September 30, 2002

Credit Lessons

I've never been in debt. Okay, that's not entirely true. Yes, I've been in the kind of debt where I had to make car payments, and I'm currently in the kind of debt that says I have to make house payments.

I've never been in credit card debt, however. Truth be told, I've never even owned a credit card. I don't trust them. I've been conditioned not to trust them thanks to many years of living with college roommates.

Most of my college roommates had this weird outlook on credit cards. Basically, they thought credit cards were magical pieces of plastic that just magically paid for things and that they were somehow immune from the the ensuing debt that came about due to excessive credit card spending.

I'll admit it: I was sort of jealous of my roommates and their magical credit cards. After all, they always seemed to have money and, if they didn't, they just whipped out their credit cards. Books? Put them on the credit card. Food? Put it on the credit card. Night out at a strip club? credit card.

And yet there I was writing checks and budgeting like a fool. I remember thinking that I was doing everything all wrong. I mean, there I would sit, meticulously lording over my finances, while my roommates went waltzing all over town swiping their credit cards with the careless glee of a six-year-old with a loaded pistol.

Then, one year, I was a roommate with a guy named Chad. Chad was actually a former high school classmate of mine. He was, and is, a tech-head. He's one of those guys who was born to know technology. Way back in elementary school, he taught me how to write simple programs for the Apple IIc, and he always just seemed to know everything about computers.

But he didn't know shit about personal finances. He whipped out any one of his many credit cards with the swiftness and ease of a Old West gunslinger. By the time we became roommates, he had already accrued over $10,000 in credit card debt.

I remember thinking what an incredibly large amount of money that seemed to be, especially when I factored in the understanding that he also received financial aid, and that he also worked. Granted, he worked at the local Brach's candy factory on the Gummi Bear line, which paid about as well as you might imagine, but it was still money, so I came to the conclusion that old Chad was a pretty carefree spender.

Well, one day, I popped into Chad's outrageously messy room where I noticed, tucked between two huge bags of pilfered defective Gummi Bears, a credit card notice that was slugged "Urgent!" and another that was slugged "Immediate Payment Required" and still another that read "We Break Fingers And Toes."

Then the calls started coming in, usually two or three a day. "Is Mr. Haugen available? We really need to speak with him." No, he's not here. "Are you sure you're not really Mr. Haugen?" Yes, I'm sure. "Well, when he comes in, have him call Mike at Discover immediately." *sound of shotgun cocking* Will do.

Chad was masterful when it came to avoiding creditors. He always seemed to leave the apartment just two or three minutes before a creditor called. It was like he had some sort of sixth sense. Which was all fine and dandy, except that I ended up being the intermediary between Chad and the creditors, so I got to absorb all the impatient anger and suspicion of basically every credit card company on the planet.

It was the day a creditor appeared, in person, at our doorstep that I realized Chad's debt situation was probably more dire than Chad cared to admit. There was a knock at the door, I answered, and a gentleman in a suit that looked both impressive and threatening stood before me. He asked to see a Mr. Chad Haugen, at which point I heard a little scuffling emanating from Chad's room as Chad scurried out the back entrance which, conveniently, was located at the far end of his bedroom.

We chatted together, the ominous creditor and me, for about an hour, waiting for Chad to get home, even though, of course, there was no way in holy hell Chad was going to make an appearance while that guy was in our apartment. I even had to produce my ID, so the creditor was satisfied that I wasn't, in fact, Chad Haugen.

After that, I believe, Chad ended up getting a loan from his parents, or somebody, so he could pay off his credit card debt at least enough to keep the creditors at bay. He eventually got a job working at IBM, which was a long-assed commute from Winona to Rochester, but paid a whole lot more than the Gummi Bear line.

As for me, Chad's experience with credit cards pretty much scared me away from plastic for good.

Posted by Ryan at 01:16 PM | Comments (1)

The Problem With Staying Current

The Problem With Staying Current

I had to mess up some time.

I've been scoring major guy points with the redhead I've been seeing for about three months. I've gotten her flowers for no reason (good points), I've spent a couple weekends in the cities with her and went to her friend's birthday celebration (decent points), and I remembered her mentioning that she was trying to build a Disney DVD collection and her next purchase was going to be Monsters Inc., which I bought for her and surprised her with (mega super good points).

Then, she started sniffing around, asking me how many of my friends knew about her. As far as I know, all my friends know about her, though most have not yet met her. That pleased her. Then she asked me if my parents knew about her, which they do. But. . .

Refinancing.Discover New york city attorneys.

"Oh, yeah, my parents know all about you," I said as I tapped away at my computer.

"And what do they say?" she asked, obviously fishing for some sort of affirmation that my parents living in Tokyo approve of her or something.

"They said it sounds like my current girlfriend sounds really nice," I said, and I immediately knew which word I uttered totally did not belong.

"Current girlfriend? Oh, that's real nice," she said, obviously miffed. I dropped my chin to my chest, frantically thinking of some way to rectify the situation.

"Well, currently, you're my girlfriend, right?" I asked as I turned to look at her, lying naked on my bed beneath the sheets. I left my desk and joined her under the covers, hoping my close proximity would somehow defuse her agitation.

"Current just kind of lumps me with all the other women," she said, and I had to smile as I imagined a Ryan Rhodes harem of 30 women lumped together in an erotic game of Twister. Granted, saying she was my current girlfriend really didn't sound good, but at the same time it was totally true and honest. She is my current girlfriend. The more I thought about it, the more justified I felt, so I pressed the issue once more.

"Think about it," I said. "We could be going out for three years, and you'd still be my current girlfriend."

"I just don't like the word current," she shot back. "It diminishes my importance."

This was a very good point, but since I had pretty much erased all the points I accrued with the flowers and Monsters Inc., I thought I'd go further in the red.

"So, how should I introduce you to people?" I asked. "Should I say, 'this is Melissa, she's the successor to the throne of my previous girlfriends.'"

She dug her toenail into my calf.

"You're not being funny," she warned, and I knew I was treading dangerously close to an unknown precipice.

So, I flipped on the TV and turned to "Trading Spaces" on TLC and I actually enjoyed watching it. I think I earned a few points with that.

As current girlfriends go, she's easy to please.

Posted by Ryan at 11:51 AM | Comments (0)

September 27, 2002

And the Sound Barrier is

And the Sound Barrier is Avocado

Ryan says: I'm jamming to a little Chopin, Bach and Mozart today on Live 365.

Jen says: sweet.

Jen says: I'm jamming to pink noise.

Ryan says: ????

Jen says: that's what they have down here in the "open landscaping". it's like white noise, only softer. it's supposed to mute people's voices a little, so it doesn't sound like you're at a cocktail party.

Jen says: but I still here a general cacophony.

Jen says: hear, even.

Ryan says: Everything is color-coded nowadays. Even sound apparently.

Ryan says: An infant crying because of a soiled diaper is considered "brown."

Jen says: where did you hear that?

Ryan says: From the fanciful world of my warped little mind.

Posted by Ryan at 02:08 PM | Comments (0)

Lileks is Terrific, But. .

Lileks is Terrific, But. . .

I must preface this entry by saying, I LOVE THE DAILY BLEAT. I don't normally take umbrage with Lileks, primarily out of fear of being mentally squashed like a neural mosquito. The man could screed me into oblivion, but I must proceed.

James Lileks is a major proponent for a war against Iraq, and I don't begrudge him his position. Usually, when I read his justifications for pummeling Saddam, I think, "Yeah, he's right again. Curse his rational mind!"

But, today, I squirmed when I read this: It was possible to type bellicose words about Vietnam from the distance of Minnesota without considering that Charlie would empty a pillowcase of anthrax into the Mall of America ventilation fans. I'd say that's unlikely to happen tomorrow . . . but all of a sudden, everything's possible.

Yes, everything is possible after 9/11. But, at the same time, nothing is possible. We could, possibly, never endure another terrorist attack ever again. Hey, it's possible. If you want to sit and ponder every apocalyptic scenario imaginable, I guess that's your right. There are plenty of Chicken Littles decrying the fall of the sky to make that justification. Myself, I prefer to greet each day and appreciate it for what it is: namely, a terror-free segue into another terror-free segue into another terror-free-segue into. . . well, you get the idea.

What I disliked most about that excerpt is that it implies Iraq has operatives skulking around unseen, pillowcases of anthrax at the ready. He's making the leap that a war against Iraq is a war against those responsible for 9/11. And I still don't buy that. Remember, the bulk of those who hi-jacked the planes on that fateful day were from Saudi Arabia, and nary a one wielded a pillowcase. Iraq does not equal 9/11, or at least a strong enough link hasn't yet been established to make me a believer.

Saddam must go, but don't pull the trigger under the auspices of 9/11. If we do that, there's no telling how many other wars will be waged in the name of anti-terrorism.

