I Made This About Bras

Comedy’s not really where my head’s at right now.

This is still hard for me to do regularly, as you can tell, but it feels good when it happens.  I let it all out in writing so much easier than I can do it in speech, or when I’m worried about comic intentions or being hilarious.  It’s nice to return to this format.

We’ve been thinking a lot.  And talking a lot.  About everything.  We still don’t KNOW anything… which seems to be particularly uncomfortable for us, as Type A humans, but we’re spending more time with that sort of feeling & trying to get comfortable with it.  In fairness we’re a lot more comfortable in that discomfort than we were 2, 3 or 5 years ago.  So the thinking and the talking is where it’s at.  And we’ve been doing so much of it together that my need to do it here, alone, is not nearly as chronic as in the past.

Now, though, I’m approaching the meta state.  So much talking & thinking is going on that I feel the need to think & write about all the talking & thinking.  Why?  Because, in all honesty, I think we’re really pretty frikking great at it, and no one else around us seems to have it buttoned up quite the way we do.  Yes, that sounds very braggardly… but honestly we may be the Kim & Kanye of Dealing With Ourselves in a relationship.  We’ll name our next kid Yeezus as a result.  Or at least Kate’s first dog.

There are some more experienced couples we know that are good at this – a few may even be better at it than we are – but we’re coming up on just our 7th anniversary, and I feel like we’ll never have something we can’t talk through.  Most of the professional counselor contacts we’ve talked to give us a lot of praise, in a surprised tone, for the way we handle our marriage at “such a young age”.  I put that in quotes because I don’t really feel it’s a justified classification.  We’re adults, and we’re only a decade away from being middle-aged adults… so how is that “such a young age”?  If they’re talking about the age of our marriage, I call statistical baloney – the median length of a marriage for men & women in the US is only eight years, per Wikipedia.  Even if you control for idiots that keep the Vegas altars in business (funny how none of the non-Vegas altars are viewed as participants in business, but for all the marketing religions have done), I sincerely doubt it doubles to 16 years, so we’re probably approaching at least the median age of a marriage.   So while I doubt you’d look at someone who’s uber happy by age 39, at half the average life expectancy in the 2010 census, and say they’ve figured out life at such a young age, alas, they applaud us for being so damn good at this, and are surprised when they meet us in person vs. hear our stories over the phone or in writing.  Apparently they picture Warren Beatty & Annette Bening without knowing any better.  (That is one side-by-side I can live with.)

Let me clarify for those of you who will wonder at what I have wrought:  we are fine.  We are great.  But many, MANY, of our friends & peers & Twitter followers seem to have challenges in this area.  So I wanted to create an on-demand resource, borne out of the conversations we have during which we try to give our advice on a piecemeal basis, that might save a few marriages around the interwebz.  That’s all.  No big whoop.

So in complete ignorance of the typical capitalist habit of somehow protecting a patent on a productive partnership, though I’m sure others have tried, let me break down how this shit works.  Below are the details of our… habit, I suppose, is the least controversial noun – less so than “practice” or “method”, which I feel are being usurped by advertisers & those schilling their wares.  A habit is still negative enough to be outside the sphere of copywriter opiates.  It’s a set of circumstances, which usually arise in something of a sequence/cause-effect chain, in which each step generates an action & each action therefore generates the next circumstance.  That, in fact, is all anything really is.  If you want to understand why your boss/spouse/child/vegan soy vegetable soufflé isn’t treating you the way you want/listening to you/rising in the oven like the damn paleo diet ebook said it would, sit down & understand these basic elements of circumstance, action & reaction.  Newton, Leibniz, Fermi, Fermat, Fibonacci… all the other F guys… the so-called “natural philosophers” knew what the hell they were doing.  Observe, Analyze, Report, Repeat.  You do that for your marriage, then you create a positive relationship & can keep it moving in a positive direction.

