Friday, September 28, 2007

COLUMN: Crockpot

When you're a single, aging, chubby, nerdtastic man-boy such as myself, moments of sheer ego-boosting don't come often. And when those fleeting moments DO occur, you've got to cherish them and ride that ego wave for as long as you possibly can. which is why I don't need to apologize before telling you all about how TOTALLY SUPER AWESOME I am.

I achieved something this weekend. Something I've never been able to pull off before. Something that I'll be patting myself on the back over for weeks to come. To the average person, it's probably nothing. It's probably going to be a huge anti-climax. It's probably going to cause that one dude to make his "IS THIS NEWS?" comment when this column runs online. But I don't care. I did it and I'm proud.

I... cooked dinner.

And here's the kicker: It was good. Like, REALLY good. Like, friends-asked-me-for-the-recipe kinda good. This may seem like no big deal to you, but for a culinary moron like me, it's nothing less than an epic moment of achievement.

It's not like I have any particularly deep-seeded ethical conflicts with my kitchen appliances or anything. It's just that -- as a single guy with a surplus of jobs, activities, and laziness aplenty -- cooking takes up waaaay too much time. First you have to cook the food. Then you have to clean it all up. And THAT is why Pizza Hut is on my speed dial.

I actually enjoy cooking when the mood hits. But since I make my own meals 0.0001% of the time, I'm incompetent at it. Among my many misdeeds:

- Making spaghetti in a hot pot. Call it a learning experience. Call it a science experiment. Call it time to buy a new hot pot, because whatever substance the spaghetti transfigured itself into lines the walls of that hot pot to this day.

- Frying bacon in a pot. Hey, my only skillet was busy with instant pancakes at the time, so I figured "what-the-hey" and threw some bacon into a pot -- whereupon it shriveled up into a series of grease-coated bacon death-balls.

- Baking a cake. Once on a dare, I decided to pull out the craziest cake recipe I could find and try to make it for a Food Day here at work. The finished product never made it to Food Day, but it could have served as a formidable blunt weapon and/or doorstop quite well.

But recently I discovered my problem. I was merely using the wrong appliances. Stoves, ovens, mixers -- all these do is exascerbate my culinary ineptitude. Why bother learning how to use these energy-wasting and skill-requiring implements when modern science has provided us bachelors with the ultimate cooking tool.

I speak, of course, of mankind's greatest creation: the crock pot.

Crock pot cooking is DEFINITELY more my speed. Throw some stuff in, switch the thing on, go watch a NASCAR race and some football, and a mere 8 to 10 hours later, din-din is served. Nerds especially dig the ease and creativity of crock-pots. If you don't believe me, type "crock pot recipes" into Google and enjoy the 2,370,000 results. If they sell it in a grocery store, you can probably melt it in a slow cooker with a gob of Velveeta and some soup mix and turn it into Bachelor's Delight.

Still, I find myself not using my crock pot as much as I thought I would. I guess I tend never to know what I want 8 hours prior. When I wake up in the morning, I have a hard enough time picking breakfast cereal, let alone what I might fancy eating 10 hours down the road. So the crock pot sits most the year gathering dust. I don't know what force of nature caused me to pull it down on Sunday, but I'm so glad I did.

I found some red potatoes and threw 'em in. Added some baby carrots. Plonked in a can of condensed Cream of Chicken Soup. Then I cut up four round steaks, topped it off with a cup of red wine and a packet of pot roast seasoning. I was terrified as it was slow-cooking away, since (a) even I know that beef and chicken together isn't normal, but it was the only Cream-Of soup I had, and (b) for the first 3 hours, it smelled like I was making wine soup.

But I'll tell you what, the end result was GREAT. Try it yourself and tell my ego that it's wrong. Okay, sure, maybe I cheated with some canned soup and a seasoning packet, but I don't care. It was tasty and hearty and it came from MY kitchen. So who knows, maybe there's hope for me yet. But fear not, restaurants of Rock Island -- unless I finally figure out how to slow cook up a pepperoni pizza, you're not rid of me quite yet.

