Thursday, May 14, 2009

COLUMN: Brittany

Dear Hollywood starlet Brittany Murphy,

Please stop stalking me.

I'm sorry to bring this up in a public forum. I admit, it was fun at first, but things have gotten out of hand. I realize that I, like my uncle James, am a sex machine. But you need to learn some self-control. The facts are simple. You're MARRIED. I have a GIRLFRIEND. It's just not going to work out, and you need to get that through your head.

It started oh so many years ago. My friends and I purchased tickets to go see a little movie called "Clueless" -- which, of course, we went to out of purely scientific reasons: to see the smokin' hot chick from the Aerosmith videos. Little did I know that you would soon step on screen and make me forget all about Alicia Silverwhatzit.

That's when I made my mistake. When your lovely visage strolled into view for the first time, I turned to one of my friends and whispered my heart-felt passion for the beautiful and eternal unrequited love I instantly felt. Words cannot express the deep emotional connection that you and I shared that day, but what I came up with was fairly close. I believe, in fact, it was something like, "Duuuuuuuuude. That chick is WAY cute AND way hot. High five."

I thought I whispered it under my breath. Apparantly not, because somehow... some WAY... word must have reached you of the virile and sexy man-boy from Illinois with the passionate heart and the magical way with words. That's the only reason I can find as to why you've gone out of your way to haunt my life.

The evidence is over-whelming. See, I'm an average (yet incredibly handsome and intelligent) modest guy. And, speaking for all other average guys, naturally we just want one thing in life: movies and more movies in which Ashton Kutcher gets married. So when Ashton released his seminal getting-married movie, the aptly titled "Just Married," I was one of the many single hip guys in the opening night audience. And just when we were about to enjoy the timeless comedic stylings of Mr. Kutcher, he has to ruin it all by marrying YOU. I was so overcome with undying lust for you that I could barely focus on Ashton's subtle comedic nuances -- I hope you're happy.

It was merely the first of countless films you've inserted yourself into to get my attention, knowing full well that I would one day watch them. You ruined my appreciation of Eminem's struggles in "8 Mile." You gave new meaning to the term "Sin City." You even had the unmitigated gall to interrupt "Girl, Interrupted." I can't even enjoy the hit Fox animated comedy "King of the Hill" without your melodic voice coming out of Luanne's mouth. Back off, sister.

As if appearing non-stop in movies wasn't enough, then you got SERIOUSLY dastardly. That's when you decided to start appearing in my subconscious. There I was in the middle of one of my usual dreams -- wherein I and a rotating cast of friends are chased through Gothic settings by nameless, faceless bad guys (we can save the psychoanalysis for a future column, thanks) -- when I looked over and who was running beside me in my dreamscape but YOU. Why you were only wearing a skimpy bikini was anyone's guess.

And now we've come to this. As I'm writing this very column, film crews are out today in the Quad Cities shooting a made-for-cable disaster movie with the working title "Megafault." The male lead has been announced: It's Eriq LaSalle, best known as Dr. Peter Benson from NBC's "E.R." What HASN'T been announced is the female lead. But I'm a smart guy with ears to the streets, and I've heard rumors who that actress is. I'll give you a hint: it rhymes with Frittany Murphy.

The gossip mill offers a variety of reasons for the secrecy. They say it's a case of an overprotective and loving husband. Or maybe it's a fear of the ruthless Quad City paparazzi who harass me on a daily basis. But it's clear what the REAL reason is why everyone's being so hush-hush: she's in town to secretly stalk me. Apparantly my movies and my dreams just aren't enough, eh, Brittany? You just had to show up in person to chase down the love we dare not speak of.

It's just too late, my dear. I'm in a happy relationship, and you've got a new husband to think of. Our romantic liaison can't happen. Fate has dealt us a semi-sweet hand and our tryst is just not in the cards. The madness must end. I'll do whatever it takes to be left alone. The way I see it, there's only one way to prove once and for all that our love simply can not and must not carry on:

I need to take you to dinner, famous actress Brittany Murphy. Perhaps once and for all, in a romantic setting before a steaming plate of Rossmeat with extra bacon, you'll gaze into my eyes, bear witness to my brute machismo, and once and for all realize that I'm not the humor columnist for you. Tell you what: I'll even pay.

