I Made This About Bras

Comedy’s not really where my head’s at right now.

This is still hard for me to do regularly, as you can tell, but it feels good when it happens.  I let it all out in writing so much easier than I can do it in speech, or when I’m worried about comic intentions or being hilarious.  It’s nice to return to this format.

We’ve been thinking a lot.  And talking a lot.  About everything.  We still don’t KNOW anything… which seems to be particularly uncomfortable for us, as Type A humans, but we’re spending more time with that sort of feeling & trying to get comfortable with it.  In fairness we’re a lot more comfortable in that discomfort than we were 2, 3 or 5 years ago.  So the thinking and the talking is where it’s at.  And we’ve been doing so much of it together that my need to do it here, alone, is not nearly as chronic as in the past.

Now, though, I’m approaching the meta state.  So much talking & thinking is going on that I feel the need to think & write about all the talking & thinking.  Why?  Because, in all honesty, I think we’re really pretty frikking great at it, and no one else around us seems to have it buttoned up quite the way we do.  Yes, that sounds very braggardly… but honestly we may be the Kim & Kanye of Dealing With Ourselves in a relationship.  We’ll name our next kid Yeezus as a result.  Or at least Kate’s first dog.

There are some more experienced couples we know that are good at this – a few may even be better at it than we are – but we’re coming up on just our 7th anniversary, and I feel like we’ll never have something we can’t talk through.  Most of the professional counselor contacts we’ve talked to give us a lot of praise, in a surprised tone, for the way we handle our marriage at “such a young age”.  I put that in quotes because I don’t really feel it’s a justified classification.  We’re adults, and we’re only a decade away from being middle-aged adults… so how is that “such a young age”?  If they’re talking about the age of our marriage, I call statistical baloney – the median length of a marriage for men & women in the US is only eight years, per Wikipedia.  Even if you control for idiots that keep the Vegas altars in business (funny how none of the non-Vegas altars are viewed as participants in business, but for all the marketing religions have done), I sincerely doubt it doubles to 16 years, so we’re probably approaching at least the median age of a marriage.   So while I doubt you’d look at someone who’s uber happy by age 39, at half the average life expectancy in the 2010 census, and say they’ve figured out life at such a young age, alas, they applaud us for being so damn good at this, and are surprised when they meet us in person vs. hear our stories over the phone or in writing.  Apparently they picture Warren Beatty & Annette Bening without knowing any better.  (That is one side-by-side I can live with.)

Let me clarify for those of you who will wonder at what I have wrought:  we are fine.  We are great.  But many, MANY, of our friends & peers & Twitter followers seem to have challenges in this area.  So I wanted to create an on-demand resource, borne out of the conversations we have during which we try to give our advice on a piecemeal basis, that might save a few marriages around the interwebz.  That’s all.  No big whoop.

So in complete ignorance of the typical capitalist habit of somehow protecting a patent on a productive partnership, though I’m sure others have tried, let me break down how this shit works.  Below are the details of our… habit, I suppose, is the least controversial noun – less so than “practice” or “method”, which I feel are being usurped by advertisers & those schilling their wares.  A habit is still negative enough to be outside the sphere of copywriter opiates.  It’s a set of circumstances, which usually arise in something of a sequence/cause-effect chain, in which each step generates an action & each action therefore generates the next circumstance.  That, in fact, is all anything really is.  If you want to understand why your boss/spouse/child/vegan soy vegetable soufflé isn’t treating you the way you want/listening to you/rising in the oven like the damn paleo diet ebook said it would, sit down & understand these basic elements of circumstance, action & reaction.  Newton, Leibniz, Fermi, Fermat, Fibonacci… all the other F guys… the so-called “natural philosophers” knew what the hell they were doing.  Observe, Analyze, Report, Repeat.  You do that for your marriage, then you create a positive relationship & can keep it moving in a positive direction.

How To Create & Maintain Positive Momentum In Your Marriage

(Like how I’m expressing that in copywriter opiates?  Blech.  Practically screams SEO Google AdWords.  I’ll bet it asks you to click it later, after that third drink.)

STEP 1.  Be honest about what you’re actually thinking / feeling / doing.

