Tuesday, May 30, 2006
What was it going to be? Iraq, I figured. Or maybe oil price projections. Could be that one politician who they nailed for bribery. Hurricane forecasts were being released this week, too - it wouldn't have surprised me if that got top billing.
Nope. Instead, our nation's premiere news story involved Madonna being crucified on a 14 foot tall mirrored cross. Apparantly, that's how the Material Girl's kicking off her new tour, riding onstage via a disco sacrilege. Now, I suppose there's a list of acceptable reactions here. Repulsion, shock, anger... even applause if you're one of those freedom-of-expression types.
Me? I just shrugged and kept skimming.
Is this really what our society has turned into? Have we now reached a point where Madonna can desecrate one of the world's most sacred religious icons while we just go, "Heh, that crazy Madge, at it again!" Don't take this the wrong way, but seriously, sometimes it's no wonder that there are cultures out there who want to blow us up.
And no, I'm not some kind of religious zealot. In fact, I'm one of those freedom-of-expression types. Madonna could come onstage naked on a donkey handing out cotton candy and Kaballah strings to the first 5 rows and I'd just go, "Eh, whatever." But that's our society's problem. There's just too much shock-and-awe lately. It seems like each new thing has to be BIGGER and LOUDER and MORE PROVOCATIVE than the last, and frankly, the whole thing's just a little passe`.
If Madonna REALLY wanted to shock me, she should come onstage in an evening gown and just sing. Personally, I'd be floored.
Instead, we're stuck in this rut where we just try to out-outrageous the next guy, and it's really kind of laughable. How did we reach this phase? Me, I'm putting all the blame on "Fear Factor." The moment that watching some guy eat a plate of cow testicles became prime-time entertainment, we as a people collectively jumped the shark.
Back in the day, a TV show involving a terrorist threat would have been captivating entertainment. Now, we've got shows like "24" where, within the fictional course of ONE DAY, poor Jack Bauer has to fight MULTIPLE terrorist threats, a Presidential assassination, a corrupt government, many guys with many guns, and, incredulously on this year's season finale, what appeared to be CHINESE NINJAS.
And now our culture has shocked even ME. Yes, a new entry to our television horizons actually caused me to sit open-mouthed in disbelief. Have you heard about "JUICED!" yet? You're going to think that I'm making this up - I'm not.
It's a pay-per-view only special that plays out sort of like "Candid Camera" or, more closely, MTV's "Punk'd." Like those, the show features innocent people turned into the victims of practical jokes. The thing is, though, on "Juiced!," you get jokes played on you... by O.J. SIMPSON!
In one scene sent to media, O.J. (dressed as himself,) takes a bullet-riddled, fake blood-stained white Bronco to a used car dealership and tries to sell it while using lines like, "Oh, it's real fast - it helped me get away!" The innocent victims, I can only hope, cower in fear until O.J. leaves -- but not before hearing him utter his new trademark line, "YOU GOT JUICED!"
I keep trying to put myself into one of these poor people's shoes. If someone played one of these high budget practical jokes on me, I'd probably become afraid, embarassed, jittery, and awkward all at once. But then, after the relief hits once the cat's out of the bag, suddenly out of nowhere O.J. Simpson leaps out from behind a tree screaming, "YOU GOT JUICED!" I, for one, would probably (a) wet myself, and (b) run. Quite possibly at the same time, in fact.
What producer on Earth would green-light such a project? O.J. Simpson doesn't need practical jokes to scare people; O.J. Simpson does a good enough job just scaring people ON HIS OWN. You want a good TV show? Just make O.J. walk down a street and film people's horrified expressions as he walks by.
Some people are hopelessly stupid; the masterminds behind "Juiced!" fall into that category. We've blurred the line between "shock and awe" and just plain shockingly awful. I say it's time for those responsible to be dealt a punishment that'll have a lasting impact: let's give 'em front row seats to the Madonna tour.
Meanwhile, there MAY be hope for humanity yet: "Fear Factor" just got cancelled.
Oh, and if you go this weekend, go early and check out the pre-show music. It was put together by some snarky newspaper columnist and part-time DJ that some of you may have heard of...
