Monday, January 30, 2006

Jeez, I Suck

Man. I just noticed how bad I've been slacking on this blog. It's pretty much just turned into the online home for my column and little else... and I wanted it to become a 1-stop for all things and thoughts Shane. Turns out I have shockingly little to say about the world, eh?

Actually, reasons for going comment-less lately could be:

(1) The Sinus Infection From Hell. Until last week, I had been sick pretty much straight through from Thanksgiving to present day. Every time I thought I was getting over it, it would come back and kick my ass again. I finally gave up last week, saw a doc, and got some much-needed antibiotics. I can safely report that this week I'm back to at least 90% and still snorting the Flo-nase like it's going outta style.

(2) Sleep Deprivation. This sinus thing (among other factors) has caused me to experience an EVIL bout of sleep apnia. It's like I fall asleep then wake up like a shot 45 minutes later. As a result, I've been managing like 2-3 hours a night sleep tops for the past month. That's NO way to live, take it from me. It seems to be getting better as the antibiotics do their job, but it's not FULLY gone yet. That kinda scares me coz the LAST thing I wanna do is wear one of those CPAP machines every night. We'll see how it goes.

(3) X-Box 360. If you're wondering if it's the future of gaming, that answer is YES. I've been playing so much Call of Duty 2 on it that I've been having NIGHTMARES about the game, if that tells you anything.

So yeah, I've been laying low for a bit. Hopefully that'll change effective NOW, as things are starting to de-stress immensely around these parts.

COLUMN: CSI: Your Bedroom

This week's column took even me by surprise.

I was all prepped to tell you guys about the single worst retail experience of my life that coincidentally just happened last week. Don't worry, you'll probably see it next week, but I've got to put it on hold. Why? Because today I watched Today.

The Today Show is the ultimate morning comfort for the night owl like me. You see, I hate sleep. If they came out with a pill you could take and never sleep again, I'd be first in line. Every night, I fight the urge to sleep. I know it's dumb, but I just can't help it - when you're asleep, you're missin' stuff. Granted, that "stuff" is usually a 2-hour infomerical for real estate investing, but I don't care. I don't want the world to pass me by; ergo, I tend to sleep as little as possible.

The end result of this, of course, is that mornings are NOT pretty in Shane-land. Usually it takes a radio alarm clock set to appallingly evil country music to roust me from my nightly coma, and even then I'm banging the snooze button 2-3 times. There are days that I'm certain I'm still technically asleep until I'm standing in my shower. Ergo, in the wee morning hours, the last thing I want to do is think.

That's where the Today show comes in handy, because there's nothing to put your brain in neutral quite like the unholy trinity of Matt Lauer, Katie Couric, and Al Roker. Every morning, I roll out of bed and spend the next 10 minutes staring at my TV set like a zombie while Willard Scott tells me about some random person who just turned 100 but "still loves to sew!"

Then Matt gives some chef like a minute and 30 seconds to create a 6-course meal that noone on Earth can follow in such a short time. Then Al goes outside and has small talk with some of the crazy yokels gathered outside the window (who all hold vapid, unintelligent signs like "Kansas Done Loves You, Katie!" or "NBC: NETWORK'S BEST CHANNEL.") Then we cut inside to Katie, who's got a serious in-depth piece on either (a) women's fashion, or (b) a common household product that just might KILL YOU if you don't know the dangers.

Today, though, was different. This morning on Today, we were introduced to a fellow named David Vitalli. Dave's a guy who's uncovered the #1 problem facing couples today: the constant paranoia and fear that your life partner and/or soulmate is cheating on you. And Dave's got the answer.

It's just as easy as going to That's Dave's company. He's out to ensure that couples never cheat on each other again. So what is it -- counseling? Couples therapy? Exercises designed to help build communication between partners, to allow you to open up to your signifigant other?

No, what Dave offers is basically CSI: The Home Game. Why learn to open up to your signifigant other when you can simply run chemical tests on their Fruit of the Looms to ensure they haven't been, err, pollinating other flowers, shall we say. That's right, for only $50, you too could own one of those fancy UV lights and spray-on chemicals that will prove to you, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you've spent WAY too much time touching a pair of dirty undies.

Folks, is this really what humanity has come to? Call me old-fashioned, but whatever happened to trust? Have we as a society lived in this weird world of prenuptial agreements and separate checking accounts for so long that it now requires a portable Hazmat station to prove our fidelity? The day that you're spritzing enzymes onto Little Debbie's nether-garments is the day that you need to sit back and question whether Little Debbie is the one for you or not.

