Monday, July 31, 2006

Rocket Fever Expands Web Dominance

Seeing as it's a bear uploading tons of big photos to Blogger, I've started a Flickr page, where you'll find tons of vacation photos. I'll continue to use it as a place to share photos from other times and places. A proper post of the Rocket Fever Michigan Survey will follow.

Some Initial Shots

I have tons more, but my connection is giving me fits right now. Mucho text and images to follow.





Friday, July 28, 2006

It's not Labatt's, either



Guess who is coming back Sunday? Until then, look for him at the PB.

By the way, Gaines...Mel called last night all messed up and wanted a ride. I told him to eff off and to stop calling because you don't live with us anymore. He sounded hurt.

UPDATE: Oh, and he insulted your peeps.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Si Quaeris Peninsulam Amoenam, Circumspice


EAST LANSING, Mich.—We're deep in the Mitten's comfort zone. Things are good. Conversation topics thus far among friends and family:

Detroit, the Tigers, Michigan: a state apart, editing vs. writing, the strictures of academic writing, the power of five blades, an alarming increase in our nose-hair growth rates, Web design, the joys of telecommuting, the Tigers, homeownership, gardening, cheese, meat parties, mouth-watering recipes, leaving Detroit, remaining in Detroit, the need to intermittently unplug from the big city, how surprising it is that I love L.A., the Constitution, voting, gauging one’s faith in humanity, caring for our forebears.

Brain transplants, the United State’s energy dependency, alternative fuel sources, workplace survival, the state of alt-weekly newspapers, W.H. Auden & Co., Robertson Davies, the Tigers, introducing horseshoes as an Olympic sport, leaving Grosse Pointe, deaths and births.

Old home videos, fishing stories, the many and various ways we should have ended up arrested our dead during our youth, summer vacations, the Tigers, Michigan’s housing market and economy, “Grizzly Man,” the minimum wage increase and its impact on small businesses.

MySpace serial killers, music education, the relative joys of wedding planning, living on a street with a risqué name, families be crazy!, celebrity sightings and etiquette regarding such, loving and hating Las Vegas, Los Angeles primers for newcomers.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Threat Matrix: East Lansing


License to Kill -- The Real Sparty

In my hotter-than-hell Sunday best, I dashed to a Borders to buy "FIASCO" a book from a WaPo reporter about the Iraq war. Dismayed that I couldn't find it, I bought "The One Percent Doctrine" by WSJ's Ron Suskind instead.

My thoughts on the book pretty well match this review in the NYT, but who gives a sweet cheese when I came across this. Amid talk of cloak'n'dagger-type BS (heads in boxes, CIA paramilitary ops, bombing guys by tracking their cell phones, etc) related to the ongoing U.S. effort to flush out terrorists...amid spies, the CIA, the FBI, the White House, the industrial-military complex, Rummy, Rice, Powell, Saddam and the rest of the gang...amid this on page 43 comes this passage:

...Ben Bonk, CIA lifer, quietly entered a baronial home on Regent's Park in London for a meeting he hoped would be the start of something.

The house belonged to Prince Bandar bin Sultan, a nephew of Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler, Crown Pricine Abdullah, and, for 18 years the kingdom's ambassador to the U.S. Bandar, a close confidant of both Bushes, is a man of profound complexities, a cheery, educated man of enormous appetites. (Paraphrasing: He goes to NFL games, dines and smokes in the West Wing, channels funds to families connect to 9/11 possibly)

A sharp eye might spot a driver stopping by a Riggs Bank in Washington on a certain day each month to pick up a suitcase with $50,000 in cash that Bandar doles out to friends, relatives and Saudi operatives in the United States.

He is also a man who gets things done, and he builds relationships that rest on his consistent effectiveness.

This day he was brokering an important sit-down at his house (with Musa Kousa, a man known to have plotted the Lockerbie, Scotland bombing of a Pan-Am flight killing 270) He welcomed Bonk and ushered him into a stately parlor. Waiting there was an elegant, hand-tailored, smiling embodiment of the "dark side".

"Exciting about those Spartans," said Kousa.


Turns out, this Bonk AND this guy Kousa went to MSU in the 70s. They both were talking about Mateen & Co. winning the 2000 National Championship. Both are still huge fans! So Kousa goes on to basically earn a pardon for Libya for the Lockerbie fiasco and him and Bonk then get Libya to give up their nuke program in exchange for becoming an accepted nation in the civilized world. This would be a good Sunday story for an enterprising State Newser.

