Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Big Think - Carol Gilligan on the Psychological Differences between Men and Women

Carol Gilligan expanded Lawrence Kohlberg's moral development hierarchy to include women, who have a slightly different sense of morality than do men, based more in communion than in agency. This is "Carol Gilligan on the emotional voice you never hear," from The Big Think.

I'm not convince that only women can speak from the emotional voice, maybe once, but that seems to be a generalization, not an absolute truth.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Tripp Lanier - Group Coaching Offer

Maybe of interest? Check him out - seems we all good could use a little coaching now and then.

Group Coaching Offer

Hello Friends and New Man listeners.

Many of you are struggling with certain areas of your life:
  • Finances
  • Relationships
  • Career Concerns
  • Life Purpose
  • An general concern about what the hell you’re doing with your life
Regarding the list above, I receive many inquiries about one-on-one coaching; however, the price for one-on-one sessions is usually too expensive for some of you.

I’m creating an alternative that utilizes the power of working with a group.

For a much lower price, you can participate in a weekly coaching group call with five other participants. Each week, you will receive one-on-one coaching with me while also benefiting by listening to the other participants’ coaching and challenges.

The cost? $99 for four weekly meetings. I will be raising the price for the next group to $150 per month.

Here’s the nitty gritty:
  • Each call is roughly 1.5 hours
  • 6 participants per call
  • Each participant gets at least 10 minutes of time completely focused on him
  • Calls will be the same day/time each week (most likely in the evening)
  • Before each call, you’ll fill out a prep form to help you get the most from each call
  • Each week you’ll be given challenges and the group will hold you accountable
  • This is active coaching -- not a spectator sport
  • $99 for four weekly calls (less than $25 per coaching session)
In my experience, nothing has created more positive change than participating in these types of groups. Everything is up for discussion -- relationships, career, life direction, financial challenges, etc.

If you’re a guy who knows he needs to start making some positive changes, imagine where you could be in just 4 weeks with this kind of focus and support.

If you or anyone you know would like to learn more about group coaching,
please click here and fill out the application.

I look forward to hearing from you,

Thursday, February 26, 2009

George Will - "When did men start hugging?"

Sometimes the best way to get a point across is with humor, especially satirical humor. Jesus' General is one of the best sites around for that kind of humor - he was doing the post-modern meta-satire long before Stephen Colbert became famous for his work.

Here is takes on George Will's comments after Obama's State of the Union Address about men hugging. These are Will's comments:

Here is the letter to Will from Jesus' General:

Men touching men

George Will
Washington Post

Dear Mr. Will,

A lot has been said about the question you posed after last night's Obama speech. Most of the commentary has been negative, but I thought it was a great question, "When did men start hugging?"

It seems to be a fairly recent phenomenon, and, like you, I'm not very happy with it. What ever happened to the days when men expressed respect for each other with a quick pat on the butt? You don't see that much anymore these days except in sports.

Even rarer is the custom of taking another man's testicles into your hand as you each swear an oath. It was big in biblical times. I rather like that custom, and wish it would come back. It adds gravity to oath taking; it bestows the act with deeper meaning. I think a lot of men would take voting more seriously if they had to swear the oath while some guy was holding their grenades. It just means more than checking a box next to some text on a form.

But now days, it seems that scrotal cradling has been replaced by hugging. And as I wrote above, I share your distaste for it. I felt very uncomfortable as I watched Obama and Coburn embrace. I just couldn't help but imagine them naked, and I wondered if the president might not swing the senator around right there and give him a righteous rogering. Thinking about that led to other thoughts and then to certain acts of which I'm too ashamed to admit here--let's just say I have some repenting and atoning to do, and I'll be making a trip to Seattle soon to see that guy who punishes men for money. You know what I mean. I'm sure you felt the same way.

Heterosexually yours,

Gen. JC Christian, patriot

I like this - it's a great, over-the-top satire of the stupidity of Will's comments.

What the hell is wrong with men hugging each other? Is doing so a sign of secret gay desire? Bullshit. Only a man secure in his masculinity would hug another man these days - those not so secure, like Will, would be too afraid of being thought gay, as if that is such a horrible thing.

Men not only used to hug each other all the time, they used to not even question the masculinity of doing so. This changed a little more than a hundred years ago, and it's a shame we are so uncomfortable with affection. I think it even impacts how we raise our sons, and that really horrible.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

New Man Episode 51: Brian Johnson: Pt2 - Do You Have the Balls to Live the Life of Your Dreams?

Part two of the excellent New Man interview with Brian Johnson.

Episode 51: Brian Johnson: Pt2 Do You Have the Balls to Live the Life of Your Dreams?

Listen Now
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Do you feel a moral obligation to live your greatest possible life?

If you are like us you are tired, and you have bills to pay...but is that all there is in store for us?

Brian Johnson won't stand for anything less that the greatest life possible for himself, and he wants to help us get there too.

In part two of our talk with Brian, we talk about his latest project, Philosophers Notes, and how to get inspired and make practical changes in our lives right now.

Listen as Brain tells us how we can learn to step up our game and stop living our lives half-assed.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Making Amends for Past Mistakes

The purpose of this post is to take responsibility for my actions in the past - specifically as a teenager in high school - that may have hurt, humiliated, or intimidated others, and to apologize for my actions or inaction.

But first some context:

Jayson had an interesting post on his blog and an interesting challenge for the Revolutionary Men group at Facebook last week.
This week I challenge you to find an area in your past where you crossed a line with someone. You took advantage of them, wronged them, hurt them, manipulated them, or hurt them in some way.

For example, maybe your bullied someone in Jr. High. Maybe you hurt a girlfriend or boyfriend in an unnecessary way.

Next are 2 steps:

1. Own up to it. Own up to it with yourself first, then with them directly. Ideally, in person or over the phone. Publicly is another way.
2. Make amends and/or apologize

If you need further guidance, read my latest blog post to get the fire lit under you. Here\'s the link:

Lean in to this one people!

