Sunday, May 29, 2005

COLUMN: Extreme Makeover Home Edition

This column has me a bit nervous. I'm about to rip on one of America's most beloved TV shows, and it may end up costing me some fans. But I can remain silent no more. This show has tugged at my heartstrings for the last time, and it's time I tackled the emotional whirlwind that is ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."

If you've never seen the show, the premise is simple: A needy family is profiled, then whisked away to Disneyland while Ty Whats-his-name and his construction crew demolishes their house and rebuilds from the ground up. The family returns to a palatial estate fit for a king. Warm fuzzies infect the hearts of all. Grown men cry like babies. And I hate it all.

Every week, the family they choose to "make over" seems to fall into one of two camps. The first is the Family That Gives So Much To Their Community. Whether they've adopted 12 orphans or spend their days saving rainforests, the family is too busy giving unto others to notice that they're living in a rat-infested trailer. The other deserving recipients are the families suffering from Freaky Obscure Medicial Condition-itis -- like a child who's allergic to the color orange, and thus needs a carefully constructed orange-free abode.

Well, how is THAT supposed to be fair? I can't top a sob story like that! How can I compete against Orange Boy? I live in a crummy apartment, and hey, I want a new house, too. But my pre-show interview would be like, "Well, Ty, as you can see, my CD and DVD collections are outgrowing my tiny one bedroom apartment. And my closets are barely big enough to stash all my porno magazines. Won't you please lend a hand?" That's not going to make Ty cry.

These crews build an entire new home in SEVEN DAYS. Is that even safe? Now, keep in mind I know nothing about new home construction, but doesn't concrete and caulk and stuff like that have to DRY? How can they build and properly insulate a home in a week? Notice that they never show the completed home during a rainstorm. It's not a contest or a race, Ty, take your time and build these homes right. And who pays for the taxes on these properties? Here, Mr. Impoverished Citizen, here's your fabulous new home!* (*$70,000 property tax bill not pictured.)

But the thing that gets on my nerves the most about the show is what they always do to the poor children's bedrooms. Invariably, they walk into a kid's "before" room, notice one decoration that the kid has out on a shelf, and then theme the poor kid's entire new room around whatever knick-knack or toy he forgot to put away. For instance, in one episode, a kid had a little plastic dinosaur sitting out in his room. Ergo, the crack team from the show decided to turn his room into Jurassic Park, complete with a dinosaur bed and wall murals. To enter the room, you had to walk through a gigantic, snarling dinosaur mouth.

When I was a kid, I remember having some dinosaur stuff. Then 2 weeks later, it was Star Wars stuff. 2 weeks after that? Football stuff. Kids go through phases and change their interests and hobbies ALL the time. Yet poor little Timmy will be stuck in his creepy dinosaur room until he moves out. Let's be honest here -- eventually Little Timmy is going to be a hormonally-challenged teenager, and Little Suzie is NEVER going to let him get to first base as long as they're sitting around in the Land of the Lost. (Though, it must be said, "Hey, baby, wanna see my velociraptor?" has potential as a good pick-up line.)

I can't really knock the show TOO much. Last week, they built a home for the needy family of the first woman killed in recent combat in Iraq. I'm all for helping folks out. What I'm NOT for is how ABC milks the emotion out of the participants. It's almost as if you can sense a drooling producer just off camera going, "Ooh, ooh, she's about to cry! Zoom in!"

Charity is awesome. But charity for the sake of television ratings is just plain evil. It might feel good to watch those in need get the blessings they deserve, but it feels better to do it YOURSELF. Turn off the tear-jerky schlock, open your wallets, and donate what you can to the local American Red Cross or United Way. Then you'll know what charity REALLY feels like.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Rain, Rain, Go Away

I am NOT liking these clouds.

The world's most gorgeous week was spent working non-stop during most/all hours of daylight. Finally, a holiday weekend approacheth and... BAM - ugly clouds peel in outta nowhere.

I want it clear-skied and cool tonight for the magic of ZOSO. Who are ZOSO, you ask? Why, only one of the most recognized Led Zeppelin tribute bands out there right now! And tonight, they assault the outside (weather permitting) stage at RIBCo.

Go to the ZOSO website and check out the pictures. Dude is a SPITTING image of Robert Plant. I'm no Zeppelin fan by a long stretch, but watching a band do the moves and spit the riffs is going to be an INSANE amount of fun tonight.

Beyond tonight? Saturday AND Sunday, outside at RIBCo, none other than The Travoltas. I don't have to tell you to be there. Why? Because you've already got plans to go. I'm pretty sure every time the Travoltas roll thru town, 10% of the Quad Cities turns out en masse.

I'll be the one DJ'ing inside 2nd Ave. after the chaos. Come say hi. And pray for clear skies.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Archived Columns Are Up!


I just got permission from my editor at the paper to be able to reprint my weekly newspaper columns here on this blog...

So... I just finished uploading all 35 columns that I've written thus far since starting for The Leader back in Oct. 2004 (which then started appearing in the Dispatch/Argus in Mar. 2005).

So should you feel like doing any spelunking through the archives, you'll find every column that I've written -- in their original, unedited glory. See, I tend to be a bit long-winded when I write... and one thing that I certainly suck at is keeping to my recommended 650 words a week. This means that some poor copy editor has to take my column every week and whittle it down into something publishable. Most often, the end result is a BETTER column... but once in a while, I feel like my best jabs get yanked before the column goes to print.

