it during my lunch break. My plan was mostly to discuss dialogue and characters. But I did finish it eventually. It's a great book. Your book club should try it out. Or just wait for the movie.

Books with huge page counts remind me of a favorite foot-in-mouth moment. It was at my sister's best friend's wedding. My parents and I didn't stay for the reception, but we stopped in at the pre-reception cocktail hour. (Ian doesn't drive home from weddings without getting some food, especially if a two-hour drive was involved. Or if there's shrimp cocktail to be had. Just so you know.) The bride's father, a lifelong military man, was talking about retirement and mentioned a book he was working on about motivation. All his years in the service had taught him so much about successfully motivating people, and he wanted to pass that knowledge along. So far, he said, he'd written about 600 pages.

"600 pages?" I said. "I hope the first chapter's about motivating me to read the rest of the book!"

I can't be certain, but I think the music stopped playing at that moment. Everyone gathered around turned to look at me. After a few beats, someone finally let out a laugh. Thank you, Dad. Then the bride's father laughed. I was off the hook. I think.

And I think we left shortly after that. But mostly because my parents were tired. Yep. I have no idea if the bride's father ever finished that book, by the way.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

I'll have what he's having

What the hell is up with the Tigers' Carlos Pena lately? He slammed two home runs in last night's 4-1 victory over the Oakland Athletics.

Dude has hit five home runs since getting called up from the minor leagues last Wednesday. Over that same week, I think I've eaten five turkey sandwiches. But hey, they were big ones. Stacked. With vegetables. You know what I'm sayin'.

Yet despite all that, Pena probably won't be on next year's Tigers team, which I think is a sign of how full their batting lineup has become. My Tigers glass is half-full, people.

Rather than crack jokes, Billfer at least attempts to explain how Pena's bat is suddenly hotter than Catherine Zeta-Jones eating a bushel of habanero peppers in a sauna at The Detroit Tigers Weblog.

(Image via Steve Perez/ The Detroit News)

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

All the puns seemed dirty

Here's a spit-your-drink-all-over-your-computer headline from The Onion:

U.S. Blowjobless Rate At All-Time High

And I thought I was the only one having problems since graduation...

(Editor's Note: Raging Red beat me to this topic, thus forcing me to post this before I wanted to. Lemme tell ya, she ain't the only one who's raging. I hate her. My fist is shaking at you, Radish Head.)

The blog must be fed...

All you bloggers out there can surely relate to Joel Achenbach's "Rough Draft" column in Sunday's Washington Post. If you didn't read it, here's a taste:

"The blog is hungry. The blog will not be ignored. It is an insatiable little beast, a creature still unclassified by science -- hairy, warty, slobbering, with its own fiendish agenda. I often fantasize about killing the blog, but I worry that it will respond just like the crazed computer in '2001: A Space Odyssey': It will try to kill me first."

Or maybe it's just me. I hate to admit the blog has taken control of my life, but of course it has - at least to some degree. "Have I posted to the blog today?" is moving up there with "Have I eaten yet?" You guys have that same feeling, right?


The "Achenblog," by the way, can be found here.

Searching for Col. Kurtz?

After seeing this test at (thanks, John), I figured I'd give it a try. I don't usually do stuff like this, but I do loves me some movies. And like John, I probably wouldn't have posted this either, but I'm very amused by the film that supposedly reflects my personality.

But this makes me wonder: Who is my Colonel Kurtz? I suppose I have a few ideas. This will probably bug me all day long.

(By the way, since John's result was The Godfather, I'm also wondering if the test just spits out Marlon Brando films. Am I onto something? And if that is the case, why couldn't I have gotten Superman: The Movie?)

Monday, August 22, 2005

Monday mess-around

♦ I will be your best friend if you've seen Broken Flowers and are screaming to talk about it with someone. It's a really good movie and continues the recent streak of impressive Bill Murray performances. (Also very good is Jeffrey Wright, who strikes me as one of the great underrated actors working in movies today.)

But the ending will either drive you hair-pulling crazy or drop you to your knees in appreciation of its brilliance. I'm leaning more toward the latter now, but when the credits rolled, I initially grabbed my hair. I suppose it comes down to what you think this film is really about and whether or not you believe the ending satisfies that premise.

In an interview on the movie's official website, director Jim Jarmusch said he wants Murray's character, Don, to remain in your mind after you walk out of the theater. Mission accomplished, Mr. Jarmusch. It's like an itch I can't scratch right now. I needed to talk the hell out of this at a bar or coffee shop after I saw it, and I didn't get that. So if you can help me out, I'd love you.

