June 27, 2003

Credit Cards and. . . Doga?

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.


I really can't see myself ever living in New York City except for maybe as a perpetual stream of comedy gold. New Yorkers consistently come up with bizarre ideas, and then they actually dedicate money, honest-to-goodness cold hard cash, in an effort to make their dreams come true. I try to imagine myself as a New York citizen, awaking at 6:32 a.m. on a broken beer bottle in some alley somewhere, recovering from a severe meth binge and nursing a strange ass pain that I don't want to know the source of. As I stumble home, I notice that people own dogs, and those dogs appear excited. In my meth-twisted mind, I come to the conclusion that dogs need to chill out, perhaps through yoga, and I was going to set out to start the first-ever canine yoga class. That, I'm convinced, is what happens with frightening regularity on the streets of New York City. Case in point:

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City dog owners who worry that their furry friends need some stress management have a new option: yoga for dogs.

See? And you all thought I was just being silly, didn't you? You were all laughing, sitting there thinking how utterly ridiculous the concept of dog yoga was, but then it turns out that it actually exists. I don't know about you, but I feel dumber knowing I'm part of the collective human experience right now.

"Ruff Yoga" -- a so-called doga class aimed at relaxing the canine denizens of this often un-Zen city -- is being offered once a month in a downtown city park.

Did I read that right? Did I read "Ruff Yoga" and "doga" in the same sentence. *checking* Oh. My. Yes, there it is. Only once a month? Is that enough? What if your dog is super-stressed out. I mean, what if the dog's owner is so clinically insane they actually conjure up things like "Ruff Yoga?" That poor dog would be high strung enough to require "doga" at least four times a week.

Half an hour on the yoga mat makes Isaac, her cocker spaniel, a calmer dog, said doga devotee Sarah Klein.

There is no explaining here just how far into my skull I just rolled my eyes. Suffice it to say, I briefly saw my brain pulsating.

"Usually when he's in the park, he can't focus," said Klein, who was among nine New Yorkers and their dogs who attended a class on Thursday night.

Focus on what, exactly? On a fire hydrant? What the heck is a dog supposed to focus on, besides the nearest butt to sniff?

First there was a short inspirational reading about dogs and a moment of "OM-ing." Then the women, following a yoga instructor, took their dogs through traditional poses, starting, without a trace of irony, by forming the furry bodies into the inverted V of the "downward dog" pose.

ISAAC: Psssst. Hey, Spike. What the shit is going on here? I think the old woman's been sniffing too much Alpo. She's twisting my body in all sorts of uncomfortable poses here, and what's up with all the OM-ing?

SPIKE: Beats me. All I know is, one minute I'm chasing a squirrel, the next minute I'm stuck around all these wackos. I guess I should count my blessings. At least I wasn't named something stupid, like Isaac.

ISAAC: Oh, I'm so going to bite you when this is all over.

Then they bent over the dogs and curled their best friends into "child's pose," renamed "puppy's pose."

Lots of lonely people in New York. Lots. Of. Lonely. People.

As a crowd of onlookers grew, the women stretched their dogs -- all of them on the small side -- to the left and the right and lifted them in their arms like furry weights. From time to time, they paused to pull the wandering dogs back to their mats and shush their barks.

SPIKE: Bark, bark, bark, bark, barkity, woof, bark (translation: let me go! Let me go! Let me go! Let me go!)

ISAAC: Ha! Ha! Spike can't do the puppy's pose! Spike can't do the puppy's pose!

"Give him a little love," yoga instructor Suzi Teitelman, 31, told her students. "Come forward, give him a kiss," Teitelman instructed as she leaned over her own spaniel, 2-year-old Coaly.

SPIKE and ISAAC (in unison, with heads cocked to one side): Coaly!? Dude! Your name is Coaly?! Hey, everybody, get a load of the spaniel with the super-stupid name of "Coaly!"

COALY: *wimpers softly*

The class, sponsored by national fitness chain Crunch, grew out of Coaly climbing on her owner's yoga mat at home, Teitelman said. "Yoga came from the animals. It's natural instinct," she said.

Well, there you have it, folks. Yoga came from the animals. A more profound statement of truth has never been spoken before and. . . wait just a fucking minute here! That's so monumentally stupid, I think the left side of my brain just popped. Let's see. . . a dog climbs onto a yoga mat, so that must mean that animals instinctively know yoga! No, wait, in my world, if a dog climbs onto a yoga mat, chances are pretty high the pooch was trying to sniff the mat because it smells so entirely much like ass.

Three women left the lesson with their dogs after several minutes, but those who stayed said it was worth it.

"I feel more relaxed and I think she does too," 24-year-old Tracy Alfajora said of Tallula, an 8-month-old, 3-pound Yorkshire terrier who had just finished her first class.

SPIKE, ISAAC and COALY (in unison, with heads cocked quizzically): Tallula?!! Your name is Tallula?!

TALLULA: Don't start guys. Please, just don't start.

Yoga for dogs, sometimes called doga, has taken hold with pet lovers beyond New York.

Oh no. You mean the insanity is elsewhere?

Due on bookshelves in September is "Doga: Yoga for Dogs" from Chronicle Books. The book, based on the fact that some of yoga's best known positions are based on the movements of dogs, has tips on practicing yoga with your dog.

That's it! I'm going to go out today and buy a dog and train it specifically to bite dogs that do "doga."

And yoga guru Bruce Van Horn is studying the physiological effect of yoga on dogs at a New Jersey animal shelter. Using stress reduction techniques like breathing exercises, he aims to calm the dogs and help them be adopted.

Breathing exercises? You mean like panting?

Van Horn, whose book "Yoga for Pets and the People who Love Them" also is due in the fall, says he has noticed results with his own dog. "It's a healing thing," he said.

It's a healing thing. Healing from what? Forget it. Just forget I asked. I don't think I ever want to know.

1. What is your most proud moment?
That one time, in band camp, when I stuck a flute in my pussy. Er, wait. That was American Pie. My most proud moment? Wow. Jeesh. Heavy. I would have to say the time when I was out driving along the Mississippi River and I saw an overturned car slowly sinking in the water and I could tell people were in it, so I jumped in and scrambled to save them, and I did, even though I was only able to rescue one of the three people inside. Okay, none of that actually happened at all, but I think I saw it on television once. My proudest moment was that one time when I had everyone who reads this blog believing that I rescued someone from a sinking car. That was my proudest moment EVER.

2. What are you most proud of in your life?
Hands down, I'm the most proud of graduating from St. Mary's International School in Tokyo. That year entailed the most personal victories for me academically, physically and psychologically, and I still smile when I look at my diploma.

3. What is your most guilty pleasure?
That one time, in band camp, when I stuck a flute in my pussy. Oh, wait. Once again, that was American Pie. Guilty pleasure? Hmmm. Masturbation is too easy of an answer. Let's see. I would have to say chewing on Jolly Ranchers. I know that chewing on those things is murder on the teeth, but you can't beat the flavor rush inherent in chewing rather than sucking on them.

How much shit would you take from your employer before you quit on the spot without another job lined up?
That one time, in band camp. . . okay, okay, that joke has run its course. I think the funny thing about taking shit from an employer is that you often don't realize how much shit you take until you're in a different job. During my last job, I put up with the most dastardly bitch manager ever to haunt the American workforce, but I didn't realize it at the time. Sure, I hated her and I wished disease and plague on her and her family, and I kind of still do, but at the time I just kind of figured that was the way of things: I was destined to rot in that job and die prematurely of bitch-related stress. Then, I got laid off by IBM because they couldn't afford me, and was then hired by IBM a couple weeks later at $3 more an hour than I was making before. Now that I'm in a job with awesome bosses, in a work environment that allows for unprecedented autonomy and freedom, I can honestly say that I've been spoiled to the point of not putting up with any amount of shit from anyone at any other job. It's just a job, after all. It's not worth sacrificing yourself for.

Did I mention that one time, in band camp. . .

Posted by Ryan at 10:27 AM | Comments (0)

June 26, 2003

400 Gallons of Sperm On The Wall...400 Gallons Of Sperm. Oh, Yuck

Michele, over at A Small Victory, related an interesting fact about blue whales and the fact they are capable of expelling 400 gallons of sperm upon ejaculation. As one commenter noted: That's a hell of a money shot. Well, anyway, Michele asked for good whale sperm jokes but, as is so often the case, the jokes transmogrified into limericks, and here are my offerings:

A blue whale's penis is sturdy and firm
And can deliver 400 gallons of sperm
To absorb that much dick
Is no easy trick
But it's great practice for carrying a calf to full term.

Or. . .

A blue whale hooker was asked in great jest
Which approach to sucking whale cock was best
She said to bring a quick halt
To the flow of hot salt
Was to let it gush down on her chest

Got a good whale limerick in you? Have at it.

Posted by Ryan at 04:53 PM | Comments (0)

Boot To The Head! Nyahhh, Nyahhh!

Okay, I really didn't get booted in the head, but that song by the Frantics, and particularly their catch phrase, has been running through my skull ever since this final week of black belt test preparation got underway.

The training this week is pretty intense, because we're being taught by two of the biggest bigwigs in the martial arts realm who are visiting our school from South Korea. Their presence here in little old Rochester has enticed martial arts practitioners from California, Florida and other states from around the nation. So, it's a pretty big deal or something, I guess. All I know is that I'm sore as all hell and it's only Thursday.

It's. . . interesting. . .training under the watchful eyes of the two Korean masters. They stand in front of the class, chittering away in Korean, because that's the language they speak over there in South Korea. Of course, no one has a flipping clue what they're saying, but we nod when they nod, and we smile when they smile, and we pass gas when they do. It's all very orderly like that.

The one master, I think, is in his 60s, but you would never guess it the way he spins and kicks and punches and could probably break every bone in my body in five different ways should he so please. During the first day of class, he used me to demonstrate a technique, and his technique was so flawless I couldn't have fought him off if I had tried. With a quick twist of my arm, he had my neck exposed for a knife hand strike, and there wasn't anything I could do but offer him my jugular.

Then, just as my awe for the grand master was at its peak, and I was thinking how cool it would be if I was in that great of shape in my 60s, I walk out to my car and find him puffing madly on a Winston. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised, seeing as how most of Asia smokes cigarettes the way Americans eat fast food. But, still, his mystique took a hit all the same.

I'm getting more and more nervous as the Sunday test looms ever closer. Granted, the only way to really fail the black belt test at this point is if one of my many checks bounces, but I still want to make a good impression on the masters and come away from the test feeling as if I really, truly, without a shadow of a doubt, earned my black belt.

At this point, I'm more interested in proving myself to myself than anything else, and some people can't understand that. Melissa and my parents wanted to come in on Sunday to watch me test, and I told them, quite frankly, that I don't want them there. This is my accomplishment, and it's something I started, and want to complete, completely and totally on my own. I suppose that seems selfish, and it probably is. But, this is something that is uniquely mine, and it will hopefully be a source of intense pride that I can call on when I need it most. I think everybody needs something like that.

Posted by Ryan at 10:55 AM | Comments (0)

June 25, 2003

Jihad Fool's Day Prank Hits Mideast

Hamas and Islamic Jihad Groups Hail Joke As A "Heckuva Kneeslapper"

TEL AVIV (Rhodes Media Services) -- After a whirlwind media storm that touted a three month ceasefire between Israelis and Palestinian militant groups, various leaders of the terrorist groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad came forward and said it was all a big hoax that was part of their Jihad Fool's Day celebrations.

Amidst much giggling and backslapping, leaders of the terrorist organizations said they weren't sure who started the joke, but they all agreed that it was a hysterical distraction from their usual serious business of killing innocent people.

"Wow! I woke up today and looked in the paper and I see "Truce" and "Peace" splashed all over the place," said Abdel Aziz Rantisi, one of the Hamas top leaders. "I broke up laughing so hard I could barely keep my blind hatred of the Jews fully focused. This little prank will go down in history as one of the all time greats. I think that little mischief maker, Fareed Mozul Aziz, was behind this one. He's always doing madcap things like this. Peace in the Middle East!? That's just too funny! Doesn't the world realize yet that violence in the Middle East is officially part of our culture? Don't they know that we would have nothing else to base our existence if we didn't have our little goal of driving the Jews into the sea? Heh, good one, Fareed."

Posted by Ryan at 04:40 PM | Comments (0)

Don't Have A Cow, Man

Don't Have A Cow, Man

Cow. Cows.

Say either of those words enough times, and I swear they'll lose all meaning to you. Cow. Cow. Cow. Cows. Cow. Cows. Cow. Cow. Cows.

I grew up around cows. Cows were everywhere. I just learned to take them for granted, kind of like tap water. They were just there, behind fences, munching grass (the cows, I mean, not the tap water).

If you think about it, should mankind disappear entirely from the planet, cows would be the next to go. They simply have no survival instincts, unless staring blankly somehow constitutes a survival instinct. Seriously, the next time you drive past a herd of cows, be sure to blow your horn and assess their reaction. I'll bet good money that the entire herd will simply stop in their tracks and swivel their heads toward you, as if they're expecting a great Shakespearian play or something. How could that possibly be considered a survival instinct? Cows would be no match for a pack of wolves, or even a pack of turtles for that matter.

Growing up in Harmony, Minn., a small town located dangerously close to the evil state of Iowa, I just became accustomed to the omnipresence of cows. A cow could have walked right down the middle of main street and I'd think, "Huh, a cow. I wonder who it belongs to." I wouldn't wonder why it was walking or standing in the middle of main street, or even how it got there. I would just accept it as normal. Such is the wonder of growing up in rural Minnesota.

During a recent drive back to my hometown, however, I started thinking back on just how much cows have played a role in my life. As much as I hate to admit it, I think perhaps 30 percent of who I am today was shaped in some fashion by cows. Some of the memories that are the most seared into my mind are cow-related.

Take, for example, a field trip I took in elementary school to the local veterinary clinic. Although we were warned ahead of time that we may see some distasteful things, I was in no way prepared for the procedure I witnessed involving the cesarean delivery of a calf. For the record, I firmly believe no child is truly prepared to witness the cesarean delivery of a calf.

Right before my young astonished eyes, a thick yellow topical antiseptic was slathered on the side of a disinterested cow, diligently chewing her cud. The yellow goop was allowed to sink in for awhile before a veterinarian ran a blade along her side, unzipping her flesh in such a way that even Freddy Krueger would flinch. Then, the veterinarian reached deeply into the cow's side, fished out a live baby calf, and deposited the surprised youngster onto the hard tile floor, while all the while the mother seemed lost in thought about something else entirely. It was a surreal introduction to the miraculous wonder of birth, and I would just as soon not have to witness it ever again.

Of course, the male counterpart to the cow community is the bull. I'm terrified of bulls, and that's no bull. I spent the better part of my childhood firmly believing that every member of the bovine community was a bull, except for those undergoing cesarean calf deliveries. Every field or pen keeping in cows, I believed, also harbored roughly 1,000 bulls.