In posting my original, unedited stuff, you can now see it as it leaves my pen (oh, who am I kidding, I don't actually handwrite a thing.) This includes a column I wrote back in October 2004 on speed dating that never made it into the paper, but I thought was kinda funny so I've added it here. Enjoy. Or don't. It's YOUR call. ;)

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

A Long, Hard Look at the World of Advertising

Massive tastelessness awaits. Don't say I didn't warn ya.

There's trouble... right here in River City.

Okay, I suppose as a newspaper columnist, one of the things that I shouldn't do is make fun of the front page of my newspaper. Tough, it's gonna happen today.

Our headline on A-1 today reads: MAKING THE Q-C "COOL". First off, if you live in a town that's SO uncool that it requires study, concentration, and articles on how to make it cool, you've got a problem. Second of all, I really love how the headline reads: Making the Q-C "cool". Note the hip usage of the quotation marks around "cool," as though the paper was being soooo rebellious for using such a hip colloquialism as 'cool.' Ya know, cool's not a slang term any more. Look it up in the dictionary. It's meshed with our vocabulary at this point. Using the quotation marks just isn't "hip," or "gnarly," or "bitchin'."

Anyways, so some bright light bulb has decided that the Quad Cities needs to be "cool," so they need to bring in a consulting economist to explore the notion of "cool." Next Generation Consulting conducted a seminar called "Building a Cool Community" last night at the Mark apparantly. Because, that's right kids, whenever I think of the word "cool," what IMMEDIATELY pops into mind is, you guessed it, Next Generation Consulting.

Their coolness study apparantly revealed that the city needs to retain or bring in ages 25-44 to the community. Well, DUH. What the study DOESN'T mention, though, is the fact that 25-44's are usually the motivators to bring others here.

You can't have a 60 year old guy going, "Okay, let's get "hip," people!" You need young movers and shakers in order to attract other movers and shakers.

According to Next Generation, the Quad Cities "rates high in social activities." Umm... WHAT?! If this is high, I'd hate to live in a town that ranks LOW in social activities then... I'm thinkin' that's a town where even the cow patties are boring. I am PERPETUALLY bored in the Quad Cities, as are most of my friends. The Quad Cities has very little to do for someone my age other than eat, drink, and watch a movie. Young people like the hustle and bustle of big cities... and we are simply NEVER going to compare to Chicago. Why try? The Huck Finn lifestyle of living on the Mississippi doesn't really appeal to ANYBODY my age, does it?

That said, I wouldn't mind things a bit "cool"-er around these parts, so good luck to 'em... though, if I know my economist consultants, their end presentation will basically be, "We need more affordable housing and that will bring in more youth-oriented business to town" (read: ugly condos and another stinkin' bar. Yay.)

Sigh. Oh, wait, I'm sorry. "Sigh."

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

How Lame Am I?

Yes, it DOES mean you're an incurable idiot if you sat through all two hours of "Rob and Amber Get Married" on CBS tonight. But don't feel bad... I'm one too, apparantly. And I sat and watched it with a friend who told me I cannot EVER mention his/her name in conjunction with said activity.

It was either that or the Trump movie... and I can't take someone ACTING like Donald Trump, let alone Donald Trump himself... though we did occasionally channel flip to see the evolution of The Hair as the movie progressed. What dialogue we managed to catch was just shy of breathtaking as well -- things like, "Donald, this decision means everything. Everything." People don't really talk like that, do they? After we heard this exchange, my friend WHO DID NOT WATCH ROB AND AMBER GET MARRIED WITH ME (lie!) and I were cracking up, and I said, "Don't EVER turn to me and go, 'Shane, this next column you write means everything. Everything.'" To which my friend replied, "Are you actually attempting to equate your newspaper column with the construction of Trump Tower in downtown New York City?" That's when I realized maybe this IS all getting to my head a bit... ;)


How can one's apartment get SO dusty in such a short amount of time? There's so much dust on my television screen, I feel like I'm wiping away HISTORY with every sweep of the paper towel.

I'm trying to clean because I'm hosting a Lost season finale mini-party tomorrow night. Nerd, thy name is Shane.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Why I Don't Watch "Desperate Housewives"

Having never seen a single episode of the show, this summary of the first season sounds patentedly ridiculous. Like, worse than "General Hospital" kind of ridiculous.

Festival #1 Over. Headache #1 Over.

Hornucopia in The District is officially over.

Still trying to figure the weekend out. The crowds were kinda thin, and tempers were kind of on edge as the bar owners seemed to be at each other's throats.

But all in all, I for one had fun.

The greatest band to ever play at a District fest, in my humble opinion, are The Pocket Dwellers. It's so fantastic that those guys make the journey down from Canada just to play our club from time to time.

Usually I have to DJ next door while they're onstage, but this weekend, I got to catch most of BOTH of their sets, so I was really happy -- and, thin crowds or not, they tore the lid off the District. Fantastic musicians and some of the nicest guys you'll ever meet.

The rumor is that they're pretty close to inking a major label deal (at least up in Canada.) Here's hoping their success comes fast and hard, as they REALLY deserve it. I just hope they don't get so big that they don't forget their friends in the Island of Rock. Losing them in the District would be a tragedy...

COLUMN: Internet Shopping

I love the internet. Nothing amazes me more than the knowledge that, upon returning home from a hard day's work, I am mere mouseclicks away from commerce, news, community, and/or hardcore pornography. That said, I've discovered one thing about the net that really bugs me.

Last week, I was having one of my patented Really Bad Weeks. The sort of week where everyone was ticking me off for little to no reason whatsoever. Blame it on sleep deprivation, blame it on my traffic violations, blame it on Renee Zellweger getting married to some country dorkus. Heck, like Milli Vanilli once said, blame it on the rain. I don't care. Whatever the scenario, I was in a deep, deep funk.