Top that, Wolverines. All the Unabomber ever did was live in a shack, kill people and then get his stupid thoughts printed in the Post. Look where an MSU degree leads.

And it's not really a fluke, I'm afraid to say. MSU has some epic conspiracies in its history:



  • In Vietnam, MSU received millions from the CIA to train the Vietnamese police force. The funds helped build the International Union over by Wells Hall and Engineering. A quote from the full strange story here...

"Central Intelligence Agency men were hidden within the ranks of the Michigan State University professors. They were all listed as members of the MSU Project staff and were formally appointed by the University Board of Trustees. Several of the CIA men were given academic rank and were paid by the University Project."

  • M. Peter McPherson. President of MSU until recently. Nearly all MSU students saw McP as a somewhat thoughtful, somewhat unassuming guy. He's friendly, a bit goofy, cares about the school and meets with students when they start smashing things after the hoops team loses. But he's also...the former head of USAID, a big shot at Bank of America, good friends with Dick Cheney who spoke at graduation in 2002, was the head of economic affairs in Iraq after the invasion and was in line to take over the World Bank until neo-con of neo-cons Paul Wolfowitz got the nod likely because of White House pressure. (He was also in the Peace Corp. Great guy. But don't cross him. He's connected.)
  • The creation of the Izzone: Kids used to have to get season tix from frosh year on to hope for the cherry sideline seats in their junior and senior years. Now, you just pay extra bucks for Izzone tix and you're in...frosh or no.
  • Bobby Williams: Wasn't a good choice for head coach.

There you have it...Go Green. Go White, indeed.





Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Mitten Calls

And so I return home, a little more than a year after leaving for a faraway land. The Rocket Fever Michigan Survey will cover Detroit, Lake George, Lansing, and possibly Saugatuck. Not a bad trip. I'll be greeted by a veritable Hall of Fame lineup of friends and family. If I miss you on this trip, please take no offense. I can only do so much with time and space.

I wager I'll learn a thing or two on this trip: about Michigan and California, myself, the Detroit Tigers. The trip comes at the perfect time, when a need to leave the city is starting to creep in. A raucous Detroit weekend will segue into blissful relaxation Up North. That's Michigan perfection right there.

I probably won't blog much during the trip, but look to this space for a possible update from me and very possibly some words from Hudson. One note before I leave:

  • Ilya wins the Rocket Fever Name-the-Mask Contest with: HEOIM (Historic Exemplar of Indonesian Metrosexuality). Congratulations to Ilya and all the other worthy contestants.
*****

While I'm gone, play the Rocket Fever What-the-Hell-Is-This contest.*



*L.A. Weekly employees and their family members are ineligible for this contest.


*****

That's it. My flight leaves at 6, so I should get in bed and lie awake for the next few hours. See some of you soon. Go Tigers.

"Motown" Tommy Hanks says:


"Attawaytogo, baby!"

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Rubber Game, Anyone?



With the Tigers getting tamed 7-1 in game one of this three-game set, there was a lot riding on Detroit to just make a good showing in game two or risk looking like a bunch of puddy-tats.

It was looking pretty bad until Pudge-Rod got chippy with Vasquez, smoked a hot single to left, cursed the pitcher under his breath and obviously got to the White Sox hurler.

Three batters later on a 2-2 count, Craig Monroe hit the first truly important baseball hit in Detroit since maybe 1990, maybe even 1987, crushing a grand sizzle over the left field wall, the bullpen and the old left field wall...about 365-370 or so. This one hit broke the seeming mental block the Tigs had put up with men in scoring position this season against good teams. In fact, it shattered it -- there was nothing subtle about the celebration they put on trotting the bases, screaming and fist pumping on the way to the dugout and curtain calling for the standing crowd. Monroe even got to bump chests with AJP at the plate when he decided the Tigs were celebrating too much. Up yours, Catch.

The Tigs then snuck out with a 5-2 win and got, what appeared to be, a rather large monkey off their backs. Judging from the number of Tiger fans who called after the game, this one really, truly tripped a deep nerve or two within us Motowners. No matter what happens this season, these guys are big leaguers and can play with anyone. It's been a very long time since anyone wearing the Olde English 'D' could claim that. Stroh's is spoken here.

