Friday, January 30, 2009

Gran Torino: A Fried Rice Movie Review

[Because sometimes, four sentences just aren't enough...]

I should begin by saying that I'm glad that Gran Torino didn't turn out to be the movie I thought it would be (or the trailers and commercials might lead you to believe), the same sort of last hurrah/last word for the Dirty Harry archetype that Clint Eastwood's bad-ass cowboys received in Unforgiven. And if this does end up being Eastwood's last role, he gave himself a juicy one in Walt Kowalski, a character full of pathos, just enough complexity to be compelling, and perhaps the best sense of humor since he was hanging out with Clyde the orangutuan.

But in terms of tone, this is an incredibly uneven film, starting out with a commentary on modern-day youth (which is portrayed as irredeemably one-dimensional throughout the film), then turning into a fish-out-of-water/world-has-changed-around-him sort of tale. And that might have been an interesting enough movie in itself, but the screenplay doesn't get very introspective. And Eastwood seems more interested in conveying his dismay with a sneer and a growl, anyway.

The story progresses into a clash-of-cultures kind of buddy comedy, which is probably the most compelling aspect of the film because we see Kowalski develop as a character. But along the way, a lot of cheap laugh shortcuts, loaded with Archie Bunker-esque politically incorrect racial epithets, are taken. I know this is where a lot of people have a problem with the movie, but it didn't really bother me. At least in terms of offending me. it's almost too over-the-top to take seriously.

Finally, it veers into deadly serious, try-and-digest-this-during-the-credits drama, and this provides a great example of how Eastwood the director shines when working with veteran actors like Sean Penn and Hilary Swank, professionals who get what their director is trying to accomplish and can get it done in one or two takes. But when he works with less experienced actors - and I don't think it's an insult to label most of those who play Kowalski's Hmong neighbors "amateur" - this approach doesn't serve him well.

In a pivotal scene building toward the movie's climax, Bee Vang, who plays the boy Kowalski has befriended, has to show emotion, and bring it believably. And he fails so badly that it's almost laughable. I actually felt bad for him because he's so clearly over his head as an actor. And I wonder if Eastwood - as a director or an actor - did the best he could with him or just kind of left him hanging.

When this is released on DVD, I'd like to see it again because I wonder if I cut it a break for filming in Detroit. The script is sprinkled with enough little nuggets (mentions of the Lions, resentment for driving foreign cars, etc.), and the locations look familiar enough to appeal to my inner Michigander. Plus, I think the story fits rather believably in metro Detroit, as several areas and neighborhoods have changed in the way Kowalski's does. But could the film's flaws become even more apparent after the stars in my eyes fade away? I have a feeling they might.

10 Chick Flick Cliches

This could almost be enough to get me to see He's Just Not That Into You.

Almost. Now if this were a British movie, I might feel differently. Sap with an accent is just so much more charming.

But I think my favorite cliche is #6. (But #5 is always good for a laugh.)

Wait - did you say Jennifer Connelly is in this? Um...

(via The Movie Blog)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Metal Health Will Drive You Mad!

"Bang Your Head" likely won't be the song that's in your head after you're finished watching The Wrestler. But two days later, thanks to Randy "The Ram" Robinson (and Darren Aronofsky), Quiet Riot has pounded their way back into my short-term memory.

It's like I'm 10 years old, sitting in front of a cassette player and smacking the edge of my desk with drumsticks all over again. Man, did I want one of those iron masks. (And could you even make a metal video in the 80s without a smoke machine?)

Four-Sentence Movie Review soon to come...

Happy Chinese New Year!

Don't panic if you encounter people running around in elaborate dragon or lion costumes at your Chinese restaurant of choice today. It's Chinese New Year! And 2009 is the Year of the Ox (or Ji Chou).

That has me particularly excited for this year's celebration because the Ox is my sign on the Chinese Zodiac. Big things, baby!

Well, perhaps not without some struggle, as the Year of the Ox "symbolizes strength gathered through unity, harmony, obedience, courage, and hard slog." We Oxen should expect a "dutiful, family-oriented, and dependable year."

