Thursday, August 23, 2007

Real Life Renaissance Men

My regular readers know I do tend to focus on fictional heroes. I’ve blogged endlessly about fantasy men like Admiral Adama, Jack Sparrow, and Rhett Butler. Even when I turn my attention to real men, it is usually some celebrity who by that token is somewhat larger than life. I mean, if you’re talking about someone who got his own show, it’s not so surprising that he be able to survive in the wild, write beautifully about the wilderness, film his own escapades, and compose and play the soundtrack. Okay, I’m still impressed, Les. But you get my point: it’s easy to find men to admire and lust after in the fantasy world of books, film and TV.

But can’t a girl find one of these guys in “real life”? Aren’t there any “Renaissance men”--guys who can excel with right brain and left--in our homes, shopping malls and offices? I don’t need to sleep with these guys (happily married, remember!), but it does the soul good to find them anyway.

As a matter of fact, I do know a real life Renaissance man. He’s a great friend of mine and my husband’s, also happily married, and if there were more people like this guy in the world, I think we’d all be happier. John (yeah, that’s his real name) has managed to excel in such a variety of ways, it truly boggles the mind.

John studied music in college and to this day plays wonderful classical guitar. He can do rock too (always a plus in my book). I could listen to him play all day; if only I could keep him in my closet to pull out whenever I’m in the mood for live music. But on the other side of the brain, John is a total computer whiz. He can build ’em, network ’em, troubleshoot ’em. Hardware, software, he’s your man. This is an even better reason to store him in a handy closet, hey?

John’s a voracious reader--for example, I believe he read all the Tolkien books before puberty. He’s quite a good pop culture guy as well--TV and movies and music. Meanwhile he can also talk sports--even hockey--intelligently. He can put together a grill and choose nice d├ęcor pieces. And dare I mention it...he’s also a fabulous cook.

If you’re starting to think I’m making this guy up, read on.

So, clearly John’s brain is pretty impressive, but wait, there’s more. He’s also damn amazing in the brawn department. He’s run marathons and recently moved on to triathlons, seeing as he’s also a good swimmer as well as cyclist. Yeah, the cycling: he does 100-mile rides on a regular basis. Meanwhile, he’s studying yoga and planning a trip to India for intense training. And he also took up mountain climbing and negotiated Mount Rainier the same week a couple climbers were lost up there.

Yep, he can do the outdoor thang, not quite as well as Les Stroud, but with similar enthusiasm. He loves to hike, camp, backpack, and takes excellent photos of his adventures as well.

It might have been easier thinking of things John can’t do. Okay, not much in the way of arts and crafts, and I haven’t seen him shoot pool.

The cherry on top is that John is a really thoughtful, generous friend. The whipped cream is that he’s also really cute.


You have to be wondering what kind of woman snags a husband like this. Well, John’s wife is also thoughtful, generous and cute. She has a doctorate, also cycles and is the true yoga expert in the family, and has extensive training in martial arts. She’s just as smart as John (have to be to be a scientist) and keeps up with him in all his adventures, which is certainly more than I could ever do.

Am I jealous? Not unless I become a widow, LOL. My own David, although he doesn’t have quite John’s repertoire, is an accomplished runner, can build a computer too, and has many irreplaceable qualities like his ability to do ventriloquism with our cats. He has nothing to worry about, there is only one David.

I’m just thrilled to be friends with a guy like John, a real, true, living Renaissance man. (And by the way, he looks great in Renaissance clothes, too.)

Know any real life Renaissance men? If so, do post and tell!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

When Geeks and Jocks Collide

As you know, I’m a fan of the Discovery Channel show “Mythbusters,” where special effects gurus Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman use science to confirm or bust interesting concepts about the world in which we live. I’m especially enamored of Grant Imahara, mechanical engineer extraordinaire, who with Tory Belleci and Kari Byron comprise the Mythbusters Build Team. Grant personifies all the qualities I’ve loved about science geeks since I was barely nubile: he’s ingenious, creative, quirky, funny...and cute, too.

Okay, so in the latest episode that we watched, the Mythbusters tackled (sorry, wrong sport) baseball myths. They recruited famed pitcher Roger Clemens to assist. In the course of the show, all my fave engineering geniuses put on baseball jerseys and stepped up to the plate in the cause of science.

Let me tell you, 4 geeks + 1 jock = serious conflict in Diana’s brain.

