Wasting Food, Or is it?

When I was a kid my family would often go to buffets and I would fill my plate with colors and textures. It had nothing to do with how hungry I was. I was six. I was making art. Typically I would eat 1/4th or 1/3rd of the plate before I was completely full. Well, my dad said I was wasting food by not eating it. And he would force me to eat the whole plate. I would do it and then become miserable for hours. I was stuffed to an extremely uncomfortable degree. You’d think that I’d learn to put less on my plate, but no. I just learned to take the pain of overeating.

Now, I do sympathize with what my dad’s intent, but now as an adult I completely disagree with his logic. Think about the situation. There’s food on my plate. One of two things is going to happen. I’m either going to eat it or leave it on the plate and it will eventually get tossed in the garbage. It makes sense at first thought that the latter circumstance is wasting food, but what my dad failed to see is that the former circumstance is also wasting food, but with additional consequences.

When I overeat I fill myself with food that my body will not use for anything other than fat storage. All the energy I needed was taken care of when I ate 1/3rd of my plate. Anything else is either going to get stored as fat or my body’s gonna just try and pass it on through. So, it’s a waste either way. But in the trash it’s not causing me physical pain. It’s not messing with my innards. It’s not giving me a complex that I’ll struggle with my whole life to only feel satisfied with food when I feel over full and see a clean plate. I agree that both are wasteful, but the latter does more damage.

If you’re not convinced yet let’s say you park at a meter. You put in enough money to park legally for 2 hours. Your appointment only takes one hour. Was it a waste to put enough money in for two? Sure. But since you can’t get it back (anymore than I could put food back in the buffet for someone else to enjoy) what are you gonna do? Stay parked there for another hour even though you have nothing else to do in that part of town? Would that make you feel better to stay parked the whole time? Cause it would only waste your day to sit in your car parked for no reason other than to ‘get your money’s worth.’

The difference in the two scenarios is that if you leave the parking space then the meter (depending on the type of meter) will still keep that spot legal and someone else could park there for a free hour because of you. If I leave my food on the table and leave the restaurant no one is going to eat it. I could give it to my family, but usually they had their own food and didn’t want my leftovers. And because it was a buffet I couldn’t take it home. So, there’s no option with the food that allows it to not go to waste.

So, if you’re in my dad’s camp of thought, I implore you to think about this. Don’t make your kid eat past full. Instead use the opportunity to teach your kid how much food he/she actually wanted and to use that as a measuring stick for ordering food next time. Don’t feel pressure for yourself or your kids to clean their plate. They’re not wasting it any more or less than if that food was thrown away. And teaching kids what it’s like to stop when you feel full is a way better lesson than forcing them to eat it all.

Thanks, y’all!

Advertisements

The Mental DMV

As an actor, I have a lot of friends in the professional world of creativity (other actors, musicians, writers, etc.). Some of my friends are decently successful in their respective field while many of them are still trying their best to make it, but haven’t achieved much yet. I’m still very much in the latter category. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done some pretty cool things, but in my opinion I still feel very much like I haven’t gotten successful in my career yet. Occasionally one of my friends from the ‘still struggling’ category will land a big commercial, or cut a record deal, or film his own web series. Whatever the specific thing is, my friends will sometimes get a game-changing piece of news. Since they are my friend, they tell me about it. And since I am their friend, I am eager to hear about it. And I hate myself for saying this, but I’m never happy for my friends when they have success – at least I’m never happy right away.

I have a condition that I think is somewhat common in my profession. I get jealous and I compare wherever you are in your career with wherever I am with my career. It’s a really dumb thing to do. And the kicker is, I know that it’s dumb. I completely know based on logic and experience that my friend’s new recurring role on a sitcom does not in anyway whatsoever speak to my abilities or lack of abilities as an actor. I know that being jealous about someone else’ success is a huge waste of time. It will do me no good at all. But despite knowing that, I can’t seem to stop it. It really feels to me like a condition and not a choice.

I think of my jealous phase as akin to going to the DMV. The DMV is a depressing place filled with people who mostly wish they were somewhere else (including the employees sometimes). But you have to go there to get a driver’s license. So, I truck on down to the party-town that is the DMV and experience what I know will be an unpleasant time for a little while. But after that little while is over I will have my license and that will be great. I wish they’d make a more pleasant process for renewing our licenses, but until that happens we’ll all keep going to a place we don’t like.

When someone tells me they just sold their sitcom pilot it’s kinda like getting a notice to renew my license. I know that I’m about to have a bad experience for a little while before I can get my license to be happy for them. But I knew that I would be happy for them in the first place. When I passed my driver’s test at Driving school I was so excited, because I knew I would soon have my license. But then afterwards when I went to the DMV I realized just how miserable that place really is. I knew I would be happy with my license when I left the DMV, but I couldn’t really make myself happy at the DMV. It’s like I’m saying, “Thank you for telling me your good news. I’m not happy for you just this second, however I will be happy for you in a few hours or so. And I’m looking forward to that time when I am happy for you.”