It was the kind of week wherein every little pet peeve I had of anyone in my proximity came out full circle. A close friend could have been telling me how much they value my friendship. An attractive girl could have been asking for my phone number. Ed McMahon could have been telling me I won a million dollars. My brain was simply rife with pet peeves. "Ed McMahon," my internal dialogue would have blurted, "I hate the way you breathe. Does he have to breathe this way the WHOLE time he's talking to me? Okay, okay, be cool. NO! I can't be cool when someone's breathing like that. Just stop breathing, okay? OKAY?" It was one of THOSE weeks.

Now, normally when one reaches mental states like that, there are a surplus of remedies. I could talk to my closest friends and find out what's really bothering me. I could take a slow walk through a park and get re-acquainted with myself. I could have a psychiatrist regress me to find out all my woes go back to when I spilled Kool-Aid on the carpet at my 4th birthday party.

Naw. Those cock-a-mamie solutions might work for Joe Q. Public, but not me. I have discovered through my 34 years of hard living one unbeatable cure-all for a foul mood: Spending foolish amounts of money on foolish things. There is NO hardship too great to not be overcome by a new video game. Or a DVD. Or a new CD. Or, heck, 10 new CD's. And, well, 10 new CD's need a home, so I might as well grab a carrying case, too. Etc., etc.

I am the KING of impulse shopping. I can walk into Border's for ONE item and walk out with 25 in a heartbeat. Disposable cash is the ONLY benefit to single life I can come up with... but my problem is that I dispose of ALL my cash, leaving me to live on the poverty line -- but at least I can watch my DVD's and play my video games until they come and shut my power off.

So I decided to fix my woes of last week with a little impulse shopping on the internet. Namely, at my favorite site, I have a weird fixation on English indie music, so shopping at a British website is a quick way to get my fix. I hopped on there, picked out some stuff, hit the "complete my purchase" button, and then set back to take a deep sigh of...

WOE. I still felt miserable. Turns out the most redeeming part of impulse shopping is to suddenly have fun new toys in your grasp, right then at that moment. I, on the other hand, had nothing, other than a 10-14 day estimated shipping time and a hole in my bank account. This wasn't a cure-all; this was mood suicide. Now I have to WAIT. And THINK. Think about how stupid it was to blow a bunch of money on useless junk. Think about how 70 British pounds sounds better than 128 US dollars but means the same thing. Think about how I'm going to throw my computer right out the window.

So. Lesson learned. No longer am I going to cure my bad moods with foolish impulse shopping on the internet. From here on out, I'm going to solve my problems the old-fashioned way -- at Border's, with a checkbook.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Rage Against the Hype

So here I sit on a lonely Thursday night. Yuck. I'm "on call" to DJ tonight at 2nd Ave. Augustana lets out today, which means there's a good chance that our club will get overrun by revelers, in which case they're gonna call me in around midnight to perform both the hipping and the hopping until close.

Until then, I'm just sittin' around kinda bored.

I just spent the past 2 hours in vain searching for these mythical copies of the new Star Wars flick that have supposedly shown up on the net. (For JOURNALISTIC reasons, mind you; not because I like free stuff. Downloading is bad, kids. Support the MPAA.) Regardless, the MPAA shouldn't be upset because I sure as heck couldn't find it. Supposedly it's out there on BitTorrent, a technology that I wholeheartedly do NOT embrace... just because I'm an impulse guy, and when I want something, I want it *now* and not after 3 days of non-stop downloading on BitTorrent.

Besides, Star Wars III should only be seen on a big screen; any random internet finds should just serve as souvenirs for the real deal. If you're seeing a LucasArts film without seeing in THX in a digital theatre, there's really no point.

That said, I am SO sick of the hype surrounding this Star Wars movie. I guess I'm really only a passing fan of the Star Wars world (I know, I know... take away my nerd badge now.) We went to see Ep. II on opening night, and I'll admit, that was fun... but only because we were there to point and laugh at the superdorks in costumes and such. I've never seen so much fuss made over a movie that EVERYONE KNOWS THE ENDING TO.

The thing that's the greatest part about this flick is that, obviously, Ep. III is going to have like THE best special effects and CGI stuff EVER committed to film. But then, if you were to watch the movies in their proper chronological order, suddenly the quality reverts back to 1977... it's as if Anakin's first role as Darth Vader is to start the Great Technology War, where all the hip cool stuff from I-III is transformed into cheap white plastic and model ships on string.

Don't get me wrong... I DO want to see the movie. But I'll wait 'til the hype dies down, thanks.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

My cat may be gone...

But my love for dancing skeletons lives on and on.

Do a boogaloo in the memory of my Chelsea.

Chelsea Stomper, 1995-2005

Here's to the best damn cat that ever lived.


Monday, May 16, 2005

Feed Your Inner Geek

Check this bad boy out...

Key quote: "Looks and feels like a real lightsaber."

Umm. There are REAL lightsabers?????

Getting a Life (Back!)

Thank God it's almost over.

May sweeps are coming to a close, which means that I can finally stop watching all of those TV shows that have usurped what used to be a reasonably interesting life in favor of couch-potato-dom.

"Survivor" is over. Amen. What an irritating bunch of self-righteous schmos this season. I wanted Ian to win, and while it sucks that he basically gave up in the name of high morals or whatever, he HAD to have known that Tom was unbeatable and getting accolades for being the morally pure soul or whatever was probably his best shot at post-Survivor fame.

