The Story of a Big Bass

Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 11.24.18 AMLast December I fished Brazil’s Rio Negro for peacock bass with Billy Chapman of Angler’s Inn. (You can see a video of it here). This is adventure tourism and I found it to be a great and very green benefit to the indigenous people who live in villages up that glorious river. (I wrote about that for Forbes.)

On one particular day we decided to go deep down side channels to find the really big peacock bass.

Sandbars threatened to ground us and we couldn’t get out to push—not because of the crocodiles or piranhas, but because of the freshwater rays that look like the sandy bottom and will impale you with a poisonous barb that’ll swell your foot into cartoon-sized proportions if you step on them.

We reached the water we wanted to fish and tossed choppers, foot-long plugs with treble hooks, and yanked them back so they made a choom-choom-choom sound on the surface. These lures almost seem over-the-top until a peacock bass engulfs them.

Then a big peacock smashed my lure. It looked like a small depth charge went off. Suddenly I was attached to a very determined bass colored like some wild tropical bird. The line tightened and I set the hook not once, but twice for insurance. Then the big fish took line and I saw water flying off the line and the fish jumping clear out of the stained water. People were shouting but I don’t hear them. The fish jumped and ran some more and I was well aware it had a sporting chance of getting off without having its picture taken.

Billy was filming when I fought and finally brought the 15-pound peacock in. My shoulders were numb and my hands hurt. Many of the guys literally lost feeling in their right hands after days of working choppers on the surface for peacock bass.

We did that again and again. We let each fish go and knew our visit there was employing local people and helping them to save a wild part of a beautiful river.

A Manly Book

41zlAHmZQEL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_The most profound things, the philosophical underpinnings having to do with right and wrong, good and evil, are best put simply, at least at first. They have too many layers for complex explanations in the beginning. When people really try to understand them they must relate themselves to questions about what honor is and more. This is a personal quest. If someone tries to do this for another person, at least too much, they’ll muddle the deeper points, as they must express their own points of view, experiences, and biases to explain. Soon the person being taught will misunderstand or even rebel as they correctly realize that this person isn’t the living embodiment of all this do-as-I-say advice. This is why a good guide shows the way, but also lets a person think and learn for themselves.

Good books, or speeches, on character walk this line. There are very few good books that do this well. Rules for a Knight is one of the few. It begins with the simple premise: feed the good parts of yourself and you’ll grow better, healthier; feed the bad parts and you’ll grow worse, unhealthier. This is old advice from people like Aristotle, Cicero, and Mencius. This timeless advice needs to be remembered is this age of moral relativism.

This little, but profound book, is then structured with rules—parts of the ideal. Ethan Hawke has said he wrote this for his children. Once upon a time the Roman orator and politician Cicero wrote On Duties for this son. I wrote The Ultimate Man’s Survival Guide for mine and have a narrative-driven story on this topic coming out later this year. Rules for a Knight from Ethan Hawke is another book I will read to my son.

Finally, A Real Definition Of Manliness?

Manliness finally has a modern definition. A meaning we can all measures ourselves by thanks to an academic description pulled from the chronicles of decades of Hollywood parody.

Somewhere, up there, maybe James Dean is applauding.

It was Dean’s most-memorable role in the 1955 classic “Rebel Without a Cause” who asked his father: “What do you do when you have to be a man?” But his father didn’t know. Dean’s character was trying to prove himself, to grow up, but there were no guides or even real answers for him. They were all gone. That was the point of the movie. But the thing is that’s where manliness has been left, at least as far as pop-culture is concerned, ever since. And the feminists, the academics, and even the screenwriters, seem happy to leave it right there.

But now The Daily Beast has run a story, “How Machisomo is Keeping Bros Up at Night” by Samantha Allen, that’s about a study that found that men with “traditional views of masculinity” tend to believe more than other types of men—whomever or whatever they might be—that high-octane energy drinks can make them into the heroes of their stories, or something.

The thing is, in her reporting, Allen doesn’t question the big premise, the stupendous sociological underpinning: How did the four Texas psychologists who published this study in the November issue of Health Psychology define “traditional masculinity”?