Or maybe I'll just get a tattoo. (Although I might be kind of old for that, at this point.)

Here's a description of the Ox which (unfortunately) fits me pretty well. I might opt for this one, however, as it sounds a bit more noble.

And here are the traditional dishes one might eat on Chinese New Year. Fish and dumplings, I think we can do. The other stuff? Well, we'll see.

Congratulations and be prosperous! Oh, and don't buy shoes or books, or talk about death today. Bad luck!

Friday, January 23, 2009

No More Talkin' Tigers on the Radio

I don't know how many of you had streamed or downloaded our appearances over the past two weeks on WTKQ's The Morning Ticket with Pat & Todd, but I'm not going to be talking on the radio again any time soon.

Unfortunately, the powers-that-be at FM Talk 100.5 decided to go in the proverbial different direction, and as of last Friday, pulled the plug on the show. Any disappointment I felt over that is a trifle compared to what two radio hosts who suddenly don't have a show must have experienced. Fans of WDFN in Detroit learned this week just how brutal the radio industry can be. (And though I'm late on it, that's something I'd like to write about in the next couple of days.)

I'm obviously biased, but Pat Johnston and Todd Guerne are two talented, nice guys who deserve better, and will hopefully get it. And if you follow the conversation over at Bless You Boys, you know Todd's suddenly become an active part of the BYB community, and it's great to have a new voice and more participation - especially at this time of year.

So I should probably leave it there, and thank Pat and Todd for a wholly unexpected opportunity, as short-lived as it turned out to be. It's incredibly flattering that they thought enough of what we do here to want to talk about the Tigers on the radio each week. And it was a lot of fun.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

'The Superman Exists... and He's American'

Watchmen is going to be just the coolest movie ever, isn't it?

(Love that old, Filmation-style cartoon!)

I mean, comic book geek tingles aside, Zack Snyder and his cast and crew have put some serious work into creating a world for this movie, constructing an era for the story to play in. This isn't just going to be some superhero action flick. And a movie based on Watchmen shouldn't be, either.

Gimme Some Skin, Inauguration Style!

You've probably already seen this on at least three websites today, but I'm not above falling in line with the rest of pop culture. Especially when it means putting up a fresh post. Viva Obama! Viva la inauguration!

But honestly, as a cable news junkie (though my craving has gone down considerably since January 1), I got a big kick out of seeing TV personalities like the "Morning Joe" crew play along. Nice to see they don't take themselves too seriously. (That means you too, Pat Buchanan!)

Trying to Catch Some Oscar Fever

Continuing a four-year tradition here at Fried Rice Thoughts, we post the Academy Award nominations (which I didn't even realize were being announced today, until I saw something on Twitter) for your perusal, along with some thoughts on the nominees.

You can read the complete list here, but for now, these are the major categories (and as a writer, I always have to include the screenwriters):

Best supporting actress:
Amy Adams - Doubt
Penelope Cruz - Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis - Doubt
Taraji P. Henson - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Marisa Tomei - The Wrestler

Best supporting actor:
Josh Brolin - Milk
Robert Downey, Jr. - Tropic Thunder
Philip Seymour Hoffman - Doubt
Heath Ledger - The Dark Knight
Michael Shannon - Revolutionary Road

Best Actress:
Anne Hathaway - Rachel Getting Married
Angelina Jolie - Changeling
Melissa Leo - Frozen River
Meryl Streep - Doubt
Kate Winslet - The Reader

Best Actor:
Richard Jenkins - The Visitor
Frank Langella - Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn - Milk
Brad Pitt - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Mickey Rourke - The Wrestler

Best Director:
Danny Boyle - Slumdog Millionaire
Stephen Daldry - The Reader
David Fincher - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Ron Howard - Frost/Nixon
Gus Van Sant - Milk

Best Original Screenplay:
Courtney Hunt - Frozen River
Mike Leigh - Happy-Go-Lucky
Martin McDonagh - In Bruges
Dustin Lance Black - Milk
Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon - WALL-E

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Eric Roth - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
John Patrick Shanley - Doubt
Peter Morgan - Frost/Nixon
David Hare - The Reader
Simon Beaufoy - Slumdog Millionaire

Best Picture:
The Reader
Slumdog Millionaire
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Quick thoughts:

▪▪ Okay, let's just get it out of the way: It's a big disappointment not to see The Dark Knight among the Best Picture nominees. I had no delusions that it would actually win the award (Though The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King won in 2004, so would it really be that weird?), but I thought Batman would at least get nominated.