In his post, Jayson apologized to the people he hazed in college. Here is some of his admission:

The purpose of this post is to publicly apologize and to own up to three key mistakes I made while I was an undergraduate:

  1. I watched and did nothing as others were hazed, knowing inside that it was wrong.
  2. In turn, I betrayed my own integrity and hazed others. I manipulated, misled, shamed, and verbally and emotionally hurt other men.
  3. When I changed my tune and realized hazing was wrong, I “came out” against hazing in a very unskillful fashion.

In college I took part in hazing other men with the aim of unifying each pledge class and “making” pledges active members of my fraternity. A guy had to “earn” his way in, and dammit, I was going to make it hard for him. After all, I reasoned, I went through it, now he has to go through it too. I think the members achieved the desired outcome of unifying the pledge class, but the means with which we did it were plain wrong.

I had many justifications for my behavior. “It’s not really real.” “I didn’t mean the things I said to him.” “It was just a joke, all BS, just for fun.” “If this guy didn’t go through hell week, he’d still be an arrogant asshole. I put him in his place.” “It made him a man” and many, many other such rationalizations.

I was this guy, but in high school, and much worse.

The purpose of this post is to take responsibility for my actions as a teenager. I abandoned my own sense of right and wrong in order to be "cool," or to fit it, or simply to feel as though I had some power and control in my life. Many of my actions were unconscious, in that I did not realize at the time the harm I was causing, but that is not an excuse.

I am a big proponent of personal responsibility, and I believe that the only way to be a mature man is own my mistakes and make amends whenever possible. So here is my admission:

1. I treated friends badly and with little respect.
2. I used the young women who liked me to feel better about myself, with little concern for their feelings.
3. I wasted four years of my life in a fog of drugs and alcohol that left me insensitive, uncaring, and sometimes just plain mean.
4. I stood by while others were shamed, bullied, or humiliated, even laughed along with the bullies, when I knew what was happening was wrong.

I was a coward and a fool.
In doing these things, I hurt many people, including family and friends - for that I am truly sorry.

In many ways, I have been trying to make amends for these actions ever since I got sober and began to seek out a more compassionate life, so this is the formal apology to all the people I will never be able to contact personally.

I can never really make amends, but I can live a more compassionate and caring life - and that is my goal, both as an individual with my friends, and in my career.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Resisting The Urge: A Guide For Christian Boys

A little humor for a Monday morning - hat tip to Jesus' General for the link.
Eternal purity requires eternal vigilance against the devil's hand. Here are some practical tips to keep you from "playing with your Genesis."

OK, seriously. I was told I would grow hair on my palms, go blind, break it, and God knows what else. Boys are often made to feel ashamed of their bodies, their natural curiosity, and the sex drive that is as natural as breathing. What a load of shit.

I was raised Catholic, and fortunately for me, my father told me to ignore the shit I heard in Church and from the nuns. He never shamed me for taking my sex education into my own hands, so to speak.

My guess is that the fundamentalists, who hate the "sinful" body, are even worse in their sons. But there is nothing sinful about the body, and in fact, the body is our vehicle to salvation, or in Buddhist terms, enlightenment. Without the body and all its energies, we would cease to exist.

My hope is that kids growing up today are not raised with the same sense of shame that my generation was.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Politics of Masculinities: Men in Movements (The Gender Lens)

A new book that sounds interesting, although it may be academic and boring.

Politics of Masculinities: Men in Movements (The Gender Lens)

Binding : Paperback
ProductGroup : Book
Manufacturer : Sage Publications, Inc

List Price: USD $25.00
Lowest Used Price: USD $7.84
Lowest New Price: USD $46.92

Price is accurate as of the date/time indicated. Prices and product availability are subject to change. Any price displayed on the Amazon website at the time of purchase will govern the sale of this product.

Product Description
The profound changes wrought by the feminist movement were by no means restricted to women. In the years since feminism has taken root, the role of men and masculinity has begun to undergo its own redefinition. Michael A. Messner provides a sociological framework to understand the responses of men to the changes, challenges, and crises in the social organization of gender. By examining not only what certain groups of men say about gender but what they do, Messner helps to illuminate the various social movements engaged with the politics of masculinity. Politics of Masculinities is one of the first books in the new Gender Lens series, which will look at the social world through the lens of gender. The mission of the series is to unpack the assumptions about gender that pervade social life, and to examine the centrality of these assumptions to the way we perceive and interpret our world. Politics of Masculinities is an ideal introduction to the discussion of gender roles and masculinity. This book will be of interest to students and professionals involved in gender studies, sociology, and men's studies.

This product is now available from: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. Phone: 800-462-6420 Fax: 800-338-4550 http:\\

Customer Reviews

If you ever buy any men's studies text, this should be it! (2001-07-04)
Messner basically develops a sociological chart for analyzing writings and activism from men's groups. He reviews the literature in this field over the past three decades. This book will help you to understand much about antisexist men, the Million Man March, gay male pornography, and many other topics. This is definitely one of my favorite men's studies text.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Dismissed, Denigrated and Demonized: 'The Decline of Men'

A new book on the "decline" of the American male. Sounds interesting, but as usual, and paraphrasing Mark Twain, I suspect that rumors of masculine decline are highly exaggerated.

From Advertising Age.

Dismissed, Denigrated and Demonized: 'The Decline of Men'

Author Guy Garcia Worries About a World of Man Boys and Self-Absorbed Sissies

Just as modern mothers may be saving us from the bank-born recession, I wondered about the state of men in these calamitous days. To better understand why down is the new up, Ad Age spoke with Guy Garcia, author of "The Decline of Men: How the American Male Is Tuning Out, Giving Up and Flipping Off His Future."

Ad Age: The title is alarming, Guy. Are American men really that much of a mess?

Garcia: You should be alarmed. The story of the decline of men starts before conception. Did you know all human beings start life in the womb as a female? It's only when the Y chromosome triggers the production of testosterone that some of us turn into what we recognize as males. With the number of genes in the Y chromosome dropping and testosterone levels down 17% over the past 20 years, some say men as a "species" are facing extinction. I'm personally hoping that won't happen.

Ad Age: Me too. Extinction is so ... final. What do we know for sure?

