Archive for the ‘Confessions’ Category
Thursday, April 27th, 2023
RIP Jerry Springer. Full disclosure: I loved watching him continue what Donahue, Geraldo, Howard Stern, & Les Crane (1960′s) turned into a live-action tabloid art form. It was impossible to look away. Gimme that lurid sleaze, those profanity-laden fistfights, hurled chairs, all of it — our own American style of rough-and-ready sideshow performance, like watching grainy Kenneth Anger films live mixed with Harmony Korine…. Yeah, it was trashy (and probably partly scripted) and childishly ridiculous and definitely exploitative, but it was also reflective of people I knew and saw growing up….the 1970s-1980s were especially sleazy & gritty & violent in my formative experience. I especially loved the episodes where people in the margins were given a voice, even if it was sensationalized by the form — maybe seeing Springer episodes like “I’m a witch” or “I like to cross-dress” that were considered so shocking back then helped set the stage for some level of normalization and equity that will eventually come. History will judge. But for sure, those episodes connected with the creative, emotive, sensitive, scared, and wilder parts of me that were rejected (often violently) by my peers — somehow I was not alone. And watching all the cro-magnon haters who Springer would bring on stage to create drama? Maybe seeing them helped steel us collectively to battle the ignorant haters still burning books and banning drag shows today.
Watch this clip of tabloid talker Les Crane in 1964 ask a male guest questions about a thing called “homosexuality.” This was ground-breaking for TV. And as archaic and weirdly quaint as this footage looks, one day people will look back on Jerry Springer episodes and probably feel the same about them: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ev387WTquB8
Friday, October 2nd, 2020
Dear Diary: I’m crazy-excited to announce that DARK SILO — the FBI conspiracy-thriller film script I wrote with KayDee Kersten under our Roughhausers banner — just won Best Original Screenplay at the 2020 Burbank International Film Awards! Our minds are blown — thank you so much!
In a heartfelt F-U to Covid, I had the chance to perform in a mask on the streets of Ventura a few months back with a mop and a palm frond. In Mesopotamian and Egyptian religions, the palm branch represents eternal life (the palm’s name comes from the Greek phoinix, the same word we use to mean the bird that revives itself from its own burnt ashes). Here the mop is not necessarily a symbol for cleaning; it might serve as my own human-made frond — a kind of artificial (but magic) ‘palm’ held in (the palm of) my hand (with ‘palm’ coming from the Latin palma, meaning the hand spread open like a leaf). In my mind, I was my own Axis Mundi, a human bridge channeling & imbuing the mundane and unnatural with the magical healing power of the natural. Let’s hope the spell works.
In another attempt to kick Covid’s ass, I was seriously disappointed to learn that all of my running races had been canceled this year, so I decided to stage my own solo race: a 50K (31 mi) ultra-marathon around Cordova, the Burbank street where I live. The run took just under 5 hours (about 28 loops around the block), during which my better half KayDee kept me alive with fluids & food, organized all of the spectators who showed up to cheer (OMG, THANK YOU GUYS!!!), and chatted with people who tuned in from around the globe to watch the race’s streaming feed, live from a camera in our front yard. KayDee also made me an epoxied finisher’s medal — see below. Amazing! First ultra-marathon, complete. Suck it, Covid!
Wherever you are, I hope you’re hanging in there, and managing to thrive. I feel grateful that in the midst of this Covid-era craziness — so much pain, loss, confusion, animosity — that there have been moments of joy, which have been harder than ever to find — a full-time job, really — but I don’t know what else to do, except seek them out, and pry them from 2020′s rotting palm, because I — we — you — deserve them.
Friday, October 20th, 2017
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 . . . . It wasn’t that I didn’t care when these things flew by; it was more that I was already numb, brains empty, with zero to utter of value.
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
Sunday, March 6th, 2016
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…and consider the fish in my pants a bonus.
Monday, September 22nd, 2014
When I look back on 2014, all I see is a blur.
My wife and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary. My novel Two Performance Artists was finally published, closing a chapter on a surreal 15-year journey. Our cross-country book tour from LA to NY was a success, with encouraging bookstore turnouts, performances in 18 cities, and 2 book awards along the way. “Kidnapping As Art,” my survey of artists who’ve kidnapped audiences as performance art, was picked up by MIT Press’s Journal of Performance And Art for publication in January of 2015. Headlining the final 5x5x5 show at the Sylvia White Gallery in Ventura—one of California’s longest-running performance art series in recent memory—was a humbling honor. And of course, learning I’d been plagiarized by Shia LaBeouf—and then having my revenge—was the most wild ride of all.
