Under 30

I can't complain but sometimes I still do

Saturday, February 18, 2006

I made a Dashboard Confessional fan cry

This was just posted by a Dashboard fan shaking too furiously with tears to leave a name:

Find a hobby. You obviously have no talent or life. If you had a life you'd be doing something besides putting down my favorite band and if you had a talent you'd be able to appreciate Chris's talent. He has more friends and fans than you, so die of sars or somthing... you're not helping the world by encouraging hate.

Hey man, it says "Not sucks" in the hall of fame, doesn't it? What more do you want?

That election result just gets sillier by the minute.

I made It's Your Call

Somebody didn't like my Under 30 column about grinding.

Question(s): If I am usually disgusting, wouldn't that make the grinding column "par"? And if I'm below par, doesn't that make the grinding column LESS disgusting than usual in accordance with golf scoring rules?

Friday, February 17, 2006

Does he suck? results

For starters, I want to thank everybody for voting. There were 49 Bono-related posts and 22 votes cast, a little lower than "Napoleon Dynamite" but still robust.

Now the results. It was my "desire" that Bono inspire an "unforgettable fire" of debate, and I'm proud to say that I have not "still haven't found what I'm looking for," meaning I have found what I was looking for. Anywaaaay...out of 22 votes cast, 13 voted Not suck and 9 voted Suck. If you add MY vote for (drum roll) NOT SUCK, that means Bono doesn't suck by a surprisingly decisive 60 to 40 percent margin.

The big issue of the election wasn't Bono's music, but his tendency to be a blowhard. I anticipated this argument, and like I said earlier, I'm understanding of it. But I side with Tom Roz, who wrote: "I believe Bono is a good person. As was already mentioned, there are worse things you could do with fame than try and help poor people. Bono acknowledges the way he uses those connections."

My girl KBL also had three chords and the truth: "Yes, he can be wildly irritating, painfully fake and insufferably holier-than-thou. People who’ve met him say he can be a self-important douche. But... He's amazing at what he does, and what he does is pretty amazing. I can understand hating him, but hating him and him sucking are two different things ... And I’ll forgive a lot of the person who brought me One."

Me too, sister. Besides, could we really say Dashboard Confessional doesn't suck and Bono sucks? That would mean Bono sucks for being a loudmouth philanthropist, while Dashboard doesn't becuase "he's cute." Not right, and thankfully, not the result.

Still, I'm a little disappointed that the Suck trigger hasn't been pulled yet. I'm slightly tempted to put Stapp on the block just to clear the palette, but this is about people of QUESTIONABLE, not OBVIOUS, suckitude. We can't forget our mission.

Keep your eyes peeled Wednesday for the next Does he suck? As always, I want your suggestions.

Shameless self-promotion

I just started a blog called Valley Jams that dishes the latest skinny on the Fox Valley music scene. Read it and see me use more cool phraes like "dishing the latest skinny on the Fox Valley music scene."

A word about blog comments

So things are starting to get a little out of hand in the Does he suck? election comments section. We have veered of course from Bono and are now talking about repulsive middle school pictures, finding a sense of humor on eBay, and a grudge match between my family and favorite ex-girlfriend.

I am 87 percent sure this is all in good fun, and I know the original post was indeed A JOKE as was the original response, but just in case people are starting to get miffed, I humbly ask all posters to keep disparaging personal comments directed at ME instead of flinging them at other readers. I'm not going to delete comments (unless in extreme, "you should know better" situations), I just want to keep things friendly.

You know, like this clown here. Playing the bass. Isn't that precious?

Scott Stapp jackass watch

Remember when Scott Stapp was the lead singer of an ambigiously Christian rock band and starred in music videos where he posed like Jesus and levitated like that wacko magician dude on A&E? Well, Saint Stapp has been cast out of heaven. First he gets drunk and acts like a jerk on TV. Then he picks a fight with 311. (Which isn't so bad, actually.) Then he gets drunk and disorderly in LAX the day after his wedding.

And, now, the ultimate sin: starring in a sex video with Kid Rock. Now, don't get too excited. As the story points out, "Rock, 35, and Stapp, 32, do not have sex with each other on the tape, but they do trade jokes and share camera time as they get down with some strippers." In a mobile home. With fake wood paneling.