Back in the day it was more severe. When I was in my 20s I would often stay at the mental DMV for a long time (months or even years). Now that I’m 33 (just since a few hours ago), I’ve gotten way better. Usually, I can get past my ‘woe is me’ stage in a matter of a day or even a few hours. On occasion (rare) I can even skip it altogether. So, I’ve gotten a lot faster at making my way through my mental DMV. But I still have to go there most of the time. I think I was thirty the first time I got truly happy for a friend’s success the day after she told me. And I remember feeling great about that. It was the fastest time I could ever remember in regards to being happy for someone’s success.

I really wanna fix my brain to where I’m just happy for people the instant they share their good news. It’s on my Christmas wish list. But the mere wanting it to be gone doesn’t seem to affect my brain. Time has helped my brain. Maturity has helped my brain a lot. But no conscious choice that I’ve ever made has affected this particular condition of mine. And I’m not sure if anything other than more time and maturity ever will. I hope so, but this may be a phase I simply have to grow out of. Kind like the phase I had my first 30 years of life where I had hair. I grew out of that phase eventually. Now I don’t go to the barber. Maybe when I shed all my jealousy I can stop going to the DMV.

The funny thing about this condition is that it’s only true about people who have similar goals to me. I get jealous when another actor gets cast in a commercial. But if you tell me that you’re pregnant I’m going to be instantly happy for you. I don’t want kids, so I’m not going to compare your success in that to my lack of success in that. If you tell me you passed the MCAT, I’m going to be happy for you. I’ve never taken nor will ever take that test. But tell me you just signed with a theatrical agent? Then I’m going to tell you I’m happy for you. And it won’t be a lie. It’ll be more like a promise. Like paying with a credit card. I may not have enough happy for you at the moment, but as long as I have time to earn that happiness before the bill comes, I’ll pay it eventually.

So, I can confidently conclude that my condition is somehow affected by my goals. Otherwise i wouldn’t be able to be happy for you when something good happens to you that I don’t want for myself. And that’s good information to know, but I’m not sure that knowing that information will necessarily help me to solve the problem. I don’t know what will help me solve this problem. I feel like writing it down in this blog may potentially help it. But honestly, I have no evidence to support that claim.

Whether me writing about this condition helps me to deal with the condition or not, I’m glad I’m writing about it. If nothing else, hopefully someone else will say something in response to it like, “Bro, I feel the exact same way.” Then we’ll know that it’s not just us. It’s a condition that affects many. I believe that it is a common condition, but to be honest I don’t know that for certain. I have rarely ever talked about this with anyone else. I assume that other people feel this way, but that may not be true.

And who knows? Maybe someone will respond to this by saying something like, “Yeah I totally used to get that way too, but then I realized _________ and now I’m over it.” Wouldn’t that be nice? I can’t guarantee that if it worked for them it will work for me too, but it’s worth a shot. It’s like those home remedies that most people have that they’re so proud to know. I think they call them life hacks now. When I was a kid my mom had a huge book full of home remedies. I don’t know the science behind them, but sometimes they worked and sometimes they didn’t. I’ll take those odds when I have no better solution.

So, in conclusion I’m saying that I will be happy for you when you tell me your good news. But not necessarily right away. I’ll be instantly self-conscious of my lack of a career compared to you. Then later I’ll be able to finally leave that mental DMV and be happy for you. It’s dumb, but I don’t know how to fix it. If you have advice for me or if you are just in a similar boat as me, please let me know in the comments.

Thanks, y’all!

Rejection for Actors – It’s Really Not Personal

Dear fellow actors,

Doesn’t it just suck to go out on audition after audition and not get the gig? Or even a callback in many cases? Sure it does. But, despite all the teachers and coaches and articles that tell you not to take it personally, it’s really difficult not to. Because acting is what we do. For many of us it’s how we define ourselves. So, even though we know that they don’t mean anything personal when they don’t cast us, we can’t help but take it personally.

So, let’s try a thought experiment and see if it helps:

You are now in a hypothetical reality where you are perfect for every major role out there – commercial, film, TV, web, etc. You can literally pick any role you want and it’s yours. Your email inbox is flooded with  offers from every casting director, director & producer. You got 100 of them in the last hour. Sounds nice, right? So, what do you do?

Do you go through every role offered to you and read it carefully and then make a conscious decision to turn it down or take it? Keep in mind while you’re right for every role, you still only have seven days in a week. So, if you accept the movie that shoots next week you can’t also take the TV show that films the same days. My guess is that you will not spend your entire day in front of your computer meticulously reading every word in every offer. So, what do you do?

Here’s what I would probably do:

I would scan the emails and see which ones pay the most. I’d set aside the top twenty paying gigs to look at later. Then I would quickly look at the rest for any names attached to the projects to see if there’s anyone already on the gig that I really wanna work with and set those aside also. And then I might scan through the remaining offers and see if anything jumps out at me that I like. Anything like, ‘shoots in Hawaii’ or ‘you will work with real dolphins’ or ‘one scene is at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva.’ If any of those examples I just gave are in the descriptions, I’m putting those offers to the side.

After I’ve set aside approximately 50 offers in total I select all the remaining hundreds in my inbox and I delete them.

