Monday, May 12, 2008

FEATURE: Fairfield & David Lynch

Acclaimed director David Lynch entertains questions from the crowd
during his recent appearance at the Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, IA.

I'm a huge fan of taking daytrips to weird places. If there's an oddly painted water tower, Superman statue, or future birthplace of Capt. James T. Kirk within driving distance, I've probably been there. I dig the weird.

Well, there's weird... and then there's the 2-hour drive from the Quad Cities to Fairfield, Iowa. Weird doesn't begin to cover Fairfield. Fairfield TRANSCENDS weird.

"There isn't another story like this anywhere in the country," says Fairfield mayor Ed Malloy with a smile.

Once upon a time, Fairfield was just like any other small Iowa town. Throughout the 60's, it's shining beacon was the ever-growing Parsons College. The school had recently implemented an aggressive development program dubbed "The Parsons Plan," and enrollment had skyrocketed.

That all changed in 1966, when Life magazine published an article highly critical of the school, spotlighting the college as a safehouse for Vietnam draft dodgers. Within a year, the school had temporarily lost its accreditation and the ringleaders of the Parsons Plan were removed. In 1973, Parsons College celebrated it's 99th year by closing its doors for the final time. With the closure of Parsons, Fairfield could have become just another rural Iowa town past its heyday. Little did they know the town's future was about to be shaped by a giggling guru from halfway around the globe.

In 1974, the campus of the Parsons was bought by an organization fronted by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Iowa was about to meet a world of Eastern philosophy, Yogic flying, and "bubbling bliss."

The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was an Indian sage who, in 1955, began teaching a technique that supposedly could develop the creative potential and quality of life of its practitioners -- a technique he called Transcendental Meditation (TM). TM is derived from ancient Indian Vedic literature -- some of the oldest sacred texts in existence. Followers claim that through the practice of TM, the mind is brought to a heightened state of awareness known as Transcendental Consciousness - the source of all thought, energy, and being. It is said that following the simple practice for twenty minutes twice a day can activate parts of the brain normally dead to the world.

TM was first exposed to the West in the late 1950's, but really didn't catch the imagination of the Western World until the Maharishi found four new fans named John, Paul, George, and Ringo. In 1968, the Beatles made a highly publicized trip to the Maharishi's ashram in India to study TM and write the songs that would later become The White Album. While the band eventually had a falling out with the guru (the song "Sexy Sadie" is widely acknowledged as a jab at the Maharishi,) the world had been introduced to the practice of TM and the Maharishi found himself a legion of followers.

That legion now includes folks like Oscar-nominated film director David Lynch, techno savant Moby, hip-hop empresario Russell Simmons, and even Jerry Seinfeld. An estimated six million people now practice Transcendental Meditation on a regular basis.

In the summer of 1974, the former Parsons College was relaunched as the Maharishi International University, now known as the Maharishi University of Management (MUM). A fully accredited college, MUM offers twelve undergraduate programs with a focus they call "consciousness-based education." Alongside a standard college curriculum, the university's students also learn and practice the daily art of TM. All meals are organic and vegetarian. Smoking and drinking are forbidden on campus. Students are encouraged to have lights out by 10 p.m.

The Maharishi passed away earlier this year, but the college carries on his work and even takes things to another level -- namely, quantum physics. Behind the leadership of noted physicist Dr. John Hagelin, the University has applied ancient Vedic Science to the quantum theory of the Unified Field -- what Hagelin refers to as the "universal field of intelligence in nature," the primordial sea of everything that exists. When a practicioner "dives deep" into Transcendence, it is claimed that they touch this Unified Field, creating ripples of positivity not just for the meditator, but for the universal intelligence of all mankind. Through TM, the university hopes to accomplish nothing less than world peace.

Quantum physicist Dr. John Hagelin lectures about the Unified Field to the crowd at the 2008 David Lynch Weekend at the Maharishi University of Management, Fairfield, IA.

The university's impact on Fairfield is hard to miss. Fifteen ethnic restaurants surround the small town square. Everywhere in town, the roofs of homes are topped by an ornamental golden domelet called a kalash. The smell of curry is almost inescapable. It is the ultimate marriage of Iowa charm, Eastern philosophy, and progressive thought.