I hate this guy so much, I don't hate him anymore. I'm actually starting to enjoy his hijinks. He is the Tara Reid of butt rock.

Yeah, Bob, don't look back

Bob Dylan, the patron saint of Under 30 and No. 1 on the list of Does he suck? lifetime exemptions, once called himself a song and dance man. It looks like someone has taken him literally.

When it comes to Dylan, I'm like Penny Lane in "Almost Famous," just a slutty underage groupie with a heart of gold. I'm even seriously considering getting a subscription to XM satellite radio just to hear his upcoming once-a-week radio show, even though I already have Sirius.

But a musical? Set to Dylan music? Could this really be the worst idea ever? Do jazz hands really go with "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright"? Where do I buy tickets again?

Shameless self-promotion

Today's Under 30 asks the question: Is getting shot in the face really that bad? Only if you got no onions, libs!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Bode Miller tells the media that he hates the media

Finally, the illusion that Olympic athletes somehow aren't capable of being just as big of jerks as NFL, NBA, MLB, etc. athletes has been shattered.

I'm reminded of an old Johnny Rotten quote: "If you don't want to be a celebrity then just stop being one." Really, is it that hard to not be famous? The lion share of the population succeed spectacularly at it without trying.

Does he suck? update

As I hoped, Bono has sparked a decent debate thus far. The vote is 9 to 7 in favor of Not suck, which should surprise anyone whose knowledge of Bono is based solely on this picture.

But it's early, and it's close. (I also haven't voted yet, so it might be closer than you think.)

Not Suck's lead adheres to Under 30 tradition. For some reason, you people seem unwilling to pull the Suck trigger. However, Bono could potentially draw the biggest Suck vote we have ever seen, so we'll see.

Some things to keep in mind for Not suck: U2's latest album has sold 3 million copies and just re-entered the Billboard top 50 more than a year after it was released. Not bad for a band well into its 40s. Plus, Bono co-wrote "One," one of the great songs of the past 20 years, along with "New Year's Day," "Where the Streets Have No Name" and "Beautiful Day."

Some things to keep in mind for Suck: Just look at this picture.

Remember to vote and vote often. Polls are open until NOON FRIDAY.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

"And to think that in some countries these dogs are eaten"

This is Rufus, the winner of the Westminster dog show. He must have a great personality.

For fans of TiVo and crap TV

Here's some red meat.

Hot cowboy action

You know, I wish people would stop going on about this gay cowboy thing. There is nothing remotely gay about cowboys. It's all propaganda, folks.

Come on, we're talking about young, rugged, well-muscled men who wear ten-gallon hats, tight jeans, chaps and boots. What's gay about that? So what if they call each other "boys"? They ride horses together, and sleep together in tents or under the stars, and spend months in the company of men and only men. That just shows how masculine they are.

Now, who wants to go line dancing?

Does he suck? Bono

We continue our mission of clearly defining those people, things, ideas, thoughts, actions and other nouns and verbs of questionable suckitude with rock's most polarizing frontman, Bono.

After Not Suck's bloody beatdown of Suck in the "Napoleon Dynamite" vote last week, I was looking for someone that would lead to a better debate. Thanks to this man, I think I found it. Bono might be the ultimate love 'em or hate 'em celebrity. Some people want to kiss his feet, other people want to punch his lights out. Or at least knock those stupid shades off.

I know how I feel about Bono, but I have this strange feeling (I think it's called "empathy") for the other side. So this time, I'm actually going to live up to my promise of not stating my opinion until the end. Instead, I will lay out a case for both sides and let you decide.

NOT SUCK: His band is still as good as it was when it started; he has managed to maintain the same level of rock stardom for 25 years; he is an articulate and funny spokesman for rock's elder statesmen; he has used his fame to help people less fortunate.

SUCK: His band is still as good as it was when it started -- not very; he has maintained the same level of rock stardom for 25 years by appearing in iPod commercials and sucking up to Kanye West; he is an arrogant and flatulent spokesman for rock's elder statesmen; he has used his fame to help people less fortunate -- and trick his fans into thinking he's Jesus Christ.