As the author of The Ultimate Man’s Survival Guide—Recovering the Lost Art of Manliness I had to unearth how they defined traditional masculinity, as it could finally be the answer to Dean’s question.

This led me to an online questionnaire designed to determine if participants in this study have “traditional masculinity ideology.” The psychologists had to determine this before they could find out how these old-school men feel about energy drinks as compared to other types of men.

There are 21 simple questions.

Each question uses a scale from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.”

The first is: “Homosexuals should never marry.”

The next is: “The president of the U.S. should always be a man.”

The fourth is: “All homosexual bars should be closed down.”

I paused. Hmm, so a man with traditional values is a sexist homophobe?

Click here for the rest of my article at Forbes.com.

 

Playboy Is Giving Up Its Porn—Here’s Why Men Should Say Hooray!

scan1__80571.1439432331.386.513Almost 15 years ago the Manhattan barbershop I then went to took the Playboy magazines off the tables in its waiting area. The old Midtown barbershop was going unisex and Vinnie, its veteran barber, was apoplectic. After hearing Vinnie rant I looked at the table with the magazines and realized that I never saw anyone read them. They just lay there like a dare: Are you man enough to open this here, in public? This prompted me to pick one up. After looking and looking, I found didn’t want to stop reading. The old maxim that men buy the magazine for the pictures but subscribe for the articles isn’t just a joke. What was alluring, though, was an old-school gentleman’s point of view that was all over its prose and photos.

Now Playboy says it’s going to drop the nudity.

“You’re now one click away from every sex act imaginable for free. And so it’s just passe at this juncture,” said Playboy’s chief executive Scott Flanders.

The thing is, even as we can click away on the Internet, Playboy’s totally nude photos have long required that the magazine be sold where children can’t get their hands on it for a looksee. In many places this means men have to ask for it—men don’t even want to ask for directions, let alone ask some 16-year-old cashier to hand them a mature men’s magazine. For this and other reasons Playboy’s circulation has dropped from over 5 million in the 1970s to about 800,000 today.

Given this, it makes sense that Playboy would drop full nudity to compete for magazine rack space and audience share with titles like Stuff, Esquire, and Maxim. Like those titles, Playboy says it will still feature beautiful women showing a lot of skin.

In fact, Playboy’s website has already dropped the nudity. This has given Playboy access to social-media mouthpieces like Twitter and Facebook, which reportedly has already greatly expanded its reach.

All that has been reported. Here’s why, as the author of a book on manliness, I’m applauding this change.

For the rest of this article at Forbes.com click here.

There were Monsters and Some were Sharks

shark42Something monstrous was about to happen. You could feel it coming. Boats were out trying to drag the biggest monster shark from the deep. A crowd was waiting, eager to see the apex predators that still swim in the deep of the Atlantic hung up for them to see. The scene was so retro it was like a black-and-white documentary on shark fishing was playing right there in 3D color on this pier in the now swanky, yacht-infested town of Newport, Rhode Island.

If you don’t know Newport, picture a Hollywood set of an idealized New England town running along the edge of the Atlantic. The main drag is all seafood restaurants with gaudy ship’s anchors and wheels as trimmings, and boutiques with glamor in their storefronts and pubs with dark wood bars and brass taps. Each cross street ends in a pier. A few have real fish markets on them. Most have yachts bobbing off them.

People were saying Celine Dion was on one of the big white yachts with those one-way windows and spacious sun decks—one of the boats without outriggers. Everyone nodded when they heard this, as if it must be true. How can you have a real American scene without a celebrity endorsement?

