Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Message out of the bottle: The Police are back!

With rumors that The Police might reunite gaining heat and smoke over the past few weeks, I'd been meaning to write something about the possibility. I love to tell the kids that Sting wasn't always a lute-playing douchebag who exaggerated stories about his tantric sex marathons, while essentially becoming a younger, quirkier (and, well, less gay) version of Elton John.

No, Sting used to be cool. And he was the frontman for maybe the coolest band on the planet.

At least that's what The Police was to Young Ian. I don't think "Spirits In the Material World" was the first single I ever bought on a 45 (I am sooo giving away my age here), but it was definitely among the first.

And it was like nothing I'd ever heard. The pounding synthesizer beat, with Sting's bass notes dancing around it, and Andy Summers' guitar slashing underneath. Even the record's sleeve stood out, with what looked like red digital Japanese characters against a pitch black background.

Then there was that video. Who the hell were these guys jamming around with their instruments in a barely lit studio? Sting slapped the neck of his bass guitar like he was taunting anyone who dared to watch. Summers hopped around in a torn-up t-shirt that would've gotten me yanked back into the house by my mother. And Stewart Copeland. Damn, was he a bad-ass. Hiding behind sunglasses, lower lip jutting out with determination, he whipped at his drums like he was trying to hurt somebody. When I was eight years old, I knew I wanted to be a drummer. I wanted to be Stewart Copeland.

Their sound eventually smoothed out as Sting started on the path toward the musical wet rag he is today. Less of the reggae-type guitars. Less energy. Less defiance. More arrangements. More craft. More ego. It's hard to argue with the results when you consider how successful "Every Breath You Take" was. But it's also not difficult to see how The Police eventually broke up after that. The band just wasn't the same. And Sting was ready to move on musically, to songs with which he could take all the credit.

I've been reading Andy Summers' recently published memoir, titled One Train Later, about his musical career through the last days of The Police. And as you might imagine, he goes into some detail about the band's deterioration, largely due to Sting's ego-tripping and the resentment it caused. You've probably heard the stories about Copeland taping insults and rants directed at Sting to the skins of his drums. I love that! No wonder the guy pounded those drums so viciously.

As a kid, I didn't understand that, of course. I just knew that one of my favorite bands was breaking up. How do you do that when it seems like you rule the world? I blamed Sting, and it's probably a large reason why I never warmed up to his solo stuff (though I like The Dream of the Blue Turtles), and continue to hold something of a grudge, as silly as that might be.

But to this day, there's not another band that sounds like The Police. Within one or two notes, you know exactly who's playing when you hear one of their songs. The sound they created is still that distinct.

And now it's official: they're getting the band back together again. 30 years after they released "Roxanne." More than 20 years after they shut the whole thing down. After rehearsing in Vancouver, The Police will reunite at the Grammy Awards in less than two weeks. (They performed a one-shot gig at the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in 2003.) Appropriately, they're opening the show. So on February 11, I'm pretty sure I'll be watching the Grammys for the first time in about 15 years.

Will a reunion tour follow? My guess would be no, because of all the hard feelings that have been expressed. Of course, huge money has a way of healing such grudges. Maybe this has been in the works for a long time. Is it possible that Summers' autobiography was an insidious plan to whet the dormant appetites of Police fans around the world?

No, that's being cynical. I can't let that stand in the way of possibly blowing $100 on a concert ticket. 26 years later, long after I gave up those rock drummer dreams, I might finally get to see these guys live in concert.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Del Boca Vista?

So is anyone picking up some of that Windows Vista stuff today?

I myself am not, though I've definitely been keeping an eye on it, as it was one of the reasons (along with, like, that money thing) I haven't tapped out my checking account for a new laptop. Wait to get a computer with Vista already on it, I was told by people who apparently know a lot more about these sorts of things than me.

And so here I am, waiting for opinions from the masses, taking note of sale prices in from the big box technology stores, and lying back in front of the TV and computer, while the media onslaught (such as Bill Gates appearing on The Daily Show last night) washes over me.

I assume I'll need it at some point, like anybody waiting for their computer to kick, start, and sputter on Windows 2000 instead of XP. Yet it also appears I have about five years to get on board. And given my usual tortoise-like approach to new technology, I'll need every one of those years to assimilate.

▪▪ The Washington Post's Rob Pegoraro has endured a love-hate relationship with Vista, while going into much-appreciated layman detail about installing and using the new software.

▪▪ Robert Vamosi of says Vista is really nothing more than an overrated XP service pack (and that seems to be the general consensus).

▪▪ Bruce Gain at says you really don't need Vista right now, especially when it doesn't quite seem ready for prime time.

▪▪ also has image galleries on Vista, and MS Office 2007, which from most reports, is perhaps the best feature of the new Microsoft operating system.

▪▪ Table of Malcontents has a list of references and allegories to Microsoft in science fiction film and literature.

▪▪ And on a completely unrelated note, this article from yesterday's USA Today explains why Verizon turned down the opportunity to partner with Apple on the iPhone. As a Verizon customer, that question's been plaguing me as I try to decide whether this thing is worth switching over to Cingular this summer.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Today's Fortune Cookie Wisdom

"Life is not a matter of holding good cards, but sometimes, playing a poor hand well."

Pass the Lo Mein, please.

Friday, January 26, 2007

A young man's head could explode

With one or two exceptions, I don't usually write about movie casting rumors. Can't let those geek feathers fly too often, you see.

But given the history of this blog, and the readers that continue to stop by day after day, thanks to previous posts on Jill Wagner, otherwise known as the oh-so-fetching star of those Ford Mercury commercials (or as she's known in my house, The Future Mrs. Casselberry), I felt I needed to address something I read a few days ago.

