Note: A few months ago, I fully intended to learn what I needed to learn so I could create a brand spanking new and beautiful website. But, as my Grandma Butler used to say, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” And so the new website went straight to hell. Things may change soon. I’ll keep you two updated. And I’ll be better about posting. I promise. For example, check this out.
Last week I had the honor of “adjudicating” young improv troupes at this year’s ISAS Festival, held at the Hockaday School. I’m not going to lie, some of the performances were pretty rough. But there’s was something they all had in common: this resilient optimism. They were all so gung ho about being there and doing the work.
I have no clue what an “adjudicator” does, so I shot straight with them. I told them, “You have boundless energy. You have quick wits and smarts and talent.”
But I did not tell them, “Hold on tight to that and don’t let this shit planet bring you down.”
I did not tell them that because I probably would have been escorted from the campus and also because they need to ride the high before they learn for themselves (really the only way to learn anything) about how shit this world is.
Instead of telling them that stuff, I thought it might be better if I tried to be the change I want to see in the world. But how do you do that? Act like I’m 17 again? No. No one wants that.
I’m a recent convert and current rabid fan of Marc Maron’s WTF podcast. He recently interviewed Mark Oliver Everett (a.k.a. “E,” “Eels”) who said, as grownups, maybe we should act more like Mr. Rogers and less like Donald Trump.
This morning I got an email from a friend I haven’t seen or spoken to in probably 20 years. I like to brag about my friend, David. When I first met him, he was a theatre nerd wearing a “Cats” t-shirt. We started hanging out and I got him to watch some movies. Some weird movies. Bergman, Fellini, Jarmusch, Kurosawa, you name it.
He got hooked on film and, now, he’s an experimental filmmaker. His work is part of the permanent collection at the Whitney Museum, he’s the past recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, he’s hung out with Yoko Ono. He’s a little bit of a big deal.
Sadly, David lost his father in February. I met his father once, but the memory is hazy. David said his father remembered me. “(H)e remembered you – and remembered you as the person you are, particularly in relation to me: the man who set me on my life’s path.”
I don’t say this to boast. Okay, maybe I say it a little to boast. But mostly to say it that this is one way to be the change we want to see in the world[note: I understand this is a recurring theme with me. I’m okay with that. I hope you are, too.]: that we share with others the things that we love. Partly because they maybe they will get something out of it and partly because maybe they find in it a passion they can carry with them for the rest of their lives.
I hope in my talks with some of the students at the art festival last week, they grabbed hold of something. Maybe they’ll check out long-form. Maybe they’ll read about Del Close. Maybe they’ll look into the Compass.
And maybe I did some good.
I’ve always threatened to build my own theme from scratch because I’ve never seen a scratch that I actually like. Well, I’m making good on this threat as you can now tell since the site looks like dung. So here we go. Expect to see quick (I hope) updates and changes as I’m on my way to creating a website that will turn me into the world’s first billionaire surrealist blogger.
It’s still sort of a new year and I’m still trying to make good on my resolutions. Which means for the next few weeks, you may see a flurry of activity on the site, at the end of which I’ll make a post about how great all of the momentum has been and then… nothing.
Enjoy and feel free to send me words of encouragement on both writing, building this here blog, and maybe even weight loss.
Okay good bye.
Every now and then I get to see how advertising is delivered and the means for getting people’s attention. I saw some today, in fact. And it’s gross.
Because it’s everywhere. They’re looking for us everywhere. No place is safe from a possible ad message being sent. I don’t want that, do you? It creeps me out that I can be walking around a grocery store, that there are scores of people who know this, and they all want to send me something that says “Buy this!”
Do either of you know what it takes to get off the grid? Or at least how to be a less of a presence on said grid? All of this nonsense makes me want to delete my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts and delete this dumb, undervalued, underused blog. Or maybe just move to the woods and write manifestos. And also fly fish.
Here’s one thing I’ve considered doing: the world has gone survey crazy. It seems like it’s a law now that businesses must include a survey on every receipt they hand out. So for those surveys? I’m going to lie. Not on the whole thing, just on one or two questions. Because all of these surveys and all of this information that we get all gets fed into formulas and algorithms that determine what action the advertiser takes. So if you give standard answers in a way that makes sense, the advertiser will know exactly how to communicate with you. But if you throw in a few nonsequiturs, then the advertisers will be thrown for a loop.
