Under 30

I can't complain but sometimes I still do

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Check out Girl Talk

Whenever I have visitors over at the apartment, occasionally somebody will look at the stacks and stacks of CDs and LPs and ask, “How can you listen to all this music?” I’m tempted to answer with another question: “Don’t you know this is nothing?”

The more music you hear, the more you realize how much music exists you will never get to hear. A roomful of CD players and iPods could spin songs simultaneously for a lifetime and there still could be a really cool post-punk band from New York City you have never heard of.

Greg Gillis, a Pittsburgh DJ who goes by the name Girl Talk, understands this. So he has made an album called “Night Ripper” that takes the best parts of about 150 pop songs and integrates them into a seamless 40-minute mix so well-paced it feels more like 40 seconds. Because why listen to one song when you can listen to 20 in the space of one song? And why stick with just ’90s grunge or just Dirty South hip-hop when you can mix the genres with ’80s metal, ’70s soul, Motown, adult contemporary, Britpop, arena rock and indie pop?

Everything about “Night Ripper” is seemingly impossible and definitely illegal, since there’s no way every sample was cleared ahead of time. But whoever decides to sue will have a lot of fun listening before cherry picking their music out of the mix. If “Night Ripper” doesn’t contain one or two seconds of every great song from the past three decades, you might not be listening hard enough. You can hear traces of 50 Cent, Boston, Ludacris, the Verve, Ying Yang Twins, Oasis and Arrested Development, and that’s just on the opening track.

“Night Ripper” is the latest and perhaps greatest example of the “mash-up” record where you take two songs and splice them together. Perhaps the best-known mash-up is Danger Mouse’s “Grey Album” which combined Jay-Z’s vocals from “The Black Album” and The Beatles’ music from “The White Album” to create something different, somewhat obvious and incredibly catchy.

While Girl Talk utilizes many more records in a single song, he still keeps each number around the 3-minute mark. (“Night Ripper” blows through 16 tracks in just over 41 minutes.) And he covers a lot of ground. On “Give and Go” Gillis touches on Hall and Oates, Ciara, Phil Collins, 2 Live Crew, Seals and Croft and The Emotions. “Smash Your Head” begins with Young Jeezy rapping over Nirvana’s “Scentless Apprentice” before switching to a surprisingly moving bit where Notorious B.I.G. rhymes to “Tiny Dancer.”

“Night Ripper” has dominated my iPod this week. I have listened to it at least a dozen times and I’m still noticing stuff I missed. (Is that KRS-One rapping over Aerosmith’s cover of “Come Together”? No way!) It must be the most musically dense album I have ever heard. It’s not only the ultimate party album (if you don’t like a song, don’t worry, another will come and go soon) but also the ideal desert island disc. It’s like getting a box set of hits on one album.

Will “Night Ripper” sound as good in a month? I don’t know. As fun as the album is, it does have a cotton candy flavor with a gimmicky after taste. But I can’t think of a better summer listen. And you really need to hear it before somebody catches on and shuts Girl Talk down.

(“Night Ripper” might be tough to find locally and it is not currently available on iTunes. I bought it through eMusic.com, where you get 40 downloads for $9.99. You can also download songs at Gillis’ MySpace page, www.myspace.com/girltalkmusic.)

Shameless self-promotion

Here is the complete Steve tribute Under 30 column. I posted part of it yesterday. I think the rest is almost as good.

And here is a Web TV guide I wrote for Fox Cities Weekend, which includes a handy quick hits program list and favorite finds from YouTube.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

A tribute to Steves

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Unless you slept through eighth grade English, you know William Shakespeare wrote that. I hate to disagree with Bill, but would you stick your nose in a rose if it was called, say, stinky monkey vomit? Would you want to send a dozen stinky monkey vomits to your true love?

Heck no. It’s the same flower but the name changes your perception, which in turn changes the flower.

I wonder how my life would change if my name weren’t Steve. Because I fit the definition of Steve perfectly. Not the actual definition, which originates from the Greek term Stephanos for “crown” or “wreath.” Clearly, there is nothing crown or wreath-like about me. My head is so big that I’m practically a walking caricature, so most crowns and wreaths don’t fit me.

I’m talking about the picture you get in your head when somebody mentions the name Steve. To me Steves have always been easygoing guys who don’t take life too seriously. We are below-the-radar people, good for a laugh and unlikely to pick a fight. (Exceptions include wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin, who beat people up for money, and Indiana Pacers guard Stephen Jackson, who beat up basketball fans in Detroit on behalf of friend and teammate Ron Artest. So the exceptions kind of prove the rule.)

You can find Steves practically anywhere. In Sweden they call us Staffan. In Spain it is Esteban. In Turkey we go by Istefanos. In America there are Stevens and Stephens. The “ph” Steves are slightly more fancy than plain old “v” Steves, but not obnoxiously so. No matter what Steve you know, three things are likely true: (1) You can have a beer with Steve; (2) You can ask Steve to help you move; (3) Steve probably willl never become a dictator or serial killer.

