Under 30

I can't complain but sometimes I still do

Friday, May 26, 2006

Shameless self-promotion

I'm throwing a rummage sale for this week's Under 30 column.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

A low point in TV investigative journalism

You know how big city TV stations do really sleazy "investigative" pieces were they blow up a minor problem with tabloid tactics? If you don't, check out this piece that aired on a Cleveland TV station. (And, yeah, I stole it from Deadspin, now officially my biggest Internet crush.)

The story is about, of all things, how letting your kids go to the library is dangerous. You thought it was good to send your kids to the library? Well, you're just a sap. You should be afraid because a mustachioed man in an Ohio State sweatshirt might come along and, um, pleasure himself near your child.

Do you condone that sort of thing? Well, if you send your kid to the library, I guess you do.

You know, it's not normally my style to defend public masturbaters. But this piece totally makes me feel sorry for this guy. The reporter is a major a-hole.

Check out The Championship

In today's Weekend, I wrote about an awesome band out of Milwaukee called The Championship, whose debut album "Dance Casador!" is one of my favorite albums of 2006. (It actually came out in late 2005, but I'm sure they won't mind the pub.) If you live in the Fox Valley, check them out Friday at Cranky Pat's in Neenah. Great, great band.

Joe Crockett of Milwaukee band the Championship has a unique game plan for winning the rock ’n’ roll game.

Instead of gigging for several months and then making an album, the Championship recorded its debut CD “Dance Casador!” shortly after forming last May. Once the disc was released in October, the Championship used “Dance Casador!” to land shows and get its name out to indie rock fans throughout the region and beyond.

As introductions go, “Dance Casador!” is about as good as a young band could hope for. With Crockett’s rich baritone and haunting folk-pop melodies providing a sturdy foundation, the Championship marries salt-of-the-earth rootsiness with blurry atmospherics to create a compulsively listenable record that manages to sound old and new at the same time. If a Wisconsin band made a better record in the past year, we haven’t heard it.

But has “Dance Casador!” given the Championship the attention it deserves?

“A lot of people seem to dig it even though it was self-released and we recorded it ourselves,” said Crockett, 24, his voice sounding as deep and contemplative on the phone as it does on the record. “For being a low-budget production, it’s gotten a good response.”

Read more here.

P.S. Here's my Weekend cover story on summer road trips.

A fun story about beating children!

"Rejecting permissive parenting as amoral, some Christians are 'training up' their children by carefully hitting them with switches, belts, PVC pipes and branches," reports Salon.com in a disturbing story about happy-go-lucky child beaters.

As a young, new, Christian parent, Meggan Judge, 26, of Anchorage, Alaska, was looking for guidance in raising "Godly children." She found advice that clicked for her when a friend loaned her a popular -- and controversial -- Christian parenting book called "To Train Up a Child," written in 1994 by Tennessee pastor Michael Pearl with his wife, Debi, who claim to have raised five "whineless" children. At the book's core is the notion that when parents "train" a child to obey early on, even before he or she is able to make conscious, or conscience-based, decisions, home will be a place of peace and harmony. Here, the term "train" is a reference to Proverbs 22:6: "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it."

Neither Pearl has advanced training in child development or a related field. "These truths," the tall, white-beaded Michael Pearl, 60, writes in his book, "are not new, deep insights from the professional world of research, [but] rather, the same principles the Amish use to train their stubborn mules, the same technique God uses to train his children."

As you may have guessed, the Amish do not train their mules by giving them "timeouts." Judge and her husband followed the Pearls' advice when trying to train their infant son Noah not to grab forbidden objects: "Switch their hand once and simultaneously say, 'No.' Remember, you are not disciplining, you are training. One spat with a little switch is enough," reads the book. "They will again pull back their hand and consider the relationship between the object, their desire, the command and the little reinforcing pain. It may take several times, but if you are consistent, they will learn to consistently obey, even in your absence."