So, Adam can construct an air cannon, but he cannot swing a bat. And when he, Jamie, Grant and Tory took lessons in sliding into second base, it was easy to see they were not the first guys picked for the team except at the Science Olympics. The highlight of this episode was when Grant exclaimed, “But I can build a robot that can slide!” That, my friends, is it in a nutshell. These are guys who have spent a lifetime substituting brain for brawn.

Well, I get turned on by science geeks, and have ever since this guy in my high school physics class diagrammed for me his concept of the self-harvesting potato. But I also get turned on by baseball players. Imagine my quandary watching this show. Grant indeed gets sexiness points for having designed and built a killer batting machine that hits harder than Roger Clemens ever could (or Barry Bonds, for that matter). But Grant loses major sexiness points for sliding in such a ridiculous fashion. I am trying to forget I ever saw this slide.

Adam, who is pretty goofy-looking, gains major sexiness points for being really smart and many sexiness points that he doesn’t even look goofy to me anymore. But his batting swing pretty much erases the smart points AND the funny points. Blorg, it’s ugly. My company softball team has prettier swings--even the women.

Now, I keep telling myself Roger Clemens would look as goofy as Mr. Bean if presented with welding equipment, a galvanometer, some ballistics gel, or even drafting paper and a sharpie, all of which the Mythbusters gang can wield with mastery. Take away his glove and ball, stick him in a lab, and watch him drive the girls away screaming as he fumbles with the electronics and some black powder and sets himself on fire. I can picture Adam laughing maniacally and shouting, “Your split-finger fastball can’t help you now, Rocket! Bwahaha!”

But still, I shudder when remembering my science heroes trying to catch Roger’s pitches. Not good, boys, not good.

And all these years I’ve thought myself to be a sound supporter of Anthony Michael Halls of the world. I love stories where the pretty girl rebuffs the quarterback and rides off into the sunset with the president of the Science Club. It all works well until Anthony Michael Hall steps out of the lab and tries to throw a football or make a free throw. It’s just so hard to feel attracted to a guy when you’re cringing. (Les Stroud, until you tell me you have a mean slapshot, I refuse to watch you on skates...hiking boots only, buddy.)

So, all this is a good lesson in how sexiness works. If a guy is good at something, he can totally compensate for his shortcomings. However, it’s important not to lose all the ground you’ve gained by demonstrating how truly bad you are at something else. Unless, of course, sexiness is not what you’re going for.

And of course, Grant & Co. are more interested in busting myths than looking sexy. Which, come to think of it, is kinda sexy....

Okay, now my brain IS going to explode.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Thoughts on “the Junk”

I’ve been keeping this blog for awhile now, and really haven’t given a lot of attention to male genitalia. That’s probably because the subject is a lot less important to us women than it is to men. As was mentioned in my household during a recent screening of the film “300,” referring to the loincloth-sporting Spartans, “That’s okay, we don’t need to see their junk.” Chests, obviously, are another matter. (Good lord, have you ever seen so many pectorals in one place as at this re-imagined Battle of Thermopylae? It was like a fire sale at the Harlequin factory.) Even posteriors (or if you’re me, especially posteriors) are always a welcome treat as well. But the junk is usually better left to the imagination.

Why? Because what the organ represents is a lot prettier than the organ itself. Face it, a penis is a funny looking critter. Not bad, but not gorgeous either. But what it stands for (no pun intended) is a whole nother matter. It stands for a whole passel full of wonderfully erotic things: power, virility, dominance, strength, superiority, aggression, lust, force of will, and the list goes on and on like the resume of a romantic hero. That’s why you find women not so interested in pulling down men’s pants (except for a rear view, especially if you’re me) as they are in seeing men’s jeans bulge. It’s the suggestion that gives rise (what’s with these word choices?) to exciting fantasies about male sexuality.

And the suggestion can pack a wallop.

Case in point: After the aforementioned viewing of “300,” my family took in the wildly anticipated premiere of Season 2 of “Survivorman,” in which Les Stroud (my hero! swoon) takes on the hellishly inhospitable Kalahari Desert. In this episode, Les shares a number of survival tips that will help you immensely the next time you are lost in an arid clime. Among them is the handy “urine still,” a technique for turning your own pee into potable water.

