Being a Man

“Have you wondered about what it means to be free in the face of your responsibilities as a man?  Have you chafed under the assumption that men are supposed to know everything?  Have you felt the pressures of meeting the expectations of females in your world?”  If so, the seventies called.  They want their hair back.

(Anyone else think he looks like he's giving her a great deal on a low mileage sedan?

Anyone else think he looks like he’s giving her a great deal on a low mileage sedan?

I am led to believe that the man of dubious grooming is one J. Kilgore.  Who, you might ask, is J. Kilgore?  Damned if I know, I reply, but I found two of his books on a table of free stuff.  The opening quote is from the back cover of Being a Man in a Woman’s World.

I’m waiting for the For Dummies version…or is that an oxymoron?

I’m waiting for the For Dummies version…or is that an oxymoron?

Given that I loathe most organized sports, am ambivalent towards automobiles, rely on my wife to kill spiders, and (most importantly) majored in English, it can be safely assumed that I need all the help “Being a Man” that I can get.

So do you even have go to the barber, or is that hair injection molded?

So do you even have go to the barber, or is that hair injection molded?

And, let me reiterate, the book was free.  I feel this is important to note.  That done, and so long as Kilgore’s tent revival hair isn’t contagious, I’m willing to give this a go.

Employing my usual “open the book at random and take things wildly out of context” strategy, I immediately turned to page twenty-seven where six bolded words asked, “What Kind of Man Are You?”  Intrigued, and a little intimidated, I read on: “If you find yourself uneasy, shy, and reserved, probably you will develop a ‘cowboy’ stance in life.  You may engage in heroic feats and enjoy your ‘silent strength.’  However, your loneliness in relationships will remain.  Very often your ‘bashfulness’ can be a manipulative way of getting attention from women.  You may have mastered, knowingly or unwittingly, the art of using your silent strength to turn on the admiration of women.  The maternal juices of many women flow strongly towards the shy and introverted man.”

Ignoring the obvious problems with that paragraph – namely, everything – I find Mr. Kilgore leaves me with one particularly burning question.  Specifically, what the hell is a “cowboy stance”?  I imagine it involves my feet extending out beyond my shoulders and my right hand hovering over my shooting iron, either because I’m getting ready to draw on Black Bart or because I’m saddle sore and in dire need of Preparation H.  As for the rest of it, I’m not certain I can recall the last time I’ve managed to manipulate someone with the raw power of my timidity – though I suppose it is possible that I simply didn’t understand the power of my silent strength at the time.  Ladies, let me take this opportunity to apologize…provided you promise not to hit me.  On a similar note, and from my fetal position here on the floor, I hope you won’t take offense when I ask that you kindly keep your maternal juices to yourself.  They don’t sound particularly hygienic, and this is my last clean shirt.

Did the Jedi Council break into focus groups or what?

Did the Jedi Council break into focus groups or what?

Not ten pages after the brilliant expose on what sort of man I am – i.e., highly defective – I encountered another bold subheading entitled “True Maturity.”  Since I’ve spent the last ten minutes, in adolescent fashion, questioning Kilgore’s gel/hair ratio, I figured the least I could do was give him an opportunity to give me a literary kick in the teeth.  Thus, I resumed reading.  “The greatest gift an adult woman has given to me as an adult man is the rediscovery of my ‘inner child.’ My wife is the ‘eternal child’ – ever fascinated with little accomplishments and always thrilled by the smallest of gifts.”  Uh…huh.  I’m not entirely certain what would happen were I to write the two previous sentences in regards to my own wife and publish them.  At the very least, I suspect it would preclude any need on my part to write a sequel.  Unless, of course, I didn’t object to it being published posthumously.

invisible kitteh

Deciding I shall always lack “True Maturity,” I continue leafing forward.  From page thirty-five, I make it to page thirty-one where I am presented with what promises to be the greatest chapter ever written.  Describing it with mere words will not suffice, as no one would ever believe me.  A picture must be employed.

BOY ARE THEY...oh…sorry, dear.

BOY ARE THEY…oh…sorry, dear.

I…I don’t even know where to begin.  Fate, working through J. Kilgore and his hair, has conspired to provide me with the ultimate comedic set-up.  But now that it’s here, I don’t know where to go with it.  Opportunity, far from merely knocking, has barged in, drunk all the wine, and passed out on my sofa, but the only thing I can think to do is wait for it to sober up and leave.

Enough.  Forty-one pages in is where we shall end our voyage of self-discovery.  This is purely for my own protection.  I’m starting to get this strange urge to watch NASCAR while crushing beer cans on my forehead.  If I don’t go read some Jane Austen stat, I’m going to end up in Lambeau Field when it’s forty below wearing nothing but green and yellow paint and a giant piece of Styrofoam cheese on my head.  In short, I’m not sure I’m ready to “Be A Man.”

Is...that the Fonz?

Is…that the Fonz?

