Being Nigel

I recently expressed some of my dissatisfaction with my current career:

It received much more of a response than I expected, but I stand by this statement 100 percent. And it’s not “yardwork” per se that I enjoy (though I do). It’s actually creating something and doing something that does not involve wallowing in minutiae while sitting at a computer for eight or more hours per day.

There is a deep undercurrent of dissatisfaction with the contemporary office job. This is for two main reasons:

  1. It is highly unnatural; and
  2. There is little to nothing to show for your efforts.

Where’s the sense of accomplishment in shuffling through emails? What pride can there be in spending hours contributing something infinitesimally minute to some project that you have no ownership over and does not affect you?

And in the case of law, everything is air. Everything is made up. A law doesn’t exist. It’s a shared fiction that everybody agrees to abide by under pain of financial injury or physical imprisonment. However, these things can be changed relatively quickly–today’s wrong is tomorrow’s right.

Plus, it all keeps coming. All of it. There is no end to the busy work.

This can’t be unique to law, but at least some other jobs probably provide a more tangible sense of accomplishment. I think of somebody working on creating software, or designing a building, or even a guy on an assembly line or out landscaping: At the end of the day, you’ve created a thing. I know it’s easy to romanticize physical labor, and I know it often doesn’t pay as well as our wonderful brand new “service economy.” But hear me out.

Remember the movie City Slickers? Remember when it’s “Career Day” at Billy Crystal’s character’s son’s school and the other dads have interesting jobs, but Billy Crystal’s character, who sells advertising space on radio stations, finally admits that he “sells air”?

That’s a lot of us out here today. Men, especially. No wonder Billy Crystal, Daniel Stern, and Bruno Kirby decide to do something traditionally masculine and become cowboys. It’s a comedy, sure, but there’s an undercurrent of something real there.

Some days, I have an overwhelming urge to fight. I want to fight and get hit and hit other people and not know if I’m going to make it. I want to bleed as much as I want to make others bleed.

Other days, I want to go out in the forest, chop some trees, and build a house. Or a palace. Or make a castle out of huge rocks. Just because.

Although I hate the term “midlife crisis,” because it’s usually used to mock men who are unhappy with their work situations, the feeling is totally understandable. And I’ll tell you what I think it stems from: doing what we were told we should do. Continue reading “Being Nigel”

Would John Wayne Approve?

Guys are funny, right? And immature. Definitely immature.

You’d think this if you see nearly any movie with a male protagonist. He’s an overgrown man-child, always there with a quip or an obnoxiously immature pastime that holds him back, while the kick-ass riot grrl rolls her eyes and does all the real work, maybe letting the dude accidentally do something right or lift something heavy.

Maybe it’s be a male character full of power and competence who still has to be funny. Because serious people–adult males, especially–are boring!

Or so hundreds of Hollywood screenwriters would have us believe. Not just screenwriters, but novelists, TV writers, and those in the comic book business.

Jamaul over at Jamual Writes discusses this in a great post called “Always Be Funny.” The new God of War video game, and its strong, silent, and brutal male protagonist got him thinking about the phenomenon:

So, I was just on Twitter talking about the new God of War video game, which I’m watching via YouTube.

I love this damn game. It’s amazing.

But I did notice something about the main character – Kratos.

Dude is uber serious. Never crack jokes. Never smiles.

Even Wired wrote a piece on Kratos – and his appetite for violence, claiming that’s he’s toxic.

I disagree. I think Kratos is just a personality type. Strong, but silent type. A warrior. And that’s the thing with the personality type – they don’t think, they just do. Tough, stoic.

Much like the John Waynes, Clint Eastwoods of the old Westerns, which I love.

These characters don’t talk much, quick to anger, disagreeable, grumpy, strong, leaders, and blaze their own lane.

They’re my favorite type of characters. Which seems to be a relic, nowadays.

The pathetic state of video game journalism aside, imagine a world where a quietly bad-ass character is considered “toxic.” Throw out all your old John Ford westerns and Mickey Spillaine noir thrillers, I guess! Nope, men have to be seen as non-threatening, cute, cuddly teddybears.