It seems that Ms. Wagner, who also recently starred in Spike TV's "Blade" series (and thus was largely the only reason I slogged through all 12 episodes of that now-cancelled show), just met with producers of the new Wonder Woman movie (which I tend to believe will never be made, but hey, Joss Whedon keeps working on it).

Do I even need to type anything more? Draw your own conclusions on how this might affect a young man such as myself. Worlds could collide in my brain, and I'm not sure I'd be able to handle it.

How do I put this delicately? As Wonder Woman, Lynda Carter tipped me off at a very early age that I was a healthy, heterosexual young boy who looked forward to becoming a man. And I don't think it had a whole lot to do with my love of comic books.

It sure as hell wasn't the TV show. I couldn't tell you about a single episode. All I remember is Diana Prince taking off her glasses, letting her hair out of that bun (hot!), and spinning until there was that flash! And then Young Ian (I thought typing "Little Ian" might cause some confusion) was happy.

To this day, a picture of Lynda Carter in that outfit will slap me in the face for attention. How there is not a framed print of such an image bolted to my wall is something I will surely contemplate this weekend. (However, I imagine the answer will become plainly obvious once I give the subject some thought.)

This reminds me of a couple I helped out once when I worked at a bookstore. The woman was wearing a t-shirt with just such a picture on it. And my mind went blank. I had to ask her to repeat her question, while sheepishly admitting to her boyfriend that I couldn't concentrate with that shirt in front of me. You know what? He understood completely. What a lucky, lucky man. I hope those two kids are still together.

Such formative memories are difficult to shake off. I'm reminded of them any time I see Lynda Carter, regardless of how old she gets. Hell, I almost rented The Dukes of Hazzard just because I heard she was in it! Think about that.

(A year or so ago, my buddies Mike and Chris were telling me about the movie, and the... talent Jessica Simpson displayed. But that meant nothing to me. How did Lynda Carter look? That's what I cared about. "Is she still getting it done?" was how I believe I phrased the question. Both Mike and Chris shook their heads and scoffed. "She's getting nothing done," they said. I don't believe them.)

Okay, that was a bit of a tangent. But a tangent with context. This is like the guy eating a jar of peanut butter bumping into the guy eating a chocolate bar. After both men get back up, dust themselves off, and yell at each other for getting peanut butter on the chocolate or vice versa, a realization is made. And a candy bar that changed the world is created. The Future Mrs. Casselberry playing Wonder Woman would be a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup that could bring much joy to Past, Present, and Future Ian.

Make this $#!+ happen, Joss Whedon.

But if you wanted to cast Robin from How I Met Your Mother, I could live with that, too. I'm not a picky guy.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

That's What She Said! (Episode #14)

Matt and I have been doing this That's What She Said podcast for a few months now, but if I may say so, I think our latest episode might be one of our best. A little bit of healthy arguing never hurt anyone - especially when you're trying to create some interesting discussion about The Office.

So how does Matt feel about the show's producers cutting material, and then posting it online? Is the Jim-Pam-Karen triangle giving him what he wants, whether he realizes it or not? And why do I have to be so disagreeable with the young man this week? I blame shotgunning a Diet Coke right before we began recording.

Anyway, the answers to these questions - and exploring topics such as what pushed Andy into bat$#!+ craziness - await you. If you enjoy The Office, I think you'll enjoy our podcast.

Episode #14 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 deeply appreciated, so please send along an e-mail or leave a comment on the show's growing blog page community. We're having a lot of fun over there these days, and it only gets better as more people join in, so stop by if you have a chance!

And as always, of course, thank you for listening!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Taking my temperature for Oscar Fever

You know, I told myself I didn't care as much this year, but I still found myself excited this morning in anticipation of the Academy Award nominations this morning. Two things I realized as the nominees were announced:

1) I miss my laptop. Man, I'd have had this $#!+ up an hour ago, otherwise. Plus, jotting stuff down on a notebook makes me feel like I'm working. I'll scribble for money, dammit. But not while I'm still having my morning coffee.

2) I lamented this last week, but I haven't seen that many of the nominated films this year (only two of the Best Picture candidates, for instance), which bugs me. And here I considered myself a film buff.

So for the second year in a row, even though you may have seen these elsewhere by the time you read this, I took the time to type these out, dammit, so I'm posting 'em!

(Also, once again - I should've just waited until the complete list was posted online. This is almost a carbon copy of the post I wrote last year. Mailin' it in here, people.)

Best supporting actress:
Adriana Barraza - Babel
Cate Blanchett - Notes on a Scandal
Abigail Breslin - Little Miss Sunshine
Jennifer Hudson - Dreamgirls
Rinko Kikuchi - Babel

Best supporting actor:
Alan Arkin - Little Miss Sunshine
Jackie Earle Haley - Little Children
Djimon Hounsou - Blood Diamond
Eddie Murphy - Dreamgirls
Mark Wahlberg - The Departed

Best Actress:
Judi Dench - Notes on a Scandal
Helen Mirren - The Queen
Meryl Streep - The Devil Wears Prada
Penelope Cruz - Volver
Kate Winslet - Little Children

Best Actor:
Leonardo DiCaprio - Blood Diamond
Ryan Gosling - Half Nelson
Forest Whitaker - The Last King of Scotland
Peter O'Toole - Venus
Will Smith - The Pursuit of Happyness

Best Director:
Alejandro González Iñárritu - Babel
Martin Scorsese - The Departed
Clint Eastwood - Letters From Iwo Jima
Stephen Frears - The Queen
Paul Greengrass - United 93

Best Original Screenplay:
Letters From Iwo Jima
Little Miss Sunshine
Pan's Labyrinth
The Queen

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Children of Men
The Departed
Little Children
Notes on a Scandal

[Normally, I'd list the screenwriters for these categories. I'm all about the writers. But a couple of these screenplays had multiple credits. Borat, for instance, has four writers listed. Children of Men has five.]

