Wednesday, February 28, 2007
So we all know the weather's not been the hottest lately, right? Ice is everywhere, rivers are flooding, people are displaced, without power, cold, etc. I know and respect folks' plights, really, I do.
The most annoying thing in the world is trying to watch hi-def TV during all this. Why? Because every time I'm sitting there, watching my 1080 pixels of greatness, that's when the local TV channels will decide to run some random weather warning or cancellation scroll across the screen... and when that happens -- WHAM! -- the picture drops down to lo-def.
And sometimes it STAYS that way for a looong time, even after the scroll disappears, until maybe some hapless board operator looks down and goes, "Oh s***!" and hits the hi-def button.
Sorry for the completely selfish rant. But I'm really irritated right now -- I'm trying to get my weekly "Lost" mojo on and, thanks to something flooding on US 150 right now, the picture keeps going lo-def, hi-def, lo-def, hi-def.
Like everyone in Illinois, I can't wait til good weather arrives. Like no one else, I can't wait because I'll finally be able to watch TV in peace.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
A mutual friend had been trying to set the two of us up for ages, but me being the world class chicken that I am, I balked at every opportunity. Finally my friend had enough of me hemming and hawing around, so she brought this girl down to the club I spin at. And you know what? She's great. She jumped into the DJ booth and requested the Dave Clark Five. I mean, how cool is THAT? She's funny, she's cute, AND a fellow music nerd to boot.
Only one small problem: By the time I finally met her, she had already moved to Chicago and was just back in town visiting. Worse yet, she was literally hours away from moving again... this time to CHINA, where she had an amazing opportunity to teach for half a year. This wasn't just bad timing, Fate was Ashton Kutcher and I was getting Punk'd.
So basically we've spent the past 6 months e-flirting and running through phone cards like mad. Last month, she finally got back to Chicago, and we're just taking it slow and seeing what happens. Neither one of us is in the market for a white picket fence or china patterns. She's got a life, I've got a life, and we're okay with that. All I know is that when our schedules jive and we DO get to hang out, we have a GREAT time together, and what else can a person ask for?
Well, Fate, I'll tell you what else I can ask for: that all of this DIDN'T go down in February, because nothing can wreck a fledling pseudo-relationship quite like the happy nightmare of Valentine's Day.
So what does one DO in a scenario like this? I didn't want to ignore the holiday completely, but this was a hairy situation. I mean, red roses would be COMPLETELY out of the question, right? Roses say, "Yo, baby, I loves you" in a deep Barry White voice kinda way. Roses say commitment. Roses say relationship. I needed something that said, "Hey, I kinda dig you and stuff."
Ergo, I opted for tulips. Not exactly a brainstorm, but a fairly respectable flower nonetheless. In fairness, I won't say WHICH floral delivery website I went to, but let's just pretend they're called something like, oh, Freaking Terrible Deliveries. And, in the sake of saving ink, let's just abbreviate it to FTD.com.
Everything went smooth at first. I found a nice arrangement and placed the order. Then? Nothing. The website froze. No denial, no confirmation, just... nothing. Swell.
Finally, I reset my computer and tried it again. Same thing happened. Their website locked up my browser with no explanation and no flowers. I went to bed and vowed to try it again the next day.
The next morning was Valentine's Eve. I fell out of bed, stumbled to my computer, and opened my e-mail.
"Your order has been confirmed."
"Your order has been confirmed."
"Your order has been confirmed."
"Your order has been confirmed."
FOUR? Noooooooo! One order says I'm a caring and cool dude. FOUR orders says "Howdy, I'm Shane, I'll be your psycho for the afternoon! Please be my creepy Valentine!" This couldn't happen. I had to call right away and cancel the duplicate orders.
"Thanks for calling FTD," the recording said. "Due to the unusually busy time of the year, no one is available to assist you. Please try your call later." Click.
WHAT? It's the busiest week of the year for floral delivery, so let's respond by GIVING UP? You don't hire more staff? Are all of the Happy Valentines of the world dependent on a haggard woman named Glenda, running one switchboard for the entire shebang?