Boychik Backinthedayness

Moscow, Detroit and East Lansing? Check. New York? On the way. The polyeverything Ilya Perchikovsky, ruminating in my room at the Hedrick co-op in East Lansing, 1997 or '98.

Cleveland Once Again Freaks Out

As I've said many times: The first rule of the playground is to never let on that the digs bother you.

Hey, Cleveland, want to seem cool? Ignore the jokes! Did a big, bad bottled-water company make fun of you? Awww. It's OK. Here's a candy bar. Feel better?

More Backinthedayness: The State News, 1998

Careful, now: Hudson, Robinson, Gaines, Schmidt. (Is this in Kansas City?)

Front room vs. Back room: Blues vs. Grays had nothing on this battle.

The nerve center: TSN opinion desk. Editor, yours truly.

Aforementioned editor.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Meanwhile, in Roanoke

Man arrested on charges of having makings of one helluva party.

From Back in the Day, and Way Back in the Day

Two clean-cut kids from the 517: Ahrens and Gaines.



Pictures of the Gaines family.

In the lefthand photo: Grandpa Harold, Uncle Jonny, Dad Eric, and Grandma Ida.

Written on back of the righthand photo: "We gave Jonny that space mask! Doesn't Harold look swell! What a nut! Dec. 25, 1961."

Monday, July 17, 2006

Sunday, July 16, 2006

So I Bought a Digital Camera

Meaning, you can expect lots more amateur photography. In fact, expect lots of photos this week. I've scanned in some oldies to make all y'all nice and nostalgic. I'm coming up on a big week as I prepare for my trip to Michigan, which I'm crazy excited about, and which means I doubt I'll have anything intelligent to say. So on with the photos!

*****

In the midst of a weekend of work and errands, I did have occasion to get medieval with the Muzio Extended Network of Fun People. Micah masterminded a trip to Medieval Times, which combines the Dark Ages and kitsch in a fashion rarely seen outside of Holly, Michigan. The fight scenes were strong, the horse action so-so, and food very satisfying. But what's really important is that our section, Team Yellow, ended up winning the tournament. (As Mr. Muzio said, "Yellow! That's the only color with two syllables.") If I ever see one of those punks from the Blue Team, a massive and destructive throwing down will have to occur.

Kudos to Micah, who I now believe can convince a group of 12 people to do whatever he wants them to do.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Introducing the New Official Baby of Rocket Fever*



Ma and Joe just sent me some pix of my niece, Ivie. It's a crying shame that I haven't yet met this little critter, seeing as she does happen to be the cutest damn baby I've ever seen. I'll have to take a trip to Colorado one of these days to pay my respects to the Kirbys.

*Jackie Rexrode is now the Official Toddler of Rocket Fever. This designation might be coming a bit earlier than you expected, but we expect great things out of you, Jackson. We're confident you're up to the challenge. Congratulations on your promotion.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Hasta la Voyage, Lauren!

Los Angeles says goodbye to its favorite Jersey girl, Lauren Marra, this week. Lauren, a volunteer coordinator and employment specialist at Chrysalis, is moving to Washington, D.C., where she will doubtless land a rad job, educate the kids about wine, and talk a lot with her hands. Lauren promises to return to L.A. during the upcoming winter months. I'll be publicly holding her to that.

Lauren, you'll always be remembered as a member of that class of people I met during my first year in L.A. Thanks much for the conversation. See you at the MJT.

*****

I mean, the Jay-Z CD is sitting right here on my desk. Sheesh!

I Swear to God ...

... if I have to listen to Dan Le Batard on "Pardon the Interruption" one more time ...

Chilling

L.A. can offer nothing creepier than a full Scientology bus traveling alongside you down Franklin Avenue at midnight.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Rocket Fever Chicken

I whipped up this humble dish last night and was pretty pleased with myself:

1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
diced onions
diced carrots
diced garlic
olive oil
lemon juice
soy sauce
some kind of vinaigrette salad dressing
black pepper
lemon pepper

Put the diced veggies and oil/juice/sauce/dressing stuff into a small baking pan. Lay the chicken breast on top, coating the chicken with the peppers. Dredge the chicken in the veggies/sauce stuff. Cover pan with foil; poke a few holes in the foil.

