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"Nice Guys" and finishing last

For ages now, my Twitter bio blurb has described me as, among other things, a "convicted nice guy." What I mean by that is that other people tend to describe me as nice, and I guess I generally agree with them.

Notice I didn't say "thoughtful," but "nice." I'm a lousy gift-giver. But I am agreeable. I avoid conflict. I don't gossip or judge people. I try to be very difficult to hate.

That's all.

But I can't look at the phrase "nice guy" anymore without seeing all the gender wars connotations. As such, I want to say the following to all the "Nice Guys" out there who complain about being confined to the "friend zone":

Nice guys really do finish last more often. It's true. Because nice guys people put other people's interests ahead of their own, and sometimes it's to their own detriment.

See, that's the very thing that makes an act nice: it's not self-serving. It's called sacrifice. We put ourselves in that position by choice. How can you complain about a choice you made to be kind to someone? If you think your kind act isn't worthwhile unless you get a specific reaction, then guess what? It wasn't ever chivalrous to begin with. Nice people understand that kindness is its own reward.

Anyway, I'm now changing my bio blurb from "guy" to "person," lest anyone get the wrong idea about what I mean. That's better anyway.

Open Mic experience

There's a venue just a couple of miles from our house, it bills itself as a "listening room," meaning that it's a bit more theater than bar. You're expected to keep conversation and noise down during the performance. It's super intimate and a wonderful place to see live music.

Nearly every Monday they have a Songwriter's Open Mic night, where upwards of 20 acts take the stage for a couple of songs each. It's a smorgasbord of original music. Folks come from all around, and almost all of them are really good. I've signed up and performed there with my uke, three times so far.

It's positively nerve-wracking. I'm hoping to get better at handling that, but so far I haven't noticed any improvement. My heart starts pounding a couple of acts before I go on. I get through just by focusing tightly on what I'm doing. I play my songs and feel grateful for the opportunity, and even though I invariably feel like I'm not even in the same league as the other performers, it's a thrill.

Once a month is about as often as I can manage to do it, and that's what I've been doing, hoping to blitz my nerves and get more confident. But I may slow the pace a little now. This last time I felt like I rushed one of the songs into performance before it was really ready, and it made the whole thing much harder. Ah well, I'm learning.

This last time, my mom was in town so she got to come. Lydia got to come too, even though it was was a school night—the daylight savings time change worked in her favor. Laura came out to the first one I did, and different friends from the neighborhood have made it out each time too. I think it definitely helps to know they're out there rooting for me, even if it also feels like a little more pressure than playing for people I may never see again. Lydia in particular is an amazing fan to have. I'm one lucky daddy.

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Second Verse, Same as the First

They say that the definition of insanity is repeating the same behavior but expecting different results. By that definition I was completely insane this morning.

Being Riley's parent means having a lot of canned conversations. It doesn't matter how many mornings I provide a full explanation of the reasons why he does in fact need to get dressed for school on schedule (as opposed to when- or if-ever the whim strikes him), he will try to have the very same argument again the next time he'd rather keep playing in his pajamas.

There are some conversations I'm so sick of repeating that they frustrate me in advance. One of these happens whenever I need him to lend his car booster seat for a smaller child. And we had to do that this morning—when we were already running behind schedule and I'm already feeling frustrated because everything's taking too long. When he started in with his fully predictable surly response, I only had enough patience to respond to him with calm reason one time. Once is not enough, and so as his usual protocol dictates, he repeated himself slightly surlier. And that's when I switched over to shouting.

There's no good time to lose it at your kids, but there's probably no worse time than on the way to school. Way to start their day, hero. (And mine!)

I didn't deviate from the next line of the same old script, I just shouted it at him. Then I told him "I'm sorry I shouted. I was feeling frustrated."

He replied with "Of course you are."

I should have left that alone. But instead I said "Oh, so you're telling me that's predictable? When could you tell that I was about to get frustrated? Was it when you raised your voice complaining to me, is that what you expected to frustrate me?"

That's when I realized that my expectations had been unreasonable. I expected him to be gracious, or to come to acceptance, faster than usual, in direct contradiction of data from all the times we've already had the same conversation.

I have a really hard time reconciling this. I want to believe he's capable of learning more empathy and being more cooperative. Believing he'll always respond the same feels like I'm lowering my expectations and kind of giving up on him. But I really wasn't being fair.


I try to maintain an absolute minimum of phone apps in general, and LJ's android app has more bad reviews than good, but I'm giving it a chance. I'm hardly at the computer anymore, so making it easier to post from my phone should help me update more.

 

I'm off to run. Doing a 5k this weekend with Riley, that'll be interesting. I hope he doesn't manage to lose me in the crowd.

Timerider movie poster
Time travel makes even motorcycle movies more awesome.
Time travel is an opiate of mine. And so it came to pass that I watched a movie called Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann on Netflix streaming. It was made in 1982, and the movie itself is a bit of a time machine. Powered by cheese.

I learned from the opening credits that it was co-written and scored by Michael Nezmith. Cool, I thought, I wonder if I'll see any influence from The Monkees. Then: OW, MY FRAMERATE. This opening motorcycle action sequence was shot in seizure-vision. Wait, now he's off the bike, why is it still strobing at me??!? Was it just a problem with the video stream? It went on this way for almost the entire movie. Somewhere near the end I noticed it had been fixed, but I didn't notice when it happened.