Garcia: We do know that men are losing traction in high schools. The same is true in colleges, where 59% of all students are female. Harvard professors tell me male students have lost their drive and ambition, women tell me they can't find a guy who's not a dummy, slacker, cheater or loser. Men of every stripe and part of the country are telling me they feel confused, besieged and worried that they have lost their place in society, that they have lost their bearings as men. They sense the male gender is adrift and increasingly dismissed, denigrated and demonized -- by the media, by women, even by other men. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Ad Age: Well that's a real kick in the Titanic. Sure, women have deservedly made their mark and increased their sphere of influence. But "just the tip of the iceberg"? Really? How much worse could it get for us dumb/slacking/cheating/confused losers?

Garcia: Let's start with the says-it-all title of Maureen Dowd's post-feminist creed, "Are Men Necessary?" The answer, of course, is yes, we are. The reason is that in this great unraveling of gender roles and male identity, one of the casualties has been the nuclear family. Last year, for the first time ever, single people outnumbered married people. More than ever boys are growing up in single-parent homes without fathers who can guide them into adulthood. And we've known for a long time that boys who grow up without strong male role models are more likely to drop out of school, make less money, be more likely to use drugs or get in trouble with the law and, ultimately, end up divorced themselves. It's a downward spiral.

Ad Age: So we're paying a real price for being jerks these past few hundred years?

Garcia: I explain to women that they have a stake in this, too, because the next generation of men is at risk -- these are their sons, daughters' boyfriends, future sons-in-law. So women have a vested interest in what happens next. Also, as bigger consumers of media and most consumer products, women are increasingly setting the social agenda.

Ad Age: It's remarkable that the disaster course you describe hasn't been more widely reported until now. Congratulations on that, and thanks, I think. But what are we guys supposed to do? You've delegated much of the repair work to women; they seem to be more competent than we. But isn't it up to us guys to reverse the vicious cycle?

Garcia: The first step is to begin the conversation. One thing we know is that men do not feel the media is speaking to them. Men all across the country have told me that they are tired of seeing guys in advertising portrayed as preening metrosexuals, cavemen or clueless slackers -- sometimes all at the same time! Parents of both sexes are worried about the message that their young boys and girls are getting about men, about their dads.

Ad Age: So, it's the media's fault again?

Garcia: It goes way beyond that. The industries projected to grow in the next few decades are mostly in the service sector, where communication, collaboration and multitasking rule. At the same time many of the industries that favor the physical and mental attributes of males are shrinking or disappearing. Women in their 20s in the 10 largest U.S. cities already out-earn men of the same age. The trend is pretty clear.

Ad Age: You talk about the "message" that the media portrays, but let's be honest: Men have brought this on themselves. Whether you look at our politicians (Bill Clinton, Governor Spitzer, Senator Toilet Stall), sports heroes (Clemens, O.J., Isaiah) or CEOs (Kenneth Lay, Dennis Kozlowski, Conrad Black), you witness men behaving badly at the highest level. At the other end of the spectrum, guys seem to be feminized, flimsy and fatuous. What do you make of that?

Garcia: Your examples are all symptoms of male decline. Men have been conditioned to be selfish, greedy and aggressive. Infidelity and perfidy are manifestations of insecurity. Society has taught men that it is manly to be competitive, to make as much money as possible, to win at any cost. I would add the war in Iraq and the implosion of Wall Street to the list of troubles that have been brought about by the old-fashioned, swaggering macho approach to politics, economics and life in general. Yet in spite of this -- or partly as a result of it -- other guys have simply given up. They sense that they've lost the high ground (and the future) to women, and they aren't even trying anymore. They've opted out to become jackasses, stoners and slackers. Responsibility is shirked, and adolescence is extended indefinitely.

Ad Age: So men are trapped in their own macho stereotypes, turning into man-boys and self-absorbed sissies?

Garcia: It's very hard to change, not to mention that guys don't like to talk about their problems. Denial, I have been told, is a river in Egypt. But it also is a way to pretend everything is fine in spite of the facts. Still, when the pain factor gets high enough we actually are capable of adjusting our assumptions and behaviors. The first step is admitting that there's an issue that need to be addressed.

Ad Age: Speaking of addresses, isn't Barack Obama a new kind of man?

Garcia: Does his tendency toward negotiation over aggression, communication over silence and compassion over ruthless ambition point the way to a more humane and sustainable form of masculinity? So far, the answer is yes. Most Americans, male and female, have accepted him as the new model for the world's most powerful man -- and, by implication, all men. That is a big change, and a reason for hope.

Ad Age: Outside of the White House, what "new kind of man" might we see emerge?

Garcia: The new kind of man will take many shapes and forms. That's what's new about him. We know that the old, rigid definitions of manliness are outdated and dysfunctional. Men can no longer hammer women -- or the world, or each other -- into submission without ramifications. That game is over. It's time for us to resurrect the masculine virtues that are much older than modern society: compassion, generosity, loyalty, modesty, humility, farsightedness, curiosity and patience.

Ad Age: What are those?

Garcia: That's the point. These words barely appear in our vocabulary anymore. There's one more: courage, as in the courage to change; the courage to be different and not apologize for it; the courage to care about a stranger or cause that does not directly benefit you. And don't forget the courage to frankly admit and talk about the decline of men.

Ad Age: So the audacity of men is not hopeless?

Garcia: In his inaugural address, President Obama spoke about a "sapping of confidence across our land" and the need to regain the can-do spirit of Americans as "the risk takers, the doers, the makers of things." These are things that guys are best at; it's why they matter and are necessary. Our country will lead the world again, but it won't happen if the male half of the population forgets what always has made them -- and America -- great.

Ad Age: Point taken. What about the marketing implications? Aside from an increase in the sales of video games and pornography, what should marketers know about guys and how to reach them?

