Monday, June 27, 2005

COLUMN: Dancing With the Stars

It's been nice knowing you, everybody. No no, the column hasn't been cancelled. But the world IS about to end. I've personally spent the last two or three days giving backward glances out the window, looking for four guys on horses to come gunning for me.

I'm thoroughly convinced that we've got little time left, as just the other day I bore witness to an event that MUST surely be a sign of the Apocalypse. That was last week, back when I was a wide-eyed, innocent youth, checking out the internet for my weekly entertainment news. That was when I saw the evil, evil truth... "Dancing With the Stars" is the #1 rated show in America.

Ummm... WHAT? That's it, then. We've reached the ultimate low. It's a pretty accepted fact that we are the leaders of the free world. And, apparantly, what the leaders of the free world like to do in their down time is watch Evander Holyfield do the tango.

The first time I saw an ad for "Dancing with the Stars," I eagerly expected the Energizer bunny to come strutting across the screen, revealing the whole ad as a ruse. Nope, it's a real show. My friends and I sat, open-mouthed, and wondered just who the person was that could have green-lighted such a travesty, and naturally, what parking lot that person would be working in six months from now once they got canned for their ignorance. But noooo. THAT would be putting too much stock in society. Instead, the show is a verified hit. Way to go, people.

Have you seen the show? They assemble some celebrities, pair them up with professional dance partners, and have them compete for a panel of overly pretentious judges and the viewing public. Unfortunately, no celebrities appeared to be available, so they brought in Evander Holyfield and Joey New Kid on the Block instead (who, incidentally, is now Joey Old Kid on the Block.) People, this is the loosest definition of "stars" we've seen yet on reality TV.

ABC's ads have now been changed to include the phrase, "Don't miss the show that's captivated America and gotten everyone talking!" EVERYONE? Really?

I'm trying in my mind to figure out what these water-cooler discussions could possibly be about:

"Gee, did you watch 'Dancing With the Stars' last night?"
"Boy, that Evander sure can do the cha-cha."

Captivating, eh? How can you as a viewer keep your focus on this program without nodding off within 10 minutes? I tried! It's impossible.

Then it hit me. I basically did this whole monologue here for my co-workers, and suddenly the females in the room rose up en masse to properly lecture me on the innate joy and magic of this show. What I learned is that: (a) the "stars" apparantly practice really, really hard, (b) the guy who played J. Peterman in Seinfeld is "classy," and (c) the women's outfits are "really pretty."

Ah, that's it, then. I don't give stuff like this a chance because I'm estrogen-challenged. Guys don't care about hard work or classiness. We don't care if the outfits are "pretty." We only care if the outfits are see-through. Oh, and it might help if, somehow, as part of the competition, people's lives were at risk. THEN it would be a man's show.

So I think, in the sake of fairness, someone needs to develop a show along the same lines for we manly men to enjoy. That's where I come in. I've got a killer idea, and I just need to pitch it to the networks to make millions and be able to blow this popsicle newspaper.

Ladies and gentlemen -- well, mostly gentlemen -- I give you: "Blowing Stuff Up With the Stars." My premise is simple: assemble the celebrities (might I suggest Fabio, MTV's Martha Quinn, and the guy who played "Cooter" on The Dukes of Hazzard,) give them each 5 sticks of dynamite, and let them go crazy and blow up whatever's nearby -- a car, an empty home, Tom Cruise, whatever. Their work would then be judged by a group of pretentious munitions experts on Effectivity, Blast Radius, and Overall Awesomeness.

THEN, my friends, we would have some watercooler fodder.

"Did you see Martha Quinn get her hand blown off last night?"
"Wasn't that FREAKIN' AWESOME?!"

(Photo courtesy

Friday, June 24, 2005

Does Davenport Need Psychedelia?

(Photo courtesy this guy's cool site.)

So tonight me and my friend Jason went over to the Rhythm City casino. Did we go because we like to gamble? Hell no. (Though, it must be touted, I won $4.60 playing a slot machine called "Wild Dolphins.") We went because we wanted to see this crazy new Skybridge thing for ourselves.

Umm... whoa. That thing is CRAZY.

Point #1: The skybridge connects, essentially, nothing to nothing. If you're going to have a pedestrian bridge 4 stories above the ground, you might want to attach it to something more interesting than an elevator on each side. Really, folks, they're called CROSSWALKS. Not too confusing to use, and they don't require an elevator.

Point #2: So let's assume that, elevation aside, a skybridge is the way to go. I want to know who the person was who stood up in a development meeting and went, "Okay, so what if we took the lights inside the bridge and made them every color of the rainbow, and then let's make 'em flash and do funky patterns. That would be, as the kids say, dope."