Posted by Ryan at 12:02 PM | Comments (0)

"Obituaries for a Furry Farewell"

"Obituaries for a Furry Farewell" c. Ryan Rhodes, March 5, 2002

As if we needed more proof that Americans hold their family pets in just a tad too high of esteem, the Philadelphia Daily News last week announced that it would start running monthly memorials under the heading, "A Fond Farewell to our Beloved Pet." That's right, for the paltry sum of $52.08, families can now bemoan the loss of anything from turtles to terriers, complete with picture.

And, because I'm always on the lookout for a lucrative endeavor, and because I have a fairly strong obituary writing background, I'm considering offering my writing expertise, for the right price, to families wishing to posthumously praise their pets. Consider the following examples.

Rexvold "Rex" Nelson, 7 (49 in dog years), a golden retriever, passed away Monday, March 4, 2001 at his master's feet in Rochester, Minn., following a two month battle with heart worms.

Rex was born Dec. 29, 1995 at a puppy farm outside Des Moines, Iowa, where he lived in a cardboard box with his three brothers and two sisters before being sent to "Puppies -N- Stuff," where he was purchased by the Nelson family for $356.

Rex enjoyed chewing cool grass on a summer's eve, fetching sticks, and barking at the family of squirrels nested in the big oak in the backyard. An avid hunter, Rex was credited with countless pheasant retrievals, both on land and in ponds.

He is survived by his adopted family, one brother, one sister, and a special friend (the hydrant on the corner of 24th St. and Harriet).

Brief funeral services were held in the Nelson backyard shortly after the kids got home from school on March 5, with their father Bob Nelson officiating. Interment was under the big oak.

Fluffington "Fluffy" Michaels, 4, a common tabby, died early Monday morning, March 4, 2002 at her home in Stewartville, Minn., after being backed over by the '98 Chevy she was sleeping under.

Fluffy was born June 21, 1998 under a stack of hay bales in High Forest Twsp., where she lived for three months before being brought into Stewartville by farmer Hank Mathews, who gave her, her two brothers, and two sisters away for free. Fluffy was the first to be selected by the Michaels, with their three year old daughter, Hannah, having the final say.

Fluffy enjoyed playing with the assortment of toys provided by her adopted family. She was also fond of sleeping in sunlit windowsills and under the left rear wheel of the family's '98 Chevy.

She is survived by her adopted family, her mother, her father (that dang cat that kept climbing over the fence each night), all her brothers and sisters, and Fluffy 2, the identical tabby selected by Mr. Thomas Michaels at the local humane society to prevent his daughter from learning of her his mistake while running late for work that morning.

No funeral services were scheduled for Fluffy. Interment was the local Stewartville landfill.

Jacintha "Jaws" Henry, eight months old, a goldfish, was discovered belly up in the Henry aquarium in Wabasha, Minn., Friday, March 8, 2002 after being fed repeatedly by young son, Thomas.

Jaws hatched July 1, 2001, after being spawned and fertilized at the Fins and Gills tropical fish hatchery in Miami, Fla. She was quickly transported to pet supply stores nationwide, during which time three-quarters of her siblings perished and were processed into Friskies and Fancy Feast. She was given away free to the Henry family four months ago after they paid $35 for aquarium cleaning supplies.

Jaws deeply enjoyed swimming, a pastime that constituted most of her life. When not swimming or eating, she liked exploring the castle and the wrecked ship at the bottom of the aquarium.

She is survived by her adopted family, countless remaining siblings, and her genetically engineered mother (capable of producing 25 times more eggs than regular goldfish).

Brief funeral services were held in the Henry bathroom March 9, with mother Jane officiating and conducting appropriate flushing ceremonies. Interment was in the Wabasha municipal sewage treatment facility.

Posted by Ryan at 09:13 AM | Comments (0)

September 26, 2002

Attack of the Slack For

Attack of the Slack

For some reason, I've really felt compelled to slack at work lately. I have tons of writing to do, and I mean tons. If it were somehow possible to weigh the tasks I'm keeping balanced in my head and scattered on my desk, and those that I've forgotten about completely, I'm pretty sure it would all weigh many tons.

Still, I find myself shrugging my shoulders and thinking, "Eh, I'll be able to get it all done in one day, probably between 4 and 5 p.m. No problem." And so I slack. And it feels really good to slack, to read other blogs, catch up on current events, and download Robin Williams comedy clips and watch them. It's self-destructive as hell, and it will almost certainly come back to haunt me, but I just can't help myself. I think part of it is the change of seasons. It's dark, cold and gloomy outside, so I feel dark, cold and gloomy inside, and my productivity suffers as a result. At least that's the excuse I'm relying on right now. Why can't I just get paid astronomical amounts of money to blog? Curse the unfairness of this cruel world!!

Mainly, I think I'm slacking because I don't want to dive into an article about "The Impact of OS/Platform Selection on the Cost of ERP Implementation, Use and Management." Holy crow that's boring shit. Then again, I have all the information in front of me and my interviews are all complete. I could, in theory, have it all written in a few hours.

Or, I could read Lileks.

Posted by Ryan at 10:06 AM | Comments (0)

September 25, 2002

IRAQ = Invasion Required. Any

IRAQ = Invasion Required. Any Questions?

I somehow feel left out when it comes to this whole "attack Iraq vs. don't attack Iraq" debate. By glancing at the daily headlines, you'd think we're already at war, even though no shots have been fired. I find myself straddling the fence on this whole hawk vs. dove issue, but I do have some questions for those advocating a regime change at the barrel of U.S. guns.

Since 9/11, the majority of the American public, terrified that tomorrow a jetliner will come crashing from the sky loaded with nukes, have signed a blank check to the Bush administration, more or less saying, "Here, make things better. Things don't have to make sense, because we'll back you without question because we're scared."

I'm not arguing the fact that terrorists still exist, and they will most likely find some other way to sting us and make us pause to slap the little rascals before lumbering ahead again. It's simply a fact of life in this post 9/11 world. Our towers fell, so we crushed the Taliban like a rotten grape, installed a regime more to our liking, and then ambled on, leaving the impoverished nation bereft of the billions of dollars in aid they were promised.

Why did we do this? Because our jets were revved up and our guns were all nice and warm, and there was this festering wound called Iraq that's been asking to be kicked in the groin for the past 11 years. Who has the time and money for a petty humanitarian cause like helping to rebuild a worthless country like Afghanistan that doesn't even have the common decency to have a few rich deposits of oil under its barren soil?

Now, Iraq, there's a country more to our liking. It has oil. Lots of oil. And, it has a despicable puke of a dictator at the helm who has proven time and again he has no respect for life save his own. Saddam would gas his own mother if she had the audacity to tell him not to go outside without a coat. Saddam = evil monster. That's a universally accepted equation. Does the man have to go? Absolutely. Would Iraq and the whole Middle East in general be a better place without him? Perhaps. Is it America's responsbility to knock him from power? Hmmmmmm.

The Bushies would have us believe that Osama bin Laden and Saddam have been playing a game of tickle the scrotum, that they've been terrorist bedfellows since they were two years old. They point to sketchy and questionable meetings between Iraqi officials and al Queda operatives that occured prior to 9/11. Did Iraqi cash find its way into al Queda coffers? Probably, although not likely through official government channels. What government would leave a paper trail implicating them in the most high profile terrorist attack in history? I'm pretty sure the same could be said for many Middle Eastern countries. You don't think Qatar, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and even Kuwait special interests didn't find ways to filter money to al Queda? Which one of these do we hit after Iraq?

If the Bush administration could make a compelling argument that Iraq = 9/11, then lets get the tanks rolling. There's no doubt in my mind we'd steamroll the country and be home in time for "Friends." But Iraq is not our fish to fry alone, and without strong links to 9/11, we're stuck with Iraq's refusal to allow UN inspectors into the country, a tough card to play to rally a coalition of international allies.

Ah, yes, UN inspections. Lacking a 9/11 angle, we've been treated to the oft-repeated phrase "weapons of mass destruction," of which Saddam must have hundreds because he doesn't let the UN inspectors in. Is Iraq working to develop weapons of mass destruction. I would put money on it. But seriously, what country on earth doesn't have a vested interest in building a military? Hell, even India and Pakistan, two countries that can scarcely feed their populations, have the Bomb. But, they're more interested in eradicating themselves, so we don't pay them much attention.

Now, Iraq. There's no telling what that bat-shit country would do if it got the Bomb, although a betting man would say Israel would be a prime target. It's the delivery mechanism that would be used to catapult a chemical, biological or nuclear warhead that's in serious question. Iraq has freight vehicles, and it has SCUD missiles, and it has really athletic camels, but none of these can really threaten US interests beyond US bases or embassies in the area.

Some of the more frightened people in America believe Iraq could detonate a nuke in downtown New York, a pretty lofty technological achievement for a country that has been firing at US jets over northern and southern no-fly zones, for over 250,000 sorties, and has, at last count, brought down a total of zero aircraft. That's a pretty lousy firing percentage for a country targeted as the #1 threat on the planet. As for dropping a nuke in New York? Fah-get a-bout it.

