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Monday, February 27, 2006

Am I Gay Enough For Ya?

As I am writing this column, my lovely bride-to-be is picking the ingrown hairs out of my back and shoulders.

Wait! My story gets better…

A friend of mine and I were recently lamenting the fact that neither one of us are as naturally well groomed as a woman might want us to be. I know for sure that if there’s one thing my fiancé wished to change about me it’s that I should take more of an interest in my appearance. She wishes that I would more time in the mirror, grooming myself and making myself look pretty as a matter of pride.

I on the other hand, and my friend agreed, believed that when it doesn’t matter I shouldn’t have to put to the time in. Grooming is for special occasions and work, not for just hanging around the house. At least that’s what I used to think before my fiancés special brand of Marge Simpson’s “gentle nagging” got me to at least shave every other day or at least before she and go out at night.

This topic among many has had me thinking of late that it’s pretty ironic how woman want to be with a “man’s man” but then can’t seem to stand anything about what being a man is all about. Men like stuff, especially my generation of men, whom are admittedly a little slow to grow up.

We like video games, music, TV, movies and sports. I myself like to curl up with a good non-fiction book, but then I’m something of a nerd. My point is, my wonderful fiancé has often pointed out that I spend an inordinate amount of time focusing on exterior things than I do on myself or more intimate details of our lives.

Oh who am I kidding, I’m the say guy that managed to miss a bartender flashing her chest to the entire club in Levittown, NY but can spot someone with Bi-Polar Disorder from a mile away.

Anywho, I have come to the conclusion that on some level, I believe that my fiancé is one of many woman who wish their man was just a little gay…just gay enough to take the proper amount of time and care in their grooming habits. You know the usual suspects; plucked eyebrows, exfoliated skin, waxed bodies, clean shaven face, manicured nails, and freshly pressed clothes.

Any woman reading this would look at this list and say, “Well yeah, your not a homeless person, why shouldn’t you do all that?” And any straight man that reads that list (usually) would say, “What man has that kind of time? I have stuff to do like watch sports, work, exercise, get drunk, and/or blog (OK that last one is just me, but you see my point.)

But many men in fact do take the time to properly groom themselves. These men typically have learned these habits from mothers or sisters and do them if for no other reason than they want to meet women, women who like a well groomed man. Of course the stereotype is that any man who takes that time on themselves instead of something important (like whatever hobby they are interested in) is clearly homosexual.

There’s the rub. Women seem to want both. As a matter of fact Nan Shipley has written a book on the subject, “Is Your Straight Man Gay Enough? The Ultimate Renovation Guide.” According to a review in the Sacramento Bee, “The book purports to aid women in surreptitiously – this is crucial – remaking their hairy, distracted, sports-addled straight men into something a little more like their well-groomed, empathetic gay best friend. The one who likes to shop, listens to her pour her heart out and loves to dance.

In Shipley’s case, her gay best friend is Jason Anthony, a literary agent in New York City who is also her co-author. Together, they have written a funny book that uses stereotypes about men on the straight-gay spectrum in the hope that a clever woman can split the difference to her advantage.”

This actually makes a lot of sense. Women want a guy that will be sympathetic to their needs and one of those needs that they should be made to feel good. One way and probably the most important way is to show how much you care by looking good for her. Now that may not make a lot of sense to guys to the ladies it is the gospel according to Cupid. She becomes special by virtue of the amount of effort your lazy butt puts into your appearance.

Listening to them and being supportive especially in those times when they feel like their world is crumbling around them also helps a bunch. Men are problem solvers. We’re a fairly simplistic bunch. The thing is, sometimes their isn’t a viable solution and all the person needs is someone to vent their frustrations to. As the guy, your job is to be there and give your sweetie a safe place to vent without this need to solve the problem quickly so they can stop talking and you can watch wrestling…wait, never mind that last part.

However, getting back to stereotypes most guys think that what I just described is a little on the gay side. What guy in their right mind wants to listen to a whole lot of whining? The answer is, the guy that wants to see their relationship work, that’s who. Being sensitive to your loves needs, whether its emotional or physical is not gay, it’s the right thing to do. There’s plenty of stuff guys want from their women that under normal circumstances they wouldn’t be willing to do but they do anyway to make us happy. The least we can do is not look like a complete slop when they want to go out to dinner on a Saturday night.

