Thursday, September 28, 2006

The night-time, sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching, stuffy-head post

I've been fighting a nasty cold the last couple of days, which has rendered me near-comatose, and not at full blogging strength. (But I know I was slacking on posts before that. I'm not using being sick as an excuse. Well, not totally, anyway.)

I'm going to blame the Lions. Before I went to Ford Field to get some stuff for Motor City Sports, I was a thriving, virile, somewhat energetic young man. After watching the Lions lose to the Packers, and trolling for quotes in the locker room afterwards (a player talked to me!), I became sick a couple of days later. Coincidence? Or something more... ?

In the meantime, I managed to snap some photos with my new (test market) camera phone. Here's a guy singing the Lions fans' blues outside the stadium after the game. Had so many fans not left early, his guitar case probably would've had some more money in it.

You can see more at my Flickr page. Not the most exciting photos in the world, and I'm not in any of them. (I tried to look, like, "professional" and stuff.) But I wanted some shots to remember my first visit to Ford Field. If I ever go back as a fan (and I say "if," because I'm strongly considering a boycott as long as Matt Millen still works for the team), I'll take better pictures.

Rest, fluids, The Office, and Grey's Anatomy for the rest of the night. Stay classy out there.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

That's what she said!

Apparently, my last experience with podcasting didn't deter me from giving it another try. My friend Matt asked me to join him for the debut episode of his new podcast, "That's What She Said," a show devoted to NBC's The Office. And I was more than happy to help out, since Matt already did all of the grunt production work.

Plus, he promised that I'd be on the show for more than six seconds.

Seriously though, he put a lot of work into the podcast, which you'll be able to hear with all of the show clips, bumpers, and music he squeezed in. This week, we break down the season premiere, titled "Gay Witch Hunt." What happened to Jim and Pam? Can Michael be trusted to keep Oscar's personal life with discretion? We talk about all of it, complete with actual highlights from the show.

If you get a chance, please listen to Episode 1.0. (The podcast is also available on iTunes.) And tell us (more specifically, tell Matt) what you think. Constructive criticism would be much appreciated.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Set-Up?

So I'm on my way back to my car, after picking up the Sunday papers at a grocery store, when I notice that someone left a shopping cart right next to my car, near the driver-side door.

Regardless of the circumstances, I'd be irritated by such a thing, but what made this even more maddening was A) the parking lot was virtually empty (easy like Sunday morning), and B) the cart corral was right across the lane from my car. It would've been six steps, tops, to push that scratch-and-dent wagon over with the rest of its shiny, rusty, squeaky brethren.

And I'm muttering each of the more popular curse words, as I push the cart over to the corral. "Stupid m-f'er" this, "lazy c-sucker" that. Actually, I'm getting annoyed with each step away from my car. "How #@$%ing hard is it to do this $#!+?"

Then I turn back around and see a woman standing between my car and the one parked in front of it. She has a smile on her face - kind of a forced one. And she's hovering toward me as I walk back to the car. My first thought was, "Oh, maybe that was her cart, and she left it there as she was getting something in her car." I was going to find out, because she was now walking right to me. Still smiling.

"Hi, how are you this morning?" she says. Yep, I took her cart. She's going to say something. Good. Then I can tell her what I think of leaving a cart that close to my car door.

"Fine," I respond tersely.

"I'm Julie. May I ask your name?"

"Um... Bill."

"Bill, would it be okay if we spoke for a moment about your happiness?" She scrunched her shoulders up to her ears as she asked. I knew she wasn't talking about drugs. It was too bright outside. And again, we were in a grocery store parking lot.

"Excuse me?" This also meant I wasn't going to be yelling at anyone. I hate it when that happens.

Then she pulls out a pamphlet with a brightly colored, tree-filled landscape on the cover. Two people are smiling, admiring something off in the distance, as they're apparently about to feast on pumpkins. At the top, it says, "All Suffering SOON TO END!"

Oh no. I knew it. No one is that happy at 9 a.m. on a Sunday morning.

