Under 30

I can't complain but sometimes I still do

Friday, April 21, 2006

Vote for Under30blog.com as Milwaukee's best blog this week

Finally, the sting of losing best picture to "Crash" is starting to weaken: Milwaukee-based weekly newspaper MKE has nominated Under 30 Blog as the blog of the week. Get more information here.

You might be wondering how I got nominated for this since I (1) don't live in Milwaukee and (2) work for a competitor of MKE's owner, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Frankly, I have no idea. I just want to win! I just stuffed the ballot box with every e-mail address I have in my arsenal. Now it's your turn. Help me promote this blog in another paper by voting for me here.

I looked at the other blogs and, no offense, but its Dullsville compared to the non-stop party here at Under 30. So, please, help me win!

Check out Built to Spill, Devin Davis

I try to keep an open mind when it comes to music. I can dig on the free jazz mastery of Ornette Coleman, the street poetry of Notorious B.I.G. and the gorgeous electronic noodlings of Air co-mingling on the same iPod playlist without breaking a sweat.

But if you were to stick me on a desert island with only one kind of music, I would probably fall back on the same white dude guitar rock that got me hooked on music back when I was 12 and discovering U2 and The Beatles. (If you’re serious about this desert island thing, could you also leave some matches, a harpoon, a beach ball and Scarlett Johansson? Thanks.)

White dude guitar rock is my musical comfort food. And "You in Reverse," the latest album from Built To Spill, has been giving me a lot of comfort lately.

Built To Spill, ranked No. 2 on my list of Idaho’s greatest exports, has been wowing indie rock nerds with mind-blowing guitar jams for years on albums such as "Keep it Like a Secret" and "Perfect From Now On." The latter is an honest-to-the-man-upstairs masterpiece that instantly takes me back to 1997 (the year it was released) and my sophomore year of college. Normally I hate anything that reminds me of my sophomore year of college, but "Perfect From Now On" is good enough to qualify as an exception. (Eagle-Eye Cherry and Sugar Ray are among the many things that do not.)

If the idea of Neil Young joining Radiohead and replacing the "Sprockets"-looking dude as lead guitarist excites you, then Built To Spill could be your next favorite band. "You in Reverse," Built To Spill’s first release since 2001 and best album since "Perfect From Now On," is an ideal introduction, touching on both Built To Spill’s hooky pop rock and spacey jam sides.

Another white dude guitar rock record I’m loving lately is "Lonely People of the World, Unite!" by Chicago power-popper Devin Davis. Released in 2005, "Lonely People" was recorded over the course of two years with Davis playing almost every instrument. At least that’s what it says at www.allmusic.com. I’m not sure I believe it. The disc sounds like it was bashed out quickly and joyously by a group of melody junkies hooked on the likes of Weezer, the New Pornographers and Elvis Costello. My favorite song is "Transcendental Sports Anthem," a bombastic rocker that cribs from the Monkees TV show theme song in the chorus. If that doesn’t sound cool to you, please stop reading this blog. Now. Seriously.

Suck/lame results: Country music

First off, thanks for voting. There were 21 country-related posts and 12 votes, not great but I won't cry in my beer about it.

Like many of the voters, I'm of two minds on country music. On one hand, I hate most of what is on country radio these days. Almsot every song seems geared toward the same upper middle class 34-year-old mother of two who is married to a man who buys her a new SUV every three years but doesn't say "I love you" enough. Nothing against music geared toward people like that, I just can't relate to it. On the other hand, some of the most beautiful, most heart-rending music I've ever heard is country or country-influenced, whether it is Ray Price's "Crazy Arms" or "Sin City" by the Flying Burrito Brothers. I guess I could have broken the question into old vs. new country, but that would be too easy. I wanted debate. Personally, I think country music clearly does not suck. Voters agreed by a vote of 8-4.

I feel like these elections might be losing some steam. Please give me some suggestions. I want knock down, drag out fights again where people get mad and make each other cry.

A movie about snakes on a plane called "Snakes on a Plane"

An upcoming movie starring Samuel L. Jackson, snakes and a plane called "Snakes on a Plane" is generating strong Internet buzz because, well, it has an awful title and a ridiculous premise. But unlike most bad ideas, this bad idea appears to be paying off, with people getting psyched for "Snakes on a Plane" because, not in spite of, its apparent crappiness. There's even a comprehensive blog about the movie (due in theaters Aug. 18) and several online parodies.

Hipsters have long sneered at cheesy garbage. But in recent years there has been a new genre of entertainment that caters specifically to people who enjoy things ironically. This is different than watching, say, "Family Matters" ironically, because "Family Matters" was primarily enjoyed by an audience that found it legitimately funny. The core audience for "Snakes on a Plane" (or William Hung or, to a lesser extent, "Napoleon Dynamite") will appreciate its stinkiness as an aesthetic value.