Well, one of my friends, John, a farm kid with a warped sense of humor, knew full well that I was scared to death of bulls. One day, I hopped into a pen full of cows because John and I had to traverse the pen to get to John's tree house. John, sensing my fear, announced that a bull (of which there were none) was charging down on me, and he told me to run. Actually, I was in a dead sprint at the mere mention of the word "bull." I ran, and I ran hard, perhaps harder than at any point in my life.

I ran smack into an electrified fence. I ran into that electrified fence so hard, I snapped it in half. I also endured an electrical shock strong enough to jumpstart a whale's heart. I had never before come in contact with an electrified fence, but I quickly learned that I didn't like them all that much. What sick twisted mind came up with such an idea? An electrified fence? Wasn't barbed wire enough? I mean, it's not as if cows are going to figure out a way through barbed wire anyway. So, why make an electrified fence? I guess I'm just still mad, because that shock really hurt.

I have a plethora of other cow-related tales, but those are the two that really scarred my young mind. Do you have a cow tale you'd like to relate? If so, please share.

Posted by Ryan at 02:31 PM | Comments (0)

You Don't Say

I don't envy the headline writers of the world. I've written for newspapers, and I've had to write many, many, many headlines. It's a frustrating exercise in trying to get things to fit just so, with the right font, at the designated size, while at the same time trying to, more or less, tell the crux of an article in maddeningly few words. Oh, and you have to make it compelling enough to invite readers to learn more. Given all those variables, I understand when a sub-standard headline graces a newspaper. After all, the writer just did the best with what they had. Still, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, I'm convinced, could have done better than: Tornado leaves a path of ruin in Buffalo Lake

Really? Imagine that. And here I thought tornados left a wake of money and roses in their path. Now THAT would be a cool, and entirely unexpected, story (italicized sentences actually appear in the Star-Tribune story):

Tornado A Blessing To Buffalo Lake Community
Residents Overjoyed By Storm Aftermath

BUFFALO LAKE, MINN (Rhodes Media Services) -- The community of Buffalo Lake today was still basking in the pleasant post-storm wonders left behind by the tornado that blew through late last night. Despite scattered damage around the area, most residents were quite pleased with the storm's performance.

"That was pretty fucking cool," said Steve McCallister, 47, a Buffalo Lake resident and owner of McCallister Auto. "I mean, just look around. I've lived around here all my life and this is just the coolest damn thing to ever happen here. Sure, the damage kinda sucks and all, but MAN, what a fucking rush!"

Most residents seemed to share McCallister's post-tornado excitement, and practically everyone agreed that the last time Buffalo Lake saw so many reporters and news cameras was when a convicted child molester considered moving to town.

Four people were taken to the hospital, but there were no fatalities, according to Police Chief Greg Gowan.

''I think that's why you see me so chipper today, the day after my town got destroyed,'' he said.

Indeed, in addition to "giving the folks something to talk about for a long, long time," the storm gave residents a respite from the 95+ degree heat that hit the area the previous afternoon.

"Yep, when it comes to a nice breeze, there ain't no beating a tornado," said Clive Burns, 67, a retired area farmer. "I was sitting on my porch most all of yesterday, just sweating myself to death, but that tornado just came along and cooled everything down real nice. I saw the funnel cloud touch down and I couldn't wait to hang my head out the kitchen window just like old Hank (Clive's dog) does when he's riding along in the truck. Yep, as tornados go, that one was pretty nice."

Posted by Ryan at 10:49 AM | Comments (1)

Getting Ahead

Yesterday was one of those decadent days that I've been meaning to enjoy for 28 years now. It started out innocently enough: the alarm clock blared to life at 8 a.m., my arm shot forth, and a lazy hand went to smack the snooze button (just. nine. more. minutes.).

But another hand beat me to it. I had almost forgotten, in my sleepy haze, that Melissa had spent the night with me. We had both been so exhausted--me from two and a half hours of hapkido, and her from work and dealing with her dad--that we had just conked out almost as soon as our heads hit our respective pillows.

Nine minutes passed. The alarm came back to life. Again Melissa's hand beat me to the snooze button. This routine played out again and again until 9:30 a.m. I was late for work. And I didn't give a shit. After over a year and a half of scrambling to work, I simply let sleep win me over. And it felt divine.

By 11 a.m., I was pretty much resigned to the fact that I wasn't going into work. I was also resigned to the fact that I couldn't fall back asleep thanks to the raging morning wood forcing my blanket into hover mode. I was about to turn over to Mel to see if she could rectify the situation when, once again, she beat me to it, er, so to speak.

Normally, I'm the one who does all the between-the-thigh work. I dive into cunnilingus the way Navy Seals dive into a sabotage operation. I'm in my happy place when my tongue is visiting Bushville. It's become so commonplace for me to be there first thing in the morning when I'm with Mel, she refers to it as me "having breakfast."

Not so yesterday. Yesterday, Mel was on the job, er, again, so to speak. She was busily working her fellatio muscles, much to my delight. Hooky from work, AND a BJ. Can life get any better? All I needed was a frosty beer and the television tuned to a Discovery Channel special about the pyramids, and you could have ended my life then and there because it simply couldn't have gotten any better. Then Mel popped her head up and asked something that made me laugh out loud. Literally. Laugh. Out. fucking. Loud.

"Baby, what do you look for in a blow job?"

As I laughed, I envisioned thumbing through the Sears Catalog to the blow job section (located between the camping supply section and housewares). Let's see, I could choose the 2003 Knob-Job Deluxe edition (with patented saliva guard), or the Slurp-O-Matic 5000 produced by Head Bobbers, Inc. I shared all of this with Mel, and she started laughing right along with me.

"No, what I mean is what makes a good blow job for you?" she explained, even though I knew what she meant.

"Well, preferably, my penis would play an important role."

Laughter for 10 minutes. Followed by sex. Followed by an hour nap. Followed by an afternoon of swimming in her father's pool.

Hey, look, a random list of adult stars: Stephanie Swift. Kyla Cole. Teagan Presley. Autumn Austin. Courtney Simpson. Christina Model. Ginger Jolie.

Work? What's that? Oh, right, that place I'm at now.

Fine, I'll leave you with a long list of famous people so maybe I can boost Web traffic: Hilary Duff. Kiera Knightly. Amanda Bynes. Lindsay Lohan. Jessica Alba. Britney Spears. Kelly Clarkson. Christina Aguilera. Emma Watson. Ashley Tisdale. Amber Tamblyn. Kirsten Dunst. Sanjaya. Jessica Sierra. Eva Mendes. Hilary Duff. Kiera Knightly. Amanda Bynes. Lindsay Lohan. Jessica Alba. Britney Spears. Kelly Clarkson. Christina Aguilera. Emma Watson. Ashley Tisdale. Amber Tamblyn. Kirsten Dunst. Sanjaya. Jessica Sierra. Eva Mendes. Hilary Duff. Kiera Knightly. Amanda Bynes. Lindsay Lohan. Jessica Alba. Britney Spears. Kelly Clarkson. Christina Aguilera. Emma Watson. Ashley Tisdale.

Posted by Ryan at 08:05 AM | Comments (0)

June 23, 2003

Weekend Ramblings

I really like Melissa's new apartment. It's cleaner. It's newer. It's in a nicer neighborhood. It's just a few steps from Ol' Mexico, which has NTN trivia and two for one drink specials from 10 p.m. to midnight.

But, damn it. It's so loud!

Mel's apartment complex is located on Lexington Ave., which doesn't mean anything to people who don't know the Twin Cities, but let me just assure you that it's a very popular road. All day and all night long, all you can hear are vehicles puttering down the street, from muffled compact cars to bone rattling Harley Davidsons. During the spring and summer weeks thus far, with the windows open, Mel's apartment sounds like the hub of a Nascar race.

Melissa can sleep through it all like it's nothing more than toads singing in a pond. I, on the other hand, can't take it. I repeat. . . I CAN'T TAKE IT! I mean, I can fall asleep okay, when traffic is relatively light, but come dawn the commuters on the street below simply refuse to let me sleep soundly. *vrrrooooom* *errrrrrrrrr* *rrrrrummmmmble*


When sleeping at Melissa's, my morning dreams flash by in disjointed half-novellas, with each mental story line being rudely truncated by a passing vehicle. It's the dreaming equivalent of flipping through television channels. And it's not at all a restful way to spend a morning. Sure, it's still sleep, but it's not good sleep. But, enough bitching about this, especially when there are so many other things I can bitch about.

There's this shirt I wear when I go running, and I wear it because I love watching the reaction of people passing by. It's a tee shirt I bought in Colorado nearly six years ago that has a buff and ripped male torso on the front and a buff and ripped male back on the, er, back. It's a hysterical shirt because, from a distance, it looks damn convincing and real. People are always doing double-takes when I go running by, and as you all know by now, I'm an attention hogging freak. Well, anyway. . .

I went for a run Friday evening before Melissa got off work. I was running through a busy intersection on my way to Como Park when a car full of giggly girls started tootling the horn and leaning out catcalling me, oohing and ahhing and laughing about my shirt. Distracted, I glanced ever so briefly at the car, and in that instant I ran smack into a post sticking out of the sidewalk.

This particular post, which is used by pedestrians to activate the "walk" sign, was at just the right height to wreak havoc with my groin, by which I mean I hit the post in full stride, and I'm fairly certain I felt my testicles flair out, swing around the post, and clack together on the other side. This was a direct hit of magnificent proportions, and it wasn't two seconds later that every vehicle waiting at the intersection was enthusiastically blowing their horns in gleeful delight. I remained stoic, and despite searing pain, I managed to continue my run for about a block and a half before I went slinking off on a sidestreet, where I sat down on the curb and nursed my nads.

Let me just assure you folks, the pain was exquisite, and it took a full ten minutes or more of soft sobbing and cursing before I was able to stand up and resume my jog, albeit with a slight hobble. This was not the first time a gaggle of girls distracted me and caused me bodily harm. Some day, I'll relate the tale, if I haven't already, of when I rode a bicycle into a lake whilst ogling some scantily clad females.

Saturday, Melissa and I went to Valleyfair, which is more or less Minnesota's answer to Six Flags. I like to go to Valleyfair at least once a year, if for no other reason but to remind myself what it's like to suffer motion sickness after riding every rollercoaster three times each. Mission accomplished. At the end of the day, whenever I closed my eyes, all I could envision was zooming along on metal tracks. Don't take this to mean I didn't have a good time, because Melissa and I had a wonderful time, and it was perhaps as near to perfect of a day as I've had yet this year. Between all the rides, and the junk food, and the two rounds of miniature golf, and the people watching, and the fact I didn't even once hit my nuts on a post the entire day, it was a great afternoon.

Sunday, Melissa had to work at 10 a.m., and I was so exhausted I barely remember her leaving. I stayed in bed until 1:30, trying to catch fleeting sleep between the passing of muffler-less vehicles. I finally woke up, made the bed, fixed the bathtub drain, and washed the dishes. I do these little things for Melissa because she lets me have sex with her, so it seems like a fair trade, although it's my understanding that she'd let me have sex with her even if I didn't do all the little things, so I may be over-exerting myself for no real reason.

This week, I start my final training for my hapkido black belt. I test on Sunday. I'm both nervous and excited about this. I really hope I don't crush my nuts again before Sunday.

Posted by Ryan at 10:37 AM | Comments (1)

June 22, 2003

Golf. GOLF!!!!

I'm an avid golfer, which is to say I thrive on huge doses of disappointment, irritation and frustration.

I can hit a long drive, sometimes as far as 280-300 yards, I can put approach shots on or very near the green and I can sink tremendously long putts. But, I don't do any of the above very often and never all on the same hole.

It's ridiculous, really, that a game so simple in theory (you just hit a ball in a hole, right?) can result in a string of profanity unheard of in the civilized world. All this from one of the most civilized of modern sports.

And yet, almost every summer weekend, I find myself with my father or a few friends trying to overcome all my golf shortcomings in the offbeat chance of parring the course. It hasn't happened yet.

I think I first took back the blade at the age of seven when my parents, in what I now perceive to be a cruel joke, bought me my first set of starter clubs.

At that early age I was entranced by the shimmering metal shafts and peculiarly shaped club heads. I wanted to try them out right away.

But, as I recall, at the age of seven I also entertained friends by swallowing dimes, which points to a definite flaw in my judgement.

I should also have seen the warning signs when I first heard my father muttering under his breath after his every shot.
But, no, he didn't want to discourage my tender enthusiasm for this new sport so he conveniently forgot to tell me about subtle golf rules like "out of bounds," "lost balls" and "keeping score."

As I skittered around the course, jabbering away and swiping at the little white ball, he no doubt smiled to himself, knowing I was sowing the seeds for what would become a lifelong love/hate relationship for a sport that hates everyone.

But what about Tiger Woods and, um, all those other big name golfers? Surely the game loves them. No, it doesn't; they've just managed to get the sport in a tough submission hold from which it can't wiggle free.

I showed an early glimmering of talent for the irritating game, and my first varsity letter came in golf my eighth grade year. But, although I would eventually letter in football and wrestling, I would quickly lose the puny hold I had on golf and never hit the varsity ranks again.

The game still holds some mystique for me, however. There's a definite beauty to walking along the finely manicured fairways and greens of a well-maintained golf course. And, despite my lamentations, I do occasionally have a pretty decent round.

But, perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of golf is the chance to share some time with my father and friends. A round of golf provides a much-needed time-out from everyday life and lets me give others a little bit of ribbing when a shot dribbles two feet ahead after a powerful swing.

And, if I can jockey between vast amounts of cursing, groans and muttering, I might even find time to engage in a conversation.

Golf also provides an outlet for immense creativity. After all, it takes a great deal of skill and stealth to cheat without anyone noticing.

I had to give a friend of mine an "A" for creativity after he tried explaining how the yellow ball he hit off the tee into tall grass had actually gone 400 yards into the middle of the fairway and also turned white.

In addition, I've heard my father come up with some inventive curses rather than deal directly with expletives. I remember when he missed a five foot putt by the slimmest of margins and yelled, "Well, you big chicken crap-head!"
I'm not sure what a "chicken crap-head" is, but it sure sounds like a distasteful off-shoot of the Chicken McNuggett.
That's not to say I've never taken part in golf-induced profanity. Anyone who has ever shared the same course with me no doubt heard my mournful wailing bouncing off the trees like so many golf balls.

Such is the game of golf. When you're not admiring a powerful tee off sailing through the air, you're knee deep in water searching for the ball.

So it was when my father said to me this year, "Golf is a game you can enjoy throughout your life," I could only nod in agreement.

Despite my stoic outward appearance, somewhere deep down inside, where a small fortune in dimes is forever lodged, a tiny voice yelled, "Noooooooooooooo!"

