There and Back Again: The Evolution of a Chris Daughtry Fan

Be with me. Here’s the scene:

My apartment. Queens, NY. Saturday morning. The sun is shining. I go to the computer, and load up iTunes. I scroll for Chris Daughtry’s new album, Break the Spell. I click on the third song, Outta My Head. I turn up the volume. Loud.

The music blares:

Bahm! Bahm!
Baddah-daddah-daddah-daddah
Bahm! Bahm!

I turn toward the front of my apartment. My twins — who are 20 months old — are in their high chairs waiting for me to feed them breakfast. Waffles and strawberries. Their backs are to me. And we hear:

I thought it would be easy, but it ain’t for me
It’s kinda hard, when you lay your heart on a one-way street

My son, then my daughter. First one hand, then the other.

I really thought by NOW!
You would’ve slipped my mind
But the kind of love sent from above is the killing kind …

My kids are fist pumping. They are head banging. And all because Chris Daughtry is bringin’ it.

Rock is in the air. Life is good.

The Idol Maker

Okay. Now it’s confession time. I wasn’t always a Chris Daughtry fan.

In fact, I dismissed his music.

When Chris first came on the scene back in 2006, all I knew was that “the rocker dude” from American Idol got voted off, and apparently it was unfair. I never saw the show, and had zero interest in learning more.

Yet my sister Alison said — repeatedly, ad nauseam — that Chris was the man.

Whatever.

Fast forward a few years and two albums later. At this point the only Daughtry songs I know are from the radio: What About Now, Feels Like Tonight and Life After You. These songs aren’t bad, but let’s face it. They’re not really directed at me.

To my classic rock-loving ear, Daughtry was very … Meh.

And though my sister insisted — avalanche-style — that Chris was awesome, I rejected her assessment. Here’s a typical exchange:

Alison: Dude. Listen to his voice.

Me: Don’t care.

Alison: He’s great.

Me: Nah.

Alison: Just give him a chance!

Me: I’ve heard the songs. They’re all the same to me. Snore.

Alison: Grrrrr …. Dude. You. Are. WRONG!


What I Meant to Say

Whether I was truly convinced that there was more to Daughtry than I gave him credit for — or I simply wilted beneath my sister’s onslaught — I finally listened to Chris’ first two albums, Daughtry and Leave This Town. I focused on certain tracks. No Surprise. Supernatural. Ghost of Me. Crashed. Every Time You Turn Around.

And eventually I admitted … okay, this is better than I thought.

But you know what really got me? That ass-kicking vocal hook in What I Meant to Say:

And I just thought … that you should know
That I’ve been holding on while you’ve been letting GO!

Now I’m starting to feel it. And I think: whoa, this guy’s voice is BOOMIN’. There are some great hooks. But I couldn’t understand why the more rockin’ tunes didn’t get more radio play.

Then it clicked for me. Chris was facing a marketing obstacle I hadn’t initially appreciated. The record label was putting out the songs they thought would sell. Fair enough. But in doing so they didn’t necessarily showcase who Chris really is.

They pumped out more of his softer-side tunes, keeping his potent, overdrive mojo a secret from rock n’ roll fans like me. I didn’t get Chris Daughtry at first because I didn’t know to look for him. As far as I knew, that guy didn’t even exist.

But he does. Trust me. He does.


Let’s Break the Spell

Having finally been converted, I was then educated that Daughtry isn’t just Chris with a backing band. Together, all the musicians — who co-write many of the songs and form the sound — make up Daughtry. This isn’t just a one-man show.

So by this point I’m diggin’ a bunch of Daughtry tunes … yet I still found the first two albums to be fairly similar. And despite the band’s talent, to me the overall quality of the song-writing just hadn’t caught up with that Hall of Fame voice.

