Archive for the ‘Pop Culture’ Tag

Where Have You Gone, Charlie Tweeder??   Leave a comment


A nation turns it's lonely eyes to you?

My wife and I have very different tastes when it comes to movies.  She’s a fan of drama, mystery/crime, and horror – aka movies you watch one time until you forget most of the plot then you can watch them again (I bought her Alpha Dog as a joke present once and she loved it).  I am more a fan of comedy movies where you can re-watch them many times as the plot of the film isn’t as important as the jokes that remain funny no matter how many times you see or hear them (I have seen Step Brothers and The Burbs roughly three hundred times each).  Because of that difference of opinion, it is rare that we both agree on a movie to watch.  One exception to this rule is Varsity Blues.  My wife likes it because, well, to be honest, it has just enough drama and more importantly Dawson and the guy from The Fast and the Furious either have their shirts off or wear shirts without sleeves for a good portion of the film.  I like it because of Charlie Tweeder, the hilarious, over-the-top party character who was basically Stiffler from American Pie with a 4.4 forty-yard dash and hands that could catch any pass thrown in his direction…and because when compared to Billy Bob I actually appear to be in half-way decent shape.

I re-watched the movie a little over a week ago and began to wonder where movies like Varsity Blues went.  Remember teen movies from the 1990’s?  Specifically 1999? American Pie, Can’t Hardly Wait (1998…sorry), She’s All That, 10 Things I Hate About You, Drive Me Crazy, and Varsity Blues (basically all the movies Teen Movie made fun of)?  What happened to over-the-top, exaggerated teen movies?  Most had every high school demographic represented:  the overly popular jock, the less popular but more easy-to-relate-to-guy, the gorgeous cheerleader/snotty/morally questionable girl, the not as gorgeous but still cute and much more down to earth “other girl”, the somewhat lovable geek, and the crazy party guy.  The plot usually centered around a party, prom, or game that was so larger-than-life it usually involved a choreographed dance number or participants who looked like pro athletes.

This man changed teen movie history?

Somewhere between 2000 and 2004, the “teen movie” concept changed.  Loser, although a huge bomb, and American Wedding, where the band geek and Jason Biggs (coincidently, the lead in Loser) ended up together and Stiffler became a softie instead of the party-hard lacrosse jock we met years earlier, started the trend that Napoleon Dynamite eventually mastered.  Instead of glorifying how high school unfortunately tends to be with the rich, attractive, and athletic kids getting the majority of the attention and always coming out on top, the movies focused on portraying what some would call the “lesser” groups and showed them winning (Charlie Sheen your copyright money is in the mail…I promise) over the popular groups.  Napoleon shopped at thrift stores and could barely handle riding a bike.  Despite those “limitations”, we couldn’t get enough of him and we couldn’t stand the former over-the-top jock Uncle Rico.  “Ligers” and “bo staff skills” became regular topics of conversation.  “McLovin” became a cultural icon.  Michael Cera and Jonah Hill, two guys who would have been cast as “the Sherminator” and a sober driver in 1999, were able to be leading-role caliber movie stars in the new century.

As a former high school cross country and track runner, I appreciated these movies as they were about guys like me when I was in high school.  I weighed 120 lbs soaking wet.  I was a smartass, but wisely always avoided running my mouth to the wrong people.  My friends and I did really dumb things with a lot of our weekends, including filming our own versions of “Nuthin’ But a G Thang” music videos and marching through Wendy’s restaurants chanting “I’m the Whiz” from Seinfeld.  I dated girls, but they were never the future model, “prom queen”-types (if any of you are reading this, sorry, but it’s true…also, my phone and address are unlisted and my wife, thanks to the massive pregnancy hormones, now has Hulk-like strength).  They were smart, normal, and down to earth …and according to 1999 teen movies, they, and I, were bad things.

