Are you allowed to talk in North Korea? Do any of them know, really know what’s going on there? Do they talk about what they think is really happening? You know, in hushed Mah Jong dens or underground coffee houses? Do they have coffee there? Or is just that chicory shit from the 70s.
We don’t really know what it’s like in North Korea, so we can’t pretend to actually be experts like the way the American Emperor thinks he is. His tweets from on-high on his toilet at three in the morning paint broad uninformed strokes about a nation that has been on-and-offly described as a hermit kingdom for more than 500 years.
One toilet Trump tweet declared, “Being nice to Rocket Man hasn’t worked in 25 years, why would it work now?” referring to North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, who inherited the mantle of leadership from his father in 2011. – CNN
We here in North America are still allowed to talk although everything we say on a mobile phone is recorded and stored at the Utah Data Centre outside of Saratoga Springs. The NSA says we have nothing to fear if we have nothing to hide. But who knows what’s allowed and what isn’t? Just a few years ago you used to be able to wear a belt onto an airplane. Next you’re going to tell me in Canada, as an operator of a small business I have to pay my future taxes ahead of time in quarterly instalments before it’s even technically due or I’ll face a penalty. Oh, yeah, that already happens. Thanks Justy Trews!
Welcome to In the Dark and episode 75, the 3rd Quarterly Review. It’s been more than a year since starting this podcast and although I’ve branched-off into some different territory with The Complaint Department it’s all still about knowing more about myself and the world around me. And now more than ever I am grateful for that I can do it at all. Our Charter of Rights & Freedoms and the freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression therein stand fast. But will it always? Will our American neighbours continue to have the same freedoms? It sounds alarmist of me to even say that. That one blip of an imbecile in the Oval Office will end all constitutional guarantees but what if he isn’t a blip? What if he doesn’t leave? And yet that very thing on a much smaller scale happened here in Canada. Anybody but Rob Ford would have left when he was clearly no longer wanted. But Rob didn’t. He chose to stay and the city’s morale sank to an all-time low. Or what if the next president of the world is worse than Trump? This could be president precedent setting. Who waits in the wings to take the orange mantle when finally the hairspray-addled brain of Donald J. Drumpf fires itself?
No, the more I learn the less I like about the world. That’s the problem with reading the news. Nobody ever reports on how well things are going. TV news doesn’t talk about people smiling or weddings, births, engagements, job offers, or birthdays. Hey the neighbours got a puppy! Did you hear? Family of five rented kayaks on the weekend and had a great time! Fatima Hammond from Flin Flon, Manitoba baked an apple pie and it turned out great. The secret was she boiled off the fruit first so there wasn’t too much moisture. Newspapers still do the big chapters in our lives: marriage, birth and death. And in the business section you can still get job announcements. But does anyone read newspapers? The Wedding Section in the NYT is in the style section which always annoys Wifers. She wants more style. She has enough marriage at home. I find it very moving… Lots of great stories about how people hook-up. I like the gay ones: two gals from the mid-west overcome religious dinosaurs for parents and get married in a white tent on the waterfront in their adopted, less-backward big city. We need more good news. Where does one find it these days?
And of all this talk? Does it do anything? I always feel so embarrassed for the things I’ve said on this podcast not to mention the previous 40-odd years I’ve been talking to people. I’ve been putting my foot in it for decades. The other night I witnessed a friend of mine leading her 6 year old through some adding and subtraction. He managed to arrive at the correct answer and she turned to me and asked if my mind was blown. I couldn’t tell if she was being sarcastic. I said no, I’m all out of wonderment for the day. Which was the truth. I don’t want to spend time with other children after I’ve just spent the day with mine. I’ve had enough. I can’t muster excitement for a child’s accomplishments especially for one this is not of mine own loins. But a normal person would have just feigned some interest not for the child but for the parent, the very person you’ve befriended. You’re standing in their kitchen, have a little respect. So I beat myself up over that for about a week.
So why am I still talking if I’m so bad it? Maybe I should try the North Korean angle. Don’t speak. Don’t fraternize, don’t engage. Be a hermit kingdom and don’t let’s try to all be friends. Dialogue is over-rated. It leads to fights and misunderstandings. If we’d all just keep to ourselves we’d have way less reasons to be disappointed and angry with one another. These exercises in living cheek-to-jowl haven’t worked. We’re killing each other as we bend over backwards to try and understand. I’m gonna move to the country and build a big fence.
