Category: Opinion

079: Be A Man

“Be a man.” All Things Considered posits that these are possibly the 3 scariest words a boy can hear. Part of me tends to agree. Part of me thinks they’re scary for grown men too. Part of me also hears it as a call (a challenge if you will) to be better. A reminder that, in our time, masculinity has been warped through commercialization that is pressed on us non-stop both directly and subliminally and that we must find a way to lift ourselves up from this. 

If it truly is a calling, then it is a lifelong calling. It is something which must be worked at, honed, and exercised. One must create a muscle memory if you will, so that it becomes reflexive from repetition. From my experience it is not something that comes naturally. Rather it is born at best through the teachings of your family and community and at it’s hardest through a sincere effort to improve one day at a time through learning and action.

I was fortunate enough to be raised in a family and community with strong male role models who represented some of the best qualities of a man – leadership, work ethic, morality, physical strength, emotional availability. Chief among these was my own father, but there were plenty of others as well – uncles, friend’s fathers, teachers, coaches, etc. Yet, somehow when I reached the middle of my college career I found myself seeking out knowledge about manhood, masculinity, and what it meant to “be a man.”

I am sadly part of a generation unwittingly forced into Prolonged Adolescence by many compelling societal and economic factors, so when I first looked to my peers I found them to be, on the whole lacking. Many of my closest friends contained the potential to be good men. Diamonds in the rough, if you will, but for most of them those parts of their character were overwhelmed by other aspects. This led me to look elsewhere. I found it in some of my male professors. But I found myself mostly drawn to the early writings of Brett McKay. Brett is the creator and chief author of the now deservedly popular Art Of Manliness.

Admittedly my early fascination with Art Of Manliness was quite in line with my priorities at the time – materials. I was fascinated with articles on straight razor shaving, pocket notebooks, knives, and how to dress myself. Yet over the years it has been the in depth articles on the more philosophical aspects of manhood that have truly captured my attention.

The question of manliness, of “being a man” lingered on in my mind for years, especially during my year long sabbatical in Korea. However, when The Wife and I found out last year that we were expecting our first child, the question returned to the forefront of my mind with great passion. Suddenly I was looking on the matter from a whole new perspective – fatherhood. In my early panic about whether or not I would be a good father, I found myself looking back more and more on those role models and teachings I had found years previously, my father, my professors, the writings online. I found great solace in the parable of Hercules – that a life of ease is no life, and only through toil can we find success and joy – and also the writings of Seneca on stoicism. I made changes in myself. I made choices in my life. I chose to cut the fat, and live a healthier existence. 

And then over the last couple of days I came across two things that made me want to talk about all this. 

First, was a piece I found a few days ago over at what is possibly the blog most responsible for me being able to dress myself like a respectable adult. The fine gents at Put This On posted about a piece they had read. It was written by Andrew W.K., who apparently has his own advice column, in which he talks a good deal about what it means to be a man but from a wonderfully different place. I actually recommend reading the whole thing. Sidebar, a decade ago I thought Andrew W.K. was a total wacko, but have since come to really appreciate his approach to life.

Then today, while driving home with Scout sleeping in the back, I was tuned into NPR and this piece from All Things Considered came on. It’s an interview with former NFL player Joe Ehrmann, about what we as a society are doing and messaging to young boys and young men and what affect it is having on them long term. Mr. Ehrmann couches it in terms most familiar to him – his experiences with coaches and players on the field and the different types of relationships they have. Most importantly though he uses two terms in reference to those relationships, “transactional and transformational.” He goes on to talk about the crisis he sees facing manhood and I have to say it really resonated with me. I won’t go into terrible detail about what he says, I think you can find the 7.5 mins to listen to it.

At the end of the day, the core of both these pieces is essentially this – that being a good man means being good. However, there still seems to be a line drawn in the sand between being a good human being and being a good man. So what makes the two different? What constitutes that line? And how does it remain in our modern society where so much work has been done to erase the barriers between genders? Is it that men still hold an assumed position of power and strength? And through that are we held to a higher expectation of decency not to abuse that position? This seems to be the next line of thinking I have to pursue on this lifelong journey. Let me know what you think in the comments.