I don’t know if I’ve ever been more busy—and yet, somehow I’ve still got that nagging feeling that this train is only just starting to pick up speed—that all of the dreams that came true in 2014 are the wood I now need to be shoveling like crazy into the firebox, stoking the flames even harder than before to maintain momentum. But with the past year feeling ephemeral and so long ago already, the wood vanishes like smoke on my shovel, and fear sets in that the engine could start to slow.
Friday, March 8th, 2013
My sexy, sassy, and brilliant partner-in-crime KayDee and I tied the knot in Florida! Yay us! We headed down to the Keys after. Too much to tell…manatees, mangroves, sandy beaches, kayaks, lizards, white trash retirees, great service, Hemingway’s house, fat boat captains, fried boat sluts, buried treasure, a diving museum, a sweet little hotel named Ocean House, and earlier at our reception, watching my very conservative step-dad and his fiancée on the dance floor, both of them oblivious to the fact that the song playing was “I’m Fucking You” by Enrique Iglesias…they danced to it, bobbing back and forth in a tight embrace, happy as clams with no idea…I didn’t have the heart to tell them….hahaha
Friday, December 14th, 2012
I had the chance some years back to visit the Atascadero State Hospital for the criminally insane. The inmates there are too mentally ill to stand trial, or in many cases, too programmed for acts of horrific violence to be committed to a normal prison, as hard as that is to imagine.
The prison was general population, meaning inmates were mostly free to amble about in the halls and common areas, as were I and my handler. There weren’t any guards nearby; just the occasional nurse. So, just us and the “residents.”
Staff got attacked all the time; sometimes killed. And so it was terrifying—imposing threats in all directions constantly. My adrenaline was pumping like mad and I could barely breathe, being surrounded by killers walking freely just feet away. (And in there, “killer” was, in many cases, a gracious understatement).
My terror wasn’t because of how they were looking at me. I mean, yes, some were drugged to the point of shuffling and drooling, but too many others were locked on me with terrible, clenched-teeth gazes because I was alien, an interloper, prey—and they made absolutely sure I felt it.
No, as much as I tried to fathom the human wreckage these men had left behind, it was next to impossible in comparison to the sickening, overwhelming vibration of so much evil so concentrated in one place, as hokey as that sounds. (Maybe I’d been preconditioned by the staff who’d told me beforehand that most of the men in there would never—or at least, *should* never—be released; that without supervision and druggery, it was highly likely they would rape, maim, and kill as easily as a yawn).
And that’s what stuck with me: that despite whatever legal or other protections may come to pass to hopefully lessen future potential bloodshed around us, ultimately there is still conniving evil in the world; there are men like these, and no amount of discussion, interdiction, politics, monitoring, or intervention will change that.
In other words, we are gut-wrenchingly fragile, yet this fact too often doesn’t manifest in behavior, between people, or in the media, except during a horrific crisis when all denial is ripped away.
As I sped away from Atascadero, I was overcome by sadness—maybe even mourning — over the human beings in there who, at birth with so much potential, and now by nature or nurture, will spend every breath locked up for our safety. They’re in there being shot up with drugs, shackled to beds, hunting and being hunted in fear and in the halls, now, even as you read this, forever. That, along with all the lives they’ve destroyed including their own, is almost the saddest thing in the world—but so is the perfectly sane hypocrite who has everything going for him, yet treats people like shit day in, day out, until a horror breaks and he’s reminded for five minutes that any of us could be crushed at any moment…then promptly forgets.
If humans needed less reminding, there might be a lot less evil bred in the world.
Tuesday, December 8th, 2009
I think it was 1979. A shrink told my mom that I was hyperactive. I screamed, “NO I’M NOT!” — then sat down on the kitchen floor and polished off an entire jar of Skippy peanut butter with my bare fingers.
That pretty much sums me up.
Monday, August 17th, 2009
Comedians’ best horror stories from Hollywood — auditions, day jobs, head shots, you name it. Nothing’s funnier than watching comedians cry.
Thursday, February 19th, 2009
Last night I was competing in the Rooster T. Feathers comedy competition in Sunnyvale. Go if you can. The club is old school (reminded me of Hollywood’s Comedy Store) — warm, pro, and one of the friendliest I’ve seen.
While waiting for the show to start, I saw Larry “Bubbles” Brown walking around — hilarious, been on Letterman, etc. I overheard somebody say he was headlining.
Later, a friend asked me who was headlining, so I said, “Larry Bubbles Brown.”
“No, I am headlining,” said a man next to me. I looked at him, but didn’t recognize him. I later found out he was Dan St. Paul — Comedy Central, MTV, opened for Seinfeld, did a movie with Robin Williams….
But I didn’t know this. So of course, being an idiot, I said:
……..“And who are you?”
He belly laughed and grimaced painfully.
Because I am an idiot.
Let this be a lesson.