Sea of Idiocy

Okay people. I try to keep it pretty positive here, but I truly want to know: what do you do when you feel like you’ve lost faith in humanity as a whole?

I’m incredibly lucky in that my personal world or “Bubble” is filled with wonderful, amazing, beautiful people, but I can’t help but feel like my personal sampling is greatly skewed when event after event after event seems to definitively tell me that those amazing people are vastly outnumbered by vast sea of idiocy, or Idiosea, whose tides cannot be stemmed, sandbagged, leveed or otherwise contained. I’m seriously ready to be abducted by aliens.

Impostor Syndrome

I know that “impostor syndrome” is something that most people feel, no matter how successful, loved, etc. I definitely feel it, but interestingly I realized today that I feel it much more acutely as a musician than as an actor. I’m generally pretty comfortable and confident when doing acting or voiceover work (not that I don’t have my moments of insecurity), but with music, it’s different. Especially when dealing with other musicians I respect or admire. I get super nervous and in my head. I wondered what the difference was and I have a theory. I think it’s because acting is far less “quantifiable.” It’s far more amorphous and subjective and hard to measure.

Though music has those qualities as well to some degree, there is a technical aspect to it that can be measured and quantified. How well you play technically and how much knowledge you have. Can you play any scale known to man at inhuman speeds? Not that this is by any means the end all, be all, but just one example of something quantifiable. Did they hear you mess up that note in that solo? I know that it’s ridiculous. I’ve been a musician for over 30 years. It’s one of the ways I actually make a living. The quantity and breadth of my experience is dense and deep. And yet I so often feel like some kind of “amateur” when dealing with other people. Or more accurately, I believe that is what they will think of me. It lines up with one of my core insecurities which is that I don’t have low self esteem at all. I am quite proud and confident of who I am and the gifts I possess, and yet for some reason I always think that no one but me recognizes that. I never assume my own self image will extend to others’ image of me.

We humans are strange. I’m not sure of the point of this post other to let all you fake impostors out there know that you are not alone. Even Paul McCartney admitted to feeling this way until fairly recently. Many of the people you idolize have the exact same feeling, though to us that would seem ridiculous. Just know that the only impostor is the lying voice that tells you you are going to be found out as an impostor.

Heath Vs. The Intradimensional Ninja Roach

I feel something tickle my foot while I’m at my computer desk. I look down and it’s one of those giant “water bugs” that most people call “Cockroaches.” It runs further under my desk up against the wall.

I rush into the kitchen to find something to spray it with. All I can find is 409 All surface cleaner, but I figure that should do the trick. I come back and of course it’s no longer where it was. Crap. It could be anywhere. As luck would have it I quickly spot it near my desk. I start spraying it with 409. It runs under my desk again. I spray it all the way. It’s back against the wall and now amongst my tangle of carious cables back there. I grab a Whataburger drink lid to try and get it out to dispose of it. I swipe at it once…it gets jarred a bit but is still amongst the wires. I swipe at it again and it gets knocked…where? I don’t see it! Anywhere. I get a head lamp and my phone and start taking pictures and videos to try and locate it. It must have gone up under the portion of my desk where my computer sits which is only open from the back.

Shining the light I take a few photos and then several videos. It’s nowhere to be found. I search the wires. All around and under the desk. Nothing. Several times I give up because I’ve looked everywhere. But then I think “It can’t just disappear!” and search again. Nothing. Under the desk is totally clear. It’s like it just disappeared into thin air. I repeat this disbelief and thorough search several more times. Utterly baffled. There’s nowhere it could be. I put the 409 back in the kitchen. Sit down at my desk.

There’s a tickle on the other foot. The motherfucker is still alive and back from the intradimensional portal whence it vanished. Thinking quickly, I grab the empty Whataburger cup and place it in front of him. He seems at least slightly sluggish due to the 409 dousing earlier or possibly from traveling between dimensions or using whatever spells, powers or magical items that allowed it invisibility or planar travel.

It crawls in. I put the lid on. I take it to the bathroom where I flush this double-foot-violating fiend down the toilet. I am the ultimate victor. Were this another time and place, bards would write odes about me.

For the rest of the night, I imagine phantom paranoid tickles on my feet.

Let’s Have A Real, Raw Talk About Suicide

The subject says it all. This post will contain real, raw, vulnerable talk about depression and suicide. You have been warned.

In the wake of Chris Cornell’s death being ruled a suicide, there has been a lot of talk about the subject. This great article talks about “When Suicide Doesn’t Make Sense” and really got me thinking. I realized that the Chris Cornell situation resonates with me more than usual. Because I too have felt that darkness and I believe that I too fall into that category of people where others would be horrifically surprised if I ever committed suicide. I don’t think anyone would say or think “Well, it’s sad, but not surprising. He was someone who seemed to have a lot of demons to battle,” or anything.

Now just to head off any alarm bells or concerns, I am fine and I honestly don’t think I could or would ever kill myself. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t thought about it. That doesn’t mean I haven’t laid in bed at night and just wished for a quiet death in my sleep and to not wake up to another day. I have felt that darkness. The darkness that is a lie but seems so real. I have called a suicide prevention line. I have composed suicide notes in my head and once even wrote one out, not because I actually had intentions, but just to see if actually writing it helped as an exercise, or an emotional purge like many say journaling can be. I have contemplated the ways in which I would do it if I ever did. The most painless. Ways in which I would just disappear and never be found and no one would know what ever happened to me. I have fantasized about running away and starting a new life under a new identity and “Heath Allyn” just becoming a mysterious unsolved disappearance (though when followed through, this idea is laughable to me as I could never do that either).

