Friday, December 08, 2017

COLUMN: Levidrome


People ask me all the time, "Shane, what's the best part about being a beloved and respected and incredibly humble newspaper columnist?"

That's easy: I get to help people. (And by "people," I of course mean ME.)

If a grave injustice occurs somewhere in the world, it's my duty -- nay, my PRIVILEGE -- to inform the masses, right the wrongs, and shine a beacon of journalistic light into the darkness. And obviously, there's no injustice graver than when someone other than myself gets fame and attention for doing something I totally could have done, had I thought of it first. Or had I been as lucky. Or, in this case, had I been a precocious 6-year-old boy.

Did you guys catch the story this week about adorable little Levi? He's a precocious six-year-old boy from Canada who's gained headlines, internet fame, and perhaps even immortality this week, all because he did something any of us could do: he invented a word.

The story goes like this: little Levi had recently learned in school about palindromes -- words that spell the same thing backwards and forwards. I'd give you an example, but all I can think of at the moment is "boob," and I don't want to sink to that level. Wait, "level." That's another one right there. Those are palindromes.

And that's when little Levi turned to his dad and asked, "What do we call a word that spells a different word backwards?" You know, like how "drawer" backwards spells "reward." Or how "stressed" backwards spells "desserts." Or how "boobs" backwards spells "sboob."

Well, it turns out there's NOT a word for this language phenomenon. Ergo, Levi and his dad have launched an online campaign to create one. Everyone thinks it's adorable. Celebrities have chimed in, dictionaries have offered their support, and it's probably a done deal. The new word they have offered up for a word that spells a different word in reverse? "LEVIDROME." This is unacceptable on multiple levels.

For one, I think we can all agree that "levidrome" should be saved to name the arena we will all go to in the year 2075 to enjoy the future sport of zero-gravity ultimate cage fighting. "LLLLLLLLET'S GET READY TO LLLLEVITATE!" I don't ask for much in life, but if it's 2075 and I want to check out some good old-fashioned gravity-free combat, I should be able to march my 104-year-old sboob down to the TaxSlayer Levidrome.

But most importantly, under what qualifications does a SIX-year-old get to invent a word? By my count, this is the 653rd column I've written. I've paid my dues, time after time. I've done my sentence but committed no crimes. If anyone around here gets to invent a word, it's ME. So if Levi gets levidrome, then may I be the first to give you:

"Shane. [shayn]. Noun. The precise emotion felt when you ignore a vast to-do list but instead try to find a similar sense of accomplishment in binge-watching a full season of any show on Netflix."

You're welcome, English-speaking citizens of Earth. No longer will you be unable to express the feeling you get when you should've cleaned out the garage but at least you got through Season 2 of "Stranger Things."

Thanks to me, you now know EXACTLY how you should feel. You should feel thoroughly and completely a-shane-d of yourself.

All I need to do is start petitioning the major dictionaries of the world... which I will do immediately after this episode of "House of Cards."

And then I'll get on Twitter and try to lure celebrities to my side... which I'll get to promptly after the fifth season of "Under Arrest."

Eventually -- probably shortly after I complete Season 4 of "Orange is the New Black" -- everyone will feel ashaned of themselves and think of me. And then there will be no stop. Except that "stop" spells "pots" backwards. Stupid levidrome.

COLUMN: Hallmark Christmas


I'm not sure how it happened. I didn't want it to happen. I should have known better than to let it happen. It's days before Thanksgiving, but somehow I'm feeling -- (gulp) -- festive.

I love the holiday season. BUT IT HASN'T STARTED YET. When I was a kid, we had Halloween, we had Christmas, and somewhere inbetween we had that day where you eat too much.

Then things changed. Retailers weren't satisfied with just ONE month of blitzkrieg yuletide shopping. Nowadays, Christmas displays start firing up before Halloween candy has left the shelves. Leaves are still turning on my trees, but Mix 96 is already blaring Christmas music. Our three holidays have been morphed into a melange of Thanksmasoween.

I love Christmas -- but with clenched teeth and Grinch-like stubbornness, I will not love it until December. Or so I thought.

It wasn't my fault. I had a LOT of stuff to do last Sunday, and I was trying my best to find my productive side. It's just that my house is SUPER weird and quiet without a TV on, so I absent-mindedly channel-flipped to HBO for some background noise while I worked on my to-do list.

But then I noticed something. Banal dialogue... thin plotlines... washed up C-level actors... an overly saccharine soundtrack. OHH NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

This wasn't HBO. I was on -- The Hallmark Channel.

I don't know when Hallmark switches to 24/7 Christmas movies. My guess is mid-July. For all I know, maybe they just ALWAYS run Christmas movies. They're low-budget, formulaic, predictable, undeniably awful... and addictive as heroin. How do I know? I just sat through SIX of them.

And it was basically the same movie six times in a row. The only thing that changes is the setting and the failed 90's actor in the starring role. It's always the same plot:

We meet him/her, who is usually but not always Full House's Candace Cameron-Bure or Party of Five's Lacey Chabert. It's the holiday season, but he/she barely notices, thanks to the distraction of (a) his/her important and time-consuming job, (b) his/her louse of a boy/girlfriend, or (c) being a single mom or dad to a precocious and overly-talkative child.

He/she invariably is in a hurry to get somewhere. Then, due to either (a) a twist of fate, (b) a wrong turn, or (c) a helpful nudge from a ghost and/or angel who is usually but not always William Shatner, he/she finds him/herself stuck in a small town that looks like any number of Norman Rockwell paintings.

There they will find the following: (a) a wise-cracking waitress and/or mechanic who will inevitably become their best friend by the end of the movie, (b) the magic of Christmas, and (c) their soulmate, who is always either struggling to get by, or struggling to get by because they're a single mom/dad to a precocious and overly-talkative child. They will meet, they will fall in love, someone will learn the true meaning of Christmas, and somehow the family farm and/or business will be saved from bankruptcy.

Lessons will always be learned, love will always prevail, fake snow will always fall. The title must include the word Christmas: "Love You Like Christmas," "Just in Time for Christmas," "Christmas Done Right," "Christmas Done Wrong," "Christmas 2: Electric Boogaloo," "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Christmas," it honestly doesn't matter.

But for some reason, I can't stop watching them and I don't know why. It's not as if they're nail biters. I'm not sitting there going, "Will she ever find true happiness?" There's no other possible outcome. No Hallmark Channel movie will ever end with the script notes of, "...and then she dies. The camera zooms in on a single tear rolling down the face of the precocious and overly-talking child -- for she now knows that Christmas is a lie."

After ten minutes of watching, you feel ridiculous. After two hours of watching, you can't fight off the warm fuzzies. And after watching insipid Hallmark Christmas movies for twelve hours? Well, what happened then in my house, they say, is that Shane's small heart grew three sizes that day. It didn't help that I looked outside at noon to see giant Rockwellian snowflakes floating from the sky like holiday magic. Within hours, I had already dragged out the first of my Christmas decorations.

I suppose it could be worse. I could be one of the writers who spends their summer months dreaming up these heart-warming atrocities. I could be an actor having to walk through fake snow in mid-July pretending it's Christmas. I may have found some premature holiday magic this year, but it's not my fault. Blame Hallmark. Blame the guy who turned my TV to the wrong channel. I presume it was William Shatner.

COLUMN: The Orville

I'm confused.

As part of my public service as your humble columnist and purveyor of all things pop culture, I've been checking out this fall's new TV offerings. (Because it's my JOB, and not in any way because I have no life and prefer to live vicariously through fictional television characters.)

I've seen some new shows that are fantastic. I've seen some that are awful. But there's one new show that just leaves me with a huge question mark every week, because I'm just not quite sure WHAT to think about it. Have you seen "The Orville" yet?

When I first heard that Seth MacFarlane would be helming a "Star Trek"-esque sci-fi show this fall, I was intrigued. I've long been an almost-fan of MacFarlane's work. I'm just not sure if he's a genius or the most annoying guy in Hollywood.

Take "Family Guy," for instance. MacFarlane's long-running animated series represents both the best and worst that modern TV has to offer. On one hand, it's a deliciously delinquent rule-breaker that pushes the envelope of good taste with decadent glee. But tasteless humor works best if you're using it subversively to skewer society (see: South Park, Rick & Morty.) If I have to sit through another extended sequence of Peter Griffin fighting a giant chicken, it might be the last straw for me and "Family Guy."

MacFarlane's forays into film have been equally iffy. "Ted" had some funny bits, but "Ted 2" was a disaster. Critics and fans alike turned away from "A Million Ways to Die in the West," but I went into that film expecting stupidity and ended up laughing a LOT.

That's why "The Orville" intrigued me. I'm a long-standing nerd, which means I'm required to love sci-fi stuff, right? But sometimes sci-fi drives me up a wall because it takes itself WAY too seriously. Did Captain Kirk ever crack a joke? Have Mulder and Scully ever cut loose once in their lives? Maybe letting MacFarlane lampoon "Star Trek" would be refreshing.

So I've been watching. And sure enough, the pilot started with some solid comedy and a cast of characters rife for spoofing: A captain whose stellar career was derailed by his failed marriage. A no-nonsense doctor. A skirt-chasing helmsman. A brutish Klingon-esque alien. A cute blonde security officer with superhuman strength. And, of course, a robot who struggles to understand human emotion. Then the first officer shows up -- and it's the captain's ex-wife! Ho, ho, ho. It's every bad Trek stereotype rife for parody.

