Thursday, September 20, 2007

Ryan, K-12 (1st grade)

This is the second part of the series "Ryan, K-12". For those of you who missed it, you can find the first one here. As always, these are real memories.

1st Grade

1. Even at a young age I had my priorities straight. For some strange reason, Mr. Burke, my first grade teacher, let the class divide itself up into teams of four for what was to become an ongoing competition of trying to get the most addition flash cards correctly done within a certain period of time. (1) Naturally, being the math wiz that I was, my services were in high demand. Three other math whizzes (though less so than myself, of course) asked me to join their team to form what would have been an absolutely unstoppable mathematical force. However, when the most beautiful girl in the class and the love of my year, Dejaun (pronounced with a soft ‘J’), and her friend, Kendra, who just so happened to be the second most beautiful girl in the class, asked me to join their team, I simply could not refuse. Unfortunately, all other competent classmates had already joined teams. We were made to accept as a teammate one of the said dumb kids named Rachel.

2. I can’t forget Rachel, because she was the reason that we didn’t finish 1st in the final competition of our class’s teams versus the other first grade class’s teams (we still finished fourth). It was made to be some special event one evening with prizes, and everyone’s families came and such. Walking out to the parking lot afterwards, I saw Rachel crying because we didn’t win. I remember thinking that she doesn’t have the right to be crying. “Me, Dejaun, and Kendra should be the ones crying,” I said to myself, “because we would have won without you.” (2)

3. Mr. Burke, I’m not sure why I spent half the year confused as to whether your name was Mr. Burke or Mr. Bird. I think it’s because half the class called you Mr. Bird.

2. ‘Damn’ means “going to hell”. We don’t say ‘damn’. (3)

3. Thank you, Ezekiel. You were the first black person I ever personally knew. I’m glad you weren’t a bully or something, because I would hate to have grown up a racist.

4. And I’m sorry, Ezekiel, but I maintain that my eyelashes are longer than yours.

5. If you really, really don’t like doing handwriting exercises you might conclude that the best solution is to take the assignment, fold it up, and put it in your back pocket for final disposal at home that evening. Apparently this isn’t the best idea. Out of sight may mean out of mind, but it does not, however, mean “out of computation of the final grade.”

6. Just about every day I asked my mom for two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. This wasn’t because I wanted two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. This was because I wanted one “jelly and even more jelly sandwich”. The peanut butter sides were discarded.

7. Mr. Burke, why did you have to tell the class near the end of the year that Dejaun and I were neck ‘n neck in the race for “Student of the Year” (4)? You put me in a terrible quandary. Should I continue my high achieving ways and deprive my precious beauty of the honor, or should I tank the race and let my love win the award?

8. These words are being composed by Mr. Burke’s 1986-87 “Student of the Year”. Infatuation is a powerful thing, but competition is more so.

9. Thank you, dad, for telling me that you were really proud of me for also winning “Most Outstanding Christian Character”, and that that award was more important to you than winning “Student of the Year”. But where were your damn priorities?

10. I also won the “Psalm 119” award for best scripture memorization. This confused me greatly because we never memorized Psalm 119. (I get it now, though it still doesn’t make perfect sense. The award was named in reference to the fact that Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible). (5) Anyway, the point is this: I could memorize scripture like a sonuvabitch.

11. One afternoon I was hanging around the hall after class with a couple of my classmates, and we were reciting this timeless work of poetry:

Trick or treat,
Smell my feat,
Give me something good to eat.
If you don’t,
I don’t care,
I’ll pull down your underwear.

I know that sounds like a party, and it was, but the librarian who overheard us was not a connoisseur of such highbrow prose. She gave us a choice: take a note home telling our parents what we did, or come up with a nice rhyme for the next day. Naturally my parents could not be allowed to find out about my grave transgression, so I chose the latter. One of my fellow offenders did the same. The next day he (Chris) asked me what I came up with. So I told him, “You are sweet and neat.” That afternoon I was to go see the librarian to tell her my rhyme, so I did just that. And she told me mine was the same rhyme that Chris told her.

