Tuesday, July 26, 2005

This Book Rules

Kill, maim, do whatever you must.

Read it.

That is all.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Disco Inferno

Well, survived Travoltas madness. DJ'ing outside on the main stage in that heat almost did me in, though. My sanity was somewhat salvaged, however, by my decision to bring out my "Disco Sucks" t-shirt, which got a few laughs and a few scowls (exactly what I was shooting for.)

All I know is that it's gonna be a bit before I feel like climbing back into that DJ booth, that's for sure. One looooong night of spinning records. Well, CD's (records would have melted.) I now know what it feels like to sweat out your entire body weight. The whole afterhours at 2nd Ave., I was STILL drenched from DJ'ing outside. Nothing like a sweaty, stinky DJ to really drive the ladies wild, eh?

On a side note, I picked up one of these
personal cooling system thingers from Sharper Image. I went in there looking for one of those battery powered fans so as not to melt my equipment this weekend, and walked out of there impulse buying one of those personal cooling things. As high tech as it may look, it's actually pretty simple. You pour water into it, there's a sponge on the inside that soaks it up, then a little fan blows air through the sponge, making kind of a cool mist effect on your neck. As lo-tech as that sounds, it actually works and DOES make a nice little cooling effect on your neck. Of course, you wear it and look like you need a lift to the nearest Battlestar Galactica convention over in Nerdtown... but this weekend, fashion was NOT my top concern.

COLUMN: Texas, Pt. 2

Last time, in Shane's Column: A vacation to Dallas! The heat! The armadillos! The enchiladas! The lack of column space! And then... did shots ring out? Was our tale to be cut short by tragedy? Who killed Laura Palmer? Who shot J.R.? And will Ross ever kiss Rachel???

My attempt at a two-part cliffhanger probably failed egregiously, but I needed two columns worth of space to talk about Texas. Truth be told, I was NOT shot while in Dallas. Want to know why?

Because everyone in Texas is SOOO terrifyingly nice, that's why.

Honestly, I would be truly ashamed of myself if anyone on the Earth hurled the adjective 'rude' my way. I've never thought that people in the Midwest were impolite or uncouth or coarse as a rule. I've always thought Illinois was, on the whole, a nice place to live. Then I went to Texas and now I'm reconsidering.

Imagine this scenario. I'm in the car, driving into suburban Dallas. At this point, it's been a 14 hour journey. My mind is a mush of sleep deprivation, Sonic burgers, and astonishingly bad radio. The lights of a distant toll plaza tell me that my journey is near an end; the hotel lies just beyond that toll. My hotel... with comfy warm sheets... and those pillows that go "pooooosh" when you touch them... just want to sleep... to relaaa...


My peace and tranquility had just been massacred by the Best Little Tollbooth in Texas. When you go to Chicago, the best you can hope for from a tolltaker is a "hmpf." If you get that "hmpf," you know that you've bonded with that Chicagoan. In Texas, it's apparantly impolite if you don't sit there idling in your car to have a good ol' chat about the weather.

These creepy pleasantries carried on the whole week I was there. The clerk at my hotel wanted to know what it was like to live along the Mississippi. The bartender at a club we went to told me randomly all about the place's history. I was going broke just from overtipping the wait staff everywhere we went. Even on the expressways, when cars would cut you off, they'd do it with a friendly wave as if to say, "Whoa, sorry 'bout that, cowboy!"

Then the unthinkable happened. While at a concert, I went to the restroom. I barely had a chance to do my duty when a slap on my shoulder leads to, "Hey there, pardner, whaddayathink of this band?"

Un-freakin'-believable. There are some things in life that man considers sacred (at least THIS man.) Urinal moments are one of those times. This is not a time for idle chit-chat; this is a time to awkwardly focus your eyes straight ahead while you, well, you know.

Suddenly, an event years prior made perfect sense. I was once visited by a girl from Texas who I'd met over the internet. And she gave me inordinate amounts of grief for what she called my "rude" behavior -- failing to open car doors, order meals for her, etc. Now, while I DO try to be the gentleman when applicable -- I'm not letting doors slam into the faces of my dates or anything -- forgive me for believing women of the world to be handi-capable enough to pull a car door open and know what they want to eat. At the time, I dismissed this girl as an internet loonie. Now, I simply realize, she's not crazy, she's just Texan.

