Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Gone south for Christmas

Fried Rice Thoughts will be on vacation for the rest of the week, and will return after Christmas. (Likely on 12/27.)

I'm currently in South Carolina, visiting Dr. Lil' Sis, thus ensuring that Mama Cass and I will spend Christmas with the family we like. I had a bunch of movie reviews that I wanted to post, and might still do that, but I don't know how much computer time I'll have down here in the low-country of Charleston.

Plus, Dr. Lil' Sis is still on dial-up when it comes to her internet access, and I'm not sure how I'll deal with that. (And just between us, the good doctor makes broadband money, so I don't know why she hasn't made the switch. Bah.)

As always, thank you for stopping by, and Happy Holidays to each of you. Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanzaa, Merry Chrismukkah, and Festive Festivus for the rest of us. May your egg nog have an extra splash of rum.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Music was on pieces of plastic, and we liked it!

Here's something I didn't get around to posting last week. It's something of an obituary for the Tower Records in Washington, D.C., which - like the rest of the chain - is closing down.

More than lamenting the loss of a particular record store, however, Paul Farhi's feature in the Washington Post notes the passing of record store culture, in general.

This is probably a ship that has long since sailed for most of us. I buy most of my music from iTunes these days by the single, not the album. And when I do get that occasional hankering for an entire CD, I end up at a place like Best Buy, rather than a true record store.

(And there's still quite a few good ones in Ann Arbor, like Wazoo, Encore, and Schoolkids. P.J.'s is a good used store - and the owner was a good friend of my dad's, so I'm making sure to mention that place, too. Forgive me if I've forgotten any other notable stores.)

I guess I've just joined the masses in sacrificing coolness for convenience. But Farhi's article still had some resonance with me because I've been talking about music purchasing trends quite a bit with my buddy Rob recently.

Actually, I'm quite indebted to Rob when it comes to music. I was a dry sponge when I arrived at Michigan State for my freshman year, and Rob was ready to soak me with all sorts of stuff I hadn't listened to before. Would I be such a fan of Paul Westerberg and The Replacements, if not for him? I'll never know.

But Rob is still an "album guy," and admiringly so. He still likes the deeper cuts, and the joy he gets from discovering something on his own. Unfortunately, it seems like the music industry is making guys like Rob work a hell of a lot harder to find good stuff these days. Or maybe it's as Bob Mould said in The Believer last year, and people aren't as ravenous about seeking out new music as they used to be. (There's definitely some truth to that.)

Of course, who has the time anymore? That's the conclusion Rob and I reached the last time we talked about this.

Still, I can't help but think about how I felt when the Tower Records in Ann Arbor shut down. During my twenties, I probably spent more time and money in there than I care to admit. There was no better place to kill an hour after work while waiting to meet friends at the bar.

It was sad to see the racks that were previously jammed full of CDs and LPs virtually bare. Instead of kaleidoscopes of album covers, there were just huge voids of grey space, littered with a few stray items. All the paintings had been taken down from the walls, leaving the store looking naked.

(And I've always wanted to know where some of those went. I would've loved a painting of the Clash's London Calling in my living room. Hey, as long as it ended up on someone's wall, instead of a dumpster.)

I don't think I'll be as nostalgic about spinning the click wheel on my iPod ten years from now. And bringing up a song or album after typing a keyword in a search window just doesn't bring the same sense of discovery than finding some British import EP you'd spent the last five years looking for. Sometimes, I just enjoyed the sound of CD jewel cases slapping against one another as I flipped through them.

Geez, I might as well be sitting on my porch, shaking my fist at those kids skateboarding on my sidewalk. But I will most definitely be savoring a trip to 52.5 Records in Charleston while visiting my sister for Christmas. And I'm bringing money to burn...

Monday, December 18, 2006

Soon to appear on eBay... ?

Courtesy of Mis Hooz, the New York Bureau Chief for Fried Rice Thoughts, comes this incisive piece from today's New York Times. "All the news that's fit to print," indeed.