I was eagerly anticipating "The Orville" to ham-handedly skewer "Star Trek." Instead, though, The Orville pretty much IS "Star Trek." Every episode starts with a few edgy laughs, then suddenly it becomes earnest and serious -- or as serious as you can take a low-budget space adventure. Like the infinite Treks before it, "The Orville" is little more than a weekly morality play, usually involving the ship happening upon some dytopian society that warns us how easily our own world could run amok.

In one episode, they visit a planet where all legal rulings are decided by citizens up-or-downvoting on what looks to be Space Reddit. I think it's supposed to show us the dangers of overusing social media. All it made me do was go on Facebook and talk about how much I hated it.

The show takes itself so seriously that when the jokes DO come, they're jarring and incredibly out-of-place. Imagine ANY random episode of "Star Trek," but have Kirk and Spock drop flatulence jokes every fifteen minutes and you'll be close to what "The Orville" has to offer. The plotlines are thin and campy and the "lessons learned" are so heavy-handed it feels less like sci-fi and more like an extra-terrestrial Afterschool Special.

It's as if the show doesn't know what it wants to be. Enough people have watched to secure a second season, so that's good for MacFarlane. Maybe he can use the down time to iron out the awkwardness a little. If he really wants "The Orville" to be the new "Star Trek," though, can I offer a few suggestions?

(1) Get the nerds involved. Geeks aren't going to be impressed by thinly veiled morality plays. I vote for a little less fiction and a little more science. How are your spaceships even powered? For all I know, they run on magic. I don't even follow Star Trek, but every geek knows their starships need dilithium crystals to activate their warp drives. Nerd it up a little, Seth.

(2) Give us a cool weapon. Trek had phasers. Star Wars had light sabers. "The Orville" has plastic looking guns that stun people. Not impressed.

(3) Diversify. You're never going to win the hearts of geeks without tie-ins to video games, action figures, comic books, and role-playing adventures. Peddle your wares and go full Comic-Con.

Make up your mind, Seth. Are you going for campiness? Homage? Sincerity? Satire? Seriousness? You can't be ALL things to ALL people, especially since most of those people are watching "Scandal" or Thursday Night Football instead. Maybe I shouldn't remind him of that. The crew of "The Orville" might soon be snacking on wine and popcorn while showing us the dangers of getting concussions from interstellar contact sports.

COLUMN: Sinatra Stranger


Well, there's another Halloween survived. No tricks, a few treats, and most importantly: No awkward dialogue with people in costumes.

Last week, I mentioned in passing how much I hate it when grown adults dress up for Halloween. A couple of you e-mailed wondering why I had to be the All Hallows Grinch. Sorry, it wasn't my intention to rain on anyone's spooky parade. I actually really love great Halloween costumes. Did you guys see Dave Grohl dressed up like David Letterman when he guest-hosted Kimmel on Halloween? It was amazing. The internet is full of hilarious costumes and Halloween hijinks, and I eat it up like candy.

My problem isn't your costume. It's having to talk to you while you're IN it.

I'm a socially awkward person. I've never been great at making banal small talk. I'm usually the nervous weirdo who won't make eye contact and can't think of a single worthwhile thing to say because I'm usually too busy telling myself, "YOU'RE ACTING WEIRD. DON'T ACT WEIRD. BE NORMAL, WEIRDO."

Face-to-face small talk is awkward enough -- please don't make me do it when one of those faces is caked in zombie make-up. I can't discuss the weather when fake entrails are spewing out your chest, sorry. That's almost panic attack territory for me.

I dunno, maybe I'm not as bad at small talk as I think. But an instance happened a couple weeks ago that cemented my self-worth when it comes to normal human interaction, and it wasn't pretty.

I was in Chicago, taking advantage of a rare chance to see one of my favorite bands, The Trashcan Sinatras. They might not be a household name, but these unheralded kings of Scottish indiepop have been wowing their diehard resilient fans for decades. When they announced an all-acoustic career-spanning tour, it was a must-attend. At the show, I met up with some old friends and familiar faces from Trashcan shows of yore. Then there was the one face who saw me, beamed with a smile, and came straight over.

"HEY!" he said with enthusiasm. "I didn't know you liked this band, too!"
"Oh, totally," I replied. "Been a fan since day one. How have you been?"
"Not bad," he said. "I haven't seen you for years! Are you still...?"
"Doing my thing?" I interrupted. "Absolutely!"
"Man, it's good to see you!" 
   
All things told, not a bad piece of small talk. There was just one problem: I had NO CLUE who this guy was. I have friends and acquaintances from all walks of life, but this guy wasn't one of them. I was talking to a complete stranger. "Doing my thing?" Did I REALLY just say that? I suppose it wasn't a lie. I do things.

When he went away, I breathed a sigh of relief. Then came intermission (and yes, I'm now old enough that I see bands who take intermissions.) Of course, who do I end up next to in line at the bar but this same stranger -- and the awkward dance continued.

He told me about his job. His girlfriend. He talked about the weather. I complained how difficult it was to find parking on the same night as a Cubs game. The more we talked, the more I was certain we'd never met. Finally, the clincher happened.

"It's... Frank, right?"
"Nope, it's Shane," I replied, pretty sure I'd just sent the conversation spiralling.
"Oh, sure, Shane, that's right."

Seriously, dude? Must we continue this phony conversation? SURELY he had to have realized by now that I wasn't who he initally thought I was. I wanted to put this sorry encounter to bed.

"How long HAS it been?" I inquired to put the nail in the coffin of this conversation.
"Oh, I think the last time I saw you was at the Beautiful South concert."

There are a whole lot of bands in the world. On any given night, dozens of them are playing in Chicago. I might drive up for two or three per year. I didn't know this guy. I'd never spoken to him before this night. But against all odds, I had been at that Beautiful South show.

It didn't change the fact that he had mistaken me for another random chubby guy, quite probably named Frank, who must look as ruggedly handsome as me and who must also have pretty decent taste in music. At some point, probably when I mentioned that I lived a stone's throw from Iowa, I think he realized he was talking to a total stranger. By then, though, it didn't matter, because we had one thing in common.

I'm bad at small talk about weather or the workday or current events. But talk to me about MUSIC and suddenly you're in my wheelhouse. We spent the next ten minutes debating the best Beautiful South records, comparing favorite Trashcan songs, and sharing reviews of our top records of the year. We certainly weren't old friends, but I may have met a new one by the time it was all said and done.

So please, if you see me out and about, don't hesitate to come say hi. I won't have a panic attack, promise. But if you see me fishing for words or awkwardly dodging your glance, all you need to do is blurt out something like, "Quick, what's your favorite Beatles album?" and we'll be fast friends. Just don't do it in a costume. And don't call me Frank.





COLUMN: Halloween Meh


I seldom remember my dreams. When I do, it's usually just me being chased by Something Really Bad. Sometimes I'm joined by others. A couple weeks ago, I was being chased alongside my old college roommate, my aunt from Alabama, a cashier from the Walgreens I frequent, and Partridge Family-era Susan Dey.

But rare is the morning when I wake up and remember an entire dream. Based on the one I just woke up from, forgetting them is probably for the best.

Here's how it went down: In my dream, I was on vacation from work. But in a dream that felt a little TOO real, I was spending this vacation bored at home, randomly scrolling through Facebook. Yep, I dreamed about Facebook, because THAT'S how awesome my life is.

And on dream Facebook, I see a post from my quite-real friend Catie. But "friend" might be a stretch. Although Catie is real, I barely know her. I've met her in real life precisely ONCE, and in the decade that we've been pals on Facebook, I can count on one hand the number of online interactions we've ever had. Yet apparently she matters enough to take a supporting role in my dream, where she just posted to Facebook about her new job -- at the recently-opened Shakespeare theme park in Michigan that everyone's talking about. Except that it doesn't exist, because I just quite literally dreamed it up.

So Dream Shane decides to drive to Michigan to spend my vacation at this theme park. Once there, I find Catie, who is happily employed in the park's geology museum, because that's certainly something you'd expect to find at a Shakespearean theme park. After all, how can one fully appreciate the subtextual nuances of King Lear without first having a basic appreciation for earth science?

So there I was, surrounded by display cases full of rocks, and Catie's job was to write little descriptions about each rock. After exchanging pleasantries, she advises me to check out the theme park's gift shop. I browse the gift shop and stumble upon a rack of CDs. Suddenly, I spot a CD from my favorite band that (gasp) somehow I don't already own. Excitedly, I race to the counter to buy it, only to be told that the CD isn't for sale, but is instead part of the theme park's library and cannot leave the premises.

Well that simply wouldn't do, so Dream Me made immediate plans to steal the CD. Thankfully, Dream Catie is down with helping Dream Me commit a dream felony, which we accomplish by dressing up as mummies and sneaking into the gift shop unnoticed. Brilliant, am I right? Like I always say, if you're looking to go incognito, there's no better way to go unnoticed than dressing up like a mummy. 

So we sneak in and freeze in mummy position until nightfall and the shop closes. Then we spring into action and start looking for the CD. Happening upon a bin of human skulls (best gift shop EVER!), I pull one out and give a ham-handed performance of Hamlet's "Alas, poor Yorick" monologue. Suddenly, the lights come on and we are busted! Security and park managers surround us -- but instead of being mad at our thievery, they are instead weeping -- because, as it turns out, I am the greatest actor of my generation, and my moving Hamlet monologue has left them all in tears. Instead of arresting me, the park managers offer me the lead role in their upcoming production.

"No thanks," I tell them, "Hamlet is too depressing. It bums me out."

"No problem," the manager responds. "We'll rewrite it as a comedy just for you." I accept the offer, everyone cheers, Jonah Hill is there for some unknown reason, and then I wake up. The end.