Best Picture:
The Departed
Letters From Iwo Jima
Little Miss Sunshine
The Queen

Assorted initial thoughts springing to mind?

▪▪ A lot of the TV coverage right now is focusing on Dreamgirls being snubbed for Best Director and Best Picture. But I haven't seen it, so I really have nothing to say on the subject.

However, I do think The Departed got hosed in the acting categories. Leonardo DiCaprio got nominated for the wrong role. I can see leaving Jack Nicholson out because he was "being Jack" for much of the movie. And Matt Damon was really good, too. But they did pick Mark Wahlberg, which is cool. He was relentlessly hilarious in that role.

▪▪ Quick pick for a lock? Alan Arkin for Best Supporting Actor in Little Miss Sunshine.

▪▪ What exactly was the Borat screenplay an adaptation of? Maybe since it takes a character from a TV show, it's considered "adapted"?

▪▪ How much of a roll is Clint Eastwood on? The only reason he didn't get nominated last year is because he didn't make a movie. Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, and now Letters From Iwo Jima (which, by the way, was his second film this year)? That is one hell of a streak. Maybe the best filmmaker America has right now.

▪▪ Staying in the Best Director category, the one sit-up-and-clap nominee for me was Paul Greengrass for United 93. (A close second was Abigail Breslin for Little Miss Sunshine.) It was an amazingly powerful film, but seems to have suffered from hitting theaters just a bit too early. Had this been released in the fall, I think it would be receiving a lot more credit and praise. It was one of the best movies of the year.

▪▪ That reminds me - I still need to type up the Fried Rice Favorite Movies of 2006 list. I'll try to get on that later tonight. (That's what she said!)

▪▪ Nothing really jumps out as a "wrong" pick to me, though I'm kind of surprised that Blood Diamond received two acting nominations. But it's not like they're undeserved. Both DiCaprio and Hounson were very good. I thought the movie was a little bit preachy, but it's meant to make you think about what's going on in the world, which isn't a bad thing.

▪▪ So I guess I need to see Babel, eh? Wasn't really planning on that. Iñárritu's previous two films - Amores Perros and 21 Grams - were so utterly bleak and depressing, and I just wasn't up for that.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Name Game Follow-Up

Sometimes, a goofy admission gets you a little bit of attention. And once in a while, such an occurrence works out in your favor.

My response to Pop Candy's post about people who give fake names at coffee shops caught the attention of Misty Harris, a writer for CanWest News Service. Ms. Harris e-mailed me last week and asked if I could chat for a few minutes about my predilection for giving superhero secret identities with my drink orders, and being the attention-starved media whore that I am, I gladly said yes.

The article, entitled "North Americans Joyfully Playing Alias in Moniker-Land," was published over the weekend and can now be found online.

My quote can be found among others who give aliases to get through call-screening secretaries, maintain privacy to obscure celebrity, and avoid embarrassment at STD clinics. (Fortunately, my intentions have already been recorded for public record.)

Slowly, my message is trickling throughout North America. Thank you, Ms. Harris, and Hello, Canada!

Finally! The Fountains Return!

22 days in, 2007 is looking like a good year already. No, I haven't achieved anything special. And I wasn't really planning to. In my world, that's the true key to happiness. Don't aspire to big things. Keep it small. You'll be rewarded more often and won't set yourself up for a big fall once disappointment inevitably sets in.

So I stay focused on the little victories. And I already have one circled on the calendar. April 3. That's when the greatest rock band on the planet Earth - Fountains of Wayne - will release their new album, "Traffic and Weather."

I will knock over children that day at Best Buy to get my hands on that CD. Or I might just order it from Amazon. Less confrontational.

Has it really been four years since their last album, "Welcome Interstate Managers"? I still play it like I bought it yesterday. ("Out-of-State Plates" doesn't count. It was all B-sides. Still cool, of course. And I felt triumphant when I found a copy in Charleston, SC. But ultimately, it was like eating a handful of popcorn when you crave a steak dinner. Doesn't do the trick.)

Another little victory will come in late February when the album's first single, "Someone to Love," hits the airwaves. Of course, I'll probably download it instead.

Okay, carry on. Just had to jump up and down for a bit. Today, the sun is shining.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Yes, that's right: Lex Luthor wants a cappuccino

Oh, the things we do to keep life interesting. Yesterday, Pop Candy linked to an article from the Roseville Press-Tribune (CA) which highlighted local Starbucks customers that give fake names for their drink orders. The question was then put to readers: How many of you do the same thing?

I've done it for years. It's not necessarily because I'm trying to be clever or funny (though that's often a motivation). No, it's because people get the name "Ian" wrong so frequently. Whether it's picking up a take-out order, waiting for a table at a restaurant, or getting a coffee at the few local cafes that ask for customers' names, my name somehow gets butchered along the way.

Sometimes, it's mispronounced, like EYE-on or EEE-on. That doesn't happen as much anymore, however, now that "Ian" seems to be more of a familiar name. But more often than not, my name somehow gets changed to "Ann," "Ethan," "Owen," or "Dean." If I have to spell my name, I know what's going to happen.