I have been thinking a lot about Steveness this week because Linda Muldoon of Appleton art gallery Conventry Glassworks asked me to participate in an exhibit next month called “The All Steve, All the Time Show.” As the name suggests the show will feature local artists named Steve, including Steve Ballard, Steve Yankowski, Steve Gilling, Steve Carroll and Steve Wirtz.

I was flattered by the invitation. I also was confused. I’m not really an artist. I tried making a pot once in art class and it looked a pile of rat droppings. My art teacher quit his job soon after and hasn’t been heard from since. But my name is Steve, and perhaps that’s the most important thing.

Read more in this week's Under 30 column coming up Friday in The P-C.

"You got the touch, you got the powwwwer!"

Pop Candy blog has a fun entry today with links to the original music video for "The Touch," Stan Bush's awesomely bad power ballad from the 1986 "Transformers" movie (currently being re-made by Michael Bay) and Mark Wahlberg's epic performance of the song from "Boogie Nights."

It's hard to tell which clip is more hilarious, though "Boogie Nights" probably gets my vote because of John C. Reilly's slick dancing.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

One Man's Opinion, Part 2

Yesterday I posted the first advice column I wrote for BULL, a free men's magazine produced by The Post-Crescent and distributed at bars, gas stations and brothels throughout the Fox Valley. (Joking about the brothels. Do we have brothels in the Fox Valley?) Anyway, here is the second advice column to spring from my keyboard. And it hasn't even been published yet. So enjoy.

ONE MAN’S OPINION: An advice column by Steven Hyden

Before I begin dispensing pearls of wisdom to confused and conflicted BULL readers, I want to get something off my chest. As a licensed practitioner of the advice column writing arts, I am disturbed by how most of my colleagues mention therapy as a solution to a range of different problems.

Here at One Man’s Opinion, I will never suggest that a reader go to therapy. That is what I like to call “passing the buck.” If I don’t know the answer to your question, I will simply make up an answer that sounds useful and profound but in fact has no use and is so simple anybody could have said it.

I feel a lot better. Let’s get to this month’s questions.

A friend of mine hacked into her boyfriend’s e-mail and he is apparently trying to find a male for a sexual encounter. She contacted the other man and found out that it has been a while since their last clandestine meeting. Should she break up with him? Or should she just over look the potential infidelity that actually did NOT take place during their dating?

Did you hear that? It was the sound of my mind being blown.

This is a question for which I have absolutely no frame of reference. So I’m just going to follow my gut: She should break up with him. Remove the salacious “finding a male for a sexual encounter” element from the equation and you still have a guy who is actively (though unsuccessfully) trying to cheat on his girlfriend. Also, the fact that she is hacking into his e-mail suggests the relationship already is more like 2006 Nick and Jessica than 2003 Nick and Jessica.

By the way, when she dumps this guy, she might as well bring up the fact that she read his e-mail. It will make him hate her, sure, but this doesn’t sound like a relationship she should want to continue anyway. That is, unless there is a “Melrose Place” inspired reality show in it for her.

Why is it so hard to convince a guy to have a no-strings relationship? Isn't that all they want?

Of the thousands of men reading this advice column, I’m guessing 91 percent just spit out their beers. “Why can’t I meet women like this?” And they will probably think I made up this question. Well, fellas, I didn’t make it up. And as enticing as a no-strings relationship seems in your head, it’s just as icky and uncomfortable in real life.

Most men are like Howard Stern. Out in public Howard Stern talks about chicks and boobs and basically acts like an amalgam of every unshaven dude from a thousand beer commercials. In private, however, Stern is a different guy. He has a family and a girlfriend. He watches “Smallville” every week. If he were alone, he likely would spend Saturday nights staring out the rain-splashed window while Harry Connick Jr. CDs played in the background.

In other words, no matter how they act or what they say in public, most men are softhearted wussy frauds. And the idea of a no-strings relationship bothers us as much as it bothers most women. Sure, you have guys who can hook-up without emotional baggage. And you have women like that, too. But as is the case with most things related to sex, people talk far more than they act.

A bunch of songs about movies

For the upcoming issue of BULL, I made up an iPod playlist of songs about movies. Here it is.

Guided by Voices, “Pivotal Film”: Never heard of Guided by Voices? Too bad. It’s only the best rock ’n’ roll band of the past 20 years. This song sounds like T. Rex playing air guitar to The Who. Yeah, I thought that would get you excited.

Elton John, “I’ve Seen That Movie Too”: Axl Rose supposedly once said he would love to own the publishing rights to Elton John’s catalog as a work of art. And he will smash a whiskey bottle over your head if you make fun of him for that. Me, I’ll just take this song from 1973’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.”

David Bowie, “Cracked Actor”: David Bowie was the hardest-rocking-gay-guy-who-really-isn’t-gay-from-another-planet ever. This song cinches it.

Steely Dan, “Everyone’s Gone to the Movies”: If you think Steely Dan is a band for dads and guys with bad mustaches, check out this song. It’s about an aging pervert who shows porno movies to teenagers. I’m telling you, The Dan makes Eminem sound like the Fresh Prince.

Elvis Costello and the Attractions, “B Movie”: The next time you break up a girl play this song. “B movie, that’s all you’re to me.” Snap!