053: The Kentucky Derby

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, this weekend is a rare double header for us avid consumers of alcoholic delights. Sunday is Cinco de Mayo (every American’s 2nd favorite culturally errant holiday used as an excuse to drink excessively) and you’ll see more about that tomorrow. But, before that comes a truly All American Day Of Drinking: The Kentucky Derby. Now some of you may hear the phrase Kentucky Derby and think one of two things. The first being simply a flash of sweaty white dudes deep in the south with a bunch of ponies and ladies in weird hates. The second is probably, “Why is he talking about the Kentucky Derby if he has such a pathological hatred for horses?” I welcome your concerns and will address them in turn.


First off, yes. The Kentucky Derby is absolutely a Southern tradition. Seersucker, pale colors, big hats for the ladies, bow ties for the men, and most importantly bourbon are the defining elements of the event and for at least this day should be whole heartedly embraced. The key element, to me at least, is the bourbon. And in the setting of the Kentucky Derby bourbon takes on the form of the Mint Julep. There are 4 key elements here: crushed ice, fresh mint, strong bourbon, and a silver Derby Cup. The recipe calls for a little work when crushing the mint with your muddler (you do have a muddler right?) but overall is pretty simple. Need special direction? Check here. And don’t forget, bourbon is the official spirit of America.


Secondly, yes the horses are also a very important part of this race and yes I do have a completely legitimate fear of horses (have you seen how big those damn things are?). But, I enjoy the derby the same way I enjoy all horse races by enjoying the atmosphere, the drink, and the rush of watching your horse cross the finish line. And also there’s a giant fence in between us.

More importantly than all this, just let yourself fall into the revelry of the event. America doesn’t have a lot of things to celebrate that are wholly ours. Most traditions are adapted from, rooted in, or simply lifted from ones found in other countries and cultures. However, the Derby much like The 4th of July and Thanksgiving are entirely ours, and may be the most entirely American after The Fourth. So yeah, enjoy it! Get dressed up, wear a bow-tie, have a few too many juleps, place a few wagers, even throw a party if you feel up to it. Also, if you’re lucky enough to be attending the event itself, make sure you dress the part.

dressing for the derby

042: Randy’s Monday Morning Obsession #5 – Cinemode App

This is one of a series of regular posts from my dear friend Randy. Check back every Monday for a fresh look at what has taken over Randy’s litter box of a brain that week. For more timely ramblings from him head straight to the source, @RMChase3.

Yo yo yo Randy here, taking a brief rest from whacking rats with a nail spiked bat to bring you today’s obsession.  Have you heard about this texting thing? Of course you have quit being a jerk.   All of the kids are doing it, so are my parents, old people have somehow figured out how to do it, and every once in a while I’ve been known to do it.  It would seem however, as much as we first world people love our txt msgs businesses do not. One such business is the movie business.  For what feels like decades they have been telling us not to interrupt their movies with our phone calls.  So we all collectively followed their advice and took up to text messaging to never interrupt movies. So then the theaters were all “hey quit talking AND texting during our major motion pictures.” And I was all “ Dammit movies why do you keep taking away from me!? First talking, now you take my texts messages what’s next? You gonna take my phones? I THOUGHT I LIVED IN AMERICA NOT COMMUNIST RUSSIA!!”

cinemark logo

I get it. Using the phone backlights the screen piercing the artificial night made by the theater  Also some fools don’t turn off the ringer and hearing the first 14 seconds of “All the things she said” by TATU while I’m watching the Bratz movie is a mood killer. Unfortunately not everyone has the balls to kick obnoxious cellphone users out of their building like The Alamo Drafthouse.  The good folks over at Cinemark realized this and came up with a great solution: The Cinemode App. Unlike most no text apps like the Drive Safely App that entirely prohibits you Cinemark still allows you the option. You download the app and when you go to a movie during the preshow entertainment the screen will tell you to activate “movie mode” (my term not theirs.) Once activated it dims your phones screen.   It also rewards you for not texting or using your phone for the duration of the movie with reduced ticket and concession prices. Now for sad news it’s only for Cinemark theatres which means not everyone can be part of this revolution of not being an inconsiderate jerk. Which currently means even I dear reader have to take a trip to get in on this. So download this, then download moviepass, and then you’re going to have like, the best movie experience ever.  But I’ve got to go smash me some more rats. I hope you enjoyed or if not GFY. Until next time

