Thursday, March 30, 2006

Leap Before You Look

I remember years ago reading an article about post-hypnotic suggestion. Though I'm paraphrasing, basically it involved giving someone a PHS (industry lingo) to close a window when the word "dog" was spoken. Sure enough, some time later, someone said, "dog" and the subject rose, crossed to the window and shut it. When asked why, the subject simply replied, "it was a little cold" (or, "It was noisy, etc.")

The simple point I took from this was that regardless of how "irrational" our behavior might be, we will try to make it appear (mostly for our own benefit) rational. There's a word for this -- rationalize. We do it a million times a day, turning some of our sillier actions into something that, to us at least, sounds sensible, if not downright wise.

Since this is a pre-leaving-town-short-entry I'm not going to go into too much detail about how I think our ability to rationalize contributes heavily to most of the human-to-human problems on our planet. For the moment, let's just say that whatever the reason this mechanism exists in our psyches (it probably serves us somehow) it sure mucks things up in a serious way.

Many years ago I was listening to a debate on the abortion issue. It suddenly occurred to me that, despite all the cogent and non-cogent arguments being made, the speakers held their point of view before they made the arguments supporting it. In short, their arguments did not result from a path of observation, followed by thought which led them to a conclusion. Instead, the conclusion led them to their arguments. They were rationalizing, making every attempt to sound -- well -- rational. ("It was cold.")

It didn't take long for me to realize that the vast majority of expressed opinions around us are identically rooted. We begin with a bias which could have its roots in our religious upbringing, our regional upbringing or simply "how we're wired." We take that bias, defend and support it with enough logic to choke even the widest-throated among us. And, sadly, we actually believe that we believe what we do because of those backward-thinking, fill-in-the-holes rationalizations.

I've often commented that I've met very few people who actually use their valid observations of the world around them to form a conclusion (which some would like to dust away as "opinion.") The world surely can't be what we observe (since almost no one observes.) Instead, the world is (or should be) what we need it to be, want it to be, rationalize it to be.

If there's any validity to what I'm saying, it goes a long way to explaining why there is so much pitifully uninspired chatter around us. Thinking may not be in short supply but it would appear that most of it is the work of rationalizing a point of view that we "inherited" somewhere along our journey. I'm not sure if the inability to arrive at a conclusion based on observing the way things work (or don't) is indicative of a lack of intelligence. After all, it takes some amount of quick wit to explain why we responded to a post-hypnotic suggestion.

I'd say more but I'm pressed for time and, besides, there's a lot of noise outside and it's distracting me. Think I'll stop writing and close the window.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Beaujolais Buffet

Episode 13 - Drinks with Larry and Lauren - The Fox and Hounds - Studio City, CA - 03/27/06

Music in this episode includes:

Bra by Cymade
Werewolves of London by Warren Zevon
Firebell Ringing by The Pastels

Please support these artists.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Splain Somethin' to Me

Friday, March 17, 2006

Don't Do It For Me

For years I've told women that I was involved with, "do me a favor, don't do me any favors." In short, "don't do anything for me."

At first it might seem as if I'm simply playing semantical word games. As much as I like playing games, this isn't one of them. The words we use or seem to misuse, short of illiteracy, usually mean far more than we're willing to take credit for. They're chosen to indicate how we've structured our thinking and I've found it rarely comes down to, "you say poe-tay-toe and I say poe-tah-toe."

I have some real problems with the common useage of "selfish" and, by result, "selflessness." First, we speak of "selfish" as if there's an alternative. I can't conceive of one. In my experience, every perception, experience, reaction and action we're capable of is from within; self-perceived, self-conceived, self-acted upon, etc. It's perplexing to me to think that one could not be selfish. It would follow, at least to my way of thinking, that selflessness is a concept that simply does not and cannot exist. When someone acts in a fashion that we define as "selfless," they are acting out of what they believe to be their own (at the moment, anyway) best interest.

This is usually where I'm accused of playing with words or just plain being wrong.

But I think the concept, as I said above, is used to support our rather short-sighted way of relating to ourselves and the people around us. If hurting another person, slighting another person, failing to see where their best interests are our best interests creates stress, grief, turmoil, arguments, angst, distrust, etc. how could the action that provoked all that sturm and drang reasonably be described as self-ish? If my actions are not serving me well, I'm not selfish, I'm either just misguided or stupid.

If a new neighbor were to move in and I were to ignore them or, even worse, call out my front door, "hey, keep off my yard when you're moving your stuff" I doubt that would create much good will. It would be a far more selfish act to go over and offer to help.

If I love someone dearly, isn't it in my best interests, when the situation calls for it, to put their needs ahead of my own? Aren't we both better for that? And, heaven forbid, if they act accordingly, the self-indulgent selfish fest that follows might result in actual, real-life, down-home, loving behavior. (Oh, I forgot, love is a word we use to describe how we feel, not how we act. That's what I mean about words.)

If you're with me here, everything we do is selfish. It simply comes down to how short-sighted we are regarding ourselves.