By the way, I'm so there when this comes out.

Look long and hard at this picture. Now write me a check for $1,000

According to a new study, attractive women negatively affect men's decision-making skills.

According to Dr. Obvious of the Duh Institute of "No, Really? Studies, the men's performance in the tests showed those who had been exposed to the "sexual cues" were more likely to accept an unfair offer than those who were not.

The men's testosterone levels were also tested - by comparing the length of the men's index finger compared to their ring finger.

If the ring finger is longer, it indicates a high testosterone level.

The researchers found that men in the study who had the highest levels performed worst in the test, and suggest that is because they are particularly sensitive to sexual images.

Finally, the wise words of Bell Biv Devoe have been proven correct: Never trust a big butt and a smile, fellas.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Happy 420! And, please, don't bogart the chocolate chip cookie dough!

I almost forget to wish my stoner readers Happy 420 Day! I'd apologize, but you guys probably are too busy watching "Boy Meets World" reruns today to notice my almost-snub.

For those of you who have never experienced the highs of staring at blacklight posters while listening to really crappy 311 records, 420 (or April 20) is a national smokers day for potheads who celebrate by burning through lots and lots of pot. In other words, it's exactly like every other day for a stoner, except now it's "official."

Read more about it here if you're interested.

More shameless

In this week's Under 30, I share my "Why Everything That's Popular is Almost Always Bad Theory." It will blow your brains out your butt and back into your butt after it richochets off the floor!

(I'm also posting the placenta pic again by popular demand!)

Here is my theory in a nutshell:

A person is capable of caring about only three or four things. For example, I consider myself an expert when it comes to music, movies and television. I also know a fair amount about sports. So I spend about 91 percent of my free time learning about these things, analyzing them and consuming them.

That leaves about 9 percent for everything else, including fashion, home decoration, gardening, cooking, hunting, mechanics and any number of hobbies, pastimes and areas of interest I know nothing about.

When faced with anything not related to music, movies, TV or sports, I go with what’s popular because it’s easy and I don’t know any better. Ease is the No. 1 attribute of popular things, followed by (2) superficial appeal and (3) familiarity, which really are just outgrowths of easiness.

Since good stuff isn’t always easy, superficial or familiar, people tend to value “not not good” over “good” when it comes to stuff outside their 9 percent.

Will this food taste like what I already like? Do I understand what these lyrics mean? Can I buy underwear at the same store in Toledo, Ohio, that I shop at back home? Will this movie about a woman pretending to love Matthew McConaughey kill time as effectively as the other movies I’ve seen about women pretending to love Matthew McConaughey?

This one is for the ladies (and really ugly dudes)

If you haven't seen this already, here is a list of the world's 100 unsexiest men, a great idea as long as your name doesn't pop up.

Some highlights:

1. Gilbert Gottfried: Rumor has it that Gilbert is the heir apparent to Uncle Milty when it comes to what he's packing, but that still can't save him. The parrot-voiced, pickled-face comic is to sexy what Kryptonite is to Superman.

6. Chad Kroeger: It's not just the massive head, weird face, and bad hair. It's also the fact that he's in Nickelback, the worst band since the dawn of music.

8. Osama Bin Laden: Power is sexy (notice how Dick Cheney isn't on the list). But a 6'5", no-vertical-leap mass murdering douche bag is not getting any style points.

(Side note: How would it feel to be one of the seven guys ranked less sexy than Osama Bin Laden? To quote Buck Nasty, that $%^@#$ pumped my gas this morning!)

20. Raffi: Maybe it's his proffession. But no one surveyed, man or woman, could think of any situation in which they would bed down with him.

42. Rush Limbaugh: No doubt he will claim his placement on this list as a result of a media bias and not the fact that he's just butt-ugly

99. Kevin Federline: Mooching hicks aren't so hot these days.

100.Brad Pitt: He may look good, but if the rumors about his hygiene and BO issues are true, then he's probably not worth it.

Shameless self-promotion

I wrote a pretty extensive story today on the hip-hop scene in Wisconsin. You didn't know there was a hip-hop scene in Wisconsin? Read my story and learn more, dudes!

Believe it or not, Wisconsin actually has a fairly vibrant hip-hop scene with outposts in major cities as well as small towns like Wausau, Eau Claire and other far-flung places that make Appleton look like the Bronx.

In Milwaukee, home to both entries on the state's modest list of hip-hop stars, Coo Cool Cal and Speech of early '90s rap group Arrested Development, there are close to 300 active hip-hop outfits, according to Gorilla Promo, which promotes the Brew Town rap scene. Madison also has dozens of MCs and producers, many of which are listed at www.madisonhiphop.com.

