Under 30

I can't complain but sometimes I still do

Friday, March 17, 2006

Comments issue resolved ... maybe

After complaints from a couple of you regarding Blogger's wacky word verification system, I have changed the settings to get rid of it. So y'all should be able to post now with no problems.

The Management

The worst of Steven Hyden: The time I ran over a dog while covering a rodeo

The column I'm posting here originally ran in The Post-Crescent on July 2, 2004. The column itself isn't bad. In fact, a lot of people liked it. But what the column describes can safely be called the worst day at work I have ever had, and that includes the time I had to cover a drowning. The rest should be self-explantory.

In a radical but necessary move, I have kept my opinion out of this week's "Under 30" column.

I know what you are thinking. "Steve, this is Independence Day. George Washington and Abe Lincoln fought the Nazis in Korea so you would have the right to make fun of Clay Aiken. What gives?"

I just don't feel like spouting off this week. Instead, let me tell you about the time I ran over a dog on the way to the Manawa rodeo. (A story also known as "The Worst Freaking Day of Work Ever.")

It happened almost exactly two years ago today. I was going to the rodeo, technically known as the Mid-Western Rodeo (it starts today and runs through Sunday, if you're interested), on a story assignment. I was perfect for the job given my college minor in rodeo science. (Sorry, that was "political" science.)

As I inched down the traffic-choked main drag, I saw a woman standing on the side of the road with this dinky little dog at her feet. The dog (let's call him Bud) was darting to and fro, narrowly missing cars passing by. At that moment I remember thinking to myself, "I am going to hit this dog, and there's nothing I can do about it." (That was my first mistake. I jinxed myself.) I moved toward the center of the road as the dog crawled closer. I might as well have been pushing my car, I was moving so slowly. Finally I passed Bud, saw he was OK and breathed a sigh of relief.


I knew what I had done before the furry lump popped up in my rearview mirror. Bud had a death wish. He actually ran underneath me as I was passing him. The woman (let's call her Claire) somberly picked the dog up and just stood there. I was a wreck. I killed man's best friend! And I still had a rodeo to cover! "I don't know what to say," I stammered after pulling over. "I'm so sorry."

Claire looked up angrily. She was going to let me, the dog killer, have it. "He's not my dog," she scowled. "In fact, he just bit me." She pointed to teeth marks on her hand. Apparently, my tires equaled instant karma for Bud.

We walked to the house across the street. A woman who looked about 70 (let's call her Martha) opened the door. Instantly I invented a back story where Bud was Martha's only companion, filling a void in her life created by the death of her loyal husband Herb a year earlier. Now that Bud was gone, Martha obviously had no reason to go on living. My God, I was about to kill a person, too! Somebody stop me!

"Oh, he's not my dog," Martha said, waving her hand at the motionless fur ball deposited in her front yard. "I think he belongs to the people next door." (Quick story recap: After killing a dog, I have gone through two traumatic encounters in two minutes with pet owners who really aren't pet owners. And I still have a rodeo to cover.)

This is when things get weird. Two men in identical NASCAR driver outfits who just happened to be passing by came up to console me. (I swear I am not making this up.) They saw it all, and they promised to be witnesses on my behalf. You know, for the trial or something.
So me, Claire and the NASCAR twins walked next door. We knocked on the front door. No answer. We knocked on the back door. No answer. Finally, a large man on a three-wheeler pulled up. He looked only slightly terrifying. Sure, this guy was going to murder me and bury me next to Bud in the back yard, but whatever. I gulped and told him my story. Bingo! We have a winner.

Actually, the man (I call him Duke) was pretty cool about everything. Bud belonged to his son, Timmy. Duke called Timmy over, and they had a touching father/son moment.

"Son," Duke said, "THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU LEAVE THE DOG OUT!" He pointed to the body just in case Timmy missed the point. I don't think he did. I know I didn't.

Seizing on my cue to beat it, I got in my car and inched away. I had a rodeo to cover.

Suck/lame results, if anybody cares...

What in the $%4#$ is going on?

The Bud Light election was a total bust. I had 19 measly posts. I'm not going to bother counting the votes because one person, Lori, voted Not suck/Not lame. For the hell of it, I'll vote Not suck/Not lame, too, just to double the dissent. But it's still a total blowout.