As I left the state, I wondered how an entire populace could be so polite. Maybe they all feel so bad about it being 102 outside that they're just all sympathetic to one another. Could there be have been rude people that I just didn't meet? Then it hit me. I was in Texas -- down there, they obviously just EXECUTE all the rude people. All I know is that when I crossed the Illinois border on empty, stopped at a gas station, and heard, "Yo, dude, pre-pay," I finally felt home.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Feel the Disco Fury

So this weekend it's Travoltas madness in the District. Come swim through the 103 degree heat to hear your disco favorites for the billionth time.

Honestly, though, there's no denying it -- The Travoltas put on one hell of a great show. If you haven't been yet, you basically must not live in the Quad Cities. If you HAVE been, you know what I'm talking about.

Anyways, here's the thing:

I'M opening for them on Saturday. That's right, kids, join me as I become the Quad Cities' version of Disco Stu for one night and one night only -- this Saturday night, DJ'ing a set of all disco, funk, and horribly kitsch music -- opening for the legendary (at least legendary in Rock Island and small corners of Canada) Travoltas.

It shall prove to be a night of full, unbridled hedonistic disco madness. Either that or it'll just be hot, humid, and smelly. Either way, I go on around 8 and take DJ duties on the main stage up until the Travoltas take over around 10:30-ish or so. It's hip, it's happening... it's Ribco, baby. Be there.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

COLUMN: Texas Pt. 1

Grassy knoll, baby!

I thought upon exiting junior high school that I'd be done writing the words "How I Spent My Summer Vacation." No such luck. You see, for the past few weeks, I've been wrestling with a mad case of cabin fever. My daily routine has been grinding against the core of my skull. When I caught myself in the shower the other day thinking, "Maaan. This shower is SO boring," it was time for action. Specifically, the action of packing up the car and getting the heck out of Dodge for a week.

My destination? Dallas, Texas. For a blue-state boy like me, this was akin to Superman deciding to holiday at Lex Luthor's house. Why I decided to visit the town where people wear their red necks like a badge of honor is beyond me. But you know what? Despite that blue-state part of me cringing about having to pay a total of $4.50 for the privilege of driving on something called "The George Bush Turnpike," I lived. I had fun. I (gulp) was really impressed.

Having never ventured in a Southwesterly direction before, I discovered several important truths during my trip. Among them:

- Perhaps in the future, I will not decide on a roadtrip destination whilst looking at a map of the continental United States small enough to fit on an 8.5"x11" sheet of paper. On that map, Texas was only about 2" away from here. In reality, Texas is at least 5.5" away from here.

- Armadillos are really, really weird looking. Especially when they're laying inside-out on the side of the interstate. Which they seem to do in Texas. A lot.

- True story: Somewhere in Oklahoma, I was talking on the cell phone when it went fuzzy and dead. Minutes later, I spotted a sign on a church that said, "Out here, Jesus is our wireless provider." Make of this what you will.

- Two weeks ago, I wrote a column about it being very, very hot outside in the Quad Cities. After 3 days in Texas, I am very, very sorry for those lies I was spreading. In Illinois, you go outside in the summer and you sweat. In Texas, you go outside and walk briskly for fear of your shoes melting to the sidewalk. Texans, in turn, make up for their absurd heat by keeping their air conditioning at frostbite levels inside all buildings. This makes the average temperature in Texas about 75 degrees -- 50 degrees inside, 100 degrees out.

- On Elm Street in Dealey Plaza, there's a big, blood-red X painted in the road at the exact spot where Kennedy was assassinated. The only thing creepier than this ghastly red X is the vast amount of conspiracy theory nutjobs lurking around the place, talking to tourists and handing out propaganda that would make Oliver Stone blush. I am, however, convinced of the second shooter theory after waiting for a red light, running out onto the X (hey, everybody was doing it,) aiming my camera at the sixth floor of the Book Depository... and seeing nothing but tree leaves and branches.

- If you live in Kansas, you are insane. Two hours on a Kansas interstate and I was flooring it just to get ANYWHERE else. Want to know what Kansas looks like? Take out a blank sheet of paper and a pencil. Got it? Good. Now, across that blank sheet of paper, draw a horizontal line from left to right. Now sit back and behold the majestic Kansas skyscape. I urge you now, all of you, to give what you can to a relief fund. If we raise enough money, perhaps we can buy Kansas a hill, or at the very least a tree or two.