The lesson is clear: while there may be honor among thieves, there is no honor among reciters of slightly-off-color rhymes. If the time ever comes, you best remember that. If you don’t, I don’t care, I will, once again, pull down your underwear.

1.I’m sure the dumb kids didn’t mind being actively shunned. Maybe he figured they were too dumb to even notice.

2.Rachel, if you’re reading this, here is an addition problem for you. What is 3 + 1? When the 1 is you, then 3 + 1= AN EFFING LOSING EFFING TEAM!

3.Ideally, we also don’t actually go to hell.

4.You see, Dejaun had beauty and brains. I remain a sucker for this powerful combination. Strangely, either one by itself does little for me. This may explain why I am still single. Dejaun, where art thou?

5. Psalm 117 is the shortest book of the Bible. Students of the year know this kind of stuff.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Dear, Mr. President

Some of my favorite dumb people are those that blame the President for gas prices being so high. I suppose that the President could get in a time machine, go back a decade or so and plead with oil executives to spend more money exploring for oil and ask the leaders of oil producing nations to strengthen the rule of law and relax export taxes to create a more oil-business friendly environment in order to make it more attractive for oil companies to do business in their countries. While he's back in time he could also try and build a few oil refineries to increase refining capacity and ask car companies to reconsider the millions of gas-guzzling trucks and suv's they will build in the next ten years. Finally, he could fly over to China, India, and other developing nations and ask them to stop buying so many new cars and to stop building new factories, thus decreasing demand for oil.

Short of all this, the President has virtually NOTHING to do with current gas prices. That certainly does not stop all kinds of stupid people from blaming him, though. It is to these people that I dedicate a new series I am going to start where I write a letter to the President about something he has absolutely no control over. You're just going to have to take my word for it that I am actually sending these emails to the Whitehouse. Here is the first. (I suppose that I could be accused of wasting whomever's time it is that has to screen these. I guess I can't argue with that except to say that I think it will be an entertaining break from all of the hate mail I'm sure they receive.)

My Dearest President,

I recently drove from Seattle to Springfield, Missouri (don't ask). Along the way I made a couple of stops at Arby's. Personally, I think that Arby's is one of the finest fast food establishments around. (I particularly enjoy their french dip sandwiches) However, I really think that their "Pick five for $5.95" menu is designed to force individuals to pay for one more item than the average consumer needs. I mean, even when I'm really hungry (and I would imagine that my appetite is fairly typical) one drink, two sandwiches (typically both will be Arby's Melts, since I'm not a big fan of their Ham and Cheese) and a medium fry are plenty for me. I usually don't have room in my belly for one of the turnovers. Consequently, whatever I choose as the fifth item often goes uneaten. Sure, if I'm with other people I can usually unload it on someone else. But where does that leave me next time I'm driving across the country alone?

If you have a few minutes today, maybe you could give someone over at Arby's a call (Brian in Fort Collins, Colorado was particularly friendly). If they could also start a "Pick four for $4.94" menu, the world would really be a better place. And actually, as I am often eschewing soft drinks these days (to cut down on the liquid calories), a "Pick three for $3.93" menu would also be quite beneficial. Arby's will probably say that they don't have the space on their menus to make the additions, but they just need to get creative (maybe they could use some sort of hologram technology).

Mr. President, I greatly appreciate your help in this matter. I expect to walk into an Arby's soon and be able to pick 5, 4, or 3 at my leisure. Have a great rest of September. Tell Dick that Ryan says "Hey". Thanks,

Ryan Bleek

P. S. Could you also do something about gas prices?

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Hold the Line

The irony goblin viciously attacked my friend's truck on Saturday as he was graciously changing out an acquaintance's (just kidding Dan and Hollie- a friend's) radiator. Consequently, he was without a vehicle to get to work yesterday. We managed to strike up an agreement so that he would gain the use of my car for the day if he would try really hard for one week to not be incredibly attracted to other men. How is that going, Josh (1)?

Anyway, I say all of this to mention that I rode the bus to work yesterday, and something mildly odd happened as I waited. It just so happened that I was the first person in line (2) to board the bus. Except then I wasn't. A fifty-fiveish fella decided to stroll right up to the front of the line. I was confused, and I looked around to make sure I wasn't the only one who found this development to be quite strange. I saw that commuter number nine or ten had a perplexed scowl on his face.