But first let’s review: In Episode 57 Fab Filipo speaks about the moving target that is one’s definition of success. A topic close to my heart.
I don’t resent other people’s successes anymore. I now know that my idea of success has nothing to do with their accomplishments. This new-found objectivity might be a by-product of my not hanging with as many actors as I used to. Recently I was working on a video game and this one gentleman, about my age, was talking about how he’d been working on the same game in great capacity and for much longer than me. I started looking at my phone. I was trying to buy a mattress. Another actor responded differently to his busy-brag. She elevated him, put him on a pedestal and did his bidding. She called him “the man” and spoke for him when new people came into the room about how much and how long he’d been working on the game. Then that same fellow recognized me from commercials and he stuck his hand out to shake mine. Even though we had already met half an hour earlier. His idea of accomplishment meant we had to meet more formally. I required more I don’t know respect or at the very least physical contact?
In this episode I talked to Ami Gladstone, the co-creator of Onegin, a Russian musical now playing across Canada to rave reviews. He spoke about a hero of his, Blake Brooker ,and what art, life and expectation really all come down to is a little more primal than we’d like to admit.
In episode 60 Hollywood veteran Don Enright talks about what I’m missing when it comes to writing. And it isn’t the writing. Although there’s probably work to be done there too. As always the secret to success isn’t a secret, it’s persistence, patience, passion and giving yourself a break.
In Episode 55 Dave Ray talks about persevering in a creative life with and without success. Dave’s one of the most patient, most committed people I know. When I first met him we were living in shitholes in the deepest bowels of East Vancouver. He was working at a light bulb factory and I was washing boats for 9$ an hour. We were both with different women at the time. He was married to his ex-wife and I was with anyone that would brave my railway apartment in the back of a falling-down crack house filled with Jack Russell’s. And yes, women did stay the night. I was surprised too.
So I should talk less, I’m thinking. Especially to my kids. They’ve heard me nag plenty already. Talking less might be easier than talking better. Cold turkey makes more sense for addicts than trying to be someone that has a drink once in a while. Ah analogies… You still escape me.
In Episode 56 my co-host Diana Frances talks about how the way we communicate has changed and how perilous this can be for, I imagine, young comedians just trying to figure out their voice and what is and isn’t funny. You can’t make a mistake anymore. Political correctness and a millennial fondness for their feelings makes everything violence including language.
My takeaway is that you can say anything as long as you’re either as funny and smart as Trey Parker (see The Book of Mormon or South Park) or not be famous or do it away from prying ears. This still leaves comedians vulnerable by virtue of them requiring an audience.
There’s little danger of me falling into political correctness. And even less danger of being castigated for saying something wrong unless on the strength of say this podcast I actually get a real radio show where I have to answer to a code of ethics (blech!) As long as I’m anonymous I can say what I want. But if I keep going in that vein as a father and a husband I will not only not sleep at night but will beat myself up for untold years. Unfortunately the self-flagellation doesn’t lead to self-reflection and I keep doing it and doing it.
How to be funny and thought-provoking while treating people the way you want them to treat you. I always think of this when Seinfeld is dismissing people as he drives through Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. What does his face look like when someone burns him? Does anyone? You gotta get burned once in a while. It’s good for you.
Episode 61 Jeffers and I get heavy with it in The Romania Report. Jeff talks candidly about depression and how he is dealing with it. And it’s all just chemicals. I’m just wired up to be delusional most of the time. He is not. And who’s closer to the truth? Who’s living right and real? The truth, as always, seems to be somewhere in between relativism and what we can agree on. Which brings me back to whatever your definition of something is, might be the right answer. If you think you’ve made it in life and you’re a bike courier, you’re right. If you have all the money but are miserable you might wanna talk to somebody about making a power move to becoming a broke but happier floral designer. Or and E-whore…
In episode 66 Steve Carter talks about Trump’s end game and love scenes and this here is the perfect dispensation of a sad truth about the state of the world. Listen to how at the end Carter serves up a tasty digestif to help the medicine go down easier.
