Thursday, March 30, 2006

You're making me happy, Paul Westerberg

If this little nugget that I read at Pop Candy today is really going to happen, I will be a happy, happy man. The Replacements getting back together to record some new songs for a retrospective set (unfortunately, not a box set)? Oh, hell yeah.

Apparently, it is going to happen. And that gets my hyperbole glands tingling.

See, I think the 'Mats are one of the best rock bands of all time. When my roommate introduced me to them in my freshman year of college, it was like everything I thought I knew about music meant nothing. All the music I'd listened to before that was total $#!+. The world opened up to me.

I know you've all had bands or albums that had the same effect on you (and I hope you mention some of 'em in the comments). Which ones made you want to throw out your music collection and start all over?

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Four-sentence movie reviews!

After seeing V For Vendetta on Sunday, I realized I haven't written about movies in a while, which is something I really enjoy doing. Yet I don't really want to write separate entries for everything I've seen in theaters or at home lately, because it gets a bit monotonous - especially when I get long-winded - and I like to mix things up. So I tried to limit myself to four sentences on each movie, even though I couldn't say everything I wanted to say. But that's sort of the point.

V For Vendetta: I might have to see this again, because I can't quite figure out if this movie is way too heavy-handed with its modern political allegories or if it's exactly the kind of film we need right now. Me, I enjoyed the allusions to how our government and media acts toward the society-at-large. Turning a mirror on the culture and asking tough questions is what good science fiction really does. I was smiling a lot while watching this, and not just because Natalie Portman is so darn cute (even with a shaved head).

Inside Man: A really fun plot, with all kinds of tricks and turns, that amazingly doesn't collapse under its own weight. With one of the main actor in a mask most of the time, and costumes used for deception, it has some slight similarites to V For Vendetta. My only real complaint is that it takes a bit too long to get to the end. I also love that Jodie Foster gets to break out of that female Harrison Ford, "stop messing with my family" rut she's been stuck in lately.

Thumbsucker: This might be the best Wes Anderson movie that wasn't directed by Wes Anderson. Actually, it's probably better than any of Anderson's films. Keanu Reeves is great in a small role that kind of pokes fun at his public persona, while Vince Vaughn tries something different from what we've seen. You could just tell that the entire (really talented) cast enjoyed playing such a quirky group of characters.

Lord of War: Brilliant, crazy and darkly funny. This deserved much more of an audience in theaters, but it was obviously a tough sell. And I'm not a Nicolas Cage fan, but this might be the best movie he's ever done. What I loved most is that it doesn't change its tone for any kind of happy or moralistic ending.

Junebug: I wanted to love this movie, but was just disappointed because I had no idea what it was really about. Whose story is this really supposed to be and why? I have a theory about the title character, however, that might help me make sense of the whole thing, but I'm still not sure it's enough to make me care. Amy Adams is adorable, though.

Cinderella Man: Another one that deserved more of an audience in theaters. What I think I liked most is that Ron Howard doesn't fall into the same kind of cliches that bog down most sports movies. In a lot of scenes, I was expecting a certain sort of edit, a certain kind of camera shot, because that's what we always seem to get. But Howard is more original than that, which really impressed me.

Spanglish: I can see why people hated this movie, or avoided it altogether. It's too long, and the story splits in too many different directions. (If not for the voiceover narration, I'd ask whose movie this was, too, which is probably why that narration is used.) Despite all those flaws, I just couldn't stop watching because the characters really interested me, and Adam Sandler is really good when he's not playing the jackass buffoon.

Night Watch: If it wasn't in Russian, maybe I would've understood more of it. Yet it used subtitles more creatively than I've ever seen. It's just a fun, bloody, insane horror/vampire/fantasy flick that never stops to explain what's happening or how this world works. It just barrels ahead, throws a lot of crazy $#!+ at you, and dares you to keep up with the whole thing. Best of all, it doesn't take itself as seriously as, say, The Matrix trilogy, with all the heavy-duty philosophy and existentialism.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Technology isn't making me happy

A few weeks ago, Harrison Ford was on The Daily Show to promote Firewall (which I thought was, well, a fiery wall of doo-doo). Since Ford's character in the movie was some kind of computer systems expert, Jon Stewart asked him if he was computer savvy. And Ford, in what's now become his typical crankiness, said he didn't know much about them. But he knew that they wouldn't make our lives as convenient as people were predicting.

"It wasn't going to make life easier," he said. "It was just going to make another category of people who come to your house to fix shit that's broke."

