Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Things That Make Me A Happy Shane

(1) You know it's my pick for the funniest place on Earth: TACO BELL. Once again, the Bell never fails to make me smile, visit after visit. I just noticed tonight when I breezed thru for some tacos that the poor folks working the drive-thru aren't just employees... they aren't crew members... they aren't Sandwich Artists... According to the name-tag on the dude working the drive-thru tonight, they are...


That's right, I was waited on tonight by DOUG, FOOD CHAMPION.

I wanna be a champion of food!

Taco Bell, I don't wanna make fun of you incessantly because I love your tacos. But you just make it sooooo darn easy.

(2) If anybody's in the neighborhood of the Mother Hubbard's Cupboard on 18th Ave. in Rock Island over by Longview Park, check out the front counter. They're now selling stylish DO-RAGS at the counter. Classy, eh? But it gets better. When you think do-rags, you usually think: Gangsta. Thug. Rebel. Dangerous. If I was running Acme Do-Rag Inc., I'd probably try and capitalize on that theme for marketing purposes, right? At least to a tactful degree. Well then, explain to me WHY the do-rags on sale at MoHu's come with the picture they do on the cover. I can't... words just can't describe it, you've gotta stop in and see it for yourself. But the dude on the front of the package looks like... ummm... he's really excited because tickets for Cher just went on sale. Or perhaps he's auditioning for La Cage Aux Falles. It is, without doubt, THE most inappropriate picture imaginable to sell do-rags to wayward Rock Islanders. You've just got to see it.

ADDENDUM: In fact, here it is:

It makes me want to write a musical, "I've Got a Spanky New Du-Rag!"

Saturday, March 24, 2007

No column this week.

Heya guys... just wanted to let ya know in case you were missing my incredibly down-trodden face in the paper this week... I took this weekend off from the column for a battery recharge. In the past 2 weeks I've had to deal with a nasty cold, a crippling stiff neck, and the passing of my grandmother, so it's been a bit hairy lately. Don't worry, tho -- I'll be back next week, and if anything amusing happens between now & then, I'll post it here...

Monday, March 19, 2007

COLUMN: Concert Idiots

For once, it was a news story I could really get into. Last weekend, singer-songwriter John Prine played a show at the Adler that was marred by violence. In the crowd, a guy was watching the gig when, from the row behind him, a female fan began singing along to the concert. After allegedly confronting the fan, he then did the unthinkable: he allegedly socked her in her alleged eye. And now he's in alleged trouble bigtime.

The public response, via our newspaper's blog and elsewhere, was swift and shameful. But nowhere in the public outcry was the true villain of the story exposed: John Prine. That's right, if we can blame suicides on the music of Judas Priest and school shootings on Marilyn Manson, then let me be the first to claim the obvious truth that JOHN PRINE DRIVES PEOPLE TO VIOLENCE.

Don't believe me? Have a gander at some of John Prine's twisted, evil lyrics: "Father forgive us for what we must do, you forgive us, we'll forgive you, we'll forgive each other 'til we both turn blue, then we'll just whistle and go fishing in heaven." I ask you, Quad Cities, is that the folk-like whimsy of a gentle bard or the ramblings of a lunatic hell-bent on anarchic savagery??

Eh? Oh -- it IS folk-like whimsy, sorry. Okay, so maybe John Prine's not at fault (though, sorry John Prine fans: If I were trapped at one of his concerts, I'd likely want to hurt somebody, too.) And yes, violence is perfectly unacceptable unless you're in a ring and we're paying you to be violent. And hitting a woman is unspeakably awful and a horrific crime. But I've gotta be honest with you guys on this one: While this guy's actions were reprehensible, I can kinda sorta understand the emotions at play.

I'm a huge music nerd. As such, I've been to hundreds and hundreds of concerts. And in this capacity as a self-proclaimed expert, I can thusly share with you Shane's Theory of Concert Relativity: For every amount of love I hold for whoever's on stage, there will be an equal and opposite hatred for someone in the crowd making an arse of themselves.

Look around you now: odds are good that someone in your field of vision right now holds a secret identity of a Concert Idiot. They might look mild-mannered now, but they're just 3 adult beverages and 1 funky bassline away from irritating anyone within a 20' radius. Odds are good they'll fall into one of these categories:

• THE AMERICAN IDOL AUDITIONER: To them, it's not a concert, it's just one big ol' karaoke jam session with some other guy hogging the mic. No worries, they can freakishly sing louder than the P.A. system. And usually straight in your ear. Who cares if the words are right, just as long as everything they sing is as off-key as possible.