Lovably ridiculous, right? That's what I thought, until I went to the analysis site Dreammoods.com. As it turns out, dreaming about a vacation supposedly indicates a desired break from the routine. Dreaming about Facebook shows your desire for more friends. Shakespeare signifies a literary aptitude. Dreaming of a theme park shows a need for relaxation. Rocks symbolize stubbornness. CDs represent a need for enjoyment. To dream of stealing suggests you're feeling deprived. Dreaming of mummies means you're feeling trapped. Skulls mean danger. Dreaming that you're an actor represents a hidden desire to be recognized and famous.

In other words, I'm a horrible person. Let's recap: I suffer from a constant need to do something different and make new friends. I'm well read, but all I want to do in life is relax. I'm stubborn, feel deprived and trapped, and demand enjoyment. I will endure danger, but only if it helps me become famous and recognized. In other words, it's pretty much spot-on, and I'm a very sad little man.

So I choose to ignore the analysis and stick with lessons learned: If I'm ever in a Shakespearean theme park and need to steal a CD, I will NOT dress up like a mummy to do it. "Hamlet" probably WOULD be better if someone punched it up with a few jokes. And always assume that whenever I try something new, I'll naturally be the best in the world at it. And most importantly? Stop eating Taco Bell right before bed.

COLUMN: Shakespeare Theme Park


I seldom remember my dreams. When I do, it's usually just me being chased by Something Really Bad. Sometimes I'm joined by others. A couple weeks ago, I was being chased alongside my old college roommate, my aunt from Alabama, a cashier from the Walgreens I frequent, and Partridge Family-era Susan Dey.

But rare is the morning when I wake up and remember an entire dream. Based on the one I just woke up from, forgetting them is probably for the best.

Here's how it went down: In my dream, I was on vacation from work. But in a dream that felt a little TOO real, I was spending this vacation bored at home, randomly scrolling through Facebook. Yep, I dreamed about Facebook, because THAT'S how awesome my life is.

And on dream Facebook, I see a post from my quite-real friend Catie. But "friend" might be a stretch. Although Catie is real, I barely know her. I've met her in real life precisely ONCE, and in the decade that we've been pals on Facebook, I can count on one hand the number of online interactions we've ever had. Yet apparently she matters enough to take a supporting role in my dream, where she just posted to Facebook about her new job -- at the recently-opened Shakespeare theme park in Michigan that everyone's talking about. Except that it doesn't exist, because I just quite literally dreamed it up.

So Dream Shane decides to drive to Michigan to spend my vacation at this theme park. Once there, I find Catie, who is happily employed in the park's geology museum, because that's certainly something you'd expect to find at a Shakespearean theme park. After all, how can one fully appreciate the subtextual nuances of King Lear without first having a basic appreciation for earth science?

So there I was, surrounded by display cases full of rocks, and Catie's job was to write little descriptions about each rock. After exchanging pleasantries, she advises me to check out the theme park's gift shop. I browse the gift shop and stumble upon a rack of CDs. Suddenly, I spot a CD from my favorite band that (gasp) somehow I don't already own. Excitedly, I race to the counter to buy it, only to be told that the CD isn't for sale, but is instead part of the theme park's library and cannot leave the premises.

Well that simply wouldn't do, so Dream Me made immediate plans to steal the CD. Thankfully, Dream Catie is down with helping Dream Me commit a dream felony, which we accomplish by dressing up as mummies and sneaking into the gift shop unnoticed. Brilliant, am I right? Like I always say, if you're looking to go incognito, there's no better way to go unnoticed than dressing up like a mummy.

So we sneak in and freeze in mummy position until nightfall and the shop closes. Then we spring into action and start looking for the CD. Happening upon a bin of human skulls (best gift shop EVER!), I pull one out and give a ham-handed performance of Hamlet's "Alas, poor Yorick" monologue. Suddenly, the lights come on and we are busted! Security and park managers surround us -- but instead of being mad at our thievery, they are instead weeping -- because, as it turns out, I am the greatest actor of my generation, and my moving Hamlet monologue has left them all in tears. Instead of arresting me, the park managers offer me the lead role in their upcoming production.

"No thanks," I tell them, "Hamlet is too depressing. It bums me out."

"No problem," the manager responds. "We'll rewrite it as a comedy just for you." I accept the offer, everyone cheers, Jonah Hill is there for some unknown reason, and then I wake up. The end.

Lovably ridiculous, right? That's what I thought, until I went to the analysis site Dreammoods.com. As it turns out, dreaming about a vacation supposedly indicates a desired break from the routine. Dreaming about Facebook shows your desire for more friends. Shakespeare signifies a literary aptitude. Dreaming of a theme park shows a need for relaxation. Rocks symbolize stubbornness. CDs represent a need for enjoyment. To dream of stealing suggests you're feeling deprived. Dreaming of mummies means you're feeling trapped. Skulls mean danger. Dreaming that you're an actor represents a hidden desire to be recognized and famous.

In other words, I'm a horrible person. Let's recap: I suffer from a constant need to do something different and make new friends. I'm well read, but all I want to do in life is relax. I'm stubborn, feel deprived and trapped, and demand enjoyment. I will endure danger, but only if it helps me become famous and recognized. In other words, it's pretty much spot-on, and I'm a very sad little man.

So I choose to ignore the analysis and stick with lessons learned: If I'm ever in a Shakespearean theme park and need to steal a CD, I will NOT dress up like a mummy to do it. "Hamlet" probably WOULD be better if someone punched it up with a few jokes. And always assume that whenever I try something new, I'll naturally be the best in the world at it. And most importantly? Stop eating Taco Bell right before bed.

COLUMN: Home Security

It's a good thing you people have me around.

Some of you might think I'm merely a run-of-the-mill columnist, but this is where you're looking a gift Shane in the mouth. Upon further inspection, you'll quickly discover that columnizing is but one of many public services I can offer.

For instance, if you ever need someone to tell you that your favorite bands are all terrible, I'm your guy. If you need something DJed and/or soundtracked in any way, I'm here for you. If you ever find yourself too busy to watch television and wish there was someone out there who could watch ALL the television FOR you, I'm willing to make that happen. These are the sacrifices I make for the good of my community.

And now, I can add one other public service to the list: If you ever need someone to test the responsiveness, accuracy, and efficiency of the Rock Island Police Department, I am now highly experienced in this field.

Gulp.

The other night I was plagued by insomnia and playing around with apps on my phone in the middle of the night. Randomly, I ended up in the app for my home security system, where I came across a previously undetected menu of settings. One option immediately caught my sleep-deprived brain: "Arm system when door is locked from rear keypad?"

Well, heck YES, I wanted that to happen. There's two ways to arm my system when I leave the house. One method is via the control panel on my wall. You punch a button that tells the system you're leaving, and then some shrill woman starts yelling, "SYSTEM ARMED! LEAVE NOW!" This means I have thirty seconds to high-tail it out of the house before the motion sensors activate. I'm not a fan of this method because the shrill woman gives me a headache and I don't trust myself to accomplish ANYTHING in thirty seconds, especially first thing in the morning.

My other option is to activate it through the phone app, which I usually do every morning once I'm in the car. But it's easy to forget until I'm pulling away from the house. It's not legal to drive while talking on the phone, so I'm guessing it's even less legal to drive while arming one's security system.

This new option was a clear winner. If my system could arm itself whenever I locked the back door, that's one less thing I have to worry about in the challenging pre-coffee hours of the day. I activated this new option and went back to bed.

The next morning, I woke happy in the knowledge I had one less thing to do. I even managed to get out of the house a little earlier than usual. With door locked and alarm set, I made my way to a convenience store for some pre-work provisions. I returned to my car full of pride that I was still tracking to get to work ten minutes early. Then I looked at my phone and it all went to hell.

I blame sleep deprivation. When I locked my back door, my system indeed armed itself like it was supposed to. But when I opened the garage to get in the car, I promptly set it off. While I was standing in the gas station debating between a mocha vs. caramel frappucino, the shrill woman in my wall was screaming bloody murder. Or, more accurately, bloody burglary. My security company received the alarm and was trying desperately to call me, but I had left my phone in the car. Getting no response, they then called the police, who were now ALSO trying to call me to no avail. Out of options, the security company then called the backup emergency number on my account, which now meant that my 70-year-old parents were now ALSO trying to call me while already hopping into THEIR car to drive an hour to presumably confront the burglar and give him or her a good talking-to.

Suddenly I found myself racing back to my house, blatantly breaking the law by talking on my phone while driving. But since I was talking TO the police, perhaps it evened out. Except I COULDN'T talk to the police because this was all I heard:

"Hello, Mr. Brown. This is the [BEEP CALL WAITING] and we have an alarm going [BEEP CALL WAITING] officer at the [BEEP CALL WAITING] action?"
"Just a second, please."
"SHANE, IT'S YOUR MOTHER! WHAT IS [BEEP CALL WAITING] YOU ALRIGHT? IS THERE A BURGLAR [BEEP CALL WAITING] ON OUR WAY!"
"Just a second, please."
"This is the operator from [BEEP CALL WAITING] triggered an alarm [BEEP CALL WAITING] password?"

I just gave up and threw the phone down. By the time I got home, cops were already around the perimeter of the house, my parents were halfway to Woodhull, and I swear the woman in my wall was being more shrill than usual.

The good news is that I've now proven that our local police do some top-notch, fast-response work. I also know that if someone ever DOES break into my house, an action team of police, parents, and shrill women will assemble like the Avengers on my behalf. The bad news is that I left for work twenty minutes early and STILL somehow ended up ten minutes late. Plus I'm going to get fined by the city for a false alarm.