For all you people reading this, rolling your eyes and saying "this idiot just doesn't get it," I fully admit that my reasoning is flawed at best, but it's simply my opinion, and I'm entitled to it no matter how flawed it may be. It doesn't make me unpatriotic or anti-American. I'm neither a hawk nor a dove on the issue. There are solid arguments supporting both sides. It's just too easy to see things in black and white, to blindly follow the whims and wishes of those in command because we're scared and want to feel safe again. But to do that, without asking questions, can lead to dangerous myopia, such as that illustrated in these two recent letters to the editor:

I consider every Muslim I see a terrorist until proven innocent. I am not ashamed of that opinion. Deal with it.
Jason Wunneburger
Denver, CO

Are you kidding me? Who cares how President Bush says "nuclear"? The only thing I care about is when we will use them on Iraq.
Kenneth Thoman
Shrewsbury, MA

If this is the prevailing wisdom that justifies war, then God help us all.

Posted by Ryan at 04:31 PM | Comments (0)

Involuntary Volunteering The martial arts

Involuntary Volunteering

The martial arts facility where I train is holding a martial arts and Asian culture retreat this weekend. I honestly don't understand why they call these things "retreats," as the word always conjured images of frightened soldiers turning tail and running home. Really, why would you want to retreat from Asian culture?

"Ahhhhhhh! Kimonos and chopsticks and temples and really cheap mass produced plastic goods! Retreat! Retreat!"

Anyway, the retreat will be held this Saturday afternoon and will include martial arts classes and demonstrations, Asian culture classes, a potluck dinner, and a whole lot of meeting and greeting. I thought it sounded like a good time, so I decided I was going to go.

Then came the sign-up sheet.

After my hapkido class one evening, the instructor announced that he needed people to demonstrate hapkido techniques during the retreat and that a sign-up sheet was on the table for anyone interested. For some reason, I figured a whole slew of students would clambor to include themselves, so I plopped my name on the sheet, imagining that I'd be one of many students demonstrating. As of yesterday, six people had signed up.

The instructor pulled me to the side during class and informed me that, since I was the highest ranking belt on the sign-up sheet, I would be leading the demonstration. But, that's not what I signed up for. I wanted to be just another face in a sea of hapkido demonstrators. I didn't want to actually lead anything. Putting me in a position of leadership is foolhardy at best, and disastrous at worst. Granted, I'm a high ranking belt, but I find more ways to fuck things up than anyone else I know.

Then, the instructor pulls me to the side again and asks me if I'd also be willing to teach a hapkido class during the day. Me? Teach? Was he insane? I couldn't teach someone how to change batteries in a flashlight. So, of course I said I'd be happy to. I'M SUCH A MORON!

So, if you hear news reports coming out of Minnesota about a martial arts retreat that went horribly awry, with several broken bones, countless internal injuries, and possibly a couple of deaths, you'll know why.

Ryan Rhodes was put in charge.

Posted by Ryan at 11:33 AM | Comments (0)

September 23, 2002

Condoms Under Glass There is

Condoms Under Glass

There is a list of items that, although not taboo, men have a tough time buying. In no particular order, they are:

> tampons
> potpourri
> laxatives
> condoms
> enya CDs
> Thelma & Louise (DVD or VHS)

There is, of course, more to the list.

Now, I must stress here that, although I may have just now compiled the list, that does not in any way mean that I have purchased all or any of the above. Well, except for condoms. Because the rest of this entry has completely to do with condoms, I have to admit that I purchase these items.

I've purchased condoms from an assortment of establishments; from mom and pop drug stores, to Walgreens, to Target chain stores, to condom dispensing machines in the bathrooms of bars. I've even had to purchase them from buddies for the astronomical price of $3 a piece, just because I didn't have any on hand. Some buddies. jerks.

Anyway. . .

My biggest beef (no pun intended) with condom-dealing outlets rests with the establishments that feel they must keep the sperm barriers behind locked glass, as if they're some valuable commodity, like gold or diamond watches.

I once bought condoms from a Rainbow Foods grocery stores. I'm not kidding when I tell you that the only items under lock and key were the condoms. The store safe could have been sitting out in the open with a fresh layer of C4 explosive wrapped around it, but the condoms had to be locked behind glass.

ARMED DUDE: Now listen up!! Everyone get on the floor, hands behind the heads. I want everything in the safe! Now!

MANAGER: Yes sir, yes sir. Whatever you say. Would you like small or large bills?

ARMED DUDE: What are you trying to pull here, fucker? On second thought, I want the good stuff! Get me the Trojans and Lifestyles behind that locked glass over there!!


*scuffle ensues*

Well, locked glass or no, I had pressing concerns that night, and Rainbow was the only place open, so I set about finding someone with a key to open the golden gate to Trogan-valia. I found a rotund (and by "rotund" I mean unable to squeeze between aisles) woman, perhaps 63-years old, who probably last saw Dick during the Nixon administration.

CONDOM NAZI: What do you want condoms for?

ME: Um, well, hell. I guess I need them to do the dishes. What business is it of yours?

CONDOM NAZI: You know they're not 100 percent effective, right?

ME (getting annoyed): No shit. Well then, maybe I better not buy them.

CONDOM NAZI: Let me know if you need anything else.

ME: Get back here!! Open the damned glass! I want a 36-pack of Lifestyles! (actually I only needed a three pack, but she was really pissing me off, so I wanted her to think I was going to get laid so much that night, I'd be in a coma until the next election.)

CONDOM NAZI: Okay, fine. But don't come crying to me if she gets pregnant.

She handed me the condoms, and I just sort of stood there in numb silence, unable to even conjure a suitable comeback to the most comeback-inviting bitch ever to spew forth a retort. How did this woman ever get a job wielding the keys to the condoms? How many other men had she shamed into celibacy? How many men strangled themselves with a complicated noose consisting of a 36-pack of Lifestyles?

I didn't want to know.

Posted by Ryan at 11:41 PM | Comments (0)

From the Book I've Been

From the Book I've Been Dabbling In For, Like, Forever

Sept. 17, 1993

I didn't write an entry yesterday because, aside from the usual classes, I didn't have much to write about. Today, however, I have a doozy to relate.

After my fencing class, I caught the bus back to Lourdes, showered, and fell in for a much needed nap. I figured I had, at least, two hours of deep slumber to indulge in.

Well, about halfway into my nap, and a nice little dream involving me, Cindy Crawford, a clown, and a stellar orgasm. Okay, there was no orgasm (and truthfully, no clown), because before I could attain that wondrous state, the most God-awful music ever to assail the ears came blaring from across the hallway from the room of Wuss 1 and Wuss 2.

I'm a happy person. A laid back person. A person you would like to meet and probably trust with your children should you go away for awhile and need a babysitter. There are, however, two things you should know. Number 1: do not wake me up unless you have a damn good reason. You will regret this. Number 2: if I'm having a Cindy Crawford nocturnal emission, there is no such thing as a damn good reason. If you see me sleeping and I have a smile that spreads from ear to ear, and my blankets appear to be hovering mysteriously around the groin area, you should let me sleep.

Thus, when I was awakened by a blaring stereo, the good-natured Ryan Rhodes you would be pleased to meet was nowhere to be found. Instead, I was filled with blind rage. There could have been two little old ladies listening to Big Band music and I still would have ripped into them.

As it was, I stormed across the hall into the room of Wuss 1 and Wuss 2 (their door is always fucking open), and I let loose a string of expletives that had the resident assistant running down the hall to find out what was wrong. Wuss 1 got right into my face and started screaming back at me.

"It's fucking 10:30 in the morning, you fucking wussy!" he shouted. "We can play any fucking music we want! Go back to your fucking room and shut up!"

"You'll turn that music down right now, or I swear I'll toss that stereo and all your speakers off this third floor and won't think twice about it!" I responded, throwing in a good chest push on Wuss 1 to augment my point.

"Ooooh, big fucking words, asshole!" he said, pushing back. "You don't see anyone else upset about the music do you? Go fuck yourself!"

With that, I sprinted down the hallway, knocking on 12 dorm room doors. Eventually, 16 people emerged from nine rooms, including the greasy guy I yelled at on the bus two days ago (he has since trimmed himself up and looks respectable) and I asked them to join me outside of Wuss 1 and Wuss 2's room.

"Who here is really annoyed by the music coming from the dorm room of these two monumental assholes?!" I asked the bewildered throng.

As proof that I'm probably the luckiest son of a bitch ever, everyone raised their hand, including Mr. Greasy, although I think he was just stunned that I was mad enough to rally half the dorm wing wearing nothing but a pair of boxer shorts with a smiley face on them. Like I said, don't wake me up during a wet dream. Ever.

Confronted with a unanimous vote, and a resident assistant now aligning himself with my superior numbers, Wuss 1 and Wuss 2 capitulated to my demands. My demands were as follows:

"Now, turn that fucking thing down, for now and forever, and if I ever have to come out of my room again because your music is too loud, I'll wake the entire fucking dorm to make my point. Thank you all, for coming out to support me. I'm going back to sleep."

I stood there, locking eyes with Wuss 1 as the rest of the crowd disbanded.