All around the extras were strictly upper class. You could tell from the brands of their vacation clothes. The men were wearing docksiders without socks, Sketchers or Lanvin sneakers and bright Abercrombie shirts and Patagonia shorts. The women were in Lands’ End skirts, Indigo designer jeans, Ann Taylor blouses and Laura Jean shoes and had Prada and Gouche bags. A few of the older men wore blue sport jackets and vintage white oxford shirts. Some of the men actually had sweaters tied around their necks. They were all coming off the chic street along the blue bay in hopes of seeing monsters.

shark32Of course, hundreds of shark fishermen were in town, too. But few would make you think of the character Quint in “Jaws.” They were mostly men from New York and Boston who have the spare change to run a boat that can motor 50 miles off the coast for sharks or tuna for a day’s fishing with pals or family. Some fancy themselves as throwback, iconic playboys in an age when such men were cultural manifestations of class and manly appeal, to an era when Errol Flynn, Jack London and Humphrey Bogart took their big boats out to the blue water for giant fish.

Still, this is a kill tournament. Its captains might be mostly well heeled, but they’re not afraid of getting shark blood on their office-smooth hands. Well, I found that a few hired first mates with shark-fishing skills to make up for their lack of shark-fishing prowess. These types might pick up a rod after a shark is hooked, but then they might just as likely watch with a martini in their gold-ringed fingers. But, that said, most of these guys fish.

To add spice to the already flavorful scene there had been threats from PETA to show up and do who knows what. The year before—when the tournament was still in Martha’s Vineyard—20 “animal-rights” protestors picked a fight. It seems that some of the spectators started yelling things back. There was no fence separating them. Parents where putting their hands over their children’s ears.

I walked down the pier and passed cops waiting like bouncers for those jokers. But, oh hum, there weren’t any of those let’s-ban-reality types around. This pier had been rented for the “Monster Shark Tournament” so this was private property. Any protestors would be escorted off like Code Pink activists at a Republican convention.

shark22An announcer on this little boom-box loudspeaker was telling everyone the monster sharks were coming. Fishing boats would soon pull up, one by one, with big dead sharks on them. These sharks would be hoisted up, blood dripping, by this crane with a long steel cable and hook. The sharks would be weighed on a scale that that was officially calibrated to satisfy International Game and Fish Association (IGFA) standards—records, after all, might be broken. The biggest mako, thresher or porbeagle would win the day, but not necessarily the event. There was still another day of monster shark fishing to be done in the waters that inspired “Jaws” and the weights would be added together.

Meanwhile, there was this deep, heartfelt undercurrent. A family from upstate New York was running the tournament. None of them are shark fishermen. None of them planned on doing this just six months before. They had this relative, Steve James, who was as famous as Frank Mundus (the guy “Quint” in “Jaws” was based on) in shark-tournament circles. James had been president of the Boston Big Game Fishing Club and ran this monster shark tournament for the past 27 years, but James died in a duck-hunting accident the previous January. He’d gone out into the mouth of the Westport River in a 16-foot aluminum skiff with two others. The boat tipped over on the back of a wave. Steve and Robert Becher drowned in the white-capped water on that 8-degree morning. Gregg Angell, a doctor, survived by miraculously swimming to an island. A Coast Guard helicopter rescued him. At the time of the rescue the water temperature was 35 degrees and the wind was blowing at 30 knots, creating a 3-foot chop.

Now Steve’s family—his mother, uncle, aunt, niece and nephew and cousins—had come to put on this tournament as a dedication to a man who’d always been larger than life. You could feel their love for him emanating from the scene. All the shark fishermen were telling stories about Steve’s safaris and shark tournaments and the times he went to state capital buildings to tell lawmakers why they should vote this way or that for the sake of the sharks and the world we are a part of.

“He was man’s man,” said one.

“There aren’t supposed to be men like Steve anymore. A total Hemingway type,” said another.

“Steve was an adventurer,” said his mother, Doreen James, as we looked out at a boat coming in with a shark. Her eyes were proud and moist with a mother’s loss as she said, “He’d hunted all over the world. He loved catching huge sharks on rod and reel. He was a gentleman. He was all that a man should be. He was my son.”

