Monday, July 30, 2007

Well that Tigers series certainly was a kick in the keester. A group of us saw the Sunday game in Anaheim (thanks to Sivert for getting the tix), including Mike's dad, Keith, and stepmom, Jean. While I wish our out-of-town guests would have seen a more competitive game, at least it gave us an opportunity to spend some time in Anaheim. Wait ...


Overheard at the game by Karis Eklund, the Official Archaeologist of Rocket Fever:

ORANGE COUNTY LITTLE BOY: Mommy, I want some cotton candy!

ORANGE COUNTY MOM: No, honey, but we'll go out to eat after the game, okay? We'll go to Hooters!

OCLB: What are Hooters?

OCM: Um, it's a restaurant.


I knew I had something else in common with NBC's Chris Hansen other than a deep commitment to ensnaring child predators in made-for-TV traps: He's a fellow Spartan! (And, if you believe this blog, he's from Lansing!)

Friday, July 27, 2007

From the Mouths of Babes

A story of journalism-comedic gold from my old Cleveland partner in crime Mike Zawacki.

So I'm editing one of my intern’s first assignments and being fresh out of J-school her story had some rough spots.

One in particular was she didn't fully develop her nut graph.

So I'm going over the story with her and I told her, you know you really don't have a nut graph and in magazine writing have a good, strong nut graph is really important. A strong nut graph needs to grab the reader, bring him into the story and give him a reason to want to read the rest of the article. Without a solid nut graph the reader will most likely turn the page and, as a writer, you don't want that. When it comes down to it, the weight of your piece may depend on the strength of your nut graph.

So she says to me that she's really wasn't familiar with that phrase. So I made some snide comment about what Ohio U was teaching its J-students, but admitted that I really hadn't become familiar with the term until I started working for magazines. When you go through the newspaper track it's all about the strength of your lead.

I ended my little speech by saying, " but in magazine writing that one paragraph can make or break your story."

She looked at me funny and then said, "Oh my God, I thought you were saying 'nut grab' not 'nut graph.'"

Thursday, July 26, 2007

"So, how's things on your end?"

"Busy! But good busy."

That's the line an old boss always used to give when he was working the phone. My co-workers and I loved it and shamelessly reused it.

And that's how things have been at Rocket Fever lately. Busy, but good busy.

Freelance stuff, fun times out on the town, etc. All at the expense of this little blog.

But I'm sure to have time to kill in the near future, so expect robust content right around the corner. In the meantime:

  • Congrats to Evie Muzio on her new job!
  • Happy one-month-day to Maggie June (yesterday)!
  • Good luck to the Detroit Tigers, who are starting a three-game set with the California Angels this weekend, the last game of which a group of us will attend on Sunday.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Into the Great Wide Open

I don't mind saying that, after living in L.A. and working in Hollywood for a couple years, I love this Tom Petty video even more than I used to. Petty didn't invent the Hollywood-Icarus story, but the song and video capture it with brevity and soul.

I'm starting to realize how living in a place like Los Angeles, a place that storytellers have mythologized, gives works like this Petty video added resonance. It's more than just, "Hey! There's the Tower Records on Sunset!" But I actually have a full sensory feel for what it'd be like to stand on the corner and watch Eddie Rebel walk down Hollywood with his girl.

When you reach that level of awareness with this city, you've changed forever. If you live in L.A. long enough, you can't help but become at least a minor, uncredited character in its story. Can you think of something more thrilling?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Maggie June Meets Lord Stanley

It would seem that Margaret, Becky, and Grandma Baird got to hang out with some Ducks and the Stanley Cup at the LAT this week.

MJH and Lord Stanley: A championship combination!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Great Day for a Ballgame

It's good to know generous people with generous lawyers. I learned that the easy way on Sunday when I sat in the greatest baseball seats of my life at Dodger Stadium (Dodgers 9, Marlins 3). Sivert Glarum, our Man in the Valley and cousin to Mike C. Hudson, got sweet Stadium Club tix for Hud and me. Also along for the caper was another Mike, who works with Sivert on the sitcom Rules of Engagement.