Film School, “Deep Lake”: Film School is a really good band from San Francisco that kind of sounds like the Cure. “Deep Lake” is the best song from its 2006 debut.

Sloan, “In the Movies”: Every music fan likes a band nobody else has ever heard of. My band is Sloan, a Canadian power-pop powerhouse. Actually, I have about 300 other bands I could mention. But Sloan will do for now.

Paul Westerberg, “Silent Film Star”: The next time you break up a girl play this song if you already played “B Movie.” “You oughta be silent film star, keep that pretty little trap shut.” Snap, snap!

Belle & Sebastian, “Like Dylan in the Movies”: I can’t figure out what Belle & Sebastian singer Stuart Murdoch is saying in this song except in the chorus: “Don’t look back like Dylan in the movies.” I suppose that’s all I need to know.

Radiohead, “Exit Music (For a Film)”: If this song ever actually plays over the credits of a movie, I will stay until the end.

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Carl Monday saga ends ... or is it just beginning?

Regular blog readers will remember Cleveland TV reporter Carl Monday, whose "investigation" of unsavory activity at the local library led to the on-camera humiliation of a poor loser caught "handling" himself in front of a computer and (most gratuitously) his family.

I found out about Monday via Deadspin.com, one of the best and funniest blogs on the Net. (Regular readers also know about my blog crush on Deadspin.) Well, Deadspin has the conclusion to the Carl Monday saga, and it's just as sleazily compelling at the rest of it. The poor loser was sentenced last week, and Monday was there to continue his torment in front of the cameras.

The handle guy deserved to be punished and banned from the library, no question. But why can't Monday leave this guy alone? You have to be a pretty big jerk to make a self-abusing perv sympathetic. Karma is not on good terms with the biggest TV journalist from the Mistake by the Lake.

Who wants to hear President Bush swear?

If you follow the news even casually, you know things are going a little bit crazy in the Middle East right now. And according to this video, the prez is starting to lose his sh--, well you know.

Actually, I don't think this is a big deal, despite what the snooty reporter introducing the clip says. I definitely can't throw stones at a guy for swearing. That would be like Scott Stapp accusing Nickelback of sucking.

My first love advice column

You might remember about a month ago I did a blog post about writing an advice column for BULL, a men's magazine produced by The Post-Crescent, and looking for questions from readers. You guys stepped up and helped me out. You rule.

Now I am writing my second advice column, and I just realized I never posted my first one. BULL doesn't have a Web site, so I'll post the whole thing here. By the way, the second column will be way better because the questions are way better. (Thanks Sharon!) But I think this turned out well. Enjoy!


Welcome to my first-ever advice column. Before I begin dishing knowledge about love and relationships, let me tell you a little about myself. I am 28 years old. I am currently dating someone. (A girl, in fact.) I have never been married, though I have been engaged. My first kiss came at age 16 after a cast party for my high school’s production of "Fiddler on the Roof." The one thing I know for sure about women is they really like it when you massage their feet, but they will never offer to massage your feet in return.

The most important thing you should know about me is I’m a guy. I’m not sure if that comes across in writing. If you could hear me talk, you would definitely be impressed by the James Earl Jonesesque richness of my voice, but I digress. My maleness makes me unique among advice columnists, who tend to be middle-aged women who love therapy and have probably never seen "Dodgeball" 15 times.

I am the advice columnist you deserve. So let’s get started.

How do I know if a girl is just flirting with me or if she really likes me?

Wow. I don’t get a warm-up question? Just straight into the murky "Does she like me?" abyss. Fair enough.

Before I answer this question, I’m gonna have to assume a few things. First off, you must already have some kind of relationship with this foxy little temptress. She’s a friend or a friend of a friend or a co-worker, right? If this is just some girl you met in a bar, you have no right to even entertain the possibility that she likes you. You barely know her, she barely knows you, and alcohol is involved. Alcohol is to attraction what steroids is to homerun-hitting: it makes it easier and, thus, less impressive.

So you kinda know her and she’s always flirty when you’re around. How do you figure out if there’s something more there? I’m going to say this really slowly because my advice is rather complicated: ASSSK. HEEEER. OUUUUT. What did you think I was going to say? Tell your friend to ask her in algebra class if she likes you or "likes you likes you"? Go on a date and see how it goes. Who knows? Maybe she’s better at talking than following through.

All my girlfriend wants to do is have sex. How do I politely show her that I’m not just a pretty face?

I bet the guy who asked the first question is so jealous of this guy. It just goes to show that while some guys pray for rain, others search high and low for an umbrella.

Has it ever occurred to you that your girlfriend has nothing to offer other than sex? Maybe she wants to do the horizontal hula all the time because it’s the only dance she knows. Now, of all the things one could offer, sex is pretty great. It’s a whole lot more exciting than, say, a tasty recipe for tuna casserole. But it’s not enough to sustain a relationship. One needs simulating conversation, shared interests, compatible-my god, sex all the time? Really? And you’re complaining?

Where was I? Oh yes, I’m afraid it’s time to give ol’ Loosey Lucy the pink slip. Cruel, I know, but necessary. But don’t worry. I know about 139 guys who would love to take her out.