"You just made a major fucking enemy today, wussy," warned Wuss 1 as if I cared.

"Yes, and I'm sure you're a real threat to me," I retorted. "Go crawl back with your little buddy there and engage in whatever ass sex you two dabble in. And keep the music down."

I went back to into my room, certain that I had made the biggest mistake of my infant college career. I was about to crawl back into bed when there was a knock at the door. I swallowed hard, grabbed the doorknob, and swung open the heavy metal door, fully believing I was about to suffer the most insane ass kicking of my life. Instead, I was greeted by Mr. Greasy who was standing there grinning with his hand extended.

"Dude, that was the coolest thing I've ever seen anyone do," he marveled as I shook his hand. "I really, really want to party with you some time."

"Oh, um, look me up this weekend," I responded, somewhat blown away. "Sorry about the whole thing on the bus a couple days ago."

"No you're not," he said smiling. "But, you got me thinking. Besides, it's a good policy to keep crazy people like you on my side."

With that, we shook hands again, and I went back to sleep.

After that, the rest of my day was gravy.

Posted by Ryan at 11:18 AM | Comments (0)

When Cooler Heads Prevail A

When Cooler Heads Prevail

A couple recent letters to the editor:

I consider every Muslim I see a terrorist until proven innocent. I am not ashamed of that opinion. Deal with it.
Jason Wunneburger
Denver, CO

Are you kidding me? Who cares how President Bush says "nuclear"? The only thing I care about is when we will use them on Iraq.
Kenneth Thoman
Shrewsbury, MA

Posted by Ryan at 11:07 AM | Comments (0)

September 20, 2002

A List of Things America

A List of Things America is not Prepared For

As if the vast majority of the American public isn't scared to the point of shitting themselves about additional terrorist attacks, we learn from the level-headed reporters at that Agriculture Seen Vulnerable to Attack. Yes, according to the opening paragraph of the article, which must have gone through several drafts to optimize shock value, The United States is vulnerable to bioterrorism aimed at farms that produce the nation's food, the National Research Council concludes in a new report.

Now, before you race home to torch your refridgerator and try planting a quick garden before the encroaching onset of the Minnesota winter, let's ask an expert what he thinks of the situation.

"It's not a matter of 'if.' It's a matter of 'when,"' said R. James Cook, a council member from Washington State University. "While there may be a very low probability now, what about in 20 years?"

Okay, Mr. Cook isn't apparently the soothing voice I should have consulted. The point it this: Of fucking course there will be a higher probability in 20 years. There's also a higher probability that I'll develop cancer, or at the very least a debilitating venereal disease, after the passing of 20 years. There's a higher probability of anything happening anywhere in 20 years. Hell, Lance Bass could actually fly in space in 20 years. Who knows?

I'm in no way trying to downplay the significance of 9/11. It truly was a national tragedy, and it still leaves me teary eyed when I see footage of that horrible day. However, it just seems as if news agencies have embraced 9/11 as an excuse to let their paranoid minds run wild. Granted, anthrax gave us all a nice little scare, but in the end it proved to be a highly ineffectual means of attack, causing five deaths. Compared to the 3,000 that died when the planes struck, that's nothing.

The council report released Thursday said an attack on food production probably wouldn't lead to famine or malnutrition, but it could hurt public confidence in the food supply and disrupt the economy, costing millions if not billions of dollars.

Shit, is that all? Public confidence in the food supply could be hurt? Hell, my confidence in the food supply was hurt when I saw that the cuisine at the Minnesota State Fair included deep fried Twinkies (and, no, I'm not kidding). My advice to, however, is that, if the worst case scenario is shaken confidence, perhaps they could run a complementary photo of someone about to eat a hot dog with a worried expression on his or her face, rather than the disturbing image of a ditch full of bovine being torched (a stock photo from Britain's foot-and-mouth disease woes from a year ago).

Although Veneman's department commissioned the report, it had sought to withhold its release, fearing it could be used as a resource for terrorists planning to attack the nation's food supply.

Oh, yeah, media outlets and government offices have shown remarkable restraint in keeping a lid on potential terrorist targets. In the days following 9/11, we've been treated to a smorgasboard of potential terror strikes, some targets that may not have been even entertained in the minds of terrorists until they saw it on TV.

TERRORIST 1: Man, I really feel like spreading some good ole' fashioned terror today, but I just can't think of what to do.

TERRORIST 2: Hmmm, well, turn on the TV.

ANNOUNCER: A government spokesmen today, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that America's water supply is dangerously at risk to terrorist attack, saying that a five gallon mixture of the following chemicals: cyanide, potassium, Tidy Bowl toilet cleaner and Diet Coke, poured into the New York City water supply, could result in millions of deaths in a 24 hour period.

TERRORISTS 1 and 2 (biffing themselves on the forehead): Why the hell didn't we think of that?!!

I know, I know. I learned early on in my mass communications classess that the journalist's credo is "If it bleeds, it leads," or, alternatively "If it shocks, it rocks." Still, I think the media's infatuation with potential attacks somehow takes focus away from the fact that America has been a pretty quiet and safe place to live in the year following 9/11.

Yesterday, a suicide Palestinian bomber killed six Israelis in Tel Aviv, a reality of daily life no matter where you're at or what you're doing in Israel, whether you're Israeli, Palestinian, American, or other. Now that's living in terror.

Now, in a bid to boost my site traffic, I'm going to repeat the name Hanna Montana a few times. Hanna Montana. Hanna Montana. Hanna Montana. Hanna Montana. Hanna Montana. Hanna Montana. Oh, and Amanda Overmeyer. Amanda Overmeyer. Amanda Overmeyer. Evanna Lynch. Evanna Lynch. Evanna Lynch.

Posted by Ryan at 03:26 PM | Comments (0)

I Missed My Trip to

I Missed My Trip to Mars Last Night

Thanks to the random neural firings of the subconscious brain during slumber, I experienced yet another totally tripped out dream just prior to my alarm clock blaring me to reality.

So, there I was, sitting on a bus bound for somewhere. I was wearing this un-Godly heavy suit, complete with an unweildy helmet and an air-conditioning unit strapped on my back. Well, obviously, I was all decked out for my upcoming trip to Mars. This is what my brain told me anyway, totally pushing aside reality, and the fact that, just one day before, I was sitting in an IBM office writing an article about electromagnetic radiation. Details, details.

How is the brain able to totally wash away waking memories like that? If it can do it during sleep, what keeps it from just clicking off during a waking day? Just imagine, you're out for a run, and suddenly *BAM* you think you can breathe underwater because you've been genetically altered by German scientists, so you jump in the lake and swim to the bottom. . . and then you die. Perhaps it's best not to think about the power of the brain.

Anyway, when it dawns on me that I'm on a bus bound for a rocket bound for Mars, I naturally start to panic, because I know that a trip to Mars is probably a tad dangerous. After all, my brain decided to remember that a manned trip to Mars had never been done before -- this was the first. Oh, shit. It's a seven month trip to get to Mars! What am I going to do aboard a rickety ship for seven months? What if something goes wrong? Why me?

But, at the same time I'm working myself into a massive panic, I'm also incredibly excited that I was selected for such a historic and unique mission, totally dismissing the fact that I'm about as unqualified as an earthworm to undergo inter-planetary travel. As far as my brain is concerned, there must be SOME reason I'm headed for Mars, and that's all I need to know.

I get off the bus at the base of an insanely large rocket booster. My family is waving and blowing kisses from a distance (can't have germs you know). I take an elevator to the top of the rocket, where I'm informed we'll be docking with the larger craft once in orbit around earth. Oh, I guess that makes sense. I'm strapped into my seat, my heart pounding furiously with the knowledge I'm pretty much sitting atop a controlled bomb. 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2. . .

I'm woken up by Shakira, and now I'm at work. I'd rather be on my way to Mars.

Posted by Ryan at 10:51 AM | Comments (0)

September 18, 2002

"Keeping it Zipped Up," c.

"Keeping it Zipped Up," c. Ryan Rhodes, Dec. 3, 2001

I'm very easily distracted. As long as I can remember, my attention span has been woefully short term. Every little thing that can divert my attention diverts my attention. I could be concentrating on diffusing a ticking time bomb, and the ticking would distract me. I'd eventually start humming a tune along with the ticking beat, forget that I'm supposed to diffuse a bomb, and "BOOM!," no more marginally humorous columnist.

For example, I recently attended a meeting at work, and despite my best attempts to pay attention, I was distracted the entire hour because one of the meeting participants had his zipper down. And I don't mean slightly down either. This zipper was unzipped down to the last metal zipper tooth, and I could think of nothing beyond that unzipped zipper.

I'm still pretty new to my job, and it's important that I learn as much as I can during every meeting, but all I managed to learn during that meeting was that an unzipped zipper, though silent by nature, is deafening due to its very presence. He just sat there across the table from me, his pants in a perpetual yawn, oblivious to his open fly and its debilitating effect on me.