Plus I really should've gone with the mocha frappucino. The caramel one just isn't cutting it today.

COLUMN: Trash Fire

(Note: This pic might be from a slightly larger fire than the one we took care of. Maybe.)

Hey Quad Cities!

Did you ever know that I'm your hero? Everything you would like to be? You all can fly higher than an eagle, for I am the wind beneath your wings.

More than ever, our world needs heroes. I miss the days when you could pick up the newspaper without losing all hope for humanity. When the news cycle is dominated by unspeakable evil, natural disasters, and never-ending political bickering, you can't help but yearn for anything to prove that good people really exist.

It's probably why our TV sets and movie screens are dominated by superheroes. There's no doubting the innate goodness of Superman or Wonder Woman. When the real world makes you shudder with disbelief, it's cathartic to see Batman kick the butts of a legion of supervillains just lining up to be thwarted. Superheroes might be fiction, but their morality tales remind us that good really DOES triumph over evil and heroes might just really be out there somewhere.

They are... and I'm now one of them.

Until this week, I never knew how rewarding heroics could be, especially when performing a selfless act for the sake of goodness and not in any way because it might make a good newspaper column. It's really no big deal. I just saved my entire neighborhood this week from a fiery doom, that's all.

And by "I", of course, I mean my friend Jason. But I was nearby, which I think makes me a hero by proxy, so I'll take it.

Last Sunday afternoon, I was sitting around wasting my life in front of the TV when cabin fever struck. I called my friend Jason to see if he had any desire to get out and about for awhile. Thankfully, he did. Thirty minutes later, we were in my car in search for Sunday adventure. It would take approximately seven seconds.

I don't know the family that lives two doors down from me. I'm not even sure they speak English. All I know is that after weathering my first snowstorm as a homeowner, I woke to find them clearing all my walks with their snowblower. To say thanks, my girlfriend at the time baked a plate of cookies and took them over to their house. We never heard from them again. Clearly, my ex must bake some pretty lousy cookies.

Other than a few awkward waves, I've never spoken to these neighbors. All I know is that they have a gaggle of children who enjoy darting in front of alley traffic willy-nilly. I had slowed my car to the usual child-roadkill-avoidance crawl when Jason yelled, "WHOA!" It would be a whoa I would echo seconds later.

In back of their house sat their City of Rock Island plastic refuse cart that each of us has for trash. Theirs, however, was on fire.

And not just a little fire, either. Flames were licking into the air over the thing, and the mini-inferno was in danger of catching a nearby wooden fence.

Immediately we sprang into action. And by "we," I mean Jason. I had barely stopped the car before he ran out and started pounding on their back door. No reply. They might not speak English, but I'm pretty sure ANY family would respond to the international language of aggressive door knocking. It looked like they weren't home.

I started fumbling for my phone to have Siri call 911, but before I could, Jason had spotted a hose in their backyard and a spigot on the back of the house. Next thing I knew, he was legitimately fire-fighting. Four minutes later, it was all over. Their refuse cart was little more than a smoldering pile of plastic mush, but the fence and the neighborhood was safe. Score one for the good guys.

Or at least the good Jason. I was still in the car, but I'd like to think I was still an avid member of Team Hero. Clearly, someone needed to stay behind in order to guard the perimeter and tell others our tale of bravery should Jason be lost to a dangerous trash can backdraft. Oh, and at one point, I said, "It's still smoking on this side," so I definitely helped. 

I haven't seen my neighbors since that afternoon. They've been home, though, because the melted piece of modern art that was once their trash bin is gone. We left the hose out in hopes to show the story of what happened, but for all I know, they could think someone strolled by, set their trash on fire, and then put it out with their hose just for fun.

Obviously I don't REALLY think that we did anything heroic. While I wouldn't say no to any trophies, cash prizes, or parades held in our honor, I'd like to think if MY trash bin had been ablaze, one of my neighbors would have done the same for me. That's human nature, not heroism. If you want examples of REAL heroics, look to Puerto Rico, where people are rebuilding their homeland without power or running water. Look to Mexico City, where citizens banded together and spent days rescuing the fallen from earthquake rubble. Look to Las Vegas, where heroes risked their lives helping strangers escape a cowardly lunatic.

The point is, don't give up on people. Be somebody's hero every now and again, and maybe someday they'll be yours. Sometimes we all just want to scream at the world, I get it. But take it from me, it feels a lot better to put out a fire than to start one.

COLUMN: Naked Guy


Make room, art connoisseurs. I am finally one of you.

I have long attempted to position myself as an elitist artsy-fartsy type. Why? Because that's pretty much your only social safety net when you're an unashamed nerd with limited hand-eye coordination who's lousy at sports. There's just one problem: I've never really had an eye for art.

I have friends who can be moved to tears by paintings. I look at them and go, "Ooh, that's a pretty picture." It's hard to be convincingly artsy-fartsy when I see a Renaissance painting and the only thought that springs to mind is, "Ha ha, olden time people sure were fat."

It's cool, though. I make up for my ineptitude at art appreciation with my overly-honed ability to appreciate music. I've never had a painting bring me to tears, but I can play you a dozen albums that have literally changed my life. To each their art, and I just happen to prefer mine with subwoofers.

But that's about to change. I officially own my very first piece of hand-sketched wall art.

If you've ever played in a charity trivia night, you may have seen me. My team plays frequently, and we win a lot of the time. I guess when you're an unashamed nerd with limited hand-eye coordination who's lousy at sports AND not so great at being artsy-fartsy, all you can do is fall back on your useless knowledge of pop culture in a feeble attempt to impress friends and strangers.

One thing I've learned from playing trivia is that I'm a HUGE sucker for raffles and silent auctions. If you've got a basket of trinkets, I'm very likely queueing up to bid on it. My hall closet is a graveyard of Scentsy burners and knick-knacks from raffles of yore. Every once in a while, though, you can get a real find. Once I scored an Amazon Echo at about 70% off store price.

Last week, I played a fundraiser in support of Rock Island's Broadway Historic District. I was there for about five minutes when I first spotted it across the room. It was the weirdest raffle prize I've ever seen in the history of trivia nights: a framed charcoal drawing of... a naked old guy, lounging comfortably on what might be a sofa or might just be a toilet. With hollow eyes and chiseled jaw, he stared at me the entire time we played trivia.

Heated discussions were held amongst my team as to the subject of the sketch. Popular consensus agreed that it was naked FDR, guiding our country with confidence and without clothes. Some suggested it might be actor Ted Knight or perhaps John Mahoney, the TV dad of Frasier - but naked. Butt naked, in fact. Hailing from Galesburg as I do, I looked upon his weathered face and perhaps saw my hometown hero, poet (and perhaps nudist) Carl Sandburg. 

None of this is to slight the sketch itself. I'm embarassed to have not caught the name of the local artist who donated the piece. It's honestly pretty great. If you handed ME a piece of charcoal, I couldn't draw a convincing stick figure, let alone a fairly realistic naked dude. I would never mock the art itself, because as far as I'm concerned, making a realistic sketch of ANYTHING requires magic the likes of which I'll never understand.

What it was doing in a trivia night raffle, though, was beyond me. As a fan of all things off-kilter, I simply had to throw one of my raffle tickets its way. And of course, beyond all odds, they pulled my ticket. It turns out that the only thing more embarassing than winning a drawing of a naked man is when your entire table screams in jubilation when it happens.

So I've got a spanky new piece of art, and he's just as naked as the day I won him. But what to do with him? Do I mount him in the living room to become the conversation piece to end all conversation pieces? One of my friends suggested that I hang it in my empty spare bedroom, preferably with some complementary lighting effects, and then pace a single chair in the center of the room for appropriate contemplative appreciation of the naked elderly male form.

Again, if you're the talented artist who sketched my new naked friend (I've named him Carlos Danger), I mean you no disrepect. I'm actually in awe of your talent. If I tried sketching a naked old guy, it would barely be recognizable as a guy, let alone one people could recognize. Another friend (who really IS artsy-fartsy) took one look and recognized the model as a guy who often poses for collegiate life art classes in the area, so perhaps there's dozens of sketches of this same wardrobe-challenged gentleman around town. Maybe there's one in YOUR home. If so, holler. After all, the only thing better than a sketch of a naked stranger is a ROOMFUL of sketches of a naked stranger.

COLUMN: Road Construction


Okay, Quad Cities. We need to talk.

I love our weird little neck of the woods where the river runs sideways and 7+ towns are somehow called "Quad"? The culture, the people, the attitude -- there's way worse places to call home. But I swear, if I see one more road construction sign pop up this season, I'm packing up my life and relocating somewhere that can keep their roads open for more than an hour or two in a row.

I can't think of a summer when road construction has been this obnoxious. Sure, Davenport had its moments last year, culminating in that weird stretch when we all got to drive the wrong way down Brady Street. But THIS year, it's as if Illinois took a look at Iowa and went, "Anything you can do, we can do better." And longer. And more aggravating.

I'm hard pressed right now to think of a major Illinois QC artery that hasn't been impacted by road construction this summer. The unending improvements on Avenue of the Cities have continued unabated. I can't even wrap my head around the nightmare of John Deere Road. We're only in the initial stages of I-74 bridge construction and downtown Moline's already a mess. And now the unthinkable has happened: the eastbound lane of Rock Island's Fifth Avenue is closed for business. This is thoroughly unacceptable.

