Under 30

I can't complain but sometimes I still do

Friday, April 14, 2006

What's on your top five list of favorite movies?

Forrest Gump has shared his top five list of favorite movies, and it's pretty solid: "2001," "The Godfather," "Fargo," "Boogie Nights" and, strangely, "Elephant."

Not that I need an excuse to make another meaningless list, but this is as good occasion as any to share my top five list. These kind of lists always change for me, but I feel pretty good about these choices.

1. "Taxi Driver," dir. Martin Scorsese
2. "The Godfather Parts I and II," dir. Francis Ford Coppola
3. "E.T.," dir. Steven Spielberg
4. "This is Spinal Tap," dir. Rob Reiner
5. "Annie Hall," dir. Woody Allen

Honorable mention(s): "Mulholland Drive," "Kill Bill Vols. 1 and 2," "Dr. Strangelove," "Goodfellas," "Sideways," "MASH," "Boogie Nights," "His Girl Friday," "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly."

So I showed you mine. Show me yours.

Suck/lame results

First off, thanks for voting. I counted 27 "Idol" related posts and 20 votes. And it was a tightly contested election. So close, in fact, that it was dead even, 10 votes for Suck and 10 for Not Suck. There is possible controversy here, because I threw out KBL's "not-very-heartfelt suck" vote for being a hanging chad. KBL, do you mean your suck vote isn't very heartfelt, or that your not suck vote is not very heartfelt? Please be more clear next time.

A tie means my vote will determine Suck status. And my vote, of course, is not suck. I have written for too much about "American Idol" to explain why. If you must know, read this or this.

I know this result and the accompanying controversy might tear Under 30 readers into warring faction. But I beg for unity. Look for Suck/Lame next week.

The worst of Steven Hyden: The most depressing concert I ever attended

The term "genius" is overused, especially in pop music, where people often confuse the ability to market and sell with inspiration and invention. Brian Wilson is one of the few rock legends to deserve the genius designation. I have listened to the Beach Boys as much as any band, and the songs still slay me. Just the other day I was listening to the final minute of "God Only Knows" (my favorite 60 seconds in the whole world) and was reduced to tears. And I'm only slightly embarrassed to admit that.

When Brian Wilson did a special "Pet Sounds" tour in 2000, I jumped at the chance to see him at a tour stop in Milwaukee. It ended up being the most depressing concert I have ever seen (and I've seen Korn, Sugar Ray, Jason Mraz and Jonny Lang, among other crapholes). It wasn't that Wilson was a bad performer (though he was, in an almost amateurish way). What bothered me was how reluctant he seemed on stage. Notoriously averse to live performing, Wilson seemed to be going along with what his handlers wanted him to do, just as he had done when he was a young man. It crushed me to see this sad man, an incredible talent whose angelic voice was now destroyed, still unable to find inner peace.

The years since suggest that I, thankfully, might have been wrong. Wilson's "Smile" album from 2004 was incredibly good. And he continues to perform to enthusiastic audience. But I stand by my review posted below. It was painful for me to write, but it came from a place of genuine admiration for one of my biggest heroes.

The Milwaukee chapter of Brian Wilson's support group commenced at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Riverside Theater as the man himself padded on stage.

"Thank you. Thanks folks. Thanks for coming out tonight," he said to a mostly empty house. There's not many of you but that's how I like it."

You've probably heard of Brian the Genius, the mad adolescent behind some of the most life-affirming and introspective pop music in rock history. The man who supposedly could hear entire teen symphonies to God in his head. That wasn't the Brian Wilson on stage Wednesday night. Brian the Genius shattered like Humpty Dumpty in the late 1960s after years of physical and emotional beatings from his father, his family, his band, his record company and his fans, all of whom have tried to put him back together again for more than 30 years.

Hence this current concert tour starring Brian the Rock Casualty. The tour is motivated not by a new album but by Brian's ability to stay alive all these years. After all he's been through, he gets applauded for leaving his bedroom. You'll never encounter an audience like Brian's at any rock show.

No one yells for favorite songs. No one screams or drinks too much beer. No one even whistles. It's just "We love you, Brian," or "Good for you, Brian," or some other feel-good platitude. Maybe with enough encouragement, the thinking goes, our hero can get well again. He reminded me of a turtle up on the stage, a frail little being protected by the huge sounding 10-piece band that surrounded him. The people in the cheap seats could hardly see Brian at all, just his head peaking out from behind the expensive-looking Yamaha piano he didn't touch once during his two-hour concert.

