Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy birthday... sort of

Well, would you look at that? This past Saturday marked the one-year anniversary of this little exercise in narcissism called Fried Rice Thoughts.

It's been one year since I decided, "Hey, I don't spend enough time on the internet - let me start a blog!" One year since I felt like this could give me an outlet that I wasn't getting as a writer. And one year since I looked at what people were doing, writing about what they had for lunch, or bought at the mall, and thought to myself, "Shit, I can do that."

(Image © 2005 United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

Okay, that's a bit mean. I also found plenty to inspire me. People writing about the things I love - movies, books, TV, music, comics, sports, etc., etc. Astute observations. Hilarious stories. And touching ones, too. Outrage and indignation. Thoughtfulness and insight. Views I agree and disagree with. And so much to learn from.

I wanted in. And thanks to you guys, I'm here. I'd like to think I'd write here almost every day, no matter what. But the truth is, it's a hell of a lot more fun when you know other people are reading and honestly caring about what you have to say. If you're reading this, you have my gratitude.

It's really been quite a year. I've been fortunate enough to write about some great times in my life. And it's been great to have this forum during some interesting times in this world and culture. But I've also dealt with some things I wish would never have happened. And in those instances, this wasn't just about ego - it was much-needed therapy. I'm just grateful to have the opportunity to express all of those thoughts, and share them with you.

Really, the only thing I hoped for by this point, and haven't received, is groupies. Let's make that happen in Year Two.

Please indulge me for a paragraph while I go all Oscar-speech on you. I'd like to thank those who have found this blog, told others about it, and added to the overall shared experience. John at, Evan at Orotundity, and Susannah at Pub of Knowledge. My arch-nemesis, Raging Red. Yoni Cohen, who told a naive fledgling blogger what the hell a blogroll was. Sam at Blue Cats and Red Sox, Greg Eno at Out of Bounds, Brian at Beyond Boxscores. And to the others who generously link to this blog, I appreciate anyone and everyone you've brought my way, and will always try my best to return the favor. If I forgot anyone here, I apologize. Please e-mail me, point it out, and I'll click on that little "edit" button to fix the slight.

And I'm sure as hell going to thank those who have inspired and encouraged me over the past year. Chris. Mrs. Kraiza. Clint, who's breaking hearts up and down the west coast. Matt, who's kept me in line, reminding me that I said I'd never write an entry about what I had for lunch. And, of course, Fried Rice Thoughts' New York bureau chief, Mis Hooz, whose feedback, encouragement, and friendship is more valuable than I'll ever be able to express here.

Ready for another year of this? I hope you come along for the ride.

Happy Halloween!

So let's celebrate. One year! Today is a celebration! I'll ride the coattails of Halloween - I don't care. Drugs, drink, dancing! (Yes, dancing!) Scarlett Johansson just called and said she's flying in to commemorate the occasion, which is so sweet of her because she probably has some other movie to film. And she gets a little jealous when I do body shots with strippers, which is soooo cute. The Access Hollywood people wanted to come in and tape a segment, but I told Billy Bush I wasn't interested unless he helped rake the leaves in my backyard. Hey, work before play, man.

Unfortunately, all this means I'll be too busy to pass out candy to the kids tonight. And that disappoints me because, as you know, I love the children. They're our future. (And they can be really good at raking leaves, if you get their little arms working at it.)

If I do happen to be home when you're trick-or-treating, however: Kids, no lights on means NO FUCKING CANDY, okay? Here's my blog entry - one of my first, y'all! - from last Halloween, when I actually tried to be friendly to the children. This is what happens when you try to be nice.

You have to wear a costume!

And courtesy of Mis Hooz, here's a Halloween story from Delaware that will warm your heart. Here's another tip for you kids tonight: If there's a body hanging from one of the houses you're trick-or-treating at, you might want to let your parents know. It looks real for a reason, kids.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Waiting on a plumber

While waiting for the plumber to finish his work around the house (Two faucets are leaking, we need a new water heater - oy! And sweet Jesus, it sounds like he's taking apart the entire bathroom up there!), I have some thoughts.

♦ As someone who never has - and more than frankly, never will - run a marathon, I highly recommend reading Susannah's mile-by-mile account of her run in last Sunday's Detroit Free Press/ Flagstar marathon at Pub of Knowledge.

What does running 26 miles feel like? What pumped her up? What discouraged her? What kept her going? Was that Chris Chelios of the Detroit Red Wings running beside her? What was it like to run onto the Ford Field playing surface? How important is Guns N' Roses to a successful marathon run? And how many Kenyans passed her along the way?

♦ Maybe this is a topic more appropriate for the sports closet, Sweaty Men Endeavors, but since you don't get sweaty playing darts, unless you're stinking drunk or the air conditioning's broken at the bar, I think I'm on solid ground here. I was horrified - horrified - to read in last Sunday's New York Times that darts could follow poker's lead and be the next game to find its way to TV. Apparently, darts on TV is already a big hit in England, and ESPN has signed a deal to broadcast a World Series of Darts from an east coast city some time next year.

No #$@%ing way, man. I hate poker on TV - hate it. I hate how ESPN has completely turned its Tuesday night schedule over to poker. I'd rather watch John Kerry read from War and Peace on C-Span. And it has nothing to do with the fact that I don't play poker. Hey, I play darts (very occasionally). The only way I'm interested in watching it on TV is if Bullseye from Daredevil is one of the contestants, and you have just as good a chance of him firing a dart into someone's throat.

♦ Does the new Johnny Cash movie have the coolest movie poster ever or what? I don't hang movie posters on my walls anymore, but this could make me reconsider. That. Is. Sweet. And it looks like a pretty damn good movie too.

