Monday, May 05, 2014

COLUMN: Speciesism

Graphic artists are LYING to you, people.
I don't know if you guys have been paying attention, but it hasn't been a real banner week for old racist nutbags.

Two weeks ago, not too many people had heard about Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and his 20 year fight against the government over grazing rights for his cattle business. The ensuing fight (which is an a can of worms I'll just scoot around, thanks much) turned the 67-year-old cattle rancher into a conservative folk hero and won him 15 minutes of fame in the national spotlight... which he then used to publically "wonder" whether or not slavery was such a bad deal. Oh dear. Within minutes, the same pundits who had spent the whole week defending Bundy's actions were trying their best to distance themselves from the controversy.

Then came L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling, who achieved the impossible by making the gossip-mongers at TMZ come across as reasonable journalists. It was TMZ that first broadcast the audiotape of the 80-year-old Sterling telling his girlfriend that she should avoid getting photographed with black celebrities. Was Sterling set up by a super-sketchy vindictive gold digger? Probably. Was he goaded into admitting his backwards beliefs on audiotape? Yeah, I'm pretty sure. Does he deserve every ounce of public shame, ridicule, and scorn that followed? You betcha.

If you're expecting some kind of deep thoughts on the topic of racism from me, you're about to be sorely disappointed. Honestly, I just don't get it. We're supposed to be a society of reasonable intelligence. If that's the case, I don't understand how hating someone for the color of their skin fits into that scheme. There is absolutely ZERO logical argument in support of a racist. None whatsoever.

If you want to hate someone, be a jerkist. (Wait, that sounds bad.) But if you were to say, "I hate this person because they're a jerk," I'd at least hear you out. You can use reasoning. You can offer supportive evidence. You could have a legitimate argument. But the color of someone's skin should matter about as much as the color of their shirt. I realize that might sound like a flowers-and-sunshine way of looking at the world, but who cares. Prejudice against anything -- race, sex, religion, sexual orientation, whatever -- is just wrong, plain and simple.

Except, of course, when I'm the one doing it.

It's truth time, people. I've been prejudiced my whole life. There, I said it. It's out in the open and I can't take it back. The ugly truth is that I harbor a deep-seated irrational hatred that knows no limits, cannot possibly be justified, and is my secret shame.

I, Shane Brown, am a species-ist.

As much as my parents taught me to love all creatures great and small, as much as I try to be a nice guy and do the right thing, as much as I realize how truly wrong it is... I hate bees. I hate the little suckers from here to there and back again. I hate them with the fiery intensity of a thousand suns. If I could snap my fingers and watch every single bee in the world drop to their death, I'd do it. Thankfully for you all, my parents were too busy teaching me how to love all creatures great and small and somehow failed to teach me how to snap my fingers. But that's another secret shame for another column. I digress, back to hatred!

The world has spent countless manhours snowing us into believing that bees are good creatures. Everywhere you turn, cartoons and company logos depict bees as our smiling little buddies giving us a wave or thumbs up. But you know and I know the real truth about bees. They're nothing but a bunch of ill-tempered workaholic polygamist squatters who build vomit-stained shantytowns in places they aren't welcome. In other words, they're no better than Cliven Bundy's cattle, trespassing on protected lands without an invite. And at least cows don't STING you.

Of course, the fact that I'm deathly allergic to bees should be looked at as nothing more than a mere coincidence. Well, I think I'm deathly allergic to them. I'm honestly not sure. The last time I was stung, I was five years old and stepped on a bumblebee nest. I took one on the top of my head and another on my index finger, and within minutes my throat was closing and I was being rushed into the ER. I haven't been stung since, and there's a chance I may have outgrown the allergy. Or there's a chance I could get stung again and die. Frankly, I don't like my day to be quite THAT interesting.

