Under 30

I can't complain but sometimes I still do

Friday, May 19, 2006

If you think you have a drinking problem, read this. It will make you feel better

Some guy in Utah apparently drank 24 cans of beer a day for eight years. And he never threw the cans away. So when a realtor finally barged his way in, well, it looked like the floor of the recording studio where Def Leppard made "Pyromania."

To all outward appearances, the person who lived in the townhouse was the perfect tenant. He always paid on time and he never complained. He kept a low profile in the neighborhood.

Kirk Martin, Letter Carrier: : "Yeah I never delivered any mail there at all. I thought the apartment was vacant."

The cans were recycled for 800 dollars, an estimated 70,000 cans: 24 beers a day for 8 years.

The man who lived there seems to be back on his feet. We spoke to him today and he says he's completely stopped drinking. He was welcomed back to his old job a few months ago, and his co-workers speak highly of him.

All's well that ends well, I guess. My question is this: 70,000 cans are only worth 800 bucks?! This recycling thing is a rip-off!

Shameless self-promotion

Today's Under 30 column is on "The Da Vinci Code."

A sample:

At issue is author Brown's central plot device, which is a church conspiracy to cover up the "true" romantic relationship between Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene. Apparently, there's concern people might mistake this for fact.

I know the Catholic Church and its followers are known for reacting to movies, books and other cultural matters with calm and reason (cough, cough), but perhaps we are overreacting just a tad here.

"The Da Vinci Code" is not a documentary. We know this because (1) it stars Tom Hanks, an actor who plays fictional characters in movies about war, female baseball teams and romantic misunderstandings involving Meg Ryan; and (2) it is playing in the Fox Valley, and documentaries don't play here unless they feature Michael Moore or lovable penguins.

Yes, it's true some people have accepted "The Da Vinci Code" as gospel. A British survey found 60 percent of "Da Vinci Code" readers believe Jesus had children with Mary, while only 30 percent of non-readers believe it.

We have a word for a person who believes pulp novels and summer blockbusters are real: nitwit.

Also, check out the cover story for Fox Cities Weekend on the things we're least excited about this summer.

John Gibson clarifies racist remarks, but not really

John Gibson, underrated Fox News yahoo and Under 30 favorite, responded to charges that his call for white people to make more babies was racist. Shockingly, he said he was misinterpreted.

A FOX-hating and Gibson-hating blog reported Gibson said brown people are bad and whites should have babies to keep browns down.

While this is not true — not what I said, not what I meant, not what I think — this lie has even appeared in TIME magazine. "The Colbert Report" actually aired a cleverly edited My Word to have me saying something they evidently wanted me saying. Something shockingly racist.

Sorry, but I don't think Gibson is referring to Under 30 blog. But you can read the original post. Seems pretty clear to me the guy is batcrap insane. Which is why we love him, of course.

Gibson also says this in his "clarification":

I did say Hispanics have a higher birthrate than others in this country. But what I also said was that the others shouldn't make the Hispanics carry the whole load of population replenishment. It's hard work having kids.

Actually, John, you didn't say that. You cited two studies that said immigrant populations were growing faster than native populations in Europe and the United States, and then said "we" need to make more babies or else the majority population will be non-white.

But, hey, we don't mind that you think that! Don't go changing to try to please us! We like you crazy just the way you are!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Don't forget to vote suck/lame

Only a few hours until the final call for suck/lame and, man, it's not looking good for Tom Cruise!

I'm sorry, but here's another "American Idol" post (I know, I'm embarrassing myself)

It has all come down to this.

Katharine McPhee and Taylor Hicks. The fox and the hound dog. Leather and lace. Mano a womano on “American Idol.”

I avoided writing about “American Idol” in this space as much as possible this season because, honestly, I probably could have written something “Idol” related every week. And my love of this show already is embarrassing enough without advertising it over and over again. What can I say? I stand proudly among the little girls and old ladies that have made the show an institution.

Even detractors have to give credit where credit is due: “American Idol” perfected its insanely successful formula this season, the series’ fifth. They got rid of the celebrity judges, the useless flashback episodes, the silly group performances numbers stolen from “Up With People,” and brought likable variety show cheese, ruthless show biz machinations and (most importantly) the cruel genius of Simon Cowell to the forefront.

Call it dumb, shallow or a strike against good music, but “American Idol” is riveting television. If it hooked you in early, there was no way you were going to bail before Wednesday’s finale.

This is easily the most compelling, unpredictable and hardest fought “Idol” to date. Who would have predicted virtual lock Chris Daughtry getting the boot? (The look on his face will go down as one of the year’s classic TV moments.) And what’s with Paula Abdul’s crazy crying jags? Don’t get me started on Ryan Seacrest, one of the biggest dorks on the planet, who tortures the cool-kid contestants by lording the results of their heads before spitting them out with Tourette’s-like tact.

