Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Getting fuzzy?

So I'm thinking of growing a beard.

I can hear most, if not all, of my female readers and friends screaming "NO, NO! PLEASE GOD, NO! ARE YOU A MORON?"

And a hefty percentage of my male readers and friends are probably wondering whether I actually want women to find me attractive. Otherwise, how would I meet one, exchange "me toos," play doctor, and eventually give the world more Casselberrys?

Lil' Sis thinks I'm insane. Mama Cass wonders if she'll have to introduce the potentially hirsute caveman she once spawned as "her son."

But I go through this nearly every winter. First of all, the weather gets colder. And this face could use the protection. Those elements are tough on my supple, pinchable cheeks. Maybe (HA!) I've gone through a dating drying spell, which makes me question my manhood. And what better way to gauge testosterone production than to see how much hair you can grow?

This isn't a final decision. A few things are giving me pause. One is itching. I know I won't be able to stand it. And if any chin hair somehow gets stuck in a sweatshirt or coat zipper, I'll go berserk. I also think I'll look like an idiot. How do I know? Well, I ran an image with various calculations and scenarios into the IDC-3000, and this is what came out:

To beard or not to beard; that is the question.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Come out to plaaa-ay...

Don't you love it when you see an article that addresses something you'd been wondering about? I got that feeling when I saw Allen Barra's piece in yesterday's Salon about the cult popularity of The Warriors, which is being fed by a special edition DVD release and a video game based on the movie.

A video game based on a late-70's cult movie? Is there really an audience for such a thing? Obviously, the Rockstar Games guys think so.

I didn't realize The Warriors had such a following. I recall watching the movie a few times when I was a kid, after we got cable. But I can barely remember what the movie was about. I remember the "Warriors, come out to plaaaay-ay" taunt, which I may have imitated while playing with my friends, along with "Caaan yooou dig iiiit?" But that's about it.

(Image from The Warriors Movie Site)

I like the cultural precedent this could set, though. In ten years, who knows what people will look back on and remember lovingly? (I'm sure VH1 will give us a few ideas. They're probably already working on that show.) But if we're talking about special edition DVDs and video games, I'm putting in a request right now.

Road House.

You read that right. Where's the "director's cut" DVD for that one? Who's working on the video game? Rockstar Games, are you on it?

The slogan is already there: "Pain don't hurt." Or maybe "Don't eat the white mint" would be better.

I want to be Dalton, to beat the $#!+ out of a bar full of guys, and "take the biggest guy in the world, shatter his knee and he'll drop like a stone." Tell me that video game wouldn't be #@%ing. Sweet.

Allen Barra, there's your next writing assignment. Save it for ten years from now. And if you don't want to write it, I will. Salon, you know how to find me. "My way... or the highway."

Monday, November 28, 2005

Thankful for what... ?

There's an episode on the first season of House in which someone finds out his comatose wife's illness was likely contracted through sex with another man. While sitting by her bedside, he confesses that a part of him hopes she doesn't recover because of how she got the disease. The man then asks one of the doctors if this makes him a terrible person.

I was anticipating an awful Thanksgiving holiday. Not just because it was going to be my first Thanksgiving without my father, but because relationships among certain people who were going to be at dinner have become - to be diplomatic - strained. In the weeks and days leading up to the holiday, I just could not imagine this going well. I envisioned plenty of scenarios that ended with me taking a swing at someone with a turkey leg. Leaving dinner early had become an inevitability in my imagination.

But Thanksgiving was actually quite pleasant. There was still some tension over unresolved issues between me and a relative or two. I also couldn't resist arguing with the conservatives in the room. And my mother chose to hide from everyone and wouldn't eat. Overall, however, I thought the evening was nice.

(Though we did get majorly screwed on leftovers. A 20 lb. turkey for seven people, and all we got to take home was a #@$%ing drumstick? I'm making my own turkey this week, man. I want my turkey sandwiches!)

As I drove home, it occurred to me that I had nothing interesting to write about. Thanksgiving had given me nothing. And I was anticipating plenty. I figured I'd be annoyed, if not outright angry, and would vomit my bile all over this blog. But I enjoyed myself. And I was slightly disappointed by that.

Does that make me a terrible person?

