A Few Good Men  

Friday, June 27 : 6:31 AM : 1 comments :

There's this phenomenon happening that needs to be highlighted and addressed. Young men everywhere are freaking out about their lives. For single (or at least unmarried) guys in their late twenties and early thirties it's an intense case of "What the hell am I doing with my life?" It's not a quarter life crisis and it's not a mid-life crisis. It's something in-between and something new. I've been trying to come up with a better term for it but nothing has replaced my original idea: Man-ic Panic.

First, the evidence, all accumulated in the last few months. One good friend recently had lunch with us all psyched about his business ideas and how he would soon move to Italy to pursue his racing dreams. A few weeks later he meets a girl, runs off to the Philippines to pursue her, but instead finds God and decides to move there to do missionary work. Another guy has intense debilitating panic attacks and is currently seeing a therapist because life is constricting him. Someone else picked up and moved to Europe with nothing more than a few pieces of luggage and three hats, leaving behind friends and a relationship. A handful of my personal friends are also looking desperately around for any reason to pick up and move, to find something different, and to escape the drudgery that is their current lives and forseeable futures.

What's causing this state of affairs? Well, the easiest answer is that the years of being a man-child are over. Once you push into the thirties you have to get your shit together, or if you have your shit together already, you suddenly come face to face with how shitty your shit is. You know? We've all seen our fathers slave away at jobs they hated. We take a step back and realize that our lives are possibly headed in this exact direction. Career, wife, kids, BBQs, pets and then it's a skip and a hop to health problems and heart attacks. And it's not just about the job. It's about trying to figure out if this life is right for you, if this girl is right for you, if this is what the twenty year old you wanted.
Actually, a lot of movies address this Man-ic Panic. Zach Braff's recent works, Garden State and The Last Kiss. One of my all time sleepers, Beautiful Girls, essentially deals with this theme. Anything where the guy is about to marry the boring normal chick but meets the exciting crazy one and has to reconsider. I think Julia Stiles and Sandra Bullock were in a movie or two about this. But the answer is not Hollywood, it's not about the beautiful brunette who comes in to save the day. I'd bet it's a pretty rare thing to find some wonderful girl who'll come along and grab you off the scrap heap -- it's pure lunacy and delusion to hope that they'll actually find you. So forget it, girls aren't the answer.
For women of a comparable age, it's the biological clock that ticks. But for guys there's something similar scaring the crap out of them: life is seeping away. The window for "doing something" looks like it's quickly shutting and the only reaction that makes sense is out with the old and in with the new. Damn the torpedoes and who cares what gets wrecked along the way. It's this sudden rush of selfishness and this desire to set out and find yourself. Otherwise the fear is that you'll slip away, never to be found.

In a way, maybe it's an early onset of mid-life crisis. If that's the case maybe we're all lucky. We won't have to suffer from a mid-life crisis when we're trapped by another decade of age, a possible family, and multiple responsibilities and mortgages. I mean, if all this is a moment to reflect, to heed the call of the wild, then better to freak out now then later right?

The big fear though is that there are no answers at the end of this thing. Then what?

Brothers & Sisters  

Tuesday, June 24 : 7:51 PM : 1 comments :

I was doing some digging in the garage today and guess what I found? George's school project from 1991 titled "My Life Story." The binder is filled with some priceless pictures, including this one on the cover. In it she writes about our parents, her best friend Vicky, her favorite subject (English), our new house, Chinese New Year, shopping with her friends, playing tennis, her dream to one day live in New York, and what she learned about teamwork. And of course she wrote about me.
"I have a twin brother named Jonathan. He is two minutes older than me. He goes to La Jolla Country Day School and is in the seventh grade. He is about five feet tall and weighs eighty pounds. He has black hair and a ponytail on the back of his head. He wears glasses but is thinking of getting contacts.

He acts very quiet and shy at school but at home his personality changes. He becomes more outgoing and talks a lot more. His hobbies are watching wrestling, playing role playing games, collecting comics, and reading. He also enjoys playing basketball, tennis, ping-pong, and golf. He is not very good but he enjoys the game.

Jon can be very annoying sometimes but since we're in the same grade and have the same teachers, we often help each other on our homework. This can be very convenient because we help each other study for quizzes, tests, and finals. There are times I wish that I was an only child but I wouldn't trade my brother for anything in the world. He often puts a smile on my face when I am depressed or unhappy."

By Your Side  

Monday, June 23 : 4:16 AM : 1 comments :

Is this the year of weddings or what? With a lull the last couple of wedding seasons -- just one or two a year -- the next few months are shaping up to be steak or salmon central. This is totally predictable considering where we're at with age and our time of life (panic) and whatnot. Get paired up people, the forty day flood is coming sooner than you think.

