The Measure of a Man

Guest post by Tim Champion

Way back in 1986, Boston asked us the question “What does it take to be a man?”

The answer they came up with was, in part:

The will to give and not receive

The strength to say what you believe

The heart to feel what others feel inside

To see what they can see.

This isn’t a bad stab at it, but as always, the question remains… “What more?” Let’s take this time to talk about work, though you’ll find many aspects all connect like strands of a web.

From a personal standpoint, I started asking what it took to be a man when I realized I was surrounded by men, but wasn’t yet a peer. Immediately, I found myself asking how one ascended to this brotherhood. I had some larger than life role models that I wanted to impress, somehow. I had people outside of my immediate family that I wanted to think more of me. I was big for my age, but that didn’t make me a man. It did earn me some advanced level chores, though…. Lucky me.

When I was thirteen, my dad decided I needed a good work ethic, since my people skills were, shall we say, unpolished. He arranged for the farmer that he worked for as a young man to put me to work as well. I did the usual small farm stuff: herding and milking cows, baling hay, (and later, alfalfa, which is a new lesson in work), doing some light farm-type construction, and even keeping the calves safe from wildlife that ventured in from the woods.

This all taught me a few things:

1) Work is hard. If it was easy, it wouldn’t be called work, and someone else would have come along and done it already. It’s also completely necessary. Things do not happen by accident. You have to work toward a design, rather than expect a windfall.

2) No one cares how tired you are. Every single day is a grind, but the cows still needed milked. They don’t care about the show you wanted to see, the girl who wanted to catch a movie, or the fact that homework is piling up. There’s work to be done, and the guy handing you HIS money needs to know you’re pulling your weight. He’s investing money in you, for your labor, in hopes that he can turn a buck on it and his product. You do well for him, and you keep your job. Excel for him, and you get more. I got a raise every few months, thanks to the fact that I left every drop of sweat I had on his land.

3) The new guy. At some point, we’re all going to be the new guy. You’re going to suffer like only the new guy can. Initiations happen. You’ll wonder why you’re even there. It sucks. Embrace it. EMBRACE THE SUCK. It’s the time of maximum learning, and if you want to last, you need to learn it all. Don’t whine to HR about feeling left out. Catch up. Carve your own spot out… with your bare hands, if you have to. Just make sure you know what you’re doing, or you’ll go up in flames. Did I mention “Learning”?

4) The fourth big lesson I can pass on, and it’s as important now as it’s ever been, is this: There is NO guarantee of security. There’s always a chance you’ll do your best, and still come up short. Some guy’s nephew will beat you to the position. Someone, somewhere, hates you, and you’ll lose a job you busted your ass for. It’s ok, and here’s why: as someone who did their very best, for the sake of the work itself, you’ll have competence and a good reputation in your field.

5) Last one: Sacrifice. You don’t get anything of value for nothing. For everything you do, you build new opportunities and contacts. Those give you more options. It’s that simple. Yes, this is a quaint way of saying that the work never ends, but it’s also true that at a certain point of expertise, you get to pick the work that you do. This is more valuable than the money you’ll make. If time = money, the inverse is also true, labor = soul. You might be raking it in hand over fist, but are you ok with it? Is the work to your liking enough that you don’t mind the heartbeats and breath you’re investing in it? That’s the question. If it is, go you. If not, you need to do better for yourself through training or re-education in a new field. Remember, we all learned how to do the thing. If you need to learn a new thing, you can.
In closing: Work ethic, experience, reputation, results. In that order.

Let me stress something…

YOU. CANNOT. BUY. THESE. THINGS.

Not for any amount of anything.

After a few years of this, you tend to develop this thing called “character”. You actually want to do the work right, because a job well done is, in fact, its own reward. One of the major traits of a man is that he takes pride in looking at the quality of his completed work, whether it’s the way the yard turned out, the new deck he built, or the family he raised. Don’t ever be afraid to look at something you did, “and see that it was good”. Being proud of your work is normal. Finding ways to hone your craft is exemplary.

So when someone asks what it takes to become a man, I tell them you don’t become one, you make yourself one from the ground up. YOU get to be the architect of your character, your self worth, and ultimately, your public image.

