There are many articles such as this one and this one about The University of Toronto using something called “Neural Karaoke” to feed a computer images and then have the computer compose a song from that image. One of the results is this AI composed Christmas Carol.
I immediately knew I had to do a rendition of this wonderful song that some find incredibly creepy. So first I made some simple notation which you can download here to hand out if you want to play and sing this new perennial favorite.
Then I recorded a fully orchestrated version of the song, which can be heard here.
Happy holidays and may they be filled with lots and lots and lots of flowers.
I’ve received many congratulations on my B. Iden Payne nomination, which is absolutely wonderful and I am very grateful and honored. But I’ve also seen a lot of people bummed out by not being included.
I have a very complicated relationship with awards and such for this reason. For every person that wins (or is even nominated), there are countless great, talented people who are not. So a handful of us feel really great, and a whole lot of others feel not so great. Some people don’t care. Some take it in stride. Some are bitter. There’s a whole range.
Look, I am thrilled and honored to be recognized for what I feel may have been one of my best stage performances of my 34 year acting career, but PLEASE know that these things are the icing. The dessert. They cannot be the sustenance which you need to feel nourished and validated, They are based on opinions. You just have no way of knowing what went into these thought processes.
We are human. We have egos. Most performers are particularly sensitive and want to be loved and validated and accepted. It’s a strange field in that artists are generally vulnerable and sensitive and yet have to work in a business of rejection and often feeling overlooked or unappreciated.
As long as there have been awards there have been feelings of bias, popularity, scheming, machinations, shenanigans and chicanery, or schemachinaniganery, to quote myself from the La Fenice show, “The Sparrow of Roma.” But in the end only a drop in the ocean of artists get recognized.
If it happens to you, enjoy it! I’m not saying shun it and say “down with The Man and the system!” Enjoy your accolades! But don’t let it or the lack of it define you. It doesn’t. I guarantee you there are brilliant, talented geniuses completely unknown and unrecognized. Yet. It’s a long game. A game of persistence. And most importantly, it’s about the work. Again, we are human so don’t ignore any feelings of disappointment. Acknowledge them but keep your head down and do good work. Enjoy any fruits than come your way but don’t get lost in the chase and addiction to them. That way lies eternal bitterness and unhappiness.
Also we are a community. As hard as it can be, learn to genuinely celebrate your peers and colleagues. Share in their happiness. Let your work and the experience of doing what you love be the meal, sustenance and nourishment. And when there is dessert, savor it and enjoy the hell out of it. But know that it is fleeting and ego fattening so it should only be a treat.
We are all in this together. Keep creating. Do good work for the sake of the work. And believe me I know how hard it is. Again, for perspective, I’ve been acting for 34 years and only have had a handful of “desserts.” And I don’t think that’s because I’m not good at what I do. So I’m going to enjoy this dessert, and get back to doing the best work I can do in everything I do. And I hope to work with you.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about divisiveness and how it has always been a major hot button pet peeve for me. I hate it with a fiery vengeance. This also applies to “snobbishness” which is really slightly different flavor but can also fall under this category. I heard a podcast recently (either Radiolab or Invibilia, both of which I highly recommend) where this woman was talking about being bullied as a child. They delved into this angle on how a lot of bullying isn’t even really about being mean or disliking the subject but about how it’s a bonding tactic for the bullies. I see this a lot throughout humanity. People who feel part of a community or bond together by pointing at those “others,” whoever that might be.
Naturally, I’ve seen this acutely leading up to this year’s presidential election. I’ve seen it my whole life in regards to music, movies and all art. “Oh, you like THAT band? HA! They suck! Your taste sucks!” It seems a very common thing these days for people to regard their opinions as facts. It came up in a friend’s post linking to a comedy video about how lame cargo shorts are and how women will find you unattractive if you wear them. I see it in the fact that 90% of my girlfriend’s social activities are “girl’s nights” or”girl’s weekends. Now it doesn’t at all bother me that she goes to these, it’s more that it so rampant and needs to be a thing. I’ve never in my life wanted to have a “dude’s night.” When I want to get together socially it includes all my friends, so it’s true that this is a thing I just don’t get or understand at all, having no parallel or equivalent urge myself.