Maybe it's the comic book fan in me seeking validation, but this was one of the five best movies of the year. C'mon, Oscar - at least give Christopher Nolan a Best Director nod.

▪▪ Looking at the nominees for Best Supporting Actor, I think Heath Ledger definitely has a shot at a posthumous win.

▪▪ Doubt also got hosed for Best Picture.

So which two movies would I have taken off? Well, I haven't seen The Reader, so that would be an easy choice for me. And though I enjoyed it, and think it's quite a filmmaking achievement for David Fincher, I'd probably kick The Curious Case of Benjamin Button off the list, too.

▪▪ My sit-up-and-clap nominee this year? Richard Jenkins. The Visitor was a fantastic movie, with an ending that I still can't shake, and it's largely because of the arc Jenkins's character follows.

A close second would be Amy Adams, who hasn't been getting nearly enough acclaim for her performance in Doubt. An Oscar nomination takes care of that, I'd say.

▪▪ Robert Downey, Jr. brought me a smile. My love and admiration for the man has not been hidden on this blog, and I'm glad to see him get some recognition for the year he had, but I'd have rather seen him nominated for Iron Man.

However, there's one scene of his in Tropic Thunder that amazes me. If you haven't seen it, I'll try not to spoil it for you, but it involves his disguise as a rice paddy farmer.

▪▪ In place of Downey, I'd have nominated Sam Rockwell for Frost/Nixon or James Franco for Milk.

▪▪ The toughest category is probably Best Actor. You could make a great case for any of the nominees (though maybe I shouldn't comment on Rourke, since I haven't seen The Wrestler yet), but Sean Penn looks like the favorite to me.

▪▪ And I love Clint Eastwood, but I was glad to see he didn't get nominated for basically playing Archie Bunker in Gran Torino.

▪▪ Kate Winslet has to be a lock for Best Actress, right? With the nominations it received, The Reader has to win one award. Here it is. And it's not like she isn't overdue.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

So Long, W

Besides the image of Barack Obama taking the oath of office, and a satellite photo of the inauguration ceremonies, this might be my favorite picture from today's festivities:

Off to Texas you go now, W.

(via The New York Times)

Yes, He Is!

If you were fortunate enough to watch today's Inauguration festivities as they happened, you know how impressive the spectacle was. Especially the sea of people flooding the National Mall and the streets of downtown Washington D.C. to witness Barack Obama taking the oath of office.

As I watched, one thought kept reverberating through my mind: I really wish my father had lived to see this. He would've been deeply touched by the moment. And as both a Democrat and a history major, he would've loved President Obama.

Happy Inauguration Day!

I hope no one needs anything important done from, say, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. today. Our national attention will likely be occupied. (Did anyone reading this call in sick today to watch the inauguration?)

In preparation for today's historic festivities, I picked up some Baracky Road from Zingerman's Creamery.

(I hope the Obama administration is better, if you know what I'm saying. Not that the gelato was bad. It's gelato; how bad could it be? But Zing's Pimento Cheese is more inspirational. Not as cool a label on the container, though.)

Here's to history.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Some Water For Detroit's Football Desert?

I'm late to the party on reading Michael Lombardi's wonderfully insightful writing and reporting at National Football Post - probably because it took me a while to work my sports appetite back up after baseball season (mercifully) ended - but his stuff is a must-read for me these days.