Now it’s down to McPhee and Hicks in the most anticipated face-off since Moses and the Red Sea. (Perhaps I’m exaggerating.) The former always was destined for the final round. McPhee’s voice is impressive in a non-distinct, pleasingly bland way, which makes her a lock for the pop charts. I’m also a little in love with her. She had me at “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree.”

The latter is another matter. I liked Hicks right away because he seemed so odd. The prematurely gray mane, the goofy self-hugging move he always did when the cameras were on, his terrible, terrible dancing (Cowell compared him to a drunken father at a wedding more than once), there was no way this guy was going the distance.
I’m still shocked he made this far. The man deserves a karoake trophy, not a shot at the “American Idol” crown. Seriously, did you see his rendition of “Try a Little Tenderness”? Pump me full of half-price pitchers of Miller Lite during happy hour and maybe I’ll think that was good. Otherwise, Hicks killed Otis Redding a second time.

Nevertheless, there’s no doubt Hicks will beat McPhee Wednesday night. His “Soul Patrol” posse follows him like Koresh with the Branch Davidians. And Randy, Paula and Simon have tipped the scales by being (unfairly) tough on the more emotionally distant Kat the last several weeks.

I have no idea what kind of record Hicks will make. But if he’s looking for career advice, here’s my tip: Grow a salt and pepper beard and do a cover of “What a Fool Believes.” Like “American Idol,” it’s an idea so corny and obvious it just might work.

Special guest columnist of metal Serpico: "If You Can Only Buy One King Diamond Album..."

My good friend Serpico is a metal god. He owns hundreds of vintage metal CDs, he can drop knowledge on the most obscure metal bands known to man, he even drives around in a car with "MTLHEAD" plates. He makes Rikki Rachtman look like Kenny G.

I have long thought it a crime that Serp's incredible metal knowledge wasn't being shared with the world. So I've invited him to write an occasional column for my blog. Read on if you dare. But don't stand too close to the computer screen, ladies. His writing is so potent, it could get you pregnant.

Now, I realize most people don't own one King Diamond album - or even know who King Diamond is. C'mon people!! Ya swing with The King, Ya roar for more!! Well, use this to get caught up on you King Diamond 101 history.

Okay, now that you know a little about him (or if you skipped try to keep up): Kim Bendis Peterson (aka King Diamond) was born in Denmark on June 14, 1956. He first joined the band Brainstorm, and then went on to Black Rose where he began to wear makeup and try horror stage theatrics (thanks to Alice Cooper). Then he joined the punk band Brats. In 1980 he and others formed the occult-themed black metal group Mercyful Fate. Although he claimed to be a Satanist, it's all probably a bunch of hooey because there are a lot of interviews and evidence that it's all shtick. Plus, he's was quoted as saying, "It's all for show," in an interview. So don't pay too much attention to the face painting and inverted crosses.

In 1984, he left Mercyful Fate to form King Diamond.

When KD formed his own band, he left behind the satanic/occult lyrics and focused on horror in his music (still kept the face painting and inverted crosses). With the exception of his first album Fatal Portrait, all of his albums are all mini horror story concept pieces - even Fatal Portrait to an extent.

Now...if you've never heard King Diamond sing, it can be a bit - weird. He can be high as a falsetto or deep as a growling demon, all used throughout his songs. It's fun to imitate him at parties - at least I have some memories of having fun doing it, but then again, I'm a weirdo.

So, if you only buy ONE King Diamond album make it...Abigail. Released n June of 1987, Abigail is a horror concept piece that to this day I think is one of the best metal albums to ever be put out - it's a masterpiece - kinda like Dawn of the Dead is a horror fan's masterpiece. Musically, vocally, and conceptwise it creeps you out from the first track (The Funeral) and doesn't stop until the final one (Black Horsemen). The guitar work of Andy LaRocque and Michael Denner is amazing. From haunting acoustical that could rival the great Yngwie Malmsteen (intro to Black Horsemen) to fret-shredding mayhem (The 17th Day of July 1777) to intricate playing (The Family Ghost) to an all out jam (Abigail) it's all here. The drumming of one Mickey Dee - now with Motorhead - keeps a heartbeat's pace that's fast (A Mansion in Darkness), slow (Omens) or just plain alive (The Family Ghost). And King's vocals? Well, let's just say that they are the thing that adds the extra ingredient of creepiness that completes the whole terrible tale of metal and mayhem.

Listen. This is a genuine scary story with no hero at the end saving the frickin' day, finding the treasure or boofin' the prom queen. Hollywood would do itself some good and enlist King as a screenwriter for the horror genre. Believe me, I'm a horror nut and aside from a few decent horror flicks out there Hollywood is putting out gargle water and telling the public it's Dom Perignon. Pick any track you like, if you don't get goosebumps, you're not alive...listen with better ears.

