Monday, March 31, 2008

Rise For Our National Pastime

Opening Day is essentially a holiday in Detroit. And the excitement is even greater this year, with the Detroit Tigers expected to contend for a World Series championship.

The photo is courtesy of my baseball buddy, Samara. She is a whiz with the camera and Michigan's Fisher Stadium was her canvas this past weekend. You can check out more at her Flickr page.

Bring on the baseball!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Never Had to Deal with 'The Donger'

I don't recall Long Duk Dong from Sixteen Candles causing me to be victimized by any racial stereotyping when I was in grade school, but that might be because I don't look obviously Asian to some people. I do remember, however, hearing "What's happenin', hot stuff?" and "Oh, no more yanky my wanky" directed at a few of my classmates who moved here from China and Japan.

Adrian Tomine obviously had a mich different experience, however, and has nursed quite a grudge against Gedde Watanabe for propagating offensive Asian stereotypes. Being the brilliant cartoonist that he is, Tomine used pen and ink to release that pent-up aggression, resulting in a comic titled "The Donger and Me" for NPR. It's funny, thoughtful, and beautiful, like all of Tomine's work.

In addition to Tomine's comic, there's also a story on this at the NPR website. And hey, I see Dave linked to it style, too. How about that?

(via The Beat)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Happy Birthday, Dad

The Future, the New Hotness Has Arrived!

I hope you'll indulge me as I post a note about the upgrade and re-design that my Detroit Tigers blog, Bless You Boys, has undergone. The fine folks of SportsBlogs Nation are moving their operation to a new platform, and with the 2008 Major League Baseball season set to begin on Monday (though technically it began Tuesday when the Red Sox and A's played in Tokyo), the baseball blogs got first crack at the new hotness.

If you're so inclined, please click on over and see what you think. In addition to a cleaner look and larger, more readable text, the site has lots of new interactive features that hopefully establishes a fun community among fans and readers as the Tigers embark on what stands to be one of their most exciting seasons. And to break in the new digs, we've posted an interview with the Kansas City Star's Sam Mellinger, in anticipation of Monday's season opener between the Tigers and Royals.

We now resume your original, non-baseball programming here at FRT.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Irrational Pastime?

It's possible that I'm taking this baseball thing a bit too seriously. Last night, we had our fantasy baseball draft (for a league which includes such blogging peers and luminaries as Wabi-Sabi and Donutbuzz), and it was fun - as it's been every year I've played with those guys. (Hoyt, thanks for inviting me into your league and letting me tap into an addiction I didn't even know I had.) And this year, I had the #1 overall pick, which is a luxury I've never enjoyed in my three-plus years of playing.

Anyway, there was a moment during the draft which struck me as funny, but also let me know that my ego is probably a shade out of control. At one point, someone drafted the Detroit Tigers' Dontrelle Willis - a pitcher who is utterly likable and infectiously enthusiastic, but didn't perform very well last season, and could have a tough time transitioning from the National League to the far more imposing American League. So a few of us in the chat room remarked that we hoped Willis had a good season, and I mentioned that Tigers fans were a little nervous about him, but as the fourth or fifth man in their starting pitching rotation. (Not like I know anything more than anyone else about the Tigers, but I kind of write about them every day.)

Then one of the other managers in the chat room said something like, "He's a third starter." And that's when I knew I took this stuff too seriously. Maybe he was saying that Willis is good enough to be the third starter on the Tigers. Or maybe he was just talking. But since I follow the team so closely, I felt kind of like Jimmy Fallon's portrayal of a hyper-tense, over-serious Barry Gibb on Saturday Night Live.



Here's what I'm talking about:

From Crackle: The Barry Gibb Talk

Thankfully, I didn't behave so childishly. It's just fantasy baseball (or baseball, as it were). And it's just blogging. I don't take myself that seriously. And if Hoyt or Jim are reading this, I'm just kidding. I just thought the whole exchange was kind of funny. And it reminded me that sometimes my ego is a little more inflated than it should be.