And maybe I just need any little kernel of hope to make me feel good about the Detroit Lions now (thanks to the Arizona Cardinals) being one of five teams (three of which are newer, expansion franchises) never to make it to the Super Bowl, but I was encouraged to read this from Lombardi about the Lions' new head coach, Jim Schwartz:

I know the Lions hired a great young coach in Jim Schwartz, who is someone I believe will do a wonderful job. We hired him in Cleveland in 1992 to work with me in the personnel department. He is extremely smart (third in his class at Georgetown in economics) and hard working. He knows how to build a program, and he understands the Bill Belichick approach as well as anyone. Given enough time, he will restore the roar to the Lions.

So hopefully, The Schwartz is strong with this team. And for a guy who said the Lions were dead to him, I'm suddenly quite a bit more interested than I was at this time a year ago.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Today's Photo - 01/18/09

Does Barnes & Noble think divorce is a popular New Year's Resolution for its customers?

Or maybe getting those divorces finalized is more frequent at tax time?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Talkin' Tigers on the Radio: Any Closer to a Closer?

Where will the Detroit Tigers turn to find a closer? The Quest For Relief (or lack thereof) was the main topic of discussion in my chat with WTKQ's The Morning Ticket with Pat & Todd.

Are we really looking at Fernando Rodney being the man in the ninth inning this summer? Is that a possibility that should terrify Tigers fans? Or is there still a chance a free agent reliever could come to the rescue? If so, are Jason Isringhausen or Brandon Lyon up to the task?

We also talk a little bit about signing Justin Verlander long-term to avoid arbitration, and whether or not trading Magglio Ordonez is really a good idea.

Thanks once again to Pat Johnston and Todd Guerne for having me on, especially before a big football weekend (and in lieu of the Detroit Lions hiring Jim Schwartz as their new head coach).

You can listen to an embedded audio clip below (I think I've installed a better audio player this time) or download the file from the accompanying link.


May the Schwartz Be With Us!

This is just too easy, but in honor of the Detroit Lions hiring Jim Schwartz as their new coach (a moment of silence for the poor guy), I have to post the first thing that came to mind when I heard the news.

I think the Lions got the right guy. Someone with Schwartz's pedigree - working under Jeff Fisher in Tennessee, and previous background with Bill Belichick in Cleveland - and unconventional, stats-oriented approach to the game is intriguing. (I can't wait to see how the media and fans react when he says something like "Well, fumbles are a random occurrence; good teams fumble just as often as bad teams" after the Lions have five turnovers in a game.)

It's also encouraging that other teams were interested in hiring him. I'm just not sure about the executives that made the hire. Like Michael Rosenberg in this morning's Freep, I hope the Lions let Schwartz coach his way and bring in his players. (Just remind them who has the bigger Schwartz, Coach.)

Here's a profile of Schwartz that the New York Times wrote in November.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Dark Knight Returns

Just in case anyone was eager for an update on Batman returning to his post, hanging from my rear-view mirror, the Dark Knight has returned.

Welcome back, Caped Crusader. You know, I never said "thank you."

Tying a knot when your hands are shivering and you can't feel your fingers is more difficult than one might think. But I know I'll once again feel safe while driving.

Holy Heart On a String!

My world was rocked this morning while out driving in the Arctic temperatures currently plaguing the midwest. No, don't worry - I wasn't in an accident. Though emotionally, it almost feels as if I was.

While making a turn onto my street, the Batman figurine hanging from my rear-view mirror broke off and fell to the floor of the passenger side seat. Yes, I pulled over. The damage needed to be assessed immediately.

Batman always hangs from my rear-view mirror. He's done so for at least the last 15 years (spanning two cars, maybe three). And during that time - and I hope I'm not jinxing myself by mentioning this - I have never been in an automobile accident. (A couple of inconvenient scrapes here and there, but never anything major. Or minor, really.)

Is that because I'm a good driver with excellent peripheral vision, reflexes, and steering ability? Perhaps. But I also believe that Batman has protected me. He hovers above the dashboard, watching over me, like a dark knight. With each year that passes, the superstition becomes more cemented.

So to see my guardian tumble to the floor was more than a bit jolting. And to see what had actually happened was rather troubling.

