Archive for November, 2008

Friday Night Date Place – The Road to Just Friends

Remember when we tackled this question: how do you love your brothers in Christ without giving them false hope of you wanting something more? Apparently I need to revisit the topic. The situation is a familiar one. You dated someone, it lasted a few months, you realized it wasn’t going to work out so you ended it. The things which first drew you to the person are still there, they are still every bit the friend they had always been, so you want to keep the friendship.

Now, the other person makes the attempt (read: lie) to just be friends. Sometimes they’re sincere, sometimes they intend to, and sometimes they are doing whatever it takes to stay in the game (and a lot of the time, the intent to stay friends is prelude to just staying in the game). But along the way to being just friends, there may be the occasional bumps as feelings settle down. In short, you’ve told someone to move on and you won’t date them over again, but you’ve let them know that you still want to be friends. Now what?

The transition to “just friends” is fraught with emotional land mines. It’s hard to go from dating to being just friends. When part of you wanted more, dreamed of more, expected more and all those hopes came crashing down and falling short. It takes a while to pack those feelings back into a box and be able to manage them. It takes focus to channel those “more than friends” feelings and energy into something platonic. The road may be full of DTRs.

Sometimes the road may want to make you re-think being friends. Honestly, the commitment to friendship begins with one sentence: If you can’t deal with the fact that I don’t want to date you any more, then this is the last conversation we will have. The true test comes with one simple scenario: can you handle me going out with someone else?

Basically, you have a decision to make: to be friends or to cut things off. And they have to be prepared to either accept the reality of the situation or stalk you.

For the being friends contingency, both of you will be pouring energy into the relationship, in time and emotional sweat. In some ways you have to live life in light of their feelings, balancing being sensitive with the need for you to move on and do what you’ve got to do. But you do have to lead your life and attend to your own emotion needs and situations.

In the just end it scenario, look, sometimes you can’t be “just friends” and you may have to just cut bait cause friends don’t work. If they don’t get the hint that things really can’t work when you’re being nice, the follow up conversation won’t be pleasant. To quote my brother-in-law: “come here Roly Poly, turn into a ball so I can flick you into the grass.”

Either way, there might be some stalking-ish behavior. Constant phone calls. Texts throughout the night. Showing up where ever you might be. Standing outside your window with a boom box raised above their head playing Peter Gabriel songs. They stay close cause at some point you may end your new relationship and they can catch you on the rebound, after all, the point for them is to stay in the game. This is one way how on again/off again relationships start.

Relationships are commitments, even friendships. Sometimes you have to walk away from friendships for a time in order for the relationship to heal and the two of you to move forward as adults. There’s nothing wrong with that, and that beats the alternative of silly games and stalkerish behavior. We’re better than that.

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Fatherhood Love Language

Between Thanksgiving and my father’s birthday being this month, my thoughts always drift to what it means to be a father. In his book, Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman put forth the idea that people communicate in five different ways and that people have to learn how they and their significant others speak and hear their “love language”. This got me to thinking about different fatherhood love languages.

Like most parents, I worry about what kind of men they are going to be and how best to train them to be the kind of men they ought to be. When I think about my own father, I think about how easy it is for children to point to the faults of their parents. We’re human, a smorgasbord of failings, but we try the best we can. However, my father was at least there for us and he loved us as best he could. So I’m reminded by the simple power of presence.
(Yes, I could have posted my wedding picture where me, my father, and my brother were posed like the Temptations, you know, a photo that conveyed his dignity and quiet grace … or I could this “yes, it’s Christmas, but I’m gonna grab a smoke and I’m gonna put on the first hat i find cause it’s cold” picture.)

And while being there (even if by being I mean on the couch, half dressed (if we were lucky), usually watching Murder She Wrote or some other detective show) was an important love language, that wasn’t the way I truly remember him communicating his love for us. To me, it came with a simple act of sharing.

Think about everything that the real daddy does: pay the bills, buy the food, put a fucking roof over your head. Everything you could ever ask for. Make your world a better, safer place. And what does Daddy get for all his work? The big piece of chicken. That’s all Daddy gets…is the big piece of chicken … When l was a kid, my mama would lose her mind if one of us ate the big piece of chicken by accident. ”What the fuck! You ate the big piece of chicken? ‘Oh, Lord! No, no. ‘Now l got to take some chicken and sew it up and shit. Get me two wings and a pork chop. Daddy’ll never know the difference.” –Chris Rock (Bigger and Blacker)

My dad always gave up the big piece of chicken. I have a thing for chicken wings (probably because it was always one of my favorite dishes my dad made). For as far back as I can remember, if we were ever eating as a family and I finished my food and there was no food left (which happened a lot growing up) and I mentioned that I was still hungry, my father would give me (or whoever was still hungry and said something) the food off his plate. He always saved the “big piece of chicken” for last, too.

