Friday, July 05, 2013

COLUMN: Destroyer of Technology

I'm not one to enjoy the thought of my dear sweet mother making whoopie in her heydey, but you've got to hand it to the woman:  her timing was ideal.

For a wee little nerdling like me, could there have been a better era to be born into? I was six years old when my folks took me to the theater to see "Star Wars," and it was just the beginning. I saw ALL the geeky greats in the cinemas of Galesburg: Close Encounters, E.T., Tron, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Never-Ending Story, Willow, The Dark Crystal, Beastmaster, Goonies, Gremlins, Weird Science, The Lost Boys... other than the occasional wedgie or two, it was the salad days of dorkdom.

And it didn't stop with movies. In the early 80's, it seemed like the entire WORLD was made of science fiction. The radio blared Gary Numan and Devo and A Flock of Seagulls and it sounded like the future incarnate. TV's greatest hero was a talking car. I had a Dungeons & Dragons character named Fokstarr (which, admittedly, in retrospect sounds less like a hero and more like a Belgian bisexual T-Rex cover band, but I digress.) At any given time, at least ten different galaxies required saving down at the video arcade. People clearly dressed like they were from another planet.

As a product of the 80's, It's no surprise that I spent a good chunk of my childhood fantasizing about slaying orcs, conquering planets, and having magical superpowers. I just never expected that one day I really WOULD develop a superpower, and I'm pretty sure it's an EVIL one at that.

I am Shane, Destroyer of Technology. The story I am about to tell you is 100% true.

It all started last weekend. Like most Saturday nights, I was moonlighting as a DJ at a relatively popular nightspot in the Village of East Davenport. Not to brag, but I was, as they say, in the zone. Mixes were coming fast and furious, I was throwing down tunes I didn't even know I had, and the crowd was eating out of my hand. I was giving that bar a vital pulse: oonce, oonce, oonce, oonce, oonce, oooooooo-nnnn-cececece-k-k-k-kkkkkpft.

And THAT was how I gave the vital pulse of the bar a massive coronary. Or, rather, my gear did.

Once upon a time, owning a mobile DJ system meant carrying around a half-ton flight case full of CD players, turntables, mixers, and amps -- not to mention crates of records and books of CDs. Thankfully for the structural integrity of my spinal column, life's a bit easier in the digital age. All of the controls I need are now right there on a laptop and all of my songs on a portable hard drive. When it comes to music management, most computer experts will tell you that Apple-based systems are usually more stable and reliable than a PC, so when I made the jump to digital, I bought a MacBook to run the whole thing.

There's just one problem with using a Mac to DJ: when it DOES break down, this PC guy doesn't have the SLIGHTEST idea what to do. And at that moment, on that Saturday night, at the height of the club's business, my MacBook just... stopped. For reasons I still can't explain. And all I knew how to do was stand there, eyes blinking, awash in surprise, while 200 clubgoers all turned and stared like I'd just won the idiot sweepstakes.

It's ok, though -- I'm a smart guy and I always come prepared. My trusty iPod was in my pocket. I pulled it out, plugged it into the board, and listened as I hit play and it went "wuhhhhk-k-k-k-k-k," sending echoes of feedback across the bar. That's right, at the precise moment that my MacBook died, so did my iPod. So if you walked into a bar a couple weekends ago and heard some ear-shattering feedback followed by a VERY frazzled-looking chubby guy furiously attempting to reboot a computer, congratulations: you've witnessed the Shane Brown DJ Experience.

The next morning, I awoke with a mission: to figure out what caused my DJ system to brick the night before. After breakfast, I turned on my PC to see if I couldn't find the answer online. Annnnd I sure couldn't find the answer online. Why? Because my PC's hard drive had crashed. If you're keeping score, that's now TWO computers and one iPod in one weekend.

I needed serious help, so I grabbed my computers and my iPod and set out in my car to find a geek squad, Apple expert, DJ tech, or basically anyone willing to hug me. And I made it all the way out of my garage. That's when I realized I had no heat, air, stereo, speedometer, or ANY controls on my dashboard. I meekly pulled the car back into the garage and spent the rest of my Sunday rocking back and forth on the couch waiting for things around me to break.

Suffice to say it was NO surprise to walk into work Monday to hear, "Our computers are down!"

"Of course they are," I replied. "I'm here."

It's clear that I have some kind of evil technology-killing superpower. I'm not quite sure why it chose THIS week to manifest itself -- I don't recall angering any gypsies, walking under any ladders, or feeling especially cursed. But if you value your electronics, you should give me a WIDE berth for the time being.

It's now a week later and I've managed to fix some of my technological carnage, though I still have no idea what caused my DJ system to crash -- so I bought some shiny new cables and a four-leaf clover and am hoping for the best. I'm just a little miffed that after decades of yearning for some kind of awesome superpower, the one I get ends up destroying everything around me that's fun. But I just realized it might have advantages. If there's one thing bad movies from the 80s have taught me, it's that one day, Skynet will become self-aware, machines will go on a killing spree, and all of humanity's hope will hinge on a guy named John Conner. But he had to mount an ARMY to destroy the machines; all I apparantly need to do is try to turn them on. So maybe I'm a hero after all. Or maybe it means that Arnold Schwarzenegger is going to jump out and kill me at any moment. I'm going to need to research this some more.

Anyone have a computer I can borrow real quick?

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