(Image from "The Boondocks"
© 2005 Aaron McGruder)

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Movie Week -- Jarhead

Here's one reason I was eager to see Jarhead: The author of the original book, Anthony Swofford, studied at the Iowa Writers Workshop, and I was able to meet him when he returned to Iowa City for a reading last year. Even though we all say it's about literature and the work, there's a healthy amount of envy swirling around when someone gets his or her book made into a movie.

To Swofford's credit, he talked more about the book and the writing process, and resisted opportunities to name-drop (unlike me in that first paragraph). And no one asked him how it felt to have Jake Gyllenhaal play him in a movie. So he must be a better man than me. Because if Jake was playing me in a movie, I'm sure it'd come up in conversation. Frequently. Especially to the ladies sitting in the front row at one of my readings. Or at the bar afterwards.

"Why yes, my ass looks just like Jake Gyllenhaal's. Hey, I have a Santa hat in my car! Wanna go back to my place?"

Okay, I think it's only fair to give those who know me a minute to collect themselves while they try to get the visual of me naked with only a Santa hat covering up my nethers out of their minds.

(Image from A Socialite's Life)

Ready? Where was I? Before my ass, I mean.

By the way, in case you're thinking I Googled "Jake Gyllenhaal," "naked," and "ass" to find that image, it actually comes from Fried Rice Thoughts' New York Bureau Chief, Mis Hooz. Painstaking research on that task. She really busted a hump, and earned every penny of her paycheck. Thanks, Hoozie.

Hello? Mis Hooz? Still with us? Are you going to read the rest of this post? I'm still writing here.

Okay, she's off to get a bootleg of the movie from some dude near her subway stop on the way home.

Ian! What about the movie?

Here's one reason I wasn't eager to see Jarhead: I fear Sam Mendes is an overrated director. In fairness, I only have two films to go on, which isn't a large sample size. But I would argue (and have in the past, though not on this blog) that American Beauty largely owed its quality to Alan Ball's writing. (I think Six Feet Under supports that theory.) And with Road to Perdition, Mendes took a movie about mobsters, rolled with the theme of fathers and sons, and tried to aspire to something higher, which resulted in a surprisingly boring (though nice-looking) film. Gun violence has rarely been so elegant.

So I was worried that Mendes would take many of Swofford's vivid descriptions of desert landscapes and make a movie that looked beautiful on screen, yet somehow made soldiers and warfare seem dull. But maybe I'm just jealous that he's married to Kate Winslet, and I'm not.

Fortunately, he didn't make a boring film. I actually thought Jarhead was much better than the critics have been saying. It's disturbing, provocative, and funny - much like Swofford's book. He also somehow takes seemingly every cliche from war movies (dickhead drill sargeants, guys who love war a little too much, soldiers going crazy) and manages to create more of a tribute to those films than an imitation.

I will say, however, that the story feels a little aimless. There's not much of a narrative. But that's the spirit of the book. These guys were trained to become elite killing machines and were pumped up with the idea that they'd shoot holes into hundreds of Iraqi soldiers and become American heroes, only to get shipped out to the desert and... wait. And never get to confront the enemy they were conditioned to destroy. What do you do with all that free time and all that aggressive energy screaming to be released?

Not exactly the stuff of beginning-middle-end. Or Act I-Act II- Act III. And that works just fine in a book - especially a memoir. Not so sure it works in a movie, though. But Mendes gave it his best try. So I'll take back that "overrated" crack. Yes, I said "crack." Go ahead and scroll back up to the Jake picture. Geez. And here I was, about to write another 500 words on translating a book to a movie...

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Glad to wake up

Do we have any amateur (or professional) psychoanalysts or dream interpreters in the house? These have been my last two dreams, both of which have been quite vivid:

1) All of the plumbing in my house clogged up. Pipes exploded in the living room and kitchen. I had handfuls of muck (which contained stuff I'd rather not mention). As the dream ended and I woke up, I was knee deep in stinky black water.

2) I tried to organize an elaborate heist of money from a bookstore I worked in. Yet the bookstore the dream took place in was one I'd never seen or worked in before. Everything was set to go. The money went out the door. But at the end of the dream, I was called into an office and when I opened the door, police were waiting for me.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Movie Week -- The Squid and the Whale

For those of you who have your own blogs, or write in other forms, such as essays, short stories or novels, how many times have you been in a situation, and then been asked if you were going to write about it? Or been told that you should write about it? (And do you find that as annoying as I do?)