But here's the best part. When you go to the TruTest website, you don't just get the sales pitch, you get the CELEBRITY ENDORSEMENT! And what celebrity has shown up to tell you about the wonders of TruTest? None other than DAVID LEE ROTH. That's right, get your advice on marital fidelity from the guy who wrote "Hot for Teacher." I can imagine it now:

"Hi, folks, I'm David Lee Roth. You might remember me from my days fronting Van Halen. Fellas, I'm here to tell you about this great new product that can let you know, conclusively and beyond a shadow of scientific doubt, whether or not your wife has been sleeping with me. Boze-di-boze-dee-bop, skiddy-bop." Thanks, but if someone's going to pitch me a product about fidelity, I'd want the opinion of someone horrifically chaste. Like a nun. Or Wilford Brimley.

The point is, we should all be very, very ashamed. I suppose infidelity DOES happen in life, but it should be handled like human beings, not crime scene investigators. Leave the chemistry sets and paranoia at the door, and let Katie, Matt, and Al get back to what they do best: making me want to switch off the TV and get ready for work.

Monday, January 23, 2006

COLUMN: Mallrats

Johnny Marx, one of my fellow columnists over at the Dispatch/Argus, often refers to working for our papers as "Perfectjobville." I won't pretend that I don't get my share of warm fuzzies from this gig -- I mean, were it not for the Leader and the Dispatch/Argus, the only audience for my ramblings over these years would have been my late cat, and even she thought a ball of yarn was occasionally more exciting than my insights.

But "PERFECTjobville"? As much as I love it here, the last time I checked, I was NOT being paid to watch reruns of "Friends" while Katie Holmes massaged my back. THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is PERFECTjobville. So the papers will have to settle for "GREATjobville," which still means that my favorite hour of the workday is, in fact, the LUNCH hour.

And it was on one of these fateful lunch hours last week that a very strange hankering hit me. I've been fighting some awful insomnia lately, so while I was climbing into my car in my sleep-addled state, the last thing I expected my brain to say was "Dude. Chick-Fil-A." Oh, brain, you had to be kidding. Chick-Fil-A's all the way in the middle of the mall. That requires, you know, WALKING and stuff.

But when one of these hankerings hits, there's nothing to do but obey. So that's why I found myself loping into Southpark Mall last week, in search of the perfect chicken-&-pickle combination.

The thing is, I don't go to the mall too often. Like I said, when given the option, I tend to prefer NOT to walk. Yet as I drug myself through Southpark for the first time in over a year, I suddenly felt nostalgic for the glory days of mall culture. Poor Southpark, what has HAPPENED to you? Where once things were booming, now things are startlingly vacant. Where once stood impressive chain clothing stores that caused me and my folks to drive up from Galesburg every school year, now stand kitschy home-spun antique stores.

Stop yelling at me right now, kitschy home-spun antique store owner-operators. I'm certain that your goods and/or services are nothing shy of fantastic, and I'm also certain that your sales would improve with expanded advertising right here in these well-read pages. It's just that, since when did antique stores and Avon outlets become mall culture? To me, malls should always represent youth culture. Video arcades, greasy food, record stores, oh-so-trendy hipster clothes. Malls should be exactly as we first came to knew them -- in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High."

Where are the gangs of trouble-making kids? The tables covered in sugary, caffeinated residue? The pervalent stench of Orange Julius and Karmelkorn? The glorious, rayon-draped oasis that was Chess King? (I used to get CHRISTMAS CARDS from the Chess King corporation, if that tells you anything of MY teen years.)

The answers hit me on the way back to work. Returning to the Dispatch/Argus offices in downtown Moline, I took a good look around. Once upon a time, downtown Moline was a thriving place. Now? Well, since I've worked here, the building across the street has been everything from a coffeeshop to a Mongolian barbeque to an antique store and now I think we're back to a coffeeshop again. Vacant storefronts ache to tell stories of the glory days of yore. The history books that our papers publish show a downtown full of commerce and life. It's just all part of change.

Cities evolve, it's what keeps them fresh. Downtown begat 23rd Avenue. 23rd Avenue begat Southpark Mall. Now, Southpark Mall itself has fallen to the wayside of the new developments along the John Deere corridor and the epic mess of 53rd & Elmore in Davenport. Sadly, the charge is probably being led by me and like-minded souls who prefer curbside service to walking through malls.