"I'd just like to share this with you, and then maybe you can tell me what you think."

"Right now?" Hey, I had to cover a football game in Detroit later on. And Ian gets crabby if he doesn't get his breakfast. (By the way, I wonder how she would've reacted if I'd told her I had something to share with her, and just wanted to know what she thought?)

"Oh no, no. Just take this, read it, and think about what it says." Still smiling. She then handed the pamphlet to me, and got back into her car where two people were waiting for her. I got into my car, put the newspapers and pamphlets on the passenger seat, and looked up to see her driving away.

She totally set that up, right? Get me to move the cart, and then approach me as I'm coming back to the car. Hook, line, sinker.

I should've just shoved the cart away from my car, enough to give me room so I didn't hit it when I backed out of my parking space. But nooooooo, I had to be considerate toward other people. I had to make sure that cart wouldn't bother anyone else. What a putz.

And did she pass out pamphlets to anyone else in the parking lot? She could have, while I was in the store. Though I wasn't in there very long. Was I the only one? And why did she drive off after talking to me? Didn't she want to talk to anyone else about their happiness?

I'm going to tell this story next time someone asks me why I look surly or says I don't smile enough. Maybe I'll make a pamphlet.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Six seconds of lame

If someone sat in for the recording of a podcast, yet virtually none of his contributions made the final edit, was he ever really on the show?

A couple of weeks ago, Pop Candy's Whitney Matheson asked her readers if they might be interested in appearing on her new podcast. Being a huge fan of the blog, and eager for a chance to chat with a writer I enjoy, I sent over an e-mail to say "Hell, yeah!" A couple of days later, I was invited to participate in the next taping.

Of course, it's possible that I was selected largely because I said I was available at the time she was recording. Looking back now, I probably should've backed out, as I had to shoehorn that conference call in between a commute to Royal Oak and a staff meeting for Motor City Sports Magazine. I wasn't going to be sitting at home or in an office with a solid phone connection. But I still thought it would work with me calling from somewhere with my cell phone. And I wanted to participate.

Then it rained. A lot. And really, really hard. So my plan of wandering the streets until I found an area with a good signal, preferably from a sidewalk table at a cafe, was scotched. The best solution, as I saw it, was to duck into Barnes & Noble and hope I could find a quiet corner where I could chat without feeling self-conscious.

And I did manage to find a decent place to settle in and chat for an hour on a conference call with Whitney and four other Pop Candy readers. But I'm not sure I was able to conquer any self-consciousness. I was someone standing by a window, trying to make sure he wasn't that guy, talking so loud the rest of the store can hear him. So it's very possible that I sounded, well, subdued during the recording. I have no idea.

But I know I wasn't very good or interesting during the taping. About five minutes in, I could just sense that I'd have virtually nothing to contribute. The idea was to ask Whitney questions about herself, about the blog, etc., since that's a request she often gets from readers. And everyone else had "fun" questions, like what she had on her Netflix queue, who's her dream interview, or whatever.

Not me. No, I leaned toward "inside" questions, like how she came to her current job, when did she decide to podcast, did USA Today (Pop Candy's home) ever step in and censor anything, and so forth. Interesting to me, perhaps, but maybe kind of boring for the general audience. As I think about it, I may have been a bit too much in "journalist" mode, and forgot to toggle the switch to "fan." So when I felt like I was kind of dragging down the conversation, I kind of clammed up.

Other reasons (rationalizations?) for me being quiet? I like to think I'm up on pop culture, yet fell woefully short when it came to certain topics. For instance, the gang spent quite a bit of time talking about Rock Star: Supernova, a show I haven't watched a single second of this summer. I could've just gone to the bookstore cafe and come back 15 minutes later. Instead, I was thinking of what I'd get to eat before my meeting.

It's also possible that I was just enjoying the conversation so much that I just sat and listened, rather than add anything myself. Right? Whitney's answers to everyone else's questions were interesting. I tried to throw in a joke or snappy remark throughout the chat, but often felt like I had nothing to say.