One should have priorities in life, and one of my top ones is to NOT act like a ninny in public. Get me around a bee, though, and I'm running, prancing, flailing, and fleeing -- usually simultaneously, which is NOT exactly the best way to impress random passersby. Worse yet, one of my good friends has recently made the insane choice to leave his job and become a professional beekeeper. Well, he WAS one of my good friends. At best, he is now a seasonal friend. "Wanna hang out?" "Sure thing, buddy. Just as soon as first frost strikes."

Let me guess, some of you are already crafting your rebuttal e-mails to me in your head, aren't you? "But Shane, bees pollinate our vegetation. Without them, our survival could be lost. They're nature's little helpers!" Yada yada yada. Don't care. Recent articles have been written about the mysterious die-offs of honeybee colonies happening around the world. It's a serious concern for environmental scientists. When I read these articles, the exterior Shane wears a pained expression and a ruffled brow because he's concerned about the welfare of our planet. But Interior Shane? He's rubbing his hands together in glee and cackling like a mad scientist on a bender.

To all you "woe is us, the bees are dying" people, don't worry. I've got it all worked out. I'm no ecologist, but I know one thing. Next year is 2015, and that means all will be well. I know this because last weekend, I caught "Back to the Future 2" on cable, and 2015 is the year that Marty McFly and Doc Brown travel to the future. As evidenced by that thought-provoking documentary, in one year's time, we're all going to have flying cars and hoverboards and fifteen additional films in the "Jaws" canon. And if we're only one year away from self-tying shoelaces, clearly we should have the skills to mass-produce flying yet NON-stinging nano-robots capable of pollenating every plant in the world without me shrieking in horror as they fly past my face.

The worst part is that the above explanation is completely ridiculous... yet still makes more sense than raci
sm. Love your fellow man, hate your fellow bee, that's what I say. Now, if you'll excuse me, spring is coming and I have a home exterior to coat in multiple layers of poison.

COLUMN: Gas Station

Note: NOT the actual milk-pourer person below. But this guy's clearly pretty awesome, too.
If you've ever wanted to take me somewhere depressing, look no further than your local library or bookstore. You might see a wellspring of knowledge, creativity, and eye-opening wonder. I just see hundreds of people who are way more talented than myself.

A part of me will always be obsessed with the romantic allure of one day becoming an acclaimed novelist. Heck, I'll settle for NON-acclaimed at this point. I just want to experience what it's like to sit at a desk, place my hands on a keyboard, and create my own little world that perhaps someday someone else might want to enter.

Too bad, then, that I'm pretty lousy in the world-creating department. I have nothing profound to say, no global issues I care to address, and generally not much in the way of original thought. I just like poking fun at life on a regular basis, which is great if you're a newspaper columnist, but not exactly a captivating pitch for a triumphant work of fiction.

Upon further reflection, though, maybe I don't need to be ENTIRELY original -- sometimes life is original enough without the need to embellish. Countless interesting characters, captivating storylines, and plot twists live in my neighborhood. Probably yours, too. Maybe YOU are the interesting character I could base a series of novels on. There are stories out there worth being told. It just takes ambition. It just takes a certain... thirst.

Specifically, the thirst for cola in the absolute middle of the night.

Last Saturday, I had a rare night off from my weekend DJ gig. Sadly, though, no one informed my insomnia. I'm used to late weekends, and even when I'm not working, it doesn't feel right to call it a day before the next day has moseyed in to say hello. That explains why I was wide awake sitting on my couch at 3 a.m. And I was thirsty. Trouble was, my refrigerator was plum out of beverages.

I've lived up here for over 25 years now, and I'm proud to call this area my true home. But as much as I love you, Quad Cities, your tap water tastes like feet. I'm sure that I'm just spoiled. I grew up on a farm with flawlessly filtered, refreshingly flavor-free well water. And while I'm sure that the fine folks at the filtration plants do their very best to meet whatever minimum regulatory standards are in place, the simple truth is that I don't trust water that's grey in color. For over 25 years, I've refused to drink it -- even at 3 a.m. with a scratchy throat.

My snobbery won out that night, but so did my thirst. This is my roundabout way of trying to justify why I set out for a gas station at 3:15 a.m. to buy sugary soda that's clearly worse for me than any sips of grey foot water.

