Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Little man, big personality. (From Candy Czernicki).

"It all started in Cannon Falls, MN, in a strip bar."

That, friends, is your first clue that you are in for an adventure. Meet 4-foot-6 "Bad Boy Brian" Thoe, 37, professional midget wrestler.

He's also been a drummer in a heavy metal band, an Oompa Loompa, a security guy in the Jerry Springer Show and a human bowling ball.

"All I'm doing is living a dream," he said.

The dream began when Eddie Sharkey, a legendary professional wrestling trainer who counts Jesse Ventura among his students, approached Thoe in that infamous Cannon Falls club and asked if he was interested in becoming a professional midget wrestler.

"I was working at Fiesta Foods at the time, and used my vacation time to see what it was like," Thoe said. "I came home and gave my two week's notice."

Learning to wrestle "was almost like going into the military," Thoe said. "I trained at this gym in St. Joseph, MO with no air conditioning. It was a wood wrestling ring -- no air circulation. You learn each move and get up and do it again."

There are two things people always want to know. One is, if wrestling is fake.

"Yes, but no," Thoe said. "It is, but it still hurts. Sometimes they do hit you hard or stomp or kick. The bottom line is, it still hurts. If you don't have a pain tolerance, you won't make it."

The other question is if he's offended by the term "midget." That answer is a straight no.

"I call other people midgets," he said. "I don't care if they like it or not.

"I love midget jokes," he added, proving it by offering up a rapid-fire string of them.

Thoe has appeared on WWE shows, TNA and Whacked Out Sports and does a number of imdependent shows. Although he's a family man now, he still loves the road.

"The things I've seen happen on the road -- you name it, I've seen it. But knowing me, I'll probably be doing this until the day I die. It's in my blood, hardcore. It's like the world's strongest legalized drug. I'm addicted to it."

His only non-wrestling addiction, he added, is copious quantities of Mountain Dew.

"My Lifestyle now is Mr. Mom. But as soon as I leave, I'm Bad Boy Brian."

Thoe grew up in Lake City and now lives there with his fiance, their infant daughter, two stepchildren and assorted other family.

"I was baptized, confirmed, graduated in this town," he said. "I lived on the farm for most of my life. If I ever have a big contract deal, I'd buy the farm right back."

Wrestlers play different styles and call each other by their stage names at all times, Thoe said. His road family bears similarities to his Lake City one.

"You gotta get along or it just doesn't work," he said. "I avoid drama as much as I possibly can. Even if I know (what's going on), I don't know nothing. I just want to do my job and mind my own business."

For now, he's enjoying life as an entertainer.

"I study entertainment constantly," he said. "In the next 20 ore 30 years, I'd like like to find a movie producer or do a book on my history and experience in the entertainment inudstry.

"I have no regrets in my life. I live it to the fullest. If something interests me, I'm going to give it a shot. I'm going to die happy because I've given everything I've got, no regrets."

Monday, November 29, 2010

Questions For Your Creativity (From Lael Johnson)

Sit down and ask yourself some of these questions, during your free and quiet time. Listen carefully to what your creativity has to say to you.

What is the cost of pursuing your creativity?
What is the cost if you don’t pursue your creativity?
How much time does nurturing your creativity take?
How much time are you willing to give to your nururing your creativity?

What resources do you need to nurure your creativity?

How much time are you willing to experiment with your creativity?
How much percolating time do you need?
How much production time do you need?

What associations do you need to join?
What type of artist buddy(ies) do you need to find?
What type of networking do you need to pursue?

What kind of personality do you have?
How comfortable are you with experimentation?
How comfortable are you with developing your creativie discipline?
What is your first reaction to the phrase “problem-solving”?

What artistic invitations would you like to receive?
What artistic events do you see yourself pariticpating in?
What artistic events do you find enjoyable, stimulating or inspiring?

What venues does your creativve ability thrive in?
What venues do not fit with your creativie ability?
What venues can you create for your work? Or can you create to display the work of others?

What causes touch your heart?
Are you inspired to use your art to support your favorit cause(s)?
What artists inspire you, because they produce their art to support a specific cause?

Where do you develop your creative themes?
How long does it take for you choose an idea?
What are some of your least favorite themes?

Why do you want to express your creativity?
Why do you want to mentor other creative people?
Why do you maintain your daily creative discipline?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Volcano Surfing (From David Wilson).

Jagged ash, stinky gas, shoe-melting heat: on the surface, an active volcano's attributes make it a poor platform for sport, even the extreme kind. But "volcano surfing" or "ash boarding" exists and consists of what you expect: surfing down the side of a volcano.

Bare bones

All you need is a metal-bottomed board and nerves of steel (or a streak of insanity). Like a sledge-rider, you start by slogging up your volcano's sooty slopes on foot.

Rough cut

Then, like a sandboarder, whoosh!

You skid downhill, sitting or standing and trying damn hard to keep your balance. Because wiping out hurts, at the risk of resembling a mad scientist you should wear protective gear — boiler suits and goggles. Only lunatics wear bikinis.


Speaking of lunatics, in July 2008, after leaving an offering for the Hawaiian fire goddess Pele on a nearby beach, Hawaii-based pro-surfer C J Kanuha approached the world's most active volcano: the Big Island's Kilauea.

Positioned by a canoeist and a jet skier, Kanuha paddled as close as he dared, edging within just 6 metres of the lava. Reportedly thrilled by the experience, he then beat a retreat from the water that reached 200°C in places, melting the wax on his surfboard and peeling skin from his legs.

Kings of Leon

If you fancy a crack at volcano surfing without being boiled, the volcano to visit is Nicaragua's Cerro Negro (Black Mountain). Since 2005, over 13,000 adventurers — including five Survivor contestants — have surfed Cerro Negro, according to tour firm Bigfoot, which runs sessions on plywood boards (a better vehicle than mattresses, which have been tried).