Batman had fallen before, when the string broke free from the suction cup it was attached to. (The suction cup doesn't hold Batman to the rear-view mirror; it's used to keep the knot in place.) But it hadn't happened in years. And besides, this was different. This time, the string itself broke. Worn away, perhaps, after years of swaying and twirling. Like so many of us, it's just getting old. And man, that's kind of a bummer.

I hope this isn't a bad omen, or an ominous sign of what's to come.

I'll fix you, buddy. Stay with me. Don't you give up on me. We've been through way too much together, some of which you probably wish you hadn't seen. I need you back.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

'To the Last, I Will Grapple with Thee... From Hell's Heart, I Stab at Thee!'

Since I posted something about Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan two days ago, it seems only appropriate to note the passing of Ricardo Montalban today.

It would probably be more dignified to run a picture of Montalban in the sartorial splendor of his Fantasy Island character, Mr. Roarke. But I was never much of a fan of that show. And seeing him as a bad-ass fueled by vengeance in 'Wrath of Khan' made much more of an impression on Young Ian. (As it did for Entertainment Weekly's Marc Bernardin.)

It was disheartening to hear the rumor that Montalban's pumped-up chest in that role may have been a prosthetic. That bit of gossip, however, has since been apparently disproven, and I can comfortably go back to thinking that Montalban's sheer pectoral machismo made Shatner and his scenery chewing look feeble.

Hopefully, Mr. Montalban is resting in peace on an armchair upholstered with soft Corinthian leather.

UPDATE: Since Paramount Pictures took down the 'Wrath of Khan' clip that was available on YouTube, here's a trailer from the film instead.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

How Brad Pitt Was Made Old and Short

What I hoped would be a DVD extra for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was largely shown on the CBS Evening News last week. Thanks, Katie Couric!

That's sort of how I guessed the filmmakers created the "young" Benjamin Button, but it's still pretty cool to see the process at work.

You can also see a video of Brad Pitt's make-up job here.

(via Thompson on Hollywood)

UPDATE: Here's a slideshow from that shows more of the motion capture work that was done.

The Tao of Rickey

In honor of Rickey Henderson's election into the Baseball Hall of Fame yesterday, I'd like to rerun some clips from a post I wrote back in 2005 when Rickey signed with the San Diego Surf Dawgs. As we get closer to the HoF induction ceremony in July, I look forward to hearing more stories about Henderson's celebrated eccentricities. But I don't know if they'll be any better than these.

For a 12-year span through the 1980's and into the early 90's, Rickey owned the American League stolen base crown. The one year he didn't get it was 1987, when he played in only 95 games because of a hamstring injury. So Harold Reynolds was the final season leader with 60 steals. And after the season, H.R. got a phone call from someone (as told on's "Fantasy 411"):


"Reynolds! This is Rickey."

"Oh, hey Rick."

"60 steals, huh?"

"Yeah, I can't believe it. It was amazing."

"60?! Rickey had 60 at the All-Star Break!"


Immediately after breaking Lou Brock's stolen base record, the Oakland Athletics held an on-field ceremony commemorating the occasion. Rickey ended a relatively gracious speech by saying, "Lou Brock was the symbol of great base stealing. But today, I'm the greatest of all time. Thank you."

Henderson often referred to himself in the third person. He once called the general manager of a baseball team, looking for a job, and said, "Rickey wants to play another year and he thinks he wants to play for you."

While playing for the San Diego Padres late in his career, Henderson got onto the team bus and was looking for a seat. A teammate, Steve Finley, said, "Sit anywhere you want, you got tenure."

Rickey's response? "Ten years? What are you talking about? Rickey got 16, 17 years."

This one apparently isn't true, but it's so funny that it should be: While playing for the Seattle Mariners, Rickey approached John Olerud, who wears a batting helmet on the field because of a brain aneurysm he suffered, and said "I used to play with a dude in New York who did the same thing."

Olerud's response? "That was me." Olerud and Rickey had previously played together with the New York Mets and Toronto Blue Jays.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Needs of the Many Outweigh the Needs of the Few... or the One

I guess today is Bad Sci-Fi Overacting Day here at Fried Rice Thoughts.

