Father-Son Fight Club: The 1st Rule Is…

May 3, 2014 at 8:04 pm , by

3 years, 5 months.

Dear Jack,

I promise it was your idea. I’m only going along with it… with acompletely clear conscience.

Since last weekend, you’ve started this thing where you come up to me, punch me in the chest as hard as you can, laugh, then say, “Let’s fight, Daddy.”

And what do I do? I “fight” back.

Well, the difference with my response to you is that I obviously don’t punch you as hard as I can.

I actually am “punching” you back as lightly as I can.

Here we are, a week into it, still hittin’ strong and I’m only seeing positives:

I like to see the confidence you’re gaining in yourself.

I like the way you and I are bonding over it.

I like how you get to test your own physical strength against mine, knowing that less than a second later you’ve got a soft “punch” coming right back at your chest or stomach.

The way I see it, it’s no different than male wolves of the same pack practicing their fighting moves on each other. The way I see it, I am giving you introductory “man lessons.”

Most importantly, you’ve yet to punch any of your friends at school. That’s because I had a little talk with you last weekend before you went back to school on Monday. I explained how the only person you can punch is me.

And you listened!

Like I mentioned, I can’t help but notice the bonding that has occurred since we started our “father-son fight club.” Here recently, you actually have been asking me to sit next to you on the couch. Then, you lay your arm across mine.

That used to be an action you saved for Mommy and never granted me.

So whatever inspired you to start punching me, I’m glad it happened.

Granted, for all I know, I may not be the best example of a parent.

Maybe my stories about us wouldn’t be the kind you’d expect to ever see on a parenting website or something.

But between you and me, I think we have a good thing going on!

It’s our little secret. After all, the first rule about Father-Son Fight Club is that we don’t talk about Father-Son Fight Club.

 

Love,

Daddy

The Naked in Public Dream: Subconsciously Feeling Vulnerable, Underprepared, or Inadequate

You’re not the only one.

I have a rare ability.  When in a dream that I don’t want to be in, I often can tell myself, “This is a stupid dream.  You don’t have to keep dreaming this.  Just wake up”. And I do.  I wake up.  Usually.

Waking myself up is the easy part; the hard thing to do is to realize it’s actually just a dream.  And there are two dreams in which I never seem to realize it’s all my imagination.  1) I’m back in high school or college and I’m about to graduate, then I realize I was scheduled for a class that I forgot about and never went to, meaning I can’t graduate on time.  2) I’m naked in public.

Of course, the classic “naked in public” dream is quite popular among the general population.  Supposedly the dream means the person feels vulnerable and may be afraid that everyone will see that person for their true self.

Do I feel vulnerable?  Do I feel afraid everyone will see me for my true self?

I guess if anyone might feel vulnerable it could be me, since I’ve been journaling my life on the Internet for five years now (first on MySpace, then on facebook, now on here).  That’s a vulnerable situation.  I could unintentionally offend a reader, or embarrass myself by exposing too much about my personal life.  But as far as I know, I am indeed exposing my true self to people.  If not, this whole website is a sham.

A whole website which generally 400 to 500 people a day visit.  If all my writings are written from the perspective of a person I wished I was, instead of who I really am, then I am impressed.  Because that means I am talented enough to write daily from a created character’s narrative perspective, not my own.  Like the plot of Fight Club, or the dumbed-down version: Secret Window.

While it’s easy to feel frantic in a “naked in public” dream, it’s also easy to laugh once you wake up.  Because from a logical point of view, like many dreams, the chances of the events of the dream ever happening are so impractical that they’re basically impossible.

The question I never asked myself in the naked in public dream is, most importantly, “how did I lose my clothes anyway?”

Often I am at my old elementary school (as a grown 29 year-old man).  Conveniently, no one else seems to care that I am naked, covering myself with whatever random object I can pick up off the ground.  And that’s supposed to mean that I don’t care about people seeing me for who I really am, including all my personalities.  That must be true, since I’ve written about that exact topic before in The Personality Pyramid, which is currently my 10th most popular post of the 310 on this site.

Seriously, it’s not easy to lose your close in a public place, and then have no one notice or care.  When I have these dreams, I’m not victim of violence.  I just simply flat out lost my clothes in public.

