Sunday, November 27, 2005


You will absolutely NOT believe what I just heard.

You know how Amanda likes Justin, right? Well, it turns out that they saw each other at Village Inn last night and Justin completely blew her off! I KNOW! But Rico thinks that Justin really DOES like Amanda, but the problem is that Justin hasn't entirely called it off with Emily. And Emily and Kirsten ... well, we ALL know what they're like together, right? It's all going to get CRAZY at Mike Ford's party this weekend!

The Internet is the greatest invention in the world ever, I swear it. I have NO idea who Mike Ford is. I don't know where he lives, what time his party starts, or if I'm supposed to bring a gift. But Mike Ford appears to be a pretty popular guy. I've just spent two hours randomly surfing the Quad-Cities blogosphere, and I've found no more than four references to his party next weekend. Mr. or Mrs. Ford, if you're reading this, you might want to re-think going away for the weekend.

When I was a kid, every girl I knew had a diary. Heck, even a lot of the nerdy guys did, too (but we called them "journals," as though a small rephrasing would be enough to stop us from being picked last in gym class). But why keep a secret diary these days when you can just take your deepest, most horrifying secrets and put them online for hundreds of strangers to peruse at their leisure?

Blogs amuse me to no end. Everybody has one these days. If you're breathing and have an opinion on anything that ever goes on in the world (or, if you just want to rag on your friends) there's a corner of cyberspace just waiting for you and your rants. Free blog services like Xanga, Livejournal, and the oh-so-incestuous are among the most visited sites on the Internet these days. My favorite blog? It's nothing more than two amateur girls who put up photos of celebrities (at and then ruthlessly mock their fashion choices. Is it mean-spirited? Ohhh, yeah. But it's also some of the funniest stuff I've ever seen in print.

But nothing -- and I mean NOTHING -- is as funny as doing a search for blogs written by area high school kids. Remember the days when your biggest and only concern was whether or not you were getting invited to Mike Ford's party this weekend? In the teenaged blogosphere, it's taken to an altogether new artform. In less than an hour, you can learn the social strata of pretty much every high school in the country. The nerds have blogs, the jocks have blogs. I'm even told that the cheerleaders have blogs. (Not that I'd be the kind of middle-aged guy who gets his jollies reading the innermost secrets of cute high school girls. That would be wrong, Shane. Very, very wrong.)

The best part about high school blogs, though, is the NAIVETE. Look, we've all done things in life that we don't EVER want our parents to find about, right? I would think that the No. 1 rule of thumb when attempting to conceal embarassing facts from one's parents should be: DO NOT PUBLISH THEM. But does common sense stop a diehard blogger? Heck, no.

While surfing the Net just the other day, I found a blog entry from a high school girl that basically read, in a nutshell: "I can't believe I smoked pot the other night and had sex with my boyfriend. And now, I think I'm pregnant. GEE, I HOPE MY PARENTS DON'T FIND OUT." The other day I found a blog from a high school kid who snuck into an abandoned building owned by the city -- AND POSTED 25 PICTURES OF HIM DOING IT. Your honor, we the jury find the defendant GUILTY of being a complete moron.

Kids of the world, as a general rule, I'm on your side. For the most part, I'm still one of you. I still let you guys kick my butt at X-Box Live every night. I root for you. EXCEPT WHEN YOU'RE STUPID. "I hope my parents don't find out." THEN DON'T PUT IT ON THE INTERNET, IDIOT. If I can find it, your parents can find it. If you think people over the age of 35 don't know how to use a computer, think again. People over the age of 35 INVENTED computers. My mom reads my blog. Trust me, if my folks can figure out the Internet, so can yours.

Kids are going to do stupid stuff. It's what kids do. But to brag about it on the Internet is lunacy; you might as well just hang a sign around your neck saying, "Mom? Dad? PLEASE ground me." So, kids, if I can offer you ONE word of advice on the matter, it's this: Shhhhhhhh! Now if you'll excuse me, I HAVE to go try to figure out what I'm going to wear to Mike Ford's party this weekend. I have it on good blogging authority that it will be both "wick3d" and "off the chain."