The nearest gas station to my house is NOT in the best part of town. I wouldn't call it SUPER sketchy, but it's definitely not on Zagat's list of recommended places to visit at 3:15 a.m. But it's also AMAZING. My neighborhood gas station just might be the world epicenter of weird. Let's look at the evidence:

•• Once I pulled in to the lot to have a complete stranger leap into my car, look at me, and say "Let's go to Silvis!" (Answer: NO.)

•• There's a panhandler routinely positioned on the corner who always asks for exactly 37 cents.

•• One time I was in line behind a dead ringer for Mike Tyson, muscles and all. Not a dude to mess with. When he got to the counter, he accused the clerk of short-changing him. That's when the tiny wisp of a featherweight clerk screamed back, "HANG YOUR HEAD AND LEAVE IN SHAME, YOU STUPID MAN!" I firmly believe it's the only time anyone ever called this guy "stupid" and lived. Come to think of it, I haven't seen that clerk in a while...

•• To this day, the digital display on the gas pumps invites customers to come in and "cool off with our ice-cold chicken!"

It's truly a magical place, even when it's a tad scary. But nothing could have prepared me for what lurked there last Saturday night at 3:15 a.m.  As I pulled in, it was like a late-night double feature happening simultaneously and I couldn't decide which way I wanted to look.

On my left, a woman was walking around in circles, non-chalantly pouring two gallons of milk all over her head and face, as though 3:15 a.m. public milk showers were a normal sort of thing. It was as if she knew that milk did a body good, but she didn't know exactly HOW.

On my right, two guys were beating the heck out of each other. Disconcerting, yes, but not especially weird... except both were decked out in rather posh-looking formal tuxedos, slugging each other in the face like mad men.

For a guy who doesn't think he has the ability to write fiction, the plotlines came to my brain with white-hot velocity.

Perhaps it's Fancy Fight Club. The first rule of Phillips 66? Don't talk about Phillips 66. The second rule of Phillips 66? Tails and top hats mandatory. That doesn't explain the milk lady, though.

Maybe the whole thing was an art installation meant to challenge and bewilder. Perhaps I didn't stick around long enough to see Lady Gaga strutting down the chip aisle in a meat dress while Damien Hirst made a statue out of spam. Or maybe it was some kind of avant-garde political protest wherein the milk-dumping examplified the wanton use of hormones in genetic farming while the tuxedo fight symbolized Wall Street's plundering of America.

Perhaps I was witnessing the culmination of a long-standing feud between brothers, and whomever won got to marry the milk girl right there on the spot in appropriate formalwear. Perhaps she was dousing herself in the Milk of Human Kindness in hopes of breaking up the altercation. Maybe there's a secret society of tuxedo-clad milk worshippers that prowl our streets nightly.

Or maybe a wedding reception got a little too careless with the open bar while a girl accidentally got pepper-sprayed, which I think was the reality of the situation. The gas station was kinda spooky that night, but I suppose the real villain of the story is ME for just sitting there fascinated and not calling the cops.

It just proves that life is interesting enough to hand us exciting plotlines on a daily basis if we take the time to look. I'm not saying I'll be writing the epic bestseller "Tuxedo Fighters And The Milk Lady" anytime soon, but it's good to know that I'll never be 100% out of ideas for a good story. And that, friends, is more refreshing than any sips of foot water could ever be.

COLUMN: Turkeypocalypse.

I don't know about you, but I'm having a lousy week. I'm still trying to get over a lingering cold, I've been fighting insomnia, and even my usually awesome work week here at Castle Dispatch has consisted of training sessions full of tricks too new for this old dog. To say I've been a little stressed out would be a massive understatement. And THEN I found out the world is ending. Great.

Now, even in the heart of sleep deprivation, I am nothing if not a responsible journalist. As such, I know it's not smart to go throwing around warnings of armageddon willy-nilly. I mean, Orson Welles faked it once and half of Cleveland took up arms while people across the country fled in terror. I don't want that kind of false panic on my shoulders.

