Wednesday, August 30, 2006

I've never been more grateful for Netflix

Will the weather allow the Tigers and Yankees to play tonight? If not, I'm not sure what's going to happen to me. Because last night, with no Tigers game to watch, my channel surfing briefly took me to... Celebrity Duets on FOX.

I know.

Notice I said "briefly." Maybe that's no excuse. I should've just moved on to the next channel. But the train wreck factor kept me tuned in for a few minutes - more specifically, the end of Cheech Marin's performance.

I can't comment too much on Cheech's singing. I only caught a few notes. What was funny, however, was Wayne Brady's outro:

"Ladies and gentleman, Cheech Marin and the incomparable Peter Frampton!"

That might possibly have been TV history in the making. Did you ever think you'd hear such a sentence uttered?

Is this "Cheech Marin" really the same guy Grade School Ian once considered hilarious, and something of a counterculture icon? His head is exploding right now.

And while I'm at it: Wayne Brady, what are you doing? Son, you might have to go out and choke a b!+@#. Or call up Dave Chappelle for some more career rehab. I hope that paycheck was good.

So don't rain out my baseball game again! Who knows what I'll watch?

Meanwhile, have you ever wanted to punch a TV character in the head? Sheila from Rescue Me dredged up just such an urge for me last night. Ooooh, that woman! And hey, I'm a pacifist.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Adaptation anxiety

Tom Perrotta is one of my favorite authors, and his last novel, Little Children, might be one of my favorite books. (Although I have such a soft spot for The Wishbones. Maybe because I relate to that story's main character more than I like to admit.)

So I'm pretty damn excited about the upcoming movie version, set to be released in October.

Or at least I was. After watching the trailer, I'm not sure. Great cast. Solid director (I liked In the Bedroom). Screenplay co-written by Perrotta. Looks like the whole project's in good hands.

Yet the trailer seems so... humorless. And I swear I remember Little Children being a funny book. Maybe it was just funnier to me. I don't know. The story has deeper themes of loneliness and isolation, along with its share of tragic elements.

But this looks more like something along the lines of We Don't Live Here Anymore or an early Neil LaBute film. Good movies, but they don't really make you feel good after watching them. In fact, you kind of want to take a shower.

Anybody else read the book who feels the same way? Or am I getting my Perrotta books mixed up?

Monday, August 28, 2006

Do I sound like Kevin Smith?

Thanks to Mike McClary, who graciously asked me to take part in a roundtable discussion on The Daily Fungo Podcast last week. The results are now available online for all to hear.

Mike's (sometimes twice) weekly podcast (along with his daily blog) deals with all things Detroit Tigers, and the four of us discussed the current state of the team - who's good; who stinks; Oh my God, can they beat the Yankees? - as they make their (blissfully) unexpected run toward the playoffs. He does a great job, and if you're a Tigers fan, you'll enjoy what Mike has to offer. I'm flattered he asked me to participate.

If you're curious (or really wondering if I sound - as Raging Red contends - like filmmaker Kevin Smith), you can download or listen to the show here. It is excellent accompaniment for jogging, commuting, yard work, or generally ignoring your fellow citizens.

However, if you're not interested in listening to an hour-long baseball chat (despite its incredibly compelling nature - and I'm not just talking about my voice), arrangements can be made for me to serenade you by phone. (Just make sure you go to my MySpace page, not Kevin's.) I promise I don't always sound as sleepy as I seem to on Mike's podcast.

But no answering machine messages. I ain't Carl Kasell, okay?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

You will not be able to resist

Edited at 8 p.m. (because I really couldn't hold the list to 10 - plus, Gunn and Whedon listed 25 characters)

After reading this post at Pop Candy (which is now also in the podcast business - Mistress Distraction, thy name is Whitney Matheson), I had to join in the fun. Following the lead of most excellent screenwriters/directors James Gunn and Joss Whedon, who took the time to list their favorite TV characters, here are the fictional creations that I could watch over and over again. Oh, if I could ever create anyone as good as these fellas, I would die a happy writer.

Looking at the list (which I kept to 10 characters), I see that most of my favorites are from current or relatively recent shows. So I either have a problem with my long-term TV memory, or I agree with's Heather Havrilesky, who asserts that we are now living in a golden age of television.

George Costanza - Seinfeld. Shouldn't "Seinfeld" have really been titled "Costanza"? So many of the stories revolved around him. I shouldn't admit this, but I think George is the closest thing to me that I've ever seen on TV. A guy who gets mad because someone ordered a big salad, yet only paid for a small one? Yes, I'm afraid I've been that guy.