Garcia: We know that men, as a group at least, are not reading. Women read twice as many books as guys, and non-pornographic magazines that cater to men are struggling. So what, besides sex, gets our attention? The messages that seem to resonate with men fall into two general categories: escape and reassurance. As men lose economic and social traction they look for ways to relax and forget -- games, sports, physical activities of every kind, travel. Male-targeted reality shows such as "Ice Road Truckers" and "The Deadliest Catch" tap masculine nostalgia for a time when physical brawn and bravery -- not PowerPoint and spreadsheets -- defined manly work.

Marginalized by society and maligned by the media, men are yearning for anything that tells them, or shows them, that they still matter. Meanwhile, a multibillion-dollar industry sells goods by reassuring males that they are virile and powerful and up to speed with the latest gear. Deep down inside, every guy knows he's Ironman, even if he's actually an ironing man. Stay-at-home dads are fully aware that their tricked-out Bugaboo baby strollers have fat tires and awesome tech specs. And it's no surprise that James Dyson's space-age DCO7 vacuum cleaner, with its guy-friendly promise to "never lose suction," has become a worldwide best-seller.

Ad Age: Well, of course. Who among us isn't totally turned on by the prospect of a perfectly groomed rug?

Garcia: As long as we don't sweep our troubles under it.

Ad Age: Speaking of which, I do the cooking in my family. Does that make me a girly man?

Garcia: Au contraire: Cooking, which combines chemistry with creative self-expression, has been reclaimed by modern men who recognize the primordial power of preparing a gourmet meal.

Ad Age: You're preaching to the pulpit, bro! Except for that gourmet part.

Garcia: Just as women once used food to get to a man's heart, men have learned that whipping up a delicious meal is a mutually satisfying way to get something else. Grown guys may no longer have a suped-up Mustang in the driveway, but in the kitchen, they can still get under the hood.

Ad Age: I'm hearing "Little Red Corvette."

Garcia: Zero to 60 in three courses.

Ad Age: Any more news on the fragile male psyche?

Garcia: Early findings from the OTX Modern Male study show that younger men are more likely than older men to be accepting of women as their equals or even their superiors. But those same men are also less optimistic about their future than women their age. This breakdown of confidence has produced a schism in the male psyche, and that insecurity turns up in different men in different ways. Some men retreat, submit or become "feminized," while other guys retrench, bulk up and swagger. The fact that both of these male archetypes exist in every guy is the key to understanding who men are and what they want.

Ad Age: What do we want?

Garcia: Men do not want to be separate from women; they never have and they never will. What men want is a social role, sense of place and duty that differentiates them from women. There's an unspoken assumption that just because women want to do things that only men used to do, that men should want to do things that only women used to do. This is a source of great disappointment for women and great angst for men. As women become more educated and independent, straight men have started using their own physical attractiveness as a way to compensate and even out the power balance. The assumption that men who groom and preen are secretly gay could not be more untrue. Guys are shaving and wearing tight jeans to get the attention of the opposite sex, just like women used to do, and for exactly the same reasons. But to openly admit this, of course, would be unmanly.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Glenn McFadden - Boys will be boys, but do school departments care?

A writer named Glenn McFadden, at the Bangor Daily News, has written an interesting article on how schools are not conducive to boys' learning. I totally agree - schools think that normal boy behavior needs to be medicated away. I'm sure they would have me on drugs if I were a boy now.
Boys will be boys, but do school departments care?

By Glenn McFadden

It is bad behavior or is it boy behavior?

It seems that for a very long time, even back in the days when Samuel Clemens wrote a story about a boy named Tom Sawyer, boys are the culprits in school. They are the ones that can’t sit still; they lose focus, daydream and manage to get into all kinds of mischief. We have grown to consider this behavior bad. If a student, especially a boy, can’t or does not like to sit in an orderly fashion, color in between the lines, cut paper dolls and many of the other entertaining approaches to learning that we think are good education, he is bad or, much worse, labeled “not a good fit in school.”

This basic premise, which we have been under for all this time, may be wrong. Much has been discovered lately about boys, the way they learn and what can work for them in school. Much of what our schools are doing may not be right for boys, yet not much has changed.

Do a little research in your own hometown. Take a look at what is happening in schools today. How many boys are in special education programs in your school compared to girls? How many discipline referrals are boys compared to girls? What is the ratio of high school dropouts? How many boys go on to college, or even stay in college, compared to girls? We have accepted this as the norm, that somehow this is what it is suppose to be.

Boys don’t fit in school because our schools are designed and managed in an environment that is of little interest to them. They see no relevance to what they feel is important in their future. The curriculum in our elementary schools is 80 percent literature-based. This provides a great learning environment for girls, but this is probably the least favorable learning environment for boys.

Boys need to be able to move, and most definitely they need hands-on learning. We know that girls’ cognitive skills develop a few years earlier than those of boys. Boys develop faster than girls in other areas, but somewhere along the line, in our literature-based curriculum, boys believe they won’t catch up with girls.

After making it through all those trying years in elementary school, it is easy to see why boys have poor self-esteem, don’t like school and get into trouble. Yet boys face more of the same when they enter high school. Again, they are given few, if any, hands-on learning opportunities. They are expected to learn by reading and writing and many times the assignments are not of interest. Our high schools say “Go to college,” but they don’t say why. If a student wants to be a carpenter, boat builder, or repair cars and such, he is considered a second-class citizen in our high schools.

Boys can and do behave badly. There is no justification for rude disruptive behavior. Teachers and school personnel deserve to be treated with respect. However, if our schools accept that boys learn differently from girls, they can train staff to accommodate the differences. A learning environment that accepts both types of learning styles would have less disruptive behavior and more boys feeling better about themselves.

Glenn McFadden teaches industrial arts in Waldoboro and resides in Searsport. He holds a master’s degree in counseling in education and has worked in private industry.

T-Nation - The Best Exercises for Size and Strength

We all would like to be bigger and/or stronger.

The Best Exercises for Size and Strength

Walk into any decent gym and you'll have multiple choices for whatever movement pattern or muscle group you want to train that day. Should you do pulldowns or pull-ups? Bench presses with a barbell or on the Smith machine? Squats or leg presses?

If you think the answers are obvious, I beg to differ.

