Monday, November 30, 2015

The magic is not inside you.

Reading - Fall '15. "He liked fiction better than fact, because fact often wasn’t."

Well, late summer & fall, anyways...

Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition by Daniel Okrent
Eaters of the Dead: The Manuscript of Ibn Fadlan Relating His Experiences with the Northmen in AD 922 by Michael Crichton
Make Me: A Jack Reacher Novel by Lee Child
An Unlikely Prophet: A Metaphysical Memoir by the Legendary Writer of Superman and Batman by Alvin Schwartz
A Gathering of Selves: The Spiritual Journey by Alvin Schwartz
Dr. Atkins' Age-Defying Diet by Robert C. Atkins & Sheila Buff
Casino Royale by Ian Fleming
ELEKTROGRAD by Warren Ellis
Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man's Fundamentals for Delicious Living by Nick Offerman
Chicken Little by Cory Doctorow
North Dallas Forty by Peter Gent
The Cartel by Don Winslow
The One Sentence Persuasion Course by Blair Warren
The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You'll Ever Need by Daniel Pink
Uber, Volume 1 & 2 & 3 by Kieron Gillen and Caanan White
Starlight by Mark Millar and Goran Parlov
Harley Quinn Vol. 2: Power Outage by Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner
Hawkeye Vol. 4: Rio Bravo by Matt Fraction and Chris Eliopoulos
Global Frequency by Warren Ellis
The Nightly News by Jonathan Hickman
Pax Romana by Jonathan Hickman


The One Sentence Persuasion Course by Blair Warren
“One cannot not influence. It is, therefore, absurd to ask how influence and manipulation can be avoided, and we are left with the inescapable responsibility of deciding for ourselves how this basic law of human communication may be obeyed in the most humane, ethical, and effective manner.” Dr. Paul Watzlawick. 

People will do anything for those who encourage their dreams, justify their failures, allay their fears, confirm their suspicions, and help them throw rocks at their enemies.

Still not convinced? Then notice what else our sentence doesn’t say. It does not say people will do anything for those who educate them, do what’s best for them, or even treat them fairly. It does not say people will do anything for those who are eloquent, well dressed, and pleasant. Nor those who make the best case for their proposals, who are reasonable and who come across as intelligent. 

Notice, I haven’t said you should ignore your wants. I simply said you should focus on the other person, not forget yourself. Or to be more specific, when you are with another person you want to influence, your primary focus should be on that person. Do not look past him or her by focusing on your intentions

Whether you find this notion distasteful or not, there is one thing you can count on: your family, friends, customers, clients and even everyone you have yet to meet will have these needs met by someone. The only question is, will it be by you? 

Earlier I mentioned a two-word persuasion strategy, one that could very well blow your mind. I know, because its ramifications have blown mine. If I had to boil down the strategy behind One Sentence Persuasion even more than I already have, it would be this: Validate and fascinate. 

Would you walk into someone else’s place of worship, change everything around and tell them how you think they should worship and expect them to thank you for it? Of course not. All of us recognize the importance a person’s religious beliefs and practices play in his or her life and know better than to ridicule or criticize them if we expect to retain the person’s favor. However, when it comes to interpersonal relationships, we often act in just such destructive ways whenever we make someone else wrong. Why does this have such a destructive effect on our relationships? Because one of the most important abilities people must have, and must know they have, is the ability to effectively discern reality. Like some of our other addictions, this issue goes back to our survival instinct. How can we expect to survive in our world if we can’t effectively understand it? So being told that we are wrong about an issue often becomes far more important than the situation actually calls for because once again our sense of stability is threatened. 

North Dallas Forty by Peter Gent
Looking back now, I realize the importance of the little procedures in maintaining a relationship. You can obliterate the emotions in a marriage and it will plod on into eternity. But if you tamper with the rhythm, it’ll tumble around your ears.

When an athlete, no matter what color jersey he wears, finally realizes that opponents and teammates alike are his adversaries, and he must deal and dispense with them all, he is on his way to understanding the spirit that underlies the business of competitive sport. There is no team, no loyalty, no camaraderie; there is only him, alone. The team itself is a fiction 

“You think you’re something special, don’t you?” he had said without much conviction. “All them books an’ shit you read. Well, somebody had to write those books and you ain’t no different for readin’ ’em.” He had glared at me as though he was angry about something. Since that time I’ve tried to maintain an outward show of direction during all my chaos. Confusion is not dangerous in itself but can be fatal if interpreted as a lack of destiny. Fortunately, I am suffering from a form of incompetence that is not easily recognizable. It adds to my inscrutability. 

Now, crazed on mescaline, driving across another college campus twelve hundred miles and several light-years removed, I was beginning to understand. If a man is lonely enough, he will eat raw eggs, carry olives in his asshole, and let homosexual history majors from Flint beat his butt bloody with a paddle. He does it all in the belief that with the new morning they will have learned to love him by brutalizing him. But when the ritualized humiliation ends, how can he admit to himself that it had no meaning and he is still alone, only momentarily distracted from the fear and loneliness and hatred that consumes us all?

I pulled on a gargoyle’s head attached to a gold chain; I assumed it would summon somebody. If it didn’t, I wasn’t going to set foot inside the apartment. A gargoyle’s head hanging from the ceiling with no utilitarian function was just too decadent; it reeked of ritual killers and liberal Republicans. 

if you spend all your time pretending you’re something else, that’s what you are—something else. 

“You’re totally obsessed with winning,” I pointed out “Don’t you think that’s wrong?” “No. If you don’t win, what’s the sense of playing?” “The game man,” I argued. “The game. Not the end, the winning or losing, but the means: the game. That’s the reason—the game, only the game.”

Like so many people, they weren’t concerned with the truth. They wanted an arrangement of facts that coincided with their present needs and wishes. And because they were powerful, it was relatively easy for them to rearrange the stuff of daily experience to correspond with their current views and desires. Once they rearranged it all, they attacked the situation with a moral zeal and believed they were doing the right and just thing. 