Friday, September 21, 2007

COLUMN: Defrost

Congratulate me, Quad Cities. It's only taken 150 columns worth of effort, but I have finally had a moment of pure self-improvement. Yes, a fleeting glimpse at what my life would be like were I a pro-active human being and not the lump-o'-lard couch potato of reality. And it didn't take me pouring my heart out in a column, it didn't take one iota of soul-searching. It just took me getting sick.

There's nothing ickier than a summer cold, and I just got over a doozy of one. I was working on a draft of what would eventually become last week's column when -- achoo! -- the rapid-fire sneezing started and I knew I was doomed.

That reminds me -- do you know what my biggest pet peeve ever is? People who hold their sneezes in. There are girls who I work with who, when they sneeze, make dainty little noises like this: "Fft." "Fft." When I sneeze, I go like this: "WHAFLAAAARGHL!" If I tried to "fft" my sneezes, I'd most certainly rupture my eardrums and quite possibly pop my eyeballs right on out of my head. Doesn't it HURT to hold in a sneeze? Sneezing feels GOOD. It's your body's way of going, "BEGONE FOUL GERMS!" Don't be afraid to let the sneezes loose, folks, that's all I'm sayin'. We won't think less of you. But I digress.

So this nightmare of a cold arrives like an unwanted relative and sets up camp for a week. And then I screw up and do what I ALWAYS do: over-react and immediately call in sick to work. This is a habitually dumb move, because it always takes about 2 days for the worst bits of a cold to hit, and I invariably jump the gun. Still, I called in more of a courtesy to my co-workers than anything else. The last thing any of them wants is sniffly little me showing up to WHAFLAAAARGHL all over the department like a walking, talking biohazard.

Instead I stayed home. And turned on the TV to what can only be described as catastrophically bad viewing options. This is my least favorite part of being home sick: While a get-out-of-work-free card sounds positively wonderful, the reality is that my apartment can be FAR more boring than the workplace, and within an hour, I've developed cabin fever on top of my ACTUAL fever. So I sat around and stewed for awhile. All this did was turn my thoughts into a running monologue of "I hate being sick. I hate being sick." I couldn't take it any more. I needed to take my mind off feeling icky.

I stood up. I looked around. And then, out of sheer boredom and desperation, I started (gasp) cleaning.

First I re-alphabetized all my CD's (don't laugh, I'm such a music nerd that this is a FIVE HOUR process.) Then I alphabetized my DVD's. Then I figured it was time for an orange juice break, so I opened the fridge in search of some Vitamin C deliciousness.

"Hey," said Mr. Moldy Burrito, "Enough with the lights. Some of us are trying to decay in peace here!"

Well, maybe he didn't say that. But he sure did smell that. Being a single guy who lives (and will probably one day die) by the hand of fast food, refrigerator upkeep is NOT one of my strong suits. There's always some beverages in there, always a pizza box or two, and what's left is invariably an ugly collection of mustards, jellies, and forgotten leftovers, usually covered in the sort of mold that could likely either kill mankind or save mankind. I leave those answers to science.

It was at that moment I remembered buying ice cream the day before. I know that ice cream isn't on the recommended diet of the ill and infirm, but I had a craving. A little nibble wouldn't hurt anything, right? So I dug in and grabbed a spoonful to find the ice cream (a) mushy, and (b) tasting a tad bit like Mr. Moldy Burrito.

Enough was enough. There's a fine line between messy and, well, gross, and the fridge had crossed the line. Cold be damned, it was time for action. I stood there and cleaned out the whole thing. The ice cream was mushy because my freezer had collected so much ice that the door wouldn't even shut right, so after I cleaned, I defrosted.

Problem was, I didn't just have ice in my freezer. I had tremendous, global-warming-solution-sized icebergs. So imagine me standing there literally for HOURS: a pot of boiling water in one hand, a blow dryer in the other, Kleenex shoved up each nostril, Vicks smeared on my chest, doing my best to conquer both an ugly cold and an ugly, not-so-cold refrigerator at the same time.

But you know what? It really WAS a proud moment. Two weeks have passed, I feel much better (though I still managed to infect several co-workers off sick as I type this,) and my refrigerator looks and works a million times better. Maybe I WILL get the hang of this bachelor life one of these days. Let's just hope it doesn't take the flu to do it.