Seriously, I thought we were past the point of defending child beating. It's kinda fun to see people standing up for it. By fun, I mean really, really creepy.

What's on your iPod, Senator?

Here's an interesting story about how politicians like Hilary Clinton pretend to be like regular people by sharing what's on their iPods. Hilary's list, in particular, seems calculated to appeal to as many voters as possible.

Hillary Clinton is the least spontaneous of politicians, and this playlist suggests premeditation, if not actual poll-testing. She first indicates that she basically likes everything before coming to roost on classic rock and soul, which any baby boomer must identify with, lest she or he be branded terminally uncool. Hillary avoids, however, anything too racy, druggie, or aggressive, while naming tunes that are empowering and inspirational. On the world-is-divided-into-two-kinds-of-people question "the Beatles or the Stones," she, like her husband, finds a middle path: both. She names no Stones songs and chooses a consensus, universally liked, neither-early-nor-late Beatles tune, "Hey Jude." Hillary also manages a shout-out to racial diversity and feminism via Aretha Franklin, and she strikes a younger, socially conscious chord with U2. "Take It to the Limit," on the other hand, is such a lame, black-hole-of-the-1970s choice that it can't be taken for anything other than an expression of actual taste.

I'm not sure how Hilary feels about the war or immigration. But a pro-Eagles policy will make it hard for me to vote for her.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Happy birthday, Bob

It's a damn shame it took me so long to do this, but I would like to wish Bob Dylan a happy 65th birthday.

Dylan is easily my favorite musician ever. Actually, he's my favorite artist in any medium. OK, probably my favorite person, too. I look up to the dude beyond all reason or logic. Nobody can touch me as deeply with his words, voice, thoughts and music. He played my second favorite concert ever, four years ago, in Berkeley, Calif., and he made Election Night 2004 a little easier with an emotionally moving show in Oshkosh, Wis. I have recurring dreams where we hang out and talk about nothing in particular. He always seems nice.

Get a couple of beers in me and I'll be even more pukey than this.

I know a lot of people hate Bob Dylan. Those of us who love him hated him at first, too, and occasionally hate him, still. That, parodoxically, is why he's worth loving. No rock 'n' roll artist has been so willing to tick people off with music they aren't ready to get (and perhaps never will) than Dylan.

Here's a good tribute by Bill Wyman of Salon.com written with Dylan turned 60.

Suck/lame: Suck/lame

We continue our mission of clearly defining those people, things, ideas, thoughts, actions and other nouns and verbs of questionable suckitude with a survey that has kept you mildly entertained for months, "Suck/lame."

Sure, it’s a little self-referential putting "Suck/lame" on the “Suck/lame" chopping block. It might even be a little dangerous. I wonder whether this will cause the time-space continuum to collapse on itself. But I am willing to take that risk because, well, it’s an important question. We had fun for a while, didn’t we? We debated the merits of Bono, Kanye West and “Napoleon Dynamite” with a passionate eloquence not seen since the days of Lincoln/Douglas. But like my good friend B.B. King once sang, the thrill is gone. People aren’t voting much anymore. And I don’t feel the same enthusiasm, either. Sometimes I think it’s not worth carrying on. This could be due to the non-stop rainy weather lately, or perhaps there’s a deeper melancholy. Maybe I could think of better ideas if we tried harder. Or maybe “Suck/lame” has run its course.

So, is “Suck/lame" a worthy institution mired in a temporary slump, or a tired tradition in need of the Old Yeller treatment? In other words, does it suck?

P.S. Tom Cruise was voted soooooooooooo sucky. It was a embarrassingly not close.

The "Back to the Future" standard for youth

My Under 30 column this week is going to be a little wacky. Instead of writing on one subject, I'm doing a rummage sale of ideas that didn't quite work but are kinda cool anyway. (Get it? Rummage sale? Memorial Day? I kill me.) Some will call this column a brilliant deconstruction of the usual formula. Others will say it's a lazy collection of half-baked ideas. Me, I call it a brilliantly half-baked deconstruction.