♦ Speaking of movies, if you're running a studio and think Fried Rice Thoughts is just the place to advertise your latest project, please refer to my e-mail address at the right. I don't have a lot of pride. Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz would look great on this page. Just don't ask me to pimp Deuce Bigelow 3: Now He's Got a S.T.D., okay?

♦ I will also be your best friend if you know of any good college and pro football blogs. More specifically, if you know of any dealing with Iowa football or the Detroit Lions (besides Blue Cats and Red Sox, of course, Samela), I'd be extremely grateful. Hey, I'm not completely lazy. I've tried to find some. I've been looking. But I've been rather unsuccessful. And once baseball season ends, there will be a huge void in my daily blog browsing. Don't make me do something productive on Monday mornings. I need to read people ranting and obsessing over the Hawkeyes and Lions.

Here's a headline that caught my eye on this morning. I wish I hadn't been eating cereal at the time, though.

♦ Did you know Bob Costas declined to sub for Larry King Thursday night, because he didn't want to spend an hour talking about Natalee Holloway and the BTK killer? I didn't, until I read this at Cyphering. But I'd like to join in the applause now.

Seriously, have you tried to watch Larry King lately? It's awful. Every night, it's Natalee Holloway, BTK, or that dude that disappeared off a cruise liner. Well, his guest is Pamela Anderson tonight, so maybe I'll give Larry another chance. But only because my mother likes you, Larry.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

The 40 Year-Old Red Eye (or Red-Eyed Virgin?)

So did anyone else go see Red Eye, and then sneak into The 40 Year-Old Virgin yesterday? Or vice versa? No? Okay, maybe I need to get a hobby. Although once you experience the thrill, the spontaneous high of sneaking into another movie, I don't know if you can ever go back to the same old routine. I need some Red Bull or Mountain Dew! Whoo!

Some quick thoughts about those movies:

Rachel McAdams is America's next sweetheart. She was great in Wedding Crashers, and (geek alert!) had she been in Fantastic Four instead of Jessica Alba, maybe that would've been a better movie. Tom Cruise should've gone for her instead of Katie Holmes. (She doesn't need Tommy Scientology, though.)

Red Eye is actually pretty good, and I think that's because it doesn't waste any time with details or exposition. The writer in me usually frowns upon that, but it works so well here. You're given exactly as much information as you need. It's not a Hitchcock movie, but it's pretty close.

The 40 Year-Old Virgin is hilarious. But you already knew that.

♦ There are so many memorable scenes and gags, but something that keeps making me chuckle about almost 24 hours after seeing the movie: Asia.

♦ Is anyone creating funnier movies and TV shows these days than Judd Apatow? They're beginning to cause a dent in my checking account. (But they also make great gifts. Thanks, Mis Hooz. And you're welcome.)

Has this ever happened to you?

Has a movie trailer ever made you cry? I should probably be embarrassed to admit this, and maybe I just shouldn't write about it, but the trailer for Cameron Crowe's new film, Elizabethtown, really punched me in the chest. And not just because I love Crowe's movies. (Well, except... no, I liked that one. But let's just say he didn't totally have me at hello.)

No, just watch the trailer, if you're interested. (The 10-minute "First Look" is even better.) There's some of the schmaltz that peppers every Cameron Crowe film. But every one of them usually has a moment (hell, several moments) that really gets me. And they're also usually pretty damn funny. I can't wait until October 14.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Blog Hooky at the ballpark

What better way to celebrate Hooz Day - the birthday of a woman who tolerates baseball the way most of us tolerate anchovies on pizza - than to catch a matinee at Comerica Park between our Detroit Tigers and the Boston Red Sox? At the risk of sounding cliche, it really was a perfect day for baseball for me, my scorecard, an overpriced, watered-down beer, and 30,634 of my best friends: 80 degrees and sunny.

And even better, the Tigers came out swinging, pounding a queasy David Wells with six straight hits to begin the game and five runs in the first inning, on the way to a 6-5 victory over the defending World Series champs. (Sure, a couple of those first-inning hits were dead duck floaters, but it doesn't say that in the box score.)

The game also provided a great example of why seeing a game in person is better than watching it on TV. On TV, you can only look at what the camera shows you. At the ballpark, even if you're farther from the action, you can see everything. So when the Tigers had the "squeeze play" on in the first inning, you could watch it develop. You could see Craig Monroe run toward home plate from third base as Wells threw his pitch. John McDonald laid down a bunt along the first-base line, the Red Sox didn't have first base covered, and the Tigers scored their fifth run of the inning. Exciting stuff, and you would've seen only a fraction of it on TV.

(Image by Morris Richardson II/ The Detroit News)

More on the game and other miscellany from the CoPa...

