Thursday, February 09, 2012


Ecclesiastes says there's a time for everything. I'm learning to discern when is the time to speak and when is the time to be silent. I am taking a class in the scientific study of humans as part of the general requirements to finish a Theatre degree. The teacher in the beginning of the class rubbed his goatee and brought up the subject of spirituality and religion. He said that the belief that there may be a higher intelligence behind the universe or life after death are not valid science questions and will not be discussed. He elaborated that anything relatable to religion can not be examined rationally to see if it's true. Than he asked if there were any questions or comments. I raised my hand and said, "I agree with that to some extent, we can't scientifically examine if angels exist for example, but we can look at archeological and historical records and evidence to ask: "What evidence is there to authenticate or falsify stories in the bible? Or, to examine the historical evidence and ask: Does it substantiate that Jesus, or Muhammad or Buddha ever lived, or that Moses led the Israelites on an exodus from Egypt?" He became defensive and said the matter would not be discussed further. He is completely married to his "two pie theory" that we have the normal world which we can observe and the spiritual realm which is faith alone without any intellectual component. I think I will button my lip and not bring up questions that challenge his assumptions on spiritual things anymore.

Later that afternoon I was rehearsing a scene in Santa Monica with an actress who in the middle of doing a scene with me and other actors, would text on her cellphone when she wasn't the actor speaking. I was startled by this. She texted until it was her time to talk, then she'd stop for a moment, say her line, then go back to texting away until it was her turn to give a line again. She seemed to have important things on her mind, so important she parked her Mercedes in the handicapped parking illegally outside the door. I've worked with actors who aren't listening because they are new to acting. And sometimes as actors we have to work against green screens and no one else present, or with a bad actor or a stand-in who is not an actor. Part of me wanted to say something but I decided to put my irritation into the character and hope for the best that it won't continue.

I don't like how cell-phones have robbed us of being fully present and engaged with each other. The ubiquitous nature of cell-phone use has become surreal, almost comical. I've had quiet moments interrupted by cell-phone conversations in libraries, movie theaters, during plays, on the beach, during church, and even from the stall beside me in the bathroom. An actor texting during a scene was a first for me and I've done a fairly good bit of acting in theatre, television, and film. I like new media and I have a presence on Facebook and Youtube and I like to blog. I pick and choose which parts of our societal changes I like, and one I don't like is how two people can be together and not really be together and focused.

Sometimes I gauge whether or not to say something based on whether I think the person is mature enough or open-minded enough to get it. Some of my friends are extreme religious fundamentalists and I know trying to get them to see things differently is a waste of breath. They will pick out one lyric in one of my songs or one line in my novel and tell me why they are offended by it, often for a strange or convoluted reason. I've decided it's not worth the effort to get into it with them unless they are willing to drop their certitude and have a respectful conversation. My friends who are on the extreme fringe politically or religiously are very emotional if you question their way of thinking.

I'm learning to grow in my emotional intelligence and allow people to be rude or crude or indifferent and not take it personally. Maybe the teacher I mentioned earlier was threatened and insecure. Maybe the actor had a hot date waiting for her who she decided was more important than the scene. Maybe my religious fundamentalist friends have become trapped in their way of thinking because their opinions give them a sense of security. Maybe they're all learning and trying in this crazy world like me to figure out the times and seasons.

The philosopher Hegel said, "The owl of Minerva flies only at dusk." This was an ancient and poetic way of saying wisdom comes later. My professor friend who is close-minded on spiritual subjects might defend his dogmatism by saying, "We can't measure in a test tube today whether there is life after death, therefore, it is not a valid question." But Hegel is closer to the truth. We will find out the answer, just not right now. We will eventually. At dusk. We don't have all the answers at present. We have to wait.

We can look back at past history and say, "Maybe we should have done this or that differently in Vietnam." We can look back on our lives one day and have greater clarity about the mistakes we made. The temporary rudeness and obtuse behavior of others is a phase. A moment. It doesn't mean they are rude 24/7 or that they always will be or that they are bad people. They are part of the outer environment we cannot control. If we give grace for mistakes, and drop the blame toward them and ourselves, we eventually will hear the wisdom of the owl who flies at dusk.

The bottom line from a big picture perspective is that everything doesn't have to be perfect right now this instant. One day every knee will bow to the truth and every tongue will confess the wisdom that comes with dusk. For now, I don't have to straighten out every rude or close-minded person I encounter. As it's said in the Twelve Step recovery program, "Progress, not perfection." I will strive to make my movie about Roberto Clemente the most beautiful film I can under the circumstances, rather than a perfect film. I will try my best for my creative collaborators and to be the best I can be towards my family and friends today.

Love to all,


Monday, February 06, 2012


Madonna showed why she has been the most successful live female performer in pop at the Super Bowl. A lot of different reactions are coming in to her half-time show yesterday. Conservative religious pundits say it was laced with evil Illuminati symbology. If they ever gave her a fair listen, they'd find "Papa Don't Preach" is the most pro-life pop song ever, about a young girl who stands up to her father and says she wants to keep her baby.