Out on Long Island, it seems that someone could be sitting on quite a little nugget of sea treasure. Interestingly, however, this particular nest egg could be made of whale vomit.

If it does happen to be petrified orca barf, also known under more classy terms as "ambergris," that hunk of whale junk could be worth $18,000. ($10 a gram, baby!)

Wouldn't you know that whale vomit is a key component in "fragrance chemistry"? I suppose that's not a stretch to consider, though. If whale blubber is so popular in making perfume, why not other... substances from these aquatic mammals?

Think about what's in that perfume next time you dab a bit under your ear, ladies. Unless, of course, you already knew that and are perfectly comfortable with such knowledge.

The only possible down side to pawning off this upchunk trinket, however, is that current laws tend to frown upon anyone attempting to sell something that comes from an endangered species. And the sperm whale most certainly qualifies as such.

Oh, well - maybe a four-pound petrified lump of whale puke will make a pretty tchotchke over the fireplace. Here's hoping!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Rise of the Manatees

It's the new sensation sweeping the nation! Frisky sea mammals photographed in compromising positions for the depraved gratification of onlookers throughout the internet!

Have you heard about this thing? Maybe not, if you're at that age when staying up until 12:35 a.m. on a weeknight just doesn't seem like a good idea.

So if you haven't - and oh, I'm sure my mother is proud of me on days when I can enlighten the people like this - it all started with a throwaway comment Conan O'Brien made on his show during a skit about college mascots he'd like to see.

One of the mascots was the "F.S.U." web-cam manatee, who presented himself (herself?) on stage, while rubbing its nipples (and yes, I ran a Google search to see if manatees have nipples) to the tune of the Divinyls' "I Touch Myself." And off to the side, of course, one of the guys in The Max Weinberg 7 caught the action on a computer monitor, mouth agape with wonder (and perversion). Conan then joked about him looking at ""

The next night, O'Brien explained that he received a call from NBC's standards office, telling him that if a fake website is mentioned on a show, the network has to buy the domain. He claimed this was true, and apparently, he was quite serious. Here's the explanation from Jacques Steinberg's article on the subject in yesterday's New York Times:

"If a viewer were somehow to acquire the license to use that Internet domain name, then put something inappropriate on the site, the network could potentially be held liable for appearing to promote it."

Thus, the shotgun birth of

Or as O'Brien put it, "For $159, NBC, the network that brought you ‘Meet the Press,’ Milton Berle, and the nation’s first commercial television station became the proud owner of"

This thing has seemingly exceeded any sort of expectation O'Brien and his writers could've expected. The site has received millions of hits, offers videos and t-shirts, and perhaps best of all, fans have submitted all kinds of artwork depicting their own enactments of manateen/ human relations (often with O'Brien or Max Weinberg).

Are you still reading this? You're missing out on pictures such as "Manatee Schoolgirl," "Shaved Manatee," and "Fetish Manatee"! C'mon, it's hilarious stuff.

So what do you suppose are the chances of Conan O'Brien doing stuff like this once he takes over for Jay Leno on The Tonight Show?

The Fried Rice Thoughts Wine Guide?

I'm probably about to expose myself as a complete fraud and wanna-be regarding the consumption and appreciation of wine. Miles from Sideways, I am most certainly not.

But, um, when you take a sip of wine and it tastes like you just put pure gasoline into your mouth, the wine is probably bad, right?

I'm just checking - because I'm hardly a connoisseur. I don't even own a wine guide or dictionary. And yes, I like wine, but honestly, I probably drink the red stuff more for the supposed health benefits. Or at least that's what I tell myself.

Maybe I didn't leave the bottle open long enough and let the tannins breathe, or do whatever else they're supposed to do. I just wanted something to drink with dinner, and I was getting kind of thirsty, okay?