Wait… Consumer 4877-B4-21AQ492 says he lives an active lifestyle, but in question 19, he claimers he has 78% body fat. What gives?
It’s a little thing, but maybe it will help. Or maybe the Wealth Courts will find me in contempt of the plutocracy and I’ll be sent to Panhandler Prison.
Whatever. Who cares. I’m still angry about my low play SoundCloud play count and I’m done with just about everything.
Earlier today, I commented on a friend’s re-posting of a Washington Times article1 regarding eschewing left turns. Something, in all of my years struggling with driving and cars and traffic, I had never considered. My comment:
How long before map apps like Waze, which already have no freeway and no tollway options, add, a “limited left turn” feature? Waze, to me, seems like the least worthless map app out there, but it’s always taking me to residential areas that then turn left across larger streets. Drives me nuts it does.
Driving in Dallas is the most frustrating, wasteful, and pointless activity imaginable. I will take any shortcut I can get to avoid driving. And while Dallas people may often seem like they’re nice, when they get on the road they turn into bloodthirsty Orcs, hellbent on destroying anything in their path to get home as fast as humanly possible so they can sit down in front of the TV and get on Facebook. Waze, at first, seemed like a great shortcut.
But Waze has its drawbacks. For starters, it doesn’t know that people in Dallas are incapable of yielding or merging. Again, the need to rush home so they can Pin workout routines and Tweet about new Lululemon fashions over Taco Bell can sometimes blind people to the common courtesies that most civilized humans extend to one another. The kinds of courtesies we post on YouTube when we find video of animals engaging in the same sort of behavior.
“Ha ha! That lemur just held the door open for that manatee! What a world!”
And, in this ever changing world of transportation solutions, if you’re on a stacked highway, where maybe the upper lanes are express and the lower offer many exits, Waze can’t tell which level you’re on. I got on the express level of one of our local tollroads2 but Waze kept telling me to take an exit I had no access to, as I was in the express lane. Yay.
But I would think Waze would be able to 1) detect when cross streets have the right of way and heavier traffic and 2) understand that a map app should be a “time-saving device” and, as such, keeping me at a left turn for many minutes doesn’t really save any time at all.
So, if one of you two reading this knows anybody about Waze or Google Maps or Apple Maps or any of the other equally worthless map app companies, please tell them to include a “limited left turns” feature, that would limit left turns to protected turns at traffic signals and eliminate turns across heavily trafficked roads. I know it’s not exactly a no brainer, but the technology is there.
It’s a minor thing that could reduce the misery that is driving in Dallas.
So I watched a couple of videos today featuring my favorite writer, George Saunders, and one thing I walked away with was a question: What do I have to lose from being nice?
In the abstract, it’s easy enough to think, well, I have nothing to lose. So I’ll just be nice. The real challenge, though, happens when confronted with someone who I may not believe deserves kindness or who I suspect may use that kindness for nefarious or self-serving purposes.
What’s crazy is that (again, in the abstract) this all sounds simple. Who doesn’t deserve kindness? Who would use an act of kindness to advance one’s own agenda? Then (finally!) we get into specifics. Who doesn’t deserve kindness? How about murderers, rapists, people who weave in and out of heavy traffic, people who support politicians I find abhorrent, and so on.
But still, even these people who I think are horrible, maybe they deserve kindness, too?
One of the things that drives me nuts is when we justify our terrible behavior by saying, “They do the same thing.” Doing the same crappy things just makes us crappy, too.
Something else Saunders said that really struck a note, though, was that we can be compassion and firm. We don’t have to choose between being a wall and a conduit. We can be thoughtful and loving, but also with resolve.
And that’s the part I miss. I choose either to be a jerk or a sweetheart and which I choose depends on how easy it is. So today I’m going to choose kindness with resolve. I’m going to stay my ground but I’m going to be compassionate and empathetic.
(Side note: I listened to a great podcast – which one I can’t remember – that said that sometimes empathy isn’t the way to go. With empathy, we think “I can feel what you’re feeling,” but without empathy – though still with compassion – we think, “I can’t believe you have to go through that. This must change!”)