Steve had his moment of fame. In 2004 ESPN started televising this tournament. That year it attracted 245 entrants. The next year a boat in the tournament landed a 1,191-pound tiger shark. That got the attention of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). They began a national campaign to pressure Martha’s Vineyard to end the contest. Through all this Steve pointed out that the tournament was good for Martha’s Vineyard, that they operated within state and federal fishery laws and that they maintained limits that resulted in few sharks being brought dead to the dock.

Still, all the trouble convinced James to move the tournament to Newport and that’s just what his relatives did.

The shark in the first boat in was a disappointment—just a 100-pound mako. “I had to kill it,” said the captain in an apologetic tone. “It couldn’t be revived.”

Several biologists there waiting weighed and measured the shark and took samples. “I go to shark tournaments up and down the East Coast,” said Lisa Natanson, a scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), as she pulled on arm-length rubber gloves, slit open the shark’s stomach and reached in to see what it had been devouring. “Without these tournaments we couldn’t learn all we do about sharks. And the anglers don’t kill many sharks. These tournaments are good for sharks.” She pulled out a fish head. “Well, this one was hungry.”
More boats showed with threshers and makos. None were huge. Little kids pushed through the legs of the ogling adults. So many climbed onto the base of a nearby crane to see over the crowd that the dock’s owner begged people to get back, but then gave up as the tide of people washed over him.

This next boat in wasn’t like all the pretty white yachts in the harbor. It is had an open deck and a cabin without the plush bars and couches in many of the other boats. There were suntanned men in rubber fisherman boots on the boat’s deck. You could tell these men fish for a living. They came in slowly as the announcer threw suspense into a microphone and people pushed forward to see.

This boat was the Magellan captained by Frank Greiner Jr. They tied up and the crane hummed and dropped its hook. Up came a 429-pound porbeagle, a big-headed shark that likes the cold, deep waters of the North Atlantic.

Mouths were agape.

Click here to read the rest of my article at Outdoor Life.

Why I Chose To Run With The Bulls, Again

Bull ay113788345pamplona-spain-e1373278494309Ernest Hemingway wrote in an introduction to Men at War (1942): “Cowardice, as distinguished from panic, is almost always simply a lack of ability to suspend the functioning of the imagination.”

Many of the people who step into the street in Pamplona, Spain, to run with bulls fail to suspend their imaginations. They think about being gored. They think about being gutted by a horn. They fall apart.

I’m just back from my third trip to run with the bulls—the San Fermin festival in Pamplona finishes this week. My first run in 2007 went like this. (I wrote about this and much more in my book The Ultimate Man’s Survival Guide.)

Each of us stood alone in an anxious crowd. There were so many of us filling the narrow street in Pamplona I had to turn my shoulders and push against the other runners to move. We were all wearing white clothes with red sashes and bandanas bought from street vendors in the small city. The veteran runners sashes and bandanas were washed-out red and they had patches sewn on them and shiny pins of bulls and runners clustered over them like Boy Scout bandanas. Most of the people in the street had new and clean red bandanas and sashes.

Morning sunlight was touching the tops of five- and six-story buildings that rise up like walls along the narrow streets in this ancient city built on a plateau in the Pyrenees. At each floor above the first are balconies. These were overloaded with people also dressed in white and red, though the people on them had blood and wine, not fear, in their eyes.

Outside the packed street music was building and falling as marching bands moved down the canyon streets closer, then away twisting with the curving byways back into the city founded by Romans.

The bulls run every morning at 8 a.m. for eight days in a row. You have to get in the street before 7:30 a.m., as that’s when the police close the entrances through the wooden barricades to the narrow streets where the bulls run. You think about when you’ll begin to run. Mostly you stand and wait. Thirty minutes is a long time to ponder riding the horns. It had almost been thirty minutes already.

Each minute loudspeakers hung up and down the street were doing a countdown to the planned stampede. They were giving advice in Spanish, English, and French: “If you are knocked down. Stay down. Don’t stand up in front of a bull….”

Click here to read the rest of my column at Forbes.com.