• THE DRUNKEN FRAT-BOY: You could be listening to the gutteral chants of Tibetan monks, and there he'll be, precariously holding at least 3 of the World's Fullest Beers while high-fiving his buddies and occasionally yelling out "Freebird!" (despite the fact that he's at least 10 years too young to even know what "freebird" means, other than maybe it's something like "Free Tibet.")

• THE HIPPIE DANCER: Again, you could be at ANY show, even a symphony orchestra -- but if there's a drummer involved, somewhere in the crowd is a girl in a sundress who may or may be not be named Moonchild willing to jump into the aisle and do a shuffle that's part Chief Illiniwek, part astral projection, completely nowhere on beat, and an elbow that WILL make direct contact with one of your kidneys by night's end.

• THE CLOSE, PERSONAL FRIEND OF THE BAND: You're in the front row of a packed concert. Onstage is a musician deep in the middle of a heart-felt song. Why, what better time to attempt small talk? "Duuuuuuuude," they will shout to the stage, "Yooou rooooock!" Or, to show that they are, in fact, the band's #1 fan, they will use the greatest weapon in their arsenal: Yelling out the band member's first names as though they have developed a close relationship with the artist somewhere between lights-out and the first encore.

True story: Once I went to a show by the Welsh band Super Furry Animals. You've never heard of them, but you should.

(In fact, here's one of their videos:)

Anyways, we were positioned in the front row at the guitarist's feet when suddenly, the mild-mannered kid next to me starts idiotically screaming what sounds like, "Shawwwn! Shawwwn! Shawwwn!" to no avail.

"Dude, why won't he look at me?" he asked the air.

"Because," I explained in my brain, "in Welsh, the name C-I-A-N is pronounced 'Key-an.'" But it was okay, I let the idiot keep on yelling out a random name to a rather befuddled Welshman.

Moral of the story is: Concert Idiots need to be thwarted at all costs. Well, not via the public shame and disgraceful lunacy of socking someone -- especially a girl -- in the eye. Still, though, the evil part of me -- heck, the ROCK N ROLL part of me -- relishes the fact that, despite this guy's awful and inane actions, maybe more than one person learned a lesson that night.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

New Stuff, Bad Stuff, Good Stuff

Tonight was an interesting evening in Pop Culture Land.

(1) The debut of "Andy Barker, P.I." on NBC. What could be better than a show not just exec produced but also WRITTEN by Conan O'Brien AND starring former Conan sidekick Andy Richter? Well, pretty much ANYTHING. What a HUUUUUUGE disappointment, especially since I'd been hearing good buzz about the show. But everything was formulaic, the jokes were super thin, and the potential is baaaad. After the show, the exec producers did a live blog on the NBC website -- and when I stopped by, it was comment after comment about how awful the show was. I'm not a huuuge fan of "30 Rock," but this show makes me miss it.

(2) The debut of the new Jeff Goldblum show on NBC. What could be more irritating than Jeff Goldblum -- perhaps the hammiest actor on the planet -- as a detective who hallucinates conversations with murder victims? Well, pretty much ANYTHING. I was NOT expecting this show to be good. Hell, I wasn't even expecting to WATCH it. But it came on after the Richter thing... I was bored... and by the second commercial break, I was captivated. GREAT writing, MILES better than I had expected. Future episodes might be suckfests, but I'm intrigued enough to keep watchin'.

(3) Phil Hare on Colbert. I knew there was a reason I voted for the guy. Classy move, a fun and funny distraction, and it's good to know at least one local politico isn't above making fun of himself a little bit.

(4) If you want to see something TRULY brilliant, check out the videos on this page: http://www.watchme.tv/search/?tg=3267. When one of my favorite bands, Of Montreal, played Chicago almost a decade ago, they brought with them a band "assigned" to open for them on a recent Japanese tour. That band was ELEKIBASS. And that night, Elekibass stole the show out from under Of Montreal. Imagine a cross between "Sgt. Pepper"-era Beatles and the soundtrack of the Muppet Movie, all performed by a Japanese band with a VERY thin grasp of the English language who had never stepped foot on American soil before. Between every song, the band would pull out cameras, take pics of the crowd, and yell things like, "We Elekibass LOVE you to rock!" In short, it was one of the most brilliant things I'd ever seen. And, while Elekibass remain virtual unknowns in the States AND in Japan, I've followed their career with interest (or as much interest as you can develop while trying to surf Japanese websites.) When the band mounted a small U.S. tour on their own a few years ago, I was instrumental in bringing them to Ribco... and while the crowd that night was thin, people STILL come up and tell me how much fun they had that night.

