Sums of Parts

There is no way to predict what is going to happen with your day.  You can choose the people, the place, the agenda, and with no warning the washing machine floods the house and takes over the evening.

I have podcasted hundreds of times with many of the same people.  Last night’s show was to be a simple game of Scattergories, no different from any other.   My ribs are still sore from laughing as hard as I did.  I didn’t get to bed until 2am, and I suspect when I look back on the most memorable moments my life, last night’s weekly podcast and the Orphan-Black-Kate-Date-Talkathon that followed will make the cut, despite looking like any other day on the calendar.

Life is good.

I’m a Time Lord

I’m a serial monologuer.  I have thoughts on everything and I’m way too analytical not to convey them in a form of chronological legalese that could paralyze 83% of the world’s population.

There was a line on Doctor Who last season by Matt Smith’s Doctor – I’m not going to give his number because my very good friend Richard will start a bar brawl with me – where he says that like a Time Lord who regenerates into a newer, older self, we all change as we age and become “new people” as we progress in our journey.  This really struck a chord with me and I don’t think I quite got it out of my head since it aired.

I’m 33 years old.  I used to be the shyest kid in the universe.  I was an only-child with a stay-at-home-mom. My singular experience with daycare was from one incident at my mom’s gym when she was down the hall for about twelve minutes. I was four. I still remember the screams.

I didn’t make friends well, was easily taunted, hated sports, and idolized my father who worked 25 hours a day and monologued and talked in legalese. I recall the first 12-13 years of my life in the same way I think about 17th century cobblers. I believe it happened, but it doesn’t feel like anything relatable to my life today.

Let’s call that Ryan something like Captain Buzzkill.

Through a well-timed 8th grade class trip, hundreds of miles from family, and following the death of my grandmother, which shocked my world, I “regenerated” from Captain Buzzy into my second incarnation, Doogie Howser.  Doogie was a motor-mouth.  He didn’t have a shy bone in his body and found new friends that didn’t make him feel like he was pitied. He had his first crush, first love, first shot at independence and I feel genuine pride looking back on his time. I run into old friends and they’ll ask, “Do you remember this and this???” as though this escapade of Doogie’s is legendary. I genuinely don’t remember all of it.  It was such a wonderful time of my life, but it’s an echo today.

A happy echo.

Buzzy, with all the calm, fatherly presence of Alan Greespan warning Congress of an impending housing bubble, would boil to the surface when Doogie’s friendships soured and stretched, screaming about air raid drills and sobbing uncontrollably for no real reason. Doogie’s response was to adapt, jumping to clean slates with new crowds, anything to not be typecast as Peter Pettigrew without the problems. It was easy at Doogie’s time of life. Anything could be placed aside if it wasn’t convenient.

Family heartache, permanent responsibility and finally, totally falling in love marked the regeneration of Doogie into Huggles. Neurotic as he was and without a safety net, Huggles, like Buzzy, felt awkardness acutely like a tiny pebble in his shoe. Doogie was care free. Huggles was far more focused, suffering from an severe BS intolerance. He was tough on people when they needed it, but he discovered the true meaning of Christmas – family – in whatever form it came in.  He was the one who tired of starting over and had no interest making friends with people who would not be there in sixty years. Huggles wanted it right from the start and forever and was the Ryan to finally take charge of his life.

Oh, and he started Poufwa and accidentally changed the world.

Huggles has been here for almost eleven years.  Matt Smith reminded him recently that times change, and so must he, but that’s okay, that’s good, because the love of Buzzy, the optimistic spirit of Doogie and the focus of Huggles may yet live on in the next Ryan, and that he’s a-coming.

Also like Matt Smith, Huggles didn’t get it.

Then the out-of-towners arrived to check out the region for syrup and cheese. Two vacationers crashed at our place, one an old friend with much knowledge of interwebs and shiny, and the other his vacation buddy that Huggles remembered from the early days of Poufwa, but whom he hadn’t really spoken to in years. Doogie would appreciate the clean slate.

