Thursday, November 23, 2006

My Five Minutes of Fame

Okay, so this is kinda cool.

You guys familiar with the band OASIS?

Well, this week they just released a greatest hits album called "Stop the Clocks" or something like that. You can't escape the ads for it on TV right now.

Anyways, there's a limited edition version of the disc that comes with a bonus DVD. And on that DVD, there's a clip of the band doing "Fade Away" live in concert.

And very visible in the front row center is yours truly.

I'll autograph your copies upon request.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

COLUMN: Me = Geek.

I've always been fascinated by the "cult of celebrity." You know, the poor schmucks who wait for hours to get an autograph or say a few meaningless words to another schmuck who just happened to have enough talent or fate to merit 15 minutes in the spotlight.

I'm fascinated because I'm one of those schmucks. (Hint: Not one of the famous ones.)

That's right, your holier-than-thou columnist is one of those types who gets flustered and tongue-tied around celebrities and then goes and brags about it for weeks afterwards. It's something I can't help, even though I realize just how inane it is. I can be bragging about meeting someone famous, leap out of my body, listen to myself talking, and think, "Wow. What a loser." But is that enough to shut me up? Nooooo. I'll keep right on yapping and dropping names willy-nilly.

I spent a great deal of my formative years as a semi-professional band stalker. There wasn't a concert that I went to that didn't involve some kind of effort to meet the group. This was usually always a challenge -- you might find this surprising, but it turns out that a lot of bands DON'T want a backstage visit from a chubby, tongue-tied music nerd of the male persuasion.

Yet, my friends and I tried -- and often succeeded -- at the unannounced meet-n-greet. We knew all the right loading doors to loiter around. We knew the right hotels that booking agents preferred. It was SCIENCE. And it paid off.

Minnie Driver? Met her. Lara Flynn Boyle? Totally. Duran Duran? You know it. The Barenaked Ladies? Twice. Oasis? Got to see their egos first-hand. SEE? I'm totally doing it AGAIN. Stop me, someone, seriously.

And you know what the one thing all these celebrities had in common was? THEY ALL HATED US.

I could have the most eloquent questions imaginable for these people. I could have a game plan in my head to totally WOW these celebrities with my extensive knowledge of music theory and the sort of deep appreciation for their art that no mere mortal fan would possess.

Yet, given the chance to actually speak to them, it usually devolves to something like, "Ummmm. Hi. BIG fan."

Case in point: Flashback 1994-ish. An outdoor music festival hits Chicago featuring, among other bands, The Stone Roses. Now, you might not have even heard of the Stone Roses, but they were THE band to shape my musical development in college. Suffice to say, meeting the Roses for me would be on par with, say, meeting The Beatles might be for you.

So we went to the show with a mission and a gameplan. It was me, my old college roommate, his then-wife Kari, and our friend Stuart.

After the band got done playing, we made our move. Kari went up to the backstage gate, flashed a phony press pass at the guard, and just sauntered right on in, leaving us to wait outside, gobsmacked. Ten minutes pass and Kari emerges with some random roadie, beaming and going, "C'mon, guys, wanna say hi to the Roses?"

Holy jeez. This was it. The gods had smiled upon us, and I was about to meet my favorite musicians.

What we didn't know is that, after sneaking inside and somehow finding the band's dressing room, Kari then told them that her friends were outside and really wanted to meet them. What she FAILED to tell them is that we were a bunch of chubby, nerdy DUDES.

Five minutes later, we're backstage and the look on the band's faces said it all -- namely, "Hey, you're not a bunch of cute girls." There I was, face to face with the band that had seen me through my darkest days of college. I wanted to tell them everything, I wanted to ask them everything.

What I believe I said was, "Ummm... h-hey."

The awkward silence in the room was deafening. It took brave Stuart to break the ice.

"Sooo... did you guys fly in for the show?"

"Uh, yeah," say the Stone Roses. Good start. Conversation. Soon we will be close friends of the band. They will respect us as huge fans, ask us for advice, thank us on liner notes, and possibly write a song about us one day. All we had to do was NOT say something stupid.

"Man," replies Stuart, not NOT saying something stupid, "I'd hate to fly with all those terrorists and bombs and stuff."

Sigh. Maybe there was still hope.

"So what's the best part about America?" asks Ian Brown. THE Ian Brown. Lead singer of THE Stone Roses.

"I dunno," says my old roommate, apparantly feeling threatened. "What's so stinkin' hot about England?"