Monday, May 22, 2006
In the last 24 hours of 24, the former President of the United States was assassinated. Terrorists unleashed nerve gas in a shopping mall, and, later, inside the headquarters of the Counter Terrorism Unit. Most major characters of the show did NOT make it out of the first 12 episodes alive. This, it turns out, was all at the hand of the CURRENT President of the United States, in league with a secret society of illuminati who rank even above the nation's leader. Los Angeles declares martial law. The terrorists then attacked, invaded, and took over a nuclear-capable Russian submarine. Every one of these terrorist attacks was (for the most part) thwarted by our hero, Jack Bauer, who then tricked the President into wearing a wire and admitting his guilt. The President is arrested and removed from office. Everyone can cheer.
...until, at the last second cliffhanger of this season, Jack Bauer gets kidnapped by what can only be described as a team of Chinese ninjas. That's right - KIDNAPPED BY NINJAS.
And I thought I was having a bad day.
Throughout the ages, mankind has searched for the answers to some of life's most troublesome questions. Among them:
• Why are we here?
• What is the meaning of life?
• What am I going to eat for dinner?
and, of course,
• What immediate steps can be taken to enhance the aesthetic beauty of Lock & Dam 15?
Thankfully, we now know the answer to one of these questions, and I'm still up in the air about dinner, so it's not that one.
Where once the Rock Island Rapids caused thirteen miles of mayhem for river-faring folk, tranquil waters now flow. All of this is due to the impressive series of locks and dams installed along the Mississippi. Decades ago, fearless workers tamed the mighty river in an engineering feat that still stands as one of our society's great acheivements.
Too bad, then, that it's apparantly so ugly. Yes, the blight that Lock & Dam 15 has put upon the scenic vistas of the Quad Cities is the horror so great that we townsfolk dare not speak of it. (At least, that's my explanation as to why I've never heard anyone say a single word about the dam before.)
So when the news broke last week that an exhibition was to be held to determine a new night-time lighting configuration for the dam, the townspeople rejoiced. Well, at least I rejoiced. Why? Because I live for things that are inane, and this, my friends, was some serious inanity. I called my friend Jason, and within minutes, we embarked on Damwatch 2006.
First stop? The parking lot of Jumer's Casino Rock Island. The elevated flood wall there would be a perfect place to view the unveiling of the lights. The news had said that everyone who wanted a say in the final lighting choice should be at a place to view the dam by 10:30 p.m. And when we arrived, everyone was there. Yes, everyone. All 7 of us. And that was including Jason, myself, and at least two people who carried themselves like Trusted Political Figures (tm) of some kind.
Beyond us, the gentle majesty of the dam. Adorning the concrete behemoth were 3 different lighting configurations, and we were supposed to pick a favorite. From what I could see, the one on the Davenport side looked yellowish, the one on the Rock Island side looked bluish, and the one in the middle looked whitish. None of them looked like anything I should remotely care about.
We decided to try the Davenport side. Over there, you could get an even better view of the lighting choices (as well as giving the Skybridge to Nowhere its first ever practical use!) And, after gazing thoughtfully from both sides of the river, I could finally state with definite certainty that I could care less about the dam lights.
None of the three options seemed anything to write home about. I guess the yellowish lights were my favorite, because it reminded me of the glow of torchlight (just like they used to light river-spanning concrete dams back in the Middle Ages!) But none of the variations said, "Hey, look at me, I'm a fancy dam!" Instead, it came across more like your basic safety lighting, like, "Attention! Dam here. Maintain appropriate distance."
What's the goal of the project? Is this new night lighting supposed to be so enchanting that it draws tourists? Let me guess: "My Parents Went To the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers LDS 15 And All I Got Was This Dam T-Shirt!"
I say we go full throttle. Heck, let's build ANOTHER Skybridge from the original Skybridge TO the Dam. Let's not rest until we turn all of downtown Davenport into one giant, lit, psychedelic Habitrail. Then let's just stick 20,000 LED's onto the dam. That way, we could send personalized messages across it like the old Northwest Bank towers. What better way to ask "BECKY WILL U GO 2 PROM WITH ME" than to shoot it across the river on 15 foot tall glowing letters?
