Dream Theatre 20

In last night’s episode, it’s kind of fuzzy, but I think I was in another movie with Rachel Carothers (one of my co-stars from Moving Day). I remember the distinct feeling that it was interesting because this movie was a kind of juxtaposition to Moving Day though I can’t remember exactly how. I believe that it took place on our characters’ wedding day but that we weren’t getting married for love, but for some practical reason, or some kind of marriage of convenience. That night after the wedding, she was really upset about something. I can’t remember for sure whether it was Rachel herself or the character who was upset. I feel like it was one of those bizarre dream logic situations that don’t make sense where it was sort of neither and both, but it was definitely within the “post-wedding” scenario which means it must have been the characters although I also have to wonder if this dream is kind of a statement or indication about how weird acting can be as far as portraying fictional scenarios while trying to make them “real.” It was all sort of “The movie” and real at the same time, if that makes sense (which it really doesn’t).

I remember Rachel (I don’t remember a specific character name so she shall henceforth be referred to as Rachel) sort of isolating herself in the upstairs portion of the house where we were and only her immediate family were having any contact with her. I remember thinking “how strange to have just married someone but then be isolated from her and kind of distant.” I know that she wasn’t upset with me but that I was just trying to be respectful and give her whatever space she needed and not intrude.I sort of hung around the periphery, concerned about her and getting some updates from family members on how she was doing. I think at one point I was reassuring her kids that she would be alright and there was nothing to worry about. I think that everyone was pretty much up all night, and the next morning I did see her as she came down and she and some family members went to an SUV to go somewhere else. The whole I was sort of this isolated outsider, wishing I could help. I think we acknowledged each other and exchanged a sympathetic/understanding look as she passed and got into the SUV.

To Be Or Not To Be…A Jerk Who Won’t Take “Minor” Theatre Roles

I was raised doing theatre. It’s where I planted my acting roots. As the years went on and I transitioned in to more film and television, I rarely get to do theatre any more. First and foremost, it’s very rare that I’m actually available for the run of a show, much less for all the rehearsal and such as well. I almost always have several other film or band projects somewhere in there, so it’s almost a miracle when the stars align and I happen to hear about a play that’s casting and I happen to be available!

Now, even when that happen, every single time without fail that I agree to do a play, I end up having to pass up something else, or several something elses that come along after. There’s also the time commitment. You have however many rehearsals over a month or three, depending, plus the actual run of the show. In the time it takes to do one play, I sometimes might have done many projects (my highest being 40 projects in 3 months). And it’s probably quite annoying for my agent who is trying to get me work when I’m not available for a large chunk of time.

For this reason, I have to be pretty judicious about if I choose to do a play. Many times I just can’t take anything less than a lead role or at least something major or that I feel is really worth the time as something interesting or “meaty” in some way. I hate this, and I hate addressing it so I usually just don’t audition because I don’t want to have to say “I’m afraid I’m only interested in the lead.” I know that this should be fine. Every time I have, people have been totally understanding (or at least seemingly so) but I can’t help feeling like an egotistical jerk who comes off as “I’m too good for smaller parts.”

On the other hand, I’ve spent 32 years working on my craft and advancing my career and I do have not only a responsibility to be practical and a little more choosy, but I should have the right as well. And not just me, anyone should. Maybe when you’re just starting out you might need to be less picky (like when I used to do any and all extra work I could get into) to get some experience, but we should all have the right to choose to some degree.

Amazingly, this has come up twice recently. I ended up taking a smaller part in Macbeth because I like the director and trusted his judgment when I’d laid out my feelings and he felt these roles were worth my time, and because I wanted to work with him and my friend who is the lead (I did audition for the lead as well).

Now I may be facing it again as I have a callback for another play tomorrow and I think I’m only being considered for a minor role. Part of me thinks maybe I should turn it down (if I’m even offered a role) but there’s always a part of me that doesn’t want to miss out. Part of me who knows that you never know who you might meet or where any particular road might take you. Often, it’s the most unexpected path that ends up going somewhere interesting. There are certainly things I like about this show, and I like to believe the old “There are no small parts, only small actors” and think that I could really do something memorable with whatever I’m given.

But I also don’t want to seem like an egotistical, ungrateful twat either. I guess I’ll just see if there’s even a decision to be made before worrying about it. Or as I like to say, “I’ll tackle that boat when I come to it.”