Friends can vouch for this, as they've been with me at bars or other such waiting areas, almost losing a table because we had no idea who the host was calling. Usually, after a name is called two or three times with no response - especially if it somewhat resembles "Ian" - I'll go up and check. And of course, the requisite teasing soon follows.

So I often feel the need to resort to fake names. I usually go by superhero secret identity first names, like "Clark," "Bruce," or "Peter." Going deeper into the superhero handbook than that risks making the joke too obscure, so no one would get it. Of course, no ever really has, since those names aren't exactly unusual. Maybe I should try "Hawkman," and see what happens.

Once in a while, I use a TV character's name. But unless it's something like "Kramer," no one's likely to raise an eyebrow. More often than not, I just use my father's name, Dennis. Easy enough to pronounce. And common enough not to be misunderstood.

It's not meant to draw attention. I just want the person at the counter to get my name right. A deli I used to frequent rather regularly after work eventually caught onto me, once asking "Who are you today?" And I'm pretty sure after I ran through the ninth or tenth name, a couple of coffee shop baristas knew I was up to, as well. That's okay - I just move on. Plenty of other places in this town.

Anybody else out there leave a fake name when picking up a drink or take-out? And if you do... why and what names do you use?

▪▪ Here's what they think on the subject over at Starbucks Gossip.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Tight or loose with the cash?

Fried Rice Thoughts' New York Bureau Chief Mis Hooz sent over this blog post by New York Times columnist John Tierney, in which he refers to a survey intended to determine whether you're a tightwad or a spendthrift. The test was created by economists at Carnegie-Mellon University for a behavioral decision research project.

I took the survey yesterday (which you can find here), but am still waiting for my official results to be e-mailed back to me. (I imagine there's quite a backlog of data after Tierney's plug yesterday.) But I don't think I really need an online survey to tell me what I already know. I think I'm a spendthrift.

I honestly can't think of many situations where I didn't spend money on something I wanted (or felt I needed). I try to be careful with money, but if I was, I wouldn't be using words like "try," would I? But I'm sure there are situations where I'd be considered "tight." Like if I believe something's overpriced, like a book or a CD. Or something on a menu. Or airline tickets.

Where I'm surely tight is with "big" purchases like iPods, digital cameras, DVRs, or computers. I think that's the biggest reason I tend to fall so far behind the culture curve when it comes to new technology. It's not that I'm slow to adjust; it's that I don't want to part with that kind of cheddar.

However, when it comes to "little" things, I'm not very careful with my money. For example, I bought a book over the weekend. I don't need another book - not with all the unread books clogging my shelves at home. (But hey, I did buy it used.) Do I need that DVD? Especially if I've already seen the movie in theaters? Do I need to go out for lunch or bring home take-out when I might have food waiting at home in the refrigerator. All that stuff can add up.

So how about you? Tightwad or spendthrift? Be honest.

The precognitives weren't just in the movie...

Back in 2002, Tom Cruise didn't bug me nearly as much as he does these days. (I've always thought I could separate an actor's public image from a role he or she plays, but I'm convinced I couldn't get his freak-o persona out of my head while watching Mission: Impossible III, and thus didn't care for it.) But even if he had, I think I still would've enjoyed Minority Report - which is one of my favorite movies of the last five years.

One of its aspects that continues to impress me is how visionary the futuristic world created for that movie has turned out to be. Maybe it wasn't too much of a stretch to imagine that media would become more immediate and portable, population growth and urban gridlock would demand taking roadways above ground, and various civil liberties would be compromised in the name of law enforcement. Maybe it wasn't too difficult to look at our society and extend assorted technological and sociological trends further, and I'm giving this film too much credit.

But after reading this article from Monday's New York Times about marketers looking for every nook and cranny in which to paste their advertising, I couldn't help but think of Tom Cruise walking through a mall concourse while being deluged with sound and imagery from ads specifically targeted toward each individual citizen of 2054 Washington D.C.

That day is coming, isn't it? It's practically already here. The only difference - so far - is that the moving pictures and sound aren't being beamed directly into our own brains.

What else from the movie is suddenly becoming reality? How about that stuff with Cruise's character manipulating the size and location of images on a screen with his hands? Doesn't the "'rubber Web page' stretching technology" that will allow you to zoom in and out of web pages with the iPhone sound strangely similar?

And the days of reading the newspaper on a paper-thin video screen that you can fold up and carry around aren't that far away, either.

So any guesses on what Minority Report will get right next? Maybe that disguise that ages Cruise's face beyond saggy recognition will come true once we find out what long-term effects all those Botox injections might have on people.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Hello, Meryl Streep!

At the very end of her Golden Globes award acceptance speech (winning "Best Actress - Comedy or Musical" for her role in The Devil Wears Prada), Meryl Streep implored viewers to ask their local theater owners to show little-seen films, such as Little Children and Pan's Labyrinth.

Earlier in the day, mere hours beforehand, I lamented all of the films I either neglected or didn't get to see in 2006 - which included Little Children and Pan's Labyrinth.

Unfortunately, I don't have a transcript or video clip of Streep's speech to add authenticity to this post. I figured it would pop up on YouTube at some point today, because everything's on YouTube. I spent all day waiting for that pirated affirmation. Instead I can only post links to quotes, leaving my desire unrequited.

Anyway, you see where I'm going with this, right? Is it that big of a stretch to presume that Meryl Streep has jumped into the wok, and is reading Fried Rice Thoughts? (I know - I'm working on something better than "jumped into the wok.")