Actually, I thought that was really funny. Because it was true. And I've come to understand that all too well over the past six days.

Computers are a cruel mistress. Obviously, they've been good to me, giving me a voice that I've wanted since I was a teenager and keeping me in touch with the world. But man, when they go bad, they can really #@$% you. They can #@$% you in small ways, as the cord of my laptop's AC adapter did when it frayed like a rat gnawed on it. (I should probably look into that possibility.) And they can #@$% you in huge ways, as the hard drive on my father's desktop did when it suffered an inexplicable meltdown.

I haven't enjoyed being #@$%ed over the past six days. And I've been on the phone with too many people willing to find more things wrong with my machines and charge me up the @$$ while doing it. But at least they were very nice and helpful in the process.

So I'll lay off my childhood hero for a while. I don't know why you're so cranky, Mr. Ford. But you spoke the truth, and in doing so, regained a few cool points in my book. Just stop making pieces of $#!+ like Firewall, okay?

Monday, March 27, 2006

Happy Birthday, Dad

Today is my father's birthday. He would've been 62 years old, and I keep wanting to pick up the phone to wish him a Happy Birthday. I want to take him out for a birthday lunch or dinner.

Emotionally, as you might imagine, I feel like kind of a mess right now. Obviously, there's the grief and sadness. We miss him terribly, and still can't believe he's gone. I try to be there for my mother as best I can, but I know it's not the same. Most days, I wish I could do more for her.

For me, there's also anger. I thought that would've passed by now, but it hasn't. My father should've had at least another 10 years, if not 20. He and my mother should've been able to enjoy retirement and old age together. It just doesn't feel right. Or fair. He deserved more. He deserved better.

Every year, in the months leading up to his birthday, I'd often make a mental checklist of gift ideas for him. What was a book or CD that he'd find especially interesting? I haven't been doing that much mental shopping over the past 10 months, but this weekend, I walked around a bookstore and picked out what I might have gotten for him this year. It wasn't easy, mostly because I haven't had our usual phone conversations to draw ideas and inspiration from. So I mostly thumbed through the books and music that I thought he'd like, but also reminded me of him. I'm especially glad that no one asked me if I needed any help because I wouldn't have managed much of an answer.

My sister and I talked about what we should do for Dad's birthday, our first without him. What would capture his spirit? What would he want to do? And what might help us break up the sadness a bit, and get through the day?

Making a donation in my father's name seemed like the most important thing to do. He gave a lot of his time and money to causes and institutions he believed in. If I didn't already know that, the constant deluge of mail and phone calls asking for contributions is a reminder. (And to most of those organizations, I apologize. Maybe it'll be easier to deal with your requests next time around.)

We wanted to follow his example, so today, we're making a donation to WEMU, a radio station my father loved and supported for many, many years. He loved news, he loved the arts, and he loved jazz. WEMU celebrates each of those things, and if we can play a small part in keeping that going in my father's name, it's the least we can do.

The other thing we're going to do today might sound strange, but we think it really captures Dad's spirit. I'm going to a Coney Island for dinner tonight. Because if Dad could have one thing for his birthday, he'd want a hot dog. On many occasions, when we wanted to go out for a meal, we'd ask him what he wanted. Try that new Mexican joint? Feel like pizza? Hey, how about Thai? But if we left it up to him, Dad would chuckle, shrug his shoulders, maybe look down at the floor, and sheepishly say, "You know, I wouldn't mind going for a hot dog." And he knew my mother would roll her eyes and protest.

Sure, we'd take him out for better meals on his birthday. Italian food. Mediterranean food. Seafood. Or a thick, juicy London Broil, covered in mushrooms. But he always seemed happier just eating a hot dog. And if it were entirely up to him, that's probably what he'd have. So that's what I'm having today. Chili, mustard, onions - all of it. Lay it on me. I don't know what my sister will do, as the Coney Island hasn't exactly made its way down south. Surely, she can find a hot dog stand somewhere in Charleston. I'll try to help her out with Google.

I don't know if this is enough. Later, we'll probably think of other things we could've done, other donations we could've made. But it feels right today.

Happy Birthday, Dad. We miss you and we love you.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

B For Beard-etta!

I was all set to write something else today, but breaking news just hit the Fried Rice Thoughts blog desk from the New York Bureau.

Ladies, gentleman, and children: I am sexy. I am trendy.

Validation, courtesy of the New York Times. According to today's edition, the Paul Bunyan look is in. Beards are beautiful. Why? Because the hipster and fashion elite say so. Here are some of the quotes from designers and stylists in Eric Wilson's article:

"It's less 'little boy,'" says Brian Bradley.