I'm sure Noah Baumbach didn't hear those questions from his parents as they were going through a divorce, but I thought about that often while watching The Squid and the Whale. How long was this movie in his head? Did he know he was going to write or make a film about this ordeal as it was happening? Maybe he was taking notes the whole time.

For any child of divorce (or anyone who's gone through a divorce), I imagine you'll find a lot to relate to - and maybe painfully so. My parents never split (though once came close), and there were a couple of scenes that rang extremely true. But that makes this film sound rather depressing, and it really isn't.

Maybe it's laughing to prevent from crying, but there's so much humor that is mined from these situations. The parents' negotiations over who gets the kids on which day and whose stuff belongs to whom. The kids' comparing new homes to old homes. Deciding whose side to take. Discovering details that children probably shouldn't learn about their parents - at least not until much later in life. And maybe that's what this film is really about: finding out that your parents are actually people with flaws and weaknesses, not just archetypes and role models.

That premise is embodied in Jeff Daniels' character, a supremely pretentious, arrogant writing instructor - he refers to Kafka as one of his colleagues, and to Tale of Two Cities as "minor Dickens" - whose literary fame has long since passed, yet still feels he's entitled to adoration from the people in his life. The only one who idolizes him anymore is his older son, who's trying that pretentiousness - to sound smart, he says The Metamorphosis is "Kafka-esque" - on for himself. Yet Laura Linney's (a Fried Rice Thoughts favorite - love her) character isn't blameless, either. She's a bit too honest with her children about the various affairs she's had, including one with William Baldwin (who is still working, if you were ever wondering).

One sidenote: There's a very Wes Anderson ("Anderson-esque"?) tone to the movie, so if you're a fan of his work, you'll probably enjoy this film. It fits into that world very well, with that same sort of painful humor, the same types of deplorable, yet charming characters, and a similar exploration of the relationships between children and their parental figures. (Maybe that shouldn't be a surprise, since Anderson is a producer on the film.)

As I write this, I find myself envying Baumbach for making this movie and working through his memories, and the issues that surely come with them. I imagine it was extremely therapeutic. And I'm kind of inspired by that. I should probably warn my family right now: I'm bringing a notebook to Thanksgiving dinner. And if you feel the need to suggest what might make a good story, don't worry - I'm probably already ahead of you.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Movie Week -- Good Night, and Good Luck

Good Night, and Good Luck comes at an interesting time. It's been quite a year for journalism. Many reporters found their courage while covering the Hurricane Katrina aftermath. The White House press corps is showing more teeth toward the Bush administration. And then there's the Judith Miller story.

Of course, this movie was made before those developments took place. Yet the beginning and end of the story, in which Edward R. Murrow scolds his industry while accepting an award, seems particularly resonant, given the current culture. And that was surely the point.

Is the movie heavy-handed with that point? Actually, no - not nearly as much as it could've been. But are there really two sides to tell in this story? (Ann Coulter says yes, if you care to read or listen. I don't.) The journalists who saw something wrong and stood up against it, despite opposition from political and corporate factions, are the story.

I also thought it was an interesting coincidence that the story is set in motion by reading a report in a newspaper, which was also the case in Capote. It must be the ol' journalism major in me.

The culture of CBS News in the mid-1950's is also a major factor in the movie. Murrow's "serious work" wasn't bringing in money, so to appease his bosses, he had to conduct fluff interviews with celebrities like Liberace. It's in these scenes that David Strathairn might do his best acting. These reporters and producers worked hard, with virtually no support, living and dying with these stories. (And they smoked like chimneys. No wonder most of them died from lung cancer.) But I'm not quite sure how necessary a subplot involving Robert Downey, Jr and Patricia Clarkson was. It provided another example of the oppression of expression that was taking place in that environment, which was interesting (especially with those two actors). But it seemed like a digression to the main story.

Ultimately, what impressed me the most about this movie was that George Clooney preferred to tell a story that meant something to him, rather than go make something like "Ocean's 15." Is that a little bit of my old man-crush on Doug Ross popping up? Maybe, but I don't think so.

I'm glad that he didn't try to tell the complete story. He lets you try to fill in the blanks and form your own opinions. And if you want to learn more, the information is out there. But the movie also makes you wonder how much the world has and hasn't changed since the 1950's. And if you're like me, that could either depress or excite you.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Morning amour

In a blatant attempt to get me to renew my long-expired subscription, today's Detroit Free Press ran a story on my future girlfriend (and, if things work out, future wife - keep your fingers crossed, guys!), the Mercury spokeswoman.