Monday, September 17, 2007

COLUMN: Randy, Pt. 2

I know this is supposed to be the "dog days of summer," but I never thought I'd get to live them so literally. The plot thus far, if you happened to read last week's column: Shane finds a small hapless terrier puppy in his parking lot. Shane takes dog to the pound. Owner pulls a no-show. Shane adopts dog and, for reasons unknown, names him Randy.

Here's the thing, though. I can't really have a dog. I work two jobs and I'm just not home enough. Plus, the vet told me that this puppy could put on up to 40 more pounds, which would be highly problematic in my already cramped abode. And any hopes I had of keeping a dog were dashed right away by my feline roommates.

The night I found the dog and took him to the pound, I returned home coated in dog hair and walked in to my apartment. As usual, my cats came barreling out from the bedroom. But this time it was different. Both of them came to a screeching halt. Sniff. Sniff. Hair goes up on their backs, and they made a slow, slinky retreat to the bedroom. They knew. And if I wasn't sure, I woke up the next morning to find the hair-covered shirt removed from the laundry basket and relocated to the middle of the living room. They knew, and they were NOT amused.

This is where my friend Linn comes in. I'll say it in print right now: Linnea Crowther is the most awesome person on the planet ever.

Why? Because Linn turned her Moline house into a foster home for Randy and did most of the legwork in finding him a good home. Linn deserves far more than a simple shout-out in the paper, but for now, this'll have to do.

It's fun to watch puppies learn new things. For instance, on Day 1, Randy discovered that he had teeth -- and he could use those teeth to bite, well, pretty much anything: hands, feet, shoes, sticks, and even large portions of a defenseless wooden patio. But his favorite thing to nibble on? Toby, Linn's sweet old-timer of a dog. Toby's as big as a house and as nice as they come, and was surprisingly patient in dealing with a puppy who spent most of his waking moments trying to turn Toby mental.

On Day 2, Randy discovered his nether-region, and spent the better part of the day doing his own version of the Humpty Dance with anything in sight. THIS is where Toby drew the line, and understandably so.

Still, Randy was a great puppy. When he wasn't traversing the yard humping or biting everything in sight, he was underfoot or licking your face or curled up in a ball on one of our laps, making us say words like "awww" and "lookit" far more times than I'm personally comfortable with. We didn't just need to find him a home, we needed to find him an awesome home. I ran an ad in the paper and we whittled our way through potential candidates.

I was suddenly going from Shane Brown, Dog Owner to Shane Brown, Adoption Advocate. There's no worse situation to be in than having to decide between a bunch of potentially great dog-owners. Finding Randy a great home was a mission, and part of that mission meant having to disappoint some folks, and I never want to be in that position again.

One family sounded great on the phone, and we scheduled a time for them to stop by and have a look-see. Of course, this was the day Randy had started teething and was thus gnawing on everything until he was bleeding from his gums. It was also the same day we discovered he'd caught kennel cough from his brief stint in dog jail. So, as if on perfect cue, the family shows up to look at the dog that we had promised them was cute as a button... to find Randy running around at warp speed, hacking and bleeding. Then Toby, who had the misfortune to be a white dog, saunters up COVERED in blood from Randy's gums. Suffice to say, it was NOT a love connection. It was more like an outtake from Cujo.

Eventually, though, we found Randy a PERFECT new life with a wonderful family out in Edgington. 4 kids, a beautiful house, a huge yard, and all the love and attention this dog could ever want. Plus I saw copies of our papers in their recycling bin, so they passed the first test.

I must admit, though, that when we brought Randy out to them, I noticed a Fred Thompson support sticker and a Rascal Flatts CD, meaning that Randy's new family are Republicans AND country music fans. Little do they know that in the two weeks we had him, Randy became a lifelong Democrat with a distinct affinity for indie rock. But we'll keep that our little secret.

Oh, and from what I've heard, Randy is becoming Sammy, but I can live with that. I had initially hoped that my folks would take the dog, and if that had happened, he'd be cursed with a name like Snooky or Pookums by now. Besides, the new owners have promised to send us photos and updates so that Linn and I can watch our little foster child grow up.

So here's to you, Randy-Sammy. Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, September 14, 2007

COLUMN: Randy Pt. 1

This column's gonna be a quick one, folks. This is the first moment of peace I've had in two weeks, and I simply don't want to spend it in front of a laptop. I've just been through one of the most stressful times in my life -- and, as usual, it's all Taco Bell's fault.