Which then led me to ask: Will this band grow? Will the songwriting become richer and more intricate — textured with subtly and nuance? Will the guys trust themselves enough to layer more technical sophistication to their musical instincts and let their sound evolve as it naturally wants to? Or will Daughtry essentially release a third version of the same album?

Translation: Guys, I like you pretty okay, but I want to hear more. You can do better. You. Can do. Better.

And guess what? They did. Big time.

Break the Spell is — by a large margin – Daughtry’s most developed, confident and satisfying album. No dis on the first two records, but with BTS the boys took a significant, creative leap. 

Just hold on tight to the Rebel Yell-style bad-boy opener, Renegade.

Or listen to Chris’ falsetto rising in Losing My Mind.

Get completely absorbed by the surging, devil-eyed chorus of the BTS title track:

The way you pull me in,
The way you chew me up,
The way you spit me out,
I KEEP COMING BACK! I CAN’T GET ENOUGH!
I CAN’T GO WITHOUT!

And the album’s most deliciously confessional lyric, from Losing My Mind:

You’re one part angel, one part danger
But, oh, the kind of crazy I like …

Oh, yeah. It’s go time. Daughtry is no longer just a solid, radio-friendly band with a killer voice at its core. They have begun their ascent as a musical force. They will stand the test of time.

Off on a Spaceship

Back in my apartment. My kids in high chairs. I’m feeding them breakfast. BTS is playing. Spaceship:

If somebody’s out there
S
how me that you care
Give me a sign that comes out of nowhere

My daughter smiles, with strawberries on her face. My son then looks at me, looks at his sister, and we hear:

Like a shooting star
We’ll maybe laugh for miles
Something inside tells me we can’t be too far

The fist pump returns.

Rock is in the air. Daughtry.

And life is good.

 

Russ’ Speaking Schedule at Lunacon 2012

Hey Gang-

It’s convention season again and I’ll be making my first appearance of the year. I’ll be speaking on several panels at this year’s Lunacon, a sci-fi convention in Rye, New York, March 16-18.

Here’s my schedule:

• Book Trailers, Sat 12:00 – 13:00, Westchester Ballroom A1

• Humor in Science Fiction and Fantasy, Sat 13:00 – 14:00, Maple

• Finding Good Self-Published Work, Sat 19:00 – 20:00, Birch

I’ll be joining author and Crossline editor James Chambers for the show, and will try and post a bit throughout the day on Facebook and Twitter.

And, as always, I’ll report back afterwards with highlights.

Hope to see you there.

Russ

Vol. 6, Issue 1 – Crossline Getting Close!

Hi  Gang-

Welcome to 2012! I hope everyone had a fabulous holiday (which I know seems like centuries ago already) and is starting off the new year with a bang. (and apologies to anyone getting a duplicate here, as I’m still finalizing a new email template).

Of course my highlights continue to be time with the family. My little ones are a constant riot, dancing to music, building Lego towers that baffle my mind, tossing all the couch cushions on the floor and generally filling my world with hugs, laughter and smiles (when they’re not running me ragged!).

In the mean time, Liz and I have put our apartment on the market, and we’re doing some house hunting in New Jersey to give us a little more elbow room. So one of these days we’re moving back to the burbs!

As for my adventures in publishing …

* At long last I have Crossline pages back from wordsmithing buddy James Chambers, who went all out to find the brilliance (and clunkers) within the manuscript. I’m going full throttle (ha-ha) on my edits, and hope to have a finished, ready-to-go manuscript some time in the first half of 2012.

* Now that convention season is getting underway, I’ll be making appearances at the following venues this spring:

Lunacon, in Rye, NY, March 17-18, on various panels and schmoozing with the gang

I-Con, in Stonybrook, NY, March 30 – April 1, where I’ll be selling and signing books, and possibly be appearing on a few panels. Details to come.

* For you readers out there, I’ve been picking up an increasing presence on Goodreads (www.goodreads.com) which is really a great site for those of us who still love books (it’s like Facebook, but just for book readers). So if you haven’t already, drop by the site and let’s be friends!