Before I describe the seats, let me just part the curtains a bit onto the Club. You walk down a flight of stairs, past your very own merch shop, to a restaurant offering a baseball eater's fantasy. In addition to the gourmet salads and made-to-order omelets, there are: Dodger dogs, ice cream bars, bags of Cracker Jack, a huge barrel of peanuts, pops and bottled waters, frozen yogurt ... all free (well, included in the price of the ticket) and all-you-can-eat. And we ate all we could (my Dodger dogs were proudly dripping with ketchup).

After properly gorging ourselves, we sauntered out to the raddest seats ever. First-base side, four rows behind the visitor dugout. This is the absolute best way to watch a game. At ground level you have a new appreciation for every aspect of the game. Home runs have to travel a helluva long way to leave the park, and they have to be hit perfectly while the ball is coming in on a snap. Legging out a bunt single (even if you're Juan Pierre) requires maximum physical effort. Fielding a grounder and smoothly delivering it to first base looks easy only because these are the best athletes on Earth.

Of course, you already know this, but you don't know it until you see the game from this angle. Sitting this close to the dugout also affords Sivert perfect positioning for razzing the bad guys. A combination of Mike's BlackBerry and Sivert's cojones made for some top-flight heckling throughout the game.

Not to mention, this is the only level where you'll brush shoulders with Pat Sajak.

Many thanks to Sivert for the tix. Go Dodgers!

Mike likes burgers.

Mike, Sivert, Gaines

You also get a really good view of the jerks who run out onto the field. I could almost feel the ground vibrate when security took 'em down.

Monday, July 09, 2007


Pat, you ground your mustard-only argument in an insistence that there be some order to the world, some patch of ground where relativism doesn’t cloud an issue. I’m surprised at this fear of the unknown, Dr. Muir. I’ve known you for nearly a decade now, and you seem to revel in a bit of anarchy, enjoy a smidge of diversity. Why do you draw the line at your hot dog bun?

I’ll tell you why: Because you’ve bought into an elitist storyline, one that undermines the democratic spirit of this great nation. The United States is a country where people the world over can come and make choices. About how they earn their money, how they worship, and how they eat. Your exclusionary myth about mustard being the one true condiment flies in the face of everything that makes this country grand.

One would think that mustard fanatics would more fully embrace a spirit of inclusion. Consider the various permutations of mustards: French Dijons, German browns, Asian hots, American yellows. Defining mustard itself is a relativistic, nebulous, issue. Indeed, your insistence on a mustard singularity flies in the face of what mustard is!

The ketchup partisans are the true patriots in this country. America is an immigrant nation, and it draws its beauty from its diversity. Similarly, hot dogs taste better when they bear mustard and ketchup.

Pat and I can agree on one thing. This is one of the most amazing baseball plays you'll ever see.

Coming up this week:

  • The ketchup response
  • The greatest baseball experience of my life
  • Maggie June meets Lord Stanley

Friday, July 06, 2007

The Rocket Fever Hot Dog Debate

Muir and Gaines, Las Vegas, 2006

Pat Muir, a longtime friend to Rocket Fever, sent me this missive yesterday detailing his categorical policy regarding hot dogs and their proper condiments. I'll post Pat's position today, and then make my response in a few days. Feel free to let the comments fly. This is a patriotic time of year after all, and issues like these deserve vigorous debates in an open democracy.


I sent this to a co-worker who wrote a hot dog feature for the Fourth. I thought of you because, if I'm not mistaken, you put ketchup on hot dogs. This practice disgusts me and, to be completely honest, has been the one barrier to you and I really connecting on every level.

Here it is:


I enjoyed the hot dog story. As you may have guessed from my robust American physique, I am myself a fan of franks.

I wanted to offer a possible follow-up idea, perhaps for next Fourth of July. I came up with it when I noticed ketchup on the dog in the photo: As someone who's spent a little time in Chi-town, you are no doubt aware of the great ketchup debate. It is, in my opinion, the only real issue in the weiner world. (see note below)

It is a matter dear to my own heart. As a bit of a traditionalist, at least when it comes to condiments, I am firmly in the no-ketchup-on-hot-dogs camp. This is not merely a matter of personal preference (unlike my general aversion to mayonnaise, which I grudgingly admit is not innappropriate on fowl or even ham, though I must draw the line at using it on any sort of beef -- especially corned) but an idea about the right way to do things. Ketchup on a hot dog is like a sweater on a puppy -- disgusting to everyone except the oblivious person who thought it was a good idea in the first place.

