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.

Day 14/21

Today,

I am grateful for…

  1. muffins
  2.  my brain
  3.  making it through the day

3) Muffins.

It’s a funny little thing. Comfort food.

Do we eat it to feel good or do we eat it because we feel bad? I have noticed a trend with comfort food that I get for myself. It tends to be always a bad idea. Taco Bell, muffins, too much popcorn. Anytime I make comfort food for myself, it tends to be an excuse to wallow in my own sorrow. This may not be true for everyone, but I have noticed time and again that things get really rough whenever I get it for me.

Taco Bell was something I had as a kid. My father would always take me after one of my matches. I couldn’t eat before weighing in or during the meet, but I could eat after. It was quick, it was the only place open after 10pm when I got off, it was the solution. Oh, and I also always lost. So the Taco Bell helped gloss over that.

I didn’t mind losing. I minded losing all the time, but I didn’t mind losing. I was upset because my training montages never looked like what I saw from the movies and television. I was upset that I never looked like them or knew how to even begin. My sensei always said: he never skips push ups. I really hated push ups. Like a lot.

Where was I?

Oh, yeah. Muffins.

So I never buy comfort food for myself anymore. I try to get it for other people. Or I make it. That way it isn’t for me. It is for other people. I can’t do comfort food for me anymore. The last half dozen times I got Taco Bell I almost put the car through the median. They were really bad days and I don’t think the Taco Bell made them better. Instead, it felt like an acknowledgement that I had been beaten that day. That I wouldn’t get around this funk.

But, when people make or get comfort food for you? That shows somebody cares. I think that is the key to comfort food. It can’t come from you because what we find comforting is the acknowledgement from somebody that another person cares about our well being. This may be just because I am built to hate myself so effing much, but I think there is a kernel of truth there. Comfort can and does come from others taking care of us.

We can build and do that for ourselves, but very rarely is that going to come from consuming unhealth and that very much is what comfort food is. Show me the nut whose comfort food is a kale vegan protein smoothie and I’ll give them my firstborn.

Point being somebody got me muffins and that’s great. Today might even warrant eating them. Who knows? It’s still early where I am when I’m writing this. Things could always change.

Day 13/21

Today,

I am grateful for…

  1. good ideas
  2. an abundance of good ideas
  3. time to write

2) Ever since I was a kid I have loved Tolkien.

Like really loved Tolkien. My father had his first editions that I have worn down to the spine. He has a 10 year anniversary edition that is absolutely stunning. So the family love of Tolkien runs deep.

Tolkien spent his entire life crafting a single story. That story is remarkable.

Growing up, I always wanted to write. I was, shall we say, dissuaded. I blame a number of things: teachers, friends, family, idols 

Really it was me. I dissuaded me. I led me to think I had a single story in me. One that was not nearly as good as Tolkien’s.

So I worked on it. I crafted the hell out of my  story. I worked so long that I never wrote it. I never wrote anything. Part of it was the fear–the very real fear that if I emptied out that story, I would be hollow. There wouldn’t be another story.

I had a new idea the other day.

It wasn’t the second idea I’ve ever had. Or the third. I’ve had dozens of new ideas. The fear still lives in me: what if that is it? What if I never have a new idea again? What if instead of one it’s a limit of five or six or eight?

So I fight the fear with new ideas. I don’t believe in writer’s block.

Day 12/21

Today, 

I am grateful for. ..

  1. Friends coming over
  2. Fun at work
  3. Space to breathe

3) The problem with bad days is that they make transience hard to come by. 

Every single thing feeds into your present state of mind. 

Last night the heat cut out. The heat cut out and I saw no way out. No where to go. 

I’ve been trying to fix it, but with the weather refusing to break, I felt abandoned. It felt I had nowhere to go. It felt like all of my problems were wrapped up in it and if I could only fix it. 

So I kept trying. Because I fix things. But, some things cannot be fixed. Not right away or not at all. 

Accepting that, getting out of whatever situation is triggering you, and getting on with your life is the most important thing. 

I am really happy that I have space to forget about it, even for a little while. 

Day 11/21

Today, 

I am grateful for…

  1. Having somewhere to go
  2. Having a way to get there
  3. Having down time

1) I have a need to flee. 

It is very real and can be deeply upsetting. 

When I’m healthy it translates into wanderlust. When I’m unhealthy it translates into running away. 

When I feel trapped, when it feels like there is nowhere to go and nothing to do: public places, libraries, events, parks (because this is the land of perpetual winter), then there are very few places that I feel I can go. 

When I have nowhere to go: friends, family, etc. I almost always switch to running away. 