Still, though, I'd love to step back in time and take over Southpark and make it all 80's-retro kitsch. Stick a roller rink in that puppy and fire up "Whip It" on the stereo. Line the halls with beat-up arcade games like Centipede, Track & Field, and that one that used to yell "HA HA HA! I AM SINI-STAR!" so loud you could hear it in your car.

Oh, but so long as we're reconstructing the mall from scratch, let's somehow put a drive-thru at Chick-Fil-A. Even if it's kitsch and 80's and fun, I still might not want to, you know, walk.

Monday, January 16, 2006

On Break

Taking a well-deserved week off from the column, by the way, in case you guys were wondering.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

COLUMN: Really, Really Old. Officially.

The time, as they say, is nigh.

I've been obsessing about it in this very column for at least half a year now. I've tried everything: denial, repression, avoidance. Nothing worked. Time is a cruel, cruel mistress -- and unless something horribly tragic happens in the coming days, by the time this column makes print in the papers, I will be (SOB!) 35 years old.

There's nothing left but acceptance now. I am officially old. Farewell, coveted 18-34 demographic, it was good to be in your ranks of movers and shakers. Now, the only shaking I'll be doing will be courtesy the onset of palsy due to old age. Oh, and of course, if I'm not neurotic ENOUGH, let's not forget that I'm 35 AND hopelessly single still. Most people my age are married with kids; I, meanwhile, can't keep a houseplant alive for more than a week.

But I'm trying to remain optimistic. Maybe babies are for suckers. I mean, at least I'm not up to my elbows in dirty diapers or out buying mini-vans or assembling swingsets in my back yard. And no signifigant others means no reason to save money for all that responsible stuff, which is why I can brag about the fact that I'm ranked Top 300 in the nation on Star Wars: Battlefront II for X-Box Live. Any guy my age without kids or family responsibilities would do the same. And ladies, if your man is telling you that video games are for immature dweebs, HE'S LYING. Give that guy a free hour and an X-Box controller and he'll be fighting ninjas faster than you can say "Honey, can you take out the trash?"

So I'm sure I'll be okay. One of two things is bound to happen. I'll either (a) be blessed with dreaded maturity, find my soulmate (as always, applicants are encouraged to e-mail:, get my 2.4 children and my white picket fence, or (b) I'll be the creepy old guy who lives in the ramshackle apartment with my 62 cats, and I'll spend my days coming up with new and exciting ways to scare neighbor kids. Honestly, either outcome has it's positives.

And if maturity hits and I settle for a life of taking the kids to soccer practice, I can look back at my 18-34 years with pride and accomplishment. I've never been any kind of out-of-control party animal, nor have I found myself having numerous run-ins with The Law or anything, but I had my moments of pure, unadulterated immaturity, and some of those moments will carry through my memories as some of the greatest times of my life. For instance:

* You know that bizarre illuminated pedestrian bridge over John Deere Rd.? The one that's always in the paper over its pointlessness? Yeah, we went BOWLING on that bridge once, complete with balls that we "borrowed" (and yes, later returned) from a nearby bowling lane.

* Alongside my business partner and friend Chris McCreight, we founded Exstasis Promotions in 1993 and introduced the Quad Cities to rave culture. We can now look back at a legacy of almost 100 safe, fun all-night parties. No one thought that kids could get together without adult supervision and dance to some of the best DJ's in the world without problems breaking out left and right; we proved them ALL wrong, and the dance music culture that I hopefully had a hand in bringing to town still flourishes in clubs and parties throughout the Quad Cities today.

* Back in the day, we perfected the word "roadtrip" into an aimless artform. A classic example being the night we decided to see which carload of us could drive to Chicago, touch the Sears Tower, and make it back to the Quad Cities first. Then there was the night that we wanted to play some cards, but didn't have any handy, so we decided to hop in the car and go buy a deck of playing cards. We found a great deck six hours later in Missouri.

* When the flood of '91 hit, we did exactly what they tell you NOT to do and went driving through the ravaged downtown. As a result, my car was the very last to make it across Arsenal Island before the bridges were impassable. Driving across the Illinois side of the bridge, gunning the engine as water was beginning to reach over the hood of the car still might be the scariest and most fun moment of my life.