"It's a nice masculine aesthetic," says Robert Tagliapietra.

"For the past several years we've been stripping guys of their body hair," says John Allan. "Maybe now it's time for the pendulum to swing the other way."

Oh, that pendulum has swung, my friends. And about once every 15 years, it swings my way. The whole grunge thing fit right in with how I dressed back then (and, really, still do). Now, once again, I'm sliding comfortably into the embrace of the trendy. What will I be doing in another 15 years? I have no idea. But check with me, because whatever it is will probably be in, baby.

What started out as a whim and a change of pace for me has become something much bigger. It's part of a cultural revolution, and I am thrilled to have joined it.

Raise your fists to the sky, burly men! Let it grow! Put away the razors, creams, and scrubs! Bearded is beautiful! Viva la revolucion!

E-mails are already pouring in from friends, admirers, and potential paramours. To them, I say thank you. Thank you for standing by me. Thank you for embracing my furry face. Your support has meant so very much.

... The question now is whether this will dissuade me from my plans to shave this thing off my face in May, once the weather gets warmer. Today's news says I probably shouldn't. But if the counterculture is now the mainstream, wouldn't I be truer to myself, to my anarchic roots, by sticking with my original intentions? We shall see, people. The revolution will likely be photographed.

(Image from "Get Fuzzy"
©2006 Darby Conley/ Dist. by UFS, Inc.)

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Wet or dry? Pick your ear

Mis Hooz sent this from the FRT New York Bureau weeks ago, but I ended up losing it in the draft pile. A little bit of spring cleaning turned it up, and I think it's still pretty timely. But maybe you should wait until after lunch before trying this out.

Stick your finger in your ear, pull it out, and then see what you've got. Maybe it would be better (and more sanitary) to use a cotton swab.

How's your earwax look? Are you wet or dry?

(I wanted to post a photo with this, but the stuff I found on Google is just too gross. Give it a try yourself, if you're so inclined. You can thank me later.)

Apparently, it depends on your ethnicity. According to this New York Times article, a team of Japanese researchers determined that wet earwax is dominant among Africans and Europeans, while the dry stuff is prevalent among East Asians. (Southern and Central Asians are split down the middle.)

How much you sweat also plays a factor. Those who sweat less tend to have the dry stuff, while the schvitzers among us go wet.

Because you want to know, I'm a wet guy, despite my Asian heritage. But I think my mother fits comfortably in the Southern Asia contingent. My father's European descent probably had an effect on my earstuff, and I know I inherited his propensity for heavy sweating. (Note to self: don't post this on the MySpace profile.)

And if you're wondering why we have earwax in the first place, think of it as nature's flypaper. Keeps the bugs out.

Okay, I don't know about you guys, but I'm hungry. Off to lunch. Feel free to share your earwax tales with the rest of us.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Baby, baby, baby...! Baby, baby, baby...!

So tell me if this is the latest trend in your life. Everyone around me is having babies. A few years ago, the trend was marriage. Everyone was getting married. So it stands to reason that the natural progression from there would be procreation.

Babies. They're popping up all around me.

My buddy Eric just had his second child. Kevin Antcliff has his own number two on the way, and posted pictures of the ultrasound on his blog. (And that gives me an idea for a future post. Hmm... if I ever have a colonoscopy... ) Fried Rice Favorite and frequent commenter Mrs. K has a bun in the oven. And my long-time friend Chris just had his first child. He showed me pictures over the weekend, just before a celebratory round at the bar.

I haven't gone over to see the young buck yet, but I can see the difference in his father. He's made that transition from fearful to hopeful. We've known each other since we were kids, and now he's responsible for a child. And he's excited. You can see it in his eyes, you can hear it in his voice. The dude's now a father, and he's ready to take it on. As his friend, I'm extremely proud of him.

During his pending fatherhood, while he was waiting for the birth at the hospital, and once he took his son home, I've tried to imagine myself in his shoes. Our friend Mike had his first kid - his first of three - six years ago, and I probably had similar thoughts at the time. But Mike has always been a step ahead when it comes to embracing the trappings of adulthood. He got married first, he bought a house before the rest of us, and figured out his "real job" while we were still looking. He just seemed to take each of those steps without really questioning what he was doing.

For whatever reason, I found myself relating to Chris more throughout this process. Maybe because the transition was more apparent to me. I could see him asking those questions, whether he verbalized them or not. I could see him slowly become comfortable with the concept of being a father, acknowledging that playtime (or that particular version of playtime, at least) was over. And I wonder if I could ever do the same thing.