Happy Birthday Clint Eastwood

1. afistfulofdollarsHe was born on May 31, 1930, the son of Clinton Eastwood Sr., a steelworker and migrant worker who settled in Piedmont, California. Clinton Eastwood Jr. was hardly an instant star, but when he found his stoic style after years of stiff acting in the television hit “Rawhide” (1959-1966), he would give us “the Man with No Name” and Dirty Harry; antiheros who used dialogue more sparingly than they did their revolvers.

In 1951 Eastwood planned to go to Seattle University, but the Army had other plans. They drafted him, as the Korean War was then in full swing. But he never did have to carry an M1 Garand into battle like his character Walt Kowalski did in “Gran Torino” (2008). The Army appointed Eastwood lifeguard and swimming instructor. In the biography Clint: The Life and Legend, Patrick McGilligan wrote that Eastwood avoided being sent to combat by “romancing one of the daughters of a Fort Ord officer….”

After many un-credited parts, “Rawhide” gave Eastwood the time to develop as an actor. By 1963 Eastwood was ready for a bigger opportunity. It came when his co-star on Rawhide, Eric Fleming, turned down a part for a western called “A Fistful of Dollars” that would be directed in a remote region of Spain by the then little unknown Sergio Leone. When asked about the transition from TV western drama to playing the lead in a “A Fistful of Dollars” Eastwood said, “In ‘Rawhide’ I did get awfully tired of playing the conventional white hat. The hero who kisses old ladies and dogs and was kind to everybody. I decided it was time to be an antihero.”

The film started the “spaghetti Western” phenomena with Eastwood’s antihero changing the American image of the Western hero from one with a white hat and altruistic intentions to one with a morally ambiguous foundation and selfish goals.

Eastwood, when asked about playing the Man with No Name character, said “I wanted to play it with an economy of words and create this whole feeling through attitude and movement. It was just the kind of character I had envisioned for a long time, keep to the mystery and allude to what happened in the past. It came about after the frustration of doing ‘Rawhide’ for so long. I felt the less he said, the stronger he became and the more he grew in the imagination of the audience.”

The Man with No Name had a gun, and he was snake fast and deadly with his revolver, but he wasn’t good or bad. He was a new kind of hero for the Western genre. He didn’t have John Wayne’s moral code, he was out for himself, not some greater good. The post-antihero, old-school hero would patriotically go to war and believe, despite the messiness and gross immorality of war, that somehow he was fighting for something good and so he was good. This Man with No Name antihero was apart and above those old values; he was going to get his.

In fact, John Wayne declined a role in “High Plains Drifter” (1973), a film directed by Eastwood, and after the film was released Wayne sent a letter to Eastwood in which he said, “The townspeople did not represent the true spirit of the American pioneer, the spirit that made America great.”

Click here for the rest of my article at Range365.com.

Manny Pacquiao Went Down Swinging

manny-pacquiao-redemptionManny Pacquiao was beaten by Floyd Mayweather Jr’s perfect form. Mayweather won like mongoose does with a cobra. I thought Mayweather had slowed just enough, but he defied age and time and was too cagey for Manny’s fists. Mayweather, as sports star and later legend, will forever overshadow Manny Pacquiao’s fearless assault in the ring. I’ve long thought that a man steps into a ring or field and his reality shrinks to the ropes or lines. His allotted time begins to audibly tick. His life struggle is simplified to the rules of competition. The yards gained or lost, blows struck or received of every play or round are felt as profoundly as life’s jolting tragedies and joyous triumphs. He knows the game, match, or race can make a humble man bold, a sinner a saint. He grits his teeth for the finish line, the goal, the last bell, the checkered flag. All along spectators cheer or jeer and he knows he’ll walk off the field, or be carried off, a loser or a winner; though, either way, he’ll retain his pride only if he fights like the game is a real struggle of life and death. And in the end, if he’s more than just an athlete, he’ll know to leave his blood and ego on the field, because men don’t gloat or point fingers, they walk away tall, content they tried, knowing they’ll strive again on and off the court. I see that in Manny’s charisma and style in the ring. I hope he retires now. I hope they both do. Only a rematch could reignite the flame, though even then it wouldn’t burn as hot.