Yet what was I really supposed to do? I considered pushing him in front of the bus when it arrived. But it was a little too cold for violence. And then the commuter gods smiled upon me. When the bus came it stopped just short of me, so that it was a little to my left while the cutter was to my right. Now, commuter etiquette (at least on Sound Transit and Community transit, I can't speak for those savages who ride King County) dictates that I should wait and let the first guy in line get on before me.

But you know what? We also have an American tradition of WAITING IN LINE LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE, MR. CUTTER! So I said, "Commuter etiquette be damned!" and I stepped in front of him to board the bus first. It was 5:58 in the morning. I was in no mood for a cutter.

But Notorious C-U-T-T-E-R was not deterred. He, rather aggressively considering his position, tried to get around me, and almost succeeded. We were, I kid you not, actually wedged side-by-side for a second in the bus doorway. But I was victorious. Yet I claim not that victory for myself. I dedicate it to the riders of ST 532, especially you, commuter 9 or 10. I hoped I turned your scowl into a smile.

You can say what you want about me, but don't say that I'm not a thinking man. I visited the DMV a couple weeks ago, and I wanted to do something a little different for my license picture. At first I thought I would do a sexy look (3), but then I realized that I would be wasting a chance to do something practical with my photo. If I ever make it onto a most-wanted list, the authorities are going to use my license pic to show the public. Wouldn't it be to my advantage to make myself look crazy? That day when my picture is played on the news, I want people telling themselves that if they see me, they're going to walk the other way.

Will Ferrell's new movie looks hilarious, but maybe that's just because I'm excited to see that Gob is in it.

I've always liked Ben Stein. He has some interesting points about the state of American capitalism.

1. Just kidding, he's mostly not gay.
2. Let me take this opportunity to remind you that love isn't always on time.
3. By "sexy look" I mean overtly and actively sexy. I am aware that my very face is a constant sexy look.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Worst Medicine

I am going to start a new series called “Snapshots of a Corporate Life” in which I will be writing about the little quirks of working for a huge company. This series could just as easily be called, “How Ryan Diluted the Joy of the Last Five Years of His Life”, “They Pay me Just Enough to Not Quit” (Thank you, George Carlin), or “It’s Called Work Because Four-Letter-Words are Unbecoming of a Gentleman”. It could also be named, “I’m Not Laughing Because It’s Not Funny”.

This last possibility is in reference to one of the first things you need to know about corporate life: corporations somehow produce a humor vortex where (nearly) all genuine laughs go to echo no more. What’s funny, is not. What’s not, is funny. All irony is lost.

In the corporate world, Fake Laughter is King. It is the currency of butt-kissing. It is the perpetuator of false community. It is my nemesis.

In order to understand fake laughter, you must understand fake humor. Unfortunately, an easy definition eludes me. The best I can do is to give you an example. What follows is an actual joke from an actual meeting.

Mrs. X: All Mr. X (her husband and our co-worker) does when he’s at home is sit on the couch drinking beer and watching TV. (An awkward statement, for sure, but I’ll have to save The Awkward Co-worker for another day)

Mr. Q: Well, that’s what he does all day at work too!!!

Rest of the room, except myself and a couple of other people: HA! HA! HA! HA! LORD HELP US, THAT’S SO FUNNY! HE! HO! HA! HI! (1)

Not funny. The type of humor that Mr. Q was going for is of the “preposterous reality” variety, in which the joke-teller makes a comparison between what the audience expects to be the case and what the true reality is. To make this brand of joke work, one must be sure to make the “true reality” has three elements. 1. Preposterous 2. Clever 3. Unlikely. Mr. Q clearly whiffed on #2. Had this been his only sin, his joke would have merely been bad. (For instance, Mr. Q could have said that all Mr. X does all day at work is sleep. This would have satisfied numbers 1 and 3, but it would have been cliché rather than funny.)