At one point or another, I've said to most people I know that I don't plan on having kids. And I'm actually quite comfortable with that idea. Every time I go to a birthday party for Mike's kids, I wonder where the nearest vasectomy clinic is. Of course, much of that sentiment has to do with my current station in life. I'm older now than my father was when I was born. But that's probably true for a lot of us.

Never say never. I know. Things can change - and fast. But not too fast, please.

Anyway, the point of all this was to tell you people to slow down. Just because I started drawing a paycheck again doesn't mean I can spend all of it on baby gifts. (Fortunately for me, the Warner Bros. Studio Stores all closed down, so I'm not tempted by lil' Superman and Batman outfits. How #@$%ing cool are those?) I'm all for the rehearsal. Go practice conception. Knock your brains out with that stuff. We could all use more of that. (Maybe I'm speaking for myself...)

Let me have a little more of that before we talk about little Ians filling diapers all over the place, okay? Late bloomer over here.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

I don't think they have a cream for this

It doesn't happen so much anymore, but in the past, several people have asked me where I get my sense of humor from. But I could be remembering the question incorrectly. Maybe I was being asked what my parents were like, in order to figure out why I turned out the way I have. So let me share this with you, and you can judge which question is more appropriate.

My mother has been having trouble with her hip over the last two weeks. It's probably arthritis, judging from the symptoms. The pain's at its worst in the morning, as her leg's stiffened up after sleeping. Later in the day (albeit after popping some Tylenol), the hip doesn't bother her as much. A couple of days ago, however, she complained that the pain was the worst it's ever been, and she could barely move.

Trying to be the good son that I strive to be, I took Mama Cass to the drugstore so we could get some pain cream and heating pads. On the recommendation of my pharmacist, we picked up some Capzasin. But just in case, I also picked up some Icy Hot. My right wrist has been bothering me a bit lately, so I figured I could mooch whichever ointment my mother wasn't using.

(And save your jokes, bucko. My wrist hurts from incessant typing, okay? At least I think so. Besides, I use my left hand for what you're thinking about. I never shake the orange juice in the morning with my right hand.)

As I was channeling the spirit of my father and looking through every single pain relief cream on the shelf, trying to make sense out of which product had better analgesic properties, my mother began to wander further down the aisle. (In case you were wondering where I get my short attention span from... ) And as I put the final tube down, ultimately agreeing with my sister's advice - who, by the way, was near the top of her class in pharmacy school - and began to walk toward the cash register, Mama Cass called out to me.

"Ian! Hey son, look at this," she said. I turned to see my mother, with a huge grin on her face, holding up another tube.

"Nipple cream! It's for the nipples!" I looked up and down the aisles, making sure no one else was around, while slowly backing away from my mother. If it helps you visually, picture a short Asian woman saying this to you from a short distance.

"Hey, you should get some of this for your friend who just had a baby," she continued. "Her nipples will be very sore! Hey, where are you going?"

Minutes later, Mama Cass found me by the pop cooler, with my fingers stuck in my ears and tapping my heels together.

"Hey, why'd you run away?" she said. "Did I embarrass you? You don't want to hear your mama talk about nipples?"

"Okay," I said, obviously trying to change the subject. "We've got the stuff [Lil' Sis] told us to get. Let's get home, so you can use it."

"At work, we talk about nipples all the time," she said in that consoling motherly tone. "I work with pregnant women all day. Sometimes, I forget I'm not talking to the other nurses."

By the way, the Capzacin seems to be working. My mother's hip has been feeling much better over the last couple of days. And my wrist doesn't hurt anymore, either.

(Image from "Get Fuzzy" ©2006 Darby Conley/ Dist. by UFS, Inc.)

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Out to lunch?

It's been a little busy this week here at the Fried Rice Thoughts offices. But I promise the time is being used productively.

Please don't look at me that way. I know I've been neglectful. And I've been spending a lot of time with The Stepblog, but that doesn't mean I still don't love you. After all, you were the first. And we've been through a lot together.

I still haven't gotten around to the stuff I've been wanting to write about. I've been bumping into a lot of old friends and acquaintances over the past couple of weeks. And it seems like everyone around me is suddenly having babies. I want to write about all that. And I definitely plan to.

So after I get through this work and various errands, some ziti will be served. Until then, shake your fists at me. Have a good day.

(Image from "Get Fuzzy"
©2006 Darby Conley/ Dist. by UFS, Inc.)

