Tuesday, September 28, 2010

It would be laughable if it weren't so sad.

“…the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first and now, was and is, to hold as 'twere the mirror up to nature: to show virtue her feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and

William Shakespeare, Hamlet Act III, Scene 2

The humorless John Conyers

Much has already been said and written about Stephen Colbert’s testimony before the House last week regarding migrant workers. Too bad, I’m chiming in anyway.

Many may not realize that Colbert was speaking about plight of migrant workers because the press, both liberal and conservative and even “moderate” obsessed about there being a *gasp* comedian in that Capital and what an insult/joke/degradation etc. that is.

Because of course, having Elmo, lying steroid addled athletes, the massively under-qualified Alberto Gonzalez testify before the House were such dignified events. As if allowing someone like Louis Gohmert or Michelle Bachmann let anything come out of their ignorant and crazy mouths in the halls of congress were remotely respectful.

This wasn’t a disease suffered only by FOX anchors, Chuck Todd who was at one time a promising and bright analyst for MSNBC but who has become a barely articulate mouth breather of an anchor whined incessantly about the dignity of the House as if he hadn’t been covering Washington for the past two years.

Apparently, the press will do anything but discuss the plight of migrant workers, the sorry state of our nation’s farms and farmers and the decline of the American Agricultural tradition. It’s easier (lazier) to focus on the trivial and make it a big fucking deal.

Note to Chuck Todd: When you’re in the same company as Megyn Kelly, check yourself.

So far as I can tell, only Keith Olbermann and Lawrence O’Donnell actually covered and discussed the meat of what Colbert was addressing and why he was brought in to testify. Only these two of the press, that I can find, and John Stewart, even approached the seriousness of the situation. Is it possible that only these three individuals understand the purpose of satire in the national media?

It’s possible. The media is filled with idiots and sycophants, after all, as we already know. It’s also possible that the media, which is pretty much 100% corporate owned, doesn’t want us talking about these things at all. But that’s another subject….or rather an offshoot of the same subject.

What I want to discuss is America’s growing lack of a sense of humor which I believe can be traced right down to the chipping away of arts education. As an actor I am of course an advocate for arts education in our public schools and it should be no surprise that I believe arts education is more important than what are generally called, the basics.

Why, you may ask?

Learning about theater, dance, music and visual arts opens up both sides of the brain. It stimulates creativity and creative thinking. It provides a very strong foundation with which to learn math, science, reading and writing. It teaches you to approach the world from a more rounded standpoint than a narrow, left brained training.

We learn through the arts, how to play and by learning how to play, we learn how to work.

But in the last couple of decades we have seen and experienced not only the cutting of arts education from schools, but the dismissal of it as a luxury. As if there is nothing to be gained from understanding what an artist might be trying to communicate or what goes into learning and bringing a part to life on stage, etc. As if a stimulated imagination has nothing to do with anything else in the world.

We can certainly get into a discussion on whether this is actually part of an overall strategy to keep the masses under educated in order to keep the powerful in power and I would agree with that assessment, but that’s also another blog post for another day.

The other thing that comes with arts education is a broadening of a sense of humor. Any education that involves being creative does this. Human beings love to laugh and we find new ways to do it whenever we can.

Unless you’re Gallagher. Taking a hammer to a watermelon is great and hilarious…when you’re 8 years. Then, hopefully, you grow up and it becomes mildly amusing but you need some good, strong satire, of whatever political bent, to really get your mind going.

And this is what Stephen Colbert gave us last week.

John Conyers, a congressman whose politics are much aligned with mine but who is, largely, a rather humorless man (and I have followed him for about 25 years now) let that lack of sense of humor get the best of him.

THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is the embarrassment.

Not that Stephen Colbert testified in character, but that John Conyers didn’t get it. That Chuck Todd, most of the House, all of Fox News and most of the rest of the media DIDN’T GET that the joke is on us. That is what shames me as an American.