Then, at long last, we would only be one Tom Jones concert away from turning into Little Vegas, which appears to be our tacky little goal. Now if we could ONLY do something about that pesky picturesque river that keeps getting in the way...
P.S. My vote's for yellow.
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Simple answer: I know.
Problem is, I'm still a card-carrying member of Generation X, baby. That gives me carte blanche when it comes to slacking, and I'll use that excuse time and time again.
Anyways, point is, so Monday night I was feeling bad about the lack of updates on the blog, so I sat down and I wrote this FANTASTIC blog. Scathing, mean-spirited, snarky... all my best attributes ;)
So I get done with it, and I'm reading it, and I suddenly realize, "Know what? This is TOO good for a blog."
So I altered it just a smidge and turned it into the column that's gonna run this weekend. What's it on? You'll just have to read the dam thing.
Monday, May 15, 2006
This is a sentence you really don't ever want to hear -- especially when it's coming from your landlady.
I had just returned from the much-discussed Florida trip and, rather than be responsible and unpack, I strategically decided to just throw everything from the trip into a large "I'll-deal-with-it-later" pile in the hallway of my apartment. In fact, I had become somewhat of an expert lately in the research and development aspects of dealing with things "later." But all things considered, the apartment wasn't THAT bad, was it?
Well, okay, so the bathroom was approaching biohazard status. And, sure, there were piles of junk everywhere. And maybe I'd forgotten to take out the trash before I left, so the kitchen was smelling kinda rank. And, yeah, the refrigerator was so full that you couldn't open it without food products lunging at you. Some might say this was due to be over-stuffing the fridge. Personally, my theory is that the food was trying desperately to escape from whatever life form the gallon jug of milk from 2004 had turned into.
(We interrupt this column for SCIENCE CORNER. Know what happens to milk left in the fridge for two years? It turns CLEAR. No joke. I'm betting that it also now either (a) causes or (b) cures cancer. We now return you to your regularly scheduled column.)
But I can get away with this, right? I'm a single guy. I can't help being a slob; it's in my DNA. Do you know any single guys who keep a clean apartment? If you do, that means the guy is desperately looking for a mate. Those of us like myself who have accepted our fates as comically hopeless asexual hermits revert back to our natural instinctive lifestyle of sloppiness.
I could live this way forever. At least, I thought I could. See, what I failed to notice as I threw my vacation gear on the hallway floor was the notice by the door of our apartment complex. That notice was to inform all tenants that our smoke detectors were all being replaced, as a result, a city inspector would be dropping by to make sure we were up to code.
And you know what? It turns out that the city inspector was SO impressed with my housekeeping abilities that he wrote me a letter to tell me all about it. In fact, he was SO taken by my apartment that he wanted to come back and re-inspect it in two weeks. Then there was something I skimmed over about "clutter" and "city codes" and "fines" and other fancy stuff.
This was, needless to say, one of my lowpoints. I mean, I know I'm messy, but there's a line between "messy" and "filthy," and I at least know where to draw it. At least I thought I did. Apparantly I'm so pathetic that I can't even be trusted to maintain a sanitary home. I was banging my head against the wall in shame when I actually RE-read the letter.
It turns out that the city inspector had no problem with the mess in my apartment. Instead, the problem stemmed from the 18 crates of record albums I was storing in the hallway. As a weekend DJ, it's good to have quick access to my vinyl collection, and I had been circumnavigating those crates for years without problem.
Bad news, though; it turns out that when you put a measuring tape to it, the crates narrow the space in the hallway to unacceptable levels. Per city code, your hallways have to be wide enough to allow for EMT's to bring a gurney in for that fateful day when I finally eat one Butterburger too many. The inspector cared less about the refrigerator; I was being written up for my music fetish! I wanted to explain to him that vinyl is only a gateway habit to CD's, and that if I've got a true problem in my life, it's THAT.
