Under 30

I can't complain but sometimes I still do

Friday, April 28, 2006

Shameless self-promotion

In this week's Under 30, I make fun of baby names. Why? Because making fun of babies is easy AND fun!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Five movies that make me cry

On a recent episode of “The Sopranos,” Johnny Sack broke down in tears while being dragged from his daughter’s wedding by police. Almost immediately, right-hand man Phil questioned his manhood. If the cops can make you cry, what else can they make you do?

I’m neither ashamed nor scared to admit I enjoy a hearty man cry every now and then. I might feel differently if faced with potential whacking (as opposed to mocking) from my so-called friends, but I’ll chalk that one up as another benefit of not being in the mob. (No. 1 benefit of being in the mob? The best table at the Copa when Bobby Vinton is in town. At least that’s what I learned from “Goodfellas.”)
I don’t cry at weddings, but I do cry at movies. In fact, there are five movies guaranteed to make me cry every time I see them.

1. “Rocky III”: Actually, the Mr. T installment of the Rocky saga doesn’t make me cry. But it taught me it’s OK for a man to shed a tear.

Sylvester Stallone wept like Stephanie Stallone when trainer Mickey died before Rocky’s first fight with Clubber Lang. When I saw “Rocky III” on HBO at age 6 or 7, not only did I think it wasn’t cool for grown-up dudes to cry, I thought men literally couldn’t cry. I figured your tear ducts dried up and fell out of your skull during puberty or something. Rocky taught me even the toughest guys go the Niagra Falls route when the situation allows, and I’ve been a blubbery baby ever since.

2. “E.T.” : This movie came out back when Steven Spielberg thought aliens were nice little creatures that drank domestic beer, not faceless killing machines, and it’s still one of my favorite movies ever. Why? Because “E.T.” makes me weep. Not cry, weep. And not a quick little weep, but a colossal, full-box-of-Kleenex weep.

There are five moments in “E.T.” that make me cry. I probably won’t cry at every moment during a particular viewing, but at least one will get me: (1) When E.T. and Elliott fly on the bike for the first time; (2) When E.T. dies; (3) When E.T. comes back to life; (4) When E.T., Elliott and the other boys fly on their bikes to escape the feds; (5) When E.T. points to Elliott’s chest and says “I’ll be right here.”

OK, I started to get that pre-weep sinus tingle while typing “I’ll be right here,” so we better move on to the next movie.

3. “Field of Dreams”: This is the best male tearjerker of all-time. Yes, it’s cheesy and kind of creepy. (If you replaced Kevin Costner with Kirk Cameron, “Field of Dreams” would be a sports-oriented “Left Behind” movie.) But even the most macho man on the planet will cry at the end when Costner asks his dad’s ghost if he wants to have a catch. What guy doesn’t want to have one more catch with his dad?

4. “The Karate Kid”: I woke up with a wicked hangover on a recent Sunday morning, and “The Karate Kid” nursed me back to clearheadedness. Many people turn to church for clarity on a Sunday morning, but a sermon from Rev. Pat Morita is just as enriching. It’s also emotional. When Daniel San kicks Johnny in the face with the crane technique to win the karate tournament, I lost it like I always do.

5. “Schindler’s List” : Another movie from Spielberg, a man whose tear-inducing skills are rivaled only by Simon Cowell. I saw “Schindler’s List” again recently and made a concerted effort not to cry, because crying at “Schindler’s List” is such a cliche. (Maybe I could have made out with somebody a la “Seinfeld.) But, alas, my stiff upper lip came crumbling down as soon as Oskar Schindler cursed his Nazi pin for not allowing him to save one more Jew. From there, it was major league sniffles as the real-life Schindler Jews visited his grave.

I cry regularly at “E.T.” How could I think I was strong enough to resist “Schindler’s List”? I bet even Phil would get misty-eyed over that one.

So, what movies make you guys cry? Be honest...

Check out Neil Young's new album

Neil Young has recorded an anti-war/Bush album called "Living with War" that he will start streaming on his Web site Friday and be released online May 2. Get more information here.

With song titles like "Let's Impeach the President" and "Shock and Awe," the record probably won't go over big with 50 percent of the country. But how many Republicans dig on "Rockin' in the Free World" anyway? This likely is a preach-to-the-choir situation.

I think it's cool that a rocker is taking a stand during a very tumultuous time. It's just sort of disappointing that a 60something rocker is the one doing it. Where are the peeps ONE-THIRD his age? Shouldn't we be the ones with backbone? I can't help feeling that this underlines, once again, the lameness of my generation. But hey, at least our 60s icons aren't dead yet. Maybe we can learn something before they are.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Summer concert etiquette guide

Summer concerts are a lot of fun, but they also are havens for dumb behavior. The nicest, most upstanding people can be turned into blithering idiots and inconsiderate blowhards after only a few minutes of rockin’.