Now, I go through the 50 that I flagged and I read them more carefully. I make a spread sheet  of every project with the plusses, the minuses and any other interesting notes I can use to help weigh my decision. After I’ve combed through them all I look at my spreadsheet and I pick my top five. I call the contacts involved with those top five and have a brief discussion with them. I ask them questions about the project – anything I’m not 100% clear on. If I discover something new and off putting about any of my top five choices I notate it in my spreadsheet.

Let’s say my top five choices happen to not conflict with any shooting dates. Let’s say that I liked everything I had to hear from the people I spoke with on all five projects. In that case I say yes to them and put the subsequent dates in my calendar.

If I’m feeling not too mentally exhausted by this point I may write a personal note to decline some of the offers in my remaining top 50 that I really liked but didn’t wind up accepting. But honestly, I probably won’t do that. I’ll probably just call it a day.

So, what essentially did I just do? I summarily dismissed the lion’s share of the offers right away. I set aside a few to look at more closely. Of those I narrowed my favorites. And of those I made a choice that I could live with.

If I flagged fifty projects or even just twenty then I still turned down a minimum of fifteen that I thought would be good projects to do. Those projects didn’t lose out in that I looked at them and said, “absolutely not” or anything like that. I liked many of them. But I had to make a choice.

And in that hypothetical world where all those projects wanted to cast me, I meant nothing personal to the director, writer or producer of the projects that I didn’t accept.

The sad reality is that we’re not getting turned down because we’re not talented. We’re not getting turned down at all. They’re simply choosing someone else over us. They have too many choices and not enough time. Just like you did in that wonderful hypothetical reality.

We – as the acting population – flood the market with all of our talents. The filmmakers out there treat us as replaceable, because for the most part we are. Personally, I think I’m good at this whole acting thing. But if you’re in the market for a 30 something, bald, average sized white guy who’s really funny chances are you have more options than just me. I’m probably one of hundreds or thousands of viable options for any given role. And that’s true for whatever type you’re looking for.

So, the solution is obvious…have three quarters of the acting population stop acting all together and let the remaining quarter enjoy a more balanced market. So, who’s gonna quit? Shall we draw straws? Nah. That’s unlikely to happen. So, instead we just have to face the facts that we’re part of a very unbalanced system of way too much supply with a little demand.

Unlike high jumpers or weight lifters there’s no level of ability we can achieve that will make us clearly the best in our field. Acting is subjective. Those who succeed usually do so because of a mix of hard work, raw talent, tenacity, longevity and plain ole luck.

Keep doing good work. Keep showing up super prepared to your auditions. Good talent will not go unnoticed forever. If it’s worth it to you to make it in this world then you’ll stick it out. If it’s not, then you’ll quit one day. Hell, maybe I’ll get fed up and quit one day. But whatever you do or don’t do, please understand that it’s really not personal when they cast someone else for that Pepsi commercial. And it wasn’t your fault for not being talented enough.

New Phrase: “Let’s Go to That Party Together”

There are a few conversation topics I absolutely love to talk about in social settings. And I mean this sincerely. Anything about religion, science, the future, or law. I like talking about a lot of things, but those things really interest me. And those things are usually associated with controversy.

I geek out when someone in a social setting wants to talk about one of these things. Like, way way too excited. At least that’s what it seems to me in my head. So, I will warn people sometimes. I was at a party about five weeks ago and this girl and I were making polite party goer chit chat. She mentioned something about the future. I think it was inspired by her e-cigarette. And I love future prediction talk. If you like it also, check out Dr. Michio Kaku’s lecture (http://youtu.be/219YybX66MY) or book (http://tinyurl.com/ne3aann).

But I get paranoid that I get too geeky and boring about it. Like I fear that you wanna mention something on that topic and then find a new topic to jump on. But I already made camp on that topic and started paying property taxes. And I’m unknowingly forcing you to talk about something for ten minutes that you thought was only interesting for about thirty seconds. So, I warned the girl before I started talking more about it by saying:

“Are you sure you wanna go down this road with me? I might get a bit too nerdy for ya.”

Basically it’s like a friendly warning. Like, “Danger, approaching geek zone. Last chance to turn back!” I say this kinda phrase in these situations often because I’m trying to be nice and not be that guy you talk about later with your boyfriend. “He seemed like a nice guy, but he just kept talking about the most boring stuff!”

I use that saying to be nice, but it could also be used more sharply. For example, if someone believes they know everything about a topic and you disagree with they might say something like: “You don’t even go down that road with me. I will win this argument.”

That’s like saying, “I got ten trained snipers on you right now. You lose. Now give up and don’t make me actually shoot you.” That’s a bit more cocky. But essentially we have a phrase to indicate that the upcoming conversation topics should be carefully heeded if not avoided entirely. But we don’t have a phrase for the opposite. What if you’re just as geeky as I am and get excited talking about new exoplanet discoveries? Or religious fundamentalism as it relates to education and class warfare? Or how we may all one day upload our information into a digital database and have no use for our corporeal bodies? Are you bored already? 😉

Anyway, I’d like to propose a new axiom in the English language. Actually, I’m not sure if I want to propose a new axiom, cliché, saying, idiom, adage, expression or some other category of phrase. Regardless of what you call it, I want this to become a saying:

“Let’s go to that party together.”