"The Amazing Race" is over. Boo. I'll actually miss this season -- easily the most engaging reality TV of the past 5 years. Boston Rob & Amber were hysterical, and it was nice to see some edginess slip into a show that's usually little more than team bickering and lame attempts at showcasing "world culture." Hopefully it'll usher in a new wave of more strategic, underhanded Amazing Racers.

"The Apprentice" ends this week. Hoorah. I want to go MONTHS without seeing or hearing Donald Trump. If Tanna wins, I'm gonna off myself. It makes sense that she's a successful Mary Kay sales rep. Nothing to me says "FAKE!" quite like Mary Kay, and no one's as fake as Tanna. I hope she loses by a mile. Who's with me?

"American Idol" has two more weeks. Good, get it over with. Now that Scotty the Body and Constantine are both gone, the show's become a bit... boring. (I know many of you hated both those guys, and I'm NOT saying that they're particularly GOOD, but they were at least so comically ill-placed in the competition that it made for amusing TV.) Now I'm yearning for Paula Abdul to flash her top at Bo or do ANYTHING to make the show more interesting.

"24" has only 2 or 3 more episodes. This, too, is a good thing, because frankly, Jack Bauer needs some sleep, and America can't take much more of this. This season we've already had a nuclear plant melt down, Jack's killed his lover's separated husband and tortured far more people than I care to count, and, as I type, a nuclear warhead is armed, launched, and flying through Iowa airspace. Don't you yearn for 24 hours of Jack Bauer's life that's NOT incredibly exciting? I feel so bad for the guy that I want to watch him take 24 hours OFF. Eat a nice meal... maybe catch a movie... spend family time with his incredibly attractive daughter (who's been MIA this whole season!)

"Lost" is almost done with Season 1. Also a good thing. It's starting to get TOO confusing. The decisions are coming fast and reckless on that show: Head off on a homemade raft into the middle of oceanic Nowheresville? Or stick around on the uncharted island with the polar bears, crazy French ladies, and hatchways into Hell? I think I'd take the island. Actually, I think I'd wait and see which one Kate took (she's pretty hot, even though she has a penchant for causing her lover's deaths.)

Then, and only then, can I go back to having a life. Now then, anybody have any ideas what I can do to fill my time?

Sunday, May 15, 2005

COLUMN: Ticket

I was already running late for work when I stopped off at a nearby gas station for morning provisions. As I was busily procuring the necessary caffeine, another shopper approached me to offer condolences on the Katie Holmes/Tom Cruise thing (see last week's column.)

It blows my mind when people recognize me from the column and say hi. I find it perpetually hard to believe that people occasionally care about what I've got to say. I mean, prior to the launch of this column, the only thing I've been able to entertain on a regular basis has been my cat -- and when your only competition is a ball of yarn, it's not much of a challenge.

That said, I've written before about my lack of skill in carrying on small talk with near to complete strangers, so listening to PRAISE from strangers completely does my head in. I am SO appreciative of any positive feedback that I get, but in person, about the best I can muster is, "Wow, thanks so much," followed by so much nervous laughter that the person backs away slowly.

Needless to say, after this encounter, I was running REALLY late, so I jumped in the car and bolted for work. I was about five blocks away from the Dispatch offices when I looked in the rear-view mirror and saw the red and white flashing lights of a Moline police cruiser.

Aww, I thought, this really warms the cockles of my heart. Here's a perfect example of why I have indescribable appreciation for the law enforcement community. Somewhere, one of our citizens needs help, and this good officer is responding to assist. Perhaps there's been a robbery, I thought, or a fight that needed breaking up. Worse yet, perhaps a cat was stuck up a tree. Whatever the situation, I definitely needed to pull over and allow this brave officer to pass me by and head to the emergency.

But the weirdest thing happened. When I went to pull over, the officer pulled over directly behind me?!

Suddenly it dawned on me. The celebrities are right -- fame sometimes CAN be a bad thing. I was fully embarassed. Obviously, this keen-eyed officer had noticed it was me driving. He must be a fan of the column and wants an autograph or souvenir to show his family that he met me in person.

I tried to play it cool when he approached the vehicle. "I'm sorry, officer," I said with a knowing grin, "did you catch me speeding?"

"No," the officer replied. "But I do need your license and proof of insurance."

See! I told you he wanted a souvenir! Elvis' driver's license is on display at the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. This guy could have mine in his HOUSE, and he wouldn't even have to drive to Cleveland. It was an awkward request, but who am I to say no to an officer of the law, so I handed him my insurance card.

"This expired last month," he tells me. Ooh, I thought to myself, that makes it a COLLECTIBLE. Your official Shane Brown souvenir could now fetch a tidy sum on eBay, Mr. Officer.

Sadly, it turns out he DIDN'T want to keep it as a limited edition collectible. In fact, he wanted to TICKET me for failing to put my new card in my glove compartment. And the reason he pulled me over? Not an autograph, not to share a cat story, not even a Katie Holmes condolence... apparantly in my hurry to get to work, I forgot to put on a seat belt when I left the gas station.

I complemented the officer on having a good eye -- I was wearing a black shirt and going 30 mph, and he STILL saw it. Frankly, that's impressive. He, however, was unmoved. So now I get to go to court, pay fines, and sign autographs on pieces of paper I prefer not to sign autographs on. All in all, NOT a good morning.

The entire escapade leaves me with a humble lesson or two well-learned, and one all-consuming, nagging question: What exactly ARE the cockles of one's heart, and are there any lingering medical effects when they begin to warm?

Thursday, May 12, 2005

If There's One Thing That Screams, "Put This in Your Mouth & Switch It To the 'On' Position,"

This is NOT it.


Man, I hate waiting for stuff I've ordered off the internet to show up. Just had to say that in print. Tick, tock, tick, tock...