Sunday, November 20, 2005

COLUMN: Cookies

I discovered something pretty nifty this week. I don't know about you, but I've got this one room in my apartment. It seems pretty useless, other than it's the room with the refrigerator in it. And, because it's the room that you step into as you walk into the apartment, it's also the room where all the junk goes.

I've found that I'm naturally gifted in the art of making piles. Ergo, this weird refrigerator room has spent most of its time with me succumbing to many, many stacked piles of random stuff. Mail, magazines, trash in bags, trash NOT in bags, etc. I'm pretty proud of these piles in an archaelogical way. Just as you can count the age of trees by counting the rings, thusly you can also count the age of my apartment by counting the layers of piles. In fact, I'm fairly convinced that, if you dig deep enough through the pile strata, you can find phone bills from the Paleozoic Era.

Recently I took it upon myself to begin the arduous task of de-piling. Just as society tears down to build anew, so must my refrigerator room. Lo and behold, though, I was side-tracked by a discovery of mind-blowing proportions. It turns out that, at the bottom of these piles, I found a strange large metal box that I had previously overlooked. At the top of this box was a series of knobs. Even more shockingly, when you TURNED these knobs, the metal box became extremely HOT in certain places.

I hastily called my friend and asked her if she had ever seen such a box. She explained to me that this box is called - get this - an "oven." Weirder yet, my friend swore up and down to me that there are some people out there - they must be incredibly neanderthal - who exist by eating food that's NOT distributed via a drive-thru window! It sounds crazy, I know, but apparantly, this "oven" can be used to heat and actually (gasp!) MAKE your own food. And this refrigerator room of mine? Apparantly primitive cultures refer to it as a "kitchen." Hrm. Learn somethin' new every day, I guess.

Well, since I had one of these kitchen thingamajigs, I figured that I might as well try to use it. What's the easiest thing for a single guy to make? The answer was easy: chocolate chip cookies. Not only did it seem like an easy prospect, the end result would contain both essential food groups: chocolate AND cookies. For knowledge, I quickly headed to the internet.

It turns out that there are approximately 10 kajillion people on Earth who make chocolate chip cookies. And every one of them puts their recipe on the internet. And every recipe claims to create the absolute, handed-down-through-the-generations, tried-and-true Greatest Cookie On Earth Ever. I found recipes requiring tobasco. I found recipes requiring sour cream. I found recipes requiring things I couldn't even pronounce, let alone procure legally in the United States. Finally, I found it. The recipe for a simple, down-to-Earth chocolate chip cookie. And the best part? I had nearly everything I needed.

Well, except for eggs. And flour. And vanilla. And chocolate chips. And shortening. And sugar. But I had a spatula and a cookie sheet, so I felt prepared. A 15-minute dash to the grocery store, and I was ready to do some serious cookie damage.

Some people like their cookies crispy, like you're biting into a Chips Ahoy or something. Me, I like my cookies chewy, ooey, and gooey. But I didn't know how to make one kind vs. the other. I deferred back to the internet. Making a chewy cookie, one website says, is easy as using more brown sugar than white, more baking soda than you're supposed to, melted butter instead of solid, and three times more vanilla than your recipe calls for. Not a problem, and heck, I even threw in some cocoa powder into the mix for fun.

For the next 4 hours, I was the Cookie Master. I might not be as famous as Amos, but I was rolling out the cookies like they were going out of style. They smelled good, they tasted good, they looked good. I realized that I might very well have a knack for this cooking stuff.

Then I woke up. And checked the cookies that I'd spent the whole night making. They still looked good. They still smelled good. They might have tasted good, were my teeth strong enough to bite through their outer, impenetrable protective layer. Yes, it turns out that I had spent the evening prior baking up a nice batch of great-smelling rocks. I'm quite positive that the recipe didn't call for rubber cement, but the cookies told a different story.