I’ve seen it with the crazy, viral popularity of Pokemon GO. As fast as it became omnipresent across all demographics, it spawned sour haters and “I don’t play that stupid kid game crap.” I personally loved to see this phenomenon because it seemed the opposite of divisive to me. Suddenly I saw people of all ages, religions, genders, races, professions, etc., all getting out and having fun and sometimes talking to each other. Families. Friends, Groups of strangers in the same area. It made me happy in this world full of divisiveness. Until it also became a tool for others to be divisive and point and laugh and deride.
Deep down, I think we all just want to be loved and accepted. Some might deny that, even to themselves but I think it’s a basic human trait, and when we don’t feel loved or accepted, it hurts even if it’s something stupid like “I like cargo shorts” or “I play Pokemon GO” or “I love Styx,” all of which are true for me. Then something occurred to me today as I was walking. It wasn’t a new though, so I guess it re-occurred. While it always sucks in a way, you could view things like this as a natural filter in some instances. If that person you like doesn’t like what you wear, play, listen to, etc., then as much as it may feel bad in the moment, maybe it’s better to just let those natural filters work. That is, of course, a vast oversimplification, but a principal to think about any time that situation arises.
I mean it may suck if someone I work with on a project doesn’t like me or feels they don’t click with because of some subjective opinion or preference of mine, and in some situations maybe that doesn’t affect their professional opinion of me, but in others maybe it does. And if it does, then as much as it may suck to lose that gig or whatever, maybe it’s for the best.
I try my best to foster unity among all that I meet. I don’t always succeed. I am a passionate person and sometimes I can’t keep my damn mouth shut and contribute to divisiveness but I at least try to keep a vigilant eye on that and strive to perpetually improve. So I apologize for all the times in my life I’m sure I’ve bonded or laughed at some “other’s” expense. It’s not a good thing to do. I’d rather all of us laugh together and not to the detriment or anyone or anything else. It’s much more fun that way.
I recently listened to this episode of the Invisibilia podcast about “flipping the script.” I don’t want to give everything away because you should really listen to it but the basic concept is that most of the time, humans exhibit “complimentary behavior.” Meaning if you’re hostile to me, my instinct is to be hostile to you. If you are nice to me, my instinct is to be nice to you. It talks about some very interesting examples of “flipping the script” or breaking that instinctual complimentary behavior. Such as when a gunman interrupted a dinner party to rob everyone and was invited to sit down and have a glass of wine. Or the story of a town in Denmark where many teens were going over to radical terrorist groups and the story of one in particular that shows how more terrorists are probably created by being harassed, oppressed and unfairly labeled as such by bigots than by any religious beliefs or active recruiting by the terrorist groups themselves and more so how a few police officers made a huge difference by “flipping the script” and reaching out with kindness to Islamic teens who had come back from Syria.
None of this information about meeting hostility with love and kindness was news to me, but it did clarify and remind me how much I need to keep this powerful tool in the forefront of my mind. It’s a hard thing to do and something that doesn’t come naturally to most of the human race and is, I believe, a root cause of so many problems and conflicts. I fail at this constantly. Someone says something rude, mean, attacking or whatever, and your chemicals surge and you start plotting how to verbally eviscerate them, shame them, and belittle them into submission. Which of course, pretty much never works and only serves to solidify them in their hostile and opposing position. There is endless evidence in the world, in history and in my own experience and that of others that this “flipping the script” concept works and is powerful (of course, nothing is 100% or black and white) and yet we still don’t embrace it. We give in to our most primitive animal instincts to lash out.