Frank Pembleton - Homicide: Life on the Street. Again, maybe I'm dealing with poor long-term TV memory, but Detective Pembleton is the first character I remember who showed me just how good dramatic television could be. His intensity blazed out of the screen when he interrogated a suspect. And watch out if you pissed him off.

Al Swearengen - Deadwood. Ready for some hyperbole? Swearengen is the greatest TV character ever created. He's ruthless and cold-blooded; he'd cut your throat without a moment's pause. But he also has a deviously strategic criminal mind. And what makes him most complex is that he has a set of principles. When he's pushed, you see what he truly cares about.

Dr. Perry Cox - Scrubs. J.D. Dorian is the main character, but if he wasn't constantly striving to impress his mentor, and if Dr. Cox wasn't frequently beating him back down in an attempt to make him the best doctor he can be, Scrubs wouldn't be much of a show. And no one - no one - can go on a rant about societal ills and pop culture ("... and Hugh Jackman!") like Perry Cox.

Tommy Gavin - Rescue Me. He's a recovering alcoholic, cheats on his wife, abuses drugs, steals from his fellow firefighters, and generally treats most of the people in his life like $#!+. Yet Tommy's also lost a son, a brother, and several cherished friends in 9-11. I tune in for the whole mess every week, because I want to see what happens next.

Dr. Doug Ross - ER. The term "man crush" was completely foreign to me until I saw Dr. Ross kick ass and take names at Cook County General. George Clooney became a star in the pilot episode when he reprimanded a mother for abusing her baby. Oh, the way he wobbled his head when he tried to charm someone. A bit self-destructive, though.

Jimmy McNulty - The Wire. Everything you need to know about Detective McNulty is shown at the beginning of an episode late in The Wire's second season. After smashing his car into a pillar while driving drunk, McNulty tries to figure out the angle on the turn. He then gets back in his car, makes the turn again... and totals his car. You see the persistence that makes him such a good detective, along with the self-destructiveness that's killed his career.

Sam Seaborn - The West Wing. Josh Lyman and Toby Zeigler stuck around the show longer, but Sam is the one that really made me feel like, "Man, wouldn't it be great to work in a White House like that?" He relished batting around big ideas that could change the country positively. And best of all, he truly loved crafting a masterful speech.

Gregory House - House. I think I see a pattern in most of my favorite characters. Unlikable, but very good at what they do, and a redeemable quality underneath the @$$hole exterior. House is an equal opportunity hater, and cuts anyone and everyone off at the knees with his razor wit. But deep down, he cares about helping people. (Or maybe he cares more about solving problems and being right. But the end result benefits his patients.)

Trixie - Deadwood. I told myself I wasn't going to pick more than one character from the same show, but I can't help it. Plus, I just noticed I don't have any females on the list. So we have the whore with the heart of gold, except it's not that golden. She pushes each of the men in her life (lovers, ex-lovers, friends, friends of friends) to be their best and live up to their responsibilities, albeit not always kindly. Don't #@$% with her.

Okay, so who did I miss? Too many cops? Too many doctors? Too many unlikables? If you know me, bring on the "I thought you loved "__________"? Where's ________?!" If you have a blog, I hope you post your own lists. And if not, please leave some of your favorites in the comments. I'd love to read 'em.

The Honorable Mentions...

Christina Yang - Grey's Anatomy
Johnny Drama - Entourage
Seth Bullock - Deadwood
Dan Rydell - Sports Night
John Munch - Homicide ("Don't you ever lie to me like I'm Montel Williams.")
Elliot Reid - Scrubs
Woody Boyd - Cheers
Mal Reynolds - Firefly
Byron "Buster" Bluth - Arrested Development
Sonny Crockett - Miami Vice
Jennifer Melfi - The Sopranos
Christian Troy - Nip/Tuck
Jim Halpert - The Office (U.S.)
Lester Freamon - The Wire
Pinky - Pinky & The Brain

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Where the sidewalk ends

I listed "Ann Arbor Sidewalk Repairs" on my "You're On Notice!" board, and a few people have asked me what I was talking about, so here's the story (which is probably all too familiar for you, if you live here).

I'm not sure how long this has been "on the books," but the city has recently decided to enforce City Codes 47 and 49. (And if I'm getting any of this wrong, and someone knows the correct info, please feel free to point it out. I didn't go down to City Hall to study this $#!+, okay?)

According to the city's website, those codes "require property owners to properly maintain the sidewalks and public walkways adjacent or abutting their property for the use of the public."