Had I known that Ms. Streep might echo my thoughts so closely later in the evening, I probably would've just posted an ode to Emily Blunt. I might record the replay of the Golden Globes on Saturday, just so I can watch her turn around in that dress again. That, my dear friends and readers, was a brilliant bottom. (She said the dress felt like "a spank." That saucy little minx has ruined me for months.)

So welcome, Meryl Streep! It's truly a pleasure to have you reading my ramblings. You wuz da bomb in Prada, yo! And if you could do me a favor, could you call my local art theaters and see what you can do about getting us some of those movies?

▪▪ One more note: It probably goes without saying, and there have been other memorable speeches at the Golden Globes, but Sacha Baron Cohen's acceptance speech was quite possibly the best ever, wasn't it? I imagine everyone who saw Borat hoped he'd be eventually rewarded for that horrifying naked wrestling match (if they didn't cover their eyes during that scene).

That's What She Said! (Episodes #12 and 13)

Due to geographical difficulties last week, That's What She Said wasn't able to post a new podcast. Yet The Office goes on. So we're making up for that this week with a super-sized episode that looks at both "Back From Vacation" and "Traveling Salesmen."

First, it's the return of Michael from Jamaica. How does trying to bring the island lifestyle back to an office work out? Maybe not so well when you accidentally send a topless photo of your boss to everyone. And just what the hell is "poi" anyway?

Then, our heroes hit the road for some sales calls. How effective is big hair and bad make-up? How about accessing a voice mail during a sales pitch? Also, is a group of black people really that intimidating to a young salesman? And finally, who likes a tattle-tale? Will he break up the team?

Oh, and there's lots of juicy Jim-Pam-Karen stuff to chew on, as well. What kind of podcast would we have without that?

Episodes #12 and #13 are 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 on the show's growing blog page community. As always, thanks for listening!

Real Icy Trees

It's been a little slippery around here the last couple of days, after an ice storm blew through the area. (Though it apparently wasn't as bad in Ann Arbor as in other parts of metro Detroit.)

Fortunately, we're not among those who have lost power due to heavy ice or falling tree branches snapping power lines down. (Let me find some wood to knock on, man.)

Anyway, while waiting for my car to thaw out, I snapped a photo or two...

Potentially dangerous conditions aside, however, the ice has made for some amazing scenery in the morning. With street lights shining on ice-sheathed trees while it's still dark, the neighborhoods look like something out of a fantasy or science fiction movie. (The Fountain came to mind, for some reason. Maybe because there was so little light.)

I'll probably be complaining about this in another day or so, but for now, it's fun to look at.

Monday, January 15, 2007

2006 Top 10: Wish I could've seen 'em

We're already into the third week of 2007, which makes it a bit late to draft "Best of 2006" lists. But in the case of movies, I figure as long as I post something before the Golden Globes (even if it's mere hours away), I'm okay.

I'm hoping to post my ten favorite movies later today. But for now, there are a bunch of movies that I either missed on their way through town or haven't yet had the opportunity to see yet, and that's what I'd like to post first.

Scratched off the list are Children of Men, Perfume, and Rocky Balboa, which I fully intend to see this week. I don't think I have much chance with the others, however - unless Oscar nominations have an affect on distribution and re-releases. Fingers are crossed.

  • Little Children: This is the one that's killing me. I loved the book, and am climbing walls to see the movie. But the molasses-slow release schedule has kept it away from Ann Arbor thus far. I believe it showed in Birmingham, but I didn't make the drive, because I figured it'd be here in a couple of weeks. C'mon, Oscars - help me get my Kate Winslet fix! (Don't make me go see The Holiday.)

  • Pan's Labyrinth: I love the del Toro! I've loved every one of his movies (okay - except Mimic), so if this one is anywhere near as good as The Devil's Backbone - and the critics seem to think it is, if not better - then I need to see monsters terrorizing little girls. No one makes films like his.

  • Half Nelson: Crack-smoking inner city school teachers? Where's the popcorn? I've heard many good things about this one - and not just from Mis Hooz, who loves herself some Ryan Gosling. But I blinked, and it was gone.

  • The Last King of Scotland: I don't know how I missed this one. As soon as I saw the trailer, I planned on catching it as soon as it opened in town. All I've heard is how amazing Forest Whitaker is. Maybe I'll get another chance if/when he gets an Oscar nomination.

  • Shut Up and Sing!: I like the Dixie Chicks. Not enough to buy all their records, but I do like their music. And okay, it's possible that I find them fetching and have often fantasized about being trapped in a coat closet with them while buttered up with Crisco. But it really bugs me how they were blackballed by the country music radio industry and inexplicably framed as terrorist sympathizers, and I'd like to see what they went through.

  • The U.S. vs. John Lennon: Another one that I was dying to see as soon as I watched the trailer. And this is a no-brainer - if there's one person I'd ever say I "idolized," it might be John Lennon. How did I miss it? I don't know. But since I've read so much about the FBI's file on Lennon, maybe I subconsciously felt like I'd already seen it.

  • Fast Food Nation: The book still haunts me, though it (sadly) hasn't entirely kept me away from fast food joints in a hunger pinch. Maybe I need to read it again. Or maybe the movie can do the trick. And as I've said before, I think Richard Linklater might be the most interesting American filmmaker working today. I can't think of another who tackles such a variety of subjects. I thought this would be in theaters much longer than it was.

  • Infamous: While studying In Cold Blood at Iowa, I read about this film being developed. I can't recall if this one or the Philip Seymour Hoffman version was actually finished first, but we obviously know which one won the race to theaters. I loved Capote. To me, it was the best film of last year. I can't imagine Infamous is better. But I'd like to find out.