So until you see Abigail: The Musical at the PAC in '07....

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Is this man keeping you from voting?

Two researchers from East Carolina University have concluded that "The Daily Show" keeps young people from voting.

We find that participants exposed to jokes about George W. Bush and John Kerry on The Daily Show tended to rate both candidates more negatively, even when controlling for partisanship and other demographic variables. Moreover, we find that viewers exhibit more cynicism toward the electoral system and the news media at large. Despite these negative reactions, viewers of The Daily Show reported increased confidence in their ability to understand the complicated world of politics. Our findings are significant in the burgeoning field of research on the effects of "soft news" on the American public. Although research indicates that soft news contributes to democratic citizenship in America by reaching out to the inattentive public, our findings indicate that The Daily Show may have more detrimental effects, driving down support for political institutions and leaders among those already inclined toward nonparticipation.

First off, who knew there was an East Carolina? (Hey, Paul, why didn't you tell me about this?) Secondly, regular readers know I'm a Jon Stewart fan boy, so my knee-jerk reaction to this is to say, "Screw you, East Carolina!" But this study raises an interesting point: Does satire make people apathetic? As a lover of satire, my heart says no. But my head isn't so sure. The core audience for "The Daily Show" likely wouldn't get any political information without the show, so I'm inclined to think they're better off with Jon Stewart than, say, "Mad TV." (The single unfunniest show to ever last more than 10 years.)

But there is an undeniable self-congratulatory undercurrent running through "The Daily Show" that compliments people for thinking the system sucks, politicians are liars and the whole "serious news" thing is ridiculous. And that's not exactly a message that encourages people to get involved. Rather, it says, "You're OK sitting on your couch and being cynical about everything without really knowing anything." I'm not comfortable with that conclusion, and I'm even more uncomfortable with the idea that I'm susceptible to such reassurances, but my gut says it's true.

It just goes to show that in this media culture, man can't live on one source of information alone.

Suck/lame: Tom Cruise

We continue our mission of clearly defining those people, things, ideas, thoughts, actions and other nouns and verbs of questionable suckitude with the zaniest movie star Scientologist in the world, Tom Cruise.

In a town full of stars, Cruise reigns supreme in Hollywood. The man has been a top box office draw since “Top Gun” in 1986. To put his amazing career consistency in perspective, consider that Richard Marx was one of the biggest stars on the pop charts back then. But while most movie stars inevitably fade over time, Cruise just keeps on going strong. His latest flick, “Mission: Impossible III,” already has made a gazillion dollars at the box office. That’s impressive, except Hollywood insiders thought it would make a gazillion zillion dollars by now. There are whispers that the American people are, well, creeped out by Cruise because he’s, well, so creepy. He married the cute “Dawson’s Creek” chick and turned her into a Stepford wife. Then he picked a fight with Brooke Shields. Then he threatened to eat his daughter’s placenta. What’s next, a sequel to “Cocktail”?

So, is Cruise an unbeatable movie star, or a trainwreck headed off the rails? In other words, does he suck? Vote by noon Friday.

P.S. David Blaine was voted Suck. Yeah, I didn't care, either.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Check out Van Hunt

Do you like Prince? You probably like 80s Prince, but today's Prince leaves most people cold. You should check out Van Hunt, whose latest album "On the Jungle Floor" is a better Prince album than the Purple One himself has made since his Reagan era heyday.

Like Prince, Van Hunt can croon sexy slow jams, kick up funky grooves, shred on the guitar and pen sharp pop hooks. "On the Jungle Floor" is Van Hunt's second album, and considering how good it is, I'm shocked at how little press it has gotten. Van Hunt is a neo-soul artist in an Anthony Hamilton/John Legend mold, but his songs still sound modern enough to do well on the radio. I've been playing it a lot the past two days and tracks like "Suspicion," "Being a Girl" and the new wavey "At the End of a Slow Dance" already are burrowed deep in my head. At the same time, Van Hunt is an ambitious, refreshingly irreverent artist whose tastes veer outside the R&B mainstream. I mean, he does a Stooges cover ("No Sense of Crime") for crissakes!

For more info, check out this story from the Chicago Sun-Times.

So sayeth Jim DeRogatis:

The second album by Atlanta guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Van Hunt has been described as "a better Prince album than the last Prince album" (which was pretty good), while other critics cite Lenny Kravitz with more taste and less cheese. To these ears, it's one of the most inventive R&B albums since D'Angelo's "Voodoo" in 2000.

However you view "On the Jungle Floor," it's an extraordinary effort, and a welcome surprise after the artist's 2004 debut, which received plenty of attention at Grammy time, but was oddly marketed like a funky singer-songwriter disc.