♦ Courtesy of Mis Hooz (via brooklynvegan), this could be my new favorite band. What a name. What an album cover.

Dear VH1, please give me my evenings back. Sincerely, Ian. Hell yeah, I've been watching I Love the 80s 3-D all week. I should know better; it's all the same formula now. Yet I still watch every second of it. Actually, I missed 1980 and '81. Surely, I'll be able to see them this weekend. Were the 1980s that culturally dense a decade? Or was there just that much shit to make fun of?

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Bring Your Playbook, Joey

If you're interested (and I certainly hope you are), Mike Valenti and Terry Foster of WXYT's "Sports Inferno" generously posted an essay of mine at their website,

Mike and Terry have asked listeners to submit columns or essays to bring more content to the site and create a unique relationship between the show and its audience. I'm certainly grateful, and I hope it's not the last time something of mine is posted over there.

I know I've been trying to keep sports stuff on my stepblog, but I'm hoping you enjoy the words my fingers typey-type enough to go over and check it out. And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention "Sports Inferno" broadcasts from 10 am to 2 pm on 1270 AM in Detroit (and also streams live over the internet.)

Thanks, guys.

Five hundred, fifty-one thousand years... ?

Look, people - I really, really appreciate your readership. My ego loves it. But I don't want you getting in trouble at work. And according to this article from Advertising Age, many of you are on the verge of doing just that. (Well... only if you get caught, right? HA!)

You need to register to read the article, so unless you'd like to stop by BugMeNot to get a login, I'll just give you an excerpt:

About 35 million workers -- one in four people in the labor force -- visit blogs and on average spend 3.5 hours, or 9%, of the work week engaged with them, according to Advertising Age’s analysis. Time spent in the office on non-work blogs this year will take up the equivalent of 2.3 million jobs. Forget lunch breaks -- blog readers essentially take a daily 40-minute blog break.

40 minutes? Wow. I know my blogs have been getting more long-winded, but c'mon now.

Those 40 minutes a day add up to 551,000 years spent reading blogs in the workplace. 551,000 years? Isn't there a song from Rent about that? Five hundred, fifty-one thousand years? How do you measure, measure all those years?

Ahem. Anyway, it looks like I can do my part to help you guys and make sure you don't get in trouble. For instance, link to more news articles. That way, you're reading The New York Times or Washington Post when your boss or a co-worker walks by. (Here, go read Howard Kurtz's piece on the buzz in Washington over the CIA leak story. You're welcome.)

Or I can blog about your work. Bosses can't get mad if you're reading a work-related blog, right? So leave a comment or e-mail me with suggestions, and I can help cover your ass. For instance, let's say my friend Mis Hooz works for an architect. So tomorrow, I might wonder why so many new buildings (here in the Midwest, anyway) seem to have some sort of s-shaped ornament to them. (Apparently, it's Art Nouveau architecture. Okay Hooz, go back to reading Gawker, and give me some juicy gossip.) Help me help you. Know what I'm sayin'?

Okay, this whole thing took, what, five minutes of your 40-minute blog break? Carry on. But please come back. Remember, my ego loves you.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Snobs and geeks, have at it

Back in 1999, when I worked at Barnes & Noble, staffers and customers were excited over The Modern Library's list of the 100 Best Novels. We posted the lists from Random House in the store, and took votes for our own list. It was pretty fun. In the break room, we'd argue whether The Great Gatsby or Catcher in the Rye was better. We exposed someone who claimed to have read Ulysses. One person even fought - quite seriously - for The Firm by John Grisham.

But one thing about the Modern Library lists kept drawing attention, making people scratch their heads. There was quite a difference between the list chosen by Random House and the one assembled by readers who voted online. Popular tastes were bound to be reflected in the readers' list, but what was so surprising was, well, the geek factor. Go ahead and compare the lists. Look at how many science fiction/ fantasy novels populate the readers' choices. I don't think too many people would raise an objection to The Lord of the Rings being in the top five. Tolkien's a wonderful writer. But how about L. Ron Hubbard? Three of his novels are in the readers' top 10. (Maybe we should be blaming Scientologists.)

You know what was worse? For a long time, before the list became final, and we'd post an update every week, William Shatner's Tek World novels were often in the top 10.

Why am I bringing all this up? Because Time magazine recently published its list of the top 100 novels of all-time. Rather than rank them, however, Time just listed them alphabetically. Smart move. And it's really a great list, reflecting the many diverse tastes of readers. This isn't just a list that professors, grad students, and Lit majors can point to and say "Ah, yes!" And it's not full of "classic," musty, dusty literature either. There are plenty of modern (post-1960s? 1970s?) selections. Science fiction and fantasy novels are on the list. Even a graphic novel (Watchmen) is in there. Snobs and geeks can each rejoice!

Time is also letting readers choose their own top 20. But the choices are limited to books on the top 100 list, so there's no L. Ron Hubbard or William Shatner to cause snickers and embarrassment. However, the geeks are still having their say. Yesterday, Philip K. Dick's Ubik was at the top of the list. And Watchmen was in the top five. But so many more people are online now than in 1999, so maybe tastes are evening out a bit. The readers' list changes from day to day, depending on the votes received. As I write this, The Grapes of Wrath is on top. Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret is in the top five. I can't tell when the voting ends, but it could be interesting to check back each day. If you care about which books are at the top of the list, get in there and vote now.

Time also listed its top 100 movies and top 10 graphic novels (What, they couldn't think of 100? What the hell??).