"The cultural diversity of the school spills out into the community," explains Mayor Malloy, himself a practitioner of TM. "There's an entrepreneurial culture in Fairfield that has everyone discussing new ideas, thinking boldly, and being unafraid of risks."

From the mid-80's to the present, 400 companies and 3000 jobs have been created in Fairfield. In 2003, the National Association for Small Communities dubbed Fairfield the most entrepreneurial small community in the nation. It's a reputation the townsfolk wear with pride, and the advances keep coming.

Just to the north of the city limits is the newly incorporated village of Maharishi Vedic City. Created by followers of TM as a model of ideal city life, every home in the small community is built in accordance to Maharishi Sthapatya Veda design "to promote health, happiness, and good fortune." Each building faces east and has a central silent space called a Brahmasthan. At the heart of Vedic City is The Raj, a luxury health center and spa based on the Maharishi's Vedic approach to health.

Just a short drive from The Raj is the construction site of the Abundance Ecovillage, a project separate from the school but definitely impacted by its teachings. When the Ecovillage is complete, 30 modern state-of-the-art homes and some 100 residents of Fairfield will live entirely off the grid -- powered by the sun and the wind, cooled by earth tubes, heated by fireplaces and home-captured methane, and fed by co-op farming and filtered rainwater catch mills.

"TM gives us the direct experience of how things in life are connected," explains Lonnie Gamble, the project's co-founder. "The Ecovillage gives us an intellectual application of how things in life are connected."

Gamble is also a faculty member at MUM, where 60 students are currently enrolled in the world's first undergraduate degree program in Sustainable Living. Students can choose course tracks in renewable energy, architecture, or agriculture.

"The overall idea is to give students the know-how to design, build, and maintain sustainable communities," says Gamble.

Mayor Malloy touts the town's credo of "buy fresh, buy local," and recently created a Commission on Sustainability to discuss expansive green programs for Fairfield.

"It's something for everyone to get together on regardless of views," says Gamble. "We want to make sustainability a thread that runs through our whole community."

It shouldn't come as a surprise that a town as liberal and diverse as Fairfield also plays host to an astonishing arts scene. You almost need a database just to keep up with the town's calendar of events. Every day and night, you can find concerts, art exhibits, poetry readings, and live theatre. The population of Fairfield is only 9700, yet the town boasts over 300 working artists and 22 art galleries.

Fairfield's art walks, held on the first Friday of every month of the year, attract visitors from around the globe and was named the Iowa Tourism Event of the Year in 2005. June's upcoming event pays homage to the food, art, dance, music, song and games of Italy around the Central Park square green.

The jewel of the town's art scene, though, is the newly constructed Fairfield Arts & Convention Center -- a 32,000 square foot center devoted to serving the diverse culture of the town. Housed inside is the state-of-the-art Stephen Sondheim Center for the Performing Arts, the first theatre ever to garner the name and approval of the famed composer and lyricist.

The proscenium theatre boasts 522 seats and plays host to a smattering of local and national theatre and music productions. We were able to catch a recent production of "Godspell," complete with a climactic scene featuring an illusion donated by the estate of legendary magician (and TM follower) Doug Henning. The show was top-notch and brought the house down. Future summer events include the Iowa premiere of "Open Heart," written by and starring 80's film icon Robby Benson.

As we left Fairfield, my mind swirled. In one short day, I'd been exposed to meditation, philosophy, quantum physics, conservation, culture, and, well, some pretty weird vegan food. I don't think I've said the word "wow" more times in one day in my life. Fairfield seems intent on expanding people's minds -- instead, they simply blew mine away.


One of the most well-known proponents of Transcendental Meditation and the study of ancient Vedic Science is acclaimed film director David Lynch. Such a proponent is Lynch, in fact, that his foundation just donated a cool million dollars to Fairfield's Maharishi University of Management to help defray the costs for students to learn the TM technique. During the university's recent David Lynch Weekend, we were able to sit down with the three-time Oscar nominee to find out more about his passion for meditation.

You're one of our nation's most respected directors. Yet instead of hob-nobbing with the Hollywood elite, you're in smalltown Iowa. Why is Fairfield so important to you?