I e-mailed FTD's customer service department with a plea. I was greeted with an auto-reply telling me that they'd take happily care of my problem... within 48 hours. So... that was it, then. It was a fun and flirtateous romp while it lasted, but this girl was hours away from Attack of the Room-o'-Tulips and I was on the fast train to Dumpsville. She might even be ALLERGIC to tulips for all I knew!
I had no options but to wait, teeth clenched, through Valentine's morning. Then I got an e-mail: "You got me flowers?!?!"
I had to do it. I called her up: "Flowers! They're so pretty! Thank you so much!"
"No problem," I said. "Umm, hey, just out of curiosity, how many flowers did I get you?"
Turns out that the folks at FTD.com must have gotten my desperation e-mail, as only ONE order showed up. Still, I had to come clean and make the awkward explanation, "Sooo... if you happen to get any, umm, MORE flowers today, it's, uh, NOT because I'm crazy, 'kay?"
Once I told the story, happily she laughed about it. She's got a great laugh. And as long as its still fun, we're gonna keep flirting away. So you know what, Fate, I WON this round. Sure, you're gonna come back next week and destroy my life as per usual, but this time, I kicked your butt. Maybe romance is easier than I thought, or maybe I just owe Fate a favor.
Sunday, February 25, 2007
His candidacy-announcement-being-cut-off-by-Oscar-music schtick was hammy but had me crying with laughter.
I swear, I'd vote for the guy (AGAIN) if he ran. I've even still got my Gore/Lieberman water bottle (unopened, mind you) from their downtown Moline appearance. But, just for the record, I still hate Tipper.
Monday, February 19, 2007
There are People... and then there are People Like Me.
Let's take the last two weeks for instance. You're probably a normal person, right? And as a normal person, odds are pretty good that you may have had some dough riding on the Super Bowl. And by "dough," of course, in no way, shape, or form am I referring to or condoning unlicensed, off-track cash wagering, as that would be illegal, naughty, and most inappropriate within the confines of a family newspaper. I'm instead referring to, umm, baked goods.
And hey, there's nothing wrong with a little good-natured cookie trading among friends, I say. And if you happen to be the sort of person who likes to sportingly swap cookies with your fellow fan, there's a good chance that the Bears made you toss your cookies somewhere around the 2nd quarter.
I, on the other hand, lost no cookies to the Bears. Or the Colts. Because I am not a normal person. I had no baked goods riding on the Super Bowl -- yet I just lost pretty much the entire Keebler Forest to Justin Timberlake.
Some people bet on the Super Bowl. I bet on the Grammy Awards. As I see it, that makes me pretty weird.
Every year, my friend Kerry hosts a Grammy party. The invite list is small and about as nerd-centric as you can get. Record store owners and employees, a few musicians, and some area journalists. We sit, we eat chili, we make crass jokes about Shakira and Lionel Richie. We laugh at the pitiful decisions of the Academy, and invariably each of us makes at least one ill-timed speech about "who shoulda won if the world had a clue." For a tried and true music geek like myself, it is nothing shy of Nerd-vana.
And of course, there is the friendly transfer of the aforementioned dough. Each of us fills out a ballot with every category, ponies up some dough, and whoever correctly picks the most winners beforehand gets the whole cookie pot. Many a Grammy party have I attended; never a pot have I taken home. But this was to be MY year.
Actually, no -- it was Justin Timberlake's year. I picked Justin to win nearly every category. Not because I like his music, which I don't. I picked Justin because you couldn't turn on a TV or radio this year without hearing the dude. Plus he DID bring sexy back, and that's gotta mean something, right? Right?
Wrong. No, my hopes and dreams for cookie pot domination were thwarted this year... by the Dixie Chicks. Grrr. That stupid band seemed to win every stupid award of the night. And why? Because of their talent? Their fantastic, critically acclaimed new album? Umm, folks, I didn't even know that the Dixie Chicks RELEASED an album this year. No, there was but one reason for the Dixie Chicks to win a truckload of Grammies:
REDEMPTION. Surely you know the story. The Dixie Chicks were country's hottest ticket, until the eve of the Iraqi conflict, when chief Chick Natalie Maines opened her mouth and spouted off against the war and President Bush. Faster than you can say "Yee-Haw," the red states mobilized. Songs were banned, records were burned, tours were re-routed. It was all but career suicide.