So now I'm scared. I ate several of those things as they came out of the oven. Are they currently lodged in their true rock-like consistency somewhere in my gastrointestinal tract? Where did I go wrong, Quad Cities? Help me make the PERFECT chewy chocolate chip cookie. Send me your recipes via e-mail to I'll try them out, and if I find one that works, I'll put it up on my blog. Either that, or I'm gonna start piling again until I can't see the oven. At least now I've got some great paperweights for my piles.

Thursday, November 17, 2005


So here's a story.

Last night, I needed to do laundry. As in, no-underwear-left needed to do laundry. So I throw a couple loads in the wash, then run downstairs during breaks from "Lost" and put the clothes into our apt. complex's barely-working dryers. Later, after my conniption fit from HOW GOOD OF AN EPISODE LOST WAS LAST NIGHT, I go downstairs to retrieve the laundry.

At which point, I realize that my clothes are a little on the moist side. This is a common occurrance at my place because our dryers suck, so I thought nothing of it. Brought 'em upstairs, hung 'em up to dry, and went to bed.

Got up this morning and rapidly realized that the clothes from last night weren't just moist, they were *wet.* And, in the interests of getting the most bang from my buck when it came to laundry, I had washed *every* pair of pants that I owned. There was no way around it: I was going to work today in damp pants.

So I find the least wet pair I can, put 'em on and head out the door. I was ready for the fact that it's like 10 degrees outside. What I WASN'T ready for, however, was the fact that I could BARELY SEE THE ROAD on the way to work because MY PANTS WERE STEAMING. That's right -- I'm so smokin' hot that my pants were releasing steam ALLLLL THE WAY TO WORK.

About halfway there, I see red lights in the mirror. Luckily, the cop was pulling somebody ELSE over. If it was me, and if Officer Friendly had walked up to the door and seen steam rising viciously from my crotch-al region, I might not be here to write this now.

Some days it's a wonder I can dress myself at all.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The OTHER Side of X-Mas...

So my co-workers and I here at the newspaper made an incredible discovery this week. Downtown Moline is in the process of Christmas-ing itself up. As we speak, lights are being flung haphazardly on trees and, in every vacant store window, Christmas drawings and holiday art (obviously done by the under-10 sect) are popping up. Cute little Santas made out of construction paper and cotton balls, that sorta stuff. Yet, stuck in the middle of all of this, we found THE ELF THAT WENT BAD. Some little kid must've come up with this thing when they were told to create something "Christmas-y." Christmas in HELL, perhaps. This thing makes the Grinch look downright huggable. And I, of course, love it. Say hi to downtown Moline's very own CHRISTMAS DEMON!!!!!

Oh, MAN, this sucks.

There's nothing quite like the first snowfall of the year to make you lean back and go "WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING LIVING IN THIS STATE????" It's nasty cold and snowing out, AND I've got a nasty cold to go along with it. This sucks. This whole romantic Tom Sawyer life-along-the-river stuff is peachy swell during the summer, but I don't seem to recall Huck Finn and Politically Correct Person Of Color Jim stopping the raft to chisel through the Mississippi ice. I think I'd like to be in Arizona. And NOW, if you please.

Monday, November 14, 2005

COLUMN: Battlefront!

Let me tell you, it's difficult being a babe magnet like myself.

I apologize on behalf of my raging brute machismo. I know that week after week, so many of you come here to this page to drool over my foxy photo. It's not my fault that I'm this overwhelming. Some people are just lucky, I guess. I don't know if it's my blessing or my curse, but I've long since come to terms with the simple fact that -- sad but true -- sometimes I'm just too sexy for this column.

Well, ladies, today's your lucky day. I'm about to tell you a story that might just set you aquiver with Shane lust. Those of you weak at heart may wish to stop reading. I implore you NOT to throw your undergarments at me as I weave this tale of utter sex appeal.