All of this came rushing back to me as the family was out to dinner at Pucchini’s celebrating a friend’s birthday. My boys ordered some food and when it arrived, they looked at it as if someone brought them a plate of fresh octopus. With extra tentacles. Suddenly my oldest turns to me and says “I’m hungry. What do you have?” I handed him my plate of fettucini alfredo, CHICKEN fettucine alfredo, and watched him merrily eat. And I remembered how my father taught me to (show a father’s) love.

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You Can’t Argue with Crazy

(Just assume that the disclaimers from yesterday are still in effect)

I’ve experienced my share of crazy.*

I’ve received the occasional rant, just as I’ve had the joy of the occasional dissatisfied customer (still one of my all-time favorite tirades). I was recently asked, how do I deal with the crazy. My answer is simple: I ignore it. I don’t advertise them by giving them a platform (read: I don’t respond to nitwits nor to self-important nobodies trying to make a name for themselves) because that only gives them credence. And I certainly don’t argue back. Why? Here’s what I’ve learned about crazy:

Crazy has time on its hands. I’ve got stuff to do. Because crazy has the time, focus, and energy to sit at a keyboard for long lengths of time …

Crazy LOVES to send out letters. I’m lumping blogs, message board/social networking site comments, and actual letters into this category. In my rant hall of fame, I have a 20 page, single-spaced missive from a fan/(self-described) nemesis. That was an e-mail rant. Number 2 in my hall of fame was an 11 pager that arrived in my physical mailbox. The time it takes to type 11 pages, print it out, put it in an envelope, address it, stamp it, and put it in the mailbox should provide a lot of opportunity to come to one’s senses. However, …

Crazy has other issues they need to work out. When you get an over-the-top screaming meltdown, there to what at first blush seems to be a rather minor point, there’s probably something else going on. In fact, there’s usually a lot going on when the crazy decides to erupt. The actual triggering event is typically only the last straw. A lot of little things had been building up unresolved before the eruption point.

Crazy has to save face. At some point, crazy recognizes the mess that they’ve made. They delete their MySpace/Twitter/Facebook/Message Board accounts in hopes of taking a break from things. (When I’m feeling less generous, I also assume it’s because they don’t want to be held accountable for their words and actions, forgetting that the internet is forever). They wisely go underground, find new circles to travel in, and hopefully time will ease the sting of the fallout from their eruption.

Crazy can’t be argued with. Facts don’t matter. Logic need not apply. The reality of the situation is a waste of time to explore because the only one that matters is the one that they’ve created.

So, no, I don’t argue with crazy. I’ve even quit poking crazy with a stick for my own amusement (who says I haven’t matured?) . Nor do I defend myself against crazy. For one thing, my life speaks for itself. If the accusations made by someone matches the experience people have had with me, then so be it. Secondly, crazy speaks for itself. Most people recognize it as such.

The bottom line is that I try to ignore crazy and leave it alone to work out its issues. I try to deny the eruptions the opportunity to do irrevocable damage to the bridge of our relationship. Crazy needs time and space to heal and gain perspective. And since I’m not going anywhere, crazy always has a place to return to. We’re going to get dirty wading into the tapestry of issues that constitutes the mess of other people’s lives. Might as well be prepared for it.

*For the sensitive, I’m using the term “crazy” to describe the behavior.

From the Weekend Reach Around: I DECLARED AN ANTI-EMO TWEET DAY!!!

Consider me invoking what I call the Brian Keene disclaimer: “The following people should not read this entry … People who often read themselves into the things I say, even when I wasn’t talking about them. Seriously, if you are the type that says, “Oh, I wonder if he means me?’ then stop reading now … Indeed, the people I’m talking about probably won’t even realize that I’m talking about them. So don’t start inserting your name.” Then again, if you see yourself in this, do something about it.*

Saturday I declared a random anti-emo tweet day (yes, similar to my random declaration of a South Park Day) over on my Twitter account. One of the reasons I didn’t want to get a Twitter was because it was another avenue for needless, self-created drama to enter my life. Tweets that may indicate dramatic behavior:

“I would like to dedicate this half line of lyric… to… you know who you are…”

[insert vague emo tweet to rile folks up enough to IM, text, and e-mail me]

no, this mysterious tweet is not just me attention whoring …

why yes unfriending me on facebook and/or myspace constitutes real drama in my life

tweeting melodramatically sure beats a person just being honest and saying “could someone check in on me?”

as my final tweet on anti-emo tweet day, is there a word to describe twitter drama or emo tweeting?