As a Tigers fan, it was nice to see the team recover after Tuesday night's late-inning meltdown, for which manager Alan Trammell was getting absolutely roasted. You could make a case either way for whether Tram made a mistake in taking out a pitcher who was performing extremely well in favor of the guy who's supposed to close the game in the ninth inning. (Considering that the Tigers have to find out who can play and who can't, I think he made the right decision - after sleeping on it, mind you.)

However, I think he did exactly the right thing yesterday, bringing the man who blew Tuesday's game (Fernando Rodney) back out to see how he'd bounce back. Not only did he save the game for the Tigers (albeit after giving up a run and making everyone in the crowd rather nervous), but he got David Ortiz - the man who hit the ninth-inning home run on Tuesday - to hit into a game-ending double play. Redemption? Maybe not, but it was an example of toughness Tigers fans can point to for optimism (if they choose to).

♦ Drew Sharp has a nice piece on yesterday's winning pitcher, Jeremy Bonderman, in today's Detroit Free Press. But the lead paragraph shows that Sharp just can't help being an @$$hole, even when he's trying to be nice.

♦ I haven't watched the ESPN telecast of the game yet, so I don't know if I made my national television debut. By any chance, was a poor sap in the upper deck trying to get rid of his farmer's tan shown between innings? Just curious. I'll check the tape tonight. (And I think I may have to change the name of this blog to "Fried Forearm Thoughts." Somebody got a sunburn. Ow.)

♦ A People Mover ride to Greektown (where I left Mama Cass to gamble at the casino) for dinner is not a bad way to spend a post-game evening in Detroit. I was hoping I'd get a free t-shirt from the city for actually using the People Mover, though.

♦ This surely isn't an original thought, but the upper deck of Comerica Park, Detroit looks pretty impressive. (Or is it as Mis Hooz says, "The farther away you are, the better Detroit looks"?)

♦ How tense are things in the Tigers locker room (especially between Trammell and catcher Ivan Rodriguez)? Terry Foster's been beating this drum for the past week. But check out this piece by Jeff Moss at the Detroit Sports Rag. Yikes.

♦ Do the Red Sox really have that many fans traveling to see the team or did the bandwagon make a stop at Comerica Park during the last three games? Lots of Sawx fans in the stands.

♦ Would the Red Sox have won had Manny Ramirez been in the lineup, as the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo wonders? Hmm, could be...

♦ Over at Blue Cats and Red Sox, Witch City Sox Girl commented on how many times the J. Geils Band song, "Centerfold" was played over the P.A. system. Apparently, the Tigers read that blog, as I only counted two "Centerfolds" during Wednesday's game.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

How did YOU celebrate "Hooz Day"?

I almost forgot to post this during my day of Blog Hooky (more on that tomorrow), but please indulge me as I wish Happy Birthday to Fried Rice Thoughts' New York bureau chief Mis Hooz. Congratulations on turning 29 (again), my feisty friend. I hope the Brinks truck full of gifts arrived to your place on time. If not, someone's getting fired. Even if it is Hooz Day.

Happy Hooz Day to everyone. I hope you all celebrated, regardless of whether or not you were aware of the occasion. As you can see, people are very, very excited. And this was just outside Mis Hooz's window. She loves her adoring public. Except when they wake her up before noon on her birthday.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Notes from a station wagon

♦ Susannah touched on this yesterday at Pub of Knowledge, but I can't help but think I picked the worst time of year to drive from South Carolina to Michigan. (I know, I know - all weekends from here to Labor Day will probably be awful.) How much was gas when you had to fill up this weekend? What was the worst price you saw? I thought $2.56 per gallon was bad in North Carolina. Then I saw $2.59 here in Michigan. How soon before we hit $3.00? (California's already there.)

EDIT: It's up to $2.79 at all of the stations I drove by on Packard in Ann Arbor. Ergh.

♦ Best road trip snack food? I say it's Combos. What do you say? (Should we limit the criteria to what you can buy at a gas station?)

♦ To the man at the Ohio rest stop who yelled "Hawkeyes Suck!" at me after seeing my Iowa Football t-shirt: Look, don't yell at a man while he's peeing, okay? Show some class and wait until I'm done. I should've turned around and soaked your shoes. Besides, you're wrong - your Buckeyes suck, pal.

♦ How old do you have to be for your mother to stop reminding you not to pick up hitchhikers?

♦ Does anyone still have a tape player in their car? My father's Ford Taurus wagon does. (Hey, it's no chick magnet, but that V6 engine works much better on the freeway than my lil' Honda Civic.) If you had to listen to tapes on a road trip, what could you take from your music collection right now?