This Onion-style story was written by Oshkosh Northwestern reporter Alex Hummel. While not technically factual, it may be the finest journalism he has yet produced. I thought it was funny, so I'm posting it here.

Star Danson agrees; Can't remember ever making sitcom for CBS

Chapel Hill, N.C. -- A new study by a University of North Carolina researcher raises serious questions about how and why the CBS television sitcom "Becker" ever wound up in syndication.

"This is no Cheers, no Friends, no Seinfeld," concludes "'Becker': What the Hell is Going on Here," a report by Mass Communications Professor Martin Greenblaum. "The research conducted to form this report found no scientific reason for 'Becker's' creation, let alone a sound rationale for its release to the syndicated TV world. Someone, somewhere, needs to be fired. Immediately.'"

The turn-of-the-21st Century program, which originated on CBS, centers on a surly, smoking doctor played by Ted Danson -- best known for his role as playboy bartender Sam Malone in NBC's successful "Cheers" series.

Becker, a physician, interacts with a band of dysfunctional urbanites who frequent a dirty coffee shop and try to help guide the grumpy doctor's reluctant embrace of the day-to-day triumphs and tribulations of human existence. It's supposed to be funny but is not.

Ratings show the show's primetime network run had marginal success, at best.

"Which is why we are absolutely, fish-slap dumbfounded as to how some executive driving a Porsche 911 and living in the Hollywood hills ever found reason to launch the series into syndication," Greenblaum said. "I mean, c'mon. Becker? ... BECKER?"

"Becker" producer Jill McFlarney said Greenblaum's study was "not entirely" off-base "but enough to sound a tad mean-spirited... if you are one of the few people who actually watched the show and, for some reason, found its boring storylines and forgettable characters kind of endearing or something."

Danson told the Associated Press that he agrees with the study's findings and "could not recall" making the show.

"Seriously, 'Becker,' you say?" Danson told a reporter. "No. Can't say I remember it. Was Steve Guttenberg involved? No... wait... that's the one with the ... wait... Did I mention I had a bit part in 'Saving Private Ryan?'"

Greenblaum's study will be published in "The Journal of Mediocre Background Entertainment (JOMBE)" next month.

He's currently investigating the disturbing trend of Howie Mandel.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Hate mail!

My Under 30 column on the national anthem didn't generate as much hate mail as a lot of people thought. (One person suggested half-jokingly that I might be shot. Nope, still here!) I always put faith in the senses of humor of P-C readers, and they rewarded me again. Thanks!

For the record, I am very patriotic. That's no joke. I love America. And I think it's the best place country in the world. For all of our faults (and there are many), Americans are generally generous, open-hearted people. There's a reason why the world turns to us (as opposed to, say, Europe) when something bad needs taken care of. (Nazis, terrorists, killer asteroids, etc.) The problem with patriotism is the biggest pro-America people promote the wrong things. Instead of talking up the Bill of Rights and all the brilliant art and culture we have spawned, it's all flags and ribbons and nationalism. Ugh.

Anyway, I got off track. Who wants to read some unintentionally hilarious hate mail?

Hate mail no. 1:

Steven Hyden is not a good representation of a 20 something's life. His article on the Star Spangled bannor is appauling. I am in my mid 20's and personally get chills when I hear the anthem sung prior to sporting events. Steve would like to change it to some rock songs. Steve you weren't even born when some of these songs were written let alone played, other than classic rock channels. Your a disgrace to the country, how can you say it shouldn't be in English, in case you missed it, you make your living on the English language. In closing your reference to Americans getting the "hottest chics" explains to me what type of person you are.

Hate mail no. 2:

How dare you impune the words of Francis Scott Key. If you really want to re write our Anthem, then talk to Francis and see if objects. At this point in time that is impossible, and I know that. However, our National Anthem was adopted by the People's voice, all be it through the vote of congress. Too bad you were not with the author of our Anthem at the time it was penned. Too bad you were not a prisoner of war with the slight hope of remaining alive at the sight of your colors. Mr. Hyden you need to be ashamed of yourself. Our National Anthem was and is not meant to inspire the air guitar. It was written from the heart of a man facing execution. If the flag was still waving at the gleaming of the dawn then he lived, and if the enemy had overtaken our position then he would die. The National Anthem was written to inspire reverence and holiness. To evoke a sincere feeling of awe and respect not only for this nation but for the colors represented by it. I suggest you tell the men who fought upon Mt. Siribachi the the National Anthem is a bad song. Or the men who walked out of the Ashaw Valley on foot that the National Anthem is a bad song. You tell the men who died at Laitu that the National Anthem is a bad song. Please tell the men on the 38th parallel that the National Anthem is a bad song. When you have their permission to change the words of the National Anthem, then, and only then will I support your cause.