But you get the point without me incriminating myself any more than necessary. I DID have some incredibly immature fun back in the day, and I'm not so old that those memories have lost their lustre. Maybe it's not the era that makes the man; it's the man that makes the era. So perhaps the question isn't whether or not I'm ready for middle age, it's whether middle age is ready for ME.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

COLUMN: Mother@%!&#r!

Well, it's New Year's time, and that means it's time to come clean about our imperfections and resolve to better ourselves in the coming year.

Yeah, right. Actually, it's the time that we come clean about an imperfection, spend a couple of resolute weeks trying to better ourselves, and then realize that imperfections are what make us all unique and throw away our grand resolutions over a conciliatory Egg McMuffin. (Especially true when one's resolution that year was to cut back on one's Egg McMuffin intake.)

But this year, I'm going to at least give this New Year's resolution thing a try, because there's one thing I do want to change. I'm a professional member of society. I have a Bachelor of Arts degree. (And if you don't believe me, it's Velcro-ed to my wall at home -- come over and I'll show you.) The point is, I'm now at that place in life where I'm supposed to carry myself in a certain manner.

I will never be able to make the Eliza Doolittle transition. I'm always going to think wine (red and white) tastes ucky. I will always use the wrong fork. I will always put my elbows on the table. These are things that are too inherent to my character to change; change THEM, change ME, and I don't want to lose my sense of self, thanks. But there's one thing that can and should be changed while keeping my sense of self fairly intact.

I have a potty mouth. I say naughty words, and I say them a lot. In fact, it's oftentimes REALLY tough to write this column every week without trying to insert one of my four-lettered friends. I write like I think, and sometimes I think vulgarily (if that's a word.) (No, it's not. -- Editor)

Some of you may know that I'm also a contributing editor to a music Webzine, However, I don't want ANY of you guys to check out my occasional columns on Excellent, because they're so expletive-ridden that you'll probably never read one of these columns the same way. (Suffice it to say, there are a lot more creative ways to say "This CD sucks," and I've probably come up with about all of them.)

Meanwhile, over here in Family Newspaper-land, I once got a polite "ahem" from one of my editors for overusing the word "freaking." While part of me was ticked off that "freaking" is a fairly innocuous word, there was honestly no way around my editor's argument that "freaking" is just a nicer way of saying a different word that starts with the same letter. Sheesh, I just did it again! "Ticked off" is a nicer way of saying the "p"-word. Ack! And "Sheesh" is a nicer way of saying the "s"-word! I can't win!

It was Christmas night when I decided that I needed to scale back on the naughty words. I plugged myself into my Xbox Live for some violent pre-bed video gaming when it suddenly hit me.

I imagined little Timmy out there somewhere. Little Timmy lives a fairly conservative life, and I bet it took him a couple years to talk his parents into even buying him a borderline-violent video game. But Little Timmy had an Xbox under his tree this year, so he hooks it up and logs on to Xbox Live for the first time. Maybe the parents are sitting there, too, watching him play with a look of concern in their eyes. And Little Timmy logs onto some battle, and since he has no idea what he's doing, he promptly puts a bullet in his teammate's head.

Then I imagined what would happen if that teammate were me. I'd be the guy yelling into the headset, "What the $*#@, you #@^$ing @#%@! Way to shoot me, #$@^*#^!"

Little Timmy's new Xbox would be out the window, and Little Timmy's parents would probably be performing an exorcism on the TV by that point. And that's not cool. Swearing is nifty from time to time, but I suppose it's not so swell when the recipient of your abuse is an 8-year-old who's now learned some cool new words to impress his friends with at school.

I'll never stop swearing altogether. Let's face it, it makes life more fun. I'll never stop swearing at myself in the mornings when I'm running late for work. And there are some people out there (Iowa drivers, Tom Cruise, etc.) who deserve to be cursed at from time to time. It's just that now I'll try to do it UNDER my breath instead of over it. Either that, or I'll revert back to college.

One night, my old college roommate imbibed a few too many adult beverages, and he and I got into a gut-busting fight. We called each other every name in the book -- so much so, in fact, that at one point we ran out of curse words. What he meant to say is beyond understanding and buried in the sands of time. What came out, however, was this: "Oh YEAH? Well, you're just a ... a stupid. MOUTHHEAD." At which point we collapsed in laughter, forgot what we were fighting about, and let "mouthhead" become our new favorite insult word for years to come.

So if you're playing X-Box Live in the coming weeks, kick some other player's butt and hear yourself getting called a "mouthhead," go easy on me. I'm in recovery.