So if I were to tell you, for instance, that the world is about to destroyed by an uprising of wild turkeys, you'll know to take me seriously, right? Except these turkeys aren't especially wild. They're organized, intelligent, and you should definitely run for your life.

My friend Kari is a wellspring of amazing Facebook posts. Since our days in college, she's lived everywhere from Chicago to London. These days, however, she dwells in a suburb of Atlanta with her husband -- and like any good relocated Northerner, she revels in sharing exaggerated stories about some of the, shall we say, redneck-ier moments of her newfound life down South.

Last Friday, she posted a status update about stopping at a gas station only to find a wild turkey roaming around the parking lot. According to Kari, she went inside and mentioned this turkey to the clerk, who promptly got on the phone and told a friend to bring a shotgun right over because he'd just found dinner.

Now, whether or not the more banjo-soundtracked elements of the story actually ring true might be up for debate -- I don't think her affluent Atlanta suburb is quite as Deliverance-y as she claims. But I firmly believe
that she did, in fact, stumble upon a turkey lurkey-ing in that parking lot, and it made me wonder how I'd react to free-range poultry gobbling about in my vicinity.

I wondered this for exactly 2.3 hours. Then it happened.

That same afternoon, I spent my lunch hour at the barber. After being sidelined for most of the winter with a broken ankle, I was starting to look super extra scruffy. A passing glance at a mirror that day revealed my hair to be in moderate danger of developing a full-on party in the back, a condition which required immediate corrective action. I left my appointment freshly shorn and raring to go.

Except that I couldn't. Because a turkey was in the way.

I swear to you all that I am not lying. There I stood in the parking lot of a strip mall located on the corner of arguably the busiest intersection in Rock Island, and I was staring nose to beak at a wild turkey that had taken up guard duty just outside my car door.

"No flippin' way," I said to myself. Or, I suppose, to the turkey. It's fair to say that I am experienced in many things -- but turkey shoo-ing is NOT on that list.

"Umm, shoo?" I asked politely.

The turkey looked at me. I looked at it. It looked at me. I looked at it.

That is when the turkey stared me down, shrieked "SQUALARALERK!", and charged right for me at top speed.

My brain had just enough time to advance three questions in that split second. The first was, "Can turkeys get rabies?" (No.) The second was, "Can I run on a recently broken ankle?" (No.) The third was, "If I get chased by a deranged turkey through the parking lot of a busy strip mall adjacent to the busiest intersection in town, how strong are my odds of ending up on Youtube by dinner?" (100%).

This was a bad scenario. I had just purchased a shiny new pair of orthopedic shoes specially designed for weak ankles, and I wondered how this stability would affect my turkey-punting ability. I took two steps back as the turkey charged at me with ruffled feathers and wanton bloodlust in its eyes. Thankfully, just before things got dicey, the turkey hung a left and went a-turkeyin' down the parking lot at full throttle, clearly hellbent on rampant destruction. This left me standing open-mouthed, looking around for ANYONE who may have witnessed my harrowing brush with a real life Angry Bird. Nope. I was alone.

Later that day, I got back on Facebook only to find ANOTHER friend posting about a wild turkey showing up randomly in her yard.

This can mean only one thing, people: the TURKEYPOCALYPSE is upon us. Prepare yourself.

I, for one, don't get it. I have always loved turkeys, especially with cheddar and mayo. What could make these gentle butterballs turn into savage killing machines?

If disaster movies have taught us one thing, it's that horrible events can't occur without teaching humanity a lesson. If it had been built to code, it would have been a towering NON-inferno. If they'd moved the bodies, there would have been no Poltergeist. And mankind's shameful treatment of our planet has brought about everything from the Day After Tomorrow to monsters rising off the Pacific Rim, not to mention the God-awful M. Night Shyamalan movie where trees convince us to kill ourselves.

