The first must-hear record of the year comes from the Blue Man Group, a trio of nameless, faceless cobalt-silver surfers of the double helix as both pop-culture artists and electronic-music stream-clashers. With the group's new album, The Complex, this mute alien threesome goes beyond the grid and becomes the grid themselves, collaborating with guest vocalists and lyrics for the first time.

The big business of asbestos litigation is encroaching upon the livelihood of Iowa's small businesses.

Small companies with as few as 20 employees are finding themselves mired in this unending legal morass.

Three big players in Davenport an nounced last week that they are launching the Go Davenport initiative, a public-image effort designed to "boost Davenport's image." It's a noble goal, and the community should actively promote its strengths and pat itself on the back for its accomplishments.

The state's new deputy governor, 29-year-old New York native Bradley Tusk, evidently has a lot to learn. Tusk was appointed to the important job not long ago even though he has absolutely no Illinois political experience and has never managed anything larger than a tiny staff.

Things could get a little less peaceful in Rock Island now.

You might not be able to tell the difference yet, but once word gets out, citizens will probably take to the streets en masse, making loud and unusual noises at will, perhaps even beating sounding vessels or hallooing.

You might have heard that Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich wants to "re-finance" some state debt, which will supposedly free up $1.9 billion to help close the state's massive $4.8-billion budget deficit.

But the media coverage of this plan has been ill-informed, at best, mainly because the governor has done a good job of obfuscating the issue.

The world's shortest story was written by Augusto Monterroso: "Upon waking, the dinosaur was still there."

We're not asking you to replicate that feat, but we are asking for your entries in a limbo contest for fiction writing.

The general reaction to Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich's appointment of Bradley Tusk as his new deputy governor to replace Doug Scofield is not exactly drawing rave reviews.

Scofield resigned as deputy governor to "spend more time with his family" after less than two months on the job.

• One of the strangest pairings in music comes this Tuesday when Geffen Records releases the soundtrack to House of 1,000 Corpses, the new Rob Zombie-directed horror film. Among odd tracks from the Ramones, Buck Owens, and Slim Whitman are six new sick tracks by Zombie, one of which is his "Brick House 2003," a twisted re-make featuring original Commodore Lionel Richie.

Illinois State Representative Julie Hamos (D-Chicago) begged me last week not to make her out to be some kind of lone-wolf hero or get her in trouble with her fellow legislators. But what she did rates a notice.

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