Well, I love transcendental meditation. I started in 1973, July 1st, on a Saturday morning about 11:00. And I've been meditating twice a day for over 34 years. This university is the flagship school for consciousness-based education. Education which develops the full potential of the student -- enlightenment. And the way to do that is to experience that deepest level of life -- the Transcendent. The technique of TM will get you to that level -- easily, effortlessly, first time, every time. It's a beautiful, beautiful blessing. And so I was asked to join the Board of Directors for this university. It's a very special place. I think it's the future of universities. I don't see self-centered, tormented, stressed, anxiety-ridden students. I see very strong powerful brilliance. And so I like supporting this university and I like supporting the peace-creating groups here in Iowa. I think it's the future, and a bright future. So I'm with it.

Are you seeing changes in the public's reception to TM?

The receptivity is changing. As human beings, we get into certain rigid patterns. Anything new coming along is not always welcomed with open arms, and a lot of misunderstandings can arise. Misunderstandings about meditation are going away. It's not a religion, and people are getting hip to that. It's a mental technique to open the door to the deepest level of life -- the eternal level. And life gets better when you experience that deepest level.

Have the ancient principles of Vedic Science adapted in order to evolve into the new millennium?

No, no. The new millennium has evolved into it. "Veda" means total knowledge. Vedas are the laws of nature. How the un-manifest manifests into everything that is a thing. Vedic Science, the science of consciousness, explains it in the greatest detail -- surpassing physics, surpassing quantum cosmology. The Vedas can be interpreted many different ways, just like the Bible can be interpreted many, many ways. But hiding in there is the truth, and this is where enlightenment comes in. An enlightened human being is living the truth. And it's possible that it's our birthright. We're going to one day unfold the whole thing. It's waiting for us. It's just a question of time.

In the course of this, you've sort of become the de facto recognizable celebrity face of TM. Is this a role you're comfortable with?

I don't like being in the public. But like I said, I believe in these technologies for peace and enlightenment, so I find myself talking about it.

The school seems to emphasize community. In your life, do you find that you're able to do this as part of a community? Or is meditation for you more personal?

What I love about TM is that you don't need anything but the technique. You can meditate anywhere -- you don't need to join anything, you don't need to be in a community. You meditate and you go about your business and you will start to see things get better and better and better. This is what happened to me. If it hadn't, I would've quit meditation. You'll get all these benefits, and it will feed your work. What I like about Fairfield is that every day, just like ancient India, people come together and meditate as a group. And that's a very, very powerful cosmic beautiful thing. Major beautiful. And in this community, if you go around and meet people, they're absolutely unique individuals. You like sitting with every one of them. They're bright eyed, they're eager to listen to you, and there's a big understanding and appreciation for life. It's very special. But this is in all human beings. Get rid of that cloud of stress and you just become more and more yourself. A strong self. TM brings you to a place that's more and more self-sufficient. The Big Self. It's beautiful.

In terms of the global picture, do you consider yourself an optimist?

Total optimist. I'm an optimist because of this beautiful Unified Field. You know, that big ocean. And because of these Vedic technologies to enliven that, I'm a big giant optimist.

If you'd like to learn more about Vedic Science and the technique of Transcendental Meditation, visit or call 1-888-LEARN-TM.


While there's no debating the positive impact that Transcendental Meditation and Vedic Science has had on Fairfield, the practice is not immune to controversy:

Finding enlightenment may also find you with an enlightened pocketbook. Basic TM training costs $2000 -- and that's after a recent reduction in fees. While the price seems a bit exorbitant by modest standards, TM officials claim there's a reason.

"It's really important to commit to the technique," explains Dr. Wally DeVasier, Director of the Maharishi Peace Palace in Fairfield. "Making a financial commitment leads to making a meditation commitment."

While a recent donation from the David Lynch Foundation has created student scholarships to help alleviate the financial burden, the costs may be too prohibitive for some to experience "bubbling bliss."

What does your $2000 get? Private instruction, 2 hours a day, for 4 days.

"After the four days, you'll have enough info to meditate on your own for the rest of your life," explains DeVasier.

• Advocates of TM frequently affirm that practicing the technique doesn't conflict with any world religion. In fact, the group's website states that it will "enhance your religion... [TM] is a technique, pure and simple. It involves no religion, belief, philosophy, or change in lifestyle."