Miracle birth

Charred and bare, Cerro Negro stands some 30 kilometres from the northern Nicaraguan colonial city of Leon. Like a miracle, Cerro Negro just appeared in 1850 in the heart of a cornfield.

Ever since, the sulphur-stained, wind-buffeted oddity without a speck of vegetation has been growing. Now, Cerro Negro stands over 700 metres tall.

Vicious temper

Despite its barren looks, Cerro Negro has erupted over 20 times. That makes it volatile compared to your average volcano, which is content to let the grass grow.

Cerro Negro last erupted in 1999, vomiting rocks and sending farmers scurrying. Even now, smoke and gas spew from its various vents. You can smell the sulphur.

When, after a 45-minute hike, you reach Cerro Negro's seething peak, you may admire the local national park's lush contours. In the meantime, in case your soles melt, you must keep moving and deflect the advances of updraft-borne stinging insects.

Speed demons

When the time comes to unwind, go with gravity. And unless you want to eat granite for breakfast, keep your mouth shut. Spine straight. Lean back. Smile for the radar gun!

During your eight-second ride, you will travel far faster than lava — up to 82 kilometres an hour, unless you are French extreme speed cyclist Eric Barone.

Red baron

In May 2002, on a first run down the steep lava bed, sat astride a standard mountain bike, Barone smashed the world record he set there two years before, clocking 163 km/h. His second run, on a specially modified bike, ended in horror. Apparently striking a rock, his bicycle snapped in two — the one-time Sylvester Stallone stunt double flew downhill.

Barone broke several ribs and his sternum, but triumphed. When the crash happened the action hero nicknamed the Red Baron had crossed the speed sensor, clocking 172 km/h.


Unlike Barone, who is now nudging 50, most of the everyday speed freaks in overalls who zoom down the slopes are tousle-haired 20-somethings. The youngest ever, according to Bigfoot, was 12 (too young to do an official tour). The oldest was a Swedish 74-year-old, who must have been tough.

Raw nerve

Deceptively, the uploaded clips that you see make surfing Cerro Negro look like a party. Do not underestimate the courage it takes to face the dirty granite dust sharp as broken glass, plus the plunging gradient and heat of up to 40 degrees — damn hot in a boilersuit.


After rocketing down from the summit, you may well be cut, but one-up on those wussies who think that surfing cold wet waves is exciting.


Surfing Cerro Negro just might be the ultimate thrill ride — the mega-adrenalin hit which extreme sports addicts crave and perpetually seek. The quietly seething magma mountain could erupt any second.

Getting there

The nearest commercial airport to Leon is in the country's capital, Managua. From Managua, you can easily hire a rental car and drive the remaining 90 kilometres along a new highway. Or you can take a bus from Mercado Israel or the microbuses that leave from La UCA (La Universidad de Centro Americana).

For more information check out Bigfoot Nicaragua, Tierra Tour or Tours Nicaragua. The cost is about $30 and the duration about five hours. Expect a dawn start.

Friday, November 26, 2010

In the Sweet Buy and Buy (From Linda Van Slyke)

Black Friday, so-named because it helps change the red ink of debt into the blank ink of profit, has become the high holy day of consumerism.

Worse than that, it has become the ultimate symbol of what Dr. John B. Cobb, Jr. calls “economism” - which he defines as “the conviction that economic values are the most important, and the restructuring of society to express that valuation.” Economism not only encourages consumerism, but also fosters a clinging to wealth (investments, possessions, savings) as a means of insuring security and worth.

Since insuring security and worth used to be the purview (and lure) of religion, Cobb also defines economism as “the first truly successful world religion.” He describes it as “the most powerful and successful idolatry of all time.”

Case in point: Are people rolling out of bed and shivering on long lines in order to catch Sunday morning’s sermon? How about Saturday morning’s minyan? Friday’s noon prayers? Are the masses stampeding the pearly gates the way they are the mall ones? Do they come bearing gifts – or do they leave buying gifts?

A person’s true faith is more often revealed by a checkbook than by an autobiography. Money not only goes where the mouth is, but also where the heart is. The beloved Unitarian theologian, James Luther Adams, claimed that everyone has a religion, many just don’t know it. Religion is focused upon that which people have confidence (faith) in. This can often be determined by where they commit their time, energy, attention and resources.

Mart or heart? For some, there’s a huge theological gulf between the two…


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Keep an eye out for helicopters

I heard an old joke recently (you may have heard it, too) that I think is quite applicable to freelance writing.

With the water rising rapidly in a flood, a truck pulls up to a man's front door and offers to take him away before it's too late. He refuses, saying: "I'm a Christian, and I know God will save me."

A few hours later, the man is forced to retreat to the second floor as flood waters creep up the side of his house. Some rescuers arrive with a boat, but he sends them away, declaring: "I'm a Christian, and I know that God will save me."

Finally, the man is on his roof, clinging to the chimney, when a helicopter hovers just above him and drops down a rope ladder. "Thanks, but no," the man yells against the noise of the rotors. "I'm a Christian, and I know God will save me."

Soon after, the water closes over the roof, and the man drowns. He finds himself at the Pearly Gates, standing in front of St. Peter, and he says: "You know, I have to tell you, I was really hurt that I trusted God to save me, and he didn't."

St. Peter shakes his head in disbelief.

"What do you want?" he tells the man. "He sent you an truck, a boat and a helicopter."

I sense that this parable applies to a lot of freelancers. There are rope ladders dangling all around us -- on-line newsletters, writers' groups and services like this one -- but you have to reach up and grab them. Put other way, you can't sell anything if you don't try. And if you wait for editors to contact you, you'll probably drown.