UPDATE: Stuff showed up. Yay. I'm sure you can all sleep MUCH better.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

You think mice are household pests?

Try living with a goblin.

(Thanks to Dave's blog.)

Umm.... Injecting WHAT? Into your WHERE?

Sometimes it's a GOOD thing that I'm not down with the latest fad.

CAUTION: This link is just plain... icky.

Thank God for REAL Journalism.


No more of this poppycock nonsense that our paper calls "news." None of this phony "investigative journalism" stuff that we occasionally run. Finally a REAL newspaper has stepped to the plate with news that MATTERS.

I refer, of course, to the new issue of Star magazine, which I spotted in the checkout lane at Wal-Mart last night. (And don't get me started, I hate Wal-Mart and rail against it as often as possible, but last night there was a crisis involving cat pee and a new litterbox that overrode any ethical dilemmas I might happen to have.)

Anyways, I'm in the checkout lane and there's the new issue of Star. The ONLY newspaper with the guts (oh, heck, I'm not in the newspaper on this, so I'll say it -- with the BALLS) to report the TRUE facts, gripping drama, and MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION FACING OUR WORLD TODAY:

"Tom & Katie -- Are They Faking It? Signs Point to Yes!"

Pleeeeeeeeeeeeease let them be faking it. Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeease? Either that or all of us need to put our thinking caps together and figure out a way to break them up pronto.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

I'm coming out of my cage and I've been doin JUST FINE.

So... just got back from the Killers gig.

If I could sum it up in one word? ...Mediocre.

Now then, keep in mind that I'm a huge music nerd. It surrounds my life, it... well, it IS my life. Ever since I could crawl, I've been obsessed with music... and as a result, my tastes are a little... beyond that of the common man. (Look, there are few things in life that I can claim to be BETTER AT than you. Analyzing rock shows is one of them. Forgive my ego if it rages out of control.)

Point is, The Killers have put themselves on one hell of a pedestal of late. "Hot Fuss" was easily one of the most confident debut albums ever launched upon our shores, and the magnitude of the record sent ripples through the entire indie rock community. In short, the record RULES, and anyone who has anything negative to say about the record JUST DOESN'T GET IT.

Ergo, I was looking for nothing less than a relevatory performace tonight at the Col Ballroom. Instead, what I took home was a band that I still have immense respect for, albeit marginally disappointed at the gig I just witnessed.

To me, as an amateur musicologist, The Killers were just running through the paces. Nothing exciting, nothing non-scripted. Just another show. Now, this is a band that's played 200+ gigs in the past year, so I suppose I've got to cut them some slack from a bit of over-the-road-itis.

You could just listen to the band onstage and realize that they've been rocking this same set for the better part of the year. Onstage, they seemed bored. In the crowd, I WAS bored.

All in all, it was a decent show. I wanted the band to come out and blow the roof off of all of their hits, which they did in no uncertain terms. Sadly, they did very little else. Definitely subscribing to the "we've-got-better-things-to-do-than-talk-to-the-audience" mentality of the indie bands of the 80's, I wanted The Killers to be engaging; instead, it was just song to song to song without any experimentation, improvisation, or anything else that makes a show noteworthy.

I had fun, don't get me wrong; but this show was put on a pedestal based on their outstanding record, and what we got tonight wasn't even worthy of a footrest.

In a couple years, if The Killers keep up their ambitions at the same rate they are now, they'll rule the world. For the time being, they're just a one-album indie band trying to play the game, make decent music, and score some hits on the charts.

I just wanted more, that's all.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Cavalcade of Crazies

Nothing like a lame news story to bring out all the crazies en masse. Check out these letters that were sent to the government of Duluth, GA in regards to the recent headline-grabbing runaway bride and whether or not to press charges against her. Very impressive collection of crazies.

(WARNING: This link has a LOT of profanities abundant. Don't say I didn't warn ya.)

Attack of the evil robotic cute children!

Run for your lives!

Okay, maybe not. But it's still pretty creepy.

Surely, if you're from the Quad Cities area, you're familiar with Maple Leaf Geneseo, the car dealership located just out of town in Geneseo. Now, before anybody accuses me of casting a disparaging comment towards Maple Leaf, let me get one thing clear.

I like their business, a lot. I've actually shopped for cars there in the past, and was treated decently. All of those Geneseo car dealers really ARE worth the trip in my opinion. Decent cars, decent staff, decent prices.

That said, I am haunted day-in, day-out by the hideous and eerie refrain of the Maple Leaf dealership. It could be 1 a.m while I'm lying in bed... it could be 9 a.m. while I'm in the shower... suddenly, and intensely, it strikes.


Yes, it's the Jingle from Hell, as sung by (I think) the owner's son. They had the little kid sing it so it would be cute and appealing to families... which it was... the first 500 times it aired. Now it's the Death Dirge, clawing away at the interior of my sanity everytime it airs.

But more to the core of the problem is the winking kid. He's basically become the trademark of the company. And yeah, it makes for a good trademark. I'm not ripping on the company's advertising one bit -- they do a good job... EXCEPT for one occurrence.

Ever traveled to Geneseo from the Quad Cities on Highway 6? If so, you know what I'm talking about. Somewhere out there in the middle of corn field hell is a barn. On the side of that barn is a painted billboard for Maple Leaf Geneseo, and another occurrence of the winking kid. Only thing is, where the kids winking eyeball should be they've placed a STROBE LIGHT that perpetually blinks 24/7, reminding us all to drive 20 and save plenty.