I guess I just don't get it. But don't get me wrong -- I think it's super cool... and I'm surprised that the halls of the skybridge aren't already being usurped by college kids on mind-altering substances... coz it really is super neat to check out. But WHY go to the trouble? I'm just a bit confuzzled.

It's like, "Well, you've just lost your life savings on the riverboat. You feel sick to your stomach. Just to add insult to injury, we're going to make you walk home through a five-minute psychedelic nightmare. Come back soon, y'hear?"

It's like me and my cynical friend were saying tonight, it's only a matter of time before punk kids start spitting on people below... or worse yet, some emotionally fragile kid will decide that doing a 4-story belly flop onto the casino's pavement will be a boss way to end it all. Everything good gets ruined by cool kids doing something STUPID, just you wait.

Until then, I'm going to enjoy the tripped-out stroll across the skybridge that connects nothing to nothing. Kudos, D-port, on spending weird amounts of money on weird stuff. Remember that next time the river floods your whole downtown. I'll be safe, coz I'll be 4 stories up watching the chaos from my psychedelic skybridge.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

COLUMN: Father's Day

When I first started this column, one of the cardinal vows I made to myself was that I'd never take it into cheezy territory. No sappy, feel-good, make-you-go-"awwwww" tales out of this journalist. No way, no how. Save it for Hallmark. Most of that touchy-feely sentimental stuff makes me want to puke.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, grab your barf bags. I need to break my rule just this once. I'll try to keep the schlockiness down to a minimum, but you're going to need to indulge me for a second. This weekend I need to pay honor to someone who's been an unsung hero in my life for far too long.

Put simply, my dad is the greatest of all dads. That's not opinion -- it's an actual fact. Many apologies to those of you who also might think the same of your father. Sadly, you're incorrect in your assessment. Your pop can only be #2 or lower. I called dibs.

I was sitting around thinking tonight. I'm 34 years old, and the greatest accomplishment I've been able to muster thus far in life is the ability to roll out of bed every morning, throw myself together, and make it to work within 5 minutes of when I'm supposed to be there. That's MY big resume.

When my DAD was 34, he was building the house that I grew up in. From scratch. His plans, his hands, his dream. I remember being 7 years old, watching my father put our home together, and thinking to myself, "Wow, when I get that moldy old, I'm gonna build a house, too." Well, here I am, old and moldy, and I can't even build a salad without covering myself in ranch dressing.

Yet this man put together our home from the ground up. Or should I say from the ground DOWN. See, my dad didn't just design and build any ol' home -- no, I grew up in an energy efficient, Earth-sheltered, "underground" home. My dad built us the cave of all caves. Virtually tornado-proof, completely earthquake-proof, heated and cooled by little more than the Sun and the earth itself. To the 7-year-old me, it was like living in a James Bond hideout.

He's our family's own personal superhero. The man can make ANYTHING with his hands. Beyond crafting much of the furniture in my apt., I've seen the guy make a pottery wheel, a miniature replica cannon, a fully working dulcimer for my mom when she mentioned it on a whim, it just goes on and on. I, meanwhile, can't craft a microwaved burrito without issues.

You'd think my dad was a professional carpenter or an architect. Nope. He's a railroader, one of the most thankless jobs on the planet. Home for sometimes as little as 8 hours at a stretch, then gone on a train for a day and a half. Yet, even with the insane schedule that he's known for 30+ years, I have NEVER witnessed the man put himself first.

Maybe my dad would've enjoyed a kid who liked to build things, too. Instead he got me -- Nerdy McWuss. But, darn it, lumber has SPLINTERS, and besides, it's usually found outside, and that's where the bees and snakes and bugs are. So I spent my childhood indoors glued to computers, video games, and TV -- but without a lick of disappointment from the old man. Besides, even Superman needs somebody to program the VCR.

I perpetually count myself among the lucky ones, as I've got parents who've stayed together and are as hopelessly in love with each other as the day they met. My folks brought me up on the straight and narrow -- but with kindness and support instead of discipline or fear. Everything I am today starts and stops with them.

Recently, I've gotten to see my dad play a different kind of superhero. For the past 2 weeks, my mom's been in and out of the hospital with what the doctors refer to as "thunderclap migraines." Don't worry - she's going to be fine. The point is, my father took two weeks off work to become the family rock. When you're hanging out with someone suffering from headaches, you've got to be prepared to spend a lot of time in a very dark, very quiet room. My father hasn't left my mom's side for the past 2 weeks, with little to do but sit, stare, sleep, and call me with status reports every other hour.