I say this, of course, because that's the route I take to work every day, and as we all know, the road construction that matters the most is the road construction that impacts ME. I can only whine about the minutae of life to my cats for so long before I have to start taking it out on you people.

Honestly, I think I'm a fairly patient person. But this summer has been pushing it. It's not just the closure of eastbound Fifth Avenue that grinds my gears -- it's the ramifications of said closure. Traffic is now being routed to 7th Ave., turning it into a bumper-to-bumper hellscape like the beginning of "La La Land" but without the cheery song and dance numbers. Just when you think it can't get any worse, 7th Ave. rolls through the heart of Augustana College.

This is where it gets tricky for me. I'm an Augie alumni. I spent four years trying to navigating those 7th Ave. crosswalks, and it was often hairy. Cars can come barreling down that stretch like bats out of hell (and, in fact, a student got hit by a car earlier this year.) At night, those crosswalks are inadequately lit and a simple stroll to your dorm often turned into a death-cheating game of Frogger.

Of course, back then, I was a 20-year-old college student who knew everything and was going to live forever, so we'd dash around cars haphazardly and whine to each other about the knuckle-headed inconsiderate "townies" who just didn't understand life like we did. Now I AM one of those annoying townies, so I usually try my best to stop at each crosswalk and give my fellow Vikings a wide berth as they put their lives in my hands.

But I'm pretty sure there's a conspiracy afoot. Stopping for one or two students is no big deal. But the other day, I had to stop for 41 of them (yes, through clenched teeth I sat there and counted.) Every day, I head back to work at the precise moment the entire Augustana student body decides it's a fine time to have a mini-parade across those crosswalks. What's the world coming to? I'm starting to think that today's college students might actually be ATTENDING class. Weird, I know.

I'm sympathetic to the road construction cause, I really am. We live in a state where our entire budget is managed with all the finesse and thriftiness of a 4th grader's lemonade stand. When there's available funds for road construction, we need to take advantage before the money disappears. But can we just not repair absolutely everything at once, people?

For the longest time, I wasn't even sure what they were doing to poor Fifth Avenue. After all, I don't have time to become informed on the issues, I'm too busy waiting at crosswalks. But finally I learned that the closure is happening because Rock Island needs to re-route their emergency sewage flood drains. As it stands now, should our sewers back up, some of the more unspeakable contents could theoretically spill into the Mississippi, and I really don't think that's the kind of gift the citizens of Memphis are looking to see float downstream.

I'm all for cleaning up the river and beautifying our area. Well, until I reach the tenth bumper-to-bumper minute of watching smug college students strut in front of my car. At that point, I start to rationalize that maybe dumping gnarly toxins into the river isn't the WORST crime imaginable. Maybe it's just what Memphis deserves for choosing to stick their town downriver from ours.

I just wish there was a way these projects could work in tandem to not throw EVERYONE off their game all at once. Unless roads are buckling and potholes are eating cars whole, maybe we could just put a brief moratorium on any MAJOR optional projects until the new bridge is up and running? I'm sure there's a method to the madness, but it really feels like the construction traffic in downtown Bettendorf was designed by someone closing their eyes and throwing darts at a street map.

Last night, I watched a Youtube video of some UFO hunters in a 4x4 trekking through rocky desert for miles just to catch a distant glimpse at the legendary Area 51. It's a treacherous drive, but honestly, if my Hyundai can make it across whatever they're calling a "road" over by the iWireless Center, off-roading to Area 51 should be a piece of cake.

Better yet, Nevada UFO hunters, if you could sneak onto the base and ask those nice aliens to lend me a hand (or tentacle), that'd be swell. A flying saucer and a teleporter might be just what I need to NOT end up consistently five minutes late for work every morning.

COLUMN: Twin Peaks, again.


"I'll see you again in 25 years."

That's one of the many cryptic things that (maybe) Laura Palmer tells (maybe) Agent Dale Cooper in the maddening final episode of the groundbreaking ABC-TV series Twin Peaks. At the time, none of us -- perhaps not even Twin Peaks creators David Lynch and Mark Frost -- knew how true to her word Laura would be.

25 years later, we all just had the chance to witness Laura and Cooper's reunion. In a brilliant 18-episode arc, Lynch and Frost resurrected their critically-acclaimed cult series exactly 25 years after its premature end. Without doubt, it's been my 18 favorite weeks of the year.

I love Twin Peaks. What's better than a murder mystery morphed into a surreal dreamscape of eccentric characters, altered reality, and supernatural bogeymen? It's still the most ground-breaking show to ever air on network TV -- which is also why it only lasted two seasons. Fanboys like me were hooked, but the general viewing public grew tired of the weird and became impatient when the central mystery of the show went unanswered. Upon news of the show's cancellation, Lynch returned to film a finale that offered more questions than answers and left fans wondering what they'd just seen.

Twin Peaks still gets talked about more than many shows half its age. Arriving at the dawn of the internet, the show spawned chat rooms and websites where fans could argue over theories and plotlines until their screens burned out. It's a world I fell into with glee.

A decade ago, our newspaper sent me to Fairfield, Iowa to interview David Lynch. My job was to find out about the foundation he created that funds the teaching of meditation techniques to schoolkids. There I was, sitting in a tiny office, one-on-one, with the mastermind of my favorite TV show. My mouth duly inquired about meditation, but inside I was resisting every urge in my body to start yelling, "WHAT'S THE BLACK LODGE? WHO'S JUDY? WHAT'S THE SIGNIFIGANCE OF THE HORSE IN EPISODE 14? TELL ME! TELL ME NOW!"

Long-time fans hoped that this new coda would finally answer some of these nagging mysteries from the original show. Long-time fans should have known better. Ditching network TV for the freedom of Showtime, there was nothing to rein in Lynch this time. Answers? Who needs answers? Instead, this summer's outing gave us all new incomprehesible questions to ponder for the next quarter-century. There were no tidy bows to be had. Basically, it was awesome.

And humbling. I really fear that I'm not a very deep person. I have a hard time recognizing symbolism or hidden layers behind art. If it's not staring at me from the surface, I miss it. Many people think the plot of "Aliens" is a metaphorical retelling of the Vietnam War. Some say "The Wizard of Oz" is about the Jungian Process of Individuation. You can find Christian allegory in everything from "Star Wars" to "The Lord of the Rings." I once took a religion class in college where the final essay exam asked us to explore the religious signifigance of "Thelma and Louise."

There's a must-watch documentary called "Room 237." No film director has ever been more gifted at hidden meanings and complex artistry than Stanley Kubrick. Lynch devotees don't hold a candle to Kubrick nerds when it comes to overanalyzing, and "Room 237" presents a dozen or so credible theories put forth by film geeks about hidden symbolism in Kubrick's film adaptation of "The Shining." One guy is convinced the movie is a treatise on the plight of Native Americans (mostly based on a prominently-placed can of Calumet baking soda.) The next geek thinks its about the Holocaust. The next claims it's about how different genders view sex. I just thought it was a pretty sweet movie about a creepy guy with an axe.

I've mentioned this in a column before, but it bears repeating. In the late 80's, there was a Scottish band called The Cocteau Twins who had a singer named Liz Fraser who possessed an angelic set of pipes. The band were lauded for their unconventional ethereal music, with Fraser's wide-ranging vocals often abandoning English language altogether in favor of semi-comprehensible tones and syllables. Imagine if Adele were to start scatting and you're kinda there. Fraser has often said that real English words and lyrics lie behind her flowery emotives, so a popular Cocteau Twins website used to take fan submissions of the best guesses as to the actual lyrics of their songs. And I distinctly recall looking at the submissions for one particular song, where one listener interpreted the song lyrics to be about flowers growing in a garden, and the next thought that the exact same song contained graphic lyrics about rape and abortion. That's when it hit me: the Cocteau Twins are a musical inkblot test. The lyrics aren't the story here. The real art might just be in what the fans THINK the lyrics are.

I'd love to sit down with all my favorite filmmakers and find out exactly what symbolism is MEANT to be there and what's been dreamt up by fans. Someone on the web actually found a still photo of Kubrick on the set of "The Shining" meticulously placing the baking soda can into his shot, so maybe The Shining IS all about Native Americans. Kubrick left our planet way too soon for us to find out. Lynch is notoriously tight-lipped and tells viewers to take away what they want from his films. Maybe the only real answers to Twin Peaks are in our minds, however we wish to interpret them. Maybe in another 25 years, we'll find out more. 

COLUMN: Youtubers


Good news, gang -- my quest to rule the world is back on!

As I've long established, my goals of writing this newspaper column have always been simple: (1) Win the hearts of America, (2) make gobs and gobs of money, (3) convince actress Katie Holmes to be my girlfriend, and (4) leverage my power and appeal to one day rule the world with a cold iron fist while you all do my evil bidding. That's not asking for too much, is it?

I figured it would be easy. As we all know, there's no easier, more stable, or better paying job than that of the modern journalist. Plus, journalists are simply adored by EVERYONE. In today's world of differing opinions and daily in-fighting, the one thing that everyone seems to agree on is just how awesome, trustworthy, and beloved today's mass media is. Am I right??

My course was set. Secure entry level job at local paper (check), beg and/or weasel my way into weekly humor column (check), put pen to paper and let the magic happen (check). Provided I did the math correctly, my next stop should be Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Annnny minute now.

In short, global conquest is taking longer than expected. Good thing, then, that I've recently discovered an alternate path to fame and glory: my favoriteplace in the whole wide world wide web, Youtube.