I think what Jamual is noticing is that male characters used to have some kind of danger to them, an edge, an element of unpredictability that could erupt at any moment–and here’s the important part–against the bad guys.

Charles Bronson wasn’t mowing down the innocent in Death Wish. Clint Eastwood wasn’t abusing women and children in Dirty Harry. Richard Roundtree wasn’t beating down the righteous in Shaft.

These guys were just bad mofos doing what had to be done. Even Han Solo, grumpy and quippy himself, was competent, and his humor fit the character and his swashbuckling way of life. Which is masculine. Which is why, I think, our cultural elitists in charge of making this stuff need to neuter the men. As Jack Donovan is so fond of saying, strong men acting together are the biggest threat to the nanny state. So the “gang,” if you will, must be broken. Continue reading “Would John Wayne Approve?”

Must We Rock? I Sure Hope So!

Rock and roll is gloriously American. To be fair, the British helped, but their genius lay in reinterpreting what had been first created here.

Rock took African, English, and Scots-Irish forms of folk music, mashed them all together utilizing elements of other American concoctions like blues, jazz, and country, and set the new creature loose on the world. Our former colonial masters completed the process by cranking the volume, adding more Motown elements and rhythm and blues and jazz–all the stuff suddenly available to them after the devastation of World War II–and bringing it back to the U.S.

It used to be vital. It used to be important. And it used to be fun. This is why I get cranky about the current state of rock music. Not that there’s “nothing good” (there is plenty that is good stuff and anyone who tells you otherwise is a liar). I get cranky because it doesn’t matter anymore.

The fact is that the last guy with a guitar who mattered killed himself on April 5, 1994.

The corpse of rock n’ roll shambled around for a few more years, but by the time the new millennium began, the complete catastrophe that was rap-rock had finally succumbed to the weight of its own sucktitude, punk became just as neutered as rock, and we were left with the two divergent paths that rock n’ roll rode into irrelevancy:

  1. Indie rock, whereupon rock musicians disappeared up their own asses with a lecture on their lips; and
  2. Pop, whereupon rock musicians became indistinguishable from their brethren in the realm of pop

So what went wrong? I’ll tell you, reiterating a few points I went over here: rock and roll stopped appealing to guys.

There. I said it. If you’re a guy who likes girls, rock and roll nowadays just really isn’t for you.

It’s either made for girls (subgroup 2, above, which there is nothing wrong with m), or by people who hate guys who like girls (subgroup 1, above). There’s also the one-sided politics crammed into every aspect of the indie rock world, which has only helped push the world of guitar-based music, outside of metal, into a very small niche.

I mean, what indie groups will really stand the test of time, combining universal appeal with actually being good? Interpol? Arcade Fire? Of Montreal? Broken Social Scene?

“Who the hell are those guys?” you’re probably wondering.

Exactly.

The reason we still fondly remember the Zeppelins, the Hendrixes, the Stones, the AC/DCs, the Iron Maidens, the Judas Prists, the Guns N’ Roses, and the Nirvanas, of the world, is because they were dangerous and they were masculine. Not the winking, ironic parodies of machismo we saw in the hair-metal days, or anytime there’s some kind of “revival” now, but a legitimate “hide your daughters, girlfriends, and wives” kind of danger. And yes, even Nirvana fit this bill. Continue reading “Must We Rock? I Sure Hope So!”

Being a Church Man

Being a man. Much of it involves standing up for yourself, for your friends and family, and the weak. And a lot of times, “standing up” means fighting back, physically or with words. 

And then there’s being a Christian. Love your enemies and pray for them, even as they revile you. Be meek, because the meek shall inherit the Earth. Turn the other cheek. 

These are in conflict, right?Yet there’s something strange brewing in the realm of Christendom. And it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

You see, something I’ve noticed, thanks to the Internet, is that there are a lot of young, passionate Christians–far more than I remember growing up. And these Christians fight back.

When the culture punches them, they punch back. Hard.

There is even some armed resistance in regions of the world where Christianity is being stamped out by evil religious fanatics who claim to worship the same God. There’s not enough, but at least it’s there.