See, if it wasn't for the irresistable lure of the Gordita Supreme, I wouldn't have headed out to my car that night at midnight. And if I hadn't walked out of my apartment that night, I never would have met Randy.

I saw him standing there right away. I'm not prone to dealing with strangers in my parking lot at midnight, so I tried not to make eye contact. In fact, even though he was obviously making a bee line for my car, I ignored him and drove off to Taco Bell. But fifteen minutes later, when I returned, he was still there loitering in the parking lot. I had no choice - I had to deal with him. I tried to step out of my car, but I didn't have a chance. As soon as I opened the door, Randy jumped on my lap and started licking my face.

It's been well established in these pages that I am proudly a cat guy. I'm incredibly lazy and cats are incredibly low maintenance, and that symbiotic relationship is the only way I can relate to a pet. But when a lost terrier puppy hops into one's car and starts licking one's face, you can't help but fall in love.

I took the little guy in, gave him some food, and called the cops. I practically couldn't bear handing him over to animal control, but my cat-dominated apartment was ill-equipped for a dog on the premises, and besides, surely this puppy had an owner out there deeply concerned.

The next day, I put an ad in our Lost & Found section and waited for a call from the dog's grateful owner, who was likely roaming the streets of Rock Island in a sleepless daze looking for their awesome puppy. But the call never came. I couldn't believe it.

Animal control holds dogs to try and find their owners for a week -- and for that entire week, I couldn't shake the pup from my mind. I was hoping they were taking good care of him. I was hoping he wasn't mad that his new friend had sent him straight to dog jail. But as the week progressed with no owner in sight, I started having thoughts that surprised even me.

Could I raise a dog? It's not as if I've had no experience with dogs. I grew up in a dog-friendly home. When I was a kid, we always had some kind of little yip dog in the house. But could I cope with the trials and tribulations of dog-owning? As much as I love my mom, the dogs she raised always seem to turn into spoon-fed social maladjusts -- their last dog would break out in "stress bumps" every time it got upset, and their current dog gets pancreatitis every time it sees its shadow. Would this dog befall the same fate? And could I cope with it? The potty walks? The baths? The vet bills? What if I wanted to go out of town for a weekend? Pets are fun, but dogs are responsibilities.

Still, every time I had a blank thought that week, it was filled with images of this puppy sitting sadly in the pound. Now, the truth of the matter is that this dog is SO friendly, it probably was having the time of its life in that kennel. But my mind painted the picture of one of those impossibly huge-eyed sad dogs you see in velvet paintings, and by the end of the week, I'd made my decision: I was getting this dog.

So I went to the pound to spring him from the clink. I had a few questions, though. How old WAS he? Three months, they guessed. Wow, he really WAS just a puppy. Was this dog done growing? Nope, thought the vet. They estimated he could still put on up to 40 more pounds.

I ignored it at the time, but upon hearing that, I knew I had a change of heart. I MIGHT be able to have a little tiny thing in my apartment, but a fifty pound dog? My cats would never forgive me. My apartment's barely big enough for me, let alone a dog that could grow up to be a third my size. Still, I had made up my mind to spring him from the joint, so I ponied up the dough and adopted him -- but did so in order to find him a perfect home.

Step one, though, was picking a name, even if it was destined to be temporary. I thought it would be funny to have a dog with a common name. My friends and I considered Eric, Tim, and Doug, before settling on... Randy. Yep, Randy the Dog. And a few days later, when Randy discovered his own nether-region and what exactly he could, umm, DO with it, I realized the name was appropriate.

But more on that next week. Right now, I just need a nap.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Anatomy of a Trainwreck: The 2007 VMA's

Discussion points on the annual trainwreck that is MTV's Video Music Awards. This year, though -- the show's first stint in Vegas where they, in true MTV style, rented out the entire Palms hotel -- was tremendously MORE of a trainwreck than previous years:

* First off, cutting the show from 3 hours to 2 yet NOT cutting back the # of "featured entertainers." Bad move. We'll get into that later.