The torment must end. I realize that I'm a hunky, hunky guy. And if the price I must pay for my hunkiness is to constantly fend off A-list Hollywood celebrities with a stick, then so be it. But Brittany Murphy, you need to forget about me. At the very least, you certainly shouldn't call me at the newspaper office Monday through Friday during normal business hours at the number conveniently located in all major Quad City area phone books. And you certainly shouldn't e-mail me at Or look up my Facebook profile that I check multiple times in a day. Get over it, babe. It's time to stop living in a fantasy world. Cough.

COLUMN: Discotech

It's official: I hate getting old. I know that's a horribly cliche way to start a column, but it's the truth.

I refuse to go quietly into that night, but the facts are simple. I am 38 years old. That makes me an awful lot closer to 40 than 30. If the show Thirtysomething were still on the air and casting, I would probably be considered too old. The fact that I even remember the show Thirtysomething makes me too old.

People my age are rapidly becoming fuddy-duddies. Don't deny it - you are. At 38, you're no longer in a coveted advertising demographic. You're not supposed to listen to and/or comprehend Top 40 radio. When we watch shows like "South Park," we're supposed to grimace and say something like, "What ARE we teaching our kids these days?"

I don't wanna teach kids. I wanna BE a kid. As a life-long single dude who's yet to chalk up any dependents and/or crying infants whose lives I'm inexplicably required by law to sustain, I end up having a lot more in common with your average 18-year-old than someone my own age.

And normally I'm cool with that. I think I'm holding my own fairly well thus far. It's not often that I've had a Danny Glover moment and announce that I'm too old for this feces. But last weekend? I was too old for this feces.

You guys know I'm a bit of a music nerd and still DJ every weekend at a dance club down in the District, right? Well, not to bore you with weird DJ minutae (unless you want me to, because I can -- oh yes, I can,) but part of being a super awesome DJ is spending an inordinate amount of time online, digging for remixes and tracks to make me sound better than the dude DJing down the street.

Well, most of the remixes that I rely on come from a couple guys out of Milwaukee called DiscoTech. Well, the other day I get a text message from one of my DJ friends: "DISCOTECH IN PERSON. IOWA CITY. SAT NITE. COMING?" You didn't have to ask me twice. Within minutes, I had arranged a fill-in at the club and a carful of friends itching to roadtrip.

After wandering around downtown Iowa City for a bit, we settled on a little restaurant called Givanni's where I had THE best piece of salmon in my life followed by a stellar creme brulee - it was a full-on foodgasm and our whole table was smitten.

Afterwards, we headed to the gig -- to find ourselves pretty much the only ones there. we settled on a booth when they first started showing up. College kids by the truckload. It turns out our relaxing night out was the last stop on one of the biggest bar crawls of the school year. Within a half hour, the place was at capacity with barely legals, all clad in identical baby blue bar crawl t-shirts, all of whom appeared to have been crawling since, oh, noon-ish, I'd reckon.

Kids would walk by me yelling while their drunken spittle would land on my face. Girls were dancing on tables. Guys were high-fiving each other. At one point, I swear to you, two hundred people started yelling "To-ga! To-ga! To-ga!" for reasons unknown. Two hundred people who weren't even alive when "Animal House" was made.

Suddenly I began to wonder if I never feel out of place at my club only because I'm safely tucked away in a DJ booth. Out in the thick of things, I felt like Old Man Brown the Hipster Buzzkill. A few instant truths about today's dance-clubbing college kids: (1) They all look like they're 12. (2) They're now officially young enough to be my children. (3) Regardless of age, no one in Iowa can dance, and alcohol doesn't help matters. (4) I wanted to knock half of them upside the head and yell, "GROW UP!"

Still, the guys from DiscoTech put on a great show, and it's always humbling to watch DJ's waaaaay better than myself. I just wish I wasn't forced to see them while surrounded by the cast of "High School Musical 8: The Collegiate Binge Drinking Boogaloo." But would anybody else my age care about a couple of great DJ's?

I say yes. We just can't let the kids know. It's time we almost-40's take the fun back from today's generation - they're clearly too idiotic to handle it. So here's my plan, middle-agers. We open a club just for US. But we have to be sneaky about it.