Unfortunately, if the ebb and flow of teen movies of the past is any indication, teen movies will eventually swing back to the Usher-led dance number movies of the late 1990’s.  After doing a little research, I realized this had already happened in the 1980’s.  Movies like Risky Business, All the Right Moves, and Sixteen Candles opened the decade with the same types of parties, proms, and characters seen in films like those in the late 90’s.  One could argue the turning point of the decade was Teen Wolf, where we saw Michael J. Fox be a part of both sides of the spectrum, with the nerdy, unathletic side eventually winning out over the cool, white leisure suit wearing, unstoppable basketball player “wolf” and the less attractive, girl next door character of Boo winning Fox’s heart over the gorgeous and extremely popular blonde Pamela Wells character.  Following Teen Wolf, movies like The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, and The Goonies featured beloved “geek”-like characters who triumphed over or won the respect of the high school elite.  When this will happen again, I have no idea.  My guess would be sometime after Glee runs it’s course on TV and once the Jonas Bros. hit the weight room.

To close and answer your questions, yes, I really did go through and look this stuff up.  Yes, I had that kind of spare time today.  Below is a list of teen movies in chronological order with release years from the 1980’s through today that shows what I am talking about:

Risky Business 1983

All the Right Movies 1983

Sixteen Candles 1984

Footlose 1984

The Karate Kid 1984

Teen Wolf 1985

Weird Science 1985

Just One of the Guys 1985

Breakfast Club 1985

The Goonies 1985

Pretty In Pink 1986

The Karate Kid Part 2 1986

Lucas 1986

Ferris Buehler 1986

Say Anything 1989

The Karate Kid Part 3 1989

Clueless 1995

Can’t Hardly Wait 1998

American Pie 1999

Cruel Intentions 1999

She’s All That 1999

10 Things I Hate About You 1999

Varsity Blues 1999

Drive Me Crazy 1999

Bring It On 2000

Road Trip 2000

Loser 2000

Van Wilder 2002

American Wedding 2003

Napoleon Dynamite 2004

Juno 2007

Superbad 2007

Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist 2008

The House Bunny 2008

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World 2010

Easy A 2010

Thanks IMDB.com

A Bite Out of Bluetooth…   3 comments


Technology improves people’s lives.  I have been a firm believer of this ever since I put my first copy of Oregon Trail into the old Apple IIe and promptly learned to stay away from any situation where cholera and dysentery may end my life or that of any member of my family.  Who knows, without that knowledge I may have been lost fording a river or passed on to the other side due to exhaustion years ago.  That explains my stellar 60% completion rate of the lists my wife leaves for me on my days off.

Andy and I could very well have shared the same fate...

Unfortunately, after moving to the far suburbs and being exposed to it everyday, I have found a technology that I am convinced was created solely for the purpose of annoying me to no end – Bluetooth Technology.  Please don’t get me wrong, I am all for safe driving and I see the validity of using Bluetooth in your car.  I actually enjoy pulling up next to a person who appears to be talking to his or her self as it makes me feel a little saner.  Professionals in a busy office or workplace?  Bluetooth until you’re blue in the face as I am sure you have a million things going on during your day and need both hands free.

Where I don’t see the necessity of Bluetooth head sets is in public places like Panera Bread, the Panera Bread right by my work, to be exact.  You may be asking yourself, “How is talking on Bluetooth in line any different than talking on a cell phone?” and I am glad you asked.  When one talks on a cell phone, the mouth piece is near one’s mouth and the talker realizes this and generally speaks at a normal level.  This is different with Bluetooth as the earpiece with the seizure-causing blinking light is far away from the speaker’s mouth so the speaker yells his or her end of the conversation.  Did you know that Ashley went into an empty bedroom with Ryan, who happened to be dating Amanda at the time, at Gia’s New Years Eve party while Gia’s parents were away for the weekend in Wisconsin?  I did because I was lucky enough to be in the same zip code of the nameless friend of Amanda who was conflicted as to whether she should tell Amanda because she kissed Ryan at a party a few weeks back and doesn’t want Amanda to find that out if she confronts Ryan and he comes clean about everything.  OMG.

A friend of mine used to list his “dislikes” on his Facebook page when we were in college and #2 on his list was “Bluetooth Technology” (#1 was Elijah Wood…BT came in a whole three spots ahead of Harry Potter and five above “grown men on razor scooters”…nice work, AJ)  I never really agreed with him because I thought “grown men on razor scooters” was one of the more ridiculous things I had ever heard, but I have seen the light, AJ – the irritatingly intense, bright, blue, blinking, brain-bedlam-inducing light.