Maybe I was just sounded boring. Anyone who's ever held a conversation with me knows that I don't always articulate my thoughts super-quickly. Not exactly "sound bite" quality audio. Or maybe I just breathed out of my nose right into the cell phone too much, and it sounded awful. Who knows?

Anyway, this is a really long build-up to the punchline. How much was I actually in the podcast?

Six seconds.

Read more of "Six seconds of lame"...

I didn't even make it to ten. Six seconds. You hear me introduce myself. And even that part was cut down! Everyone else on the panel told their life stories. Me, I tried to keep it to the pertinent information - short and sweet.

But here's a lesson to anyone who might appear on a show where you're supposed to ask the host questions about her blog: After saying your name, you might not want to try plugging your own blog or fledgling magazine gig. Oh, and if he or she asks how you found the blog that brought everyone together that day, don't admit that you can't remember, and probably clicked on a link at some other website. Got that, kids?

Whitney did answer one of my probing queries at the end of the podcast, however, concerning what she does with all the free stuff she gets (CDs, DVDs, books, etc.). You just don't actually hear me ask the question.

I hope I'm not coming off as bitter, because I'm not. Really. I'm laughing about this. (However, at six seconds, you have to wonder why Whitney bothered to include me in the podcast at all. I should be grateful that she did, I suppose, though it sounds like I got ahold of the tape and squeezed in that introduction myself.)

I appreciate the humor that comes from my pain. (Just ask Kevin Antcliff, who was in tears when I told him this story.) I'm more embarrassed than irritated (and glad I only told a very select few about the invite - although this takes care of that, doesn't it?) I was really excited to be asked on the show, and despite my crap-out, I'm glad I participated. It was a fun way to spend an hour in the late afternoon, and I should've made sure I was better suited to enjoy it. If there's a next time, I'll plan around it much better.

You can find the podcast in question at Pop Candy. (Here are links to the iTunes and RSS feeds, as well. Or you can just download it here. You're getting a lot of links for six seconds, Whit.) The first half of the show is an interview with the Rock Star winner. After that, it's the roundtable. I can be heard from 14:30 to 14:36. The other 29 minutes and 31 seconds of the podcast are Ian-free.

I'll be spending the rest of the week locked away in a dark room, either dulling my pain with whiskey or masking it with handfuls of wasabi peas.

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

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

One hour, and I'm in

Of all the new shows premiering this fall, the one I was probably most excited about was Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip on NBC. When the pilot was released on DVD, I added it to my Netflix queue, though never actually received it, due to procrastination and sloth-like viewing habits. But I was that eager for the return of Aaron Sorkin to television.

I've never been more interested in politics than when I watched The West Wing. I'm a little bit embarrassed to admit that a TV show is what ignited that interest, but the energy of the show, the passion and intelligence of its characters, along with the intriguing domestic and international issues underlying most episodes, was infectious to me. Politics in real life surely isn't as compelling, and probably a whole lot more frustrating, but even if it was a fictional portrayal, it was fascinating to get that inside view.

Sports Night obviously didn't have as wide a scope, as it focused on the inner workings of a sports television network, rather than on a presidential administration. But the same energy was there. The characters were just as passionate, even if their world view was ultimately more internal and narcissistic. But the politics and behind-the-scenes machinations were curiously similar, and just about as intriguing to watch. Sometimes I wonder if the show would've been more popular had it taken place at a news network, instead. Regardless, I certainly think it was ahead of its time.

The West Wing was never quite the same after Sorkin left (though it certainly got interesting in its last season-and-a-half). The episodes just didn't "crackle" with the same intensity. Even the actors seemed to have less spring in their step for those famous "walk-and-talk" scenes.

From most accounts, however, Sorkin was on the fast track to burnout, writing almost all of the episodes himself and giving the actors his scripts at the last possible second. It was a grind no show would've been able to endure, so something had to give. (That "something" could've been Sorkin himself, as a drug problem of his became publicized.) Either way, quality was likely to suffer.