I think my boss was discussing magazine content, but I wasn't sure, because all I could hear was: "Now, for the next issue zipper, we should have a zipper article about zipping unzipped zippers. Our magazine needs more exposure, like an unzipped zipper. Isn't that right, zipper? Zip zip zipper zip zip."

I really should have mentioned something, but I just assumed a more senior member of the staff would speak up, the zipper would be zipped, and I could focus on something important. Alas, no one said a word. And I know everyone saw the unzipped zipper. It was obvious, oh so obvious. I'm fairly certain people in Afghanistan knew about the open zipper.

Rather than say something directly, I opted for subtle hints, like adjusting my belt and dropping my pen on my own crotch, anything to get his attention focused on his own
groin and open air vent. Instead, he clasped his hands behind his head and stretched out, giving the world an even better view of his zipper problem. This was not happening.

How could everyone stay silent about this? The quality of the meeting was surely suffering, yet no one would put an end to the madness. His tucked-in shirt was even
sticking out of the hole, as if waving a small flag of surrender.

About halfway through the meeting, I realized that the zipper stress was starting to take its toll on me, and I felt a small bead of sweat trickle its way from my armpit and down my side. No anti-perspirant in the world could hold up to this kind of pressure.

"Now if we look ahead to the February zipper issue, we'll see zippers, and of course zippers. We have to take steps to prepare for these zippers. Zipper zip zipper, zip zip."

Another bead of sweat made its way down my side, and I found myself trying to understand how his zipper had managed to descend to its current position. Maybe there
was a strong magnet under the table, capable of tugging zippers all the way down, placed there by a prankster with a weakness for the old "unzipped zipper" gag. No, that couldn't be it. Otherwise, all our zippers would be down.

Maybe he was in the bathroom prior to the meeting and realized he was going to be late: "Holy smokes, look at the time! I'm going to be late for the meeting! I can maybe quick wash my hands, but I just don't have time for my zipper."

After 45 minutes, the stress had become unbearable, and I hadn't been able to follow much of the meeting at all because of that accursed zipper. To alleviate some of the
pressure, I gazed briefly out the window, and when I turned back, the zipper had been zipped.

I should have been monumentally relieved, but I wasn't. I was actually kind of mad. After all, for 45 minutes I had endured the zipper nightmare, and I had earned, at the very least, the satisfaction of seeing his face when he finally realized his zipper was down. But, no, that little glimmer of satisfaction was denied me because I allowed my vigilance to falter and I looked out the window. It just wasn't fair.

The more I thought about it (and trust me, it dominated my thoughts for hours after the meeting) the more I came to believe that he was waiting for me to look away so he could zip his zipper. That way, he could pretend his zipper had never been down, and I'd be forced to dismiss everything as a figment of my imagination. But, his ploy didn't work.

That zipper was down, and I have the sweat stains to prove it.

Posted by Ryan at 11:02 PM | Comments (0)

September 17, 2002

On Death and Dying Oh,

On Death and Dying

Oh, man, if I didn't have a round of golf to go to in a few minutes, I would soooooo write something funny about these two stories. A definite column for next week. For sure.

Sexy Pin-Ups Model Coffins for Funeral Home

Cadaver Takes Unexpected Detour

Posted by Ryan at 01:24 PM | Comments (0)

September 16, 2002

Serves Him Right Earlier this

Serves Him Right

Earlier this month, the now famous Qatar-based news agency Al Jazeera (roughly translated as "This Will Really Piss the Americans Off"), ran exclusive interviews with a couple of al Queda operatives who took credit for orchestrating the 9/11 attacks. Well, lo and behold, one of the operatives, Ramzi Binalshibh, was identified and captured shortly after the broadcast (hey, no one said these terrorists were smart).

BINALSHIBH: You know what sounds like a good idea? I should expose myself to the television watching world and take credit for coordinating the 9/11 attacks. Doesn't that sound brilliant? What could possibly go wrong with that? A little publicity could do wonders for our crazy-as-batshit cause. Right?

After a lengthy extradition process, Binalshibh is now on his way to U.S. custody, for what intelligence officials say will be a long, intense interrogation.

LONG, INTENSE INTERROGATION: (n) -- To have the piss literally beat out of you in the pursuit of information. To willingly spew valuable information to avoid prolonged exposure to fists and boots and truth extracting serums. To sing like a plucked canary.

Not surprisingly, given the impending interrogation awaiting him, Binalshibh has refused to admit his identity, insisting his name was Abdullah, Pakistani official said. But U.S. officials in Washington said they were convinced the man seized Wednesday — the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks — is Binalshibh.

BINALSHIBH: No, no, no! You have the wrong man! My name is Abdullah and I am a simple goatherder. I know nothing of the Sept. 11 attacks that killed 3,000 innocents, or how, through careful planning and disbursement of funds, our great al Queda organization was able to. . .oops, I mean. . . my many goats say "Baaaahh" when in need of water.

Our foremost gifted orator, one President George W. Bush, even chimed in to praise the capture and extradition.

"Thanks to the efforts of our folks and people in Pakistan, we captured one of the planners and organizers of the September 11 attack that murdered thousands of people, including Italians," Bush said before meeting at Camp David with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Mr. Bush did not elaborate on the apparent distinction between "folks and people."

"One by one, we're hunting the killers down. We are relentless, we are strong, and we're not going to stop," Bush added. The last part of Mr. Bush's speech was reportedly inspired by one of the Borg episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Posted by Ryan at 12:39 PM | Comments (1)

Ye Ole' Hangout. Well, One

Ye Ole' Hangout. Well, One of Them

I capped a very busy weekend with a trip to Lewiston to visit my good friend and former college roommate, Troy. His job schedule as a Minnesota State Trooper pretty much ensures that the only time we can get together for a couple of beers is on strange days and times like Sunday at 7:15 p.m. or Tuesday at noon, or possibly sometime during the Ides of March.

We sat and watched the Vikings play a typically stupid Vikings game, consisting of all offense, with a defensive game plan that is apparently designed to exhaust the opponent's offense by repeatedly making them run 80 yards downfield in four or less plays. It worked. By the end of yesterday's game, the Buffalo Bills were pooped, mainly because they chalked up 45 points to the Vikings' paltry 39. But, that's neither here nor there.

Troy and I decided to drive to Winona to eat. Winona, of course, is the home of Winona State University, our alma mater. Winona is a pleasant Mississippi River community, situated on a giant sandbar, tucked within a protective barricade of majestic bluffs. As we descended into the valley, I experienced the typical wave of nostalgia I feel each time I find myself driving the old familiar streets. It has only been four years since I graduated, but everything seems strangely distant, strangely old.

"I don't know why, but the women going to school here now seem like they're so young," said Troy as we watched a pair of female joggers gallop past. I explained to him that the freshmen this year are about a decade younger than we are, and we both looked at each other in disbelief, as if that realization had escaped us until that very moment. We groaned.

We ate at the Great Hunan, a Chinese restaurant that was, without a doubt, my most favorite place to eat when I was in college. They have since remodeled the inside, and I'm fairly certain they were able to afford to do so primarily due to vast amounts of money I deposited in their coffers. I ordered Hunan Chicken and crab rangoon, and I ate it with gusto, despite Troy's on-duty Trooper story about cleaning bits of brain off a telephone pole after a motorcycle rider with no helmet forfeited his cranium while traveling at an excess of 100 mph. Boy those crab rangoon are tasty.

After eating, we stood outside the restaurant, breathing in the cool pre-autumn air. The street looked the same, and it felt the same (if such a feeling is possible), almost as if a shade of my former self walked by and brushed my shoulder.

"I've got an idea," said Troy, as if he had the same feeling. "Let's drop by Bull's Eye for a beer, just for old time's sake."

Bull's Eye Beer Hall is located about 20 feet from the Great Hunan, a dingy little drinking station that hasn't changed a nail in ten years. There's no atmosphere. Students pretty much go there to get drunk. We sauntered onto a pair of worn bar stools and noticed that the bartender was the same guy from six years ago. Even the old and unused Ms. Pac Man game still sat forlornly in the corner, with the images of Inky, Pinky, Blinky and Clyde forever burned into the screen. Ghosts of ghosts.

"I got drunk there, and there, and there, and there, and there," said Troy, pointing at each table down the wall behind us. "Oh, and I got drunk in that corner, too."

The scary thing was, I was with Troy during all those times, drinking right alongside him. How the hell did we manage to graduate anyway? Yet, there we sat, the State Trooper and the journalist, two professionals that normally distrust one another, gulping a beer and watching the Vikings lose in overtime.

We finished our beers and exited back into the early evening air. Back to reality. Back to real life.

Posted by Ryan at 10:52 AM | Comments (1)

September 13, 2002

Story Time, Children. Gather 'Round

Story Time, Children. Gather 'Round

During the year I lived in Tokyo, I saw myself as something of an adventurous soul. On any given weekend, I would just start randomly boarding trains just to see where I would end up. I viewed it as a test of my problem solving acumen to find my way back through the city to my little apartment on the fifth floor. I got lost plenty of times, but so long as I had a large wad of yen in my pocket, not to be confused with having a yen for a large wad, I could pretty much afford a taxi cab home from anywhere, so long as I didn't accidently stray to China, which was highly unlikely given the body of water and China's strict immigration laws.