Suddenly a great weight lifted from my mind, a mental tightness releasing, a runaway concentration relaxing. I felt myself opening and I saw this room as if for the first time. I was no longer fighting, trying to control these things and people around me. I was just observing them. The game was finally over. I would no longer fear defeat and failure. I had been trapped on a technicality that explained the ultimate pointlessness of the life I had been living. The game wasn’t on the field, it never had been. It was here. I hadn’t been beaten and I hadn’t quit. I had been disqualified. I had forgotten to sign my scorecard, but that still didn’t mean I hadn’t shot a sixty-seven and broken the course record. It just meant that if I did they wouldn’t accept it and ultimately that was their problem. Because the only part of the game that is real is me and only I can judge. It was over. I didn’t have to compete for the right to exist. From now on I would just be. 

The Cartel: A novel by Don Winslow
“A true man needs a cause, an adventure, and a good woman to rescue.” 

The divorce, she tells Keller, was more her fault than her husband’s. He thought he knew what he was marrying, and so did she. In all fairness, he gave her the life she thought she wanted—a two-professional household in a trendy neighborhood, successful friends, dinners out at the best places…status. “He was exactly what I wanted him to be,” Marisol says, “and I punished him for it. Anyway, that’s what my therapist said. I was a real bitch toward the end—I think he was quite relieved when I moved out. 

“Do you own the ponies,” Keller asks, “or rent them like bowling shoes?” “You’re making fun of us,” Yvette says. “That’s all right. It is a bit much, isn’t it? But Martín’s passionate about it, and a wise wife never denies her husband his passions if she wants to stay his wife for long.” “And a wise husband?” Keller asks. “Lo mismo.” The same. “Some husbands buy sports cars,” Yvette says, “or planes, or whores for that matter. Martín buys horses, so I’m lucky.

Keller had a professor in college who said that civilization was a matter of plumbing. That basically, the infrastructure for moving clean water in and filthy water out is what allowed people to congregate in large populations in permanent dwellings and create cities and cultures. Otherwise, people had to be nomads to literally escape their own shit. 

...there’s more of a psychological leak from the war on terror into the war on drugs. The battle against Al Qaeda has redefined what’s thinkable, permissible, and doable. Just as the war on terror has turned the functions of intelligence agencies into military action, the war on drugs has similarly militarized the police. CIA is running a drone and assassination program in South Asia; DEA is assisting the Mexican military in targeting top narcos for “arrests” that are often executions. 

“Do you think anyone is serious about the so-called war on drugs?” Adán asks. “A few cops on the street, perhaps—some low- to middle-management crusaders like yourself, maybe—but at the top levels? Government and business? “Serious people can’t afford to be serious about it. Especially not after 2008. After the crash, the only source of liquidity was drug money. If they shut us down, it would have taken the economy on the final plunge. They had to bail out General Motors, not us. And now? Think of the billions of dollars into real estate, stocks, start-up companies. Not to mention the millions of dollars generated fighting the ‘war’—weapons manufacture, aircraft, surveillance. Prison construction. You think business is going to let that stop? 

“It’s your funeral,” Taylor says. “But first you hand in your resignation. Then we’ll see that the firm hires you. In no way do I want you traceable to the agency if this goes sick and wrong.” “I’ve been trying to resign for seven years, Tim.” “This time it’s permanent.” This time it will be, Keller thinks. “One other question,” Taylor says. “What about the White House?” The oilman scuffs the toe of his boot across the floor and smiles. “Jesus shit, who do you think sent us over here?” 

I speak to you—the rich, the powerful, the politicians, the comandantes, the generals. I speak to Los Pinos and the Chamber of Deputies, I speak to the White House and Congress, I speak to AFI and the DEA, I speak to the bankers, and the ranchers and the oil barons and the capitalists and the narco drug lords and I say— You are the same. You are all the cartel. And you are guilty. You are guilty of murder, you are guilty of torture, you are guilty of rape, of kidnapping, of slavery, of oppression, but mostly I say that you are guilty of indifference. You do not see the people that you grind under your heel. You do not see their pain, you do not hear their cries, they are voiceless and invisible to you and they are the victims of this war that you perpetuate to keep yourselves above them. This is not a war on drugs. This is a war on the poor. This is a war on the poor and the powerless, the voiceless and the invisible, that you would just as soon be swept from your streets like the trash that blows around your ankles and soils your shoes. 

Still, it took the Spanish almost two hundred years to finally and fully subdue the Mayan descendants in the Petén and set up a system of colonization that made the white Spanish and their mestizo offspring the landowning masters, and the native Mayan “Indians” the landless peasants. The system held for almost four hundred years, even as the new American imperialists of the United Fruit Company came into power in Guatemala. It wasn’t until 1944 that the “October Revolutionaries” launched liberal reforms and in 1952 put through Decree 900 that mandated the redistribution of the land. The masters reacted. The 2 percent of the population that owned 98 percent of the land weren’t about to see their position altered and with CIA backing staged a coup that overthrew the civilian government. The left—a loose coalition of students, workers, and a few peasants from the countryside—formed “MR-13,” a guerrilla movement that started to fight the Guatemalan army and police. After five years of sporadic fighting, the United States sent in its army special forces—the Green Berets—to help combat the “communist guerrillas.” What followed was called the “White Terror” as the “Special Commando Unit” and the paramilitary Mano Blanca—actually police and soldiers—committed thousands of “disappearances” against leftists in Guatemala City and out in the countryside. Guatemala’s president, Carlos Arana Osorio, in declaring a “state of siege” announced, “If it is necessary to turn the country into a graveyard in order to pacify it, I will not hesitate.” Seven thousand people “disappeared” over the next three years. 

Sometimes they’re tempted to go back, to try to find what they lost, but they know that some things once destroyed can’t be rebuilt. Loss is loss.

Make Me: A Jack Reacher Novel by Lee Child
We live in strange times. Poor people are fat, and rich people are thin. That never happened before.

The only fights you truly win are the ones you don’t have.

“Hope for the best, plan for the worst.” 
He liked fiction better than fact, because fact often wasn’t.