Last Monday, you were probably doing something NON-sexy around midnight, such as -- oh, I dunno -- sleeping. Too bad for you. Me? I was where the action was. I was hanging out with the hottest of the hot at the most happenin' shindig in town. That's right -- I was at the Star Wars Battlefront II midnight sale at Video Games, Etc.

Sorry, ladies, I didn't mean to turn you on just then. But I know that if there's one thing that drives the women wild, it's a 34-year-old man who knows how to handle an X-Box controller. And yes, it's true -- I play one mean video game.

Okay, before you throw me to the pack of angry nerds outside, let me state for the record that I am NOT a card-carrying member of Lambda Lambda Lambda. Okay, sure, I play video games from time to time. But, in all honesty, I'm kind of a nerd wannabe.

I have friends who are the real deal. I know people who, from the moment they get off work to the moment they sleep, are busy defending some made-up world against the forces of evil (or at least little CGI orcs and trolls and what-not.) I have friends whose idea of a card game isn't blackjack or poker, it's something called Magic: The Gathering. Friends whose idea of a party is to hook their computer up to like 12 OTHER computers.

Me? I'm more of a tourist nerd. Yes, I'm in my thirties and own an X-Box. Yes, I tend to rush out and buy the latest and greatest games. But I've found that I'm lacking in one highly important skill when it comes to nerding out: patience. I simply don't like games that are hard. I strangely get no joy from losing repeatedly. So yeah, I'll buy the shiny new games, but as soon as they get too hard for me, I tend to turn the machine off and look for something better to do.

But one game I really DO like is Star Wars: Battlefront. You log on, pick a side (good or evil,) and then the game transports you into a huge online arena, where your team of 16 dorks is battling another team of 16 dorks, and, well, may the best nerd win.

So I go to the midnight sale to buy the sequel. I get it home, pop that baby in, put on my microphone headset (ladies, how sexy is that?),log on, and it's game time! Suddenly no mere mortal newspaper columnist am I -- no-sir-ee, I'm a freakin' JEDI! In the real world, if somebody ticks me off, I go to a corner and sulk. In the battle arena, if somebody ticks me off, I take their head off with my light saber. I am armed and ready. I race into the arena and prepare to kick some serious...

THWAK! THWAK THWAK! Thud. And, as I watch my character fall having sustained not one but three fatal sniper shots to the skull, out of my headset I hear a high-pitched voice yell, "THAT'S RIGHT, FOOL! YOU GOT OWNED! BOW DOWN!"

Yep. I was just dispatched with extreme prejudice by what I would guess to be a 12-year-old. Time and again, it happened. Death within seconds. I hate little kids. Little kids don't have newspaper columns to write or day jobs to wade through. They just spend their days getting better and better at these video games so they can spend their nights coming up with new and exciting ways to execute me every time I log on.

Life's unfair -- even for a sexy nerd like me.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

COLUMN: Racism Is Just Ignorant

People can be really, really stupid sometimes. In my world, that's usually a good thing.

From a humor writer's perspective, stupid is gold. You might see someone being stupid and turn away in disgust. Me? I'll look at the same person and my eyes will turn into little dollar signs like in the old cartoons. Ladies and gentlemen, stupid is my bread and butter.

The problem is, occasionally people show up on the grid who are SO incomprehensibly stupid that they step over the realm of what I like to call mockability. People who are SO ridiculous that, instead of being able to sum them up in a funny little column, all I can do is stare open-mouthed and wonder why I have to share air with these people. Being stupid is funny; being IGNORANT is just sad.

I hate those news-magazine shows like "20/20" and "Dateline," yet inexplicably the other night I found myself watching "Primetime Live." That's when I saw them: The Most Ignorant People on Earth. Ever. If you happened to catch the show, you probably already know what I'm talking about.

I will NEVER understand racism. I can't thank my parents enough for bringing me up in a world free of that stuff. No, I'm not a fool; racism's around us all every day. It's just that, as a child, it was never part of MY world. The first time I was ever exposed to racism was on the nightly news, and I just couldn't understand it. Here were people just openly HATING other people. For no discernable reason whatsoever. The 10 year old me didn't get it. The 34 year old me STILL doesn't get it.