Sounds good, right? To ensure walkers, joggers, old people, and kids with tricycles don't trip or topple over (especially outside of your house), sidewalks shouldn't have slabs jutting out of the ground unevenly.

I just thought those sidewalks were city property. When you were a kid, did you ever get in a fight with a friend, and told him to get off your property? Then he'd stand on the sidewalk and say, "This is the government's property, not yours!" And you thought he was right. Of course, you were, like, 10 years old. But that's one of the first things that came to mind when six slabs on our sidewalk - each of them pushed up by tree roots - were "flagged."

The other, as you might imagine, was how much this whole thing was going to cost. To quote the city's website again, "Based upon 2004 prices, the removal and replacement costs for a slab were estimated between $150-$225." I don't think we had $1,000 in that coffee can above the refrigerator.

Fortunately, it didn't cost quite that much. The contractor we hired cut us a discount, based on the number of slabs we needed repaired. Still, I don't think I'll be replacing my laptop any time soon. And I could be returning to the days of Ramen Noodles as my primary meals.

I'm not sure why Ann Arbor decided that every homeowner had to fix the "bad" sidewalks outside their houses NOW. Grandpa of Ann Arbor has a conspiracy theory that's a tad too xenophobic to be believed, but it's worth noting for entertainment value:

If you haven't noticed, some city hall idiot has decided that we have to fix all sidewalks in AA to keep the aliens (possible illegal) in town working. I think it is a Public works project to support the cement workers (read hispanic). Unfortunately it is costing homeowners on average @ $1000.00. Great timing Huh? worst financial times in decades and city hall decides to hit all of us townies with a financial burden. Is anyone running on a 'save the old sidewalks' platform?

(Via ann arbor is overrated)

So a lot of neighborhoods currently look like construction zones, with piles of dirt and concrete slabs strewn across several curbside areas, and power shovels (no one calls them "steam shovels" anymore, do they?) and cement trucks blocking streets while they do their work. It's a bit difficult to navigate. And it looks like $#!+.

Here's how the front of our house is looking right now. The yellow tape is a nice touch. Not just for safety concerns, but for aesthetic tastes, as well. Now we don't just have a giant hole abutting the front yard, but it also looks like we killed someone there. I'm expecting Gil Grissom to show up any time now. (Unfortunately, the hole isn't quite deep enough to hide a body in. Yes, that crossed my mind, so I checked.)

If you're a cement contractor in Ann Arbor, you're having a wonderful summer. Look for them at the bar - drinks might be on them. And say hi to the person tending bar or waiting your table. It might be a homeowner who had to take a second job to pay for this mess.

One final note: Writing about sidewalk repairs in front of my house has to signify that I am now indisputably old.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Monday afternoon musings

▪▪ Twice in the past two weeks, I have been told I sound like Kevin Smith. Looks weren't discussed, but I'd like to think I dress better. However, I may never grow a beard again.

▪▪ Some time last week, I had a dream in which I walked into the kitchen and just plunged my hand into a cantaloupe. No reason. I just punched my hand through the rind and began squeezing the pulp and seeds between my fingers. Explain that one.

▪▪ Over the weekend, I was listening to a podcast interview with Matt Dillon. And as soon as Dillon started talking, I thought, "Man, he sounds like the guy on Entourage." Not really my proudest moment.

▪▪ Last night, the girl behind the counter at Jimmy John's handed me my order and said, "Here's your sub, buddy." Is it weird that I thought her calling me "buddy" was, well... kind of hot? Pathetic?

▪▪ I learned an important lesson yesterday in Sportswriter 101: Professional athletes are crabby when they lose.

▪▪ But I also had the pleasure of meeting Jerry Green of the Detroit News on the 50th anniversary of his tenure at that paper. When I told him being at Comerica Park was a great learning experience, he smiled and said he was still learning. That was cool.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

It's "Hooz Day"! Are you celebrating?

[Editor's Note: Now posted on the correct day! I am such a mo-ron...]

Please join me in wishing Happy Birthday to my dearest amigo, also known as Fried Rice Thoughts' New York Bureau Chief (and now, a fellow blogger), Mis Hooz.

Congratulations on turning 29 (once again), my lovely and talented friend. I hope that the package full of goodies you received from me is only the beginning of the riches that pour into your apartment over the next couple of days.

And did I hear correctly that Samuel L. Jackson called with birthday wishes? No? He was just promoting Snakes on a Plane? Well, geez - that was a bit self-centered. I told him it was about your birthday. But you know how those celebrities are with promoting their stuff.