Five minutes later, we were summarily dispatched from the room. Close personal friends of the Stone Roses we were NOT. In fact, mere weeks later the band split up -- I like to think that they realized that, after meeting fans like us, all hope was lost.

I'm a decade older now but still can't grow up. I still watch E!, I still visit gossip websites, and I still get flustered when I meet somebody's who been on TV. All I know is that, if one day I should write the Great American Novel and become a literary figurehead, I'll be extra nice to any nerdy fans who come up to me all tongue-tied. Well, provided they're cute and female.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Will You Survive?

I'm column-less this week, folks.

It's been a weird month in Shaneland.

(1) My mom could have died from an intestinal blockage and was in the hospital for just over a week.

(2) At the same time, my dad caught that tummy rotovirus thingajig going around.

(3) The family dog developed pancreatitis.

(4) I developed one big, bad mutha of a cold.

So. It was a couple weeks of worry, limited sleep, and multiple voyages to hospitals and what-not in the far-off land of Galesburg. So I needed a week off to recharge. Hope that's cool.

I'll be back next week with a shiny new column, though.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Do Your Civic Doodie

Vote or Die.
Choose or Lose.
Make A Difference.
Other Impressive Catchphrases.

I'll spare the lectures. Just go vote. Unless you're voting for the wrong candidate -- in which case, stay home. ;)

I'm a humor columnist, right? By that argument, it's not my place to bring politics into the forum. We have paid professionals to do that sorta stuff.

Hrrm. Then AGAIN, my column DOES frequently run on the Viewpoints page of the Leader. By THAT argument, I could in fact have the right to tell you to cast your votes today for Hare, Boland, Jacobs, Blagojevich, Braley, Culver, Huff, and Wright.

I'd better play it safe and not say anything at all...

COLUMN: Shaq Ball

Here at the newspapers, our motto is "Always Be Prepared."

Well, it would be if those stinkin' Boy Scouts hadn't laid claim to it first. I think our motto's actually something about customers always being right or first or something. Actually, I have no clue what our motto is. But it SHOULD reference preparedness in some way.

After 9/11, we installed security doors all over the place. When the anthrax scare hit, we opened our mail at a separate location. Point is, by golly, we're just about ready for anything. Just about.

When I opened my newspaper Monday morning, I wasn't expecting to hear about our office being attacked by Bambi of the Damned. If you didn't hear, a deer -- obviously suicidal over the news of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes setting a wedding date -- took a kamikaze dive through the front window of our Moline office and caused mass higgeldy-piggeldy until the poor thing had to be euthanized.

So a moment of silence, please, for the late, dear deer. It gave its life so that we, as a people, could finally unite as one and get new carpeting in our lobby.

The shocking thing is, that's NOT the weirdest thing I've read about this week.

Did you hear about the botched police raid in Virginia last month? Apparently a task force was cracking down on kiddie porn, and the cops had a good lead on some random sleazoid pervert. Armed with a search warrant and posse of crime fighters, they burst through the door of the suspect's house and held the occupants while seizing a truck full of computers, cameras and DVDs.

Mission accomplished, right? Problem was, they got the wrong house. Turns out they'd gotten the IP address of the suspect wrong, so they stormed into a random guy's house and ransacked it. Weird? Sure. Weird enough? Heck no.

Here's the brilliant part: Assisting in the raid was none other than Deputy Shaquille O'Neal. Yes, THAT Shaq.

Turns out Shaq fancies himself a bit of a lawman, and wants to pursue a career in police work after his retirement from the NBA. So the Bedford, Va. police made the Miami Heat center a deputy and took him along on the botched raid.

Now imagine you're sitting down for breakfast with your family when suddenly -- BOOM SHAQ-A-LA-KA! -- a team of uniformed police AND basketball superstar Shaquille O'Neal kick your door down and ransacks your house. This, friends, is one of the few times in life where you would be justified to make a mess in your pants. At the very least, I would be assuming that someone laced my Frosted Flakes.

Sorry, Shaq, but do you really think you'll have a fruitful career in law enforcement? As WHAT exactly? A 7-foot-1, 325 lbs. undercover cop? I get this vision in my head of Shaq running around with a bad wig on, expecting no one to recognize him.

"Sure, man, I'll sell you the heroin, but has anyone ever told you that you look exactly like Shaquille O'Neal?"

"Uhh, nope."

"I tell you what, here's a ball. If you're NOT Shaq, I need you to make at least five of the next 10 free throws."

"Kazaam! Foiled again!"