- I used to think Tex-Mex food in the Quad Cities was pretty good. I have now been to the promised land, I have eaten of the enchilada, and I know now the error of my ways. In a town where it's too hot to do anything but sit and eat, they DO know their food.

There was one other important difference between Dallas and the Quad Cities... but that needs a column of its own, so that'll be next week. Hmm... I've never written a two-parter before, I guess I'll need to end this one with a cliffhanger, eh? DID I GET SHOT WHILE I WAS IN DALLAS? IF SO, WHO SHOT ME? WAS IT OSWALD? WAS IT J.R.? ZZ TOP, PERHAPS? All this and more, next Texas time, next Texas column.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Dingo Breakin Electric Taco Boogaloo 2 (or something)

Okay, I've got to break in and be a critic for a second.

Imagine this scenario: Let's pretend that one of your closer friends on Planet Earth is an acclaimed area writer. Now pretend that aforementioned friend has written a multimedia sketch comedy show that's being presented at Comedy Sports in downtown Rock Island this weekend.

Now imagine that this friend has involved the co-writing talents of several area writers, some of whom you reeeally like, some of whom you're not such a big fan of, and one of which you've DATED somewhere in your sordid past.

Pretending is fun, isn't it? Let's pretend that you've had reservations about seeing this show, because you're questioning whether the group of writers in question can pull it off. You're rooting for the home team to win of course, but still a bit edgy as to whether you're going to find yourself wincing through the show.

Then let's pretend that you pick up a copy of the River Cities Reader and see a review of the show's first weekend that includes the phrase "infantile at best, repellent at worst, and in all cases, profoundly unfunny." Let's pretend that the headline of the review uses the words "load of crap" and NOT in a good way.

Let's pretend that you, wanting to be the supportive friend, spend the day practicing your best "Gee, this was reeeally great!" face. Let's pretend that you begrudgingly head to the show tonight expecting the VERY worst.

Then let's cut to reality -- tonight I went to My Verona's production of "Dingo Boogaloo 2: Taco's Revenge" at Comedy Sports.


Surprisingly great. Laugh out loud great. And any reviewer (Hi, Mike Schultz!) who didn't appreciate the show for what it was needs to get his head (Hi, Mike Schultz' head!) examined.

Listen. Here's the facts. Yep, Sean Leary (editor of The Dingo magazine and main writer of "Dingo Boogaloo") is a friend and co-worker of mine. And yeah, as such, I suppose you, as a normal and sane person who doesn't take no guff from nobody, would immediately yell "BIAS!" and point your grubby little finger at me and not take any stock in anything I spew out about it.

And you, my friends, would be wrong. Let me be perfectly frank here: I went to the show tonight really expecting not-so-good things. I got suckered in by the bad press the show's received in a couple area newspapers (but NOT, proudly, by the home team Dispatch/Argus reporter, who ALSO agrees with me that it's a belly full of kooky fun.) I was really thinking tonight would be awkward.

And it wasn't. Once again, Sean's triumphed, and My Verona is now 3 for 3 on reeally cool performances.

"Dingo Boogaloo" is a series of sketch comedy bits intricately woven together into a makeshift performance. And (gasp) it has NAUGHTY words in it. Some of the material is a bit BLUE. You don't want to take little Susie to this show, lest you end up like a certain unnamed country DJ in town. But folks, let's face it, we live in a blue world these days. Turn on your TV. Watch "South Park" and "Family Guy" and "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" and "The Daily Show" and hell, watch "Friends." Then fall over laughing, as you should. If you can take those shows for the absurd fun that they are, then you can take "Boogaloo."

Yes, the show is occasionally puerile, juvenile, and other words that end in -ile. But its also occasionally genius. Mixed in with the pee-pee and poo-poo jokes is a hardlined skewering of pop culture and the occasional not-so-subtle social commentary that makes me stand up and throw the devil horns.

I'll be honest, if I had gone tonight and the show sucked, you're absolutely right, I wouldn't put a bad review up on this blog because I'm friends with one of the writers and I've seen another one of 'em nekkid. (Not Sean, either, as much as you'd hope.) BUT... I wouldn't be waxing poetic about it either - I simply wouldn't have mentioned it. But the show WAS funny as all get out, and I reeeally enjoyed myself tonight. I went by myself, and usually when I go to a gig solo, it's bound to be a night of uncomfortable bad times for yours truly. Within 10 minutes of showing up, I'd totally forgotten that I was "ooh-lookit-the-weird-all-alone-kid." I was too engrossed in laughing my tail off.