As you probably know, Youtube allows users to upload or watch videos of user-created content. It's a rabbit hole of wonder you can explore for HOURS without getting bored. Want to see music videos from any band that's ever existed? Watch a movie trailer or laugh at some bloopers? How about creepy ghost stories or ridiculous conspiracy theories? Maybe you just want to watch wedding videos and home movies from an infinite number of strangers? Youtube's got it all.

Last year, I was dating a girl who had a teenage daughter. Every time I saw the kid, her head was buried in a phone or tablet. Finally I asked, "What game is she constantly playing?"

"Oh, she's not playing a game," I quickly learned. "She's watching Youtubers."

I knew it was happening, I just had no idea how popular it really was. Across the world, thousands of people have taken to uploading daily personal videos to Youtube. Some are funny, some are serious, some have a purpose and others are just pointless. But some of these frequent Youtubers have developed SERIOUS fanbases and some are making CRAZY amounts of money at it. Many now refer to their daily videos (aka "vlogs") as their CAREER.

Take Roman Atwood, for example. Roman is a 34-year-old husband and father of three from Ohio. He's also one of the most popular vloggers on Youtube. Almost every day, Atwood uploads a 15-minute video chronicling his day. Usually, it's just him hanging around his house and playing with his kids. As of this moment, yesterday's video has been watched 2,102,048 times. As I started writing this column, Roman's newest video just went live. In the time it's taken me to type these paragraphs, it's already been viewed 286,429 times.

Youtubers can get cash by monetizing their videos with ads, but in Atwood's case, it's allowed him to brand his catchphrase ("Smile More") and turn it into an online store where you can buy Smile More shirts, hats, and accessories. Atwood now has a staffed warehouse full of merchandise on his sprawling property next to his massive house, custom-built lake, and pet donkey. My general rule of thumb: If you have a pet donkey and your name ISN'T Mad Jack, you're earning too much money and need to give some to me.

But that's just the start of it. Atwood's a big fan of toys, and you can see him in his videos playing with everything from dirt bikes to RC cars. Only later did I realize that most of these toys are sent to him free from companies who want their products shown on his channel. Atwood is legitimately earning a decent living playing with toys. And he's just one of hundreds of daily vloggers getting internet famous as we speak. Clearly, I need in on this action.

There's just a few things going against me. I'm neither young nor hunky, and my best Bieber days are behind me. Throngs of young girls will NOT be eager to follow my every move. You also need to be relatively fearless, and I'm just WAY too self-conscious to film the ugly bits of my day. The odds of becoming internet famous for the WRONG reasons are super high. For every Roman Atwood, there's a "Chocolate Rain." For every Justin Bieber, there's a "Leave Britney Alone." No thanks.

Maybe fame and glory is overrated. Roman Atwood seems to live the ideal family life, but it's hard to miss the giant metal fence that runs around the entirety of his property. All you have to do is search Youtube for "Roman's house" to see the multitudes of videos filmed by his fans as they lurk around his property trying to catch a glimpse at his "ideal" life. Maybe I value privacy over fame, or at least that's the excuse I'll stick with until it happens. Maybe one day I'll be brave enough to broadcast my dorkiness in high definition. Until then, the printed word will have to suffice. I don't think you're missing much.

COLUMN: Country Wedding

An actual photo from the actual wedding.

They say if it's at all possible, you should get a career doing what you love. Well... so far, so good.

I love this grand old dame of a newspaper and all she represents, or else I wouldn't be celebrating my 22nd year of hanging out here every weekday. I love the little "koosh" my office chair makes when I flop into it every morning. I love that first sip of coffee. I love watching my inbox fill up every morning with mail to answer.

But that's Daytime Shane. Nighttime Shane, to no-one's surprise, loves one thing more than anything else: music. I don't have a lick of musical ability myself, but I live my life in awe of those that do. I could change records on my parent's stereo before I could walk (true story.) I've heard tapes of 5-year-old me screaming, "I WANNA BE A DEE JAY!" If I can't be the guy who plays music, the next best thing is being the guy who pushes the "play" button.

My first paid DJ gig was in 1986, when my friends and I were somehow able to convince the administrators at our high school that we were a better and cheaper DJ option than the pros they normally used. I like to think that we weren't lying. When a teen dance club opened up in my hometown, I literally hung out and annoyed the owners until they hired me just to shut me up.

I've been DJing professionally on nights and weekends for 30 years now. Clubs, dances, raves, parties -- you name it. But there's one thing I only agree to do on rare occasion, but this weekend is apparently rare: I'm DJing a wedding.

Let someone else deal with that kinda pressure, I say. When it comes to weddings, I greatly prefer being one of the people on the invite list, just there to have a good time.

Except I'm lying. I'm not a big fan of DJing wedding receptions, but I'm even less a fan of simply GOING to them. Why? Because any reception that I'm at, I'll be forced to sit there and listen to some sub-standard, sub-Shane DJ doing a job I'm better at. I'll question every song that's played. I'll constanly think, "Ooh! I know what song would be PERFECT next!" and then wince when that song never comes. I will armchair-DJ the heck out of that wedding.

I'm not comfortable at a wedding unless I'm the one DJing -- which likely explains why I've never sauntered down the aisle muself. "Sorry, honey, pictures and cake cutting will have to wait. These people need to hear the Cha-Cha Slide."

I'll be fine this weekend, I'm sure. I've DJed over a hundred weddings by now and I've yet to wreck anyone's big day. As good or bad of a DJ that I might be, I'm an even better worrier. Given my track record when it comes to sweeping women off their feet and to the altar, sweating over a DJ gig may be the closest I ever get to "pre-wedding jitters."

So why the worry? I just got their request list. You know, the first dance, the father-daughter dance, mother-groom dance, and so on. And EVERY song on the list is country. This is NOT my world.

I am an expert at Top 40 DJing. I'm even better when it comes to club and EDM music. When it comes to 80s new wave and 70s disco, this DJ might very well save your life. But country? NOT my strong suit. It's not even my weak suit. It's more like a suit I've never worn or wouldn't even buy in the first place. It's a suit that would look awful on me.

"But Shane," you say, "country music tells a story." Yep, it sure does -- especially if you enjoy stories about beer, pickup trucks, and hearts both achy and breaky. It's a world I will never understand. One of the biggest country tunes of the past year was actually called "Huntin', Fishin', and Lovin' Every Day," Which if you think about it translates to "I Really Enjoy Killing Small Animals." Isn't that what got Ozzy Osbourne in trouble all those years ago? Where's the PMRC when we need them? Maybe we need to stop watching Marilyn Manson and keep a better eye on that Luke Bryan fella.

But the country on their list isn't trendy new country. No, it's serious country. Randy Travis, Clint Black, that sorta thing. That's the country music I don't even know. When that stuff was big, I was busy spiking my hair up, wearing trenchcoats, listening to The Cure, and trying desperately hard to be so uncool that it came back around to being cool again.

So I've got some homework to do in the next couple of days. I'm hoping to have enough of that stuff to fake my way through a few songs, but heaven help me if they want that music all night long. I have this horrible fear that I'm going to bust out "Y.M.C.A." and be greeted by the blank stares of a hundred unamused Randy Travis fans.

The bride and groom tell me not to worry. They're "not big music people," they tell me. I don't know what that kind of existence even means. But he assures me that the open bar will have people to the point that "you could bang on a bucket and they'll dance to it." Maybe they'll all be so schnookered that they won't realize their DJ doesn't know Clint Black from Clint Eastwood. Until then, I'll be hopin', prayin', and lovin' every day that I make it through this gig. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a boot-scootin' boogie to attend to in my basement. Pray for me.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

COLUMN: Eclipse


"You speaks English. You deal with him, yes?"

This was NOT how I wanted to start my Sunday. After a long night spinning records til the wee hours, it was "morning" (noon) and I was on an emergency coffee run to the gas station. I usually try to avoid all forms of human interaction until the caffeine's kicked in, but no sooner had I walked in when the cashier suddenly called me in for the assist.

At the counter was a long-haired guy with his young daughter in tow, asking how to get to Illinois. 

"You're IN Illinois," I replied. "Mission accomplished?"
"Oh," he blinked. "My car robot says I need to take the Congressional Bridge to Mineland."
It was too early for Congressional bridges and people calling their GPS a "car robot." I just wanted coffee.

"We're going to the eclipse totality," he elaborated, "to experience a celestial rebirth."

I should have guessed as much. His car seemed barely capable of climbing the Congressional Bridge, yet alone making it to "Mineland," but Godspeed, brave adventurer. He was a nice guy and I hope he made it there.

I don't believe that eclipses are the harbingers of spiritual rebirth. I do, however, believe that eclipses are pretty rad. This explains why eighteen hours later, I was on the road with my best friend, listening to HIS car robot give us directions to the Show-Me State.

On TV the other night, they were interviewing astronomers and astrophysicists who were decidedly "meh" about last week's solar eclipse. As one guy put it, "The skies are filled with comets and supernovas, black holes and forces beyond our comprehension. So why does everybody get so worked up whenever one thing moves in front of another thing for a couple of minutes?"

He's got a point. We just drove for five hours in order to watch a thing we see every day cross in front of another thing we see every day. Except you can't actually watch it, because if you do, your retinas will melt. Good plan, then. But hey, in college, we once drove to Missouri and back for the precise reason of, "Hey, let's drive down to Missouri and back." This time, we actually had a proper excuse to do it.

When I told my mom that I was going to Missouri for the eclipse, she gasped in horror. "NO!" she said. "Don't be dumb. They're saying that traffic will be backed up for miles!" And they were, too. Newscasts were warning of nightmare traffic, distracted drivers, overpriced hotel rooms, and people in Carbondale willing to pay over $1000 for prime seating to watch the eclipse in the football stadium.