Or Shaq as a traffic cop? Look, if I knew that Shaquille O'Neal was setting up speed traps, I'd be whipping u-turns and going 100 miles an hour all over town just in hopes of getting pulled over by him.

"I just need to write you this ticket, sir."

"Not a problem, Officer Shaq. Hey, could you make that out 'To Shane'?"

Admittedly, it WOULD be intimidating to look out the driver's window to an officer's KNEE. And having Shaq on patrol would definitely make episodes of "Cops" a lot more fun to watch. After all, this is a guy who sleeps in a 10-foot bed adorned with a giant Superman logo (not to mention the one that's tattooed on his bicep.)

So maybe we should invite Officer O'Neal to join the Q-C boys in blue. After all, we ARE the 87th most dangerous city in the U.S. now. Something tells me having Shaq on guard might make that number drop a tad. At the very least, he would've done one heck of a number on that deer (though, it must be said, the deer probably had a better free throw shot).

COLUMN: Magic 8-Ball

There are many reasons why working here at the newspaper is great. Some of my co-workers like the hours. Others like the sense of community around here. Me? I'm in it for the toys.

Once upon a time, man invented plastic. This was a bad move, because the day before, man invented the Marketing Executive. It's no secret that the brains of Marketing Executives are wired in exciting and altogether different ways than the average citizen. For instance, look around your home and focus on any item -- a clock, a spoon, a piece of lint. The average person thinks something like, "Hey, a spoon. That'll be handy for eating."

A Marketing Executive looks at the same spoon and goes, "Hmm. Not bad. Just add a corporate logo, the words 'limited edition,' and an attached coupon for 20% off an oil change, and now we're talkin'!" Then he orders a demographic survey while bravely eating soup with his hands.

The end result becomes the Useless Promotional Gift. If there's an item that can be made with plastic, there's a dude in Marketing who's already figured out a way to stamp a logo on it and give it away at a trade show. I celebrate this way of thinking, which is why my desk has become a certified museum of Useless Promotional Gifts.

Except for one small portion of my work desk that actually facilitates work (and certain managers here even question that portion's existence,) every square inch of my desk is taken up by some useless piece of plastic junk. Promotional frisbees? Got 'em. Miniature pool table? You betcha. Enough tiny basketballs and hoops to start my own league? You know it. I love useless junk, and the tackier the better.

And happily, one of the area leaders of Useless Promotional Gifts is our very company, which fills me with warm fuzzies just thinking about it. I recall once we gave away Dispatch/Argus/Leader promotional BANDAGE HOLDERS. How genius is that! I mean, I've occasionally associated work with pain, but I didn't know we could actually CELEBRATE it. And now, much to my excitement, we've topped ourselves.

You see, we're kicking off a new campaign here at the papers, and to get all of us excited about it, we had a little employee shindig last week where we officially raised the bar when it comes to Useless Promotional Gifts. That's right, I'm now the proud owner of a commemorative promotional Dispatch/Argus/Leader/ADextra/QCOnline MAGIC 8-BALL!

Because, really, what says "building company pride" quite like an orb of dark magic that foretells the future? Potential heresies aside, though, not only does this Magic 8-Ball build my company pride, it also writes this column for me! That's right, now that I'm in possession of this great power, as a public service to you, I present... THE FUTURE!

Q: Straight to the nitty-gritty - who's gonna win, Hare or Zinga?
MAGIC 8-BALL SAYS: "So it shall be." Crud, that's right. I can only ask yes-no questions. Looks like we have to wait 'til election day.

Q: Okay, then. Will Davenport ever do away with the traffic cameras?
MAGIC 8-BALL SAYS: "Very likely." Yeah! We're on a roll now, might as well risk it all.

Q: Will Katie Holmes ever leave that dorkus Tom Cruise?
MAGIC 8-BALL SAYS: "You can count on it." Magic 8-Ball, you and I are going to be good friends.

Q: Will she then fall for moi?
MAGIC 8-BALL SAYS: "Cannot foretell now." That's okay, I'm sure it's an eventual yes.

Q: Will Earth eventually be overrun by a race of hyper-intelligent, poncho-clad bananas from Neptune, enslaving all of humanity with a cunning combination of telekenesis and strategically placed peels?
MAGIC 8-BALL SAYS: "Definitely yes."

Well, there ya go. Can't win 'em all, I guess. Have fun being mind-melted by plantains with poor fashion taste. Me, I'll be off pursuing Katie. But hey, look on the bright side -- at least when you're fleeing in terror from your potassium-laden destiny, feel free to speed all you want in Davenport.