Watching all this made me realize that I'm still the 7 year old wanting to be just like my dad when I grow up. I might not be able to build my own house, but if I can one day fill a home with the kind of love and happiness that my parents have given me all these years, I'll be just fine.

I love you, Dad. Happy Father's Day.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Michael Jackson

It's official. The verdict is in. The jury has debated and reached their decision:

The kid is NOT his son.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

COLUMN: Little Green Men

It's all my parents' fault.

When I was in fourth grade, my folks got me my first computer. What they thought to be a fantastic teaching tool instead pulled me straight into the social abyss of adolescent nerd-dom.

The facts are indisputable. Yes, I have seen "Star Wars" more times than I care to admit. Yes, I had a Dungeons & Dragons character named "Fokstarr." Yes, I ALWAYS was last picked in gym class.

And like all good nerds of my day, I was deep into science fiction, the paranormal, and pretty much anything and everything that went bump in the night.

I've never understood this about myself. I guess I'm a natural-born skeptic. I was the first kid in my group of friends to call Santa's bluff. When all my buddies were going nuts over pro wrestling, I was in the background, scoffing.

To this day, whenever I witness anything hokey or unbelievable -- from televangelists to psychics to weird e-mails claiming I can increase the size of my nether regions -- I'm usually the first person to stand up and (in the confines of a family newspaper) yell "Cow defecation!"

Yet, despite my inherent skepticism about most things in life, I AM a firm believer in little green men. True, there is more physical evidence to support the existence of the Easter bunny than there is to support life outside our planet -- but I don't care.

Look, the universe is one big place. I mean REALLY big. It's the Monster Thickburger of existence. There are MILLIONS of stars out there -- and to think that their only purpose in life is to set the mood when we're out parking with Little Suzie is ridiculous. We can't be alone, we just can't be.

There's a fundamental flaw with all this, though. It just so happens that, within the global community of Folks Who Believe in Outer Space Hocum-Pocum, 90 percent of our club's card-carrying members are, to use the technical term, complete and total nutbags.

Let's get one thing straight: Just because I believe extraterrestrial life is a possibility does NOT mean I believe the aforementioned extraterrestrials have little better to do with their interstellar lives than pop 'round to Nowheresville, Ohio, and abscond with plump, middle-aged housewives to perform creepy nether-region experiments on.

Yet, big shocker, these are the only examples of "believers" who show up in press -- usually on the front of the Weekly World News, usually claiming that aliens have impregnated them, and usually somehow also involving Elvis.

Every club needs a gathering place, and the wayward home for cosmic nutbags of all shapes and sizes can be found nightly on your radio dial. "Coast To Coast," the infamous overnight radio talk show, is without doubt THE most entertaining program you can possibly find.

Broadcast locally on WOC 1420, hosts George Noory and the legendary Art Bell are the ringmasters to a Cavalcade of Crazy. Rather than mock the show, I instead made a point of listening this week and writing down some of the stuff I heard. Here's a random sampling:

(1) "Hi! Long-time listener, first-time caller. I'm a long-haul trucker, and I just love your show. ... Now, I'm also a clairvoyant who can communicate with the shadow animals."

(2) "Well, George, I think the truth is obvious. Anyone who looks at the news can surmise that the Prophet Yahweh is working hand-in-hand with the Reptilians."

The REPTILIANS? I've already learned from this show to be afraid of shadows, jet contrails, ghosts, the air and ESPECIALLY the government -- now I have to worry about lizards??? Folks, I get PAID to write comedy, and I couldn't begin to top this stuff.

Sadly, though, I'm such a nerd that I've got to end this column by admitting that I actually DO know who "The Prophet Yahweh" is.

He's just your average everyday old man who lives in Vegas ... oh, and he can pray to the skies and cause UFOs to appear on command. Don't believe me? There's video on It's a little cool and a whole lot of crazy, and it makes my nerd arm-hairs stand on end.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to get back to my busy life of video-game playing, sky watching, and girlfriend not-having.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Wow. I Needed This Today.

The picture on the front page of our paper today looks EXCEPTIONALLY psychotic.

I'm afraid the pic online doesn't quite do it justice, so if you're browsing the newsstands today, find the Dispatch or Argus and check it out for yourself.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

As if Mariah Carey wasn't crazy enough on her OWN...

Check out her FANS.

Truly, folks, there are better people to stalk out there.

There are reasons why I don't exercise much.

This is one of 'em.