♦ And this comes from Mis Hooz: If you'd like to breeze a bunch of classic works of literature really, really fast, check out Classics for Illiterates at Camp No Friends.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The mask of Zocor

With Halloween six days away, I just realized that it's probably too late to plan my costume for this year. I suppose I could always go with the old stand-by, and throw together an Ace bandage, trenchcoat, fedora, and sunglasses to be The Invisible Man, but I've done that a couple of times. I also have time to try and grow a mustache, so I could just roll out of bed and be Earl Hickey.

But I might have to explain that one to people, and to me, Halloween costumes are like jokes; if you have to explain them, they're not working.

("See, you expected me to dress up for Halloween, but I didn't. So I'm, like, irony. Get it?")

What procrastination did cost me, however, is the chance to buy a Burger King mask. I could've been The King for only $9, but unfortunately, the mask is all sold out. And I didn't even know it existed. (Credit where it's due: I found out about the mask from this Slate article by Seth Stevenson, who thinks there was an insidious e-mail writing campaign to get him to write about the mask and generate "buzz.") It seemed like a perfectly fine idea, but then again, I really wasn't giving it that much thought.

Too bad, because it could've been fun to stand outside my neighbors' windows and offer them Enormous Omelet Sandwiches. ("I'll feed it to your children!") What's more terrifying, that sandwich or the super-creepy grin on The King's face?

If you really want terrifying, by the way, go to the website where Burger King is selling these masks. Also offered is the Subservient Chicken mask, which must be a joke or ad campaign I completely missed somewhere along the way. If you move your cursor over either The King or Chicken, they will lunge at you and scream. Hmm, is that hunger I'm feeling in my stomach or horror? Look at that thing. man - it's enough to make me eat tofu for the rest of my life.

Maybe I'll pass on the costume this year. For one thing, I don't plan on going to any Halloween parties. And I'm sure as hell not passing out candy to the kids. On second thought, I could scare them off chicken for the rest of their lives...

Friday, October 21, 2005

J'adore Colbert

Okay, I just got the Batman Begins DVD (special edition, y'all!) in the mail from Amazon, so I'm going to be preoccupied with that. My weekend (other than football - predictions at Sweaty Men Endeavors later today) is now spoken for. But I have one thing in the jar I'd like to empty out before I get to that.

One week in, I'm hooked on The Colbert Report. (Actually, I forgot about it on Monday until Raging Red reminded me to watch.) The show is a brilliant skewering of FOX News, with some shots at the other cable news networks folded in, as well. The introductionary sequence, with the soaring eagle zooming all over the screen, and Colbert waving an American flag, could amuse me for months, just by itself. (Will it eventually get old? Maybe. But it'll take a while for me.)

And I love the interviews, especially at the beginning, where Colbert makes the introduction, but rather than let the guest walk out and receive applause, Colbert stands up from his desk and walks over to the interview lounge, soaking up all the attention for himself. Hilarious. Plus, the man got Fareed Zakaria to say "You have balls on your mind tonight."

For that alone, I now consider myself a member of Colbert Nation.

May your fall weekend be laden with cider and donuts.

EDIT: For a really interesting analysis of what works and what doesn't on the show, check out this very perceptive entry at The Tin Foil Hat.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

A comically enjoyable Knight

It caught my eye right away. I had to look at it. A few years ago, I was at a comic book shop and a book called Fear of a Black Marker was waving its arms at me from across the room. The strips inside were hilariously funny, but also thought-provoking and challenging. And the always-aspiring cartoonist within me admired the looseness of the art. This guy just got his thoughts on the page, doing what he had to do to sell the point. I almost read the whole book right there in the store.

From that point on, I've been a huge fan of "The K Chronicles" by Keith Knight and have purchased virtually everything the man has created. (Okay, I haven't gotten the t-shirts and coffee mugs. Not yet, anyway.) His strips are a big reason I'm subscribed to Salon and ESPN the Magazine. And he won my adoration forever when I ordered What a Long Strange Strip It's Been from his site, and he signed it "Ian!! Peace out, my pale brotha!" C'mon, how cool is that? And I was pale at the time! How'd he know that? (Watch those "pasty" cracks, Hooz.)

I once met Keef at the San Diego Comic-Con and in the midst of fawning and slobbering all over him (I took a picture, but it was with one of those stupid disposable cameras and didn't turn out), I begged him, "Please, please, please, Mr. Knight - please come to the Midwest someday!" Keef patted me on the head, said "Maybe someday," and wished groupies would come to his table instead of me.

Well, "someday" finally came last night. Please read more…

Keef has been touring the Midwest (as "the other black cartoonist," who's not Aaron McGruder of "The Boondocks" fame) with a slideshow presentation of his strips, in conjunction with promoting a new project of his, The Beginner's Guide to Community-Based Arts, and Ann Arbor was on the itinerary. Hell yeah, I was there!

The event at the Ann Arbor Public Library was sponsored by 826michigan (an organization I just may have to get involved with soon - brought to you by the same people who gave you 826 Valencia and 826NYC), and provided an entertaining evening of poetry, singing, comics, laughter, and, best of all, discussion. Knight had some fascinating thoughts on the language of cartooning and demonstrated how comics are able to convey information that other art forms - such as film, music, and literature - can't.

I didn't start off the evening very well, however. I'm often uncomfortable meeting people whom I admire. I'll just stand there, nodding with a stupid grin on my face. Or try so hard to act cool that I won't say anything at all. Or I'll try to say way too much in that quick two-to-three-minute window of time and sound like a babbling, blithering idiot. I got to the library early, while Keef was setting up, took a seat, and read through a couple of newsweeklies I'd picked up. Soon after I placed the Metro Times on the chair next to me, I felt someone looking over my shoulder. And that usually bothers me, so I turned around to see what was up. It was Keef, who was intrigued by the cover of the MT's 25th anniversary issue.