Posted by Ryan at 10:46 PM | Comments (0)

June 20, 2003

The Rochester Post-Bulletin Bothers Me Sometimes

Here in Southeastern Minnesota, the newspaper of note is the Rochester Post-Bulletin. It's a cute little newspaper that thinks it's a lot bigger and better than it actually is, and I'm not just saying that because they outright suck from time to time. The P-B has such a high opinion of itself that it actually tries charging people to view its online content (hell, even the Minneapolis Star-Tribune doesn't charge for that), which I easily get around by using the username and password of a friend of mine. Sometimes, though, the P-B just bothers the living shit out of me, particularly in their editorial department.

I think what bothers me most about the P-B is that it's a deeply conservative newspaper that thinks it's liberal. Being neither conservative or liberal is just fine. I straddle the lib and con fence on a slew of issues, so I see myself as a middle of the road type of guy on a lot of issues. I'm a conserviberal, if you will, or a libervative. Whatever. But, the P-B refuses to admit its essentially conservative leanings, and its editorial department continually churns out tripe selling itself as liberal. Take, for example, one of their most recent blathers. It bothers me on many levels, which are pointed out here.

liberal media bias disproved
Thursday, June 19, 2003

If there is a liberal bias in the U.S. media, it was not in evidence during coverage of the war in Iraq.
The existence of a liberal bias, one would assume, would have led to television coverage tilted in favor of anti-war points of view.

As you can imagine, this immediately bothered me. According to the P-B way of thinking, to be liberal automatically means you're anti-war. WTF? Excuse me, but you could be liberal to the point of Communism and still support war.

In fact, just the opposite occurred, according to a recently released study by Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, a non-partisan media watchdog group.

Non-partisan my ass. Any group that advocates "greater diversity in the press that scrutinizes media practices that marginalize public interest, minority and dissenting viewpoints" is pretty liberal in my book. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing bad about any of that, but tell it like it is: it's partisan as hell.

The study found a decided pro-war bias in coverage provided by programs on the six major news networks. For the first three weeks of the war, from March 20 through April 9, FAIR researchers looked at 1,617 on-camera sources for ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, Fox's Special Report with Brit Hume, and PBS Newshour with Jim Lehrer.

The study found that only 10 percent of all sources were anti-war, and most of them were Iraqi. Of American sources interviewed or shown on the programs, only 3 percent were anti-war.

So, the P-B gripe, which they took so long getting to, is that they feel that anti-war reporting should have had equal time alongside pro-war reporting. Under that logic, the KKK should be allowed equal time alongside civil rights issues. Let's get something straight here. Just because some people take a contrary side to popular opinion, that doesn't automatically entitle them to equal time on anything. When it comes right down to it, the anti-war crowd was given a tremendous amount of ink when you consider that their opinion reflected roughly 35 percent of the American population at the time. They just squandered their media face-time by looking ridiculous (note to protesters: don't wear cardboard missiles as penises in front of cameras. They make you look dumb as a rock).

By comparison, the programs routinely turned to official voices, including former military officers, for information and comment.

Soooo, news programs turned to former military officers for information and comment on a war? How crazy is that?! Who should they have turned to instead? Alec Baldwin?

Again, the tilt was heavily in favor of supporters of the war. "Of a total of 840 U.S. sources who are current or former government or military officials," the FAIR report said, "only four were identified as holding anti-war opinions."

Huh. Fascinating. Who would have thought it would have been so hard to find government or military officials who disagreed with their employer?

American news shows also turned to British sources for information and content. But despite widespread opposition within Great Britain to the war, not even one British anti-war voice was heard on the six news shows during the three weeks of the survey.

Even allowing that a rare anti-war voice found its way into the networks' coverage, there was nothing approaching proportional air time. "Not a single show in the study conducted a sit-down interview with a person identified as being against the war," the study found.

As you can probably tell, this whole concept of "proportional air time" really chaps my ass. It's getting to the point that every dissenting opinion on everything from the war in Iraq to the pros and cons of booger picking are demanding equal time. The push to give proportional time to those who oppose a viewpoint, in fact, has gotten so ridiculous, there are actually those who support requiring Web sites, blogs included, to offer up a "right of reply" for those who don't like your opinion or who may have been maligned by an offhand rant. Just imagine if, every time you waggle a finger a someone you dislike, you have to give them equal time to respond and post their nonsense alongside your carefully thought out diatribe. I'd go nuts. NUTS I tell you. But, I digress.

Reflecting American disdain for the viewpoints of others, the networks also generally neglected to tap sources from countries other than the United States, Great Britain or Iraq. "Citizens from those nations that most vocally opposed the U.S. war effort -- France, Germany and Russia -- accounted for just 16 appearances, constituting just 1 percent of all guests," the report said.

Oh, well, France, Germany and Russia sure proved themselves to be valuable voices in the anti-war movement, what with how they were protecting their financial investment in propping up Saddam and his murderous regime. I still roll my eyes every time I see footage of fleeing Ba'athists driving away in BMWs or when I hear of the sneaky oil deals France-based ELF had with Saddam. These are the anti-war folks the people at the Fairness and Accuracy and Reporting want to give equal time to? Why not ask Mike Tyson to explain why raping women and biting off ears are actually positive expressions of the soul?

All of it adds up to a pathetic performance by the major television news operations. News officials failed to provide fair, proportional coverage of all viewpoints. They neglected to do their own digging on stories, preferring instead to accept the unchallenged word of official sources.

This coming from a newspaper that just accepted, without question, the findings of the Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting organization. Pot, please meet kettle. Kettle, pot.

There was no liberal slant to television's coverage of the war. Nor was there anything approaching fair and balanced coverage.

Again, to the P-B, "liberal slant" means anti-war, which is such an asshat assumption it requires its own special department of monumentally stupid.

As a result the American people were poorly served by the broadcast media at a time of national crisis.

Yeah, some crisis. During a war when you could flip channels to American Idol, I would hardly call it a national crisis. Sheesh.

Posted by Ryan at 11:37 AM | Comments (0)

June 19, 2003

Brain Farts While Banking

Yesterday, I realized that I needed some cash, because cash is an exchange medium by which I can gain access to goods and services. I needed to eat, and food is considered a good, so I required cash to access the food. This is the crazy world in which we live. Can't we just go back to the tried and true bartering system, where three sheep, a cow, 20 chickens and 80 jars of preserved prunes could purchase a child bearing daughter who works well in the field? Those were the good old days. Okay, not really.

So, anyway, I go downstairs to the on-site ATM machine, insert my IBM credit Union debit card, enter my pin number, and. . . the machine spits out the card without giving me any of the exchange medium known as cash. Huh. Interesting. So, I repeat the process with the same result. Well, I just assume that the stupid ATM is malfunctioning; perhaps it was illegally downloading music and Orrin Hatch came along and frizzled the machine. I decided to give up my quest for cash and come back to the ATM later in the day, hopefully after a technician came by and reset the ATM innards.

A few hours later, I again trekked downstairs, inserted my card, entered my pin number, and. . . the ATM made a funny little sound, the machine reset itself, and it did not give me back my card. WTF? What's going on? Why did the ATM just eat my card? Now I don't have a card any more, and my access to cash is now considerably hampered, and OH MY GOD I'm so fucking hungry, and that girl who just walked by is just totally knock out hot, easily worth at least eight sheep, two cows, 40 chickens and 120 jars of preserved prunes. At LEAST.

Befuddled and cardless, I returned to my office and call the credit union to explain my plight, without mentioning the hot girl, of course. The woman who helped me was very nice and polite, and we tried to work through the problem together, but I got annoyed when she kept asking me if I was sure I entered the correct pin number. Of COURSE it was correct. I've been entering that same pin number for over two years, so I'm pretty freakin' sure it was correct. She tells me that the credit union will retrieve my card and send it back to me in the mail. In the meantime, my card will be deactivated so no one else can use it. Thus satisfied, I hung up and daydreamed of the coming days when my card would arrive in the mail, I'd have access to cash, and all would be right with the world.

About an hour later, my friend Marc called me. He likes to call me at work just to remind me that he gets off work each day at 3 p.m. It amuses him that I have to work until 5 p.m. For my part, it amuses me that I make over $3 an hour more than he does, but I don't call him every day to remind him.

"Hey, I was just wondering how your IBM card is working today," said Marc, and I found it interesting that he would bring that up after all the card drama I endured that day.

"Well, now that you mention it, not all that fucking well," I answered.

"That's because you have my card and I have yours,'" said Marc.

Ohhhhhhh. On Sunday, Marc and I went out for food and drink at Buffalo Wild Wings and we paid separately with our own IBM credit cards. Obviously, we got them mixed up. Marc sounded a little bit upset with me when I told him that the ATM had eaten his card and that he would have to call the credit union to rectify the situation. Thankfully, Marc noticed he had the wrong card before an ATM could eat it, so he still had mine, which meant he could give it back to me and I would have access to cash and all would be right with the world way ahead of schedule. This made me deeply happy.

I met up with Marc at 7 p.m., and we decided to go grab a bite to eat at the local Rochesterfest celebration, which isn't so much a celebration as it is a bunch of greasy food stands lined up for two blocks. I told Marc that we would have to stop at an ATM so I could get some of the exchange medium known as cash, which I would use to purchase said greasy food.

Marc drove to an ATM, where I inserted my newly retrieved card, entered my pin number, and. . .

You should recall here that, earlier in the day, I called the credit union and they told me they deactivated my card. I did not recall that. Well, that's not true. I recalled it almost immediately after the ATM, for the second time that day, ate my card. Once again, there I was, cardless and cashless, all because of an amazing bout of stupidity on my part.

However, I think some of the blame should fall on our modern culture and our dependence on convenient banking. If I just had some sheep and chickens handy, none of this would have happened.

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

June 18, 2003

Aging Gracefully. . .Well, Not Really

I don't mind aging. I mean, when it comes down to it, aging is a whole heck of a lot better than dying.

For the first 26 years of my life, however, I viewed the aging process as something other people did, particularly old people. Growing up, I would look at the people inhabiting my block and I was always aware that they were growing older. On the other hand, I never thought of myself as a recipient of the aging process. The smoking hot specimen of male hunkiness staring back at me from the mirror always seemed to look the same.

For 26 years, that was the case. Sure, I shaved my head, and grew a goatee, and a tropical rain forest of body hair sprouted from my legs, arms and chest, but generally I saw myself as a strapping young lad with a killer smile, bulging muscles and a really cute butt. As an added bonus, I remained very modest about how great I looked.

Then, one day when I was 27, I noticed something about the man in the mirror: he had a strange solitary white hair protruding from his otherwise jet black goatee. Curious.

Now, I had seen the occasional red hair volunteer itself from my facial stubble, owing to my supposed Irish blood, but a white hair had never before been encountered. I tilted my head to the left and right, up and down, making sure that the light wasn't playing tricks on me. In the end, there was no denying it: I had a GRAY hair.

In retrospect, I think I panicked. Rather than simply acknowledge the silver chin thread and move on with my aging life, I instead fumbled for the tweezers and yanked the intruder from its follicle, thereby setting a painful precedent for all other future gray hairs.

However, despite daily vigilance on my part, carefully scanning for any other emerging grays, after a couple weeks with no further chin plucking, I forgot about the whole thing. I fogot about it all the way into my 28th year. Until. . .

Last week, my girlfriend casually mentioned that she saw a couple of gray hairs jutting forth from my goatee. Although she laughed about it, I made a mental note to do a chin inspection of my own when she wasn't around and dispose of any and all gray facial intruders. I was not at all prepared for the battle that awaited me.

Upon close inspection, I realized that gray whiskers had staged a monumental offensive in the year since I plucked out their gray scout comrade. There were gray hairs EVERYWHERE! I plucked and plucked and plucked until nary a shimmer of white remained, and then I looked between my left thumb and forefinger, where the dead follicle soldiers lay.

All told, I removed 14 silver soldiers, and each assassination made me wince with pain. I don't care who you are, pulling whiskers out by their roots with a tweezers is an incredibly painful undertaking. In the end, I came to a sad conclusion: there is simply no way I can continue to yank every gray whisker that assaults my face.

So, I'm left with the sad resignation that I'm growing older and there's nothing I can do about it, no matter how much I pluck and wince. Therefore, I'm retiring my tweezers and allowing my whiskers to sprout in whatever color they so wish.

I can do this because I'm secure within myself. That, and I'm still a smoking hot specimen of male hunkiness. Yep, for an older guy, I'm pretty darned cute. And, did I mention my butt?

Posted by Ryan at 11:30 AM | Comments (0)

June 17, 2003

Bill O'Reilly In The Crosshairs

I Originally Found O'Reilly's Whine Via Glenn Reynolds' Instapundit, So I'm Sure Everyone Has Ripped On It By Now. . . But. . .

Okay, I'm probably not the first to give Bill O'Reilly a digital smack upside the head for his ridiculous whine about the Internet. The short version is that poor Mr. "In Your Face" O'Reilly is riled that, in his opinion, the Internet is awash in amateur character assassins intent on doing celebrities, including *gasp* himself, harm. Well, rather than spread falsehoods against poor Bill, thus angering him further, I figured I'd just opt to use his words against him. Shall we begin?

Sex, lies and videotape on the Internet, that's the subject of this evening's Talking Points Memo. Nearly everyday, there's something written on the Internet about me that's flat out untrue. And I'm not alone. Nearly every famous person in the country's under siege.

First off, Bill, let me just congratulate you on a shitty segue using the movie title "Sex, Lies and Videotape." It didn't do anything for me, but I'm sure you thought it was witty, and you're a big time talking head with your own show, so you must be right. So, you're mad that the Internet is a hotbed of nobodies needling famous people, eh? Well, you should get over it, because for every inconsequential barb out there, there are five truthful, fact-checked exposes that can rival anything the big media, and lesser cable media, machines can churn out.

Today's example comes from Web sites that picked up a false report from The San Francisco Chronicle that said a San Francisco radio station dropped The Radio Factor. If anyone had bothered to make even one phone call, they would have learned that Westwood One made a deal with another San Francisco radio station, weeks ago to move The Radio Factor. Thus the word "dropped" is obviously inaccurate and dishonest. We'll see if The Chronicle runs a correction, but you can bet you won't be seeing many corrections on the net.

Bill isn't mad because the item was 100% incorrect; he's mad because it was inaccurate and dishonest, and we all know that "The O'Reilly Factor" is a bastion of accuracy and honesty, and Bill will always own up to any statement he utters that may eventually be proven false. Bill is mad because someone posted something that was posted by The San Francisco Chronicle, and now he expects a retraction from the Web site that posted it. Really, though, let's say 1.5 million people read the Chronicle item, and then everyone went out and told five of their friends. Would Bill go out and demand that each individual make a personal retraction? Beyond all that, however, is the fact that Bill got so riled about something that he claims is false. Then, why make such a stink about it? The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

The reason these net people get away with all kinds of stuff is that they work for no one. They put stuff up with no restraints. This, of course, is dangerous, but it symbolizes what the Internet is becoming.