For more see my article at Forbes.com.

The Vegas Bookies Are Wrong: Here’s How Pacquiao Will Beat Mayweather

11179968_627821794022010_8088605260542944733_nThe day after Buster Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson in 1990, Floyd Patterson said to a bunch of us who trained in his gym in New Paltz, New York: “Some fighters just have their day.”

Now I think Manny Pacquiao is about to have his day. The Las Vegas sportsbooks disagree with me. They have Floyd Mayweather Jr. as the favorite to defeat Manny Pacquiao on Saturday, May 2 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. As this was being written Bovada, for example, had Mayweather as the -225 favorite. They said Pacquiao is a +175 underdog for the bout that will reportedly make well over $100 million. (Meaning that for every $2.25 someone bets on Mayweather to win they can win $1; and for every $1 someone bets on Pacquiao they can win $1.75.)

Okay, Mayweather has a 47-0 record with 26 knockouts, while Pacquiao is 57-5-2 with 38 knockouts. It’s hard to bet against a guy who has never lost.

The bookies also say that this high-money bout isn’t going to be a quick knockout, as Mayweather doesn’t have a knockout punch. They say it’s going the distance—as in 12 rounds. As this was being written the odds from Bovada were 33-100 for the fight to last the full 12 rounds.

Fight promoter Eddie Hearn even Tweeted: “I know he isn’t a huge puncher, but I’ve had a feeling all along Mayweather wins by late stoppage.”

Here’s why my money is still on Pacquiao.

A year ago, Mayweather’s scorecard-win over Marcos Maidana showed Mayweather is slowing. CompuBox, a computerized scoring system, has tracked 38 of Mayweather’s 46 professional fights. According to Compubox, the 221 punches Maidana landed were the most leather any fighter has ever gotten through Mayweather’s defenses. Mayweather still lived by the old boxing adage “hit and don’t get hit” but not as much as in previous fights.

Maidana was busier. He threw 858 punches over the 12 rounds and landed 26 percent of his punches. Mayweather threw 426 punches—half as many as Maidana.

Though Mayweather doesn’t throw as many punches as many other fighters—and not nearly as many as Pacquiao—he is and has always been very accurate. According to CompuBox, Mayweather landed 41 percent of his punches on average over a 10 fight period ending with his win over Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in 2013, while his opponents hit him with just 17 percent of their punches.

Click here to read the rest of the analysis at Forbes.com.

Are Men Really Urban Monsters?

1024px-Times_Square_0210Last month The New York Times ran a story with photos of men caught “manspreading.” Manspreading is defined as man who sits on a public bus, subway or park bench with his legs splayed open. Some men who do this take two seats on crowded public transportation. The Times said, “It is the bane of many female subway riders. It is a scourge tracked on blogs and on Twitter.”

There is also “mansplaining,” a term UrbanDictionary.com defines as: “delighting in condescending, inaccurate explanations delivered with rock solid confidence of rightness and that slimy certainty that of course he is right, because he is the man in this conversation.”

Now TheAtlantic.com tells us about “manslamming,” a term coined to describe men who don’t step out of other peoples’ way (especially women) on crowded sidewalks.

Some call these actions “microagressions,” a form of unintended discrimination that has the same effect as conscious, intended discrimination—in this case, men discriminating against women in what they might soon call: “managressions.”

Perhaps the most heinous microaggression (though it could also be outright aggression) are men who call women “bossy.” This would be a “microagression” if the man doesn’t think too deeply (being a man) about how aggressive a woman might perceive this label, but it would be clear aggression if he did.

Hmm, are the people coining and using these new words tacitly agreeing to the premise that some large percentage of men are guilty of talking down to women, shoving women out of the way on sidewalks, demeaning women by calling them “bossy” and refusing to give women space on crowded public transportation? Might this same logic then lead people to surmise that, by comparison, women much less often spread out over two seats on a bus or subway (or put their bags on the seat next to them), talk down to men (don’t these new words talk down to men?) and commit other microaggressive acts?

Click here for the rest of my column at Forbes.com.