Chicken Little (A science fiction novella) by Cory Doctorow
The brain, this is important, the brain is so overrated. The ancient Egyptians thought it was used to cool the blood, you know that?" He chortled, a sound that felt to Leon as though it began just above his groin and rose up through his torso, a very pleasant and very invasive sensation. "The heart, they thought, the heart was the place where the me lived. I used to wonder about that. Wouldn't they think that the thing between the organs of hearing, the thing behind the organs of seeing, that must be the me? But that's just the brain doing one of its little stupid games, backfilling the explanation. We think the brain is the obvious seat of the me because the brain already knows that it is the seat, and can't conceive of anything else. When the brain thought it lived in your chest, it was perfectly happy to rationalize that too -- Of course it's in the chest, you feel your sorrow and your joy there, your satiety and your hunger... The brain, pffft, the brain!" 

Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man's Fundamentals for Delicious Living by Nick Offerman
I learned the word nonconformist in fourth grade and immediately announced that I would grow up to become one

We had our version of Sunday school, called catechism. It was terrible, just the worst. By the time you’re seven or eight years old, you get it. I understood the stories of Jesus and his disciples and the values I was expected to glean thereof. Now, there are things I like just fine about church, and I don’t just mean making money. The notion of getting together as a community to remind ourselves why we shouldn’t behave like animals is a fucking great idea. Church was also the place to get a look at all of the young ladies in the other families, the better to determine whose young chests you’d like to target with your clumsy fumbling. It’s all the other shitty parts—like when priests tell you who to vote for in a presidential race, because they’re personally opposed to a woman’s right to choose—that irk me. That’s where church crosses my line. When the clergy get too big for their britches...

...remember sitting in my seat at the far stage-right side of the altar while the congregation would slog through group recitations like the Nicene Creed (“We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth . . .”) in the most Pavlovian way. The cultish, soulless tone in which this group of two hundred people would repeat this creed of purpose, meant to resonate like a mission statement, lent no fervor to, nor even indicated any apparent awareness of, what they were saying. “Now we say this part . . . We get the talking over with so I can get home to the football game.”

One Sunday in my midteens, I really heard them droning on, and I found it quite upsetting. I thought, “Listen to what you’re saying—you’re repeating this supposed profession of your faith and I’ll wager you literally couldn’t tell me what the fuck you’re talking about right now. The words of the creed, as well as this whole notion, are so profound, to re-up your faith week in and week out, but the meaning is utterly lost on you. This is not working. This mass is not working for these people. I’m not interested in taking part in this, because it doesn’t seem to be working.” 

In eighth grade, the church community was all abuzz because they were bringing in this hotshot nun, Sister Gesuina, to teach our catechism class. It was very exciting and potentially scandalous because the word was she had unorthodox teaching methods, which included playing us the Billy Joel song “Only the Good Die Young” and explaining that while this popular music was catchy, sure, it disguised a nefarious, satanic message. “You might think he sounds logical and modern, but, Virginia, he’s just trying to get in your pants and knock you up.” And a hundred times better than even Billy Joel, she also brought in Playboy and Penthouse magazines! What? Penthouse shows pink, in the vernacular of porn mags. Playboy, by comparison, does not show pink. Penthouse will teach you much more about the biology of a lady’s privates. But believe it or not, she brought in porn magazines. To church class. And she passed them around. All of us boys thought, “You are easily the fucking greatest nun I have ever even remotely encountered, but you’re also a complete moron if you think you’re going to turn us teenage boys in the throes of puberty off to porn by showing us this nice lady’s utterly amazing bush. Holy Lamb of God, I’ll stay at this church class all day long.” It just dawned on me as I wrote this that all of these people simply didn’t have their shit together, which is understandable, since their task was not (and is not) easy: trying to keep this eldritch, tired dogma relevant for the youth of modern society. 

The holy Bible. This “good book” is a book of fairy tales. What? Yes, folks, for a fairy tale, by definition, is a fictional story that contains some sort of supernatural creature or occurrence. The Bible is chock-full of both. I don’t feel the need to quibble about Old Testament or New, the Gnostics, or any of that crap. My issue is with the exploitation of the entire Bible. 

This book of fairy tales has proven to yield a wealth of lessons for people who study it. You know the form; it’s old-school cautionary tale: “Jahedickus did walk him to the woodpile after dark to fetch some wood so that the women about the place could cook for him and the men some whey-cakes, so long as the women be clean and their flowers be not upon them, which would be super gross. Because of the darkness, Jahedickus did notice not the woodchuck resting on the woodpile, until it did bite of his hand flesh. When Jesus heard tell of this in the marketplace, he did laugh his ass off, and then Jesus spake unto the peoples, ‘Gather ye not your fire from the darkness, but instead seek it in the light of day.’ Then Jesus said to his apostle Steve, ‘Steve,’ he said, ‘go thee to the woodpile and put the woodchuck to death, taking care that it not nibble at thy hand.’” 

There are at least twenty-seven good metaphorical ways to interpret this famous scripture from the book of Nick, and they’re all sound. Father, by all means, teach me philosophical methods based upon them. I love philosophy; I love to learn creative ways of viewing the world and mankind’s various dilemmas and triumphs. Just don’t fucking tell me we should kill all the woodchucks because the Bible says so. That’s it. That’s all I’m driving at. It’s a book of stories that should be treated as suggestions. It is not a book of rules for the citizens of the United States of America. Do me a favor and read that last sentence again. 

...creationists profess belief in a magical story. You are welcome to do so. Sing and chant, and eat crackers and drink wine that you claim are magically infused with the blood and flesh of your church’s original grand wizard, the Prince of Peace. I personally think that’s just a touch squirrelly, but that’s your business, not mine. You will not be punished for those beliefs in our nation of individual freedoms. But I do think the vast majority of your fellow Americans would appreciate it, kind creationists, if you silly motherfuckers would keep that bullshit out of our schools. Your preferred fairy tales have no place in a children’s classroom or textbook that professes to be teaching our youngsters what is REAL. 