I've expressed my infatuation with this woman before, which prompted a few kind readers (including my friend Miko) to tell me who she really was. And if you ask me, I conveyed my admiration much more tastefully than the blanket portrayal of bloggers by the Free Press.

The brand has hired a fresh-faced, down-to-earth spokeswoman, actress Jill Wagner, who seems to appeal to women and men -- judging from the online blogs where men call her "hot," "Definitely HOT!" and "hot, hot, hot."

I didn't even use the word "hot" in my post. I was much more respectful. Although I did call Ms. Wagner a "babe" and admit I was a lonely man, one who watches certain TV commercials very, very closely. Apparently, I didn't drool enough to warrant a mention in the Free Press. They screwed me again!

When I wrote that entry back in June, it was my hope that Fried Rice Thoughts would soon blow up into the huge, synergistic multimedia empire that could bankroll a dinner with the Mercury spokeswoman. My people would call her people, we'd set up a meeting (date), and then just let the inevitable magic happen. Unfortunately, it didn't quite work out that way. I'm not a blog-fueled superstar yet. (Although my mom reads the blog now, which I consider an improvement. Hi, Mom!)

But I think I see what's going on here. I watch movies; I see how a lot of these romances develop. Is it a coincidence that I just happened to see the Free Press at a coffee shop this morning? And I don't even read the Free Press much anymore, but today I did. And what (who) was on the front page?

Jill, you didn't have to go to all the trouble. My e-mail address is posted near the top of the blog. I'm not a difficult guy to get ahold of (unless you're trying to ask me questions about Thanksgiving dinner). But hey, if you wanted to find me through an article in a local paper, it worked. Maybe you like a little bit of mystery. Maybe you like the grand gesture. Maybe you wanted an entertaining story for friends and family. And this could be one.

Who should I ask for when I call the Free Press later today? Or should I just wait for you (or someone representing you) to call me? Again, I'm not difficult to get ahold of (unless you're calling to suggest what sort of wine to bring to Thanksgiving dinner). Especially tonight. I'll probably be watching Smallville, since a trailer for the new Superman flick is supposed to play during the show. Hey, do you like superheroes?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Movie Week -- Capote

During my last semester at Iowa, I took a Nonfiction Writing course that just wasn't scratching my creative itch. Despite that frustration, I enjoyed the class because of the material that was assigned. One of the books we had to study was Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, something I'd always wanted to read.

The term "creative nonfiction" was thrown around a lot in those courses. For anyone who wondered what exactly that entailed, Capote's book provided a perfect example. It wasn't just a report of the Clutter family murders that took place in 1959. Capote told a story, creating some sequences to pull everything together. He got into the heads of his subjects, giving them distinct voices on the page. He painted scenery with his words. You already knew this, but I'll say it anyway: it's an amazing piece of work.

So when I found out a movie was being made (two, actually) about the writing of In Cold Blood while doing research on Capote, I was excited. Philip Seymour Hoffman's playing him? I was thrilled.

To me, one of the more intriguing things about Capote is that it tells a story about a book being written, without being boring. And that's probably because of the title character. Capote was such a personality, which the script and Hoffman detail perfectly. He's flamboyant. And arrogant. The man was a literary rock star, something I'm not sure could happen in our current culture. Of course, that means he's narcissitic. But he's also amazingly perceptive and empathetic (two traits which surely helped his writing). And ultimately, he uses those skills to get what he wants.

How manipulative was Capote? Well, it probably depends how you interpret the information the movie gives you. But the portrayal of Capote isn't a soft one. Toward the end of the story, he's outright hoping for the execution of the killers - Dick Hickock and Perry Smith - because that's the ending he needs for his book. But he also knows what kind of person that makes him. Dealing with that is probably the central conflict of the film, one made more complex due to the relationship Capote has formed with Smith. Yet the story ends with enough questions to compel you (or me, anyway) want to devour any Capote biography available.

