Archive for September, 2004

We Buy With Our Hearts

Wednesday, September 29th, 2004

My mom is suffering through a trip to Utah. She grew up a mormon, but has always been a political liberal in her heart so, regardless of her feelings about Jesus (or rather, because of them) she has a hard time being around the mormons any more. It’s a tough job, believing yourself to be a rational person and being surrounded by religious zealots.

About ten years ago, when we were all still in college (or pretending to be) an arts professional of some kind came to speak at Carolina, to meet with the up and coming professionals. For some reason, the only two people who met with this dude were my best man Mac and my best wo-man Jordana. They joke about the meeting (he told Jordana to part her hair down the middle- y’know, for career success) but one thing that the guy said to Mac stayed with him and has haunted our conversations ever since. He said, “people don’t buy intellectually. They buy emotionally and then justify the purchase intellectually.”

And that’s where we are with politics, religion and science. Do you go to church once a week? Then you are going to find a way to justify the war in Iraq. Because you are voting for the guy who says Jesus is his favorite philosopher. Do you never go to church? Then you are going to be against the war in Iraq. Because you are voting for the guy that will protect our civil rights regardless of theoretical moral imperatives.

But none of that has anything to do with the war in Iraq. Going to war in Iraq with little regard for the fiscal fall out to the United States is a *liberal* action. It is the *left* that has always raised their voices against imperialist governements, against tyrants who trample on the human rights of their people. We bitched and screamed during the 90s because Clinton wouldn’t stop the bloodshed in Africa and Southern Europe.

(Don’t fucking start with me, Iraq is a retarded war. Iraq should have been 17th on our list of countries to invade. We all know it, I’m not supporting the war. This war, I believe, will prove to be the undoing of America as a superpower, like when England tried to fight the French and the Americans at the same time in the 18teens. I love America, the idea, the points upon which our country was founded, and this war is going to prove to be the end of our great experiment. It won’t happen overnight, but we are fucked, and it’s because of this war. So don’t get all up in my face, that’s not my point.)

The real problem we have is that Bush attacked the muslims because he believed God told him to, and to avenge his father. It’s all wonderful and Shakespearean, but those of us who don’t believe that God speaks to people are outraged and terrified. If this man believes that the end of days is approaching, what’s to stop him from making irrational decisions? If this man thinks that Jesus is coming back soon, he’s going to act like there aren’t another 250 thousand years before our planet gets too close to the sun for comfort. And we’re horrified because we feel that Bush may not even be aware that our planet is round, let alone getting closer to the sun. And I’m pretty sure we’re wrong about that, Bush knows a lot more than we give him credit for.

Now, I’ve got almost no common ground with Bush. It’s weird, they’ve picked a guy to be president with whom I have *nothing* politically in common. His father was pro-choice and not terribly religious, Reagan was, y’know, in SAG, but this guy I don’t think I could have a conversation with him. I don’t understand the way his mind works, I don’t understand why he says the things he does, I don’t understand or agree with a single action he has taken since becoming president.

But I come by that with a shitload of reading. (Sometimes, knowing I’m an idiot works to my advantage, I have to do research or I’ll be stuck there with my pants around my ankles). I don’t agree with half of what Kerry wants to do, but I’ve also accepted that I’m an artist living in New York, married to a Jew, who played golf all day on Monday. I’m not a regular guy, and I have to accept that the country shouldn’t bow to my will. I can’t expect the full fiscal weight of the government would go toward creating lasting pieces of art at the expense of large corporations. I’ll vote that way, but I know I’m in the minority.

I’m just trying to think before I buy. Don’t call the president an idiot just because he believes that Jesus told him to invade Iraq. Almost everyone in America believes that God has talked to someone, and even those who don’t, do believe in some kind of higher power that is helping them, leading them. Call him an idiot because he believes a war in Iraq will bring peace to America, which is stunningly wrong-headed. Never in history has this been true, and our President made his decision long before he had enough information to even make a guess.