And I want that phrase to apply to someone who’s excited to engage in a friendly debate with someone else. Or it could also apply when someone is really excited to talk about something that you brought up.

I love discussing/debating topics with someone who disagrees with me. I’m close friends with a number of people who sharply disagree with me on a few subjects that both them and I feel passionately correct about. But our friendship has nothing to do with our agreement on the subject. We care about each other. And we disagree on evolution or politics or abortion or whatever. We’re still friends. Those facts are mutually exclusive.

Debating topics excites me. I might learn something really eye opening. I might change my mind about a topic. I might change someone else’ mind or simply see my belief through different eyes. Any/all of those possibilities are fine. There’s no specific goal when discussing controversial topics for me. I just think it’s fun to do it.
So, from now on I’m going to invite potential debates with someone to be something like,

“Let’s go to this party together. We may not go home together, but we can enjoy each other’s company for a little while.”

We’re both going somewhere just like when we ‘go down that road.’ But this time, we’re not going to some road that makes me think of the opening sequence from T-2. Now, we’re at a fun party which makes me think of Can’t Hardly Wait. And that movie is a blast.

So, if you feel passionate about a subject and you wanna have a friendly chat with someone I dare you to pre-empt it with the phrase: “Let’s go to this party together.” Maybe it will take the edge out of disagreeing with each other. Maybe with more mutual respect it will even help both sides learn something new they never heard before.

If you disagree with me, please comment that. And then we can go to a party together right here.

Thanks, y’all!

My Conceived Invention – The Records Recaller

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” –Arthur C. Clarke

“Any time you’re down with a major head cold the number of blog entries increase.” -Rich Baker

I have an idea for an invention. Before I tell you what it is I want to be clear that I have no hope of actually inventing this in any real sense. I have conceived it much like when Stan Lee conceived of Spider-Man. Maybe one day someone will come up with a way to genetically alter their biochemistry into possessing Spider-Man’s powers. And maybe some day someone will actually build my idea. Then they will have invented my idea – regardless of whether they came up with it on their own or not I can still claim to have conceived of it once.

I am no expert in physics by any stretch, but based on my rudimentary understanding of it, I think this invention does not necessarily disobey any fundamental physical laws. But I’m not sure on that, so this could just be an exercise in fiction. If it is that, then I still think its worth thinking about.

I call this invention The Records Recaller. I’m sure someone in advertising could come up with a catchier title, but that’s what it is for now. Essentially it’s a monitor that can show you any angle of any place at any time in history. In other words, you type in 6AM CST April 1st 2002 at Longitude x and latitude Y. Then the monitor shows you a still image – essentially a photo – of that moment in history. Obviously it would not exactly be a photo since a photo by definition needs a camera to take a photograph.

The Records Recaller however would not do this. Instead it would run an incredibly complex algorithm that would take the current properties of all the atoms on earth and reconstruct them linearly backwards to the point you indicated. It would then take that information and decode it to an image that would essentially look like a photograph. Then at that point you can press play and see that point in history go forward in time just like you’re watching a video. There would also need to be more parameters for viewing angle and distance of course.

Why do I think this is theoretically possible? Since information can neither be destroyed (except for possibly a blackhole) or created (except for possibly a white hole) it seems reasonable to me that a smart enough computer could run the equations and figure out how to go from A (the present) to B (the past). It’s not wholly dissimilar from what a detective would do. Look at a crime scene, examine evidence and tell us what happened at that crime scene in the past. My machine will do it billions of times more accurately however. In theory we could calculate this large amount of data with a large enough computer (maybe quantum computer or some other huge leap in technology) might one day allow us to do this.

Regardless, I think it’s a fun thought experiment for now if nothing else. What would a world look like if this invention were ever to materialize into reality?

Trials: Trials would be really different and much faster. We should still bring in a jury I think, but rather than have them listen to witnesses just have them watch the machine display the time of the crime from many different angles. The defendant would be allowed to try and explain why it looks the way it looks, but it’s up to the jury to judge the evidence against that. The need for blood samples, DNA, fingerprints, etc. would essentially be obsolete. Our overpacked court system could get unclogged for the first time in many many years.

Crime: I can’t find studies on this, but it is my guess that there is a certain segment of the population that only obey certain laws because the potential of getting caught is not worth the the gain from breaking said law. I don’t know what that percentage is, but I can tell you that this would shoot that number really close to zero. Any crime could be caught with irrefutable evidence as long as someone knows to look for it. The only way you wouldn’t get caught is if you either 1. Did nothing wrong or 2. No one ever happened to punch in the right time and place coordinates to find the evidence that you ever did it. For small crimes like taking acid the risk may still be worth it. But robbing a bank, defacing someone’s property, or another big crime, someone would certainly know about it and would have access to proving it. I know this won’t eliminate all crime, but it will eliminate some.