I have a wife I adore, two cats to put through college, a house, two godkids and a nephew. I have things I would like to do before I die, as does everyone, but I truly just want to love and live well. Huggles was born in fire because he was needed, but over time fell into the old habits of Buzzy and Doogie. Seeing his friends, making a wonderful new one, asking about their lives and at the same time examining his own brought into focus overdo changes that Huggles, that I, need to make in now I approach the world.

Que the orange lights. Say goodnight to Huggles, and say hello to the fourth Ryan.

Nigel Appleby is here.

If Nigel is a version of myself, he is the one who makes decisions because he decided
they’re important to make, not because circumstances require it of him.  He’s not surviving.  He’s living.  He’s not a gossip. He’s selective of friends, like Huggles before him, but he has stronger confidence in who he is.

Huggles had the habit of molding his personality around the other person. Need him to be strong or compassionate or a listener or an antagonist? Need him to come on strong or need him to back off and not be in your face? He could be whatever you needed, even if it wasn’t who necessarily who he was at that moment, because he wanted you to stick around for sixty years and not get tired of him. It occurs to me there is no manual on how to be a friend, or a husband, an uncle, a parent. Every single one of us makes it up as we go along, and we deserve the right to do it without filter. Nigel is the first Ryan to accept it is your decision on whether or not to stay.

He’s also the first Ryan to break down the walls between separate lives. I am a podcaster. I’m a leader of an online community that seems silly to a lot of people but that has brought many lives together and made the world a better place. I am very proud of that. I used to keep worlds separate to avoid conversations with people over things they do not understand. Now I welcome it. Stay or leave.

I am Ryan. I am also Buzzy, Doogie, Huggles and Nigel. Who will I be in the next ten years? A husband, a dad, I hope, a friend, and someone who puts myself forward, unashamed, who will give everything for the people I love, in truth. I don’t want to spend a minute of my life on noise, clean slates, or unnecessary tears.

And I hope to deafen 83% of the world while doing it, because I am also, and proudly my father’s son.


The Ritual

Every modern history class I took as a kid taught by the decade, as though there were societal shifts visible in real time that concluded their plots before the year ended in zero again.  The I-Love-Lucy decade.  The Space-Race decade.  The one with Nixon.   I grew up thinking that not only do countries have hand drawn borders like on an atlas, but there was a public announcement over a giant loudspeaker in December 1979 that the Reagan Revolution would be commencing shortly.

More often than not, I’m the guy at work who never notices that my buddy in the next cube dropped fifty pounds because I see him every day.  I catch these things years after they happened.  Here in 2014, I am told that the 2000s were the iPod decade. iPods snuck up on me so gradually that I only remember surviving without one when I get a forward on Facebook that reminds me alongside photos of people blowing into Nintendo cartridges.  I get the difference only when I’m forced to consider it.

I was a really awkward kid.  I had trouble making friends and despite being surrounded by good people always felt just a little out of place, because I was and everyone was nice not to point it out.  I cherished anything that was “just mine” but it’s hard to find that when you feel uncomfortable and shy in your own skin.

Then Steve Jobs built an iPod.

I have wonderful friends on the West Coast, where I have never stood.  Texas scares the bejesus out of me.  I love people who live there.  As I was writing this, an Aussie popped in  to say a kind word.  It’s all heightened today.   If I got picked on at school, it stopped at 2:30.  Now it’s on Twitter and Instagram.  Kids have it a lot harder, but they have a lot more hope.  There are seven billion people alive at this moment, and odds are I have a few things in common with at least five of them, and they’re not so hard to locate anymore.  At some point between then and here, no one had to be lost anymore.  I missed it the day that happened, but there it is.

I have a ritual.  When I decide that anyone needs to be my friend, whether I just met them or have been bumping around them for years, I like to spend a few days to get to know them.  I may inundate them with questions about themselves.  I may mail them DVDs of my favorite shows with instructions to watch them yesterday and be prepared to discuss key plot points.  Beyond the geekery of the process, it is probably the most hopeful thing I do.  I never have to feel awkward again, and neither do my kids.  I had this awesome ritual prepped and ready as a kid, and now that the world is smaller I get to finally use it all the time, including today.