STEP 2.  Communicate that clearly & then stop talking.  I read recently that you should spend 3/4 of the conversation listening to the other person, and 1/4 of the conversation talking.  Mathematically, when you both stick to this rule, it can’t possibly be a one-sided conversation, because you’ll both shut up before you feel like you’re getting to 50% of the talk time.  I am summarily disgusted by things that don’t make mathematical sense, such as fad diets, skinny jeans, and Fox News, but the numbers here would lead to a satisfactory outcome, so I won’t quibble.

STEP 3.  Listen to what the other person is saying, in an active way.  Meaning try to ignore the voice in your head that is talking while they are talking.  You’re not in a rush here… unless of course you are in a rush, in which case you invoke The Emergency Rule, below.  You need to hear the words and then think about them – they are talking about their feelings & what you should DO about the circumstances, so if you want them to do what you asked them to do in step 2, you have to listen the fuck up & figure out what you’re going to do about THEIR concerns & circumstances.  Our own nature works against us here – instead of listening to their side & figuring out what we can do to help them, we listen to their side & never stop thinking about how we feel about it, so that when s/he is done we can talk more about our feelings to get what we want.  However, if you both want the conversation to take you to a place that is better than the one wherein you started the conversation, you will have to do both actions: a) Listen & Decide What To Do In Regards To Their Needs; b) Listen & Decide What Else To Ask For In Regards To Your Needs.  (The Capital Letters Are Important.  No They’re Not.)  This takes more time than the current socially-acceptable normal conversation with most people – i.e. you don’t have this amount of time when you’re telling the barista how many pumps of mocha it tastes like vs. how many pumps of mocha you really want it to taste like – but unless you’re Oprah you’re probably not in a deep life-altering partnership with your barista.

STEP 4.  Repeat the above steps until all your shit is aired out, WITHOUT EXCEPTION, unless invoking The Emergency Rule.

THE EMERGENCY RULE:  If you aren’t in a place, physically or mentally, where you can make every honest attempt at engaging in each step repeatedly until your conversation is over, this is how you handle it:  “{Personal Moniker}, I want to continue to keep moving through this discussion to get to a better place that meets both our needs, but the circumstances we need  are not what we have right now, so let’s come back to it at {Set A Specific Time, Preferably Before The Next Sunrise}.”  Make sure the Personal Moniker isn’t a loaded term – i.e. it shouldn’t be overly saccharine, nor should it be placating & of course not demeaning, and, if you ever want to have oral pleasures again, avoid anything sexually playful, i.e. Sugar Tits, Mr. Big, Lena Dunham, etc.

That’s it.  That’s the big damn secret.  Notice that nowhere am I explicitly saying any of them are easy.  Much like other lofty goals such as maintaining good nutrition, raising a child to be an upstanding citizen, and unhooking modern-day bras, knowing what the steps are, and understanding how to follow them in a sequence, is the easy part; actually doing it is where the magic is.  (Seriously with the bra thing:  show me one other piece of clothing that has that many impossibly tiny & implausibly strong hooks, and I’ll bet its intentions are much less innocent than simply keeping the girls covered up.  Talk about over-engineering safety for one guy’s mistake… can you imagine being the guy responsible for the bra?  Like, because of you, all of the remaining boobs, all of them, forever, all of them had to be covered up?  And by such a medieval device?  I want to know what he did to two boobs that was so bad we had to lock up all the other ones with tiny metal locks and elastic fabric that stretches unnaturally.)

HOW’S THAT FOR A CHANGE IN TONE AT THE END OF AN ESSAY??!??  Take that, Comp Lit Majors!  Enjoy your no job & weird spices & braless girlfriends!


That is all.

Team Eckhart

I just finished reading Eckhart Tolle’s “The New Earth”. It’s a significant event, because I rarely even venture into the land of New Age books, as Borders would undoubtedly classify this, and as such this book would long have stayed out of my purview were it not for life’s intervention. In this particular case, I have my wife, my sister, and Oprah to thank for conspiring to put this book in front of my face… Powerful women, all, so it’s no wonder that, after reading & reflecting on E.T.’s work, I too feel more “powerful”.

Here’s why.