By the way, here were some of the suggestions: twitter flouncers, twama, twemo and referring to those emo tweeters as twaddicts, theatwits or twats.

It’s just another sign of how the Internet is not everyone’s friend, leaves people prone to blog gossip, and allows keyboard courage to emo types. Yes, it had been a frustrating week.

*It was either that or invoke the John Scalzi disclaimer: As advance warning, this entry might be douchebaggishly egotistical, but, well. You should be used to that by now.

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A Few Family Shots: The Fam

Okay, no more family pics. I’ve done author shots and super heroes, so i thought that I’d round them out with actual shots of the family.

It’ not too hard to get a good shot of Reese. He has that special Broaddus sense of knowing when there’s a camera around and posing appropriately.
On the other hand, getting a good shot of Malcolm (read: him cooperating) is another matter entirely.I’ll probably have this shot made into a T-shirt. I find it handy to wear one when I go to the mall with the boys, so that when they get cute and act like I’m some random guy kidnapping them, I have proof of ownership.
This continues a Broaddus family tradition. We have a Y shot when we were just me, the wife, and the firstborn.
The couple in repose.
If you look closely, we look like we actually like each other. It’s been eight years now. I’m sure she’s still asking herself “who is this man, and why did my credit go bad?”

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A Few Family Shots: The Boys

Remember when I said that I dragged my friend Larissa Johnson out to take some new snapshots? Well, we DID take some shots of the family. At one point in the photo shoot, she wanted to take some shots of the boys in some of their costumes (have I mentioned the Broaddus trunks of costumes?).

First, a man and his heroes.
Reese as the Dark Knight (yes, we really did go through a phase after he saw the movie where he made us refer to him as The Dark Knight when he was in costume and Bruce when he wasn’t. And, yes, I did put an end to it when he started calling me Alfred).
Malcolm is The Hulk. No, Larissa didn’t do anything to his eyes. He does that right before a Hulk tantrum.

Part of their epic battle.
And one of my favorite shots. You can almost hear the “sad Hulk” music from the television show playing in the background …

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Friday Night Date Place – Proper Expectations

We’ve all ended up in relationships that didn’t quite break our way. From friendships to work colleagues to significant others to spouses, some of the relationships we’re in don’t match up to our expectations of them. However, since our focus is dating, we’ll key in on that and allow for the trickle down theory to take into account other kinds of relationships.

For example, stemming from our friends without benefits discussion from last week, we might have a guy who is frustrated by women who have either wanted to date him (or who have previously dated him and have moved on) who end up just dumping him as a friend. Or a woman who feels the sting of not getting enough attention from the men in her life whose friendship she wants to deepen.

Relationships are a delicate dance of expectations (read: romantic ideas) clashing with the reality of another person intruding into your life. That also points to the crux of the matter: having realistic expectations of the relationship. Not lowered, not raised, but simply realistic. (Don’t get me wrong: I unapologetically expect a lot from people, especially those closest to me, myself included, and the relationships that I’m in. Sure I’m often let down, but that’s part of the deal I sign up for.) There are at least two things I try to keep in mind as I approach the people I’m in relationship with:

Accept who they are. We can’t be with people based on our expectations/daydreams of who they ought to be. People are just so darn … people-ish. They tend to not cooperate with our ideas of who we think they ought to be and how they ought to act. They are who they are. Their faults are their own and a part of what makes them who they are.

Forbear one another. One thing that HeWhoWouldBeHeadPastor said recently was that we need “to give someone room to be, and to become”. This applies even to (especially to) high maintenance folks.

It’s not wrong to have expectations from folks. Granted, having no expectations is a safe way of going through life: no expectations means you’re never let down. Another person is not the solution to the problems you face in life (no, not even loneliness as counter-intuitive as that may sound). A friend of mine passed along this observation:

“More specifically, we expect our love relationships to be exciting, romantic, erotic, passionate, cute, conflict-free, and perpetually novel. And like the consumers we are, we often break our commitment when we don’t think we have enough of these, and move on to a new relationship to find them again. Our materialist/consumerist mindset treats relationships as a department store for our personal satisfaction and pleasure. This defeats long term commitment, which must include compromise and hard work. Why do any hard work when you can just pick up a new one, or even get an upgrade?”