Having crafted his still in the sand with a piece of heavy plastic wrap, Les, as he so eloquently puts it, “does the deed.” Of course this is the Discovery Channel, and this is All-Canadian Boy Les Stroud, who doesn’t even say bleepable words when slicing his finger to the bone while lost in the jungle. So no, you see no stream of fluid and you certainly don’t see any junk.

However, the man does turn from the camera and unzip and without a doubt extricates himself from his sandy khakis.

Is anyone besides me losing it over this mental picture? Judging by the things people search on to find my blog posts about Survivorman, I’m guessing yes.

All right, enough of the goofy schoolgirl crush stuff, I’m trying to make a point here. The female viewer with an affinity for Survivorman doesn’t need to see length and girth to get all giddy over this scene. The exciting part is the gesture. It’s our hero doing something essentially masculine, acknowledging he has that wondrous equipment. And even though peeing is not an erotic act (at least not in my world!!), there are other situations in which men unzip that definitely fall into that category.

So I admit, after this eclectic double-bill of home theater viewing, I did not spend the next day daydreaming about the rippling abs of the 300 Spartans. Not even those of David Wenham, whom I fell in love with as Faramir in the Lord of the Rings movies. Nor those of Rodrigo Santoro, possibly the handsomest man on the planet, who was substantially less attractive in his Xerxes piercings than he was in glasses as Karl in “Love Actually.”

No, my dreams were haunted by the sound of pants unzipping in the Kalahari.

Men, take note of the subtleties of the female mind. You can be as ripped as the computer-enhanced army of Leonidas, only to lose out to a guy from Ontario, simply because the latter knows how to make drinking water from pee. Obviously if you want to lure us, having “the junk” is key, but we don’t care a whiz...I mean whit...about the specifics of said junk.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Pig on a Pedestal

I really appreciate the recent TV/radio campaign for the show “Dirty Jobs.” I’ve blogged before about Mike Rowe and this excellent Discovery Channel show about the people who do disgusting tasks for a living. In the commercial, Mike explains that he has literally put a pig on a pedestal, to make an important point about our worship of celebrities.

Just as that pig spends his life in the mud just so we can have pork, the people “Dirty Jobs” features are folks who put up with a lot so that jobs that are essential to society get done. They clean up water treatment plants and sort recyclables out of the garbage and pick up road kill. Watching Mike try out these jobs is truly cringe-worthy TV. It makes you appreciate how horrific some jobs really are.

And as the commercial is trying to point out, Mike’s show gives the pig--metaphorically--a well-deserved moment in the sun. Our society’s cult of celebrities is always giving its attention to people who do relatively amusing, comfortable jobs like act and sing and play sports. While we deify a bunch of people who already enjoy wealth and glamour, we blow their admirable qualities way out of proportion. The nice thing about “Dirty Jobs” is it shows some admiration for people who truly deserve it.

So what is my point here, erotica-with-soul-wise? Simply that I concur with Mike’s observations: there are plenty of oft-overlooked but worthy human qualities we should idolize and love and even get turned on by. Fittingly, Mike himself has become quite the heartthrob among women who appreciate his courage and willingness to rub grimy elbows with tanners, roughnecks, and llama shearers. Does a guy look hotter in a tux on the red carpet, or smeared with poo in a treatment plant? Have you seen Mike Rowe smeared with poo? It’s pretty enticing (at least when you can’t smell him). He’s a real man, you see. Any dork can put on a tux, but it takes a guy with guts to, well, deal with things like rotting guts.

You know I can’t leave this topic without mentioning my own personal hero, Les Stroud (and Season 2 of “Survivorman” has just begun!). Covered in swamp mud, or dripping with sweat, in clothes he’s worn for seven straight days, there is not a damn thing wrong with what this guy looks like. That’s because what he looks like is a man willing to sleep with scorpions and eat grasshoppers, and to hike through jungle, across glaciers, and over blazing desert, all the while braving hunger, thirst, exposure and constant danger.

I really love that television is starting to celebrate more and more the people who have determination, smarts, stamina, and courage. It’s not just the dirty guys that turn me on; I also love people like David Bromstad, the interior designer, and Tom Collichio, the chef, and all the guys competing on “So You Think You Can Dance,” and Grant Imahara, the “Mythbusters” engineering genius. They are all people with special skills, and they all work very, very hard.

Even harder than the pig on Mike Rowe’s pedestal. So let’s salute them, and let them inspire our fantasies and our daily lives as well!