Jefferson’s correct assertion that “the legitimate powers of government reach ACTIONS ONLY, & NOT OPINIONS” (emphasis mine). Check it: If you subscribe to a group that worships a piece of fictional writing—say, I don’t know, the holy Bible—then that is your business. Go for it. Create ceremonies full of symbolic magic tricks involving the transformation of a long-dead spirit’s body and blood into a cracker and a sip of wine. Sing songs about it. Rejoice at the magic. In America, you may do so, with absolute impunity. However, should you try to bring your beliefs into a public argument of any sort, those beliefs can hold no water. Here’s why—as discussed earlier in this book, the stories of the Christian “God” and all of his purported works are merely a collection of stories, and if you choose to have “faith” in the truth of those stories, regardless of right or wrong, your belief that they are true is your OPINION. You are welcome to it.   
I love my country. Holy shit, do I love America. In many ways, it is the glorious result of some very open-minded thinking on the parts of our forefathers (and the ladies advising them) a couple of centuries ago. But that right there’s the rub, y’all. We’re a group of human beings, which means we can never be done trying to improve ourselves, and by default, our systems, including our government. Now, here’s the deal: Invoking the Bible in any public school or at any government function? Un-American.

Making a witness in a court of law place his or her hand on the Bible? Un-American. Disputing legislation based upon what it says in your holy book? NOT PATRIOTIC. •

Where does this holy book come from, after all? Let’s imagine a conversation. . . . Me: So, Father Mark, why should we do what the Bible says? Him: Well, that’s easy: because it’s the word of God. Me: God? Him: Yes, God the Father. The creator of heaven and earth. Of all that is seen and unseen. Me: That’s trippy. Him: It is. Me: So God wrote the Bible? Him: Well, in a manner of speaking. God spoke to the men who wrote the Bible and told them what to write, and so I guess— Me: The Bible was ghostwritten? Him: Well, it’s a little more sacred than that. Me: How so? All dudes, right? Him: Excuse me? Me: Only men, no female ghost-scribes, correct? Him: Well, yes, that is so. 

Me: Okay. Does God prefer men to women? Are men smarter at Bible stuff? Him: No, no, it’s just, well, there weren’t really even women who could write in the time of the scribes. It was a different time. Me: Hm. Okay. Seems a little thin. Anyway, so, here’s what I can’t seem to puzzle out—if these guys wrote the Bible chapters, based on their divine visions, or what have you, what evidence can you show me that they didn’t just make it up? I’ll be honest: When you invite me to your church and gently suggest that I “tithe” ten percent of my income to this sort of “Bible club,” it makes me wonder a bit. Was ten percent the number God suggested? Is there a religion wherein gratuity is included? Him: I’m glad you asked me that, because that question is really the lynchpin of our faith. There is absolutely no proof—how could there be—that these scribes were given supernatural messages from a power greater than anything they could know. . . . It actually sounds pretty crazy when I say it like that. Me: You see? Him: No, but that’s what I was saying—it is because we believe in this truth that we can build our entire church upon faith. Me: Given that statement, isn’t it a little generous to refer to that information as the “truth”? Him: Not to us. We are believers. In John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Me: Again, the proof you’re citing is that a man spoke this to another guy, who then reported it. You really trust the reporter? Have you seen TMZ? 

For all of us who don’t want to adhere to the stories upon which your religion is founded, isn’t it fair to ask you to leave it at church? How would you feel if all the Buddhists began insisting that some Zen koans were recited every morning before class in our public schools [not a bad idea]? I think what the First Amendment is driving at is simply that our American policy ensures a fair shake to all citizens, to consider and choose whatever religion, if any, they wish to take part in. If we pray to the Christian God in schools, we offend the Muslims and the Buddhists and the Hindus, and certainly the SubGeniuses and countless others. If we sing our fealty to Krishna before major league baseball games, then the Hindus might be tickled, but again, everybody else will get their panties in a bundle. Ostensibly, the goal of any religion is to improve the character, the moral fiber, of its adherents. We are all just seeking to become more decent, right? Why not, then, engage in these improvements whilst in private, at home or at the denominational gathering place of our choosing, bolstering our individual virtues with solid consistency, then simply bring that improved character to bear upon public issues? As in, “Wow, Senator Torgelman, you make really honorable decisions. How do you do it?” Senator Torgelman may then pound his heart twice with his fist, kiss two fingers, and point to the heavens, or he may just as likely press his palms together and bow, uttering, “Namaste,” or even lightly caress the war hammer hanging from his belt and declare clearly, “Praise Odin.”

I’m going to type this in boldface to try to make it as clear as possible: If you read the Bible and go to church, or subscribe to any other religion, that is fine with me. I like nice people, and if you are endeavoring to be one, I say, “Great!” I, too, am endeavoring to be a nice person. The thing that makes me mad is when a person suggests that I CANNOT be a nice person or live a life of goodness WITHOUT reading the Bible and attending church. To sum up—churchgoers: fine and dandy; those who try to force it on me and my fellow Americans: assholes. Areas in which “they” try to force it on us: premarital sex abstention, abortion laws, birth control, gay marriage. The fact that creationism can even be a conversation is a goddamn shame and blight upon our nation’s character.

Jesus was a great and wise man; we get it. His teachings are an excellent set of guidelines by which to conduct oneself; copy that. But you don’t get to bring your church book into the city, county, state, or national policy discussion! Put that shit away! Why? Because it’s simply not fair. It’s not how we play in the old US of A. Muslims are not slinging their shibboleths down on the congressmen or -women’s desks, nor are they the insane freaks committing violence upon abortion clinics shouting slogans from the Torah. The Koran is full of wisdom. The Tao Te Ching is an amazing resource of life lessons. Why do I have to be having this argument in this day and age? For fuck’s sake, you use your religious (or not) writing of choice at home, or in a place where people gather to imbibe your religion of choice. Hopefully, this practice teaches you decency, common sense, and goodwill toward your fellow men and women. THEN, you take that decency and put it to good use when drafting legal policy! Leave your church out of it! If I were to coin a phrase, I don’t know, I might suggest A SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE, just like old Tommy Jefferson did. Time to re-up that shit. Forgive my eloquence. 

(A note to parents at sporting events: DERIDING your child is not going to help anyone but will make you look like a real fuck-nut.) 