When I look at my marriage vows, I realized that I committed to the idea of our relationship as much as I committed to the person herself. During some of our bad patches, our commitment to the relationship was one of the things that kept us together. It was something worth preserving (even as we figured out how to live with each other). Granted, dating is a long way from marriage in terms of one’s commitment to it, but there is something to be gleaned from this. Deeper levels of true love and intimacy can only be mined over time. Once the “romance” has cooled, or rather the white hot feelings of “being in love” have.

We can’t force a relationship into our idea of what we want it to be. We have to take it on its own terms. Only from there can we judge whether it is a relationship worth pursuing or keeping in our lives. Because relationships take work, time, and commitment, but not all of them are worth that kind of effort. Some are best to simply let go.

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Scrubs (Season 7) – A Review

“Who are you?”

I can’t quite call this the season of fail.

When show creators and stars start making noises from season to season about each one being the show’s last, you need to wrap it up sooner than later (X-Files says what?). Scrubs Season 7 was meant to be its final season, but because of the writer’s strike, the season was shortened. Having long experienced schedule changes, midseason debuts, and under-promotion, the critically-lauded Scrubs didn’t seem especially likely to have even made it to a seventh season. Yes, the show should have ended with season 6.

In a lot of ways, Season 7 looks and feels like an extension of Season 6. Things pick up right where they left off, with the will-they/won’t-they romance of Sacred Heart doctors, John “J.D.” Dorian (Zach Braff) and Elliot Reid (Sarah Chalke). The commitment-fearing pair are on the cusp of entering into their respective life partnerships, fatherhood and marriage. Honestly, by season seven, we’re more at the “who cares?” stage of things, but luckily the show never did revolve around the wisps of sexual tension between these two.

Scrubs features one of the strongest supporting casts on television, however, as another casualty of the strike shortened season, the characters didn’t have much of an arc. With no manufactured obstacles or any remarkable developments, after seven seasons they either remain one note or they have experienced some minimal approximation of growth. We end up with an odd mixture of both.
“What happened? I used to be an island? … I feel like I’m losing track of my identity.” -Dr. Cox

We learn that J.D. and Turk (Donald Faison) are a couple (yes, almost moreso than Turk and his real wife, Carla Espinosa (Judy Reyes)). Turk learns to listen to Carla. J.D. become satisfied with his work. J.D. sorta gets his long sought after hug from his unsentimental mentor Dr. Cox (John C. McGinley). We see Elliott becoming secure. And The Janitor (Neil Flynn) not only gets a girlfriend, but also seems friendlier (which would work if his attempts at being nicer came off as a little creepy. Instead, he just seems nicer). Our favorite evil yet loveable chief of medicine Bob Kelso (Ken Jenkins).

“We all want to be appreciated for our unique identities. But when we decide to change who we are for someone we love, we can surprise even ourselves with who we’ve become.” -J.D. in voice over mode

The show revolves around two (spiritual) themes: identity and relationships. Each of the characters struggles with figuring out who they are and who they want to be. A human being is defined by who loves them. Loved by God, we have our identity; defined by that relationship we find our self-worth. Love is risk, but we’re wired to be a part of a community. In that way we are fulfilled. And if friends are the family you choose, work colleagues are more like real family in a sense because you have them thrust upon you.

At turns, Scrubs is still sweet and zany (it’s usually a bad sign when a show is described as zany. Just as cautionary would be the phrase “wacky shenanigans”). Genuine and funny. Poignant, awkward and cute, sort of like watching a doe being born over and over again. At the same time, it could be too self-consciously cloying, reveling in its own cuteness, the zaniness coming off as forced (being zany is a duel edged sword), getting by on jokes that have been stale for seasons now (J.D.’s unicorn says what? Though, to be fair, there were no Dr. Acula references). Some of its antics and rhythms having become stale, like the voice over becoming a series of “one to grow on” moments. Sure, it’s not as sharp and fresh as it used to be, but that happens in a relationship when you get used to the quirks and charms of your partner.

Scrubs has found a new lease on life over on ABC as a mid-season replacement, though Zach Braff will be departing soon after the premiere, so one is left to wonder what kind of show it will be without its anchor. With season 7, it wasn’t allowed to wrap up seamlessly. Hopefully it will have the opportunity for a fitting send-off.

The Mentalist – A Review

Television series can often be reduced to simple mathematical equations: the chemistry of partners locked in a banter-based relationship (Bones) + an all-seeing detective (Monk) + element of playing at being psychic (Psyche) = The Mentalist. The great part about math is that we can go back and do a check of that equation: Bones = good, Monk = good, Psyche = love. And luckily, The Mentalist manages to bear out that proof.