Some disagree.

Websites like, devoted to critical analysis of TM and run by a former follower, claim that several aspects of the meditation training and technique borrow extensively from Hinduism, invoking and making offerings to Hindu gods. This, it can be argued, could be at odds with the tenets of Judeo-Christianity and other religions.

• Some have even harsher words for the practice.

"In my opinion, Transcendental Meditation fits the criteria of a cult," says Rick Ross, Founder of New Jersey's Ross Institute for the Study of Destructive Cults, Controversial Groups and Movements ( "TM is a personality-driven organization. People are blindly following an absolute authoritarian leader -- The Maharishi Mahesh Yogi -- and his patentedly absurd claims."

• In 1994, a 24-year-old student at the college, Shuvender Sem, stabbed and killed another MUM student in the college dining hall. Sem was later found not guilty by reason of insanity. The family of the victim filed suit against the University, claiming that the practice of TM was dangerous for a mentally ill student.

"If the practice of TM causes an energized field that creates peace and calm," asks Ross, "then why was there a murder on campus?"

• One of TM's most outspoken proponents, quantum physicist Dr. John Hagelin, is no stranger to controversy.

While Hagelin touts his theories of the Unified Field of Consciousness on his vast network of websites as fact, many members of the scientific community aren't buying it. "What the Bleep Do We Know," a film featuring the theories of Hagelin and other physicists, was recently labeled "pseudoscience" by the American Chemical Society, while a public letter published in Physics Today says that "most laypeople cannot tell where the quantum physics ends and the quantum nonsense begins."

Undaunted by criticism, Hagelin has mounted three unsuccessful campaigns for the U.S. presidency under the Natural Law Party. Recently, he has turned his attention to the creation of the "U.S. Peace Government," a "complentary" government whose website claims will "rule the country at the fundamental level of consciousness." Hagelin is President of the U.S. Peace Government.

"It's not a nefarious scheme to rule the world," says Ross. "It's just another attempt at dividing up the world into fundraising sectors."

• Money seems to be at the root of much criticism of the TM movement.

"Ongoing Fundraising Forever -- that's the Maharishi's real mantra," says Ross. "The Maharishi was superb at one thing: the accumulation of wealth. At the time of his death, his estate was estimated to be in the range of $5-$9 billion dollars. There are a labyrinth of money-making corporations that the group presides over."

At the end of the day, it's hard to pick sides when you're dealing with an intangible concept like transcendent consciousness. The practice of TM could be right for you but wrong for your neighbor. There's plenty of information available online from both sides of the TM debate. We recommend that you do a little research before determining if TM is right for you.

COLUMN: Vegetarian

I will never be one of the cool kids.

Most obviously, I suppose I'm not a kid anymore, as much as I try to block the fact. But age aside, I still don't qualify for hipster status. I don't waste time cultivating any kind of image. I thoroughly enjoy some genuinely awful movies. I'm horribly, embarassingly unread.

But more than anything, there's one profound truth that will forever bar me from full acceptance to the I'm-Cooler-Than-You club: I love a good cheeseburger.

I definitely surround myself with artsy types -- it's just the clique I usually have the most in common with. My friends are authors, painters, musicians, and thinkers. Lately, though, another trend seems to be cropping up among my social circle. More and more often, I find myself surrounded by vegetarians. And for a lifelong carnivore like me, it's a learning experience.

For the most part, I'm sympathetic towards their cause. I get the vegetarian thing, I really do. I grew up in the country, and I can safely say that no cow ever did me harm. They're quite docile creatures, actually. I kinda like 'em. But it's NOT MY FAULT that I kinda like 'em with a sprinkling of garlic salt and some Heinz 57.

Just as it's not my fault that 80% of Earth's vegetables taste icky. When it comes to veggies, I'm a simple guy. Lettuce, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, corn, beans, potatoes -- all acceptable items to enter my mouth. Step outside of that comfort zone, though, and vegetables start gettin' freaky.

For a while, I tried joining one of those diet plans where they deliver a week's worth of pre-made meals to your door. I beamed with pro-active, healthy pride -- until I cracked open one of my first meals to find these strange plant critters staring back at me.