* And last but not least, as Finders Keepers continues to make the rounds, I’m starting to pick up the pace on character arcs and key punch points for the sequel! So once Crossline is done, it’s back to the crazy world of Finders Keepers and those see what those backpacking goofballs will get up to next.

That’s all she wrote for this edition, but I’ll be back soon with new updates, and hope to have some more specifics on the panels I’ll be speaking on at the various conventions. Until then …

All the Best!

Russ

 

Russ’ 2011 Top TV & Movie Moments

With 2011 wrapped up I was all ready for my annual top 10 lists for best movies and best TV shows.

Well … through a combination of not enough time to get to everything I want to see — I knew fatherhood would slow me down somewhere — and a rather lackluster year of entertainment, I’ll be mixing things up this time around.

Rather than my usual top 10 in each category — TV and movies — what follows is a top 10 list of my favorites — TV, movies, moments and performances — all rolled up into one list. Starting with …

10. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender in X-Men: First Class – Through  the first three X-Men movies, Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellan raised the characters/performances of Professor X and Magneto to iconic status. The odds of any actors slipping into the earlier life roles — and doing the characters justice — were remote at best. And yet both McAvoy and Fassbender brought the goods, making us believe those formative years were utterly real and how and why they developed into the elder versions of themselves we’re tied to forever.

9. Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids – A pretty funny movie in its own right, but Melissa McCarthy steals every scene she’s in. I’ll never look at a bridal shop sink the same way again.

8. Skyscraper Climb in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol: I did not like any of the first three MI movies, and Tom Cruise over the years went from movie star to raging D-Bag … and then MI4 hit the theater with a bucket full of holy crap! A generic plot and generally wooden performances, but this movie is two hours of heart pounding action that had me sucked in from the get go. And yet the ultimate show-stopper was watching Cruise’s Ethan Hunt scale the Burj Khalifia in Dubai –the world’s tallest skyscraper — in an aerial scene so visceral and extraordinary I almost blacked out. I don’t know how they pulled it off, but it’s not to be missed.

7. Brad Pitt in Moneyball – It’s tough enough selling a movie about baseball statistics and how they changed the way — to some degree at least — the modern ball club is constructed. But Brad Pitt playing real life general manager Billy Beane brings the goods, with his movie star looks and charm and the right mix of confidence and wounded soul that makes us care just that much more about a boys game run by very wealthy men.

6. Dexter, Season 6, Final Moment – The former best show on TV has become a shell of it’s former murderous self, but (SPOILER ALERT) the final moment of season 6, when our beloved serial killer is plunging his knife into the Doomsday Killer, and Dexter’s sister Deb walks in on him committing the act? FREAKIN. AWESOME. It was a long time coming, and now the final two seasons have an end game in sight we can all sign up for.

5. Boardwalk Empire, Season 2, Final Two Episodes — Though a solid show, Boardwalk Empire has never quite lived up to its hype and potential. But the last two episodes of season 2 is some of the best TV … ever. Intense, shocking and utterly gripping. The layers of psychological madness and intrigue still haunt me weeks later. I’m not saying it’s the best crime show you’ll ever see, but the ending of season 2 would be difficult for any show to top.

4. Homeland, Season 1 – Hands down one of the best political thrillers of all time, with writing and performances that knock your socks off, particularly from Claire Danes and Damian Lewis. From the creator of 24 and former show runner of Dexter, you’ve  got a returned Iraqi war vet — back after 8 years of brutal captivity — trying to resume  a “regular” life. But has he been secretly converted into a terrorist against the U.S.? Or is the lone CIA operative who’s convinced of his betrayal falling victim to her own mental illness? Or both? Or neither? Tense, intense and just downright amazing.