Today, I woke up upset, which seems so unfair. 

Fortunately, I had to head into work, spend time with people I like, and then get paid. 

It was a good day. 

Day 10/21

Today, 

I am grateful for…

  1. A vocal email
  2. Dinner with my work people
  3. Bedding down for a night in

1) Today, I received a, shall we say, strongly worded email. 

It was among the first I’ve received. It was based on my blog here. I was very surprised. 

Words, man. Words can send people over the moon or straight into hell. This was leaning toward the latter. 

I was ashamed. I was angry. But, I remembered all of my lessons of the last few weeks:

  • Christopher Hitchens
  • Milo Yiannopolous
  • Richard Dawkins
  • Sam Harris
  • Neil degrasse Tyson
  • Noam Chomsky

How they comport themselves, how they work with words against unimaginable blow back.

I decided to engage. 

I said them you to the vinegar, treating it like spice instead of poison. 

I asked why they felt the way that they did and was genuinely surprised at what they said. 

In the end, I won’t say we were friendly, but we were more neutral. 

It was a place that no one in my support group that we could achieve. It just n means that at this time if polarization we can still find a middle. 

Day 9/21

Today,

I am grateful for…

  1. my endlessly inexhaustible typewriter ribbon
  2. invitations to lunch parties
  3. how easy it is to change a room layout

1) I feel like I don’t talk enough about the weird ones on my list, so I will start to include them a bit more and let’s just talk about the weird one on the list:

My inexhaustible typewriter ribbon!

Guys, guys, …..GUYS!

I bought this ribbon back in March of last year. I have worked through it at least three times now. I have written dozens of letters and it is still going strong.

And…and…AND!!! I still have a back up.

That’s right. There is another roll in its entirety just sitting in my work desk waiting to fill up that bad boy whenever it chooses to lay down and die.

As a guy who is constantly afraid that things are too expensive, won’t last, or of impulse buys that just will not live up to they hype, let me just say…whatever they are charging for typewriter ribbons these days–

It isn’t enough.

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.

Day 8/21

Today,

I am grateful for…

  1. poetry
  2. producing fast, dirty, & cheap
  3. content creators

2) Money. That is what I hear about more than anything else with regards to art. I want to burn it all.

That is what the kids talk about and I hate it. The first thing out of young artists’ mouths is almost always about the budget. It comes out of my colleagues, my peers, my friends, my mentors. I hate it.

Think about ideas, think about your message: Do you need money to tell your story? Would your people have money? What do you need to convey?

The money will follow. Trust that.

I have been producing with almost no budget for years, I’m doing…well I’m not dead and people like my art, so there’s that.

My friend Kira has no budget and doesn’t pay anybody and she is beloved in her market. Shoe-string innovation she calls it. Like Detroit, it is an aesthetic, not poverty.

I write blog posts super fast. I always have, but now I’m consistent. Now, I have a schedule and I try to stick to it. That’s cool. That feels very officious. Some have called it slip shod. Some have called it unpolished.

I don’t mind.

Anyone who produces anything is making ripples. It is better to have made than to wish to produce. So whenever I make a think, it is very important to me. It adds to my body of work. I can look back and say: I made a thing. Look at it. There it is.

I am happy that I have produced as much as I have in my relatively short artistic career. I am happy for the ideas that I continue to produce and the amount of work and goals that I set for myself.

I am happy that I work so hard on so many projects and am fortunate in what I do.

Day 7/21

Today,

I am grateful for…

  1. three hour conversations
  2. new story ideas
  3. late night physics talks

3) Ever since forever I have loved physics.

I try to stay abreast of the newest theoretical physicists and their contributions: String Theory, Super Symmetry, M-Theory.

It causes me a lot of grief.

How you might ask? Well, I get stopped on the bus a lot. People will say: “You’re reading a science book!?”

I’ll say, “Yeah…”

They’ll say, “I have this fascinating theory.”

I’ll go: “Do you want to share it?”

They do. And then when I point out the inconsistencies with prevailing theoretical physics, they get mad. For example: “I think the concept of god is analogous to the concept of zero in mathematics.” An interesting idea and not necessarily the realm of science, but invariably someone wants to talk about time travel or superluminal travel or whatever. I tell them what the science suggests.

They get pouty.

Because nobody likes to hear that they are wrong.

But, every so often you’re at a party or at a function or in your living room and someone wants to learn exactly what is going on in the universe.

They want to hear about the similarities between anti-matter and tachyons or how the Conservation of Energy only works if you are speaking about the macro-cosmos, Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle and Newton’s Calculus.

Some days are good days. Some talks are fruitful.