Under 30

I can't complain but sometimes I still do

Friday, March 10, 2006

You can't blog this!

I hate to give the competition publicity, but I would be derelict of my duty of informing you of stupid crap if I didn't mention that MC Hammer has his own blog.

It's mostly pictures of MC Hammer in different cities and other boring stuff I barely glanced at, but the most recent post offers Hammer's take on the whole Barry Bonds mess. A sample:

They want to discourage, pressure you and stress you out, literally. Barry don't let them fool you. You are loved by many. I love you. You have brought me so much joy in your mastery of the game of baseball.

So Barry Bonds has MC Hammer in his corner. I heard Vanilla Ice thinks Bonds is a sucka.

Who wants to hear an ESPN anchor lose her #$&* on the air?

Courtesy of the awesome sports blog Deadspin comes this clip from ESPN News. The "lose her #$&*" moment doesn't come until the end, but it's worth it. WARNING: There is a very bad word on this clip, so don't click on it if you are under the age of 35.

Suck/lame results

First of all, I want to thank everybody for voting. There were 20 votes cast and about 40 Lachey-related posts, well below average but I can't blame you guys. You're the ones who voted. It's the apathetic non-voters out there that I blame. This democracy thing doesn't work without voters, people.

So, it appeared early on that Lachey was on the verge of a Not Suck landslide. At one point it was 7-0, a huge deficit. Then came the greatest collapse in Suck/Lame history. When the dust settled, Nick Lachey officially sucked by a vote of 11-9. Finally, the overwhelming crappiness of a person's artistic output outweighed apparent niceness.

I voted Not Suck, by the way.

Nick, you might be bummed out by the verdict. But look at it this way. On the Not Suck side is Dashboard Confessional, "Napoleon Dynamite," Bono and Robin Williams. On the Suck side is Kanye West. Which group would you rather be in?

Look for Suck/Lame next Wednesday. And send me your suggestions!

Shameless self-promotion

In this week's Under 30, I solve the gay marriage problem. Take that, Bono!

Suck/lame? election update

Where my voters at? We have 34 posts and 17 votes, well below our average. Is Nick Lachey not bringing out the peeps?

Or has the question of Lachey's suck/lame status blown your mind? Because I think my mind is blown. In a way, this is the least emotionally involved I've been in an election so far. I had a minor breakdown after last week's Robin Williams debacle, when supporters kept claiming that Mrs. Doubtfire has only made "a few bad movies" despite an abundance of evidence to the contrary, like this. In the interest of long-term survival for myself (and more importantly) Under 30 blog, my doctor suggested picking a celebrity I didn't care about one way or the other. So I picked Lachey. And I honestly don't know how I feel about the guy.

But the more I think about it, the more intriguing the question becomes. Again, Lachey seems to obviously "lamuck." But I've always believed that one can lamuck so much that they become unlamuck. Lachey could be the one that proves this.

After a huge early lead for Not Suck/Not Lame, Suck/Lame has dominated and now leads 10 to 7. You could have company soon, Kanye. POLLS ARE OPEN UNTIL NOON FRIDAY. And give me your suggestions!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Fetus watch

It was elimination night on "American Idol," and Under 30 nation watched with baited breath as the fate of the Fetus rested in the sweaty palms of the American public.

I know first-hand the kind of destruction and mayhem that can result from democracy, so while the Fetus gets nothing but love from these quarters, it could not be guaranteed that America would let him pass into the final 12.

I needn't have worried. Not only to the Fetus make the final list, he sailed through. Sadistic SOB that he is, Ryan Seacrest tends to keep two equally crappy singers for the end of the finalist roll call, so it's difficult to predict who will get in and who will have to sing an awkward, off-key farewell song. Well, the Fetus was given his pass well before that, which means the voters must have put him among the top vote-getters.

