February 24, 2015

February Collection of Articles, Writings, Thoughts and Music

A collection of what's moving me this month. 


What I'm Working On

Here at The Good Men Project Sports, we closed out the NFL season with our Super Bowl coverage, our #KissLikeaDad Movement, and our general sharing of pictures of affectionate men. Here's me kissing my younger brother, Dave:


At The Good Men Project Sports we've now shifted our coverage from football to basketball. This has given me the chance to riff on pop culture and the NBA with my co-Editor Wai Sallas, do a history of the slam dunk contest, and a wrap-up piece on NBA All-Star weekend's Slam Dunk Contest and Three Point Shootout (as well as #SNL40, the Saturday Night Live anniversary special!). Baseball is up next. Our Why We Run series is also hitting it's stride with so many terrific writers opening up and sharing their unbelievably raw and authentic stories. A few of my early favorites are Daniel Romo's and Whit Honea's.

Outside of The Good Men Project, I just auditioned for Listen to Your Mother, a show that celebrates motherhood. As you may have guessed, I am not a mother. But I do have one. Here is my audition piece. (I did not make it, but I'm proud of my piece)


Who I'm Reading

Last week, I got to see authors Neil Gaiman and Daniel Handler (of Lemony Snicket fame) at The Brooklyn Academy of Music, where they riffed off each other, took questions, and discussed their writing.

It was a wonderful night. Equal parts humor and poignancy:
Handlers Son: "I'm scared every day" 
Handler: "Like, are you very scared?" 
Son: "No. Not very. But every day." 
Handler: (I think he just described the human condition. All of history. For everyone). "Me too. I'm sorry." 
                       - Daniel Handler
Gaiman shared Don Marquis' line about poetry writing: "It's like flinging rose petals over the edge of the Grand Canyon & listening for the BOOM."

I have been continuing to read Gaiman, adding Coraline to a list of completed books that includes StarDust, American Gods, The Graveyard Book, and the best book I've read this year, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. My love of Gaiman is epic. One of my favorite pieces that I re-read last week is Gaiman's wondrous poem, Instructions, a collection of life advice gleaned from fairy tales:
"Remember your name. Do not lose hope — what you seek will be found. Trust ghosts. Trust those that you have helped to help you in their turn. Trust dreams. Trust your heart, and trust your story." 
Next up, Jose Saramago's posthumously published Skylight, David Mitchell's Bone Clocks, and Murakami's Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. I've heard mixed reviews of the latest Murakami, but I also heard this quote from it, so I'm in:
"Our lives are like a complex musical score. Filled with all sorts of cryptic writing, sixteenth and thirty-second notes and other strange signs. It's next to impossible to correctly interpret these, and even if you could, and could then transpose them into the correct sounds, there's no guarantee that people would correctly understand, or appreciate, the meaning therein."

What I'm Listening To

Jonah Smith's Big Umbrella, a folksy, strumsy, harmonizing love song:
"My baby loves me like a big umbrella  She’s got me covered in any kind of weather  Always quick with a silver lining  She reminds me that the sun is shining . . . somewhere" 

Love it so much, I'm at the early stages of working on it myself on the guitar. Very early.

The xx's Intro, an electronic masterpiece that I could listen to forever. To me, it has undertones of The Cure, but is a chameleon of a song. It's happy. It's melancholy. It's hopeful. It's grand.

(And here is the 10 hour long version!) I may be late to the party with this group, but not terribly embarrassingly late. They were featured in the New Yorker last month, in an article entitled Shy and Mighty, which describes the band as "appealingly shy" brits and their music as "a collection of muted love laments written mostly in their childhood bedrooms."


I know I'm late to the game on Birdy, a 19 year old Brit singer/songwriter who burst on the scene after winning a UK talent competition at the age of 12. Her breakthrough hit, a cover of Bon Iver's Skinny Love is simply gorgeous. She released it when she was 14:


Cracking Me Up

The things I happen to read and watch this month that are making me laugh include:
(1) The New Yorker's fabulous The Eight Serious Relationships of Hercules:
And it came to pass that Hercules took a step back and did a little soul-searching, and in time he realized that he had been using his relationships as a crutch to compensate for his lack of self-worth. So, resolving to be single for a while, Hercules got to know Hercules, and he did not date, and he did not play wine pong—although he did remain open to certain fixups, provided that the girl was “normal” and objectively attractive.
(2) McSweeney's Internet Tendency's take on mansplaining, Mansplaining Mansplaining: A Man Explains Mansplaining.
(3) Lemony Snicket:
“A man of my acquaintance once wrote a poem called "The Road Less Traveled", describing a journey he took through the woods along a path most travelers never used. The poet found that the road less traveled was peaceful but quite lonely, and he was probably a bit nervous as he went along, because if anything happened on the road less traveled, the other travelers would be on the road more frequently traveled and so couldn't hear him as he cried for help. Sure enough, that poet is dead.” 
(4) Classic Louis CK:

(5) Classic SNL

February 22, 2015

Listen To Your Mother: Audition Piece

My Mom's 'Theories of Everything'

I am (obviously) not a mother.  But I do have one.