Consider this a public service announcement

World Premier…   4 comments


Let me start this off by saying that I love my wife.  She’s an amazing woman who does things on a daily basis that impact others’ lives in ways I can only dream about.  Having said that, on occasion she also does things that leave me shaking my head in confusion.  This story is one of those instances and the premier of “S#*% My Wife Does That I Don’t Understand”.  (Disclaimer:  If she ever had time or the desire to write anything like this about me, she would have enough material to fill a 12 volume set.)

As anyone who read my last post knows, we had a furnace put in this past Friday.  Our utility room where the furnace is housed is also home to a good amount of random crap.  My wife, being the considerate person she is, cleared out the room so the workers could easily move around.  In doing so, she also disturbed some of the uninvited guests we’ve had come into our warm house from the cold outdoors through the backyard access door in that room.  As I later found out when I noticed what appeared to be a slow moving black golf ball with legs on our bedroom wall, one of these guests was apparently the spider from the wine cellar scene in Arachnophobia.  With the string of obscenities that flew from my mouth, she woke up in a panic and asked what was wrong.  I told her about the spider and she casually responded, “Oh yeah, I saw that thing earlier.  It was in the towel under the litter box.  It ran into the bedroom after I screamed.  I looked it up online and I think it’s some sort of wolf spider or something.”  Phew, good thing Al Gore invented that internet and thanks for the creation story of the tyrannosaurus rex arachnid twenty feet away from where we sleep, honey.  The part I failed to catch was where you stepped on it with your shoe instead of welcoming it to kill us in our sleep.

I don’t want to be married to Xena the Warrior Princess or anything, but is killing a spider that tough?  Maybe I am asking to have my cake and eat it too here, but when I’m home, feel free to act like you’re really scared and let me get all Rambo/Boba Fett on insects 1/100th my size, but when I’m not around throw on some Pink/Alanis Morissette angry woman music and channel your inner G.I. Jane/Ellen Ripley/Chun Li/Sarah Connor and take care of business.  You are the same girl who took a softball off the face, picked up the tooth from the infield dirt, and tried to reinsert it into your gums with your only fear being the possibility of looking like a carnie for the rest of your life.  You walk a half mile through Hyde Park’s finest dimly-lit streets each day for work.  Next time, just smush (not Jersey Shore style) the bug and move on.  Also, the beef in the chilli last week was a little dry…just saying…

The Stephanie Tanner of the Holiday Season   4 comments


There I was, a mere five days out from Halloween, driving through the downtown area of Lockport, IL…surrounded by Christmas lights.  Kids were barely waking up from their sugar-induced comas and already the lights were everywhere – on light poles, around trees, in shop windows – everywhere.  If you threw some business cards for hookers on the ground and Pete Rose at a table signing autographed baseballs, you would think you just pulled up to the Vegas Strip.

Now, I am all for Christmas and the decorating in 15 degree temperatures that drop to -30 with each westwardly exhale of Lake Michigan, but what happened to the old rule of waiting until after Thanksgiving?  It is not just the decorating, either.  I just saw a commercial for ABC Family’s “25 Days of Christmas”…it starts on November 21st, a full four days before we carve the turkey.  My lovely wife had barely emptied the Halloween candy bowl before asking if we could put our tree up.  It seems each and every year, we collectively put less and less emphasis on the fourth Thursday of November in anticipation of the 25th of December.  Thanksgiving has become the discarded middle child between the flamboyant, sometimes trashy (see this post), costumed Halloween and the radiant, but not twinkling (right, Clark W. Griswald?), Christmas…or Hanukkah for my dreidel spinning friends.