3. Rooney Mara in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – I’m a huge David Fincher fan, and Dragon Tattoo is another winner on his resume. But Rooney Mara sells this movie. She was so utterly brilliant in a grueling role, that it will go down as one of the most iconic performances in history. Like Christopher Waltz in Inglurious Basterds or Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter, it’s impossible for me to even imagine anyone else sinking into the character of Lisbeth Salander better than Rooney Mara. If she doesn’t win an Oscar, then Oscar should pack up his crap and go home.

2. Breaking Bad, Season 4 – The ultimate high stakes game of chess between high school chemistry teacher/turned meth genius Walter White, and mob kingpin Gus Fring, ended in a battle of wits we haven’t seen Kirk vs. Kahn. Even more so, watching Walt’s wife slowly fall in love with the gangster life, as his protege Jesse struggles to retain his soul despite all the awful things he does, and before our very eyes we’re watching Walt become a modern day Scarface. With only 16 episodes to go, this series can only end one way: with everyone finally breaking bad.

1. Game of Thrones, Season 1 – Essentially, this is a sexy, twisty, bloody, action-packed soap opera version of Lord of the Rings. So, yeah … full blown AWESOME. Going in I had absolutely no interest in Game of Thrones, but by the end of the second episode I was hooked. And it only got better from there. More than just epic fantasy, it’s juicy storytelling on a massive scale. Run, don’t walk. It’s that good.

 

 

Honorable mentions:

The Big Bang Theory, Modern Family, The Good Wife, Rise of the Planet of the Apes

 

 

 

Russ’ Newsletter: Vol. 5, Issue 11 – Happy New Year!

Hi Gang-

2011 has been a heck of a ride on numerous fronts, so I thought this would be a good time to recap the year, offer many thanks and give some insight into what lays ahead for 2012.

So as my hero Jackie Gleason used to say … and awaaaaaay we go:

* More than anything else, 2011 has been absolutely incredible watching Abby and Nate come alive. Abby will one day rule all of Metropolis, if not the Galaxy (and be a wonderful, wide-eyed leader at that), while Nate seems destined for the comedy circuit along the lines of John Belushi and Bill Murray, without, of course, all the personal drama.

Until then,  they are as fast as ninjas and twice and smart, keeping Liz and I on our toes at  every turn.

With a soft launch at the end of 2010, Finders Keepers made its way into the world in a big way in 2011. Among the highlights:
* Endorsement from Publishers Weekly
* National distribution contract
* Picked up by Barnes & Noble

And while the great reviews keep piling up, here’s my absolute favorite:

Ruled By Books reviewer Jaime Chambers said the following about me:

“Comedy writing in any form is hard to do well. The intangible stuff that makes people laugh can be hard to grasp and even harder to deliver. There are only a handful of comedic authors that I enjoy, tops among them being [best-selling authors] Douglas Adams and Christopher Moore. After reading Finders Keepers, I was happy to add Russ Colchamiro to that list.”

Here’s a link to the full interview:

http://www.ruledbybooks.com/author-interview-with-russ-colchamiro/

To be considered among the greatest comedic authors … ever? Wow. I’ll take it!

* With Finders Keepers in full groove, I’m now putting the finishing touches on my next book, Crossline. A stand-alone space adventure, Crossline is in the Buck Rogers/Flash Gordon style of space opera, with my usual time-bending philosophical ruminations that really give the adventure some extra layers of zing.

Good buddy and fellow writer James Chambers — who at one point collaborated with Spock himself, Leonard Nemoy, on some comic book projects — is editing Crossline, so I’m feeling pretty darn good about the process. Jim will be handing over pages to me any day now, and then I’ll spend the next few months staying warm, putting the final touches on what will be a rollicking adventure.

* So what’s in store for 2012? Oooh … so glad you asked! As noted, first order of business is wrapping up Crossline and then lining up a publication deal.

Then … I’ll be doing some conventions in the spring, where I’ll be signing copies of Finders Keepers.