How To Create & Maintain Positive Momentum In Your Marriage

(Like how I’m expressing that in copywriter opiates?  Blech.  Practically screams SEO Google AdWords.  I’ll bet it asks you to click it later, after that third drink.)

STEP 1.  Be honest about what you’re actually thinking / feeling / doing.

STEP 2.  Communicate that clearly & then stop talking.  I read recently that you should spend 3/4 of the conversation listening to the other person, and 1/4 of the conversation talking.  Mathematically, when you both stick to this rule, it can’t possibly be a one-sided conversation, because you’ll both shut up before you feel like you’re getting to 50% of the talk time.  I am summarily disgusted by things that don’t make mathematical sense, such as fad diets, skinny jeans, and Fox News, but the numbers here would lead to a satisfactory outcome, so I won’t quibble.

STEP 3.  Listen to what the other person is saying, in an active way.  Meaning try to ignore the voice in your head that is talking while they are talking.  You’re not in a rush here… unless of course you are in a rush, in which case you invoke The Emergency Rule, below.  You need to hear the words and then think about them – they are talking about their feelings & what you should DO about the circumstances, so if you want them to do what you asked them to do in step 2, you have to listen the fuck up & figure out what you’re going to do about THEIR concerns & circumstances.  Our own nature works against us here – instead of listening to their side & figuring out what we can do to help them, we listen to their side & never stop thinking about how we feel about it, so that when s/he is done we can talk more about our feelings to get what we want.  However, if you both want the conversation to take you to a place that is better than the one wherein you started the conversation, you will have to do both actions: a) Listen & Decide What To Do In Regards To Their Needs; b) Listen & Decide What Else To Ask For In Regards To Your Needs.  (The Capital Letters Are Important.  No They’re Not.)  This takes more time than the current socially-acceptable normal conversation with most people – i.e. you don’t have this amount of time when you’re telling the barista how many pumps of mocha it tastes like vs. how many pumps of mocha you really want it to taste like – but unless you’re Oprah you’re probably not in a deep life-altering partnership with your barista.

STEP 4.  Repeat the above steps until all your shit is aired out, WITHOUT EXCEPTION, unless invoking The Emergency Rule.

THE EMERGENCY RULE:  If you aren’t in a place, physically or mentally, where you can make every honest attempt at engaging in each step repeatedly until your conversation is over, this is how you handle it:  “{Personal Moniker}, I want to continue to keep moving through this discussion to get to a better place that meets both our needs, but the circumstances we need  are not what we have right now, so let’s come back to it at {Set A Specific Time, Preferably Before The Next Sunrise}.”  Make sure the Personal Moniker isn’t a loaded term – i.e. it shouldn’t be overly saccharine, nor should it be placating & of course not demeaning, and, if you ever want to have oral pleasures again, avoid anything sexually playful, i.e. Sugar Tits, Mr. Big, Lena Dunham, etc.

That’s it.  That’s the big damn secret.  Notice that nowhere am I explicitly saying any of them are easy.  Much like other lofty goals such as maintaining good nutrition, raising a child to be an upstanding citizen, and unhooking modern-day bras, knowing what the steps are, and understanding how to follow them in a sequence, is the easy part; actually doing it is where the magic is.  (Seriously with the bra thing:  show me one other piece of clothing that has that many impossibly tiny & implausibly strong hooks, and I’ll bet its intentions are much less innocent than simply keeping the girls covered up.  Talk about over-engineering safety for one guy’s mistake… can you imagine being the guy responsible for the bra?  Like, because of you, all of the remaining boobs, all of them, forever, all of them had to be covered up?  And by such a medieval device?  I want to know what he did to two boobs that was so bad we had to lock up all the other ones with tiny metal locks and elastic fabric that stretches unnaturally.)

HOW’S THAT FOR A CHANGE IN TONE AT THE END OF AN ESSAY??!??  Take that, Comp Lit Majors!  Enjoy your no job & weird spices & braless girlfriends!


That is all.