When Owen Wilson attempted suicide, many had the same reaction as to Chris Cornell. Wonder and disbelief. “But he’s rich and famous and has a great life!” At that time, I was lucky enough to also not understand. I didn’t condemn him or judge him at all, I just didn’t understand what could have possibly driven him to that. Then I distinctly remember a day not too terribly long ago when I came to the realization that I now understood. I didn’t want to. I longed for that time when it was a completely alien concept to me, but now the understanding was there.

I think a key point that people don’t seem to understand is that when people are driven to suicide, it is usually because the person legitimately feels like everyone and the world in general would be better off without them. It is a delusion but it is not out of selfishness or weakness or whatever other stigmas exacerbate mental illness and its ramifications. In fact, this is one of the key details that tells me I am not in danger of becoming another victim of mental illness. The fact that even in my darkest hours, I could never kill myself because I know how much it would devastate those who love me. There’s been times I felt trapped by that, in fact. I didn’t want to be here any more but I “couldn’t do that to other people.”

I am generally a truly, genuinely positive person who strives to be a shining light in the world. I constantly work on myself and have come a long way. It’s not a front or a happy face I put forward to the world, it is truth. Few see, experience, know or hear about the darkness I’ve experienced and that’s why I think my suicide would fall into that category of shocking and unexpected. I don’t write this for sympathy, pity or because I need help or anything. I write this for everyone out there fighting their own demons and battles to let you know you are not alone. Every single person you see is probably fighting some degree of unknown, unseen darkness. People that you would never expect have anything in common with you. It’s a tragedy that help is so hard to get in this country and usually the hardest for those who need it most. I love therapy, but I can’t afford it. That’s probably a pretty common situation. But keep fighting. Keep searching. There are many avenues. Talk to friends. Call a hotline. Try yoga. Read Eckhart Tolle. See a psychic. Read a book. Listen to music (that battles the demons, not that feeds them). Watch movies (again, seek out material that helps support you, not that helps you spiral).

One thing I find so interesting about the human psyche and depression specifically, is that it is self reinforcing. It makes you avoid all the things that would help (out of protection for itself, I suppose) and seek out that which feeds it and strengthens it. I don’t care who you are, the world is not better without you. It needs you. If we can each bring even a tiny, dim light, together we can be a supernova. We can defeat the darkness, though it will try its hardest to convince you otherwise.

RIP Chris Cornell

I first heard of Chris Cornell somewhere around 1990 when Ben Kent, the drummer for N The Rutz, the band I was in, was a HUGE Soundgarden fan. I have since and always will associate Soundgarden with Ben, who is still one of the best drummers I’ve ever played with. I understand the darkness and how life can just seem too hard to continue at times. I’m sorry the darkness won this battle with Chris.

Here’s my tribute to Chris Cornell. This was my favorite song of his, “Can’t Change Me.” I hope he will excuse the sloppiness as I just learned it today and this was the 2nd time I ever played and sang it but it’s about the tribute and not perfectionism (which is hard for me to let go of, even though I know that way lies madness).
#ChrisCornell #RIP

Dream Theatre 36

I dreamt that my friend, Mical, got me an invite to a special VIP house party. Turns out Madonna was playing the party and everyone was super excited except for me since I’m not really a huge Madonna fan. She started the show outside and seemed disappointed at the small crowd but then she got inside the packed two story house and was visibly surprised by the huge crowd there. I was at an upstairs railing looking down into the living room where she was performing.

Later, after the concert was over, they were playing music over the sound system and I heard a little bit of my song “Infinitesimal” begin to play. This wasn’t super surprising since I knew I had submitted all my music to possibly be part of the mix, but then somehow it wasn’t my actual song, but some random radio promo I’d recorded using that song and so everyone was very puzzled by this weird promo, like me doing a DJ break on a radio station talking about upcoming events and such. I was also puzzled as to how this mix up had occurred and how the hell this random recording got in there.

Creatures of the Night…

I’ve always skewed toward a vampiric schedule when left to my own devices. I find it interesting though in that it’s very dichotomous and sometimes I feel ambivalent about the late hours.

On the one hand, part of me feels alive and like there’s so much potential. Most of the world is asleep and it’s almost as if time is frozen in a way. A time to dream, whether you are awake or asleep. There’s not much actual “action” you can take, especially anything involving regular businesses or most people, but you can hope and dream and maybe work on some projects yourself.

But on the other hand, I feel tired and unproductive. Like a child I don’t want to go to sleep, yet part of me does. All potential is frozen in amber. It can feel lonely and foreboding. Sometimes even hostile or threatening. For the most part nothing can be done until tomorrow. No answers or progress will come.

It can feel like so many things all at once. A paradox. Yin-Yang. Will tonight be a friend? An enemy? A lover? An obstacle? Some mix of many elements? It was made for dreamers like me. Not all dreams are good. And without actions, dreams remain ephemeral, ethereal and amorphous. Like grasping at mist.

Dream Theatre 35

In this dream, Robin Wright and I were in love but she was married to Mark Knopfler, guitarist for Dire Straits. The tone of the dream was strange as if maybe it was a movie. In this love triangle, Mark was not a good spouse. He was mean and grumpy. The three of us were there finally confronting the situation. Mark pulled a gun on me and then Robin pulled a gun as well, with the intention of using it on either of us if we tried to kill the other. I wrestled Mark’s gun from him and as a show of good faith to Robin, I set the gun down by her. Mark then left grumpily and Robin and I decided to run away together. Then we had hot sex on a table. I win!

It was later brought to my attention that there’s a strange connection here as Robin, of course, played Buttercup in The Princess Bride and Mark composed the score for it!

Artificial Intelligence Christmas Carol

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.

Accolades Are The Dessert, No The Sustenance

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.