Dream Theatre 19

In last night’s dream, Johnny Walter, Katie Folger, Jay Barry and I had been transported to Middle Earth and for some reason we had to infiltrate Aragorn’s house in the woods. We had been transported onto the this sort of walkway around the roof. It was a huge sprawling house and so the roof was a series of peaks reminiscent of the Winchester House. We followed the walkway around to a place where thought we could maybe get in. We had some bags and backpacks which somehow accidentally got tossed off the walkway and over one of the roof peaks and were now resting at the opposite bottom edge. Jay was going to venture to try and get them but I told him to wait and I found a nearby garden hose and tied it around him for safety. Turned out to be a good things since while going for our bags, he fell through the roof in one place. I pulled him back up (I’m not sure where Johnny and Katie were at this point, perhaps scouting other places). We regrouped and decided to enter carefully through this hole.

We were now in the top attic level of the house. We followed ti for a ways until it opened up onto an open air walkway, but we couldn’t tell if it had access to where we needed to go. We went back an eventually found a sort of magical gate teleporter that we could tell went down to the next level. We teleported a level down and followed that level until it opened up to an open air deck. A bunch of guards flooded in from the periphery and we defeated them all because we were badasses. I think we were looking for something specific though I can’t remember what. Back inside this level, I remember us doing some backtracking and having to pull ourselves back up through holes in the roof two different times. The first was more difficult and required us booting each other up or reaching from above to help the person below. The second wasn’t as difficult, as I remember just jumping up and the pulling myself through the hole.

Later back inside one of the top levels of the house, Katie expressed some displeasure at something I had said and she told me that I shouldn’t have said that too her as she was suffering from some mental/psychological condition. I apologized but she decided to leave and set out on her own. At this point we heard Aragorn talking to someone and he casually said that he knew we were here and that we should just come down and join him. We did so.

Inside, the house was not all that fancy. It seemed like something built in the 1970’s or 80’s and was quite plain. I distinctly remember it felling like a large but cheap house you would find in the woods about an hour from the nearest city. Aragorn lived here with two other older male relatives. I think one was his father and one was a great uncle or the like. They had 4 big beds all in the same room, which normally would have been a den or living room kind of attached to the kitchen/dining room. I remember either thinking or asking what he did if he wanted to have sex and finding out that apparently it was quite normal with his people to just have sex in his bed even with the other two in the same room in their beds. I thought that was odd but they were a different people with different ways and customs.

Then I woke up.

Do Good For Good’s Sake

I feel like I’ve written about this before, but in my cursory search I didn’t find any posts here about this, so forgive me if I’m redundant.

I try to be a good person. Every day I try to be a better person than I was the day before. I remember this strange day in 7th or 8th grade when I just a complete epiphany. It was like I woke up and saw the world completely differently and want to work on my flaws and become a better person than I had been up until that point in my life. I’ve spent every since then working on just that, and I’m sure I will spend every day of the rest of my life doing just that.

I always try to take the “high road.” I’m not always successful. I try to meet anger and confrontation with peace and understanding. I try to be helpful and generous. My friends are very important to me and I am always trying to sing their praises, get them opportunities whenever I can and say the things that they are too modest to say about themselves. I want the world to know how awesome these people are. This all being said, it’s very important to note once again that I often fail in my endeavors. I am definitely an imperfect being with many flaws. I can be selfish, I have certain behaviors that I don’t know how I feel about and sometimes feel maybe I need a little too much validation and love from others as my fuel. I am hopefully modest enough but not as modest as I’d like to be. So I’m not writing all this to say “Aren’t I a great guy?”

My real point here is that often times the “high road” and trying to be a good person is a very lonely journey. It can often like it a very lop-sided, sometimes one-way street. Sometimes it can feel like you try to put so much into the world, for so many other people but rarely get anything back the other way. And this is the key thing that you need to change if you feel this way. You shouldn’t do good things in hopes of some return or karmic payback. We are all human, and of course it can be frustrating if it feel unreciprocated, which it most certainly will on occasion. You should do go for its own sake. And yet, even then, it’s never truly for its own sake because doing good should make you feel good. Knowing that you’re making the world a better place and helping people you love.

And just as importantly, appreciate and never lose sight of when the good does come back your way. It’s human nature to focus on the negative. You can get ten compliments but it will be that one negative comment that sticks in your head and draws all your focus. Be thankful when someone does sing your praises, or send you a sincere thanks for what you did, or just offers you an opportunity without you even asking. Recognize these things and remember them. And take all the greedy personal joy you like out of the good things you do for others and the world at large, but keep the ego in check and don’t do it for accolades, praise or the hopes of some reward or payback. Those are always dangerous motives.

Well, this suddenly feels over serious. Let’s remedy that.