But I imagine that in real life if I ever took off my clothes (or they just took themselves off) in public, and couldn’t find new ones, I would gladly settle for one of those barrels with straps to go over my shoulders.  I always thought those looked cool.  The problem is, I only see them in caricatures or cartoons.

If I wanted to buy a wearable barrel with shoulder straps, where would I begin?

If I could get a barrel or normal clothes when naked in public, I would settle for a long black trench coat.  Because I would already be creepy for being irresponsible enough to lose my clothes in public, I might as play the full part.  Then I could only expose myself to people who deserved it:

People talking loudly in public on their Blue Tooths.

http://www.meaningofdreams.org/dream_themes/beingnakeddreams.htm

Being Original, Yet Never Really Breaking New Ground: My First 20,000 Hits on WordPress

Thanks for 20,000 hits.

It seems like only six weeks ago that I was thanking my readers for this site getting its 10,000th hit in Being Down to Earth, Yet Never Really Touching the GroundWait, wait a minute… It was.

That was on April 11th.    How did that happen?  Why did it take seven months to get the first 10,000 hits (September 2009 to April 2010) but only five and a half weeks to get 10,000 more (April 2010 to May 2010)?

Here is a reflection/tutorial for anyone wanting to know more about how to obtain and build a readership and following by using a WordPress website, based on what it took for me to get my first 20,000 hits.

Just like the first million dollars are the most difficult for a multimillionaire to make, so is the case with getting any new form of art off the ground and flying.  It’s the snowball effect.  I have now posted over 250 of my writings on this site alone.

Each month that passes, that’s another 20 to 40 new posts to add to the library to be recycled.  On any given day during any given hour, there are more people reading my older stuff than my new stuff.  Then the new stuff becomes the old stuff and is read by newcomers.

Something almost magical happened back in February.  Suddenly, people started subscribing (getting all my new posts through e-mail); on top of that, the number of hits that month quadrupled from the month before and have been steadily increasing since then.  So really, after that fifth month of this site’s active existence, things exploded.

On December 30, 2009, I went to www.godaddy.com and paid 10 bucks for the domain name www.scenicroutesnapshots.com.  Yes, it’s too long of a name.  And when I tell people audibly, they often don’t understand what I’m saying.  But it’s a name I believe in because it best represents what I write about (Dr. Deja Vu: The Scenic Route).  And really, once a person goes to the site once, they can easily go back to it again.  Besides, people don’t end up on my site because I told someone about my site, they go to my site because of Google searches, facebook links, and cough-cough-Twitter-cough cough.

Another huge part of it is this- I accidently found a niche.  I half-heartedly decided to start doing a recap of The Bachelor when the Jake Pavelka season premiered in January, not realizing that people actually cared about it.  But they do.  Very much so!  Much of the quadruple increase from January to February has to do with my Bachelor recaps.

So aside from the snowball effect, and aside from finding an unlikely niche, what else has helped readership growth?  I want to know, not just for myself, but also to help other fellow writer friends.

I believe in something I call “learned talent.”  Which may be a phrase I just made up.  Basically, I learn from other people’s talent mixed with my own trial and error.  It’s the writer’s initiative to become better through regular practice and a willingness to cater to readers while still staying true to self.  And that concept is something that is often given as advice from the judges on American Idol to the contestants as they make it past the Top 10. Be you, but also stick with what you know works and what other people will like.

Particularly in writing, “learned talent” has a lot to do with the writer’s “voice”.  The tone, the choice of words, the subject matter, the level of professional distance.  I am not as talented as any legendary writer I could name in this sentence.  But just like an actor can change their accent or demeanor for a role, so can a writer “tweak” their own writer’s voice.

Because I believe, like a Rubik’s Cube, (The Truth and Irony about Solving a Rubik’s Cube) it’s all about figuring out the formula and acting on it, I am under the educated impression that what I lack in talent, I can make up for in simply learning how to write in a voice that leads with confidence and optimism and what I call “business-casual professionalism”.

A lot of this comes down to Rule #7 of my Writing Code:

“Write about weird stuff but make it seem normal. Or write about normal stuff and make it seem weird.”