Lesser bands might have split under the pressure; the Dixie Chicks persevered with a new record, newfound respect, and now a boatload of Grammys for their trouble. But, in the humble opinion of THIS amateur musicologist, they were Grammys earned NOT by talent, but by their ability to stare adversity in the face and overcome it.
That's when it hit me. If the Dixie Chicks can stir up controversy and take home a pocketful of Grammys, I should be able to do the same thing and score at least a Pulitzer, eh? Hence my doodiehead comment above. It's a smart and calculated attempt to shock, awe, and become a Very Respected Journalist Dude. Any minute now. It's coming. Wait for it.
Hmm. Nothing so far. There must be a problem. The Dixie Chicks spoke out against the war at a controversial time. Now that it's been going on for a spell, and now that polls show a countrywide frustration with the lack of progress, going anti-war just isn't shocking enough. I'll leave politics to the more qualified. I guess I take it back: Bush isn't a big doodiehead. He's just, like, a medium one.
But I'm not giving up on my theory of making a shocking comment and taking it to the bank. I mean, those awards could fetch a pretty penny on eBay, no? I just have to find something more shocking to say than a left-wing take on Iraq. Hmm... hmmm...
Oh! Got it. Ready? Sitting down? Helloooo, Pulitzer:
Rex Grossman is an American hero, a fine quarterback, and one of the most cherished players in the game. Now please don't hit me. Send the awards to the usual address. Send the hate mail to Justin Timberlake.
That's a sentence that sure gets the testosterone pumping, eh? Yes, nothing fills a guy with male pride quite like a complete stranger threatening their masculinity. But that's the very question I fielded at the gas station the other day.
It didn't floor me that a stranger came up and asked a question -- I'm used to getting questions about my car, such as: "What kind of engine's that thing got?" (Answer: A 4-cylinder. Beyond that, I'm clueless.) "Are you squished in there?" (Answer: In fact, it's the roomiest car I've ever had.) And, of course, the question that'll give it away: "Is the engine still in the back?" (Answer: Nope.)
That's right, I drive a New Beetle. Anybody wanna take a potshot or two? Call me a sissy? The floor is yours.
Actually, no, it's not. This is MY column, and around here, my car's still pretty cool. There was a time, in fact, when I had the coolest car on the block. Mine was one of the first five Bugs in town, and was quite the headturner when I went cruising around.
Only one problem -- I didn't so much know how to drive it at the time.
Back in 1998, my last car was hanging on by a thread. There was a reason we called it The ATE (All Terrain Escort.) In the hands of me and my friends, that car had taken some serious abuse. Snow drifts, corn fields, muddy roads -- it was less a car and more a very under-performing tractor. By the summer of '98, it had a cracked head gasket, a rusty frame, and a trunk full of Kool Aid that had spilled some 4 years prior. (Mr. Science fact: After 4 years, Kool-Aid turns black. And gummy.)
Anyways, it was time to buy a new car. So I did what you're supposed to. I compared models, shopped around, test drove, did my research, and then picked the car with the coolest TV ads. And I don't care what you say -- Beetles are sharp, awesome little cars.
So I went to Williams VW and got on the waiting list. Weeks passed. So many weeks, in fact, that Williams got bought out by Lujack's somewhere in the process. This was, of course, the perfect cue for my Escort to bite the dust, leaving me carless and yearning.
In the interim, my dad loaned me his work vehicle -- a 1976 Chevy Blazer. It ruled. Especially the parts of the car held together by pop rivets. What remained was a rusty home for wayward mice bravely masquerading as a vehicle. I called it "Slim Goodcar," because it, like its 1970's namesake, was see-through. "Ohhhh. So THAT'S how a car works!" Normally you can't see due to all that pesky, umm, CAR in the way. With the Blazer, the rusted-out holes provided a nifty education in auto mechanics. Well, that and it had a sweet 8-track player AND the "Best of Foghat."
Needless to say, I was in crisis mode. I needed a new car fast. That's when Lujack's called. I had ordered a black automatic. Weeeeell, there was still going to be a wait on that... BUT a white stick shift had shown up. Was I interested?