Exercise selection, clearly, is not the only important variable in a training program. You have to make intelligent decisions about volume, intensity, and frequency as well — how much, how hard, and how often you train. And, just as clearly, you can't make good choices in those areas unless you define your goals.

You can find lots of articles — entire books, even — that tell you how to adjust volume, intensity, and frequency when you're training for strength vs. hypertrophy. But what you rarely find is any guide to selecting the right exercises for those two goals. That, in my view, is a pretty big gap. Not all exercises are created equal, and some are better at yielding specific results than others.

For this article, I'm going to break down exercise selection into two primary categories: the best exercises for strength, and the best for hypertrophy. If you're interested in achieving both at the same time, you can just select the exercises that appear on both lists.

Certainly, there are other categories that I'm leaving out — the best exercises for fat loss, athletic development, mobility, muscular endurance ... the list could go on a while. But the two I listed are the big ones, the ones most of you are currently pursuing.

Best Exercises for Size and Strength

The squat makes you stronger, bigger, and most important of all, veinier.

Industrial Strength

I think everyone reading this understands that the size of a muscle affects its strength, up to a point. But we all know that bodybuilders — the biggest guys in the gym in terms of pure muscular size — aren't by any stretch the strongest. They're stronger than the skinny dudes on the Bosu balls, of course, but most of them would get smoked by the top powerlifters in their weight class.

That's because maximal strength — the muscles' ability to perform a single, all-out effort — depends on neuromuscular coordination as well as the amount of contractile tissue within the muscle.

So, when selecting an exercise for the goal of developing maximal strength, you need to choose one that allows you to lift the most weight and requires the most skill.

Both halves of that statement are important.

You already know you won't get strong unless you choose exercises that allow you to lift a lot of weight. You can't get strong with light weights, even if you're lifting from an awkward or unstable position.

So when I say the exercises you choose must require skill, I'm talking about lifts that require some technique and balance, not the ones that look like circus tricks. High-skill exercises are usually compound — involving action at more than one joint — and take place in multiple planes of movement, or at least have the possibility to do so.

Neuromuscular coordination is crucial because of the concept of the transfer of skill, or how your ability in one exercise crosses over to another. The key to understanding this concept is to remember that the transfer of skill flows downhill. Your ability to perform a higher-skill exercise, like a bench press, means you'll also be pretty good at a lower-skill version of that same basic movement, like a machine chest press.

Skill rarely flows the opposite direction. If you only trained on a selectorized chest-press machine, you wouldn't be commensurately strong on the barbell bench press.

Think of arm wrestling, a sport that requires a combination of strength and skill. A guy can have fantastically strong arms, as demonstrated by his ability to lift heavy weights in lower-skill exercises, but if he's never arm-wrestled before, not only is he going to lose his match, there's a good chance he'll get hurt in the process. He has strong muscles pulling on bones, tendons, and ligaments in an unfamiliar way, and that's a perfect formula for injury. (Ironically, a weaker arm-wrestling novice has less chance of injury. He'll just lose the match, without lasting damage to anything but his ego.)

Speaking of skill, you may notice when you get to the exercise lists that I don't include the Olympic lifts in this discussion. They obviously require skill, and they obviously allow you to improve strength. But because they emphasize speed, power, and coordination over pure strength, I think they're part of a different discussion. They wouldn't be first-choice exercises for pure strength or pure hypertrophy, although they'd certainly be in the mix if we were talking about training to improve speed and power.

Read the whole article.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

New Man Episode 50: Brain Johnson: What would you do if you weren't afraid?

This episode of The New Man podcast features Brian Johnson, founder of Zaadz (now Gaia) and more recently, the creator of Philosopher Notes.

Episode 50: Brain Johnson: What would you do if you weren't afraid?

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Have you ever thrown up on your way to work, and not from too much fun the night before?

If you had all the money and all the time in the world what would you do?

Brain Johnson has found his answer, but things didn't always come together so clearly for him.

Over the years he has quit a promising job with a fortune 500, dropped out of law school, left a 5 year relationship, and walked away from a couple of businesses.

From these experiences he has learned a bit about the art of living, now he is sharing what he loves to do with the world.

Listen as Brian talks to us about how he went from literally puking in his car on the way to work, to living his dreams from an open-air office in Bali.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

MENding Monologues

Inspired by Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues, The MENding Monologues is an all-male performance group confronting issues related to contemporary masculinity.

Stories to mend & end violence, as told by Men

The MENding Monologues is an all-male performance group inspired by Eve Ensler’s annual V-Day production of The Vagina Monologues. Our show is a love letter to women, a healing for men, and a call to end violence in all its forms.

Through courageous personal monologues, poems and comedic sketches, we take our audience on an emotional rollercoaster ride through relationships, gender wounds and abuse issues to arrive at a place of peace, understanding and healing. We donate a portion of every show’s proceeds to women shelters in the communities who host us.

Please watch a few samples of what we do:

The Letter

Dr. Vaginski

For Linda

Bath Love


Derek Dujardin is the director and producer of The MENding Monologues. Derek is active in empowering men to become better husbands, fathers and leaders through the transformative power of authenticity. When he isn’t inspiring healing through this work, he is an advertising creative director, sketch comedy writer, and improv performer. His pieces include For Linda, Tantra and R U My 2:15?

Brad Luky is the assistant director, producer and stage manager for the MENding Monologues. When Brad isn’t running his construction company, he is an avid dancer, actor and improv performer with too many artistic credits to mention here. As a founding member of the MENding monologs he brings twenty years of stage, film and dance experience to entertain a wide variety of audiences. His pieces include, I Never Heard I Love and Dr. Vaginski.

Bill Krieger has three children and is married to his wife Dotti. The children are all grown and nesting on their own. His vocation is teaching and his avocation is storytelling through the written word, the spoken word, the illustrated words of drawing and the ever elusive non-verbal ‘words’ of heart. Bill's pieces include The Letter and A Valentine for Dotti.

Tom Puetz is a Sedona Resident and graduate of Northern Arizona University. He is a member of the improv group “Abandoned Minds”. Tom has also performed standup comedy, acted in independent films and his currently working on his first novel based his experiences in the Vietnam war. When his work is done Tom likes to write poetry and go sailing. His pieces include Rites of Passage and Small, Quiet Voice.