And Hoffman isn't the only actor who shines, either. Catherine Keener's Harper Lee (of To Kill a Mockingbird fame) is essentially Capote's conscience, giving him the kind of friend we all need sometimes - someone who's willing to call you out when you're being an asshole. And her own literary success that develops during the story provides a further opportunity to show Capote's self-centeredness. But Clifton Collins, Jr.'s portrayal of Perry Smith might be the most intriguing of the movie. You can see how Capote became so taken with him. How can such a seemingly gentle soul also be a heartless killer? It's an intoxicating question. Yet maybe Capote isn't the only one being manipulative. Collins's performance shows all of those sides, and sometimes within one scene.

It doesn't matter if you read In Cold Blood or not. I actually think it might be better if you didn't. Then, if you're interested, you can go read the book with the backstory in your mind and form your own opinions. But if you did read the book, this movie is something of a behind-the-scenes DVD extra. How often do you get to know the person who wrote the book, and the people behind the characters in the story?

Capote will stay with you as you leave the theater. I think you'll want to talk about it, and learn more about the story. That resonance, that kind of substance, makes this such a good movie.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Fried Rice Movie Week!

Okay, this is something I meant to start yesterday, but things came up. You know how that goes. Besides, isn't Tuesday the new Monday? No? Well, it should be.

Anyway, if you know me or you've been reading Fried Rice Thoughts for a while, you know I love movies. I'd rather see a movie than almost any other leisure activity. If I'm traveling and staying somewhere for a while, I want to know where the movie theaters are. If I visit Mis Hooz in New York, I have more fun with her at the movies than virtually any other quintessential New York activity. I enjoy going to the theater and watching a movie.

But I've been going through a dry spell. For various reasons, I haven't been able to get myself to a theater as much as I used to. Several movies blew through town that I wanted to see, but didn't: The Aristocrats, Junebug, Thumbsucker, Everything Is Illuminated, and Proof, to name a few smaller, "indie" flicks. Serenity was another one. (But I wanted to finish the Firefly DVD set first.) And Elizabethtown - a film I'd been anticipating for months - was in and out of theaters before I could plan an afternoon at the movies. (Maybe that tells me I didn't miss much.)

That was it. I knew something had to change. What had I become? What happened to the man who used to love going to the movies, the man I fell in love with? In an attempt to reunite myself with, er, myself, I've been going to the movies - with a vengeance. And I want to write about 'em.

To whet your (and my) appetite for film talk, here's an excerpt from Stephen Hunter's review of Pride and Prejudice in last Friday's Washington Post. He's the film critic I would love to be.

Is it as good as the superb BBC miniseries of 1995 starring Jennifer Ehle as Lizzy and Colin Firth as Darcy? How the hell would I know? Do you think I watched it? Get serious. Life's way too short for five hours in front of the tube watching ponces and twits flounce and scrape and talk tony Brit. However, many learned people say it is not as good, and that would therefore become my official position.

So welcome to Movie Week! We'll start off with Capote. Tomorrow. (Ahem.)

(Image from "Heart of the City" ©2005 Mark Tatulli/ Dist. by Universal Press Syndicate)

Monday, November 14, 2005

Turning eyes toward Detroit

If you're interested in some national perspective on Kwame Kilpatrick winning last Tuesday's Detroit mayoral election, Paul Clemens wrote an Op-Ed piece on the subject in Sunday's New York Times. (And I got to read it without paying for TimesSelect!)

This is something that the NY Times' Op-Ed page does well: Find someone who knows something on a particular subject, and let him or her write a column about it. Clemens wrote a book titled Made in Detroit: A South of 8 Mile Memoir, an account of how much Detroit (and he) changed while he grew up in the city during the 70's and 80's. (Here's a review of the book from the Detroit Free Press' Marta Salij.)

For those who live in this area, Clemens's column provides some possible answers to those who are wondering "How the #@$% did that happen?" For those living elsewhere, it's a glimpse at the people of Detroit, the perception they deal with, and the politics of their city.

After losing in the August primary, Kilpatrick knew he had to change his image. Rosa Parks's funeral gave him a moment in the spotlight, through which he displayed his charisma and political potential. Detroit historically re-elects incumbent mayors. A majority of people deeply distrust the media that criticized Kilpatrick, and his campaign capitalized on that opinion.

The question is, is Kilpatrick all style, or does he have some substance? Can someone who finds himself in the unenviable position of having to redefine Detroit, to dissuade people from continuing to leave the city for the suburbs, do something with the second chance he's been given?