The first wave of marriages was the post-college "We're so cute we've been together for ten years high school" couples and the religious folk. The second wave of weddings were for people who met The One in the years immediately after finishing school or for people who waited out grad school and higher education level education. Now we're entering the third wave, the late twenties push for everyone looking to avoid the long fall into desperation mode and biological clocks that chase you like the alligator from Peter Pan.

So I'm ready for weddings, totally. My issue is why are higher powers choosing this year to rob me of half of my close girlfriends in one six month period? Seriously, stop it. It tickles. Out of the five or so female friends I talk to on a semi-regular basis, four of them have gotten engaged this year. While none of them have been outright surprises, when taken in sum it means my speed dial is coming under heavy attack.

I'm happy for them of course because love is patient, love is kind, and love ain't jealous, blah blah blah. But when your good (opposite sex) friend gets engaged, things change don't they? I mean, if you want to declare any undying love, this is your last shot man. You probably shouldn't wait until the wedding day -- so tacky then. So take the opportunity to scream it out loud now before the down payment on the venue is due! Just kidding.

Things are different though. For example, when a friend is in a mere relationship, I could pretty much care less what effect their significant other's happiness has on their decision making analysis. I mean, they are still just going out and not bonded for life right? Ultimately, she's still responsible for making her own decisions. However, once they slip on that ring, friendship protocol demands that you start taking his feelings into consideration too.

True story. I have an upcoming wedding that I'd normally invite one of my newly engaged friends to since she also casually knows the bride to be. Instead I'm deciding not to ask and just go solo because (a) it feels rude to ask and take away a holiday weekend from her when she should be spending it with him (b) it's weird to have to consider what her fiance will think and if he'll be offended by bystanders seeing his ring and thinking we're engaged (c) I don't want to think too long about what it all means now that she makes life decisions based on two people.

Even on the simplest level this change offends my entire friendship philosophy. But what is there to do about it? Get a big wedding gift for them right? Oh wait, I don't give wedding gifts because I'm an unappreciative friend with no social graces.

But no, back to my original point, who the hell has most of their girl friends obliterated out of singledom in just over half a year? It's like a meteor has struck and left a huge crater. Luckily I'm mature enough to understand that this is the way it is. Que sera sera right?

Oh and my long standing goal of becoming a male of honor is so far not going so well. Why nobody wants to be daring and put me in a lineup on the biggest day of their lives is beyond me.


Thursday, June 12 : 5:23 AM : 3 comments :

It's come to my attention recently that in some social circles I've been dubbed "Debbie Downer." If you've never heard the term, it's been just hanging around the block for awhile but it's also associated with a SNL skit starring Rachel Dratch. It's famous because everyone finds it impossible to keep a straight face and missed lines abound. Lindsay Lohan runs off the stage near the end to presumably laugh uncontrollably backstage. The actual skit itself doesn't seem that funny to me but hey, I don't want to reinforce my new moniker.

Wait a second. If it may please the court, "I object!" I am not a downer. Not by a long shot.

The whole Debbie Downer thing is supposed to "refer to someone who has a persistent need to add bad news or negative feelings to a gathering, thus bringing down the mood of everyone around them." I'll admit that sometimes I'm prone to follow up ridiculous suggestions with things like "WTF, why would we do that?" but I'm hardly a good mood suppressant.

I've known a few true Debbie Downers in my time and I'm too tactful to be one of them. I think I do an excellent job of keeping my pithy negative comments to myself. Sure I may think horrible things all the time but I save it for the de-briefing okay?

More fun is a new term we've been using. Fussy Buddy. This one is a future classic and usability is off the charts. There are a few types of fussy buddies. For the most part, they're the ones who need too much information or things are just never right. They're detail orientated, anal, and hard to please. All in the worst ways. "It's too crowded in here, it's too hot, these drinks suck, I'm not having fun." Hanging out with these people you just wish they'd go with the flow sometimes. Shit's not going to be perfect, just deal with it. Create fun. Or carry an iPhone. Whatever.

Lately, another distinct type of fussy buddy has reared its ugly head. We'll call it the run-on fussy buddy. Instead of actually committing to an event, they'll ask a string of questions like "what's going to happen, who's going to be there, will it be fun, when are you going, are you there yet, is it cool, should I come." By the time they make a decision you want to toss your phone into the nearest ocean or the event is already over.

You can really only be a successful fussy buddy if your fun level is off the charts. Some of the people I love to hang out with are fussy buddies, but that's cool because they're so fun it's totally worth it to bring out their best. Fussy buddies who are also Bobby Borings should be exed off the friends list.

I think I already discussed this elsewhere but hanging out with Palak & Co. a few weeks back gave us possibly the word of the year. FOMO: Fear Of Missing Out. As in "He'll show up because he's got a serious case of FOMO."