(Image ©2005 Metro Times, Inc.)

"Cool," he said. "Is that from Detroit?" OhmyGod, I wasn't ready to talk to him yet! I was keeping cool, thinking of what question I'd ask after the presentation, or what I could say once he signed my book. But hey, there he was. And it was early. Hardly anyone was in the room yet, so maybe I could strike up a conversation. Or not. All I could muster was a feeble "Yeah," as I considered asking him whether or not he wanted my Metro Times (which, unfortunately, doesn't run his strip). Idiot.

After the show, however, I squeezed a few bucks from what remains of my college loan, bought two new books, and strung a few coherent sentences together for Keef. We talked about him finally coming to the Midwest and a few cartooning techniques before I handed him my books to sign. When he asked who to make them out to, I showed him my signed copy of The Passion of the Keef (I know - geek!) and said my name. He took one look at his signature and drawing (of a hand holding a black marker triumphantly), and said "Ian? Casselberry, right?"

Have you ever heard those old tapes of the Beatles' appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show? Ed said, "Ladies and gentleman, the Beatles!" and this explosion of screaming came from all the girls in the audience. That's similar to the noise I made when Keith Knight said "Casselberry, right?" "What?" I said. "Yeah! You remember me... ?"

Keef smiled. "Well, there's two Ians on my mailing list. You and Ian Nagy, who's right over there." (I believe Ian Nagy and I went to school together at some point, too.)

Hey, I don't care how he recognized my name. He recognized my name. I shook the man's hand, let the man enjoy his Zingerman's sandwich, and walked back to my car like Fred Astaire. What a cool evening. (And I bet it was way cooler than Adrian Tomine and Chris Ware in Iowa City for the New Yorker College Tour. Figures that would happen after I left Iowa, by the way.) Thanks, Keef.

♦ Here's Keith's account of the show, courtesy of his blog. (If I'd brought him a sandwich, I wonder if he would've mentioned me?)

♦ Also in the audience last night was another fantastic cartoonist, Phoebe Gloeckner, whom I did not know is now teaching at the University of Michigan. (Here's her blog, too.)

♦ The introduction to The Passion of the Keef is written by God. Don't believe me? Check out its listing on

♦ If you're interested (and I hope you are), Keef's other single-panel, non-autographical strip, "(th)ink," can be found, along with "The K Chronicles," at, among many other places.

(Images from "The K Chronicles" ©2005 Keith Knight)

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

In the year 2000... !

One of my favorite movies from the last five years was Minority Report. For one thing, I enjoyed the twist on the "whodunit" type of story that puts the main character in the position of figuring out how he's going to kill someone in the near future. (Okay, it gets a little hinky toward the end, with certain events occurring because the story needs them to, plausibility be damned.) But what really struck me as cool was the futuristic vision of the movie, full of gadgets and innovations that seemed like they had a chance of seeing reality in our lifetime.

We probably won't get to see cars driving horizontally on magnetic tracks any time soon. And I hope we never get personal advertising fed to us. But there was something else in the movie that we could see within the next 10 years. If you saw the movie, do you remember the scene on a subway where a passenger is reading a newspaper that suddenly changes headlines to indicate breaking news? I don't know about you, but I wanted one of those.

Over the past week, Frank Ahrens of the Washington Post has been writing about the future of newspapers. Circulation is shrinking, advertising has hit a plateau, and newsprint is getting really expensive. So what can newspapers do to stay alive, besides lay off employees or just run internet versions of their publications? The Wall Street Journal is reducing the size of its print editions. The New York Times is using lighter newsprint.

What else can be done? How about that newspaper from Minority Report? In another piece he wrote, Ahrens interviewed Russ Wilcox, chief executive of E Ink Corp, which is working on a "paperless" newspaper. Big newspaper conglomerates such as Gannett Co. and Hearst Communications have already invested in the project. Here's an explanation:

His business creates paper-thin video screens that, in simplest terms, are filled with tiny black and white chips. When an electrical current with data is sent through the screen, the chips become charged and arrange themselves into a pattern of black type on a white background. When readers want to flip to the next page, the particles scramble and rearrange.

You could fold it up and stick it under your arm. Or roll it up and put it in your bag. And once the technology become streamlined, color, sound, and video could eventually be added to the package.

Sweet. Now I have some ammunition for anyone who asks me why I bother buying a newspaper when I could just read it online. Why? Because I like taking newspapers with me, to coffee shops, on the bus, and, of course, to the bathroom. I like being able to pull a newspaper out and read it whenever I want. Wireless technology shot down my "I can't bring my computer to the coffee shop" argument. Maybe it neutralized the bathroom argument too, but I just can't cross that line yet. I'm not going to bring my laptop with me to the toilet. (Have I considered it? Of course I have.)

But this, this could change everything for me. And I wouldn't get that newsprint all over my fingers.

♦ Ahrens and Wilcox also had a chat at last week. Here's the link, if you're interested in checking it out.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Honey, guess what I read in the paper?

Today's Washington Post had an interesting article by Anthony Faiola about a growing phenomenon in Japan called Retired Husband Syndrome (or RHS). Older Japanese women who found themselves in subservient marriages at least had some relief from their indentured servitude when their husbands went to work. But now, those husbands are retiring, spending all day around the house, and expecting the same level of attention from their wives all day long. As you might expect, those women - who probably weren't all that happy to begin with - are becoming completely miserable under these conditions.