So why bother with this? Whether you agree or disagree, most people understand what's commonly meant when someone's actions are described as selfish. I suppose I'm not most people. I simply end up confused. "You mean you're not selfish? You spend your days acting against yourself?" That's a head-scratcher to me.

Perhaps I'm also an exception in this situation: I find myself in a relationship, even one in which the "L" word is used and, at some point I hear, "well, I did this for you, I did that for you," etc. As I'm being rebuked, first I'm angry and upset and second, since I've told you how my mind works, I don't believe they ever did do "it" for me. In truth, if my dear heart's list of actions was so selfless, why is she bringing it up now, anyway? But that's my point about why we use words the way we do. We get to act as horribly as we want and attach the "right" words to it. As in, "I wasn't being selfish when I did all that for you." Or "I acted selflessly." They simply forget to add, "and I'll be sure and remind you of that from time to time."

So, I sit them down and tell them, "look, let's make a deal here. Don't do anything for me. If you don't want to do it, don't. Spare me your selflessness." I usually follow that with something to the effect of, "However, if we find ourselves never caring enough about each other to the point where it pleases us to act in a way that pleases our 'significant other,' I doubt we'll be together very long. But I beg you, spare me your generosity."

To believe that "A" is selfish and "B" is selfless is simply because most of us don't want to do the hard work involved in seeing beyond the tip of our immediate gratification, if not somewhat bent, noses. And that is why, I believe, we keep these concepts in place.

We are directed "out of ourselves" from the day we're born. Responsibility is replaced by rules and authority and, often, religion. We're turned so far away from ourselves that we actually begin to believe that we can and do live outside ourselves. It therefore follows that we come to accept that some among us aren't selfish. I sincerely believe that this does us great harm. It gives us the chance to use words like "selfless" and "love" in situations where nothing of the sort is in play. Call things what they are and we'll be much the wiser and better off for it.

I think we'd all be better served to learn how to be REALLY and EFFECTIVELY selfish.

I heard something once that went something like this:

"Do unto others as you would have others do unto you."

Now that's what I call selfish.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Good Sex, Bad Sex

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Help us choose our new promotional pictures and logo

Friday, March 10, 2006

Do Tell

Monday, March 06, 2006

Dreaming of America

Kathy, I’m lost, I said, though I knew she was sleeping
I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why
Counting the cars on the new jersey turnpike
They’ve all gone to look for america
All gone to look for America
All gone to look for America

If you're a bit less ancient than I, the lyrics above are from "America," a song by Paul Simon. That song has always struck a chord and made its own internal music inside my rather cluttered head. Perhaps my oftimes "empty and aching" head.

In retrospect, mine is a writer's head. I'm not sure what that means exactly but I'm well aware that I'm continually occupied with what-ifs, why nots and well, dreams and fantasies that seem to party across my gray cells on a 24/7 basis. I'm not sure that this differentiates me from anyone else but it took me years to appreciate that some of my real life endeavors were doomed to failure because they were nothing more than an attempt to live out my own personal fiction.

I'm well aware, as I'm awake during the wee hours watching re-runs of "Andy Hardy Goes to College," that there's a large part of me that longs for a life of basic simplicity, honesty, decent, well-intentioned people, wise fathers, loving mothers, intact families and (once upon a time) un-neurotic girlfriends. In short, an image of America that was often portrayed though, I suspect, never quite really existed. What did exist, however, was the dream -- now considered naive.

One of my favorite movies of all time (I didn't say the "Andy Hardy" films were classics) is "Tender Mercies," by Horton Foote. The title alone should suggest why the movie appealed to me. It goes far beyond that, however. The characters communicate with sparse and eloquent simplicity. Where in most of our lives there would be revenge, in this film there is tenderness and acceptance. It's a love story, a story of our ability to care and heal -- short, sweet and simple. You done me wrong, Mr. Foote. I want to believe this stuff, you see! I want to use two words to communicate a thought or feeling as opposed to the two thousand that I and my urban counterparts seem so familiar with. After all, how many words does it take to express love and decency?

I hold this film and its author fully responsible for one of my more spectacularly failed relationships. (Well, not really, but it felt good to momentarily not take responsibility.) I always referred to this woman as my "Tender Mercies" fantasy. She was born in Texas but living in Southern California when I met her. She had a young son, attended church regularly and was a school teacher. ("That new school marm sure is somethin'!") If only someone had tapped me on the shoulder right then and there to remind me, "hey, dummy -- Tender Mercies was a MOVIE!!!"

The object of my affection turned out to be a significantly damaged human being. Her church-going turned out to be a desperate attempt to drown out just how un-church-like she really was. This lady had enough "sins" on the books to turn Yom Kippur into a 365 day a year event. (Look it up.) The sordid details are of no signficance here, only my realization that Horton had slipped me a bit of a hot Foote (sorry!)

What I had (and still have) to come to terms with is that Andy Hardy's home town, Carville, New York was made up in someone's head. And, shudder, shot in Hollywood. That between the neurotic, over-urbanized big city coasts of this country, the waving amber fields of grain are not necessarily filled with "good country folk."