* The Pre-Show:

1) Dear John Norris, WHY DO YOU EXIST? Sincerely, The Earth. Really, is there anyone creepier than the aged MTV news guy who you NEVER see except trying to lamely host the pre-show coverage for one of these award atrocities? Look, John Norris was annoying 15 years ago when his sole job seemed to be filling air time while Kurt Loder went potty. A decade on, he's now rocking dyed hair and what appeared to be EYE SHADOW? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Ick, please go away.

2) Let's put the red carpet on the casino floor of the Palms? Whose bright idea was this? The whole thing just looked like a hot mess. Nobody appeared to have room to move, twirl, or suck up appropriately to the paparazzi. And on camera, it just looked like human chaos.

* BRITNEY. Oh, dear. I mean, really. Look, I'm not going to wax poetic about Britney Spears' troubles of late. We all know what a horrific year she's had, right? But you know the best thing about pop culture? It is hopelessly FORGIVING. If Britney truly wanted to resurrect her career, all she had to do was show up, dance sexy, lip sync, and be her sluttily charming self, and all would have been forgiven. Instead, we got bizarro half-a**sed Britney. Well, if ONLY her a** was half. Instead, it was like a doublewide. Look, I'm a big guy, I know what it's like to be chunky and flabby. I, however, hide it appropriately in baggy pants and oversized t-shirts. Britney, on the other hand, decided to shake her thang wearing little more than a moist towelette. And her thang was a tad too big for that kinda skimpily-clothed shakin'. Add to that her barely-trying dance moves and why-even-bother lip syncing, and what do you get? CAREER SUICIDE. It's over, girl.

* Sarah Silverman. Wow, don't you think MTV was setting Britney up for failure by bringing out Sarah Silverman directly afterwards? Sarah Silverman who earns a living by making the kind of crass, off-color, offensive, hurtful jokes that can instantly wreck a person? The thing is, though, usually Sarah Silverman's funny as hell. Tonight, though, she was just a mess. A couple potshots at Britney that were such low blows that she lost both the crowd AND her timing all at once. It was an ugly crash-and-burn.

* The Neutrogena Party Suite, or whatever it was called. Apparantly Neutrogena, a major sponsor of the show, had some kind of contest where you could win a trip to the VMA's. But instead of actually going to the SHOW, these poor contest winners appeared to be sealed in a hotel suite at the Palms with a food tray, DJ, and karaoke machine, with TV's to watch the event going on above and below them. And Neutrogena kept paying for these ad spots where they broadcast live from this Empty Funless Room of Despair, as if these kids were a part of the action. Granted, the 5 or 6 kids sealed in this room looked like they were having FAR more fun than the people at the ceremony itself, so maybe there's something to be said for Neutrogena. Besides, their room was hosted by Heroes starlette Hayden Panetierre, and there are few other people I'd ever want to be trapped in a hotel suite with. So maybe they really WERE the night's big winners after all.

* So the award show was splintered off two ways. First, you had the main event in the Palms grand ballroom or whatever. But at the same time, 4 of the suites in the hotel were holding "private" shows -- one hosted by Fallout Boy, one by the Foo Fighters, one by Kanye West, and the last, dubbed the "Southern Hospitality" suite, co-hosted by Timbaland and Justin Timberlake. Each of these suite parties looked like a pretty decent time and chock full of great performances... TOO BAD MTV DIDN'T SHOW ANY OF THEM. As a result of basically 5 events going on simulteanously, the network tried to cram coverage by going, "Alright, now let's check in on the Kanye West suite." The cameras would then take us to the suite, where we'd join whatever song was occurring live in progress, get to watch for about a minute, then *poof* coverage returns back to the main room, where there decidedly was NOT a party going on. There was some seriously cool stuff going on in those suite performances. At one point, they send things up to the Foo Fighters room and join the band in mid-song. What's NOT noted, though, is that Pat Smear, who used to play guitar for the band in their early days, was onstage with the guys. That's a pretty monumental occurence, and if you weren't paying careful attention, you wouldn't have even noticed. Guests were omnipresent in the rooms. Gym Class Heroes and Rihanna joined Fallout Boy; Cee-lo, Lemmy from Motorhead, and Serge from System of a Down joined the Foo Fighters; Soulja Boy was performing with Kanye; TI and 50 Cent were onstage with Justin & Timbaland. Heck, one time they cut to the Foo Fighters party and the Foos were nowhere to be seen, it was Queens of the Stone Age playing! And all we got to see was scattered minutes of what may have been legendary performances (with vague promises from MTV that their website would have highlights from the suites that didn't make the show.) WEAK.