Since this podcast, I’ve been on high alert, really paying attention to these interactions and have caught myself getting caught up in these situations many times. Luckily for me and my highly privileged life, all pretty minor and petty examples (mostly, but not entirely). And I’ve seen that when I can “flip the script,” it changes everything. When I can manage to be kind, calm, generous, forgiving and extend a hand trying to understand, things immediately take a turn. There was actually a fairly volatile social media “discussion” (I use the quotes because on social media, it’s rarely a discussion as much as two sides yelling, attacking, unfollowing and blocking each other), where after a lot of dicey and tense discussion, I did actually manage to reach one person. One person who actually eventually saw what I was saying and admitted that they needed to really consider the other side because they might have been wrong all this time in their hateful beliefs.
I’ve seen it in trivial interactions between Pokemon GO players and haters. “This game is dumb and you people who play it are dumb!” Most people’s first instinct is to lash back with barbs and insults, but in the instances where someone has instead tried to be cool and explain why they like it and think it’s cool and the benefits of it, etcetera, some people have at least stopped being ass-hats about it while others have actually decided they wanted to download and try it.
I recently had a band gig with a very surly jerk of a sound engineer. It threw my whole night off. I could just let go and have fun at the gig and my playing suffered for it. I was just so in my head about what a judgmental, know-it-all jerk this guy was. He had a huge bias against digital gear (which is all I use and am a huge fan of, and I’m no inexperienced newbie). There was a hum which he insisted had to be my gear, despite several facts that easily proved this could not be the case but there was no talking to him because he knows everything and his sound system is worthy of world class touring acts and he knows all there is to know about everything. At the end of the night, I was still irked but I stopped and took and breath and approached the guy and said “Hey man, I’m sorry if I seemed like a dick. I’m not trying to be a dick and I do appreciate your feedback, knowledge and opinions,” and started a dialogue with him. Immediately, the entire tone shifted and while it wasn’t a 180 degree shift where we walked away best buddies or anything, it was a huge difference and diffusion and suddenly he seemed at least open to discussion as opposed to a brick wall with no flexibility or room for discussion.
Again, “flipping the script” is not easy. In fact, it’s very difficult, at least for me. But I’m hoping it’s like a muscle that can be trained and strengthened, because I have no doubts in its effectiveness even if I suck at it. At least I’m aware of it and always trying to have that awareness and vigilant eye on my interactions. I hope you will too. If more people would, I think it could change the world. And that’s not hyperbole.
In Dream 33, Wade Rowland had just got his basic blue business checks in and a lot of money for artistic endeavors and gave me a bunch of checks. One for $300,000 and one for “7pm” among them for my musical services past and upcoming. I naturally figured that the 7pm was a mistake. Also he said that Elton John loved all his Earl Arbuckle songs and wanted to do an upbeat dance cover of one of them (it had a title in the dream but I can’t remember it). Elton had also hand drawn an album cover for a home made mix CD of Earl’s songs that he’d made.
In Dream 34, the old “teeth falling out” cliche made it’s second appearance for me. I was on set, shooting a movie. They were gearing me up for an action scene where I was sort of dressed like some kind of soldier or navy SEAL type person. There was a white head covering, kind of like a ski mask that was supposed to just leave the eyes uncovered but this one was too big and stretched out so it was sagging and not covering my mouth. I had suggested pinning the top/back in such a way that remedied the situation. Next thing I remember, I was in the house I mostly grew up in until I was about 18, and my teeth were all loose and starting to fall out. Alarmed, I called my doctor who happened to be Dr. Drew. Needless to say, he was very concerned. He asked if they were only falling out on one side, because if so, then that was a sign of testicular cancer and I should get checked for that immediately. I told him that no it was just one side, but all over. Then he was just silent. Uncomfortably silent. And I kept trying to get him to say something. I was saying something along the lines of “What? What is it? Am I dying?” I could tell from his reaction that it wasn’t good.
Then I woke up.
I finally had the old, cliche “teeth falling out” dream!