How to Be a Man Step One: Eat a steak, preferably raw. If you can find a juicy steer and just maw a healthy bite off of its rump, that’s the method that will deliver the most immediate nutrition, protein, and flavor. Make sure you chew at least three times. Step Two: Wash it down with your whisky of choice, preferably a single-malt scotch. My two favorites are Lagavulin and the Balvenie, but I won’t turn my nose up at Talisker, Oban, Laphroaig, Ardbeg, and many more. The Glens. Caol Ila. Dalwhinnie. Cragganmore. Delicious. Just speaking their names aloud will put hair on thy chest, laddie. Or Irish whisky—I mean, goddamn, Jameson, Bushmills, Tullamore Dew, Redbreast, Midleton—or come on, what about the ridiculous amount of good bourbon available right here in the good old US of A? Your Woodford, your Bulleit and Blanton’s, Pappy Van Winkle’s and Four Roses, and there’s frankly not a damn thing wrong with Maker’s Mark. Not a goddamn thing. Then there’s rye. Then there’s corn. What a wonderful world in which to call oneself a man. Step Three: Find a socialist and punch him/her in the face. Step Four: Craft a small wooden watercraft from cedar (for the hull) and domestic hardwoods, like ash or walnut or white oak (for the gunnels and other trim). Carve a paddle from cherry and Alaskan yellow cedar. Step Five: Make sweet but powerful love to another human, most preferably one who is welcoming of your advances. If you have adhered to steps 1 through 4, how could they resist? Upon climax, unholster your enormous pistol and empty the cylinder as you fire rounds laced with double entendre into the night sky dripping with stars. Or not. Sorry, everybody, totally just kidding (except, of course, about the whisky and boatbuilding).

While I firmly adhere to much of this list, these are not, in fact, what I truly consider to be the steps one must tread if one seeks to attain a quality in life leaning toward what we’re here calling manliness. Most of this list pertains more to what I would refer to as the slaking of one’s animal thirsts, or just achieving some of the more delicious base pleasures in life. Okay, so here we are. As I mentioned, I seem to have been associated with certain traits of machismo in the zeitgeist, at least for this brief, golden moment. I find that fact to be somewhat embarrassing, given my firsthand knowledge of my personal failings and propensity for jackass behavior, but I get it, based on superficially perceived signals of manhood, like a full, thick moustache and the ability to use tools. When people ask me questions relating to my “manliness,” I like to remind them that I am primarily an artist as an actor, writer, and woodworker.

Even in my family, I’m not the one you’d call manly. I’m the one who went away to theater school. I took two semesters of ballet, for Christ’s sake. Sure, my incentive was that it was the elective in which one could look at girls the best, but still. Come on, I wore tights and busted out an entrechat quatre. In layman’s terms, that’s when you spring straight up in the air and twiddle your pointed toes like scissors four times before you land. The talented dancers could achieve an entrechat six, so even in ballet, I was out-manned. In most of the country (and the world), there are teenagers who could whip me in most contests, because they are working hard every day of their lives, swinging an axe, hauling buckets of water, wrangling herds of cattle, hogs, and horses. Conversely, I memorize written lines of (brilliant) dialogue. Then I go to a trailer where my hair is coiffed and MAKEUP is applied to my face. After that, I squeeze my beefy corpus into specifically unattractive garments before heading into the set, where I then deliver my prepared scenes with all the deadpan élan I can muster. If hungry, I can request a sandwich fixed to my liking. My mewling is easily silenced with a bottle of water or a cup of corn chowder. Please don’t misunderstand me. In my life, there are and have been times when I do and did work like “a man.” I have engaged in seasons of labor on my family’s farm. I have framed houses. I worked two summers on a blacktop crew, paving parking lots and driveways in the Illinois humidity. I did some roofing in Chicago. I have known and enjoyed hard work for many of my prime years. But now, I am a clown who occasionally gets to mill a tree into table slabs. 

For the menfolk: Chivalry: In a nutshell, there are certain situations in everyday life in which we fellas have the opportunity to behave, well, decently. The initial “women’s lib” movement brought the role of modern-day chivalry into question. “If you ladies want to be treated as equals, then shouldn’t you be able to open your own car door?” The answer to that is, quite simply, “No, dude. You’re an asshole.” 

I consistently arrive at the grocery store for maybe five or six items, so I get the two-handled plastic basket instead of the cart, and I invariably see seven more things I need, including sixty-four ounces of cranberry juice, and, oh, I really should try this new craft beer from the Russian River Brewing Co., and on and on, until I am testing the limits of both the thick-gauge-wire basket handles and my arms and fingers. Why don’t I go get a cart? Go fuck yourself. Why don’t I ask for directions? A topic much masticated by many before me. “I know I’m lost, I know, but I will be goddamned if I’m going to stop and ask someone in a gas station for help.” Behave like that, and I’ll be much more quick to call you “manly” than if you win a boxing match. 

Theodore Roosevelt, aka “number 26.” Here is a piece he wrote to adorn the wall of the lobby at New York City’s magnificent Museum of Natural History: MANHOOD A man’s usefulness depends upon his living up to his ideals insofar as he can. It is hard to fail but it is worse never to have tried to succeed. 

All daring and courage, all iron endurance of misfortune, make for a finer, nobler type of manhood. Only those are fit to live who do not fear to die and none are fit to die who have shrunk from the joy of life and the duty of life.

I would especially like to echo his sentiment that “it is worse never to have tried to succeed.” I would equate this notion with manliness, or, more correctly, capability. Damn it all, you have been given a life on this beautiful planet! Get off your ass and do something! 

It is far too simple these days to lazily coast through an entire lifetime, performing adequately at some thankless job, so that one can purchase a roof, a television, a video game console, and a crappy vehicle, only to find oneself in the final days with absolutely nothing to show for the squandered years. My dad always told me, “If you’re gonna do a job, do it right,” and “Just always do the best you can, and then nobody can fault your effort.” 

When the storm clouds hit, with a little gumption, life can begin to look rather sunny pretty quickly.

Pursue decency in all dealings with your fellow man and woman. Simply put? Don’t be an asshole.