▪ ▪ And in other Detroit news, the NBA's Sacramento Kings were fined $30,000 by the league for a rather tasteless video montage shown before last week's game against the Detroit Pistons. During the pre-game introductions, the Arco Arena scoreboard displayed images of abandoned buildings, cars on fire, boarded-up houses, and piles of rubble. The Kings' owners, Joe and Gavin Maloof, took out full-page ads in both Detroit newspapers last week for an apology. Don't mess with Detroit, fellas.

As Susannah said at Pub of Knowledge, it's probably not worth getting worked up about. It's such an old, tired joke. They're probably just bitter about Chris Webber and taking it out on his hometown.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Mr. Self-Preservation

I realize I'm toeing the line of tastelessness by making light of someone's death in any way (and maybe it's more tasteless, considering recent events in my life), but in this case, I guess I'll just risk the trip to hell. Mis Hooz promises she'll keep a seat open for me (though I'm sure I'll precede her in the afterlife).

Yesterday, Steve Courson, a former NFL offensive lineman, was killed when a tree he was cutting down fell on him. But that's not what intrigued me about the story. That's a terrible way to die (is there a good one?), and this sort of thing probably happens more often than we know. It's the reason that Courson was in position to be killed by a tree that caught my attention.

He was trying to get his dog out of the way.

In the past, I've been accused by an ignorant relative or two of not being a dog lover. That's simply not true; I just hated their dog. I'm sure there will be a dog in my future; I'd like my mother to have one. She could use another companion right now.

But let me say this with utter certainty: If I'm doing yard work, and I face a situation where it comes down to me versus the dog, I'm sacrificing the dog.

Go ahead, call me an asshole. I can take it. At least I'll know where I stand with you. But you'll want me around. You think that dog can help pick up the tree after it's fallen?

Pardon me, I think I was channeling a conversation with the future Mrs. Casselberry.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

One or two reservations

We're big fans of Anthony Bourdain, here at Fried Rice Thoughts. Kitchen Confidential is one of my favorites. (The sitcom "inspired" by the book? Eh, not so much.) And I'm (slowly) making my way through A Cook's Tour right now. (Check out Pub of Knowledge's review.) So my mother was excited when I told her that Bourdain's TV show - No Reservations - was filming an episode in her native land, Malaysia. Mama Cass hasn't been back home in six years. And I haven't been there since I was the cutest one-year-old you've ever seen. We were both eager to get a little taste of Malaysia, even if it was through television.

Unfortunately, I botched recording the show the first time it was broadcast (yes, some of us still use VCRs to record TV shows). But the Travel Channel gave me a second chance a few weeks ago, and this time I got the timer right.

The episode began in the jungle, which seemed to confirm the many jokes I've made about my mother's homeland during my lifetime. Bourdain and his companions ate food wrapped in bamboo leaves, cooked over fire, and I asked my mother if she ever had a meal with a fork or spoon. I'll let you imagine her response.

But later in the episode, however, when Bourdain hit Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia was looking like a place where I could hang. He toured the market district and interviewed one guy who seemed really, really, well... What's the Malaysian word for "gay," Mom? It's what this flamboyant gentleman was selling that made Mama Cass take notice: Lotus seed paste buns, her favorite dim sum dish. Since we have dim sum every other Saturday or so, Mom smacked me for my previous ignorant comments and said, "See? You'll love the food there!"

Mama Cass was right; Kuala Lumpur looked fun. I contemplated whether or not we could make a trip to Malaysia next fall. Bourdain continued his tour of the market, looking for a popular dish that was also daring enough to make his TV show worthwhile. He found what he was looking in a bowl of Torpedo Soup. A big bowl full of rich curry broth? Ooooooh. "See? You'd like that!"

And yes, it looked good. But Bourdain's been eating crazy shit on this show, like porcupine and bone marrow on toast. This didn't look so bad. Then he revealed the secret ingredient of Torpedo Soup: boiled bull penis.

I screamed and covered my mouth. Mama Cass laughed. A thick, long coil of giant bull dick lurked underneath that previously tasty-looking red broth. Apparently, Malaysians believe this dish enhances a male's virility. And I'm sure it's cheaper than a prescription of Viagra. How's that for date food?

