May 4, 2020 12:01 pm
Yes, I am slowly losing my mind….haha. #quarantine
Yes, I am slowly losing my mind….haha. #quarantine
My creative partner KayDee Kersten did an incredible job with the cinematography, and I discovered that my hands are bitchy, impossible-to-control characters on camera — how did I never notice that before? Haha. We shot the film in our Burbank garage, where our soundstage was my grandma’s old card table surrounded by a circle of homemade felt blackout curtains, while I ran around in a fetching array of leotards. We’re in the running for a few more festivals — can’t wait! Special thanks to North Hollywood’s Wooden Nickel Lighting for the killer lighting setup!
Feeling cooped up? These exercise tips won’t help at all. (Special thanks to my neighbors for putting up with this insanity…have a look and you’ll see what I mean…haha).
Hi Friends! Oh man, my 2019 was a wild ride. First, Dark Silo, the screenplay I co-wrote with my creative partner in crime KayDee Kersten, was a semi-finalist at the NYC International Screenplay Contest — hopefully we’ll see it in theaters soon! We also wrapped production on Rattle Rattle, a surreal short film we shot in our Burbank garage that was a semi-finalist at both L.A.’s IndieX and Indie Short Fest film festivals—not bad!
There was plenty of performance art too. KayDee and I co-produced Not An Exit, a sold-out evening of performance art in downtown Los Angeles in July with an amazing lineup of artists. And, I performed a couple of pieces at 5×5, the monthly performance series at Ventura’s amazing Art City Gallery.
My favorite solo piece this year was John’s Arrow, which was both a performance and a magic spell designed to help heal my hospitalized mentor, John White.
Although I’ve been a practicing occultist since I was a kid (Norse magic, shamanism, chaos magic, you name it), this was my first public magical act that incorporated actual magical intention and charged tools, including crystals, sigils, magical movement, spirit water, and a felt blanket (the latter which was a nod to performance artist Joseph Beuys, who was obsessed with both felt and energy).
I’m indebted to film director and occultist Alejandro Jodorowsky, whose book Psychomagic really opened my eyes to the possibilities of overtly mixing public performance with magical practices. When I look back at my performances over the past decades, I see plenty of shamanic and witchy elements (both on stage and in my own internal approach to performance), but it was Jodorowsky’s book that convinced me to bring spooky+healing to the forefront. After the Arrow piece was over, several audience members approached to say that the space’s air had taken on a strange charge — and even better, my mentor’s recovery seemed to accelerate over the days that immediately followed. Really, who can ask for more than that? Thanks, Jodorowsky!
In 2020 I’m looking to finish 2 more scripts that are on deck, produce another performance art night in L.A., and explore psychomagic further with more public spells geared toward healing (which I hope will be useful in what is shaping up to be a truly insane election year). If you’d like to receive a note when these and other happenings are happening, join my mailing list — and above all, have an amazing New Year!
After a year at the typer with my creative partner (the genius writer-producer KayDee Kersten), a new feature-length screenplay has been born: 120 pages of FBI thriller wrapped around a conspiracy I think might be bigger than JFK, King Jr., Marilyn Monroe, Kurt Cobain, Vince Foster, and the fake moon landing combined.
Even as a kid I wanted to be a writer, but a screenwriter especially, so my life has felt like one long sprint toward film in epic slow motion, a dichotomy paradox interrupted by performance art, standup comedy, beer, karate, hilarious occult practices, shitty jobs, strange ladies, and other adventures required for a screen scribe to possess any depth.
If I could change anything, it might be that my script arrived a decade sooner so my favorite film professor in college, the brilliant Anne Friedberg, might’ve had a chance to read it. A contemporary of Yvonne Rainer and wife of screenwriter Howard A. Rodman, Anne was a sparky postmodernist full of humor and encouragement who said to me once, I have no doubt you’ll get there, which was pretttttty much the best thing you can say to a boy who spends his days dreaming. Anne also confided that she’d always wanted to be a Vegas showgirl, so she’d be pleased to know our new script is driven by a smart female protagonist — and also that I’ve been known to dress up like a showgirl myself. Here’s my, er, most successful attempt right before a West Hollywood bar crawl a couple of months ago.