Simon Baker (The Guardian) plays Patrick Jane, a man who made a name for himself pretending to be a TV psychic until he got his family murdered by the serial killer he pretended to profile. He now uses his people-reading ability for good, as a consultant to the California Bureau of Investigation. Once you get past the silliness of the premise, we’re left with an irreverent character who lives to tweak the system, bend the rules, and gets away with it because of his effectiveness .

Baker delights in this role, his enthusiasm for the tricks he performs, a thrill of the grift charm, evident in his performance. His boss, hard-boiled Teresa Lisbon (Robin Tunney, Prison Break) anticipates the audience’s reaction to some of Jane’s antics with eye rolls and smirks.

“Science don’t know everything.” –Wayne Rigsby (Owain Yeoman)

Jane, like the Sherlock Holmes, Adrian Monks, and Robert Gorens (Law & Order: Criminal Intent) before him, goes through life seeing everything. Through their observations, deductive reasoning, and their ability to read people, they find themselves typically the smartest person in the room (a vision of themselves that they protect fiercely). In fact, like Adrian Monk especially, they all also share both a need for fastidious control of the world around them and similar tragic back story.

“There is no more. There is no other side. This is it.” –Patrick Jane

As Jane continues to force himself “to stare into the cold blue flame of true, demonic evil,” what we see often is a man who can’t believe in anything beyond his logical world, no element of the supernatural or the possibility of a world beyond this one, because that would shatter too many of the suppositions that he has constructed to hold his world together.

“The kingdom of God is a real place … and you have an immortal soul.” –Grace Van Pelt (Amanda Righetti)

Too often, it is presented that one cannot be both a logical person and a person of faith. Yet, it’s important to have a passionate concern for the logical aspects of faith. No one has to leave logic behind in order to embrace faith. Science and religion are not at odds. Both are pursuits of truth and can find a common meeting place. Sometimes we can find God in the beauty of His most complicated creation, our minds. In the Christian tradition we typically draw on four sources to shape our faith: Scripture (the Bible), the historic church tradition (we learn in community, with time merely being a dimension to community), personal experience, and reason (both intuitive and deductive). It’s how we arrive at truth.

I suppose that I could have come at the mathematics of The Mentalist in other ways (C.S.I. + HouseMedium) which speaks only to the familiarity of the feel of the show. But the characters put their own spin on the cop procedural, with Baker’s gleeful performance, which much like the show itself, entertains, manipulates, or confuses people. In a good way.

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On Author Pictures (a Fail)

I don’t want to shock teh Interwebz or anything, but I’m vain.

(I’ll wait for all of you to recover.)

As you know, I’m always here to offer advice to the young aspiring writer. Kelli Dunlap mocked the fact that I took four rolls of film before arriving at my last one. So I’ve been thinking about re-doing some of my author pics. Sure, sure, some of you may wander past my web site in hopes of catching a glimpse of the man, the legend, and you may say to yourself “that’s one scary, intimidating author.” Well, then my job is done.

On the other hand, I also want you to recognize me at a con. Not necessarily talk to me, but at least recognize me. You know, point to me in furtive whispers as I pass by, but not actually engage me, because, seriously, who needs that. But this gets to one thing I’ve disliked about most author pics: when I meet you at cons, I don’t need to do double takes to match the person in front of me to an outdated (to say the least) picture of you. To the point where I’m attempting to guess what decade your picture was taken or what kind of Photoshop you were using to touch up your … everything.

So I dragged my friend Larissa Johnson out to take some new snapshots and I’m trying to decide on what look to go for this time. I’m trying to decide what strikes the proper chord for an image of me. We have:

the obligatory slightly pretentious me.
moody, slightly scary me (ooooo, spooky horror guy!)
a man and his muse
a lot of shots with a variation of me looking pensive. You’ll note, there’s a fine line between looking pensive and, frankly, the world giving me a headache. Yes, this was my fourth outfit change of the photo shoot.
an excuse for me to wear my bowler. This is my “Maurice the Icon” shot. Every aspiring writer should have one.
do you want a little pirate in you? It is important that every writer be concerned about his image. After all, your author pics are what define you to the readers. Um, sure, some people may argue that it’s the writing that may define you, but they’re wrong. It’s all about image. Listen to the man in the pirate hat (and, mind you, who DOESN’T have a puffy shirt in their wardrobe?)

This blog brought to you by my third dose of Thera-Flu. I’m not actually sick yet, I just enjoy the rush.

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