His life, as explained in the book, is not what you & I, the unenlightened might call “life” at all. His consciousness has evolved. In his world, life is a series of things. Things that happen, things that you consume, build, lust after, chase, get, don’t get, etc. It’s literally all clutter. This is not Life, a separate definition that is hard to denote with any letters, even a Capital L. As he would express it, Life just is. The things of the lowercase life are all constructs, are all structures created by our dearest friend & most insecure friend, Monsieur Ego, in a constant & desperate effort to justify his own existence. We do not need Ego to accomplish our purpose in life. Ego actually runs counter plots to this true purpose by convincing us that he is the one in charge & that his desires are what matters. Our purpose is to simply live Life, the Life that Oprah would call her Best Life, by realizing we are all Beings, and as such we are all connected to a higher Being, which E.T. describes variously with apropos but loaded words like Truth, Consciousness, Awareness, God, Self and Life.

He claims that we, before attaining consciousness (which he explains in such adroit fashion as to encompass and equalize most of the world’s religions), create and destroy in the futility of the act of defining ourselves & everything in our world on some meter or scale or reference point. My favorite part of this dialog is his discussion of how nothing is actually Better or Bigger until you decide it’s so. I totally can’t do it justice at the moment, since i only read it once & neglected to take notes. Just take it from me that this was one of the many aha!- like moments I had in the course of his 300 pages: every measurement requires a point of reference, and since society is full of Beings with independent points of reference, yours is the only one that matters, which simultaneously means that none of them do (let’s all stop short of spiraling down into the dystopic argument that society can’t function without some shared givens). There is no Good or Bad, but thinking that makes it so.

But consider that every Being is born and has a spark of life – and that, my friends, is where the similarities end. The only thing we “know” is that we are alive and others are alive. If we can realize that, accept that, and act as though it were the only Truth, everything else that causes us discontent melts away.

The most freeing section in the whole book is where he relates that to action and time. When you accept that the world and time are constructs in which you are forced to participate physically but do NOT define who you are, because YOU are more than your actions, all the risk to You/Self is moot and it’s only your Ego at play that makes you act differently. What you choose to do in any given moment is exactly the right thing to do if you are aware of the choice. Put simply, the only moment there ever is is Now, and the only Action required is the one you choose.

That is a concept that made me fall off the couch. That is some Ninja shit right there. I feel like I earned a blackbelt in like thirty different isms all at once.

Here’s where it can go a little sideways for those less introspective than even I am. Realizing that, accepting that, acting on that… In short, thinking about it (or anything for that matter) is still a lowercase life. Thinking is all Ego. Getting in touch with Life, though, is “simpler” than that. He gives us a few activities to try in the book, but my go-to kata is this: close your eyes and just feel the blood, heat & energy I your fingertips. (I learned focused breath in college yoga classes, so I take for granted that this is easy; I highly recommend learning this technique if for no other reason than it’s ability to quell anxiety & get me to sleep at night). Then let that awareness slowly creep out into your hands, into your arms, your shoulders, your core, the top of your head… that sort of trancelike state you enter when you can honestly feel that energy & not act or think about anything else… that is the Awareness with a Capital A that E.T. says connects us all. It’s the only thing that connects us all, but the point is that we are all connected. However you choose to manifest that Life, whatever God you choose (if any), whatever clothes you wear, whether you’re for Team Edward or Team Jacob (note from my Ego: I am the only guy who would even ATTEMPT to mix Eckhart Tolle and Twilight, and therefore I am awesome), all those decisions are yours and all of them insignificant in the pursuit of Life, Happiness, Zen, Nirvana, Heaven, or Valhalla (what up Nordic readers!).

All you gotta do is let go. The only moment there ever is is Now, and the only Action required is the one you choose. There is no Good or Bad, but thinking that makes it so.

I apologize for the heady meta vapors you’re now wafting in, but this post serves three purposes. First and foremost, to document my own thoughts on this book. It hasn’t turned me into Superman or Oprah or even Dr. Phil, but whatever potential I had that I felt was untapped or that I wasn’t “allowed” to tap, which caused me to worry I was wasting myself, or at least that others were thinking I was wasting myself… Well, none of that matters. And holy jumping Jesus in a jumpsuit did it make a difference in my life.

Second purpose of this post is to tell you about it. Spread the germs of consciousness, I suppose. Without becoming an evangelist, I will simply say that, if you can hang with his meta-analysis (or at least aren’t totally turned off by the words meta-analysis), you will get something of value out of reading it.