And as I continue to promote Finders Keepers and line up that Crossline deal … I’ll start work on book No. 3 … the first Finders Keepers sequel!

In between, I’ll be out there on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads, trying to squeeze in a few blogs here and there, and chatting up my fellow creators along the way.

Somewhere in there I’ll also find time to you know … go to work every day, buy a house! Ahh! … and spend as much as time as possible with the family, which is my source of strength and inspiration.

Which leads me to …

* For this issue’s shout-out it’s a two-fer!

First, let me thank everyone who has and continues to support me. As I’m sure you know, this publishing gig ain’teasy, and there are days when I just ain’t in the mood. But your unwavering support and enthusiasm is nothing short of phenomenal, so to all who are behind me, my deepest thanks and gratitude. You rock!

Of course, Nate and Abby are an endless source of love and joy. My life has changed forever in the most remarkable way, and watching my children grow is simply spectacular.

And finally, to my wife Liz … who stands behind through it all, with my endless piles of paper and notes clutter here, there and everywhere. Since even before we met, she has always been the one. And while she may be my wife, she will always be my girl.

Okay. That’s all she wrote for this … year! I’ll be back in January with more updates, so until then … be festive, be safe … and Happy Holidays.

All the Best!

Russ

www.russcolchamiro.com
@FindKeepNovel

Follow me on Facebook and Goodreads

Russ’ Top 10 Rock n’ Roll Voices of All Time

I’ve been on a huge music kick lately, so in that spirit below is my list of the top 10 rock n’ roll voices of all time.

Now, to clarify … this list is strictly narrowed to Rock n’ Roll, so there are no pop, soul or R&B singers here. Granted, there are some cross-over artists, and you can certainly make cases that someone does or doesn’t belong in one category or another, but before you start screaming that Aretha Franklin isn’t on this list … of course she’s one of the greatest singers ever … but for this one list, I don’t consider her a strict Rock n’ Roll singer.

Also, this list of singers unto itself does not necessarily match which artists or bands I consider the best ever, nor does it take into account production values, song writing or number of “hits.” This is purely about which Rock n’ Roll voices I never get tired of hearing.

Okay. Enough with the wind up. Below is my list. Let the debate begin:

10: Jim Morrison: His pagan ways graveled up his voice over the last album or two, but the former Doors front man had such a soothing, haunting vocal range that transported me time again. Whether The End, Touch Me or Riders on the Storm, Mr. Mojo Rison was the Dionysian Rock n’ Roll guide of all time.

9. Stevie Nicks: The gypsy queen of rock. There’s no one else quite like Stevie. Edge of 17, Rhiannon, Landslide. That’s Hall of Fame right there.

8. Chris Daughtry: If there’s a modern day singer with a more BOOMIN’ voice, I haven’t heard it. And as powerful as he sounds on record, hear him live. I stood literally five feet from him at a recent performance, and my teeth are still rattling. Wow. This dude has a loooong career ahead of him. A once-in-a-generation voice.

7. Chris Cornell: The second coming of Robert Plant, Chris Cornell has that rare of combination of power and vocal range like a creature from Lord of the Rings. From Soundgarden to Audioslave, he’s one singer that always makes me stop and take notice.

6. Pat Benatar: Powerful, sexy and a growl to match. As fierce as they come. Shadows of the Night still stops me in my tracks.

5. Steve Perry: You might argue that Journey is more pop than rock, but I don’t care. This guy hits notes so loud, high and strong it defies logic. Anyone who says that at least now and again they haven’t done a little fist raising when this guy signs, is flat out lying.

4. Ann Wilson: She had me at Barracuda.

3. Grace Slick: Jefferson Airplane/Starship whatever had its share of highs and lows, but Grace Slick had a voice that made the Concord stop mid-flight to ask what the hell they just heard. Pure wow. White Rabbit still has some of the trippiest, haunting vocals ever.

2. Robert Plant: From Stairway to Heaven to the Immigrant Song, this Led Zeppelin front man had maybe the most howling voice of all time.