Despite my love for his work, I was a bit skeptical about this new thing. Matthew Perry and Bradley Whitford seem so closely identified with the characters they played on previous shows that I couldn't imagine they'd be believable as anyone else. And how important is a sketch comedy show these days? Would a show taking place behind the scenes of such a program really be that interesting?

But you can distinguish an Aaron Sorkin show from anything else on TV right away, and "Studio 60" distinctly bears his mark. Machine-gun exchanges of dialogue between people as they're walking from one room to another. Characters who are extremely good at what they do, and constantly push others to measure up to the same standards. (And if these people somehow aren't using their talents, a part of them is dead inside.) Many of them see something wrong with the world they work and live in, and speak out against that (in ways all of us wish we could). But they're hardly perfect; they have flaws, vices, and demons to deal with.

And actors are never better than when they're playing one of Sorkin's creations. Though I think Amanda Peet could be miscast, and for no good reason, I can't stand Sarah Paulson - yet she finds herself in a lot of movies and TV shows I watch. Go figure.

But after watching only one episode, I know I'm already hooked.

Monday, September 18, 2006

I need a new week

Okay, Satchel called me out in the comments, and he/she's right. I've been a bad blogger. The Mother Ship has been neglected. And after all she's done for me. She's very disappointed, and rightly so. No posts at all last week? And I wasn't even on vacation?

I could sit here and blame it on various things, but they're not good excuses.

The Stepblog? Maybe, though I kind of slacked over there last week, too.

Deadline crunch at the magazine? Only because of my procrastination. Said magazine's new and improved website? Well, a little bit. It's kind of my new toy to play with. And I've posted a couple of articles there already.

The return of Dancing With the Stars? No comment. Leave me alone on this, okay? (Though I think my Man Card is in fine standing these days.)

A few new gadgets that have come into my possession? Most certainly. I’ve been playing with a new MP3 recorder, mostly because I’m in love with the sound of my own voice, and can now play it back on my computer. Actually, it's what I hope is the first step toward me getting into the podcast business. "Fried Rice Thoughts: The Podcast"? Well, probably not. If it happens, it'll very likely be sports-related, and be affilated with Motor City Sports. Believe me, I'll mention it.

(Speaking of podcasts, however, if you're a fan of The Office, I have to recommend my friend Matt's new venture. You know Matt from the comments, right? Anyway, after guesting on various comic book podcasts over the past few months, he finally decided to do it for himself. Except this time, it's for something he's truly passionate about. He's put a lot of work into it, which I think is reflected in the final product, and I think it's going to be really fun. It's called "That's What She Said," and you can download the "beta" podcast here.)

And thanks to some interesting marketing from Sprint, I am now a test market guinea pig for a new phone they’re rolling out. I'll write more about that later, but for now, you can read Big Al, who Sprint also wooed with their cool new phone.

My point is that I’ve been distracted - mostly by toys.

But at the end of last week, it also felt like forces were conspiring against me. For whatever reason ("Error 500"), Fried Rice Thoughts was down for most of Friday morning and afternoon. By the time it was finally available, the day was pretty much finished. And mentally, so was I, after tugging on my hair, grinding my teeth, and making faces of annoyance. (Fortunately for all of us, I don't have a web cam atop my monitor to capture such moments.)

So that's where I've been. That's my case. I know it's not much of one, but hey, it is a post. I'll be getting back into the swing of things this week, though. I have a couple of things I simply must rant about. And I've been going to the movies, which means some four-sentence reviews will soon be posted, too. Thanks for checking in and sticking with me.

(Images from "Pearls Before Swine" ©2006 Stephen Pastis/ Dist. by UFS, Inc.)

Friday, September 08, 2006

Should I just go to the movies this Sunday?

The NFL season started last night, which is pretty damn exciting - at least in other cities. Here in Detroit, unfortunately, a new season means the Lions will begin their gridiron slog on Sunday.