Review of “Anathem” by Neal Stephenson

AnathemAnathem by Neal Stephenson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

First, let me say I love all other books of Neal Stephenson’s that I’ve read. In most cases, they require a hefty investment (time, weight-the books are hefty, and spiritual collateral-you need to trust him), but the reward is more often than not HIGHLY worth it, and even when it’s not you still break even.

Now, to “Anathem”… The plot, in short, “Anathem” played to me like the work that might have inspired the screenplay of Armageddon, except they had to add Bruce Willis, remove all the references to geometry & logic, replace it with faux-geology, swirl in some sex jokes, and oh yeah why not have an Anthem by Aerosmith. Take the Michael Bay out of Armaggeddon, and you have some idea what Anathem is about. People stuck in remote places doing what the world has told them to do (or more appropriately what they can’t), and then some extraterrestrial threat presents itself & the people stuck in remote places become extremely important. Anathem = spaceship containing four races of interplanetary/interdimensional life forms; Armageddon = big rock.
None of this is to say that fans of Stephenson will be disappointed. Au contraire. Of all the books I’ve read of Neal’s, this one is the beefiest. Part of the premise is that you’re reading an account of the transpirations that happened on a different world/track and it had to be translated from Orth into your language. Yes, it includes a glossary & several clips from reference books; it even includes some geometrical puzzles & proofs. ANathem smacks you with this right up front, and it may take you a week to get through the first 100 pages.
If you get that far, you will be rewarded. Yes, the “action” is dry – there are zero vestiges of Michael Bay. The humor is also quite dry, but not surprisingly so. You’re encouraged to keep reading if you can get into some of the sharpest examinations of logic, dialogue, rhetoric, philosophy, geometry & nature you’re likely to find in a work of fiction. The voice you read learns much throughout the events that happen, and it speaks in a way that makes you think you’re finally about to learn something profound if you just keep going. Right up to the end I found myself getting little snippets of what Neal’s on about, of what his worldview really is or what I’m not considering about my own; these little nuggets were just big enough to keep me hitting the feed-bar.
Well, I kept going… and frankly, the “singularity” moment I was expecting never arrived for me. I’ll admit to not being able to follow the multitude of strings of social commentary Stephenson’s woven here; some of them are obvious & omnipresent, but I found myself repeatedly questioning whether or not there’s supposed to be some parallel meaning or secondary lesson I just didn’t quite see. In the end I decided there were probably more parallels than I could know (because Neal’s much better read & smarter than me), but of those I could perceive, I can say I’ve absorbed his POV. For other readers, this book may become a How-To or a DIY narrative. Still for others, Neal may have alienated them in the first 100 pages & never given them much of a reason to keep going, and their trust may not return.
In short, not my favorite Neal book. My fave is still Cryptonomicon. But I’m glad I read Anathem, if for no other reason than to be reminded what action movies would have been like without Ben Affleck.

View all my reviews

Team Eckhart

I just finished reading Eckhart Tolle’s “The New Earth”. It’s a significant event, because I rarely even venture into the land of New Age books, as Borders would undoubtedly classify this, and as such this book would long have stayed out of my purview were it not for life’s intervention. In this particular case, I have my wife, my sister, and Oprah to thank for conspiring to put this book in front of my face… Powerful women, all, so it’s no wonder that, after reading & reflecting on E.T.’s work, I too feel more “powerful”.

Here’s why.

His life, as explained in the book, is not what you & I, the unenlightened might call “life” at all. His consciousness has evolved. In his world, life is a series of things. Things that happen, things that you consume, build, lust after, chase, get, don’t get, etc. It’s literally all clutter. This is not Life, a separate definition that is hard to denote with any letters, even a Capital L. As he would express it, Life just is. The things of the lowercase life are all constructs, are all structures created by our dearest friend & most insecure friend, Monsieur Ego, in a constant & desperate effort to justify his own existence. We do not need Ego to accomplish our purpose in life. Ego actually runs counter plots to this true purpose by convincing us that he is the one in charge & that his desires are what matters. Our purpose is to simply live Life, the Life that Oprah would call her Best Life, by realizing we are all Beings, and as such we are all connected to a higher Being, which E.T. describes variously with apropos but loaded words like Truth, Consciousness, Awareness, God, Self and Life.