Conspiracy Theories: Human beings have the ability to deny anything. I could deny the existence of breakfast cereals even if you handed me a box of Frosted Flakes. I could deny that the box is real. It’s unlikely that I’d get many others to agree with me, but I could do it. However, most people seem to bend their wills to overwhelming evidence. I believe the evidence is clear that JFK was assassinated by a lone gunman. You may interpret the evidence differently and conclude that it was the result of an as of yet still secret conspiracy. But I bet we can both agree that it would be immensely satisfying to watch the assassination on the Records Recallerr from several different angles. If in fact there was a bullet fired from a second gunman on the grassy knoll then I will change my mind and say there’s more to it than a lone gunman. However, if we see that all the bullets originated with Oswald’s gun then you have to admit that he was the lone gunman.

Sidebar: I think most conspiracy theories are wrong. But I wouldn’t mind being proven wrong. I just wanna know the truth. And secretly I would enjoy being wrong on a number of things like the existence of fairies and vampires and super powers.

“Bill Nye, do you believe in ghosts? No. However, I’d love to see one.” –Bill Nye (http://youtu.be/N22eMZP5phI 19:59)

Patents: No one could ever falsely claim they came up with something first unless it was true. The Records Recaller would prove them correct or not. If someone claims they are lying and they can prove it by showing the point in time where the liar stole the idea then we take the patent from that person and give it to whomever it belongs. One thing we’d need to define is who has the right to the patent? If the Records Recaller were to be invented I don’t think I have any rights to its patent. I didn’t put the time into inventing it. And even if this blog post was the direct inspiration for someone to build it (possible, but unlikely) then I believe it would be solely the discretion of the patent holder to give me any credit and/or monies. If they decide to then that’s awesome, but if they decide to give me no credit then I think that’s cool. I can still honestly claim I thought of it first, but that should not earn me any of the money from holding the patent. And of course this would also be true for copyrights as well.

Relationships: No more lying to your significant other and getting away with it. Just tell the truth no matter what.

Skeletons: We all have secrets. But what if we didn’t? What if we all dropped the pretense that we’re all blemish free? Your secrets wouldn’t be posted on your Twitter feed in some Scarlet Letter type way. But rather you would know that any curious individual could find out your deepest darkest secret with the push of a button. That time we shoplifted and never told anyone? It’s on the screen. The time you hit someone and they didn’t see you and you never took responsibility? The time you swore you bought condoms or fed the dog or whatever. It’s now all discoverable in a world with the Records Recaller. And with them all accessible to everyone maybe we can stop feeling so much shame and just admit that we’ve all done things we are ashamed of and that’s totally fine.

Politics: Any money exchanging hands. Any affairs. Any crazy thing that resembles a moment from the show House of Cards or the movie A Clear & Present Danger or any other scandalous political thriller story. Politicians would be forced to clean up their lives or voters would have to just accept that those types of incidents will happen in politics.

Religion: A fundamental belief of Christianity is that Jesus of Nazareth died on a cross and later came back to life. Of course there are several other beliefs in Christianity, but this is one of the lynch pins. If the Records Recaller could prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that that happened, then Christianity would likely reign supreme as the one true religion and many people would convert to it from their current beliefs or lack of beliefs. Conversely, if it proved that the crucifixion and resurrection did not happen then Christians would be forced to admit that their belief system is either incorrect or redefined in some way. What if we saw footage of Muhammed ascending into Heaven? Would you convert to Islam if faced with overwhelming evidence? What about the plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, Joseph Smith’s golden plates? The complete fabrication of the teachings of Scientology? etc. If the Records Recaller could ever exist it could definitively answer the question: If there is a supernatural force and which religion (if any) accurately describe it?

Just curios, did the last paragraph make you feel bad at all? It did for me. I wonder why that is. That seems to imply that I either have a doubt in my mind about my belief system or a I wish to cling to my belief system even if it’s possibly untrue? Or both. But why are those things making me feel bad? Do I have a bias for my beliefs over a different set? Well…yes. I have to. If I didn’t really care about my beliefs they wouldn’t be my beliefs. They would be a non-issue. Do I care which form of writing (Cursive or print) is taught in schools? Nope. I don’t know, but I don’t care. So, if you changed it from one to the other that would be fine with me. But my belief system. That seems way more touchy. Whether we live after death or have a person-like entity there to hear us when we pray? Yeah. It’s a touchy subject.

Lost History: Historians recently discovered strong evidence for how the ancient Egyptians actually built the Pyramids (http://phys.org/news/2014-04-ancient-egyptians-pyramid-stones-sand.html). And it wasn’t with the help of aliens. There were theories, but nothing that everyone felt completely confident about based on evidence. This new thing is based on evidence. So, most everyone is jumping on board. It’s amazing how many pieces of our recent history (20,000 years or so) are so unexplained: Easter Island, Teotihuacan, The Voynich Manuscript, etc. Wouldn’t it be cool to fire up the Records Recaller and see the answers to all those mysteries? And we don’t just have to stop there. We can watch human beings from 40,000 years ago. Maybe there is a lot to learn from doing what we can’t even imagine. Grad students could devote a lot of their time collecting the exact coordinates to input to let you see certain major events in history such as the invention of fire, the Trojan War, Amelia Earheart’s whereabouts, etc. It would be very similar to how astrophysicists devote a lot of their time to looking at different patches of the night sky. The historians would devote their time to looking at different patches of the Record Recaller’s history archives in creating a master index of coordinates or web addresses.