To better understand the turkey uprising, we need to look for a lesson. And clearly, the lesson here is that if we want to make friends with a particular member of the animal kingdom, we should probably stop trying to shove sage and breadcrumbs up their nether-regions.

So attention, Great Honorable & Merciful Turkey Overlords: Lesson learned. I'll prove it. I just got invited to a friend's wedding, and as you can see, I have clearly checked the BEEF entree. Please don't squalaralerk me.

COLUMN: Earworms

Two weeks ago around this time I was sitting in a dentist's chair, waiting to get a tooth pulled.

Wait, let me rephrase. Two weeks ago around this time, I was hyperventilating in a dentist's chair, trying super hard with all of my might NOT to have a panic attack, vomit, and pass out.

When it comes to things like needles, doctors, and hunks of calcified dentine being forcibly ripped out of your skull, let's just say I'm not a fan. I am a classic example of what the medical community refers to as "a big fat weenie." Every fiber of my body wanted to leap from that chair and run away screaming to the nearest dark corner where I could snack on Advil until my tooth just rotted itself into oblivion at its own leisurely pace.

Instead, I toughed it out (and it turned out to be no big deal.) But on the way to the dentist's office, I had a game plan in mind. The minute that any painful-looking dental apparatuses came swinging towards my mouth, I would close my eyes and meditate. Thanks to some feature articles I had written on the subject, a few years back I became officially trained in the endlessly interesting technique of Transcendental Meditation.

So as that needle came inching towards my poor gumline, I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and waited for my trusty TM mantra to come to mind.

Except it didn't show up. Instead, I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and what immediately popped into my brain was the chorus of the recent Lady Gaga/R. Kelly duet. By this time, novocaine was already being shot into my gums and it was too late to focus on ANYTHING, so I held onto that Lady Gaga song for dear life, and that tune saw me through the entire procedure. I'm pretty sure that when Lady Gaga sings, "Do what you want, what you want with my body," she's NOT talking about tooth extraction -- but then again, she's kinda weird, so who knows.

All day every day, my head is assaulted by earworms -- scraps of tunes and bits of music that roll in from the ether, plop themselves directly between my ears, and hold my brain hostage like a vindictive DJ locked in a cerebral studio. Sometimes they stick around for minutes, sometimes they play on repeat for weeks. But they're always there.

Normally, I'd be okay with daily earworm attacks. I'm a huge music fan and I moonlight as a DJ, so I suppose it's natural for songs to get stuck in my head from time to time. But the tunes that end up on auto-repeat in my brain aren't songs I hear in the clubs or the car radio. Quite often, they're not even songs I like. Heck, sometimes they're not even songs.

Recently I spent an entire day with a two-second jingle on infini-loop in my brain. "GET-A-PIECE-OF-THE-ROCK!" I'm pretty sure that was a Prudential TV ad when I was a kid (and a kid who was apparantly concerned with insurance and investment management needs.) Where do these things COME from? What vital part of my brain matter is being wasted storing TV jingles from the 1970s? Is this why I'm bad at algebra??

The repetition of earworms isn't just mental torture -- sometimes, it's downright embarassing. Last month, inbetween a broken ankle and a toothache in what has become the winter of my regret, I was grocery shopping when I suddenly realized I was getting some mighty weird looks from a couple of passing shoppers. That's when I recoiled in horror. Not only had I been unaware that I was under an earworm attack, but it was of the worst variety. I was actually humming it out loud while absent-mindedly perusing salsa. And this particular earworm? Exactly what you'd expect to hear out of a 43-year-old man in the salsa aisle:

"I'm gonna wash that man right outta my hair! I'm gonna wash that man right outta my hair!"

Now, I had to look this one up. I didn't know this was a song from the musical South Pacific. I hate South Pacific. I've seen the show precisely ONCE in my life, and that was two decades ago. I sat through it for the sole reason that I was deeply in love with Girl In Chorus #2 in a hometown production, and I thought that bringing her flowers on opening night would get me somewhere. It was pure torture. Seriously, to this day, I have nightmares soundtracked by "Some Enchanted Evening." Worse yet, Girl In Chorus #2 went home that night with the guy who played Cable and left Loser In Audience #1 with a wilted bouquet and a broken heart (and, apparantly, a spirited feminine anthem to sing in the salsa aisle some twenty years later.)