With Pat and Todd of "The Morning Ticket" being generous enough to invite me on for some baseball chat each week, I figured the least I could do is give their show a listen. And this morning, Pat was incredulous over Todd admitting that he'd never seen Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. I won't go so far as to say Todd should lose his Man Card, as Pat suggested, but 'Wrath of Khan' certainly has to be seen, if for no other reason than the cultural reference.

So as a favor, I figured I'd post what's probably the most memorable scene (for better or worse) from the movie:

At least I didn't post a clip of that ear slug squirming out of Chekov's ear. (I couldn't find it, anyway.)

UPDATE: Since Paramount Pictures took down the 'Wrath of Khan' clip that was available on YouTube, here's a trailer from the film instead.

The Law!

While watching Danny Boyle accept his Best Director award at the Golden Globes for Slumdog Millionaire, I mentioned to Mis Hooz over the phone that his production company acquired the rights to a new Judge Dredd movie. (io9 posted some concept art that's been done already.)

That, of course, immediately brought up the awful Sylvester Stallone movie from 14 years ago. (Has it really been that long?) And if we're talking about that, we have to post a clip of this scene (which was mocked recently on Attack of the Show):

Armand Assante can really bring it when he has to, don't you think?

Anyway, I think Danny Boyle could improve on that. If he was going to direct the thing. And I'm not sure he should, after doing Slumdog Millionaire, which could win Best Picture at the Oscars, (and getting sci-fi out of his system with Sunshine and 28 Days Later). But it'd be pretty cool.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Today's Photo - 01/11/09

It's always kind of a tough day for me when Michigan and Iowa play each other in football or basketball.

(I know - not my best photo. I'll try to do better the next time.)

But with 30-plus years in Ann Arbor, versus the two I spent in Iowa City, you can probably guess where my loyalties ultimately lie. I'm mostly just rooting for a good game at Crisler Arena today, with both teams playing hard.

I don't know if you can say both teams played hard, with Iowa looking awful and Michigan looking smooth. The Hawkeyes were short-handed, but I'm not sure it would've mattered.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Today's Photo - 01/10/09

Man, I just finished shoveling the snow...

Son of a biscuit. I guess I know what I'm doing tomorrow.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Stand For Every One of Us!

Why? Just because.

Well, that's not entirely true.

I was actually inspired by this college basketball blog that wanted highlights of Davidson's superstar guard, Stephen Curry, intercut with an old video of Queen performing "Flash" (otherwise known as the theme to the 1980 version of Flash Gordon). And I was initially going to post the mash-up that was created.

But then I thought, no, I want the pure stuff. Don't cut in any baking soda.

I'm not sure I've ever loved half a song as much as I do this one. (Back when I co-hosted That's What She Said with Matt Sommer, one of my favorite episodes was when he cut "Flash" into the outro.) That throbbing, pounding beat from piano and bass, building toward a crescendo, an exclamation! Flash! Ah-aah! No current science fiction or fantasy film would dare be so glam and campy.

The rest of the tune, I can do without. It's like an entirely different song. But that first 1:05, it gives life meaning.

(via The Dagger)

Talkin' Tigers on the Radio

I was invited onto The Morning Ticket with Pat & Todd on Saginaw's FM Talk 100.5 this morning to talk about the Detroit Tigers. We're hoping to make this a weekly thing during the baseball season.

After a tortured search during last night's Florida-Oklahoma national championship game, I found a program for Windows that would allow me to record streaming audio. And I got it synced up with my thingermajigger just in time to record my appearance.

For those of who have followed the Detroit Tigers' offseason closely, you'll already be familiar with what Pat, Todd, and I discussed. And if not, I really sound like I know what I'm talking about.

(Except when I got two pitchers mixed up, which was a little bit embarrassing. Can I say, "Hey, it was early - and I was a bit nervous and hyper"? Well, I just did.)

Anyway, I think it went pretty well for our first time out. But I should let you judge for yourself. As Tony Kornheiser would say, I'll try to do better the next time. And hopefully, the Tigers give us a little more to talk about in the weeks to come. Thanks to Pat Johnston and Todd Guerne for having me on. That's a fun show they have going.