Next up Motek Sherman talks about the true definition of being a mensch. As always I’m on the edge of understanding Mo. But he drags me along to a new way of thinking and communicating. It’s like once in a while I’m being allowed to eat at the adult’s table and it’s exhilarating.
My old friend Milkbags joined me and spoke eloquently of the afterlife and consciousness. Now, he’s no Sam Harris, but then again he didn’t make me wait for hours to get to my seat only to be harrowingly disappointed by the vastly underwhelming show for which I have yet to receive recompense!
The abject brainwashing Milky falls back on just to allay his fears of death, nay a torturous slow death. I don’t know. And then to follow-up that unconscious exercise in denial with a great definition about consciousness. Ah Milky, you’re twisty maze through candy land. Both puzzling and sweet.
Episode 70 is all about cancer and failure. Here’s Bruce Horak on diversity, coming out as a blind person and how some hot, young theatre students convinced him performing should be his life.
What I know now for sure is the good news doesn’t come from the TV or Twitter or newspapers, necessarily (unless you’re reading the Weddings section and I do recommend it.) but it comes from connecting with other people. Like Bruce’s tale about how helpful strangers were when he walked out with a white cane for the first time. You won’t get that on CBC Newsworld. You gotta get it in person. You gotta turn off the screens for the good news to flow.
And the other thing I noticed listening back to all these episodes is most all of these people speak about other people. People that moved them, people that helped, that made a connection, that inspired. MR. Roger’s mum always said “Look for the helpers”. That’s what all this talk is good for: the very thing that could save us, being good to one another. How many close friends do you think Trump has? Does he have his buddies over to just talk about stuff? Not politics but just talk about sports or the kids or the ol’ ball and chain (who happens to be a vampire). How unhappy is Trump? He’s got it all and yet he clearly has nothing. A man with nothing is a dangerous thing. He needs podcasts. He needs man-time. We all need real connection. Can I brag about wifers again? Last night we went and saw a magic show in the basement of a bar on Bloor. So cool right? For a couple of old people we were cool last night. And then we came home and she made popcorn and I drank wine and we chatted about stuff. I can’t remember what. Just chat. Just the chat that holds it all together. The mortar you don’t notice in a giant brick building but it’s there and it’s integral and it takes a lot of it to hold that mother fucker together.
All this talk is no less than what keeps us from turning into animals. If you’re talking you’re not yelling or shooting or pressing the button or walking out on you’re kids. If you’re talking, hopefully I’m listening and not dismissinening or judging or lecturing. This talk is big, expensive and valuable. It staves off all kinds of ills. And it cannot happen if I’m staring at my phone, ear buds in. It happens less if I’m losing my mind in the car. It happens less if I’m not present and not peaceful. So at risk of sounding rul rul sanctimonious three quarters of the way into this solipsistic experiment I have finally arrived at why I am doing this. Does all this talking add up to anything? And the answer is yes. Talking to humans is like running to cheetahs. If we stop we die. The people that aren’t talking and listening? You can spot them a mile away. They’re alone, in their bathrooms, taking selfies, tweeting at 3 AM, trolling women, bullying others, leaving comments under Youtube videos, getting into fights in forums and message boards.
God I sound preachy. Okay, enough of all this. This brings us to the end of the 3rd Quarter Review on In the Dark. I think we’ve made some real progress, friends. I’m gonna stick all of this in my self-esteem pipe and smoke it ‘cause it’s the freakin’ weekend, baby and I’m about to have me some fun. Hey, have you ever just walked around with your shoulders back and your head held high? I know it’s a silly thing to do and I don’t wanna tell you how to live your life but have you ever just faked swagger? I swear, no one can tell it’s fake. It just looks like swagger. If you pair that with a smile on your face all of a sudden everything opens up like a 20 something year old gay guy’s butthole. Try it. You and me. Let’s try right now to just King of Kensington this shit for the rest of the day. Just as an experiment. We can always go back to our low self-esteem ways tomorrow.
Speaking of the King of Kensington I’m gonna leave you with a clip from episode 63. My co-host The Notorious B-I-G Dee Dee lays down some sound advice on how to survive in traffic and in life.
We’ll see you next time on In the Dark…