Prediction: I’m going to fail. I’m going to fail a lot. But, if I can be kind and resolute with myself, I’ll continue the effort.
Also, my apologies for not posting yesterday. Though I know you two will forgive me. You’re kind that way.
Saunders on Colbert’s show.
I dropped the ball yesterday. I didn’t post something. And so my streak of two glorious weeks of posts goes straight down the pooper.
What I can I say? I forgot.
An aside: If you’re a grown up and you eat with your mouth open and you don’t have a life-threatening cold, you should be drawn and quartered.
Sometimes I think about posting once or twice a week but I know I’ll forget about it. So the only way I can be consistent is to post something every single day. Which might become a little too much for you two, but, what am I going to do?
I’m telling you, this blogging business is tough.
Please, keep your mouth closed when you eat. And don’t smack your food. Just, in general, let’s all cut down the amount of mouth noise we make. It’s gross. That includes talking. I swear, people like to talk talk talk but no one’s saying anything. I wouldn’t mind people constantly chattering on their mobile devices if, every now and then, I heard something like “Yup, I found the cure. Let’s start giving it away.” Or “So when I’m done with solving hunger in third world countries, it’s back to the space travel project for me!”
But no. It’s “You hang up first. Or just people sitting there with the phone to their ears not saying anything.
Also, I’m not sure anybody really saves any time by talking with their mouth full of food.
In summary, sorry I missed a day and shut your mouth.
I found a place today where you can rest your weary soul. Where you can get away from the politics and the vitriol and the yelling and the hubbub. Where it is peaceful by design!
It’s called the Dallas Museum of Art.
And all of it was true! Truths of all kinds! From different cultures and epochs! Truth all over the place!
Seriously, if you need to decompress from all of the crap that seems to be coming in from every direction, the museum is your place. It doesn’t even have to be the DMA. There are museums all over the place.
Further, I felt a little better about giving my daughter a slice of pizza, knowing earlier in the day she had dined on Picasso, Mondrian, Rothko, and Pollack.
It’s a guilt-free buffet, y’all.
Check it out.
It’s simply an idea, or a question. It’s not really a thing yet. But I’ve been giving it a bit of thought and I think I might have something. Maybe not, though.
Does anyone else think we need a new Pledge of Allegiance? Look at what we have now.
I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
The first half is just about the flag and the second half is rather vague. I mean, if we get down to it, if we’re really going to pledge allegiance (def. “loyalty or commitment”) to the Nation, we wouldn’t have professional sports.
What I think we need is something that not so much ties us to the entire Nation or this idea of Nation, but to the people in the Nation and the physical Nation itself.
I’m just spitballing here, but something that says:
I pledge allegiance to the people of this great country. And to the land that provides for us and sustains us. And to people around the world who want to be free. And their land. Let’s not screw this up.
I don’t know. I just think we need something that says this is a great country or at least it can be when we all stand together and help one another out. Also, let’s not screw up the land itself because it’s pretty great, too.
Oh, also? The current Pledge doesn’t really have us doing anything. It would be nice to make it a little more proactive, you know? Even if it’s general stuff: I pledge to lend a helping hand. Something like that.
Yesterday, Our Fearless Leader® gave a speech about Black History Month. I think he was trying to appear stately and sensitive, but it came off sounding like he stole the speech from a 5th grader who wrote it on the bus after overhearing his friends talk about how the speech was due that day. I’ve taken the liberty of adding some extra nuggets of Black History wisdom, just to make it sound like he was either more or less in touch with African-American culture. Those nuggets look like this.
“Well, the election, it came out really well. Next time we’ll triple the number or quadruple it. We want to get it over 51, right? At least 51. Maybe 52, but that might be pushing it. But maybe not.
