This dust-covered, all-but-forgotten blog of mine is about to be leveled by a storm of agitated thought, because I just saw The Last Jedi on Friday, and I have been unable to think of anything else this entire weekend.
Apologies to the members of my small-but-much-appreciated readership who have no love for or even interest in Sci-Fi films. Now would be the time to disembark this particular starship, because it’s just finished its calculations for the jump to lightspeed. The escape pods are to your left...
Also, this should go without saying, but...
Major spoilers ahead for both The Last Jedi, The Force Awakens, and probably all of the Star Wars films in the end; therefore, help yourself out.
I found Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi to be a profound disappointment. Statistically speaking, most of you probably disagree with me in this. The movie currently has a 93% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and has premiered amidst a chorus of seemingly universal cheers. Most friends of mine - on social media and in real life - have reacted with shock when they have heard my opinion of the film. I appear to be utterly out of step with the mainstream in this disappointment; and therefore, though I am not a film critic in any way, I feel compelled to defend myself.
Please allow me to state my case.
We begin with an important point. As anyone who knows me will tell you, I am a massive fan of Star Wars. I wish the series well. I love the originals, I wept (with most of you) over the manifold faults of the prequels, and, as is more pressingly pertinent, I am a huge fan (and apologist for) The Force Awakens and Rogue One. Thus far, I have loved the direction the new movies have taken. My complaints with this new film have nothing to do with dissatisfaction with the new movies in general.
I object to The Last Jedi itself. More specifically, I object to its writing.
I have been thinking about this intensely for two days now, since the credits rolled at my screening of the film on Friday, and at long last I believe that I have distilled my complaints down to two main points. It is my assertion that, as a sequel, The Last Jedi drops almost every ball tossed to it by its superior predecessor, The Force Awakens, entirely failing to answer seemingly every question raised therein, and, furthermore, I assert that the sequel fundamentally confuses having popular characters do cool looking things with giving them meaningful moments and character arcs.
I will explain.
As we are all aware, The Force Awakens raised many questions and teased out a lot of mysteries while providing very few answers. Its director, J.J. Abrams, is famous for this in. He is less famous for providing satisfying answers. Therefore, I was curious to see where our new writer and director, Rian Johnson, would take things. Surely, I imagined, he would attempt to answer at least a few of these questions. Surely, I supposed, he would continue at least a few of the mysterious storylines prompted by the preceding motion picture.
No, as it turns out. Again and again, as I watched, I was amazed at how Mr. Johnson chose the laziest, most obvious choices possible, each time skirting any questions fans of the series might be asking themselves.
Perhaps, like me, you wondered at the mysterious Supreme Leader Snoke. Would we find out a bit more about his origins and intentions? How would this new evil leader distinguish himself from the Emperor of movies previous? Not at all, as it turns out. He is given two scenes in a throne room almost identical to the Emperor’s, save for its hip red hue, and his dialogue is absolutely identical to stock dialogue you would write for Palpatine. We learn nothing new about him, and his scenes, his goals, and his nature are carbon copies of things we’ve seen before. Inventive!
Perhaps, like me, you wondered about Maz Kanata, the strange force-sensitive alien who gave Rey Luke’s lightsaber and refused to explain where she got it. Would we learn more? Nope. Instead, Mr. Johnson opts for a brief cameo. Facetiming into the movie, she provides someone’s cryptic contact info to aid our characters in a side quest. Thanks?
Perhaps, like me, you thought it was kind of lame how Captain Phasma had such a miniscule amount of screentime thus far, and were excited about the one-on-one fight she and Finn would have in this picture, featured, as it was, in the film’s trailers. Surely, I assumed, they wouldn’t make her part as lame as last time. They did! Once again, this powerful female villain is just a minor roadblock in Finn’s path, who he easily bests after a one minute hand-to-hand with the aid of an elevator. Oh, and in case you hoped for a rematch, no. The movie then drops her through a collapsing floor into a lake of fire. WOW.
Perhaps, like me, you were curious as to who Rey’s parents were? Turns out, they were nobodies, as Kylo reveals as he tempts her to join him in ruling the universe as...friends? Lovers? Who can say?!? The film definitely doesn’t make things clear. Now, Kylo may be lying about her parents. He is, after all, evil. And, the future as revealed by the Force is, as Yoda as told us previously, uncertain. But, still. Then why did you tease this fact out, present series? Even as a valid writing choice, this is a let down for your fans. You had to know that.