All I’m asking is, are you saying he’s an idiot because of the Jesus thing, or because of the bad policy thing? On the other hand, are you supporting the tax cuts and the war because you think they really have improved our lives, or is it because you think this man loves the same man you do? Or more, I’m not asking that question, I’m saying that it’s an important distinction. It’s important to cast our vote intellectually before we let ourselves justify it emotionally. When someone challenges you on your position, listen to what they’re saying and then go do some research. It’s got to be better than dismissing it out of hand, and it’s the only chance we have of stopping the impending destruction of America.


Tuesday, September 28th, 2004

My family are a bunch of jerks, or so the conventional wisdom goes. We’re all a gaggle of self interested, self obsessed navel gazers who feel massively entitled and who overestimate not only our talent and intelligence, but also the value of our opinions. We are the kind of people who put other people down in order to feel better about ourselves and we do strut around stinking of moral certainty. In short, because we are best in small doses, we see ourselves as Saffron, the most sought after and expensive spice, when actually we are probably more like chili powder, stinging and acrid in large amounts.

I should just end the blog right here.

The truth has no similarity to the fantasy, though. It is true that the five of us kids have a certain identity that a lot of other family’s don’t. We definitely see ourselves as offspring from a single source in a way that almost none of my other friends do. Which is strange, considering we don’t share all the same biological parents, but we are definitely attached to each other. We are all in our thirties and forties, and yet we still try to spend Christmas morning opening presents in someone’s living room together.

Pathetic, really.

Now, here’s the truth…

Michelle is one of the most maternal and non-confrontational people I have ever known. She gathers people to her now in the same way she used to collect wounded souls even as a small child. She has actually given so much of herself during her life so often, that her reserves are starting to run out. It is physically impossible for her to stop caring about you, even if you’re a jerk, sometimes especially if you’re a jerk. If I were to go into a battle, Michelle, above any guy I know, is who I would take. And I mean an actual battle, a physical battle with guns and knives. Because I know Michelle would make the most humane decision at any moment, and I know she would never, never, never quit. She would die trying to carry me out of the jungle, she wouldn’t know it was time to cut her losses. She has stayed at jobs and with fellas that weren’t worth ten seconds of her time, but she did it because she cannot find a way to not care about the outcome.

Ian is best known for his constant womanizing, which is hilarious. Sure, he spent about ten years trying to get girls to like him, but that’s ignoring the first 22 years when he was so completely bent sideways by his responsibilities to the people around him that he couldn’t bring himself to even *kiss* a girl for fear of what it all might mean. Ian was a hopeless poet growing up, savaged by the ignorance and small mindedness of his grade school and junior high. It was Ian that told me, point blank, about how important it is to listen to people, to find common ground, and it was that lesson, more than anything else, that made me an actor. His life now is somewhat luxurious, but his casualness and so-called dilletantism has been earned with decades of loneliness and panic that he was keeping from everyone except whomever happened to share a bedroom with him in high school.

Steve has embraced his own curmudgeon-ness, doing his damnedest to try to reinforce the worst you might think of him. He *loves* being seen as the grouch. If I call him, he checks his caller ID, answers the phone without speaking, waits for me to say, “um, hello?” before saying, “you called me, whadyawant?” And he does this because he doesn’t want it widely broadcast that he is actually a manic crusader for the happiness of the people he cares about. When I was living a life of quiet desperation (who am I kidding, it was the loudest “quiet desperation” you’ve ever heard) it was Steve who would pay for stuff for me and ignore me when I thanked him. Our whole lives, it was always Steve who gave the best presents, who would remember Birthdays, who would listen to a problem and then find a solution and enact it without discussion. Steve has led the hardest life of anyone in my family, the most plagued by bad luck and circumstance, and he’s always responded with generosity and kindness that the world has yet to pay him back with.

Kent has always been a sort of gentle giant, but in order to understand fully his grace in this world, you have to look to his kids. He has two teenage sons, both of whom adore him and consider him a friend. I had a lot of friends growing up who thought their dads were their buddies, but these were always pushover jackass dads, the ones who would buy us pot. On the subway, Kent said to Sean Patrick, “Dude, get your fucking head out of your ass.” and Sean said, “that’s okay, I’ll stand.” and Kent chuckled. I just about died. It’s hard work, being a dad nowadays. I suppose it always has been, but right now it seems particularly tough, and if you met Sean Patrick and Lucas, you would think Kent was a genius. To me, he’s always been the guy I could be if I got really lucky, happily married, music coming out of my basement and an example of level headed spirituality and intelligent kindness for my kids.