What's left after you threw all your tapes out when you converted to CD? Or did you save them all? I wish I had. This is what we had to work with on the 900-mile drive, between my mother's tape collection and what I still had in a shoebox:

• Billy Joel - Greatest Hits, Vol. I and II
• Van Halen - 5150
• Aerosmith - A Permanent Vacation
• Gordon Lightfoot - Sundown
• Bob Seger - Stranger in Town
• Don Henley - The End of the Innocence
• The Pretenders - Learning to Crawl
• Don McLean - American Pie
• L7 - Bricks Are Heavy
• Van Halen - For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge

Is it obvious at what point in my life I started buying CDs? I should've bought an audiobook, right?

(Image from "F Minus" © 2005 Tony Carillo/ Dist. by UFS, Inc.)

Monday, August 15, 2005

Too early to think about 2008?

I don't know how many of you have already seen this. (I saw it at I'm probably late to the party - as usual. But if you haven't seen it, it might be time to start getting excited about the 2008 presidential election. Ladies and gentleman, think about...

Walken in 2008.

I think he should use my favorite line from Batman Returns ("Bottom line, she tries to blackmail me, I'll drop her out a higher window. Meantime, I got better fish to fry.") for his stump speech. That would probably guarantee my vote. (And it could be quite effective in a campaign against, say, Hillary Clinton.)

Or maybe he should go with the Dead Zone approach. (You voted for the other guy... on the way back from... the polling place... you're driving... your shoelace... it'll loop around the gas pedal... your foot can't reach the brake. You hit a tree... kill a cat... you spill your coffee on that white shirt you like. Anyway, you should vote for me.)

Promising, no?

Friday, August 12, 2005

Ow... can't move... much

Due to unforeseen occurrences in my lower lumbar region, your regularly scheduled update to Fried Rice Thoughts might not be seen today. Please come back on Monday, however, by which time I'll have driven back to Michigan (pain-free, I hope) and thought of something to write about. You may now resume your regular web browsing, surely already in progress.

(Image from "Get Fuzzy" ©2005 Darby Conley/ Dist. by UFS, Inc.)

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Tipping: The debate continues

Of all the topics that I've written about in the 10-month run of Fried Rice Thoughts, I think the posts about tipping ("Tipping Points" and "Dear Ian") have stoked the most entertaining debate. So when I read Steven A. Shaw's Op-Ed piece in yesterday's New York Times, I couldn't resist revisiting the subject. The column was prompted by the announcement that Per Se restaurant in New York is opting instead for a flat rate/service charge (20%) attached to the bill, rather than leaving it to the customers' discretion.

I'm sure this isn't something that we'll be seeing soon in every restaurant near you. Per Se is some seriously frou-frou dining, after all. Maybe I'm making the mistake of projecting a possible New York trend onto the rest of the country, but what if this became the standard, even at that corner diner where you just get coffee and eggs while you read the paper? (Okay, maybe I'm speaking for myself.) And what about coffee shops? (I'm still conflicted on tipping baristas.)

Ultimately, who does this help more? Does this ease the burden for the server or the customer? Will we enjoy our meals more if we're not so concerned with whether or not the waiter brought another glass of water when we wanted it? Could restaurant gatherings with friends and co-workers be more enjoyable without deliberating 1) the tip and 2) who owes what? ("Well, you ordered the prime rib and two glasses of wine. I only had a Caesar salad and water.") Or would you resent having the opportunity to express your level of satisfaction with a particular server taken away from you?

And do many of us base our tips on likability, rather than service, as is mentioned in Shaw's column?

What about the waitstaff? Does such a policy protect them for bad tippers? Or would this take away the motivation to bust ass to do a good job, especially when you know the service charge will be evenly distributed among the restaurant staff? (The New York Post's "Page Six" says many Per Se servers plan on quitting once the new policy is instituted.) Would waiting tables become less demanding with the knowledge that your wage won't always be determined by the whims of a finicky customer? Is a flat rate that would increase in accordance with the bill fair enough compensation? Or does it fail to account for too many other factors, such as the size of the party or which night of the week it is?

Surely, there are some other questions and factors I'm not considering. That's where you guys come in. Some great points have been raised (from both sides) each time the tipping issue has been raised here. And with new (and more?) readers now on board, I'm hoping we can get a wider variety of viewpoints in the comments section. (And now that I'm not so cheap, those comments won't be going anywhere, either.) So where do you stand, waiters and consumers?

▪ Here's a page on tipping etiquette that could be helpful, along with some interesting statistics and trivia from Marginal Revolution.

▪ But I don't know if those are as much fun as WaiterRant, The Stained Apron, or bitterwaitress (and its Shitty Tipper Database).

▪ Speaking of the S.T.D., raises some interesting points against it.

▪ And after two tries, I've finally remembered to include Mr. Pink's thoughts on tipping from Reservoir Dogs. (Via

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

How do you prefer your reading?