I applaud this and am energized by it.

Here in America, things haven’t yet come to blows (though the so-called Antifa thugs are starting to change this).

In a culture hellbent on denigrating your beliefs, sitting idly by gets you nowhere.

And this is important, because culture is far more important than politics in and of themselves.

So three cheers for Christians who actually defend themselves. Using the weapons of Scripture and snark in equal measure, logic and reason coupled with fearlessness and effective rhetoric, we refuse to go quietly into that dark night of decline. In fact, the goal seems to be to increase the numbers of the faithful, and bolster the strength of our various churches.

You see, the prevailing culture has successfully turned Christians into John Lithgow’s character from Footloose (1984). 

I’ve never seen the movie (there’s only so much Kevin Bacon I can take), but I know the stereotype all too well. In Footloose, Lithgow plays the villain, Reverend Shaw Moore, a fiery Christian preacher who hates dancing and bans dancing and music in his community.

Now, it doesn’t matter that Reverend Moore has powerful personal reasons for hating dancing and music, and later has a change of heart when he realizes that dancing and music are not the problems he thinks they are. Christianity in movies gets associated with hating fun. You see this in so many films, TV shows, and books. 

The Jesus freak is always puritanical, bigoted, and violent. And nine times out of ten, a complete and utter hypocrite, who is usually stupid for good measure. 

Why? Because Christ, of course.

I see a lot of this edifice eroding in the face of Christians who prove that you can be a churchgoer and bite back. Have a sense of humor. A sense of mischief, even. 

This is all well and good . . . but is it really Christ-like?

In other words, is fighting back contrary to Christian teachings?

Is being a masculine man incompatible with being a church man? Continue reading “Being a Church Man”

The Treadmill of Life

Real-and-Inspiring-Getting-Off-the-Treadmill-of-Life.png

“Are you stuck in a rut? Does life make you feel like you’re on a treadmill, constantly running and getting nowhere? Well, stick around because boy, do have the answer for YOU!”

The above sentence is, of course, complete nonsense. And yet, there’s a lot of this going around.

Look, I love the Internet. There is more knowledge, more communication, more connection than you could ever handle in a lifetime. There is also another thing that gets forgotten: More inpsiration.

That’s right! Like lots of other people, I have discovered what is sometimes called the “manosphere,” but which I just like to refer to as “men.”

Like most males of the species, I do not have many friends that I see on a regular basis. My “social support group” or whatever you want to call it can be counted on one hand. Through nobody’s fault but my own, I have let my friendships dwindle down to mere acquanitences, and it feels futile, and even daunting, to try to rekindle them.

Enter the Internet. There are lots and lots of men talking about these things, and how to navigate a life that seems not quite deisgned for you to live in. A lot of it is in good fun and the spirit of true self-improvement. Some of it has even been helpful!

I’m not here to knock any of it, even though I don’t agree with all of it.

But sometimes I do look at these people–older than men, younger than me, the same age and me–who seem to have it all figured out, and I have to tell myself, before I get too depressed, that everyone is different.

And also that this is the Internet. Lots of people are trying to sell themselves. While 99% of what they do is given away for free, and it’s eminently fair to offer that remaining 1% for a price (usually low), there is an element of puffery.

Still, it’s inevitable that we compare ourselves to others, even when we know that can sometimes be a fool’s game. But without something to aspire to, where do we go?

Sadly, I know the answer to that. You go to a pretty dark place and it’s tough to get out.

But at least a dark place feels like SOMEWHERE, even if it’s not a somewhere you want to set up permanent shop.

Being on life’s treadmill, though . . . treading water . . . is almost more miserable in its mediocrity.

You’re just going . . . nowhere.

Or as one of my favorite bands puts it:

Runnin’ twice as fast to stay in the same place
Don’t catch my breath until the end of the day . . .

–Faith No More, “Ricochet

“It’s temporary,” you might say. “We’re all in this situation at some point.”

True . . . but fifteen or so years can sure seem like an eternity.