Now, don't get me wrong. I know the Fetus is terrible and deserves to be shown the door. My love of Fetus is based on two things: (1) He reminds me of my old friend, Mike; (2) The longer he sticks around, the better chance I have of this Fetus nickname catching on. Then it will be time to fire up the T-shirts and bumper stickers, and spend the rest of my life spending.

Of course, I'm not surprised that the Fetus benefited from this, but I'll take my bumper sticker set-up anywhere I can get it.

Does Yanni's girlfriend read Under 30 blog?

The following comment was just posted here:

I have known Yanni for eight years and five of that I was in a relationship with him, I moved in with him in manalapan and lived with him for four years. Still to this day even though we have gone our seperate ways I have so much respect for this man. He is one of the most kind and gentle man I have ever met. He has taught me so much, and the time we were together Yanni every day suprised me how he truly was just good, to the bone. I will not judge what happened that night because I was not there but the time we were together he never layed his hands on me in intent to hurt. Truth is I am Filipino with spanish blood and have a bad temper. In our relationship I would scream yell and push him in arguments and he either would walk away or restrain my arms from hitting him, and like many fights couples have we would settle the argument and make up. All I know is the memories of a really great guy who loves, lives, helps and creates. To me he is one of those great men who walk life with intentions of good.

This has to be a joke, right? But if it is, this person is the Robert De Niro of blog comments. I'm baffled.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Adventures in ticket buying

So I went to the local Ticketmaster outlet to buy two tickets for the Robert Pollard concert March 31 at The Metro in Chicago. The transaction was successful and totally awkward, as usual.

When I said I wanted tickets to see Robert Pollard in Chicago, the guy gave me a confused look that said, "That's not Kenny Chesney!" Who? Robert Pollard. P-O-L-L-A-R-D. The man shook his head and walked to the computer, still not convinced that I didn't mean to say Kenny Chesney. That's OK, I'm used to it. The Ticketmaster people never know what the hell I'm talking about when I try to buy tickets. I guess they don't speak indie rock.

"That will be $52.68," the guy said.

"What? The tickets are only supposed to cost $19 a piece. "

"There's a $7 convenience charge."

"Well, I hope you respect me in the morning."

I didn't really say that.

Then the guy recognized me. He thought I would be shorter in person. This is the single most common thing people say to me when I'm recognized. One person said she thought I would be shorter and have a higher pitched voice. This does not bode well for my literary persona.

P.S. When the final two Guided by Voices shows ever went on sale, I went to the local outlet (same one) right when it opened on the off-chance I'd be able to get some tickets. I get there and there's a huge line out front. I think, "Wow, GBV has a bigger local following than I thought." I ask the middle-aged lady in the back of the line why so many people are there. "For the Alan Jackson concert!" Like, duh. By the time I got to the front of the line and spelled GBV (G-B-V) about 12 times, the tickets were gone. This, in a nutshell, is my life.

Suck/lame? Nick Lachey

We continue our mission of clearly defining those people, things, ideas, thoughts, actions and other nouns and verbs of questionable suckitude with one of the world’s most famous husbands, Nick Lachey.

At first blush, Lachey seems like a suck slam dunk. He was a member of C-list boy band 98 Degrees. He continues to pursue a music career that has less buzz than a Wilson Phillips reunion tour. And his claim to fame -- wife Jessica Simpson -- now spends more time with Miss Piggy. Lachey is the epitome of being famous for being famous, and even that will probably be gone by the end of 2006.

But before you vote, consider this: Lachey seemed like an awfully nice guy on "Newlyweds," putting up with Jessica's airhead diva shtick long after it became intolerable for the audience. He's far from being a great artist, but he's a likeable enough performer who is custom-made for one of those boring daytime talk shows. If he sucks, he sucks so much that he actually doesn't suck.

So, is Lachey a has-been pop star whose days in the spotlight are numbered? Or a nice guy who will hopefully weather the post-Jessica years successfully? In other words, does he suck? THE POLLS ARE OPEN UNTIL NOON FRIDAY.

OK, so I used to defend Barry Bonds ...

...because, you know, I believe in benefit of the doubt. But this is pretty devastating.