Don't forget to vote, and vote often. POLLS CLOSE AT NOON FRIDAY.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

I don't heart the Olympics

There, I said it. For some reason, it's not acceptable to call the Olympics a colossal waste of time and money. At least, that used to be the case. This year, people are opening up about their Olympics dislike. Stories abound about poor ratings and idiot jocks. Amen. The same standard of hatred applied to every other sport finally comes to the Olympics.

I was ahead of the curve on this, by the way. Here's a column I wrote about the 2004 Olympics that also applies to the 2006 edition. (I made a few edits to make the column read better. Hope the purists don't mind.)

I have been sitting at my keyboard for a while now trying to think of a way to begin my column on the Olympics. Because you have to write about the Olympics this week, don't you? It's the biggest pop culture news of the month.

Here's my problem: I don't like the Olympics. It's a reflection of my long-standing prejudice against boring sports events. I can't stomach NASCAR, I can't watch baseball during the regular season, and I snore through the Olympic games. So no matter how considerable the star charisma of Yelena Isinbayeva, I won't be enjoying the pulse-pounding excitement of the pole vault this summer.

My disdain for the Olympics doesn't come guilt-free. Like a lot of people, I feel an innate obligation to spend two weeks watching a bunch of people I don't know playing sports I don't like for awards I don't care about. There's no logical reason why I should feel this obligation. This is a meaningless sports event, and like all meaningless sports events, you have no reason to watch if you aren't being entertained.

But the Olympics isn't about entertainment. The Olympics is about The Nations Of The World Setting Aside Their Differences In The Spirit of Sportsmanship. Watching the Olympics makes you a better person because the athletes are amateurs who take performance-enhancing drugs for the glory of the game, not for something unsavory like money.

Ugh. With all due respect for the hard work they put in, I just don't like watching amateur athletes. I'm an amateur athlete, and I messed up my ankle for a month the last time I played basketball. I like professionals. (I put college football and basketball players in this category because they get a ton of free stuff for being jocks. That makes them underpaid, not amateurs.) I agree that watching the National Football League probably won't make me a better person, but I don't want to be a better person. I want something to do while I drink beer and eat pretzels on Sunday afternoons in the fall.

There are two types of sports fans. There are fans who see sport as a metaphor for real life, and there are fans who aren't idiots. The former group take the Olympics way too seriously.
These people insist that a gold medal weightlifting match between the United States and France has some larger sociopolitical significance, when in fact the only significance is that the telecast is preventing you from watching "Last Comic Standing."

Olympics-as-metaphor people often cite the 1936 games in Berlin, when Jesse Owens won four gold medals to the chagrin of Adolf Hitler. But this example only proves how meaningless the Olympics really are. While it was nice that a black man could stick it to the Nazi leader in his own house, it's not as if Hitler changed his whole "master race" theory just because Owens proved him wrong. If you want to stop a psycho dictator, send an army, not a track star.

Sports are the opposite of real life. Sports are based on order, a rigid set of rules and the idea that the best and brightest always come out ahead. Sports make sense. Does that sound like real life to you? Real life is messy, chaotic and makes no sense whatsoever. If life were a sport, it would be the XFL.

Have fun watching the Olympics this month. As for me, I believe that swimming is something you do at your friend's cabin, not watch on prime time television.

A question about shot-in-the-face etiquette

For this week's Under 30 column, I'm contemplating a piece on shot-in-the-face etiquette. Namely, how long do you wait before telling people about the time you shot your friend in the face?

The press is upset because the vice-prez didn't say anything about his weekend hunting adventure until a full day after it happened. Conservative lap dogs, on the other hand, think a mountain is being made out of molehill because "people get shot, OK? Suck it up."

So how long does one wait? I have never shot somebody in the face, nor have I ever been shot in the face, so I don't know. But I'd like to know ahead of time should anything happen. I'd hate to be gauche.

Scott Stapp jackass watch

When the former Creed frontman acts like a jackass, Under 30 is there.

P.S. Scott Stapp will never be put under the Does he suck? microscope. Sadly, I don't trust you guys enough, and Stapp's sucky integrity is just too important to take a chance.

To paraphrase Matt Neistein, Scott Stapp doesn't suck, he is the definition of suck.

Though he did almost have me when he beat up those guys from 311.