1. Freddie Mercury: With that operatic power and style, Freddy Mercury is the hands down winner. For me, it’s Freddy and then everyone else. Just watch him perform Radio Gaga at Live Aid and you’ll remember just how incredible he was.

 

 

 

 

Honorable mentions: Axel Rose, Roger Daltrey, Elvis, Scott Weiland, Chris Robinson, Steven Tyler, Chrissie Hynde

 

Russ’ Newsletter​: Vol. 5, No. 10 – Top 3 Comedy Authors – Douglas Adams, Christophe​r Moore and … Russ Colchamiro​?

Hey Gang-

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, so with the leaves changing and some gobble gobble in the air, here’s the latest tasty meal I’ve got to report about my adventures in publishing:

* About a month ago I went through a three-day span that had me super high, super low and then pretty jazzed up again. The short version is that I received an email from USA Best Books 2011 announcing that I was a “finalist” in their book of the year contest in the new fiction category. Sweet! But …. the next day I discovered that it was actually a bogus “contest,” and that unsuspecting authors such as myself sent in a $65 “entrance” fee to compete for their “awards.” Needless to say, I was pretty freakin’ miffed.

But with the Universe unfolding as it does, a few days later …

Ruled By Books reviewer Jaime Chambers said the following about me: Comedy writing in any form is hard to do well. The intangible stuff that makes people laugh can be hard to grasp and even harder to deliver. There are only a handful of comedic authors that I enjoy, tops among them being [best-selling authors] Douglas Adams and Christopher Moore. After reading Finders Keepers, I was happy to add Russ Colchamiro to that list.”

So now I’m being spoken about — in some circles at least — as one of the best comedy authors … of all time! Um … overall I’d say I agree with Jaime’s assessment! Ha!

Here’s a link to the full interview:  http://www.ruledbybooks.com/author-interview-with-russ-colchamiro/

* Keeping up with the Finders Keepers mojo, last weekend I hung out with the gang at PhilCon, an annual sci-fi convention that has since relocated to Cherry Hill, NJ. Sales were a little on the slow side, but I signed books, hung out with returning and new fans, caught up with my fellow authors and made some initial inquiries about a possible Crossline publishing deal. Very early stages, nothing concrete to report, but progress nonetheless.

For my full PhilCon blog: https://russcolchamiro.com/2011/11/philcon-2012-fans-authors-and-the-bupkis-effect/

* On the family front, Nate and Abby are happy little monkeys, racing around and generally loving life. More and more Nate is developing into that Bill Murray/John Belushi-type rascal with the Jack Nicholson raised eye brow thing, who is also so darn cute you just can’t get mad at him no matter what kind of mischief he gets into. Meanwhile, Abby seems pretty intent on ruling all of Metropolis, which, at the rate she’s going, should happen any day now.

* And for this month’s shout-out, give up some big props to my good pals in powerpop band The Turnback, whose video for their single “Celophane Sky” went over the 100,000 view mark. Their album — in support of lead guitarist and film director Todd Gilio’s great little movie DRAWING WITH CHALK — is now available: www.theturnback.com

* And with the holiday season in full swing, here’s a joyous invitation to pick up your very own copy of Finders Keepers! It is readily available at many Barnes & Noble locations, and of course you can buy it online through Barnes & Noble as well:
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/colchamiro?keyword=colchamiro&store=allproducts

That’s all she wrote for this edition. I hope everyone has a festive Thanksgiving, and I’ll be back at the end of December to wrap up with some final 2011 thoughts and well wishes into the New Year.

All the Best!

Russ

PhilCon 2012 – Fans, Authors and the Bupkis Effect

PhilCon was a bit of a mixed bag this year.