Small town life, after all, can be just as stressful -- if not moreso -- than big town life. They don't even have the electric neon, Circuit City, shopping mall distractions that often help to provide a dose of self-medication to us overstimulated city dwellers. But bars still provide self-medication, motels provide freshly made beds (one can only hope) to sneak off with someone else's partner, etc. etc. etc. The truth is, Judge Hardy just might have been doing Mrs. Johnson next door. Or, at the least, rendering a judgement because it might help to line his pockets.

I fully believe that the people who populate my Tender Mercies fantasy do exist. I don't believe there are plenty, but many. It's unlikely that one has to live in Carville to be one of those people or find them; they're most likely peppered across the planet, often living too quietly to be noticed.

It's just that hopping on that Paul Simon bus to leave the big city to look for "America" is probably an exercise in futility. So what, if anything has changed? The best I can conjure up is that the dreams that party in my head used to party in more heads, more frequently. Perhaps if enough people still held the ideal, if enough people still wished to believe it, despite its mythic, "romantic" nature, it might've provided a heavier anchor, slowing our drift away from the dream. I'm fully aware that believing in Santa doesn't make him real. But I often wonder where the triumph is in coming to the realization that "it's just my mom and dad." We call that maturity. I wonder.

Toss me a cigarette, I think there's one in my raincoat.

Sunday, March 05, 2006


DWLL has taken over the Nowhere Man Myspace page. If you or anyone you know is a MySpace junkie please request to be added to our growing network.

DWLL Myspace Profile

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Engendered Species

Be My Valentine

If You Could Read My Mind

I'm Older, Not Wiser

You're Not Having My Baby

Name That Fantasy

Spielberg's a Hottie

100 Things I Hate About You

Friday, March 03, 2006

First Show (funny stuff, we rambled)

Strictly Nowhere Man

I screened "Strictly Ballroom" yesterday which was probably my umpteenth viewing of this film. To me, it's a nearly perfect piece of work. An extraordinary vision (from sound to sets, photography, editing, etc.) from top to bottom that never wavers in its style, tone and impact. (Something that's almost unachievable in Hollywood where almost everything is designed by committee.)

Somehow, they managed to burlesque a bizarre and unusual world, subtly drawing us in and, despite the "oddities," we find ourselves swept up in the characters and what matters to them.

On the surface, the theme is simple. "It's okay to color outside the lines." Not bad subject matter, especially in times when no one wants to be the person who does that. Even the "oddballs" of our times want to be considered "normal." Sad.

But as I watched it last night, as enthralled as the first time I saw it, I picked up on something that had never struck me before. The movie is a serio-comic, dancing, musical version of "Nowhere Man." It goes far beyond "coloring outside the lines."

The "Federation" (of Ballroom dancing) is a perfect analogy to "Them" (as we affectionately called the bad guys in NwM.) Though handled in the film's broad, burlesque style, the Federation is no less threatening, corrupt and taken with their own power than their real-life counterparts. Barry Fife, head of the Federation might make us laugh but, for what he represents, we should be "very afraid."

If Scott (the film's lead character) is Tom Veil -- then the Federation goes to no end to get him to "give us the negatives." They hit him from every end. Humiiation, manipulation and, ultimately, lies about his father. Even the "silly" mystery of Strictly Ballroom took on new significance as I watched it last night. Again, the allegory isn't the point (nor were Tom's negatives.) It's what the allegory is trying to tell us.

And, like NwM, most friends and family were desperate to be on the "Federation Team." Though, in the movie, their fear was not based on threats; merely their own terror that they (therefore anyone else) should ever risk non-compliance. (A far more accurate depiction of why, as Dr. Bellamy said, "in the end, most people go along.")

There's another subtle, though significant point that emerges beautifully in the film. In the end, it's not just an individual's success for having survived "Them," but a demonstration that most of the true beauty and important contributions in this world come from those who resist the effort to turn mediocre. After all, though the "lawn" might look nice, it's the "weeds" that make a difference. And, as with weeds, some need to be yanked out by the roots. Some, however, are all that bring music, poetry, art and innovation to an otherwise "neatly manicured" culture. Sigh.

And, if all this wasn't enough, there's the simple "Cinderella" love story aspect of Strictly Ballroom. If you listen to the podcasts, it's no secret that I'm an easy touch in the "romance" department. Fran's transition from homely doorstop to glowing beauty is movie cliche at its best. The performances are so good, you want to believe every second of it.

As Tom Veil found a few fellow travellers, so does Scott. Both Fran and his father (if not Fran's entire family) provide support to give Scott courage. Scott isn't perfect and, more than once, is ready to "hand over the negatives." But Fran isn't Allison. In the end, not only are "Them" defeated (momentarily, of course) but the "world" celebrates that defeat and Scott and Fran kiss. WOW!

Did I say I adore this film? Did I say that nearly every frame is perfect? Oh, maybe I did.

If and when they ever remake "Nowhere Man," I vote for music and dancing.