Here's an excerpt quoting 63-year-old Sakura Terakawa, the focus of the Post article:

"'This is it,' I remember thinking. 'I am going to have to divorce him now,' " Terakawa recalled. "It was bad enough that I had to wait on him when he came home from work. But having him around the house all the time was more than I could possibly bear."

The stress Terakawa felt from the situation manifested itself through stomach ulcers, slurred speech, rashes, and polyps in her throat. Why does she stay with her husband? The financial prospects for a 63-year-old divorcee who's spent her life being a housewife hardly look promising. One wonders how Terakawa's children feel about the situation.

I don't want to joke about this too much, because it's a sad set of circumstances. But as I finished the article, one thought came to mind: Let's say you're Sakura Terakawa's husband, and you're reading the newspaper over breakfast this morning. What happens if/ when you stumble upon this story? How's that morning coffee tasting? How sour did that grapefruit turn? Did you choke on your cereal?

Yikes. You thought the marriage was tense before...

Friday, October 14, 2005

A little less polish, a lot more edge?

So is our long international nightmare over? After all the rumors involving every good-looking actor with a British/Australian accent, do we finally have a new James Bond? Fried Rice Thoughts and Mis Hooz favorite Clive Owen? No, he shot it down. Ewan McGregor? Nope. Eric Bana. 'Fraid not. Hugh Jackman? No way - he's Wolverine, okay?! Hey, how about Pierce Brosnan again? No chance. Rowan Atkinson? Just kidding.

It looks like Daniel Craig is going to be the man with the license to kill.* He'll want his martini shaken, not stirred. He'll be the man sexually harassing flirting with Miss Moneypenny. Okay, stop me now. All of these cliches are part of the reason the James Bond flicks seem kind of stale. I think I've seen two out of the last five Bond movies.

So why care? As Mis Hooz and I were discussing the other night, why the interest in a character and movie franchise we barely pay attention to anymore? After thinking about it, I think this is why: I want to pay attention. James Bond is a cool character. (And I feel that way, despite being raised on the rather dandy Roger Moore as Bond.) Men want to be him, and women want to be with him - remember that? Wouldn't it be great if the next Bond movie was as good as either of the Jason Bourne flicks?

Anyway, we here at Fried Rice Thoughts like the choice. (Slate's David Edelstein does, too. Here are his thoughts on the matter.) Daniel Craig has seemingly been in every other movie I've rented from Netflix over the past two months, including the outstanding Layer Cake. (Enduring Love was also quite brilliant, as the Brits might say.) Maybe he's not as classically handsome as his predecessors, but he's a very good actor. And he looks like he might eat you to save his own life, which could give Bond an edge he probably needs. A little less polish, a lot more edge? That's a Bond flick I'd go see.

* EDIT (2 pm): According to the Associated Press (via the Washington Post), it's official.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

I saw it. I want it.

It was at the top of the escalator at Barnes & Noble. When I saw it, I gripped the rail for balance, to prevent myself from stumbling backwards and rolling down the stairs. I tried not to look directly at it, because it was so beautiful. But I couldn't resist. I was almost in tears. The siren call was too seductive. I wanted it too much.

I was looking at The Complete Calvin and Hobbes.

Three hardcover-bound editions, collecting every single piece of the best comic strip we've ever had the pleasure to read. A display copy was open at the top of the rack, allowing customers to take a look. And time stopped for me. I don't know if I had anything else to do yesterday, but if I did, I forgot about it.

Has it really been 10 years since Bill Watterson ended "Calvin and Hobbes'" magnificent run? At that point, I wondered if I'd ever read the comics page regularly again. It certainly wouldn't look the same. Nothing else would compare. And nothing else does. I've found other comic strips that I love and read every day. Some of them might even be funnier on a daily basis. But "Calvin and Hobbes" didn't just make you laugh. It made you think. And once in a while, it was truly poignant. Watterson's artistry and imagination will never be matched. On Sundays, it was like the comics page could barely contain the strip.

I picked up the slipcase and held it. I probably even hugged it. But I didn't buy it. Not yet. The collection comes with a pretty hefty price tag. That's not to say it isn't worth the cost, because it is. I'll buy it someday. Someday very soon. I will have it. Oh, will I have it.

♦ Here's an interview with the talented Mr. Watterson at the Andrews McMeel website. Fans got to send in questions for the reclusive Watterson to answer.

♦ Neely Tucker wrote a terrific retrospective of "Calvin and Hobbes" in last week's Washington Post.

♦ And here's another tribute from Gregory Favre of the Poynter Institute.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Antiques - the new puppy?

On occasion, I've considered asking my friend Mike if he'd loan me his kid for an afternoon while I go grocery shopping or walk around town. Just strap him to my chest in one of those "Bundle 'o Joy" harnesses or feed him mushy peas-and-carrots at a bar or coffee shop, and wait for the magic to happen.

A puppy would work well too, I suppose, but I don't currently have any friends with puppies, cute or otherwise. (Well, there's a family friend with a shitzu I could "borrow," but I can't do it. Can't ask her for a favor. Besides, she'd give me an exact minute-by-minute schedule of what to do with the dog and this dude could just not abide.)

But a new possibility presented itself to me during my little sister's recent visit. I might have to run a few more trials, with the appropriate number of samples and control groups, before I can present you with definitive information. But based on what happened a few weeks ago, I could be onto something.