They looked like the sort of thing you'd find growing on Mars -- an alien life form seconds away from releasing an army of toxic spores. They were a sickly green color, and emitted a smell that clearly said, "Hi, Shane. We are absolutely, positively not for eating." Still, I'd thrown down a chunk of change and it wasn't going to waste.

That's how I ended up attempting to consume my first brussel sprout. The next week, I cancelled the meal plan. The smell turned out to be only a mild appetizer to the taste, which was kind of like rancid cabbage meeting rusty metal. Clearly, brussel sprouts were not designed to be a food product. At best, it is home decor, and kind of ugly decor at that.

I'm not designed for the vegetarian lifestyle, and never has that been more clear than this past weekend. The newspaper sent me out to Fairfield, IA to write a story on the Maharishi University of Management. It's an ultra-progressive school that believes one of the basic building blocks to a top education is the ancient practice of transcendental meditation. It's one of the hippest, most liberal schools in the world, and the fact that it's stuck in the middle of Iowa cornfield no-man's-land is amazing.

I had a blast in Fairfield except for one critical part of the day: lunch. As a guest of the school, we were graciously provided a huge luncheon spread, and our escort for the day had arranged for us to spend the lunch talking with the mayor of Fairfield. It was a great opportunity to learn more about the place, and I was totally psyched -- until I walked to the buffet.

That's right. It was a 100% organic vegan luncheon. There I stood, attempting to be an Important Journalist Dude with no less than the mayor of the whole darn town in tow, and I was staring at this cacophony of wholly nutritious evil. I looked for ANYTHING I thought I could stomach. Ah, a potato, sign me up. And rice -- hey, I can do rice. But no, the rice had friends - odd black and white bean-curd looking things mixed in, and did I smell curry? Eww -- I'd better take a pass. I spied some little square patties at the end of the line that looked to be some kind of bread pudding or pancake, that'd work.

I returned to my seat and the mayor was eager to talk up the town. As we listened, I absent-mindedly forked off a bite of this pancake patty and put it in my mouth. DANGER! This was no pancake. It was kinda slimy. It didn't have a taste, per se. More like an aftertaste, and not a good one at that. What WAS this stuff? As I tried to focus on the mayor, my mind kept flashing to scenes from Soylent Green. Yet I had to eat most of it. I had to be appreciative -- this was a free meal, and I bet somebody had to work hard at making these mushy, gelatinous, nausea-squares.

Eventually, the mayor excused himself and I spun to my colleague. "What the (expletive) have I been eating?" I whispered.

"Tofu," he replied. "And shut up. It's good."

THIS is tofu? This is the modern vegan's idea of a tasty protein? Are you KIDDING me? Well, cross this off my list of life experiences. I ate tofu, and despite possibly being haunted by its evil slimy grossness for the rest of time, I suppose I lived.

The cool kids can keep their tofu. And if you're a fan of the stuff, sorry if I've caused you to bristle. Look on the bright side: one day you'll likely be able to dance the Vegan Shuffle on my cholesterol-laden grave. Me? I sought solace the only place I could -- the drive-thru window of McDonalds.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Idle Time

Hello again, idle time!

God, how I've missed you.

For the past two weeks, I've been mired. A couple weekends back, Friend Jason and I made a daytrip to the Maharishi University in Fairfield, IA.

Why? To perform my sworn duty as a journalist, of course, and cover the important, groundbreaking, and world-peace-creating endeavors of the Transcendental Meditation movement.

Okay, I lied. We went out there to meet David Lynch.

Mission freakin' accomplished. It was a high point in life, even if all the guy wanted to talk about was TM. I'm a shallow guy and I just wanted to shake the hand of the guy who made Twin Peaks, the second most devastatingly brilliant TV show of all time (Lost has stolen the crowd, I'm afraid.)

But in order to share the same air as greatness, I DID have a job to do. Not just anyone gets an audience with David Lynch. You've got to either be extremely cool (nnnnope) or a journalist willing to hear out the wonders of the TM movement (yep.)

So I talked to the powers that be at Castle Dispatch/Argus and they were down with the idea of a story on Fairfield, Lynch, and the Maharishi University of Management.