To me, this is the money quote. They put stuff up with no restraints. Yeah, ain't free speech just a pain in the ass? I love this because, more or less, Bill is saying that free speech is "dangerous." How dare people speak their minds! Don't they know that only Bill O'Reilly is allowed to do that?

In truth, The Chronicle's story [is] small stuff compared to other Internet sins. The child molestation people have now figured out a way to chat about their crimes without being charged with obscenity. And the Supreme Court actually helped these people by ruling that virtual child porn, computerized images of kids being raped, are legal, an extension of free speech.

So all over the country, we have people posting the most vile stuff imaginable, hiding behind high tech capabilities. Sometimes the violators are punished, but most are not. We have now have teenagers ruining the reputations of their peers in schools on the Internet. Ideologues accusing public officials of the worst things imaginable. And creeps gossiping about celebrities in the crudest of ways.

Teenagers ruining the reputatioins of their peers in schools?! Oh, the horror! But, it still sounds better than getting a swirlie, of which I'm a veteran of many. Truthfully, I would have loved to have the Internet at my fingertips in high school because it would have given me a voice and find others too terrified to speak up in the hallways for fear of suffering atomic wedgies. Idealogues accusing public officials of the worst thing imaginable? Yeah, it's called "an election." Creeps gossiping about celebrities in the crudest of ways? Yeah, they're called "tabloids."

The Internet has become a sewer of slander and libel, an unpatrolled polluted waterway, where just about anything goes. For example, the guy who raped and murdered a 10-year old in Massachusetts says he got the idea from the NAMBLA Web site that he accessed from the Boston public library. The ACLU's defending NAMBLA in that civil lawsuit.

Unpatrolled? Hardly. I had a plagiarist called to my attention just last week. The Internet, or at least the bright side of the Internet (not the porn and hate and other yucks that make up the dark cyber underbelly) largely does a bang-up job of policing itself. Leave it to Bill to grasp at an anecdote that totally forgets that the Internet, and blogs in particular, were instrumental in exposing the journalistic cancer within the New York Times and debunking claims that the Pfc. Lynch rescue was faked. Bill's inflated and fragile ego was bruised, so now he's lashing out against an entity so large it could discredit and squash him in just a few short weeks. Tread carefully, Bill. The Internet is listening, and right now we don't like what we're hearing from you. You don't want to be sitting out on the curb trying to sell pencils alongside Jayson Blair now do you?

Talking Points noted with interest the hue and cry that went up from some quarters about the FCC changing the rules and allowing big corporations to own even more media properties. But big corporations are big targets. If they misbehave, they can be sued for big bucks. These small time hit and run operators on the net, however, can traffic in perversity and falsehoods all day long with impunity. It's almost impossible to rein them in.

This is another interesting excerpt, because I think it underscores something I've noticed about Big Media organizations and their condescending nose-thumbing at the Internet. Folks like O'Reilly, who don the make-up and have cameras pointed at them, tend to think they should be the authority on news and opinion. This is true from small town local weekly papers to NBC nightly news. They have this inflated feeling of entitlement because they're in print or on television. They can't wrap their heads around the concept that America, and the world, is populated with people that have just as much right to opinion and say as they do, whether they're an Iraqi blogger or a small personal voice that resonates with people trying to live a daily life.

The O'Reilly's of the world just can't grasp that us "small time hit and run operators on the net" are often professionals ourselves, sometimes lawyers like Glenn Reynolds and sometimes actual journalists by trade, like myself, or Andrew Sullivan or Michael Snider. And we all have just as much right to spout off as O'Reilly does during his beloved "O'Reilly Factor."

So which is the bigger threat to America? The big companies or the criminals at the computer? Interesting question.

Hmmmmm, big companies such as Enron and Arthur Anderson and WorldCom, which tank amid fudged bookkeeping and greed, sending America further into an economic tailspin, or "criminals" at computers who post daily thoughts and opinions, usually enriching public discourse? I don't know. . . I guess it seems like a no-brainer to me.

UPDATE: Yep, everyone is ripping O'Reilly a new one, including this gem here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and even James Lileks is getting in on the fun here. And, if you can't get enough O'Reilly bashing, I suggest you go here. All of these links come via the indispensible Instapundit.

UPDATE: What was I saying about O'Reilly sitting on the curb selling pencils alongside Jayson Blair? Oh, right:

I predict that this dumb piece of O'Reilly's, inconsequential as it is on its own, marks the beginning of the end. Not because, as Andrea Harris writes, "That sound you hear is the sound of thousands of "right-wing" bloggers changing their tv channel from Fox News to ... anything else." But because this embarrassing "who are these little people to criticize the likes of me" bit indicates that O'Reilly has lost touch with the common man, and started to identify with the "famous people." Hey, that was Donahue's schtick. And we all know what happened to him.

Ya'll get back on yah horse and ride yah'self outta Blogosphere-ville, Mr. O'Reilly. We don't take kindly to whiners and weenies here. Not even Teagan.

UPDATE: Nothing too important to add here, except for maybe. . . Bwahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

UPDATE: This will probably be the only time you will see my name stacked alongside such notables as Lileks and Reynolds. *tears streaming down my face in happiness*

Posted by Ryan at 11:13 AM | Comments (0)

June 16, 2003

Golf Etiquette, And Other Boring Stuff From My Weekend

It's Monday, so that means I'm in a boring blogging mood. The only way you could possibly get any more boring than me right now, is if you clicked this link. Man, that guy is boring, and he still gets enough comments to choke a horse.

And isn't that an odd saying? Choking a horse? How did a saying like that come into being anyway?

COWBOY #1: Hey, there, Emmit. You have a mighty whole bunch of food in front of yer horse there. What'cha plannin' on doin' there anyway?

COWBOY #2: I'm a aimin' to choke him. I'm a gonna' keep feedin' him and feedin' him until the food gets caught in his throat and he starts a chokin'.

COWBOY #1: I gotta say, that's a purty strange thing to be doin'. Any 'ticular reason?

COWBOY #2. Nah, no reason. Just curious, I guess.

For that matter. Where did the term "beating a dead horse" originate? What a horrible mental image that conjures.

COWBOY #1: Well, now what'r ya doin', Emmit?

COWBOY #2: The horse finally went and choked. Ya know, you'd be surprised just how much food it takes to choke a horse. Well, he went and keeled over, and suddenly I realized that I NEED this here horse. So, I'm tryin' to beat him back to life.

COWBOY #1: Emmit, you oughtn't be beatin' that dead horse. That just ain't right.

So, anyway, online-2003-christina-aguilera02.jpg">where was I? Ah, yes. The weekend. Actually, you know what? I'm going to skip over a lot of the weekend, so you're left thinking that I had high tea with the Queen of England on Saturday.

I went golfing on Sunday afternoon, which just also happened to be the most sweltering hot day of the summer thus far. It was hot. Damned hot. It was the type of beloved Minnesota heat where you could just stand perfectly still and actually feel your socks getting damp with sweat.

I'm not a patient golfer. Nothing irks me faster than being forced to golf behind slow groups, and on Sunday, my friend Jim and I were trapped behind the slowest golfers ever to play the game. My heart sank when I saw the first two golfers tee off, and the ball skittered 30 feet in front of them. It was going to be a long day. It was going to be a long, long, sock-sweating day.

To make matters worse, we had the most inconsiderate group golfing behind us. These folks didn't understand the concept of waiting until the people in front of them are out of range before hitting. After the third golf ball came bounding up behind me, narrowly missing my leg, I turned around, lifted my right hand, and extended my middle finger in the international golf sign language of "if you hit like that once more, just once more, you'll be the first human being in history to have a putter surgically removed from your ass."

They understood the sign language, and they didn't hit behind us for the rest of the round. Ah, the good old finger. Use it wisely. Use it only for good.

I caught the "Walking With Caveman" special last night. It was pretty okay, I guess, even though I think the Discovery channel may be milking the whole "Walking With. . ." theme just a tad too much. Eventually, I'll click on the tube and see "Walking With Insects" or "Walking With Fictitious Martian Carbon-Based Life Forms."

The whole Caveman special seemed determined to gross out the viewers by showing our genetic ancestors eating anything and everything as messy and disgusting as possible. They could have gotten away with telling us that hominids ate grubs and huge hairy spiders without showing us. The spider-eating segment was particularly gross. It wasn't enough to show spider-eating. No, then they had to drool thick green spider guts to show that early humans would, indeed, eat anything.

And Alec Baldwin? Why Alec Baldwin as the host? Here they are showing us the evolution of the human species, and Alec Baldwin is the best we can do to show the epitome of homo sapien development? Heck, the guy can't even spell "Alex" correctly. Why not Tom Selleck? Why not John Cusack? Actually, Salma Hayek would have been the perfect spokesperson for the human species at this developmental stage in our evolution. She's just too frickin' hot! She makes my neander stand thal. Ugh. One. . . one horrible joke! Ah! Ah! Ah! <-- insert Sesame Street's "The Count" inflection here.

And so begins another week. I won't talk about how much I dislike Mondays. To to do so would be to beat a dead horse, and that ain't right.

Posted by Ryan at 10:24 AM | Comments (0)

June 13, 2003

Paying Off My Car, And A Little Bit Of Plagiarism

There I sat, staring at the computer screen, my finger hovering over the mouse, wavering slightly as my mind teetered with doubt about clicking the "Submit" button.


My car is paid for. The Cadillac pimpmobile is now officially mine.

It wasn't an easy decision. But, according to my online credit union information, I had just received my latest paycheck. I had $3,000 in savings. I had $6,800 in checking. I owed just over $4,000 on the Caddy. Sure, the math was easy. I knew I had more than enough, but just clicking away $4,000 to the digital wind, without so much as a freshly salivated wang to show for it, was just difficult to do.

I don't part with money easily, particularly when the tranfer of funds exceeds the daunting $grand$ mark. $1,000 is a lot of money, according to all the zeros. And, $4,000 was four times that amount. I pondered sacrificing a spring lamb and reading its entrails to see if paying off my car was a good idea or not, but, lacking a spring lamb, or the ability to successfully read entrails, I simply opted to pay off the car.

It was a strange sensation, going out of debt on my car. I can't say the air smelled sweeter or my head felt clearer or anything, but I did feel pretty damned good about myself. I also feel quite a bit less affluent. Such is the trade-off when you're a middle-income grunt. Still, rich people, I believe, miss out on one of the greatest feelings on earth: paying the final installment.

On an unrelated note, it was brought to my attention this week that some unknown blogger has been plagiarizing my site now for quite some time. I received an e-mail from a concerned soul saying that a blogger from Norway at http://g-blog.net/user/smanchhey had been lifting my posts and claiming them as his own. Apparently, people from Norway think I'm funny or something, so please, take pity on Norway.

I checked out the site, but there were no posts to be found. I almost forgot about the whole thing until I checked my Site Meter hit list and saw an unknown URL, which I clicked. It brought me here. Apparently, it's true. I was being plagiarized.

I don't know how to feel about being plagiarized. On the one hand, it's annoying to think someone was taking credit for stuff I wrote, but since I don't make money doing this or anything, it's hard to feel anything more than annoyed. On the other hand, it's somewhat flattering to think that someone thought my stuff was good enough to claim as their own. Don't get me wrong, plagiarism is wrong and sneaky and pathetic and all that. But still. Now I can tell everyone I'm good enough to be plagiarized. And that's pretty cool.

But, please, don't plagiarize me. Think for yourself. If you want to copy and paste something I wrote, or something somebody else wrote, that's fine. But be sure to link to where you got it, or explain where you found it and who really wrote it. The important thing is to give credit where credit is due. Plagiarism in the blogosphere may not cost anybody any money (at least not yet), but don't try claiming something you didn't write. Eventually, someone is going to catch on, and other bloggers will come down on you with the wrath of Mars. That's almost worse than being sued.

Posted by Ryan at 01:50 PM | Comments (0)

Triple Cheddar X

Ah, the third installment of the Friday Five alternative that is sweeping the blogosphere. Let us begin.

1. If your house were burning and you only had time to grab three things (assuming kids and pets got out safely), what would they be?
Since I pretty much own jack shit due to a lack of interest in spending money on things until I have a more permanent address, I guess I would simply grab the most expensive things I own, which are, in order: My computer, my wallet, and, er, well, that's about it I guess, which is good, because that computer weighs a metric freakin' ton.

2. What's the age of the oldest piece of food(cheese maybe) in your fridge?
I have no food in my fridge, owing to the fact I eat out all the time. The only thing even remotely of a food nature in my fridge is a bottle of unbelievably hot sauce (called Endorphin Rush) that I bought in Indianapolis during a business convention in March. Trust me, this stuff is so hot, it will NEVER go bad.

3. Are you open, or do you lie about masturbation/digging your nose to others?
I'm of the firm belief that if someone says they don't masturbate, they're lying. Stroke em if ya got em, and I got em, so I stroke em. However. . . (NOTICE: embarrasing tale about to be related here) Just over two years ago, the urge to smack around dicky and the boys took over, so I dropped my pants ankleward in my room and started enjoying a nice wank. The phone rang. My roommate answered. The phone call was for me. My roommate came crashing into my room (DOES NO ONE KNOCK ANY MORE?) and I half dove, half stumbled into my closet, accidently bringing 3/4 of my clothes down on top of me. My roommate was remarkably cool about the whole thing, and he never even mentioned it. But he sure knocked every time after that.

4. Is the USA too deeply buried in consumerism and crass over marketing? What can be done about it?
Not necessarily. Granted, the omnipresent trademarked logos of the Pizza Huts and McDonalds and Targets of the world grow tiresome and tend to ruin the American landscape, but the products they offer, at prices most everyone can afford, keep people clothed and fed. If you have the financial means to shop elsewhere, more power to you. But, if your's is a family of four trying to make ends meet, a trip to Wal-Mart followed by Econo Foods is just what the doctor ordered. The solution for smaller businesses looking to escape the competitive prices of the uber-retailers? I'm not sure there is one beyond offering a product that people will want regardless of a higher price. Or, offer an atmosphere of small-business rebellion that appeals to neo-ultra leftists who believe everything in America is wrong. Then, charge the living the shit out of them. Other than that, it sure would be nice if the fast-food chains and mega-stores would tone down their signs a tad. I'm certain there are ways to announce the arrival of a Wal-Mart without polluting the landscape with numerous signposts.

5. What was the last lie you told and do you still feel okay about telling it? What would be the consequences if you were found out?
I lie all the time at work. Not in a Jayson Blair sort of way, but in a "oh, yeah, I did that yesterday" sort of way. I lie to buy time, mostly.

6. If you have to chop off a part of your body to live, what part is it going to be and how would you do it?
My penis. No! Wait! I take that back! Boy do I take that back. I'm going to have to go with my pinkie toe on this one. And, if you've ever seen my pinkie toes, you'd know why. They're anotomical afterthoughts, almost totally devoid of movement and almost feeling. A pocketknife and gauze are all that would be required.