Well, let's see. Sounds great, but just one problem... I'd never driven a clutch before in my life.
"No problem," said my salesguy. "I'll teach you."
So I did it. My dream of a black automatic Beetle turned into the reality of a white 5-speed. And my salesman was true to his word. He spent two hours with me in a loaner car teaching me how to drive stick. And he did a great job.
I, on the other hand, sucked. Imagine me, cruising down the block in my fancy new car. Heads are spinning everywhere I go. Then, like the stud I am, I pull up to the intersection and eye the girlies in the car next to me. "Hey ladies," my eyes would say, "Check out my sweet --
That would be Me the Stud, killing the car in the middle of the intersection and trying desperately to get in back in gear while half the Quad Cities drives by pointing and laughing. I was a FAST learner, because that kind of embarassment goes deep. Well, that and I preferred to have my new car with its clutch not on FIRE at the end of the day, thanks.
Anyways, when I got the car, it made my head swell with VW pride, and that balloon hadn't really burst until Random Guy and his "girlie car" comment. I hadn't ever really thought about it much, so I began an independent study.
Every time I passed another Beetle, I checked. And wouldn't you know it, every single other Beetle driver that you see in the QC these days is a woman. How did this happen? How did my sweet, sweet ride become a chickmobile? That's completely unfair stereotyping.
But you know what? I don't care. I still like my car, even if it DOES have an in-dash flower vase. The gloves are off. I'm planting the flag and I'm taking back the Beetle for all mankind. Not womankind. Well, you can have the pink ones, I guess. But I'm still driving my Bug with pride, and probably will until it joins the Escort in car heaven. Then I can find myself a truly macho car. In fact, I've been hearing good things about these Mini-Coopers...
Saturday, February 17, 2007
FIRST OFF... Why, why, WHY am I fascinated by celebrity? I should be above it. And I'm not saying that like I'm ego-boy columnist or something. I'm saying that I (hopefully) have a brain in my head... and that should mean that I should care less about Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Donald Trump, etc. Right? Wrong.
For some reason, I'm drawn to the gossip. I honestly think this stems from my childhood. My mom harbors the same bizarre fetish. My grandmother harbored it, too -- that's why every week, she went out and bought the Enquirer, Star, Weekly World News, etc. And after my grandma was done with 'em, my mom -- not wanting to be embarassed in a checkout lane -- would heist them back to our house. And when Mom got through with 'em? You guessed it -- straight to my bedroom.
This, I hope, is the reason why part of my daily ritual involves quick stops at TMZ.com and PerezHilton.com, two of the most voracious gossip sites on the internet.
So the subject of much concern in the world of celebrity gossip these days has been our girl Britney Spears. Since the "tragic" split with the K-Fed, our Brit's been keeping herself busy accidentally exposing her nether-regions in drunken hazes across America. Friends are publically calling for an intervention. The gossip rags are tired of putting her pics up 12 times a day. And even I have to wonder about the well-being of her two rather young kids.
And today was an exceptionally exciting day in Britney-Land. First came the word that Britney had checked into an undisclosed rehab facility (rumored to be the Caribbean facility founded by Eric Clapton.)
Then came the scandalous report that Brit had checked herself in, but ALSO checked herself out within 24 hours and headed home to Los Angeles. THEN came official denials of the whole sordid affair from the Spears publicity machine.
Well, tonight I get home and hit Matt Drudge's website (I'm a liberal, which means I should hate DrudgeReport.com -- but I'll be honest, it's the best way to get ALL the news headlines in a glance -- you've just got to weed through the conservative slant of it all.)
Anyways, I get home tonight and check Drudge. And what's the top news story? Iraq? The presidential race? Maybe even some Anna Nicole fodder? Nope.
Top story is Britney.... BALD.
That's right. Britney showed up at a tattoo parlor in Los Angeles tonight... bald as Telly Savales.
This will certainly NOT help her cred right now. Britney needs to have a serious sit-down with her Image Control Staff (and only someone like Britney likely actually HAS these sorts of people in her employ.)