So if you have to be a little “gay” to make your woman happy, what bloody difference does it make? She certainly won’t think less of you because that’s what she wanted in the first place. Like Chris Rock once said, and I’m paraphrasing here, when you were single no woman would touch, then you met one that cleaned you up and now every woman wants to sleep with you. He was exaggerating but the point is clear, if you want to make the woman happy, you have to frolic in the periwinkles of homosexuality every now and then. It’s not the worst price to pay for a lifetime of companionship.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

On Being the Single Guy...

The following was paid for by John Brodigan for a Better America

"Instead of wasting your time watching the news, you should do something useful like finding a girlfriend."
- something that was said to me

Being single sucks.

I've already spit a few verses in the past aboot "dating," so there's no need to revisit it. And the actual being single isn't really what "sucks." I enjoy my life. I go to the gym, write, read, go out with my friends on the weekend for a few yucks, and am able to do whatever I feel like without having to worry about entertaining anyone. I'm not saying I don't miss having a "girlfriend." I miss the companionship and the, as cheesy as this sounds, having someone to simply act silly with (that's different than it is with your regular friends). Plus lets be honest, sex is cool and "friends with benefits" never really appealed to me (even though I do have some really hot friends). But other than that, I'm really happy with my life right now. More so than I've been in a while.

What makes being single suck? It's other people. We live in a society that puts such a ridiculously heavy emphasis on who you're with. Everyone, regardless of age or gender, either judges people based on who they are (or aren't dating), or judges themselves based on who they are (or aren't) dating.

-Girls need to be in a relationship to make themselves feel complete, plus they aren't getting any younger.

-Guys like the accessory of a girlfriend. Girls accessorize with a pocketbook or some jewelry when they go out. Guys accessorize with their girlfriends.

-Families go ga ga over who's married or who's getting married, like it's a competition. If you're not, it's "okay" in that condescending sense you give a child when they come in second place. Just substitute "you did the best you could" with "I'm sure you'll find the right girl for you someday."

What's worse is when you're the single guy in a kliq full of couples, because than you're the charity case. Everyone wants to set you up and they all claim to do so because they're your friend and they're concerned about you as a friend and don't you understand what a great friend they're being to you? You can't go out for a few drinks without an endless barrage of, "What about that one? What about that one over there? Why don't you talk to that one?" Setting you up isn't "she's perfect for you," as much as it is "you're both single and we want a couple to do couple things with." It all begs to question, if everyone is being such a great friend to me, why can't they respect my wishes to leave me alone and let me live my life?

Plus I'm a shy guy and I don't really connect with that many people. That causes a three point problem when it comes to a girlfriend. First I have to find someone I connect with. Then she has to connect back. Then when once we do connect, she has to not be dating someone else. The joke is that while I'm not really sure what my type is, I do know that she's usually either with someone else, or just broke up and "isn't ready" yet. That's hard enough without having everyone interfering.

Not to mention, those stars haven't aligned all that often. When they have, it's been great and I loved every minute of it. I'm just not, nor have I ever been, willing to settle for less just because I'm at a certain age, or that my friends are all settling down, or that because everyone's doing it and if I'm not part of a couple, I just suck.

I know there are girls out there for me who are worth sharing some of my life with. When the time is right, I'll meet her, or she'll find away to reveal herself. Until then, I'm content being selfish and living my life the best way I know how.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Where Have All the Rockstars Gone?

The following was paid for by John Brodigan for a Better America

I know there are more important things going in the world, but I still found this article to be interesting. I also found it to be a shame that this is the direction the music industry is spiraling to.

Some of my favourite songs are cuts from albums that were never singles. There are some incredible, incredible songs that never got any radio airplay, yet fans scream for them when the band is in concert anyway.

It sucks that all of that is at risk of disappearing.

Will there be another U2, Led Zeppelin, or Beatles? Some observers point to Coldplay - the sensitive British band fronted by Gwyneth Paltrow's hubby, currently on tour across the US - as a band with the potential to attain Pink Floydian proportions.