The fun thing about train rides in Japan is that no two rides are the same. One train could be crammed to the doors with people, and the next train could be so sparsely populated, you have an entire car to yourself, free to sit down and enjoy the smooth rocking journey in complete solitude. Still, crowded trains are by far better, mainly because it's fun to watch an entire trainload of people gently swaying to every turn in the track, as if everyone is dancing to a silent song. And the people watching is the best, because riding the train is so much a part of a daily Japanese life, you get a window into people's routines. Some catch up on their reading, paging through worthless little comic book stories that frequently get left on trains or can be seen piled high in trash cans immediately outside the trains. And the Japanese can sleep standing up, which is just hysterical to witness, particularly to a young man from the American midwest who was only familiar with cow tipping. Occasionally, the concept of Jap tipping (can I be any more un-PC?) almost had me in conniptions. I could also go into the rampant groping that transpires late at night, but that's a story for a different day.

One train ride in particular stands out in my mind. It was a bright winter afternoon, and I was lost as hell. As far as I could tell, I was either two stops from home or a hundred stops away. I had stopped at several different stations and ambled around the area, taking in the occasional local delicacy and dabbling in a little Pachinko or slot machine gambling. One thing about Tokyo, you're never far away from something to do.

I eventually boarded an express train, which more or less meant it only stopped at major stations, skipping the smaller ones as if to say "you're not worthy little one." As I stood in the middle of the train, gripping a pole for support, I became aware that a young Japanese woman was staring intently at me. Normally, I would take it as flirtation, but there was something flashing in her eyes that made me feel uncomfortable. So, I relinquished my grasp on the pole and sauntered further down the car and took up hand residence on another stabilizing pole.

I turned around, and was startled to see the little woman standing two feet from me, with pure hatred written on every feature of her face. Suddenly, she held up a picture of an infant, an infant with decidedly western characteristics mixed with Japanese. Uh oh. Just as the train hit a curve, sending me lurching toward the mad young woman, she exploded into a diatribe of venomous Japanese that had every head in the train focused in our direction.

Now, my grasp of the Japanese language at that point was barely enough to get me through stores and restaurants, and somehow saying "Icura desu ka?" (how much is this?) just didn't seem appropriate to the situation. Still, the little fireball in front of me continued with her verbal assault, and an occasional bead of spit would strike me in the face. When I finally raised my hand to wipe the dew from my cheek, the woman punched me in the stomach. Hard. Somehow, the fact that I managed to stay standing despite her abdominal attack seemed to piss her off even more, so she elevated the volume of her tirade, and all I could do was look around helplessly at a sea of wide eyes obviously enjoying the drama tremendously.

Finally, a middle-aged Japanese man stood up and grabbed the woman from behind. She twirled around, and the two began a verbal sparring match that reminded me of watching a movie in fast-forward. The only break in the conversation came when the woman turned around and punched me in the stomach again, an act that prompted the man to grab her arms and restrain her from very likely breaking one of my ribs. Once she was satisfactorily within his control, he explained the situation to me in very broken English.

"She think you father of child," he yelled, trying to outhowl the restrained woman in his arms. "But, she not okay here (releasing grip long enough to point at her head). She ride this train lots. Says everyone is father of child. You get off train at next stop. I hold her until doors shut."

I nodded enthusiastically. At that moment, I would rather have been in front of the train than on board. The woman proved to be quite a dynamo, much more than the nice Japanese man had bargained for. She managed to elbow him in the stomach, free herself, and come charging at me with her fingernails aimed at my face, intent on raking the corneas free from my eyes.

"But wait," I thought. "I need my eyes." I was able to cover my face in the nick of time, so she focused her rage, instead, on my exposed ears, and I think she very nearly succeeded in pulling them free from the side of my head, but she was stopped just prior to that when three men, including the nice Japanese man who explained the situation, wrestled her off me and dragged her to a seat where they. . . wait for it. . . sat on her. Yep, three grown Japanese men were sitting in a line atop a squirming and enraged young Japanese woman, and they remained sitting on her for about five minutes before the train finally came to a stop.

I couldn't disembark from that horror ride fast enough. I practically sprinted from the train, and I remember whispering to the doors "close, damn you, close!" They did, and the train began to pull away. The last thing I saw was the three men stand up, freeing the woman, who promptly ran up and slammed her face against the window, yelling at me and spraying saliva against the glass.

I took a cab home after that. fuck the train.

Posted by Ryan at 11:47 AM | Comments (0)

September 12, 2002

Time for a Little Bass

Time for a Little Bass Bashing

As proof that there is a pinch of justice still left in this crazy world, N' Sync singer Lance Bass is officially grounded. Cue the chorus. *hallelujia* <--Or however the heck that's spelled.

For those of you who have been living 500 feet below ground with your fingers in your ears, you may not know that there was a lot of hoopla about Lance Bass training in Star City Russia because he was scheduled to travel to the international space station during a flight this fall. The bitter pill of realization that a no-talent hack pretty boy with a name like Lance Bass (a name more suited to the fishing industry, or possibly the porn industry) was about to take my rightful place aboard the space station just couldn't be swallowed.

Therefore, it was with great pleasure that I read a article explaining that Bass was pulled from the crew roster after his backers couldn't pony up the dough to continue his training. According to the story, RadioShack was the only such sponsor to be named publicly. Procter & Gamble and a soft-drink company were said to be additional sponsors. For the record, this blogger is officially boycotting RadioShack, Proctor & Gamble and a soft-drink company of my choosing (at this moment, I'm thinking Mr. Pibb or Tab, if they still make Tab).

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for making space travel attainable by the lowly average citizen with a bankroll the size of the GNP of Sudan, but the thought of Bass, a 23-year old punk who went on record as saying that going into space would be "cool," just made my head scream. Cool? Argh!

Perhaps the best paragraph of the entire article was, It was far too late for another space passenger to fill Bass' seat. Russian space agency spokesman Sergei Gorbunov said Bass' weight allotment would be taken up by a cargo container filled with equipment for the space station. There, strapped in a seat once reserved for the pretty boy crooner, would be a package of dried fruit, a stack of porno magazines, and a few odd pieces of technology to keep the station in orbit. Now that's justice.

Also in the news, the winning lottery numbers for the New York lottery yesterday? 9-1-1. Interesting.

Posted by Ryan at 12:22 PM | Comments (0)

September 11, 2002

"Anatomy of a Really Long

"Anatomy of a Really Long Drive" c. Ryan Rhodes, May 17, 2001

12:30 p.m. - I get behind the wheel of my car. I'm well rested and eager to embark on the long journey ahead of me. I toggle the radio until a rip-roaring tune comes in. I'm in driving mode.

12:45 p.m. - I stop at a gas station to buy a pop. My gas gauge reads full after filling it with $30 worth of fuel. I settle into my car seat and note how nice and comfortable it feels. This is going to be a grand journey.

12:50 p.m. - I crack open my pop and take a nice big swig. Another great song comes on the radio. Nothing beats the open road.

1:05 p.m. - I'm on the Interstate. I set my cruise control to six miles above the speed limit. I settle back in my comfy seat, tilt the rearview mirror, and steal glances at the people driving alongside me. Life is good.

1:07 p.m. - I pass my first distance marker; Destination 179 miles. No sweat. I take another long swig of pop and cruise past a rest area. I don't need to rest. Rest is for sissies. A few bugs commit horrible acts of windshield suicide. This amuses me.

1:28 p.m. - My pop is almost gone. There's a slight tingle in my bladder. I pass a sign that says "Next Rest Area 56 miles." No problem. I can make that standing on my head (if I weren't driving).

1:35 p.m. - The radio station is getting a little fuzzy. It takes awhile, but I finally find a station that comes in clearly. It's 80's music, which isn't my favorite, but it will do for now. My bladder feels uncomfortable. Where's that rest area?

1:45 p.m. - I encounter road construction. A lot of road construction. Miles upon miles of road construction. For as much road construction that appears to be going on, there aren't many people working. I really have to go to the bathroom. If only I wasn't traveling at 30 mph. That empty pop bottle would make a suitable temporary bathroom. Get that idea out of your head right now!!

2 p.m. - I finally reach the end of the construction. I'm cruising again! A bathroom or rest area is now of the utmost importance. A large June bug splats against my windshield.

2:10 p.m. - I pull into a rest area and make my way gingerly to the bathroom. In the bathroom, I notice that the toilet paper is unbelievably thin. Why do rest areas have such thin toilet paper? And where can I get some?

2:15 p.m. - I get back in my car and take the time to locate a suitable radio station. I decide to purchase another pop before disembarking. And I'm off again.

2:23 p.m. - I lost my radio station and all I can find are country stations. How many songs about trucks can people come up with? It looks like it may rain. Good. A heavy rain will wash away the yellow bug carcasses from my windshield.