Perhaps, like ALL OF US, you had heard of the unfortunate passing of Carrie Fisher, and were curious to see how they would work that into the story. Now, I completely see the validity of giving Princess Leia one last active role in the series, and I can see the argument for letting her ride off into the sunset in this film, so to speak, without writing in a death for the character. What I object to strenuously is the fake-out death they give her right at the start of the film, from which she saves herself by using the Force in a profoundly powerful way we have not seen before in the series. More on the implications of that last part in a second, because this moment provides us with an excellent introduction into my second problem with the film.
The Last Jedi confuses showing us beloved characters doing cool-looking things with giving us an actual, meaningful story that is based in the wants and needs of the characters. Let’s return to Leia’s Force moment. Is it previously hinted at in the series that Leia has the Force. Great! We are all agreed that this is in the logic of the series. But, The Force Awakens clearly made a choice to make her role one of political leadership. Twenty plus years have passed since The Return of the Jedi, and she has not pursued training in the Force. She is not a Jedi. She is not using these abilities. They have never manifested so powerfully before. She does not use them again in this manner in this film. The moment is never even acknowledged IN THIS FILM. So…and please follow my logic here...other than looking cool, WHY DOES THIS MOMENT HAPPEN? It undermines her character as established in the previous movie. It also makes her bizarrely withholding. The stakes have never been higher. Her people are dying left and right. She has it within herself to be a Jedi and a symbol of hope herself and she ...doesn’t??? Does that make any sense for her character?
And while we are on the subject of choosing to not use the Force for weirdly undefined reasons, let’s talk about Luke. Now, I applaud Rian Johnson for making bold choices with Luke. And, let me state here for the record, that I think Mark Hamill did an awesome job with a terribly written part. But, please, someone, explain to me what Luke’s reasoning is for his actions prior to his return to form at the end of the picture. Just try to sit down and write a defense of his views. Please try, because I have been trying for two days, and I can’t.
It’s an interesting direction, Mr. Johnson, to have Luke soured and embittered by failure in his old age, but it feels...self-conflicted. Luke, if you have gone here to die, why are you still milking aliens and catching fish? Why are you sustaining your terrible life? Why, if you want to destroy the Force Tree, haven’t you already done so? You’ve had…YEARS TO DO SO. Why, in hiding from the world, did you come to the most powerfully Force-sensitive place that there is in order to then...shut yourself off from the Force? Just start to think it through and it falls apart. Now, perhaps Mr. Johnson would here claim that this is just evidence of the internal conflict that is in Luke. And, that is fair so far as it goes, but that just brings me to my main complaint in so far as Luke is concerned.
Consider this. What is Luke’s main obstacle to overcome before he can return to save the day? He is fighting through his guilt at having momentarily thought of killing Kylo and his shame in having failed his nephew. Alright, so, having been told by Rey that this is Kylo’s fault not his, and having been mentored by Yoda and told to move on and accept his failures, what does he do next?
He Force projects himself to the Resistance and Kylo, thereby facing his failure of a pupil, and he tells Kylo that he is wrong, that he, Luke, is not The Last Jedi. Then, he disappears. Then, he fades into the Force as Obi Wan and Yoda have done previously, his noble works on this plane of existence now apparently achieved.
This plays, as the movie presents it, like a grand accomplishment, because it is a revelation to us in the audience that Luke is Force projecting (an ability apparently canonized by Star Wars Rebels). In the screening I saw, the fact that Luke survived the laser barrage got an applause break - so did his disappearance. But, please think about this moment again from Luke’s point of view. He has been hiding for years, crippled by shame and regret, corrupted by bitterness. Having been shown the error of his ways, he then reaches out in the Force to make one last Force-fueled holographic phone call to serve as a distraction while the remaining resistance fighters escape, then he … drops the mic?
Why are so many of you okay with this as the swan song for the hero of the previous trilogy?