But I'd still like to get a "personal poop pail" as a gift someday.

(Thanks to Dave's blog where I blatantly stole this one from.)

Monday, June 06, 2005

Not that I'm a religious guy...

...but if YOU are, I could use your help.

Do me a favor and add my mom to your prayers tonight... she's now been in the hospital down in Galesburg for 3 days with some mysterious head ailment still undiagnosed. Not cool, though the view from her room is pretty boss.

(Blogging may be sparse until we can get her all better...)

Sunday, June 05, 2005

COLUMN: Festivals

Flashback: January 2005. I distinctly recall sitting around my way-too-cold apartment, glancing outside at the snow meagerly trying to fall onto the bleak grey expanse of wintertime Rock Island. "Gee," I distinctly recall myself thinking, "I wish it were summer and I was outside at a festival or something." Chalk this up as one of the DUMBEST thoughts I've ever had.

I enjoyed the 2005 festival season for eight whole minutes this year. That's how long it took for some random drunken yahoo in the District the other night to lose half his beer down the front of my shirt. In that swift moment, I suddenly remembered what I hate about summer festivals: EVERYTHING.

As soon as the weather gets a heartbeat above freezing, why do we as human beings have this unnatural compulsion to gather together in celebration, revelry, and lemon shake-ups? It's something I've never understood. Look around you -- there are parks, trees, fields, hills, caves... a SURPLUS of interesting, outdoors-y type settings wherein one could get lost in thought and commune with nature from now until winter.

But nooo, we as a people would rather spend our weekends uniting en masse in a concentrated effort to create one pure, complete, and all-consuming body odor.

The ingredients for a successful summer festival are easy to understand. Step one: assemble the tacky souvenir vendors. Make sure that the vendors know that they can't charge less than a 200% mark-up on all items, including 5 cent necklaces for no less than $8 apiece. 50% of all displayed items must be tie-dyed. Encourage the vendors to burn patchouli incense at alarmingly lung-endangering levels.

Step two: bring in the food. Festival food can come in any shape and size, as long as said food item is incomprehensibly messy and impossible to eat. I have NEVER figured this one out. You're standing outside. There are few if any tables at your disposal. Napkins are an endangered species. Is this REALLY the time to eat ribs oozing with barbecue sauce and corn dogs dripping with ketchup and mustard?

The other day I was at an outdoor fest and looked down at the black shirt I was wearing to find it covered in tiny white flecks. I was about two seconds away from racing off to Walgreen's for some emergency Head & Shoulders when I realized what had happened. Note to self: If you're wearing black at a festival, keep a wide berth of the funnel cake trailer. The white on my shirt was powdered sugar, rising and floating through the air in a last-ditch effort to avoid its cholesterol-sealed fate.

But let's be honest, what I hate the most about festivals is the people. As a general rule, I'm a fairly nice guy. I don't dislike most people. Well, okay, I only dislike about 1 out of 10 people, which I've always considered to be a reasonable average. And when I'm standing in the middle of a festival with 2000 others, that means there are 200 people out there that I can't stand. And, yep, those people ALWAYS seem to find me.

I am a hopeless magnet for Weird Hippie Dancers. You know the sort, right? They could look just like you and me. They could be fine, upstanding members of society. They could be your friends, business colleagues, or trusted civil servants. But hand that person 1+ beers and present them with a funky bassline, and suddenly the gloves are off. Arms flail, feet stomp, twirling begins, and faster than you can say "damn dirty hippies," your personal space is non-existent and their 1+ beers are half on your shirt... and they don't care because they can feeeel the muuusic, maaaan. I, for one, am neither lookin' for fun nor feelin' groovy.

That's why I usually spend my festivals off in the corners, mocking the sorry excuse for society that we've become. Yet I strangely keep going to the things every year. Maybe I'm a glutton for punishment. Maybe I like the combination of B.O. and stale beer. Or maybe I just need inspiration to be able to go, "Gee, I wish it was January and I was sitting around watching it snow."

Thursday, June 02, 2005

People Love Their Ty Food

Jeez... I am getting some SERIOUS hate mail at the office over my column shredding "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." Ty's massive armies of female fans are besieging me with mail as though I desecrated their sacred cow or something.

I stand by my word. And that word is "SUCKS." Which is what that show does. Routinely.

I, meanwhile, am VERY excited about the musical has-been show premiering on NBC tonight. My money's on Arrested Development whupping some butt, though don't discount A Flock of Seagulls...

The Masochism Tango

Sorry for a few days of non-blogging there... I guess I was just caught up in all the excitement.