Posted by Ryan at 10:07 AM | Comments (0)

June 12, 2003

Bathroom Breaks The World Over

As I labored shaving in the bathroom sink when I lived in my former apartment with my former roommate, he wandered in to grab his toothbrush. As he was leaving, however, he glanced up at the ceiling and blurted out "what the heck is that?!!"

My roommate was referring to a small (but growing) patch of mold that had found a home in a damp spot of sheet rock. The ceiling was kept perpetually wet by our upstairs neighbors, who either had some sort of leak or took part in daily watersports. In either case, the new strand of mold, which I dubbed "showercillin," apparently thrived in the damp environment. This new medical discovery growing on our ceiling was very disturbing to my roommate, and he put on quite a display expressing his disgust. He was even more angered by my apparent ambivalence toward the scruffy batch of showercillin.

The fact of the matter is, both overseas and in college, I've seen bathrooms that make ours look like a room at the Four Seasons. Bathrooms, I have found, vary considerably between cultures.

When I lived in Japan, for example, I was dumbfounded by the wide variety of bathrooms and bathroom appliances "overflowing" the country. The casual visitor may very well come away with the belief that the Japanese spend the better part of their lives in the bathroom.

In the apartment in which I lived, the bathroom consisted of three, yes three, different sections. There was a section for the toilet, a section for the sink, and a section for the shower and bath. It should be noted that the toilet was equipped with a special flusher that let the user dictate how big or how small of a flush to use. Just to be on the safe side, and because my mother insisted, I always opted for the largest possible flush.

The Japanese also have a rather different method of bathing. In addition to a typical shower, our apartment had a bathtub that measured about half the length of an American tub and about a foot and a half deeper. The Japanese, I learned, believe in showering first and then soaking in the cramped little tubs. The American method of simply jumping dry into a bathtub is considered unclean. Not bathing or showering for a week or more is still considered, by both cultures, to just be totally gross.

But, the Japanese fascination with toilet time doesn't end there. In many restaurants and shops, bathrooms are equipped with nothing more than a porcelain indentation in the floor. The first time I encountered one of these pseudo toilets, I thought the bathroom was under repair, until I moved in for a closer look and stepped on the flusher. I remember laughing uncontrollably as I repeatedly stepped on the magical little button. Despite the humor I derived from the device, I never used one. I think my sister-in-law summed it up best when she emerged from a Japanese restaurant bathroom and declared "I'm not going in THAT!"

But, it was my week-long visit to China for my Asian Studies class that afforded me a glimpse into the darkest bathroom culture I've seen to date. My teacher, Mr. Stern, a veteran visitor to China, wanted to take our group away from the sheltered and modern world of our deluxe hotel, and subject us to the working class reality of China. After touring Shanghai, including a visit to a Chinese elementary school, we were all deeply regretting the pitcher of tea we drank that morning.

We rounded a corner and saw a strange structure that looked like a collapsible tin shed (which it was). Standing outside of the shed was a gentlemen collecting money. Mr. Stern informed us that the structure was a Chinese outdoor bathroom and, if we had to go, this was going to be our only chance for awhile.

So, we all raced to the bizarre building and handed the gentleman a Jiao (pronounced meow with a "j"), which was the equivalent of less than one American cent. Once inside, it took every ounce of restraint not to go running out the door holding our noses and laughing for the rest of the day. The "bathroom" consisted of a three-foot deep trench about 20 feet long which accommodated a frightening number of Chinese bathroom-goers. The intense look of concentration on each face seemed to indicate that everyone felt it was their Communist duty to fill every such trench throughout China in a similar manner. As I struggled to complete my business, I could only hope that China didn't suddenly undergo another Great Leap Forward.

Emerging from the surreal world, one of my classmates joked, "Well, that was certainly worth a Jiao."

So, as I watched the thriving patch of mold form on my bathroom ceiling, I regarded it with a bit of indifference. Besides, if it got any worse, I could have always dug a trench.

Posted by Ryan at 08:51 PM | Comments (0)

Kamikaze Redux

I was hurting for a newspaper column this week, so I ended up mining this blog for something, ANYTHING, to send out so my consecutive streak of weekly columns would not be broken. I ended up recycling something I wrote a long time ago about a kamikaze instructor. Soooooooooooo:

"How Does One Train a Kamikaze Pilot?" c. Ryan Rhodes, June 11, 2003

This week, we travel back in time to 2002. You may remember that bygone year as the one when Enron discovered it had no money, a pair of snipers prowled the Washington D.C. Beltway, and a young columnist by the name of Ryan Rhodes continued his insistence that he was, in fact, a smoking hot specimen of male hunkiness.

Also, in October 2002, according to a Reuters new report out of London, "a man who had once trained Japanese kamikaze pilots had a friendly meeting with some of their former targets."

"Hichiro Naemura, who volunteered to be a kamikaze bomber pilot, but was ordered to train others before carrying out his own suicide mission, visited London's Imperial War Museum to help present a book in which he served as a source."

Now, here's a head-scratcher of a question for you: How does one train a kamikaze pilot? To me, this seems like an academic discipline that would be extremely difficult to excel in. Imagine you're a 17-year-old Japanese student, unsure of your future direction. So, you drop by the school guidance counselor for some advice. He tells you that you may have a bright future as a kamikaze instructor.

"Oh. Okay. I'll have think about that one for awhile. Thanks."

Just by virtue of the fact that the teacher was alive, that would seem to indicate that he was, at the very least, a failed, or substandard, kamikaze pilot, not the type of guy you want teaching a class filled with aspiring kamikazes.

Granted, it's probably much easier to learn kamikaze techniques from a living teacher than a corpse, but I'd prefer to learn from the best rather than some joker who didn't even have the common decency to fly an explosive-laden airplane into the broadside of a battleship himself. I can just imagine a classroom full of incredulous students, unwilling to listen to an instructor who had no firsthand experience as a kamikaze.

And, really, as a kamikaze instructor, what kind of disciplinary action would be at your disposal for dealing with rowdy students? How can you come up with a bigger punishment than successful completion of the class? Do you threaten to graduate them a month or two early? Let's imagine a hypothetical kamikaze class, shall we?

KAMIKAZE INSTRUCTOR: Now, pay attention class and open your kamikaze manuals to page 36. Read your books carefully because this knowledge could very well save your life one day. . .er. . . I mean. . .on second thought, let's put our books down and I'll write on the board.

KAMIKAZE STUDENT #1 *whispering to neighbor*: This guy doesn't know what he's talking about. Look at him up there, breathing air, with a pulse. He's no kamikaze pilot.

KAMIKAZE STUDENT #2: I know what you mean. My four brothers all died gloriously last week. Each one of them had more kamikaze knowledge in their little fingers than this guy will ever have.

KAMIKAZE INSTRUCTOR: Is there a problem back there? Maybe you'd like to come up here and teach the class. No? Then I suggest you pay attention. Now, as I was saying, the landing gear must be in a locked position prior to landing and. . . you know what? Now that I think about it, the landing gear really doesn't apply to this class.

KAMIKAZE STUDENT #1: Man, I can't stand this guy. I'd plunge a blade into my abdomen and sever my own internal organs right now if it were up to me. Just get me up in the air so I can crash and explode already. This class is so pointless.

KAMIKAZE STUDENT #2: I know, I know. Can't we just die for our emperor already?

KAMIKAZE INSTRUCTOR: Okay, I've had just about enough of your talking back there. There are some students in this class who really want to learn how to die properly, but you're disrupting everything with all your talk. Maybe you're telling me you want to take a test. Is that it? Well, I can certainly accommodate you.


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

When Life Dangles A Carrot In Front Of You

Overall, I've tried to live my life under the philosophy that, since life is out to kill you from the moment you're born, it's best to live life cautiously.

Please note, I try to live life that way. It doesn't always work that way, such as the whole grenade in the backyard incident, or the numerous B.B. Gun fights I had as a child, or the time I went hiking and almost fell to my death from an 80 foot cliff, and on, and on, and on.

Beyond that, however, life has treated me very well up to this point, and by typing that, I fear I may have jinxed my existence until the end of my days. No, seriously, for as long as I can remember, just when I started worrying about the next stage in my life, my life just kind of went on cruise control and took care of things for me.

Just when I started worrying about college and financial aid, my parents landed teaching jobs in Japan. High paying teaching jobs in Japan. Problem solved. My parents paid for all my schooling, so I have no financial aid debt.

During college, as I floundered half-heartedly towards a teaching certificate with a major in English and minor in history, I realized I didn't want to teach, because that would mean standing in front of a classroom of younger versions of me. I wouldn't wish that on anyone. Almost as soon as I realized that, I just happened to glance at the university handbook and realize that most of my credits would transfer over nicely to journalism. The book just happened to be open on my desk, on the correct page.

During my second year of journalism classes, I needed to find a job in the newspaper business to get my feet wet and help put a little more perpective into my classes. It turned out that one of my roommates was having sex with an editor at the local city newspaper. Problem solved. Within two weeks, I was working at the Winona Daily News from 6 to 10 p.m. each night, writing obituaries and other assorted grunt newsroom tasks.

After graduating from college, I was worrying about finding full time journalism work, and I was certain my search would take me far away from friends and family. Instead, I ended up landing a job within a 40 minute driving proximity. From there, the same roommate who was banging the editor who got me my first journalism job put in a good word for me at IBM. Within a year, IBM was calling and asking me to edit technical manuals. Well, that was nice and convenient, even though I ended up hating the job and hating my boss even worse.

The same week I was laid off from my first IBM job, I was contacted by a contracting company for, believe it or not, IBM. They saw my resume online and had a job offer for me within three weeks. So, I went from an IBM job that I hated, to one that I enjoy, at $3 more an hour than I was making previously.

Recently, I started thinking to myself that I may want to buy a house. A few days later, Melissa excitedly told me that her father was selling one of his rental duplex properties. I looked at the place, and I have to admit that I'm thinking about it with interest. Ryan Rhodes: property owner and landlord. I like the sound of that.

But, I must proceed with caution. Life could be setting me up for something here.

Heh, as an aside, over 800 visitors to this site today already, and it's not even noon yet. Tara Reid's breasts are apparently still a hot commodity on the Internet today.

Posted by Ryan at 09:47 AM | Comments (0)

June 11, 2003


Via leblanc, I was directed to this little bit of, well, I'm not sure what you'd call it, but they've taken to calling it unbrandamerica.org, or, The Resistance.

The gist of the movement, if you can call it a gist, or even a movement, is the typical ultra-left whining I've come to expect from an anti-globalization and "America is a cesspool" movement that really has no direction beyond e-mail newsgroups that make wayward members turn out en masse at such "evil" events as World Trade Organization meetings.

Let's go to the tape, Ryan. From the site:

In the end, the Resistance was known for one thing – they simply would not participate. Not in the 24-hour economy, the 60-hour work week, the flag-waving parades, the media manias, the permanent fear, the cheers for the troops. And then there was their mark, of course. It crept into daily life, until it became a constant reminder that these really were bleak times. Until one day you no longer knew who was in control - the empire that was everywhere - or this invisible revolution.

Well, at least they were only known for ONE thing. Sheesh.

So, they won't participate in the 24-hour economy, or the 60-hour work week. Fine. Neither do I. I wouldn't work 60 hours a week for anything. And, if they don't want to participate in the 24-hour economy, GREAT! No one is forcing them to go satiate their cannabis-induced hunger at 3 a.m. at the nearest 7-11. No one is forcing them to use ATMs at all hours. If they have a gripe against a 24-hour economy, let them boycott it on their own. But, they should keep their opposition down to a dull roar, because nationwide, there are fathers and mothers coming home from their evening jobs, jobs they take because they provide the money to feed their families while at the same time giving them the precious time they need to care and love and play with their children. You don't have to participate in the 24-hour economy, but don't sit on high in judgement of those that do. Chances are, you couldn't hack one day living in their shoes.

And then they won't participate in the flag-waving parades. That's fine, too. Now there will be more room to sit on the curb and watch the floats go by and watch excited children running out to get candy. And there will be more room at all the festivities and events while "The Resistance" sits at home patting themselves on the back that they're so rebellious and avant garde.

And, oh, wait, they won't participate in the media manias (even though, by organizing this movement, they're not only participating, they're knee-deep in it), the permanent fear (even though this movement is, in fact, a reaction to the permanent fear), the cheers for the troops (you mean those troops that were willing to put their lives on the line so you could sit back at home and conduct your little Resistance movement?).

But, it gets even better. From that opening paragraph of misguided righteous tripe, you move on to the real crux of their big "Black Spot" resistance movement. Ahem:

In the coming months a black spot will pop up everywhere . . . on store windows and newspaper boxes, on gas pumps and supermarket shelves. Open a magazine or newspaper - it's there. It's on TV. It stains the logos and smears the nerve centers of the world's biggest corporations.

So, in other words, this clandestine group is trying to raise money to place ads (but not just any ads; a big black spot! Oohhhhhh. Frightening stuff) in newspapers and magazines, while at the same time tacking up black spots all over the place, in essence adding further to the pollution they so decry. I'm sure the nerve centers of the world's biggest corporations will feel monumentally stained. No, probably not.

This is the mark of the people who don't approve of Bush's plan to control the world, who don't want countries liberated without UN backing, who can't stand anymore neo-con bravado shoved down their throats.

Ah, now we get to their true gripe. Once again, it's all about that evil man in the White House, BUSH. Who knew the man was trying to control the world? Maybe he has a secret lair from which he will demand a world payment of. . . one MILLION dollars. . . while stroking a bald cat. That's the beauty of the ultra-left: they're so focused on their hatred of the Bush administration, they come off sounding, and acting, woefully myopic, misguided, and just plain roll-your-eyes silly.

And they don't want countries liberated without UN backing. Well, gee, they had best not hold their breath then. The last time the UN agreed to a full scale liberation was Afghanistan, and that was only after 9/11. Up until that point, they were just fine with the Taliban and the terrorist training camps. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, the UN has become an ineffectual bureacratic monolith so hampered by the outside machinations of the countries it's supposed to represent, it's good for nothing but passing meaningless resolutions to other countries to please be nice or they'll be forced to pass another resolution. The UN is a feelgood institution that has so far failed miserably to live up to it's post WWII ideals. This is an institution with a human rights council headed by LIBYA, with CUBA as a member. Good Lord, why not set up a business ethics branch of the UN and head it with Martha Stewart and Sam Waksal.

This is the mark of the people who want the Kyoto Protocol for the environment, who want the International Criminal Court for greater justice, who want a world where all nations, including the U.S.A., are free of weapons of mass destruction.

Oh, well, why didn't they just say so. We'll just have the U.S. disassemble it's arsenal of nukes, and I'm absolutely sure North Korea, India, Pakistan and China will all just fall happily into line. Let's all hug, everyone, the nukes are gone. And the International Criminal Court? Isn't that same institution where the butcher Milosevic has sat unpunished, and instead has given him a soapbox from which to yell and scream about the illegality of the Court? I can't argue with the Kyoto Protocol. We should be working to bring down pollution and emissions, but then I would ask the "Resistance" to desist from placing countless black spots all over the place and buying ad space in newspapers and magazines, thus requiring extra pages of "waste."