Sunday's New York Times had an interesting interview with author V.S. Naipaul. It's something of a follow-up to his remarks in 2001, after winning the Nobel Prize in Literature, in which he said that the novel was dead and only nonfiction writing could truly capture the complexities of the world we live in.

''What I felt was, if you spend your life just writing fiction, you are going to falsify your material. And the fictional form was going to force you to do things with the material, to dramatize it in a certain way. I thought nonfiction gave one a chance to explore the world, the other world, the world that one didn't know fully.''

My Iowa classmates and I often beat topics like this to a soggy pulp over many pitchers of beer. Some would've agreed with Naipual that fiction - American fiction, especially - is in trouble, that it lacks a distinct voice. I often disagreed with such sentiments, arguing that fiction doesn't have a distinct voice because there are just so many out there. (Hell, just walk into a bookstore.) And I see that as a good thing.

Yet I think I agree with Naipaul's feelings on nonfiction writing. (Rachel Donadio, who conducted the interview with Naipaul, later wrote her own essay on the subject.) During my time in Iowa, I was able to find my voice as a writer much more comfortably through my nonfiction work. (This blog might be the best example of that.) And that nonfiction work often got a better reaction when I had to read it in class or for an audience. There's an immediacy and vitality to writing about events as they happened, rather than attempting to dramatize and allegorize them. (Ultimately, however, you still have to tell a story.)

But that's from the writer's point-of-view. What about the reader's perspective? Are there more nonfiction books in your reading stack than novels? (I know I've been reading much more nonfiction this summer than fiction.) When you go into a bookstore, which sections do you walk toward first? Do you agree with Naipaul that nonfiction writing better reflects the modern world and teaches us more than fiction can? Maybe nonfiction has a shorter "shelf life" than fiction, so we think we need to read it sooner than a novel. After all, if that novel is worth reading, it should have a timeless quality to it, right? Or is it just more work to get through a novel than a nonfiction book? (Never mind how difficult it might be to find that novel.)

▪ This doesn't just apply to books, either. What about Gus Van Sant's Last Days? It's much too soon to know if it's a successful film. But would it be more popular (or have more relevance) if it was just an outright Kurt Cobain biopic, rather than a (closely) fictionalized version of his final days?

▪ By the way, if you're looking for something with the epic scope of a novel with the relevancy of real-life accounts, I highly recommend Adrian Nicole Leblanc's Random Family. It's a damn good book.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Good news for the news (in Detroit)?

I'm about a week late on this, and I'm not in Michigan right now so I can't say I've taken the pulse of the people, but I'm curious how many are happy - or even noticed - that both the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News were sold to new owners. Thus ends the Joint Operating Agreement between the two publications that weakened both papers and resulted in some of the most mediocre weekend editions you could ever read.

For a city of Detroit's size to have such an inferior news product is pretty embarrassing. Compare the Sunday combined Free Press-News to the Sunday Chicago Tribune or Boston Globe, not to mention the Washington Post and New York Times. Most weeks, the Detroit Sunday paper even looks inferior to smaller papers such as those in Ann Arbor, Des Moines, or Charleston, SC.

Of course, it's possible that Gannett Co. and MediaNews Group, the respective owners of the Free Press and News, will still publish dull newspapers in an effort to keep costs down. (The new News won't be publishing a Sunday edition, for one thing.) But with competition for readers and circulation again a factor between the two papers, there's at least the possibility of both trying to outdo each other, resulting in better news coverage. (This could also eventually mean the end of the Detroit News, which was in danger of going under and was probably saved by the J.O.A.)

I used to love reading the Free Press each morning. If I didn't get a chance to read the paper, I'd actually miss it. Now (especially after the Mitch Albom debacle), I can barely stand to read it. It'd be great to get excited about reading the newspaper again. (But maybe those days are over anyway, because of the internet. That's probably another blog for another time.)

▪ The News' Terry Foster is excited to have new bosses. If it gets him back in the paper more often, I'm excited for him.

▪ To me, the best news about this transaction might be that Carole Leigh Hutton is no longer editor and publisher of the Free Press. I'm not a person who thinks everyone should be fired every time they mess up at a job, but the way she coddled Albom was an embarrassment and surely alienated most of the paper's editorial staff.

▪ Maybe the new editors of the Detroit newspapers should read this "memo" by Hank Stuever, in which he criticizes his employer, the Washington Post, for "[overlistening] to people who never read the paper, and yet insist it include more about their neighborhoods, lives, and concerns."