The effect, while effective (you DO look at the billboard,) makes the winking kid come across more as a blinking cyborg child from the year 2240, sent to Earth from an evil alien civilization to enslave us all, all the while singing, "Drive... 20.... Save... plenty!" I live in fear of the night that the Cyborg Kid enters my dreams (oh and it WILL happen, my nightmares are usually always low in creativity, high in terror) and chases me around with his blinking Eye of Doom singing the Jingle From Hell. Pity me that night, dear readers.

But again, I can't do enough disclaimers -- Maple Leaf Geneseo is a great business, don't forget about them when you're in need of a car. But, of course, none of us CAN forget about them because that jingle is embedded into our brains. (Which, while annoying, means that the jingle WORKS.) I need to find those jinglewriters so they can write a jingle for my column that will take over your souls. Then, and only then, will I be able to put my OWN billboard up. But in place of my head, I want a giant disco ball. My ultimate goal is that I want you guys to have a Pavlovian response -- you hear disco, you think "SHANE!" You think Shane, you hear disco. Some day....

The Killers are coming...

If you're not here tonight, you're dumb. Or at least horribly, horribly uneducated at the concept of GOOD MUSIC.


You ever have one of those days where you desperately, almost religiously... want to be creative, yet the creative part of your brain just turns to mush?

That's been me today.

I've spent nearly three hours now in front of the computer, waiting for inspiration or brain cells to kick in or what-have-you.

I think there's a part of me that thinks that creativity is a sort of necessary validation to my life... and that validation turns into poo-poo when the ideas just don't flow.

Grand plans are something I'm reeeeeally good at... executing those plans is what I just plain kinda suck at. There's a voice in me that's perpetually saying, "Shane, you need to write the great American novel." "Shane, you should try to write a musical -- that'd be a hoot." "Shane, you should write... ANYTHING, man, what's wrong with you?!"

But I also know better than to force myself to write when ideas are simply not flowing. Sunday's never been a productive day for me. It's simply a battery recharging day, and I've got to learn to treat it as such.

That said, I'm retiring for the evening. I've spent the past couple hours nursing my Katie Holmes / Tom Cruise heartbreak by treating myself to some of the finer episodes of Dawson's Creek Season 1. You know, that Kevin Williamson can write one wicked exchange of dialogue... but the plot points suck just as bad as 90210 or Melrose Place or any of those shows. That said, Dawson's will forever remain my favorite guilty pleasure, make no mistake about it.

Anyways, I'm off. Hopefully inspiration and comedy will return tomorrow. I'm concluding my battery recharging with a few more pages of the new Sarah Vowell, "Assassination Vacation." People, if there's one thing I can EVER influence you on in life, it's that Sarah Vowell is better than no one else at capturing the heartbeat and inherent humor of Americana. I am SO in love with her brain. Treat yourself and go buy the book. Tomorrow, I'll be funny again. Pinky swear.

Sunday, May 08, 2005


Well, it's official -- there is no god.

I know that's a harsh thing to hear out of a humor columnist, but it's true. My faith was shattered last Thursday morning when I picked up a copy of USA Today and opened it to the entertainment section. There, staring me in the face, was evidential proof that my entire belief system until now has been a sham.

A higher power simply cannot exist in a world where Katie Holmes is dating Tom Cruise.
For the uninitiated, Katie Holmes is the former star of TV's "Dawson's Creek," the most perfect person in the world, and my future wife. Tom Cruise, meanwhile, is a white-toothed freak of nature from the Island of Improbably Attractive Movie Stars, whose sole purpose in life is to remind us normal guys on a routine basis that, when compared to him, we are all essentially dog doodie.

Okay, so wait. I take all that "there is no god" stuff back. There MUST be a higher power, because women like Katie Holmes can't just randomly occur without divine intervention. From the moment that I accidentally channel-flipped into an episode of "Dawson's Creek," I knew that Katie was the girl for me. Thanks to her, every week I would sit there, drool cup in hand, and become deeply engrossed in a television show clearly written for people ten years younger than myself. I could've cared less, and I've got the "Dawson's" DVD collection to prove it.

When the show ended a few years back, it was a very tense moment. Who would Katie's Joey Potter choose? Would she end up with budding film star and academic Dawson? Or would she choose the rebel-with-a-heart-of-gold Pacey? OR, would she tell them both off, hop in her car, and start life anew in the Quad Cities, whereupon she would meet and fall in love with a pudgy, slightly awkward newspaper columnist? Hey, a fella can dream.

For years, I patiently waited while Katie dated Chris Klein (the dopey kid from the "American Pie" movies.) This past February, they split up. Obviously, I assumed, Katie had heard about me and promptly shown ol' Chris the door. Finally, it was MY chance. For the past few months, I've been prepping the letter I would use to woo her. Thus far, I've got: "Dear Katie, You're real pretty. Do you like me? (Check this box.)" It worked for me in 5th grade, and it could work again.

Obviously, I waited too long. Having spent two months waiting to hear from her #1 fan, Katie must have decided to run off into the arms of the next best thing to Shane -- Tom Cruise. Sure, he doesn't have the sexy love handles, assorted neuroses, and violent housepets that I sport, but hey, not everyone can be the powerhouse of brute machismo that I embody.

But Tom Cruise. I mean, get real. Suddenly I feel a lot less like a pervert for lusting after someone as young as Katie. He's 42 and she's 26. If I dated someone 16 years my junior, I would be PUT IN PRISON. When Tom Cruise does it, he gets the cover of People.

