Thursday, August 31, 2006

Apple, Computer


Apple, Computer
Originally uploaded by cbg_rocketfever.
Los Feliz has a love affair with TVs and computer monitors littering its sidewalks. I'm not sure who left this apple on the monitor here, just outside my apartment, but someone must have been hungry, because it was gone a few hours later.

***

Saw "LMS" again last night with the Huddies, and am now certain this is one of the most competent, true and tenderly felt movies I've ever seen. More to follow on this.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Attack of the Chiefs

Five former State News copy chiefs assembled at my apartment last weekend for breakfast and conversational good times. The occasion was Kevin and Elizabeth Hardy's (nee Vanden Boom) weekend trip to L.A. to visit S'news all-star Alethia Calagias. We were joined by the Hudsons and State News MTV'er Katie Byrne. Good times were had over coffee, doughnuts, croissants, Katie's fruit salad and Alethia's cookies. I was pleased that the apartment could hold this many people without anyone asphyxiating or going into claustrophobic shock. Good seeing all those folks!

Alethia's boyfriend, Austin, had the quote of the day: "He killed a man."

Mike tells a time-worn Hollywood story.

Good folks.

Hardy, imparting some wisdom to Mike.

*****

Peep Katie Byrne's MTV.com review of the Timberlake show at the West Hollywood House of Blues! This thing was blinged out with starz!

*****

Tigers-Yankees double-header today. And I don't work Wednesdays. Could life get any better?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Stiff Upper Lip


Jake and Bridget Cooley's recent London vacation was extended a few days by the big terrorist arrests. Here's what Jake had to say:

Being a tabloid town London was pretty tame on Tuesday. Once Wednesday hit the sensationalism was on. (see pics)

The overall feel of the city was not as tense as you would think. A few tube stops were closed but after spending a week there that seems extremely common. Thanks to the IRA, London has a CCTV camera EVERYWHERE, so I think that deters would-be terrorists.

The English charm and politeness prevailed overall and it made the six-hour delay and spending the night in the Newark Airport not so bad.


*****

Coming soon (later today? Tomorrow? Who knows!) to RF:

  • Can one studio apartment contain five former copy chiefs?

AND

  • Gaines attempts an overlong, indulgent post about his new obsession, "Little Miss Sunshine."

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Talk About Understatement (LINK FIXED)

Dig the lede on this story.

No need to belabor the point, I guess.

Thanks to Rocket Fever Southern Correspondent Beth Jones for passing it on.

"Red Dawn," Rad Afternoon

An afternoon at the Muzio household is never a dull one. Take Sunday, when Micah and Evie threw a "Red Dawn" viewing party. Not only did they put out a bountiful barbecue spread, but they handed out gift packages with Atomic Fireballs, Bazooka gum, and noisemakers for the movie's more bombastic moments. We watched along with Robbie and Laura, longtime Muzio compatriots.

A word about "Red Dawn": If we're ever invaded, I'm using this plot as the template for what I'll do. As the enemy parachutes into Los Feliz, I'm going to round up a ragtag band of locals, load up my Focus with guns and other necessaries, and head up into Griffith Park. After which I'll play the Patrick Swayze roll in leading an insurrection against the bad guys.

And I'll clash with Lea Thompson.

Thanks to the Muzios for a great time!

Robbie, Laura, Micah, Evie.

In California, we eat hot dogs out of shoes.

Freedom food!

Monday, August 21, 2006

I Cannot Believe I'm Saying This ...

... but I loved "Snakes on a Plane." I mean loved.

It was sort of a case of beating lowered expectations, but in the end it was just a really fun movie. Good pacing, funny jokes, cool snakes, a simple plot uncomplicated by lots of dumb subplots. If you can watch this in a movie theater crowded with lots of other folks having fun, do so. It'll be worth it.

*****

Hearty congrats to Michael and Meghan Kirby, who recently celebrated the birth of their second daughter, Elly. Mike's home for a couple weeks' R&R, and the family reports he's having fun with the wife and kids. Just as it should be.