Not to sound too much like Randy Marsh here, but isn’t this America?  Aren’t we the land of excess and “Old Country Buffet”?  How could we let this happen?  Why is it that we have pushed aside the single day of the year where gluttony is not only encouraged but expected?  Me being the “husky” fella (sidenote – I used to have to wear “husky” jeans as a kid because I had what doctors called a bit of a weight problem.  There are few things more embarrassing than going shopping with your step-mother for pants and having her tell the department store woman “husky” for your pants size.  Unless you count the “it seems like there is plenty of room in the crotch” line she dropped 3 minutes later.) that I am I probably taking this harder than most, but I truly think this is a problem of massive pro-portions (pun intended).  We cannot let Thanksgiving become the Stephanie Tanner (the only Tanner daughter without her own Wikipedia page…maybe I can do that for my next post) of holidays as I don’t think turkey goes well with an adult meth problem.  I’m not asking for anything crazy here, maybe a cartoon pilgrim in the window, a hand-traced turkey on the fridge, and a sabbatical from the “Holiday Lite 93.9” until after we throw out the canned cranberry sauce no one touched because it looks like weird Jell-o for old people.  So put away the Sears Christmas Catalogue, grab a slice of pumpkin pie, and pop your belt out one more size…I am sure the extra “padding” will help as us uncoordinated folks fall off the ladder hanging icicle lights from icicles the last weekend of November.

The Kids Are Alright…   2 comments


I helped my brother coach my niece’s youth basketball team on Saturday mornings the past few weeks and it was quite an eye opening experience.  I always thought that in movies where there would be a group of young kids together that the personalities were over the top and typecast (see Kindergarten Cop…seriously, if not to prove my point at least to laugh at the “Who is your daddy and what does he do?” scene), but coaching a small group of kids ages 5 through 7 will teach you otherwise quickly.

Since the kids are so young, there is a range of talent and interest levels that is off the charts.  Over the course of the season, I’ve witnessed things from a young girl picking her nose and wiping it on the court to a young boy telling my brother he wants to be a gang member for Halloween (I was half-tempted to take him to 61st and Cottage Grove so he could trick or treat there and see if he really thought it would be cool to be a gang member, but then I realized only Dave Chappelle can pull that off without getting arrested for child endangerment). 

One kid liked to do the “suck it” sign anytime he scored (tangent here…apparently the “suck it” sign is still relevant?  I remember when wrestling picked up a bit in the late 1990’s and Degeneration X was around and doing that all the time, but has wrestling kept up that well over the years?  Also, how do parents not realize that crossing your arms and banging them around your crotch is probably not something a kindergarten kid should be doing, especially in public?  Even if you don’t know what it means, it just looks bad…).  Another girl seemed more than content to stand at half court and either shoot people with her hand pistol or try to squish their heads between her fingers from a distance (a move I perfected over my 3 years of Little League where I amassed a staggering zero hits and 3 foul tips).  My personal favorite was the young girl who told my brother and me that her Mom was wearing lipstick to try and find a man.  Awkwardly, I responded with, “Good for her,” and moved on to something other than possibly being a new found baby daddy.

Overall, it was a lot of fun and the kids enjoyed themselves.  We even managed to escape the season without any “way too into youth basketball” parents yelling at their kids while videotaping and creating snack lists that consist of orange slices and Power Gel packets.  There is always the winter session, though.

Post-Halloween Monday: Christmas for Creepers   5 comments


In the movie Mean Girls, or as some know it “the approach to the board before Lindsay Lohan’s dive into the deep end of drugs and dating girls that look more like guys than I do”, Lohan’s character describes Halloween as “the one night a year where girls can dress like a total slut and no other girls say anything about it.” In reality, yes, Halloween is very much that type of night. A day before or a day after, including walks of shame the next morning, if a girl were to be seen walking down the street dressed like J-Woww from “Jersey Shore” she would be referred to by her fellow females as a hooker. However, on Halloween night, their friends and complete strangers are there to say “your boobs look awesome with only that piece of duct tape covering them up” or “Gaga would seriously be jealous of how your ass looks in those tights and thong right now.”

The one point Lohan misses, however, is that GUYS will talk plenty about girls and what they are wearing. To clarify, I do mean ALL GUYS, including the ones that don’t see you in person on Halloween night but that you are friends with on Facebook because you went to the same summer camp twelve years ago and they managed to find you on the site. With the rise of popularity of social networks, the Monday after Halloween has become something of a Christmas Day for creeps checking out girls on Facebook. Sidenote – for those who have seen St. Elmo’s Fire, could you imagine what Kirby (Emilio Estavez) would have been capable of if he had Facebook at his fingertips?