Let me contrast this passing with the passing of the classic character we lost in the last movie, (SPOILER ALERT!) Han Solo. Consider the circumstances of Solo’s passing. Han has been similarly broken up by the tragic loss of his son, Ben, to the Dark Side. Eschewing his responsibilities, he has returned to his outlaw smuggler antics of old with his friend Chewie. Like Luke in this new movie, in The Force Awakens Han is a lost soul, refusing to face his failures and his fears. But, then, at Rey’s prompting, he begins to change. He reconnects with Leia. In the end, he goes to save his son, knowing that in all likelihood he will fail. The scene on the bridge in The Force Awakens is touching not just because we see the tragic demise of a beloved character. It is meaningful because we see a fallen character choosing to risk himself for the love of his son. It is a universal, powerful, meaningful moment that is made meaningful by the fact that the actions of the character read true. Han quips. Han hides. Han runs. Here, though, he doesn’t. He grows. He sacrifices. It means something.
Can you see why I prefer The Force Awakens?
And what, ultimately, does this movie accomplish? Think about it. At the start, thousands of Resistance fighters flee the First Order. At the end, perhaps thirty are left, huddled aboard the Millennium Falcon. When Rey asks Leia the perfectly reasonable question, which I will paraphrase, “how do we move on from here? What do we have left?” Leia answers with the vague statement, which I will also paraphrase, “I think we’ve got everything we need.”
We are then treated to a sequence in which small urchins tell each other the Legend of Luke Skywalker, a story already known throughout the galaxy, and we see a Force-sensitive boy move a broom, telling us that there are still Force-sensitive people out there. A fact we knew already.
So, to recap, we have watched thousands die before our eyes, Luke is gone, Leia is still here in the world of the movies, but will not be able to appear in the future movies, but at least we know their story lives on and that others can learn the Force, both of which are facts known before the thousands died amidst a chorus of threadbare platitudes on the importance of hope.
If you enjoyed this film, I am happy for you. Rian Johnson is an...interesting filmmaker. He made a beautiful-looking movie with some funny jokes and some awesome action in it. I laughed at some of the jokes. I liked Benicio del Toro’s character. The lightsaber battle with the Imperial Guards was dope. But, I have absolutely no desire to ever see another Star Wars film produced by him, because I don’t believe he understands what it is that makes this saga of films great, nor do I trust him to craft a great story.
If you'd care to set me straight, you may do so below.
I genuinely appreciated a few of you reaching out last week, both in the comments here on my dusty little website and on my purposefully neglected Facebook page, sharing your own methods on how to use social media for good. It seems that several of you have carefully crafted parameters that allow you to wield the unsettlingly awesome powers of online interaction in order to make the world a better place, and I for one would like to applaud your efforts.
In fact, I’ll do that now.
I’m back. I did it. (You can trust me.)
I did literally do it, because I try to be someone who does what he says he will do. Yes, I felt silly. Yes, I did give you a standing ovation. Why? Because, why not not? If applause is good, standing and applauding is better. We all decided that at some point back in the forgotten mists of Long Ago, and by golly, we’ve all been agreeing to it pretty much every time we go see a play or a musical or a speech that isn’t actively awful. Why should I be the one to buck centuries of storied tradition?
Now, let’s move past the part where I just stood and gave a solo standing ovation alone in my apartment.
The point is, I am sincerely gladdened to learn that many of us, in these tiringly terrible times, are endeavoring to use our smartphones to make others and ourselves more peppy, more present, and more positive, and so, here is a Part Two to last week’s essay. In it, I share with you another way I have found of making certain the time I spend in the eerily incandescent light of my smartphone’s shining screen is time well spent, and not time unprofitably, irresponsibly, and irretrievably frittered away. After all, no one knows how long one’s life will be. Let us use our time well.
[I have a lot of thoughts on this subject, so, fair warning, this will be be an ongoing series.]
We begin by abandoning the topic of social media completely. Let us consider that case closed, though there is, of course, much more we could (and may yet) say. Instead, let’s talk about how to turn our smartphones…into a library.
The world is wide, my friends, and full of wonders. And yet, it is easy to forget this. Realize that your smartphone (yes, your smartphone) is a window, a book, and a speaker system connecting you to almost any sight ever filmed, story ever typed, or sound ever recorded. We all know this, and yet we insist on wandering about like fact-starved fools, blindly accepting only the paltry offerings we find drifting down the electric rivers of our media feeds as though we are content with these soggy scraps. Know that there is a feast out there, my friends, if only we will seek it out.