Somebody has to stop the “Free Bird!”-yelling, beer-spilling and hippie-dancing fools from wrecking shows for the rest of us. So here is a handy guide for proper concert etiquette. Study up, because we’ll know who didn’t and wish you weren’t standing next to us.

Alcohol: It begins and ends here. If there were no alcohol at concerts, there wouldn't be any nincompoopery from concert-goers. There probably wouldn't be any concert-goers period.

The big no-no with beer is spilling it on the guy or gal in front of you. This happens way too much. Usually the beer holder is using the same hand for beer and fist pumping, which results in spillage during the really good songs. That’s no problem if you are the beer holder, but having Miller Lite all over your back is a real buzzkill when you are trying to groove out to “Don't Come Around Here No More.”
In short, don't drink if you can't handle it. Getting totally wasted and acting like a nimrod isn't cool and makes you look like an amateur.

Song requests: Let's say you are going to see Toby Keith in June at Country USA. Let’s also say your favorite song is “Whiskey Girl.” Before you start screaming, “Play the one about whiskey and girls!” every five minutes, keep in mind that “Whiskey Girl” was a hit and most likely will be played. You just have to be patient. And don't get freaked out if Keith stops the show to say a few words between songs. Not many performers do this kind of thing so it's kind of a treat. Don't ruin it by screaming or whistling over them.

Dancing: You have to get down if you go to a show. It's part of the ritual. But never forget about the most sacred possession of any concertgoer: personal space. You don’t have much at an outdoor festival, which only makes it more precious. Try to keep any grinding, line dancing or waltzing in your own area, please. And never dance with a beer in your hand. (See alcohol section.)

Standing: Most concerts require standing for several hours. Some people get to the venue early to get a good spot on the floor, only to have some latecomer cut in front of them at the last second. While frustrating for the early bird, this isn’t a breach of etiquette. A crowd constantly shifts during a show, and there’s a good chance you will end up in front of Joe Budder soon enough.

What is unacceptable, however, is standing on a chair or bleacher seat when you know darn well this blocks the person behind you. Also, don’t put your girlfriend on your shoulders so she can see better. Look, we all know you love each other. Now put her down so we can see the Allman Brothers play “Midnight Rider.”

What do you guys think? Am I missing anything? This is gonna be in print next week as part of our summer concert preview, and I'm looking to make it definitive.

Speaking of "The Super Bowl Shuffle" ...

Here is a little piece of extreme cuteness featuring 7-year-old me and my 7-year-old friends (many of whom remain 28-year-old friends) rehearsing our legendary rendition of "The Super Bowl Shuffle" for the school talent show.

You know that's me rocking the saxophone.

I played back-up QB Steve Fuller. (Who else?) And I "rapped" (OK, lip-synched) the following lines: "My name is Steve and it's no wonder/I run like lightning, pass like thunder/So bring on Atlanta, bring on Dallas/This is for Mike and Papa Bear Halas/I'm not here to feathers ruffle/I just came here to do the Super Bowl Shuffle."

Feathers ruffle? That's using poetic license to drive directly into an 18-wheeler.

An answer to the musical question, "Can you touch a flame when it's red hot?"

Under30blog.com is a leach sucking precious blood from Deadspin.com, a regular stop on my Web surfing super highway.

The latest thing I'm stealing from them is this hilarious clip of a promotional video for the 1987-88 Calgary Flames, a team I believe won the Stanley Cup. Back in the 1980s, every successful team made a video a la "The Super Bowl Shuffle" to prove that they could embarrass themselves as well as the 1985 Chicago Bears. I think the Flames actually top the Bears in the stupid department.

(I originally saw this video from these guys. They are funny. Check them out.)

Suck/lame: Brett Favre

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 Green Bay Packer ever, Brett Favre.

So, Favre decided to come back to the Pack. This is good news. After all, Favre only is the greatest player we ever had. He has won MVP awards, the Super Bowl and the hearts of football fans throughout the country. Early in his career he played with reckless abandon. As an elder statesman he stands for everything that’s right about the NFL. Seriously, you can’t get more loved than this guy. And we stand a much better chance of winning more than four games in ’06 with him at the helm. Of course, he was pulling the trigger for us last year, too, and how well did that turn out? Fact is, now that Favre FINALLY made up his mind to come back, the Packers have to put off the inevitable rebuilding process another year in order to make an unlikely championship run. Plus, we have to sit through another season of football announcers blathering on about No. 4 like a bunch of 14-year-old girls hung up on Justin Timberlake. Ugh.

So, is Brett Favre a football god gracing the Packers with another season, or an aging jock who doesn’t know when to let go? In other words, does he suck? Please vote by NOON FRIDAY.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Beans: No longer the magical fruit?

Two strains of bacteria are the key to making beans flatulence-free, Venezuelan researchers reported on Tuesday.