Third purpose is to publicly acknowledge and accept that I am more than the sum of my actions, and so is everyone else. That, inevitably, leads to forgiveness, which is a surprising word at this time in my life. I’m afraid that’s a horse of a different color, though, so I’m postponing further public exploration of that.

My thanks to the many different Muses that manifested that book & granted me the good fortune to be able to read it. Hopefully at least one other person will choose the same experience.

High-Five Yourself.

So 2010 has started.  It’s 1% over already, actually.  What’s next?  First a quick look back since the last time:

In November I auditioned for Bay One Acts.  Two weeks ago, I also auditioned for The Lion in Winter with Chanticleers. I didn’t get either one.  The first one hurt a lot & I had to pump myself back up for a few weeks.  I almost backed out of the audition for Chanticleers because I was probably the least confident I’ve been in the last year.  I couldn’t find much drive or ambition.  It took some strong conversations with the wyf – she could easily tell the wind was out of my sails, and I was getting frustratingly namby-pamby in all discussions about the acting stuff while we were back East for the holidays – to remind me that it’s completely unreasonable to expect to do a great job in EVERY single audition I get.  I can’t expect a high-five from the auditors every single time.  Which is tough, because who doesn’t love a high-five (aside from Howie Mandel)?

In critical retrospect, I was pretty unprepared & consequently ur-nervous about the Bay One Acts audition.  I didn’t rehearse my monologue much because I thought it was a shoe-in.  Then, the second half of that audition was a cold read during which I did a HORRIBLE job reading for comedy; I read for drama because I was nervous & didn’t want to risk being not funny.  I read their scene with three other people, and feel like I was the only one of the four who looked like a completely uncomfortable body on stage.  Now I look back on it and struggle not to shudder remembering how awkward I must have looked.  Horrible.  Just horrible.

The feedback from the director at Chanticleers was that I spent too much energy trying to memorize lines for the cold read instead of just acting with the script in hand.  I didn’t have enough variety in my tone & volume – I got the impression I came across as a dial-tone actor (think Topher Grace or Randy Quaid).  Not for nothing, though, it was a difficult reading scenario; I read with the director’s wife, a self-declared non-performer that did a bang-up job of doing nothing but staring at the script and reading the words in front of her.  It kind of felt like being on stage by myself, and instead of taking advantage of that & owning the scene, I hung back limply & worried about how to react to someone who isn’t doing anything worth reacting to.  Hence, delivering a dial-tone performance.  What I learned from it, as I’m sure it won’t be the last time, is that I have to constantly sell myself as the character I’m reading, no matter who or what else is on that stage.  That takes confidence, which I can’t afford to lose again.

So, next.  I need confidence-building activity.  I’ve checked TBA for future audition opportunities & haven’t found much that sounds practical.  I’ll check again this week once their staff is back in the office & have updated listings, but I’m leaning towards a class for the first few months of 2010.  I’ve picked out three options, all in ACT’s halls:  Voice Building for Singers (so that I can stop being scared away by musical auditions), Improv (a safe way to go that’s almost guaranteed to help my confidence), or Audition Technique (to help de-mystify the process a little further & hopefully learn some coping skills for mistakes I make).

Let me be clear:  I’m NOT giving up on doing this for a living.  Challenges be damned, I still KNOW how great it feels to be on stage & entertaining folks.  That’s what I want to do.  I want to be awesome at it, so when I’m complete crap in an audition, I question myself.  But every actor deals with sucking every once in a while – some get addicted to it (coda to Topher Grace & Randy Quaid). I don’t know exactly what I have to do to get where I’m going, but I have accepted that it will be a process with pitfalls & peaks, like anything else.  That’s the whole reason I built this website, actually… to document the process.

So I need to be honest here if nowhere else.  Hence the documentary above about two failed auditions.  But I’m moving on.  I’m gonna high-five myself.  After all, high-fives are the glue that hold society together.  That’s actually all a clap is – a self-fulfilled high-five.  So high-five yourself and clap hands in 2010.  Then buy my t-shirt.  (Stay tuned.)