Nancy Pelosi got it. Clearly Zoe Lofgren, who requested his testimony got it. What she didn’t get was that she was surrounded by colleagues and a press too narrowminded and too childish to think or to understand. Her mistake was in assuming that her colleagues both left and right were smart enough to get it. Her mistake was thinking that the press would instead of asking what the steak was seasoned with would skip right to the dessert of bad rice pudding with off brand jello.

Yes, in that one day that he worked, Colbert became more of an expert on the subject than anyone in that room who wasn’t testifying. By a long shot.

Colbert’s testimony, joke by joke, jeered at the lack of action, the lack of character and the lack of maturity that one finds in today’s politics and in so doing made clear what happens to people when politicians act as they do. He even brilliantly brought it home with a final, sober and out of character statement that to spoke our humanity and human dignity.

But our own lack of humor allows us to buy the nonsense that FOX, Todd and the rest feed us.

As an artist, Stephen Colbert held the mirror up to nature, and nature didn’t like what looked back at it, so…it whined about the mirror instead of itself.

It is to laugh.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

And while we're on the subject of not having any fun....

Early Friday morning I had a panic attack. Full on, pain in the chest, cold sweat, dizzy spell, am I having a heart attack, am I about to die, what the hell panic attack.

I’ve only had this once before, several years ago. It was many months after my accident. I had recovered well enough, but woke up in the middle of the night having some chest pains. Being over 40 and it being late at night…the mind goes to ridiculous thoughts…and all I had to do was entertain the notion of a heart attack to scare the becrappus out of myself.

It’s not that hard to do…the fact is that the symptoms of a panic attack are pretty much exactly the same as a heart attack.

“Dumbass, why didn’t you call 911?!!!” I hear you shout.

Well, that is what I did 6 years ago…got the whole treatment, ambulance oxygen…the works. By the time the EMT guys got there though I was feeling better if idiotic. But they insisted I go to the hospital and check things out.

I ended up being there for 3 days. It took them 3 days to tell me that I was fine, my cholesterol was a little high but my heart was in great shape and there were no signs of a heart attack. The pains were symptomatic of some of my injuries and that I’d fallen into a midlife panic attack. SO there. Fortunately I had a very good health plan at the time and my copay was small.

Jump to the present. Much of the process is exactly the same, except this time I have no insurance…and while I was talking myself down from the panic and semi successfully convincing myself I was not suffering from heart failure (despite Google’s insistence that I might be) I also reminded myself that if I was hospitalized, there was no way on this green earth that I was going to be able to pay for a fucking thing…OOOHHHH boy…More debt.

This did not help the panic. I couldn't bring myself to call. Stupid? Probably. But since I'm sitting here writing this almost 24 hours later, I feel it was the right way to go. So I did some slow yogic breathing, did my best to go to my happy place, and closed my eyes.

Eventually I sat upright in the kitchen and slowly drank a glass of water I’d left on the table before bed. I held my iPhone in my hand, ready to dial. But I started to feel fine and eventually I went back to bed and lay there awhile and stared at my phone. I relaxed..my chest stopped hurting, I fell back asleep for a few hours and woke up feeling normal.

In the morning I remembered something else. I'm also hypoglycemic. I sometimes have to watch how I eat and how often I eat. If I over do the carbs and under do the protein I can end up having similar episodes. This has happened to me once or twice, but so rarely that I forget about it. And by rarely I mean 3 times in 25 years. Pretty much all I'd eaten yesterday was 2 mugs of coffee and a big plate of spaghetti with two meatballs.


It’s annoying that the kind of ailment I sometimes suffer from ends up being so similar to a heart attack. As I approach 50 this has to be a reality I face, even though heart attacks don’t run in my family at all. Seriously, the only member of either side of my family that didn’t die at a very old age of some form of cancer or another was my great grandfather. And that was a brain hemorrhage. Oh wait, my grandmother…but she was 86, diabetic, massively overweight and drank Jim Beam like a fish. OH and the heart attack happened while climbing 4 flights of stairs. She was also, God love her, batshit crazy.

Still, the bottom line is that I have to be more conscious.