San Francisco Chronicle reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams trace Bonds steroid use back to his resentment of Mark McGwire during the 1998 home run chase.

On the West Coast, Barry Bonds was astounded and aggrieved by the outpouring of hero worship for McGwire, a hitter whom he regarded as obviously inferior to himself. Bonds was 34 years old, had played in the big leagues for 12 years and was known for an unusual combination of speed and power. Before the 1993 season he had signed what was then the richest contract in the game: $43.75 million for six years, and he knew he was on his way to the Hall of Fame. For as long as he had played baseball, Bonds had regarded himself as better than every other player he encountered, and almost always he was right.

But as the 1998 season ended, Bonds's elite status had slipped a notch. The game and its fans were less interested in the complete player who could hit for average and power and who had great speed and an excellent glove. The emphasis was shifting to pure slugging. As McGwire was celebrated as the best slugger of the modern era and perhaps the greatest who had ever lived, Bonds became more jealous than people who knew him well had ever seen.

To Bonds it was a joke. He had been around enough gyms to recognize that McGwire was a juicer. Bonds himself had never used a performance enhancer more potent than a protein shake from the health-food store. But as the 1998 season unfolded and, as he watched Mark McGwire take over the game -- his game -- Barry Bonds decided that he, too, would begin using what he called "the s---."

Of course, this only makes Bonds more fascinating. The man has turned into the Michael Corleone of baseball, only with a thicker neck.

A story about college basketball and the mob

The New York Times has an interesting story about how easy it is for gamblers to fix college basketball games.

Smaller favorites — teams favored by 12 or fewer points — beat the spread almost exactly 50 percent of the time, showing how good those oddsmakers are at their jobs. But heavy favorites cover in only 47 percent of their games. There is little chance that the difference is due to randomness.

This is not persuasive by itself, because there are some obvious explanations besides point shaving. Heavy favorites may remove their best players at the end of the game, for instance, or simply slack off, not caring what their winning margin is.

But here's Mr. Wolfers's smoking gun: this slacking off seems to happen only when a game is decided by something close to the point spread. Heavy favorites actually blow away the spread just as often as everyone else. But they win by barely more than the spread a lot less often than slight favorites do.

There is a strange dearth of games in which 12-point favorites win by, say, 13 or 16 points. And there are a lot of games that they win by 11 points or slightly less. There is just no good explanation for this.

Nor is there a good explanation for me not to start fixing basketball games. I just need some muscle. Anybody out there good with an icepick?

Bad news for ladies, great news for dudes

I know this is supposed to be a serious news story about college drinking, but I swear I can hear college guys from coast to coast giving each other high fives at the moment.

The American Medical Association is warning girls not to go wild during spring break. All but confirming what goes on in those "Girls Gone Wild" videos, 83 percent of college women and graduates surveyed by the AMA said spring break involves heavier-than-usual drinking, and 74 percent said the break results in increased sexual activity.

Three in four chance, dude. Three in four chance.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Why can't we all just get along?

Here's an interesting piece on whether "Brokeback Mountain" lost the best picture Oscar to "Crash" because Hollywood doesn't like gay people.

An excerpt: My impression, also based on anecdotal evidence, is that the usual number of academy voters saw the usual number of academy nominees, and voted for the ones they admired the most. In a year without "Brokeback Mountain," Finke, Turan and many others might have admired "Crash." Or maybe not. But it's a matter of opinion, not sexual politics.

It is not a "safe harbor," but a film that takes the discussion of racism in America in a direction it has not gone before in the movies, directing attention at those who congratulate themselves on not being racist, including liberals and/or minority group members. It is a movie of raw confrontation about the complexity of our motives, about how racism works not only top down but sideways, and how in different situations, we are all capable of behaving shamefully.

Personally, I don't think "Crash" winning the Oscar means Hollywood hates gays, just that it loves racism.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Yanni or Al Pacino?