Monday, March 13, 2006

Not quite ready for the close-up

Well, the long-awaited (in this house, anyway) moment is here. Once again, it's self-indulgent promotion time here at Fried Rice Thoughts. (There's nothing self-indulgent about referring to my blog in the third person, is there? Or would that be "third blog"?)

The new March issue of Motor City Sports Magazine hit newsstands last week, and brings with it my print debut. My giant mug adorns the column on page 10. Fortunately for you, the photo is big enough to draw upon with markers. Devil horns, missing teeth, nose hair - knock yourself out. Maybe we can have a contest with the best submissions.

I'm also very happy with the centerfold spread. They did a great job with the airbrushing. I don't think I've ever looked more beautiful, and I look forward to the day when I can show my kids those photos and tell them, "See, your dad was once hot stuff."

Okay, no centerfold. I promise. But I did write a short piece on Zamboni machines (which was previewed here) and participated in this month's Roundtable discussion (and no, my head is not used as the actual "roundtable," though it is probably that large).

I'd like to thank MCSM's editor-in-chief, Greg Eno, for giving me this opportunity, which has already led to some amazing experiences (one of which I'll probably share later this week). And I'm also indebted to Kevin Antcliff, without whom there would likely be no magazine to write for, and who graciously mentioned me to Greg when he was looking for contributors.

should be available at most newsstands, if you'd like to give it a peek. The final product looks good, and there's a lot of fun stuff in this issue. If you can't find the magazine or you're not in the metro Detroit area (or outlying regions of the state), and are interested in reading my work, drop me an e-mail and I'll see what I can do.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Failure to comprehend

With each ad I've been subjected to on TV, any interest I had in seeing Matthew McConaughey's new movie, Failure to Launch, dwindled to below zero. We're talking negative numbers here. And I wasn't that interested to begin with, despite the women in my life constantly gooing over Naked Bongo Boy. (Alright, alright, alright...!)

It looked like a steaming paper bag of romantic comedy elephant dung to me. Hiring Terry Bradshaw to play McConaughey's dad? How could it not be cinematic vomit?

Then I read Stephen Hunter's review in today's Washington Post:

"... the movie is one of the best American films in months and months and the best comedy since I don't know when."

Say what? Hunter even compared this thing to a Billy Wilder film. Holy guacamole. And it's not like Hunter is prone to gushing, as I've pointed out before.

Is it possible? Is this actually a good movie? Should I not judge a film by its trailer (which is, by the way, all I have to go on when deciding what to see at the theater)?

Nah. 27% at Rotten Tomatoes. 48 at Metacritic. Just keep livin'...

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Oh, what fresh hell is this?

I should be typing this post from a jail cell, where I would've been thrown after assaulting a man in public earlier this afternoon. But I took a deep breath, thought of frolicking with the newly single Uma Thurman (I'm back in the game, baby!) on a Hawaiian beach, and reached that Zen place I usually only find after a finishing off a fifth of Jameson during an Arrested Development DVD marathon.

It wasn't easy, though. Lunch at the Mongolian Barbeque with a friend I hadn't seen in a while was supposed to be pleasant and fun, but it felt like I spent most of the hour behind a jackass yammering on his cell phone while trying to assemble his meal.

I'm sure most of you are probably familiar with these types of places, but for those who might not be, here's the drill: You fix your own stir-fry meal. All of the raw vegetables, meats, spices, and sauces are laid out for you, buffet-style. You throw your veggies in a bowl, top 'em with your raw beef, chicken, or seafood of choice, flavor it up with sauce and spice, and then give the concoction to someone standing at a giant grill who then cooks the whole thing for you in minutes. Wham, bam, thank you, ma'am.

So you probably see how one might need two hands free for this exercise. Trying to hold a bowl in one hand while picking up pieces of raw meat with tongs, but talking on the cell phone held in your other hand just doesn't sound like a good idea, does it?

Hey, maybe trying to cradle the phone between your head and shoulder so both your hands are free will work. No, it won't. Your head's too big. The phone's too small. And oh, by the way, you're about to drop that phone INTO A TUB OF RAW MEAT.

Do you see the potential for something unsanitary occurring here? Or total disaster? Can you understand how the poor sap (or saps) standing behind this total moron might get a little annoyed while waiting for him to realize situations like this are why hands-free headsets were created? Could he at least work out some semblance of physical logic, manage some consideration for his fellow lunch patrons, or decide that his banal conversation about someone's birthday party could've been put off for five minutes?