Yeah, I’m nervous as hell, I was actually going from store to store filling out applications in supermarkets like a high school kid yesterday. And yeah, I had visions of myself as a 4 year old man bagging groceries for a living. Hey if I get hired I will suck it up and do it. I can handle that, but it’s a lie to say that it’s not a depressing thought.

This isn’t exactly what I had in mind for myself.

Anyway I’m above ground is a good one. I’ve used that phrase to remain positive for a couple of decades. It’s been helpful and funny to say it with a smile.

But maybe it’s time I raised my standards…I need to find something to inspire me.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Treading Water

So, yeah, it’s been awhile. My latest blog entry has a months long gap between it and it’s predecessor.

What gives?

During BlogHer, @MajorBedHead asked if I had stopped blogging altogether. It sure seemed that way. I would sit down, have an idea to blog about, then start writing. Then I’d find something to do, never get back to writing and just couldn’t muster up the urge to continue.

Like the White House’s “Summer of Recovery” my summer was productive as a wet noodle screwing in a hot lightbulb. That’s not entirely fair. The recovery act DID actually help maintain and create some jobs. And I had a minor one in that time.

But as I wrote my piece for yesterday, I realized that what I had been doing was retreating. My long stint of unemployment was getting to me on an emotional level. My efforts in the real estate proved beyond frustrating and frankly really demoralizing. My luck was so bad with it that veterans in the office where I was working even said “Wow, What the fuck?”

I’d also been doing some production work for a friend who was participating in a theater festival here. So I decided to ditch showing apartments and just focus on that. And when it ended, I found as much motivation to show apartments as I had with writing in this blog.

The difference was, I knew I was supposed to be writing, whereas with the real estate gig, I felt no such urging.

I don’t seem to be the only one @LesleeHorner of Waiting For The Click had flat out decided to stop blogging on a regular basis, @2MuchPerfection has also been a very infrequent writer, and even @MajorBedHead spent some time away from her blog while dealing with the end of her marriage. @MiaOnTop took a hiatus as she moved to Texas from New York. There was a lot of shifting going on. The thing is that everyone else seemed to know where they were shifting to. I still haven’t figured out what is going on with me.

What really shocked me though, as I logged onto Blogger to write the other day was that that not only had I not written, I’d been pretty piss poor in following up on the blog’s that I read. Musings of A Madman would email me to remind me to read up (though lately he’s been AWOL with his new life), Leslee would knock on my Facebook to ask if I’d read her. It wasn’t personal. I just wasn’t busting out. But when I looked at the Blogroll on my page, I realized that I just hadn’t kept up with anyone that I had been reading on a regular basis.

I really had withdrawn. If not for Twitter and Facebook, it’s entirely possible that I’d have had almost no contact with anyone for most of the summer.

There are other factors. Some creative outlets that I’ve had have fizzled because of time and circumstance, so I’ve had to shift slowly to different creative writing outlets that are more self reliant. This isn’t easy for a guy with ADD.

I’ve done a little other writing here and there. Something that may become a one man piece about my father’s suicide and the role that Fear has played in his/my/the world’s life. Slow progress but coming along.

I’ve smattered around with an adaptation of a series of books that I love too. But just smattered.

A lot of my energy has gone into just changing my frame of mine. Yes, affirmations, meditations. Things to bring my mind away from despair and back to a place of forward thinking and inspiration.

I don’t despair, and haven’t in the 6 months that I’ve been out of work, but like a tired swimmer treading water, I’m managing to keep from drowning, yet can’t seem to figure out what direction I need to swim to get back to shore. I don’t know what that shore looks like and I just don’t want to keep swimming in the wrong direction and end up in deeper, rougher waters.

Overall, I’m doing ok. I’m healthy, I’m enduring. But I’m not thriving. I’m not having any fun.

But something is “clicking” to an extent. Here I am, writing, and I am catching up on the blogs I haven’t kept up on. I’ve rearranged my room which is no small thing considering how small and oddly shaped my room is. I’ve also started re-engaging with the polyamorous community in New York. It looks like I may be doing some more production work for a small production of a play here for even smaller money, but it’s work and in a field I love. And there’s an interview coming up at the end of the month that I’m not excited about but like the prospect of SOMEthing cooking in the work situation.