For the past two weeks, I've been trying nightly to piecemeal that story together. For a guy who usually gets paid to write snarky comments about stupidity, this was an epic task of proper journalism.

See, Fairfield is a crazy place. Some of it is crazy cool. Some of it is just plain crazy. And I came home with a day's worth of interviews and countless questions about the practice, the validity, and the truth of the TM movement.

The folks from Fairfield believe that Transcendental Meditation is the key to world peace. The folks at and a host of other websites believe that Transcendental Meditation is a dangerous and money-hungry cult.

This becomes tough to balance in an article. There's great things going on at Fairfield -- the Ecovillage in particular, where a whole neighborhood exists entirely off-grid (wind and solar power, coop farming, recycled rainwater, the whole 9 yards -- the director of the place drives a car that runs on - I kid you not - recycled massage oil.) The new theatre in town is spectacular. The culture and diversity is mind-blowing.

At the heart of it all is the University and their belief that meditating touches the very fabric of the universe. Is it hocum-pocum? A realist like me has serious reservations. Their "science" seems sketchy at best.

Yet these are some of the nicest people you'll ever meet. Everyone at the university seems to be an optimist with a world view of helping society. It's not a cult - people are free-willed & come and go as they please.

At the end of the day, NO, I don't believe that some dude meditating in the middle of Iowa can help bring about world peace. BUT, that said, if a person feels that meditation helps them reach their creative and cognitive zenith, I'm all for it. It hurts no one (except maybe your pocketbook - learning TM ain't cheap.)

So for the past couple weeks, I've had to balance the good with the weird and attempt to do my best to put a nice feature story together. I've been able to interview everyone from Lynch to the Fairfield mayor to a national expert on cults -- and hopefully what I've come up is a fair representation of the whole deal, pointing out the good bits AND the controversial bits.

At its base, transcendental meditation is an intangible, spiritual concept based deeply on personal experience and unprovable yet undeniable theories. So who are ANY of us to judge whether its right or wrong? It's simply a case of Believe It Or Not. Hopefully that's the angle my story presents.

Keep your fingers crossed - I turned it in today, and if all goes well, it'll publish this Sunday.

In the meantime, I'm SO happy to have idle time back where I'm NOT researching quantum physics and/or cult leaders until the wee hours.

Two simple weeks and I'm already out of the pop culture loop -- Mariah got married?? To Nick Cannon?? How's Lindsay doing? Has Miley shown any more skin????

Thank God I can get back to serious work again. :)

Friday, May 02, 2008


We did it, Quad Cities. We made it.

If you're reading this now, it means that you're one of the survivors. The gods of fate have dealt us a terrible hand, but we've yet to fold. The challenges over this past week have been nearly insurmountable, but we as a people refuse to give up. Heck, the fact that our newspapers continue to circulate in these harrowing times is testament in and of itself to the undefeatable nature of the human spirit. Curse my naivety, I never thought it would be this bad.

So take pride, dear readers, for we are the survivors of the Great Midwest Earthquake of 2008. The damage has been done. The only thing left now is to pick up the shattered pieces of our broken lives and somehow find the courage and strength to move on. It will be a tough row to hoe, but I must have faith that one day, life as we know it will return to normal.

Some folks have had the gall to declare the quake "no big deal," that it was barely noticeable. These people are obviously in Stage 1 of coping with the aftermath of a terrible event of terrifying terror: DENIAL. If you encounter one of these hapless souls, be kind. Entertain their non-sensical notions that the earthquake was anything less than the Most Awesomely Awesome Event of our lives. Only in our understanding and compassion will they evolve out of denial into grief, acceptance, and, eventually, sheer and utter panic.

Those of us better skilled at coping cannot deny the horrific truth: At 4:37 a.m. on Friday, April 18, 2008, our peaceful towns were rocked by a quake of such might and fury that some of us actually woke up for a second or two. I know, I couldn't imagine what it must have been like to be in their shoes (or, in this case, PJ's.) I was one of the lucky ones who made it through the night unscathed and asleep, but every one of us knows someone touched by the epic rumble.

"I woke up all of a sudden," one of my friends recounted. "And I didn't know why. There were dogs barking everywhere for a minute. Then they stopped so I went back to sleep. I don't know why you're making a big deal out of it, Shane."