Tyrus Watson is one of the founding members of The MENding Monologues, actively writing and performing pieces for the show. He is deeply devoted to men’s work and personal transformation and he has staffed or participating in more than 40 self-development seminars in the past several years. Having overcome chronic fatigue syndrome himself, Tyrus has become a strong advocate for health and nutrition, and is currently developing a seminar to help those with health challenges to restore their vitality through enlighten diets and exercise. Tyrus performs in Red Wine and Bath Love.

Michael Leibowitz is a poet, drummer, writer and DJ. Once again, he is happy to be a contributing member of The MENding Monologues. He wrote and perform Lips.

Here is a clip, The Letter, by Bill Krieger.
Performed at The MENding Monologues ( 2006 in Sedona, AZ. It is a letter written by father to his daughter to be read upon his death, and it dramatically describes the far reaching effects that sexual abuse can have on a family and a father.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Art of Manliness - Every Man Needs a Man Mentor

Another interesting post from The Art of Manliness, this one looks at the idea of mentors for young men in particular, but also men in general. I've been fortunate to have one of these men in my life, when I was in my early twenties, and he is still a friend today. In fact, he has known me longer than any other person alive who is still in my life.

Every Man Needs a Man Mentor

February 15, 2009

manmentor Every Man Needs a Man Mentor

When I was 15, I met a man who would have a profound impact on my life. His name was Andrew Lester. I first encountered Mr. Lester at church. He was the fun old guy that everyone liked being around. Despite being in his 8os, he had this boyish, mischievous look to him. He also made wearing a Breath-right nasal strip look cool. He wore them all the time. Mr. Lester was an artist by trade. His mother was a Cheyenne Indian, so his art focused on Native American motifs. A tribe called him the White Buffalo, and he made a really beautiful painting representing the name bestowed on him. I have print of it hanging up in my office.

While Mr. Lester dabbled in painting, his real skill was in sculpting clay. He sculpted mammoth busts of great people from history like Martin Luther King Jr., Jim Thorpe, and Western movie star Tom Mixx. When he wasn’t working in his studio, he volunteered in various community organizations aimed at helping underprivileged Native and African Americans. Mr. Lester was very active in the African-American community in Oklahoma and founded the Oklahoma African-American Museum Hall of Fame.

When I first saw Mr. Lester at church, I never thought he would become a mentor and good friend to me. But by chance, I was asked to regularly visit him and his wife to help them out around their home. Little did I know the impact this man would have on my passage into manhood.

A few weekends a month throughout high school, I would drive up to Mr. Lester’s home in Guthrie to visit him. Our visits usually began with me doing some chore around the house or in his art studio. This often involved me pulling some weeds or moving the big clay busts around in his studio. He sometimes had me actually work on his busts. I remember doing some fine tuning to Tom Mixx’s hat and nose with a chisel and some sandpaper.

lester11 Every Man Needs a Man Mentor

After I finished my task, Mr. Lester and I would go to his living room or studio just to talk. He’d share with me stories from his life. I learned how as a teenager in the 1920’s, Mr. Lester hitchhiked all the way from Cheyenne, OK to San Antonio, TX just to see if the Alamo would display a bust of Davy Crockett that he had sculpted. They agreed. The sculpture is still there today.

He shared with me his experience as an art teacher for troubled students in inner city Los Angeles during the 1960s. This was an intense time to be a white guy living in that part of LA. Racial tensions were high and boiled over in 1965 during the Watts Riot. But despite being a white guy from Oklahoma, Mr. Lester was able to make fast friends with the students in his class. And he quickly became involved with helping the African-American community in the city.

With each story, Mr. Lester would always impart a life lesson. He’d used the story about his trip to San Antonio to teach me about doing whatever it takes to accomplish a goal in life. His experience in Los Angeles conveyed to me the importance of tolerance, respect, and compassion for people who are different from you and that a real man will stand up for the oppressed and downtrodden.

Mr. Lester would always ask me about what was going on in my life. He’d listen intently and provide some counsel and words of encouragement or sometimes a verbal kick in the butt if I needed it. After each visit with him, I felt uplifted and edified.

But my friend and mentor became sick. He was diagnosed with cancer. Our visits became shorter. It was hard to see this man who was once filled with mischief and vitality become weak from the chemo. But Mr. Lester still shared stories and lessons, and he still gave me advice and counsel.

Mr. Lester died during my senior year of high school. I remember driving up to Cheyenne, OK, to see Mr. Lester return to his birthplace. His final resting ground was appropriate; Cheyenne’s wide open skies and desert landscape provided enough room for a spirit as big as Mr. Lester’s to roam.

lester Every Man Needs a Man Mentor

Andrew Lester Working on a Bust

It’s been almost ten years since Andrew Lester died, but I can still vividly remember the conversations we had and the lessons he presented to me. From Mr. Lester, I learned the importance of being an honorable man. I learned that success in life requires tenacity and enthusiasm. I learned that the strong should look out for the weak. And I learned the value of respect towards all men, no matter their race, creed, or social background.

Read the rest of the post to see the four kinds of mentors most men need, and for how to become a mentor to others.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Film - Bigger, Stronger, Faster: Steroids in America

I watched Bigger, Stronger, Faster last night, an excellent (if ambivalent) look at steroids in sports, in America, and the ways in which the American culture simultaneously encourages and condemns steroid use. The film looks specifically at one family of brothers, two of who are users and one who has tried them but chosen not to go that route.

I've blogged about this film before.

Here is some of what I wrote last year:
I've written before on drugs in sports -- essentially I'm a libertarian in this realm, favoring a complete decriminalization of steroid use and doctor-supervised sanctioning of use by athletes.

A new movie - Bigger, Stronger, Faster - takes a somewhat ambivalent look at the use of steroids by athletes, which is completely understandable given the climate of condemnation in this country. The movie has a 100% rating at Rotten Tomatoes after 29 reviews.