Oh, great. See, this is the penance for my earlier crisis of faith. I just took a break from writing this column to watch some TV. At this very moment, "Top Gun," "Risky Business," and "The Last Samurai" are ALL playing -- it's like Cruise-a-palooza on my TV. First he takes my girl, then he takes my TV time? This madness must end. I can safely say that if your way of life involves obsessing over Katie Holmes, then TOM CRUISE IS A THREAT TO YOUR WAY OF LIFE (I just wanted to get that sentence in print.)

Or maybe I should just grow up, lose my obsessions with TV starlets, and go meet a nice Quad City girl. We could settle down, find a house with a white picket fence, and grow old together. That might be just what I need... to make Katie jealous enough to ditch that loser and give me a call.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

The Trouble With Tribute Bands

A random thought that occurred to me last night...

The Trippin' Billies played at Ribco last night -- they're a Dave Matthews tribute band. Pretty nice guys, and pretty good musicians (though I'm no Dave fan by any stretch.)

But it got me to thinking about tribute bands a little bit...

The Dave Matthews Band is putting out a new record in a week or two, and early reports coming from the kids who are downloading the thing off the internet is that it's a *BAD* record. Earth-shatteringly bad if you believe what some of these kids are saying.

So what happens if the album comes out and it really IS just a horrible stinker of a record? I mean, I doubt it's going to be THAT bad, but let's assume for this scenario that the new DMB record flops as bad as Vanilla Ice's second record. Like, a career-destroying record.

What does that do to the stock of the tribute band?? These guys are paid to mimic and ape this band... Wouldn't it just absolutely SUCK to be a great musician in a tribute band that kids love, and then suddenly, your crowds get thinner... and thinner... and thinner... just because the band you're paid to ape loses popularity?

I bet the guys in Trippin' Billies sweat the Billboard charts and record sales of Dave Matthews Band records just as much as Dave Matthews himself does.

Moral of the story: If you're gonna be in a tribute band, wait until the band you're tributing (is that a word?) is dead. Preferably in some kind of tragic plane crash/accident, career-cut-short, isn't-it-a-tragedy, musical martyr, black-light-posters-aplenty-at-Spencer-Gifts kinda way.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Thursday, May 05, 2005

I Knew I Liked Art

Well, slap my knee and call me an art lover, then.

Worshipping a False Idol?

Okay, okay... I didn't want to get into it, but it seems like the whole frikkin' world won't shut up about it. Let's talk for a second about this American Idol business.

First off, right outta the gate I've gotta give it up for my boy, Scott Savol, and say how bad it sucks that he got voted off last night. Say what you want about him but the kid can sing. I've voted almost every week since the show started, and my vote's always gone to Scott for a variety of reasons:

(1) Like I said, the kid can sing. He might not have one of those voices that can knock you on your butt, but we're not ALL looking for singers who can belt tracks out of the park. I don't listen to music to hear some girlie hit a note so high that glass shatters. Frankly, that's just not my idea of a good time. Some people like the singers who do all that "shoo-be-de-di-wop-wop" stuff with their voice to show off their range or whatever. Not me. To me, it just sounds like somebody's singing a scale.

(2) Scott's got the most marketable voice remaining in the competition. He's got a durable R&B voice that could easily make dents in the Top 40 charts. The same can't be said for the rest of the field. Carrie's got a good country voice, Bo's got a good rock voice, but go take a look at the Billboard Top 40 charts right now. Country and rock music just aren't havin' it. Billboard's about hip-hop, and Scott's the only one that can rock that style.

(3) MOST importantly, who WOULDN'T want a chubby, ugly kid with the personality of a wet noodle to win the contest?! Can you IMAGINE the horrors that the American Idol marketing dept. would have to deal with to make this kid sell records? The comedy factor ALONE should have caused you to vote for him.

Sadly, he's gone now. But there's WAAAAAAAY more important stuff to focus on.

Like this Corey Clark/Paula Abdul nonsense. The whole world -- well, at least my whole office today -- is abuzz with people debating whether or not the two of them got it on like bunnies.

Well, on behalf of the portion of the world WITH brains, WHO CARES.

So let's assume that it actually happened. Get past the fact that Corey Clark got kicked off the show for lying. Get past the fact that he's found one HECK of a gimmick to try and sell his new record. Get past the fact that he's a greasy-faced, bad complexioned thug with a limited vocal range.

Okay? Let's assume now that he and Paula did the nasty. Would someone PLEASE explain to me how this gives Clark a leg up in the competition?

They're saying on the news that "Paula Abdul was coaching Corey Clark and giving him career advice." No offense, but getting career advice from Paula Abdul is like getting hairstyle advice from Donald Trump. Paula Abdul's career lasted approximately as long as this sentence. ONE big album with 3 or so big songs. A second album that underwhelmed but did okay. A third album that may or may not have come out (who's to say? Know anybody who bought it?)

Point is, Paula Abdul is the DEFINITION of flash-in-the-pan. What advice could she give? "Always have something to fall back on"? "Never ever EVER date Emilio Estevez"??

I don't get the fuss. At worst, she picked him out a couple decent looking shirts and gave him song suggestions. The most she could have done to give him an advantage when it came to voting would have been to say, "You're a fantastic performer." BUT SHE SAYS THAT TO EVERY CONTESTANT, so who on Earth cares?

The only thing about this whole brouhaha that's made me mad is the fact that in order to write this, I had to confess here in a public forum that I watch the stupid show every week. THAT's the worst scandal I can think of.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

There IS a God.

Stephen Colbert is the funniest guy on television. I approve, heartily. Check out the faux barbs between Colbert and Stewart in the article. Folks, when even the PRESS RELEASES are funny, this is destined for greatness.

If you want sexual cheerleaders...

...Then we suggest NOT going to Texas.