Happy freakin' Valentine's Day

Seriously. Actually, not seriously. OK, seriously.

In honor of the most romantic fake holiday of the year, I am asking for your poor, your tired, your huddled masses of (funny) romantic woe.

I'll get this party started with a story from my extensive back catalog: In 7th grade, I went to my first dance. I was very cocky going in. I was only a week into junior high school, and my spirit had not yet been crushed under the steel-toed boot of adolescent fascism. My plan was to dance with as many girls as possible, make a list of my best-looking partners, and spend the rest of the semester kissing them one by one. Coming from a zit-faced, brace-faced, four-eyed uber-nerd, this plan exhibited hubris not seen since Custer at Little Big Horn. But, hey, was this kid great or what?

So I go to the dance. And I strike out. Not once. Not twice. Not thrice. But so many times that to this day, I lunge under tables like a battle-scarred Vietnam vet whenever I hear "Silent Lucidity" by Queensryche. My most memorable encounter was with a pretty girl I kinda sorta liked named Jill. And it went exactly like this.

Me: So do you want to dance?
Jill: (laughs) Are you serious?
Me: Come on, I'm not that bad.
Jill: Are you sure?

No James Freyesque exaggeration here. When I'm 90 and peeing into potted plants, I still will be able to recite that fateful would-be love connection word for soul-crushing word. Good times.

Top that, suckas.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Still more shameless self-promotion

Here's a story where I ask wacky 20somethings wacky questions about romantic films.

Bill O'Reilly: Still kicking French butt

Under 30 is a huge fan of Bill O'Reilly, a delciously paranoid Nixonian figure whose crazy rantings provide the best unintentional entertainment since the great Jack Van Impe.

Like all real Americans, Bill hates France and their cheese-eating, wine-drinking, Jerry Lewis-loving ways. He called for a boycott of France four years ago, and according to this, his good work has paid real dividends.

I quoth: It says French wine sales in America dropped by 13 percent during the first six months of the Iraq War, costing France an estimated $112 million. And that's just wine. The researchers don't believe I, your humble correspondent, had anything to do with it, but certainly you did. So good for you.

Once again, the MSM (mainstream media) tries to Bogart the attention from the man who deserves it, our man O'Reilly. But he doesn't care. His looking out for YOU. As for France, well, you're on notice. Sure, you hooked us up with the Statue of Liberty, but what have you done for us lately?

Cheney's got a gun

The vice-prez "accidentally" shot somebody this weekend.

A 78-year-old hunting companion of Vice President Dick Cheney was recovering in stable condition Monday after Cheney accidentally shot him during a weekend quail hunting trip, a hospital official said.

Harry Whittington spent "a great night. He slept throughout the night," said Yvonne Wheeler, spokeswoman at Christus Spohn Hospital Memorial.

"A great night"? Was that before or after he was sent to the hospital with a gunshot wound?

At least we finally know who has WMD.

An awful late 1990s mixtape that gives me that stomach-achey nostalgia feeling

Most of my college career (1996-2000) was spent working at The Spectator, the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire's student newspaper. I work for a newspaper now, and let me tell you something, kids: A grown-up newsroom doesn't compare to a student one. Student newsrooms are like second homes for staff members. They are far more hectic and exciting and exponentially dirtier. And you will always find a person or two to date if you hang out long enough. It is not unlike joining Fleetwood Mac.

One of the things I hated/loved about The Spectator was 100.7 FM "The Zone," Eau Claire's supremely awful Top 40 station. The radio was always playing in the newsroom, and "The Zone" was our soundtrack. Nobody liked "The Zone," and yet we could not turn it off. The station's insistence on playing the same 10 songs over and over mirrored our existence, where every week seemed like an endless loop of Wednesday and Sunday night deadlines. Good music would have seemed incongrous with the atmosphere of the newsroom.

The net result of this is my strange love of terrible late 90s radio hits. Most people shriek and turn the channel when Eagle Eye Cherry comes on. I, on the other hand, am reminded of my crush on Jamie the cute copy editor. Or the time our editor-in-chief put his naked buttcheeks on the window of the female sports editor's office. (Nope, don't think that would happen at The P-C.)