I was worried that I was insane. I wondered if I was the only one who had daily problems with earworms. So I took to the internet and posed the question to Facebook nation. Do earworms drive EVERYONE crazy? The answer was a resounding YES. Replies came in by the droves, and it turns out I'm not alone when it comes to weird earworms.

"The sun'll come out tomorrow! And the day after that and the day after that! When I whistle, that's what comes out every time."

"One night, I fell asleep with a music channel on TV. I woke up with 'Turning Japanese' in my head, and it took years to get over it!"

"I somehow got 'Rock the Casbah' stuck in my head and it stayed there for at least six months. And now it's back. Thanks, Shane."

"Once a year or so, I get the Monchichi jingle stuck in my head for days. It's horrifying."

"Me too! Whoever wrote that Monchichi song should be recognized. Recognized as the most desperate, unapologetic [expletive] on the planet."

"My husband can implant songs into my internal jukebox without my noticing until it's too late. His favorite is Hot Butter's 'Popcorn.' I think he might be after a divorce."

"No one knows that every time I walk down a sidewalk, I'm usually doing it to the beat of 'Car Wash.'"

"Amy Grant's 'Every Heartbeat' has in some ways ruined my life."

"I can't remember birthdays or appointments, but somehow I can recall the lyrics to so, so many songs. Whenever I try on bras, I hear 'Bennie and the Jets' because I used to think the lyrics were 'She's got electric boobs, a mohair suit...'"

And nearly a dozen of my friends agree that the song "Let It Go" from the movie "Frozen" should be an acceptable legal excuse for euthanasia. It's trapped in the skulls of so many innocents that it may need to be outlawed from society.

I'm just (TURNING JAPANESE) glad (I THINK I'M) I'm not (TURNING JAPANESE) the only one tormented (I REALLY THIIIINK SO, nuh-nuh-nuh NUH nuhh nuh nuhhh!).

Uh oh.

COLUMN: Pretty Little Liars

I am, by the very definition of the word, a grown adult. That's what I keep telling myself.

I enjoyed my college years a great deal. I'd even go as far as to say they were the so-called "best years" (at least thus far.) But that was a looong time ago, and I refuse to be stuck there. I'm not going to end up as some tragic Michael Jackson figure, desperately trying to hold on to whatever vestiges of my youth that I can cling to.

Whether I like it or not, I'm a (gasp) 40-something. It's not my fault that my television seems to think that I'm 22. And a girl.

I guess I'm not supposed to be overly concerned with television in the first place. At my age, I should be busy having a life, raising a family and working hard. But, as it turns out, the only family I've been able to raise thus far is a pack of unruly cats who don't seem to care what's on TV as long as I'm available for occasional chin scritches.

I have friends who tell me they "don't like TV," whatever that means. I even have friends who don't have a TV. I don't have a TV, either -- I have five of them. Don't judge -- being powered on and tuned in brings me comfort.

But as an adult 40-something TV watcher, I should no longer have MTV and the Cartoon Network programmed into my favorites. I should enjoy heady dramas with perhaps a mild sprinkling of violence. Shows about relationships and job woes. Shows about real people overcoming real adversity. Shows with critical appeal that broaden the mind and offer new ways to think about our past, present, and future.

In other words, I should really like "Mad Men."

And I do. I'm a huge fan. "Mad Men" serves a vital role in my life: no other product on Earth puts me to sleep faster. If I'm fighting insomnia, all I have to do is put on an episode and I am out like a light. I've tried to watch the pilot countless times, and here's what I know: there's a guy named Don and he sells ads and he has a secretary and then it's morning and Al Roker is telling me the weather.