I don't know how the next few days in Britney gossip-land are going to play out, but it's going to be interesting and quite likely scandalous and ugly. And I'm secretly excited about getting to see it all go down.
That said... here's my weird confession:
I think Bald Britney looks pretty hot. No, I don't know why.
I'm definitely an oddball, that's a given. And sure, I listen to some eclectic music and grew up surrounded by the kids they used to call "corn chips" -- big hair and/or no hair, punk rock, body-pierced, Cure-obsessed alterna-youth -- but I'm not the kind of guy who goes for freaky looking girls just because they're freaky looking. In fact, I'm kinda put off by girls with enormo tattoos and such.
I've never thought baldness on a girl was hot BEFORE this. Sinead O'Connor? Never did a thing for me. Natalie Portman, when she went bald for that one movie, looked downright yucky to me.
Britney, on the other hand? I dig the bald. I might be the only person on Earth who's gonna say that -- and that's okay, because that might be the ONLY way for Britney to even know I exist. Just suffice to say, toots -- I'm here for ya.
And here IS my apartment, which is the best part about tonight. I made it home.
I love the locale of my apartment, I really do. It's 2 minutes from the District, it's 7 minutes from the Dispatch office, I've got fast food options galore within blocks, it's my little slice of Rock Island Heaven. With only one problem:
The short driveway to my parking lot shoots uphill at about a 45 degree angle. This means that, if there's more than a couple inches of snow on the ground and the plows haven't come yet, I'm not getting home. And if I can't make it up the driveway, the nearest place to park is about 2.5 blocks away and a long walk down a snowy sidewalk to my place.
Happily, tonight's snow has been a lot more fluff than substance. Even though we definitely got a few inches, its the kind of snow that you can plow through fairly easily -- even in a Beetle. So I made it up the driveway tonight -- albeit losing half of the rubber from my tires in the process, coz I was spinning all over the place trying to get traction.
I'm coming to terms with the fact that I really don't like winter much. I mean, a nice snowfall is super picturesque and all, but it's the icy aftermath that I really despise. I have absolutely no coordination -- I learned to walk before I learned how to crawl. Some scientific minds think that kids who do this inadvertently stunt their coordination. I think it's more to do with the fact that I spent my formative years NOT outdoors playing football or shooting hoops, but rather indoors fighting ninjas, demon warriors, and large space-rock-weapons that yell "I am SiniStar!" before crushing you to death.
Anyways, as a result of me being a klutz, all I have to do is walk NEAR ice in order to perform a Three-Stooges-esque pratfall at least once a year. I have yet to make my painful pratfall this year, so every day is like sheer terror as I walk on ice just waiting to biff it.
But tonight I'm home. And right now, I need my couch and my cats and some horrifically bad 3:30 a.m. television. Have a great weekend, all -- even YOU, Bald Britney.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
In all seriousness, though, if you took the time to vote for my blog, I'm humbled and grateful. Thanks, all. And, of course, if something should happen to The Air Strange (this year's winner), The Complacency Chronicles vows to wear the crown and complete all duties of Miss Best Local Blog 2006.
Friday, February 09, 2007
Ever since I got my hi-def TV at Christmas, I've become part of the furniture. All I want to do is sit... and stare. Outside my window, people whizz by. People with lives. People with an agenda. My agenda consists of making sure I don't lose the remote control within the cushions of my sofa.
I'm not a couch potato. I'm a couch rock. Potatoes have potential. They can grow into potato trees, or bushes, or whatever they do. I wouldn't know - the Home & Garden Network isn't available in hi-def yet. Which brings me to my one complaint about this captivating world of modern television:
The selection. As a good Mediacom junkie, I've got digital cable with all the 20-kajillion channels. But once you've had a taste of the good stuff - all 1080 pixels of hi-definition greatness - digital cable becomes child's play. The problem is, there are only TEN hi-definition channels to choose from. The 4 networks, ESPN, HBO, and some other random stuff. Mostly stuff I could care less about. But in hi-def, even the boring stuff is awfully pretty, which is why I keep on sitting and keep on staring.