Of course, if I win that fantasy baseball league, then that ego will swell proudly.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Oh, I Do Have Eyes for Snake-Eyes

As a kid, I loved the G.I. Joe cartoon. "Yo, Joe," "knowing is half the battle," and all that. And the action figures were easily my favorite toys. One of the best Christmas gifts I ever received was a Skystriker jet. More than 20 years later, my sister occasionally teases me about how much I played with those things around the house, making jet and gunshot noises.

So I was a little bit excited to hear that a live-action G.I. Joe movie was being made. But not too excited. I'm fine with keeping those feelings in the childhood wing of my memory bank. Besides, no movie is going to give me the same thrill that the cartoon and toys did for Young Ian. Especially not one that's directed by a filmmaker who favors soulless, CGI-laden crapfests like Stephen Sommers.

But this photo that was just posted at Cinematical sparked some of that Young Ian interest:

Snake-Eyes was easily the coolest character of all the Joes. The man in black, whose face you never saw, who could kick your ass in all sorts of ninja ways, yet couldn't speak because of disfiguring injuries he suffered. Plus, he had a thing for redheads, which I could totally relate to.

The movie could end up being completely awful (as all of Sommers' films have been), but they appear to have gotten one thing right. Ray Park was great when he was unrecognizable and mute as Darth Maul in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, so maybe he'll shine again as another swift-kicking, silent warrior. Here's hoping.

Seeing a cool photo is at least part of the battle.

Today's Reading - 03/20/08

You're All Sick

Is "internet addiction" a new form of mental illness, or rather a manifestation of some other sort of disorder? I'd definitely say I'm an addict, but if other people require "psychoactive medications or hospitalization" to deal with their problems, maybe I'm doing okay, after all.

Anthony Minghella, Bringing the Art House to the Mainstream

It's heart-breaking when someone dies before their time, especially in the midst of a medical procedure that was supposed to help him. I didn't enjoy all of Anthony Minghella's films, but cinema definitely benefited from his contributions. He certainly wasn't afraid to adapt wide-scoped literature to the big screen. The Talented Mr. Ripley is one of my favorite films. Before the Bourne flicks, that might have been Matt Damon's best work.

Playboy's Hefner: the luckiest guy on the planet

Toward the end of Jon Friedman's story, Hugh Hefner says that if he was an entrepeneur today, he probably would've created something like MySpace or Facebook. (Both names might have taken on entirely different meanings.) If that's true, my puberty (and those of thousands - if not millions - of other heterosexual males, I'm sure) is grateful that Hef was born when he was.

The Ten Greatest Albums Made by Actors

For me, Don Johnson's "Heartbeat" falls into "so bad, it's good" territory. (And thanks to YouTube, the video is available for viewing any time.) But some of the other stuff on this lists looks awful. I've heard very good things (not from Pitchfork) about Zooey Deschanel's musical effort, however.

Why You’re Glad Jim Bowden Isn’t Your GM

Please indulge my shameless plug for my latest post at Baseball Blend, in which I wonder just how in the hell Washington Nationals' general manager Jim Bowden keeps his job. Let's just keep signing more of the types of players we already have!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

"In order to form a more perfect union..."

Could the speech have really been that good? I missed the live telecast of Barack Obama's speech on race from Philadelphia yesterday, but made a point to tape it because it figured to be something special and I thought it would be worth watching later on. The gushing enthusiasm and hyperbole that I heard on the evening news and talk shows, however, was close to unbelievable. How often do you hear that level of praise from jaded hosts and pundits?

Yet I had several e-mails from my friends (some of whom are plenty cynical themselves), sending me a link to the speech's transcript online and saying how inspirational it was. So last night I watched the speech, reading along from the text that had been made available.

Scott Warheit said it perfectly at his blog, Quo Vadimus: If real life were like The West Wing, yesterday would've been the day that Obama won the presidency. And reality now has a chance to run parallel to scripted television drama. The speech was so acutely tuned to the racial divisions that divide us in this country.