But I decided not to press the issue. I moved the records into the closet. Presto. But I didn't stop there. This was a wake-up call. I started doing something I didn't think possible -- I cleaned. And cleaned and cleaned. (My friend Linn cleaned my fridge, though - I promised her I'd credit her publically.) And then? I hired a housekeeper to keep it that way. After all, I may have turned over a new leaf, but life's awfully windy; one strong gust and that leaf can turn right back.
In the meantime my apartment sparkles. It's almost creepy and unfamiliar. It's so clean you could eat spaghetti off the floor. Not that you could. Because I finally picked it up and threw it away.
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Me? I'm happy that Chris got the boot. He sucked. Well, in a strict Top 40-ian sense, I suppose he was God-like genius -- if you like bands like Nickelback. Me, I can't stand dull, uninspired rock music like that, and I'm happy he's gone.
I'm happier still that Taylor Hicks is still in the running. Not because I like him; I don't. I just want to see the Idol juggernaut try to market that guy's CD's to the teenage masses -- best of luck.
End of story is this: If you were watching "Idol" tonight in the first place, you missed out... because tonight's episode of "Lost" was nothing shy of pure genius.
Sunday, May 07, 2006
Once upon an April dreary, while you pondered weak and weary, I was off in Florida for a week of fun, sun, and a family reunion. As we left the story last week, our hero (that'd be me) had just left the family reunion and, obligation-free and together with pal Jason, it was finally time to for some quality Florida adventures. Look out, Spring Break babes, here we come with proper SPF protection.
Day 4, 2 p.m. - St. Pete's Beach: If MTV has taught us anything, it's that -- as reliable as the swallows returning to Capistrano -- come every spring, the beaches of Florida teem with wall-to-wall dancing bikini-clad babes. Well, MTV lies. I mean, I knew that we had left for Florida a week or two after the spring break rush, but still, I expected SOME eye candy. Instead, I drove 1500 miles to see miles of chunky, leathery-skinned rejects from Skin Cancer Anonymous picking sand out of places people should NEVER pick sand.
"But Shane," you say, "you're being a pig. How dare you?" Yeah, well, sorry, but when a 2-piece bathing suit's involved, if true beauty's on the inside, these women need to turn themselves inside out, and in a hurry. Shudder.
Day 4, 5 p.m. - Orlando: Come to think of it, everyone in Florida appears to be obese and out-of-shape. This means I fit in nicely. I remember a vacation to Colorado once, feeling guilty as mountain bikers PASSED ME as I drove up the Rockies. In Florida, everybody's got a beer belly and a smoke in their hand. Then it hits me: Florida is the Quad Cities, just with more water.
Day 5, noon - St. Augustine, FL - Giving up on girl leering, we decide to soak up some crass commercialism and culture at "America's oldest city." This is the place where Ponce de Leon sought the fabled Fountain of Youth, and now, for $2.99, you can take home a souvenir bottle of the stuff while - for reasons unclear - a guy dressed as a Leprechaun sings Frank Sinatra covers at you. Welcome to tourism hell. The Fountain of Youth National Archaelogical Site features an animatronic Ponce de Leon and a planetarium. The only people in the park are me, Jason, and approx. 280 schoolchildren. Either that or maybe the Fountain really DOES work. We taste the water - it's not pleasant and as of press time, I'm still old. At the gift shop, I buy a back scratcher made from an alligator claw and a fanny-shaped ashtray that reads, "Sun Your Buns in Florida."
Day 6, 1 p.m. - Savannah, GA - Why is it that fish tastes better fresh? That's kinda gross. I don't check the death age of my chicken sandwiches, so why should it matter how near to carnage my seafood is? These are questions best left to the pros. All I know is that I've never eaten better tuna and grouper in my life. I could live in Savannah.
Day 6, 4 p.m. - Hunting Island Beach, SC - We take a trip to Florida yet find the best beaches in South Carolina, go figure. Hunting Island's nearly abandoned, and we wander the beach while bizarre little clam-things scamper around our feet. It's really beautiful and my favorite part of the whole trip. This, of course, makes me realize that I'm kinda lame and old. But it's still a great place.