Advertisements

Emily Post Part III: The Taming of the Chauffeur

Allow us to return, for a fleeting moment, to a more genteel era: When mustachioed butlers were burned at the stake of public ridicule (Emily Post Part I).  When the color of a footman’s livery was not generally described as “cirrhosis” (Emily Post Part II).  When one minded one’s Ps and Qs rather than burped them.  Yes, dear gentlefolk, it is time once more to allow Mrs. Emily Post to conduct us to that bygone era via her 1942 Blue Book of etiquette.  In this chapter, we learn how to attempt domestication of the most elusive, feral servant breed of all – the savage chauffeur.

First off, how can the chauffeur be discerned from other servant species?  Mrs. Post helpfully distinguishes their behavioral tendencies, “The position of the chauffeur differs from that of the other servants in two respects.  The first is that he has no regular days out.”

(This accounts for the particularly dour, loathing, hostile tendencies of chauffeurs throughout the world.  The real mark of a great lady of the house is channeling this burning, homicidal rage into efficient, obsessive car polishing.)

The chauffeur’s habitat also sets the breed apart: “Second, he usually finds (and pays for) his own board and lodging.”

(This accounts for all those fellows with signs standing outside Wal-Mart advertising their requests rather than walking inside said department store to procure a job application.  Having already procured a position, they must at least pretend they do not chug Jim Beam and slumber in their masters’ cars while off duty.)

As to the chauffeur’s eating habits: “Sometimes a single man eats with the servants in the kitchen, but this is not usual.”

This is not usual, as chauffeurs are social creatures who gather for communal readings of Motor Trend magazine and feast in large packs on the flesh of puppies and virgins.  If maintained singly in captivity, the chauffeur should be confined to the outdoors and held in check by chains applied to the hands and feet, taking care that the chains coordinate with the livery of the outside footmen.

Though with that said, let it never be uttered that Mrs. Post is heartless: “Sometimes, too, there may be a room over the garage or perhaps a whole apartment – especially above a garage that has been converted from a stable – in which he and his family may live.”

We say “especially above a garage that has been converted from a stable” since it reminds the chauffeur and his genetic derivatives of the level of esteem in which they are held by the lady and gentleman of the house.  Specifically, it is the level of esteem that is shared only with the dung of the master’s and mistress’s late horses.  Remember the golden rule of the well-appointed house: An ounce of bourgeoisie suppression is worth a pound of proletariat uprising.

(There is presently a spirited disagreement among the well-to-do as to whether the chauffer should be taught to read.  On the one hand, it will not do for a menial servant to start getting ideas in his little head – ideas like “minimum wage” and “women’s suffrage.”  But on the other hand, while there is little difference between a Rolls Royce and the U.S.S. Monitor, it’s considered poor form to batter one’s way through a four-way stop because the chauffer hasn’t the foggiest idea what the red hexagon is trying to convey.)

The Red October of automobiles

Mrs. Post continues, “His duties are irregular, sometimes extremely so.  In a large family, particularly where there are half-grown or grown daughters, a chauffeur’s life can be inhumanly strenuous.”

The footman bet the butler five bucks that the chauffeur is one late night pick-up of the grown daughter from parking that Rolls on her foot.

Of course, “certain humane as well as very rich employers have two chauffeurs who drive in alternate shifts.”

But the majority of good society knows that this practice is very silly indeed, as it implies chauffeurs are real people.  Though, perhaps there is some value to it in the ability to take one chauffeur out back and humanely dispose of him should his performance not be up to par.  For example, if he forgets the following:

“No chauffer ever carries a robe on his arm as a footman does when waiting at the door for his employer.  Properly, the lap robe is laid in deep full-length folds on the far side of the seat.  As soon as the occupants have taken their places the chauffeur reaches across and, holding the edge of the fold, draws it toward him across their laps.”

Wait…you can pay someone to do that?

Never trust a man who can slam off your head in a car door. Repeatedly.

The Divine Tragedy

There are several ways to know that a movie is going to be bad.  Here are a few:

  1. If it’s anime
  2. If it’s billed as a “companion” to a video game
  3. If it’s based on the first part of Dante’s Divine Comedy, more commonly referred to as The Inferno
  4. Or if (God forbid) all of the above are true, as in this case, they are.

You know it’s coming, so here it is – your review of the 2007 anime production, Dante’s Inferno.

Your !@$# is in the public domain, so suck it, Alighieri!

As one undoubtedly cringes to imagine, in Dante’s Inferno, the author Dante is reinvented as a Crusader and thrust into the role of protagonist in a bit of artistic license as subtle and classy as a sumo wrestler clubbing a baby seal.  Before we’ve even entered hell proper, the movie takes bold and immediate steps to establish that our bastardized protagonist is incapable of interpersonal relationships, even with demonic entities, and undoubtedly needs years – nay, decades – of intense, inpatient therapy.

Take, for example, his interactions with Charon the Ferryman, whom the animators felt inclined to anthropomorphize into the figurehead of a bizarre barge.  Don’t ask me why or why they felt an entire barge was necessary.  Apparently, the “Congratulations, you’re damned!” cruise has grown inordinately popular.  Regardless, Charon has no arms, no legs, and no capacity to do much of anything save transport the souls of the miserable from point A to point B while making cryptic pronouncements.  Still, for pointing out that Dante was still living and, as a result, really not the sort of clientele the underworld was aiming for, our hero bravely jams his weapon into Charon’s skull, thereby slaying an oversized sentient canoe with no ability to defend itself.