Genital soup aside, Bourdain seemed very taken with Malaysia. The serenity of the surroundings, the simplicity of the lifestyle, and the kindness of the people compelled him to reconsider the life he would return to in New York. Mama Cass smiled contentedly as Bourdain expressed his love for her homeland. I'm not sure if she was watching the show or reminiscing over her life before she came to America. Me, I was thinking about spending my afternoons stretched out on a hammock in warm temperatures.

So we're talking about it: a vacation in Malaysia next year, probably in the fall. (I'd prefer Christmas, actually. Oh, that's a whole other blog entry...) I'm on board for the trip. The soup, however, I think I might pass on. I wonder how much beef jerky and granola I can take with me?

▪ ▪ The Malaysia episode of No Reservations is being replayed Monday, November 21 at 10 pm.

(Photo by Diane Schutz/ DCI)

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

You must be joking - Late Edition

Previously on Fried Rice Thoughts:

"Could Detroit actually re-elect Kwame Kilpatrick as Mayor? Really?"

Today's Detroit Free Press:

Kilpatrick Comes Back

Today's Detroit News:

What a Comeback

Tomorrow's Ann Arbor News?

Local Man Dies From Near-Total Fucking Shock

(Image by David Coates / The Detroit News)

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Tuesday's thoughts

♦ Something I learned over the weekend (besides how to handle myself politely with a woman's face in my crotch): It is impossible for a man - especially a dashing, virile figure such as myself - to look manly while helping to shop for yarn. You can't do it. It doesn't matter how hard you try. You're holding two rolls of, in this case, pink-ish material that will be used to knit a blanket or sweater. You can feebly try to maintain some scrap of manliness by saying, "It's for my mother," but ultimately, you're holding the yarn. And it's pink. Pink-ish.

♦ Going a bit local here: Could Detroit actually re-elect Kwame Kilpatrick as Mayor? Really? I'm not a Detroit resident, but I don't see how this guy can come back. Detroit's on the verge of going broke. One of his solutions for revenue? Tax fast food. He's used city funds to bankroll expensive meals, hotel rooms, limousines, and airline tickets. He takes credit for bringing events like the Super Bowl and baseball's All-Star Game to Detroit, when it was his predecessor who did the work. His challenger, Freman Hendrix, led in the polls going into today's election, but Kilpatrick was closing the gap due to support from young voters. But will those people show up to vote? If not, dead voters might be able to help.

♦ Staying local: If you're in metro Detroit, do you hate the commercials for Detroit's "new" 93.1 "Doug" FM as much as I do? For those of you fortunate enough not to be subjected to them, these ads show a big, ugly dude stick his index finger in the air, after which a song plays. But a different song plays each time his finger goes up. U2! The Beatles! Sheryl Crow! Bob Marley! Eric Clapton! Run DMC!

Every time he sticks up his finger, it's different! Because you never know what "Doug" FM's going to play! But I have no idea what the finger is supposed to represent. He can't be switching to the next song with that finger because he's supposed to be staying on the same station. Maybe he has some special "Doug" antenna in his finger. Guess where I'd like to see him stick that finger next?

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

Monday, November 07, 2005

An innocent man

I was just hanging out with my buddy at a bar, keeping to myself. There I was, enjoying my beer, catching up with my friend Mike, watching the Miami-Virginia Tech football game (Yeeck!) over his shoulder. As the night wore on and the bar got more crowded, our little table was getting smothered by people, making my personal space nerve twitch. One guy kept practically sitting on my shoulder, only taking a step forward when he got an elbow in the ass.

There was a thud on the floor, and the circle of people stepped outward. Again, the dude was sitting on my shoulder. What happened? Did someone drop their beer? No, it was a digital camera. "Shit! Shit! No, it's okay. Wait! Wait! The battery popped out! Shit! Help me find the battery! C'mon! Help me! HEY! I lost the battery!"

Mike went back to his story about his little daughter biting the nurse who tried to give her a flu shot earlier in the day. "Oh my God, it was so embarrassing. But funny as hell."

And you know I love stories about children. Remember, they're our future. Mike's kids are phenomenally well-behaved, however, so I don't often get tales of misbehavior.

Our conversation was interrupted by a couple of "Ooo-OOO-oooohs" from the circle of people. I turned to see what the deal was and saw them all looking at me. What the hell... ? I looked down and a woman's face was in my crotch. Okay, not "in," but close. Close enough that I should've bought her a drink and taken her to brunch the next day.