Monday, August 08, 2005

Rest in peace, Mr. Jennings

My father's favorite news anchor was ABC's Peter Jennings. The man's evening just wasn't complete until he heard the news of the day from Peter. (Dad was apparently on a first-name basis with Mr. Jennings.) When I moved back home, Dad's routine became my routine. We sat next to each other many nights, watching World News Tonight and discussing what was going on in the world. And when I took a break from college, my mother held Jennings up as an example. ("You know, Peter Jennings never graduated from college.")

Back in April, when Jennings announced he had lung cancer and had to step away from the anchor desk, I knew it bothered my father. He told me as much over the phone. He had become quite sensitive to issues of health and mortality. Knowing I surfed the internet religiously, Dad often asked me if I'd read anything about Jennings' condition. And I gave him any update I could find, no matter how slight. ("Howard Kurtz says he still goes into the office, Dad." "Oh yeah? Huh. I wonder when he'll be back?") Even when Dad found himself in the hospital six weeks later, he was still tuning in and still wondering where his nightly news buddy was. The last time I saw my dad smile, he was watching World News Tonight as I walked into his hospital room. I took it as a good sign. The man was getting back into his routine.

Dad would've been sad to find out about Peter Jennings' passing yesterday. I'm sad about it, too. Mr. Jennings, wherever you guys are, I hope you'll have a chance to chat with my dad. He's a big fan, and I know he's got a lot of stuff he wants to ask you.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Dear Ian...

Speaking of kids and ballgames (if you followed yesterday's "jump"), our friend Matt has sent in a question on the subject. And since the Fried Rice Thoughts readership was so helpful to him last time (of which I have no record since I was too cheap to pay Haloscan to archive my comments at the time), I thought we might be able to pitch in again. Go on, Matt. We're listening...

Dear Ian,

We went to another Portland Sea Dogs game last night, and behind us sat a couple and their young son (who snuck into the box seats from the general admission). Throughout the entire first 5 innings, the parents kept narrating every damn little action and pointing it out to the kid (who must have been about 4 or 5)-- Look Billy, he's pitching! Look Billy, there's the mascot! Look Billy, he just struck him out! Look Billy, he's going to catch the ball! etc.

Now, I've got nothing against getting kids into baseball, but this kid had zero interest in what was going on on the field and no knowledge of any kind of baseball rules at all. He couldn't follow the game or even understand what was happening despite the constant stream of narration we were forced to endure. The kid, being thus bored, would squirm and kick chairs and do whatever the hell kids do when they're bored. (Thankfully, the parents had a marital spat of some sort, and left early.) But the LAST time I was here at a game, the same thing happened... this time with a kid and his grandfather. Same cluelessness with the kid, seemingly unable to follow the game in any way... couldn't tell who got a hit, who was winning, etc. and kept asking questions.

I guess my question is this-- what do you think is the minimum requirement for a kid to be at a sporting event? Should kids, who have no concept of rules or ability to follow the action be taken to a (semi) professional sporting event? Or am I just being an uptight dick?

Matt, Matt, Matt - no one is an uptight dick here. We don't like to use labels here. Don't be so hard on yourself. I hope we can help you. Let me get things started:

Baseball is often played at a leisurely pace, which allows plenty of opportunities to explain the rules and nuances intrinsic to the game. I ask you, what is a better example of Americana than a father explaining the wonder of our national pastime to his son? Don't take that away from our parents, Matt. And please, don't take it away from the children. Remember, they're our future. And somebody has to shell out $35 for a box seat twenty years from now, right?

But as you might remember, I'm a strong proponent of tying kids down to make them watch the entertainment you paid good money for. Those ballpark seats are much stronger than movie theater seats too, so your restraints should work even better.

I'm also a fan of any sort of tranquilizer or narcotic which might control a - shall we say, enthusiastic - child. But rather than spend money on expensive darts or prescription drugs, use what you have on hand. You know you're getting a beer at a ballgame. Go ahead and let the young man have a sip. He wants to get a taste of adulthood? Let him have one. Better yet, let him have nine or ten. That should relax him.

But I don't want to dominate the discussion. This isn't my forum, it's our forum. Fried Rice Thinkers, let's help our brother Matthew out. What do the rest of you suggest?

Friday, August 05, 2005

Take me to the river (dogs)

I've been jonesing to see some live baseball, and finally got my fix last night at Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park in Charleston. You might know the Charleston River Dogs from such promotions as "Nobody Night," which intentionally set a record for lowest attendance at a professional baseball game. Or wacky co-owners Mike Veeck (responsible for Chicago's infamous "Disco Demolition Night") and Bill Murray (yes, that Bill Murray).

I didn't see Bill Murray, but I did get the South Atlantic League version of Yankees vs. Red Sox. Well, it was the Class A minor league affiliates of the Yankees (River Dogs) and Red Sox (Greenville Bombers). And I don't think there was quite the intensity between the two teams that you'd get in New York in Boston. But it was still damn fun. What looked like a snoozer of a game turned out to be a good one, with the River Dogs coming back from a 5-0 deficit to win 6-5, in 10 innings.