And I'm getting smarter, too. See, one of the hi-def channels offered in town is Discovery HD. Finally, an excuse to become cultured! No more roller derbies or "Pants-Off Dance-Off" for me. Yes, thanks to Discovery HD and the knowledge that pours out of that channel, I'll soon be the hit at wine-tasting parties. I'll be the one providing the droll anecdotes at the Outing Club. I will become... learned. (The TWO-syllable kind of learned. Lear-ned. Fancy.)
With that ambition in mind, my friend Jason and I sat down the other night for a little high culture and historical analysis courtesy Discovery HD. The show? Well, I forget the title, but it was something akin to, "The 100 Most Awesomely Brilliant Scientific Discoveries of All Time, Ever."
This was it. The exact moment my sophistication would begin. I sat and pondered during the opening commercial. What would I soon be learning? What knowledge would this show impart on me? With what could I wow the folks at the water cooler tomorrow? The possibilities were limitless. The 100 greatest discoveries of all time? Nuclear fission! The theory of relativity! The wheel! I was at the edge of my educational seat.
Then the first discovery was unveiled. A scientific marvel beyond words. A discovery that would rock the foundations of our world. An advance in science that would certainly help out mankind... or at help fans of the Grateful Dead procure gainful employment for years to come.
That's right -- we tuned in just in time for the great scientific discovery of... synthetic urea. No joke. And in case you're slow, urea is a nice way of saying, umm, the letter after O. Stop giggling, this is science.
Stunningly, it turns out that in a lab back in the year 18-whenever, a scientist created synthetic, umm, urine. Even more stunningly, this is considered one of the 100 Most Awesomely Brilliant Scientific Discoveries of All Time, Ever. Apparantly it was the first time that a naturally existing substance had been created by Man. Call me crazy, but I'm a man, and all I need to create it is a tall glass of water and about an hour. But that's beside the point.
A discovery of this magnitude begs several questions, chief among them: Why? Why devote resources to the creation of THAT? Was there a shortage back then? Then I became lear-ned. It turns out that the discovery of said synthetic urea happened in the lab ACCIDENTALLY.
Accidentally? What were they TRYING to make? "Heeey, this isn't Mello-Yello!"
Still, we remained resolute in our quest for knowledge. Chuckles were stifled. We were now cultured, refined, distinguished gentlemen, and no synthetic urea would stop us, no sir.
Until, of course, the show revealed that the inventor of synthetic urea was one Dr. Gay Lussoc. And yes, the last name's pronounced as comically as you could possibly imagine. That's when I made my own Awesomely Brilliant Scientific Discovery: Snorting Pepsi out of your nose hurts. I started laughing. Jason started laughing. Class was over.
That's right. One guy's silly name turned us from cultured students to snickering 10-year-olds in a second flat. We laughed... and laughed... and then turned the channel to some movie with dudes shooting at other dudes.
So I am not lear-ned. I am, in fact, immature and goofy. And I'm kinda okay with that. Life's too short for refinement. As for Dr. Gay Lussoc, he went on to develop the system for measuring alcohol content in fluid that today we call "proof." Which kinda makes sense, because if I was going down in history as Gay Lussoc the Urine-Maker, I'd probably be hitting the bottle, too.
Thursday, February 01, 2007
I wheel into the drive-thru and am greeted with the now-customary yet still incredibly weird, "Hi. How are you?" (See my column from about a month ago.)
"Cold. Hungry. Disaffected." I replied.
Once again, I was met with eerie drive-thru silence. So I continued.
"#7... with a Pepsi." Or whatever the basic Taco Supreme combo is. I go there a lot, but I still don't know the orders by number yet, thank God.
Then, from the speaker box comes the twist:
"Sir, does the order look correct to you?"
Gasp. I looked all of a sudden. Lo and behold, the Taco Bell had installed one of those screens where you can see and proof your order as you place it. This was bad news on the comedy front. Could this be the end of Taco Bell drive-thru hilarity? A system to accurately check your order? The ability to confirm my order without comedy or chaos?
Then I looked at the screen. It read:
1 TSXMPC. $4.92
"SIR! Does the order look correct to you?"
Yes, yes, it did. And in case you were wondering, the TSXMPC's were delicious.
I love you, Taco Bell.