On a certain level, the ketchup debate is not about hot dogs and condiments, not about food at all. It's about believing there is some sort of order in the world. Believing that in the midst of humanity's gray area, surrounded by relativism moral or otherwise, that there is sometimes a clear distinction between good and bad -- a right way and a wrong way -- and that people have a choice between them.

Does this mean that people who put ketchup on their hot dogs are bad people? In a word, yes.

Anyhow, something to think about next year.

Patrick D. Muir

Yes, I know, there's also the sauerkraut and grilled onions issue, but I think most reasonable people agree that was settled back in 1997 at the annual Frankfurter Expo (FYI, the industry agreed they ARE complementary and CAN both be used on the same dog).

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Fourth of July is personally significant, not least because it marks the anniversary of my move to Los Angeles. Wish me a happy two years, everyone.

My third Independence Day in Los Angeles was as good as the first two. No -- it was better. It started out, as always, in Valley Village with the Glarums, who are the go-to household for the most American and best holidays, the Fourth and Thanksgiving. The Valley portion of the day featured:
  • A front-yard water slide
  • Wonderful tea cake baked by Grandma Baird
  • Cold fried chicken, which should be required eating on the Fourth
  • Nationalistic chest thumping over Joey Chestnut's victory over Takeru Kobayashi at Coney Island
  • Lots of baby talk
  • A few innings of Tigers baseball
  • Confirmation that I am Willie Glarum's favorite non-Glarum humanoid
After that, I motored over to El Sereno for a meetup with the repatriated Karis Eklund and other assorted good folks. Karis is recently returned from her studies in England, and L.A. is better for it. This friendly affair was great fun, and included:
  • A healthy and safe amount of Miller Lite and Budweiser, and one shot of Beam
  • Karis' sister-in-law's dangerous and fortunately unsuccessful attempt to convince me to guess her weight
  • Karis' explication of her time as a high school softball player, which during the telling she called the field the "pitch" (welcome back to America, soccer bum)
  • The best American-flag tart I've ever tasted, as well as a damn fine lemon bar
  • An intimate and expansive view of fireworks across Northeast L.A. from a hilltop, including spirited neighborhood efforts in the valley below and professional jobs at the far-off Rose Bowl and Santa Anita racetrack
  • The realization that Karis knows nothing of Tom Petty's oeuvre
Happy Fourth, sinners. Much love to the United States and all its inhabitants.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The boisterous mayor of my humble, proud hometown, is making noise about merging with its more affluent and economically solid neighbor to the east. The idea is probably silly -- any gains from an increase in population would be negated by Lansing's chronic financial problems. While regionalization of services like fire/EMS makes good sense, creating a "Beast Lansing," as my good friend Steve put it, is merely trying to force an issue that doesn't exist.

What's most striking to me in all this, though, is that -- from people who left comments on the news story, my own Lansing friends, and myself -- the first reaction by Lansingites is: Yeah, right! Like East Lansing would ever take us! The good people of E.L. have said the same thing, but more diplomatically; but that's always been their way: endlessly suspicious and vaguely fearful of Lansing, but dully polite in how they express it. Meanwhile, folks in the Capital City don't give a flip! They call it like they see it. While that often comes out in the form of self-depreciation, I'll always love Lansing's bluntness.

My vote? The East Side of Lansing secede, and rename itself Quaker City.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Mingus Monday

I will be allocating the required shekles this month to purchase the upcoming Blue Note release of a 1964 Cornell University concert by a Charles Mingus band featuring Eric Dolphy, Jaki Byard, and Dannie Richmond (who else?) among others. Do yourself a favor and bend your ear toward this sampling. Very fine stuff.


Upcoming: That paparazzi story, the unlikely emergence of Beast Lansing, and more baby talk.