His stage patter was forced and sounded canned ("This next one was recorded by the Beach Boys in 1964..."). He avoided any eye contact, fixing his eyes instead on an imaginary point above the audience. Maybe he was staring at his wife, or like an animal, at one of his trainers telling him to sing, smile or clap.

His once angelic voice is absolutely shot after years of drug abuse, so his band takes care of the high parts. Brian, in fact, hardly sings at all. He just sits up there, slumped in his chair, in front of his band but not leading it.

I wasn't expecting anything musically great when I bought my Brian Wilson concert ticket. I was there because I felt I owed him. Brian's best music has given me hours of happiness and solace, so the least I could do was sit and applaud him for two measly hours. If I wasn't expecting musical perfection or even competence, I was looking for some sense of triumph on Brian's face, some look that would say, "For tonight at least, I've conquered my demons."

Instead, Brian had that now-familiar look of stone-faced awkwardness mixed with fear and defeat. He didn't appear to be enjoying himself at all. I'm convinced he is on tour because that is what people want him to do, and he isn't strong enough to fight for what he really wants anymore. I looked around to see if I was alone in my sinking feeling of depression. The audience, it seemed, was oblivious to what was on stage. They danced to the hits, they sang along to "Pet Sounds" and they shouted their words of encouragement. The band also seemed to be having a great time, playing perfect versions of all those golden oldies. It was clear that they, like the audience, loved Brian's music and loved being in his clouded presence.

But as I looked at Brian and his small unblinking eyes, I couldn't believe that he really wanted to be there. What incentive does he have to tour? Why does rock's most famous case of stage fright, a man who has shunned the stage for 35 years, suddenly decide to go out on the road? How can an artist once obsessed with studio perfection bear to hear his best creations massacred by his own voice?

Flashes of brilliance came out during a trio of Brian's most personal songs, "In My Room," "I Just Wasn't Made For These Times" and "Caroline, No." Brian somehow hit the notes he missed all night, and he seemed to come out of his fog a little. Tellingly, all three songs are about isolation and the loss of innocence. When he sang "It's so sad to watch a sweet thing die," I had no doubt Bruce Johnston was right when he said "Caroline, No" was about Brian, not some old high school flame. I don't claim to know what goes on in Brian Wilson's head. Maybe he had a great time Wednesday night. Maybe it was a healthy experience for him. But I don't think so.

I think he was out there for those people who want him to be the Brian Wilson he'll never be again. "A genius musician but an amateur human being" is how Tony Asher once described Brian Wilson. Maybe if people stop expecting him to be a genius, Brian Wilson can be a better, happier human being.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

How loved are you, or, How long would it take for your rotting corpse to be discovered?

You think your life sucks? I'm pretty sure you have nothing on this woman, who lay dead in her apartment for three years (!) before being discovered this week.

Joyce Vincent was surrounded by Christmas presents and the television and heating in her bedsit were still on.

The 40-year-old's body was so decomposed that the only way to identify her was to compare dental records with a holiday photograph.

Police believe she probably died of natural causes in early 2003, and was only found in January this year when housing association officials broke into the bedsit in Wood Green, North East London.

They were hoping to recover the thousands of pounds of rent arrears that had piled up since her death.

Understanding landlord aside, this woman obviously had a lonely existence to be dead so long before anybody noticed.

This should be the new standard for how loved a person is: How long would it take your decomposing corpse to be discovered? I say two days for me. What about you guys? For your own corpse, I mean?

Check out Mylo

The most addictive album I have bought yet this year is “Destroy Rock & Roll,” a delicious dance pop confection by British electronic artist Mylo.

I discovered Mylo via the online music snob Bible, Pitchforkmedia.com, an essential source for the latest in underground music as long as you don’t actually read the long-winded reviews. “Destroy Rock & Roll” will sound familiar to fans of Air, Daft Punk and Basement Jaxx. In fact, fans of those groups might scream “Plagiarism!” after hearing highly derivative tracks like “In My Arms” and “Sunworshipper,” which shamelessly lift from the late ’90s French synth-pop sound without directly stealing any melodies.

Originality is an overrated attribute for pop music anyway. At least when you steal as well as Mylo does. The fingerprints of obvious influence might be all over “Destroy Rock & Roll,” but they don’t dilute the disc’s infectiousness. “In My Arms,” which has been my favorite song for weeks, takes a cheesy sample from Kim Carnes’ “Bette Davis Eyes” to create an ecstatic piece of pop perfection as catchy as anything from Daft Punk’s “Discovery.”