What kind of wine was it? Well, I'd prefer not to say - mostly because I can't find a link to it on the internet. But it was a Cabernet Sauvignon, and... I didn't spend very much money on it at Trader Joe's. Hey, it was on an end-cap, okay? The sign caught my eye! (And I've had some very good fortune with stuff I've purchased there over the last couple of years. I also like to think I've come to know a little bit about wine. But I might be a fraud.)

Maybe I should just stick to beer, eh? I know what I'm getting into there.

On the bright side, I might try to see if my car can run on this swill...

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Sometimes, the spirit finds you... ?

This just came in from the Fried Rice Thoughts New York Bureau, courtesy of Bureau Chief Mis Hooz. Check out "A Charlie Brown Christmas," performed by the cast of Scrubs.

(And if you haven't taken the time to hear Schroeder as played by Turk [Donald Faison], then you should consider giving yourself a treat.)

Is that my slowly thawing holiday heart I feel melting? First, Bruce Springsteen singing "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town,' then Charlie Brown voiced by Zach Braff. Brilliant.

Maybe I will finish those Christmas cards after all...

(And if the damn thing doesn't play - oh, Blogger Beta is so much better, Ian! - you can find the video here.)

Monday, December 11, 2006

Almost in the spirit

I've been pretty "Bah! Humbug!" about Christmas this year. Not that I was Mr. Reindeer and Mistletoe in previous years.

My parents' decision not to put up a Christmas tree for the past 10-12 years has been passed onto me. My last apartment was tree, wreath, and light free. In previous living situations, roommates always handled that mess. Now that I'm back home again, there's virtually no sign of the holidays, other than the pile of Christmas cards on the dining room table I should really work on. And since I'm visiting my sister in South Carolina this year, I really don't see that changing over the next two weeks.

I'm sure a lot of it has to do with an awful Thanksgiving. (Blogging about it has been withheld to protect the innocent and ashamed.) But other than a brief tingle in my chest while doing some holiday shopping, I haven't felt much Christmas spirit. At least until this weekend.

I hate Christmas music. Beat that little drummer boy on the head. How about truly making it a "silent night" and not singing? Nothing would compel me to rethink my stance on gun control like a group of carolers showing up on my doorstep.

And I will never, ever abide by radio stations that change their entire format to Christmas music the day after Halloween. (You might be able to convince me that it would be okay after Thanksgiving. I still wouldn't listen, but it wouldn't be quite as unbearable.) That $#!+ almost completely derailed me in school at Iowa. I found one station I liked and then it stuck knitting needles in my ears for the last two months of the semester.

However, there's one song that always gets me around this time of year. If I don't hear it (and there have been a couple of years where that happened), it doesn't feel like Christmas time. But this year should be okay, now that I finally heard Bruce Springsteen's version of "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town" at an area cafe.

(Circa 1975, according to the only guy I'd ever ask about Springsteen stuff. Rob has something Bruce-related on his blog today, in fact.)

As soon as I hear those sleigh bells, the accompanying piano, and Santa "ho-ho-ho'ing," I perk up. Very Pavlovian. Every time Bruce asks the crowd if they've been good, I chuckle along with him when not many people clap. ("That's not many...") And when he asks Clarence Clemons if Santa's going to bring him a new saxophone, I instinctively smile.

Yeah, I know I'd probably hear it frequently if I listened to a classic rock station, but I don't do that. But c'mon - it wouldn't hold nearly the same power for me if I heard it once a day over a six-week span. And it certainly wouldn't ignite the twinkle of Christmas spirit I have right now.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Always the last to know...

When it comes to local happenings in my town, I've been out of touch for quite a while. Authors will have held readings, or bands will have played concerts, and I usually find out days after the fact. And I think a big reason for that is letting my subscription to the Ann Arbor News run out months ago. (Actually, we could be going on a year now.)

If I happen to be in a bookstore (and chances are that I am at least once a week - hey, I'm not buying all of those magazines I want to read), I'll skim through a newspaper to see what's going on. (I know - I could read the local news online, but I get distracted by sports, movie, and gossip stuff. Or gassy women causing planes to make emergency landings. If you're Glade, aren't you trying to sign this chick up as a spokeswoman right now... ?) But I've become a bit frustrated with finding out about stuff later on, and I read something yesterday that might finally make me want to stay current again.