There are probably way more applications for this machine if it ever actually came to be. Write your thoughts in the comments. I’d love to hear them. Would you use the machine or not? If so, what would you wanna look up?

To me just the discussing of this is a step in the right direction for humanity. We need to think about our beliefs as not necessarily fact until proven.

Oh, and if anyone does ever invent this machine, they could theoretically use it to go back to July 1st of 2014 at 12PM PCT and see that I did conceive of the idea back then. =)

Why I Believe In Darwinian Evolution Through Natural Selection

Some people might say, ‘the reason to believe in evolution is that it’s true. Period.’

I disagree with this. Change the word ‘evolution’ to some other word and it doesn’t work.

‘The reason to believe that WWII happened is because that’s true. Period.’

Here’s why that sentence doesn’t make sense. No one is magically given truth as a child. And there are so many facts that some people think are universal knowledge, but really aren’t. We have to find stuff out when we learn it. Sure, we learn about WWII pretty early in life because people before us decided to put it in text books and erect museums and make movies, etc. But we can’t know that it happened. And if we hear from one particular source, then why should we believe it? But, when it comes to WWII we have a whole bunch of sources. So, becomes more tempting to believe it the more sources we get.

But it is hypothetically possible that WWII didn’t happen. Here’s a way: Everyone got together in the 1930s and decided that the future generations should believe that a huge war took place again shortly after WWI for some reason. So they shot some films, printed up newspapers, created weapons, killed off a large portion of our population, etc. They would have to do all this for the evidence to be there without a war having actually happened. But as far as I know at age 32 (two more weeks til 33) it’s possible that it was all faked.

That is possible. But also seems highly unlikely.

So, I weigh the unlikeliness of the two scenarios in my brain. In that way, my sense of logic and truth act like a scale. Huge conspiracy theory on one side. WWII on the other. My life experience tells me that conspiracy theories are harder to pull off the more people you involve. And a conspiracy this big would have involved whole nations to put together. Therefore it is highly unlikely and I believe WWII really happened.
The fact that the statement is truthful does not prevent me from going through a process to believe in its truthfulness. I would go through the same process for any claim.

Sometimes the process is short:

‘Do you believe in bridge trolls?’

‘No.’

Sometimes the process takes a lot longer:

‘Do you believe in quantum entanglement?’

‘I’ll have to get back to you on that.’

And then I would pile up the evidence and apply my life experience and come up with the answer of ‘yes I do, but I’m not as certain about that as I am about bridge trolls, because I don’t fully understand it.’

Evolution is real to me. Mainly, because the sheer number of scientists who must be wrong or lying to make it false is extremely large. I can’t believe based on my life experience that that many educated people could be involved in on a conspiracy or be completely wrong, or a mix of both. It’s too unlikely.

So, evolution must be real. And even though I find the evidence to be fascinating, I don’t really need to ‘see it for myself’ anymore than I require my physician to show me his diplomas, test scores, and pictures of him in college. It’s very unlikely that he is where he is if he’s lying. The likelihood of that seems much less than the likelihood he’s telling the truth.

And I don’t require a time machine to prove to me that WWII happened or the War of the Roses or the reign of James I.

I’m happy to discuss proof of evolution if you like. I actually love talking about that stuff. In another life (if you believe in Hinduism or some other multi-life reality) I am a scientist by day who is obsessed with acting, but never really tries it professionally. But in this life I’m not a scientist. Just a struggling actor. So, when I look at the evidence I have to take the scientists’ word for it that it looks the way that one interprets it to be what they say it is. I’ve read so much about the stars. But I’m still not an expert. I just have to trust experts.

Experts can be wrong, but what is the likelihood that this many scientists over the years and living today were all wrong about this issue they all seem so sure about? I would say low or slim to none.

Just add up the numbers of scientists who currently believe this vs. those that don’t. Then see how those numbers are affected by going back in time to the evidence? Evolution started out as a fringe idea. Evidence was presented and more people bought into it. As more evidence was brought in more scientists believed it. Same thing is true of gravity and quantum physics and many other ideas.

The opposite is true of the luminiferous ether. It was thought of as an idea with no evidence – a hypothesis. Then as contradictory evidence was presented fewer and few believed in it. Now, practically no scientist believes in the existence of the ether. It’s not a controversy.

The idea of the ether doesn’t make people uncomfortable. The idea that our great great great great great great (add a few thousand more greats) grandfather looked more like an ape as we know them today than they did a human. If you find that fact uncomfortable then I understand wanting to believe in Creation Science. But you need to admit that. Not that the evidence is strong. It’s not. It’s constant stream of falsified evidence and misunderstandings of scientific concepts and nothing more. But we can fool ourselves more easily because of our desire to be right.

I have no desire for evolution to be true. I’d be fine if the evidence supported creation science. I believe what I believe based on the evidence and not on my personal desires. If you show me more evidence for your case than I can find against it then I believe in your thing. Sound capricious? It shouldn’t be. It seems like the only way to make decisions to me.