Is this a picture of Yanni or Al Pacino? Because one of them was arrested early Friday and faces a domestic battery charge, according to a police report.

According to the story, Yanni or Al Pacino "had asked his girlfriend Silvia Barthes, 33, to leave his beachfront home after they returned from dinner."

Barthes told police Yanni or Al Pacino "was verbally abusive during a car ride home. She told police that when they returned to the house she attempted to take her clothing off hangers and put it in a bag to leave." Yanni or Al Pacino "forcefully took her clothing off the hangers and threw them on the ground, according to a police report.

"Barthes told officers he then grabbed her by her forearms and shook her, throwing her on the bed, and jumped on top of her. Barthes had a bloody lip and told officers that she thought she might have hit herself when" Yanni or Al Pacino shook her arms, according to the report.

So which one is it, Yanni or Al Pacino? Click here.

This one is just for the ladies ... and the dudes, too

I need your help on a possible future column. I have been single for about four months now, and I am consumed with the unanswerable question that haunts all single men: Does she like me? This is what goes through your mind in the immediate aftermath of meeting a woman you have never met before. You can't control it, it just pops in there. A lot of times it doesn't matter whether you like her. Whether she likes you is all that's important. It's a sign that you are single by choice, not genetic deformity.

Even in the instances where the answer to "Does she like me?" DOES matter, figuring it out can stymie the sharpest minds. Women, for lack of a better term, make no freaking sense whatsoever, and they send out signals that contradict and cancel each other out. And, yet, whenever you remember her actions in hindsight, they seem to spell out in capital letters what her intentions were all along. It's like a David Lynch movie you can only see once. Women will complain about having to give birth, that men will never appreciate the pain they go through at the end of a pregnancy. But we do understand. We went through the same pain so we could one day help begin a pregnancy.

Anyway, back to my column ... and this is where the ladies come in ... I am going to give you three romantic story problems, and I want you to tell me whether the girl in the story problem likes the boy. (Dudes, check out the postscript.)

Romantic story problem No. 1
Gary is meeting his roommate's work friends at a bar on a Saturday night. One of the friends is Jill, an attractive girl about Gary's age. Jill strikes up a conversation with Gary, and they hit it off. Not in a major way, but enough where they can talk without any awkward pauses. Jill occasionally drops a flirty remark, and after a few minutes starts touching Gary's arm every now and then. Gary isn't strongly attracted to Jill, but she's pretty cute and friendly. He wonders whether she is flirting with him. Gary and Jill eventually talk to the rest of the group, but they always seem to end up alone again. Jill continues to seemingly flirt with Gary, even grinding on his leg at one point. But Jill does this only because an R. Kelly song comes on and she thinks grinding is funny. As the night wears on, the rest of the crowd goes home and Gary and Jill are alone. Gary continues making flirty retorts to Jill's apparent come-ons. When the bartender says "Last call!", Gary quickly brainstorms various ways to ask her back to his place. But before he gets the chance to say anything, Jill quickly sobers up, gathers up her things, and goes home.

Question: Does Jill like Gary? If so, why did she leave so fast? If not, why was she flirting with Gary all night? Is it possible that she wasn't flirting, that Gary just imagined it all? If so, what in the hell was Jill doing?

Romantic story problem No. 2
Jack meets Joan via an online dating service. After e-mailing back and forth for a few weeks, Jack suggests that they talk on the phone. Joan agrees, and that night they talk for two hours. The next night they talk for another hour and a half. A few days later, they go out on their first date. Only thing is, Jack lives in Green Bay and Joan lives in Wausau (for you non-Wisconsinites, that's about an hour and a half apart), so Jack has to either drive there and back for one night or spend the night at Joan's. Jack offers to drive back that night, but Joan demands that he stay at her place. They go out and have a really good time, but they keep the flirting to a minimum. Jack tries a few times to flirt, but there is no reciprocation. Back at her place, they stay up until 3 a.m. talking. When it's time to go to bed, Joan says Jack can sleep with her in the bed. Jack isn't sure what this means, since they haven't even kissed yet and she hasn't given any sign that she wants to kiss. In bed, Jack rubs Joan's back. Joan seems to like it, but she never turns around. They fall asleep. This same scenario plays out two more times.

