Thank you so much for listening to the In the Dark 2nd Quarterly Review. Hopefully my learning will dovetail with your listening. Having listened to the Making Oprah podcast I have been reminded that all this talk can make a difference. Of course I’m comparing myself to Oprah. Oprah made a difference in a lot of people’s lives. And the greatest similarity between her and other over-achievers like her (Save for all of them being Masons of course): is some eye-rolling earnestness. Difference-makers, to some degree or another, are sort of embarrassing or uncool. They say things that are easily parodied, they’re nerds, they don’t know how to dress and they take themselves seriously. Tony Robbins, Oprah, Tim Ferriss, Liz Gilbert and the like are less concerned with what cynical people like me think of them and more concerned with how they can show that cynicism might just be a part of the problem.
So If I’m going to improve then my attitude must improve first. On episode 40 I was reminded of this by Orlando Wood, he’s a friend that lives in London and I mention that because he comes from Florida. I’m always impressed when people do whatever it takes to live where they really want to. And you can’t get any better than London. Orlando approaches problem-solving like a benevolent general would. He doesn’t get hung-up on petty details like Tony Robbin’s leather driving gloves or the way Oprah talks about God all the time. He takes what he needs to get results. He doesn’t stop getting his finances in order just because it’s boring. Do you have your retirement taken care of? I don’t because it’s boring and scary. But I have a new attitude: If it doesn’t kill me then there’s no need to fear it. I’m lowering the bar to mere survival. If I’m not dead or being tortured then it’s a good time. Even if that means it’s time spent planning my retirement. Implementation of good behaviour isn’t a blow to the ego but growth. And real growth can often feel embarrassing. Or even earnest or sound cliché like “Living your best self” or wearing a pair of leather driving gloves, shiny shirts and saying the word ketogenic every two sentences.
This objective, pragmatic way of going about things epitomizes my old friend Michael Robinson. In episode 49 he exemplifies the benefits of an adaptive approach. When him and his wife were told their second-born was autistic they grieved. They grieved the death of the child they thought they were going to have. So heavy. So lifey! But then, because there was no other choice, they changed course and dove in. That’s something that I haven’t always done. I’ve quit things instead of changed course and tried again. And I didn’t see this until episode 14 with Guy MacPherson when he pointed it out to me. That’s the nice thing about smart and truthy friends. When they say something blunt it can really resonate and it might even act as a shortcut to better behaviour. When faced with discomfort and failure I’ve looked for an alternative journey and not just a different route. If I had truly adapted when faced with the demoralizing experience of doing general theatre auditions all those years ago I wouldn’t have quit theatre. And the biggest obstacle I face now is not being a strong actor. What would I look like acting skills-wise if I hadn’t quit? How many plays would be under my belt by now? My career would have certainly been different. My confidence as well. And sure, an extra ten years in the theatre would almost certainly mean I’d have a few more STDs and smell like a thrift store but that’s the theatre for you. It’s dirty and poor and everybody has sex with each other because they’re whores. Everybody knows that. It’s a fact. Look it up. I used to be one too and I used to be a good actor. Huh… Introspection.
Instead I turned my attention to writing. I moved to Toronto in 2005 and wrote a screenplay called The History of Computers. It’s been optioned three times. It’s optioned right now. Not that I’ve ever made any money on it. In Hollywood if you option a screenplay you have to pay the screenwriter. Not so in Canada. Here you can option it for a dollar for 24 months in the hopes that you can find some money at the public funding trough that you can then pay the writer with. Hey, making movies is a horrible way to make a living. Writing movies is no less horrible. But I kept doing it. Year in year out without much evidence that I would ever break through. Until one day in November 2016 I decided I was going to quit! Yes, I quit again. You thought I was going to say that I finally sold something. So did I! I’m so delusional I thought that too. And the petty side of me thinks that that is the story for everyone else. That they slogged it out for ten years until they finally made it and then it was easy breezy. But of course that’s not the way it goes in reality. That’s just the way it goes with our ego. Stephen Pressfield wrote for 17 years before he sold Rounders. John Hamm didn’t get Mad Men until he was thirty-six. Vincent Van Gogh painted forever and then he died broke and unknown.
It had been over ten years of trying and I hadn’t had anything turn into a film except for the 30 webisodes I produced myself. And these experiences were fun, don’t get me wrong, but they were also, in hindsight, a little sad too. If they lead to something bigger with others involved then it would have felt like a means to an end. But because nothing ever happens it could be a sign post telling you to stop altogether. Change course. If nothing ever changes then maybe you’re doing it wrong. So instead of acting for the last ten years I did commercials and I wrote. Until I quit writing because nothing happened. And now I’m back to acting. Back focusing on the thing that brought me to the dance.