Let us feast.
Allow me to introduce you to the OverDrive app. This marvelous app, free to download, connects your device to your library account. Libraries, you see, still exist in their traditional, seemingly antiquated state, offering old-fashioned books, films, and recordings; however, most now also offer, free to their members, digital collections of books, audiobooks, and (some) videos. Simply download this app and plug in the numbers on that library card you still have gathering dust in a drawer somewhere, and presto!
You can either download books straight to your phone or tablet, or you can link the system up with a Kindle, if you are the sort of person who owns a Kindle. I happen to be one of those sorts of people. I love old-fashioned books, but I travel a lot. And, books are heavy. So, why choose between the old ways or the new? Do both, I say! Pack a book and a Kindle.
I particularly love that OverDrive allows you to download audiobooks for free for the normal amount of time you would check something out from the library-- say, two weeks. This is especially useful considering the long commutes my job requires. Nothing helps pass time stuck in traffic so profitably and so enjoyably as a well-produced (free!) audiobook. Friends of mine swear by Audible, a paid service that provides audiobooks, but I say, why spend money when you don’t have to spend money?
I trust you will agree.
The only “downside” to OverDrive is that digital library collections are designed to mimic how a library only has a limited number of copies of a given work. Therefore, there are only so many “copies” of each digital book or audiobook. Often, an item will already be “checked out” and you have to go on a waiting list. Also, your local library probably doesn’t have every digital book out there, just like they don’t have a copy of every physical book ever printed. This can be an annoyance occasionally, but the app will send you an email when a book becomes available. I have found that by signing up for a lot of wait lists, books stagger in seemingly of their own happy accord.
It’s kind of like sending free gifts to Future You.
“Hey, You! I mean...Me! Here is a digital copy of that book you really liked at Barnes & Noblem, but now you can keep your 25 dollars. You’re welcome, Future Me!”
And yes, even if you are not the sort of gadget-and-gizmo-loving person who has a Kindle, know that you can download books onto your phone. Then, you can read them whenever you end up stuck waiting in a car for that late friend of yours, or when you are pointlessly standing in line, or when you just really need something good to read. Having back-up books on my phone has made me a genuinely better person, because, whilst I might otherwise waste that time scrolling and trolling, instead I now read.
I recommend it.
Reading is amazing.
And, please, feel dangerously free to join me next week for Part 3, in which I will cover several other ways to “life hack” your smartphone.
In the meantime, stay safe, everybody. My love to you all.
Hello! I’ve missed you. Have you missed me? No?
Yes, you’re right. I did entirely fail to post an entry last week on this, my allegedly weekly blog. You have my sincerest apologies. If it’s any consolation, I don’t even feel bad about it. I have been busy, running about Orange County and the Central Coast, presenting interactive historical presentations, because that’s what I do now. I present things. I am a presenter. That is my job title.
And yet, here we are again. The pair of us. Me at my keyboard. You at your variously sized screens. Here I type, and there you read.
What shall we talk about this week?
What? You find this theatrically contrived, whimsically conversational introduction unnecessary? You think I should’ve just begun this week’s essay without it?
Well, you’re probably right, but try to see things from my point of view. Regardless of your own amusement level, I am thusly amused. I dearly love theatrical contrivances, and I have never been one to use words sparingly. Why should I? Words are, after all, sensationally, even scandalously free to use. They cost me nothing!
This is outrageously off-topic, but I am suddenly reminded of my favorite correctional note that I ever received back on a collegiate essay. The year was 2011. I was taking a senior level history course on the decline of the British Empire that semester, just for kicks and giggles, because the professor, Dr. Smith, was himself British, and when you attend a small school in rural Indiana that just seems cool as hell. I had handed in an essay on something or other, having worked fairly hard on the thing, history being my hobby then, and not my job, as it now is (somewhat ironically), and I received the essay back with a grade far higher than I dare say the silly thing deserved. But there, on the front page, which was almost completely covered in correctional marks done in blood-red ink, was a sentence now burned into my brain. Dr. Smith had sliced into my verbose, overly dramatic opening paragraph as with a scalpel, circling my topic sentence and scrawling next to it, “An excellent point lost in a sea of waffle.”