Question: Does Joan like Jack? If so, why did she not respond to his advances? If not, why did she keep going out with him and sharing her bed? Is it possible that she wasn't flirting, that Jack just imagined it all? If so, what in the hell was Joan doing?

Romantic story problem No. 3
Chris and Carrie go out on their first date. Over dinner, they have good, not great, conversation. They agree on most things politically, and have a good time mocking the beliefs of the side they don't agree with. But when it comes to music and movies, they couldn't be more different. Chris offends Carrie when he makes a disparaging comment about "American Idol," not knowing that Carrie loves the show and her favorite concert ever was Clay Aiken. Carrie gives Chris a stomach ache when she complains about the time she rented a DVD and had to take it back because it was the letterbox version and she likes full-screen. But they seem to have similar senses of humor, and the conversation never gets overly combative. While having drinks, Chris notices Carrie standing closer to him than before and making flirty comments. He likes the attention, and returns it. Occasionally, he touches her arm and back, but she never acknowledges this or returns it. As the night wears on, their interaction never goes beyond innocuous flirting. Chris notices that Carrie is less responsive in conversation, and her eyes wander whenever Chris talks about his job or any topic for longer than 30 seconds. The bar closes and Chris drives Carrie home. He tries flirting, but Carrie just seems tired. In her driveway, she puts her hand near the handle as soon as the car stops, as if poised to leave. But she doesn't leave. Chris and Carrie chat for 10 minutes. Then there's a pause. Their eyes meet for a moment. Carrie is close but not that close, and her hand is still on the handle. Chris doesn't try to kiss her good night. Finally, she smiles and gets out of the car.

Question: Does Carrie like Chris? If so, why did she seem to lose interest at the end of the night? If not, why did she give him that look at the end of the night? Is it possible that she wasn't flirting, that Chris just imagined it all? If so, what in the hell was Carrie doing?

P.S. If any dudes have their own romantic story problem, please post it and I might steal it and not give you any credit.

A potentially offensive question

South Dakota's governor on Monday signed into law a bill banning nearly all abortions, setting up a court fight aimed at challenging the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States. Read more about it here.

Here is my potentially offensive question: If you were an unborn fetus in South Dakota, would you want to live?

Shameless self-promotion

Here is the latest Check it Out column where I gush about one of my favorite Bobs, Robert Altman.

I quote myself: The fact that Altman doesn't already have an Oscar, despite being nominated for best director five times, speaks volumes about his mainstream appeal. He's too cynical, too subversive, too difficult, too rebellious, too artsy fartsy for the discerning tastes of Joe and Jane Sixpack.

Not that this has anything to do with what's really important, which is that Robert Altman is one of the best filmmakers this country has ever produced.

Altman's lack of box office success, even during his 1970s heyday, can be blamed almost entirely on Altman, who has exhibited a willful disregard for audience expectations throughout his career. His films almost never have plots or stars, and seem to ramble along with little in the way of conventional movie structure. Altman likes to replicate the messiness of real life on screen, so he often uses large ensemble casts and has his characters talk over instead of at each other.

What'cha think of the Oscars?

OK, so people don't know how to drive in snow in Wisconsin, so it took me two and a half hours to get home from Milwaukee last night and I missed the first hour of the Oscars. Based on what I saw, I thought Jon Stewart did a good job, though there appears to be some dissension on that.

What do you guys think? Was Stewart funny? What did you think of the winners? I was sort of surprised that "Crash" won best picture, though I figured it would win if "Brokeback Mountain" didn't. I liked "Crash," but I get irritated when movie stars pat themselves on the back for making movies "with a message." I liked what Stewart after a montage of message movies clips, which was something like: "All those problems were solved after those movies came out."

So, whaddaya think?