The church bell chimed ’til it rang twenty-nine times for each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald.

This is to become a recurrent theme throughout the feature.  Dante encounters an overworked, underpaid member of Gehenna and, regardless of whether they attempt to actively impede him or not, waves sharp implements at them in a generally hostile fashion until another help wanted sign appears in the windows of hell.  By the end of the movie, Charon, Minos, and Cerberus are all pushing up the daisies, and that’s just to name a few.  If nothing else, one must admit it raises the interesting theological question of what hell does when it’s short staffed.  Close for a day?  Bring in some temps?  Outsource?  Clearly, synergies need to be leveraged.  Maybe they could merge a circle or two to cut costs?  Just throwing out ideas here.

Speaking of throwing out ideas, Dante hasn’t rampaged through too many realms of eternal torment before something becomes abundantly clear: namely that several of the animators slept through the part of the meeting where it was discussed how they would be drawing Virgil’s hair.  Literally on a scene-by-scene basis, his ‘do goes from appearing as though it was hewn from solid granite to the “stuck my tongue in the socket” anime staple to the “Hey!  Is that Obi-Wan Kenobi?” special.

Great. Of all the guides I could have ended up with, I get Virgil Sassoon.

Dante himself takes this in stride – likely because the animators cannot come to a consensus about what exactly he is or is not wearing in terms of armor.  For much of the movie, he’s sporting a sort of Hell Boy metal armguard…except when he’s naked from the chest up…or when he’s back in his full Templar regalia.  No wonder Virgil seems impatient at points – Dante can walk by anything except a dressing room.

Next time, guys, how about a little more CCing on those style e-mails?

Beatrice, author Dante’s paragon of womanhood, was also dragged into the hell that is this film, both figuratively and literally, but the animators were a little more united as to the nature of her apparel.  Specifically, they were in agreement it should fall off – as often as possible and for no reason other than drawing attention away from how awful the rest of the movie is.  Sort of deus ex cleavage, if you will.

At this point, we’ve covered more or less all the principal players in this lovely crap-daptation with the exception of Dante himself who, I’m proud to say, is portrayed one-hundred percent authentically.  He’s a Crusader sent to liberate the Holy Land who, over the course of the movie, knocks up his fiancée, cheats on her, starves innumerable prisoners, slaughters them all, lets someone else take the blame for it, denies everything to his fiancée while she’s on her death bed, and…  Alright.  Seriously, people.  Who put this together, and have they been subjected to a less-than-random drug test?

Still more inexplicably (if that’s possible), after going through the trouble to establish Dante as a lying, prideful, mass-murdering, adulterous womanizer, the movie assigns to him the power to brandish a ginormous crucifix (that he can somehow touch without being obliterated by a freak lightning storm) and release souls from hell pretty much on a whim.  When he does so, comments tend to be made about said soul being unjustly condemned.

Wait.

What?

Most major religions would have me believe that the pearly gates have some sort of quality control.  How the !@#$ are we explaining this?  “Oh dang – Dante found another one that wasn’t supposed to be there.  Wow…you know…sorry about all those years of unending torment and whatnot.  We were reorganizing the department and, you know, Phil told me he had the paperwork, but it must have gotten lost and…yeah…  So!  Now that we have that cleared up, here are your wings!  There’s St. Peter!  Have fun!”  It’s enough to make hell, even badly short staffed, look like a bastion of efficiency.

In the spirit of efficiency and finishing this article in less time than the movie, let’s just cut to the end.  Eventually Beatrice, in a completely logical and believable plot development, becomes the bride of Satan.  I am not kidding.  Luckily for us, Dante, problem solver that he is, opts to forgo his usual stabbity-stabbity response to this development and instead brandishes his comically large wrought iron cross, which magically turns Beatrice from an almost naked demonic entity to a completely naked spiritual entity.  (If I had to assign a soundtrack to this scene, I’m pretty sure it’d be Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride,” but I digress.)  Hovering there buck naked, the movie finally realizes that Beatrice, like an old oil derrick, has been completely exploited, and so an angel descends to cover her with its wings (marking the first scene she hasn’t done entirely in the buff) and carry her to heaven.  Hopefully, it does so by way of an Old Navy so the woman can buy a pair of pants.

Sheesh, put on some pants.

This, of course, leaves Dante to descend to the final circle and confront Satan, who revels this was all part of his plan to invade purgatory and, by extension, heaven.  Since, you know, that worked so well for him the first time.  Long story short, they meet, and Dante screams at him for awhile, the usual stabbity-stabbity occurs, Dante ostensibly repents – five seconds of prayer atoning for his years spent as a philandering psychopath, God intervenes, Lucifer is trapped, Dante enters purgatory, the HR department for said realm starts getting a bit fidgety, and…the movie tries to set itself up for a sequel.  God forbid.  No pun intended.