Buy “Destroy Rock & Roll” before corporate America turns it into a soundtrack for cell phone commercials. (Listen to song samples here.)

Shameless self-promotion

Those Post-Crescent online peeps don't quit! My Under 30 column is already up and ready to be read. It's about beards and body hair, so read at your own caution, ladies. It might get a little hot for you.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

TV's Golden Age

Geez, I'm posting a lot today. It's P.O.D., mon freres.

I gotta point you, once again, to my peeps at The AV Club, which has a really interesting Crosstalk feature on the slate of spring's new TV shows.

Writer Scott Tobias makes a statement that seems bold only on its face, which is that we're in the midst of a golden age of television. To me, this is painfully obvious unless you are (1) one of those awful ninnies always complaining about too much sex and violence on TV or (2) one of those awful snobs who look down on TV watchers because they're not out climbing mountains or something. More than film and certainly music, TV is creating truly innovative work that also has mass appeal.

Without thinking too hard I can rattle off lots of great shows from recent years that challenge and entertain in equal measure: "The Sopranos," "The Shield," "Nip/Tuck," "The Wire," "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "24," "Gilmore Girls," "Chappelle's Show," "The Office," "Thief" and the recent HBO show "Big Love" to name a few. There also are shows that I haven't watched but have received great acclaim: "Lost," "Deadwood," "Desperate Housewives," "Battlestar Gallactaca" and so on.

So, please, stop exercising and watch more TV. You're missing out otherwise.

Shameless self-promotion

I recently sat down with Fox Valley writers Joseph Minton Amann and Tom Breuer to discuss their new, very funny book "Sweet Jesus, I Hate Bill O'Reilly." As an avid, ironic fan of Bill's, I was destined to really love the book. But even if you genuinely like Bill, you might find the book funny.

Joseph Minton Amann has a dream.

He wants Bill O’Reilly to punch him in the face. On his highly rated cable news show, “The O’Reilly Factor,” if possible.

Amann could get his wish if the excitable pundit ever picks up a copy of “Sweet Jesus, I Hate Bill O’Reilly,” a hilarious new book the Appleton man wrote with Tom Breuer of Neenah.

Spinning off a Web site started by Amann two years ago, “Sweet Jesus, I Hate Bill O’Reilly” is positioned by the authors as an intervention for the radio and TV talk show host, a man they believe is dumb, a liar and more than a little crazy.

Amann’s dream suddenly doesn’t seem so farfetched.

The authors find plenty of support in O’Reilly’s own words. Amann watched and documented “The O’Reilly Factor” nightly for two years, and Breuer read all five of O’Reilly’s books (most of them, anyway), a hardship that left him “a little angry and ready to come out swinging,” he writes.

The point of the book, the left-leaning writers insist, is not to rip O’Reilly for being conservative, but for putting a disingenuous “no spin” stamp on his opinions. They also like poking fun at his ego, poor writing skills and splotchy skin, to name just a few targets.

A Q&A follows here.

Suck/lame: "American Idol"

We continue our mission of clearly defining those people, things, ideas, thoughts, actions and other nouns and verbs of questionable suckitude with the most popular televised talent show of all-time, “American Idol.”

Did you know Congress is considering changing the name of our great nation to the United States of American Idol? OK, not really, but if our country is unified over anything, it must be “American Idol.” The showcase for our vast untapped reservoir of singing talent is bigger than ever in its fifth season. Yes, “American Idol” is a little cheesy, but it’s the only true communal experience we have left in pop culture. “American Idol” is so big, in fact, that it practically is pop culture. Is this a good thing? Well, “American Idol” celebrates over-emotive, dog-whistle singing favored by Mariah Carey and third-rate karaoke singers. And with the possible exception of Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone,” everything the show has produced has been absolute garbage musically. The worst thing about “American Idol” is it encourages the diluted to keep vying for stardom. After all, if William Hung can get his 15 minutes, why can’t your cousin who starred in that delightful high school production of “Guys and Dolls” back in ’98?

So, is “American Idol” an American institution or an American embarrassment? In other words, does it suck? Vote by NOON FRIDAY.

Would you let this man castrate you?

Me, I'm gonna say no. But apparently there are people who went under the scapel for George McCreepyguy over here.