In December, I had the honor of opening L.A.’s 18th annual Nihilist Film Festival with its traditional blessing of TVs and other electronic devices. With America’s funniest nihilist Elisha Shapiro presiding, I blessed a TV and every cellphone in the crowd using Luke Skywalker’s long lost arm from Empire Strikes Back:
Finally, in February I dusted off Rattle Rattle, a dark fairy tale piece I originally performed in 1992. Aesthetically, I’ve always been a purist who prefers not to repeat performances so each can stand alone in time and space. (Full disclosure: while I love this purity, it can be exhausting, since 2-3 bookings in a row means having to create multiple pieces from scratch in a very short time, and sometimes my muse is drunk and slow to show up). In Rattle Rattle‘s case, I allowed an exception to my rule because with the world the way it is right now (very fucked up), I thought maybe the audience could use some magick drawn from creative energies in my past (sort of a Back to the Future shamanic recipe of my own Marty McFly design), and it worked, I think, judging from the crowd’s happy reactions.
The pattern’s been the same for as long as I can remember: the day I start a new paying job, it sucks the life out of me. A death vacuum. Zero creative breath for months on end. Energy, gone. Muse, vanished. Internal magic, nowhere. Reeling into the grind/er. The petty new minutiae, new co-workers, endless meetings, all-consuming. Brain, trailing impotent webs that ensnare nothing. I’m listless inside. Dry leaves. Grinning on empty. I wrote about this kind of torture once. Toiling away in a post office mail room in his late forties, fingers blistered and inky, Bukowski understood:
And what hurts is the steadily diminishing humanity of those fighting to hold jobs they don’t want but fear the alternative worse. People simply empty out. They are bodies with fearful and obedient minds. The color leaves the eye. The voice becomes ugly. And the body. The hair. The fingernails. The shoes. Everything does.
After six months at my new job, my mothy cocoon has finally cracked & I’m sliming out onto the jungle floor, sunlight above, just now taking in everything that shot over my decaying corpse like angels of death during the past half year: turgid politics, environmental disasters, horrors in Vegas, fucking Weinsteins
This is my version of depression. (And maybe yours). People face much worse, I know. But an anchor’s still an anchor. You’ll die drifting to the bottom if you can’t steal some air.
What saves me are magic performance art spells. Art shamanism. What Jodorowsky calls Psychomagic. Little symbolic acts that break mental patterns, current ways of feeling, and reorder reality’s illusions. Slump to the floor and roll around on a pile of silverware with an apple in your mouth. Pull voodoo bones from a piece of chicken and make a wish while you march in place. Commit misdemeanor acts of surreal sabotage in your enemy’s bathroom. Somehow I have the energy for these, even when I can’t muster it for anything else. Maybe I’m just curious how they’ll turn out, and they always do. It’s intuitive. My subconscious knows what medicine I need. And it always involves some ritual, some symbolic message to my subconscious that hey, I’m still here, still wanting to live, even if I don’t know how right now.
Eventually the light’s bright again, searing out the rest in electric white. The leaves go green. The muse reappears, sometimes in the form of a purple stray cat who wanders into my yard.
I don’t usually yap about my creative process & weirdo internal states, but maybe this’ll help someone somehow. (Maybe you).
In other news, the photo above [taken by KayDee Kersten] was from an October performance in Ventura where the message was this: High Culture is sneakily arbitrary. So, why not make up your own? If you wear a hamburger bun instead of a Rolex, you’ll always beat the Joneses (unless they have really bitchin hamburgers).
P.S. — Thanks to everyone who came out to Burbank’s Author Day at the Buena Vista Library! I signed copies of Two Performance Artists, and so much more! Arm casts! Pets! Even books by Shia LaBeouf! You’re the best! xoxo
I met a ton of smart people (including a Ph.D. hunting for extraterrestrials), debated national security policy with 3-letter agency spooks, and learned many scary things I’ll be writing about on my cybersecurity research blog (countercastle.com) when I’m not busy destroying art galleries with rabid dance moves and razors in my panties (yep, I did that).