And the crowd who was there tonight agreed wholeheartedly, as laughs and applause and cheers attested.

If you're one of the folks who have read the not-so-kind reviews from the first weekend... and wait, let me clear one thing up: Mike Schultz at the Reader is a GREAT guy. He and I went to college together. (He probably doesn't remember me, but I have vivid memories of him showing me "The Exorcist" my freshman year and teaching me where to freeze frame to see all the spooky subliminal stuff they threw in.) Mike's a fantastic writer, and most of his reviews are SPOT-ON. I have nothing but respect for the guy... but on this review, boy was he off the mark.

"Dingo Boogaloo" isn't Shakespeare. If you're a "proper" theatergoer, stay home. If you're offended by fart jokes (even though I don't think there WERE any,) stay home. If you have ever in your life thought to yourself, "Man, that Jerry Falwell raises some good points," stay home.

But if you're up for a raunchy laugh, go see the show this weekend. It's playing at Comedy Sports (next door to Circa 21) through Sunday, kids.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Possible Career Advancement Opportunity

Ever want to shoot your pregnant wife to cover up the affair you've had with an underage member of your church group? Ever felt the urge to shed blood in the name of Allah? Heck, havent you ever wanted to be shot with a soap pellet?

Your time is finally here.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

COLUMN: Skybridge

(Okay, yeah, I got the idea for this column in the paper based on some earlier blogging I did on this site. Apologies if the material is a bit "familiar." I'm waiting for snide letters from Davenport city council members.)

Six million, eight hundred thousand dollars. Wow, that's a lot of money.

If I had that kind of cash, I'd buy myself a fancy home and fancy car. Maybe I'd even get one of those guitar-shaped swimming pools. Granted, I don't know how to swim, but that's OK. With that kinda bread, I could hire Michael Phelps to teach me.

With $6,800,000, I could throw money around left and right. I could do something completely crazy. I even could build a block-long bridge that connects nothing to nothing.

Too bad the city of Davenport beat me to it.

Unless you're blind, you've seen it. The new crown jewel of Davenport -- the River Music Skybridge -- opened a few weeks ago. And yes, at a budget of $6.8 million, it's EXACTLY what Davenport needs.

Impoverished neighborhoods in desperate need of grants and revitalization? Pshaw, I say to you! A school system always in need of better funding and higher standards of quality? Don't be ridiculous! A levee to stop the entire downtown from flooding every five years? That's commie talk, mister.

No, we've spent countless man-hours assessing the REAL problem facing the citizens of Davenport, and that problem, obviously, is the pedestrian crosswalks of River Drive.

These menacing downtown intersections have plagued us as a people for far too long. Thank God the city finally has come up with an easy-to-achieve solution.

That's right, no longer will you have to wait those interminable 30 seconds for the light to change to cross the street. No longer will you experience that aching neck pain as you first look left and then right before proceeding through the crosswalk. (After all, it is SO hard to find a chiropractor in this town!)

Yes, thanks to modern technology, the solution to crossing River Drive now is as easy as going a block out of your way, scaling four flights of stairs, walking across a psychedelic nightmare, then back down four flights of stairs. Just like that, you have defeated the crosswalk menace.

Perhaps I'm being too hard on the Skybridge. As a rule, I like shiny new stuff.

Some of my friends are into antiques and old, cumbersome Victorian homes and such. Not me; I want angular, post-modern, technologically-evolved buildings that make me go "oooh." And you've got to give Davenport kudos for making that happen with their River Renaissance project.

No longer does the downtown look like some dilapidated Mark Twainian pipe dream. The addition of the Skybridge, Figge Art Center, and even last decade's River Center have given Davenport the kind of downtown I WANT to see on a postcard.

None of this, however, explains the purpose of the Skybridge. The thing is impressive looking, sure, but it doesn't change the fact that it connects NOTHING to NOTHING.

A cool pedestrian bridge like that should lead from one important tourist-trap destination to another. Instead, it leads from a stairwell to a stairwell, and that seems kinda pointless.

Of course, not pointless enough to stop me and my friends from going last week to walk the Skybridge. That was when the REAL shock and awe hit. If the outside of the bridge isn't weird and modern enough looking for you, wait till you check out the inside.