And while Daily Candy's Lexicon has really fallen off over the years, I'll be using this one. (S)hetox: Taking a break from romance and its attending insanities.

America's Next Top Author  

Friday, June 6 : 3:39 AM : 4 comments :

I commissioned an author photo from James. Basically, I needed one for the publisher's book catalog, promotional mouse pads, wanted posters, who knows what. Here's the thing: It's not easy to take an author photo, or any photo for that matter. I missed out on the whole Taiwan glamour shots phase of my life. Darn.

I've been dying to shave my head but have held out because I think hair lends me an air of professionalism. Then again, who do I think I'm fooling?

With our limited time and the light rain that was falling sporadically outside, we were confined to the inside of my house. We probably should have explored other venues but hey, it's just a simple picture right? Apparently not. It's not easy to take a picture that looks natural, or gives you an author-ly weight. I wanted something that said I was "approachable, fun, serious, casual enough for walks on the beach yet intense enough for all night gossip fests."

After taking a few different shots and showing the results to my homebrew versions of Tyra, Miss J, Twiggy, and Nigel, the reactions I got ran the gamut from "you look, um, gay" or "your hair seems shiny" to "you never have that expression on your face, like ever." That's what I could pick out from between laughs anyway.

It doesn't help that I'm a horrible poser (double entendre!). It's tricky to relax yet straighten. I felt like I was doing weird qigong things. Be like water, be like wind, be emotive yet withdrawn. Be a man. Mainly I thought about getting a body double. Or a new wardrobe. I mean, how many different ways can you rock a white T-shirt right?

James did his best with me though. You don't realize how hard it is to actually convey anything to the camera until you actually have to do it semi-seriously. I mean, should I look away like I don't know the camera is right there in my face or should I look into it like I'm cosmically connecting with your book buying soul? Do I try to be ashy or classy? To smile or not to smile? Do I tilt my chin up or down? All these things and the camera just keeps snap snapping away. It must be impossible to be a celebrity knowing that pictures of you will be taken at all times. The paparazzi isn't going to spare you any grief by only publishing your flattering pictures either.

Anyway, it was quite the learning experience. Below is the one I turned in.

There's like this wicked backlash against authors who are deemed popular only because they are good looking females. Or sometimes a female author (and the occasional male) gets blasted because their author photos look nothing like them in real life. It's the sexing up of the book industry -- and not in a good way I guess. Luckily I don't think my sellability will come down to my looks. Whew.

Here's an interesting article about Marion Ettlinger, the most sought after book jacket photographer in the country. "Her name has even entered the language as a verb. To be 'Ettlingered' means to have imparted to you an aura of distinction and renown, regardless of whether anyone besides your mother and your cat knows who you are."

Just kidding, that would be retarded to turn that one in. I mean, not when you can turn in gems like these. Please buy my book. As you can see, I'll need all the help I can get.

Looking Glass  

Tuesday, June 3 : 12:31 AM : 1 comments :

"...ambitious souls of the 'If I can make it there, I'd make it anywhere' variety will gravitate toward New York... There's no better way of rejecting where you came from, no plainer declaration of an intention to reinvent yourself, than moving to New York; I speak from personal experience."
-Jonathan Franzen-
I'd set very few goals for myself this year. The general theme was to "Dare to Dream." So far it's been six months of sitting at home waiting for something to happen. At the start of the year, I had 2008 all mapped out. My book would be done by April, I would be in New York for the beautiful part of the summer, my Celtics would be in the Finals and cruising toward a championship. I would be videoing anything and everything. I would shave my head and sport a terrific tan. I would have a bank account that eighth graders would envy.

Instead of any of these things, here's what I have accomplished so far in this half year. I have three new teeth. I have so warped my sleeping schedule that I'm back to normal human hours after months spent as a vampire. I'm super accomplished in Guild Wars. I have downloaded Yanni's entire discography. I've gone through three jars of super chunky peanut butter. So far my "I am twenty-nine going on thirty..." duet is only a sad melancholy solo.

Currently I'm in the middle of the second set of rewrites for my book and there's possibly no quick end in sight. My biggest interaction with a living being most of the day is watering my mom's dozen or so plants, carefully arrayed on our doorway for easy access. It's only been two weeks since she left -- carefully leaving me with just this sole responsibility -- and already one plant is on the verge of dying. It's not for lack of water though. Snails have been attacking the plant and left huge holes on its leaves. I was inclined to team up with the Morton Salt Umbrella Girl to fight back but realized that doing so would kill the plant too.

Basically that's like a microcosm of my life. Slow moving gooey things are killing me but I fear dishing out vengeance because I might wither away in the process too. Luckily I've discovered 43 Things and have now made new, certainly achievable, life goals. It's nice to finally have some direction. Carry on.

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