With school over, I’m officially returning to freakyland, but in both the creative and security realms now. So, look for more performances, a one-man show (finally), and short films as I experiment more with Hollywood. And trust that performance art methods will also spill into the cybersecurity domain, where I’ll be researching new and (hopefully) unpredictable methods for subversion.
Don’t let the coat and collar in my photo here fool you — I was naked from the waist down. (Still am).
Thank you everyone who came out last night to the monthly insanity at Ventura’s 5x5x5 Show! Such a wild night! The crowd was on fire, the performer lineup was inspiring (looking at you, Pete Ippel), and I had the chance to unveil You’re So Nice, a new piece about the tendency to keep negativity bottled up. Nice was originally slated to be part of a one-man show I had hoped to have finished by now, but my grad school workload has been heavier than I’d hoped, which is also why these blog posts have been far and few between.
This is the first time I’ve mentioned school here, in part because my impending degree has little to do with aesthetics (at first glance, anyway), and I’ve wanted to reserve this space for more uber-right-brained activities. But it’s high-time I outed myself: my “day job” involves working in cybersecurity.
Security’s been a lifelong interest. Even as a kid, I always had my nose in books about spies, criminal capers, the FBI, lockpicking, etc. My technical background started in the mid-1980s when I taught myself programming and joined a hacker/phreaker gang as a young teen. After getting scared straight by my own FBI encounter, I began working above-board in the security field in the 1990s. Since then, I’ve worked as a consultant, security architect, and hacker for 4 Fortune 500 companies (and counting), with an average stay of 4.5 years at each.
It’s a challenging balance, pulling fish out of my performance-art-pants at night, then wearing a poker face at a job where I’m tasked with fending off thousands of online attack attempts per day from amateur and state-sponsored hackers alike. A few of my co-workers know of my double life, but like any good spook, I’ve tried to keep a low profile; patients might prefer not knowing that their doctor rolls around in broken glass on weekends.
My take, however, is that cracking systems can be a creative act — which you know if you read my novel — and so hackers/crackers are often a very creative bunch. The very term “hacker” denotes someone inventive, whether it be in computers, turning toasters into telephones, or some other wacky trade. It follows that in order to “deflect” these creative people from wreaking digital havoc, defenders must be creative themselves, and be capable of seeing what hasn’t been shown (or even imagined) yet. The best defenders are, in many ways, visionaries capable of “seeing” the road long before any dirt has been moved. This is why it pays to exercise the right-brain by embracing occasional insanity to foster new synaptic routes orthogonal to Security’s inbred patterns.
I’ll finish my Security M.S. degree this December, and I’m increasingly realizing ways I might “hack” the subject of cybersecurity itself, with lessons learned from performance art. Who says the two subjects can’t inform each other? Playable glitches have been intentionally introduced into video games as an art form, so why can’t performance art “infect” cybersecurity as a new approach, a new way of thinking? And the converse can also be true. Security is very much about detecting what is breached, hidden, or taken; why can’t these apply to the performer-audience relationship in some explicit ways as well—or even be the focus of a performance?
Frankly—and I’m wagering every artist/performer who works a corporate day job can sympathize—I’ve been nervous for years that potential employers might discover my other work, and shy away from hiring me—but no more. How can I publicly pursue the intersection of art and security if I hide the fact that they already intersect for me intuitively? And really, why shouldn’t art and technology trade inspiration? They both come from the same brain, after all, in my case.
So, dear potential employers, please hire me for my cybersecurity skillz
I’ll be performing some serious weirdness at this Friday’s Andy Kaufman-inspired Kauf-Drops Show at the UCB Theatre in Hollywood. Come for some post-Halloween insanity! UCB Theatre, Friday, November 6, 2015, 8PM. 5419 W Sunset Blvd. FREE! See you there!