First Official Burger & Trampoline DaY

Note the Twitter above. I don’t know what it is about the day right before a long weekend, but I ALWAYS wanna play hookie or somehow make that day go away. The last day of my high-school career, I wore a plastic grass skirt & sandals and flirted with girls I never even see any more. The last day of class in college, I took a flask of Uncle Jaeger with me and flirted with professors I only see on occasion.

Today’s not even the last day of anything. It’s just the day right before I get to have a three-day weekend & take a break from this exceptionally long project I’ve been working on. And a three-day weekend isn’t even all that exciting – it’s no Christmas in July, it’s not Thanksgiving weekend, it isn’t even a day off to go take motorcycle lessons in South SF (best birthday gift ever, given to me by the lovely Wyf; slightly outranks the awesome screenplay softward I got from her stepmom and the new man-purse my Mom & sister got me. Dad got me Bose headphones I’m just not sure about yet, but don’t tell him that.)

So that means today is special in some way but for no good reason. What I really want to do today, instead of wrap up a few loose ends on one part of this Project That Won’t Die, is to spend the day jumping on a trampoline and then eat a really huge Garbage Burger. Nothing else. I don’t wanna feel productive, I don’t wanna catch up on the phone with my friends, I didn’t even want to blog. Bouncing on a huge rubber table and clogging my arteries while simultaneously pleasuring the buds o’ taste. That’s all I want. (Note: I think our arteries and our buds o’ taste are in a constant feud; they may even be arch-nemeses. Which reminds me that I don’t even want to check “Meet arch-nemesis” off of my to-do list today.)

Because I don’t know WHY this day feels like it should be special but it can’t be, and because I don’t know WHY I only want to bounce around & fiend on animal carcass, the two are inextricably and undeniably linked. That can only mean that, when these forces combine, they are… Burger & Trampoline Day! July 3rd, 2008. First official one. Aren’t you glad you were here? T-shirts to come shortly. No, for reelz. I’m designing them and then taking them to Mingle to have them printed. But not today.

You might be thinking that, by the time I’ve designed, printed & purchased these shirts, there will be at least 350 days until the next B&T Day. Ahh, but that’s what makes this holiday so special – it happens five times a year!

1) The day before Memorial Day weekend starts.
2) July 3rd. (Red Dot = You Are Here)
3) The day before Labor Day weekend starts.
4) The day before Thanksgiving Weekend starts.
5) The day before Christmas Holidays start.

AND, this is a holiday for the masses. While it will officially go down in the record books as Burger & Trampoline Day (because I said so; First-sies!), you can make this holiday anything you want. You pick one non-productive activity, and one cardiac-arresting type of food (unless your non-productive activity is eating, then pick as many as you want), and that’s ALL YOU DO THAT DAY.

It makes you feel special, but you didn’t need a card or flowers or a present or a stuffed bird (unless you want one) to make you feel that way. All you needed was Official Endorsement of your impulse to Slack (with a capital S, because Capitals Are Under-Utilized. EspeciallY capital Y’s, because theY alwaYs look so excited to be here.)

Consider this your Endorsement Capital E. HappY Burger & Trampoline DaY, everYbodY.

Not Just a Hat Rack, My Friend

Last weekend, on the flights home from Choi’s stateside wedding reception, I had the surprisingly pleasant experience of watching ‘PS I Love You’. (SHUT UP. I have already heard every possible joke or insult about being a dude who sometimes enjoys chick flicks, so save your breath – it won’t change anything.)

… puts down his hackles …

Anyway, Hilary Swank loses her husband & basically starts her life all over based on letters her hubby left for her before the tumor got the better of him. One of the new parts of her life is actually being the creative, productive artist she wanted to be, working for herself as a shoe designer. Of course it goes perfectly well and she doesn’t have any problems at all getting the business off the ground… that’s not what the movie’s about, so they sheen over it. But it did get to me… you sometimes need a kick in the pants, mortal or not, to get your sh!t started. Between that part of the movie and our recently accumulated collection of entrepreneurial magazines, my sh!t got started.

I made a list of all the possible sources of revenue that I think would be a) fun to do; b) less than a full time job taken one at a time, but certainly a full day’s work if all of them ran simultaneously; and c) NOT require me to work in a cubicle & use words like ‘go-getter’, ‘the net is…’, and ‘let’s not get lost in the sausage-making.’