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WE’RE CLONING WHO?? Nerd Rage #189

WE’RE CLONING WHO?? Nerd Rage #189

We discuss Kavanaugh and the US Open, along with Star Trek AND Star Wars! Just ignore that whole cloning thing…

Also, someone was tipsy. In vino veritas!

Enjoy!

It’s All Falling Apart! Nerd Rage #188

Watch: It’s All Falling Apart! Nerd Rage #188

More McCain-ia!, plus gun-grabbers vs. gun rights advocates: who’s less civil? Political false equivalencies galore, emotionalism vs. stoicism, Osei’s review of The Incredible Hulk, and music theory/videogame and cinema music are all discussed in this episode of Nerd Rage! Watch, subscribe, like, comment, and share!

Spoiler Free Infinity Wars Movie Review

Written by @indepgirlism (Shane) and shared here with permission. 

Spoiler free (mostly) review of Avengers: Infinity War.

 
First off, this is incredibly difficult to write. Once you see the movie, you’ll understand. Secondly, this is a movie to see on the big screen. More on that in a minute. Lastly, the follow up movie CAN NOT COME SOON ENOUGH!!!

 
Ok, so let’s dive in.

 
The multitude of story lines is astounding. Between the complicated relationship between Gamora and Thanos, Thanos wanting to collect all the Infinity Stones, Thor trying to rebuild Asgaard, the Guardians doing their thing, the Avengers no longer working as a team, Spider-Man trying to prove himself, and all the side love stories, I thought they could never do it all in one movie. And I am right…sort of. There is another installment coming which should resolve any cliffhangers, but this installment handled everything brilliantly, carefully, and kept the humor Marvel movies are known for!

 
It is a long movie (2 hours and 30 minutes) though it does not feel that long.

 
Thanos is fleshed out as a truly 3 dimensional character. We learn about his drive, his plan, his pain, and his deep emotions. This is a villain who is not just evil for the sake of being evil. He has a purpose. You may disagree with his purpose, but there is no denying that he has thought this through in great detail! His motivation is solid, if flawed.

 
His relationship with Gamora is heart breaking. That’s all I can really divulge at this point.

 
In my estimation, the pivotal character throughout the film is Doctor Strange. He plays things very close to his chest and makes choices that seem contrary to the ultimate goal of stopping Thanos. His mystery and arrogance is masterfully portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch.

 
And can we talk about Steve Rodgers for a minute? His defection from Tony Stark is somewhat vindicated in this film. I am looking forward to a final resolution and/or battle between those two. Rodgers has aligned himself with T’Challa/Black Panther, and the pairing really works! Both men are pragmatic and powerful. Their partnership is one that I want to see more of.

 
IW brings in some new faces which I hope will play a bigger part in the next installment. I can see where the writers are going, though I have been wrong in the past.

 
Now on to the practical side of things. My kids have grown up with the Marvel movies. They know and love these characters through and through. My kids are ages 17, 14, and 12. The movie has a PG-13 rating. There are good reasons for this. My 17 year old loved the movie. I am ok with my 14 year old seeing it. My 12 year old is a hard no. This caused tears and some shouting (on her end, not mine), but I know she is not ready for this story to be told to her. If you have younger kids, I would recommend screening the movie first. Only you know your kids and what they can handle, so make a wise choice in whether or not they should see it on the big screen or at home.

 
There is only one end credit scene. It is at the bitter end of the credits, and needs to be seen. Trust me. It really is worth the wait.

 
Visually, this is a STUNNING film. Great locations, perfect CGI, and beautiful imagery. It’s not going to be nominated for the big Oscar categories (a shame really because Robert Downey, Jr. puts in his best performance as Tony Stark yet), but the whole of the film is fantastic. Solid story, great dialogue, good pacing, and spot on performances. I can’t say enough good things about the film.

 
One final note: this is not your typical Marvel movie. The humor is there, and is used perfectly through the film, but it is not the focus. Again, small children should be taken only IF you feel they can handle it AFTER you have screened it. I can not stress that enough.

 
Go see it. Then go see it again. It’s that good.