Go out. Go obsess


038: Randy’s Monday Morning Obsession #4 – Moviepass

This is one of a series of regular posts from my dear friend Randy. Check back every Monday for a fresh look at what has taken over Randy’s litter box of a brain that week. For more timely ramblings from him head straight to the source, @RMChase3.

Hey there ladies and gentlemen! (But mostly ladies *wink*) Randy here with his new obsession in the form of a service called MoviePass. MoviePass is a service that when I first heard about I just about flipped a pool over. You pay a monthly fee and watch one movie a day. Now dear reader I’m sorry that I just made you knock over your computer in a fit of awesome.  For those of you that didn’t,  let me say that again YOU PAY A FLAT FEE TO WATCH UP TO 31 MOVIES A MONTH.  Haters attempting to hate might tell you so what I can do that with Netflix, slap them in their cocksure face.  When I talk about MoviePass I’m talking about in-the-theater-right-damn-now movies.


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036: Frightened Rabbits – Pedestrian Verse


This is a guest post from the inimitably impassionate Meghan. She’ll be bring us regular updates on the music-world with a Left Coast take from her current home in Portland. To get your fill of music nonsense and passionate rants about New Girl, follow her on Twitter.

I thought it only appropriate to write my first HowManyBeards music blurb about a band that I have been friend-losing-ly obsessed with for the past three months. And this is no exaggeration. One of my friends actually installed an app on Google Chrome that automatically blocks any of my posts with the words “Frightened Rabbit,” “Frightened Rabbits,” “Frabbit,” or “Frabbits” from his news feed, and replaces them with photos of cats.


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031: Tuesday Breakdown for 01.29.13

God damn this Black Night, er Tuesday, and all its foul temptation.

wine breakdown

READ: Carnival Worker Invades Florida Home, Masturbates, Defecates, Eats Vacuum Garbage.

Really, the headline says it. The article is definitely worth a read, especially for the recap at the end.

PLAY: Rocket Island.

I discovered this clever little game on the Play store last night and have gotten quite a bit of enjoyment out of it. It’s a clever take on Swipe and Match games, but the games do not run on endlessly and the game is not wickedly addicting which is honestly a good thing. I find myself popping in for a quick game here and there, but still effortlessly being able to turn it off after a few rounds. Also, it’s free!

WATCH: Silver Linings Playbook.

Seriously kids, if you haven’t seen this get on it. It was great and deserves all the critical acclaim it has been receiving. It’s like a much better version of Garden State: two people having suffered serious emotional trauma find reconciliation and healing through a relationship with one another. Go see it.

DRINK: Root: 1 Carmenere

I recently picked this up after reading a glowing recommendation over on Bottoms Up Darling. If you’re looking for a great, affordable bottle of red I can’t recommend this higher than many other wines. I put it right up there with Gnarly Head’s Zinfandel. Check out the review and then head out, drop the $10 and try it out.

018: Guns, Mental Illness, and Mass Violence In America

I come to you today to present a reasonable, current, and unbiased examination of American culture as it relates to guns, violence, and mental health in response to the building social fallout from the violence in Newtown, CT, Aurora, CO, Brookfield, WI, etc. I am seeing too much of the ignorant single-minded partisanship that is tearing this country apart. People are digging into their ideas using misinformation, ignorant inflammatory rhetoric, and outdated concepts. I really only hope to use this space to prompt reasonable, constructive conversation about how this country can effectively move forward from these tragedies with purpose.

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