It started with me noticing the outer layers of enamel on my top front teeth cracking and falling off in little slivers and chunks. I was in the house with my late grandmother (I think she once told me she had teeth falling out dreams, so I wonder if that’s why she was in mine). Then I looked in the mirror and my teeth were really crooked and I though “Oh no! My $6K Invisalign work is all undone!” It was then I realized they were all crooked because they were all loose and falling out. As I hit them with my tongue they just started wiggling around and dropping out of my mouth. I realized that (in the dream) most of teeth had been implants and those were all the ones that fell out. My original natural teeth seemed to be fine. Naturally, I was very panicked. My mom was out somewhere so I think I tried to get her on the phone and was all crying for my mom and wanted her to tell me what to do.
Luckily, I woke up and all was fine with my teeth.
In dream 29, I was visiting my old friend, Esteban, who now was living with his parents in a large very rectangular 2 story house in Kansas City. I was staying there while I checked out Kansas City to see if I wanted to move there.
It was a very warm feeling house in color and design with lots of dark blondish wood everywhere. At least part of the second story had rooms along the perimeter with a railing overlooking down into the first story.
I had a found a really great place to live and was about to finalize the deal When I suddenly realized, “Oh crap! I better research and see if there’s any kind of acting industry here before I move here!”
Esteban also had a baby camel or maybe a llama that was really cute. I also noticed he had a baby tiger kitten. I said “You got a baby tiger?”, and he explained that a friend of his had really wanted to pay with one for her birthday so he had just rented it for a few days.
In dream 30, my friend, Sean, and I were driving to Dallas late at night. As we were almost there, we saw a huge alien ship, bigger than the city itself, descend from the clouds in the night sky. Something happened and the ship started tilting, out of control. As it wobbled and veered, parts of it started hitting the city causing catastrophic damage and explosions. We turned the car around and started driving away as fast as we could, hoping we could outrun the ever expanding fireball.
In dream 31, my friend, Dana, and I were getting ready for some kind of show. However, we were in a strange place that was more like a school crossed with mall. We were in on room and she needed to get to “Room 30” to get finished dressing. To get to Room 30, we had to go through a long stretch of concourse filled with students and other people. Since she was only partially dressed, she sat on the floor and pulled her knees up, curling into a ball and started sort of scooting along using her toes almost like little insect legs to smoothly move along. I did the same, facing her but sort of enveloping her so I was covering her up so no one could see her partially dressed state. I was not quite as adept at the whole using my toes as little legs thing but I made it work.
We got to room 30 and then she showed me a good game to practice for mindfulness. You sat cross-legged with your hands on your knees, one hand facing up, the other down. For the hand facing up, you picked a spot on that same thigh and then after about 25 seconds, as quickly as you could, you tried to turn your hand over and slap the chose spot with the center of your palm directly on the spot. Then you repeated the sequence with the other hand. I tried but both times my alignment was a little off, so I kept practicing. I think we eventually got up and went to finish getting ready for the show.
I had been wanting to learn “Life On Mars” for a long time but hadn’t got around to it. Last night, I hardly slept due to allergies giving me an annoying nasal drip and sore throat. I woke up today and saw that David Bowie had died last night. I thought, “Oh, too bad I never learned that song and even if I had, my allergies would prevent me from doing it justice today.”
Then I thought, “I could learn it right now. And would David Bowie let allergies stop him? Hell no, he wouldn’t.”
There are no words that can express the loss of such an artist in our world, so I’ll just let my meager cover of his amazing music speak for me. I had a weird time trying to get my (better quality external) audio to sync up and look right but after a while of staring and moving things by tiny fraction, it just starts to never look right, but you’ll get the idea.
I also picked the coat I thought Bowie would have liked best.
I never thought Star Wars and spoilers in general would become more of a hot button jihad inducing topic than religion, politics, Mac Vs. PC, or iOS vs. Android, but it seems it has.