2:30 p.m. - It starts to rain, and I eagerly snap on my wipers. My windshield immediately becomes smeared with an impervious coat of yellow insect lacquer. That's just great.

2:32 p.m. - The rain stops. Now what am I supposed to do? I can barely see. And why are they still singing about trucks? That's it! I'm switching to tapes.

2:40 p.m. - I stop at a gas station to try to clean the bug goop off my windshield, with minimal results. I kind of have to go to the bathroom again, but not really. I'll wait until the next rest stop.

2:46 p.m. - I see a sign that reads "Next Rest Area 52 Miles." Is this some sort of cruel joke? I take a swig of pop in protest to the evil disbursement of rest areas. I regret the act almost immediately. This seat is so uncomfortable. It feels like stone.

3:10 p.m. - Waterfalls, rivers, streams, ponds, rain. Man oh man, do I need another bathroom! Wherefore art thou rest area? My music has become boring, but no stations are coming in. How hard is it to broadcast music? I decide to bite the bullet and listen to some guy sing about his Ford pickup truck.

3:11 p.m. - I turn off my radio completely.

3:20 p.m. - I arrive at another rest area and make small conversation at the urinal with some guy who drives a motorcycle. I'll bet he doesn't listen to music about trucks. He says it's been a long ride. I muster up my most manly "Yup." I then zip up and head back out to my car. I throw the two empty pop bottles in the trash and vow not to drink another drop until I reach my destination.

3:35 p.m. - The guy on the motorcycle passes me and gives me a thumbs up sign. I honk my horn. We bonded as only two urinal men can bond. His motorcycle is really loud.

3:48 p.m. - I'm so sick of this drive I could scream. My back hurts, my behind hurts, my head hurts, and this seat feels like spikes along my body. How many bugs can possibly seek out my windshield in a day? It's unfathomable. I've gone through about $25 in gas, to say nothing of the mental anguish of all the country music I simply can't escape.

3:57 p.m. - I reach my destination, and I'm greeted at the door by a very pleasant young woman with an award-winning smile.

"How was the drive?" she asks.

"Not too bad," I respond. "It was a little long, but overall it wasn't too bad."

Posted by Ryan at 11:12 PM | Comments (0)

And From the Lame Excuse

And From the Lame Excuse Department Comes. . .

After a strenuous two hours of hapkido, complete with mega-bruised forearms, I opted for a quick stop at Subway, because I like to Eat Fresh, and Jared is apparently some sort of weight loss god because he discovered a low fat diet and walking means less pounds. Pure genius.

Well, anyway, I was waiting in line, knowing full well that I wanted a turkey breast foot long sub on wheat bread (lettuce, tomatoes, onions and green peppers), but the sandwich artist on duty received a phone call from his girlfriend, so I had to wait. I love waiting in line, especially when I get the chance to hear a sandwich artist make kissy-face noises into a phone. Midway through his six minute chat, I heard the following:

SANDWICH ARTIST: No, I don't want to cook tomorrow. I do enough cooking here at work.

Cooking? I think not. Cutting a phallic-shaped piece of bread lengthwise, piling on pre-cut food items, and slathering mayonaisse and oil on it does not constitute cooking. I don't care if there is ocassionally the need to use a microwave to heat up squiggles of bacon, it still does not make you a cook in even the loosest sense of the word.

Oh, and for the record, I would protest having to wear those Sandwich Artist subway shirts, because there is no art school in the nation that specializes in the art of the sandwich. Few modern art critics sit around and mull whether the sandwich falls in with the greater cubism works of Picasso or whether it is more in the surreal realm of Salvadore Dali. I have never seen an art gallery featuring a Subway sandwich, although I would call it something witty, like "You Want a Drink or Chips With That?"

I am in no way disparaging those that work in the Subway chain. Having worked in a grocery store for three years myself, I understand the irritation inherent in putting up with impatient souls. I guess I'm just mad that my sandwich was put on hold so he could chat with his girlfriend.

What an asshole.

Posted by Ryan at 12:01 PM | Comments (0)

September 10, 2002

Late for Work, but Oh,

Late for Work, but Oh, Those Dreams

Well, I was about a half hour late for work today. No big deal. I could have even made it on time, but I just kind of loped back and forth from my room to the bathroom, refreshing MusicMatch because it insisted on playing nothing buy Lenny Kravitz (Runny CrapShits). Okay, his music isn't bad, but come on: he doesn't warrant so much constant replay. I officially know exactly what will happen "Once I Dig In." Answer: "I'll Be Having Such a Good Time."

I awoke at 8:15, and there was something picking at the back of my mind that told me I was missing something. That something was the 8:30 magazine art/edit post mortem for the September issue. Oops. That's what I get for not checking my calendar before I leave each evening. When a meeting consists of about six people, and you're absent, chances are someone will notice. In my case, everyone noticed. But, I have a perfect excuse: I was having stellar dreams.

You know those dreams, the ones where you're fluttering between the conscious and subconscious world because your alarm clock is going off every nine minutes after you swat blindly at the snooze button. They're dreams that make no sense, but are flashing images of pleasant things, ideas and, above all, the warm fluffy feeling of mid-morning sleep.

The reality of the waking world, the world of missed meetings and Runny CrapShits, just can't compare to that.

Posted by Ryan at 10:43 AM | Comments (0)

September 09, 2002

We're All Looking for Something

We're All Looking for Something

Sometimes, our search for someone, or something, special leads us to the Internet, where we perform a Google search on "I+love"+rectum+"my+boyfriend."

Wait a minute. No, that doesn't, or shouldn't, happen. Come to think of it, what does that search even mean? And why does my site show up after doing a search like that? No matter how you rearrange the words, it still comes out seeming, well, wrong.

"Boyfriend, I love my rectum" No!

"I love my boyfriend, my rectum." No!

"My love, I rectum my boyfriend." No!

So, to the soul who stumbled across my site after performing a search on "I+love"+rectum+"my+boyfriend," may I just waggle my finger in your face and say "For shame!"

On a similar note, the parade of people who find my site after searching for "exposed+thongs" continues unabated.

Posted by Ryan at 03:48 PM | Comments (0)

September 08, 2002

Can't Hide From Remembering I've

Can't Hide From Remembering

I've been mentally preparing myself for this week, this week destined to be clogged with Sept. 11 anniversary documentaries, survivor interviews, commentary and everything else that comes with observing the tragedy. I had resolved to stay away from the television, shielding myself from what I believed to mostly be a ratings grab by the major networks determined to outdo one another with their "exclusive" interviews and insights. But, my resolve faltered.

I blame the lazy Sunday, the first Sunday of the professional football season. It's so hard to stay away from TV when you know somewhere the Vikings are ochestrating yet another heartbreaking loss to a bad team. Of course, they lost to Chicago with seconds left, and I eventually found myself channel surfing to CNN, where I started watching a 9/11 documentary that totally absorbed me.

I remembered. I remembered the disbelief as I drove to work that morning, hearing the impossible news that an unknown number of airplanes had been hijacked and were being flown into buildings. "That can't be right," I thought. "No one is sick enough to conjure up something that horrible."

I remembered. I remembered feeling sick, walking numbly to my office, with work being the last thing on my mind. I simply wanted to separate fact and fiction, to find out what was truly, factually unfolding in New York. The Internet was snail slow, with everyone with a modem intent on learning just what I wanted to know. Web pages appeared at a painfully slow rate, but the images they displayed couldn't have been imagined by even they most psychotic mind. Builidings ablaze. People hanging from windows. People plummeting to their deaths rather than face the inferno certain to sear the flesh from their bodies. People guilty of no crime save trying to live their lives, destined to never again see their loved ones, and experience horrors no one should ever have to endure, all because some meglomaniacal zealot believed it was within his own warped Islamic belief structure to plan and order the indiscriminate killing of civilians.

I remembered. I remembered a solitary tear, the only tear I recall shedding that entire week, dropping from my cheek and landing on the "Home" key of my keyboard, and that was, quite frankly, the only place I wanted to be at that moment: home. I wanted to be home with my family, but that was simply not possible. With my parents in Tokyo and my brother and his wife in Colorado, all I could do was sit. And worry. And keep watching the horror flashing on my computer screen.

I remembered. I remembered a voice squawking over the IBM public address system, telling IBM employees to continue their workday as usual, and to limit Internet usage to work-related projects only. I heard a a spattering of "fuck yous" and "go fuck yourselves" emanating from offices down the hall. It was like asking Anne Frank to ignore the bootsteps coming up the stairs. Finally, IBM clued into the fact that productivity for that day was pretty much nil, and they started broadcasting news reports on the monitors in the halls.

I remembered. I remembered the bubbling cauldron of mixed emotions running through my mind, emotions so strong they at times felt as though they could actually seep, thick and black, from the pores in my skin. Hate. Anger. Sadness. Despair. Rage. Emotions I rarely feel, and I hope I never feel them all at the same time ever again. They left me exhausted, yet unable to sleep. And I'm in Minnesota, forever away from where the real drama was unfolding. I could only imagine what New Yorkers were going through. They were so distant, yet they were all right there, flickering human drama broadcast right there in my bedroom.