Fortunately I found Jeff Seymour. He too was focussing on acting and how annoying it had become for him. So he wrote a book about it and started teaching his style of acting like a human instead of thinking like an actor and it really spoke to me. I interviewed him on episodes 31-35 and I know that upset some of you but I had a chance to get free one-on-one coaching from the very guy that wrote the book that I became so enamoured with. Why wouldn’t I? But yeah, it wasn’t for everyone. It’s like when Marc Maron interviews too many obscure blues musicians in a row and I hanker for another episode of the Tom & Marc show. So far I’ve compared myself to Oprah Winfrey and Marc Maron… Sidebar: LOCAL BOOKSTORE
Jeff, however, has reinvigorated everything about acting for me. I take his class every week. I didn’t lose my love for acting but I wasn’t confident I could do it very well. Nor did I want to do all kinds of acting. It was too Gary. Now I do. Now I want to do theatre again. Now I go into every audition fully prepared and ready suck the jizz right out of everyone in the room. That’s how I’ve turned the tables in my favour. I know my lines and everyone else’s. I know what I’m talking about. And I know how to act like a grown man instead of a nervous wimpy Canadian apologizing for living. And in this there is freedom. Freedom to not take anything too seriously. When you audition JB he puts you on the casting couch not the other way around!
I was looking up my old friend Dylan Rhymer who had this quote from Carl Sagan:
” The earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and in triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.
Why would I ever worry about an audition when it, in reality, is a fraction of a dot upon a fraction of a dot in a sea of dots? Dr. Greg in Episode 47 talks about this when he illuminates me on the exo-planets and the chance for finding extra-terrestrial life forms. It should give me pause from the obsession with my mortality. That’s what science can do. If the bible is scare-tactics then science is a soothing salve of order. Sometimes.
Dylan also had a quote from the dead Chris Hitchens, “”But it’s some plan, isn’t it? With mass destruction, pitiless extermination and annihilation going on all the time. And all of this set in motion on a scale that is absolutely beyond our imagination in order that the Pope can tell people not to jerk off.”
Which has nothing to do with what I was talking about save for my own secular humanism and a man named Motek Sherman. He’s jewish and we discussed that till we both were having Hassid flashbacks, oy! And from him I implicitly understood a detached objectivity no less passionate but under control is not inferior to a hitchenesque insistence that anyone that disagrees with him is an idiot-head. To be an objective onlooker giving witness to the insanity of our world is to remain a calmer and therefore happier actor upon this very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. There is a peace-of-mind from understanding your history. Whatever political horrors might be going on have happened a thousand times before. We are but a part of a violent and unhinged continuum that didn’t start with us nor with us will it end. by way of example The argument that one wouldn’t want to bring children into this world falls flat. What world? This world has never been better. There’s never been a better time to be alive longer, happier and healthier. There’s never been a better time to be a brown woman or a brown child. And look how awful it is. Phew! I just walk around every day having read another snippet of my overbearing New York Times thinking “Didn’t know how shitty the rest of the world has always been!” It has been chaos and tyrants since the dawn of time and San Grewal blames us all equally in episode 45 when he speaks of our collective narcissism that places these despots in power in the first place. The tools they use, the lies, the jingoism, the fear-mongering, the bible-thumping are transparent and ancient and we should know better.
And even without these bloody books written by iron age peasants that didn’t even know the Earth revolved around the sun dictating destruction and oppression in the name of religion we’d still find a reason to murder and rape and rule each other. So relax. It’s always been terrible. We wouldn’t be human if it weren’t. I’m not going to lament the insanity because I can see it in myself. I’m a monster that fights his monstrousness daily. Others embrace theirs. In the big picture we can only chose the path that which leaves us able to sleep at night I think. After all, we may not wake up the next morning. So at least let me dream soundly.
I’m not becoming fatalistic. Quite the opposite. I am more at odds with my apathy than ever. I just don’t know where to put it. Or how to help. Volunteering and marching all look so boring. You’ve got to bloom where you’re planted so let’s look at what I’m good at: I like talking. Check. I’m doing that a lot. And I’m talking about things that matter. Sometimes. But I also veer towards the idiotic like talking about my rotting body too much. I’m going to have to temper that if I’m planning on being taken seriously I think. I like donating money rather than time because volunteering is boring (see above). But I don’t have enough money to really make a difference. So It’s back to volunteering I think. As long as it’s during the day. I cannot function at night. So tired. I just want to watch Netflix and actually chill.
What skills can I offer? I can’t just go and volunteer like everyone else. I’m a specialist. I’ve spent twenty years perfecting acting like an overly confident idiot. Should I not be looking for a place to apply my comedy/sniper skillset? Let’s see, just off the top of my head what are the ways I could give back:
-I could host your silent auction fundraiser… Boring.