The Insidious Nature of Arrogance

I have been quietly observing the coverage and opinion sharing surrounding Trump and his salacious past for a while now. As his affairs have come to light, people have become ever more divided in their opinions over him. On one side, you have those who call Trump the worst kind of cad and liar, and on the other are those who insist they can and should overlook his past in favor of the good he may do now.

Both sides have valid points.

I have been reluctant to weigh in with my own opinion because I know that the people who are vehemently opposed to Trump will become apoplectic and will question my character by extension. It is similar to the irrational attacks levied by the hard core pro-Trump side whenever I have been critical of him, but oddly enough it is the antis who have been the most unpleasant since the election.

That is, I had been unwilling to weigh in… until today.

Earlier I saw this post and my immediate reaction was surprise that the NY Times should be concerned with character. They do, after all, have a history of blatant biasfabrication, and political spin. It is ironic, given their history, that they should have published an opinion on precisely this topic. If they were subject to their own standards, I would be compelled to assign them to the dust bin of the corrupt and unreadable. I suppose, then, that it is good to separate the publication itself from the succession of questionable posts and journalists that have been published within its periodicals. 

The post itself talks about Trump’s past and the support he gets from conservatives today despite what could politely be called a colorful history. It calls into question, specifically, the character of Mike Pence, but also that of the whole of conservatism and the right. 

As to the character of Pence, I can only say that you need not agree with him in all things to acknowledge he is a man of honor. I believe that he feels he can do some good in his position as VP, and that he could influence Trump’s life in a positive direction. 

I believe we can all agree that Trump could use all the positive influence he can get. Of course his past indiscretions are inexcusable. They may be understandable in a sense, but I wouldn’t attempt to justify them. Therein lies the source of the divide over support for Trump. He has been, at least, honest about his vices. That alone sets him apart from most politicians, many of whom behave exactly like Trump privately and then publicly play at being virtuous. 

It doesn’t help the discussion at all when one considers that the integrity of the presidency was utterly destroyed under Clinton, and that this was defended and approved by the very media outlets that have engaged in perpetual pearl-clutching since Trump’s nomination. Hypocrisy is alive and well and its most ardent champion is mainstream media. 

Which brings me back to the Divide, and the most common refrain associated with said divide, “Consistency!” “Character!” “Conviction!”

I found this quote from the Times post particularly telling: 

“Conservatives have twisted themselves into knots trying to excuse Trump’s vulgarities as acceptable and somehow set them apart from the supposed productivity of the man himself, somehow cleaving the sin from the sinner.”

Concerning the questions of character and convictions, and the contention within conservatism and particularly among Christians, is this not precisely what we ought to do?? Not make excuses, but to separate the sin from the sinner? Can we not acknowledge that things done may be unequivocally wrong while also acknowledging that people may be redeemed? 

Before you counter with, “Yes, but..,” let me reminded you that not one of us can redeem ourselves by our own power alone. If you have ever sought forgiveness or absolution then you cannot claim any more innate goodness or virtue than the President can. The act alone is proof that we are not good for goodness sake, whatever childhood songs may say. 

This brings me to what I perceive to be the insidious arrogance of “better than.” 

It is possible for a conservative Christian to support Trump’s presidency and abhor his dalliances. Jesus did not tell us to seek our salvation in politics, nor did he say that we should hawk our “fruits” in the public square by proudly proclaiming the superiority of our vote. When the elites of his day tried to trap him in an inconsistency, he merely said, “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and give to God what is God’s.” What our duty as a voter is, then, depends on a very personal conviction that is God’s alone to judge, as He alone is the one to place such convictions on us. 

It is disturbing to me to see such prideful and contentious interactions among otherwise delightful people. Yes, we should definitely be concerned with character, but first and foremost and always the character that concerns us most should be our own. If we cannot hold a mirror to our own pride and foibles, and seek always to remain humbled by what we find there, then we have no business becoming the arbiters of virtue in other people’s lives. 