But it wasn’t his only transgression. He also failed at #3. Mr. X sitting on the couch drinking beer and watching TV at work is not just unlikely, it is impossible. There is no couch at work. He does not have a TV. It absolutely could not happen. It may seem a trivial distinction, but the (however miniscule) possibility of truth is an essential element to this type of joke. Otherwise, you’re just talking crazy. (2)

What Mr. Q basically did was to achieve element #1 by betraying #3, thus not really accomplishing either. And we already established that he never hit #2. His joke was not un-funny, it simply did not exist. It sounded like a joke, it was supposed to be a joke, but, in the end, it was just a hollow shell. It looked just real enough to let the humorless people in the room know when to laugh.

That’s what I mean by fake humor. The laughter in response to it is what I mean by fake laughter.

This is my reality. Though it may seem preposterous, it is all too likely to be funny.

1. Please, please, please, no matter how great the temptation, do not become one of these people. You’ll only encourage the fake humorists.
2. People say that every joke has an element of truth. I don’t agree. Every funny joke needs an element of possible truth.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

On Holidays and Haircuts

I don’t understand holidays designated for honoring people, be it Martin Luther King Jr. day or President's day. I agree that Dr. King, George Washington, and Abraham Lincoln were all great men.(1) I'm just not sure how giving them their own day and taking said day off of work (for us lucky ones) honors them. I am not alone. Not even this nation's marketing gurus have figured it out for us. Surely the answer lies in buying some sort of consumer product. Until they provide that answer for me, I suppose I am left to my own devices to figure out how. So Monday I decided to honor MLK by not discriminating on the basis of color, and by refusing to give up my seat and sit in the back of my car. (2) My next challenge is going to be figuring out a way to honor Presidents Washington and Lincoln. Ideas are welcome.

I got my haircut a few days ago. It was an interesting experience. My hairdresser was a fiftyish woman who was, though plenty nice, also quite strange. Among the odd interactions were:

1. While washing my hair she noticed the bump on my head (3), and tried to subtly ask her co-worker to come over and feel my head. (As if I wouldn’t notice a woman walking over and touching my head). I thought it was quite brazen of her to be soliciting people to feel my bump. Then she told her co-worker that she wanted her to be able to vouch that I came in that way. “It’s a shame that in this day and age we have to prove we didn’t do something just so that people can’t sue us.” Indeed, weird lady.

2. She informed me that she was stranded at her house after the recent windstorm (for those of you who live outside the area, the power was out for several days in some parts), because she couldn’t figure out how to open her garage door without the electric opener.

3. After telling me that her boyfriend (sounded current) was a lawyer, she paused and then said, “I really hate him.” I kept waiting for the joke, and it did not come.

4. She seemed very intent on convincing me that “You should really get cable.”

5. One of the reasons that I should get cable is so that I can watch Forensic Files. She made it a point to assure me that she does not like this show because she wants to learn how to kill people.

6. Long after pleasantries were exchanged she suddenly told me “You are such an attractive man.” She returned to this theme later when she, again randomly, said, “Gosh you are so cute.” This comment was immediately followed by, “You could be my son, huh?” You’ll have to take my word for it when I say that she seemed to mean it in the sense of “You could be my son, so that would be so crazy if we hooked up.”

I'm not sure how I can possibly recognize the legitimacy of this feature on 80's movie villains when it does not include Ivan Drago of Rocky IV. In fact, I can't.

I'm pretty upset that my local Starbucks deprives me of this opportunity.

For those of you who follow American Idol (I do not), you might want to be aware of the opportunity to harass some of the contestants via their myspace pages.

I hope the rumor of a Magnum P.I. movie starring Matthew McConaughey is true. If he can make mustaches cool again then maybe my girlfriend will let me grow another one.

1. And yes, I still count them as great even though Martin Luther King, Jr. liked to sleep with white women who were not his wife, and GW owned slaves.

2. No one asked me to do this. I was seriously prepared to refuse.

3. I forget exactly what it's called, but my doctor is aware of it and he did not seem too concerned. Thanks for yours.


Friday, January 12, 2007

Two luge or not two.