Thanks Steve.

It’s our Fandom, Too…

I wrote this on April 29, 2009, and completely forgot about it until I was dusting off old podcasts recently.  Still true today!

My girlfriend Danielle bought me the first four Harry Potter books as a college graduation gift back in May, 2003. Three weeks later, my father suffered a serious heart attack and required quadruple bypass surgery. Three days after that, my uncle suffered a debilitating stroke. As you mind imagine, I spent a lot of time in hospitals that summer, and Harry was my constant companion in hospital waiting rooms. The books were a portal to a world where loyalty and friendship prevailed in the darkest of days. Badly injured? Swallow this potion and sleep it off.

They were a source of hope to me, when I truly needed hope.

My father died of cancer nine months later. His sister died of cancer three weeks after he did. My cousin’s baby died in his sleep six weeks after she did. I bought a house and started graduate school. I’ve worked full-time continuously since I was twenty years old. Perhaps you have a similar story? Life is difficult for everybody. Everyone has stuff, whether it be medical conditions, financial hardship, or three beautiful yet tragically energetic young children who want to build pillow forts on your head.

Everyone needs to hide.

Enter Harry Potter fan fiction. JKR was a slow writer, and the concept of inexhaustible possibilities fascinated me. Danielle was a big fan herself, so I’d talk to her over dinner about the latest story I read, the cliffhanger at the end of the last chapter and the latest version of Hermione who liked to wear bikinis. After a while, she looked more concerned for my mental sanity than usual, so I figured I needed to find hardcore geeks to talk to about my newest obsession.

I lived at Checkmated, SIYE, and Fiction Alley. I had no clue who ran the websites. Did they know each other? Did they even know about each other? Everything defaulted to the universe and the story, so I never cared too much.

I’ve hosted a fan fiction podcast called PotterFicWeekly for two years. We’ve read a dozen fanfics, chapter by chapter, and analyzed plot, character, and writing style. The universe is important to me. The characters are important to me. The authors earn the right to be there, but it’s not about them really. It’s about Harry. Harry Potter got me through difficult periods in my life, and I’m not through with him yet.

I had a very romanticized view of the fandom because it never occurred to me that Harry Potter fans who were intelligent and learned and thoughtful and articulate could read these books, close their eyes, think for a minute, and not walk away thinking that love beats hate and that Rita Skeeter was a horrid bitch.

I was soon directed to a website called Fandom Wank, which I was told would teach me what I needed to know to, and I’m quoting here, “survive in the fandom.” Let me preface that I have a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in business. I balance my checkbook for fun. I can learn anything.

In the fandom, time began somewhere around 2001. If you were there at the beginning, you witnessed the great collapse of civilization and have the wisdom of Yoda. You are an Elder. Those who follow shall look to you for guidance and approval. Seniority rules. There is a code of conduct that shall not be violated. Fandom wank will be watching, and Rita Skeeter is a department head.

Apparently at the dawn of time, the senior Elders lived in harmony, forgive the expression, until one day like the occupants of the ladies room at a junior prom, they went batshit crazy, beat each other with pool noodles, started their own fan fiction archives, and vowed to hate each other until the end of time. Or something. Ancient history is a bit fuzzy.

The fandom is more than a community. It’s a culture, and all cultures have leadership. This one has strong leaders, and it has bullies in the form of loudmouths who don’t give a rat’s ass about how good of a writer you are. It’s your celebrity, stupid. They care about how long you’ve been here and how you dare to express yourself. What you have to say is second-tier.

I don’t recognize their authority. I don’t recognize their qualifications. I’m here to talk about Harry and what his trials mean to my own life. His journey got me through difficult days in hospitals. I learned more about myself and humanity in those days than anything I could have learned as a self-important gasbag bitching about who fired who from which website seven years ago or who has been in the fandom the longest and is most deserving of genuflexion.

