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Funny Businesses: Patrick Adamson, Andrew King, and George Strader Discuss the Area-Comedy Renaissance PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mike Schulz   
Thursday, 28 May 2015 06:00

George Strader, Andrew King, and Patrick Adamson“Is that ahi tuna?”

“No. It’s a-ha tuna. This is a comedy interview.”

So went a not-atypical exchange during my recent conversation with area comedians George Strader, Patrick Adamson, and Andrew King. (It was George who asked about the tuna and Patrick who ordered it. If you were wondering, Andrew had a burger.) But while the jokes and laughs tended to come fast and furious during our chat, there was one thing this trio was dead-serious about: The Quad Cities’ comedy scene has, since the beginning of this decade, been enjoying a pretty dramatic renaissance. A pretty inspiring one, too.

Dove Bard: Magician David Casas at Area Venues April 30 through May 3 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mike Schulz   
Wednesday, 22 April 2015 06:00

David CasasNear the end of our recent interview, I ask David Casas a question that, I think, most people would want to ask a professional magician who spends much of his time making doves appear and disappear: “Has anything really awful ever happened during your act?”

He smiles and replies: “The only thing that’s really happened was at one of my first shows. Every time I used to produce a bird, I would always hold them close to me. So I was doing that at one show, and people started laughing, but I didn’t know what they were laughing at. So I just kept going with my act, and they kept laughing, and I think I went to grab a silk or something ... . And then I see this big line of bird poop running down my coat.

“And I was like, ‘Oh-h-h-h ... now I get it,’” says Casas. “I just shook my head and said, ‘That’ll happen with birds,’ and kept going, you know? And I learned that when I produce the bird, I need to hold it out.”

Persistence Pays: All Iowa Reads Author Robin Oliveira Discusses “My Name Is Mary Sutter,” April 22 and 23 at Area Libraries PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 16 April 2015 08:18

In the opening chapter of Robin Oliveira’s My Name Is Mary Sutter, the midwife of the title shows up at the door of a doctor struggling with a childbirth. It is the dawn of the Civil War, and Sutter expertly takes over, changing the baby’s position in the womb and delivering him without complication.

There has been some confusion, however. The surgeon had summoned her, but Mary was unaware of that. She had come on her own, having been denied an interview at the Albany Medical College, and she had a request of the doctor.

“Miss Sutter,” the physician asks after the baby has been safely delivered, “what was it you wanted from me this afternoon?”

Her reply propels Oliveira’s debut novel: “I want to become a doctor.” And her tenacity – at the doctor’s office and at a Sutter family dinner that night – shows that she won’t accept “no” for an answer.

The doctor wants to be a field surgeon in the war effort, and Mary presses him during the meat course: “You want to see what can happen to the human body. You want to see inside it. You want to solve its mysteries. Not that you should be ashamed. It is no less than I would wish to do. Given the opportunity.”

Without forcing the parallel, there’s a lot of Mary Sutter in Robin Oliveira, who will be discussing her 2010 book at three area libraries April 22 and 23 as part of the All Iowa Reads program. And in both Sutter’s and Oliveira’s stories are important lessons about the power of persistence.

A Band-Aid for Roads: Iowa’s Gas-Tax Hike Is a Short-Term Fix for a Long-Term Problem PDF Print E-mail
Feature Stories
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 12 March 2015 15:07

When Iowa’s motor-fuel tax increased by 10 cents a gallon on March 1, it represented a road that was both brave and opportunistic.

It was also stupid, for two key reasons: Raising the gas tax doesn’t fully address the funding need for critical road improvements, and over time it will provide less and less money while road-construction costs continue to increase.

Despite that, the hike was still brave, because raising taxes is never popular among voters – especially when they feel the pain every time they visit the gas pump. The Des Moines Register has polled Iowans about a gas-tax hike for the past five years. While the amount of the hike in the question has varied over the years, opposition to an increase was 70 percent in 2011. Opposition has eroded since then, but it was still 58 percent in February 2014.

Which leads us to opportunistic. Mirroring national trends, from July 2014 to early 2015 gas prices dropped from more than $3.50 per gallon in the Quad Cities and Des Moines to under $2, according to

Prices have risen since then but are still more than a dollar cheaper than in mid-2014, so legislators saw a window of opportunity. The February 2015 Des Moines Register poll found 48 percent support for a 10-cent gas-tax hike and only 50 percent opposition – and the cost of fuel was certainly a factor in that shift.

The timing was great in political terms, too, just after a statewide-election cycle. The problem of deteriorating roads and bridges – and the choice for a solution – had been on the table since late 2011, but there’s nothing like the longest period of time before an election to spur legislators into unpopular action.

A Free Market by Force? The FCC and Net Neutrality in (Mostly) Plain English PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Ignatius   
Thursday, 19 February 2015 05:23

On February 26, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will be voting on rules that would reclassify broadband Internet as a public utility. The stated goal is to give the commission the authority to enforce what’s called “net neutrality.”

Unless you’re a rare breed, I’ve already frightened (or bored) you with a topic you’re certain is arcane, technical, obscure, and confusing. You might also think it’s irrelevant.

So to goose your interest, I’ll note that John Oliver – the host of HBO’s Last Week Tonight series – recommended replacing the dull “net neutrality” with “Preventing Cable Company F---ery.”

Because cable companies are so loathed, calling net neutrality by Oliver’s term gives us an easy target. Complaining about one’s cable company is a time-honored pastime. And those operators control more than half of the U.S. broadband-Internet market.

“People want the villain, and the good guy,” said Phyllis Peters, a regional communications director for Mediacom. “And because everybody loves what they can get on Netflix, they’re the good guy. And ... Big Cable, it’s the bad guy.”

As with most easy villains, the situation is more complicated, and getting past the heated rhetoric – Oliver’s included – takes work. So what follows is an imagined Q&A about ... Preventing Cable Company F---ery! (I’ve got to keep your interest somehow.)

My goal is to present a simplified (and in some cases over-simplified) explanation of net neutrality as a public-policy issue, specifically in the context of the FCC’s impending vote. The proposed rules won’t be made public before that meeting, but FCC Chair Tom Wheeler has sketched out the broad strokes – no blocking, no throttling, no paid prioritization.

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