[...] for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn't make it - those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations - those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright's generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table.

[...] a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience - as far as they're concerned, no one's handed them anything, they've built it from scratch. They've worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they're told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Some might criticize Obama for not denouncing his spiritual mentor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, more emphatically for the incendiary remarks included with his sermons. And over the weekend, I suppose I would've preferred (or perhaps I expected) him to distance himself. But too often these days, I think we're quick to throw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater, separating ourselves from those whose views we might disagree with, while forgetting the place our friends and colleagues hold in our lives. In politics, this might be even more true. Anyone who can't help a candidate's cause is left on the curbside and told to go away.

This isn't the same sort of speech, so I'm really not trying to compare the two, but I remember my father telling me how inspired he was as a University of Michigan student when John F. Kennedy spoke on the steps of the Michigan Union and asked young people to take advantage of the opportunity to make a difference in this country and the rest of the world. Dad joined the Peace Corps shortly thereafter, and I literally wouldn't exist if he hadn't made that decision.

Obama isn't asking anyone to give two years of their lives to an effort such as the Peace Corps. But yesterday, he did speak of how we have an opportunity to make a difference in this country, to come together, instead of working to remain apart. And in looking at Obama, and learning about his life and the people who have raised and influenced him, it's clearly apparent that this isn't just rhetoric. He is the embodiment of races and ethnicities joining together, or as he put it, forming a union.

How many other politicians, let alone presidential candidates, can you imagine making such a speech with the authority and credibility that Obama brought to the podium yesterday? Shouldn't such a man who understands our differences, and has worked to bridge those gaps, be the person we elect to our nation's highest office? Doesn't that send the right message to the rest of the world, as well?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Southland Tales: A Four-Sentence Movie Review

Director Richard Kelly holds a special place in my film-loving heart for bringing Donnie Darko to the world, but that movie was six years ago, so it's been a long wait to see if he could follow up on the promise of his first effort. Southland Tales shows that Kelly might still be one of the most creatively ambitious filmmakers working a film set today, and the cast he assembled for this project indicates that plenty of other people believe in his talent, but since seeing this movie back in late November, I haven't been able to explain to anyone just what the hell this thing is about.

I'm a fan of The Rock, which was almost enough for me to go see this (no, I haven't seen The Game Plan, and probably never will unless I'm somehow trapped in front of a television with a small child), and it's fun to see him play a different role than the unstoppable machines he normally portrays that can kick ass with a wink and a smile, but ultimately he's a hub for a bicycle wheel with many, many surreal spokes that could really use a decent tire to make it ride more smoothly (and sensibly).

It seems like Kelly tried to compose a commentary on our country's war-mongering ways, its fascination with celebrity (especially the titillating kind), and the need for our politicians to control us through constantly peddling fear, but then the story stops for scenes like Justin Timberlake lip-syncing The Killers' "All These Things That I Have Done" (which is just as weird as it sounds, but it might be the best part of the movie, and can be seen here), and you wonder if he was also trying to say other things that were also shoehorned into what ultimately becomes a congealed, over-stuffed (especially with former Saturday Night Live cast members), yet admirably grandiose mess.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Kory McFarren: Boyfriend of the Decade?

I'm posting this largely for the benefit of my mother, who thought I was making this story up when I told her about it last night. (Or maybe she just didn't like that I was talking about it on the way to dinner.)

Yes, Mama Cass - a woman did actually stay in her bathroom for two years. And her skin really did... stick to the toilet seat. Or perhaps more specifically, grow around it after sitting for approximately three to four weeks.

I don't want to joke about this too much, because the woman is obviously extremely troubled, if not outright ill. But... wow. Somebody has to sit her "boyfriend" (a term which just has to be put in quotations, considering the circumstances) in front of a microphone and ask him how he let two years go by without doing something.