I wrote a Lions preview for Motor City Sports Magazine, which is now posted on their new website. If you're interested, it's right there on the front page. I'm sticking with virtually everything I wrote there, but I have to admit, I had a different feeling when I sat down to write that piece.

As I explained in somewhat excruciating detail at Sweaty Men Endeavors, I can't remember being less excited about the Lions, going into a new season. Even in the years (and there have been many) when they've been terrible, I was optimistic. Some time during last season, my inner football fan's spirit seems to have been crushed.

Will I bother to watch? Of course I will. I'm still a sucker for pro football, no matter which version of it the Lions have subjected us to over the decades.

During the course of the season, however, I'll take solace in posting pictures of crying babies with snarky taglines. Thanks to my old buddy, Rob, for loaning out his son, Sam.

CoPa Bloggers Invasion - the DVD extras?

As a follow-up to Wednesday's post about the soggy bloggy field trip to Comerica Park, others in the gang have chimed in. Check out Billfer's post at The Detroit Tigers Weblog and Brian's at Beyond Boxscores. But the best description of the excursion might belong to our little Samela, at Roar of the Tigers. She definitely captured the tone of the evening well. Reading her post made me feel like I was there getting soaked (and touting the virtues of Neifi) again. I was laughing all night.

More than words, however, Samela brings us pictures - and some damn gorgeous ones, to boot. The hour-and-a-half rain delay obviously gave her ample opportunity to stretch her photographer wings. You can see the best of the bunch at her Flickr page. It's great stuff.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Okay, you don't have to step out of the car

Man, we already knew that working for the Detroit Lions couldn't be fun. But one guy has apparently already cracked under the pressure of trying to turn around 70 years of suckitude.

Old School had "Frank the Tank." Detroit (or more specifically, Dearborn) now has "Joe the Show."

Here's the headline from the Detroit Free Press, not The Onion:

Lions assistant arrested for nude driving and drunken driving

If it saves you a click, I'll give it to you in a nutshell. (Wait, is that a bad choice of terms?) A Detroit Lions assistant coach was driving around Dearborn NAKED. Fortunately for him, he was doing this at night because upholstery can get kind of hot when the weather's warm. (More fortunate, of course, is that he didn't hurt anyone or himself. But don't get all Stevie Serious on me, okay?)

There's much, much more on this - including constructive after-work suggestions for the Detroit Lions coaching staff - at Sweaty Men Endeavors.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Soggy Bottom Bloggers Club

Call it The Detroit Blog-Down. Or maybe the Motor City Spiel-Down. Whatever. Bloggers were out in full force last night at Comerica Park, taking over the first row of section 212 in the right-field mezzanine. The '27 Yankees can keep their Murderer's Row. I'll take these guys instead.

Who was in the bunch? Billfer, who organized the whole CoPa klatsch. The Bleacher Guy (efforts are apparently under way for a legal name change). Brian from Beyond Boxscores. Big Al was in Da Hizzey! Eno dropped by for a bit. And the woman responsible for the following photograph, who endured being the only female and youngest of the gang, Ms. Samela (to whom I apologized profusely and frequently for sticking her with that nickname) of Roar of the Tigers, rounded out our super-team.

From left to right, we have Rob, Brian, me, Bill, Greg, and Sam waiting out a rain delay. Big Al joined us later on - unfortunately, after this photo was taken.

And let me clarify, that is NOT sweat staining/soaking my shirt. (Actually, from a distance, it almost looks like stripes on the shirt, doesn't it? So just pretend.) Just because my sports blog is titled "Sweaty Men Endeavors" doesn't mean I take it that seriously in public. That is rain, people. Check your game recaps. Clearly, the only people who took their weather forecasts seriously were Brian and Samela. Smart kids. I spent the rest of the night worrying I'd come down with something.

Anyway, it was a great time at the ballpark (and Nemo's beforehand). Very cool to meet everyone, and put faces to blogs. And a lot of joking around. Popular punching bag of the night: Neifi Perez, who could become the Tigers' Chuck Norris (at least on defense) if any of our jokes were committed to paper or recording. Oh, well.