"It's a very large hip-hop scene down here," Gorilla Promo president Fidel said. Gorilla Promo's goal is to unite Milwaukee's diverse collection of rappers into a tangible movement that could potentially garner national attention.

"The reason Milwaukee hasn't blown up yet is because it doesn't have a sound," said Fidel, who noted "the industry is sniffing around" the local scene anyway. Pop rapper Rico Love, who signed to Usher's record label, has made the biggest splash so far.

"Somebody is going to blow up any minute," Fidel said.

Read more here.

Wait a second: You mean the radio might have played "My Humps" for reasons other than undeniable artistic quality?

The FCC has launched a payola investigation into four major radio companies, including Clear Channel.

Two FCC officials with direct knowledge of the matter confirmed that the agency had requested documents from Clear Channel Communications Inc., CBS Radio Inc., Entercom Communications Corp. and Citadel Broadcasting Corp. over allegations that radio programmers had received cash, checks, clothing and other gifts in exchange for playing certain songs without revealing the deals to listeners, a violation of federal rules.

The FCC requests, known formally as "letters of inquiry," are the first step in investigations that could result in sanctions ranging from financial penalties to the revocation of stations' licenses.

In the past, radio executives at firms including Clear Channel, the nation's largest station owner, have said that company policies prohibit accepting gifts for airplay and that internal probes have not revealed widespread wrongdoing.

The four broadcasters have been negotiating with the FCC for weeks to forestall a federal inquiry by offering to discontinue certain practices and pay limited fines. But those talks stalled last month over the issue of how much the broadcasters should pay.

Clear Channel proposed a fine of about $1 million, according to people with knowledge of the negotiations. Some commissioners were pushing for as much as $10 million, those sources said.

I'm interested to see how far this goes. Radio is the sleaziest arm of the media monster. Those people have the ethics of loan sharks.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

"When mama's not happy, nobody's happy"

According to a new study, sex is more satisfying in countries where women and men are considered equal.

Austria topped the list of 29 nations studied with 71 percent of those surveyed reported being satisfied with their sex lives.

The lowest satisfaction rate — 25.7 percent — was reported in Japan.

The study was led by sociologist Edward Laumann, considered a top authority on the sociology of sex, who believes the findings show that relationships based on equality lead to more satisfaction for both genders.

"Male-centered cultures where sexual behavior is more oriented toward procreation tend to discount the importance of sexual pleasure for women," Laumann said.

"When mama's not happy, nobody's happy," he said.

Let me get this straight: Women like to experience orgasms as much as men do? Wha?

Here comes the Suri

TomKat had their kid, and named her Suri in typical celebrity child-scarring fashion.

Sadly the story says nothing about how Katie's placenta tasted. Once Under 30 blog finds out the latest on the world's most famous placenta, you will know just a few seconds later!

Suck/lame: Country music

We continue our mission of clearly defining those people, things, ideas, thoughts, actions and other nouns and verbs of questionable suckitude with the heartland’s favorite soundtrack, country music.

Music doesn’t get more American than country. The high, yearning sound of a steel guitar immediately brings to mind the wide-open fields and sun-splashed skies of Middle America. Country music is the sound of ordinary folk and their hopes, dreams, fears and disappointments. It can make you laugh, cry and feel a little less lonely during the worst times of your life. That is, unless the country singer in question sounds more like Richard Marx than Johnny Cash, which is probably the case. After all, today’s country music is the final resting place for rock fashions and styles from 15 years ago. And let’s cut the “ordinary folk” talk, shall we? The ordinary folk listening to country these days are upper middle class soccer moms who put yellow ribbons on the bumpers of their gas-guzzling SUVs. Not exactly Tom Joad, is it?

So, is country music a classic American art form, or a genre that ceased being good long ago? In other words, does country music suck? Polls are open until noon Friday.

Bill O'Reilly, real-life Tony Soprano

Regular readers of Under 30 blog know I have three strange obsessions: (1) "American Idol; (2) Deadspin.com; and (3) Bill O'Reilly. This piece from The New Yorker does a great job of dissecting No. 3.

O'Reilly is the most fascinating character on television, a real-life Tony Soprano. He's probably crazy, and a scumbag, and yet I can't help sympathizing with him. There is clearly a well of incredible pain inside of him. Nicholas Lenmann senses this, too, and writes about it insightfully.