* * *

There is a real disconnect here between doping for sports (physiological enhancement) and the rest of our culture. My guess is that people who wouldn't think twice about getting a little "work done," referring to plastic surgery, would be totally opposed to athletes using growth hormone to speed healing of injuries or general recovery, or to athletes using testosterone to build a little more muscle to make themselves more competitive,

I'd bet these same people would have no issue with taking Prozac for depression or giving their kids Ritalin for ADD. I'll bet some of them have tattoos, or pierced ears, or permanent eye-liner. At what point is body (and brain) modification alright, and at what point is it a crime?

There's absolutely no reason for anabolic steroids to be illegal, other than politics. The drugs were legal until the early 1980s. You can still go into pharmacies in many countries and buy steroids over the counter.

With proper supervision, the health risks are minimal. Clearly, those who do not have fully developed hormonal systems shouldn't be using these drugs (that means kids). But proper control, regulations, and availability would take the drugs off the black market and make them much safer (thus also removing a whole line of work for criminals).

The reality of steroid use in America is much different than you might think:
Studies in the United States have shown anabolic steroid users tend to be mostly middle-class heterosexual men with a median age of about 25 who are noncompetitive bodybuilders and non-athletes and use the drugs for cosmetic purposes.[68] Another study found that non-medical use of AAS among college students was at or less than 1%.[69] According to a recent survey, 78.4% of steroid users were noncompetitive bodybuilders and non-athletes while about 13% reported unsafe injection practices such as reusing needles, sharing needles, and sharing multidose vials,[70] though a 2007 study found that sharing of needles was extremely uncommon among individuals using anabolic steroids for non-medical purposes, less than 1%.[71] Anabolic steroid users often are stereotyped as uneducated "muscle heads" by popular media and culture; however, a 1998 study on steroid users showed them to be the most educated drug users out of all users of controlled substances.[72] Another 2007 study found that 74% of non-medical anabolic steroid users had secondary college degrees and more had completed college and less had failed to complete high school than is expected from the general populace.[71] The same study found that individuals using Anabolic steroids for non-medical purposes had a higher employment rate and a higher household income than the general population.[71] Anabolic steroid users also tend to research the drugs they are taking more than any other group of users of controlled substances.
The real problem here is that the drugs are illegal and stigmatized, so even though the users do a great deal of research, they don't tell their primary care physicians about their use:
Moreover, anabolic steroid users tend to be disillusioned by the portrayal of anabolic steroids as deadly in the media and in politics.[73] According to one study, AAS users also distrust their physicians and in the sample 56% had not disclosed their AAS use to their physicians.[74] Another 2007 study had similar findings, showing that while 66% of individuals using anabolic steroids for non-medical purposes were willing to seek medical supervision for their steroid use, 58% lacked trust in their physicians, 92% felt that the medical communities knowledge of non-medical anabolic steroid use was lacking and 99% felt that the public has an exaggerated view of the side effects of anabolic steroid use.[71]
So what is to be done?

Legalize the drugs for prescription use. Allow athletes to use the drugs under a doctor's supervision. Crack down on internet sales that target minors -- in this case under the age of 21.

The only other solution is to completely change our culture so that success, winning, strength and speed, and physical attractiveness are not so highly valued that people are willing to go to illegal means to achieve those things. Good luck with that.
I highly recommend this film - if no other reason than it tells the truth about steroids: that they can be used safely and effectively to build muscle and strength, that they should be legalized, that some people ruin their lives through abuse of these drugs while chasing dreams of stardom in various arenas (like pro wrestling).

For now, the whole film is available through Google videos:

You can also watch it at the Google site.

Steroid use and abuse is generally a male issue, and the film looks at the issues that contribute to that - from Rocky & Rambo, to Arnold, to the covers of male fitness magazines. The ideal is presented as the reality, and young minds cannot discern the difference.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Slate - Male-enhancement products that won't spice up your Valentine's Day

Man, I hate these ads and spams. Good article from Slate. Studies have shown that about 45% of men are insecure about their size, and these scum prey on that fear to sell their snake oil. It's a perverse form of marketing that works this way, but then, as is often true, we've been doing it to women for decades.

Growth Industry

Male-enhancement products that won't spice up your Valentine's Day.

Note: Some links in this article go to Web sites advertising the products and procedures described, including photographs. These sites might not be appropriate for viewing at the workplace.

Still from an Enzyte commerical.

Male enhancement and the Internet are inextricably linked, as anyone with an unfiltered e-mail account knows. Promises of instant expansion appear daily, seeming to inhabit that happy area of infomercials and self-sharpening knives with limited-time offers that lies just outside the real world.

Even though the big promises have a shady pedigree, are all attempts at enlargement futile? If we can fly a man to the moon, split the atom, and flatten our abs, can't we stretch things another measly inch or two? As a Valentine's Day exercise, let's examine the facts about male enhancement to see if it is all snake oil (of a very literal sort) or whether there actually are things a guy can do to improve.

Broadly speaking, there are two promised pathways to more bigness: the surgical and nonsurgical. And because you will need a little time to prepare yourself before we pull out the scalpel, let's start with nonsurgical approaches. First come pills and tonics, the distant region patrolled by Smilin' Bob, Enzyte's very pleased pitchman. Enzyte is one of many herbal approaches to enhancement; the products vary widely in price and composition. (Most contain ginseng, saw palmetto, horny goat weed, and a handful of other remedies.) Bob has had a tough time recently—Enzyte's founder, Steve Warshak, and Steve's mom, Harriet, were sentenced to the slammer in 2006 and fined $500 million for conspiracy to commit mail fraud, bank fraud, and money laundering. (How, you might ask, could this be a $500 million business? Welcome to America, buddy.) Do these pills work? The FDA can't regulate herbals because—well, because they probably don't work, so they don't need oversight, see? As very little supports the effectiveness of these herbal offerings, I suggest you look elsewhere.

