Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Hollywood's dark secret

Did you ever want to be an action movie star when you were a kid? If you said "no", chances are that you're either a woman or a liar. I'm kidding. Maybe you're just a wuss. Oops, just kidding again. Still, many young boys look up to the action heroes of their youth, and why not? According to Hollywood, here's the typical day of an action hero:

1) Wake up, ready to go save the world (no shower or bathroom trip necessary)
2) Get in sports car and tear down the street at incredible speed.
3) Report to pentagon/secret hideout/cover job.
4) Talk back to boss/caretaker/commanding officer, because you're just cool that way, and they need your awesomeness so much they'd never fire you.
5) Go save the world, without sweating or breathing heavily. While you're at it, you save an incredibly attractive woman too. She's very appreciative.
6) Take the rest of the day off to grimace, raise eyebrows, and walk in slow motion to the beat of a thumping soundtrack.

You would think that the average Joe would never have a chance of becoming an action hero in the movies, right? Well, after months of tedious research, I have finally found the secret to breaking into the role of your dreams. You'll never believe what it is. Are you ready for it? Okay, it's..... breakdancing. Yep, breakdancing, the sweet 1980s craze marked by bad music, worse clothing, and semi-gymnastic moves preferrably performed on top of a collapsed cardboard box. It usually looks a little something like this:

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What does this have to do with movie stars? Well, it just so happens that two of the biggest action heroes of the last 15 years -- Jean-Claude Van Damme and Vin Diesel -- both started out their film careers with breakdancing. JCVD was first seen in a cameo in the opening scene of "Breakin'" in 1984. Granted, he was only in the movie for about three seconds, but even then you could tell he was something special. After all, how many guys can pull off the "solid black leotard with white socks and black shoes" look, even in the 80s? See link below for proof of his fledgling hero incredibiliciosity (hold the "Shift" key while clicking on the link if you want to open up a new page):

JCVD cameo in "Breakin'"

Vin Diesel, though, has admittedly been a bigger star thus far, and with more range to boot. He's done drama (Saving Private Ryan, A Man Apart), explosive action (XXX, Pitch Black) and even comedy (The Pacifier). Even at a young age, you could tell Diesel was going to go higher and farther than JCVD. While the "muscles from Brussels" had his breakdancing cameo, Vin Diesel actually made an instructional video on how to breakdance. Below is a link to proof (it's a video file, so it may take a while to load).

Vin Diesel's instructional video

This is all such an encouragement for guys like me. All this time I thought that Hollywood was out of reach due to my lithe frame, freckles and imperfect cheekbones. But I can do the helicopter, the backspin and the kip-up, all while wearing parachute pants and a headband. And apparently that's exactly what it takes to become an action hero. Look for me in "The Analyst", coming never to a theater nowhere near you.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Prayers of children

Samantha has just turned three years old, and for nearly a year she has been trying to say prayers all by herself. Sometimes she says things we can understand, sometimes not, but it's always cute. And I'd bet that God likes it too.

Here's a sample of some things she's said in recent prayers:
"Thank you for..."
-Jackie-boy (her nickname for younger brother Jack)
-Mommy and Daddy
-Grandparents and granddaughters (that would be her)
-Jesus saving us from our sins
-Stabetti (translation: spaghetti)
-Suns and rainbows
-Fruit punch

My parents didn't raise any girls, as my brother and I made it a fairly testosterone-laden household. So you can imagine how special it was for them to have this beautiful red-haired, curly-haired grandaughter. Earlier this year Samantha went shopping with her RoRo (grandmother's nickname), and when she got home my dad asked her how the trip was. Samantha said, "PawPaw, I LOVE the mall!". My dad looked at her, melted, and said, "Okay, I'll buy it for you." He didn't care that he didn't have $28 million spare money, and couldn't actually buy the mall at that moment. She asked for it, and she was gonna get it, period.

Up to this point, luckily Samantha's prayers have focused on her thankfulness. Yet eventually she's going to start asking for stuff when she prays. And we'll see if God can resist her charms more successfully than my dad did. If not, it's going to be awkard explaining to people why dolls and ponies keep appearing on our doorstep, and why we just took an unplanned trip to Mars.

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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The 2,099 word post

Pictures are worth 1,000 words, right? So here's a super-long essay about how wonderful it was to have a few days off during Thanksgiving.

Samantha and her uncle (my wife's brother) at the butterfly museum. She wasn't totally sure if it was safe:

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Jack and Gabriel sleeping together in the pack-n-play. Jack only played with his toys for a few minutes, then decided to take a little break. Gabriel has made it his life's mission to sleep in every possible place at least once (my brother had a similar mission for visiting every restaurant bathroom, but that's another story):

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Thursday, December 01, 2005

L'eggo my Ego, Part 2: The Vicious Cycle

Alright, last time I wrote about the beautiful, exciting virtuous cycle that happens in a marriage when a husband loves his wife, and she gives him respect. Unfortunately, there's an antithesis to this: the vicious cycle.

Perhaps I'll start with a question. Husbands, if your wife was nagging you, belittling you, or failing to give you the sense that she respected you as a man, what would be your response?

A) Lash out at her
B) Sit and talk about it with her
C) Withdraw from her
D) Other

Husbands, I don't know what you answered, and at some time we've done all of the above, but I would bet that most wives reading this say that answer "C" sounds all too familiar. Men generally aren't known as the best communicators, but we're well known as creatures who can sit in a chair, oblivious to the world around us. Well, maybe not oblivious to the football game or the computer screen, but we sure aren't listening to any actual human voices in the room.

This is our safety net, and I must admit it is my natural tendency at times. When I'm feeling hurt, ignored, or unappreciated, I withdraw from Jamie. It's safe, it's easy, and it's a lot more pleasant than actually facing up to whatever is going on. She has had to remind me many times that when I feel this way, I should tell her.

Women, what do you feel when your husband has withdrawn from you? When he gives the TV, the laptop or the office all of his energy? When he walks into the room, do you want to greet him with a smile and kind words? How hard is it to respect a man who doesn't put the effort into this relationship, and doesn't seem concerned about how you are doing?

I'm not a woman, but I've been told it's awfully hard to respect a man like that. And if she doesn't respect him, he'll notice. And probably withdraw. Which makes it harder for her. And the vicious cycle continues.

Marriage is not a car -- there is not a "neutral" gear. Most of the time, we're either going to be in the virtuous cycle or the vicious cycle. And if you're in the vicious cycle, then one of the spouses has to take the first step and reach out to the other. A wife decides to respect and appreciate the man who's been distant and cold. A husband decides to reach out in love to the woman who's been nagging and insulting him. It's strange, it's extremely difficult, and it's not the type of behavior you'll see taught by most marriage books or Dr. Phil. But it's the only way a couple has a chance of turning the vicious cycle into a virtuous one. Someone has to make the first move. Even if he/she doesn't have reason to expect anything in return. That whole "agape" love thing can be a real drag sometimes, can't it?