This is our pledge:

Because my country has sold its soul to corporate power,

You mean the corporate power that allows you to keep your resistance movement online 24/7?

Because consumerism has become our national religion,

Heaven forbid people want to go out and buy clothes and gadgets by which to have fun and enjoy life. Perhaps we should all go out and start our own little gardens and weave pants out of long grass.

Because we've forgotten the true meaning of freedom,

Okay, folks, I'm calling your bluff on this one. What IS the true meaning of freedom? Waiting. *crickets chirping*

And because patriotism now means agreeing with the president,

Yeah, because everyone who voices dissent is being thrown in jail or "disappeared."

I pledge to do my duty . . . and take my country back.

Great, good luck with that. I'll be out in the backyard, sipping a beer and reading Time magazine, virtually oblivious to your meaningless "black spot."

Posted by Ryan at 12:33 PM | Comments (0)

June 10, 2003

Well, No fucking Shit Here's

Well, No fucking Shit

Here's a little piece of information I'm sure all of you probably already know, but the U.S. government decided was worth dedicating money to uncovering anyway.

UNITED NATIONS — There is a "high probability" that Al Qaeda will attempt an attack with a weapon of mass destruction in the next two years, the U.S. government said in a report Monday.

First off. . . well, duhhhhh. If there's one thing all of America knows, it's that the batshit crazy al Qaeda organization is willing to try anything. I could hear the most outlandish claim ever uttered in the history of the world and not believe it for a second. But, as soon as I hear that Al Queda is somehow involved, I'll think, "Yeah, well, those fuckers would try anything."

UNIDENTIFIED INFORMANT: Did you know that Al Qaeda has plans to alter the gravitational constant of the universe in an attempt to pull the moon into a collision course with New York City.

ME: Yeah, well, those fuckers would try anything.

The report said the terrorist organization "will continue its efforts to acquire and develop biological, chemical, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) weapons."

Yeah, well, those fuckers would try anything.

But, the point is that the Bush administration simply can't continue going to the Al Qaeda well any time it seems media emphasis may be shifting elsewhere, such as the highest unemployment rate in nine years. But that's exactly what they do, in my opinion. Granted, the Democrats, had Al Gore been in office, would be doing the same damned thing. For better or for worse, 9/11 provided the most powerful and ubiquitous political tool in modern history. So, I don't begrudge the Bush administration for using 9/11 for political gain.

Still, at this point, I'm pretty much resigned to living in the post-9/11 world fully expecting another terrorist attack to take place here at some point. Common sense just tells me that, if you manage to get a bunch of like-minded crazies together, eventually they're going to find some way to raise a little hell. And they don't get any crazier than militant Islamic fundamentalists. Take a crowd of angry poor people, give them somebody to blame to focus their rage, promise them riches and virgins in the afterlife and favor with their god, and suddenly you have a bunch of walking human bombs. As sad as it is to say, this is the reality to which I'm resigned. So, I don't need crap like this coming at me:

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said last year that searches of more than 40 sites in Afghanistan used by Al Qaeda yielded documents, diagrams and material that showed "an appetite for weapons of mass destruction." But it did not appear Al Qaeda had succeeded in making such weapons before the U.S.-led military campaign began in October 2001.

Who knew Rumsfeld was a Metallica fan?

UPDATE: And speaking of music, Strong Bad went and wrote a kick-ass song about Sibbie. Where's that beat coming from?

UPDATE: Oh, and Layne is back. Er, well, sort of. Congratulations Cassie, and welcome to the world David.

Posted by Ryan at 10:34 AM | Comments (0)

June 09, 2003

Mondayawn Missing: one good night


Missing: one good night of sleep. Last seen three weeks ago between the hours of 10 p.m. and 8 am. Please return to Ryan Rhodes as soon as possible.

Mondays should not consist of exhaustion such as mine. Once again, I squandered a perfectly good weekend by staying busy when I could have simply stretched out on the couch watching the History Channel for 48 straight hours. That would have been ideal. Instead, I opted for the busy route, with golf, a street dance, running, a golf tournament and other such nonsense, which all cost me precious time that would have been better spent sleeping.

Friday night, however, I did briefly tune in to the opening few scenes of "The Terminator." Now, I realize this flick is considered a classic by people in my general age group, and I also realize that Arnold's career was built on this one movie, and it is not my intention at all to rip on a movie that many in my generation can recite verbatim.

But, come on, those SKULLS. I mean, I understand that, in order to show how ruthlessly efficient the killing machines of the future are, it's necessary to show some death and destruction, but those battle scenes of the future just consisted of entirely too many skulls littering the ground to be even remotely believable. Skulls everywhere. A five foot layer of skulls, skulls and more skulls. Then, to make the machines seem even more diabolical, they slowly rumble over the skulls, crushing them beneath their mighty tracks. Such indifference to the dead! How awful. How terrible. The machines! The machines are EVIL!

Ah, yes, "The Terminator." It was "The Matrix" of the 80s.

This week, I have to build a contact list both inside and outside of IBM for an article I've been assigned to write about spam. Finally, an article that I'll probably really enjoy researching and writing. My lead paragraph could revolve entirely around the piece of spam e-mail I received just now, not more than 20 seconds ago, that has the intriguing subject line "Re: Sexually Attract Men." But, I don't WANT to sexually attract men. Besides, when I think back to the times me and my friends dropped by the occasional gay bar (usually unintentionally), I think it's safe to say I don't need a boost in the man-attracting department. Not to brag or anything, but I imagine that, if I were to switch teams and start batting for the homosexual crowd, I think it's a safe bet that I'd have no problem attracting the men. That's right, I'm choice, USDA grade beefcake.

You know, I think I'm going to chalk that entire last paragraph up to my obscene lack of sleep.

Melissa's coming down to Rochester tonight, which is a good thing because A.) I'll be getting lucky and B.) I don't think I could have made it the full week without getting lucky. I would have exploded or something. Judging by the calendar, and my increased anxiety, she should be nearing her special time of the month. Sometimes, I think I'm more attuned to her cycle than she is. I wouldn't be so freakin' jumpy if she were on some sort of birth control, but because we rely solely on the latex baby batter blockers put forth by Trojan, Durex and the like, the arrival of Mel's period, for me, is a cause for celebration. "Yes! I'm not going to be a daddy! Let's go to the bar!" Last night when we spoke on the phone, she said she had seriously bad cramps the night before, so my hopes are high that this is her week.

A lot of folks have chimed in about Layne's sudden disappearance from the blogosphere, so consider me one of the folks chiming in. As sinfully guilty pleasures go, reading Layne was pretty high up on my list. At work, I kept one browser window open all day that was dedicated to her site. Every ten minutes or so, I'd click reload to see if another commenter dropped their two cents into the Layne psychiatric tip jar. So, yes, she's missed. But, I don't think she really owes anyone an explanation for her departure. We were simply virtual acquaintances, voyeuristic opinionists that really took more from Layne than we ever gave. Reading her heart and soul poured out daily on her site was something she gave us, and that was a gift infinitely richer than any comment or e-mail sent her way. Sure, writing ((hugs)) is cute and all, but that's not tangible or real, and I think it was obvious to anyone reading Layne that she needed a friend that was tangible and real, and she needed a real hug. So, she decided to unplug, which is totally fine. Bloggers are not required to blog, no matter how good they are.

Myself, I'll continue to blog unabated, because I'm a shameless self-promoting attention hog.

Now, in an attempt to boost Web traffic, I'll post a name that's been in the news lately: Laure Manaudou. Laure Manaudou. Laure Manaudou. Laure Manaudou. Laure Manaudou.

Posted by Ryan at 10:54 AM | Comments (0)

June 08, 2003

Taking Body Piercing To the

Taking Body Piercing To the Next Level

Last week I made a startling and disheartening discovery. I realized, as I watched people walk by me at the mall, that I am not "hip," I am not "with it," and Heaven forbid, I am not even "cool." And, I apparently won't be any of those things until I succumb to some form of body piercing.

You see, there's a very secret war being waged on the streets of America; and it's a war that's being fought exclusively with staplers and nail guns. The veterans of this secret war can be seen practically everywhere, their bodies riddled with shrapnel in all sorts of twisted and disgusting forms. They'll look you forlornly in the eyes, their faces dripping with metal, like some robotics experiment gone horribly awry. You can only guess what kind of horrors they encountered on the battlefield. But, just when you're going to ask some poor soul about their war experiences, you turn away in horror: their tongue took shrapnel too.

Okay, so there's not a secret war being fought with staplers and nail guns, but there is a current morbid fascination with body piercing that leaves me completely puzzled. I honestly can't fathom the appeal of sacrificing my body in the name of jewelry.
Don't get me wrong, I do find some piercings to be attractive. The ears, of course, are a time tested and approved appendage on which jewelry dangles almost seductively. The navel, too, is a saucy little spot from where a gem can twinkle. Beyond that, however, piercings just seem a touch bizarre.

I guess I can stomach eyebrow piercings too; they seem harmless enough. But, from there, metal protrusions just look out of place. I've seen cheek piercings, lip piercings, and nose piercings. And, I've seen people that feel they have to connect their earrings to their noserings with some sort of facial telephone wire. "Hello, nose, this is the ear. I'm just calling to see how your new job is going working at the ol' factory."

No part of the body is immune from the piercing phenomenon. There are nipple piercings, tongue piercings, and, for the real die hard piercing fans, genital piercings (don't try this at home, folks).

It's just a matter of time before all these pierced protrusions will be wired together in some sort of Pierced World Wide Web. "Hello, navel, this is the eyebrow, how are things going? Hold on, let me get a conference call going with the nipple and the tongue. Whaazzzzzuppp!! Whoa! We lost navel. Someone must have cut the cord."

Unfortunately, the pierced population is the cool population, or so they think. And, since I've never actually achieved cool status at any point in my life, getting a piercing may just be my ticket to acceptance within the pierced crowd.

However, I don't think I'll be able to infiltrate the pierced crowd with something as simple as an earring or a navel ring. Come to think of it, an eyebrow ring wouldn't be drastic enough either. Nose ring? No. Tongue stud? Still not drastic enough. Maybe a good nipple or genital piercing will do the trick. Oh, wait, that's just plain stupid.

No, I think I may have to invent a new and exotic brand of piercing so that I may not only be "cool," I'll also be the creator of a shocking new piercing style.

I can see it all now. I'll saunter up to a bevy of beautiful pierced women, roll up my pant leg, and show off my gleaming new leg piercing--eight inches of cold blue steel punctured through my calf. It will take a brutally sharp stake and a solid strike with a hammer to get the job done, but it will be worth it to hear all the women "oohh" and "ahhh" over my bold new piercing.

But, why stop there? My next piercing will be both shocking and useful. When I drop my drawers and show off my patented butt stud, the world will only be able to shake its head in absolute wonder. In addition to being a guaranteed conversation starter, people will also be able to hang clothing on it like some sort of anatomical coat rack.

Just as the world is ready to crown me the king of all piercing, however, I'll unleash my coup de grace. Curious crowds will gather around, their minds filled with wonder at the odd bulge protruding from my chest. With a flourish, I'll remove my shirt to unveil my fantastic torso piercing--20 inches of polished steel driven straight through my chest cavity, skirting my heart my millimeters. Sure, I'll suffer a punctured lung and life-threatening internal bleeding, to say nothing of the infection inflicted on my internal organs, but what a show stopper. I'm sure to be cool after that, if only for a very short time.

In the end, however, I think I'll pass on the new piercing craze. As appealing as a tongue stud-to-navel connection may sound, it's just not me. "Hello, navel, this is the tongue, I hear you can't stomach the thought of a piercing. Well, I've decided not to get a piercing either; I just don't have the taste for it."

Posted by Ryan at 11:05 PM | Comments (1)

June 06, 2003

Hamas Opposes Middle East Peace

Hamas Opposes Middle East Peace Plan
Members Say "We Hate Israel And. . . *BOOM!*

JERUSALEM (Rhodes Media Services) -- Amid outcry that Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas may have given away too many concessions in negoatiations for the "road map" to peace, members of the militant Islamic group, Hamas, took to the streets in protest. To further voice their displeasure, some members detonated themselves at random areas throughout the city.

"We will never allow the Jews to dictate a peace with Palestine!" screamed an unknown Hamas member wearing a black mask. "We will forever fight the Zionists until we drive them into the sea and. . . *BOOM!"

Eyewitnesses had conflicting accounts of what the Hamas member said before he exploded in a mist of crimson, but popular variations included "where's that damn button again?" and "virgins, here I come!"

Another Hamas member, interviewed as he fought his way towards an Israeli checkpoint, was so enraged at the concessions, he reportedly strapped himself with three times the standard amount of high explosives.

"Let this be a message that carries loud and clear that Palestinians will never accept their own nation if it means sharing soil with the nation of Israel," he said, visibly laboring under the weight of his gigantic explosive belt. "We will resist until our hearts no longer beat and. . . *BA-ROOOM!*"

All apparent indications showed that the Hamas member's heart stopped beating at the exact moment of detonation.

UPDATE: This enty reminded me of another bomb-belt related post which was equally as tasteless:

"Blow Out Prices In The Middle East" c. Ryan Rhodes, April 10, 2002

Crazy Hassan: If you follow news the way I do, you know that the Palestinian and Israeli situation is unlikely to be resolved any time soon. The Israelis attack with helicopters and tanks, and we Palestinians retaliate by blowing ourselves up in large crowds. It’s madness, I tell you, madness; and wherever madness goes, I, Crazy Hassan, follow.

Failed Suicide Bomber: Three years ago, I tried to detonate myself with a clumsy contraption hidden in a duffel bag outside of a busy Israeli office building. Instead of blowing up and making me a martyr, the duffel bag erupted into flame, singeing my hair and landing me here in prison. If only I had a more reliable explosive. If only.

Crazy Hassan: Are your suicide detonations as effective as you would like? At Crazy Hassan's, we've drastically improved the efficiency of our bombs. Now, the last moments of your life need not be wasted worrying whether you can bring down an entire shopping center. At Crazy Hassan’s, our explosions are INSANE!

Satisfied Customer #1: Before Crazy Hassan, there was no way I would ever consider blowing myself up, unless I was guaranteed to take at least 15 Israelis with me. Now, thanks to Crazy Hassan, I'm poised to kill scores of innocent civilians aboard this very bus. Thanks Crazy Hassan!!


Crazy Hassan: Thank you, brainwashed fundamentalist!! Not only are our bombs designed to instantly atomize your body just before your journey to Allah, they also annihilate anything within a 30 foot radius. So, you can rest easy before you rest forever.