The truth is, I have relatively lowbrow taste when it comes to the boob tube. I like to laugh along with "Big Bang Theory" and "Parks and Rec." I still love hearing Cartman swear his way through "South Park," and my night isn't complete without Jon Stewart, Jimmy Fallon, and Seth Meyers.

But there's one show I watch above all others, and it's a show that ought to qualify as highbrow adult entertainment. It's a captivating tale of murder, intrigue, suspense, and complex relationship issues. The storyline revolves around four highly flawed heroes thrust into a world so evil that only their combined wit, moxie, and friendship can somehow see them through. It's a show that opens five new doors for every one it closes. A show that requires concentration, analysis, and oftentimes repeated viewings to fully appreciate.

I watch the greatest show on television. I watch "Pretty Little Liars."

If you're unfamiliar, it probably means you don't have a teen girl in your home. "Pretty Little Liars" (or PLL to us fans) is an hour-long drama that runs on ABC Family. The show centers around a clique of teen girls who drift apart after their group's leader goes missing. A year later, her body is found and the clique is forced to reunite at her funeral. That's when all four girls begin to receive threatening messages from the mysterious 'A', who seems to know all of their darkest secrets. The girls are forced to team up against A's evil plots while uncovering the mystery behind their friend's death. And it's completely awesome.

Oh, and it's also completely ridiculous. There's nothing about "Pretty Little Liars" that isn't over the top. One girl's a lesbian, another has an eating disorder. One's sleeping with her English teacher, while another has a drug problem. In this world, parents are non-existent unless the plot necessitates their occasional appearance. Boyfriends come and go like the wind while the girls are free to roam around town 24/7 and skip school far more often than attend.

In their sleepy Pennsylvania town of Rosewood, everyone is otherworldly attractive. The girls seem to have unlimited money and their closets are full of top designer fashionwear. In one episode, the girls go to a Halloween party on a fully-functioning old-timey passenger train that features a surprise concert by Adam Lambert, because that's just how things roll in Rosewood.

Meanwhile, the mysterious 'A' is nothing less than the greatest criminal mastermind in history. 'A' knows every move the girls make, every conversation they have, and remains always and forever one step ahead. 'A' can hack into any phone, computer, or TV that the girls pass by. 'A' is clearly a creature with unlimited intelligence, resources, technology, and finance, which are all used liberally for the exclusive purpose of torturing four teenagers for little to no reason.

Like I said, completely awesome -- and everyone should watch it. Sadly, though, it seems only high school & college-aged girls do. Ergo, I have a tough time finding PLL pals to share my fandom with. That changed this month, though, when I found out one of this very paper's reporters shares my secret obsession.

Now we send flurries of back-and-forth texts and e-mails to ensure we fully understand each episode, and they're as ridiculous as you'd expect. Here follows an ACTUAL transcript of a recent conversation between two grown adults. This actually happened:

Her: OMG I can't take this. Who do you think is in the mask? Why would Toby go to Melissa? They know? Jason hit her and Mrs. D tried to cover for him. He was too messed up to remember. Maybe it was Mr. Hastings?

Me: Jason would make sense now. But does he know what happened? And if not, why this not-really-in-rehab secrecy?

Her: Maybe he remembered and needed to disappear? I can't take this show.

Me: Oh this is just insane!

Her: OMG!

Me: If Jason hit her then why is Melissa in the conspiracy to replace her not-dead body?

Her: Because Melissa wanted Ian? And if Ian thought Ali was dead, he'd be all hers?

Me: So Jason hit her but the dead body is thanks to either Family Hastings or the N.A.T. Club?

Her: I think.

Me: Adam Lambert did it. In the conservatory. With a candlestick.

There MAY have been spoilers in there, but odds are slim. The point is, I found another adult willing to admit their love of PLL, so I feel slightly less guilty about my viewing habits. Plus it's good to have a buddy to share the long hard wait until new episodes resume this June. If you still think I'm weird, get on Netflix right now and watch the pilot episode (I promise I won't tell anyone.) Then tell me you're not hooked. Then put on some "Mad Men" and get to bed. It's late.