Outside the place, we pipe out nothing but Billy Joel and Celine Dion on an endless loop. Then we hire a couple people to sit by the window, read the paper and put together jigsaw puzzles. This is to ensure that no 20-something ever step foot inside. Then on the inside, we fill it with everything we've ever wanted to do but felt too old for:

Hip-hop music. Guitar Hero & Rock Band. Lazer Tag. The Cupid Shuffle. Wii Bowling. Video screens that air nothing but "South Park" and "Gossip Girl." We might be losing our hair, but there's no rule that says we can't still pop, lock, and drop it from time to time. We'll just keep the lights reeeeeal low on the dancefloor so noone has to see it.

Something MUST be done. The war against fuddy-duddy-dom must wage on. When I go out of town and witness world class DJ's in an upscale nightclub and all I want to talk about is how great my salmon dinner was, there's a problem. It doesn't have to be this way. Rage, rage, I say! Rage unto the dying of the light! We're only as young as we feel!

On that note, I need to call it a day. The arthritis in my typing fingers is really acting up -- rain must be a-comin'.

COLUMN: Area Rug

I've got a dilemma, Quad Cities. My feng shui is all kinds of funked up.

Let's flash back to a decade or so ago. My wee little efficiency apartment that had seen me through the latter half of my college years was becoming a touch less than efficient. With every nook, cranny, and corner of the apartment piling up with an excess of my stuff, I was officially outgrowing my habitat.

Just as I was gaining the gumption to begin a new apartment search, my landlord came to me with an offer. A one-bedroom unit had recently opened upstairs in the same complex, and it could be mine at a reduced rate -- if I didn't mind the current state of the unit's carpeting, which was, as she put it, "a little stained."

I went upstairs and had a peek. "A little stained" was the understatement of the year. The only thing "little" was the part of the carpeting that WASN'T stained. You almost had to applaud the enthusiasm and level at which the previous tenant desecrated his living space. Perhaps he was an aspiring auto mechanic who chose to practice his oil changes in the center of the living room. To call it "a little stained" would be like calling a Jackson Pollack painting "a little off-white."

So the carpeting sucked, but the rest of the place was quite nice, and the price was right - so I did it. I boxed up my stuff, bid adieu to the one room I had called home for nigh on a decade, and moved on up to a deluxe apartment in the sky. It's the place I still call home to this day.

My first order of business, though, was the carpeting. I rented a floor cleaner and gave it the ol' college try, but it only turned the stains from ungodly to unsightly. There was only one choice left - hide the carpeting at all costs. Or actually, given my budget, hide it at as low a cost as possible.

That's how I found myself at one of those 24-hour big box stores browsing for area rugs. And if there's one thing that big box stores are known for, it's clearly NOT floor coverings. When shopping for a rug at a megalithic-mart type place, there's only one question you have to ask: which of these fashion atrocities is the LEAST terrifying?

This explains the Rug o' Infinite Tackiness, a staple of my apartment for a decade and a constant conversation piece to many of my friends. Words can't do it justice. It's as if I somehow single-handedly freed Tibet, and it expressed its gratitude by vomiting all over my living room floor. I'm sure whoever designed it was thinking words like "ornate" and "exotic," but the end result looked like a set piece from a Bollywood version of "Goldfinger." At least it was better than the leopard-print option I left behind at the store.

For years, the Rug o' Infinite Tackiness served me well, but like all good things, it eventually reached its final sunset. I looked at it the other day and it appeared to be woven of 80% cat hair. In fact, my cats had clawed and frayed the edges so bad that in the past years, two vacuum motors lost their lives wrapped up in its tacky tendrils. It was time to bid the grand dame adieu.

I checked the big box stores to discover tacky area rugs had evolved to a new and exciting level. Suffice to say that apparantly these days, shag is "in." I chose "out," and instead walked into my favorite Moline furniture store -- a place where I walk in and immediately yearn for 80% of the store's inventory. A place that caters to furnishings that makes hipsters salivate. There's only one problem: hipsters are usually too busy being hip to bother making money, and this store might just be the most over-priced joint in the Quad Cities.

I found at least ten area rugs there that would look swell in any abode, but the cheapest sale price I could find was $600. Frankly, I'd rather stare at stains from the crooked angle of sitting on a wallet overburdened with $600 in it. I was whining about my dilemma to a friend, who stared me down and said, "Why don't you just go to Ikea?"