For an annual sci-fi convention celebrating its 75th anniversary, there wasn’t so much as a banner to mark the event, and more than one author — including myself — was more than slightly annoyed at not having been invited to speak on panels, which is one thing. But we didn’t even get so much as a “Sorry, we’d love to have you, but we’re all filled up. Hopefully next year.”

We got bupkis. Nothing. Nada. Not a peep from anyone.

We all appreciate that conventions are run by volunteers and they can often get overwhelmed with requests, but silence isn’t necessarily the most thoughtful form of communication.

But I digress.

As always it was great to mingle with new and returning fans of Finders Keepers, and though I didn’t sell a ton of books, I got to catch up with some of my fellow authors and editors, and even laid the groundwork for a potential Crossline publishing deal.

Nothing in stone, but at least conversations are taking place that could result in some exciting news next year.

Here’s me at the table, which I shared with fellow author James Chambers, whose own work tends to focus more on horror and the supernatural, including tales about zombies, gouls, fairies and other creatures that go bump in the night.

Part of the fun at these shows is just getting our geek on, chatting up our favorite (and least favorite) comic book movies. I’ll mention that the Spiderman franchise come up quite a bit, but I’ll save the rankings for a separate blog entry.

I also met up with the editor of Space & Time Magazine, who said that Finders Keepers is next in line for a review. So fingers crossed that they actually like it!

PhilCon was actually my last show of the year, so I’ll be taking a breather until spring 2012, when I’ll be back with a number of shows, which I’ll announce once I’ve locked in my appearance. Until then I’ll keep plugging along online and keep you posted on all the news that fit to print.

 

The Art of Selfishness

In THE ART OF SELFISHNESS, author David Seabury talks, fundamentally, about the difference between what we’ll call productive selfishness and destructive selfishness. And after reading his book, and talking about with some folks about it, I believe that understanding those differences–and then acting accordingly–can have a remarkable positive impact on ours lives.

Productive Selfishness: Let’s say a friend asks you to help him move. He’s a pretty good friend, and you really want to help him out. You’re not necessarily excited about moving furniture, but you figure it’s the kind of thing your friend would do for you if the situations were reversed.

But truth is, you’re physically tired from a long couple of weeks at work. You’ve been feeling pretty run down lately and it’s been getting worse, and you just need a weekend to yourself to recuperate. You also feel that if you exert yourself now, you may take a legitimate turn for the worse. So you tell your friend that you won’t be able to help him move.

And then he guilts you. “Come on, dude. Help me out. You know I’d totally help you. It’ll only take a few hours. Otherwise I’ll be at this all day by myself or it’ll cost me a fortune to hire movers.”

So what should you do? The answer is, it depends. But I think Seabury would argue that while you might feel on some level that helping your friend is a good thing to do–that you’re being a good friend–if it compromises your well-being or your values to a degree that would be more harmful to you than it would be helpful to your friend, then you should say no, even if your friend gives you grief about it. This is an example of productive selfishness.

Of course, every situation is different; there’s no one size fits all. We need to consider all factors and then make the best decision we can.

But I think that we have been conditioned over the generations to often let guilt dictate our actions, and to worry about what other people will think about us. Far too often we put what other people want ahead of what’s best for us. We compromise our values, thinking that we’re doing so for a good reason. And sometimes making a sacrifice is the right thing to do. It can be difficult to know what the best decision is. But I think it’s extremely important that we understand–and legitimately believe–that saying no is an absolutely acceptable option. Knowing when to say no is the tricky part.

It’s something I’ve struggled with for many, many years, especially when I was younger. I’ve gotten a far better handle on it now, but it can still be a tough one for me. And being a dad now, I can only image what’s coming.

Destructive Selfishness: Here’s a true story. When I was in college my fraternity (don’t judge) had a spaghetti lunch one weekend. We held it at my apartment. Basically, we just made mounds of pasta and had a meal together. To accompany our pasta, we also bought a couple of bags of garlic bread that you heat up in the broiler. Naturally, everybody wanted a piece, and there was only so much to go around.