He claims that we, before attaining consciousness (which he explains in such adroit fashion as to encompass and equalize most of the world’s religions), create and destroy in the futility of the act of defining ourselves & everything in our world on some meter or scale or reference point. My favorite part of this dialog is his discussion of how nothing is actually Better or Bigger until you decide it’s so. I totally can’t do it justice at the moment, since i only read it once & neglected to take notes. Just take it from me that this was one of the many aha!- like moments I had in the course of his 300 pages: every measurement requires a point of reference, and since society is full of Beings with independent points of reference, yours is the only one that matters, which simultaneously means that none of them do (let’s all stop short of spiraling down into the dystopic argument that society can’t function without some shared givens). There is no Good or Bad, but thinking that makes it so.

But consider that every Being is born and has a spark of life – and that, my friends, is where the similarities end. The only thing we “know” is that we are alive and others are alive. If we can realize that, accept that, and act as though it were the only Truth, everything else that causes us discontent melts away.

The most freeing section in the whole book is where he relates that to action and time. When you accept that the world and time are constructs in which you are forced to participate physically but do NOT define who you are, because YOU are more than your actions, all the risk to You/Self is moot and it’s only your Ego at play that makes you act differently. What you choose to do in any given moment is exactly the right thing to do if you are aware of the choice. Put simply, the only moment there ever is is Now, and the only Action required is the one you choose.

That is a concept that made me fall off the couch. That is some Ninja shit right there. I feel like I earned a blackbelt in like thirty different isms all at once.

Here’s where it can go a little sideways for those less introspective than even I am. Realizing that, accepting that, acting on that… In short, thinking about it (or anything for that matter) is still a lowercase life. Thinking is all Ego. Getting in touch with Life, though, is “simpler” than that. He gives us a few activities to try in the book, but my go-to kata is this: close your eyes and just feel the blood, heat & energy I your fingertips. (I learned focused breath in college yoga classes, so I take for granted that this is easy; I highly recommend learning this technique if for no other reason than it’s ability to quell anxiety & get me to sleep at night). Then let that awareness slowly creep out into your hands, into your arms, your shoulders, your core, the top of your head… that sort of trancelike state you enter when you can honestly feel that energy & not act or think about anything else… that is the Awareness with a Capital A that E.T. says connects us all. It’s the only thing that connects us all, but the point is that we are all connected. However you choose to manifest that Life, whatever God you choose (if any), whatever clothes you wear, whether you’re for Team Edward or Team Jacob (note from my Ego: I am the only guy who would even ATTEMPT to mix Eckhart Tolle and Twilight, and therefore I am awesome), all those decisions are yours and all of them insignificant in the pursuit of Life, Happiness, Zen, Nirvana, Heaven, or Valhalla (what up Nordic readers!).

All you gotta do is let go. The only moment there ever is is Now, and the only Action required is the one you choose. There is no Good or Bad, but thinking that makes it so.

I apologize for the heady meta vapors you’re now wafting in, but this post serves three purposes. First and foremost, to document my own thoughts on this book. It hasn’t turned me into Superman or Oprah or even Dr. Phil, but whatever potential I had that I felt was untapped or that I wasn’t “allowed” to tap, which caused me to worry I was wasting myself, or at least that others were thinking I was wasting myself… Well, none of that matters. And holy jumping Jesus in a jumpsuit did it make a difference in my life.

Second purpose of this post is to tell you about it. Spread the germs of consciousness, I suppose. Without becoming an evangelist, I will simply say that, if you can hang with his meta-analysis (or at least aren’t totally turned off by the words meta-analysis), you will get something of value out of reading it.