Of course! Ikea! Swedish functionality and affordability could be mine for only a 3 hour drive to the suburbs! On my very next day off, I leapt into the Beetle and journeyed up to Bolingbrook. I strutted through the doors of Ikea to the smell of cinnamon rolls and lingonberries. It was the smell of hope. Within minutes, I found a perfectly delightful striped area rug that somehow managed to match my sofa AND walls simultaneously. Oh, and some nice little plastic glasses. And ooh, a lint roller. And look at that desk lamp for only $9.99! Aww, lookit this cat bed! Hey, A mirror!

That's when it hit me. Ikea, for all its European pomp and circumstance, is nothing more than a big box store. It's the same mass-produced, low-priced consumer-quality junk you can find at any other megamart -- just infinitely less tacky. Thanks, Sweden.

My new rug is now down and enjoying its new role in life as a stain remover. I just can't get used to it. It changes the whole feel of my place. I can't watch TV without a small part of my brain going, "Something's weird! Something's weird! And stripe-y!" Hopefully this feeling will pass and I'll get used to the new rug sitting below all my furniture. If not, I can just go back to Ikea and get all new furniture -- and maybe some lingonberries.

COLUMN: Gay Marriage

Why can I not stop myself from soaking in the idiocy of others? I'm a smart person, right? I went to college. Okay, sure, I skipped my share of classes, but I've got a diploma in my closet certifying that at least a portion of my intellect is broadened and intact. I should know better. I should have self-control.

But noooo. Every time a controversy starts brewing in the news, my fingers leap to the internet and I surf at warp speed directly to the comments section of our newspaper's website.

Some people clearly live to hang out on our website and leave incendiery comments all the live-long day. Some have valid points in their rhetoric, while others craft comments that are a stone's throw from all-out racism, bigotry, and stupidity. It is a non-stop showcase of the best and worst of extreme left-minded and right-minded opinion. And invariably, I get suckered in.

Here's how it usually works. We'll post a news story. The topic doesn't matter - it could be about a hotbed issue or it could be a story about a cat getting stuck in a tree. Either way, someone will come along and find a way to be incensed and outraged about it.

"I hate cats! We need to kill all of them with our guns that President Obama is trying to take away from us," the right will say.

"I love cats! We should harvest their stem cells for our socialized health care program," the left will say.

Within five posts, someone will quote the Bible. Within ten posts, someone will reprint a speech by Ron Paul. Within fifteen posts, all-out melee ensues. I, meanwhile, gaze upon it with raised blood pressure, aghast with the shock and awe and knowledge that what I'm seeing are only the comments fit for print in a family publication.

And that's a cat in a tree. Imagine the fun when we post a news story that REALLY ruffles feathers and polarizes the masses. So when the news broke last week that the Iowa Supreme Court put the legal okay on gay marriage, I did what any good fan of entertainment would: I made some microwaved popcorn and logged on to our website.

In the wide pantheon of hotbed topics, gay marriage might just be the ultimate controversy. Is there anything these days that stirs up people more? And, as per usual, I don't get the big deal.

I'm not a political guy, nor am I a political writer. We pay people good money to touch those stories without the aide of a ten-foot pole. I'm best left to poking fun at the follies of life. But when it comes to the issue of gay marriage, I'm absolutely fascinated by the folks who get red-faced and outraged. Let me hop on my soapbox for JUST a quick second, I swear it won't be too painful. Here goes.

When I was in high school, my best friend was gay. I didn't care in the slightest. He was fun to hang out with and a fellow music nerd. But being his friend, I saw the teasing and the bullying first-hand. Between my friendship with him and my ineptitude for sports, a good chunk of my school assumed I was gay, too. In fact, at my 20 year reunion last summer, one of my classmates told my then-girlfriend in the bathroom that it was "so nice of her to come support me as a friend."

I once dated a girl who I thought might be THE one. It turns out I wasn't even THE gender. She came out of the closet shortly after we broke up. She now devotes her life to helping Iowans in need and she's doing great things with her life. Minutes after the Court's ruling, she announced that she and her girlfriend were officially engaged. I couldn't be happier and I hope I get to DJ the reception. She doesn't like dudes. I don't like onions. It happens -- to each their own.

