October 29, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are

What follows is a moving review submitted by Man-Making subscriber Andrew MacDonald. If you want to review a book, film, other resource relevant to Man-Making Blog readers, just let me know.

The movie Where the Wild Things Are breaks fresh ground in describing the world of boys. It's a good one for either a young boy or teen. In it, any young male will recognize some of themselves in young Max (the hero). I sat next to a four-year old on his dad's lap, but older boys or teens might like it even more – Max is probably nine or ten.

It's a story of drama, action, and family complexity in which Max has a number of upsets and briefly runs away from home to join a tribe of woodland monsters. It starts with Max playing in his snow fort and having a snowball fight -lotsa fun; but the fort gets cruelly trashed with Max buried in it, the first of many reversals when exuberant highs turn into emotionally raw lows.

Later, after a fight with his (single) mom, he lights out for the river, and sails away in a small boat to a land where wild things live. These “wild things” look like giant Muppets – they're real actors in suits, but with computer animation for facial expression. The characters are well-developed, adult, and complex, and Max has an important connection to each one.

The depth of Max’s involvement and the (appropriate) emotionality isn't surprising since the screenplay is co-written by Dave Eggers. Readers of ManMaking may remember him from the September blog post about his TED-prize talk . . . when he spoke about his innovative mentoring project for kids.

The movie's based on an illustrated children's book by Maurice Sendak. When Sendak was asked what he'd say to parents who thought the film might be too scary, he said “I would tell them to go to hell.” Eggers chimed in that “I think adults should wear diapers going to it, too. I think everyone should be prepared for any eventuality.”

This is not an overly sentimental or sanitized view of childhood, and that's what makes it so fresh.

Andrew MacDonald

If you have seen this movie, what is your opinion?

October 24, 2009

The Good Men Project

I love the notion that the last 10 years have been about women and girls, and the next 10 are going to be about men and boys. When I see wonderful campaigns like The Good Men Project (TGMP) showing up, it makes my male heart sing.

The Good Men Foundation is another solid organization taking on what appears to be THE question for the times, What does it mean to be a good man in today's world? Their DVD takes up the very personal stories of 10 real men and the book contains, thirty-one essays by a broad range of men—rich, poor, black, white, gay, straight, urban, rural, famous, ordinary—all writing about the challenges, obstacles, triumphs, failures, and defining moments they encounter. It's not often that the world at large gets an in-depth look at the intimate details of what makes a man, or group of men, tic. That's why their campaign is titled, The Good Men Project: Real Stories From the Front Lines of Modern Manhood. Collectively, the stories shared by these men are meant to help us define what it means to be a good man.

TGMP is really a collection of resources meant to influence the dialogue. There is a book, DVD, blog, and a documentary film, which I predict, taken together, will raise the bar of contemporary dialogue taking place in today's masculine universe. You can read the back story about the book and DVD on The Good Men Project website. On their blog, among other interesting stories, you can read why they chose to launch the first event of the book tour at Sing Sing prison . . . somewhere real, where men need our message of hope.

You can start watching after the launch date of November 15th for readings, screenings, discussions, and other events that will happen across the country. If you hear about such a gathering in your city, it may just be a place a modern man-maker will want to show up.

Check out the video below for a taste of what this campaign is all about.

If the video doesn't show up, use this link.

October 17, 2009

Amazing Tales for Making Men Out of Boys

Charley M., a subscriber, sent along this lead for a book that sounds pretty on track for aspiring makers of men. The title is Amazing Tales for Making Men Out of Boys by Neil Oliver.

The promotional copy promises the book is filled with stories of heroism, exploration, and sacrifice that will inspire boys to be courageous, honorable and open to adventure. Sounds like a good idea and a noble gesture in a world where so many young males are looking for a vision of manhood worth clinging to.

The promotional clip (below) however makes me a little nervous, because it’s full of testosterone and challenging messages for my current sensibilities. It seems glorify being an “old fashioned manly man,” and holds up yesterdays “real men.”

I have to admit, do rather like the way he suggests that old vision of manhood has been “ridiculed, eroded, and discouraged.” There does seem to be a loss in there somewhere that rings true with my own masculine quest. There is even something I like in his call to bring back something “wild” and noble in men. And I really like the notion of hearing stories that remind us what “men are for” and “what men can do.”

As a boy, I do remember sitting around the men’s table at family reunions and on holidays, listening to the men tell stories about the old days, “the war,” challenges they faced, and sometimes, the losses they experienced. Unless the young guys in your life have a male tribe that lets them sit around the edges and listen, maybe a book like this can help fill that hunger.

If Amazing Tales is filled with the “heroic tales” about good and noble men as he promises, those that “demonstrate the qualities you’d want in your heroes,” and there is not too much preaching, I might even buy the book. If you have read this book, please post a short review.

It just might be a book a lot of males should read!

Use this link if the clip doesn't show.

October 12, 2009

The Dudes First Shave

Did you know some cave paintings show an ancient man "shaving" using two seashells as tweezers! Yes it is one lifelong challenge for men. It is also one of the more powerful of the smaller rite of passage events in a young males life that so clearly mark the crossing into manhood. It deserves to be met with good information, training and some solid man-making support.

I can remember those years, staring at the mirror, being angry at the pimples, feeling pretty ugly, and just waiting for the day when shaving made any kind of sense at all. I got no guidance from my father, there were no other men around to ask and no Internet to Google for guidance. As it was with too many aspects of manhood, I learned the hard and in this case, the painful way.

Do you have a story of when/how/where you first took on the soft facial hair of adolescence? Who was there for you, who showed you how, and what was your experience like?

Here is a geeky video with a lesson in how to shave. It would have saved me from embarrassment, long sessions in front of the bathroom mirror, and thousands of small pieces of tissue.

Use this link if the video clip doesn't show up.