And no, I'm not some kind of hippie peacenik, either. I'm not going to tell you not to hate people. There are people out there well worth hating, trust me. The guy who stole my girlfriend that one time? I hate that dude. The snitty tech support lady I had to wait 30 minutes on the phone just for the pleasure of hearing her attitude? Oh, I really hate her. Tom Cruise? Heck, we all hate Tom Cruise.

But to hate someone for the color of their skin? Oh, gimme a break. I just don't get it. People have different skin color because their ancestors grew up in different parts of the world. Big whoop. My ancestors are from Sweden and Germany. Your ancestors could be from Zimbabwe or Djibouti. Who cares? Should we hate Iowans because they're from Iowa? Of COURSE not. You and I both know that we should hate Iowans because they're bad drivers. (Just kidding. Kinda.) This brings us to the aforementioned spectacle on "Primetime Live," where we learned all about the butterflies-n-happiness world of Prussian Blue.

Prussian Blue are two sweet little 13-year-old girls. Blonde hair, blue eyes, and smiles that even Hayley Mills would've been jealous for. They're cute as buttons. And oh, yeah, they also wear the "cutest" little Adolf Hitler smiley-face t-shirts and sing songs of white supremacy.

There had better be a special place in Hell for these girls' mother. It became WAY obvious during the segment that these poor kids just don't know any better. They've just listened to their mom espouse ignorant hatred all their lives, and now they're just puppets in this sick show.

There should ALSO be a special place in Hell for the Primetime Live people. By featuring these kids, they're giving these ridiculous white supremacists exactly what they want: attention. And they approached the story from the angle of, "They're cute and loveable. They're the Olsen Twins of hate." The underlying message of the segment appeared to be that these wholesome-looking kids could be invading the pop charts at any day.

What Primetime Live failed to mention is that, while Prussian Blue are alarmingly cute little kids, they're also alarmingly AWFUL. They might look sweet, but they sound like two cats that ventured a little too close to the ol' rocking chair. It's the kind of awful that makes William Hung sound GOOD. Happily, you won't be hearing Casey Kasem say the name Prussian Blue anytime in the near future.

Yet Primetime Live tells us that our kids could fall sway to their demented songs of hate. Okay, check this out. This is an actual line of lyric from one of their songs. Sing along, everybody! "Who will face the end and watch a Valkyrie ride forth/ To join the gods and fallen stormtroopers of the North?" Happily, it turns out that white supremacists aren't so hot with the rhyme meter.

Still, Primetime tells us to be very afraid. And, in fact, I am. I'm really afraid that we live in a world where people are willing to exploit two little kids in the name of hate. Afraid that this is the sad result of our generation's well-intentioned fight for 1st Amendment rights. Afraid that no social service is within legal bounds of stormtrooping their house and rescuing these poor kids from their upbringing. Afraid that Rosa Parks died last week and there are kids out there who don't know what she did for our country. It's not funny. It's not even stupid. It's just ignorant.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Bye-Bye, Aaron Brown

Why am I honestly kind of bummed that CNN got rid of Aaron Brown today? He was the cerebral anchorguy... a voice I could actually trust. Instead of Aaron Brown, CNN is opting for Anderson Cooper? Umm...? Anderson Cooper is a HUGE dork. I can't picture anything but shots of him in his ugly anorak, trying to make gusts of wind into MAJOR EVENTS when he was "on the scene" (read as: 50 miles away) when Katrina was decimating the South. I can't be the only one who finds Anderson Cooper a bit CREEPY, can I? I like CNN, too; of the major news outlets, they're far and away my favorite. (Though, it must be said, I usually only watch the 24 hr. news networks just to watch them make idiots of themselves with breaking news events.) But CNN screwed up on this one.

Anyways, here's to you, Aaron Brown. To be intelligent without being pandering is a trait most television professionals fail at. You are the exception... and I hope you bounce back on another network. I just hope it isn't at Fox News.