Inspired by my crazy adventures as a performer on the road,
this is the story
of two performance artists who cook up the ultimate performance: to kidnap their
billionaire boss...and turn him into the wildest
performance artist the world's ever seen.
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
My psychic extravaganza is finally almost here! As part of my Ph.D. program in Parapsychology (the study of the paranormal), I’m conducting a public psychic experiment to see if people can use psychic powers to see data inside computers.
If you think psychic powers are probably real (and ESPECIALLY if you think you might be psychic), I hope you’ll participate! Starting October 23, point your browser at www.psychicexperiment.org and have at it! 3 participants will also be randomly selected to win a $200 Amazon gift card!
Andddd if you’ll be near Ventura, California on November 4th, swing by the Art City Gallery and Studios, where I’ll be unleashing a new performance art piece with an array of awesome performers! 8PM and FREE!
I can’t believe it’s been so many months since my last post. This is the slowest diary everrrr!
As always, I’ve got new performance art and short film projects in the works — and I’m thrilled to say my TV pilot script The Occultist was a semi-finalist in the 2021 L.A. Screenplay Awards, and also in the L.A. Crime and Horror Film Festival — yayyy! My insanely creative pardner KayDee is also crushing it on the Producing front, most recently on the set of Friday Night Vibes, with Tiffany Haddish.
But at the moment, the majority of my time is being devoted to getting my Parapsychology Ph.D. dissertation up and running. I’m super excited and don’t want to say too much yet, except that it involves an experiment to measure E.S.P. ability in cybernetic ways that cross into The Matrix and Johnny Mnemonic territories. Stay tuned — I’ll be posting here when the experiment website goes public this summer, and I’d love for you to participate!
I also quietly launched my shamanic practice. I’m limiting my number of clients at the moment, but I’m already receiving strong interest, which is encouraging. Part of my recent journey has been mapping my shamanic lineage, which I’ve managed to trace back to Norse and Sámi ancestors who worshipped Odin and nature near the Arctic Circle. I’m continuing to train at the Foundation for Shamanic Studies, and deepening my connections to magical ancestors I sense are still around (and who were likely responsible for initiating my shamanic calling that began when I was a kid).
On the running front, I’m training for another 50K (33mi) ultramarathon race in August, and last fall I qualified for the 2023 Boston Marathon, running my 26.2-mile qualifying race in Big Bear, California in 3 hours, 16 minutes, which beat the qualifying standard by 10 minutes — not bad. See you next Spring, Boston!
2021 has been a wild ride, and it’s not even halfway done.
Due to Covid, this year hasn’t exactly been rife with in-person performance art opportunities, but Ventura’s 5x5x5 series curated by John M. White marched bravely onward via video, thank God.
So, after workshopping pieces in my backyard with mannequin parts, dirt, ladders, invisible skateboards, and bananas, I finally came up with something crazy from my childhood called 1979 Norwegian Choreography for Skateboard & Banana — check out the pics & video! The piece is simple, but it took 3 bone-jarring days to choreograph and shoot, so by the end, my legs were DESTROYED from all of that faux-skateboard jumping.
I just finished writing THE OCCULTIST, a new streaming/TV series pilot about a failed archeologist who becomes an occult detective — I’m so so so excited about this one, because it combines my eternal love of Indiana Jones and my obsession with the occult that dates back to my childhood — and the script just became a finalist at the 2021 Los Angeles International Underground Film Festival — yesssss!
Plus, DARK SILO, the script I co-wrote with KayDee Kersten, was a finalist in ScreenCraft’s 2021 Action & Adventure contest after winning Best Original Screenplay at the Burbank International Film Festival. Agents & producers: I am so ready for youuu!
My preliminary schoolwork toward my Ph.D. in Parapsychology is finally done. It concluded with a thesis paper called The Liberating Power of Image in the New Thought Movement, which is a feminist take on how the concepts of image and seeing in the metaphysical “mental sciences” (Religious Science, Christian Science, etc.) can liberate one from the raging patriarchy in Western modes of being & seeing.
My doctoral dissertation is up next. I’m still plotting what to research — my list is crazy long and growing: metaphysical healing, shamanic & witchy practices, chaos, E.S.P., ghosts, even aliens…. There are too many topics I’m excited about to choose. Maybe I can incorporate them all? Hm….
I hope you found something fun and fulfilling over the past 6 months to keep you sustained & inspired through this pandemic horror show. For me, it was my wife, dog, friends, and a lot of margaritas, followed by tons of running. I’ve racked up the miles from Los Angeles to Sedona, dropped 10 pounds, ran a half-marathon virtual race, and just started training for my 5th full marathon, with hopes of qualifying for the Boston Marathon this year (assuming my legs ever recover from all that make-believe skateboarding…lolol).
So, if you drive past a pale, bony, dehydrated blonde dude who is tripping through the asphalt streets of Burbank like a loon, please don’t run him over! Wishing you a healthy & beautiful summer!
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.
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. So…would you do her? Hahaha:
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 . . . . 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
After 2 long years and 160,000 scholarly words written, my Cybersecurity M.S. degree from the University of Maryland is officially done!
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…and consider the fish in my pants a bonus.