And since I went to the game by myself (Mama Cass and Lil' Sis weren't interested, probably because it was hotter than a pig on a spit, roasting over an open flame) and there was a small crowd on hand, I scored probably the best seats I'll ever have at a professional baseball game, sitting right behind home plate. (Section 112, if you're truly interested.) The only way I'd have had a better view is if I was playing catcher. But maybe I could get that seat virtually every weeknight in Charleston. I don't know. And does it really matter? Eight bucks, baby. Eight bucks. What else was I going to spend that money on, Must Love Dogs? I'll take baseball, even without Diane Lane.

Other musings from the ballpark...

▪ At how many other ballparks can you get a view of a marsh while you're kicking back with a beer and hot dog before the game?

▪ Charleston, you have a beautiful ballpark. And it's cute you've nicknamed it "The Joe." But on behalf of us northerners, I do declare the real "Joe" is in Detroit. Sorry, them's the breaks.

▪ Okay, I know I'm in the south. But BBQ sauce and cole slaw on a hot dog seems wrong on so many levels. You can keep your "river dog." Just give me some mustard. (The lady at the food stand says they're a big hit. I didn't see anyone else eating one.)

▪ Toward the end of the game, a half-dozen kids filled most of the empty seats in my row. And that caused a dilemma: How much of an @$$hole would I have been if I'd shoved one of those kids out of the way to get a foul ball? Hey, I've never caught a foul ball. In all my years of going to baseball games, the closest I came to a ball was in Toronto, back in 1990.

I was sitting along the first-base line at SkyDome, Kelly Gruber hit a foul ball, it smacked off the hands of a guy three seats away from me, and caromed into the row in front of me. As I dove forward (something I would probably never do now), another guy slid underneath me to get the ball. Curses!

And I've come nowhere near a foul ball since. 15 years! Fifteen, b!+%#es! It is my time! Those runny-nosed, ADD-addled brats have dozens more years to get foul balls. How many more do I have? (How many in which I still have reflexes and can move relatively well?) You're damn right I'd have pushed one of them kids out da way!

Unfortunately, it was never an issue. You don't get many foul balls behind the plate. After the game, however, those kids got a bunch of baseballs by hanging out behind the Bombers' dugout. How ageist is that? Next time I go to a ballgame, I'm bringing a kid with me. Can I find any to rent in the classifieds? But I'm tying him to the seat during the game because there's no way I'm watching him. And I'll be damned if I run to get him a hot dog or soda every 10 minutes. #@$% that!

Hmm, I seem to have digressed into a bit of a rant. Pardon my manners. Not very southern gentleman of me. C'mon, I love kids. They're our future.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Laptop go "BOOM!"

Well, we've been having problems with the AEH-5000 master computer here at Fried Rice Central. As a result, I wasn't able to follow up on or respond to The Lie of The Oriole: The Rafael Palmiero Story, which drove me crazy. (John bailed me out, however, by mentioning the major hole in Palmiero's story, called stanozolol, in Monday's comments. Thank you, sir.)

What happened to the Fried Rice master computer? Hey, I'm glad you asked because I've learned a lot about computers over the last few years and am always happy to share my knowledge with people. Here's a detailed synopsis: I pushed the "on" button and the power light came on, but the rest of the computer wouldn't. I then went through a complicated set of procedures to find a solution to the problem. I pushed every other button on the keyboard. Nothing. I tapped both the top, bottom, and sides of the computer. Zippo. I turned the computer "on," then off again. Nada. I stroked it gently and told it I loved it. Zilch. I even pounded my fists on the table and stomped up and down. Squadoosh.

So after carefully considering all of my options and trying to work through the situation reasonably and thoroughly, I finally crumbled and took my cherished laptop to a computer shop. I pointed at it, cried, and the computer dude said he'd make it all better. One day later, he called, said, "blah blah blah, error message, blabbity blabbity boo, event log, skip boppity doo, rebooted peripheral something, fa la la la la, la la la la," and said my beloved was all fixed and ready.

You know, absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder. I picked up the AEH-5000, we ate dinner at a nice restaurant with a harbor view, took a lovely walk along a river, went dancing, and then came home and told each other how much we missed each other. (I'd prefer to withhold the rest, because I'm a gentleman. Evidently, my time down south is having an effect on my manners.)

See you folks tomorrow. If this blog is a-rockin'...

(Pearls Before Swine © Stephen Pastis/ Dist. by UFS, Inc.)

Monday, August 01, 2005

Hey, do you smell something burning?