It’s the first rule of Fight Club. Admitting you’re an asshole. Once I saw this truth and swallowed it, an excellent technique developed, one that I believe makes my life much more calm and much less desperate—therefore, much more delicious. The technique is: Let the others go first. At the airport, at the grocery store, at the Pleasure Chest (hey-o!). The calmer I become, the more I enjoy my day. The more I enjoy my day, the more people enjoy me and the more they want to see me in my enjoyment. Eventually, they want to see me enjoying my day on the set of their film playing Holly Hunter’s husband for Diablo Cody. BOOM. Turns out all I had to do was keep my cool. 

Choose your favorite spade and dig a small, deep hole, located deep in the forest or a desolate area of the desert or tundra. Bury your cell phone and then find a hobby. Actually, hobby is not a weighty enough word to represent what I’m trying to get across. Let’s use discipline instead. If you engage in a discipline or do something with your hands instead of kill time on your phone device, then you have something to show for your time when you’re done. Cook, play music, sew, carve. Shit, BeDazzle. Maybe not BeDazzle. 

I’m here to tell you that we’ve been duped on a societal level. My favorite writer, Wendell Berry, writes on this topic with great eloquence. He posits that we’ve been sold a bill of goods, claiming that work is bad, that sweating and working, especially if soil or sawdust is involved, are beneath us. Our population, especially the urbanites, has largely forgotten that working at a labor that one loves is actually a privilege. To be on the receiving end of this gift of a life complete with human body, mind, and heart is to be indescribably blessed indeed, but all of our conveniences and comforts and amazing technological advances have made us completely soft and fully pusillanimous! If a person can simply discern what it is that he/she loves to do with an eight-to-ten-hour day, then a satisfying workday is easily attained. 

I’m not a scholar, and I’m not about to compile an impressive set of statistics for you. I’m just going to proffer this opinion: The people making stuff are generally less wealthy but much happier overall. Less bored, less bitter, more satisfied. 

Many of these pastimes could be considered strange by the general public, but nobody’s asking the public. NOBODY’S ASKING THE PEOPLE WHAT THEY THINK. That’s such a nefarious social paranoia—“What will people say?” WHO FUCKING CARES? We engage in these activities because it’s what we feel like doing. It’s our reaction to modern society, to our time and place, and it is extremely healthy to our dispositions. It’s remunerative nonconformity.

Another way to address this idea is to fill one’s life with the opportunity for seeing solid, real-life results as opposed to virtual. In my opinion, all of the “living” that people do online, in social networks, elaborate multiplayer games, blogs, and so on, is often merely the facsimile of real life, and so it is ultimately unsatisfying. I’m not speaking in absolutes here, for there is clearly a lot of value in social networking. Even my canoe work is enhanced by the ability to commune with other boatbuilders in online forums, asking and answering questions in areas of specialty that would have been inscrutable a mere ten years ago. What I’m addressing more specifically with this writing is how easy it is for we funny monkeys to waste our precious time on these convenient gadgets. I have always liked to carry a book with me, so during a lull at the dentist’s office, or the bus stop, I have something to do that I have chosen. I know that if I’m stuck with only my smartphone, I’ll simply browse the unlimited possibilities made available, with no perceivable result beyond providing a diversion for my attention. That’s the rub. I would rather get something done. 

Sometimes other kids would get up and “witness,” which entailed describing a scene in which they’d had the opportunity to “share the word” with some other lost children, perhaps at the McDonald’s or at the football game. “Hey, guys, can I talk to you about the fact that you’re going to hell?” On occasion the performer would tear up and the auditorium would be profoundly moved by the recounting of the youngster’s attempt at shoving his/her religion down some poor stranger’s throat at the mall. 

Leviticus Can Blow Me 
As I have asserted, much of the Bible holds excellent lessons in the pursuit of modesty and living as a straight shooter, but I would invite you all to investigate the WHOLE DOCUMENT. Leviticus, for example, is commonly referred to as “easily the most fucked-up book in the Old Testament.” I believe it was none other than the Lord God Almighty who instructed us to “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” Wise words from the King of Kings. Unfortunately, he spake this phrase smack-dab in the middle of the book of Leviticus, and I think we can all agree by now that when it comes to writers of books of the Bible, the Leviticus scribes are about as nutty as a tree full of squirrels. 

“If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.” Leviticus 20:13. This passage tells us that our fellow human beings should be killed, basically, for engaging in an act of love. Um. Ridiculous and upsetting? No shit, and then some. “Put to death”? Really? Seems just a bit over-the-top, but at least people are finally starting to realize that. If two people want to love each other and build a life together, I say more power to them. Let’s encourage solid, loving households with open-minded policy, and perhaps we’ll foster a new era of tolerance in which we can turn our attention to actual issues that need our attention, like, I don’t know, killing/bullying the citizens of other nations to maintain control of their oil? What exactly was Jesus’ take on violent capitalism? 

My generation certainly had the mind-set that in order to get a “good job,” one had to attend college, but what I’ve learned since is that many of these so-called good jobs are just a sentencing to a sort of cubicle soul-death with a paycheck attached. That kind of life sounds like pure hell to me.

“Breakfast bread, eh? I believe they have that product already. It’s called toast.” “No, no, bagels are amazing. With cream cheese. I’ll get you some.” Before I could learn the truth of this Jew’s less-than-credible claims, another chilling power overcame the room. We called her the Yellow Peril. “Hi, my name is Monica, but everybody calls me Nika [nee-ka].” The inward eyes of fifteen students involuntarily rolled. Monica was cute as shit with blond hair, but perhaps too cute by half. She immediately established herself as a person who had not been told no enough in her childhood. 

Like a young Midwesterner newly home from the cultural desert, I slaked my thirst with Tom Waits and Talking Heads. Laurie Anderson and Kurt Vonnegut and Elvis Costello. David Bowie. They Might Be Giants. The Beatles! I had not been turned on to the Beatles. Mel Brooks. Woody Allen. Kurosawa. On the Road. Siddhartha. Jim Thompson and Charles Bukowski, William Burroughs and our main entrée, Robert Anton Wilson. We thrilled to his historical fiction about the Illuminati and its progenitors, the Knights Templar, the Freemasons, and the Rosicrucians. Striving to align our own newly formed cabal with cloaked allegiance to a set of values that only we young artists could countenance and comprehend, we devoured Wilson’s books with the fervor of, well, a young initiate to Freemasonry. We met on the level, and by Christ, we parted on the square. 