My current literary role model is Michael Chabon, whom through his series in Details magazine, I learned better how to get in touch with my nostalgic side and hopefully make it seem interesting; not too technical or too abstract.  A happy medium that invites the reader to connect to the same train of thought.  In one of his newer books that I recently began reading, called Maps and Legends, he reiterates my #7 Rule:

“Let’s cultivate an unflagging reading as storytellers to retell the same stories with endless embellishment… The key, as in baroque music, is repetition with variation.”

Retell the same stories with endless embellishment:  Be original yet never really break new ground.  The familiar with the fresh.

Repetition with variation:  Take a subconsciously familiar thought and then put a new spin of originality on it.  So that readers feel a sense of comfort (the old familiar thought) along with newness (the author’s personality and his or her unique perspective).

And really, isn’t that really what’s for sale here anyway?  The writer’s personality?

Facts are only so important.  So is a plot.  But ultimately a story or an article is only as entertaining as the person telling it.  And a lot of the reasons we think a writer is “good” is because we relate to them, in some uncertain invisible ways.

Whether that writer reminds us of our own self and the way we naturally think, or they remind us of one of our friends, or ultimately our alter-ego, Tyler Durden (the man who the nameless protagonist of Fight Club imagines himself to be friends with), there is some reason we feel connected.

Of course, just like doctors and lawyers refer to their work as their practice, I too recognize that this site is and always will be a work in progress.  This is me paying my dues.  Learning as I go.  With an end in sight.  Or maybe I should say a new beginning in sight…

Below are the reader stats for this site.  This shows hits per month.  September 2009 is when I exclusively began writing for this site.

Months and Years

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Total
2009 5 21 2 76 550 552 465 532 2,203
2010 628 2,508 3,357 6,072

Manspeak, Volume 10: Exploration

It’s not something we sit down and think about, but there is definitely something morbid, grotesque, and disgusting about a whole refrigerated bin full of chopped up bones, blood vessels, and body tissue for sale. With blood swishing around in the Styrofoam container. Somehow it never processes in my mind when I’m with my wife at the grocery store, walking by the Meats Department as we plan for that week’s meals.

Blood is an interesting substance. I am intrigued by the human love/hate relationship with it. It is the physical source of life- without it, we die. Blood is a major theme in both the Old and New Testament of the Bible, with countless traditional hymns and modern songs with the word in the title.

But for most, the sight of blood gives an uneasy feeling. With good reason. The sight of blood is a sign of death.

From a skinned knee to a busted nose, when blood leaves the body, it is life escaping.

While blood keeps us alive, we don’t usually want to see it. It’s definitely better kept inside. The main exception I have found to this is the male population. Like most American men, the Rocky movies along with Band of Brothers and Fight Club happen to be among some of my top favorite films of all time. All include a lot of blood. Why are men so fascinated by other men causing each other to bleed?

Danger. Seeing how close to the edge of life a man can get and still survive. A subconscious curiosity about life after death. To step up close to that window between life and death and try to look through it, knowing that once that line is crossed, there is no coming back to this life.

A form of exploration.

Three weeks ago when my company moved offices, I decided to take a walk around the development. I scaled down a steep hill on the other side of the building and found an interesting discovery, the kind I longed to find 20 years ago when I was a boy pretending to be a Ninja Turtle in the woods behind my backyard.

What I found was a 6 foot tall tunnel. I could barely see a light at the other end. After stepping inside and walking about 50 feet inside, not being able to see anything around me, and unsuccessfully trying not to think about the Saw movies , I pictured a creepy man wearing a pig skin mask, poking me with an anesthetic needle. Within about 10 seconds flat, I was back outside.

A challenge was now set in place: Must conquer the tunnel. I recruited my co-worker John. We made it just as far as I did alone, until he said, “I think I’m stepping on a snake right now…” After darting back outside to equip ourselves with big sticks we found outside underneath some trees, we marched back inside a little bit more confident this time.

We trekked the tunnel all the way through.  It was only a few hundred feet long, but at the end we found a metal ladder.  I climbed up to a welded shut drain opening, where I could see the sky and hear the cars cruising on the road above me. We did it. Made it to the end of the mysterious tunnel. And to this day, we are the only two people at our company to have explored and conquered that tunnel, not to mention the only ones to even know where it is.