My very good friend was caught up in fandom wank this past week and was verbally brutalized by those who prioritize their own egos and celebrity and the self-important weight of their personal approval over the human dignity of another person. She spent two days in tears. It occurs to me that I could never understand what I read on Fandom Wank no matter how many times I read. It’s a load of crap. It’s a manual of bullshit written by people who totally missed the point.

This is my friend’s fandom, too, and it’s mine. If that makes you uncomfortable because I haven’t stood in line long enough, then you are welcome to kiss my fat ass. Harry’s done a lot for all of us, and now I’m going to fight this one for him.

The easiest thing to remember

I spent a few minutes tonight chatting politics with a friend of mine.  We’re both more liberal than we’re not.  We both listen to talk radio, or at least I did until Jay Severin went over to the dark side back in ’08.  We enjoy actually thinking and being grounded in our positions, which is why he asked me tonight if I find it difficult to know when to trust the left.

I like that question, because this country is overflowing with millions of people who aren’t very bright, who are desperate to be told what to think so they won’t show it, and who regurgitate anything the talking heads tell them because thinking is for commies.

I was driving somewhere a few years ago during the Terry Schiavo debacle, clearly without an iPod handy, or else I wouldn’t have been listening to Sean Hannity.  He was explaining his ludicrous theory on how Terry’s husband planned her execution.  The show ended, and the next host took a caller who opened with, “It’s well-documented and clearly proven that….” and vomited Hannity’s theory up word for word.

The answer to my friend’s question?  Give the benefit of the doubt, to everybody.  And then hit them with a Buick.

Todd Akin’s infamous comment hit twitter last week while I was at a friend’s house.  I read it in spurts and thought the totality of the thing was that here’s another anti-science moron explaining how vaginal venom works.  I didn’t hear about the legitimate rape comment until later.  So let’s apply the benefit of the doubt theory to Mr. Akin.  He didn’t mean to say “legitimate” rape.  He meant to say”forcible” rape.  In Akin’s mind, there’s a difference between a woman who is violently raped in an alley and a woman who has sex and changed her mind at some point and didn’t give the right signals.  He probably would have called this “gray rape” if they let him talk long enough. These are the only two classifications of rape his teeny little brain can handle.

Legislatively,  Akin and Paul Ryan and every single Republican in the House of Representatives (plus sixteen conservative Democrats) want federal rape laws to only apply with evidence of force.  They want women to prove to doctors that they were raped before being allowed an abortion.  They want to repeat the word “forcible” as many times as they can so that in a decade or two, like they made us think all welfare recipients are slobs, an accusation of rape will carry no weight in society unless it is accompanied by an incriminating X-ray.

In the case of Akin, he got screwed.  He’s a member of a secret society with a 20-year plan and a great PR department.  Hate the thought of pink slime?  I bet you wouldn’t blink at ordering lean finely textured beef.  Akin is in lockstep with his party, but used the wrong word and was on his own, ostracized and fired upon by people who think he’s absolutely right, but don’t want to give themselves up.

I guess the vaginal venom put it over the top.

Tonight, Rep Tom Smith, a Pennsylvania Senate candidate, was pressed on the abortion issue.  He described himself as 100% pro-life and then went on to compare a rape victim’s decision to have an abortion with his daughter’s decision to have a child out of wedlock.  Understandably, the media standing nearby asked him 163 times if he was comparing rape to single motherhood.  Hundreds of miles away, Paul Ryan took heat for calling rape a “method to conception.”

Benefit of the doubt recap.  Akin was a covert agent who blew his cover and was turned on by fellow covert agents.  He got screwed, not because of what he believed, but because he actually said the quiet part loud.  Tom Smith was probably thinking about two women deciding whether to have a child, one conceived from rape and other, unintentionally from consensual sex.  That’s it.  Paul Ryan?  He is correct that rape is a method to conception.  I give him credit for that one, because it proves the vaginal venom theory is losing its core audience.