But, other than that, we’re pretty much assholes. And, if you get on the wrong side of any one of us, you’ll have all five of us pricks giving you shit.

Fat? White? Male? Funny Pants?

Friday, September 24th, 2004

Sometimes when we are upstate, a group of people will decide to go on a walk. I ask them where they are going, and it turns out they are going to some point, and then they will turn around and come back. I ask them if they will be buying anything on the walk, and they say no. “Sandwiches, candy, soda?” “No”.

So I tell them that I’ll stay here, they can go for a walk, and I’ll let them know if they’ve missed anything while they were walking.

Yes, yes, I’m sure something lovely happens on these walks. I go on walks with my wife, but she’s a computer games whore and it’s the only way I can get her attention. And, truth be told, I always bring cash because I always secretly hope we will get sandwiches, candy and soda. And usually we do.

So the other day when I was in the middle of a glorious two hours spent on the golf course, I realized why I love it so much. I’m walking around, only to end up back where I started. However, I get a ball and a thing to hit that ball with, and, on the walk, a place to aim the ball eventually.

I went and played golf with the New York parents, and I had such a ball. Sure, some people take it seriously and sure, sometimes it is frustrating as hell. And yeah, you get tired of people telling you to keep your head down and which club to use and countless more nonsense, but basically, you are just wandering around on a really pretty walk and you have a stick and a ball.

18 holes may be a bit much for me, just about four or five holes more than I want to play. Also, five hours out in the sun might be just a touch more than I want to do, especially when it’s 10 am to 3 pm. But it really isn’t just fat guys walking aroound in funny pants.

When you hit that ball right, you feel a tuning fork go off in your chest. I can hear the pitch, that’s how clear it is. You get all the ball, it goes sailing, the right direction, the right yardage, the right everything. I scored about 130 on 18 holes yesterday, but four or five of those shots were damn near perfect. If I break a hundred some day, it’ll be because I got five more of those shots a game.

But, I don’t really care. The walk is nice. And they had sandwiches.

Other Blogs

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2004

I got a call from a friend last night asking me if I’m sad because he read my blog. I told him I wasn’t.

In an effort to avoid any more phone calls like that, I’m posting another blog. It is disheartening that the best stuff I’ve ever written in this blog will never be read again, but that’s the nature of blogs in general. We’re only as good as whatever you are writing right now. But I have a random assortment of blogs I check every few days, and I thought I’d give a shout out.

By the way, if you track your own blog back to mine and this is the first you’re reading of this, you should know the best stuff is from some months ago. I won’t tell you where, you’ll just have to start reading and stop when it gets awesome.

First are a series of theater blogs. Mac’s Blog is where I start, but then I usually check in on Terry Teachout who is a critic for the Washington Post.

Then I go quickly through Dan (although lately he’s not been posting much), then George and then Laura. The last blog is fascinating because I’ve watched a playwright as she’s left New York to return to the South and then, y’know, try to figure her shit out.

If you think every single one of us doesn’t consider leaving New York once at least one a month, you’re mistaken.

On each one of these blogs, I sometimes wander from there. The fun thing is that Mac sometimes fights with these guys and gals about what’s important in the world of theater, which thrills me and makes me feel retarded. But it is fun.

One of my favorites is Alton Brown’s Rants & Raves . I can’t say enough about AB. This is not the best show on TV, it is the best show for ME on the PLANET. He’s a southern nerd chef, a genius of food prep who is an armchair scientist and… Look, I’m not going to go on. I refuse to argue the point. There is no better television show currently being made if the demographic was one dude, and that dude was me. To be fair, Alton posts about once every two months, so this isn’t one I check very often.

My own family’s blogs are to the side, but you should really start with Sean Patrick , the other dark meat, or as I like to call him, Mini-Me. Bud isn’t a member of the family, but I’ve known him since 1987, and he once pulled a knife on me at a time in my life that I should have been stabbed.