I think I’m back. I hope I’m welcome. And I hope to keep some momentum going.

Thanks for your patience if you haven’t given up entirely on me.

Friday, September 10, 2010


Picture from http://www.planetware.com/picture/new-york-city-new-york-statue-of-liberty-us-nyc005.htm

I’ve blogged on this subject before here and here. In fact I guess this is sort of an annual thing. Anyway, my readers won’t be surprised by what I have to say today regarding everything involving tomorrow’s anniversary.

What will shock my readers is that I’ve actually made a blog entry for the first time in four months. More on that another time.

As I’ve said before. I live here in New York City. I’ve lived here just about my entire life. I lived here before the Twin Towers were visible and lived with them as they dominated the city land and sky-scape.

Nine years later it is still strange to me to look out and not see them from various spots in the city. From West 4th Street and 6th Avenue, to the Smith and 9th street stop on the G and F train in Brooklyn, from the Staten Island Ferry to the Ditmars Blvd stop on the N train in Queens. Nine years later there is still something not there that ought to be there.

I remember my last visit to the Observation Deck at the World Trade Center with my then 10 year old daughter as we looked out at the Liberty Science Museum, Long Island, Upstate New York and of course Manhattan Island.

For those of us that live here, we are constantly reminded. The skyline itself is an empty echo of the thousands of lives contained in those steel marvels of engineering. The many more thousands of lives left behind in loss and pain.

As I’ve pointed out, I somehow escaped personal heartache on that day. No one I directly know was amongst the murdered. But many I do know have lost lovers, friends, husbands, fathers and children. Every moment I talk to them on the phone, or see them on Facebook or have a cup of coffee I am reminded. Every waking day, they are reminded.

My heartache is for the heartache of those I care about and of course for the scar on the city for which I have a love/hate relationship and with which an indelible part of my soul will always belong.

It’s also no secret that aesthetically, I hated those buildings. While marvels of engineering they seemed out of place at the time. And I still feel that way about them then.

But now…

Like them or not, they were unforgettable, powerful and a kind of gateway to the city. A gateway this city no longer has.

The Statue of Liberty no longer stands in the shadow of that gate. A gate that increasingly seems to remain closed to what America is. There was a kind of sense of the Statue of Liberty showing her light to the harbor as she stood at the feet of the Gate that was the Twin Towers. A Gate now closed.

Liberty still shines a light onto the harbor, her words of welcome still inscribed. But God forbid you want to build a community center aimed at healing that gaping wound. God Forbid you make a place that yes, is primarily a Muslim Cultural Center but that also will house places of prayer for every religious practice available. God Forbid that an act can be made to reach out, to bridge the divide.

Oh you’re welcome here, but only up to a point.

September 11th must be a day of reflection, prayer and thoughtfulness. However it is you observe for yourself and ponder the nature of humanity’s penchant for cruelty and violence to each other and what we can do to grow from it, to be greater than it. To be better than we have been.

No, instead we focus on whackjobs burning books of worship, we throw parties to make money and then retroactively decide to donate the proceeds somewhere and claim that the party date was a coincidence. We claim to be thinking of the families of the fallen when we display our astounding ignorance of every conceivable fact and meaning. We exploit and wring our hands, but God forbid we actually solve the issue and learn to live WITH each other.

Clearly I stand in support of the Cultural Center known as Park 51. But I will not be joining the demonstrations tomorrow. I do not believe that September 11th should be marching or demonstrating for anything. ANYthing.

Anything else dishonors the dead and dishonors the families of the dead, whether at the World Trade Center, The Pentagon or that open field in Shanksville.

We need reflection. We need to think. We need to pray and send light. We need to volunteer. We need to really help.

As always I say we don't need to be told to "Never Forget". That's a self aggrandizing phrase promoted by people who are trying to be part of something that frankly they.just.aren't.

What happened was yes, a national tragedy. But the wounds are felt HERE. Not in Wasilla, not in Florida....HERE.

Any idiot will tell you that if you keep scratching a wound it will get infected. We need to stop scratching at the wound.