Taken piecemeal, NONE of these are fully able to support our current lifestyle (at least I’m not letting myself think that they could). However, if I get a few of them moving, if I stop spending my spare time on ‘non-contributing’ activities (such as making lists of things I’d rather be doing & then not doing them), one or two or three of them COULD actually become substantial, and the sum of their substances COULD, in a few years time, get me close to the bi-weekly payments I currently receive for small parts of my soul.

One of these ideas is blogging (surprise!). You probably ignored them on purpose, but hopefully there were one or two text ads from Google on the banner above my Twitterbox. I am aware that ad revenue requires eyes on pages and, more importantly, clicks to other pages where consumerism takes over… so I figure I need to:
1. Blog more often
2. Blog in a voice that’s my own – not that I use anybody else’s, but I mean a voice that’s distinct… signal, not noise
3a. Consider ‘re-branding’ the blog, or basically just change the name to reiterate the voice I’m using; and
3b. Promote the ever-loving crap out of it without pissing people off. I already link to it at the bottom of every Gmail I send, and it’s often in my GChat status window, and I do update it on Facebook using MirrorBlog… but those are all fairly passive. Once I’m satisfied with my frequency & the voice I’ve created, I’ll probably need to be A-G-G-R-E-S-S-I-V-E (whoo!).

The rest of the list is below, with a pittance of exposition on each one.

Idea 2: Create my own Improv group/troupe/trifecta. I seriously love doing what I’ve been doing on the improv tip. I think I’m actually fairly decent at it. I know at least 3 other people who are fairly decent at it but are better at things that I suck at and vice-versa. So I think I’ve got the raw materials, just need to put the product together and get out there with it. Worry about finding a stage & all the business pieces after we test the product out a bit (market research, folks… who says Penn State only teaches you to drink?)

Idea 3: Launch my own t-shirt shoppe, a la Busted Tees. This one’s easy & would take next to no time but might actually produce revenue. If you’ve known me at any point since I got to college, you know I enjoy me some funny t-shirts. Well, I’ve got at least a dozen ideas for new ones that I’ve never seen online or on you, and all it takes is putting some graphics & text together and either a) send it to an online insta-fab shoppe to have them made & sent to me to sell myself; or b) sell the designs/ideas to an already existing shoppe, i.e. Busted Tees or Snorg Tees or whatever. YES, this idea is simple and easy. NO, not everyone can do it, because not everyone is funny, and those that aren’t funny are sometimes also not clever, and those that are neither funny nor clever are also sometimes too lazy to do sh!t like this. You need to be funny, clever, or at least not lazy to make your own t-shirt shoppe. (BTW, I’m bringing back the unnecessary e’s at the ends of words. Kickin’ it Olde Schoole.)

Idea 4: Start a corporate presentation consulting firm. Hear me out. This is not me continuing to sell my soul behind a cubicle, but it IS more focused on dolla-dolla bills y’all. This is a hybrid idea of what I currently do and Idea 2 – basically it would be me teaching other people presentation skills. I went through 4 days of this training with my first company fresh out of school, and I know they a) make mucho dolares, and b) have almost NO capital invested in their business. While I don’t know as many fellow corporate slaves that would be interested in doing Improv-ish type stuff every day, I do know that, at the very least, I rock the presentation scene like whoa. I’ve gotten VERY comfortable in front of crowds, and am most fluid when I’m just talking about general crap… that is, when I’m not trying to justify my decisions or make a numbers-based recommendation. And maybe you’ve never seen a corporate presentation consultant speak, but these guys NEVER have to get into decisions or numbers unless they’re selling their own services. (At this I might suck… but probably not, because I have a 90% chance of never seeing the rejecting people ever again, so what’ve I got to lose? Plus, if I brought R in on this, she could sell girl-on-girl porn to a British nun, so I’d be solid.) AND, even better than getting to ‘sort of’ act or improv all day, I’d have more time & freedom to do the recreational acting or writing stuff after work. All good things, friends, all good things.

So there’s a lot more, but this 20 minute post has turned into about 70 already, and lunch is ready. Guess you’ll just have to come back for more at a later date. Oh, if you happen to be interested in joining me on any of the above forays, you know where my Inbox is.

Happy Saturday, people.