Another nonsurgical approach is very low tech and centuries if not millennia old: You just stretch the damn thing. Try tying a weight (like a rock or something more elaborate) around the glans, or sink a few bucks into a Procrustean device (there are lots), or, for a more yogic experience, jelq. Jelqing one's wanger is device-free, not unlike stretching salt-water taffy, and, though painful-appearing, has an ardent following. The Internet is awash with jelqing videos and sworn testimonials. Finally, Austin Powers' old friend the vacuum pump promises to work its magic by the disturbing method of sucking ever more blood into the penis and then … actually, I'm not sure what happens next—maybe your blood stalls in there for a while and you can impress someone. But any size that might appear will wash away soon enough.

That was the easy part. Now prepare for the wide world of surgical improvement. Proponents of the male-domination theory of everything should take note of the fact that cosmetic breast enhancement has been around for 100 years. In 2007, 350,000 such surgeries were performed, some as part of post-mastectomy reconstruction, others for nonmedical reasons. If the voracious male gaze is driving much of this (advantage, male supremacy theorists), why is the state of surgical penile enlargement still in its infancy? (Besides castration anxiety, the risk of disfiguring scars, and the fact that it is such a stupid idea.)

Whatever the explanation, here are the options. The simplest, least bloody thing to sign on for is something called a suspensory ligament release. Normally, the base of the penis is connected to the pubic bone by a ligament to anchor the entire enterprise. But this stabilization comes with a substantial cost: a precious inch or so. Surgeons reviewing the situation figured the top of the base of the penis doesn't have to be that close to the navel, so with a little snip here and a little snip there, the penis is released to reclaim the valuable real estate. Sounds easy enough, so why not hurry out and get it done before Valentine's Day? For one thing, ligament release adds length only to the flaccid penis. You'll hang a little lower, but once erect, you'll have what you've always had—not a micrometer more. Plus, any surgery comes with risks (a wildly swinging, unanchored erection among them). Indeed, the American Urologic Association does not consider suspensory ligament release safe or efficacious.

Finally, there is the major league of penis surgery. The simplest procedure is akin to what is done with lips, breasts, and other area in need of a little puffing up: inject collagen, a person's own fat (aka a dermal fat graft), or a pricy product like AlloDerm, which is something of an all-purpose human putty. This approach can address the all-important girth problem but, alas, does nothing for length.

If length is what you're after, you'll have to endure the gruesome. For example, you may need Triple Augmentation Phalloplasty, which includes the suspensory ligament release and a nip and tuck elsewhere. Be aware that phalloplasty, a mostly made-up term referring to surgery to reshape the penis, is a bit of a new surgical discipline. That said, its practitioners already have their own society (the American Academy of Phalloplasty Surgeons), which in turn underwrites the International Phalloplasty Institute, and they hold conferences. They even have a manifesto that (guess what?) concludes that cosmetic penis surgery is a safe and medically accepted procedure. Best of all, they offer a course open to "all surgeons" to learn the techniques—a course that covers soup to nuts in just three days. If you do visit these Web sites, prepare to see photos of men sporting unusually vigorous moustaches.

The most radical approach to lengthening is pioneered by surgeons at the University of Belgrade. They simply unpack the penis, add a little rib, and sew him back up. Here is the method of Drs. S.V. Perovic and M.L.J. Djordjevic:

The penis is completely disassembled into its anatomical parts; the glans cap [head] remains attached dorsally to the neurovascular bundle and ventrally to the urethra and corporal bodies. A space is created between glans cap and the tip of corpora cavernosa [the shaft]; this space is used to insert autologous cartilage previously harvested from the rib [yes, your rib], the space being measured beforehand when the corpora cavernosa are erect. The anatomical entities and inserted cartilage are joined together to form a longer penis.

See how simple that was? Those still interested should peruse the accompanying pictures (you may need to click the link twice to open it) and illustrations before booking a ticket to Belgrade.

Maybe surgery isn't ready for prime time, at least for most people, and the pills don't work, and the thought of tying a stone to the head of your penis seems Neanderthal. But do not let hope perish—the dream must never die. There's plenty of good news in the field (OK, not that much). Important research is being done even as we speak. In Thailand, scientists are working long hours, sometimes in difficult circumstances, with a single goal in mind: to elongate the penises of rats. Yes, friends, a technique to enhance our rodent neighbors may be only years away. The approach is so elegantly simple: The investigators inject cells from the small intestine of pigs into the rat penis (of course!), and, bingo, those lucky rats have the biggest members in their colony. But, guys, until this research has matured a bit more, may I suggest that this Valentine's Day you show up with the usual—flowers and chocolates—and keep the big news on well-hung rats to yourself.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Teaching Kids to Be Curious

On my way home this afternoon, I was listening to a discussion with Neil DeGrasse Tyson on NPR's Science Friday. He was plugging his new book, The Pluto Files, but in response to a caller question, he talked about how to raise our kids to be curious about science. He had some great advice.

All of that got me to thinking. My dad was a horrible father in some ways, but one thing he got right was instilling in me a curiosity about the world, about how things work, about the big questions in life.

I was always encouraged to read - when I had a question about something, I was told to go look it up in the encyclopedia. When we took family vacations, we went to historical sites, natural wonders, and other places where learning was part of the experience. I had magnets and iron filings. I collected rocks and tried to identify them. I had a microscope. I wanted a telescope, but in the San Fernando Valley, the light pollution would have made it useless, so we went to the Griffith Observatory sometimes. We went to the zoo a lot, and when I asked questions about the origins of animals, my father (a Catholic) explained evolution to me.

That's the interesting thing to me. My father was a man of faith, an old-school Catholic, but he believed in science, and science did not in any way inhibit his faith. He believed in intelligent design long before anyone had thought of that name, as I suspect is true for many Catholics. In fact, his understanding of science (and he was an avid reader) only deepened his faith.

And while I long ago gave up being Catholic, I will always be grateful for the curiosity he instilled and encouraged in me when I was young. The greatest gift a father can give his son is an open and curious mind.

No matter what other mistakes a father makes, a curious and open mind can find ways to heal the damage. It isn't fun, and it would be better if all fathers were perfect, but we know that isn't going to happen, so do this one great thing for your kids - teach them to be curious about life.