F is for Fickle

 

F is for Fickle, capital “F”.

Fickle is a good word. I would call most things fickle.

  • love
  • attention
  • concentration
  • resolve
  • relationships
  • work

Fickle means changeable, marked by sudden or unexpected changes in the nature or quality of a thing. That doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing.

The challenges that I set for myself this month:

  1. Camp Nanowrimo (write 50,000 words in 1 month)
  2. NaPoWriMo (write a poem every day this month)
  3. Blogging A to Z challenge (blog according to the alphabet every day)
  4. 21 day challenge (retrain your brain through meditation/exercise/gratitude)

My attention is fickle, my resolve is fickle. People have called me fickle, but I don’t know that that is a bad thing. A synonym for fickle is mercurial. We tend to dislike Mercury, the god of change, of speed and all the rest. But, why is that?

Mercury was based on Hermes, a beloved character in Greco-Roman myth. He was one of the few beings in existence that could outsmart Apollo. He was the fastest among the gods. He acted as a messenger. He was the comic relief.

In the modern pantheon Flash is Mercury. He is quick, smart, loveable, & affable. And dare I say fickle?

So fickle doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but we treat it like it is. Why is that? I think because we prefer the idea of stability. People who are consistent in their reactions are people we can trust. Yes? Well, yes and no.

We like people being consistent because that makes them predictable and to a certain extent that is healthy. Right? I mean it is outlined in basic psychology:

Secure attachments vs. avoidant/ambivalent attachment. Secure attachments are developed when people are consistent with how they show love to their children. Ambivalent attachments are developed when parents are inconsistent. If you are greeted with either love or hate when you show love, you aren’t going to show that love very often are you? So inconsistency can be really unhealthy.

However, in this time of political polarization, we are approaching a society of tribes. People are choosing movements over ideas. With a remarkable certainty if you know someone’s stance on one thing, you will know their stance on a number of other things. Case in point, here are some hotly contested topics in politics:

  1. gun control
  2. birth control
  3. immigration
  4. health care
  5. education

Now, none of these are interconnected. You can safely reason that guns have very little to do with babies. You can have completely divorced reasoning about both. Yet, with almost absolute certainty (some studies have shown) if you know someone’s stance on one of these topics, then you know their stance on all of them.

Without knowing anything else about me, if I say:

I support the constitution with regards to the second amendment.

What can you glean from that? What does that tell you about me? Everything you need to know? I hope not.

Because I do support the original framing of the second amendment, which states:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Emphasis on the “well regulated.” Surprise! I support gun control as outlined in our constitution. You can be a supporter of the constitution and believe that some people deserve to have their guns taken away. Who knew? I knew.

Because I’m fickle. Because I’ve supported both sides over the years and I have finally settled on this idea that I don’t need to belong to a tribe or a group. I can make up my own damn mind all of the time.

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E is for Everything

E is for everything. Capital Eeeeeeee!

That was a scream by the way. A scream of terror. I don’t know if you know this about me, but this time of year is hard for me. I don’t know if I knew this about me. My life long partner wasn’t. So it goes. I’ve been pretty skittish around relationships ever since.

Turns out I’m polyamorous. People don’t like that in a straight guy. Who knew? I never saw a problem with loving more people. The people I fell in love with did. So it goes.

My company just hit a rarefied wall of “Fuck You”. They said it nicer than that, but they still said “Fuck You”. So that has to be thrown in a dustbin. So it goes.

Taxes are due so I write checks that cut like knives. So it goes.

I started two new jobs in the time since and haven’t cashed a single check because I’m afraid to look at those balances. My heart rate picks up and everything gets tunnel visioned.

The people I am closest to seem to be vanishing down rabbit holes. I can’t tell the difference between static, radio silence, and ignoring me so I just assume most of my relationships are fled. So it goes.

I pick myself back up only to be pinned to a wall by friends, family, and myself screaming at me why I haven’t done the right thing. How could I let this happen? Morale falling apart, arguing over forks, trying to keep everything clean for one more day before everybody starts packing only to discover the bags are already packed. So it goes.

D is for Detroit

D is for Detroit. Duh.

Detroit is Detroit. There really aren’t other ways to describe it. Ask anybody outside the city an you get things like: it seems to be coming back OR it’s not as bad as it was. Ask anybody inside the city and the fandom is rampant. Ask anybody who has lived here for any length of time and you get a different story:

Detroit never went anywhere.

That’s the thing I take most away from this city. If you think Detroit is going through a renaissance, you don’t know this city. If you think Detroit is bouncing back, you don’t know it.

Maybe it depends on your point of view:

Now’s the time to visit Detroit, finally on the verge of a real renaissance

For sale: The $100 house

About That Detroit Renaissance

Depending on who you ask:
Detroit is going through a “revitalization” where buildings are bought up, renovated, and made habitable again for new tenants.
OR
Detroit is the city where the black community won the race riots. Detroit is the city where it has continually been punished for winning those riots.
They can both be true, in fact, I think they probably are, but Detroit is a city where the official statistics state it is 88% black population. Can you understand why a city that literally tore itself apart might be upset at a process some call gentrification, which is also a nice way of saying pushing out the current population.
The way it was put to me at a meeting of people of color I was fortunate to be a part of:
There aren’t white saviors for Detroit. There is an invasion happening. Recolonization of Detroit is happening.