In Waynesville, a small county seat in the mountains of western North Carolina, people whispered about the three older men who lived together south of town.

They were lovers, and there were rumors that the trio had turned a room in their house into a dungeon where they filmed sadomasochistic sex scenes — and then posted them on the Internet.

Someone asked the local sheriff to investigate the men, but his officers determined their activities, although unorthodox, were perfectly legal.

Last month, however, the men were arrested on charges that shocked the community.

Authorities say they performed castrations and other types of genital surgeries on at least six people. Detectives searching the home found bloody scalpels, syringes, and prosthetic testicles in a room the men referred to as "the dungeon."

The suspects acknowledged performing surgeries, but they told investigators that the procedures were completely consensual and that the men who requested the operations traveled long distances for the procedures.

I really hope they make consensual castration more available here in Wisconsin. To force people to travel to North Carolina is just unfair.

The greatest love of all is to not let yourself get addicted to crack

Salon.com has a really good piece about the tragic downfall of Whitney Houston. I can't say I'm a Whitney fan, but I'm always sad when really talented people destroy their gifts. There aren't enough talented people as it is. To see the truly special piss it all away is sad, unfortunate and infuriating.

Two weeks ago, a story by Los Angeles celebrity journalist Nick Papps began, "It's hard to believe that the drugged, dazed woman staring out from [an accompanying] picture was once one of the most popular singers in the world ... But today that woman, Whitney Houston, 42, is just another crack head."

The dim assessment came in response to tabloids that on March 29 printed photos of what is supposedly Houston's Atlanta bathroom, littered with crack pipes, cocaine-coated spoons, cigarette butts, Budweiser cans and garbage. The photos were taken, and sold to the magazines, by Houston's sister-in-law, who provided an accompanying tale of the singer's cracked-out habits, from hallucinating violent demons, to biting and hitting herself, putting her hand through walls, and locking herself away to smoke rock cocaine and pleasure herself with an apparently prodigious collection of vibrators. Speaking about the mess on Fox's "The O'Reilly Factor," Billboard executive editor Tamara Conniff said, "I think that she was a really well-manicured diva star and she just turned a little ghetto."

The best rock song intros ever

Oh Mark Caro, why must you suck me into distracting time wasters like this when I'm at work? Don't you know that there is a pile of work the size of James Gandolfini on my desk? I guess it will have to wait.

The topic is the best rock song intros ever. Caro hits on a lot of good ones, including my choice for the best intro ever, The Who's "Baba O'Riley." (Dum, dum DUM!)My pal, colleague and fellow degenerate music geek Tom Roz also made a ridiculously long list of hot intros on his blog recently.(That's two plugs in one day, Tom. You owe me.) But the guys miss some really obvious ones I will now pull directly from the top of my head with zero effort.

"Sweet Child O' Mine," Guns N' Roses: The first 15 seconds of this song rival the final 60 seconds of the Beach Boys' "God Only Knows" as the most sublime moments in pop music ever.

"Johnny B. Goode," Chuck Berry: It's only the most famous guitar riff ever, even though it was ripped off from Marty McFly.

"When the Levee Breaks," Led Zeppelin: Jesus Christ himself could not drum as loud as John Bonham on this song.

"I Heard it Through the Grapevine," Marvin Gaye: Oldies radio almost ruined this song and the amazing bassline, but just almost.

"Pretty Vacant," Sex Pistols: The "Sweet Child O' Mine" of fast guitar riffs.

"99 Problems," Jay-Z: "If you're having girl problems I feel bad for you son I got 99 problems but a ..." whoops, sorry , this is a family newspaper blog.

"Hit Me Baby One More Time," Britney Spears: The intro will instantly bring back the days when you wanted to sleep with Britney. And don't bother denying it.

"Sweet Emotion," Aerosmith: If the lazy voicebox intro doesn't make you wish you were a teenager in the 1970s, nothing will.

"Stayin' Alive," Bee Gees: If the disco bassline doesn't make you wish you were a teenger in the 1970s, seriously, nothing will.

"Blitzkrieg Bop," Ramones: "Hey ho, let's go!"

"Ramblin' Gamblin' Man," Bob Seger: Big dumb drums are a great way to kick off any song. These are some of the biggest and dumbest.

"Moonage Daydream," David Bowie: "I'm an alligator, I'ma mama-papa coming for you." No idea what that means, just know it is awesome.