You can listen to an embedded audio clip below or download the file from the accompanying link. (At least, I hope so. This is the first time I've tried this.)


With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

One of my favorite comic books as a kid was Marvel Team-Up, which had Spider-Man join forces with (or coincidentally bump into, since all the Marvel heroes live in New York) another superhero such as Daredevil, the Hulk, or Iron Man. It was like getting two for the price of one.

Evidently, pairing Spidey up with iconic figures continues to hold some appeal for Marvel Comics. First, he and Stephen Colbert teamed up to take on the wretched hive of scum and villainy. And now, your friendly neighborhood wall-crawler will be sharing a story with Barack Obama for a special Inauguration Day edition of The Amazing Spider-Man.

[Click on the image for a better look.]

How cool is that? And an extremely nice likeness of the President-Elect rendered by Phil Jimenez. (Much better than the version of Obama drawn inside the comic book, as you can see here.) Obama will have to thank his wife for outing him as a childhood Spider-Man reader, which must have influenced this superstar meet-up.

So is there now any publication that hasn't had Obama on its cover?

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Today's Reading - 01/08/09


Now here's a blog post I wish I'd have written (by a guy who was cool enough to give me an interview last spring). I've probably made fun of it on Twitter, but that really isn't the same thing.

Have you seen the commercials for the "Snuggie," the blanket with sleeves? No longer must your arms be trapped underneath a blanket! Never mind that when you actually wear one of these, you look like a member of a cult. Or that you could, like, wear a sweater or sweatshirt.

Here's a clip of the ad.

Obama’s Media Cabinet

In lieu of Barack Obama tabbing CNN's Sanjay Gupta to be his Surgeon General, the NY Times' Mark Leibovich has other suggestions for television personalities the President-Elect could appoint to his adminstration. (I'll just say that I dislike his idea for Attorney General, as I'm still convinced that woman eats babies.)

Some Protect the Ego by Working on Their Excuses Early

Oh, man - I am so guilty of this. Self-handicapping. Or self-sabotage. "I'd finally write that book if I didn't blog so much." "I'd have taken that job if I didn't have to deal with all this family drama back home."

Etc., etc. And a lot of times, these excuses are thrown out there before even making an attempt. Enough of this stuff.

(via lifehacker, by way of Mike McClary)

Orson Scott Card and his world of Ender

If there are two books I should resolve to read in 2008, they're Ender's Game, along with A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. (And that should lead to further resolution to read the rest of the "A Song of Ice and Fire" series, as well.) New FRT Pacific Northwest correspondent Mis Hooz has been oh-so-patient with my incessant delays in putting off her reading recommendations. I gotta tackle one of these before baseball season starts.

Is the Desktop PC Slowly Dying?

I'm typing this on my desktop, but I can tell my HP Pavilion is on its last legs. As far as its usefulness to me, that is. Someone who mostly used his or her computer as an e-mail machine would probably work with this just fine.

So I'm kinda, sorta in the market for a new computer. I'm still thinking desktop, however. That can be the "super-computer" that houses everything for me, while the next laptop will probably be something much more light and portable. And man, you can't beat the prices you see right now.

Today's Fortune Cookie Wisdom

"You will take a chance in the near future, and win."

Now that is the kind of fortune a guy should receive at the beginning of a New Year.

So I guess I'm looking for something to take a chance on. I don't think I'll be doing that in the stock market. Maybe try that pig stomach dish at Middle Kingdom? Nah, think bigger. Hmm...

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Getting Burned by FeedBurner

Over the past few months, I've been getting frustrated with how long it takes my blog posts to show up in RSS readers. So it was reassuring to read this post from Steve Gillmor (via Dave Winer) expressing much the same frustration with FeedBurner, the service so many bloggers and podcasters use to create RSS feeds for their content. Apparently, this is a problem many are experiencing.

As an example, after posting something here at FRT, it often takes eight hours to show up on my Google Reader. That's not a big deal to me, as I don't really post anything here that has any "breaking news" urgency or that I want people to read quickly. And frankly, I don't know how many people even subscribe to this via RSS. (I know it's very few.)