That said, it’s Buick time.  Akin, Smith and Ryan may each very well think that any act of abortion is the killing of life.  In Ryan’s case, he has no problem pointing out that he is proudly joining the ticket of someone who would only allow murder in certain situations, so I’m not quite clear on what that says about his character.  Standing next to Mitt Romney, he’s lucky to be insulated from character attacks.  The issue here is that in stating their abortion positions, they’ve shown themselves to be heartless.  Watch the Paul Ryan video from today – the method to conception one – where he showed absolutely no empathy for women who are raped.  I’m sure it didn’t cross his mind.  I keep jumping back in my mind to the 2003 press conference George Bush called when he signed an abortion restricting bill.  You could barely see Bush signing the bill for all the old, white men surrounding him.

Right here, in August 2012, subject to change at any time, the Republican Party platform exists to restrict abortion rights, restrict gay marriage, restrict health care options, and to explode the deficit by eliminating taxes to people like Mitt Romney.  Their elected leaders in the House of Representatives don’t believe in global warming.  They say it’s because a few scientists cooked some numbers, likely for the same reasons a lot of the Wall Street crowd shame-walked in handcuffs cooked the numbers.  I guess that means capitalism is a hoax, too.  Their logic, not mine.  (They later admitted God will end the world when he’s good and ready and we shouldn’t do anything to interfere with his plans.)  They don’t think we should require the HPV vaccine because they got a forward from someone stupider than they are that saying it causes mental retardation.  No science.  No facts.  All PR.

If it doesn’t smell like that, you trust the left.


You know you’ve haven’t blogged in a while when you A) forget your password to log in, B) no longer have the email address you used when you registered the blog and C) find the entire thing infested with malware as perfectly organized and researched blog posts drip with hundreds of comments on where to find quality Russian porn.

My thoughts on stem cell research and the bombshell announcement of Sarah Palin as Senator McCain’s running mate are officially in the dumpster.  It’s time to start fresh.

The Other Eye was the name of a book my father always intended to write.  It was about a a man with a non-functioning eye who could see things that no one else could.  Since my father only had one functioning eye, I have a feeling he saw more to the world than the rest of us could, or at least he thought he did.  I had a lot of downtime with him but never thought to ask him that one.  You know I’ll have to write the damn thing one day just to figure it out.

I started blogging about six years ago and I remember a particular New Years Resolution about how I would stop drifting from project to project and would buckle down and actually create something.  It’s not much, but I started a tiny little podcast six years ago that spawned four spinoffs, 250 episodes and something like a month of back-to-back-to-back audio.  That’s all impressive and all that but the bit I care about is I met a lot of great friends doing it and more importantly, a lot of great people met a lot of great friends.  This bit sounds self-righteous even to me, but if it’s only about me it gets forgotten the minute I’m gone.  I’m glad it made other people’s lives a bit better.  It may be a small thing, but they’re the best kind.

In the past few weeks I’ve gotten nostalgic about a lot of things, mainly good old days of all kinds.  I miss TV shows that I used to watch religiously when they were new that are now barely available except on ebay.  I miss friends that always saw each other every day who are scattered all over the world now.  It’s crazy that you can be good friends with someone, have a phone conversation end and not realize it’s the last one you’ll have for an amazingly long time, and then reconnect on Facebook and realize since you forgot to call them back they got married, divorced, married, and have two kids.

I don’t have kids yet, unless cats count, in which case, yes, I have kids.  I never do anything the easy way.  We adopted the one who would need thousands of dollars in surgery within a month, and the chubby one who likes to bite us to show affection.  As with everything, I wouldn’t trade them for anything.  And until I can dig through wedding photos, they’re the only banners you’ll see here.

It seemed like the perfect time to start blogging again.  The last time I did this I had no other expressive outlet, so I would pour hours into perfecting every post.  I don’t have that kind of time anymore, so if I spellcheck it’s a miracle.  I just figured I learned to monologue and I might as well use it in a place where I won’t bore people needlessly.