I'm freaking out about the lameness of this election. Maybe this was a bad topic. Maybe this is another thing I blame on Robin Williams, since returns have been down since that contentious battle. Or maybe there's just a general malaise out there in the electorate.

Is it something I said? Don't abandon me. I welcome any suggestions on how to recover the magic we have lost, baby.

Shameless self-promotion

Today's Under 30 on St. Patrick's Day. Read it!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Fetus five is alive!

It was judgment night on "American Idol" Wednesday, and Fetus sailed through. And I do mean sailed. Dude wasn't even in the bottom three, which suggests that Americans actually enjoy going to high school choir concerts and watching teens warble through Top 40 songs. Yikes! And hurrah!

Again, it's obvious this Web site has something to do with Fetus' success. But I also like to think Fetus fever is catching on. A quick Google search uncovered Fetus references here and here. We also know South Dakota loves Fetus. It's only a matter of time before Fetus is everywhere. Just remember where you heard it first!

No abortion + no gayness = happy!

According to a recent survey, Republicans are happier than Democrats.

Why? Well, duh.

"Republicans tend to have more money than Democrats, and—as we've already discovered—people who have more money tend to be happier," the report states.

But even after adjusting for income, poor Republicans are happier than poor Democrats, and rich Republicans are happier than rich Democrats.

Of course, Democrats having their souls crushed repeatedly over the past six years might have something to do with their never-ending case of the Mondays.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Fetus watch

"American Idol" was down to the final 12 last night, but we all know there's only one real star left: Fetus. And the lispy one brought his best D-game.

It was Stevie Wonder Night, which was great unless you actually like Stevie Wonder's music. Otherwise, most of the singers treated these brilliant tunes like a dog on laxatives treats the Mona Lisa. Fetus was no different. Faced with perhaps the richest body of pop music created during the 1970s, Fetus went with the schlocky "Part-Time Lover" from 1984. Not a bad choice if you're Theo Huxtable, but even this pap was too soulful for the dulcet tones of Fetus.

But again, Paula and Randy inexplicably liked him. Of course, I was too busy watching Simon biting his tongue to a bloody pulp while his fellow judges blabbered on to pay attention. "Absolutely appalling," the man finally chimed in. Fetus tried to pick a fight over the verdict, but Simon just smiled like a shark choosing not to swallow the baby squid.

The smart money is on Fetus taking a hike tonight. But why would Fetus leave now when he should have been booted every single time before now? Under 30 says Fetus stays, and Melissa McGhee gets the boot.

Besides, Fetus dumped his lady friend so his "fans" could, well, I don't know, pretend to hold hands with him or something.

Suck/lame? Bud Light

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 popular brands of beer, Bud Light.

Bud Light introduced many of us to the world of beer. It typically is served in a plastic cup, where it turns warm in less than 10 minutes, in crowded, sweaty basements and garages. If you are throwing a family barbecue, graduation party or wedding reception, Bud Light is a safe bet. It won’t get the guests excited, but they will probably drink it. It is an easy-to-gulp, no-brainer beer. And it doesn’t have the pretention of those snooty imported brews.

Bud Light also epitomizes our national tendency to accept a sub par product because it’s easier than demanding something better. Is there anything that better defines “mediocrity” than this watery excuse for a beer? If you drink Bud Light, you either just turned 21 or have no taste. And despite the manly manliness of the commercials, drinking Bud Light is one of the wussiest things a dude can do.

So, is Bud Light a solid beer for regular people, or mediocre wimp juice? In other words, does it suck or not suck? Cast your vote by NOON FRIDAY.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

"Mr. Belvedere will truly live on in my heart, as will his delightful British accent"

Not to get all morbid on you, but Tomarken's passing reminded me of this, a Web site me and my friend Joe came across a year ago. It's a collection of comments people posted when Christopher Hewitt, aka TV's "Mr. Belvedere," died in 2001. The comments are pretty funny, but also oddly fascinating and even moving.