Anyways, this past month, almost a decade after it first happened, Of Montreal brought Elekibass back over from Japan to open for a few shows in the Deep South. And this time, Elekibass came over with video cameras in tow and filmed a boatload of short movies of performances & life on the road. It's one of the coolest things I've seen in a loooong while and perfectly captures what made me fall in love with the group... http://www.watchme.tv/search/?tg=3267 to get to their videos (and yes, the site's in Japanese, just start clickin' on the thumbnails and you'll figure it out.)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

COLUMN: The Ice Storm

Diary of An Ice Storm

Once Upon A Not-So-Distant Saturday:

Noon-ish: Yawn, it's too early. I'm going back to bed.

1-ish: That's better. Our trusty weatherguys have called for an 80% chance of the end of the world today, but so far it looks alright. Well, it's sleeting a little, but hey, sleet's just rain having a bad day. I'm a macho dude. It can sleet all it wants.

2-ish: The alien menace proves to be no challenge for me and my carpal-tunnel-hindered wrists of fury. It's a good afternoon on the X-Box. I wish I could play all day, but I've got a trivia night fundraiser to dominate tonight.

3-ish: I don't have a trivia night fundraiser to dominate tonight. It's been cancelled due to the weather. That's funny, everything just looks a little wet outside. Those over-reacting weenies. Now I need to find something to do until I have to DJ at the club later tonight.

4-ish: I don't have to DJ at the club later tonight. It's been cancelled, too. Maybe I need to take a look-see outside.

4:15-ish: I take a step outside... and promptly fall down. It's icy out. REAL icy. The kind of icy you only see in comic books where some nefarious supervillain has a machine that controls the weather. Sadly, I see no Superman. I'm starting to be VERY glad that I've got a frozen pizza in my fridge.

4:45-ish: I'm even happier now that the frozen pizza is out of the fridge and in my belly. The TV says that basically anything going on anywhere has been cancelled. And the cancellation scrawl is ruining my otherwise hi-def picture. Sheesh. The news is talking about people losing power. I crank my heat up to max in case it happens here.

5:30-ish: I'm sooooo bored. Can I get out and go anywhere? I walk/skate out to my apartment's steep uphill Driveway o' Doom. There's no way anyone's getting up it. And I'm not risking my neck going down it.

6:00-ish: I call up friend Jason. "Sure, man, come on over. The driveway? It'll be fiiine."

6:30-ish: It is not fine. Jason calls from his cellphone. From his car. From my driveway. Which he is now sideways on. I walk/skate out to help. I help by getting into the passenger seat and laughing uproariously when we ditch the car over and over again.

7:00-ish: We give up and park Jason's car 3 blocks away and hike back to my apartment complex. Whew. At least I won't be bored tonight. I've got a friend over and a video game aching to be played. Life is sweet. Time for a little


7:01-ish. It is dark. Real dark. Someone asks if I've got any candles. I sure hope it's Jason.

8-ish. Milton Bradley describes the game of Rack-o as "keen competition for 2-4 players." As Jason and I struggle to play via candlelight, it doesn't seem so keen.

9-ish. Jason asks that I not write a newspaper column about two macho single guys spending a Saturday night playing Rack-o by candlelight. I tell him not to worry, I wouldn't dream of it.

10-ish. Jason leaves. More specifically, Jason leaves me in the dark. And boooored. Strangely, it's not much different than playing Rack-o.

10:01-ish. REEEEEEALY bored. And really quiet. I can hear my cats breathing.

11:30-ish. Bored enough to watch the entire third season of "The Office" on my miraculously fully-charged iPod, it turns out. The upstairs neighbors are celebrating the blackout by -- whoa, Shane, it's a family newspaper -- jumping up and down on their bed really fast over and over again. Ha ha, those silly neighbors and their jumping!

Midnight-ish. I return from navigating to the bathroom to find my cat. More specifically, to find my cat ON FIRE. Apparantly, she thought that the three molten candles on the table might want to be her friends. She was wrong, and now has the scorch marks on her side to prove it. She's fine, but the whole place smells of burnt cat.

1:00-ish. How did human beings survive without power? No TV... no internet... no surround sound stereo. My life has no meaning. I fear I may be losing my mind.

2:00-ish. All dark and no light makes shane a dull boy. All dark and no light makes Shane a dull boy. All dark and no light makes Shane a dull...

8:00-ish-a.m. Happily I must have fallen asleep before I could go into a murderous rampage. Unhappily, I'm still without power, and now its cold in here. Grr. And brr. Grr-brr.