Apparently, there might have been a brothel in Ann Arbor. A brothel, baby! And I had no idea.

(Plus, we have a "Special Investigations Unit" here! Just like a Law & Order spin-off! How cool is that?)

Actually, the brothel was raided and shut down a couple of months ago. This most recent story is about the AAPD mailing letters to people whose registered vehicles were seen at various times outside the establishment.

You know, I have a little bit of disposable income now. And some free time (though my DVR is eating up a lot of that). Most of my friends are married with kids, so I can't just call 'em up and ask if they want to hang out. Such things have to be planned out weeks in advance. That just kills a guy's spontaneity, man.

Of course, subscribing to a newspaper probably wouldn't have helped with this. What I probably need to do is start going to the bar more, and reading the scrawls on the walls. Or just walk the streets and ask people if they know where any good brothels are. I just need to get out more, I think. But if Ann Arbor's going to keep shutting down these "spas" where I could get a "massage," I guess I might as well just stay home and catch up on episodes of Bones. Or should I have said Heroes?

And in other "What? I didn't know about this!" news, the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show was on last night? See, here's another reason I should subscribe to a newspaper again - so I get that TV guide on Sundays.

Oh - apparently not too many other people knew it was on, either. Or they were cleaning out their DVRs, too. Never mind.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The most horrifying news from the weekend?

Well, it's Tuesday now, so cooler heads have probably prevailed, but when I read this story in Sunday's New York Times, I almost did a spit-take on my computer monitor:

The Executive Producer of ‘The Daily Show’ and ‘The Colbert Report’ Is Leaving

But... but... but - I've fallen back in love with the show ever since joining DVR Nation (not to be confused with Colbert Nation, of course) and making sure I never miss an episode (which I'd been doing with disturbing regularity through most of the summer and early fall).

What would Ben Karlin's departure do to The Daily Show and The Colbert Report? And this might be when we need those shows the most! We've got a presidential campaign coming up!

Of course, both of those shows could also benefit from a fresh take on things and a different approach. No one's dumb enough to change what clearly works. And other talent - Steve Carell, Ed Helms, Rob Corddry - has left The Daily Show (or rocked out a spin-off) without stopping the machine. And hey, it's not like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are leaving.

Then there was a follow-up in yesterday's NYT which seemed to bring some peace, love, and understanding to anyone who might have worried:

Producer of ‘Daily Show’ and ‘Colbert’ Cites Other Projects as He Steps Aside

So Karlin's contract was about to expire, and he decided that was a great time to step away - something he'd been considering and discussing for a while. And he's working on a book, which is something I can certainly (enviously) get behind. Plus, he'll still be involved with both shows, so the "formula" is still in place while replacements are slotted in.

All appears to be well. We can rest without anxiety. And still enjoy our 11 p.m. to midnight TV viewing. (Meanwhile, my computer monitor remains coffee spit-free.)

Monday, December 04, 2006

That's what she said! (Episode #9.0)

After a holiday break, The Office was back with a new episode. (Had one been shown on Thanksgiving evening, I might have forgotten about the awful experience I endured with my family earlier that evening. Oops - I'm trying to be nice.) So with new stuff to dissect, That's What She Said is back with a new podcast, as well.

Which transfer from the Stamford office of Dunder-Mifflin is an ex-convict? Will the employees in Scranton be safe?

And once that news trickles out to the rest of the staff, can Michael Scott be trusted to handle it discreetly and sensitively? What, are you kidding?

Did we like the episode or, since original "Office" creators Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant wrote it, will we just chalk it up to "British humour"?

Episode #9.0 is available for your downloading and listening pleasure, either from the That's What She Said home page or via iTunes. Feedback and constructive criticism are always much appreciated, so please join the fun and send along some e-mail or leave a comment to the show notes. And as always, thanks for listening!