By the way, no-one posts as much as I’d like them to.

As long as I’m getting to my friends Anthony is a fantastic multi-talented hyphenate. It’s impossible to describe what he does without selling him short, but he writes, directs, acts and (God help him) is an expert at improv. Dan basically publishes a blog that contains anything he doesn’t publish on Slate or Salon or the New York Times, which means he also doesn’t post as much as he might, but everything he writes is professional and polished.

There are also people who have no idea that I know them. This blog is one of the most powerful examples of the way the internet has changed the world. Insane that this guy can blog his life for me. Anil Dash is a pretty infamous blogger in his own right. This girl is a great photographer and a big baseball fan, which is fun.

Two women who blow my mind are Krissa (petithiboux) and Dooce . Dooce is very popular with my family, but Petithiboux (which is what I always think her name is in my head) is just goddam miraculous. I adore her writing, I adore reading about her life.

I read two famous people’s blogs. Margaret Cho is one, but I read her blog so you don’t have to. Believe me, I’ll snip out the funny stuff and email you with it. Zach Braff is also keeping a blog, and every time he writes it’s hilarious.

So. Now I don’t have to write for a day or two, right? Go read these guys.


Tuesday, September 21st, 2004

All right, all right, let’s all just calm down for a second. My last post is just something you are going to have to put up with if you want to read this blog, it only happens once every great while, most of the rest of the time I’m sweet as a child’s ice cream.

I promise, coming soon, will be rhapsodic declarations of love to my wife, my family, my craft, my career. I will tell a story about my sweet friend who recently turned a corner, from grief to recovery. I’ll talk of loves past that I still miss, when the weather turns from summer’s sweet freedom to autumnal melancholy. I’ll look forward with hope to that miracle of a day when I see my child’s first steps.

But, y’see, none of that is happening now. If I were a welder and no-one worked in steel anymore, I’d get to say “I’m one hell of a welder, but now they make buildings out of plastic” and no-one would shake their heads and say, “Your bulging delusions of grandeur are showing…” I’m really good at my job and I’m at the ass end of a run of great luck and I don’t know where my next job will be coming from. If you think that doesn’t suck, I mean, you’re just wrong.

And what is surprizing to me is that, not only can you simply not read this blog, but it actually takes some time to download it. Go do something else.

Plus your emails just spur me on. Ask my wife. I do shit all the time just to get criticized. It’s almost like I’m an infant, unless you count how good I am in bed. Sometimes I sit down at the computer with nothing to say and I just try to come up with something retarded and offensive. I’m amazed that it works.

So, as we used to say in North Carolina, if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes. I’m too lazy to keep this up for long.

Greazy Rope

Tuesday, September 21st, 2004

Apparently, I have something to say. I need a forum. I have something on my chest that I have to get off. I mean, I don’t know what it *is*, but there’s some goddam thing or other that keeps me awake at 3 in the morning after not sleeping for *WEEKS* on end, right?

Pathetic. Really.

Okay, there is this one thing.

My friend Steve and I had an argument about malpractice. Actually, Deb and Steve had an argument about malpractice and I listened on and interjected, “that is true…” and “well, y’know…” and “Steve’s not all that fat…”, but the remarkable thing about the argument is that I almost never hear Steve express concern over his possible future, and it really made me worry about how frickin’ *terrified* he is of getting sued and losing his license over a simple slip of the scalpel.

But I don’t want to talk about that at all, what it made me think about is how much *everyone* bitches about their fucking lot in life. There’s always someone going on and on about how unfair it is to have to work a jackhammer for the city, only to reveal that, WOW, he actually *works* a jackhammer for the city. Christopher Reeve is the fucking spokesman for stem cell research and, oh I just realized this, he’s had a spinal chord injury that stem cell research might cure!

I mean, what the fuck. Maybe it’s because I’m an artist (and I am one, don’t give me that look) and our job is to try to recreate the human experience, but the fact is that all y’all’s stories are frickin’ *identical*. The best is when a group of actors sit around and talk about how hard it is to be an actor. Like that’s new information. God, if only someone along the way had mentioned something about how incredibly hard it is to be an actor, then we could have made an informed decision…

Sleep deprivation begets sarcasm. “The lowliest form of wit”, Oscar Wilde…

(Not really. What he actually said was “Sarcasm is the highest form of wit, I don’t think.”)