This is for her:

Every time I was sick as a child, my mom said that if she could take it away – take it on herself instead of me – she would. I think at times she did.

My mom is a lawyer. When I was 2 years old, she had a child care issue and had to bring me to Court. She set me in the jury box, where I could watch, and a kindly judge asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. “A police man,” like him, I said, pointing to the bailiff. It was not the answer he expected. Ironically, I became a lawyer anyway.

When I was a kid, my mom used to tell me that I had to try things three times, and if I didn’t like it after the third time, I didn’t have to do it. Because that’s what Kasdan’s do. It’s a pretty neat trick, actually. Because I can’t remember ever stopping doing anything after the third time.

I have strong memories of my mom cheering for me at my basketball games in middle school. Back then, I was a truly terrible basketball player. Each game, I could count on several turnovers, an unhappy coach, and extremely loud chants of GO KASDAN from my mom in the stands. It was embarrassing. I also loved it. I also ended up playing varsity basketball in high school.

My mom consistently gets movie titles just ever-so-slightly wrong enough to be funny. Every time. ‘The Theory of Everything’ becomes ‘The Theories of Everything.’ There is just one theory, Mom. That’s the point.  Or “Blade Running,” instead of ‘Blade Runner.’ It’s not a PSA for holding scissors the right way. It’s a dystopian battle for our future.

Anyway. When I was 11 years old, I transferred from a small private school to public school.  It was difficult. I had no friends. We threw a movie night and invited everyone, and to get kids there we rented the scary space thriller, Alien. (My Mom called it ‘’Aliens’). Only problem: I’m terrified of scary movies. It was quite the dilemma. My mom watched the movie the night before, noted all the scary parts, and then –as I watched among my classmates – would call me to help in the kitchen or with an errand right before every scary part. Every one.

In high school, my mom read every book that I read – at the same time I was reading it. A Separate Peace. Catch 22. The Catcher in the Rye. Lord of the Flies. Melville. Shakespeare.  My books would disappear at bedtime and reappear the next day. She must have stayed up so late re-reading those books, after long days at work. So we could talk about them. So when I struggled with my book report, she could lend a helping hand.

When I was 16 years old, I went to Italy with my mom. It was a business trip. A real estate closing in a remote town in the countryside. We would be traveling back with a suitcase full of cash. I was the muscle, the hired help. Or so I was told. We rode mopeds in Rome. And in the countryside, in Brindisi, we met her clients. They spoke no English. She taught me that you could connect with someone, even if you can’t speak to them or understand their language. We ate fresh figs off their trees.

My mom is a serial sharer of interesting things. She cuts out articles from newspapers, circles the interesting parts in pen, jots my name or my brother’s or sister’s and then sends them to us. As my Facebook friends may tell you, I seem to have inherited this “an unshared life is not worth living” attitude. Things you read or write simply taste better when shared.

My mom has an other-worldly ability to get other people to help her in life. She kills them with kindness and then says things like “thanks so much for helping me” before the person has offered help. It’s like a Jedi Mind Trick. But actually it’s not. She connects to people – quickly and easily and on a human level.

My mom still buys me things. Socks. She loves socks. You lose a lot of heat through your feet. Tooth brushes. Also important. And of course, foot powders and creams.

My mom sends me text messages. Every day. And to my brother too. And my sister. Short ones. Long ones. Simple I’m thinking of you ones: “Pleasant dreams and good thoughts. Love.” That right there is a connection – a touch.

After a visit and when my Dad isn’t watching – my mom presses a $20 dollar bill into my hands. Or gives me a Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts gift card. I do work, and I have my own ATM card. But that’s not the point. It’s just generosity. And – like every other thing my mother has done for me and continues to do for me - it shows me – all of us actually - how to move in this world.

Now I’m 40 years old. I’m armed with a lifetime supply of socks, toothbrushes and moisturizing creams. There is something profound in that trinity that I’m still working to uncover. I still don’t choose to watch scary movies.  And I email the articles I read and write to my own kids – Jacob is 13 and Lauren is 10 –  throughout the day when I’m at work.

So you see, it all worked its way into me. And I’m the father I am to my kids because of the mother my mom was – and is – to me.