We may not like what it says about us that our Representatives are such fallible and fallen individuals, but let us not delude ourselves with the fantasy that we each and all have not at some point been just as given to vice as they are. They are the reflection we turn away from. They are the beams we avoid in our search for specks

I can already predict the rebuttals to this opinion and I may in time address them, but I believe we can gain an understanding of what are simplistically called “inconsistencies” by remembering the many instances wherein God uses secular leaders to perform wise and good acts, and how sometimes a part can redeem the whole. These things did not come about by posturing, however; they were the result of real conviction, real faith, and constant prayer. I can’t help thinking our time would be better spent in the pursuit of self improvement and spiritual communion rather than in endless arguments over who is the “better” person based on whether or not they support the President as a politician or as a person.

To that end, I would leave you with a passage from The Problem of Pain by C. S. Lewis:

“We are deceived by looking on the outside of things. We suppose ourselves to be roughly not much worse than Y, whom all acknowledge for a decent sort of person, and certainly (though we should not claim it out loud) better than the abominable X. Even on the superficial level we are probably deceived about this. Don’t be too sure that your friends think you as good as Y. The very fact that you selected him for the comparison is suspicious: he is probably head and shoulders above you and your circle. But let us suppose that Y and yourself both appear “not bad”. How far Y’s appearance is deceptive, is between Y and God. His may not be deceptive: you know that yours is. 

In an instant of time -while your friend hesitates for a word- what things pass through your mind? We have never told the whole truth. We may confess ugly facts -the meanest cowardice or the shabbiest and most prosaic impurity- but the tone is false. The very act of confessing -an infinitesimally hypocritical glance- a dash of humour- all this contrives to disassociate the facts from your very self. No one could guess how familiar, and in a sense, congenial to your soul these things were, how much of a piece with all the rest: down there, in the dreaming inner warmth, they struck no such discordant note, were not nearly so odd and detachable from the rest of you, as they seem when they are turned into words. We imply, and often believe, that habitual vices are exceptional single acts, and make the opposite mistake about our virtues…”

Crassness in the Wake of Tragedy

Like everyone else, I woke up to the horrific news of the shooting in Las Vegas today. Before we even knew how many shooters were involved or how many casualties there were, the internet was inundated with the hottest of hot takes – spurred in many instances by even hotter tempers. 

As the day wears on, we all are left to sift through the deluge of information and opinion in order to find answers. Most of us are still waiting, but we have managed to check on our friends and family members in the area. Some of the news we’ve received, personally, has been a great relief, but some of us are grieving and hoping that modern medicine will find a way to make our loved ones whole again. While news and opinion pieces rush out into the web at the speed of type, for many people the world has ground to a screeching halt.

It is always at times such as these that you can count on two sureties: there will be an outpouring of compassion and prayer, and there will be those using the tragedy to elevate themselves. 

It goes without saying that any shooting will be politicized aggressively and immediately. Before we have even the slightest clue what kind of weapon was used or how many laws were broken to acquire said weapon, there will be those demanding more laws, standing on the still warm bodies of the victims and demanding “justice” by means of “doing something.” It’s an easy position to take, bolstered by shock and emotion. It will inevitably elicit the kneejerk response of “terrorism” and “mental illness,” as if a perfectly sane person could never choose to do evil. 

While politicizing a tragedy is crass and crude and cheap, it is perhaps in some small way slightly more altruistic than the other kind of sneering in the wake of tragedy – that of the atheist.

I was not surprised but still disappointed to see responses to the call for prayer in the aftermath of the shooting were mocking and snide. A simple post on Facebook, which did not name a god or religion, devolved into the most vile attacks on people of faith. 

As a Christian myself, I have often asked for prayer during difficult times and sometimes my atheist or agnostic friends will instead offer “positive energy and good thoughts.” This does not offend me. It’s wonderful that they care enough to think kindly toward me, and I believe they are closer to conversing with God than they realize. 

Hannah was presumed to be drunk because her grief over not conceiving made her prayer more the sound of silent agony and thought than a clearly spoken appeal to the Lord. If someone is sending positive energy, God hears the desire of their heart. Is that not better than apathy? Is it not a thousand times better than condescension?

I’m not saying we must agree on the politics or see eye to eye on religion, but in the wake of something so terrible is it asking too much to simply hold our peace and give our thoughts to the victims rather than puff ourselves up with our own importance? Especially when people are offering thoughts and prayers for those affected and grieving, can you not accept that putting positive energy out into the world is better than sneering at the efforts of those who would? What has your condescension and pride done for the victims, and how is it any better than a solemn and sincere offer of prayer?