After visiting Treasure Mart in Ann Arbor's Kerrytown, Mama Cass was determined to bring Lil' Sis there to find some little item that'd make her brand-spankin'-new condo just perfect. (And when I say determined, I mean bringing-it-up-every-two-bites-during-lunch determined. "How's your turkey sandwich? You're gonna love this place!" "Are you almost done? I hope you find something there. I saw something, but I know how picky you are, and I didn't want to buy it without you seeing it, and I didn't want us to fight this week..." Ma - let the poor girl finish her #18. Geez.) So when my sister visited a couple of weeks ago, we hit the Farmers Market and Zingerman's, and then it was off to Treasure Mart.

I thought Lil' Sis would humor Mom by looking around and acknowledging that a few items would look good at her place, but ultimately not buy anything. Sis likes to travel light. (Actually, she only says that. It's not true. I have the back strain to prove it.) Rather than look at tchotchkes, tea and kitchen sets, and cabinets, I stayed outside, browsed through books, and tried to remember whether or not I already owned Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea because I found a copy for 50 cents.

Much to my surprise, Lil' Sis found something she - not just Mom - wanted: an antique wood basket, perfect for keeping magazines and newspapers in, and the color matched her furniture. (Sis said that stuff, not me.) Everyone was happy; Mama Cass pointed out something, Lil' Sis liked and bought it, and I didn't have to participate in the process at all.

I had to carry the basket back to the car, however, and that's when the new possibility revealed itself to me. During the three-block walk, several women looked at me and smiled as I passed by them. Was that because I was carrying the basket in full "Chim Chim Cheree," Mary Poppins style? Well, that's a perfectly valid question, but no. It was too early to be that light on my feet. Were they amused by a big, strapping, dashing, and - don't forget - macho young man such as myself carrying an antique basket? I suppose. Was my fly open? No, I always check for that.

One pair of women even stopped me and asked if they could look at the basket. "Ooooh, look at that!" said one. "That's really nice." "Wow, I'm jealous," said the other. "I could use one of those." (I assume she was talking about the basket, not me.) Mama Cass and Lil' Sis maintained their distance, trying hard not to laugh. But I'd like to think they were giving me some quality time with the ladies.

After I signed their breasts with my Sharpie and posed for pictures we exchanged "enjoy the rest of your day" pleasantries, Lil' Sis came up to me with a huge, make-fun-of-my-brother grin and asked if I wanted to keep the basket so I could take it for a walk on weekends. (Who said she didn't have a sense of humor? Well, my mother did. That was kind of mean, Ma.) No, no, the basket would look much better in her living room than on my arm. But a seed has been planted. I might be making a return trip to the antique store very, very soon.

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

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

No longer young?

And all this time, I thought I was fooling everyone. My baby face still gets me carded at liquor stores and bars. I still generally dress like a college student. Hell, I just finished going back to college for two years. And I blended in quite well (except for the occasions when I'd speak with a little too much authority about the original Star Wars trilogy or 80's music like Duran Duran). Many people think I'm younger than I really am a few people think I'm the younger sibling in my family.

My apparent maturity level might have something to do with that. For instance, if you come over to my place, you might see comic books next to the books and magazines on my desk or coffee table. And if I didn't spend so much time blogging and surfing the internet, I'd probably be playing video games. (Here's a funny piece on that topic from Slate.)

But now, it appears that one of my favorite pastimes may be giving away my true age. According to this New York Times article by Sharon Waxman, a recent study of 2,000 moviegoers found that men under 25 years of age are going to fewer movies. 24% fewer movies this past summer than they did two years ago, to be exact.

I understand why the under-25 demographic might be making Hollywood raise its eyebrows. Most of the choices at the multiplex these days are geared toward younger people, especially during the summer. The adults generally get their choices in the fall and winter, and at the indie art film theaters. But most weekends, after looking at the movie listings, you're probably wondering what you can pick up from Blockbuster or Netflix instead.

But I think it's a mistake to only point at the younger demographic and see the problem. Sure, Hollywood can cry, "Oh, the kids are playing video games and surfing the internet!" and spend resources trying to pull them away from those pursuits and shuffle them into movie theaters. They misguidedly make terrible movies based on those video games. Even worse, they try to make movies based on internet culture. (Neither teens nor adults want to see those.)

The big problem is that Hollywood just isn't making very good movies right now. As much as I'd love to, I can't speak for the younger demographic, but I think even they can see that. See, I like going to movies. A lot. But this past summer, I didn't go to very many. I just wasn't as interested. When I did go, I was subjected to swill like Fantastic Four and Bewitched. My friend Matt and I had a conversation about this a couple of months ago, and he said the same thing. I might be working with short-term memory here, but up until August, I think the only movies I enjoyed at the theater were Batman Begins (see above about my maturity level) and March of the Penguins.

(Okay, there are plenty of other problems like people talking in the theaters, commercials playing before the shows, and inflated ticket and concession prices. But that's probably for another blog entry.)

But it's getting better again, as the weather cools down. The Constant Gardener was very good. And I loved A History of Violence (and that'll probably be a blog entry later in the week). Did the under-25 crowd go to those movies? Probably not, but I don't want to generalize. But I'm going back. There are several films I want to see right now. And plenty more I want to see when they're released here. (And they all have official web sites! Don't we love the internet?) I can't stay away. I clearly must be older than 25.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Iowa City = Crazy Town?

Vandalized football fields? Pink locker rooms?

Dusty Rose? Innocence?

Sweaty Men Endeavors tries to make sense of it all.

None of this $#!+ was going on while I lived in Iowa City. And yes, I'm envious!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

An itch that needed scratching

Something was bothering me last night, while watching TV.

No, not the fact that I followed the advice of a couple of friends and spent another hour of my life watching America's Next Top Model on UPN.