Dream Theatre 17 and 18

In dream 17 I was hanging out with one of the first girls I ever dated (who, while still in touch on Facebook, I haven’t really talked to in over 20 years, so quite a surprise appearance). In the dream she wasn’t married with children however and there was definitely some flirting/rekindling happening. I remember vague things about being in a mall parking lot, and later I had gone back to someone’s house (maybe hers, maybe a friend’s that I had the key to and was house sitting or something). I remember keeping all the lights off in the house because there was someone I was trying to avoid and I thought they might come by the house and so I didn’t want to know anyone was there. Then I remembered that they also had a key and would probably just let themselves in. I also remember dressing up in a gorilla costume for something, and then playfully playing with/scaring the neighbor’s kids in a fun goodhearted way. The dream ended with another appearance from the ex, as she laid on my lap and we laughed and flirted, both wary of actually getting involved again, yet tempted.

Dream 18 guest starred burlesque star, Eva Strangelove who I met while working on a music video (also quite a surprise appearance). We were both on a cruise ship, I think in some professional capacity. I’m not sure of the details of what either one of our roles were in this particular situation, but something had gone wrong on the boat and everyone was kind of stranded on the ship. I remember a big open area where there were lots of people at table’s playing various board games and such like you would see at a gaming convention. Fast forward and somehow we were now back at Eva’s place (which strangely, had walls that were all covered in that fake wood paneling), though I still remember a feeling of sort of being in the middle of some kind of emergency, like we were still “stranded” in some way. Her husband, Dave was out on the road himself, so we weren’t able to get in touch with him for the moment so I told her to go get some sleep and I stayed up to try and figure things out and work a solution to whatever the problem was. I remember a TV set set up in a nook that was about head height when standing in kind of an odd place, like the nook was right up against the wall, so not prime viewing location, but it felt more for decoration than actual TV viewing. The TV was behind a thin curtain or veil, so I could see the image but not quite make out what it was. As I stared at it trying to decipher what was on happening on the screen, I could also see in the next room that Eva was sleeping, so that was good. She stirred and came out to the couch. I think at that point, either she had finally got in touch with Dave or we were about to do so. Then I woke up.

Potential Results

I think I just put my finger on the hardest part about diet and exercise and trying get in shape and be generally healthy: it’s that you have to work hard now for some potential results that are supposedly down the road. It’s kind of like if someone said “If you let me punch you in the face now, I’ll give you $5000 in 6 months.”

If I knew that could skip that burger and fries right now and see an inch come off my ass-ular region, that would be something! We all want immediate results. It’s hard to set down a difficult path in the hopes that it will all pay off at some indeterminate point in the future. Meanwhile, you’re “sacrificing” now and still unhappy with your body/health/etc.

Eye of the tiger, my friends. Eye of the tiger!

The Qubit Lab

Here’s a series of science videos I did for the Qubit Lab in conjunctions with scientists from Oxfprd and across Europe! I really enjoyed these!

My Ongoing Battle With Food Addiction, Body Image and My Upcoming Soylent Adventure

I was a pretty skinny kid until I was about 18. 30 inch waist and mostly skin and bones. When I hit 18 my metabolism screeched to halt plus I was driving and not walking nearly as much and I had formed horrible eating habits. I loved sweets, fast food, junk all around. I think that full sugar sodas were the only liquid I put into my body and did so in great quantities. Strangely, I didn’t really notice myself getting bigger. I’m not sure how it slipped by me but one day I went to get some new pants and realized I was wearing 40″ pants now. I occasionally tried to jump on whatever train I had overheard was the way to being fit, but never with any success. I topped out at about 230 pounds on my 5’10” frame. Apparently, I wore it well. When I went for a costume fitting once, the costumer didn’t believe me when I gave her my measurements.

Fast forward to 2004. I was married and living in Austin and somehow stumbled upon the South Beach Diet. I read the book. It was the first “diet” that really clicked with me. Mainly because it wasn’t just some fad diet that was a quick shortcut to losing weight. It was a scientific explanation of how the body processes the fuel you put into it and it just made sense to me. It was a change of lifestyle, not just a “magic formula.” With the help of my (now ex) wife, I managed to drop 60 pounds and get into the best shape of my life. I still wasn’t where I would optimally like to be, but I was definitely in the healthy weight range for my body. I could feel it. My body finally moved right and didn’t feel like I was wearing a fat suit. Since then, I’ve mostly kept it off with some small swings and backslides on the dietary front.