How was this discovered? Someone called a reporter with a tip.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Lighter Green Color, More Hulkalicious Flavor

This is turning into a video blog over here, but I just keep finding stuff I want to post. Last night, the new trailer for The Incredible Hulk played on MTV, but since I don't watch MTV anymore (either because I'm just too old or don't care about the "reality TV" they stage), I missed it. But of course, it's been made available online.

[I changed the clip to a YouTube embed, now that it's available. I hated that you had to click over to to see the trailer. Hopefully, a HD version pops up soon.]

Not the best trailer I've ever seen, but clearly Marvel wants everyone to know that, unlike Ang Lee's depiction of the Hulk from five years ago, Louis Leterrier's movie is going to have some smash-face action. And after two minutes, I think I already like this version better. (Edward Norton, typical of his career, apparently has some issues with the final cut, however.)

UPDATE: Leterrier talked to Empire magazine about the trailer and what can be expected (more action, no waiting to see the Hulk, etc.) in the movie.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Basking in Some Hives Afterglow

Judging from my overflowing Google Reader and inbox (also brought to me by Google, which I totally think is going to become Skynet), it's going to take me a day or so to regain my online bearings after visiting the lovely and talented Mis Hooz in New York for a weekend. (In the real world, getting settled was pretty easy once I had dinner in my favorite armchair.) If I could sum up the trip in one sentence, I would say that Mis Hooz treated me like a rock star, while Northwest Airlines treated me like dog shit.

For now, however, I'd like to focus on the positive, which included an outstanding performance by The Hives (and The Donnas) at Terminal 5. Several photos from the show have been posted on Facebook, if you're interested in checking out the preening, strutting Howlin' Pelle Almqvist and the rest of his Hive five. Otherwise, here's a video from an old radio appearance that Mis Hooz told me about.

Our show was a little bit better, and a hell of a lot louder. Plus, the brothers Almqvist wore their trademark matching suits. But hopefully, you get the vibe.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Learning New Tricks in Self-Promotion

I have seen the future of book promotion, and his name is Chip Kidd:

As if the man's work couldn't already be seen all over bookstores everywhere, Kidd is a writer, too. And that seems kind of unfair to me. It seems like you should be good at graphic design or good at writing (I enjoyed his first novel, The Cheese Monkeys), but is it really fair to be good at both? It's kind of like being beautiful or funny. Beautiful people have their appeal, as do funny people. But can you really be both? C'mon, man. Leave something for the rest of us.

Anyway, the bar has now been raised. If I ever publish a novel, I'll have to produce a video to promote it. (I should've thought about that for Tigers Corner 2008. Ahem.) Maybe my buddy Peter J. Schwab can help me with that. That is, unless everyone else starts doing this, too.

Perhaps not so coincidentally, Kidd will be appearing at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor this evening, courtesy of the University of Michigan and AIGA Detroit. If Kidd is signing copies of his new novel, The Learners, I might just have to pick one up for myself.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

A Book-Buying Suggestion For You: Tigers Corner 2008

I'm a bit behind the rest of the Detroit Tigers blogosphere in making this announcement, but the 2008 edition of the Tigers Corner annual from Maple Street Press is now on sale, and should be available at bookstores and newsstands throughout the metro Detroit area.

Why the unsolicited plug? Well... I kind of have a horse in this race.

Edited by Gary Gillette and Brian Borawski, the publication includes articles written by several Tigers bloggers whose work you might be familiar with. I happen to be one of them, authoring a feature on Magglio Ordonez which compares his 2007 season to Norm Cash's 1961 campaign.

The book is largely a preview of what will hopefully rank among the more exciting Detroit Tigers seasons in memory. But it also covers the past, present, and future of the Tigers. In addition to looking back at last year, there are features on other important pennant races in Tigers history. Historical profiles of past players are also included. An eye is cast toward those prospects who could play an important part of Tigers teams to come. And the collection is topped off with statistics and projections that should provide some handy reference.