Here's how I'm justifying it: 1) I'm just trying to enjoy what I didn't have, while I have the time to do it. I went two years without a UPN affiliate in Iowa City. 2) One of the contestants is a local girl, which is something that often manages to intrigue me. No, her looks have nothing to do with that.

By the way, I'm not sure I've ever wished for someone to get beheaded so strongly in my life. And that's a side of myself I wasn't necessarily comfortable spending the evening with.

But that's not what was bothering me. Let me get back on track here. How many times have you not realized something was wrong until someone took the time to point it out to you?

Something about the new Sprint ads hasn't been right, but I couldn't quite figure out what that was. The new logo? No, I kind of like that. How about the cornea-scorching yellow that they've chosen as their primary color? Well, yes, that's ugly, but I can live with yellow. My two favorite college football teams use it in their color schemes. Hell, I think that one commercial - with the two guys at a nuclear power plant arguing over the rules of the sandwich world, and whether the initials in "BLT" suitably explain everything, while a reactor meltdown is in progress - is pretty funny.

Only after reading this article by Paul Farhi of the Washington Post did I realize what the problem was.

The Trench Coat Guy is gone. Another casualty of big corporate mergings and the constant need for these companies to redefine themselves and their images to a short-attention-spanned public. I liked that guy. All those ads where people misunderstood each other over their cell phones ("She floured the kids!") because of static were funny. And he wasn't nearly as annoying as the "Can you hear me now?" dude. (Yet I switched from Sprint to Verizon last year. Oh, that's right, actual service is more important than advertising campaigns!)

Now, he's on the pop culture scrap heap. This isn't upsetting me nearly as much as the Taco Bell Chihuahua being retired (Hmm, I think I do quiero some Taco Bell for lunch...) - man, I loved that lil' #$@%er. But it's yet another reminder of how slow I can be to adjust to our disposable and quick-to-change world. I'll contemplate that while listening to my Def Leppard cassette tape on my Walkman.

(Photo by Lois Raimondo/ The Washington Post)

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

It's a bird, it's a plane... it's a MORON!

Okay, I think this has officially gone too far. Somebody's only going to get hurt from here on out. It was cute when Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin named their baby "Apple." I made many jokes to my friends about naming my future baby "Kiwi." I rolled my eyes when Rachel Griffiths named her kid "Banjo." I couldn't think of an instrument I'd name my kid after, though "Piccolo" briefly made me wonder. "Saxophone" might work, if only because he could be nicknamed "Sax."

But Nicolas Cage has taken this self-centered exercise to near-child abuse extremes. If you haven't already heard (and I found this at, Cage and his wife, Alice, have named their kid Kal-El. Kal-El Coppola Cage.

"Oh, that's an interesting name," some of you might say. Well, that's one word for it. But see, it's not, like, a French name. Yet it sounds familiar to you, right? Except if you're not a geek, maybe this isn't completely ringing a bell. But if you are a geek, and Nicolas Cage clearly is, you know exactly what has been done here.

Cage has named his kid after Superman.

But it's worse than that. This kid's name isn't Clark Kent Cage. But hey, anyone can do that. No, Cage took his apparent love of Superman even further than that. He took it old school. He went back to Superman's roots. He went back to the #$@%ing planet Krypton to name his kid.

Clearly, Cage has never gotten over almost playing Superman in a movie. Did you know this? Back in 1997, Tim Burton was going to direct a new Superman movie. His choice to play the Man of Steel? Nicolas Cage. But the project fell through, something for which we should probably all thank a higher power. (I would've loved to see Cage try to pull off that spit-curl, though.) Now, his pain has been passed onto his poor son. If this was an episode of ER, Dr. Greene would've called upstairs for a psych consultation.

You know, as I've been writing this, I've tried to think of a worse comic book-related name Cage could've given his kid. But I don't think there is one. Peter Parker Cage might have drawn a chuckle or two, but at least it can be passed off as normal. And the full name would probably never be called by a teacher at school. Bruce Wayne Cage? Again, a little strange. But at the end of the day, the kid's name is still Bruce. It could be worse. Like being given the name of an alien from the planet Krypton.

I guess the kid should be grateful Cage isn't a Star Trek fan. If so, maybe he'd now have a Klingon name. Or what if he was a Star Wars geek? Would the world now have Obi-Wan Cage or Chewbacca Cage? Shivering at the thought just made me spill my morning coffee.

(And hey, it's not just celebrities that are doing this to their offspring. Remember the doofus - actually, I think there are several - who named his kid "ESPN"?)

Maybe I'm being too hard on Cage. Maybe he plans on mostly calling his kid "Kal." That wouldn't be too bad. And maybe Cage will be a good dad, the kind of guy who might talk to young Kal-El's teachers before the first day of school. Even better, maybe Cage will pass out DVDs of Face/Off or Con Air to Kal-El's classmates as a warning.

You see how I killed the guy in that movie? That'll be you if you make fun of my kid.

Or maybe Cage will try something more passive, like sabotaging a bully's mind by making him watch Guarding Tess.

But what if Cage has more noble goals in mind? What if this is his attempt to give his kid something to shoot for, something to aspire to?

I believe in you, boy. That's why I named you after Superman. But I didn't give you Superman's earth name. Because I think you should aim for the stars. Don't hide your abilities, like Clark Kent did. You can be Superman, kid. I already made Mom sew you a cape. And it fits. It's cool. I made her sew me one too. And I wear it! Because I should've gotten to wear it in 1998. Did you know I almost got to play Superman? But those sons of bitches at Warner Bros. pulled the plug. I was almost Superman! I could've been--! Anyway, I'm getting off on a tangent, Kal. You're a special kid. That's why I gave you a special name.