*****

Tomorrow: Ever wondered what a roaring hot Hollywood "Red Dawn" party looks like?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Buff Monster


Buff Monster
Originally uploaded by cbg_rocketfever.
This little guy has been popping up throughout L.A. for the past few years. Lately, he's been the headliner at the billboard across the street from me on Hillhurst. Check out the Web site.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Big, Huge, Radical News out of Lansing

One of my closest friends is getting married. Beth Maier will tie the knot with Barry I'm-An-Ass-For-Not-Remembering-His-Last-Name. I've met Barry, and he's a standup guy, not to mention a native of Greenville, Michigan, which has produced a few other upstanding young Americans.

Beth, for the unfortunate few who don't know her, is a friend from the Eastern days. We were both swimmers, but it's since gone much deeper than that. We have that most awesome kind of friendship wherein we don't talk for months and then pick back up like we'd seen each other yesterday. Beth was a steady, weekly presence during my stay in Lansing; we'd have beers and olive burgers at Dagwood's and rap about how loony the whole-damn-everything is. She's always been good enough to laugh at my stupid jokes, and I've gotten to laugh at a few of hers along the way.

Hearing from Beth that she's getting married felt like Christmas on the Fourth of July, one day after Halloween. Which is to say, cool.

Congratulations and a Rocket Fever Huzzah to you both!

Going Batty, But in a Good Way

For the past week or so, I've been listening to the Fruit Bats' Spelled in Bones repeatedly, even though, as Sister says, Mouthfuls is better. As I've said in the past, music writing is stupid. I think scores of music scribes have proven that faithfully describing song in words is impossible. So the only bit of description I'll give is that it's a few guys playing mostly acoustic guitars. Just buy the damn albums.

But I can't figure out why I've developed this flash obsession with Spelled in Bones. There are albums I like better than this one. Some of the songs fall flat to me. But something about it is grabbing me, and I'm not about to argue with it. I'm particularly taken with "Born in the '70s" and "Legs of Bees." Very poppy-catchy, which I'm a sucker for.

Anyone else wearing an album down to its bones lately? Or do we still want to debate whether Barry is the greatest running back of all time?

This Week in Redefinitions

Following this week's news that the International Astronomical Union is pondering whether to redefine what a planet is, other various and august international bodies are considering their own redefinitions:

  • The Intercontinental Congress on Heterosexual Relationships is set to vote on an amended definition of an attractive male to include "skinny sports geeks who talk too much about the Internet and gesticulate with sweaty palms." Experts say this should increase the pool of women interested in me from zero to 3.2 trillion.
  • The Global Club of Historians is mulling whether to redefine a successful military campaign as one "whose aftermath is poorly, it at all, planned, leading to an ambiguous occupation and possibly civil war." Sources say the Bush administration is working behind the scenes to pass this measure.
  • The American Society of Sports Scribes is debating a proposal to adjust the definition of a storied football franchise to include ones that "achieve one playoff victory during a decade when the team has the greatest running back ever, a Hall of Fame middle linebacker, elite receiving corps, strong secondary, and villainous ownership." This would place the Detroit Lions in the pantheon that includes the Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers, and Pittsburgh Steelers.

*****

Finally, the International Astronomical Union's proposed new definition of a planet reads as such: "A planet is a celestial body that (a) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and (b) is in orbit around a star, and is neither a star nor a satellite of a planet."

Guess this could qualify Dr. Phil as a planet, then, huh?

Monday, August 14, 2006

I Wear a Medium

Thanks.

Scenes From the YMCA

As I was telling a friend over dinner Saturday, if I ever wanted to film a Fellini* knockoff, I'd do it at a YMCA. I've encountered more nutso scenes there. For example:

  • The film would have to revolve around the Stretching Room, which is a freak show no matter what time you're there. It's always filled with at least a half dozen people performing exotic abdominal exercises, contortionist stretching routines, or pagan yoga dances. And at least half of them are really hot women wearing tight, sweaty workout clothes.
  • I'd also need to include the naked leviathan I encountered in the locker room recently. He was stark naked, walking to the showers at the same time I was. As he ambled in front of me, he suddenly broke into a sweet, loud, falsetto version of "Oh, I wish I was an Oscar Meyer weiner ..." I had to turn around and go back to my locker for a moment to compose myself.
  • Then there was the guy who took a shower with a towel wrapped securely around his waist.
  • And the dude who hacked at his face so violently with his razor that I was certain he'd hit an artery at any moment.
  • I've already told you about the horrifying time that "Oprah" was on the men's locker-room TV.
  • Finally, there was the guy in Roanoke whose story I can't tell in this space, seeing as I'm trying to make Rocket Fever an inviting, family-friendly blog. Most of you already know the story, but if you don't, just ask me sometime. Just make sure we're not eating when you do.

*Sister made me watch a Fellini film once. Hated it.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Little Red Leaves the Nest

It's with great pride that I congratulate Sara Lepro on her impending move to New York. Sara, whom I worked with at Inside Business Magazine, has accepted a job at a trade publisher in NYC. Slepro, as we affectionately call her, actually started at IB before me, as an intern. Mike Zawacki and I identified her right away as a youngster with talent, which led us to institute a shadow campaign to get her hired at IB. She's never disappointed, and I don't think anyone will be surprised about her move to the City. The girl's always been destined for greatness.

Sara, I hope my reference finally settles that issue surrounding my throwing away your interview notes when you were an intern. Be sure to leave the WOE in good hands. Professor Von Ape wouldn't have it any other way.

Huzzah to Sara!

P.S. If you don't gimme a dd during your going-away party, I'll never forgive you.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Sushi Is Dead; Long Live Sushi


En Sushi
Originally uploaded by cbg_rocketfever.
En Sushi, located below and a few feet to the south of my apartment, is opening in my building soon. It's replacing another sushi place. Gotta love that distinctively L.A. symmetry.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

That's My Jam!

I've just had a crucial MySpace moment. I'll never believe I just wrote that sentence.

But it's true, and it's courtesy of Joy Sarnacke. The song on her page is Cibo Matto's "Moonchild," which, as I told Joy, will be on the Rocket Fever Hall of Fame Mix Disc. I just bought the jam on iTunes. Holy Moses I love that song.

Sorry, give me a minute. I'm ... oh, man.

Good Day; L.A.






This is why I exist in Los Angeles: Leisurely morning, hike up in Griffith, lounging at the Coffee Bean with Mike, watching Pudge's walkoff homer, being O.K. with not getting into "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure" at Hollywood Forever, cheap Thai food at day's end. Thank you.

*****

NOTES FROM A LAPTOP*

8/5/2006 3:05:53 PM

COFFEE BEAN AND TEA LEAF, Hillhurst and Ambrose, Los Feliz—There’s a dude doing newspaper puzzles in front of me; a woman giving some sort of financial assistance/advice to a guy to the right of that; a black Hummer thumping hip-hop just drove across Hillhurst, through the Nature Mart parking lot, onto Ambrose, and then north on Hillhurst; a woman on a quick cell phone talk to the right of the couple; a Hollywood reading a script behind the cell-phone woman (now gone); soft, agreeable music is pumped in from the trees; cars enter and exit the Albertson’s parking lot; a crow caws; the financial adviser is wearing a palm-tree-print dress and is Asian; the man she was assisting wore a button-down short sleeve shirt with a blue-block pattern that was tucked into cargo jeans with no jeans; they’ve now left; I just called Mike to invite him up — he’ll be up here in a half hour; an employee just passed by with a broom; the employee just took a newspaper that I should have salvaged; I moved my chair for the employee — he said, “You sit, you sit. No problem, no problem.” I said, “Oh, thank you”; two guys were looking under the hood of a car in the Nature Mart lot across the street; the newspaper-puzzle guy is now on a cell phone; the newspaper guy has finished his call and has left his table, allowing me to shift my position;