One idea that will make it in there (I think) is my "Back to the Future" standard for youth. Basically, if you were born before "Back to the Future" came out (the summer of 1985), I consider you a member of my generation or older. If you were born after "Back to the Future" came out, you are a kid and always will be a kid to me.

I don't know why "Back to the Future" is my personal Mendoza line. It just makes sense. Seriously, born into a world that has always known Marty McFly, Doc Brown and Biff? So alien.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Madonna still trying too hard

Madonna used to terrify me. A kid I went to school with claimed to have naked pictures of her, and he said he could show me anytime I wanted to see them. The prospect made me shaky with fearful anticipation.

Of course, that was 22 years ago. And here Madonna is, still trying to shock and titillate the public. At what point does it become officially humiliating? Is this picture from her new tour it?

Yep, I think so.

Predictably, church groups are faithfully following Madonna's script by being offended by this crucifixion silliness.

Religious groups have reacted furiously after Madonna appeared hanging from a cross and wearing a crown of thorns during her latest world tour.

During her performance at the Los Angeles forum, Madonna appeared strapped to a 20 foot high crucifix, prompting outrage from Christian leaders.

A Church of England spokesman said: "Is Madonna prepared to take on everything else that goes with wearing a crown of thorns?

"And why would someone with so much talent seem to feel the need to promote herself by offending so many people?"

David Muir of the Evangelical Alliance told the Evening Standard: "It is downright offensive. Madonna's use of Christian imagery is an abuse and it is dangerous.

Dude, putting yourself on the cross is so three months ago. Remember Kanye? He's the real pop star a-hole savior.

OK, I lied about that being my last "American Idol" post (Sorry, Joe)

Tonight is the first half of the big "American Idol" finale, so of course I'm gonna acknowledge it even if it means breaking an old promise. I'm not going to watch it live, because the weather is finally nice and I'm looking to rock buck night at the Timber Rattlers. But I will rush home to catch the DVR version.

Like I said, I think Taylor is taking it in a walk. Personally, I don't care who wins. Katharine is uber-foxy, but as a singer I'm lukewarm about her. Taylor, well, I think he sorta blows, but it might be awesome to have a bad white boy blues/soul singer on the pop charts again.

What inspired me to post (again) about "AI" was this story in Slate that made me feel good about my "American Idol" fandom.

In the first couple of seasons, critics (including yours truly) complained that Idol was too immersed in one style—that it was a Mariah impersonation contest, with vocalists vying to outdo each other's acrobatic gospel "runs." But as the show has evolved, the singing has gotten more stylistically diverse, and more adventurous. Today, Idol is an occasionally revelatory, often garish, but always engrossing collision of genres and traditions. This season's finals featured a couple of country singers; a twee boy-soprano whose voting block of pre-pubescent girls and their grandmothers kept him in the running for a while; and a large-lunged gospel diva who was eliminated at least a few weeks too soon. The most compelling character was The Rocker, Chris Daughtry, who, despite his knack for turning every song he touched into joy-killing post-grunge dirge, earned admiration for his fine chops (I never heard him hit a bum note), and what Cowell rightly identified as his refusal to compromise. During Barry Manilow Week, when contestants were required to tackle songs from the 1950s, Daughtry shocked everyone (and probably bummed out Manilow) with a solemn rock arrangement of Johnny Cash's "I Walk the Line," and in the weeks afterward everyone seemed to catch the spirit: Bongo players and acoustic guitarists appeared flanking singers at center stage, and even the most uptight contestants started taking little risks with arrangements.

Any thoughts on who's taking this sucker?

Monday, May 22, 2006

The best places to find music on the Web

Yo peeps, I got to the office late today and have a ton o' work, so blogging time is going to be scant today.

But I don't like to leave you completely empty-handed, so chew on this handy guide on the best places to find free music on the Web from Entertainment Weekly.

There's bound to be something here you haven't heard of yet.