Thursday, May 29, 2008

75 skills men should master

MSN’s Lifestyle:Men's channel really rocks it with Tom Chiarella’s article “The 75 Skills Every Man Should Master.” The Esquire POV is classically worldly, so the list reflects the “importance” of sex, liquor and gambling. But the list is not entirely without value to the American man who is grappling with measures of modern manhood.

These skills remind me of the importance of 4-H (missed it), boy scouts (made it to Webelos before quitting), the military (missed it), and listening to old men (I’m getting there, and soon I’ll be old myself).

I’d be bragging to tell you how many of these items I have locked up. Better and more gracious to point out the items I would like to master, but am still working on.

#4 - Score a baseball game. “Scoring a game is about bearing witness, expanding your own ability to observe.” Even as a journalist, I aspire to sharpen up on this one.

#23 – Be loyal. “You will fail at it. You already have. It is a currency of selflessness, given without expectation and capable of the most stellar return.” I have also succeeded at it, but I don’t trust myself with loyalty. Episodes of selfishness overwhelm me often. So I’m still working on this one. God help me.

#44 – Ask for help.

#46 – Tell a woman’s dress size. Husbands get this.

#47 – Recite one poem from memory. As a poet, I know that you don’t really impact your audience until you can drop it verbatim from your mind. Men of the Spirit should have some of David’s Psalms or Solomon’s proverbs under their belt (within easy reach). Countless passages in the Torah, the Prophets, the Gospels, and the Epistles also are worthy of committing to memory.

#51 – Build a campfire.

#69 – Tie a knot. Yes, it comes in handy when your trying to get that mattress or bookcase home on top of your car.

#75 – Negotiate a better price. “Be informed. Know the price of competitors.” Which will help me keep up with my wife as she conscientiously compares prices.

Better still to solicit your additions to the list. I might add:

#76 - Know all the sizes of your wife’s wardrobe, not just the dress size.

#77 - Carry a pocketknife and know how to use it. Remember the game mumbletypeg? (That’s one of the things I hate most about post-9/11 airport security.)

#78 - I know a young man who just made Eagle Scout. I want to ask him if he can start a fire without matches like Tom Hanks in the movie “Cast Away.” That’s just cool.

#79 - Give anonymously. Total stealth. Secret night missions. Shell companies (within the extent of the law). Trusted third-party intermediaries. The fact is that the more you give in secret, the more treasure you build up in heaven. Jesus said that.

Your entries?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Iron Man - industry meets conscience

The morality tale behind the spring blockbuster Marvel film Iron Man is this: self-absorbed industrialist meets his comeuppance, grows a conscience/compassion for others, and puts his engineering genius to work righting wrongs. No spoilers there.

I go into most films to be entertained. Comic book movies are designed to be "eye candy," so I'm not expecting any great revelations when I go into the darkened theater looking for a superhero. Iron Man does not dissappoint in this regard. Even the preachiness (the evil weapons dealer) was in a small enough dose so as to not bog down the story or action. And guess what? Iron Man still fights. He doesn't go all pacifist on us.

Effects, technology, and action met the standard. Gratuitous sensuality was a bit much for my conservative leanings, so be advised if you're going to push the envelope with youth under the PG-13. I feel like guidance is appropriate up to 18, and many "R" films should be "NC-17." But, hey, you're reading "The Old School" blog.

Talking to our youth pastor, he and I couldn't figure out why Hollywood has to be so graphic with its sensuality. It's not like kids need any encouragement. Teen lust needs no assistance from media to get all the body parts and hormones functioning. Back in the day, filmmakers allowed the imagination to carry more of the weight... zoom on the ankles as clothing drops to the floor, giggles, feet walk to the bedroom, show the doorknob closing, fade to black. Tony Stark's tussles, I get it already!

Actually, the modern world is super-sensual, and the Hefner revolution that sought to celebrate sex by putting it into the mainstream has actually cheapened the act. Here's how I'd write the Tony Stark character - I'd let him keep pursuing women, conquering femme after femme, but getting less and less satisfaction out of it. He might even try to remember his girlie's names. Eventually, he'd settle down with you-know-who. Then Marvel would have to put its creativity into the relational angst within marriage (a la "Mr. and Mrs. Smith"). There's a sub-plot for ya.

In a world at war, and with Iron Man's role expanding as a member of the Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D., Marvel can and should pursue various moral questions related to war, force and weaponry. Rich ground there, and no easy answers, just the way Marvel likes it.