Now I’m facing a literate-looking guy in Pumas, wearing a hat vaguely reminiscent of a fedora, smoking, reading; to the left is a table with two curly-haired women and a curly-haired guy; the women are talking to each other, the guy on a celly; directly behind them is a table with two women; one of them wears a straw Kangol; a Target bag covers the first parking meter on Ambrose; a piece of paper is taped to the one on the other side of Ambrose; the literate guy has left; a steady breeze tousles the vegetation; one of the curly women shows the other a photo — the other widens her eyes and draws in a breath; an in-their-20s Los Feliz couple has taken the literate guy’s table; the guy, wearing a baseball cap, had to try a few times before he could light his smoke; the girl, wearing big L.A. sunglasses, has a party-noise maker in her mouth; sunglasses has taken the noise maker out of her mouth and is now eating a baked good; I have to pee; kinda bad — I hope Mike gets here soon; a middle-aged guy in a brown or gray uniform just sat down to my left — he’s wearing a long-sleeved shirt under a vest; he’s just moved directly behind me; Mike’s here — in line now; I just noticed there’s an owl statue on the Coffee Bean building’s roof — I’d assess it as creepy and welcoming; the vest guy had a quick conversation with a passing driver, coughed a bit, and has moved to a table with an umbrella closer to the building; now he’s chatting with a guy in Bermuda short — he’s now conducting good-natured shade negotiation with the guy and two women at another table; here’s Mike.



*Interested in writing Notes From a Laptop for Rocket Fever? Just jot down a few notes, snap a few shots, even take a short digital video next time you're out with your laptop. Then simply e-mail me the material.

Friday, August 04, 2006

RocketFever Reviews: "Fiasco" by Tom Ricks


Since about 2004ish, I've been wondering where the reporting from Iraq was. Where was it? Why are stories all either "15 U.S. soldiers died" or "Abu Ghraib" or "Al-Sadr" without any of the nitty-gritty coming through. We cover "American Idol" or the average NFL trade with more scrutiny.

Tom Ricks, military writer for the Washington Post, found it and put it down to paper. And it's fairly apparently why we weren't getting a clear story of Iraq...because no one knew what was going on. And the few people who did weren't being listened to as the situation became more bleak. So the useless "should we/shouldn't we" debate continued to rage in the U.S. -- like passengers on a jet loudly debating whether they should have just driven 30 minutes after takeoff.


Time Well Spent
Ricks spoke at the Barnes and Noble Booksellers in Santa Monica on Thursday evening to a crowd of mostly anti-war types and the elderly. He's very well informed and thoughtful in his answers. How does he get info others don't? Well consider the WaPo spends $1 million a year on security in Iraq annually. Everywhere he goes, he can stay for 15 minutes before his detail evacuates him as he would be a very profitable kidnapping target. And he travels in an envoy of armored Land Rovers with a team of privately hired "shooters" whenever he moves around. As he said, "This is not journalism." Furthermore, he's got 20 years or so on the Pentagon beat at the WSJ and WaPo, so people trust him. Either way, he's got some ins and insight others don't.

To the book: Everywhere "One Percent Doctrine" fails, "Fiasco" succeeds. This is exactly what the general public has been missing since the war began -- honest information from the ground, from dissenters in the military and from government documents. Basically this book is from reporting, not guessing, connecting the dots or from posturing for a point of view. And what comes out is less about the military covering its AZZ because of what has happened and more about why they have been kept from promptly correcting course.

Big Nuggets of Juicy Info
  • Major takeaways from this book include: Iraqis hold pride above all else. When you round them up for questioning in a hostile manner in front of their families, you're basically forcing them to seek retribution against you.
  • Dissolving the Iraqi military was a major mistake. It was the only Iraqi source of national pride...really it's only national institution of note.
  • De-Baathification was a major mistake. The only people who had the clout to keep an insurgency from forming were banned from ever working for us.
  • There was a war plan based upon occupying Iraq in existence that was thrown out as Tommy Franks began his plan for the invasion.
  • Lots of military types asked for more troops.
  • We ignored virtually every tenet of anti-insurgency strategy -- promoting unemployment, shaming potential allies, not protecting current allies, not sealing the borders.
  • None of our troops, or leadership, were trained for an insurgency scenerio despite the obviously likelihood of one occuring.
  • We nearly LOST CONTROL of Iraq in early 2004...before Bush was even reelected.