There seems to be a new trend that I’m calling the “Spoilers Rights Advocates” who think that after (T=arbitrary and differing individual lengths of time ranging from 3 days to 10 years) that they no longer have any obligation to be considerate of others and if you haven’t seen the movie then “that’s on you.” I’m sure it comes as no surprise that I disagree. Well, I mean it is true that they have no “obligation” or responsibility to do so, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still a great thing to do.
I know of plenty of people who don’t have the luxury that I have of prioritizing going to see a movie. I have a friend who is always extremely busy, pregnant (not always, but at the moment), and wants to watch the original 6 before she goes to see 7. I’ve read many posts from others with other such reasons for not having seen it yet. And they do care. I’ve had a handful of discussions on the matter over the last few days on social media. Some have been very civil and intellectual. Others have ended up with all kinds of aggression, name-calling and fiery indignation coming my way. “Go outside!”, “Get some friends!”, “Get off the internet!” are just a few choice bon mots. Accusations of grandstanding, martyrdom, gaslighting, and so much more! You’d think you had stumbled into a discussion on race, religion and terrorism. Yes, I am a grade A, top choice, huge ass-hat, like an ass-sombrero for thinking that the world would be a better place with a little more consideration (oh, there’s me playing the victim card again…another accusation). I thought I was coming from a good place. I had no resentment, aggression, negative feelings or anything like that, and yet even apologies were met with outright hostility and indignation somehow twisting my words and attempts to diffuse the situation into more accusations. Eventually I realized there was nothing else to do but leave (which I’d tried to do earlier in the meltdown but that was also viewed as me playing the victim and other “tactics” on my part).
I don’t get it. I don’t get the attitude, the ire, or any of it. It’s really this simple with me: consideration has no statute of limitations. People often come back with “Oh, so are you gonna tag spoilers on [SPOILER FROM ORIGINAL STAR WARS], or, [SPOILER FROM SIXTH SENSE], [SPOILER FROM CITIZEN KANE], [SPOILER FROM THE CRYING GAME], [SPOILER FROM ANY SHAKESPEARE PLAY]?”
Yes. Yes I am. Because it costs me nothing. It doesn’t inconvenience me at all. My quality of life and the enjoyment of it is not in any way adversely affected by not posting that spoilery cartoon. Or at the very least tagging it as such. On several such posts, I’ve commented “SPOILER” not to in any way chastise the poster or try to bend them to my will but simply as a warning to anyone who might stumble upon it and care. And there have been comments from people such as “I haven’t seen it yet…mostly bc I have this little baby and also bc Alamo was sold out when we tried to go over the break. I glanced at your pic and then saw the word SPOILER on your friends comment, so I haven’t looked at it again. Thanks Heath Allyn! (For the record, I’m not a huge Star Wars fan so I wouldn’t cry over a spoiler, BUT I would like to be surprised if there’s a big surprise.)”
So again, I didn’t post asking the person to remove their post, or change it or tag it. I just left a comment explaining why I was leaving that comment as a helpful warning. Which has only been a problem once and led to all the above accusations and name calling. The irony is that I don’t even care that much about spoilers. I do try to avoid them but if I get spoiled, it’s not the end of the world to me and it probably won’t affect my enjoyment, but to others, it is a big deal and I can respect that. I have no reason to say “Fuck you, then! That’s your issue! Stay off the internet because my right to post untagged spoilers after (T: see above) trumps your desire to not be spoiled, which you gave up any way by not seeing the movie fast enough to my liking!”
I actually know of someone who just watched the original trilogy last month. Another friend recently reminded me that she had never seen them until I sent her the VHS tapes somewhere around the early 2000’s. There’s tons of “classic” movies I still haven’t seen. Does that mean I think you’re a big jerkface if you you reveal [SPOILER FROM CAVE PAINTING FROM 550 B.C.]? Of course not, but I certainly appreciate it if you are considerate enough to still tag spoilers or ask if I’ve seen it.