Third purpose is to publicly acknowledge and accept that I am more than the sum of my actions, and so is everyone else. That, inevitably, leads to forgiveness, which is a surprising word at this time in my life. I’m afraid that’s a horse of a different color, though, so I’m postponing further public exploration of that.

My thanks to the many different Muses that manifested that book & granted me the good fortune to be able to read it. Hopefully at least one other person will choose the same experience.

Know How Many Houses You Own? Don’t Vote Repbulican.

While I’m not a traditionally politicial guy, there are some things that happen that I can’t resist. So, whether it’s senility or a sheer symptom of “So Rich I Can’t Relate” disease, make sure you read this before November.


Welcome to 2008

Happy New Year!

We are officially back from the year-ending honeymoon, and I gotta say that being on your honeymoon in New Zealand is a great way to end any year. Lots of good stuff happened in ’07, and I’m very excited to see what happens in 2008.

We’re working hard on priority goals 1 and 2: pick out all the wedding pictures and get them printed & published to the web; and pick out all the honeymoon pictures and get them published to the web & share them with everyone. Other than that, all the wedding/honeymoon hoopla is officially over… which is definitely a sad truth, but a bit of a relief as well. Time to turn our attention to the rest of our lives.

First on my list is training for the marathon. If you read the last post below, you saw that I registered for the BSIM on April 26th. Since that post and this one, my dear friend Choi has decided to pick that exact same day for his wedding reception. (He’s getting married in March, in Seoul, Korea, but having a reception for his gaijin friends that can’t make it to the land of fermented cabbage.) He’s lucky that I love him like a brother, because I was very excited about & already committed to this marathon… but the right thing to do, in spite of the fact that the marathon was booked first, is to go to his reception and forfeit my registration. Though apparently I may be able to sell my number on eBay – anyone ever sold or bought a race registration from someone else? So while I may not be training for Big Sur at the end of April, I’m still going to train and will book one in the same basic timeframe very soon.

Runner-up to that is to keep going with Improv stuff. Roadblock there is that BATS isn’t offering the next class in the series until April (at the earliest)… so that means I gotta go find another school or another pursuit and jump in just to keep momentum going. I’m kinda okay with that though – as much as I love what I’ve been doing at BATS, some of it isn’t indigenous to their school or their way of doing things. I’ve actually had two out of three of my classes disappoint me in some way or another, and have noticed that their crew’s performances (the long-form ones I’ve seen) are not what I really want to do. Those particular performances I saw, and what they seem to preach through their classes, purport that improv is funny by way of being improv… meaning that the funny bits are pleasant by-products of improvisation. I’m starting to think that my preferred method of doing this would actually be to marry the two together. IMPROVISE FUNNY STUFF. Obviously you can’t be funny all the time, especially when it’s completely spontaneous, but … for me, the whole point of this is to get the laugh; that’s why I do it.

BATS is typically not about the laugh… or at least the teachers I’ve had thus far don’t emphasize it at all; indeed they sometimes dragged me away from the laughs, kicking & screaming. And okay, I understand that improvisational acting is more than improvisational comedy, and that the skills involved in the first certainly augment your endeavors of the second but not necessarily vice-versa… but that’s not really what I want to do with my time or money right now. I want to be funny, and I want people to want me to be funny, and then I want to learn about how to be funnier. So I’ll shove off to find a way to do that very soon and will update you accordingly.

R, on the other hand, is about to kick off her first knitting class at Atelier Yarns over on Divis. She put that on her Xmas list, and ’twas a gift certificate that she received from my wonderful parents that paid for it & her supplies. She starts Monday & is very excited. It’s also something that’s going to help her keep one of her resolutions: to make/take more time for herself. Work has been summarily taking advantage of her for a few months now, and she’s had enough and is committed to getting her time back. Let’s all help her keep that one, okay? She’s excited for learning a new hobby, and she’s hoping it’ll turn out to be a therapeutic one – one that will calm her down as opposed to giving her more fodder for her task lists and the cute little heart attack that she knows she’s got half-baked in the bottom of her ventricles.