(Although John Knowles did actually say “sarcasm was the weapon of the weak”, which I have been misquoting in the present tense for about twenty years now.)

(There’s this thing called a “search engine”.)

If you sit around a table making fun of the various things actors have done in order to propel them stumbling further along their pathetic career paths, all the actors at the table will laugh at all the things you mention *except* for the one thing they are currently trying which they think will work. But it isn’t just us. God, the conversations I’ve endured as people talk about the political process of selecting the best T.A. assignments at your average state college, the dried up leaf my tongue turned to as I tried to identify with the vagueries of when a trans-continental freight truck ought to be weighed, the endless crescendo-decrescendo (more like sfortsandos)(Oh BURN!) of my various single friend’s love lives (Not you, of course) make me wonder how many more moments I have on earth and if I’m going to get a few hours of dispensation when my time is up.

Maybe that’s why virtually everyone I know that I’m not too close with has such a hard time *listening* to anything. Watch two people talking and they are completely ignoring the essence of what the other person is saying, they are listening for cue words that lead them to their own kvetchs. You always hear, “oh! Speaking of the mongrel hord, have we got the *worst* problem with birds pooping in our parking spot! Listen carefully while I explain the specifics of what the city and/or my landlord can do to make my specific lot in life free from this completely invented disadvantage!”

I wish I could do it, but it’s something I’ve never been able to do. (Ignore it, that is. Not bitch. Bitching’s what I do best.) I have really good hearing (and no, that’s not something that the women who sleep with me say because they say it to all the guys- I actually do have above average hearing. That’s why I get paid to produce recordings) and as such, I’ve heard shit my whole life. I’m also genuinely interested in the human-ness of people’s stories. I am interested in the fact that we all have the same story.

My friends are awesome because they are just as boring as everyone else, but they try new shit. One friend broke up with his girlfriend of twelve years and now he’s running around being the most attractive man in Brooklyn. One friend got fired from his shitty job so he became a freelance writer, who’s been published about ten times in the last year, including a NYTimes article. Another friend was worried about how to become an actor, so he went to law school, passed the bar and works at a law firm… in order to be an actor. That’s awesome. One of my friends is implementing a “New Mistakes for a New Year” idea for 2004. He’s just doing things wrong in a different way to see what will happen. These people are awesome.

Don’t you people know that a helicopter could drop out of the sky on to your bed at any second and kill you in your sleep? At the beginning of your life you are placed at the bottom of a greased rope and you have to try to climb to the top of it while everyone else in the gym is yelling at you for being fat. That’s life, that’s everyone’s life. Some people have knots tied in the rope to make the climb easier, but no matter what, you are either gonna fall off before you reach the top or you are gonna fall off *after* you reach the top, and falling off is death and falling off will happen to you. You have X number of hours left, and you’ve been telling yourself the same damn story about your Dad not liking you and being unattractive in junior high. I know because I’ve heard it before. Probably from *you*.

People think I’m a talented actor (oh, and women think I’m fabulous in bed) but here’s my little secret. I’m merely a self involved jackass. I’m *not* a self involved jackass idiot who doesn’t listen. It’s such a huge step up that people think I’m a genius.

Yeah, I had nothing to say. I just can’t sleep and I’m feelin’ mean.

Brand New Idea

Saturday, September 18th, 2004

SAo, this will be the first blog I’ve ever written completely shit faced. I am drunk on a combination of stuff, all of it lovely, and I’m at Ian and Tessa’s farm house with damn near twenty of my friends. God, it is good to see some of these people that I haven’t seen in a long time, Caroline, Anthony, Deb and Steve, it’s just wonderful.

I’m actually gfoing back and fixing tyupung mistakes that I make as I go, but I might not catch them all. I just tried to walk around Tan and Tessa’s bed and I banded the holy behjessus out of my leg on the foot board. I have to assume it’s called the foot board, if the thing at the top is called the head boartd.