Oh, the horror. Can you imagine it? Enjoying a proper night's sleep when suddenly you're ripped from slumber by the sound of baying hellhounds?

"I woke up, too," another of my friends explained through his suffering. "I just thought I had to pee. Are you sure we had an earthquake, Shane?"

"STOP ASKING ME ALL THESE STUPID QUESTIONS!" said yet another friend, clearly irritated. Yes, irritability is but one of the many tragic symptoms of sleep deprivation. That's what happens when your REM cycle gets momentarily interrupted by the mighty forces of nature.

I, too, feel their pain. I may have missed the night quake, but at 10:40 the next morning, our world was rocked again by a 4.5 magnitude aftershock. There I was, minding my own business, as I bounced twice and my office chair scooted 2.5 inches forward. That's 2.5 inches I will never get back again, stolen by the cruel hands of fate. I can barely bring myself to talk about it. It's through true willpower and the comfort of a well-stocked vending machine that I made it through the workday alive.

And where, might I ask, is the government in all this? I try to keep politics out of this column, but when, may I ask, is the President arriving to survey the damages and tell people that it's alright? Where is FEMA? Where are the network news vans and my fellow trusted journalists, the only folks smart enough to sensationalize this story to the levels it deserves?

The truth is harsh: the world has forgotten us in our time of need. All we have to rely on is our wits, our neighbors, and an ample supply of Red Bull for those who might not have gotten their recommended eight hours of sleep.

The way I see it, there's only one person who can help us. One voice capable of easing fear and returning our quake-riddled midwest to normalcy. One man with the legacy and experience to help us make sense of this nightmare and begin the long road towards healing.

That's right, I'm talking to you, Bono of U2.

You've fed the world, you've opened free trade, and you still haven't found what you're looking for. We humbly beseech your wisdom and guidance. I've lived through the horror first-hand, I've been on the street talking to townsfolk, and clearly what will best serve our communities right now is a balding, self-important Irish master of the overblown song lyric.

I'm thinking charity single. Maybe an all-star cover of "You Shook Me (All Night Long,)" with proceeds going directly into the hands of Quad Citizens. Because, hey, nothing soothes rattled nerves quite like cold, hard cash. I'd never fear another night quake if I slept in a protective padded cocoon of hundred-dollar bills. Come on, Bono, won't you please lend a hand?

All I ask is that the charity single somehow involve Ashlee Simpson (though preferably not in a singing capacity.) Because, and I may be speaking out of line here, but the next best thing to cold hard cash is hot cute celebrities. Through perserverance, faith in our fellow man, and perhaps a nice dance number from a skantily clad Gwen Stefani, we WILL survive.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Best Sitcoms Ever?

The fine folks at AOL have tried to come up a list of The 50 Best Sitcoms Ever. Your thoughts?

MY thoughts:

• My #1 would simply have to be "Frasier." There's never been a smarter, funnier show on TV.

• Though it aired for only something like what, 9 episodes, it's a crime to list the best sitcoms of all time and NOT include "Fawlty Towers." The John Cleese masterpiece, while definitely a BBC sitcom not intended for the funny bones of us Yanks, was almost the perfect blueprint for all sitcoms to follow.

• The AOL list doesn't shy away from the cheezier sitcoms -- "Gilligan's Island" made the list, for !*&#'s sake -- yet we don't get "Three's Company" on the list anywhere. I'm not saying that it's cinematic genius by any stretch, but "Three's Company" was the catalyst and greatest purveyor of one of the easiest ways to get a laugh: Put 4 characters in a room, have 1 of the characters overhear a conversation but misunderstand what they overheard, and let the antics begin. Totally puerile stuff... but if you think about it, it's the same plot device used almost every week on "Frasier."

• No "Mork & Mindy"? You've gotta admit, it was a wildly inventive show for its day, though most of the laughs were merely the world being introduced to Robin Williams, a guy who we'd sort of like to forget nowadays.

• Other shows I'd consider: Reno 911, Futurama (a show I find infinitely funnier than "The Simpsons" on average,) The Young Ones, Home Movies, and the criminally short-lived Undeclared.

And their 1-50 order is totally wrong.

That's MY take, at least. You?