I memorized that, because I want it to be the title for my eventual, inevitable memoir.
An Excellent Point Lost In a Sea of Waffle:
The Life Story of Philip David Black
Take that, Dr. Smith! Incidentally, I hope you are well. You were an awesome professor.
Where were we?
We were deciding what to talk about this week. Next time, please cut me off before I prattle on about nothing like that.
Let’s talk a bit about technology. If I am to be completely honest, dear readers, I have actually started this essay twice already. It began as a rant about the pointlessness of social media. From there, it morphed dramatically into a strange essay in which I compared the smartphone we all now carry with a sword.
Weird, right? It made sense to me at the time. I think I was trying to make the point that the handheld technology we all now wield with wild abandon can in fact be dangerous if it is untempered by wisdom. I hoped to encourage us all to treat our smartphones with the proper respect.
But, I think I will spare you both that absurdly forced metaphor and its accompanying stench of self-righteous self examination.
Instead, I will simply share with you a few positive changes I have made to the way I use my own smartphone. As we have discussed often before on this blog, I am a pessimist, but I try not to be. It seems to me that our smartphones, our computers, and the internet in general offers us innumerable chances to do truly remarkable things. I have a suggestion. Let us consciously seek to use these super powers for good. The world is bleak enough these days.
Where to begin? I have already rambled long, so let us stick to a single subject for the rest of this entry-- the subject of social media. For starters, I have removed social media apps from my phone. Twitter and Facebook have been completely purged from it. I keep Instagram installed, because pictures are nice, but I took it off my home screen, so I can’t just mindlessly click on it and lose myself to the endless scroll.
Let me clarify. I have not deleted my accounts on these services. I still have them. I check Facebook occasionally (Twitter hardly ever), and I keep all my information on Facebook (and even Twitter) current. But, I no longer live there. I have removed my mental energies from these sites.
I have done this for two reasons. Firstly, I am blessed to have friends from many diverse walks of life and of many various beliefs, fields, and orientations. And, frankly, it made me sick to see these many friends, acquaintances, relatives, and co-workers all screaming at each other in comment fields, following the political typhoon that has engulfed us all. I am not, may it emphatically be said, unplugging from politics. More than ever, I am attempting to stay informed and communicate with people of differing views, but I have stopped imagining that internet commenting and fire-breathing, left-right turf warring on these apps has anything to do with the real business of citizenship. If you want to discuss politics with me, please do so. Just meet with me, or call me when you want to do it. I am earnestly seeking what it means to be a compassionate, principled citizen of this wonderful country in 2017. I just don’t do it on apps.
The second reason I removed these apps was because I was starting to feel like a harried intern at a media conglomerate. I celebrate the magnificent connectivity that these social media apps foster. I think it is marvelous that we can all now, at the press of a few buttons, know instantaneously what seemingly anyone we have ever known is doing this weekend. In many ways this is a delight. But, we are all of us only humans in the end. We only have so much time. And, in a world where we are increasingly aware (immediately) of every single scandal, disaster, tragedy, and happenstance that occurs anywhere in the world, the strange pressure we are all now under to promptly rush to our message boards and trumpet out our own personal stance and viewpoint on the subject of EVERYTHING is mind numbing, soul destroying, and, ultimately, physically impossible. It simply cannot be done. It is foolish to try.
Dear friends, I resolutely reject the modern notion that if you (yes, you!) fail to use social media to decry evil, you are yourself evil; although, yes, I have seen several people I know, love, and respect recently make this very claim. If you choose to use social media for that, then that is your decision. As your friend, I applaud you for seeking to make the world a better place in this way. However, I do not choose that route. What is more, I find it morally questionable to demand that everyone use their personal platforms as soapboxes. I do agree that we each have a moral responsibility to care for our communities in whatever way we are able. I believe we will each one day be judged for the choices we make in this life. But, just because we all now have a smartphone does not magically transform us each into a one-person Public Relations firm. We don’t need to each issue a personal statement after every single public tragedy. That is unrealistic and an impossible burden for a person to put upon themselves. If you see someone struggling in the room where you physically are, help them. If you see evil in your environment, and you can do something about it, do it. Simply screaming about the world and its evils does little. Let’s all get out and do our best to do actual helpful stuff.