In tribute to student newspaper people everywhere, here is my playlist for the new double album, "Spectator Songs: Late '90s* Radio Hits Only a Student Journalist Could Love." Compile at your own risk.

* Some of these songs aren't technically from the late 1990s, but were played on "The Zone" on a regular basis in the late 1990s.

Disc One
"Semi-Charmed Life," Third Eye Blind
"Push," Matchbox 20
"Walking on the Sun," Smashmouth
"All For You," Sister Hazel
"Stay Tonight," Eagle Eye Cherry
"Sweat," Inner Circle
"Angel," Sarah McLachlan
"Rhythm is a Dancer," Snap
"Meet Virginia," Train
"Flag Pole Sitta," Harvey Danger
"Fly," Sugar Ray
"Hook," Blues Traveler
"Dammit," Blink-182
"You Get What You Give," The New Radicals
"We Like to Party," The Vengaboys
"Ready to Go," Republica
"Torn," Natalie Imbruglia

Disc Two
“Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen),” Baz Luhrmann
"Tubthumping," Chumbawumba
"The Freshmen," The Verve Pipe
"Blue," Eiffel 65
"Kiss Me," Sixpence None the Richer
"How Bizarre," OMC
"One Week," Barenaked Ladies
"Sex and Candy," Marcy Playground
“Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth With Money in My Hands,” Primitive Radio Gods
"She's So High," Tal Bachman
"Missing," Everything But the Girl
"Take a Picture," Filter
"I Need to Know," Marc Anthony
"Livin' La Vida Loca," Ricky Martin
"Steal My Sunshine," Len
"Mambo No. 5," Lou Bega
"Summer Girls," LFO

Sunday, February 12, 2006

New blog feature: Who's that again? William "Billy" Zabka

The new blog feature "Who's That Again?" pays tribute to the character actors we recognize but don't know by name. These stalwart professionals might not be movie stars, but they have distinguished themselves in the history of cinema with their workmanlike chops and ability to randomly pop up in crappy yet endlessly entertaining movies.

Let's say you were making a teen movie in the mid 1980s and you needed a preppie-looking guy to play the a-hole of the school. You would look no further than William "Billy" Zabka, the blonde-haired, blue-eyed and black-hearted master of acting like a grade-A teenaged jerk. Zabka made his name as the sociopathic Johnny in "The Karate Kid" (along with another Under 30 favorite, Martin Kove), and continued his bully hit streak in "Back to School" and "Just One of the Guys." After that, he fell of the map (reapparing in 2003 as a screenwriter for the Oscar-nominated short film "Most"), but like James Dean, he created such an iconic image in three films that people still remember him today. For instance, Zabka ranked No. 97 on VH1's recent top 100 list of the top teen stars of all-time.

A textbook Aryan straight out of Hitler's wettest dreams, Zabka was handsome the same way high school soccer players and college frat boys are handsome. (Zabka actually is an accomplished wrestler, according to IMDB.com.) Beneath the All-American facade was a monster capable of any number of weasly acts, whether it was intimidating recent transplants from New Jersey or destroying Elizabeth Shue's boombox with his motorcycle. (Zabka means "little frog" in Czech.)

What's noteworthy about Zabka is how well he embodied the rich, stupid, sadistic jocks everybody hates and yet still consider popular. Only James Spader can summon such a potent rush of instant dislike in an audience by merely leaning up against an expensive car and smirking.

And yet, Zabka is not without nuance. Take the emotional climax of "The Karate Kid" when Daniel-san kicks Johnny in the face and wins the tournament. Most of us remember Daniel-san being lifted up by the ecstatic crowd and held in a freeze-frame. But right before that happens, Zabka's Johnny makes it a point to hand Daniel-san the trophy, a wholly unexpected sign of good sportsmanship. And, could it be that Zabka is actually shedding a tear in this scene? He is! With that brilliantly subtle acting touch, Zabka gives Johnny the soul screenwriter Robert Mark Kamen and director John G. Avildsen denied him for two hours. It's the actor's gift to make the audience empathize with those we cannot otherwise empathize. Zabka, you humanized the seemingly soulless jock. For that, we recognize you. Take a bow, Billy.

More shamelessness

Here's a piece I wrote predicting the Oscar winners.

Shameless self-promotion

Check out "Check it Out."