Day 7, noon - Charlotte, NC - I owe my friend bigtime, as I've dragged him to Race City and the home of the Hendrick Motorsports headquarters and museum. My closet NASCAR fetish takes a front seat as I check out Jeff Gordon's uniform and Daytona-winning cars on display. Best knowledge gained: Either somebody washed his uniform a little too hot, or Jeff Gordon is one tiny dude. I try to buy souvenirs but the gift shop is closed for "noontime Bible study." We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto.
Day 7, 5 p.m. - Who Knows Where, NC - If you're reading this, that's good news. It means I haven't been killed by the cast of "Deliverance." A family friend has a kid who collects postmarks, and we've been tasked with providing one from North Carolina. Problem is, they don't appear to have mailboxes here. Quite possibly, they don't know how to READ mail here. I stop at a gas station and ask if they have postcards. The guy looks at me and just goes, "Heh. Heh heh heh." I leave. Quickly. Illinois has never sounded so good.
Thursday, May 04, 2006
5 Year Anniversary Bash
Saturday, May 6, 2006
in the District of Rock Island
2nd Ave. in the pedestrian plaza between 18th & 19th St.
DJ Q-Tip (Dubuque, IA) - If you ever make it up to Dubuque, you might know Q-Tip as the resident DJ at the Coliseum, Dubuque's #1 night spot! He's also one of the best DJ's we've ever seen. Should be a good time.
DJ Donnie/Tailz (Davenport, IA) - A true vet of the scene. If you like to dance, you know Donnie already from his gigs around town at the Thirsty Beaver, Chantilly Lace, Chorus Line, and tons more. He's currently the resident DJ at Davenport's Carriage Haus.
DJ Scott Ferguson (Quad Cities USA) - Scott's one of the best new stars of this year's crop of emerging DJ's in the QC. You may have heard him at Alma, QCZone, or the many house parties he's spun at. We're happy to give him this opportunity because he's a great guy who CAN mix!
DJ Shane Brown (Rock Island, IL) - Umm, you guys know me (at least kinda) because you're on MY blog. So you know what I can bring. Be ready.
Ohh, yeah. One other thing about . It's FREE. I'd love you see you guys down there.
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
Most of you are familiar with the game, some of you might not be. Basically, it's a huge online medieval fantasy role-playing computer game. You sign up, you create a character, and then you're plopped into the middle of this vast cyber-world with hundreds of other online players, wherein you can form alliances, battle enemies, and basically be a gigantic nerdling.
Essentially, it's the kind of thing where, were I in 8th grade, it would have consumed my life. Happily, since I don't have time to fully get into the game, I have nothing better to do than make fun of it.
So here's the story that's making the rounds this week. Apparantly, a semi-popular WOW player in one of these cyberworlds tragically died (the REAL person, not the character) apparantly of a stroke.
So what's a bunch of video game nerds to do? That's right, throw a World of Warcraft funeral. Friends of this girl were given a date and time and were encouraged to put down their weapons, and -- IN THE GAME, MIND YOU -- walk their characters to the side of a virtual lake in one of the game's many open combat zones and pay their last respects -- it was literally a funeral WITHIN the role-playing game itself.
Well, it turns out that this dead girl's character belonged to a guild (a brotherhood of other online players who had formed an alliance with her.) And all the guild members turned out for the funeral.
Problem is, this guild was currently at war with ANOTHER guild, who took it upon themselves to party-crash this girl's cyber-funeral and effectively kill pretty much every character in attendance.
Now the WOW community is up in arms because of the callous, evil guild who killed everybody. Players are literally demanding the raiding guild be reprimanded or something. For killing people... in a game whose objective is to kill people.
The best part about it? The guild responsible for the carnage recorded the whole thing, put it to music, and is circulating it on the web as a tool to recruit more members to their group.
Even if you don't like video games, you'll get a kick out of the video.
My favorite is, after the carnage, the leader of the rival guild goes to the dead "body" of the girl who died in real life and eulogizes her by saying, "She liked fish. She liked snow."
Side with the funeral attendees or the murdering hordes, it's your call. But the moral of the story remains the same: Nerds can be VERY nerdy.