Holy $#!+, I'm tearing up here. I hope this is what you have in mind, Nicolas Cage. If so, you might be a great father. For now, however, you look like a total moron. A weirdo. The Man of Surreal. You have time to fix this, Nicolas Cage. Do the right thing. Do what Superman would do. Stand up for truth, justice, and the American way.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Lighten up, Francis

Whenever Lil' Sis is in town (or I visit her), she likes to see movies. She knows I love 'em, and for whatever reason, she rarely goes with her friends. And unlike her big broham, she won't go to the theater by herself. So when she wants to see a movie, and I'm around, we're going to the cinema.

Lil' Sis had wanted to see Just Like Heaven ever since we saw the trailer before Wedding Crashers, so we saw Just Like Heaven. She loves the romantic comedies. And I can always say, "Hey, it was my sister's idea." Even if I like it more than I might be willing to admit. Plus, it's not like I don't get some female eye candy out of the deal. Hellooooo, Reese Witherspoon.

And hey, I liked it. (Oh, here's an e-mail just in from Lil' Sis: "Shut up! You loved it!") It was a cute movie, with two appealing stars who you want to see get together at the end of the story. I'll even give it credit for initially avoiding a typical Hollywood ending. But though the filmmakers seemed to have something different in mind, they eventually gave in to the inevitable. You can almost see the exact point where someone must have said, "Look, we're already over 90 minutes long on this. Just get them together, okay?" (Oops, should I have put a "Spoiler Alert!" in there?)

But that's all I thought of it. There was nothing deep about the film, nothing worth exploring underneath the surface. It was a nice 90-minute diversion. Hell, the funniest line of the afternoon wasn't in the movie; it was spoken by my sister, once Mark Ruffalo's character was introduced. Lil' Sis turned to Mama Cass and said, "Mom, did you know your son has a man-crush on that guy?" Ha ha ha! Oh, my little sister is so funny! So charming. So... pfft. I hope those Milk Duds make your teeth stick together.

(For the record, I simply admire the man's work. He's a good actor and is in one of my all-time favorite movies. I will acknowledge, however, that Ruffalo can come off - as my buddy Pete said last week - as "vaguely retarded" in some of his roles.)

Never once did I think Just Like Heaven had a hidden political subtext. Despite the plot, I never thought it might be commenting on the Terri Schiavo case, as A.O. Scott asserted in last week's New York Times. Look, I love it when anyone is willing to roll up their sleeves and get elbow-deep in the interpretation of a film, book, or song. Most of the time, I don't fully enjoy a movie unless I get to talk it to death with someone at a bar or coffee shop afterwards. But this was a candy bar. If you're hungry, it fills you up temporarily. And you like the taste of chocolate, peanuts, and caramel. But eventually, you'll probably want a real meal, one that's good for you. Trying to make a steak dinner out of a candy bar just makes you like that guy on Seinfeld who ate Snickers bars with a knife and fork.

♦ Susan Wloszczyna of USA Today takes the presumed Schiavo subtext really seriously.

♦ David Poland thinks A.O. Scott needs to lay off the ganja at The Hot Blog. (And provides other examples of making candy bars into full meals.)

Monday, October 03, 2005

It's a thin line

There was a funny Op-Ed piece in today's New York Times, courtesy of Rick Moranis. Well, I think it was funny. It might just be that I was so excited to be able to read a NY Times Op-Ed piece without having to pay for it. (Uniongrrl has been providing a generous public service at Cyphering most days by posting several columns since "TimesSelect" went into effect.)

Moranis' column responds to President Bush's recent plea to the American people for "being better conservers," to conserve gas by avoiding "non-essential driving" as prices continue to rise. But what exactly constitutes "non-essential" driving? Where should the line be drawn? Here's one way Moranis is handling the quandary:

"Dear Micki and Stan,

I've decided that we will not be coming to Shelley's wedding in December. (By the way, congratulations again on this wonderful event in your lives. You should be very proud and happy with how terrifically things have turned out.) Unfortunately for us, a wedding in Westport would require non-essential driving and I must honor President Bush's wishes to limit the amount of energy I consume in order to do my part during these difficult and challenging times for our country."

Hey, that's pretty noble. And clever! I hadn't even considered something like that. Now I'm inspired. This could be a great way to get out of attending Thanksgiving dinner. "Dear Aunt Lesslee, as much as I want to completely stuff my face, distend my belly, and engage in awkward, obligatory conversation, the right thing to do as a good American this year is to pass on driving down to your house."

That's why I'm sitting here blogging, in fact. I'm hungry and would like some lunch, but going to the drive-thru at Wendy's might constitute non-essential driving, especially with all that car idling. Or is it essential because I need to eat? No, I can fix a bowl of soup here. And hey, my stove is electric, so I'll still be conserving gas! Or maybe I should just make a sandwich. There's a lot to think about. My forehead's beginning to ache. It hurts even more when I consider another question Moranis raised:

"One thing puzzles me the most. Why has no one come out against auto racing? Every weekend in this county, millions of people get in their silly souped-up cars and drive to huge stadiums to watch other people drive around in circles at ridiculously high speeds. There's no way those race cars are fuel-efficient."

Man, great point. Of course, I don't give two $#!+s about auto racing. I try to watch more sports that better conserve fuel like football. Or even better, baseball.

Thank you, Mr. Moranis. I'm always grateful whenever someone gives me something to think about. You were already cool in my book, because you were Dark Helmet. (And, of course, Doug McKenzie. But I have to be honest; my memory's getting a little fuzzy on that. It's been a long time.) Take care, eh?