But to do so, Coldplay and other would-be heirs to the throne will have to build a base audience, grow in clubs, thrive in theaters, then move on to arenas and stadiums. They will have to capture a young audience that stays with them as both band and audience age. And they'll have to stay relevant so that new generations of listeners become fans along with their older siblings - and parents.

In an era of increasingly diffuse and niche-oriented outlets for music - especially radio stations and Internet sites - it's more and more difficult for any one band to break out into the mainstream and conquer large numbers of ears. Can a band that emerges in today's climate, where pop music seems ever more disposable, ever hope to attain the colossal popularity of a Metallica, The Rolling Stones, or Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band?

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Teens Save Classic Rock

The following was paid for by John Brodigan for a Better America

This was reassuring.

I find myself in utter amazement how so many younglings have so little knowledge of...well, pretty much anything. But if I'm being specific, I'm amazed how they have so little knowledge of any "old" music. Forget music from before they were born or even music from a few years ago. Some of them I doubt know anything before the song that they've just listened too.

This is something I just can't relate to. When I was a young squire, we were able to appreciate the bands of the day like Guns and Roses and Pearl Jam, as well as bands like Led Zeppelin or Queen. There's been decades of incredible music that have touched so many people - emotionally and spiritually - in such a profound way, it bothers me thinking that the music being forgotten, ignored, or to quote the vernacular of da' streetz, "slept on."

Thankfully, I came across this article from Rolling Stone, giving me a glimmer of hope. Kids today might not know what the Vice President or Canada is. But if they can tell the difference between "Black Dog" and Black Sabbath, there might be hope for this generation yet.

(BTW, Canada is another country, and the Vice President is that old guy who hangs out with President Bush and looks like George Ross from the Apprentice. He just shot a man too).

Like countless parents before him, Steven Tyler is shocked at the music that's been blaring out of his fifteen-year-old son's bedroom lately. But the Aerosmith frontman can hardly disapprove. "I walk by at night and my son is listening to Zeppelin stuff, like 'Black Dog,'" Tyler says. "He's turned all his friends on to Cream, and they're all into [Aerosmith's] Toys in the Attic. I told him, 'I can't believe you're listening to this.'"

Though classic rock is in no danger of edging out emo and hip-hop on most teenagers' playlists, a growing number of kids are also making room for Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix and the Beatles. At the same time, electric-guitar sales are soaring, with the cheapest models nearly doubling in sales from 2003 to 2004. "Kids go through hard rock, hip-hop and pop very quickly, and then they're hungry for something else," says E Street Band guitarist and garage-rock DJ Steven Van Zandt -- who gets hundreds of e-mails from teens thanking him for introducing them to bands like the Kinks. "They always end up coming to [classic] rock & roll."

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Monday, February 13, 2006

Orwell, Islam and St. Valentines Day

Valentines Day. If you are with someone you love, it is an opportunity to shower that person with attention and affection befitting the Queen of Egypt (especially you men, if you know what’s good for you). If you are not involved with someone romantically, it’s either a day you’d just as soon forget or possibly (if you’ve got it like that) an opportunity to meet someone whom is just as lonely as you.

Whatever the day means to you and yours particularly, February is the month dedicated to celebration of love (and black history)). Historically, expressions of love consisted of cards or notes exchanged between lovers. These days many women regard Valentines Day as important if not more so than Christmas or their birthday (which in the minds of many women, should be regarded as a national holiday).

However, not all women in the world see Valentines Day as a positive event. For example, according to Agence France-Presse , “An Islamic separatist women's group, known for its fierce opposition to Western-style romance, vowed to prevent couples celebrating Valentine's Day in revolt-hit Indian Kashmir.

"We will not allow anyone to observe Valentine's Day as it does nothing but spread immorality among youth," said Aasiya Andrabi, firebrand leader of the separatist Dukhtaran-e-Millat or Daughters of Faith.

The group, which supports a 16-year-old separatist insurgency against New Delhi's rule in Indian Kashmir, is also engaged in a crusade to stamp out immorality in the Muslim-majority region.

Valentine's Day, which is celebrated February 14, is "against our culture and Islamic teachings," Andrabi said in a statement reported by Current News, a local news agency.