Marching through life with a confederate in mirth is one of the greatest pleasures that can befall a man, woman, or chipmunk. 

As well as the plays of Harold Pinter, Eugène Ionesco, Sam Shepard, Charles Ludlam, Bertolt Brecht, and beyond, Joe and the rest of our weird tribe—Ragsdale, PeePee, Kimmel, Flanigan, Tatro, and Prescher—were deeply studying the Church of the SubGenius, and we were collectively invigorated by these sources of humor we were finding in the “grown-up” world. These signposts assured us that we too could find careers engaged in artistic pursuits that contained a subversive sense of humor. 

...we learned a lesson that we would later exploit to great pleasure in Chicago: If one was responsible and hardworking when the job required it, then one was free to fuck around as much as one wanted to when the work was over! People were comforted by our dependability, for they knew we would sweep up any mess we made, which gave us the freedom to be the finest class clowns working.

One of the secrets to maintaining my gassy artistic integrity over the years, I was to learn, was in allying myself with a like-minded miscreant whenever possible in order to protect and maintain my self-imposed “outsider” status. 

Finally, our hands-down favorite, also gorgeous in all the right superficial physical departments, a perhaps forty-year-old athletic dancer who could have been an action heroine. She commanded the stage and pole with a warrior’s confidence, working her magic to “Crazy Train” as she disrobed down to, oh, what are those? IRON CROSS PASTIES and a G-string. Heil that! As if that wasn’t badass enough, she would then lose the thong and, on her knees, lean back, spread a bit of fuel, and LIGHT HER PUDENDA ON FIRE. I believe she was what David Mamet had in mind when he penned that “coffee is for closers.” She was a goddamn closer, and Pat righteously branded her Clitler. Pat Roberts, ladies and gentlemen. 

Therefore, if I had to choose one god to serve, I would choose . . . Dionysus. The Greek god of wine, song, and theater. My Eucharist is found in entertaining people, receiving the bread and the wine of laughter and tears from the crowd, and being brought to catharsis by the work of others. When I take the stage, Dionysus (or Bacchus) sees and hears my ministry and he is muchly pleased. Or she. No reason to stick to the tired dogma of the patriarchy. I like to engage in revelry. I like to celebrate the human experience through performance. I like to engender mirth. I like to abide pleasure with my body, and one way that we funny monkeys have learned to know delight is through the consumption of intoxicants. All splendid treats in the proper dosage, but, just like religion (the opiate of the masses), you can use them responsibly, and do good, or you can use them like an asshole and ruin it for the rest of us, who just want to get a little high and look at a maple leaf.

Marijuana is quite possibly the finest of intoxicants. It has been scientifically proven, for decades, to be much less harmful to the body than alcohol when used on a regular basis (Google “Science”).

Treat your intoxicants with respect, and they will do right by you. 

One of the greatest epiphanies a performer can take on board is the understanding that one must simply fly free. Your flight may be beautiful and sexy (hi there), or it might be awkward and labored. It might be hilariously encumbered by disheveled feathers and an ill-kept beak, or it might be workmanlike and steady, but, whatever your aeronautical style, your soaring has just that: STYLE! Whatever it is that makes you different, weird, unique from the others, it is that, if anything, which will see you prosper. 

My favorite rule from Sensei was “Always maintain the attitude of a student.” When a person thinks they have finished learning, that is when bitterness and disappointment can set in, as that person will wake up every day wondering when someone is going to throw a parade in their honor for being so smart.

As human beings, we, by the definition of our very natures, can never be perfect. This means that as long as we are alive and kicking, we can be improving ourselves. No matter our age, if we always have a project to which we can apply ourselves, then we will wake up every day with an objective, something productive to get done. This allows us to go to bed at night in the peaceful knowledge that we have done some good, gained some achievement, however small. 

Jobs that require a suit upset me. They displease me much, as our world is rife with such superficial conformity. As a member of a race of animals who are blithely burning through the natural resources of their beautiful planet, laughing their faces off like beer commercial models as they careen across the water on their Jet Skis, I am pretty well put off by the amount of attention we monkeys can bestow upon things like bang length and pleated fronts and skirt size and shawl collars. I can comprehend why I need brown shoes and belt for some suits and black for others. I comprehend it, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. 

I read an article recently that said a new kind of robot car is coming on the market soon that literally drives itself. BUT I DON’T WANT ANY HELP DRIVING. Driving well in concert with all of the other people driving well, or at least trying to, feels good. It feels like we’re participating in society. We’re present in the moment as we share the road with one another, passing on the left, waving for one another to go ahead and pull out of that driveway, giving one another a spirited middle-finger salute.

The human race is always a potential powder keg, requiring merely one single crackpot firebrand anywhere in the world to instigate a full-on shit-fight. So, just in case some shit goes down, I will feel better knowing that I have the use of a map and a shovel and an axe. 

The reason some may see my sappy side as a liability is that when faced with a decision, I will damn near always choose the more romantic (foolish) choice. 

A vow of this ilk is literally once in a lifetime, if you’re lucky, and I think a person’s odds of being lucky in that department increase drastically if the person means that simple vow when he or she makes it. Life is unpredictable. We have no way of knowing what might befall us in the next five minutes, let alone thirty years down the road, but the weight a marriage vow carries is that in the face of that very uncertainty, two people are willing to promise to stick it out together. That’s my favorite part. 

We have a strict rule: We never accept employment that will keep us apart for more than two weeks. In thirteen years together (and counting), we’ve only been apart for two weeks a couple of times, and even that sucked balls. 

I am personally opposed to the recent development that positions young parents so violently apposite to germs and dirt in general. I have enjoyed a life of terrific health, knock wood, while remaining generally filthy most of the time. Every time I have the opportunity to eat some food that has fallen on the ground, especially in an airport bathroom, I jump to it, in the firm knowledge that I am solidly fortifying my immune system. The “cleaner” we keep our children, the weaker they will become.