Hud's Callous Take

This book is devastating. And it seems no part of our system of government is currently aimed at correcting the issues it brings to light, beyond portions of the military not under direct control of the administration. And we can go round and round about who to blame for this.

I'm more concerned with what we as normal folks can do in the future. Personally, the facts of this book, in the end, have created a new sense of animosity toward our political discourse in this country. While we should have been pressuring our administration to conduct this war in a thoughtful way by debating relevant issues like: "What are we going to do once we're in?" the conversation instead became the normal all-or-nothing "Bush is a liar" and "Support the Troops" nonsense we've been carrying on for going on four years. And last night in Santa Monica it seemed the same nonsense is still going on.

Those who supported the war are in a clear state of denial (Rumsfeld & Co. just admitted Civil War is at hand) and those who didn't are merely giddy at the thought of using this against the Rs in elections. But the point should be made that leaving now would be worse than going under false pretenses to begin with. You don't burn a guy's house down and then refuse to help him rebuild upon realizing you shouldn't have done it.

No matter where you came down before this war began, you were wrong. But Ricks with "Fiasco" delivers a clearer view of the reality of this war. And it will help us be closer to right in future debates.

The D Gets an A

The one photographic gap I have from the trip is hanging out with my Detroit friends. Stupid battery went dead. But thanks to Jake and Bridget Cooley, I have some evidence of fun with the Dean kids. Thanks as always to my hosts, Amy and Shane. And it was just plain awesome seeing all the folks from the old crew. Tom's Tavern is officially my Detroit bar of choice. Jon, thanks for the beers.

Jake, Gaines, Rexrode.

Ah, Detroit.

Ah, Detroit, Pt. II.

What other bar on Earth gives you a free ear of corn? Tom's Tavern: Hospitality before structural soundness.

We played Win, Lose or Draw. I'm a good drawler.

Gentlemen, scholars: Ron and Jon.

It's either Florida, a boomerang, or an old Boston Red Sox logo.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Back to Hollywood

We interrupt the Michigan Survey Review today for a quick report on a lovely and silly little Hollywood event the Huds and I attended. It had something to do with the X-Games, Saturn, and some clothing line. Highlights: Seeing Perry from "Capote," free beer and food, hot people, a call from Pat Muir with some crucial information about everyone's immediate future, that band Phantom Planet and Wyclef.

Fun! Thanks to MCH for getting us in.







Wednesday, August 02, 2006

A Word About Our Detroit Tigers


The flashiest and most exciting part of my trip were the two Tigers games I saw during my first weekend. The series against Oakland was played in perfect weather conditions and in front of thousands and thousands of fans.

Like many Rocket Fever readers, I've been going to Tigers games since the mid-1980s. I've been to Blue Jays games during the last era of Tigers competitiveness. Nothing compares to the atmosphere I saw last weekend. Comerica Park looks a lot more impressive when it's filled with 40,000 fans. Especially when those fans are responsive to members of the starting lineup and bullpen.

I can think of few more exciting experiences than watching your favorite team while it's in first place, live —— at a packed house. I'm sure there are Lakers or Yankees fans out there who are rolling their eyes at my enthusiasm, but that's just part of it: This hasn't happened with the Tigers in more than a decade, making it all the more meaningful. And, as I've said in the past, Michigan's relationship with the Tigers is special. More special, even, than with the Red Wings and Pistons, who've had blue-chip success in recent years. There's a romanticism, much of it inspired by old Tiger Stadium, surrounding the Tigres.

Making the experience even better was the good company I kept during the games. I was joined at the first game (a 9-5 A's win) by Jake and Bridget Cooley and Joe Rexrode. What with the Cooleys being die-hardconnoisseurss of all things Detroit and Joe having an expert's appreciation for all things sport, they were a perfect group to be with. At the next game (an 8-4 Tigers win), I was joined by family: Dad, Ma, Joe, my Uncle Tom from Seattle, Sister and her boyfriend, Tony. I can't think of better crowds to move with.