Back in March, Rafael Palmeiro of the Baltimore Orioles appeared before a House Government Reform Committee hearing on steroid use in baseball, pointed definitively at the congressional representatives, and said emphatically, "I have never used steroids. Period."

At the time, I joked that Palmeiro's declaration could be the 2005 version of "I did not have sexual relations with that woman." I was kidding, but as Al Franken might say, I was kidding on the square. It appears that ol' Raffy was being as truthful as President Clinton was.

Earlier today, Mr. "I've never used steroids" was suspended by Major League Baseball for testing positive for steroid use. Palmeiro will have to sit down for 10 days, which is the penalty for first-time offenders under baseball's "Hey, at least it's a start!" steroid policy.

Say Raffy, I thought you didn't take steroids. Here's what he said in a conference call to the media today:

"I am here to make it very clear that I have never intentionally used steroids. Never. Ever. Period."

Here's the rest of my conversation with Mr. Palmeiro's press release.

Oh. So you shouldn't be suspended for 10 days, right? After all, that penalty is for someone who's used steroids.

"Ultimately, although I never intentionally put a banned substance into my body - the independent arbitrator ruled that I had to be suspended under the terms of the program."

Oh. Well, you probably have some sort of explanation for how a banned substance ended up in your body, right?

"I am sure you will ask how I tested positive for a banned substance."

Yes, I just did. Thank you for noticing. I am just a lowly blogger, after all. I only pretend to have a press credential when I'm at the bar.

"As I look back, I don't have a specific answer to give."

Oh. Well, you realize that sounds like bull$#!+, right?

"Unfortunately, I wasn't able to explain to the arbitrator how the banned substance entered my body."

That's okay. I'm sure you just ate a poppy seed muffin, like Elaine did on that one Seinfeld where she failed a drug test.

"The arbitrator did not find that I used a banned substance intentionally -"

Right. You keep saying that. Okay, I think you can stop now.

"- in fact, he said he found my testimony to be compelling -"

Yes, I'm sure it was. Just like most of my readers are probably finding this compelling, as well.

"- but he ruled that I could not meet the heavy burden imposed on players who test positive under the new drug policy."

Okay, I don't even know what that means. Thank you, Mr. Palmeiro's press release. You may step down. Or step off. Whatever.

Palmeiro is easily the biggest name that's been nailed for using steroids. This isn't measly Alex Sanchez getting caught. This is a guy with 3,018 hits and 569 home runs - numbers good enough to stoke a debate as to whether he belongs in baseball's Hall of Fame after retiring. To me, it's only a debate because Palmeiro has never been considered one of the best players at his position. But his numbers are simply too impressive to ignore. Well, they were too impressive. Now, his chances could be slimmer than Lara Flynn Boyle.

Is there anything you'd like to add before we go, Mr. Palmiero's press release?

"I love baseball and have great respect for all of the players who played before me. I have always done my best to live each day in ways that would make my family proud. Everything I have accomplished is the result of hard work and dedication to being the best possible player I can be."

Okay, he's still going. Whatever you say, pal. And I'm dating Scarlet Johansson. (Yeah, that'll be tomorrow's blog.) Your pants are, like, totally on fire. Go sit your @$$ in a tub of ice water.

Face/Off - for real?

I don't know how I missed this one, but thanks to Fried Rice Thoughts' New York correspondent Mis Hooz for sending it my way. As a result, she's been promoted to New York Bureau Chief. Or Science Editor. Honestly, it's whatever the hell she tells me it is.

Depending on the week or month (or what time of day I'm watching it), I think Face/Off is either one of the most ridiculous movies I've ever seen or one of the more intriguing action flicks of the last ten years. The way members of John Travolta's family brush their fingertips over each other's faces? That's kind of corny. That part when Nicolas Cage's eyes nearly bug out of their sockets when he screams "DIE!" to Travolta? I love that. I do the same thing when I kill spiders crawling on my wall. The idea that Travolta's face could just fit over Cage's skull perfectly, and vice versa? That's probably a little silly. (Of course, I like movies about men who dress up like bats. Hi, Mr. Glass House, I'm a stone.)

But according to this New York Times article, that whole face transplant thing isn't a far-fetched concept. Not for federal agents going undercover or someone who wants to look like Brad Pitt or Nicole Kidman. But for patients who have suffered severe facial disfiguration from burns or cancer, he or she might have a chance at getting a normal-looking face again.

Of course, there are plenty of risks, chief among them the possibility of the body rejecting the skin. What would be the physical or psychological ramifications from that? And if that happens, what are the patient's options?

I'm not sure I'd like to watch that movie. Unless Travolta and/or Cage got killed at the end.

(Image from, via Image Metrics PLC)