While I am not “discovering the New Word” like Christopher Columbus did (even though the Russians had to be well aware of our continent based on the fact that there are only 53 miles of ocean between Russia and Alaska), I can still discover and explore not only interesting places that few people know about, but more specifically in my case I can uncover new social observations and conspiracies that seem to successfully slide under the radar. I thrive on it.

Why the true stereotype of the man ignoring his map and/or GPS and refusing to stop to ask for directions? A man is wired to explore new things. There’s no getting around it. The stereotype must live on.

“If you could keep me floating just for a while, ’til I get to the end of this tunnel…”  -Dave Matthews Band (“Jimi Thing”)

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com

tunnel

Would You Define Your Life as a Comedy or a Tragedy?

The same question goes for the movie Garden State.

I have struggled for a solid ten years trying to figure out what makes things funny. Universally, seeing someone fall down (who doesn’t get hurt) is always funny, but I don’t know why. Defining what humor is, is almost impossible to simply and briefly put into words. What I can do is make a judgment call on whether something as a whole is a comedy or a drama.

One of my college professors taught me there is a clear way to distinguish between the two: Comedy involves a protagonist who in the beginning of the story is standing outside the borders of his society and by the end of the story is accepted into it. Therefore a tragedy is when the protagonist in the beginning is accepted as part of the society but by the end is expelled from it.

To test this theory on comedies, I will take Adam Sandler for example: Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, The Water Boy, The Wedding Singer, and Big Daddy all involve a character who starts out as one or more of the following: incompetent, poor, lonely, selfish. By the end of the movie, Adam Sandler’s character is accepted into the fold as these previous attributes are resolved. So I can see how the definition of a comedy works here.

For tragedies, I will take some horror movies for example: The Blair Witch Project, Skeleton Key, The Strangers, Quarantine, and Carrie. The protagonists end up either dead or in a really bad situation by the time the credits roll. So I can see how the definition of a tragedy works here, as death or loss of freedom is a way of being ousted from a society that the protagonists were once a part of.

The end of a movie ultimately defines it as a comedy or tragedy. Garden State, which is more a drama than anything, ends with Zach Braff’s character being able to overcome his dependence on his doctor’s/father’s misdiagnosed prescription of anti-depressants and feel alive for the first time as he moves back home to New Jersey, making new friends and finding love: That’s a comedy.

Using this theory, these other genre-vague movies would also be considered comedy: Fight Club, Forrest Gump, and Elizabethtown. And these would be tragedy: Into the Wild, Vanilla Sky, and One Hour Photo.

Life is comprised of rotating moments of comedy and tragedy. Times where I’m on the outside looking in and I get in (comedy) and times where I’m inside but am pushed out (tragedy). In ways big and small. But a person’s general perspective will cause him or her to see it ultimately as one or the other:

If life is comedy-in-progress, then life is me trying to figure out how to be normal enough to succeed in being accepted by my immediate society, eventually dying satisfied, knowing I’m surrounded by those who love me.

If life is tragedy-in-progress, then life is me already having everything I need and want in life but having it all taken away from me in the end, eventually dying sad and alone.

Big decisions, big decisions. I’ll go with comedy-in-progress.

up-1garden_state_1_lg

Mixed Reviews

Being a movie critic would be a fun job, but it would be the epitome of the phrase “you can’t please everyone”. Reviewers of movies ultimately are bias to a certain degree. Professional critics base their judgments more on artistic values, along with production quality and script. Whereas when random Joe’s like me write up a review, it’s based more on the factors of likeability, “re-watchability”, characterization, and comedic elements.

And then there’s that intangible element of “offensiveness”, which transcends both my reviews and professional ones as well. A few months ago my friend Jake sent me a link to this article that referred to the concept of the “Christian disclaimer” that is commonly given by Christian movie reviewers. Here’s one I’ve heard several times: “The Wrestler is great movie, focusing on the depravity of man, loneliness, and not giving up on your dreams, but there is a lot of bad language and his girlfriend is a stripper so there are some scenes you may need to close your eyes and cover your ears.” What it comes down to is the ability to separate the counter-Christian content from what makes a good movie. And for many people, understandably, that’s not easy.
http://stufffchristianslike.blogspot.com/2009/05/543-throwing-out-disclaimers-before-you.html

In recent years I’ve had several people half-jokingly tell me that I only like movies with a lot of swearing and nudity. I do admit that R-rated movies typically have more depth to them and speak to me more than the typical PG-13 movie. Among my personal favorites are Trains, Planes, and Automobiles, Garden State, I Love You, Man (obviously), Fight Club, Vanilla Sky, Lost in Translation, and Pineapple Express. All of which are rated R and most of which contain some nudity.