I also tried to get a shirtless photo of your fantasy boy toy Colin Farrell for you. I was pleasantly surprised when he agreed to come over, but he wasn't very cooperative. I'm not sure what exactly he said when I asked if he could take his shirt off, but I think I heard "fook" in there somewhere. He was a tad more cantankerous than I expected - even after I told him I loved Miami Vice. (More on that later this week.) It's possible that he saw me using the bootleg of Alexander you sent me as a coaster.

Man, I was really hoping to get some tips on how to rock a mullet and fu manchu mustache in the year 2006. Plus, all the beer in my fridge mysteriously disappeared. And how the hell did he find my whiskey stash?

You know what, you guys? I #@$%ing hated S.W.A.T! Okay? It sucked! What d'ya think of that?!

Oh well. It's the thought that counts, right Hooz?

Anyway, whether you realized it or not, people, you have reason to celebrate today. Take the day off. Go shopping. Treat yourself to a nice dinner. Go up and kiss someone on the street. While making my morning coffee run, I noticed lines already forming outside the bars here. So I can only assume all the New York watering holes are filling up. It's probably happening in your town, too.

Happy Birthday to you, Mis Hooz. And Happy Hooz Day to each and every one of you. (Even Samuel L. Jackson and Colin Farrell.)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Consider yourself on notice!

As soon as I saw this, I knew I had to do one for myself.

Thanks to Raging Red, my unrequited interstate blogger meet-up, and the Pensacola News Journal entertainment podcast (whew!) for the inspiration.

Go get your own to play with!

Man, I love this guy

Highly recommended from the Fried Rice Thoughts Reading Group (which has been meeting for, like.... uh, months... ?) this week is this month's edition of The Believer - specifically, the interview with one of my favorite filmmakers, Steven Soderbergh.

Besides his views on a baffling aspect of reality TV and the sadness that comes from watching someone enjoy something you think is substandard, he's refreshingly honest about which of his films didn't work.

And from the guy who made the greatest Academy Awards acceptance speech ever, his thoughts on the creative process are always fascinating. For anyone who's ever attempted anything artistic - be it writing, music, photography, filmmaking, painting, etc. - and thought it didn't quite work, consider the following quote:

"There's a difference between failures and things that are bad."

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Humble pie for lunch today

This is why I try to post early, before many people have gotten to work.

Earlier today, for those who didn't see it (which I assume is almost everyone - except the person that mattered most), I posted birthday wishes to my dear friend (and now, co-blogger), Mis Hooz. I was feeling very good, very festive, and assumed Hoozie would be sympatico.

There was one big problem with my post, however: Mis Hooz's birthday is Thursday, not today.

I don't know why the hell I get those dates (8/15 and 8/17) mixed up. It's happened almost ever since we've known each other. (Maybe something important happened to me on August 15, and I'm always trying to subconsciously commemorate the occasion.) I thought I'd demonstrated over the past few years that I'd finally gotten over this particular mental hurdle. But clearly, I've regressed.

Since Hooz is much too sweet to torture me for my incompetence, she instead enlisted one of her many celebrity friends to bust my balls. Surely, she and this particular celeb bump into each other frequently while walking through the Tribeca area of Manhattan.

Let the flogging begin:

Ian, this is Bobby - Bobby De Niro. i don't know if you know this or not but i'm a regular reader of your blog - fried rice, I mean (love the name). The sports one - not so much (although i can respect that's the one that butters your bread)... So forgive me for pointing this out, but - ah, one of the ways my friends and i remember my birthday is that I've had the great fortune of being born on Hooz Day and, again forgive, but it's not today, buddy... circle of trust - and circle your calendar.

Robert De Niro

Date of Birth (Location)
17 August 1943
New York, New York, USA

Mini biography
Robert De Niro, who is thought of as one of the greatest actors of his time... (show more)

Who would've guessed that Mr. De Niro had his own Internet Movie Database entry so closely at hand for occasions such as this?

Thankfully, I could stand to have a pound of flesh taken from me...

Dude, your Dell's on fire

As a public service, we'd like to point you to an article in today's New York Times warning that your Dell computer could burst into flames.

More specifically, the lithium ion batteries in many Dell computers is what could suddenly ignite. Thus, Dell is recalling approximately 4.1 million batteries that were installed in notebooks from April 2004 to July 18 of this year.

You have to check out the photo of a guy whose pick-up truck was destroyed after his blazing laptop lit both his gas tanks and ammunition he had in the glove compartment.

So if you're a recent Dell owner, check that battery. You probably are smelling smoke.