There is, seriously, nothing you can do about any of this. I can puyblish a drunjk blog and you totally vcan’t stop me. Y’all aint got shit on me.

Is it pathetic that I would be drunk at this age? I don’t know. I just don’t know.

I can tell you this, I really miss Ian and Tessa when I’m here and they’re not. Not so much the day to day, which is actually relatively easyu to maintain without instruction, but the conversation. They are lovely people. I went into the bathroom in their room, where I’m sleeping, and I saw a copy of the same cooking magazine that I have a subscription to. It made me so lonely for all of us being together, not that we don’t really have an ancestral homeland. We don’t have a place, all of us, to call home and we always have before, and I see Cook’s Corner, or some damn thing, I can’t think of it now, and It’s like we’re all family and love each other, in our own way.


We talked about Blogs tonight for quite some time. I can’t reallty worry about the group of friends I have that check this blog every once in a while. I’ mean, let’s be honest, this is all bullshit, and we all know it. I could tell you any number of things here and you really ought to discount it all as an exercise in creativity. Blogs are interesting more for what they are trying to be than for what they are. But that’s a conversation for a more sober time.

We talked about the blogs we read, about how awsesome it is that our generation goes nuts and reads each other’s blogs. My friend Anthony? I read his *girlfriend’s* blog, someone I relaly dfon’t know very well, but who I adore because of her writing. And a lot of people check this.

You know what? Screw you guys. Read this if you want, but know that I’m not a writer, I’m a liar and you shouldn’t trust a damn thing you read in here. I love the way Jordana looks at me when she reads my blog, it’s the same look she gets when I break dance. “Yes, yes, we’re all terribly impressed, but, you see, I know you, and I know what you let none of these people know.”

Okay, seriously? Jordana was getting ready in the bathroom and I farted, just a regular fart, but it sort of went up in tone at the very end and Jordana, wet head in towel, called out and said, “did you just ask me sopmething?” That is mother fucking comedy.

Man, I really broke the hell out of my leg on Ian’s goddam bed. Why the fuck do people need a head board *AT THE BOTTOM OF THEIR BED*? Hey, Sean Patreick, do *you* haVE A head board at the bottom of your goddam bed?

Man, white people got stuff I don’t understand.

The Wirk…

Tuesday, September 14th, 2004

I am going through a cyclical sort of period of intense ability to focus, so I’m hammering out a lot of shit that’s been sitting on the back burner. I wrote a screenplay about ten years ago that sorta sucks, but there was one exchange that I really like where a character says, “I’m a painter, I’m always painting, even when I’m not” or something to that effect. And it’s true.

I’ve been working on a piece of music, a song for a children’s series that I’m really excited about being involved with, and I’m also working on music for a show that my co-producers and I are writing called “Fleet Week”. According to our schedule for Fleet Week, we have about three months to have a completed script and start casting for a January performance slot, so I’m feeling a little bit of pressure to try to throw some songs together for that, but the deadline for the children’s song was, um, three weeks ago. So that has sort of taken precedence.

Wanna know how I write music? Okay, I’ll tell you.

There are two ways. Way one is the easiest way, and that’s when I start with a melody line. I’ll be lying in bed or… who am I kidding, it always happens to me lying in bed. I never sit down, pen in hand, and suddenly a melody line comes to me. Mozart did that, all other composers heard melodies and harmonies only once they were well away from the paper and quill, where you would realize that they were slipping out of your mind faster than flour through a sieve…

But sometimes I hear the melody line and I get somewhere fast enough to jot it down, sometimes it’s just sung right into a tape recorder but often I’m able to figure out the key and time signature fast enough to get it down.

Key and time signature might seem like something that should be fairly obvious, but it’s actually very weird. Key signatures are hard to determine for a lot of the most interesting things. My mom once told me to just write everything in C and put in the accidentals and then when a key started making itself known you can go back and stick it in. That was when I was about 8, now I’m pretty good at knowing the key, but a lot of times it changes really fast.