Clearly we are not lacking the sort of characters who would look down on their fellow man as a thing deserving contempt. That is, after all, what started this mess.

Of Nerds And Raging

Hello, fellow citizens of the internet! I bring thee important news!

Actually, it’s not terribly important news unless you are feeling bereft and rudderless in a sea of despair because you haven’t seen a new episode of Nerd Rage lately.

Good news, if so! We did record a show this week, but Osei hasn’t posted it on our nifty YouTube channel yet, because he has to work out in the real world like some kind of pilgrim. *shudder* 

Remember to subscribe to our channel so you can watch that internet gold as soon as it drops. We discussed the flood, and protester outrage, and fan films, and Osei’s return to Extra Life, so you know it’s gonna be bomb.

Maybe if I use enough of the yutes’ lingo, y’all will get all hyped about the show and the channel and you’ll remember to subscribe and give the episode a like.

Maybe.

#LembasOut

The “Othering” of Introverts

 

I wish that I didn’t feel compelled to write this, but after nearly 37 years on this Earth I still feel like a bit of an outcast because of who I am.

I am an introvert.

There are already a lot of people who have discounted this post out of hand because they see introversion as an “internet fad” that people use to feel special. There may be some people who do use this personality type and the online communities dedicated to it as a mask or an outlet. People are complex creatures and they sometimes do confusing or unreasonable things. However, I can attest to the fact that introversion is very real, and I know that we move more freely and comfortably online and it is therefore no surprise that we have found forums in which to congregate and commiserate about how we feel, how we function, and how we are still so misunderstood.

There aren’t many people who truly understand me as a person, or why I do (or don’t do) certain things. I was trying to explain to my children just this morning why I am so exhausted after a weekend that was not terribly physically demanding. It wasn’t the work I had to do that wore me out, it was the fact that my plans, throughout the week, have had to change almost daily, and I have had more interaction than usual with other people, and when I made plans to do nothing (specifically to do nothing) on my day off, I was instead asked to do work things and family things and school club things.

It isn’t that I dislike my job, or don’t get on well with my family, or that I’m depressed (introverts are often assumed to be depressed misandrists); rather, I just require time to recharge from the demands of servicing the needs of other people. Even conversation, however mundane, is a need most people have (hermit exemption applies), and it is not something that we can accomplish by ourselves. Therefore, conversation is an activity that you require someone else to participate in.

The conversation that most people expect just on a daily basis (the chatty woman in the bread aisle, the cashier asking about your shopping experience, the relative who calls with a question, the kids asking if they can go somewhere or do something) can already be taxing for an introvert, but add to that the extra demands of work, special requests of family, needs of friends, and any unexpected changes to your schedule and suddenly you have someone who is already feeling the tank run low but they have no idea when they’ll be able to refill it. You know that feeling… the feeling of anxiety and even panic when the fuel gauge of your car is dipping toward the red, and there are no gas stations in sight, and you’re on an unfamiliar road? That’s an introvert when they have had to deal with people and change and do not know when they’ll be able to enjoy their solitude long enough to recharge. We can usually calm down when we have a dedicated period set aside for doing nothing (which to us is everything – although many people see reading, meditating, or watching a favorite show as merely nothing). We may be puttering along, low on energy, but just knowing we’ll refuel soon is comforting: it’s the uncertainty that really wears on us.

To be clear, I love my family and I like my job. I adore my kids and encourage them to participate in activities that help them develop physically and mentally as individuals. I just need to spend time in peace and quiet in order to give the best of myself to them. The need for solitude, and the importance of self-care, is not a malicious or even passive selfishness. You cannot attend to the needs of others efficiently if your own state is precarious. It is no more selfish to assure you are psychologically prepared to handle your responsibilities than it is to insure you are physically capable of doing a task. It is prudent.