Yasser Arafat: There was a time when we had to work with time-consuming and often unfulfilling peace negotiations. Now, thanks to Crazy Hassan, we can make our point by wantonly snuffing out the lives of men, women and children who previously thought it was safe to perform simple tasks like grocery or clothes shopping. Thank you Crazy Hassan!!

Crazy Hassan: Thank you, Yasser Arafat!! Peace negotiations? What are those? Is that what U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell is talking about? Well, remember, you can’t spell Powell without POW! And you’re guaranteed plenty of POW with Crazy Hassan’s new line of C4 suicide belts. These stylish, yet concealed, self-detonation devices can slip by even the strictest security. And you can accomplish all this at Crazy Hassan’s blow out prices!

Satisfied Customer #2: I always wanted to be a martyr for the Palestinian cause, and the promise of having 23 wives in Allah's realm has been greatly alluring since I was a child, but I've never been able to afford it until Crazy Hassan. Now, here I am, strapped with 25 pounds of high explosives, waiting for this Israeli school to release students for the day, and it only cost me pennies per ounce of C4. Thanks Crazy Hassan!!


Crazy Hassan: Thank you, brainwashed fundamentalist!! And let’s not forget the women out there. Although I, Crazy Hassan, am wary of giving women too many freedoms, I open my arms and doors to those women who want to further the Palestinian cause by violently ending their existence. Crazy Hassan’s offers a wide array of suicide belts for the female figure, including sensual nitroglycerin negligees. Truly, in our bid to liberate the Holy Land, anything goes.

Ariel Sharon: There was a time when I thought the Hebrew Biblical claim on Israel would easily be enforced through a technological military and omnipresent army. It just makes sense. But these suicide bombers just don’t make any sense. They blow up here and they blow up there. They blow up everywhere. I may despise suicide bombers, but hats off to you Crazy Hassan.

Crazy Hassan: Huh? Was someone talking to me? You must forgive me, but I’m rather deaf to any voice other than that of the Palestinian cause, particularly if it’s the voice of Israeli infidels. You've seen the utter devastation you can achieve using my bombs, and now you can be part of the new craze sweeping the militant Palestinian branches. Don't settle for peace when you can settle in pieces. Visit Crazy Hassan's today!!

Posted by Ryan at 01:38 PM | Comments (0)

Friday's Cheddar X Borne out

Friday's Cheddar X

Borne out of the crucible of intolerant conformity and coma inducing inanities posing as questions that was the Friday Five, the first ever full floating boat of the Weekly Cheddar X is breaking out and heading for higher ground. Answer them on your site, add a question if you like and leave a comment.

1. What was the last thing you stole and why?
During my job working in a grocery store meat department, I learned quickly that, to make up for a shitty hourly wage of $5.25, pretty much every employee in the store helped themselves to merchandise, and I was not immune to the epidemic. But, far from being totally obvious under the scrutiny of omnipresent security cameras and "secret shoppers," I opted for a far more clandestine thievery approach. I used to sneak back to the storage room and hunt for the holy grail of grocery theft: razor blades. Particularly when the Mach 3 came out, apparently made out of gold, I could lift 10 or so containers of cartridges a time without their absence being detected. I would usually do this right before a 15 minute break so I could run the hot merchandise out to my car. Using this method, I think I upped my hourly wage to about $11 an hour just through razor savings alone. I also had my friends come in posing as legitimate customers. They'd come to the meat department and ask for hamburger, only I wouldn't give them hamburger; I'd give them T-bones and New York strips and ribeyes at about 69 cents a pound. I ate very well indeed during those otherwise lean years.

2. What was the last thing you had stolen from you?
Back when I lived in my previous apartment, assholes went through my car with maddening regularity. My car was such a crapwagon, I didn't bother locking the doors. The little car looters made off with all the change in my change cubby and a couple of really bad cassette tapes. They also stole a Nike running jacket that I highly prized.

3. When was the last time you had to go to work without underwear (''cos you were too lazy to do the laundry!)?
Ah, a chance to relate a truly disgusting tale! Thank you Cheddar X! During my stint as a reporter for the Winona Daily News, I was coming back from an assignment and I wasn't feeling all that great, by which I mean I wanted to die. I thought I had to fart, but man oh man, it wasn't a fart. It was a flood. I drove the rest of the way back to the office holding myself six inches above the seat so I didn't have to squish my cheeks into what I had just done. At the office, I shuffle stepped to the bathroom and dribbled off my polluted boxers which were defiled as no other pair of boxers has ever been defiled. I did a clean-up job on my backside and then I filled the bathroom sink with water and set about cleansing my drawers, refusing to simply throw them away because they were my favorite pair of Calvin Klein boxers. I ended up stuffing them in my glove compartment and forgetting about them until a friend found them one day and started asking all sorts of questions about the boxers in the glove compartment. For months afterward, I was known as Boxles The Clown.

4. When was the last time you remember not reading a single blog in a day?
Pretty much any given weekend I force myself to disconnect from the Internet, so I go blog free on most Saturdays.

5. If a tree falls in the woods and smacks the only guy there to hear it, killing him, does it make a sound until he's dies?
Whether the falling tree makes a sound or not is irrelevent. What you would likely hear when you come upon the poor tree-smacked soul would be his internal gasses roiling and escaping as his bloated body begins the early stages of decomposition.

My own question #6. If there was an inhabited planet that consisted entirely of beings that breathed helium, would they think it was funny to suck in balloons filled with oxygen because it makes their voices deeper?
Sure, why not.

Posted by Ryan at 10:19 AM | Comments (0)

June 05, 2003

Blog Day Afternoon Okay, I

Blog Day Afternoon

Okay, I admit it. I haven't done much at work today except blog and watch a fly buzz around the flourescent light and think how cool it would be to be a fly buzzing around a flourescent light. I mean, think about it. With all those eyes, the world must seem like it consists entirely of thousands of flourescent lights. That would be so sweet. I think the ventilation system may be pumping in canabis fumes or something.

Anyway, I still haven't written a column for next week, and the Stewartville Star got on my case via e-mail just a moment ago asking where my column was, so I suppose I should try and conjure something. Thinking. . . thinking. . . thinking. . . scratching self. . . thinking. . . watching fly. . . thinking. . . okay, I think I have something. I give you. . .

I Have A Fear of Phobias

Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously uttered the words, "The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself."

I don't disagree with the good polio-stricken ex-president, but I would like to interject an addendum that states, "but you should also fear any weird prickly fuzzy thing crawling up your leg under the bed covers at night; and then you should scream and shriek and shudder and sprint into the shower and scrub your leg until you are completely free of all heebies and especially all jeebies."

Then again, I don't suppose that would have rallied the Americans to rise up to the challenge of the Great Depression quite as effectively.

I don't have many phobias. I mean, things startle me, and I've been frightened by a few things during my lifetime, especially the movie Battlefield Earth (the fact that movie was even made is truly terrifying), but when it comes to long term phobias, I don't have all that many. Come to think of it, I only have two phobias that I can mention and elaborate on long enough to fill this week's column.

The bottoms of lakes and rivers scare the living digested excrement out of me. I mean, I'm not afraid of swimming in lakes and rivers, but as soon as I start pondering the murky depths below my dangling feet, I start to feel considerably agitated and I can't wait to get back in the boat or crawl-stroke my way back to shore with a speed that would make an Olympic swimmer envious.

As far as I'm concerned, one of the most helpless feelings I encounter during the summer months is the time frame immediately following a tumble off of water skis. In an instant, I've gone from king of the water, standing triumphantly aloft, skimming the surface, to essentially being a human bobber awaiting rescue in the middle of a lake. It's unbearable waiting for the boat to slowly arc its way back to me. "What's taking them so long? Don't they know I'm in the water? Don't they know my toes are vulnerable to attack?"

Here in Minnesota, many of the restaurants feature the bodies of preserved fish tacked up on walls, trophy catches forever captured in lifelike form by the skilled hand of a taxidermist. Always, always I tell you, the fish have their eyes trained upward, from the lowliest bluegill to the biggest muskie. Do you know what they're looking at? Do you know what those fish were eyeing as potential meals before the fisherman's pole yanked them from the water? That's right, they were looking at my toes! Or, at least that's what I tend to believe.

The same holds true for rivers. One of the most disconcerting feelings is when I'm wading down a river, and suddenly I hit a drop-off and can't touch bottom. Yeeargh! Where's the bottom?! Where did it go?! My toes! My precious toes are vulnerable to attack yet again! It's at about that time that a chunk of river muck brushes against my ankle and I become a pathetic, thrashing, incoherent torrent of activity. Must! Get! Out! Of! Deep! Water!

My other phobia really doesn't make a whole bunch of sense. Not that my lake and river bottom phobia makes much sense, I guess. At any rate, my other great fear is to be doused entirely in something sticky such as soda pop, or honey, or ketchup, or mustard or anything else that would make me feel like a sandwich. I slightly flip out when I spill pop on my hand, so the thought of having a full can poured over my head just makes me shudder.

There was a Honey Nut Cheerios commercial awhile back that showed a guy sitting in an open convertible. He was asked how much honey flavor was packed into a single bite of Honey Nut Cheerios. He didn't know, so he took a bite, and from out of nowhere a gargantuan blob of honey dropped from the sky, filling the convertible and covering the driver. I honestly couldn't change the channel fast enough when I saw that commercial coming. What a horrible thing to do to someone! The thought of being covered head to toe with dripping honey makes me tremble in horror so hard I'm generating a small earthquake as I write this. Who would do such a thing, and why? And how could that possibly help the sale of Honey Nut Cheerios?

So, those are my phobias. What are your's. Come on, you can tell me. Or, are you afraid?

UPDATE: Yes, as a matter of fact, I did initially have that FDR quote attributed to Winston Churchill, an especially egregious error considering I had a history minor in college. Many thanks to all of you who noticed it and pointed it out. *grumble*

Posted by Ryan at 04:18 PM | Comments (0)

Shakeup at the New York

Shakeup at the New York Times

There's nothing quite so gratifying as watching news organizations descending on a hapless rival. First, the New York Times has the whole Jayson Blair fiasco, followed by Rick Bragg taking credit for work done by a freelance grunt in the field. I'm thinking there's a lot of hubris at the NYT. Whatever the case, they were a wounded gazelle on the serengeti, and the lion pride of rival media outlets were ripe for the kill. The first to be dragged down? Howell Raines and Gerald Boyd, the Times executive editor and managing editor, respectively.

I'll admit it; it's fun to watch. But, more than that, I think it's necessary from time to time for these media monoliths to suffer a shake-up of their own doing. I think they get complacent, resting on their established names and building a feeling of invulnerability. The Jayson Blairs of the world can flourish under that because fact-checking and reporter scrutiny just tends to take a backseat after awhile. Until something comes along to change that.

Now we'll see all sorts of media introspection, because if there's one thing news organizations can't stand, it's admitting that they're wrong. So, they're going to take steps to fix leaks in their boats, and I'm sure Raines and Boyd won't be the last casualties we see before this plays itself out.

Which is cool. Because there'll be some new job opening I can look into.

Posted by Ryan at 01:08 PM | Comments (0)

Impending Ten Year Reunion Well,

Impending Ten Year Reunion

Well, it's coming.

A decade has passed since I donned the high school cap and gown (twice, but that's a different story). The ten year Harmony High School class reunion always just seemed so far away, particularly as I muddled through college trying to figure out what I was good at and what I wanted to do and somehow finding a way to tie those ends together, and then one day discovering that I could write news articles and just kind of finding journalism from there. For me, now, that was one of the defining moments of my life, way more important than most everything I did in high school.

I was a geek in high school, or so I think in retrospect. I was a student without a clique, which is unheard of in a small town school, where cliques aren't just common, they're necessary for survival. I played football, but I wasn't a jock. I was a good wrestler, but I didn't hang out with my fellow wrestlers lamenting weight maintenance and obsessing over the sport. I was on the golf team, but mostly so I could play golf courses around the area for free. I got good grades without really putting much effort into it. I just floated by in high school, taking things seriously only if they didn't interfere with the things I liked to do. And, boy, does that sound like the Ryan Rhodes of today, too.

I'm not sure I want to be reunited with many of my classmates. The ones that I like and built strong friendships with mostly came about after high school. Troy, mostly by accident, became my roommate and most trusted friend, despite us not saying more than four words to each other through most of high school. Jim, the ex-marine who came back and we discovered we liked golf equally, as well as bar NTN trivia. Norm, the quiet high school non-conformist who is still unearthly silent and I can't really explain why we're friends, except to say he's always just kind of there. Jeremy, the high school prick turned lawyer. These are the friends I have from high school, and they're the only ones I really care to see, and I see them all the time anyways.

I guess I would have liked my 10 year reunion to be like the one portrayed in Grosse Point Blank. There I'd stand, a dashing yet dangerous looking John Cusack, dressed in a black suit, nervous that I'm around all the old classmates, but fully knowing I could kick the shit out of them and maybe even kill them if the price was right. It would be cool if I could hook up with an old high school flame, though, truth be told, I really didn't have one. Instead, I'd just hook up with some desperate chick who was drunk and horny and requiring my man pole. I guess that would be as close as I could get to nailing Minnie Driver. Afterwards, it would be super cool if an unknown assailant attacked me in the hallway, and then I'll kill him after a sweaty and cool karate fight by sticking a pen in his neck. Then, Troy and I would wrap the body in a "Go Falcons" banner and toss it in the boiler. That would be a pretty cool and memorable class reunion.

Far from Grosse Point Blank, however, all I can really expect is a lot of people I'd rather avoid coming up and asking a slew of pointless questions about what I'm doing now, whether I'm married, whether I have children, how much I can drink, whether I still have a montrous cock. You know, those types of questions. Yesterday, one of the organizers of the reunion sent me a list of questions they wanted me to answer so they could put together some sort of book or something. The questions struck me as remarkable in their banality, but I answered them anyway, and my responses are as follows:

Name: Ryan Rhodes

Significant other: Right and Left Hand (alternating depending on finger cramps)

Address: Rochester, Minn.

Children: None that I know of (fingers crossed)

After graduation: Why, yes. Yes, it is after graduation. Thanks for the heads up.

My goals for the next 10 years: To continue with a steady heartbeat, complemented by inhaling and exhaling air. Everything else is just icing on the cake.

Greatest memories of high school: That one time, when I had three naked women on my bed, and they were all like "oooh, Ryan, you make us so hot," and I was all like "I know it ladies, now let me work my magic," and they were all like "we can't take it any more. Please just pleasure us with you pulsating man rod," and I was all like getting mad at how impatient they were and stuff. Oh, wait, that was a porno I watched once. I don't have any great memories of high school.

According to Aubrey, the reunion organizer: "Several memories people have had is that time you whipped your pants down for all to see."

What I want to know is to which time Aubrey is referring. I must have done that 20 times or more. That's just the kind of high school student I was, and really the kind of person I am now. No secrets. No shame. And a whole buttload of incredulity.

Maybe I'm more prepared for my 10 year reunion than I realized.