Heat in oven at 375-400 for 30 minutes.

Delicious City!

*****

Details of a very pleasant Los Angeles welcome are to follow forthwith.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Muir vs. Gaines Death Match!

Check out the civilized debate Pat and I are having at The Other Style Council.

Join the fun!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Bajaj Live!

Go to nytimes.com now. Click on the Ken Lay video on the front page: It's our boy Vikas!

Vikas is on fire!

Thanks to Brunt for the heads up.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Marina Madness

We celebrated one hell of a Fourth of July in Marina Del Ray. I joined the Hudsons; Saginaw's proudest daughter, Elise; and maximum Chrysalista Liz at the Lions Rowing Club boathouse on the water.

We did it up America style throughout the day and well into the night. While the barbecue blazed, we chilled out under the sun, cracking open beers and jawing about everything and nothing. The group got a little athletic when we found a patch of grass where we could toss around a hardball and (after we lost that) a football. Special mention has to go out to Liz, who is the best female participant in a game of catch I've ever seen. Much respect.

We capped the night with a fine fireworks display over the marina before heading back to the greatest neighborhood on Earth, situated in the greatest city on Earth, found on the greatest country on Earth.

Hud, Gaines, Elise, Liz.

America!

Attack of the Hudsons!

He's either yawning or expressing shock at how great the Tigers are playing.

God, are my legs really that hairy? It looks like I'm wearing those basketball leg tights.

Fourth of July, three Michiganders, one super-awesome day.

*****

Had a great lunch with Gaines family friend Doug and L.A.'s coolest baby today. Many thanks!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Dude, Where's my Macaque?

Rocket Fever Southern Correspondent Beth Jones alerted RF to this story, about which three points should be made:

1. It's fun to say "macaque."

2. I certainly hope that monkey stays away from the Jones-Jackson cat family.

3. Monkeys are dangerous and prone to fits of beserker rage.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

One Year a Californian

July 2 is my one-year anniversary of arriving in California. Fifty-two weeks ago, I stumbled into Mike and Becky's place after a harrowing three-day drive from Michigan. Any pain or expenses I incurred while making the transition from the Rust Belt to Hollywood proved worthwhile. I can't imagine what my life would be like had I stayed in Michigan or Ohio, not that I'm knocking those two fine states. But for those of you who know the backstory, I needed that magical "change of scenery."

And L.A. has delivered. This place's myth of rejuvenation -- regeneration? -- is no myth. It changes you. The weather and scenery are what hit you first, freeing you from constantly worrying about what the elements will do to you. But, slowly, the rest of L.A. reveals itself. If you don't force it, if you let L.A.'s multitudes appear at their own pace, L.A. will seep inside you. It isn't about seeing stars or soaking in the sun. It's about having a daily life in this organism that is Los Angeles. The people, the topography, the industries, the culture, the weirdness, the immensity, the Mexicanness. The otherness. The bedrock belief that you live in a place where many, many things are possible. This knowledge works itself into you and alters your philosophical DNA (a little thing I like to call Wa). At some point you become conversant in Los Angeles. You can make it from Culver City to Los Feliz during rush hour in 25 minutes. You can suggest restaurants in Santa Monica. You can talk to neighbors in front of your building at midnight. At that point of conversance, Los Angeles stops seeming like a vacation. It doesn't become permanent necessarily -- that kind of thinking will get you in trouble here. But it becomes familiar; a rhythm settles into your brain.

And, one year on, there's no place I'd rather be. Conditions can improve, but I'm working on that. And I'm confident I'll succeed.

Ain't no way I'd write that last sentence a year ago.

*****

This conversation demands a special mention about Mike and Becky Hudson, who drew to L.A. and provided me with a home and veritable family for my first few months (O.K., it was nine). I still have no clue how they put up with me for that long. It's categorical proof that they are archetypes of good.

Adequately describing that sort of generosity is difficult; paying it back is a lifelong endeavor. Many thanks, friends.

*****

TOP FIVE INDICATORS I'M FULLY IMMERSED IN LOS ANGELES

1. Seeing Lara Flynn Boyle outside the opening of The Social and cursing the crowd for taking up parking spots on Schrader.

2. Not knowing about raging forest fires north of here until my dad told me about them.

3. Giving up coffee. (Still going strong!)

4. Buying way-too-expensive jeans.

5. Rooting for USC.