She looked up at me, smiled, and said "Hey." How adorable. Just a girl having fun! I wanted to go back to talking with Mike, but well, I had to know what was going on.

"Can I help you, Miss?"

"I lost my camera battery!" She was using her cell phone display to illuminate the floor under our table, like the guys on C.S.I. using ultraviolet lamps to check for blood or semen stains. I have no idea if she found those. But she didn't find her battery either.

I stood up and tried to help her, mostly because it was impossible to chat while a woman was crouching underneath our table, waving her cell phone at the floor. Did we find a crumpled up napkin? Yes. A coaster? Yes. Plastic wrap, probably from a box of cigarettes? Yes. A digital camera battery? No.

Then the woman shoved me aside and screamed at her friends. "I don't even know this guy, and he's helping me! Help me find the battery! Hey! HEY! Get the fuck over here! Quit being such an asshole!"

I stood on my tip-toes and craned my neck, looking for another table somewhere - anywhere - else in the bar. But the place was packed. We were probably trapped. And we weren't ready to leave yet. Finally, someone about 20 feet away calls over to the woman and holds up the battery.

"She found my battery!" she screamed at me, as I sat back down. I held up my glass in celebration, and she clinked hers against mine - a little too hard, if you ask me. I thought the thing was going to shatter in my hands. And I'd just gotten another pint. "Thank you! Can I take a picture of you guys?"

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Waiting on a plumber, part 2

What else am I going to do while waiting for two dudes to install my new water heater?

♦ I have a theory! And I'd like to run it by you. I think there's a direct correlation between the nastiness of a bathroom at a Chinese restaurant and the quality of the food there. But it's not what you're thinking. In Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain said you can take one look at a restaurant's bathroom and tell how that place runs its kitchen. Gross bathroom = gross kitchen. But my theory says it's the opposite with Chinese restaurants. The nastier the bathroom, the better the food is. I need to increase the sample size in my research, but of the last three or four places I've been to and enjoyed, my theory's held true. The nicest, cleanest bathroom was at a Chinese buffet.

♦ While flipping through The Believer yesterday (which Friend of Fried Rice Raging Red also enjoyed), I was intrigued by a comment Bob Mould (of Husker Du, Sugar, pro wrestling, and now, electronic music, fame) made in an interview. (Unfortunately, the free excerpt cuts off before the comment, so you'll have to take my word for it.) What he said was that people just aren't as passionate about music as they used to be. And that's strange, since it's arguably more available, through more forums, in greater variety, than it's ever been. We're not as ravenous for music; we don't go to as many concerts, we don't fall hard for a particular band or musician.

And I agree with that. It's certainly true about me. I only talk about music occasionally. I hardly ever go to live shows anymore. I barely buy music, unless it's from an old favorite (and don't download much, either). And that means I'm not looking insatiably for the next band that'll scratch my music itch. But I chalked all of that up to getting old. Is that what it is? Or is Mould right? (I suppose you could argue that his fanbase is aging too, though I imagine he's picked up a lot of new listeners through his ventures into electronica.)

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

It was disturbing and disgusting, and I loved it

A patient who wants his leg amputated? Semen-infused face cream? (Endorsed by Joan Rivers?) Plastic surgery for the Witness Protection Program?

I don't know what they drink or ingest in the writers' room at Nip/Tuck, but I want some of it. It's all just crazy as hell, yet it somehow works, and I love trying to explain an episode to someone the next day, preferably over a meal.

The regular fan in me wishes they would pick up some of the dangling storylines (Detective McGraw being attacked by The Carver, Matt's continuing evolution into a total asshole), but I suppose there's time to get to all that. And it's not like I'll stop watching if they don't.

It's been a few weeks since I've written about Nip/Tuck here. (Too damn long, if you ask Mis Hooz.) If you saw last night's show, let's discuss it because I don't know what else to say about it. All I can do is cover my mouth, shake my head, and watch it all over again.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Happy Halloween, part 2

I have to refer you to Wabi-Sabi today, because Jim has done what might be the coolest thing I've ever seen a father do for his son. I'd love to know how he made it look all comic-booky, too. Way to go, Inspector Gadget.

(Also, Jim and I face each other in Fantasy Football this week. Is it devious of him to get me to admire him just days before I try to fantastically stomp him? It could be. I'm watching you, Jim.)