Enough soapbox. I'm not here to condone the gay lifestyle. I know that some of you have really strong opinions and beliefs, and that's fine. That's the cool thing about America -- we're all welcome to our opinions.

But what I reeeeally don't understand is why the idea of two same-sex people getting hitched is worth spewing hate and intolerance the likes I've never seen before. To those of you who are actively trying to protest the Court's decision, I've just gotta ask: WHY?

I'm not trying to be condescending, either. I'm trying to understand your mindset. I truly don't get why this is such an upsetting big deal. How in the slightest does this ruling affect you? Does it make your heterosexual marriage any less valid? Nope. Does the piece of paper acknowledging their marriage impact your life in any way? Nope.

Isn't it just common sense? If you don't condone being gay, then, umm, don't be gay. If you get invited to a gay wedding and it's not your thing, don't go. If your religion frowns upon homosexuality, same-sex couples will not be knocking on your chapel door. Have your belief, that's the American way. But why waste energy and bandwidth and legal resources to force that belief on someone else? That's not what our country's all about.

I hate Bon Jovi. I hate their stupid smug smirks and their stupid smug songs. As far as I'm concerned, they could ride out of town on steel horses in a blaze of glory while both livin' on a prayer AND giving love a bad name. That said, I'm not going to step into your living room and demand that you stop listening to Bon Jovi. I don't care what you listen to, just as long as I don't have to hear it.

My views on marriage are the same. Just because gay couples can be legally wed doesn't mean that your Iowan way of life is changing in any way, does it? If anything, it might be a boon to the local economy -- weddings aren't cheap these days.

I'm not asking you to change your beliefs, whatever they may be. Stick with your opinions and feel free to rant them in the online comments for this very column. I honestly don't care. But that's my whole point here: neither should you.

My Computer Caught the Swine Flu... Twice.

Howdy all.

I know it's been about a month since my last update... urgh :/

But this time there's an excuse far better than my laziness. Little did I know it was International Technology Failure Month, and boy, have I been celebrating in style.

First, my computer at work crapped out on me. For the first time EVER, I caught a virus, and it crippled my computer like little else I'd ever seen. Our IT guys had to get me a complete Windows reinstall and a happy little lecture on why it's probably NOT a good thing to click on the "Enlarge My Penis? Sure!" ads and I was good to go...

For exactly two days. That's when my computer at HOME died. This wasn't a virus, but a hard drive breathing its last. So I got a little preoccupied with saving the precious data therein (500 GB of music with NO backup. YES, I am an idiot.)

The GOOD news is that, thanks to my awesome friends in the Dispatch IT Dept., they're in the process of saving most of the stuff on it and I hope to have it back in 24 hours.

The BAD news is that, while I was computer-less at home, somehow a SECOND virus reared its ugly head on my work computer, crushing it ALL. OVER. AGAIN.

Now here's the thing. I tend to pride myself on my computer abilities. I don't know the first thing about hard drives or how to diagnose/fix any problems that arise... but I DO know my way around the internet better than most.

I've had a PC at home since 1994. And I pretty much LIVE on the internet, including some not so happy places on the net. As a semi-professional club DJ, I'm always on the make for the newest and greatest music -- and over the years, that's involved everything from Napster to Limewire to seedy back-alley Russian websites and such.

And I have NEVER had anti-virus software on my home computer. And I have NEVER gotten so much as a hiccup of a virus on my home computer...

Yet I'm supposed to believe that I picked up TWO devastating computer viruses within 14 days of one another at work? I call party foul.

My theory is that someone (i.e. perhaps our cleaning staff, perhaps an off-the-clock employee) is sneaking upstairs to our neck of Cubicle-World and going willy-nilly on our computers. A few weeks ago, I logged on in the morning to find a rich and exciting web history of checking out dudes on Match.Com. No offense, but that's not really my style (or sexual preference.)

So now we're installing security cameras and putting "VERBOTEN!" signs on all our puters and seeing what happens.

The point is, my columns are saved on my home computer... and backed up on my work computer. And both have been fritzed out for the better part of two weeks now.

So as SOON as I'm back online with my column archive, I'll update the blog. That might even be tomorrow or later today, so keep yr fingers crossed!

In the meantime, how 'bout that Lost season finale, eh?