So while I have no answers for how to get off, I can continue to use my life as a cautionary tale to make sure that you don’t get on the treadmill of life. Continue reading “The Treadmill of Life”

Live Like A Soldier: Honor, Courage, and Other Outdated (but Important) Things on Veteran’s Day



As the country burns, let’s think about something better than this. 

Our nation’s military men and women. 

We just had Veteran’s Day (November 11) and the birthday of the U.S. Marine Corps (November 8 or 10, depending on who you ask). 

The people who choose to serve are awesome and deserve our respect and gratitude. I’m not a “rah-rah” flag-waver who is uncritical about anything, but I love these men and women, and I do regret not serving when I was younger.

Which brings us to an interesting topic: The Military and Manhood. 

From the ancient Greeks through the USMC and the rest of the modern world’s armed forces, military service has inculcated many of the virtues traditionally associated with heathy manliness and masculinity. 

What virtues? Check out this excerpt from a 1952 U.S. Army field manual, shared by one of my favorite websites, The Art of Manliness:

When we say that a man has “good character,” we mean that he has many strong qualities and virtues that, added together, make him a man whom we like, respect, and trust. One definition of character, therefore, is this: The sum of the qualities that make a person what he is.

It’s not easy to tell you exactly what qualities and virtues you must have to be a good soldier, but perhaps you can understand better what is meant by a “soldier’s character” if you consider some of the qualities that all of our good soldiers have had. These qualities include honesty, courage, self-control, decency, and conviction of purpose. This is by no means a complete list, but those are the qualities that most good soldiers possess.

Honor. Courage. Self-control. Decency. Conviction of purpose. These things sound pretty good to me. 

I also like that our soldiers are killing machines when it comes to the bad guys, but these virtues temper those necessary instincts. 

A big part of the crisis in masculinity here in the West, I think, is the denegration of these virtues and the camaraderie military service and its attendant hardships teach and cultivate. 

I say without hyperbole one of my biggest regrets is not serving after high school.  Continue reading “Live Like A Soldier: Honor, Courage, and Other Outdated (but Important) Things on Veteran’s Day”

Wash that Mouth!

So I was a bit of a wild man in my youth. In college, for example, I had hair down to my shoulders, a chip on said shoulders that the hair couldn’t cover, and wanted nothing more than to play my bass and skateboard. 

I used to curse like I was in a Scorsese movie, owing probably to the “dangerous” music, comic books, video games, and yes, movies I was in to. Swearing was cool, it was hip, and much like nihilism, it was fashionably mature

I’ll never forget the day I tried to stop swearing, or at least be conscious of it. 

I was walking around a seemingly deserted part campus with two of my friends around sundown. It was my sophomore year of college, and I was in full angry young man mode, just embarking on my journey to waste my twenties

I forgot what we were talkin about (probably something stupid), but something one of my friends said triggered a strong reaction within me, enough to make me turn to him, open my eyes wide, and yell at the top of my lungs, “FUDGE YOU!”

Except, you know, I didn’t say “fudge.”

I thought I was edgy; what can I say?

So much edge…
Remember how I wrote a “seemingly” deserted part of campus earlier? Much to my chagrin, not too far ahead of us was a young mother waking her son, who probably wasn’t much older than my son is now. They whipped around, and I saw the mother pull her child away and start walking faster. 

It was getting dark and we were far enough away that I couldn’t make out their facial expressions or hear what they said, which was fine by me because I felt like a gigantic, immature jerk. 

Which I was. But for the first time in my young life, I had the self-awareness to realize it

I expressed something almost resembling regret and embarrassment to my friends, who assured me I was being a wimp and shouldn’t care. But that didn’t fee right to me. I’ve said it before: my biggest problem with modern life is that I’m a softie who’s way too sensitive to what other people think and feel. 

So with this in the background, imagine my reaction when I saw the following story on the cover of the Metro, that free newspaper handed out on subways in cities across America:

This is something I had started noticing a few years back, and really started to pick up on at my current job. So it wasn’t just me then! And I definitely notice it in the Millennial women I work with.  Continue reading “Wash that Mouth!”