Is it easy to imagine how a certain blogger's eyes might begin turning green, as his temples throb and teeth grind while his inner Bill Bixby tries to contain the raging Lou Ferrigno within?

Deep, calming breaths, and thoughts of flowers, puppies, and sunshine were all that kept me from stabbing two chopsticks into either side of this tool's neck.

I just wanted to enjoy a nice lunch and catch up with my buddy. Instead, I had to watch a buffoon play slapstick with a plastic bowl, raw meat, and a cell phone. My sister says I need to work on my temper and stop saying or wishing mean things onto people. Do you think she would be disappointed in me for hoping this idiot would either contract salmonella on his fingers or find his way in front of an oncoming bus after leaving the restaurant?

On the bright side, my shrimp, squid, and scallops stir-fry was delicious. I, dear readers and friends, can assemble a kick-ass bowl of mongolian barbeque.

Fashionably late-night TV

Like Mr. Wabi-Sabi, I found myself watching the Project Runway season finale late last night. I hadn't watched most of the season, but a boring weekend and a marathon on Bravo can do a lot to change your interests. For whatever reason, I'm endlessly amused by the way Heidi Klum narrates every step of the elimination process.

"Now there are five of you. One of you will be the winner, and one of you will be out, after which I will kiss you on the cheeks and say goodbye to you in German. You will now go in the back room and looked pained while the four of us judges make bitchy comments about the outfits you made."

Or maybe I just wish we all had a Tim Gunn to come in and offer support and constructive criticism, with an occasionally caustic remark.

Anyway, I don't agree with who won the finale, but won't get too worked up about it, as my Man Card was just restored with a stern warning after recent lapses.

For others who may have watched, did you find the final announcement strangely subdued and anti-climactic? Maybe they were all tired after a long day (and season).

(Image from

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Waking up when the smile's gone

I spent most of yesterday in a melancholy mood (which I might try to get into later in the week), so I probably reacted more strongly to the news of Kirby Puckett's death than I may have at a different time.

Puckett was one of my favorite baseball players to watch, probably because his squat, roly-poly body resembled mine. If he could play centerfield with that kind of build, then maybe there was hope for me, too. In high school, I wrote a term paper on Negro League baseball for a history class, and used Puckett as a bridge to modern-day sports. I couldn't imagine baseball without someone like him, who played with so much joy.

I wrote much more about this on my sports blog today. To me, it feels like kind of a wake-up call (as if I really needed another one). If someone like Puckett could die at 45 years of age, what sorts of changes do I need to make in my life?

(Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images - via

Monday, March 06, 2006

Why did I bother: the 78th Academy Awards

On Friday, USA Today's Whitney Matheson said she had a feeling the Oscars would be "rather long and tedious." When I read that, I hoped she was wrong. But she nailed it exactly. I enjoy watching the Oscars, treating it almost like a big sporting event, but last night's show was really boring. I had it on in the background, but looked for other things to do throughout the telecast. My checkbook is balanced. My laundry is done. My desk is clean, mostly because I finally blew through all of the magazines I'd picked up over the past couple of months.

I thought Jon Stewart would be the best part of the show, but he lost me at the opening monologue, which just felt forced. He seemed awkward most of the night, like he was holding back the jokes he really wanted to tell. But I did like the "Daily Show"-esque pre-taped segments, like the "negative campaign ads" and Tom Hanks' demonstration of what would happen to anyone whose speech ran too long.

Here are the awards I would've passed out (and a list of actual winners):

I Am a Woman and My Dress Proves It: Felicity Huffman.

(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/AP)

I Won Last Year So I Don't Have to Wear a Tie (and Oh Yeah, I'm Morgan Freeman):
Morgan Freeman

Best Actress Accessory: Pregnancy (and post-pregnancy). Did you see Rachel Weisz as she stepped up to accept her award? Hoo mama. And Jennifer Garner was so... full (as my mother, the post-partum care nurse, would say), her balance was thrown off. Did you see her stumble?

Best Cleavage (non-mother): Salma Hayek. A repeat winner from last year, and the winner every year she attends the Oscars. Which award did she present, anyway?

Smartest Guy in the Room: Jack Nicholson, for getting his seat next to Keira Knightley.

Hey, That's How I'd Dress: Larry McMurtry, co-winner for Best Adapted Screenplay. He was already one of my literary heroes, but after seeing him dressed in blue jeans with a tuxedo jacket and top, I look up to him for his fashion sense, as well.

Worst Idea: Playing music through each winner's entire acceptance speech. It reminded me of when Howard Stern plays sad music during Robin Quivers' newscast. (Close second: the production numbers for two of the three Best Song nominees. Burning cars onstage? Pimps and ho's dancing?)