Here's a newsflash: When the event you're wanting to see is happening directly overhead, ANY view without a roof is going to be a prime view.

Out of mom-inspired traffic fears, we tried to stay off major arteries and instead stuck mainly to side roads, a decent plan that only brought us into the seedier Winter's-Bone backwoods of Missouri once or twice. With twenty minutes to spare, we reached our destination: the free viewing party at the Bradford Research Center of the MU College of Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources -- right in the middle of the line of totality.

As we got out of the car, the light was already dimming, as if a gnarly storm was rolling in. But this was no storm. No, this was the moon deciding to steal the show for a change. And then, like the flick of a switch, totality hit. Day became night, the horizon roared to 360 degrees of dancing color, and up in the sky, the sun had turned into the fire-edged black ring you usually only see in movies. Cameras couldn't do it justice. It was breathtaking.

I could handle living in eclipse totality forever, but I had to settle for two amazing minutes before the sun popped out the other side to sear our retinas. 

My mind goes back to the astrophysicist who was poo-pooing eclipses. Watching one thing block another thing shouldn't be amazing. Right now, one of my cats is blocking the view of my other cat, yet I'm not staring upon my cat with profound wonder (note: never stare at a cat with profound wonder without proper safety eyewear - they could claw out your retinas.) But think back to ancient civilizations that worshipped the sun as a god. Imagine if, one day, you're going about your business when suddenly, overhead, your god turns BLACK. That'd be terrifying. For those two minutes, I'd be sacrificing anything that moved in hopes of my sun god returning to full power.

Thankfully, I don't think anyone used the totality of last week's eclipse to stage their version of The Purge. I hope those who needed a spiritual awakening got what they were looking for. I certainly got what I needed: a great vacation day with friends witnessing something I hadn't seen since Ms. Harlan-Marks projected it into a shoebox for us in 3rd grade. The next eclipse is only 7 years away -- if you can daytrip to the totality zone, I don't promise a rebirth, but it's an impressive show regardless.

COLUMN: Big Brother


I watch a LOT of TV. Some might say I watch TOO much TV. Sometimes, I have to agree with them.

I suppose it depends on what I'm watching. Many things I can justify. When I lay there like a bump on a log zoning out to CNN, I can convince myself that I'm being educated and staying up-to-date on current events. When I'm too lazy to change the channel off the Food Network, I can tell myself that I'm picking up important tips for the kitchen. When I'm watching "Game of Thrones," I feel zero shame because, well, dragons. Dragons are awesome.

But then comes the secret shame of my summer. A show that I adore for reasons I can't begin to explain. A show that I feel guilty for even THINKING about watching, yet it never stops me. A show so idiotic you can almost feel your brain cells wasting away. A show that I'm pretty sure once cost me a relationship in order to watch. A show called "Big Brother."

Every summer, CBS gets taken over by "Big Brother." Airing 3-4 primetime hours per week, it's one of those reality shows that isn't too particularly "real" or representative of any reality I've ever known. Still, it's mandatory appointment viewing for me every week, and if I dare to miss even ONE episode, I'm in an unexplainable funk for days.

You must be familiar with "Big Brother" by now, right? It's been on the air for nineteen seasons, and I'm pretty sure I've sat through every one of them. The premise is about as simple as possible: Each season, a cast of strangers get chosen to spend the entire summer in the Big Brother "house" -- which, of course, is a TV studio where every room is wired for sound and vision and the houseguests spend every second of their summer under total surveillance. Each week, through a series of contests and votes, one houseguest gets eliminated from the competition. The last player remaining at the end of the summer claims $500,000.

The primetime shows serve as a "best of" compilation of what happens in the house each week. If you're a superfan (like me), you can also watch Pop TV every night, where they air three hours of live unedited camera feeds from the house. If you're completely unhinged, you can pay for 24/7 internet access to every camera feed in the house. This is a line I have yet to cross. I beat myself over wasting time on "Big Brother" every summer, but then I remember that there are countless people across the country who are, at this very second, glued to their computer monitors watching strangers eat cereal and paint their nails.

The original first season of "Big Brother" was actually pretty great. A true sociology experiment, the chosen cast were representative of all walks of life and a diverse array of genders, ages, sexes, and backgrounds. Over the course of the season, these strangers put aside their differences and had a blast living in front of the camera. In today's world, where our differences create more headlines than our similarities, it was heartening to see such a diverse group of people become close friends. That original cast grew so tight that they dreaded each weekly elimination. At one point, they even threatened to sacrifice the money and walk out together as friends. The winner that year was crowned begrudgingly.

The whole thing was downright heart-warming -- and, of course, people hated it and the ratings tanked. Sadly, CBS learned from their "mistake." The following season, the show was retooled. The houseguests became less friendly and a lot more devious. Friendship and fun gave way to backstabbing and drama. The once-diverse casts now look like they're hand-assembled from the Island of Improbably Attractive People. I still watch, don't get me wrong -- but it's gone from an interesting sociology experiment to a wickedly addictive low-brow trainwreck.

Most of the guys in the cast look like professional bodybuilders while every girl is a wannabe bikini model. Then they sprinkle in the stereotypes, which usually consists of: (1) one older contestant, (2) one gay contestant, (3) one married contestant, and (4) one little nerdy guy. Most houseguests are single, and televised hook-ups are encouraged. The unspoken competition always seems to be who can wear the least amount of clothing. In-fighting and name-calling are the rules of the day. This kind of manufactured drama might make for more compelling TV than watching friendships slowly blossom, but it sure doesn't make me feel any better for wasting my summers with such garbage.

I say they should just go whole hog and stick a cast together that's so diverse the house becomes a modern-day Tower of Babel. "This season on Big Brother: everyone speaks a different language!" I want to force goths to live with Juggalos, Trump devotees with Bernie supporters, Cubs fans with Cards fans, alt-lefts with alt-rights. Maybe give them some weapons. Or at the very least, several big foam bats they can harmlessly beat each other with, because that's about the only threshold this show has yet to cross.

So why do I still eat this trash up every year? You got me. My co-workers and I gleefully discuss it. We're on a first-name basis with every houseguest, and as they get evicted, it feels like we've lost a friend. People have told me time and again that I should apply to be on "Big Brother." No thanks. I couldn't hack it. Contestants on that show have to spend an entire summer NOT watching TV. I wouldn't want to be on "Big Brother" because then I wouldn't be able to watch "Big Brother."

COLUMN: Bix


One of the things that makes life here in the Quad Cities so wonderful is our area's shared sense of tradition. Our time-honored ways of life have created customs behind which we can come together and rally as a community.

For instance, we recently celebrated the 43rd running of the Bix 7 road race.

On a personal note, I have my own traditions that I like to observe. For instance, I recently celebrated my 43rd year of ignoring the Bix 7 road race.

Some people might just say I'm lazy and an obese couch potato. I prefer to think that I'm simply honoring a cherished tradition near and dear to my cholesterol-hardened heart.

This year, though, was a little different. Due to a vet appointment, I actually had to be awake at 7 a.m. on a Saturday. So for the very first time, I was able to turn on the TV and watch the Bix as it happened live. I now understand it even less.

I think I speak for all couch potatos when I state the obvious fact that running is torture disguised as exercise. Oh, I know. Some of you physically fit types are now about to lecture me on the exhilaration and joy that comes with the "runner's high." Here's what I say to you people: The next time you're jogging along and enjoying that euphoria of a runner's high, pull out a mirror and take a look at yourself. Trust me, that look on your face is NOT one of euphoria.

I've seen you. I'm the guy driving past in my air-conditioned car while you're jogging amok sweating through your skivvies. I've seen the faces of countless runners, and not once have I seen those faces expressing anything remotely resembling joy. Instead, it's usually a pained grimace that I see, with a clear caption that reads, "DEAR GOD, WHY AM I DOING THIS? MAKE IT STOP."

Being the hard-nosed and diligent journalist that I am (not), I've done my homework. I've conducted experiments and run tests. And I can safely say with a good degree of certainty that one can complete the Bix 7 course MUCH faster and more efficiently if one were in a car. I just don't understand why no-one's thought of this before.

Also: to get from the starting line on Brady to the finish line on 3rd Street, there's no need to run all the way up Brady, across Kirkwood, and loop back. Come on, that's just showing off. It strikes me that a much more efficient route would be to walk from the starting line two blocks due east to the finish line. I'm pretty sure that I could make that walk in about the same time it takes the elite competitors to run to near-Bettendorf and back. I don't like to brag, but I'm pretty sure with this plan, I could win this thing next year.

Really, though, who designed this course? Running seven miles is painful enough, but to start by forcing everyone to climb up a grueling hill? That's just malicious. But it turns out I really didn't know the meaning of the word malicious until the race ended and I channel flipped into the worst sports event this side of Competitive Nose Hair Plucking: The Tour De France. (Translation: The Tour of France.)   

The elite runners of the Bix look like weenies compared to Tour cyclists with their veins bulging out of their legs like an overly aggravated Bruce Banner. After watching these guys ascend the Alps on nothing more than foot power and a flimsy bicycle, I'm never complaining about the Brady Street hill ever again. I get that exercise is good for you and all, but this kind of competition has to cross the line, right? Forget who comes in 1st place -- I say anyone who survives the Tour De France without their hearts exploding out of their chests should deserve a yellow jersey.

Isn't there supposed to be some kind of acclimation process when ascending mountainous heights? I just watched a documentary on climbing Everest, and before you can even THINK about venturing to the summits of the Himalayas, they make you chill out at base camp for a week just to get your body used to lower levels of oxygen.