I remembered. And I will never forget.

Posted by Ryan at 10:45 PM | Comments (0)

September 06, 2002

Of Wangs and Bleegs Jen

Of Wangs and Bleegs

Jen says: You're obsessed with your wang.

Ryan says: "Ah, my sweet, sweet wang." *smooch* *smooch* *smooch* "I love your smooth texture and your bulbous violet head." *smooch* *smooch* *smooch* <--insert Pepe Le Pew voice here.

Jen says: That's gross.

Ryan says: But very funny. You're such a douche.

Jen says: It wasn't funny.

Ryan says: "bulbous violet head"

Ryan says: Nary a snicker?

Jen says: Nope.

Jen says: Only disgust.

Ryan says: It's so sad when a girl depletes her sense of humor and roams the world devoid of laughter.

Jen says: Isn't it, though?

Jen says: I had a fit of giggles at gaming last night, though.

Jen says: so maybe you're just not funny.

Jen says: Did you ever think of that? huh?

Ryan says: I wave my wang in your humorless direction.

Jen says: Bleeg.

Ryan says: Bleeg? What the heck is a bleeg?

Jen says: It's the sound my brain makes when it bleeds.

Posted by Ryan at 03:35 PM | Comments (0)

September 05, 2002

You Ever Feel "Not So

You Ever Feel "Not So Funny?"

So, I'm sitting here, reading my last two posts, and I realize, "Holy crap, I'm not being very funny." I don't get it. I just haven't felt funny all week. I can't even come up with a funny column idea. It's like I'm suffering humor PMS. I'm just feeling, I don't know, not so funny.

GIRL ON BEACH: Mom, do you ever feel, you know, not so funny?

MOTHER: Sure, honey, we all do at some point. That's why I use Laughasil (TM). It always puts me in a good mood, and I feel funny for the rest of the day.

GIRL ON BEACH: Laughasil? I'll have to try that. Thanks Mom. I love you.

ANNOUNCER: With its patented applicator technology, Laughasil can target the areas that feel the least funny for you. Try Laughasil today and enjoy a brighter tomorrow.

See? Not funny at all. Just for the record, I had to do a Google search on "Douche+Brands" to refresh my memory as to the brands of douches that are out there. And I did the search on company time, so I could be canned for misuse of IBM resources. Whatever.

By the way, I had no idea there were so many brands of douches out there. How many ways can vinegar and water be combined? Well, Massengill apparently found six different ways to do it, including Disposable Douche with Country Flowers, for those women who want to smell like dandelions and baby's breath. They also put out (snicker) Extra Cleansing Vinegar and Water (Twin Pack), for those women who feel so unfresh they have to perform a douche blitzkrieg; as if the extra cleansing formula isn't enough, here's two bottles. I especially like the Vagisil Cleansing Foam, Fresh, Clean Scent, as if there are women out there looking for a douche that smells like pig farts and puppy breath. Of COURSE they want a fresh, clean scent. That's why they're buying the douche in the first place. Speaking of which. . .

Douching is not necessary after a period or intercourse because vaginal tissue is self-cleaning. Hey, just like my oven at home. Douching should never be done after intercourse if a spermicidal jelly (try it on toast, with just a pat of butter), or foam has been used because the douche will wash it away and push the sperm even faster through the cervical opening enhancing chances of pregnancy. Now THAT'S a good marketing slogan: Summer's Eve, The Baby Maker. Vaginal discharge is normal and odour (spell it however you want, it's still funny) can be taken care of with a little soap and water. One study has linked ectopic (tubal) pregnancy to douching. Do not douche if you're pregnant. Better yet, don't douche at all. It's not necessary.

Save the vinegar for cleaning out the coffee pot.

Posted by Ryan at 04:16 PM | Comments (0)

May You Live in Interesting

May You Live in Interesting Times

Just a quick depressing snippet of the world we live in today, compliments of the Reuter's news service:

Terror Alert at Utah Chemical Plant

Karzai Survives Attempt on Life

Palestinians Blow Up Israeli Tank

Survey: Nation's Drug Use Increases

You ever get the feeling that, as human beings, we have a long fucking way to go?

Everyone should just get naked. Nude it up and be all naked. That's my solution.

Posted by Ryan at 03:22 PM | Comments (0)

September 04, 2002

My Father's Voice My Dad

My Father's Voice

My Dad once told me that true art is beautiful, and it has a meaning, and it makes you pause. And, if it doesn't do all of that, it's nothing. That was years ago. Way back when I was in high school. Probably 14 years ago. Somewhere around then.

There's this picture that I keep taped on my desk, with common masking tape, a picture that was, I believe, an advertisement for an insurance company, a picture I tore out of TIME magazine over two years ago. I have no idea what the circumstances were when the picture was snapped, and I don't care. . . I still think it's wonderful.

I only hope this description does it justice:

A young woman, dressed in a snowflake pattern skirt extending to her knees, no shoes, and a gender-neutral white short-sleeved shirt, is cradling a young boy, perhaps three, who is totally content in her arms, despite their surroundings. Their surroundings? They're enveloped in either destruction or poverty. It's totally devastated, whatever it is. A hurricane? A tornado? General poverty? It doesn't matter. The real question, initially, is the relatioship between the two.

Her son? Her little brother? Again, it doesn't matter. They're curled together in an embrace on a one inch thick cushion pillow of "something" that looks dirty, but they don't care, because they're sleeping, despite the nasty apparent destruction around them.

But, there's love, pure, un-diluted love. A love so strong the girl in the picture would defend the frail youth in her arms to her death. You can tell all this from the picture, and I wish I could share it with you with a URL, but I can't.

Rest assured, it's a love I hope I one day feel. A love where I care nothing for myself, a love where the best of me comes through, even if it means my own death, and I don't care, so long as I know someone better than me survives. How will I know that? I just will. There's a picture on my wall that tells me so.

Posted by Ryan at 11:56 PM | Comments (1)

September 03, 2002

My Right to Write Okay,

My Right to Write

wondrous day when all pregnant women simultaneously go into labor. Yeah yeah, I know that's not the case, but wouldn't it be totally wild if it were? Emergency rooms the world over would be flooded with screaming birthing women with broken waters and their fingernails dug four inches into the arms of the men who impregnated them. Hospitals would absolutely dread the onset of Labor Day, making sure all available personnel are on hand to deal with a deluge of infants. News agencies would eagerly cover each Labor Day, comparing the number of births with the previous year, commenting on what the increase or decrease in pregnancies means in the context of today's techno-industrial society.

COMMENTATOR: Well, Ashley, what we can see from this chart is a definite increase in the Labor Day birth rate. This is a clear indication that the world population is screwing at an unprecedented rate. In fact, I have a raging boner right now. Wanna go halves on a bastard?

Whoops, where was I?

I was mowing the parents' lawn last weekend, mainly because they're conveniently living in Tokyo right now and won't be home until Christmas, the lousy jerks. As I was laboring on the lawn, I noticed a package on the deck next to the back door. I made a mental note to check it out after I finished mowing, and then I quickly forgot about it entirely.

I rediscovered the package later that afternoon when I tried to open the door and enjoy a good deck sitting, at which point I tripped over the box and almost stumbled off the deck. I brought the box inside and opened, revealing its contents: a 2002 Writer's Market, a 2002 online Writer's Market, and a book about selling newspaper and magazine columns. I smiled.

Earlier in the summer, I remember talking to my mother about being more proactive in selling my written work. She's convinced I could find an audience with more than the two papers for which I currently write, if I only promoted myself better. I guess she's probably correct, but it's just so much extra work to sell myself. How do prostitutes do it? So I'm lazy. Sue me.

So, the Writer's Market guides are my mother's not-too-subtle hint that I should get out there and sell my written brain incredible power to nag me. I gotta love her.

UPDATE: Unrelated, but I've had thoughts about porn. Porn makes good politics. And boobs are good. Tits are very good.

Dark Knight. Heath Ledger. Batman. The Joker. Dark Knight. Heath Ledger. Batman. The Joker. Dark Knight. Heath Ledger. Batman. The Joker. Kirsten Dunst nude. Kirsten Dunst . Kirsten Dunst . Kirsten Dunst . Kirsten Dunst . Kirsten Dunst . Kirsten Dunst . Kirsten Dunst . Kirsten Dunst nude. Kirsten Dunst . Kirsten Dunst . Kirsten Dunst .

Scarlett Johansson. Scarlett Johansson. Scarlett Johansson. Scarlett Johansson. Scarlett Johansson. Scarlett Johansson. Scarlett Johansson. Scarlett Johansson. Scarlett Johansson.

Drew Barrymore. Drew Barrymore. Drew Barrymore. Drew Barrymore. Drew Barrymore. Drew Barrymore. Drew Barrymore. Drew Barrymore. Drew Barrymore. Drew Barrymore.

Posted by Ryan at 03:15 PM | Comments (0)
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