There's some good acting going on behind all the dated production. The opening scenes are a slow start by today's standards—lots of motorcycle footage, peppered with a bit of cheesy dialogue characterizing the protagonist—but stick with it, it gets much better. The score includes some fun synth rock and also acoustic Western stuff that's proven more timeless.

[Temporal prime directive! Spoilers here.]I really enjoyed the way that the time travel wasn't obvious, how he spent most of the movie not knowing it had happened, choosing simpler explanations instead. This freed the story a bit, kept it from getting bogged down with explanations. And it was refreshing to see a protagonist that didn't feel the need to cower at the threat of causality paradoxes.

Near the end I got a little less forgiving of plot holes. "Here we are on horseback, chasing people. Looks like they're having some trouble, and will now be pulling the motorcycle with a horse. Let's all dismount so we can slow down."

I don't know if I was supposed to feel clever for seeing the necklace thing coming, but it was really like being hit over the head with a neon road sign. And then of course I have to spend some time in the mindblow quagmire of WHO MADE THE NECKLACE? And then eventually it will be so worn down as to fall apart. Then they'll have to re-make it, or replace it. That must happen between 1875 and 1982. And if it does, does that mean it has to break and be replaced every time it passes through the loop? Et cetera.


Bottom line: Fun flick, even if you find some of the production deserves the MST3K treatment. Also got me thinking how it might be different if it were rebooted today.
I really need to post here more when stuff isn't necessarily going so wrong. So let's see, what's been up lately...

Christmas was maybe our best yet with the kids. They let us sleep until about 6:40, and we suspect Riley was up before 5:00. That level of restraint and patience is the best gift they could give me. And they didn't even eat all of their stocking candy while they were waiting. I got a whole bunch of shirts, a nonstick skillet, and a pancake pen. And then the kids got me a new electric shaver at my request (which I feel especially obliged to mention because I seem to talk inordinately about shaving in here. Seriously, I should probably add a tag).

I've joined a friend's biweekly tabletop RPG. We're playing Necessary Evil. I'm still learning the ins and outs of the Savage Worlds system, but it's been pretty fun so far. It ain't City of Heroes, but it helps.

Songwriting has been a bit stalled lately, but I'm hoping I can push a bit harder now that the holiday rush is winding down. I'm considering it a New Year's resolution to write at least six more songs, and play out at least twice (not counting the Community Circle at my kids' school, awesome though that remains).

Secret Identity Crisis

There's a part of me in Paragon City, a part that most people don't know. What's killing me today is realizing that they never will. I have to give up hope that someday I'll get to bond with my kids over a supergroup concept that we then get to see in action. Or that I'll ever manage to convince my wife that the game has merits.

I haven't even told her yet about the November 30 shutdown. It's been a bit of a wedge in our marriage, to be brutally honest. She's never approved of it; I'd even say she thinks less of me for playing it. And so I just never talk about it with her at all. To tell her it's ending would just bring that difference between us into sharp focus. She doesn't understand it, and has never really wanted to try; now she'd have even less reason to. And I expect she would react with thinly veiled satisfaction, which I would resent. (In fact I probably already am, unfairly enough.) So for now, I'm just not explaining (to anyone in meatspace, really) why I've been more sullen and/or easily frustrated lately.

AAAnyway. The post linked below really crystallizes why I'm so upset about the killing of City of Heroes. There is nothing out there that can fill the space it will leave behind.

On the End of a World: http://markovia.com/?p=75
Each Friday my kids' elementary school has what they call Community Circle, in which the whole student body assembles to sing songs, and to recognize accomplishments and other good behavior from the students. It's super adorable. Even just being there would be a high point of my week by itself—but I also get to bring my accordion and play along on the songs. I've been doing this when possible for the past year and a half.

It's been a really great experience for me: I get to play accordion alongside other musicians, in a very casual and totally nonjudgmental context, with an enthusiastic audience. Everyone around here knows I love doing it, but really, they don't know the half of it.

So I wrote a little song for Community Circle. It's called "Gather Up, My Friends," and it's just basically about what Community Circle is. It's short and sweet; I tried to keep it relatively easy to remember. I liked it well enough to share it with the music teacher and other parent musicians, and they all liked it well enough that it's in our standard repertoire now. And today we all sang it together, with the kids, for the first time.

Oh man. What an incredible feeling! I'm getting a little choked up even now, thinking about all those voices singing along with me on it. There's nothing else like it. I will never forget today.

Here's the phone demo I made just to teach the song to the other musicians there: [Gather Up, My Friends] It's just me on the uke and singing. But this pales in comparison to the full sound from today. I really need to get a recording of that eventually, if they'll let me.

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Oh I don't know, you must be thinking of some other band THAT SENT ME MY [redacted]

True Heroism

I saw this over on Facebook, and felt kind of sad:


I am definitely a hero to my son, arguably the most dedicated he'll ever have. But he's never really been the Jimmy Olsen to my Superman; he's the J. Jonah Jameson to my Spider-Man. Some days I'm not sure I'll ever see him show me the common courtesy he'd show a stranger, to say nothing of actual respect. But I'm not going to stop. And that's heroic, even if he never recognizes it.

But then there's the second part of the inscription, which is actually true and heartwarming. My daughter has mentioned wanting to marry me a couple of times in the past (though it's been a while; she learned and accepted the impossibility just fine). She's got a healthy love for both of her parents. Her faith in me inspires me to live up to it.