  • Flags of Our Fathers: You know how it goes - once in a while, a movie comes out that you want to see, and think maybe you should see it, but instead, you'd rather go see something a little more fun, like The Prestige or Borat. This sounds lame and superficial, but going to the theater to see a war movie seemed like kind of a drag. Why you harshin' my mellow, Clint Eastwood?

  • Letters from Iwo Jima: Even though I didn't see Flags of Our Fathers, I was always intrigued by the idea that Eastwood wanted to look at the Battle of Iwo Jima from the Japanese side of the equation. Because that seemed a story I'd never been told before. I just admire Eastwood's desire to look more deeply into this event, and think it's a really bold and creative choice on his part.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Hey, I just found your blog!

[Once again, here's something I originally posted over at Sweaty Men Endeavors, but I thought it was funny enough to post here, too. Use protection out there, kids.]

Like any blogger, I always like to know how readers find their way to my site. Did people respond to something I wrote about Tony Romo, for instance? How many people found Sweaty Men Endeavors through my post on Kobe Bryant last year? Did that post on those frisky Eagles ticket-seekers draw some traffic? Etc., etc. You know how it goes.

Site Meter and other such web counters, of course, become crucial tools in satisfying such curiosity. You can find out some really interesting things. It's often surprising and sometimes enlightening to see what sorts of web searches bring people to your blog. (And yes, I realize I asked for plenty of problems when I gave this blog its title.)

And then, sometimes you're reminded that you'd just rather not know. Because the truth is too disturbing. Case in point. I hope you found what you were truly looking for, sir or madam.

Boy, I hope this doesn't turn out to be something that happened when I was blacked out from drinking...

Dealing with the cashier might still be awkward

Now this is why I read Slate. Otherwise, I'm not sure I would've found out that Viagra might soon be available over the counter.

I don't know why such news would make me excited. It's not like, uh, I'd have to use it or anything. At least hopefully not for the next ten years or so. Ha-ha! You know what I'm sayin'! No, I'm happy for Ann Arbor, because Pfizer provides a lot of jobs here. And I'm excited for the consumer. Yay, commerce!

Really, it's good news for all other products available at drugstores, because you know a guy's going to buy a magazine, bag of chips, or gallon of milk to distract attention from the Viagra.

Just make sure you don't get that mouth spray mixed up with your breath freshener or Chloraseptic. Or maybe this will help your breath or sore throat, too. Who knows? Only one way to find out, I suppose.

Hey, I meant that I'd be calling my sister, the pharmacist, to ask her. Okay? Perv.

I'm curious how Dr. Lil' Sis will take this news, by the way, as peddling Viagra to older military veterans is a frequent source of amusement (and skeeved-out horror) for her. Oh, the stories she can tell over Thanksgiving dinner! It's great. Pass the stuffing!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

iPhone? iWantOne

I'd hardly call myself a "tech guy," though I often take note of the latest cool gadget. But it's almost always been a "look from afar, you'll never have it, but go ahead and spend two hours browsing the aisles at Best Buy, anyway" sort of thing.

As I've written here before, I tend to follow far behind the curve when it comes to the latest innovations. Give me five years, however, and I'll eventually join the revolution (which by then, of course, is longer a revolution).

But after the launch of the iPhone yesterday, watching reports about it on the news last night (in which the device was hilariously kept away from human touch in a glass cylinder), and reading plenty about the thing this morning, I think I may have to change my approach to new technology.

If I'm walking out of the house with a cell phone in one pocket, and an iPod in the other (and before it melted down into an oversized paperweight, a laptop in my shoulder bag/manpurse), I'm already kind of a gadget guy, aren't I? I'm certainly more of one than I was even two years ago.

So if Steve Jobs and the Apple-ites have something that combines all of those things into one sleek, compact little thingy-majig, I'm interested. You might be, too, after watching the online demos. Look at all the stuff you can do! (Okay, not everyone's a fan.)

Sure, the $500-600 price tag is steep, but as Dr. Lil' Sis said to me last night, buying each of those devices - cell phone, iPod, laptop - would run you a higher price tag, anyway. (I'll be making sure to remind her of this when Christmas time comes around next year, and she's complaining that she doesn't know what to get me. Oh, yes - I'll be reminding her.)

Of course, it's possible that I just wouldn't want to carry all that stuff with me. I got some good use out of the test Fusic phone Sprint sent me a few months ago while in Hawaii. I could send e-mails, listen to music and - most importantly - the Tigers beating the Yankees. Since returning to the mainland, however, I haven't used it much. But that's mostly because I haven't had to. Why use another cell phone when I was under contract with another one? I also already check e-mail on my computer enough as it is.

But things can change - especially once I convince myself I need something. And that iPhone would look hot held up against my ear, man.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

A city stinks, a blogger waits

As some of you might be aware, we don't have a very large staff here at Fried Rice Thoughts. But at one point, it seemed like a good idea to sink some resources into establishing a New York bureau. It's America's media capital, after all. It's where the action already is.

So with a dear friend of mine living in the greater New York metropolitan area, I thought it would be a good idea to name Mis Hooz FRT's New York correspondent.

After some months on the job, Hoozie and I discussed things (she grabbed me by the lapels and shook her fist in my face) and we mutually decided to promote her to New York Bureau Chief, a position she holds to this day.

I know she's a busy little veggie tigress out there in the big city, so I don't ask a whole lot of her. Besides, up until recently, I haven't been posting all that prolifically here myself.