Here at Fried Rice Thoughts, we're unsure as whether or not to be happy we roll with a Toshiba laptop or not. On the down side, that little bugger is currently in a shop while some master tinkerer figures out what's wrong with it. On the plus side, it will not (presumably) set itself afire. (Of course, that would provide a great excuse to get a new computer... if we could afford it.)

Monday, August 14, 2006

Oh, if only it could be true...

Okay, Mama Cass got the week in the blog spotlight that she (politely) requested. Now we can get back to business as usual.

I've been something of a bad blogger lately, the kind I sometimes sneer at. The Mother Ship has been neglected. And I will make up for that.

While I wait for the muse to strike, however, I leave you with this comic strip, courtesy of "Brevity." The delightfully wacky Guy & Rodd somehow plucked a vision from my fantasy world, and drew it for all to see.

I could really use this in the winter, when it gets cold at night.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Citizen Mama

Friday was a very special day for our family - and for my mother, in particular.

It was the end of a long ordeal, one that involved a lot of waiting, far too much bureaucracy, and a whole bunch of frustration. But now that she's finally broken through to the other side, my mother is as happy (and relieved) as I've seen her in a long time. And that made it worth suffering through this whole process.

On Friday, Cecilia Casselberry became a U.S. citizen.

It took almost three years to see this through. There were points where we doubted it would ever happen.

So many disappointing letters came in the mail, detailing some reason for the delay in the process. Name confusion was the biggest problem. (Had we done this before 9-11, I'm betting it wouldn't have been such an obstacle.) Two separate background checks had to be run for my mother's Chinese name and her American one. On two separate occasions, her fingerprints were deemed "unclassifiable" by new technology. (Never mind that when she did it the old-fashioned way, her fingerprints were fine.)

And even when those issues were solved, miscommunication between federal and state offices tangled up the process for months. It was unbelievably aggravating, because it seemed so silly. I could go on and on about it, and there were plenty of times when I wanted to make angry phone calls, type out angry letters, or just vent my frustrations here on the blog. Ultimately, however, I didn't think that would help matters, so I held back.

Besides, I'd prefer to let go of that stuff now and focus on happier things. I really need to thank those who helped us, particularly Congressman John Dingell and his office, which fought for my mother when no one else would, asking the correct people why her case was being held up, and creating enough of a squeaky wheel to get some grease. And I don't know if she'd like being mentioned here or not, but I especially have to thank Pat Andrews, who took on my mother's case after my father wrote to Congressman Dingell, and over the past year, whether she realizes it or not, has become a valued family friend through this entire process. I'm not sure this ever would've been done without her help.

The one touch of bittersweet to the day is that my father wasn't sitting next to me when Mama Cass was sworn in. He started the ball rolling three years ago, encouraging my mother to finally get her U.S. citizenship, fearing not having it could hurt her down the line, after she retired. He kept the correspondence with Pat alive, frequently checking in for updates. He kept encouraging my mother to be patient, whenever she became fed up with bureaucracy entanglements.

Friday was for him as much as anyone else. I know he was there with us, at 11:29 a.m., smiling at the sight of Mama Cass, along with 342 of her fellow immigrants, raising their hands, and reciting the oath of allegiance. Mom could feel him, too. You could see it in her face. It's been a long time since I've seen her that relieved - and so happy.

Let the record show that Mama Cass' first meal as a U.S. citizen was enjoyed at the Common Grill in Chelsea. Over a plate of grilled fish and steamed vegetables, along with a refreshing iced tea, Cecilia could finally sit back and relax, content that this ordeal was finally over. (Cocktails were saved for her son, who remembered he still had to drive home.)

Congratulations, Mama. All your hard work deserved this payoff, and we're all extremely proud of you.

More photos are available here.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Similes are useless when it's this hot

I'm not going to mince words here. It's hot. Damn hot. Real hot. So hot. Hot as... well, I won't give you the comparison I gave Mis Hooz. But it's hot. Hot as pouring Tabasco down your pants after rubbing yourself down with Icy Hot.

I know it's hot everywhere for everyone, so I'm not going to complain. Besides, it's my fault that my house doesn't have air conditioning, sitting in front of the computer is now a grueling task (thus the sparse blogging), and I sleep in a sweaty mess - if I can even fall asleep while the air is super-charged with humidity.

But after Mis Hooz sent me this post from Gothamist suggesting that areas with vegetation are the coolest and should be sought out for a respite from the heat, I got to thinking.

Would I be able to double the benefits of sprawling myself in vegetation if I did so in the produce section of a grocery store? I'd have vegetation and air conditioning.

And would it be better to lay upon the romaine lettuce on my stomach or on my back? What would be more hygienic? What would upset the grocery store staff less?