My ability to separate what many Christians find offensive in R-rated movies comes from my inability to blacklist PG and PG-13 entertainment that goes against my spiritual beliefs to the same or worse degree, as I would feel I would be using a double standard to judge entertainment based on the obvious offenses versus the subtle offenses. Most of my favorite sitcoms, like Friends, have a constant occurrence of casual sex. I strongly disapprove of the way the writers and actors make it seem normal, guiltless, and… well, casual. And I strongly disapprove of the phrase “oh my God” that is constantly used in dialogue.

Part of me actually thinks it’s worse to be exposed to a daily stream of the more family friendly sitcoms which subconsciously tell us these things are okay as we overlook the “smaller stuff”. Because they are more easily accessible, less offensive, and such a staple of everyday American culture. They’re not as blatant as an intentionally crude R-rated movie by Judd Apatow. But I see the real threats to our spiritual lives being the quiet, common subtleties, not the obvious threats that we are already distancing ourselves from.

rated R

The Teaching of Mr. Miyagi: Avoiding Awkwardness, Confrontations, and Fights

 

There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who complain at restaurants about their order being less than perfect and those who just let it go. I have learned that my wife and I are the ones that don’t complain and just overlook it. The last thing we want when we’re out to enjoy a nice meal is a confrontation. It’s just not worth it to us to 1) call the waiter to the table and explain why our order is not right, 2) have to listen to him apologize, 3) have the manager come to our table and apologize and tell us our meal is free, 4) accept a free meal on account of someone’s minor mistake. I hate feeling awkward. It’s one of my quirks.

In a great movie that was made ten years ago called Fight Club, leader Tyler Durden gives his members a homework assignment: Start a fight with someone and lose. He then explains, “Most people, normal people, do anything to avoid a confrontation.” I can definitely vouch for that.

Why did telemarketing lasted for so long in our country’s history (until President Bush outlawed it a few years ago)? Because annoying and aggressive telemarketers were ultimately successful. While most people had enough confidence to politely say “no thanks” and hang up, many people caved to the confrontation. They would rather commit to a magazine subscription for two years and “not make the other person feel bad”. Or worse, become a victim of a time-share related pyramid scheme by a “friend”.

For every 30 no’s, there was one yes. And that yes brought good profit. Same thing applies to those annoying salesman in the middle isles at the mall that want to “give you a free ring cleaning”, A.K.A.- try to sell people something to clean their ring with.

I don’t have a problem with confronting someone if it’s about something important. But if it’s not, then it’s better time management to just avoid the situation. I don’t like having to argue with someone when I am solid in my decision. If I am asked to buy something or do something I don’t want to do, the answer is no. And if I’m further asked, then just to spite the person I tend to get aggressive with them, then later spend time thinking about how annoying they where. So my rule of thumb is the same as the point of the 1986 film Karate Kid Part II- the best way to win a fight is to avoid it.

Tips:


1) When at the mall or walking into or out of a Wal-Mart on Saturday, I put my cell phone up to my ear when I see a salesman. They prey on the weak and undistracted.
2) When someone is calling me on my cell phone from a number that is not already programmed as one of  my contacts, don’t answer it. It is definitely someone I don’t want to talk to.
3) When at a restaurant, order salmon, not steak. Then I don’t have to worry about my meal being undercooked. Also, I won’t be tempted so say the cliché phrase that your steak is “still mooing at me”.
4) When at the movies and I realize I’m sitting in front of some punk teenage kids that are going to be talking during the movie and putting their feet on the back of my seat, I just get up and sit somewhere else. They’re idiots and no matter how nicely I tell them, they’re gonna be annoying anyway.