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The Back Page
by Bryan Chaffin

In Memory Of Rodney O. Lain
June 17th, 2002

Rodney O. Lain: the loudest-mouthed S.O.B. to ever set virtual pen to virtual paper. The man had the nerve to write things designed to piss me off, and worse yet, to make me think. I loved him for both of those things, and for many more reasons. Rodney O. Lain passed away this weekend, and I am a sad man.

I first encountered Rodney when I was working on Mac OS News Around The Web, our once and future guide to outside news around the rest of the Internet. How could I miss him? Rodney wrote for just about every publication in the Mac Web! "How dare he?!," I thought. "Man, that guy's such a writing-whore!"

I read his work, however, and my reactionary outrage quickly turned into open admiration. Rodney was good. In fact, he was one of the best writers in the Mac Web. I admired his work, and after I met him at one of the MACWORLD shows, I admired him too. He was likable, charismatic, and charming, as well as being a good writer. I quickly decided I wanted him to write for The Mac Observer.

By this time, Rodney was writing for MacAddict's online arm under the name iBrotha, but he threw his hat onto our masthead anyway. When MacAddict decided to cut his column for financial reasons, he brought iBrotha to TMO, which absolutely delighted both Dave Hamilton and me. When Rodney later decided to limit his writing to only two sites, TMO and Low End Mac, we were even happier.

You see, I was proud to publish Rodney's work. Every time I got a submission from him, I couldn't wait to read it. I delighted in his thoughtfulness, and I reveled in his ability to enrage the local yokels. I admired his turn of word, and I coveted the capacious memory that provided for a relevant quote or two to start off every opinion piece he wrote. I loved talking to him, and I enjoyed spending time with him during MACWORLD shows, though that didn't happen often enough. I looked forward to seeing his opinions and posts in our forums, and I suggested to him a time or two that we should write a Mac book together, something both of us wanted to do.

I also talked him out of quitting his writing in the Mac world on more than one occasion. It took me a while to understand, and for him to tell me, but Rodney was battling depression. I never knew how hard that battle was for him, however. That's been a recurring theme since news of his death broke over the weekend; the thing I have heard most from people who knew him in the virtual world was "I never knew." Rodney never let it show in his writing, and none of us could have known.

It's funny, his writing. Rodney often deliberately wrote expressly to elicit flames from his readers, something many of whom failed to see. When I was researching all of the sites Rodney had written for, I stumbled across one Web site dedicated to dissecting, criticizing, and insulting both Rodney and his work. From the T.E.M.P. site, by one Montgomery Gabrys (including the incorrect punctuation):

Rodney is a very scary person. Not because he's working part time at a CompUSA while holding a degree (or any retail location that sells Macs - did I mention he "used" to work at Best Buy before they stopped carrying them?) part-time just so Apple computers are presented in the best possible light with the general public, but because he lives breathes and eats Apple. His mission has progressed to the point of him "wanting to become a black Guy Kawasaski". Odd enough to want to pattern your life based on someone else's job title of "evangelist" - but it's even wierder when the person he's parodying is no longer doing that job in the first place and has gone on to do other and better things

Feel free to check out the site for yourself; it's full of such diatribes and rants all about Rodney O. Lain. Amazing. One guy gets all up in arms about a Mac lover's obsession by obsessing over that Mac lover, and fails to see the irony. If ever there was a fitting tribute to the impact that Rodney had on his readers, Montgomery Grabys' site is it.

On the other side of that coin, our own Richard Burton (tbone1 in our forums) said:

I am absolutely stunned. Rodney and I had a lot of conversations about a lot of topics; he was one of the few people who wasn't afraid to speak his mind, and screw what the thought-Nazis said. He was also one of the few people I know who also devoured H.L. Mencken's work. I only wish we could have lived in the same town.

I am stunned right now. However, in honor of Rodney, I shall "forgive some sinner and wink at an ugly girl". I only hope he is there to greet me in whatever afterlife might exist.

On further thought, that is a much finer tribute to Rodney than Mr. Gabrys' strange site. If I drank alcohol, I would hoist a beer in Rodney's name. As it is, I shall hoist a Diet Coke in his memory instead. Mr. Lain, you were a fine man! I didn't agree with everything you wrote, but I loved every word of it. I don't approve of or appreciate you taking your own life, but I too hope you are there to greet me in whatever afterlife might exist. I don't write as well as you did, but I shall always aspire to be as effective as you. I don't know why you left us, but I will always love you.

Peace to you, iBrotha, and thank you for everything you gave to me, to TMO, to the TMO community, and to the greater Mac community as well. You are sorely missed.

For those looking for a place to talk about and mourn Rodney, I encourage you to stop by our forums. There has been an outpouring from his many fans and friends, including friends from the physical world who have stopped in to add their voices, that makes me proud to be a part of this community. I would like it if you added your thoughts as well.

began using Apple computers in 1983 in a high school BASIC programming class. He started using Macs in 1990 when the Kinko's guy taught him how to use Aldus PageMaker, finally buying a Power Computing Power 100 in 1995. Today, Bryan is the Editor of The Mac Observer, and has contributed to the print versions of MacAddict and MacFormat (UK).

You can send your comments directly to him, or you can also post your comments below.

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