“Well this is Black History Month, so this is our little breakfast, our little get-together. Hi Lynn, how are you? Leave some waffles for me, will you? I love Lynn. Lynn’s the best. Just a few notes. During this month, we honor the tremendous history of African-Americans throughout our country. Throughout the world, if you really think about it, right? I do. Think about it. And their story is one of unimaginable sacrifice, hard work, and faith in America. And, if we gotta be honest, me. I’ve gotten a real glimpse—during the campaign, I’d go around with Ben to a lot of different places I wasn’t so familiar with. They’re incredible people. And I want to thank Ben Carson, who’s gonna be heading up HUD. That’s a big job. That’s a job that’s not only housing, but it’s mind and spirit. Right, Ben? And you understand, nobody’s gonna be better than Ben. Because, and I don’t know if you noticed this, but Ben is a black man. So, therefore– I don’t know if you’ve seen this, but sometimes there are improv troupes, improv comedy, hysterically funny, I’ve seen some of the best, and they will invite a black person or, God forbid, a Mexican, and this allows them to make fun of blacks and Mexicans. It’s hysterical. Well, with Ben, that’s what I’ve done. I have a black man in my cabinet, I can talk freely of the black experience. Best experience around. Best.
“Last month, we celebrated the life of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., whose incredible example is unique in American history. You read all about Dr. Martin Luther King a week ago when somebody said I took the statue out of my office. It turned out that that was fake news. Fake news. The statue is cherished, it’s one of the favorite things in the—and we have some good ones. We have Lincoln, and we have Jefferson, and we have Dr. Martin Luther King. But they said the statue, the bust of Martin Luther King, was taken out of the office. And it was never even touched. So I think it was a disgrace, but that’s the way the press is. Very unfortunate. Good news, I will never – mark my words, will you? – I will never take that bust out of the Oval Office. It’s where I put my golf hats.
“Also, Stevie Wonder.
“I am very proud now that we have a museum on the National Mall, next to Sbarro’s, I believe, where people can learn about Reverend King, so many other things. Frederick Douglass is on this index card here and he’s an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I noticed. Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Tim Duncan, Chris Tucker, Macklemore, and millions more black Americans who made America what it is today. Big impact.
“In addition, let me add, Patti Labelle.
“I’m proud to honor this heritage and will be honoring it more and more. Maybe even more than once a year. Sheesh, I hope I have time. The folks at the table in almost all cases have been great friends and supporters. Darrell—I met Darrell when he was defending me on television. And the people that were on the other side of the argument didn’t have a chance, right? And Paris has done an amazing job in a very hostile CNN community. He’s all by himself. Like Chris Rock in ‘New Jack City,’ when they sent him into that crack house with the camera on his belt. But then there’s CNN, you know? You’ll have seven people, and Paris. And I’ll take Paris over the seven. But I don’t watch CNN, so I don’t get to see you as much as I used to. I don’t like watching fake news. But Fox has treated me very nice. Wherever Fox is, thank you.
“Plus, who can forget, Jimi Hendrix.
“We’re gonna need better schools and we need them soon. We need more jobs, we need better wages, a lot better wages. We’re gonna work very hard on the inner city. Ben is gonna be doing that, big league. Ben is black, you’ll remember. That’s one of the big things that you’re gonna be looking at. After we look at Vivica A. Fox because she is, you have to admit, she is quite stunning. We need safer communities and we’re going to do that with law enforcement. We’re gonna make it safe. We’re gonna make it much better than it is right now. Right now it’s terrible, and I saw you talking about it the other night, Paris, on something else that was really—you did a fantastic job the other night on a very unrelated show.
“While I have the opportunity, let me say, Toni Morrison.
“I’m ready to do my part, and I will say this: Samuel L. Jackson. So, yeah. We’re gonna work together. This is a great group, this is a group that’s been so special to me. You really helped me a lot. If you remember I wasn’t going to do well with the African-American community, and after they heard me speaking and talking about the inner city and lots of other things, we ended up getting—and I won’t go into details—but we ended up getting substantially more than other candidates who had run in the past years. Way more than Mitt Romney and George W. Bush. Who, I was surprised to learn, were quite out of touch with the black community. Isn’t that crazy? I always had George pegged for being, you know, in touch, because he often goes by just the letter ‘W.’ Like some of my favorite hip hopping artists. And now we’re gonna take that to new levels. To another level, to quote R. Kelly. I want to thank my television star over here—Omarosa’s actually a very nice person, nobody knows that. I don’t want to destroy her reputation but she’s a very good person, and she’s been helpful right from the beginning of the campaign, and I appreciate it. I really do. Very special. Hey, Omarosa, I’m thinking of a number between one and ten. Can you guess what it is? That’s right. Don Cheadle.
“So I want to thank everybody for being here.
“P.S. A Tribe Called Quest.