That Guy Loves Himself: M. Night Shyamalan and his MasterCard commercial, in which a fan comes up to tell him how great his films are. Did Shyamalan write the ad himself? I don't think you'd see any other director in a self-congratulating ad like that.

Wow, That Looks Stupid
: This isn't Oscar-related, but ABC's new reality show, American Inventor, looks awful. Having said that, should we bet that I'll somehow be watching it by April?

And, once again, because my Mom wants to know, here's how I did on my Oscar picks. My future is clearly not in prognosticating:

My pick: Matt Dillon
Actual winner: George Clooney

Did I really pick against Clooney? Man, that was dumb. As RC pointed out in Friday's comments, Clooney had "the buzz" around him. Plus, the guy had to win something, with nominations for acting, writing, and directing.

My pick: Michelle Williams
Actual winner: Rachel Weisz

Weisz was good in The Constant Gardener, but this is where the Oscars really got it wrong. (Though Evan called it right.) Williams had the more impressive performance. Plus, her dress deserved to go onstage. She looked great.

(Photo by Steve Granitz/

My pick: Reese Witherspoon
Actual winner: Reese Witherspoon

Like I said, this was the lock of the night. Maybe a little too long with the speech, though. Where was the blowdart from the clarinet when we needed it?

My pick: Philip Seymour Hoffman
Actual winner: Philip Seymour Hoffman

I thought this was a lock, too, though Hoffman's competition was tougher than Witherspoon's. I was just glad to see him get rewarded, because he makes daring choices that don't usually get Oscar nominations.

My pick: Ang Lee
Actual winner: Ang Lee

You know, this was probably a lock, too. Lee made the best movie (in my opinion), and deserved to be recognized for that. And maybe someday, I'll forget that he made Hulk, which should've been one of the best comic book movies ever.

My pick: Brokeback Mountain
Actual winner: Crash

Does it make any sense to say I'm not surprised Crash won, yet I'm stunned that Brokeback Mountain did not win? As I said on Friday, maybe I'm attributing too much to Brokeback's cultural impact, instead of its merit as a movie.

But I watched Crash again on Saturday night, and it's a good movie, but I just don't think it has as much to say about hate and intolerance, and how that affects people's lives. But maybe it does comment on those subjects in more of an everyday context by showing how anger seems ingrained in our society. I'm kind of thinking out loud here, trying to make sense of this.

(David Poland probably does a better job of explaining Crash's win at The Hot Button.)

To me, it was a disappointing end to a disappointing show, the end of which I had to force myself to stay up and watch. For those of you who watched, let alone stuck with it, what did you think?

Friday, March 03, 2006

Makin' my Oscar list and checkin' it twice

Oy, it's been one of those weeks. It seems like I've either been fighting a cold, dealing with pending computer issues (Hey, Toshiba! Feel free to process my #@$%ing order any time now!), or sitting - to quote myself from last night - "tit-deep" in all things Detroit Tigers for a magazine assignment.

So I have a few thoughts and ideas sitting in the "draft" box, waiting for some proper attention. I really do want to get to them, and not just because I want to, but because I should. So I will. Unfortunately, they'll probably have to wait until next week. If I don't do something to decompress, like walk around downtown, watch a movie, chill out with a book in a coffee shop, or peruse a bunch of stuff I shouldn't buy at a bookstore, my forehead might somehow crush itself under its own weight.

But with the Academy Awards coming up on Sunday night, I wanted to post my predictions. Just so I can brag (modestly, of course) if I get it right. I thought about live-blogging the show, but it's too damn long with so many awards that just don't warrant much response. Besides, that would keep me from chatting on the phone or instant-messaging, which is where most of the fun - unless you're at an Oscars party - comes in. I'll probably post some of my own awards, like I did last year, along with seeing how many picks I got wrong. I hope you guys join in, too.

Speaking of those picks...

Michelle Williams - Brokeback Mountain

Won't it be funny when the actress from Brokeback Mountain gets an award instead of the actors? But there's one moment when Williams really impressed me. When she catches her husband in a scenario she never imagined, she completely sold it. Many actresses probably would've overplayed it for the drama. But Williams didn't. Her devastation is all in her face. She's someone who doesn't know how to react. It seemed real to me, rather than acting.