With the reactions of some people you would think I had asked them to strangle a small puppy when all I’m really saying is, some people would really appreciate the tiniest morsel of consideration here, and it’s so effortless and easy. I’m sure I have my share of responsibility in these blowups. Poor phrasing, reacting too emotionally. I know one thing I thought was a good idea but ended up being a mistake was that as I was pruning my feed, there were some folks I wanted to know that though I wouldn’t be reading their posts any more, that I really enjoyed their posts overall and would miss them but that doesn’t work in this context. It just ends up sounding like a big “I’M UNFOLLOWING YOU!” announcement, so lesson learned there.
In the end, there’s some generally great people and some people I don’t know at all who now think I’m the biggest douche-canoe on the planet because I think it would be cool to go beyond our “obligations” and “responsibilities” to maybe, possibly help someone out that you don’t even know would appreciate it and maybe, just maybe make the community of humanity just a little better with a drop of extra consideration.
Of course, the only people who will actually read this are people who probably don’t need to read this, so at least let me say, I appreciate you. And if you can take these genuine, heartfelt words and somehow twist them into something negative, then you don’t know me at all. Which is probably true any way! If this particular form of consideration is just too much for you bear, then try to do something, somewhere, even just the smallest token to make someone else’s world a better place on a regular basis. That’s probably a way better plan any way. I guess all I can hope for is that this is some kind of self-regulating Darwinian mechanism that just keeps me surrounded by only the most amazing people. Seems to have worked so far.
I don’t usually do these year end summary things but someone said they liked reading them and it seemed a particularly eventful year for me, so without thinking about it too much, here is a quick summary.
- Had $4000 worth of work done to my car.
- While that car was in the shop, got rear ended so hard it totaled the borrowed car I was in, spun me 180 degrees into an intersection, and I didn’t remember anything for a few minutes.
- Elly moved in with me while the condo she bought was being renovated.
- Got to use my acting and musical talents in the great original play, 100 Heartbreaks, which I loved with a passion. So much so, I’m pretty sure the director hates me because of my impassioned opinions.
- We then both moved into the super sweet renovated condo which we love so much.
- On the 4th of July, narrowly avoided getting hit by a truck that was t-boned and flew right at me landeing inches from me on its side as detailed here.
- About 45 minutes later as also detailed above, I was hit by an oncoming swerving car that luckily hit my back left side, causing me to swerve across the oncoming lane, through a ditch and fence and stopping in a field, totaling that car which had just had $4000 worth of work done earlier in the year.
- My grandfather, Dr. James F. Cooper died. He was a amazing man and beloved figure in the community and the tributes from all over including so many former patients, friends, etc. (such as this one), really drove home what an impact he made. It also inspired this post from me.
- The day after my grandfather’s funeral, I went to visit my dying father for what would be the last time. On September 16 he died from pancreatic cancer and I wrote this eulogy for him.
- I played many gigs with 3 different bands, one of which I’ve been with since 1994.
- I had the pleasure of acting in many different films, commercials, plays, projects, etc. and work alongside many amazing people including a short film with Lance Henrikson!
- Got out and auditioned (and was cast in) Control Issues, an amazing improv show at The Hideout with some of the best people you could ask to perform with.
- I started a new journey with a new agent, Jason at Acclaim Talent is the best!
- I made my living doing only what I love with no day job.
- I battled a lot of frustration, depression, envy, negativity, etc. as we all do.
- I started up my yoga practice again and am on 564 consecutive days of meditation practice.
- I tried my best to find gratitude in every day for all the things in my life.
- I was lucky enough to have the best, most supportive, amazing partner through every day of highs, lows and all the in betweens. Everything is better and easier with a team, even if you sometimes feel like it’s just two of you against the world.
- I continued the incremental (sometimes imperceivable) progress in my career and in my lifelong journey to be the best me I can be. And I look forward to the journey never ending.
I love you all and wish you all happiness in the new year. Thanks to those who love me back regardless of my flaws, May we all enrich each others’ lives and the world at large together. Light and love will always prevail even if it sometimes feels otherwise. Happy New Year!