I have to thank one of my favorite homosexuals(just kidding), John Aaron, for sharing this amazing video with me. However, I must vehemently dispute its claim that it is showcasing "The Most Gayest Sport On Earth". That claim has to go to the two-man luge. Sure, male aerobic dancing is more overtly homosexual. I won't dispute that. Yet the thing you have to understand about the two-man luge is that it is EXACTLY THE SAME as the luge, except for the fact that guy number two comes over and lays on top of guy number one. In other words, the defining characteristic of the TML is two men laying on one another. This would be like if we created a new sport, two-man racing, except the only thing different was that the second man sat on the driver's lap. That would be extremely gay.

If ever there was a sport that we were 99% sure was invented by a homosexual, it is the TML. In fact, though I was unable to verify this, I suspect that the sport was born after a gay luge athlete made the off-hand comment to his parther that, "the only thing more exciting than sex is the luge," and then a lightbulb went off in his head.

These paintings made me sad that I am not an artist. They are good.

"Ok, class, make a goofy face!"

Those of you who are fans of the british version of The Office (I guess that means you, Philip and Matt) might be interested in this interview with its creator, Ricky Gervais.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Just horsing around

I've already asked a couple of you the following thought experiment. Since the last thing I want to do is bore you (1), if you've already heard my hypothetical involving a horse please skip ahead. For the rest of you, here goes:

You are having a conversation with your significant other (if you're single, you can perhaps substitute a parent or beloved grocery worker). Suddenly, he/she(2) morphs, before your very eyes, into a horse. This is not something that you would ever, ever believe, except that you actually watched it happen. Obviously, you wouldn't still love him/her because, well, he/she's a horse(3). But my question is, what do you do with the horse? Do you simply sell it? Most of us have neither the appropriate experience nor residence to own a horse. And yet it's not just any horse, it's your loved one. So do you try and move someplace where you can own a horse? Do tell.

I think my first reaction would be to sell Vanessa (4). I would tend to blame her for turning into a horse. That may sound harsh, but people don't just randomly change species. I would assume that she somehow did something to deserve it. Yet in the end I would somehow keep her. I can't promise that I wouldn't move on and try to find a human to settle down with, but if she spontaneously turned into a horse she could just as easily change back. Horses have drastically different lifestyles than people, and I couldn't live with myself if I wasn't there to give her some clothes and to help her re-adjust to life as a human.

I saw the new Rocky movie on Sunday. I was disappointed. I can't articulate exactly why, but I left the theater feeling unsatisfied(5). The movie was not terrible. If you were planning on seeing it, you should know that most people seem to like it, so don't be swayed by my opinion.

I've made just one new year's resolution: to better manage my time. Everything I want to accomplish stems from that. I generally don't like new year's resolutions, but I remembered that the most successful one I've ever made was also the only one I made that year. I thought I could try it again. If you ask me what it was, I may tell you. And I may not.

This story cracked me up. It seems that twenty-five percent of Americans believe it is at least somewhat likely that Jesus Christ will return to Earth in 2007. 11 percent of those surveyed said it is "very likely". 42 percent said it was "not at all likely." Where do these people get their confidence? I would very much enjoy watching a debate between one of the "very likely" people and one of the "not at all likely" crowd. I would be absolutely fascinated to hear their reasoning as to whether Christ will specifically be back in '07. You can count me among the only 8% of people who said they had no idea.

1. Actually, the last thing I want to do is hurt someone I love, or die, or be responsible for the deaths of many. I could go on. I'm pretty sure that boring you is more like the 203,487th thing I want to do. I don't know where these expressions come from, but they are frequently amusing (to me, anyway).

2. I mean 'he/she' in the sense of "either he or she" and not in the hermaphroditical sense. Though, if that's what does it for you, you're free to interpret it that way.

3. Or more precisely, because he/she is an animal. The exact species of the animal is irrelevant (I would hope).

4. Hopefully, for a lot of money if selling her would actually be my real choice. Thus, I would wish that Vanessa' diabetes would not cross species- it might drive down the value of the horse. I would, though, like the horse to have pink cheeks. The novelty factor might increase its value.

5. A simple Snickers bar, if the old commercial is to be believed, would have solved that problem. Stupid me.