See the video here.
Monday, May 01, 2006
Some people take vacations for fun, like your cousin who went to California a few weeks ago. Others take vacations by mandate, like your creepy cousin who's barred by state law from ever entering Nevada again. Me? I'm somewhere in the middle.
I just got back from Florida. My grandmother, who's bound to outlive us all, just turned 100 years old. Milestones like that don't come and go without (a) a shoutout from Willard Scott, and (b) a family reunion. My parents immediately told me that I was welcome to ride down with them and their Yorkie in the mini-van. Umm... don't get me wrong, I love my folks and all, but a 3000 mile roadtrip with Mom, Dad, and a shaky, spastic Yorkie? Last I checked, the minivan didn't come with equipped with a courtesy noose.
I needed an excuse to drive down in my own car, so I quickly bribed, err, CONVINCED my friend Jason into turning my family reunion into a proper vacation. My parents' plan was to drive down, attend the reunion, then drive straight back, no lollygagging around. I had other plans. I heart lollygagging. It's not everyday one drives to Florida, and if I was making the trip, then by golly I was going to have some proper Florida time. While visions of spring break babes danced in my head, I loaded the laptop PC into the car in order to properly journalize our descent into... The Retirement Zone.
Day 1, 5 p.m.: We are in hell. Rather than the unbearingly boring drive south through Illinois, we have taken the even more unbearingly boring drive east through Indianapolis and Cincinatti before swinging to the south. In case you're wondering, Indiana is just like Illinois, except with possibly more corn.
Day 1, 5:30 p.m.: How does one know when one is in Kentucky? Well, we just passed the quaint hamlet of Sugartit, and up ahead is the exit for Beaver Lick. Just beyond that? Big Bone Lick. Make of this what you will. (And if you think I'm lying, go look at a map.) Despite my best arguments to stop and find a "Thinking of you from Big Bone Lick" postcard, Jason strangely keeps driving.
Day 1, 8:00 p.m.: We deftly avoid a conversation with our Kentucky steakhouse waiter, who has already told us that we need to live here, because in Kentucky, "real Southern belles know how to cook and take care of their man." If you listen really close, you can actually hear Susan B. Anthony roll in her grave. That said, the food IS pretty good.
Day 2, noon: There's only one place more backwards than Kentucky, and that place is Tennessee. We are currently at a gas station in the middle of the mountains, and a sign on the pumps reads: "Please Prepay. We Regret Very Much Having To Incontinence Everyone Because Of The Dishonesty Of A Few." Frankly, if they incontinence me, I'm suing.
Day 2, midnight: Georgia was an ugly blur, but we've made it to Florida. We have decided to stay in separate hotel rooms due to my inability to sleep without waking the dead. Our middle-Eastern hotel clerk does not get it. After finally understanding our desire to put each room on a different credit card, he mutters something about it "not being a problem at all" before flailing his hands in disgust and slamming things around on his desk. Hello, "Sunshine State."
Day 3: The Reunion: My friend drops me off and The Brown clan is together in full force, and it's actually kind of fun. Grandma is genuinely happy. Even cousin Isabelle from France shows up. She knows just enough English to fake us into thinking she's fluent, when I suspect she actually only knows every third word or so. Regardless, she's brought cake. More specifically, the best cake I've ever eaten. She gives me the recipe without knowing that (a) I don't know the metric system, and (b) I don't know how to cook.
Day 4: 1 p.m. Before leaving, we pop round to Grandma's house to say bye. This would have been a touching moment had I not accidentally walked in to a view of my grandmother changing her clothes. That's right, I've now seen a naked centenarian. And yes, the image is now permanently filed into my brain and will likely be making several cameo appearances the next time I'm out on a date.
However, no naked grandmas will take away from our agenda of fun in the sun. Will we find spring break hotties? Will I win the big jet ski race, impressing the beach babe of my dreams while duetting "That's the Way (I Like It)"? Or is that the plot of "From Justin to Kelly"? These questions and more to be answered next week on "Shane's Groovy Spring Break Adventure Pt. 2," gang.