-I could MC your talent show. Boring as S-H-I-T.
-I could perform a comedic lunchtime monologue on your casual Friday for the staff of your non-profit. That sounds like the worst idea of my life.
-What if I played your Santa Claus at your Xmas Brunch for needy children that don’t have dads or Christmas. Harrowing, soul crushing and instantly I’m a full-blown alcoholic just saying it out loud.
-I could go to a Native Friendship Centre and talk to the drama kids about being an actor. About being a white, male actor that has been afforded every opportunity. That’s what they need. Another white guy giving them advice on not making it.
-I like cooking. I could cook at a soup kitchen. I could practice my knife skills. Oh, but the small talk would be a killer. And would it be under some clingy religious hospices?
I guess what I’m discovering is volunteering might just have to happen without my enjoying it. Maybe that’s what altruism is. And after two decades of eliminating the boring and the poorly remunerated, the difficult and the adult I just might have to re-evaluate my definition of fun in order to get to the truly fulfilling.
This constant redefinition of success is one of the prices of acting like an adult. The other prices are less sex, bad knees, a softening middle, scrotal drop, failing eyes, irrelevance and a love of slippers.
I thought for sure I had made it when I counted peace of mind as the ultimate goal. But now that I have it, it too is not enough. Parenting is not enough. Putting food on my family is not enough. Being the best husband is not enough. And paying my taxes must certainly be the bare minimum as even criminals pay a tax (it’s taken from your butt hole. It’s called the Gay for the Stay tax)). I have to be more like my accountant Art, the kindest and most decent man I know. For his vacations he volunteers at Paralympics. He’s an accountant so when he’s at home he volunteers doing taxes for a men’s shelter. He also does actor’s taxes because he rightly identified my brothers and sisters of the sad face/happy face masks as incompetent tax preparers. And he has a hard time charging people for his time. This I’ve found is easily worked around by forcing gift certificates for Italian restaurants on him. Those and anything to do with pickleball. And he’s a happy fella, secure in his belief that he will go to a better place once he shuffles off. I must talk to Art. I think he has it figured out.
Or does anything actually matter. Henning Mankell wrote before he went and died on me two years before I discovered him that in 5 to 10 thousand years everything will be covered in ice and nothing matters. There won’t be even a trace of us. Only the nuclear waste we are burying deep in our children’s ground water. You’re welcome kids! But in that is the freedom that I already mentioned. The detached, unemotional and the idealistic. If nothing matters then shoot for the stars. What does it matter if you fail? It doesn’t matter if your parents are judgmental of you. It doesn’t matter if someone removes a leg.
That’s bullshit. It does matter. Legs matter!
Shoot for the stars and the meteorites and the comets for it is they that hath brought forth life on Earth as we think we know it. When I talked to Dr. Greg in episode 47 he suggested all the water on earth that Henning Mankell says is eventually going to freeze and make us extinct came from a comet zipping through space. So another ice age is really just a return to form. I welcome you ice. You cool, blue blanket of space ice. Come, crawl over me and my kind. Put us out of our misery. We’re too busy. We’re out of control. Tiny things matter too much. Gently crush me under your weighty girth. Suffocate humanity and put out the light. Grind all this worry and anger and hurt and insanity into a pulp. Make me into a dirt that might grow a nice fern for a future dinosaur to nibble on. Amen.
In the 17th century Europe was in the middle of a little ice age. The first Thames frost fair was held in 1607 and the last in 1814; changes to the bridges and the addition of the Thames Embankment affected the river flow and depth, greatly diminishing the possibility of further freezes.
Sea ice surrounding Iceland extended for miles in every direction, closing harbors to shipping. The population of Iceland fell by half, but that may have been caused by skeletal fluorosis after the eruption of Laki in 1783. The Norse colonies in Greenland starved and vanished by the early 15th century, Greenland was largely cut off by ice from 1410 to the 1720s.
So we come by ice honestly and we shall return to it. And if it isn’t ice it’s volcanoes burying us. What a relief. All my worries pulverized under a sheet of space ice that came from aliens in a time before time. Wow, talk about a story. Science and history can really sound like a load of religious bullshit.
So maybe I’ve given you something here. I’ve probably offended and annoyed you. Have I bored you? Definitely. But that can be useful too. Turn me on when you’re having a hard time sleeping. Listen to me prattle on about nothing. Let me help you let go of the day that no longer exists. As my friend Jeff Low says in episode 38 each night when we fall asleep we give it all up. Give it all up to me when you’re in the dark.
Either way I’m honoured to be in your ears. Maybe one day I can also be in your pants. Who knows… Crazier things have happened (in your pants).
For a transcript of this 2nd Quarterly Review go to Inthedarkshow.com
And while you’re there sign up for the newsletter.