I’m all for a relaxing hobby, because, love her as I do, I still can’t keep her from being this big ball of stress for a larger-than-fun portion of time. I may still have a talent for talking her out of a complete frenzy like no one else could, but it’s akin to saving someone from drowning but still being stuck in the middle of the ocean – I can swim for both of us only so many miles, and then we both have to figure out how the hell to make it to dry land for beer and crab cakes. (I would only ever get stuck in the ocean in an area where the coast would supply both of these things a-plenty.)

The honeymoon was great for letting both of us totally forget about anything other than being married, being in New Zealand, and being twentysomethings with respectable salaries and slightly modest tastes for food & wine. We had a great time – I’d write a full post about it, but I still haven’t finished the Wedding post, and feel obligated to finish that one first – and now we’re back, trying not to get stressed out by America, by corporations, by what little obligations we do have.

But we’re trying not to think of 2008 as another year of obligations to things that don’t make us better or make the world better… I’m trying to make sure that I invest my time better in ’08. I even toyed with the idea of resolving not to watch ‘Friends’ any more. The amount of time I spend in front of the TV is easily 30-40% consumed by re-runs of episodes I own on DVD. So not only is it not productive time, it’s a REPEAT of a non-productive time. (In my defense, it’s a great show that won Emmys for a reason… but that is not excuse enough.)

I want to invest in this year so that ’09 is easier for both of us. More time out of the apartment, more time taking advantage of living on the West Coast, more time exploring new restaurants/activities/creative pursuits… do away with the days that go by because we’re too busy planning other things. And if we make the effort to take time for doing & enjoying new things, I’m less likely to need that time in front of the TV, laughing at lines that haven’t been said yet but that I know are coming. (There’s nothing inherently wrong with that at certain points in your life, but I’m past that point for now.)

One thing I’m definitely looking forward to doing is finding some open mic nights. Gonna start spectating a few first, build up the ol’ confidence, work on my own material, and eventually make a debut. I’m on the fence as to whether or not I want people I know to be at my first one or not… I’d love to think I’d be funny enough to have my friends & family laugh at me out of getting my jokes instead of loyalty, but am worried about being able to tell the difference. And if I DO bomb, I certainly don’t want everyone I know there to see it or to try and make me feel better about it… If they come and help me feel great my first time, when I go out again & less of them are there, I could bomb & not have that salve of loving ego-strokes with which to dress my wounds. But rest assured, I’ll blog about it either way.

There are LOTS of other things that should happen in ’08, but it’s 6:30 on Saturday night and I’m going to head out to catch I Am Legend at 7:30. (R doesn’t particularly want to go, so I get to go and drink all the soda & eat all the snacks I’ll pick up from BevMo! on the way.) So for now, I will leave you… and I promise I’ll be back in less than the 4 weeks it’s been since my last post. Plus I just bought us a new laptop yesterday and am happy to have a second tool so we can both be productive while at home.

Did learn a lesson though: make sure to ask R before any final decisions on large purchases. Both my Dad AND hers have a tendency to get single-minded on these types of purchases (computers, cars, TVs, dogs, cable packages), and they sometimes neglect to ensure the whole family is included in the decisions… it’s got a lot to do with the way women communicate their apathy about technology or TVs or whatever, but even if they don’t care to know an LCD from a labrador, it doesn’t mean that leaving them out of any decision that affects them is an okay thing. I’m sure this won’t be the last time something like that comes up, but I’m still ruminating on my response/philosophy related to it, so I’ll just let it go at that for now.

PS, thanks to those that have been commenting. I’m trying to respond in the comment threads more quickly than I can post, so if you’re looking for shoutouts or thank-yous, be sure to go back through the comment threads too, kay?