As I said, I’m happy to dialogue about this. But only in a calm and friendly manner. If it gets yell-y or inflamed up in here then I’m deleting your comments off my blog. This is not a news source, this is my own private corner of the web. I will not delete your comment if I disagree with you. But I will if you get rude.

Thanks y’all!
Rich

What’s Your Goal?

Students ask me after they’ve taken an improv program or class the following question a lot: “What should I do next?”

My response is always, “What’s your goal?” If you don’t know what you want out of a class how can you judge whether or not you should take it?” A lot of students appear to get lost in the labyrinth of classes sometimes. They graduate the beginning improv program and take Conservatory. They get done with that and sign up for the writing program. Take a long form class. Take a music improv class. Etc. Nothing wrong with taking classes to make yourself better, but you need to know why you’re taking that class? Just for fun? Because it will give you another tool in your tool-belt of improv to help your chances of getting cast? And what’s the point of getting cast onto an improv entity? Is it money? Respect? Fun? Because you love it more than anything else in the world and you need to get your fix? Because whether it’s accurate or not it seems to you like the best step to take to reach your ultimate goal?

If you’re goal with improvisation is fun only, go nuts. Take all the classes you want. If it’s fun to do, but not something you wish to go pro in, then stick with your day job, take a night or three a week to doing this fun thing and repeat. But if you wanna be on Saturday Night Live and you think that taking every class in the catalog will necessarily get you there then maybe you should re analyze what you’re doing.

The reason people like Vanessa Bayer and Michael O’Brien and Tina Fey and so many others get cast on SNL has little to nothing to do with what all classes they took. Sure, taking classes is almost always the first step. And they all did that. But none of them exhausted the catalog at any given training center. They learned in the classroom and starting putting themselves out there. They learned on the job so to speak. They made sure to produce their own sketches and improv teams and what not. They devoted the lion’s share of their ‘learning experience’ to learning from doing rather than learning from a classroom.

As I write this I’m reminded that I teach improv at two different theatres and it’s a portion of my income. So, I’m certainly not trying to talk anyone out of taking a class. I want to teach you. Others do too. And you’ll learn. But I can’t imagine ever giving someone this advice, “You should always be enrolled in an improv class of some sorts. That will really be important when it comes to getting hired for gigs,” if asked the best way to get to SNL.

Let me be clear. I don’t know how to get on SNL. I’ve never even auditioned for them. Many of my friends have. But I never put a lot of time or effort into trying to get an audition. It’s just not my passion. I’m sure I would love it if I got the chance. And I’d work my ass off to try and be good at it. But I really wanna get into episodic television. Sure, SNL is a path that has lead some people to episodic television (Kevin Nealon got famous on SNL long before Weeds for example). But it’s not a guaranteed path and it takes a lot of luck and a lot of hard work to get that job. I just feel that I have other goals taking up my time and work, so I never did a lot for the SNL thing particularly.

That said, I know a lot more about upping your chances to audition for that show then the vast majority of people I’ve taught improv to. I know what not to do for example. I know what others have done. And I know in a general sense what helps in show business.
Show business almost always rewards people who put in the work. And while taking classes can be challenging, it’s only a first level. It’d almost be like wanting to be the world’s greatest chef and only learning how to obtain ingredients really well. At some point you gotta graduate to the actual cooking part. Then the refining part. That is a whole other level.

How do you react when you have an audience of two watching your 11PM show on a Tuesday? When you find something that works for them, you know you understand comedy better than most. And it takes a while and it’s different for everyone. But when you can be fearless in front of any crowd and turn almost any situation as a win for your performance then you’ve mastered an ability nearly impossible to teach in a class room environment.

So, I can’t give you an answer to ‘What should I do next?’ Unless you can clearly state to me your goal and make me understand both your strengths and weaknesses. It’s a mathematical formula really. Your abilities minus your weaknesses divided by your goal equals a set of possibilities each with a different rough estimate for their likelihood at success.

(S-W)/G ={xy}

However, just because it’s math doesn’t mean that anyone can answer your question if they have all the variables. Through my experience I have a wider range of knowledge about the possibilities than most people. I’ve just been at this game for a while. Again, I can guarantee nothing. But I feel like my advice is often more likely to help than that of another student’s. So, I encourage you to ask me if you want my opinion. I’m happy to be honest with you. But first you have to be honest with yourself.

If you set a goal for yourself you must factor out all humility, deprecation and negativity in general. If you can admit that you wanna be the next Chris Farley, then you literally took the first step to becoming that. I don’t know if you’ll eventually take all the necessary steps to complete that journey. That’s up to several other factors. But I can tell you that no journey starts on the second step. Chris Farley could only have become Chris Farley because at one point he decided he was going to do just that.

In his case, his skill, luck, perseverance & timing worked out to help him arrive at that goal. You may not. But my point is that you’re guaranteeing failure if you won’t even admit that it’s a goal. Sure, it’s possible to ‘stumble’ into that life. It’s also possible to win the lottery if you only play one ticket. But if I really wanted to win the lottery I don’t think I’d only buy one ticket. I’d only buy one ticket if I wanted to in the weakest of senses.