A few years ago I got into hot yoga and did that 5 times a week for about a year or more and definitely got in the best shape of my life. Eventually my diet slid a little farther than I would have liked and eventually the exercise did too, a bit. I was now a single guy who doesn’t like to cook, prepare or really spend any time on eating at all. Once I got back into a full time day job (as opposed to all my years freelancing) then yoga disappeared. Carving out an extra 2 hour window to go, do the class and shower felt like a Herculean task. I also hate deciding what to eat (which is usually my downfall). Now, 9 years after I finally got my diet in line, I am in the worst shape I’ve been in since dropping all the weight. I’m hovering at 190 which is at least 20 pounds more than I’m comfortable with (though I have added some muscle as well so the weight can’t truly be trusted to judge by). I toyed with “4-hour body” but quickly abandoned it. Food and the state of my body have become a major point of frustration and depression at times for me.

Let me divert for a moment to say that I know I have severely warped body image issues. I really have no idea what I really look like. Or maybe I do, I guess I don’t know but I know I’m not happy. As an actor, sadly, physical image is something I have to be concerned about. When I see myself on film it’s even worse than the mirror. I personally do not believe the “camera adds 10 pounds” crap. It’s a device that captures an image and I believe that it probably shows us truer than we see ourselves. I will also be the first to admit that while health is a factor on my mind, that vanity is the larger factor. I don’t like the way I look.

Lately I’ve found trying to eat healthy to be overwhelming and frustrating. I know low carb seems to work for me but I’ve now realized that I was probably not taking in nearly as many calories as I should have been either. Trying to eat low carb and get enough calories seems like a lot of work. I tried simply calorie counting a la Weight Watchers or MyFitnessPal but, puzzlingly, did not seem to get results. I’ve accrued a lot of nutritional knowledge over the years to the point where I now end up going down a rabbit hole and getting overwhelmed. For example, I think I’ll try to go low carb. Oh but I need to get enough calories as well. I don’t really like to cook or spend time eating so I go pre-packaged. But with pre-packaged, it’s hard to find low-carb options. I end up with some microwavable chicken breasts and a microwavable bag of seasoned broccoli, and then don’t like what I’m eating because it’s bland. Oh, and you should stay away from processed foods anyway which rules out almost everything I would normally eat that’s easy, pre-packaged or microwavable. Forget it, I’m tired of it and will just grab something somewhere. Just the other day, I went to the store with intentions of starting a new healthier lifestyle and within minutes, felt on the verge of tears, defeated and just grabbed some bacon, egg and cheese Lean Pockets.

Let’s address another big point. I truly believe I am a food addict. I don’t drink, smoke or do drugs of any kind. I’ve cut out diet sodas and am trying to cut out sugar (which I’ve done before back when I lost all the weight). Food is my vice. My drug. My addiction. It’s where I turn for comfort. It’s what I look forward to. It’s a source of happiness. I heard someone (I believe it was Riki Lindhome) make a great point which is that if you kick heroin or alcohol or many other addictions, you can go the rest of your life without those substances, but we all have to eat. We can’t give up food so there’s an extra layer of temptation there (and please know that I am not at all trying to compare or devalue the amazing accomplishment of kicking any substance addiction). I often feel out of control and like I “can’t stop myself” from getting and eating that thing as guilt sets in before I’ve even taken a bite because I’m unhappy with my own body and have no one to blame but myself. I suck at moderation. I can’t seem to eat a cookie or two, I eat the whole package. With foods I like, I can devour them in bulk, while sometimes I have trouble choking down a “healthy” meal if it’s something I’m not enjoying. I have a lifetime of really crappy eating habits to fight against and my tastes naturally run to the not healthy side. While I have had vegetables prepared that I have enjoyed, they still don’t exist in my mind’s database of “things I like.”

More frustrating is that I have done it before! I changed my diet and dropped 60 pounds so why can’t I find that place is again? Is it because I no longer have a wife who knows how to shop and cook? I remember how after a couple of weeks of changing my diet, that “I must have the french fries! I can not resist!” turned into “I would like some fries, but I can live without them.” I have not been able to find that place again yet.

I have often said that I wanted to find some kind of “People Chow.” Something I could make a huge batch of for the week that just had all the nutrients I needed. I don’t mind lack of variety if I don’t have to think about it and can just get rid of the hunger and give my body fuel. Enter my next adventure, Soylent. I’d read about Soylent quite a while back when it was basically one guy experimenting with formulating a drink he could drink 3 times a day to fulfill all his nutritional needs. Now they’ve raised millions of dollars and are going into mass production. They’ve been getting feedback, consulting scientists and dieticians and refining the formula and will start shipping by the end of this year. I will be trying a one month supply. The more interesting implications are as a solution to world hunger. I’m sure it will be controversial, and many will cry that no magical formula can replace nutrients from whole foods and such. I guess we will see. I’m certainly willing to give it a shot. The makers even make the point themselves that even if it’s not as good as eating a healthy whole food diet, it could still be a huge step up in health for many people who eat like crap.