* Whoever did the seating arrangement for the main party needs to be fired, like, NOW. From what it looked like on TV, fans were either relegated to the back of the main ballroom or were up in one of the 4 party suites, leaving the artists on the main stage to play to what appeared to be a room full of bored record executives. Seriously, no one seated at any of the front tables looked younger than 35. That's not a way for MTV to market themselves. As a result, NO performances got the crowd hype necessarily to make them legendary.

* Chris Brown. Okay, the kid can dance. Like, really, in a jaw-dropping sorta way. But he went to the Britney Spears School of Less-Than-Great Lip Syncing as well. What happened to at least having a live mic to augment the pre-recorded vocals? Even though it was impressive dancing, the whole thing felt like mime without even pretending to sing live. And, inexplicably, in the middle of his performance, Rihanna pops out to do a verse of "Umbrella." And she was singing live. Now, there's a remix of "Umbrella" out there that features Chris Brown, so I was naturally expecting him to do his verse. Nope. It was just a disjointed Rihanna cameo that made NO sense in the set.

* I really don't want to, but I totally like that new Linkin Park song.

* Alicia Keys. Let me get juvenile for a second... WHEN DID ALICIA KEYS GET THAT BOOTY? She took to the stage with a J. Lo sized posterior that seemed to magically have grown out of nowhere. Like, can you get butt implants? That said, Alicia Keys is a TRUE performer and was definitely the highlight of the televised performances, even if she DID bust out a Wham cover (?!?!)

* According to Jennifer Garner, the Best New Artist of the Year is someone called "Gym Class Fallout." If only they existed...

* Apparantly, the highlight of the show happened prophetically during a commercial break, when Tommy Lee and Kid Rock got into a slugfest, presumably over the love of leather-skinned, hepatitic Pammy Anderson. Now seeing THAT woulda been worth my time. Oh, and MAD props to Diddy for his "please stop the violence in rock and roll" ad-libs -- that was THE best moment of the night, and vindication for every hip-hop artist in the audience.

* The awards themselves. Okay, so the MTV Video Music Awards never had THAT much credibility in the first place. I mean, who decides who wins? The marketing dept. at MTV? It's NEVER been explained. But, still, they used to at least go through the motions. This year, the awards were such an afterthought that they followed trend with their movie awards and just started making up stupid categories for the awards. It was like somebody at MTV thought, "Hmm, we should give Justin an award, so let's make a category called 'Most Totally Awesome Performance By A Former Boyband Member Whose Last Name Rhymes With Bimberlake'!" It was ridiculous. The categories were literally that lame.

* What happened to the Video Vanguard award? Or Director of the Year? I suppose there's no point, especially considering MTV doesn't air videos anymore.

So congratulations, MTV, for your absolutely worst awards show to date. I thought it would be impossible to make the show worse than last year's, but hey, you pulled it off. Maybe next year, you should just do away with the awards altogether and call it what it is -- a badly thrown together excuse to get a bunch of celebrities to celebrate themselves.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Vanessa Hudgens Nude

...will not be found on this site.

But hey, since the entire male population is scouring the internet this weekend looking for her nudie pics, maybe it'll help my blog get some more hits. Yes, Virginia, I WILL sink to that level.

What IS this affliction plaguing young starlets of the world that compels them to think, "Hey, I know, why don't I get naked and take some embarassing sexy pics that would easily result in a career catastrophe were they to get in the wrong hands! [Insert temporary skeevy boyfriend here] would NEVER make those pictures public! He, like, totally loves me!"

And, more to the point, why has this affliction never touched Katie Holmes?

(Psst... besides, those pics of Vanessa Hudgens naked? They're totally crap.)

Thursday, September 06, 2007

COLUMN: Weekly World News

I love our newspapers, I really do -- and in more than an it-puts-food-on-the-table kind of way. It consistently blows my mind that I'm allowed to write about pretty much whatever suits my fancy every week -- and equally mind-blowing that occasionally you folks care enough to read it. Over the years, you've come to trust our company to provide you with the best daily news that our rag-tag team can muster, and I, for one, am humbled beyond words at the opportunity.