However, when a huge story breaks in New York - like some gas-like, rotten egg-stanky odor permeating midtown Manhattan and sending citizens into a conspiracy-fueled panic - certain bloggers in the Midwest might be waiting urgently for an update so he can be like the cool kids and post something about it on his piddly little site.

But no - I ended up hearing about this yesterday before dinner on Tucker Carlson's MSNBC show. (Not that there's anything wrong with watching "Tucker." I'm more than happy to get my news from such a program. Please don't get me fired from my "job," Mr. Carlson. Oh, and I miss your bow-ties!) I later looked further into the story at Gawker.

The evening went on, and I waited. I even stayed up to sit through what turned out to be a surprisingly boring college football national championship game (while also burning episodes of Ace of Cakes off my DVR - oh, that Mary Alice cracks me up!). Yet I received no updates from the New York Bureau via either voice mail or e-mail.

Before going to sleep, theories for the lack of reporting ranged from being sequestered for her own protection, quarantined due to exposure, being knocked out after smelling the odor herself, or perhaps wanting to maintain silence while abiding by the code of "Whoever smelt it, dealt it."

But today, the mainstream media is on the case. Dude, what stank?

According to the New York Times, the answers weren't clear. It could've been a gas leak, yet the major gas utility companies in the area checked their lines and reported no abnormal incidents. The air was tested for substances such as ammonia, cyanide, methane, and carbon monoxide, yet apparently found nothing alarming.

The problem may have been exacerabated by a "temperature inversion," in which the temperature near the ground is cooler than the warm air above it (I think I have that right), and may have trapped pollutants lower in the atmosphere.

Or maybe it was like the New York Daily News said, and you can just blame the whole thing on New Jersey. Perhaps it was that thing Bon Jovi once sang about, "Bad Medicine."

Whatever the cause, we hope Mis Hooz is okay. Everyone back at FRT home base is thinking about her. Get back to us, Hoozie. We just want to wish you luck and let you know that we're all counting on you.

Hey Bill - what'd you do with your playoff tickets?

[I posted this over the weekend at Sweaty Men Endeavors, but just in case you don't like the sports and usually don't make it over there, I thought I'd post it here, too. Because it's too funny to keep restricted to the sports blog.]

From Saturday 01/06/07:

As we've heard all too often, the playoffs are a whole different game. And apparently, that applies to scoring playoff tickets, as well.

According to today's Philadelphia Inquirer, there's an ad on from two "very attractive" grad students who will let you watch them have sex in exchange for Eagles-Giants seats.

Even better, these kids will let you do more than watch. You can even script the plays, if you know what I mean.

And if you're bringing your own play calls, you might want to make sure that Denny's menu-like play sheet is laminated. (Sorry - that was over the line, wasn't it?)

Just before you think this couple doesn't have any standards, there are certain plays that you wouldn't be able to call. Again, if you know what I mean. (And I really probably should leave it at that. You can go ahead and fill in the blanks yourselves. Pervs.)

So if you're at the game tomorrow, just for $#!+s and giggles, it might be fun to ask the guy next to you how he got his seats. Or maybe not. You might be eating at the time. Or with your son.

Meanwhile, you can always try those ticket brokers we bloggers have listed on our sidebars...

[Unfortunately, in the days since this story broke, I haven't been able to find any follow-up. I guess no one's talking to the press. Did those young lovers get tickets to the Eagles' 23-20 victory over the Giants? If so, how good were the seats? And what did the seller get to watch, in exchange? Don't leave us hanging, man.]

Monday, January 08, 2007

Today's PSA: When sending Christmas cards, think "succinct"

At the risk of coming off as a serious @$$hole, something has come to my attention over the past couple of weeks that I strongly feel needs to be addressed.

We need to come together, as a community, as a society, as a humanity, to help each other out with this apparently growing trend that needs to be quashed before it's adopted by the culture-at-large. To steal a gig from Bill Maher, we need to make a New Rule.

When composing a letter to include with your Christmas cards, if you cannot keep your thoughts, stories, and recaps restricted to one page, in 700 words or less, typed with a readable 12-point font, you are no longer allowed to send such rambling discourses to your family and friends.

If this offends anyone, I sincerely apologize. I'm not talking about you; I'm really talking about someone else.

I know some of us enjoy catching up with people they haven't corresponded with in months or years. Maybe you enjoy writing out such thoughtfully detailed memoirs. Others among you might legitimately appreciate reading these chronicles. But I know there are some of us who just toss these epic dead scrolls in the garbage.

But I'm going to presume to speak for many others, such as myself, who feel compelled to say, "Enough already!" We don't need to know every single thing that happened to you over the past year. Okay, you took four trips. That's great. But maybe one stood out from the rest; how about focusing on that particular excursion? If your pet was neutered or spayed, that's notable. But have you ever considered that he or she might not want their bizness sent out across the country?

And do I even need to mention that the thing should be kept down to one page? If you are stapling pages of your Christmas letter together, consider sticking your finger into the device and stapling some sense into yourself, okay?)

We're a busier people these days. Leisure time is at a premium. Some of us would like to devote some of that time to reading other things, like books, newspapers, or magazines. Others might prefer to watch TV, listen to music, or surf the internet. A number of us might even enjoy doing all of those at the same time in a multi-tasking, Dagwood sandwich of leisure pursuits. And plenty of people out there want to devote their free time to their families. Do you really want to take people away from their spouses and children?

You know, maybe you could compose different editions of the Christmas card scroll for different people. Sure, your family probably wants to hear more. So maybe they get the fully loaded special edition. The director's cut, if you will. And then friends - especially if they're really more friends of your spouse than you - can receive the summarized, Cliff Notes edition. We don't need all of the extras.