I have to be able to see the entire picture. Everything. Does that make sense?” “Of course it does,” he lied, finding in himself one last kindness for this woman he didn’t understand even a little. “From some perspectives, every murder is a small thing. I gave you a good reference, Alia. In return, I hope you remember me when you’re running an entire district and I’m still down in the dark with the dead people and the small things.” Alia smiled. They made gentle, truth-less goodbyes. 

"The presence of those seeking the truth is infinitely to be preferred to the presence of those who think they’ve found it." - Terry Pratchett

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

"Maybe it's the syphilis talking, but some of that made sense."

"Buffy: But even though it's hard, we have to end this. Yes, he's been wronged, and I personally would be ready to apologize, but I... 
Spike: Oh, someone put a stake in me. 
Xander: You got a lot of volunteers in here. 
Spike: I just can't take all this mamby-pamby boo-hooing about the bloody Indians. 
Willow: Uh, the preferred term is... 
Spike: You won. All right? You came in and you killed them and you took their land. That's what conquering nations do. It's what Caesar did, and he's not goin' around saying, "I came, I conquered, I felt really bad about it." The history of the world is not people making friends. You had better weapons, and you massacred them. End of story. 
Buffy: Well, I think the Spaniards actually did a lot of - Not that I don't like Spaniards. 
Spike: Listen to you. How you gonna fight anyone with that attitude? 
Willow: We don't wanna fight anyone. 
Buffy: I just wanna have Thanksgiving. 
Spike: Heh heh. Yeah... Good luck. 
Willow: Well, if we could talk to him... 
Spike: You exterminated his race. What could you possibly say that would make him feel better? It's kill or be killed here. Take your bloody pick. 
Xander: Maybe it's the syphilis talking, but some of that made sense."

"What do we do?"

"We fight."


“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” ― C.G. Jung

Monday, November 23, 2015

"You've seen this in action movies, there's a reason, it works."


11/23 - stretch, press, chins - band dislocates/laterals/press/curls

What it Takes - "Consistency – Without a doubt, the strongest and best lifters in the world have consistently busted their ass in the weight room. For decades. Not weeks, not a year, but decades. There are genetic freaks out there that achieve a high level of strength quickly, but comparing yourself to them is unfair and will probably drive you out of the sport and into a 10-year Pop Tarts & Vicodin bender. Now, consistency doesn’t always mean they’re going balls out, every day. It means they chip away slowly, but surely...

Don’t be afraid to do what you want, not what others want you to do. Don’t hold yourself to others’ standards – especially when your standards should be higher. One of the things I mention in the NOV book is “Just because you aren’t a leader, doesn’t mean you have to be a follower.”  Who cares who follows you? A real man can stand alone and be strong.  A weak man shouts for others to follow him. Just don’t get sucked into the world of the idiot; the world is full of them and weakness is appealing and contagious.  When common sense becomes a trigger word for hatred, it’s time to dig deep roots for your family. Training should be fun; there’s joy in the pain of the process. When it becomes tiresome or becomes a “job” remember why you began training in the first place. It’s not supposed to appease anyone but you. Fads come and go, but the barbell remains the same. Respect it accordingly."

ali-lifts: I was asked to post a before and...:

Sunday, November 22, 2015

"I'm a loner, Dottie. A rebel."

Zappa Got It.


"How swiftly Americans throw down their values and run in the face of a real or imagined threat from The Other is breathtaking."

Hullabaloo: "We love to pledge allegiance to the flag, sing the Star Spangled Banner, and pat ourselves on the back for how much we love the home of the brave. Then we turn tail and run from our own values at the first sign of fear itself...

How swiftly Americans throw down their values and run in the face of a real or imagined threat from The Other is breathtaking. Especially when our own propensity for lashing out violently in fear gives the rest of the world greater reason to fear us than we them. What have Americans to fear from terrorists? We kill each other in far greater numbers every year. ..

No, this nation of immigrants is free to shout liberty and freedom from the rooftops while brandishing weapons and melting down in a "full-fledged xenophobic hysteria." We have proven to the world this week just how situational and disposable our vaunted American values have become. Less a system of operational values than a brand. (Team America: paraphernalia imported from China.) We are just that exceptional, and shameless. Do what we say, don't watch what we do. No, you do not really have to live your values to claim being a Real American anymore. You only have to show up wearing them on your sleeve. Everybody goes home with a participation trophy."

"A genius..."

"Our optimism serves us except in the area we're not changing..."

"...In which case we need some pessimism to be selectively and intelligently applied."

Friday, November 20, 2015

"'He or she' is a an agenderphobic microaggression, Sharon."

 South Park is killing it this season.

Training - "Too many people believe their mommy’s and think they are the outliers. Chances are you are average as fuck. Work hard and smart."

11/20 - deadlifts [PR 485, repPR 335x15, chalk/belt/mixed grip]
Back at it today after 4 deload wkouts + a sick day... 
11/9 - press, chins 
11/11 - deadlifts, leg raises
11/13 - bench, seated row
11/16 - squats, situps
11/18 - sick day

Increasing Volume of Supplemental and Assistance Work - "The problem with the increase in assistance work is that everyone wants to have their cake and eat it  too. It doesn’t work like that – you can’t be strong like a powerlifter, fast as sprinter, and as big as a linebacker. Well, you can, but these people are so rare that teams pay them millions of dollars and television stations have billion dollar contracts to broadcast them to you. They’re called  professional football players, and if you’re one of them, you aren’t reading this, as you’re too busy counting your  money and cracking skulls. Too many people believe their mommy’s and think they are the outliers. Chances are you are average as fuck.  Work hard and smart."

Amazing 60 Year Old Training - "“The only way you can live your life to the fullest is to be as healthy as you can be… That’s why I train.”"

LIFT-RUN-BANG: Beginner lessons - Early mistakes to avoid: "Newflash.  If you want to be jacked like Dwayne Johnson, be prepared to put in a couple of decades of hard work, take some anabolics, and go through phases where you were chubby, then lean, then chubby, then lean again.  None of this happens in a few months, or even a few years.  And no routine is going to make you "look like someone".  Last time I checked, your dad banged your mom and created you."