A friend and I once drove to Colorado on a vacation whim. I remember stopping for gas just outside of Denver, taking one step out of the car, and nearly faceplanting from dizziness. We hadn't even made it TO the mountains and I was already suffering from oxygen deprivation. There's no wonder these Tour De France guys get busted doping themselves with horse blood or whatever. Certain things are simply not for humans, and I fear racing around mountaintops might be one of them.

I suppose it's easy for me to judge whilst I sit at sea level with a cushion on my rump and a donut in my hand. At the gas station today, I met a father and son from Germany who are halfway through a three-month journey across America on bicycles. They started in Portland, Oregon and they're headed to New York City. They definitely looked a bit worse for the wear, but for what it's worth, they had smiles on their faces and told me they were having the adventure of their lives.

So maybe I should change my lazy ways and start biking and running everywhere. Or maybe I should stay here on my couch in morbidly obese judgement of you healthy people. After all, it IS tradition. 

COLUMN: Hype


Sometimes I think I should've gone to school for marketing.

Instead, I was a Speech major, which is kinda funny seeing as I'm one of the most awkward small-talkers on the planet. The only time I'm really good at small talk is if I'm passionate about something that I want YOU to be passionate about as well. Just ask my co-workers -- over the years, I've talked them into listening to bands they normally wouldn't, watch TV shows they normally wouldn't, and even try food they normally wouldn't. Once, I even talked one of my co-workers into adopting a stray dog that I found.

In other words, I'm good at marketing. Which makes sense, because I'm even better at being a mark.

As I type this, I'm so tired that I'm barely lucid. Why? Because I'm an easy mark. Last night, I was minutes from shutting off the TV and hitting the pillow when "Last Call with Carson Daly" came on. You know, the late show that comes on AFTER the late show that comes on after the late show? And just as I was reaching for the remote control, I heard Carson go, "...and we'll finish with an exclusive live clip from the group some are saying could be the next big thing."

That's nice, Carson, but I need to go to... wait, the next big thing? And I haven't heard of them? I don't like to be uninformed when it comes to new bands. Darn it, though, it's pretty late. I need to go to sleep. Click went the remote and off went the TV.

It stayed off for seven minutes. That's how long it took until the thought of NOT knowing the next big thing caused me to get up out of bed and turn the TV back on. I just had to wait a half hour until the clip was on. Finally, I was face to screen with the band some are saying could be the next big thing.

Annnnnnnd they won't be. In fact, this band pretty much sucked. The world is not yearning for a three-member band who barely look old enough to be out of high school playing incredibly bland surf-punk while a sea of kids mosh and stage-dive around them. "Some are saying they could be the next big thing." Precisely WHO is saying this, Carson? Their girlfriends? Their classmates? Their moms? When I was a kid, we thought our high school band could be the next big thing, too. Their 8-song repertoire consisted of reggae covers of Beatles songs and one original called "Butt Ugly Women." They never made it to the radio, and neither will this band.

But, my sleep-addled brain argued, perhaps I'm not being fair. Maybe one three-minute live clip isn't enough to fully appreciate the genius of this band that clearly "some" think are amazing. I'd better do some more research.

And THAT is why I sit here sleep-deprived today, for I was still awake at 2 a.m. last night watching clip after clip of a sucky band continue their assault of suckage throughout the internet at large. The Carson Daly clip wasn't a fluke -- they're just a terrible band. Once again, I had fallen victim to the hype machine.

I like to consider myself a human being of at least moderate intelligence. When presented with hype, I should be able to see right through it, ignore the ballyhoo, and see it for the strategic marketing campaign that it is. Nnnnnope. If something's presented to me as new, amazing, or exciting", I'll be the idiot queueing up to throw money at it. A sandwich where the buns are made of fried chicken? Sign me up! A taco inside a gordita INSIDE A BURRITO? Yes please! I once bought a new car based entirely on the music used in its TV ad campaign.

If you ask me, the undisputed local master of hype is music promoter Sean Moeller. For years helming Daytrotter and now on his own, Sean has spent great effort turning the Quad Cities into a Midwestern music mecca. He's also one of the very best people I know and I'm proud to call him a friend. But if you want a lesson in how to use hype to your advantage, look no further than Sean's Facebook account.

Two days ago, I was greeted with this message: "ANNOUNCING A HUGE BARN SHOW this Thursday. GIGANTIC news Monday. And lots more show announcements this week! Just sayin'." By the time this column prints, all will be revealed, but I'm writing this on Wednesday night, and I guarantee I get a bad night's sleep tonight just wondering about this barn show and what this "gigantic" news could be.

Odds are high that it'll be some band or artist I'm "meh" about. On the other hand, it could be a band I'm really excited about. "You've got me all hyped about these announcements," I wrote on Sean's Facebook page. His cryptic reply just now? "You should VERY much be hyped." SQUEEEEEEEE! WHAT DOES IT MEAN???

Of course, now that I'm all in, anything less than a full Beatles reunion featuring the reanimated corpses of John Lennon and George Harrison will end up being a let-down. But in my never-ending efforts to be at the cusp of all things cool, I want to know. I need to know. I have been infected with hype.

I'm just glad I'm not the only one who falls into the hype trap from time to time. After all, they say a sucker's born every minute. On an absolutely unrelated note, next week's column is going to be new, amazing, and exciting! Some say it might be the next big thing! Just sayin'.

COLUMN: Golf Classic


My name is Shane, and I'm a music nerd.

For as long as I can remember, my love for music has defined the paths and friendships of my life. Quite often, the music nerd in me speaks louder than the rational part of my brain, and I'm okay with that. In fact, the only times I second-guess myself is when the rational part of my brain supercedes the music geek in me.

Last Sunday was a toughie for me. The British band Ride was making a rare Chicago appearance. Ride is my favorite band of all time, yet I decided to listen to the rational part of my brain and elected NOT to attend. I hope this doesn't mean I'm growing up.

In retrospect, it was a smart decision. Yes, my favorite band was playing Chicago, but only as part of the weekend-long Pitchfork Music Festival. This would have meant spending $75 and driving 3 hours to stand around in the sun and heat admidst thousands of smelly, sweaty hipsters, all just to see one terrific band play a quick festival set. Painfully, my rational voice won out and I decided to stay home.

Well, not ACTUALLY stay home. I wanted to do something to take my mind off the show, so I decided upon the most un-Shane-like activity I could think of: I called up my friend Jason and we went to the final day of the John Deere Classic. If I couldn't see my favorite band on the planet, at the very least I could see famous professional athletes like, umm, that one guy. And some other guy in pink pants. And a guy named Ollie Schniederjans who exudes a confidence you wouldn't normally think possible from anyone named Ollie Schniederjans. Personally, I was nowhere near as confident as Ollie.

Prior to last Sunday, I had never been to a professional golfing event. I had never been to ANY golfing event. The closest I came was college, when I talked Jason into taking Golf 101 with me because it sounded like the class in which I would be least likely to break my coccyx. Part of the class requirement was playing a few rounds of golf on your own time, so Jason and I went to Saukie one Sunday and played... something, but it certainly didn't deserve to be called golf. It was more like a game where we'd swing at a tiny ball and repeatedly miss it. Then, every once in a while, we'd hit it -- never to be seen again. I'm pretty sure at one point we teed off at the 7th hole and ended up on the green at the 9th.

So honestly, I had no idea what to expect as a spectator at TPC. I knew I had VIP parking, and was told a shuttle would take us to the course. In my mind, I pictured a cheery, oversized, air-conditioned van with decadent cushions. I did NOT picture a rickety school bus designed to accommodate all the travel needs of toddlers and/or Fantasy Island's Herve Villechaize. Jason is super tall and built like a stick. I am kinda tall and built like a bean bag full of tapioca pudding. Neither one of us fit into this bus with any semblance of grace and it's a miracle we made it to the course before our VIP stood for Very Injured Prostates.

Once there, though, I ended up having a shockingly decent time. The course is beautiful, and as we strolled down the valley of the back nine, I was overwhelmed by the politeness of the staff, the cleanliness of the facility, and the good behavior of our fellow attendees. Right away, I learned a few universal truths:

(1) Based on unintentional eavesdropping, it is MUCH better to know nothing about golf than to think you know EVERYTHING about golf. (2) I want one of those "QUIET" signs and would like to reserve the right to use it frequently in life. (3) Why do golfers and tennis players earn respectful silence from the crowd yet Lebron has to put up with 21,000 screaming idiots every time he takes a free throw? (4) By and large, pro golfers are nice guys. Even in the heat of the final round, I saw players stop for autographs, bump fists, and toss golf balls to fans. Respect.

The only negative was at the end, when I discovered that a pleasant stroll down the valley of the back nine meant facing a mountainous uphill climb back to the bus, which became a quick reminder of just how out-of-shape I am. I didn't want our headline the next day to read, "JOHN DEERE CLASSIC MARRED BY DEATH OF FATBOY." At one point, I saw a golf cart labeled "media shuttle" and almost tried yelling, "I'm media! I'm the guy who writes the cat columns!" but I couldn't gather the oxygen.

All in all, it was a pretty good day. Better yet, I got home in just enough time to log on to the live stream of the Pitchfork fest and caught Ride's entire set from a vantage point far better than I would've had in that sea of hipsters. So what does all this mean? "I'm Shane, and I'm a golf nerd?" Probably not. I don't have any plans to trade in my concert tees for pink golf pants anytime soon. But if I have to spend a day NOT seeing my favorite band, there's a lot worse places I could have been.