But it's a huge deal to me when it affects how quickly people get my posts from Bless You Boys in their RSS readers. I work hard to post stuff on the Detroit Tigers as soon as it happens, and if people choose to read that content via RSS, but aren't getting it until hours after it's been posted, that's not working for me. Fortunately, SB Nation has set up its own RSS feeds for its sites, so a slow turnaround isn't much of a problem anymore.

However, there's still a major drag for anything I post here. Yesterday was a rare (very rare in recent years) three-post day at FRT. And it once again took hours for those posts to sync up with Google Reader. I'm not sure that matters to those who normally read this blog (and I thank you for doing so, by the way), but it kind of chaps my ass.

So I wonder if there are any alternatives? Or perhaps it's an issue with Blogger. Or maybe I shouldn't complain, as FeedBurner is a free service, and I get what I pay for. However, now that FB is now a Google property, I think a lot more is expected.

I'll have to post an update as to when this actually posts to RSS.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

As if I Didn't Already Want an iPhone

The lust and desire increases after watching (and more importantly, listening) to this.

Web browsing and GPS? Whatever, dude. I might never be unhappy if I knew a fart noise was just a couple of clicks away.

Technology is a hell of a thing. (This application made the developer $10,000 in a day, by the way.)

(via Slog, by way of Andrew Sullivan)

Wheel in the Sky Keeps On Turnin'

Posting this on the same day as the Macworld keynote address is probably all too predictable, but if you haven't seen this elsewhere, I might seem witty.

That could bring a whole different meaning to "typing with one hand," I suppose.

I bet that Apple would still be out of my price range, parody or not. But I'd love to try blogging with that wheel feature.

There Will Be Beard

Following careful deliberation and introspection, it has been decided: After a one-year hiatus, there will be beard in 2009.

Inspired by others who have opted to do what men sometimes need to do - to cover their faces with hair, whether it's an effort to shield ourselves from the harsh elements, or signify a transition - I have begun the process. A beard was not grown last year, largely out of consideration to my sister, who feared I would not be able to shed that caveman exterior and be suitably dapper for her wedding. There will be no such concession this winter season.

(Save your derisive jokes and interpretations, implying that this beard is a female companion meant to divert suspicion toward my virility and sexuality. Spinster Girl made such a joke at my expense on Facebook, for which I hope she receives a paper cut. Women only wish they could craft such a daring exterior, one that scoffs at conformity and convention, while also conveying warmth and a connection with nature.)

Much as a caterpillar weaves a cocoon around itself, to eventually escape from its trappings and emerge as a different, beautiful creature, so do men create a facial exterior of hirsute chin armor. When the weather changes, once the temperature rises, razor is taken to face, and a new man is found underneath.

As my buddy Kevin Kaduk (author of the outstanding baseball blog, Big League Stew) said to me on Facebook, "Welcome to Manuary." Indeed, sir. Indeed.

Monday, January 05, 2009

New Year's Resolutions... More or Less

By December 31, 2008 didn't feel like a very good year to me. But between walking my sister down the aisle (and her getting married, of course), traveling to Malaysia and meeting my mother's family for the first time, visiting New York for possibly the last time (as Mis Hooz shipped out to Seattle), and a historic Presidential election, it couldn't have been that bad. Those are some notable highlights.

But 2009 can be better. I guess that's what this resolution stuff is all about, right? And I have some definite thoughts on the matter.

Read more. Weigh less.

Travel more. Settle less. Talk more. Seethe less. Save more. Spend less. Engage more. Observe less. Cook more. Eat less. Learn more. Assume less. Walk more. Drive less. Feel more. Obsess less. Question more. Ignore less.

Less anger. More thought. Less judgment. More compassion. Less drama. More harmony. Less reacting. More listening. Less past. More present.

More tea. Less coffee. More Netflix. Less sports. More Farmer's Market. Less supermarket. More baseball. Less politics. More movies. Less TV. More music. Less talk. More Mediterranean. Less Mexican. More Woody Allen. Less Clint Eastwood. More vegetarian. Less carnivore.

More me. Less you.