Tonight as I once again battled the grocery store, determined to kick start my body again, I once again came close to giving up out of frustration. I grabbed some fully cooked microwavable chicken breasts and then my mind went down that rabbit hole again, “these are probably processed and not nearly as healthy as cooking and seasoning a chicken breast yourself and that microwavable bag of Tuscan Seasoned broccoli has who knows what else in it and the regular unseasoned broccoli is probably way healthier, but then I won’t want to eat it because it will be bland and, and, and…”

Eventually, I just stopped my mind and instead of giving up completely, I got the microwavable chicken breasts and broccoli. Because it’s still a lot better than grabbing burgers, fries, shakes, pizza and ice cream. I always want to do these severe and complete overhauls when it’s been proven time and time again, that small changes are far more likely to stick.

So that’s where I am. At least until my Soylent arrives, I will keep fighting this battle. I’ve failed before, and probably will again, but I guess what’s important is to keep fighting.

Letting Go of Perfection

Today I had a long talk with one of my best friends, Brian, regarding many things, including our podcast, our futures, goals, fears and graphically sexual improvised bluegrass songs. Among the many reasons I wanted to start a podcast, we discovered a new one today: to learn to let go of perfection and just create. He and I both tend to be perfectionists who don’t want to do things unless we can really do them to the absolute best of our abilities. Our podcast was always conceived as a sort of free form show with no real boundaries that was as close to the insightful, hilarious, wonderful, deep and ridiculously silly conversations he and I always have. Now, of course, that just isn’t possible to replicate because once you add a microphone and possible listeners into the equation, it changes the dynamic and there’s just no way around that, at least for us. The podcast just is what is is and will organically shape itself and grow and change as long as we do it. This means that since it is just us free form conversing, there will be moments that aren’t funny, aren’t insightful, aren’t in any way entertaining to someone somewhere and this is scary for us. We realized that it’s scary in the same way stand up comedy might be scary in that this is just us. It’s not us playing a character, or reciting a script or hiding behind any artifice. Therefore, if someone doesn’t like it, they essentially don’t like us. It is always going to be imperfect. And we must learn to embrace this and use this muscle.

I’ve found that for me and so many others, that quest for perfection, that fear of falling short of what you could be keeps so many people from doing anything at all. You want to make a film but feel you don’t have the money, equipment, talent or some other ingredient, so you simply don’t make anything at all. This could apply to anything. Music, painting or just life in general in whatever applies to you. If you can’t be (insert favorite director, actor, musician, artist, whatever here) then why do anything? Why put out something that does not reach our own lofty standards? Well there are many reasons. Creating for the sake of creating. Honing and practicing your art. You never know what roads could lead to which destinations. People have gone amazing places based on a “silly little podcast” or received huge development deals based on youtube videos with no production value shot on a webcam. There are a million ways to any destination and most likely, you will not see the road that will get you there. It will almost always be some turn of events you never planned for or expected.

Another example I spoke of today are the “Live Raw Acoustic” videos I periodically put out. These videos make me extremely uncomfortable. They are NEVER up to par in my eyes. When I am on stage with my band, I feel alive and in my element, but when I watch these solo acoustic, rough videos, I see so many flaws. I can see my own lack of confidence, my own doubts and hesitation. I hear the mistakes in my playing and singing and yet that’s the point. I don’t practice for weeks until I can hope to maybe give a much more polished performance. I just do it. It’s supposed to be raw and real. And I do it partially because it makes me uncomfortable. I don’t know why, but I’ve definitely got some rebellious streak in me that makes me sometimes want to lean toward the things I think need improving as opposed to just sticking with what I know I can do well with my eyes closed or things I can coast through. When I find something that I can’t do to my own exacting standards, it just makes me want to do that thing even more.

Every day I want to grow and face my own insecurities and shortcomings and hopefully be a better person tomorrow than I was today. I often fail. And that’s where the real trick is. Not beating yourself up for that either. Muscles don’t get stronger without using them and working them out past their current limits. I believe this applies to emotional and spiritual muscles as well. Sometimes working those muscles out is uncomfortable and requires putting yourself out there and being vulnerable.

What’s my point? Hell, I’m not even sure any more. Do something. Don’t let fear hold you back. Don’t let the impossible quest for the ever elusive and mythical beast known as perfection stop you from doing anything at all. Do. Create. Be perfect in your imperfection.

By request of Sean Dornan-Fish

My friend, Sean, requested that I do a Live, Raw, Acoustic video of Rock Springfield’s “I’ve Done Everything For You,” so I did.