So many people see this need for solitude as shyness, or melancholy, or even arrogance. This is why we have our online forums and communities. This is why we write blogs. It’s not that we’re super impressed with ourselves for being “different”. It’s not that we want to be noticed and celebrated. We simply want to be understood. We want to exist without constantly being told we’re broken or that we need to change. Just because we enjoy solitude, and are often quiet in crowds, does not mean that we’re suffering from depression or shyness. It simply means we are observing and are content to interact on our terms. Not everyone wants to speak every thought. Not everyone needs to weigh in on every conversation. We aren’t “too good” to participate, we simply prefer to participate on our terms, in our time. We like to watch and listen and think. We are content with our own company. None of this means that we don’t like to go out and do things, or that we never want to talk. Introverts simply do not feel the need to do those things as strongly as other people do. When we are recharged and ready to participate in activities with other people, we’re a bit like a butterfly breaking free of a cocoon, vibrant and animated! We definitely require our quiet cocoon first, however.

Recently there was a concert listing game making the rounds on Facebook, and it reminded me how very unlike other people I am. There are several reasons why I haven’t attended concerts (money, time, desire), and I am not opposed to the idea of it, but I do not see concert-going as the pinnacle of fun. As a matter of fact, I simply don’t get worked up about music in general. This has earned me censure and a good deal of shocked disbelief over the years. I’ve had people insist that if I’d only listen to this, or try that, or “get out of the house,” I’d suddenly love it. Even if I do enjoy music I hadn’t heard before, I rarely enjoy anything that is blasted at full volume over a crowd of cheering strangers.

It’s not that I don’t like music, and even love some of it, it’s just that I really like silence. I enjoy walking outside without earbuds blasting notes and lyrics into my head, because I like the sound of birdsong and wind-rustled leaves and dogs barking in the distance. I like to hear gravel crunch under my feet. I despise, with a burning passion, unnecessary noise. I hate chatter that simply fills a silence. I bless the silence! I like to drive with the radio off. I like to clean with only the sounds of the fan running and the gentle swish of cleaner being sprayed. I just like hearing the world around me without blasting noise into it every second of the day and night.

There are, of course, times when I want to listen to music, and usually then a very specific kind of music or artist. I do enjoy it! It’s just not something I need to hear every day. Like a book that I can still envision in my mind, music plays in the background of my thoughts even when the world around me is silent. This is perhaps the most commonly expressed aspect of introversion – the “rich inner world”. It’s not that we despise the outside world and all its offerings, but that we can (and do) savor the things we experience beyond their actual duration. It’s often because we are savoring something in our thought and memory (or working out a problem, or pondering new information) that having anything intrude on that can be unpleasant and tiring. Imagine giving a presentation and being constantly interrupted with questions and demands that are largely irrelevant to the topic at hand; that is what it feels like to have the mind of an introvert.

I would dearly love it if I could fall into the blissful embrace of solitude, or sit silently pondering many things, without someone mistakenly assuming that I’m upset, or shy, or down in the dumps. Shyness is timidity, which by definition means lacking courage or confidence. Introverts are not necessarily shy any more than they are despondent merely because they’re quiet. It is much more plausible to say that introverts are simply stoic. All in all, stoicism and forbearance are not bad traits to have, and they are certainly not traits that imply one is dysfunctional. We introverts function just fine, we merely function differently than our extroverted and ambiverted friends, but we all share a commonality in that we as human beings wish to be understood and appreciated as we are.

Big Announcements For Our Nerd Rage Audience!!

Last Wednesday night, we were excited to announce some big changes for Nerd Rage; unfortunately Osei had some glitches with his production software and we had to end our show early. We decided to bring you the news in the following video, and include our run down of the Walking Dead episode “Hostiles and Calamities“.

So we will be moving our show to Sundays at 7/6pm Central. This works with our schedules better and allows you, the audience, more time to catch up on The Walking Dead. We will broadcast just before the new Walking Dead episode airs, so that should reduce the chance of anyone hearing any spoilers on Nerd Rage.

We will try to keep the live, interactive show that everyone loves (hey, let us dream that you love what we do), with recordings playing on the upcoming Riot Radio. We look forward to engaging a broader audience and I, personally, think we can create some fun hashtags using the Rage and Riot themes. I’ll also be announcing more challenges and give-a-ways once we are settled into our new routine!