(As a footnote, I'd like to follow up on that last point. Again, maybe some people that you're sending the Holiday Emancipation Proclamation to would like to know how your significant other is doing, since we probably only know you because he or she married you. So if you insist upon defying this New Rule that I'm betting a substantial majority of your peers will agree upon, and drafting a 1,000-word, two-page letter, typed in 8-point font, is it too much to ask for at least one paragraph devoted to the other members of your household?)

So how about it, Tolstoy? How about giving us all a present next holiday season and being judicious with some editing? Some of us would like to get to the books we received as Christmas gifts.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Nerd Alert! (But critically acclaimed)

If you're like me, and never managed to hop onto the Battlestar Galactica season 3 wagon, the SciFi Channel is helping you out on Monday.

One week before the second half of Season 3 begins (now on Sunday nights), SciFi is running a marathon of the last 11 episodes. As if I didn't already have hours (including four or five episodes of Galactica) of butt-numbing programming saved on my DVR...

I can't think of any good reason why I've fallen so far behind on a show I've loved. Is it possible that I've found things to do on Friday nights? Nah. (Although I was quite the hermit when I lived in Iowa City.) Has my DVR made me a lazier, more procrastinating TV viewer than I ever could've imagined. Hmm... could be.

And no, I'm not planning on sitting through 11 straight hours on Monday. That wouldn't really jibe with the semi-resolution to get more active. Besides, can you really think of anything you'd like to do for 11 straight hours? Seriously.

Although if the marathon was on a Sunday... maybe.

EDIT: (01/10) Looks like I was off by a week. Oops. The marathon will air on Monday 01/15. And the second half of Season 3 begins on 01/21 at 10 p.m.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Check it out before it's shipped out

If you're among those who still gets your books from the library, rather than shelling out money at a local bookstore, this article from Tuesday's Washington Post might break your heart.

In Virginia's Fairfax County, the public library system is clearing out a bunch of books - some of them classics - to make room for more popular titles.

So if people aren't checking certain books out - even if they were written by Faulker, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Kerouac, or Angelou - they're in danger of losing their shelf space. Not only to books that suit "market preferences," but to other forms of education and entertainment, such as audio books, DVDs, and computers.

Here's the mind-set:

"We're being very ruthless," said Sam Clay, director of the 21-branch system since 1982. "A book is not forever. If you have 40 feet of shelf space taken up by books on tulips and you find that only one is checked out, that's a cost."

It's sad, but I suppose not completely surprising. After all, libraries have to do what they can to stay open, right? We'd like to believe they're here solely to provide a public service, stocking the books that everyone believes a library should hold, but if people want more copies of the latest "Harry Potter" book, what's a public library to do? We're talking about business.

I haven't worked in a bookstore in five years now, but to this day, one of the things that stays with me is the realization that people don't use libraries enough. You wouldn't believe how many people go to Barnes & Noble or Borders to research a paper, for example. Or maybe you would, and I'm the naive one.

But I will never forget a teenager looking for books on the Sioux Indians, and the exasperation from her and her mother when I said we really didn't have anything that would help. On one hand, I was a bit flattered that this girl thought I would know so much about Native American tribes off the top of my head. On the other, I was working at Barnes & Noble. Would you like a cappucino with that or are you interested in joining our members club? Kid, seriously - go to a library.

But maybe it's already too late. I don't know about you, but my soul kind of hurts right now.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

You know you shouldn't look, but...

So does it say something bad about me, does it indicate something dark and twisty, if I checked out the footage of Saddam Hussein's hanging online?

I suppose it would be even worse if I linked to it, so I won't. (Besides, you can find it, if you really want to.) I will, however, link to Marc Santora's account of the execution in the New York Times, which I thought was really well written.

Do I regret watching it? Well, sort of. Because I think the images at the very end of the clip are rather chilling and it felt like something I probably shouldn't have been looking at. But it was interesting to put a picture to the words, seeing how cramped and gritty that room was, and just how hostile it was up on that platform with the yelling and taunting taking place.

Yes, I did feel rather ghoulish after the clip was finished. But it was there for me to see. I had to watch it, right?

So did anyone else reading this check it out? Did you feel like you needed a shower (moral or literal) afterwards? Just curious.

But while I'm on the subject of potentially disturbing TV footage, did you watch Dick Clark on New Year's Eve? How did that make you feel? After listening to him struggle to articulate a sentence, I turned the channel. It was just too uncomfortable. I felt like somebody should just step in and stop the whole thing.

Maybe appearing on TV was something Clark needed and wanted to do, but something just didn't feel right about that whole circumstance. For the first time I can remember, I actually wanted Ryan Seacrest to appear on my television. And I needed to drink more champagne to get over that.

That's What She Said! (Holiday Editions)

With a three-week hiatus in new episodes, what is a podcast about The Office to do? Step into the wayback machine and look at an oldie but goodie.

This week's That's What She Said heads back to 2005 for a look at "The Christmas Party."

Not only did we receive a crash course in the holiday tradition of "Yankee Swap," but if you're like me, you were reminded why you hate "Secret Santa." (Another important lesson: Vodka can make anything better.)

Episode #11.5 is available for your downloading and listening pleasure, either from the That's What She Said home page or via iTunes.

And just before my own holiday hiatus, I neglected to post a note for Episodes #10 and 11, which covered The Office's 2006 holiday episode, "Benihana Christmas." So if you missed that, there you go. I'm biased, of course, but I think these have been two of our better podcasts.

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. As always, thanks for listening!