Matt Dillon - Crash

I don't know if it's much of a stretch, but this is my go-out-on-a-limb pick. My man-crush, George Clooney probably won't forgive me. And Jake Gyllenhaal could win this. But if Crash is going to win any award (besides Best Original Screenplay), I think it'll happen here. If you think this movie is important, its message is most represented through Dillon's character. This might also serve as kind of a reward to Dillon for his career. But it's not like his performance doesn't deserve it.

Reese Witherspoon - Walk the Line

It's surely unfair to say this is the weakest category when I've only seen one of the five nominated performances. But it looks that way to me. Walk the Line isn't much of a movie without Witherspoon because she has to make you believe she's someone Johnny Cash would fall in love with. And she does it. She's charming, she's funny, she's caring, and most of all, she's conflicted. And she shows her pain. But she's also fierce about what she believes in.
This is the lock of the night.

Philip Seymour Hoffman - Capote

I know a lot of people think Heath Ledger should win this, and I wouldn't argue with that, but this should be the lock of the night. It's not about the funny voice and the arrogant personality (with a touch of flamboyance). It's about portraying a guy who's an outsider in one circumstance, and the life of the party in another. And he roots for something terrible to happen, knowing it will make his career, yet realizing it's wrong to wish for. Plus, isn't it about time Hoffman was rewarded for his work?

Ang Lee - Brokeback Mountain

I'll probably never forgive Ang Lee for making Hulk. That movie should've been - ahem - incredible. I don't know what the #@$% he was doing there. But I'm backing off a bit now, because he followed it up with a beautiful - and important - film. Lee doesn't hit you over the head with a message. He lets the images and the moments speak for themselves. And if Ledger, Gyllenhaal, and Williams are better here than in anything else they've done, shouldn't Lee get some credit for that?

Brokeback Mountain

It's almost impossible not to consider this movie's cultural impact when discussing its merits. (How many bad Brokeback jokes have you heard lately?) Maybe it's not as good as Crash or Capote. But I think it is. And considering the significance it carries, that's more than enough to give it Best Picture. This movie matters. And how many times can you say that? If it doesn't win, we'll be looking back in 10 years and asking what the #@$% happened. Because in 10 years, we'll still be talking about this film.

And for the writers in the house, I have to mention the screenplay awards. No surprises, though. Crash (which, yes, I finally watched, and yes, Hoyt, I really liked it) will win the BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY award and Brokeback Mountain will get BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY. The best movies of the year get what they deserve.

I can't wait. Do I get too excited about the Oscars? Probably. But hey, I love movies. And how great a host is Jon Stewart going to be? C'mon over, we'll have a party. Bring dip. I have beer.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

You keep on boinking, docs!

As I've written before, I think Grey's Anatomy should really be called Doctors #@$%ing. Watch the show with someone who hasn't seen it before, and try to explain all of the storylines. It's all about who's sleeping with whom, and by the time you make your chart and draw lines connecting each doctor to the other doctor he or she is boning, the entire hour will have passed. (And tell me that title wouldn't attract your attention in the TV listings.)

Anyway, it was already one of my favorite TV shows, but last Sunday's episode was one that will probably cement my loyalty forever, even if/when it comes close to hurdling over a deep sea predator.

For those who haven't been watching, a prevailing plot thread during the program's run has been one of those will-they-or-won't-they storylines that we've seen on sooooo many TV shows (including House, which thankfully seems to be done with that). Even worse, it's an unrequited love, with one character holding a scorching torch for someone who is both clueless to his feelings and in love with another doctor (whom she, of course, has already played "hide the salami").

This story thread has inched dangerously close to annoying, and in the Casselberry TV room, has almost relegated Dr. Lovelorn into a Ross Geller-ish whiner whom I'd prefer to see get hit by a very large truck which then backs over him again while the driver checks what happened. Except I'd rather not see him get hit by a truck, because he's an underdog I can't help rooting for. And my sister thinks he's adorable. With really great hair.

But the show's writers (who have an addictive blog of their own) finally put an end to the ordeal with some damn satisfying finality on Sunday. It didn't look that way at first. The hangdog guy actually got the girl of his dreams into bed, and they bumped uglies. But instead of turning into a flowery romance, like it often does in TV shows and movies, it got ugly. Really ugly. It was a guy's worst nightmare, and may have ruined a friendship forever. And hot damn, it was good TV to watch. Because these types of stories never seem to go that way. Not on the shows I've watched, at least.

So they already had me. But now they've really got me. Those damn doctors, their incessant fornicating, and the writers who create characters that believably change and grow through the course of their stories (here's the blog by Stacy McKee, who wrote last Sunday's episode), really, really have me. Like a forceps on a baby's head, man.