Please don’t confuse me with a self-help guru. I’m not saying it’s there for the taking and you need to decide to take it. That’s misleading verbiage. I’m saying I have no idea if it’s there or not. But I know it won’t be there if you don’t make it your goal. Once you do that, there are a million more factors involved. It’s like unlocking the first gate in a series of eight gates. May only get through four or three. But you’ll get none if you don’t start with a plan to get any.

My best advice other than that? Buzz trumps all. You may be the most talented improviser on the east coast. But if no one is talking about you, it will mean little. You basically have to go viral. I don’t mean that necessarily in the youtube video sense. That’s a way to do it, but entertainers needed to display this quality long before the internet.

If I go see your performance and I tell my friend then chances are other people are telling their friends. We have this innate human quality to want to share our entertainment with others. It’s as if we take ownership of a video we saw on Youtube just by virtue of the fact that we saw it. And now it’s our responsibility to preach it’s gospel to the masses.

So, as entertainers our best bet is to figure out what we can do to get people to talk about us in a positive way. Here’s an fictional conversation as an example:

Guy: I saw the Second City mainstage show last night.

Boss: How was that?

Guy: Amazing. There was this tall guy who did a great bit where he was the gay friend to a bunch of Shakespeare female characters.

Boss: That’s a funny idea. I gotta go check this show out.

In my make believe conversation the guy was telling his boss about a show from 2005 at Second City that one day would become the viral video hit series ‘Sassy Gay Friend’ with Brian Gallivan. It didn’t just amuse the audience. Most good shows will amuse the audience. This show amazed this guy. And that amazement inspired him to talk about the show with others.

So, whatever you do: voice over, pantomime, 90s song parodies, etc. Do it well and often enough to get people talking about you. It will almost always lead to opportunities once you get people to talk about you. It’s like you’re impressing the audience into becoming your publicists unofficially.

Is that my goal with this blog? Nah. This blog is for me. Maybe it will go viral one day. Probably not. It’s not my goal. But sometimes a single ticket buyer wins the lottery.

I dare you to ask yourself what your real goal is.

My first one man show!

I am exhausted. But I’m so damn wired from doing my one man show tonight that I can’t sleep. So, instead I’ll blog…

I sang with choirs since I was in single digits. I had my first solo when I was 11. I performed in show choirs, a cappella choirs, quartets, duos, musicals, plays, and several talent shows before graduating high school. Since then I’ve done over 10,000 improv shows. Somewhere around 300 stand up performances. Somewhere around 500 or so sketch performances. A handful of other performances in various genres as well. But tonight was the first time I ever performed a one-man sketch show.

I wrote the whole show by myself. I came up with the running order. It was two songs, three true stories, and several comedy sketches. The house was 15 people. The running time was about 42 minutes.

It was the most challenging thing I’ve done in a long time relative to me. Someone with little improv experience might think that doing a fully improvised show is super hard. And to them it would be. I don’t think that one-man shows are necessarily harder. But they are difficult in a vacuum and particularly so when your strength is making up a show rather than writing, memorizing, and executing a show completely alone.

Having said that, I really liked doing it. And I wanna make the show I did better and do it more. I don’t know if it will ever become something big. But it’s very rewarding to put so much effort into creating something and seeing it entertain an audience.

Improv is awesome. It’s by far the genre of performing I’m most experienced in. I’ve taught hundred, maybe even thousands of students at this point. I’ve performed so much of it that I have no idea how to quantify it. I am not in anyway dogging improv. The ability to perform a show where I constantly am surprised by what I create is amazing.

But there’s also something a bit fleeting about improv. It’s kinda like a snowflake. It’s beautiful, but it melts immediately after it’s done falling. Having written a one-man show I have a baby. Something I’ve made. And I can hone it and polish it and do it again…assuming I can find a theatre willing to let me of course.

It’s extremely satisfying to be able to point to something and say, ‘I made that.’ Even if it’s something experiential like a show. A painter can literally show you the painting or a photograph of the painting any time. I can’t show you the show unless I’m putting it up and you’re experiencing it. But I’m still able to describe it concretely unlike improv.

“What’s your improv show like?”
“Well, it’s all made up on the spot, so I can’t really describe the content. Only the procedure by which I do it.”
“What about your one man show?”
“It’s a 45 minute show about breakups and how we deal with ending relationships. There are songs and sketches and stories. There’s a moment of serious reflection, a lot of dumb bits, and hopefully a larger thesis to the show about using humor to help us get over an otherwise painful experience.”

Again, I love improv. But I really like how I forced myself to create something real as opposed to just doing on-the-spot performances that fade into nothing after they are done.

I guess I’m just proud of myself that I put real effort that was outside of my comfort zone into something for the first time in a while. I heard someone say once that we’re always getting stronger or weaker. There’s no such thing as being truly stationary. I dunno if that’s true, but after this show I definitely grew a bit more as an artist.

A huge thank you to my girlfriend CJ for all her support. And a big thank you to all my friends who made it out to see the show. And also thanks to the many that couldn’t make it out, but sent their well wishes to me.