Time signature can be just as weird. You can think something is in 4/4, but then as you write it down you realize it’s actually 6/8. And as you play it slower, you realize that it’s just a waltz (3/4) with four bar melodies, and then you speed it up and it’s not a waltz at all, it’s a march, in 12/8, that swings. It’s really not all that easy.

You think I’m showing off, but really, the real musicians who are reading this are thinking, “Dude, if you can’t hear it’s 12/8 right off the top, you’re an idiot.” And they’re right, I am. An idiot who LOVES TO PLEASE THE WOMENs.

Anyway, this is sometimes the fastest and funnest way to write music, but if the melody line is off by a hair, if you start tweaking, man, you are screwed. I’ve tried to take dictation from that part of my brain that sings to me all the time, and if you get the rhythm a little bit off or if the triplet doesn’t fit or something, I just want to throw the whole thing away. And I have. Lots of times.

I’ve thrown away stuff before I even get it completely written. I’ve opened music files to find acres of empty staves, key signature and time signature not just written in, but changes as the empty staves roll by. Just no notes at all, like at some point I selected ALL and deleted and then saved the changes and quit.

Because even when I’m not writing, I’m writing.

The other way is fiddling. I don’t know if writers of words can do this, can just sit down and start stringing phrases together. Sometimes I think they do.

“I have a pomegranate, but not a seed.”

“You have no earthly idea.”

“Yeah…wait, what? Oh! Yeah, wait… what?”

“Faster than flour through a seive…”

And then you start writing a play? I don’t know. If someone does this, I’d be psyched. But I do, I sometimes pick up a guitar and just start screwing around, playing with this and that. A few times this has led me down (up?) the path that, y’know, primrose or something, where you go down a path and it leads the wrong place? Goddamit, what is that? Anyway, a couple of times I start playing something and I like where it’s going and then I really like where it’s going and then I start making up a tune to fit it, and it’s like God is speaking through me and then… it dawns on me that I’m singing “Maneater” by Hall and Oates.

This hasn’t actually happened to me that much. Also, the fun thing is if you sit down at a piano and start writing out melodies and progressions and designs and then you try to switch it to guitar, the weirdest shit happens. Same with the reverse. I wrote a country sort of ballad on guitar that, when switched to piano, sounds like Randy Newman. Which is oh so much better than sounding like a country ballad.

Sometimes I use a combination of the above. I’ll get a tune in my head, a melody line, and as I try to get it down I find myself fiddling into something infinitely better.

So, I really just wanted a new post up because I hate that I was baited into writing that last post. I have to get back to the music, because I’m closing in on finishing the wonderful ballad duet between a Coast Guard Captain and a national monument, and I want to write it down before it leaks out of my brain.

A Game of Basketball

Sunday, September 12th, 2004

My brother has maintained a fantastic blog for years now, but because dumb people keep giving him shit, he’s thinking about shutting it down. No such luck for me. Maybe I moved enough as a kid, but dumb people don’t bother me quite as much.

I’d love to be able to get my panties in a twist by someone’s misunderstanding of my writing but a) I’m not sure the misunderstanding was all that profound, b) there is a certainty that comes with being right about something that makes you not really sweat criticism and c) this blog and, in fact, my entire “writing life” are just a laugh for me. When someone misunderstands my life as an artist, I look to fact B for comfort and very often there is little to be found. When someone misunderstands a blog, I’m actually amazed that my writing is cogent enough for it to happen as infrequently as it does.

Most people I know wrap up a lot of their emotional life into their sexual lives and it’s a shame. One’s emotional life is dripping with reversals and nonsensical aberations and confusing twists and spirals (even *without* wrapping it up in your sex life) that equating it with some sort of binary did-I-or-didn’t-I-screw-him kind of crap is really selling one’s emotional life short. But everyone seems to do it, virtually every woman I’ve ever slept with does it and about half the guys I know do it so either I’m awesome for avoiding it or I’m dumb as shit.