Key quote:
Edwards argued bawdy performances are a distraction for students resulting in pregnancies, dropouts and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

That's right, kids. Don't watch cheerleaders or you'll get pregnant and/or herpes. If that's true, God knows what prolonged exposure to a Madonna video could do to you... (psst: the answer is 'Cooties.')

There have GOT to be better people to stalk.

If you're gonna be a stalker, at least pick somebody worthwhile. Jeez.

Runaway Bride Gift Registry

Give the gift that says, "Good Luck in Your Impending Nuptials And Here's Hoping You Don't Catch Another Bus To Arizona Sparking Another Nationwide Manhunt."

The happy couple are still registered at Pottery Barn and at Macy's.

...& so the story begins.

Well, one day into this thing and I'm already starting to feel a bit silly. It seems to be that if you're running a blog, you fall into one of two categories:

(1) Someone really, really ticked off about politics.
(2) A 14-year-old girl.

Well, okay, I'm always ticked off about politics, but not enough to babble about it. You guys don't give a rat's a** about my political leanings... and if you DO give a rat's a**, then, well, I pity you. And more importantly, how did the phrase "I don't give a rat's a**" get into our vernacular in the first place? Was it once custom to wander about, giving rat a** to anyone who interested us? And if somebody who you DIDN'T care about happened along the way, then, hey, no rat a** for that guy.

So if I'm not doing a blog for political gain, that must mean that I'm a 14 year old girl. Sadly, also incorrect... Though we COULD spend this whole blog time spreading salacious rumours about friends and co-workers and goings on at the paper. Trouble is, I LIKE my friends and co-workers, and there's not much of a gossip machine here at work... so my salacious stories would only be things like, "Hey, this one girl here at work, she, um, came in like 2 minutes late! Can you believe it!?!" And, frankly, that just doesn't make for front-page-of-the-Enquirer kinda stories.

So instead, I'll use this blog to babble about meaningless and funny stuff that happens all around us. And then you can comment. And then I can comment on your comments. Eventually, with any luck, we shall rule the world. (Bwaa. Ha. Ha.)

I'm gonna do my best to update this thing VERY frequently... so check back loads. There's LOTS of stupid stuff in our world... and I DO so love to complain.

See ya in the funny pages,

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Fanfare, please.


Testing... testing...

Is this thing on?

Sunday, May 01, 2005

COLUMN: Feline Felon

I can't believe all the fuss it's caused. A frequent subject of the media, convicted of a crime of auspicious circumstance and forced to live under house arrest, a prisoner in her own home. Martha? Martha WHO? I'm talking about my CAT here. Yes, every parent's worst nightmare has come true for me: My cat has a police record.

The story begins innocently enough last week with a sick kitty and a trip to the vet. My cat is a sweet and loveable lap cat -- until you take her outside the apartment and away from me, at which point she turns into something that would give Linda Blair nightmares. I like to refer to her as "socially awkward."

To say my cat gets aggressive when she gets scared is an understatement. You know the noise that cats make when you accidentally step on their tail? That's the noise she makes the ENTIRE time we're at the vet. She bites, she claws, she attacks... until you get her back in the car, when she starts purring and curls up in your lap.

So I took her to the vet and they did a great job making her all better, but this weekend she needed a quick follow-up blood test. I get to my vet's office in Bettendorf to find that I don't know any of the weekend staff. A vet tech immediately goes to grab the cat and take her back to the lab.

"I'll need to go with," I say politely.

"Oh, no, no, we've got her," the tech smiles back at me, unaware of her pending fate.

"No, really, I'll need to go with," I say politely again. "My cat can get a bit nasty when she gets scared." This scenario carries on until I've warned her FIVE times that she's playing with fire.

"Don't worry, I've dealt with millions of cats," she says, grabbing my baby and heading back to the lab.

"She's going to bite you!" were my last words to her. Thirty seconds later, I hear the cat start howling. Five minutes later, they bring her to me in a cardboard box. No, they didn't kill her. It was just the only way to get her out of the office without bloodshed.

"We weren't able to do anything," says the vet, sounding shocked. "She bit our tech."

Well, DUH. It was exactly as I'd anticipated.

What I DIDN'T anticipate, though, was a call from the Bettendorf police at 11 that night. Turns out the vet tech went to the ER, the ER called the police, and I'm told I have a "vicious animal" and that Iowa law dictates that the cat be immediately quarantined for 10 days.

I proceed to FREAK OUT. Do I need a cat lawyer? Should the cat and I go on the lam? Needless to say, I was at my vet's office when they opened the next morning. If they thought the cat was a "vicious animal," wait 'til they got a load of the OWNER.

At 8 this morning, I was thoroughly prepared to turn this column into a venomous attack on my vet clinic. Instead, I'm going to tell you how wonderful they were. I talked/bawled to the administrator and within minutes, the clinic was on the phone with Animal Control and the Dept. of Health discussing my feline felon.

The end result is that we took a plea and copped to 10 days of home quarantine. My friends are forbidden to come over by law. My cat might, umm, purr on them or something. I'm thinking about fashioning her a striped jumpsuit and teaching her to play the harmonica.

The sweet innocent cat on my lap is a menace to society, a Rebel Without Front Claws. Those times she disappears under the bed? She must be planning her next crime. Perhaps Jimmy Hoffa's under there. Maybe she's running a counterfeit Kibbles racket. Worse yet, maybe SHE'S the one who's been downloading all that free music off the internet.

Me, I'm just thankful that our tax dollars are being used so constructively to get this real criminal off the streets. We can all sleep easier. Well, except me. Not with a felon under my bed.