They identified two bacteria, Lactobacillus casei and Lactobacillus plantarum, which can be added to beans so they cause minimal distress to those who eat them, and to those around the bean-lovers, Marisela Granito of Simon Bolivar University in Caracas, Venezuela and colleagues reported.

Flatulence is gas released by bacteria that live in the large intestine when they break down food. Fermenting makes food more digestible earlier on.

Writing in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, Granito and colleagues found that adding these two gut bacteria to beans before cooking them made them even less likely to cause flatulence.

OK, science has officially gone too far. Can you imagine what this will do for the potty humor industry. Jobs (and laughs) are at stake!

Give me your stupid baby names

For this week's Under 30, I am pondering a TomKat/Suri-related column about stupid baby names. Regular people are just as bad at naming their kids as famous people. We make fun of celebrities for naming their kids Apple and Moon Unit, but then we turnaround and name our kids Brittany, Dylan and Skylar.

It's hard, I know, because there really are only 10 good names out there. I'm talking about classics like John, Robert, Charles, etc. The thing about a name like John is that it sounds both presidential and rockerish (especially when you make it Johnny). Brittany, however, is a name for a hairdresser or a Gap store employee. The options, obviously, aren't the same.

Any names you guys hate? I think a first name with a "Y" in it almost always sucks. If the "Y" is in the first syllable, there's no question. (I'll grant an exception for Ryan.) An R in conjunction with a Y also all-but guarantees suckiness. (Harry, Larry, Gary, Mary, etc.)

What do you guys think?

Monday, April 24, 2006

Updated blog

I updated my Under 30 archive and "What I'm Digging Now" lists, so check 'em out if you like stuff.

The Man can't stop you from reading this blog

A judge in New York has ruled that you can't be fired for surfing the Web.

Administrative Law Judge John Spooner reached his decision in the case of Toquir Choudhri, a 14-year veteran of the Department of Education who had been accused of ignoring supervisors who told him to stop browsing the Internet at work.

The ruling came after Mayor Michael Bloomberg fired a worker in the city's legislative office in Albany earlier this year after he saw the man playing a game of solitaire on his computer.

In his decision, Spooner wrote: "It should be observed that the Internet has become the modern equivalent of a telephone or a daily newspaper, providing a combination of communication and information that most employees use as frequently in their personal lives as for their work."

A small step for that dude, a giant leap for screw-offs everywhere.

A killer playlist for driving at dusk

One of my favorite things to do in the whole world is drive at dusk in spring and summer. I got to do it Friday when I drove to Minneapolis, and it was a fat slab of sunny gorgeousity. Before I left, I made a long iPod playlist to score my trip, and it ended up being the perfect soundtrack to the perfect trip. In fact, I'm certain that this list of 41 songs is the perfect accompaniment for the drive from Appleton to Minneapolis (or at least two and a half hours of it.)

I know securing this list for yourself is predicated on having a music collection very similar to my own. But if we ever end up hanging out, I promise to burn you a couple of discs.

1. Love, "A House Is Not a Hotel"
2. Superdrag, "Ambulance Driver"
3. Randy Newman, "Mama Told Me Not To Come"
4. Lucinda Williams, "Drunken Angel"
5. Blind Faith, "Can't Find My Way Home
6. Josh Rouse, "Love Vibration"
7. Wilderness, "The Blood is on the Wall"
8. Ride, "Drive Blind"
9. Counting Crows, "Another Horsedreamer's Blues"
10. Wilco, "Handshake Drugs"
11. Wilco, "Shouldn't Be Ashamed
12. Felt, "Something Sends Me to Sleep"
13. Harry Nilsson, "Everybody's Talkin'"
14. Cheap Trick, "Downed"
15. Fountains of Wayne, "The Senator's Daughter"
16. Clinic, "The Equaliser"
17. The Velvet Underground, "New Age"
18. Robert Pollard, "50-Year-Old Baby"
19. The Strokes, "Automatic Stop"
20. Queens of the Stone Age, "Auto Pilot"
21. Elliott Smith, "Independence Day"
22. The 22/20s, "The Things That Lovers Do"
23. Cat Power, "Willie"
24. The Slits, "FM"
25. Pavement, "Passat Dream"
26. Black Sabbath, "Tomorrow's Dream"
27. The Decemberists, "The Legionnaire's Lament"
28. Neil Diamond, "Two-Bit Manchild"
29. Ween, "You Were the Fool"
30. Chuck Berry, "I Want to be Your Driver"
31. Terry Reid, "Superlungs My Supergirl"
32. Flamin' Groovies, "Shake Some Action"
33. Ryan Adams, "Gonna Make You Love Me"
34. Soundgarden, "Black Hole Sun"
35. The Police, "Man in a Suitcase"
36. Led Zeppelin, "Friends"
37. The American Flag, "Candy"
38. The Figgs, "Waiting for the Sun to Rise"
39. Dinosaur Jr., "The Lung"
40. Versus, "Lose that Dress"
41. The Championship, "A Change"