The Tigers bloggers included among the book's contributors are as follows:

▪▪  Bill Ferris of The Detroit Tigers Weblog

▪▪  Lee Panas of Tiger Tales

▪▪  Matt Wallace of Take 75 North

▪▪  Brian Borawski of TigerBlog

▪▪  Mike McClary of The Daily Fungo

Of course, it's a thrill to have some of my work in print, but I'm also flattered to be included among a talented group of writers whose passion for their favorite baseball team has resulted in this publication. I'm obviously biased, but it's a good-looking book and something we can all be proud of.

As I mentioned, Tigers Corner 2008 should be available at bookstores and newsstands throughout metro Detroit, including area Kroger stores. You can also order directly from Maple Street Press. The book is also listed at, though it's currently unavailable due to some confusion over its classification. Hopefully, that gets straightened out very soon.

Please check it out if you get a chance. And strongly consider it as a gift option for that special Detroit Tigers fan in your life (even if that means you).

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Today's Reading - 03/04/08

I Need a Virtual Break. No, Really.

The NY Times' Mark Bittman (whose new blog is very enjoyable) pledges to take a day away from the internet, computer, and cellphone. As someone who also battles a serious internet addiction, I'm looking forward to my trip to New York this weekend, during which I should be offline. I might need Mis Hooz's help in staying disconnected, however.

Thank you sir, may I have another?

For bloggers who yearn for press credentials, be careful what you wish for. Check out where some of the traditional press has to file their stories from. On the bright side, there is a very, very short walk to the bathroom.

Online Scrabble Craze Leaves Game Sellers at Loss for Words

Getting through a day without playing Scrabulous on Facebook has become more difficult than I ever would've guessed. I've come to love it and am embarrassed to admit how many times I click over to see if my opponents have made their next move. Don't take that away from me (and countless others), Hasbro.

Green Bay Packers QB Brett Favre retires after 17 seasons, says he’s ‘tired’

As a Detroit Lions fan, I can't say I'll entirely miss Brett Favre. (Though at one point, before the Matt Millen regime, the Lions actually beat him and the Packers occasionally. Fire Millen!) But it'll be strange to have a NFL season without Favre. The guy has played for the Green Bay Packers for almost as long as I've followed pro football.

Sleepy-Eyed Writer, Wandering Byzantium

One of my favorite authors, Richard Price, has published a new novel, titled Lush Life. It might be quite a while before I get to it (maybe - ahem - when the book comes out in paperback), but I'll get there eventually (though I should probably read his previous novel, Samaritan, first). In the meantime, profiles like this, which follow Price through the neighborhoods that inspired and informed his writing, are almost as compelling.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Chatting with The Detroit Tigers Podcast

A couple of weeks ago, my buddy Mike McClary was back home visiting Michigan, and was nice enough to stop by my neighborhood in Ann Arbor so we could hang out for an afternoon.  And while we were loitering at one of the many coffee shops surrounding the University of Michigan campus, Mike whipped out a recording device to save the conversation for posterity.

You can hear our coffee-fueled chat on the latest episode (#39) of The Detroit Tigers Podcast.  We like to think of it as a do-over of a podcast we recorded a year ago, which was unfortunately devoured by evil file-erasing nanobots.  So there's a little bit of "Hi, I'm Ian - and this is my story" at the beginning of the interview.

Later on, my arch-enemy Samela Samara from Roar of the Tigers (who's just too harsh on herself) joined us while Journey played behind us and we had ourselves a Tigers bloggers roundtable.  (Full disclosure: the tables we sat at actually were round.)  Many kudos to Mike's digital recorder because there was a lot of background noise at the cafe, along with music playing in the background, yet our voices can be heard very clearly.  (I apologize for my cough, which can also be heard all too clearly.)  Technology is a beautiful thing.

Anyway, I could be biased but I think this was a nice way for Mike to start off the new season of The Detroit Tigers Podcast.  It's always fun to chat with him, and I'm really glad Sam could join us - even if all of my musical references went over her head and hit the poor young co-ed behind her.  You can download or stream the podcast directly from the show's webpage or iTunes.  Please give it a listen and check back with Mike throughout the season.  He does a great job in what will be the third year of the show.