Once again we see the mighty Islam threatened by innocuous inanimate objects and symbols of very human emotions. It seems that every time we turn around, there’s another story out there about someone from the Islamic faith complaining that fairly normal behavior distracts too much from worshiping in the Muslim faith.

One has to wonder how that religion lasted as long as it has when the natural tendency for any human being is to flout convention and seek out the least common denominator.

As an aside, just to prove my point, not long after coalition forces ousted Baghdad from Baathist rule, men in Iraq sought out porn, in droves at the local Internet cafes. Now one could make the argument that they were just overcome by devilish Western immorality but I highly doubt we had much to do with it.
This is not the first time I’ve heard of Islamic states attempting to morally police their civilian populations. The BBC reported two years ago that, “Iran's morality police have made several raids in Tehran, in an apparent crackdown on women who flout the strict Islamic dress code.
Witnesses said dozens of young women were held in the raids on shopping centres and shops in the capital.

Police also confiscated several items of clothing deemed to be too revealing.

After winning parliamentary elections in February, hardliners warned they would not tolerate what they described as social corruption.”

We hear all the time about how we’re living in an Orwellian society, mostly based on how corporations manipulate the mainstream media into producing stories meant to shape the minds of an unread public. All things are possible but it seems to me that as far as Orwellian societies go, the Muslim world has us beaten hands down.

In Orwell’s “1984” the citizens of Oceania, spoke a dumbed down version of English called Newspeak meant to stave off behaviorally unacceptable or unappealing actions of their tightly controlled public. The main characters sexual life, was entirely regulated by two Newspeak words, sexcrime (sexual immorality) and goodsex (chastity).
Sexcrime spoke to all sexual misdeeds as the government perceived them such as fornication, adultery, homosexuality, and other so-called perversions, and, in addition, normal intercourse practiced for its own sake. In this quasi-fascist apocalyptic future, these acts of amour were all punishable by death.

Now “1984” was a fictional story about where the Western world seemed to be headed back in 1948. However, the more I look at what Orwell was saying about the future of society, the more his predictions seemed to be describing modern fundamentalist Islam, morality police and all.

It seems ridiculous to me that any country would spend resources to try and control peoples private behavior but then I’m just a Satanic Western infidel, so what do I know?

This does bring me to what I believe is an interesting point. The powers that be in the Muslim world are trying to rid their sphere of all Western cultural influences while desperately hanging on to Western technology and of course, Western money. Going back to the lovely ladies of Kashmir, they seem to be regarding Valentines Day as a Trojan horse of sorts, smuggling in to their pristine culture and bevy of depravity and lucidness. But, is Valentines Day just an Anglo thing or has it been adopted by all parts of the world and reframed to meet their cultural mores?

According to Thanhniennews.com, even our old Communist enemy, the Vietnamese have gotten into the spirit of love and romance.

Seeking the best gift for Valentine’s Day on February 14 has become a chance for Vietnamese youngsters to express their heartfelt feelings towards their significant other.
Since early February many souvenir gift shops in Ho Chi Minh City have been crowded with young shoppers seeking that perfect Valentines Day gift.

Personally, I say go with something thoughtfully engraved. Nothing makes a girls heart melt like a gift that was meant for HER and HER only. At least that was what my fiancé told me as we were walking through the mall during the pre-Valentines Day sales.

That’s hardly the issue here. While some radical Kashmiri women are looking to suck the fun out of yet another widely acceptable cultural phenomenon, I believe this latest episode between the East and West is a small part of a larger issue. Aside from nuclear annihilation and all of that, there is certainly more at stake in the War on Terror than I think people realize. The question boils down to whether or you want to live in the world we enjoy now or one where tokens of love and affection are sin against man.

Happy Valentines Day!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

On Being an Office Slave

The preceeding message was paid for by John Brodigan for a Better America

I don't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don't want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don't want to do that. -Lloyd Dobler

I was kibitzing with a friend recently who is considering a career change. He had made a comment that the only way to make a lot of money is to sell something, and he didn't want to do that. It made me think of that quote from Say Anything. When the movie first came out oh those many years ago, you laughed just because it sounded funny. It wasn't until I thought about it the other day that I full understood what Lloyd was saying.