Noon-ish. Enough's enough. I pick up the phone and call the power company. Some dude named Tim answers. Tim does NOT sound well. Tim sounds like he's about 3 calls away from going postal. Tim tells me he has no idea how long it'll be, then reads me some corporate-written speech about work crews doing the best they can yada yada. I feel bad for Tim. Rather than thanking him, I instead compliment him on doing a good job under pressure. Tim brightens up. I may have just saved the lives of countless call center employees.

My power eventually came back on Sunday night just in time for the Oscars. And yeah, I know that a lot of other people had it MUCH worse than I did, so I'm grateful for only being powerless for a day. I guess I just didn't know how literal the word "powerless" would be.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

I Loves A Good Headline

So was I the only one who thought something different when I saw THIS headline on QCOnline today?

B&B moving into former Milan Hy-Vee

I would TOTALLY go to a bed & breakfast that was once a Hy-Vee.

Monday, March 05, 2007

COLUMN: Illiniwek

Yay! I did it! I think, for the very first time EVER, one of my columns made the "most commented story" over the weekend on QCOnline. And it was a column that came with a heck of a fight...

See, I've got a size limit that I have to work within every week. Many of the full-time writers get the benefit of using software at work wherein you type in your story, hit a button, and -- presto -- it tells you the exact # of column inches your piece is taking up. Well, for somebody like me who simply writes on the side, I don't have the privilege of knowing my column's size in inches while I'm writing it -- but I do know to aim for around 800 words, and that usually gets me in the neighborhood.

Problem is, I don't have any software at home that counts words. I don't use Microsoft Word at home -- I use the crappy word processor on Microsoft Works (I realize Works is antiquated, but years ago I started my music inventory on a Works database, so when I got my new computer a couple years back, I opted for Works over Word in order to NOT re-do my music inventory!)

Anyways, sorry to babble. Point is, I have NO way of judging my column length other than simply eyeballing it every week. And sometimes, when I get on a roll, my eyeballing sucks and I wax poetic for paragraphs on end.

THAT'S why I somehow managed to go almost 200 words over my limit this week. Add to that concerns by some editors that my column might unintentionally offend, and... long story short... my column got munched by the copy editors this week.

Which is why I love this blog... because I can give you the column here the way it was intended: long -- and maybe unintentionally offensive. Regardless, enjoy......

When I was DJ'ing parties back in the post-college daze, I used to play a song called "Killing in the Name Of" by the band Rage Against the Machine. Rage was a fairly earnest band, so the song was probably about some random heart-breaking socio-political cause of the moment.

Sadly, we didn't learn about a cause, because thanks to the band's excruciatingly indescipherable delivery, all we ever heard was, "Shout-y! Angry yell-y shout-y! Screeeeeam!"

Until, that is, the last minute of the song. That's when you could understand ONE line -- "F*** you! I won't do what you tell me!" -- which repeats over and over again at the song's conclusion. This was the inevitable cue for even the most middle-class, non-threatening, trouble-free dudes in the bar to suddenly start high-fiving strangers, pouncing around angrily, and screaming along as though it were the most essential act of rebellion in their entire lives.

Me? I'd just sit in the DJ booth and laugh. "I won't do what you tell me!" Who's supposed to be the 'you'? The girlfriend? Mommy and daddy? Your boss at the pizza joint? Why the angst, Rebel Rebel? What are you raging against? Curfew? Was Kwik Shop out of Diet Coke?

I have ALWAYS found humor in people getting unnecessarily riled up... and that's why this has been a banner week for me.

What's been getting people in a needless tizzy these days? Iraq? Nope. Global warming? No, sir. It's not even bald Britney or the many daddies of Dannilynn. No, the thing that's been taking front page in our news lately, the item that's caused mild-mannered couch potatos to stand up and scream heresy... is some kid named Dan.

Dan lost his job the other day... and it seems like half the world is up in arms over it. Now, I won't pretend that it isn't sad when someone becomes unemployed. It's a bummer. But it shouldn't be the sort of thing to cause literally HUNDREDS of comments on our newspaper blog. But Dan's different.

You see, it was Dan's job to paint his face and dance around at U of I games. You might know Dan as the last Chief Illiniwek.

I don't get the big deal about the university's decision to oblige the NCAA's request to do away with the mascot. To me, it's just common sense. Native Americans and others have taken offense to the college's use of a Native mascot, and I can't blame 'em.

People opposed to the Chief throw around words like racism and hatred. I'm not opening that can of worms. But just imagine it like this:

Let's say that the Galesburg Silver Streaks suddenly decided to change their name to the Galesburg Fightin' Rock Islanders. And they had a mascot who came out at halftime dressed in a John Deere outfit and danced around with a Harris Pizza in one hand and Whitey's ice cream in the other. Would you get slightly miffed at the stereotype? I would (even though I often do the pizza-n-ice-cream dance in the privacy of my kitchen.)