Here's a sample: Mr. Belvedere was truly a great man. He taught me respect, compassion, humor and most of all, that it is ok to have a delicious cookie here and there w/o being to concerned about your weight. Mr. Belvedere will truly live on in my heart, as will his delightful British accent. I always wished that one day he would write about me in his diary, but alas, he is no longer writing. I will truly miss you Mr. B. Dropkick your jacket as you walk through the doors of heaven, no one cares...no one cares.

I find it amazing that the crappiest TV shows can have a profound impact on people's lives. It's easy to scoff at that, I guess. But if the impact is real, aren't these shows more important than we give them credit for? Why does religion or charity work or mountain climbing automatically mean more than "Mr. Belvedere" in terms of gving meaning to somene's life? Don't we all need an excuse to to have a delicious cookie here and there?

Peter Tomarken RIP

The host of "Press Your Luck was killed in a plane crash Monday. According to the story, "Tomarken, 63, and his wife, Kathleen, 41, had volunteered their services for a medical flight that was picking up a patient in San Diego for transfer to UCLA Medical Center. Moments after its 9:36 a.m. takeoff from Santa Monica Municipal Airport, the 1973 Beechcraft 36 plunged into the Pacific Ocean."

At the risk of sounding like one of those awful pop culture-obsessed Gen X/Yers, this news honestly unsettles me. "Press Your Luck" was a big part of my childhood. I used to watch it everyday before school on USA. Granted, the show was a piece of crap. The "trivia" questions were embarrassingly easy even for a 10-year-old, which is what I was when I watched it. "This 'super' game is played at the end of the NFL season. A. Super Game; B. Super Bowl; C. Superman." Stuff like that. The questions merely were an excuse to trot out poorly animated Whammies. My favorite was the Madonna Whammy. Sexy.

And then there was Tomarken, who presided over the proceedings with poise, wit and bland handsomeness. You will be missed, my game show friend.

Monday, March 13, 2006

This is what happens when you judge a bartending contest

A perk of working for a newspaper is you sometimes get mistaken for a celebrity. This weekend, I was invited to judge a bartending contest at the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel with friend and Post-Crescent co-worker Eric Klister. Apparently they wanted "celebrity judges." So I canceled my skiing trip to Aspen and dinner meeting with Steven Spielberg to be a celebrity judge.

How does one judge a bartending contest, you ask? Well, a bartender makes you a drink, and you drink it for free, and then write down whether you liked it. That's it. Oh, you're also supposed to comment on color, presentation, whether the bartender has a good personality and blah blah blah. Did I mention the free drinks?

Anyway, being a celebrity judge isn't all fun and games. After all is said and done, you end up looking like these sorry fools below.

Is it just me or...

...do al Qaeda conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui and Washington Post and "Pardon the Interruption" co-host Michael Wilbon look EXACTLY alike? I mean, this is totally obvious to me, but I haven't heard anyone comment on it. It's probably bad form to compare a great sportswriter to a convicted terrorist, but COME ON, the proof is in the pudding.

What do you think?

Ay-oh, oh-ay, it's "The Sopranos"

Finally, after two friggin' years, there was a new episode of "The Sopranos" last night. And it was pretty good. Sure, the thing kicked off with another of those wacky "Sopranos" dream sequences that have become tiresome. And there were no exactly zero scenes with one Paulie Walnuts. But other than that, the episode worked in the show's typical, ruthlessly low-key fashion. Except for the end, of course, which I won't discuss in too much detail.

(OK, maybe I will. So don't read the next paragraph if you DVR'd it.)

It's obvious that Tony won't die. This is the final season, but there are 19 episodes left and I can't imagine the series carrying on that long without the star. But it was definitely a surprise, and proof that Junior is far crazier than I assumed.

Another thing I liked about the episode is how the show contiues to throw in little, almost invisible jokes only obsessive fans would notice. For instance, when Melfi suggested that Junior be put away in a retirement community like Green Grove, Tony exploded: "It's a nursing home!" I also liked the scene where somebody talked about his mom dying, and Tony said, "What are you gonna do?", the same thing he said whenever people asked about his mom.

Any thoughts out there in blogland?

Shameless self-promotion

Here is the most recent Check it Out. I recycled it from my blog.