A is for Acting

Acting. Capital A.

So, I am an actor, I would know.

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I have been doing this for a while. And there is something that I really hate that also starts with an “A”. Academia. OR more specifically actor training in the U.S.

So, to give some history I have been an actor for well over ten years now. Much of that time has been spent in schools. Now, I was very fortunate to work in schools that made sure that I performed and got better at my craft.

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Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope.

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Still nope, although Annie is pretty.

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Perfect. So I have done a lot in my life as an artist. One of the biggest things is get my terminal degree: an M.F.A. And what I learned from getting my M.F.A. is that an M.F.A. is almost never worth it.

The reasons why are the subject of this post.

the reasons

  1. Art is practice
  2. Art is worth paying for
  3. Art is weird

With me so far? It’s okay if you’re not we’ll break them down.

Art is Practice

Acting is not learned from sitting in classrooms. It is learned from working, from practicing in front of a live audience.

The idea of academia is that of master and apprentice, like you can work in front of your peers “safely” and that will teach you the craft.

Well, I worked in another artisan craft: baking.

Professionally. For a time.

My “training” was waking up before 3am to get to work to make the “easy” breakfast items before a crowd of people.

There was no safety net. There was no barrier between me and my customer. The only thing was sometimes my boss or mentor would say,

“don’t worry, I’ll go and explain that we have no_____ today” EXCEPT HE NEVER DID THAT!

You know why? Because we had to make it work. We found ways to make it work.

That is the truth about a master-apprentice program. You are literally working your asses off in order to provide a service because if you don’t, you don’t eat that week. And boy did he let me know it.

But, I was grateful through all of the headaches and all of the times where he flipped out on me.

You wanna know why?

Art is worth paying for

I got paid.

It was as simple as all that. The man paid me. I was a baker’s assistant and working my way up. That was the best thing in the world.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to call yourself an actor when all of your training is done at school? when you are paying your teachers for the privilege of what you are being taught?

It is an inversion of the system. The master pays you for your sub-standard work and because you are indebted to him, you work insanely hard to get better faster. In school, I paid my teachers for their work and I soaked it up at my own pace. Because there was no judge and jury. Because I couldn’t be held responsible.

Some actor training you never see an audience. Why is that? I knew kids who graduated with the same degree as me who were never, not once, cast in a show. They never saw an audience and proceeded out into the wild. Sometimes to teach. Shivers.

Art is weird

 

Art is weird.

It just is man. People use it as a catch all and I hate that, but to deny that at its heart art is about the mystery of the universe would be a foolish blunder.

Art is meant to be about the inexpressible: synthesizing an intangible experience into a tangible one. Allowing space for the audience to transform that experience into emotion, into memory is what artists do.

We create opportunities for emotional synthesis. No wonder we are worth paying, even though nobody wants to.

Bearing that in mind: every single artist training program (that I am aware of) has a set curriculum with natural progression.

This is the worst training for an artist.

Why? Because it does not prepare you for the realities of art. The most powerful and interesting experiences that I had as an artist always always always came from my own natural curiosity. The only lessons about the art came from me seeking out knowledge for myself. That is what professional artistry looks like:

I wonder if I can make food float.

I wonder what it would be like to do a minstrel show, today.

I wonder what this would look like–how that would work–where we could…

Those are interesting questions, worth exploring. Teachers setting down stuff arbitrarily are good exercises. What they found when they did the research was that artists did some of their best work in art school. Why? Because they were given arbitrary rules that invoked creativity in some way.

I acknowledge the truth of that, but think it only strengthens my position: artists learn from other artists by being set difficult tasks where neither know the solution.

So what does that do? It takes the best part of the master-apprentice relationship and puts it into the art school. Great. Then what? Then, nothing. The student never learns to do that for themselves. They almost always learn that that sort of assignment will come from outside of themselves.

I have met artists, consistently I might add, in almost every profession who say:

It took me __ number of years to get over my training.

That horrifies me, but is absolutely true. SO what can we do about it?

Work professionally.

Students: Always accept money for your work. If you have the choice to do something for school or professionally, always work for the money. It teaches students that they are worth it, that their art is worth paying for and it bolsters the program.

Teachers: Continue to work professionally. You should be the contact and the bridge for students to enter the professional world. If you are so far removed from the business of acting that you cannot communicate anything about it to students, then what are you for?

Programs: Don’t box in students by saying they cannot audition for professional work. Pick smaller shows or smaller seasons. The kids are already paying tuition. DO NOT put them in indentured servitude too. That is bullshit.

Create.

Students: Find your own projects. Bring them to your teachers and ask if there is any way that you can do them.

Teachers: Encourage your students to create original or unique works. If they like writing, encourage them to write a show for themselves or their classmates. Do that production as a class project. If they are interested in the classics, encourage them to do something with that, but to also challenge their bias.

Programs: Encourage students to choose the pace of their curriculum. A self-study program is probably the most valuable and the most interesting when it comes to artistry that I have ever encountered. The reason being is that that means that those kids have to actively create their own program and that is the most artistic thing I could think of for school.