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

June 04, 2003

An Open Letter To Rep.

An Open Letter To Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio)

Dear Mr. Kucinich, with all due respect, would you kindly consider shutting your fucking pie hole. I understand you opposed the war in Iraq, and I further understand that you have aspirations to be President yourself (good luck with that), but to use the raid that rescued Pfc. Lynch as your own own personal political tool to gain a little attention demeans yourself and your position as a U.S. Representative.

Yes, I know that conspiracy theorists and huffy media outlets like the BBC would like to portray the raid as "fake" or "staged," and they can come up with any number of ass-backwards facts to support their case, but I think the facts thus far clearly show that, although the military may have used edited footage of the raid as a PR piece, the raid itself was very real.

I see, Mr. Kucinich, that you want the Defense Department on to release unedited footage of the raid and to answer questions about Pfc. Lynch's injuries. Well, I thought I'd save the Defense Department some precious time and answer your questions myself. Hope you don't mind.

Did U.S. troops encounter any Iraqi forces in the hospital?

Irrelevent. Nasiriyah, at that time, was far from under coalition control. Perhaps you, Mr. Kucinich, would have felt confident entering the hospital unarmed and simply asking hospital workers if they had seen a stray U.S. Pfc. laying around somewhere, but given the fact that the hospital was used as a fedayeen paramilitary headquarters just days before, I think a forceful raid was justified whether they encountered Iraqi forces or not. Oh, and by the way, The Defense Department admitted early on that they encountered no resistance in the raid, so what's the point of asking this again? Oh, right, publicity.

Were U.S. troops fired upon during the rescue operation?

Again, irrelevent. However, the troops did take enemy fire prior to entering the hospital, so it stands to reason that they were expecting resistence inside the building as well. As for any use of force, the raid employed the use of flash bangs which, though they are loud and bright and probably stunned more than a couple workers, they hardly constitute an undue use of force, given the situation.

Did U.S. troops have information suggesting that Iraqi forces had abandoned the hospital?

Yet once again, irrelevent. Would it make a difference to you if intelligence indicated a fedayeen headquarters two days prior or two hours prior? Would you not employ the same precautions and tactics either way? Mr. Kucinich, I can only say that I'm happy as hell you weren't in command of any actions during this war, because you would have been crying in the sand demanding exact up-to-the-second intelligence before taking any sort of action. And, in the chaotic and ever changing nature of war, that's not a luxury commanders have in abundance. Sometimes, two day old intelligence is the best they have to go on, no matter the technology or sophistication.

Did Lynch sustain any gunshot or knife wounds?

Everyone together now. . . irrelevent! All indications pretty much show that Pfc. Lynch was neither shot nor stabbed, but at the time of the raid, how the hell was anyone supposed to know that? Now, of course, we know with some degree of certainty that she suffered a head wound, an injury to her back, and multiple fractures to her arms, legs, and her right foot and ankle. Bullet wounds or no, stab wounds or no, this girl wasn't going anywhere without help. Oh, and lets not forget the bodies of unit comrades also found in the hospital who DEFINITELY had bullet wounds. Perhaps you'd like to switch places with Pfc. Lynch, Mr. Kucinich. I'm sure she'd like the opportunity as well.

Did U.S. officials have information suggesting that hospital staff were trying to deliver Lynch to American forces?

Ah, yes, the stickler. The big kahuna question. The thing that makes you go "hmmmmm." Well, not really. Listen, in war, you're going to get conflicting intelligence on just about everything. But, let's pretend intelligence dropped on central command's desk indicating that hospital staff was trying to deliver Lynch to American forces. How much credibility would you give to the report? Would you throw up your hands and thank the powers that be for such a great gift and then go sit out on the front steps smoking a cigarette awaiting the delivery of Pfc. Lynch? Or, would you opt to put things in the hands of coalition forces specifically trained to carry out a rescue mission? And, really, how do you know that the information is not, in fact, misinformation sent out so coalition forces would allow an ambulance loaded with high explosives to park itself right in the middle of a Red Cross facility and detonate?

Did U.S. forces fire at ambulances?

See answer to above question. In a country where you had Baghdad Bob promising unconventional attacks, and where you had a pregnant woman blowing up in the name of martyrdom for her and her unborn child, I, too, would tend to err on the side of caution when an "ambulance" nears a checkpoint, particularly in an unsecure war zone such as Nasiriyah. But, hey, if it would rest your moral nerves to go up to every truck coming at you and ask if they're carrying a wounded U.S. Pfc., you go right ahead. I'll be right behind you, behind a bunker, with my fingers in my ears.

Thank you for your time.

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

June 03, 2003

When Life Gives You Lemonade,

When Life Gives You Lemonade, Make A Lemon

There's this girl I see every time I go for my five mile run around Rochester's much-valued Silver Lake (so named to give a positive spin on all the goose shit, I'm sure). She's anorexic. Totally and completely anorexic. She's so thin I wonder sometimes how she's able to convince her left foot to place itself in front of the right in the practice known as walking.

I can always see her coming. She's my age, I think. She wears a plastic sweat outfit that does nothing to hide her skeletal frame, her face shows off every facial bone and her legs display the sharp cut of her femurs and tibias as plainly as the sun shines. She also chews gum perpetually, because that, too, allows her to lose weight in a small way.

The first time I encountered her, I was shocked, and I'm sure I recoiled in horror. And my reaction probably just fueled her belief that she has some hidden reservoir of fat she should lose. She'll kill herself, I'm convinced, within the next couple of years (maybe months).

I find myself trying to stitch together a story about the girl. Perhaps she was a homecoming queen, or maybe she had parents with aspirations of her being a great scientist. She had a great future in front of her, I tend to think. A great mind, a sharp sense of humor, a wit that could cut through the biggest ego (even mine?).

Instead, she found herself unable to think of anything except her own weight, and her delusion that she's nothing if she's not perfectly thin, which is an ideal so entirely her own, and thus impossible, that she'll only attain it once she's a pile of bleached bones somewhere underground. So, she walks around Silver Lake in perpetuity, chewing gum and hoping that last fictitious gram of fat will magically disappear, which it won't, because only she sees it, and she probably always will, no matter what the best and brightest minds at the Mayo Clinic tell her.

I don't dispute that she has no control over herself. Her mind has built up mental barriers to ensure she'll kill herself, as plain as I'm typing here on a dirty keyboard. She'll die, and the world of seven billion people will move on, not caring one whiff if she was fat or thin. But, she thinks it will.

I'm not sure what my point was with this post, but I think I'll sleep a tad better knowing that it's not entirely locked exclusively in my mind.

Good night.

Posted by Ryan at 12:23 AM | Comments (0)

June 02, 2003

Quick Potty Talk So, I

Quick Potty Talk

So, I quick went to the bathroom to make my bladder gladder, and some guy was making fecal soup in the stall next to the urinal, and the smell emanating was so sickeningly sour, it's burned into my olfactory bulb, and I can't shake the smell, and I'm about to go for a walk outside to try and clear my nostrils. Holy yuck. Yuck, yuck, yuck.

Posted by Ryan at 11:45 AM | Comments (0)

Weekend Runaround I don't like

Weekend Runaround

I don't like busy weekends. I like weekends that consist of lounging around sleeping and burping and flatulating. Those are nice weekends.

Alas, now that June is upon us and summer is now officially in full swing, such lazy weekends simply can't exist, at least not until November or so. Summer weekends in Minnesota have to be jam packed with fun and frivolity and everything else you vowed you'd do as you hunkered beneath twelve layers of blankets that one week in January when the temperature was just a few degrees shy of absolute zero.

Last weekend was one of those weekends where I was determined to tie up some loose ends and start my summer with a piercing screech of the tires as my summer dragster sped from the starting gate. Unfortunately, my girlfriend's weekend schedule required a whole heck of a lot of driving all over the place so that I might accomplish my weekend goals.

Soooo, Friday night, Mel drove down from the cities to Rochester after work, and we promptly loaded ourselves into my Caddy and drove down to Harmony. We did this because we had big and important plans for the next morning. We were going to go rollerblading! But, not just rollerblading. We were going to go rollerblading from Hamony to Lanesboro, a distance of about 23 miles. We awoke at 10:30 Saturday morning, and I went outside to try to get my father's truck started, because we needed two vehicle so we could leave one in Lanesboro and thus have transport home. This required a jumpstart of the battery, because the truck hadn't seen active use since August.

I don't like jumpstarting vehicles. I've heard one too many horror stories about batteries exploding and acid turning human faces into dripping flesh and gore. I always imagine myself screwing up the whole jumpstarting procedure and spending the rest of my life enduring reconstructive surgery and skin grafts. But, once again, I conducted a flawless vehicle jumpstart, so all that dramatic play up that I just wrote about was really kind of pointless. Then again, you were probably expecting some great tale of me deftly dodging acid and shrapnel as a battery exploded or something. Weren't you? Suckers.

The trail system connecting Harmony and Lanesboro really, truly shouldn't be missed. You want natural beauty, you'll find it there. Melissa and I saw deer and squirrels and chipmunks and alligators and stegasaurus and an occasional unicorn. Okay, we didn't see any of those last three, but we did see a Baltimore Oriole (no, not a baseball player), and that's really rare here in Minnesota.

It was at about the 20th mile that my legs decided they were getting pretty sick and tired of all the standing and rolling. Beautiful scenery or no, exhaustion was setting in. Mel and I forced our legs to carry us the final few miles to my awaiting Cadillac, and we both agreed that a nap was in order when we got back to Harmony. I haven't been that pooped since I can't even remember. All the sun and rollerblading had taken its toll, and we both conked out for two hours as our bodies tried to recuperate. When we woke up at about 7 p.m., we went outside to do some quick yard work. My parents are coming home for the summer next week, and I wanted to get their house as nice as I could. Melissa had bought a bunch of garden borders for my mother's back yard flower garden, so she set about putting those up while I mowed.

Mel bought the garden borders from Restoration Hardware, where she works, a store that excels in the art of selling worthless junk, in my opinion. And my opinion was validated by the iron garden borders that tended to snap and break if you looked at them wrong. Sure they were cute, I suppose, but cute doesn't get you anywhere when the damn things break as you stick them in the ground. There weren't enough borders to go around the flower garden as it was, but after five of the fucking things broke, there definitely weren't enough.

Mel had to work at 8 a.m. on Sunday, so we drove back to Rochester Saturday night after a full day of rollerblading, sleeping, and breaking garden borders. She had to wake up at 6 a.m. on Sunday to drive the rest of the way back to the cities. I slept in until 9 a.m., and then I got up and drove back to. . . .

Harmony, so I could finish mowing the lawn and go golfing with my friend, Troy. The golfing was pleasant and uneventful, and then I went home and started transferring the garden borders from the back yard flower garden to the front yard flower garden, taking extra care not to break any more of the fragile pieces of crap. Thankfully, I didn't break any more, and there were just enough to encircle the front yard flower garden, so I managed to salvage a victory of the Restoration Hardware crap factory.

Then, I dragged the mower back out so I could finish trimming the front lawn. I was pleased, because this would be the last time I would have to mow the parents' lawn this summer. This was it! I pulled the starter once. I pulled the starter twice. I pulled the starter three times. . . Success! The mower roared to life. . . even as the starting rope snapped off in my hand. And, I mean the ENTIRE rope. My mission was clear. I had to mow the lawn in its entirety without stopping. I couldn't let the mower stop or I would never get it started again.

And then a woman pulled up alongside the curb to ask directions. There I stood, unable to leave the mower, because loosening my grip meant stopping the mower. It was an unusual dilemma. I eventually opted to drag the mower with me to the curb and shout directions to the confused woman over the growl of the mower. She seemed perplexed as to why I was so anally tethered to the mower, and I didn't feel like explaining my situation. She drove away, no doubt convinced that I was a small town yokel with four functioning brain cells. But, no matter. I got the lawn mowed, and now it's in my father's court to buy a new fucking mower.

Then I drove back to Rochester. By this time, I had driven back and forth so many times, they officially changed the city signs to read "Welcome To Rochester, Ryan!"

Ugh, my 10 year class reunion is a month away. But, at least I test for my black belt this month. Busy, busy, busy. Welcome to summer, everyone!

Posted by Ryan at 11:00 AM | Comments (0)

June 01, 2003

I'm Sorry, but I Just

I'm Sorry, but I Just Don't Get NASCAR

I like to think that I can pretty much enjoy some aspect of every sport. For example, although soccer could qualify as one of the world's longest athletic yawns, it still has some fascinating aspects, like when Brandi Chastain tore off her top after winning the Women's World Cup. That was pretty cool.

However, there are some sports that, try as I might, I just can't get into them. At the top of this list is NASCAR. I'm sorry, but I just don't get NASCAR. Now, before all you NASCAR enthusiasts out there spit a collective wad of Skoal in my direction, allow me to explain myself. A friend of mine just read that last sentence and said I would be lucky if I didn't receive a "collective beating" because of it.

I should note that, within my circle of friends, I'm in the minority when it comes to my distaste for NASCAR, and by minority I mean that I'm the only one who doesn't have a favorite driver. However, if I were to pick a favorite, I would simply select two common first names and combine them, which seems to be a pre-requisite for being a NASCAR driver (i.e. Jeff Gordon, Robby Gordon, Tony Stewart, Mark Martin, etc.).

Even NASCAR stars who don't have two first names still have designations that remind me of people living in beaten up hunting shacks in the forest with two or three shattered toilets laying in the yard. Who wouldn't be a bit wary knocking on the door of a Jeremy Mayfield or a Sterling Marlin? Sounds a lot like an automotive version of Deliverance. I'm sorry, but I just don't get NASCAR.

I remember first becoming aware of a NASCAR interest infestation about six years ago as I sat watching TV with several of my friends. As I flicked through the channels, we briefly saw a line of cars roaring down a track, and before I could change stations, one of our group, Jim, shouted "Ooohhhh! NASCAR!!" We all looked at Jim as if he had stepped in something supremely foul.

It wasn't long before Jim's NASCAR enthusiasm began infecting others, and I now routinely find myself enduring consecutive hours of NASCAR chat while my friends watch cars zoom around and around in what to me is a pointless steering exercise. I'm sorry, but I just don't get NASCAR.

JIM: Rusty's gaining on Labonte. He'll probably draft him for awhile before trying to take him high.

MARC: No way, man. Bobby is leading in points; he's gonna take the Winston Cup this year.

ANDY: Who's leading the Busch Series anyway? I haven't been keeping up on that like I should.

JIM, MARC, and ANDY: Man, I really hate Jeff Gordon!

ME: I'm getting dumber, guys. Please, change the channel.

I should note here that I don't totally understand racing terms like "drafting," so I may have used it incorrectly here, and the nuances between Winston Cup and Busch Series escape me, although I think one has to do with smoking and one has to do with drinking.

I'm sorry, but I just don't get NASCAR.

Posted by Ryan at 11:49 PM | Comments (0)
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