Some say the show was too much hype and dancing and special effects to mask she's an aging woman who no longer deserves the stage. I respect everyone's right to an opinion, but I loved her show, especially "Like A Prayer." The choir and gospel feel and choreography was superb. Madonna came from a poor Catholic family of eight kids in Michigan to become an artist who does so many things. She writes songs, she dances, she sings, she acts. She probably is not the best person at any of those things but she does them all well. The football crowd is not a Madonna crowd so she had an uphill battle. She may not be the demographic fit for football fans that someone like Hank Williams Jr. is, but she is talented in a variety of ways a country singer crooning about all his rowdy friends is not. Her music had elements to appeal to different elements: the dance crowd, the gospel crowd, the pop crowd.

The reactions, especially the intensity of the negative reactions, demonstrate something very important for all my friends pursuing passions in arts and entertainment. No matter how good you are, no matter how much you achieve, there will always be critics. I've heard people say they hate Picasso's paintings. I've heard people knock Shakespeare and call his writing over-rated. The higher you go up the ladder, the more your butt is exposed and the more people will write criticicms, some valid and some out of jealousy. The media will print things, some true and some untrue. So do your work the best you can with what you have to work with. Please yourself and give up trying to please everyone else. If even 1% love your work and love you, you'll do fine. Resist the urge to knock other artists and find a way to bless their talent. I don't know all the quantum physics and metaphysical reasons for it, but I've learned if we recognize the talent in others rather than knock it, our own growth as artists is enhanced rather than diminished.

Knock her all you want, but how many other 52 year-olds can do what she did yesterday half as well? It was like a prayer.

Friday, February 03, 2012


Rosanne Barr could make the race funny and interesting. Her announcement of her candidacy yesterday made me think of the Disney movies I loved growing up. The kind that featured Don Knotts and Tim Conway, or Dean Jones, Kurt Russell and Fred MacMurray. My babysitter Mrs. George took me to the North Hills Theatre on McKnight Road in Pittsburgh and we bought a big bucket of buttered popcorn and enjoyed the show from the 14th row. The premise would be: OFF-BEAT MOM RUNS FOR PRESIDENT. Maybe she has a son who turns into a shaggy dog in the White House.

Rosanne's running for the Green Party nomination. She's a long shot to win. I voted for a third party candidate once in the early nineties when I was younger and less aware politically. Texas billionaire Ross Perot seduced me with his talk of "ending the two party gridlock." That resonated with me and still hits the nail on the head about our current dysfunctional government. I lived in Pennsylvania at the time and my passion for Perot was so contagious I convinced friends of mine who worked as aides for Congressman Rick Santorum to vote Perot.

Then Perot got weird at a political rally in Pittsburgh I attended. He was paranoid about an alleged "plot" by George Bush to take "dirty pictures" of Perot's daughter in a compromising position to ruin her reputation. He dropped out to protect her from "Republican dirty tricks." I knew first-hand Republicans are capable of dirty tricks, having attended a university steeped in extreme right-wing indoctrination but most us thought Perot went crazy. Perot even acknowledged this, dancing a farewell dance with his wife to the Patsy Cline record "Crazy."

One thing I like about Rosanne Barr is that she has been in the shoes of poor people. After a broken marriage, she worked as a waitress to support three young childen while writing her comedy routines on the side. Both Bill Clinton and Obama have also been in the shoes of real people. Obama's single mother was on food stamps and Clinton was raised by his grandparents because his mom went to nursing school to learn a trade after Clinton's Dad died.

Romney is probably the best chance for the Republicans to win, but he's made some verbal mistakes that show he's not personally in touch with what the poor endure. He said he's not worried about the very poor because they have a social safety net. JFK was born rich like Romney but he had more emotional intelligence. Psychologists measure E.I. which is the ability to empathize emotionally, to gauge the effect of our words on others, and which feelings are appropriate to share publicly. Rosanne will say inappropriate things, but unlike Mitt, her gaffes will be intentional for humorous effect.

Rosanne is probably not going to win the Green Party or the presidency and probably does not have the temperament or experience for politics. Then again, I live in the state of California where Arnold was elected governor based on his sheer star power. But she could shake things up a little and whine in her nasal voice at Romney for his insensitivity towards the unfortunate and at Obama for not delivering enough of the change he promised. She could represent the bawdy joke America has become to some who watch from the outside see us go deeper and deeper in debt like a trailer trash redneck running up a credit card, owing bejillions to China for the Iraq War, but we aren't willing to take care of our own kids at home.

I wish Don Knotts were still alive to play the bumbling presidential aide. Rosanne most likely will not get elected in the real world. But she would in the Disney comedy. And if Disney gets John Goodman to play the First Husband, I'll buy a bucket of popcorn and see you in the 14th row.