One guy who, we’ll call Fred, was first in line in the kitchen (sort of no surprise there). So I served him up a plate of spaghetti, and put a piece of garlic bread on his plate. And then he grabbed another one. When I told him that it was only one to a customer, he got aggressive with me. I told him to put one piece back. We argued. Finally, he walked away with only piece.

Had there been far more bread than people, I wouldn’t have cared that he took another piece of bread. But he knew there was only enough bread for each person to get one piece. He knew that, and tried to take a second piece anyway.

Nothing good came from Fred’s selfishness here. Had he taken two pieces, then someone else wouldn’t have gotten any. And even though he ultimately put the second piece back, his selfishness, and then his subsequent attempts to justify his selfishness, added stress to what was supposed to be a fun day, and also demonstrated that he was far more interested in what he wanted than in being equitable. Beyond that, trying to scam a second piece of garlic bread is just so petty that it inherently lowers the quality of the experience on its face.

This is destructive selfishness.  Fred thought only of himself–and acted accordingly–in a way that was harmful to others, and, really, to himself.

Overall, I’d say I’ve done a fairly good job over the years of descerning when and where to be productive selfishness, but life has a funny way of reminding me that I’ll be tested every day on this one, and that the moment I think I’ve got it licked is the day I’ll get it wrong.

(note: the original version of this blog ran January 23, 2007).

Russ’ Review: The Good Wife – Season 2

Coming off an inconsistent — and in my opinion — overrated season 1, I was still mildly optimistic heading into the sophomore season of The Good Wife. With the wrap of season 2, I can now call myself a convert. The show is still prone to some goofy and unnecessary plotting, but season 2 was a satisfying ride that got better and better as it went along. The Good Wife is now, essentially, Grey’s Anatomy, but this time that action centers on a few Chicago lawyers, with good looking people doing naughty things while trying, with varying degrees of success, to retain their occasionally questionable souls.

What Works: Once again, the chemistry between the characters rules the day. Having made the very wise choice to abandon some of the “procedural” aspects of the show in favor of the juicy characters, The Good Wife became far more focused and driven, delivering generally excellent performances all around. The will-they-or-won’t-they between Julianna Marguiles’ Alicia Florek and (personal favorite) Josh Charles’ Will Gardner was there all season, while Chris Noth’s possibly reformed Peter Florek ran for re-election for State’s Attorney while also trying to reclaim his family. Alan Cumming as campaign manager Eli Gold was a welcomed presence of sometimes icky wisdom, humor and, in a very strange way, humanity. And the always mysterious Kalinda as the law firm’s investigator hit new highs (or lows, depending on how you look at it), pushing Alicia to the point of deciding once and for all whether she really is “The Good Wife.”

What Doesn’t: The legal plots are still boiler plate. The death row inmate looking for a last-minute pardon? The unscrupulous insurance company? Ho-hum. Been there, done that. And despite the quick pace of the episodes, the cases get resolved way too fast, challenging their credibility. One of my biggest pet peeves comes in the form of the “quirky” judges, which seems utterly implausible. One? Maybe. But almost every judge seems like a cartoon character with bizarrely exaggerated traits, which is painful to watch when the show is based on, in theory, the real-world legal system. The show also struggles to keep Alicia’s children in the mix, forcing her son’s very bad and unlikable/sorta girlfriend into the frame, just to stir up trouble.

Final Thoughts: As a popcorn show, The Good Wife is a tasty treat. There’s no high art here, just a pulpy, semi-trashy workplace drama that mixes law, politics, family, sex and love, and for the most part leaves the viewer wanting more at the end of each episode. The Good Wife looks good, moves fast and is littered with quality actors who bring layers to their roles. I still hold out hope the silliness will dissipate in coming seasons, but even if not, The Good Wife is addictive, watchable TV that I look forward to week in and week out.

Season 2 Score: 8 Stars out of 10

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