Class—that is, class resentment—is where, for O’Reilly, politics, and everything else, begins. His first best-seller, “The O’Reilly Factor,” published in 2000, asserts, “Whatever I have done or will do in this life, I’m working-class Irish American Bill O’Reilly.” (Another of O’Reilly’s feuds is with the columnist Michael Kinsley, who several years ago suggested that O’Reilly is actually from a middle-class background; last year, on the radio, O’Reilly objected to a call by the Los Angeles Times editorial page, then edited by Kinsley, for legal representation of detainees at Guantánamo Bay. “They’ll never get it,” O’Reilly said, “until they grab Michael Kinsley out of his little house and they cut his head off. And maybe when the blade sinks in, he’ll go, ‘Perhaps O’Reilly was right.’ ”) In the book, O’Reilly goes on, “No one ever told me or my sister that we were pretty far down the social totem pole while we were growing up in 1960s America. We took for granted that it was normal to buy cars only when they were secondhand, that every family clipped coupons to save money, and that luncheon meats were the special of the day.” And so on: “When our family went out to eat, a rare treat, we didn’t waste money on appetizers, if only because we didn’t go to the kind of restaurants that offered appetizers. Typically the pasta dish was spaghetti, and that was it. No linguine, fettuccine, rigatoni, etceterini, etceterini, to confuse the issue.”

I never saw Nassau County, Long Island, where O’Reilly, who is fifty-six, grew up, in the nineteen-sixties, but I’m guessing that restaurants so unpretentious that they wouldn’t serve a soup-of-the-day didn’t actually exist. Still, the idea of such a restaurant captures O’Reilly’s idea of himself. As soon as he left home—to go to Marist College, in Poughkeepsie, New York—O’Reilly had occasional encounters with members of the fortunate classes, in which, inevitably, he was put down. At Marist, he longed for the girls from nearby Vassar, but “the Ivy Leaguers up from Princeton or down from Cornell got the dates; we were treated like hired help.” By O’Reilly’s account, wealth and fame have not changed the pattern. Even now, when he wanders within range of the “swells,” which he does surprisingly often for a guy who despises them, they sneer at him, just as they would sneer at any ordinary American.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The easiest gig in the world

Advice columns fascinate me. They also make me envious, because writing one is the easiest gig in the world. Your readers write half of it, and usually the situations are so clearcut that you can bang out a response in 10 minutes.

must be the worst letter I have ever read in an advice column. It's so bad, in fact, that I can't understand why she would ask for advice. Is there any reason in the world why somebody would tell her to stay. Let's see: Practically no sex for 15 (!) years, her husband hangs out in lesbian bars, and now she has some spinal sickness. Yep, he's a keeper!

Does anybody out there need advice? Leave your problems in the comments section and I'll solve 'em!

Who feels like throwing up?!

If you do, listen up: Tom Cruise wants to eat his newborn baby's placenta!

Hmm! Hey, I'm not one to criticize. I ate at Denny's this weekend. But, seriously, I think I'm gonna head home now to sip 7-Up and eat pretzels.

For those who haven't already lost their lunches...

Cruise vowed he would tuck in straight after girlfriend Katie Holmes gives birth, saying he thought it would be "very nutritious".

The Mission Impossible star, 43, said: "I'm gonna eat the placenta. I thought that would be good. Very nutritious. I'm gonna eat the cord and the placenta right there." It is the latest in a series of increasingly strange outbursts from Cruise in the run-up to the birth.

By the way, this is what a placenta looks like:

You're welcome!

You know, I think it's awesome that Tom is still doing his Crazy Cruise bit. Sure, he was a big star before he went crazy. But he was so boring. Rumors that he was gallivanting with gay porn stars was only going to keep the public intrigued for so long. Now he's eating placentas and curing ADD with one brush of his hand. Love. It.

Is Sarah Jessica Parker attractive?

I saw "Failure to Launch" on Easter Sunday with my grandma. (Sit tight, because I'll be blogging more about that experience soon.) Anyway, the movie stars Sarah Jessica Parker as a professional interventionist who specializes in getting adult children to move out of their parents house. (Sigh.)

Since the movie's "Three's Company" style plot failed to hold my interest, I dwelled on a question that has long puzzled me: Is Sarah Jessica Parker attractive?

I thought she was quite attractive in "Failure to Launch," no small feat considering she played a total nitwit. But in the handful of "Sex and the City" episodes I was tricked into watching, I thought she was pretty ug. I don't know what it is. Maybe the light hits her the wrong way and all of a sudden she looks like Max Schmeling.

(Give yourself five points if you caught the Woody Allen reference.)

In the above photo, I'd say SJP is pretty foxy. But what about this pic?


What do you guys think?

Monday, April 17, 2006

Shamless self-promotion

Here is my latest Check it Out column about "Big Love" and Mylo.

Do you like to read?

If so, check out these links: Steve Martin proves that he can still be clever when he's not busy making craphole movies with kids and Beyonce with this funny piece about the recent New York Post Page 6 debacle; and one of my faves, Chuck Klosterman, brilliantly explains how the Barry Bonds 'roid scandal is destroying baseball.