Plus, if you write a treatise supporting abortion, someone’s gonna get all up in your shit. (Interesting side note: the one woman I’ve ever known who had not a shread of feminine instinct and, as such, fucked people the way date raping frat boys do, cried when she got an abortion. I mean, it was her fifth, so maybe it was… I was gonna say shame but no, it was probably just fear of being a cliche…)

I have no idea if I’m good or bad in the sack, in the same way that no-one has ever come up to me and said, “You are actually a *bad* actor”. It’s a push-poll, no matter how you phrase it. And, of course, that’s what I said so many months ago, that I do what, in my mind, is standard stuff and I get celebrated for it. But the celebration has to do more with the fact that I’m a human being, that I’ve never really *tried* to get *ANYONE* to have sex with me. I’m the kind of guy who sleeps with my friends and stays friends with them for years afterwards. Or more specifically, I’m the kind of guy who almost sleeps with my friends, stops the act before it enters into what I recognize is emotional weirdness for other people (regardless of my complete personal disrespect for it) and stays friends with them for years.

Now, as the actual beginning and end of my entire defense, I would like to present: This Entire Fucking Blog. Reading my blog and assuming that I celebrate my own sexual prowess and that I don’t have compassion and understanding for the people I share my life with, including women, is the kind of selective editing that could secure you a job on the Daily Show or The Committee to Re-Elect the President.

God dammit, I always get sucked in. I like talking more than I like just gloating and being right. Anyway, Ian, I’m sorry that people are fucking with you and your blog and I’m sorry that shit like this is making you give it up.

Some Time

Friday, September 10th, 2004

I find myself with half an hour or so before I have other things to do, and I realize that I am taking a piece of good news very badly. Now, I am not going to be able to disguise this enough should I begin to speak about it specifically, and disguising it is something I should do, so I will just have to ask a related question.

Why is it that some people, regardless of their staggering lack of competence and obvious blind ambition, seem to be able to trip their way up the food chain, whereas other people of enormous talent and at least medium drive seem to spend so much of their time completely stalled? It really seems painfully unfair, the kind of unfairness that requires and explanation.

Of the latter group I have only this to say: It should be hard to be successful. It should be enormously hard. Doctors have to study for years and years, hours every day, sleepless nights, thousands of patients, millions of intensely studious minutes before they are allowed to treat people, and that is a science where the answers are somewhat clear. As an artist, you are saddled with the responsibility of expressing the inexpressible, of soothing the savage breast, of being the food of love, and it should be extremely difficult.

Songwriters and actors should be one in a million, not a dime a dozen, and the glut in our market of purveyors is unfortunate because it allows complacency among the above average. If you get on stage and make it through your set without forgetting a whole song, then you’ve won the day, and the same is true if you remember all youor lines. Maybe if people weren’t so damn impressed that we remember our lines, we would demand more of ourselves.

So ask yourself if you have worked as hard as a doctor has worked since he graduated high school. If you have, and you aren’t successful, then, seriously, quit, because you obviously have no talent at all. My guess is that if you get an hour a day writing in, you feel pretty good, if you can write two songs a week, you feel great and if you are off book before tech starts you feel ahead of the curve.

I know for myself that I have never worked as hard as I need to. There are five or six phone calls, just phone calls, that I should make that will help my career, and I’m not making them. So, don’t think I’m accusing you of anything that I don’t hold myself responsible for. If you tell me you want me to produce your play, but then you don’t keep writing me and reminding me, it’s really your fault, not mine, that your play won’t be produced.

But, allowing for the fact that it should be difficult, why do I hear about performances of plays either starring, produced or written by people who are really bad at their jobs? My friends Dan, John and Anthony are all three *amazing* directors. So why are so many bad directors working? I understand, they hustle, they have connections, they’re handsome, some other bullshit (all of which I don’t believe too deeply) but how is it that they *keep* working?

I have worked with a lot of people in New York on a lot of different projects, and I am proud of almost all of it, even the stuff that wasn’t all that good. There is one project that I was barely attached to and the guy who was in charge of it was, hands down, the worst person I’ve ever worked with. And he is now enjoying a sort of success. He’s unpleasant and untalented.

You don’t have any answers, and there’s no higher power to ask. Maybe it’s absurd, on September 10, to ask why some things happen to some people, but the question isn’t so much, “why is cruelty dealt out unevenly” but more, “why is financial success in the arts so heart breakingly arbitrary?”