Some other notes from my baseball weekend:
  • I got to see the first two games out of three in which the Tigers did something no team has done since 1891: Score five or more runs in the first inning.
  • I not only saw Placido Polanco get hit in the face by Esteban Loaiza's pitch, I heard it. All the way from the outfield. Ugly. That he was able to sit out only one game is amazing.
  • While I missed Verlander, I did get to see two full innings of Joel Zumaya. He got up to 101 a few times. Amazing. The ball is a blur coming off his delivery, so hard to see you almost think it's just a floaty in your eye.
  • My opinion of Comerica has improved drastically since my first visit a few years ago. But, while it's a good park, it's no Tiger Stadium.
  • I understand all the U of M garb I saw at the game. That's allowed, I guess. But I was perplexed at all the Cubs attire. Who in hell wears the hat of a perpetually failing franchise in another team's park? When that perpetually failing franchise isn't even playing? And when the home team is the best team in the Majors? And when I viscerally hate the Cubs?
  • Finally, let me repeat what I've been saying: If you're within a day's travel of Detroit, get Tigers tickets. It's a very special environment there these days. I'm really lucky that I got to see a small slice of it.

*****

Don't forget to check out my growing body of digital photographic work at Flickr.

*****

And look for more hardball notes at 90 Percent Mental, a place where members of the Michigan Diaspora meet, where Dodgers fans vent, where Tigers and White Sox fans can have a civilized discussion.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

I Say Yes to M!ch!gan

30,000 feet above the American Southwest—Despite a more than hourlong delay at the Dallas Forth Worth International Airport on my way back to L.A., the Rocket Fever Michigan Survey has been an unqualified success. From the gritty Southeast, emerald-green Up North, comfortable and familiar Middle and glittering West Coast, Michigan and its inhabitants were capable and gracious hosts. Before I left, I thought I was going to learn some new things about my home state, but instead my trip only reinforced all the positive impressions I already had of the Mitten. If anything, I learned more about Southern California than I did about Michigan.


I’ll tell some stories throughout the week, but allow me to set down a collection of general thoughts:


  • During the past year, I’ve forgotten that this gigantic country is still dominated by wide-open spaces. At every stop during the Survey, I couldn’t help making the contrast with L.A. Every inch of Los Angeles is teeming with people — it’s what gives L.A. its vibrancy. But in Michigan, which isn’t exactly Wyoming, one can go whole city blocks (Detroit) or miles upon miles (Lake George; rural Greater Lansing) without seeing a soul. The expansive feeling this population difference gave me was exacerbated by Michigan’s long horizons and dark night skies. I could see for miles and miles horizontally during the day and vertically at night. Imagine the feeling of increased visual perception and expanded spatial possibilities you have after getting off a cramped cross-country flight. Now multiply that in time and space by a year and Los Angeles. That’s how I felt during the Michigan Survey.

  • Detroit is going through something special with the Tigers. I’ll go into more detail later in the week, but let me repeat what I’ve told countless Michiganders in the past week: Get thine ass to a Tigers game this year. Skip work, shirk responsibility, patronize scalpers. I don’t care what you have to do, but go to at least one game this year.

  • East Lansing’s Grand River Avenue continues its strong development pace. There’s a new building going up on Bailey, across the street from the Taco Hell (it’s another bland brick job, big surprise) that will repeat the residential/retail mix that seems to be working for America’s Favorite College Town. The most notable addition to the retail churn is the American Apparel store, but there are tons of new places, mostly of the chain fast-casual restaurant variety.


  • Entrepreneurialism still has its bright spots in Lansing’s East and North sides, despite the odds. I’ll be e-mailing a photo of Skylight Books to Randy at downtown Lansing’s Way Station bookstore just as soon as I can.


  • The Peanut Barrel is still the Peanut Barrel. It’s the North Star of pubs, the source code of neighborhood watering holes.

*****

Don't forget to check Rocket Fever @ Flickr. I have tons of photos and will keep uploading them as time permits.

*****

A belated Rocket Fever Huzzah to Jamie Cook, who's just begun a yearlong residency in Japan, where he'll be teaching English. Take lots of notes, J.C.