"But Shane," you say, "Chief Illiniwek celebrates the Native American culture! Our man Dan had to study with elders to replicate the historical war dance of the Illini!"

So what. It comes down to perception. Sure, there might be some people watching the game going, "Wow, what a respectful tradition." But let's be honest -- there's probably a lot MORE people watching the game going, "Hehehe. Lookit the funny Injun dancin'!" And that's just patentedly offensive.

Yet when Chief Illiniwek came out and did his last dance the other day, cameras showed people WEEPING in the stands. WEEPING. I don't get it. It's a MASCOT. I thought the mascot's official job was to annoy the crowd so much that they forget how many irritating delays there are in a game. And maybe, if you're lucky, you'll get a free t-shirt out of the deal.

Besides, mascots should be cute and fuzzy and kid-appropriate. No offense, Chief Illiniwek, but if I were a little kid at an Illini game, you would CREEP ME OUT with your stern face and your war dance. I guess I've just never paid appreciation towards the mascot. I've been too busy, umm, watching the game.

I'll admit it -- it's always a sticky situation when it comes to being politically correct. No matter what you do, there's likely to be someone out there who gets offended by it. If you came out with a hamster for a mascot, there'd be some offended guy whose great-great-grandpappy was tragically killed by a pack of roving hamsters. Heck, my column last week was an innocuous little piece on Valentine's Day and I had a guy send me an e-mail calling me a... storage device for a feminine hygiene product. To each their own offenses, I guess.

So I say if U of I is THAT peeved about losing their cherished yet offensive mascot, here's what they should do. I propose that NEXT year they roll out their NEW mascot: Bob the Non-Threatening Politically Correct Amorphous Grey Blob.

Literally roll him out at halftime, dump him at center court, and let him just sit there and maybe hop once or twice. Then just roll him off again, with maybe a photo op for the kiddies or some miniature souvenir amorphous grey blobs to take home. Let's see someone get offended by THAT.

In the meantime, I hope we as a people can move on. I hope the Native Americans can take a little more pride in our great state college. I hope the fans of Chief Illiniwek can come to terms with the reality of the situation. I hope Dan finds a new job. And most of all, I hope the Illini can survive March Madness in the post-Dee Brown era.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Random Thoughts

It's moments like this when I come home from the DJ gig in the wee hours o' the morn that random stuff pops thru my head... and hey, what's a blog good for if not random thoughts?

That said...

(1) RIP to the Coffee Artist Cafe in downtown Moline, who announced their closing earlier tonight on Myspace. I've known Mona for a few years, and she's one of the most earnest people out there. They made a heck of a go at it, and the place will be sorely missed. They're carrying on as a catering service and mobile coffee bar, so if anyone's in need, I encourage you to look 'em up.

(2) Republican bloggers (and I know you're out there) -- can YOU guys even stand Ann Coulter? I've long subscribed to the notion that she is, in fact, the Antichrist... but even for her, MAN did she ever cross the line the other day when she inferred John Edwards to be a "faggot" (her words, not mine) at a speech that was carried on C-Span. Talk about a low class bigot. She's first against the wall when the revolution comes.

(3) SECOND against the wall will be the Evangelicals responsible for "Jesus Camp." I finally watched the much-discussed documentary last night... and it's absolutely stomach-turning. What they're doing isn't empowering, it isn't teaching, it isn't guiding... it's BRAINWASHING, pure and simple. They shouldn't just be ashamed for what they're doing to these kids, they should be JAILED. I'm all for freedom of religion -- and even if I don't buy in to your particular belief system, I RESPECT it -- but when you're taking kids not yet old enough to think for themselves and ingraining them SO heavily with fear and blind righteousness instead of spirituality and choice, you're just SICK. Go watch the movie yourselves and tell me that you don't sit there open-mouthed in horror.

(4) For those of you that ARE religious, do me a favor and say a little prayer today for my grandma down in Florida, whose 101 years of living life to the fullest are finally catching up to her. It's not lookin' so good at the moment... but I can find peace in the knowledge that, until just days ago, the woman lived on her own, walked daily, and did things at 100 that I probably won't be able to at 50. How did she celebrate her 100th birthday? Hanging out with dolphins at Sea World. That's pretty cool.

(5) Stranger Than Fiction is one of the best movies I've seen in a loooong time. After finally catching it on DVD this week, it simply made me feel awful that I didn't see it when it was in theatres. It's a truly inspirational flick.

And now to what should prove to be nightmarishly awful 4 a.m. channel flipping. Have a great weekend, all.