As girls come to out of hangover induced comas and blurs, they post their pictures of themselves and friends dressed as “sexy” versions of just about every late 80’s to mid 90’s female cartoon character or generic occupation/feline animal (construction worker, cop, tiger, lion, housecat, black cat, etc). With each picture post, there are guys chomping at the bit to get a glimpse of the girl they went to elementary school with and somehow managed to find and friend donning a Strawberry Shortcake outfit – tied together by a pair of bright green fishnets – on Facebook. I unfortunately witnessed this for myself yesterday while in the computer lab at school. There is nothing like sitting down to print out an article while the guy next to you sings, “Hey there little red riding hood, you sure are lookin’ good…” while checking out a girl dressed as something that involved a red hooded cape and black underwear. The moment that really sealed the deal on my future daughters not leaving the house on Halloween from years twelve through forty dressed as anything other than real-life nuns was when two guys that resembled Bulk and Skull (pictured above) from the Mighty Morphing Power Rangers show three computers down traded comments about how lucky a couple of gals were that the two of them “weren’t at the party to make Gaga gag” and “give Minnie what Mickey can’t” (although that one did actually made me laugh).

I am in no way advocating a change to Halloween traditions and costumes. By all means, continue to dress up the way you have and let yourself go crazy one night a year as you have probably earned it. Actually, while you’re out there, introduce yourselves to my single friends (you’re welcome, guys). Just be aware of and stop “friending” guys you haven’t talked to in years or don’t even know because they are probably in a dark corner of their mom’s basement looking at a picture of you as Tinkerbell from two years ago.

There Go the Irish…   5 comments


(Written Saturday Afternoon)

Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football…should that even be considered a proper noun anymore?  I just don’t know how much longer I can take this.  Every single year I get drawn in by a new quarterback, a new coach, or a “you know, we really didn’t look THAT bad in that BCS bowl game we lost last year.” – the same bowl game(s) we had absolutely no business being in.  As I write this, the Notre Dame players are most likely getting cleaned up in the locker room after a filthy 28-27 loss to Tulsa.  To quote a former college roommate of mine, “Tulsa is so bad we used to simulate playing them in NCAA on my PS2.”  That we did, Tony.  That we did.  As I stare at the ESPN Gamecast screen, I also can’t help but notice that the Duke Blue Devil football team, arguably one of the biggest jokes in all of collegiate sports, is beating Navy 34-23.  Thanks, Duke, you gutted me last spring when you knocked the Boilers out of the NCAA Tournament, now you are just pouring salt in the wound by showing even you can beat the Navy Midshipmen.

However, despite all the negativity that has surrounded the program throughout the Davie era, Willingham era, Weis era, and now Kelly era, I am not giving up hope.  I think I may have a solution that will bring Notre Dame back to the prominence it once enjoyed.  That solution you ask?  Cheat – simple as that.  How do you think I ended up with a B in calculus my junior year of high school?  Through studying and going to morning study sessions?  Absolutely not.  I stole the answers to the midterm and final exams with two of my friends by breaking into Ms. Lucheon’s classroom while she was at lunch.  What about that A on my AP History midterm?  Stole the test and made copies at Matt Ingersol’s house and then snuck the copy back into the classroom without Mr. Elfner knowing.  Did I end up dropping out of Purdue 7 or 8 years later?  Sure I did.  However, I graduated in the top 10% of my high school class and that ride at Purdue was amazing.   Those extra years even helped me meet my wife.  Plus, I’m back on track and will finish my degree this spring.

It has come to this, Swarbrick, Jenkins, and Kelly…you have no other choice but to make this happen.  Start dropping off Lexus cars, bags of money, and John Deere tractors for recruits and their families like Western U did in Blue Chips.  Start having morally questionable girls from St. Mary’s do “recruiting jobs” (see Jesus Shuttlesworth and his recruiting trip in He Got Game) instead of the finely tuned female morality machines roaming your own campus.  I am sure myself and all the other Notre Dame faithful would gladly be on probation for a few years and a couple scholarships short for a while to enjoy the fruits of a BCS National Championship.  The good news is that when the heat finally does come down, you can all jump ship and sign a contract to coach the Seahawks and/or date a girl with an ass the size of a drive-in movie theatre that made a sex tape with the less famous rapper brother of a hardly famous RB singer.  Everybody wins…except for the Irish on Saturdays until you start taking my advice.