Too bad, then, that it's all a load of hooey.

As hard as we try, we're obviously lacking when it comes to the big picture. Sure, we bring you news, but it's usually just filler gobbeldygook. You know, insignifigant stuff like floods and murders and government and hog plants, yada yada. As well-intentioned as our newspapers may be, we just don't have the backbone to bring you the information that REALLY matters. Is it a conspiracy? Perhaps. After all, the Quad Cities DOES have its share of grassy knolls. But perhaps not -- because the same yellow-bellied fate befalls nearly every newspaper in the country.

Every newspaper, that is, except one. One publication out there with the guts to bring you the REAL news. The news that affects our lives on a cosmic scale. The news that no other paper has the guts to print. The news that could save your very life, especially if you're planning a vacation to the yeti-infested mountains of Nepal.

What, you ask, is this paper that puts us to shame? This bastion of knowledge, defender of truth, hope for the masses, and all-encompassing guide to the REAL whereabouts of Elvis? (Answer: Pluto.)

I speak, of course, of the heroic pinnacle of journalism known as The Weekly World News.

And, dear readers, it is with profound soundness and regret that I must inform you of its passing. Yes, last week marked the very last issue of the Weekly World News that you'll ever find in newsstands, bookstores, and -- most importantly -- next to the Wint-O-Green gum in checkout aisle #11.

I know what you're thinking. Some of you are probably convinced that The Weekly World News is nothing but a supermarket tabloid full of bogus stories and Photoshopped images dreamt up by a pack of punks that excelled in their college Creative Writing courses.

Well, THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT THE GOVERNMENT WANTS YOU TO BELIEVE. If you were a true reader of the Weekly World News, you would realize that, were EVERYONE to know that a race of alien vampire ninjas was thiiiis close to launching an attack, society would be crippled in fear. If you were to understand that the government was REALLY being run by a very-much-alive-thank-you John F. Kennedy and his close advisor, "slain" rapper Tupac Shakur, your faith in our nation would crumble.

And now, somehow, Someone (with a capital s) has seen to it that The Weekly World News is silenced forever.

My only advice to you brave souls? RUN. Run like the wind and be very, very afriad of EVERYTHING. The true horror is that -- without the trusty reporting of the Weekly World News -- by now, Bat-Boy could be anywhere.

It was in 1992 that the Weekly World News first discovered the half-human, half-bat hybrid living in an underground lair in Virginia. Despite the hubbub that must go hand-in-hand with Bat-Boy leading the police on a three-state car chase, the WWN was the ONLY press on top of the situation, as well as their crack team of investigative reporters who found out that Bat-Boy had enrolled in a small liberal arts college in upstate New York under the pseudonym Guy Fledermaus. In October of 2006, Bat-Boy was captured on film (by the Weekly World News reporters, natch) riding atop a New York City subway car.

Today? Without the keen reporting of the WWN, Bat-Boy could be anywhere. He could be right here in the Quad Cities. Wait -- what was that? Odd, I could swear I just heard flapping outside my window. Ah well, it's probably... nothing. OR WAS IT?

When I was a kid, my mom used to snag the WWN from my grandmother's coffeetable every week. And then like clockwork, I'd go in and snag it off my mom's nightstand a few days later. Why Mom didn't grab it off the rack and proudly present it to the supermarket cashier is beyond me. Well, she probably didn't want to tip off the government (or at least Tupac and JFK) that she was an Informed Reader. Too much knowledge can be dangerous. That's why she faked that she was embarassed to be seen with the WWN in her house every week - it was for MY SAFETY! Thanks, Mom!

And now, with the demise of the WWN -- officially attributed to a decline in circulation but we all who's really responsible (Bigfoot, and maybe Elvis) -- we now live in an uncertain time. Bat-Boys and yetis could be running around willy-nilly without a trace of documentation.

So, dear friends, I vow that at least one humor-columnist-who-likes-to-pretend-he's-a-reporter will remain vigilant. Sleep easy, Quad Cities, for I will maintain a constant journalistic lookout for Bat-Boys and assorted Elvi aplenty. The Weekly World News may be gone, but true journalism remains. Well, at least until the vampire alien ninja uprising begins.