A rainbow of colored lights swoosh and whirl as you stagger across the bridge in a futuristic, psychedelic haze -- it's 2005: A Tacky Odyssey, right in your own back yard.

The 10-year-old in me LOVES it. The view from the Skybridge is awesome, and the light show on the inside was so impressive, in a juvenile way, that all I could muster was a nervous "hehehehe" all the way across.

But is that "hehehehe" worth $6.8 million? The 10-year-old in me says an enthusiastic "yes"; while the 34-year-old in me would like to comment, but he's too busy shaking his head in disbelief.


Sorry for the lack of blogging this week... have been on vacation for a week and am completely wrecked as a result. Why is it that I enjoy doing such crazy stuff on vacations sometime that I feel like I need a vacation after returning FROM vacation? Ah well, live and learn... I'm sure next week's column will detail my activities in full.

Sunday, July 03, 2005


Hmm ... this is NOT making sense to me. I need to scan the headlines for a sec. Let's see here. Supreme Court something or other ... BTK killer ... Wimbledon ... Nope. Absolutely no news stories at all on the earth moving closer to the sun.

I'm pretty sure it has, though. I don't own a thermometer, but my guess is that over the past couple of weeks, the daily high temperature has been, oh, if I had to ballpark it I'd say around 243 degrees or so. You know, I haven't seen too many of those famed black squirrels running around Rock Island lately. My guess is that they've all melted.

The point is, it's been REALLY hot out lately, and not your everyday kind of hot at that. This has been, to quote Neil Simon, Africa hot. When I'm walking a half a block to my car and breaking out in a sweat, it's hot. Well, or maybe I'm just THAT out of shape.

What happened to spring though? Seriously, it lasts for a week anymore. It's 20 degrees below zero, then you blink and it's 100. If push comes to shove, I most definitely prefer being cold than hot. When it's cold outside, you can put on a jacket. When it's hot, you just plain suffer.

Nowhere is this more evident than within the vibrant climatic atmospherics of my apartment. I live in a pretty big apartment complex. One floor below me lives a colorful old guy known to us simply as "Benny." He's a great guy, but ol' Benny keeps his apartment at around 102 degrees year round. In the winter, this is a GOOD thing -- I never have to run my heat. But in the summer, when Benny turns my apartment into his own personal crockpot, it means I have to have my air conditioner on 24 hours a day to keep up.

My air conditioner has two settings -- "ON" and "OFF." If I try to shut the air off, it's 95 within two hours. Instead, I keep it on all summer long, thus turning it into non-stop jacket weather in my apartment. Again, though, it's better than heat.

I found this out a couple weeks ago when my air conditioner decided to konk out on me. I called our maintenance folks, who gave me a one-week ETA on repair. I thought I could make it.

"You're a man," said the voice that pops up in my head only in times like this. "You don't need any air conditioning, you baby." Did Rambo have air conditioning when he blew up that town? I think not. Did Bruce Willis ever make "Die Hard Yet Climate Controlled"? That'd be a no. Did The Terminator say "I'll be back ... once I've cooled down a bit"?

I could do it. I could tough it out. And I did ... for approximately 22 hours. Then I called them back and whined until they sent someone straight out. Lo and behold, our maintenance guy showed up and the two of us along with a friend of mine grabbed a working unit out of an empty apartment.

Now imagine this scenario: The three of us are pulling my old, broken air conditioner out of the wall. Suddenly, I hear a noise. Make that several noises. I hear someone say something that can't be repeated in a family newspaper. I look up in just enough time to see an honest-to-gosh SWARM of bumblebees fly into my apartment. I couldn't quite understand their grievances, but my guess was that we had just leveled their condo and they were a bit unhappy.

I spend one calculated second examining the situation. Weighing my options, I proceed with the best and most rational choice, which involves making a noise like "eep," dropping everything (including the air conditioner, onto the floor, with a thud) and fleeing out the door while yelling what I'm pretty sure was "Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!" Although it could have possibly been "Iiiiieeeeeeeee!"

Eventually, while I supervised from several rooms away, my friend and the maintenance guy shooed all the bees out.

The moral of the story is quite simple: Summer is evil, and I need to move to Iceland. Unless there are Icelandic bees, in which case I simply need to move to the icemaker inside my refrigerator. There'd be no heat, no bees, an abundant supply of leftovers, and, most importantly, I could finally find out if the little light stays on when the door's closed.