That describes what I'd say a decent 75% of Americans do for a living, and it's never what we aspired to do. Remember those anti-drug commercials, where the voice over would say, "No one ever says I wanna be a junkie when I grow up?" No one ever says they want to work it an office when they grow up either. Like most other things in life, it just happens. And to be honest, it's not so bad.

We all have dreams of doing great things for a living, where we're famous, rich, or making a difference in the world. We all dream of making a living doing what we love. But with all dreams, eventually you have to wake up. I did begrudgingly. I had a job doing "what I loved," that wasn't all it was cracked up to be (particularly when we got laid off). I needed money, so I started taking temp jobs in offices just to pay my bills until I could find that incredible job I was going to love going to. It never happened, but something else did.

I was temping at an insurance company. No one ever goes to school saying "I want to sell insurance when I grow up," as I'm sure no one in the office did. But everyone working there was happy. They all laughed and joked around, and enjoyed each others company. Work was just, whatever. It was a simple means to an end.

That's when it hit me, it really doesn't matter what I do for a living. So what? I go to an office, stare at a computer, move some numbers around, have a few cups of coffee, and eventually go home. It doesn't stop me from reading, writing, working out, spending time with my friends and family, traveling, investing, and doing all the other things that makes life fulfilling. If anything, it affords me the ability to do so.

Plus I'll be honest, doing "what you love" for a living isn't all it's cracked up to be. What you love stops being what you love, and starts being work. Factor in the work/office politics that all jobs have, and eventually what you love can quickly become something that makes you miserable.

I'm may never make a difference in the world reconciling bank deposits or selling expensive trousers, but working only accounts for 33%of your life. That still leaves you with 67% to make that difference doing other things, or to just simply enjoy what time you have with the people that make this life worth while.

And that doesn't suck.

The Heartland Dissident

The preceeding message was paid for by John Brodigan for a Better America

There was a great article on Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) in this weeks New York Times Magazine. I've been hearing Sen. Hagel on the morning shows and he's found a spot on my short list of public officials I don't hate. My political mantra is that I'm just a guy trying to figure what's right and what's wrong in a world who only cares aboot who's right and who's wrong. It's the "Conservatives are from Mars, Liberals are from Venus" way of governing that seems to have invested most of the Senate, with a short list of exceptions.

Sen. Hagel is on that list with Senators McCain (R-AZ), Warner (R-VA), Graham (R-SC), Biden (D-DE, though he needs to know when to stop talking once and a while) and surprisingly enough, Feingold (D-WI). (Senator Obama shows promise - I'm just not ready to jump on the bandwagon yet). I don't have to agree with them on everything - or anything for that matter (as is the case with Feingold and Biden). I just have to feel that when you speak, it's what you honest to God believe and that you're not just reading the script handed to you by y our party leadership, the pollsters, or "the base."

I believe that with Chuck Hagel. This article highlights most of the reasons why.

With a bluntness that seems habitual - and more than occasionally strikes fellow Republicans as disloyal - Senator Chuck Hagel started voicing skepticism about the Bush administration's fixation on Iraq as a place to fight the Global War on Terror more than half a year before the president gave the go-ahead for the assault. What the senator said in public was milder than what he said in private conversations with foreign-policy gurus like Brent Scowcroft, the national security adviser in another Bush administration, or his friend Colin Powell, the secretary of state, who thought he still had a chance to steer the administration on a diplomatic course. The Nebraskan wanted to believe Powell but, deep down, felt the White House wasn't going to be diverted from its drive to topple Saddam Hussein. When he rose on the Senate floor that October to explain his vote in favor of the resolution authorizing force - he'd persuaded himself that his vote might strengthen Powell's hand - he gave a speech that would have required no editing had he decided to vote against it. What sounded then to the venture's true believers like the scolding of a Cassandra sounds fairly obvious three and a half years later, which is to say that Hagel's words can reasonably be read as prescient: "How many of us really know and understand Iraq, its country, history, people and role in the Arab world?. . .The American people must be told of the long-term commitment, risk and cost of this undertaking. We should not be seduced by the expectations of dancing in the streets." The president had said "precious little" about post-Saddam Iraq, which could prove costly, Hagel warned, "in both American blood and treasure."

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