"Billie Jean," Michael Jackson: Greatest. Bassline. Ever.

"Under Pressure," Queen and David Bowie: Except maybe for this one.

"Leave Them All Behind," Ride: OK, it's not very obvious. An obscure pick for my music geek peeps.

"Soon Enough," My Bloody Valentine: The end of the world, and it rocks.

"Like a Rolling Stone," Bob Dylan: Why didn't I think of this one sooner? Is it too obvious? Bruce Springsteen said hearing this song for the first time "was like busting out of jail." Try not to think of that quote the next time you hear that glorious drum crack.

I'm sure I'll think of more later. How about you dudes?

The best Oneida Casino summer line-up ever

Yep, I'm finally gonna see Elvis Costello. And if I break Tom Roz's legs, maybe I'll be able to interview him.

From the Green Bay Press-Gazette:

The Oneida Casino in Ashwaubenon throws open the flaps on its big tent May 20 for its sixth Pavilion Nights concert series.

The casino has confirmed its 13-show lineup. Many of the acts — such as Elvis Costello, Rick Springfield and Devo — already were reported. Tickets for all shows go on sale at 10 a.m. May 1 at the Main Casino concierge desk or Oneida Casino Ticket Star outlets at (800) 895-0071 or (920) 494-3401.

The lineup:

Lee Ann Womack, 8 p.m. May 20. $25.
Elvis Costello & The Imposters with Allen Toussaint, 8 p.m. June 10. $35.
Poison with Endeverafter, 7 p.m. June 20. $30.
The Go-Go’s, 8 p.m. June 28. $20.
Soul Asylum with The Gear Daddies, 7 p.m. July 1. $15.
Carrie Underwood, 8 p.m. July 7. $30.
Goo Goo Dolls, 8 p.m. July 17. $25.
Sammy Hagar and The Wabos, 7 p.m. July 18. $20.
A Flock of Seagulls, When in Rome, Missing Persons, Animotion and Gene Loves Jezebel, 6 p.m. July 31. $20.
Rick Springfield, 8 p.m. Aug. 19. $20.
Allman Brothers Band and Gov’t Mule, 6 p.m. Aug. 29. $35.
Devo with Bow Wow Wow, 7 p.m. Sept. 7. $25.
Staind, 8 p.m. Sept. 11. $25.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

"You're with me, leather"

I know I steal from Deadspin.com (the best sports blog I know of on the Web) all the time, but this story is too good to pass up, especially since I think Chris Berman is a huge tool.

The following is a "hook-up" story submitted by a reader:

A friend of mine just told me he’s getting married. When he gave me the news I immediately thought of the time we were in Scottsdale at spring training, because it’s the best pickup story I’ve ever been a party to. It was about nine years ago, and I actually forget the bar. But my friend was seriously putting the moves on this somewhat attractive young woman, who was wearing leather pants and had a leather jacket draped over her lap. They had been chatting at the bar for about an hour, and my friend thought he was in the house. I had never seen someone work so hard for a score.

But just as he was putting on the finishing touches, Chris Berman walks by. And without even breaking stride, Berman looks at the girl, points and says “You’re with me, leather.” And the girl looks up, instantly recognizes Berman, snatches up her jacket and walks out with him, leaving my friend in mid-sentence.

Berman actually comes off pretty freakin' cool in this story, though I can't fathom why any woman would come running at the beck and call of the "back, back, back" guy. Tell me, ladies: Is it the receding hairline, the tired catchphrases, or the fatness?

Monday, April 10, 2006


Did you freaking see this?

The Bush administration is planning to use nuclear weapons against Iran, to prevent it acquiring its own atomic warheads, claims an investigative writer with high-level Pentagon and intelligence contacts.

President George W Bush is said to be so alarmed by the threat of Iran's hard-line leader, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, that privately he refers to him as "the new Hitler", says Seymour Hersh, who broke the story of the Abu Ghraib Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal.

Some US military chiefs have unsuccessfully urged the White House to drop the nuclear option from its war plans, Hersh writes in The New Yorker magazine. The conviction that Mr Ahmedinejad would attack Israel or US forces in the Middle East, if Iran obtains atomic weapons, is what drives American planning for the destruction of Teheran's nuclear programme.

Yep, the military is trying to talk Bush OUT of using nukes, but the man can't be persuaded. I think I just crapped myself.

Shameless self-promotion

The latest Check it Out, which includes a big chunk of stuff that has already appeared on this blog.