Let’s stop there for now. I have rambled long enough. If you have another perspective on a how to use social media for good, feel free to comment below. I am always open for new angles on positivity. These are simply changes that I have made that have worked for me. Next week, we will cover a few other upbeat ways to use your smartphone.
Stay safe, everyone. My love to you all.
This week, I’d like to share with you two methods I’ve been using lately to help balance my diet. These are not original ideas. They have, in fact, been around for a long time. But, they are new to me, and they are proving helpful; and so, I offer them to you, my diminutive readership, in the hopes that they might inspire you to try new things, too.
Believe me when I say the following: it was most definitely time for me to start balancing out my diet. As a freshly married man, I am still very much in the process of emerging from several consecutive months of more or less continual celebration, a fair bit of which has heavily involved food. Traditionally, this celebratory phase would’ve kicked off with a wedding cake, many-layered and beautifully white, but we actually didn’t have a cake at our wedding. Instead, being both proudly nonconformist and generally indecisive, we celebrated with both pies and cookies.
Yes, I ate several cookies. And yes, I ate a pie. Yes, the whole pie. No, not all at once. We took it with us in the getaway car. Chelsea helped eat it. (A bit.) Let’s just say, it was gone within 48 hours. It really doesn’t matter who ate 3/4s of it. (It was me.) After that, we went on a really cool honeymoon to Colonial Williamsburg, which involved eating at all the cool, old-timey restaurants there. All of them. And now, Chelsea and I live together, obviously, cooking and eating and going out and eating, and it’s a whole thing. So, you can just trust me when I say that I really needed to start trying things out and balancing my diet.
As I may have mentioned before, balance is not my strong suit. When unchecked, my propensity is to swing between extremes. You will find me either surreptitiously attempting to eat the entire box of donuts at the office or battling to only eat “paleo” or something else equally stringent and difficult to maintain. So, this time, rather than adopting a new stricter-than-ever diet program and swiftly falling off the wagon, I have instead attacked the matter from a different angle.
Method one! I have begun something that is technically called “intermittent fasting”, although I do not like that term. It sounds frightening and almost monastic, like something a reclusive hermit would do to appease his distant and angry god, but it really isn’t like that. It simply means that I only eat within a certain window of time each day. My eating window starts with my first cup of coffee or bite of breakfast. From then on, I have twelve hours in which to eat. When my twelve hour window is up, I stop eating, and I allow my body twelve hours to rest from digesting food. The only thing I have during my twelve hour fast is water.
Again, this sounds dreadful, but it really isn’t. First off, the “fasting” isn’t that bad. Most of it is spent sleeping, which is always, for all of us (unless you suffer from particularly aggressive sleepwalking), a time of natural fasting. This “twelve hours on/twelve hours off” has brought significant balance to my eating habits. When I wake up bright and early, I am hungry, so I eat. Throughout my day, I make sure to get in snacks and meals to power me through my work. When I get home from work, I have a substantial, but still reasonably healthy dinner (with maybe a pleasantly adult beverage or two), and then I stop eating, because my time is up. During the several hours left before bed, I hydrate with water. This isn’t hard to do, because I already ate enough during the day. And - and this is the really KEY PART - as my body winds down from the day, burning through the last of the fuel I ate, it naturally gets sleepy.
So then I sleep.
It makes complete sense if you think about it. We are always told not to eat “late at night,” but that way of thinking about this idea always struck me as stupid. I naturally want to fly in the face of such pithy, commonly bandied about rules. They annoy me! Thinking about it in terms of cycles of “now I eat, now I rest”, though, has a much stronger appeal for me. For whatever reason, it hacks into a slightly more rational part of my brain, one that I am only now realizing I have.
There are scores of supposed health benefits to this intermittent fasting. I could cite sources, but if you are interested, look them up. The internet has a lot of stuff on it. Supposedly, it helps promote lean muscle growth and lowers diabetes risk and cancer growth. It even helps regulate your hormones. All this can be yours by simply giving your digestive system, that tired old workhorse behind your belly button, dedicated periods of rest. The benefits allegedly increase if you shorten the eating window down to just nine or ten hours, but I think twelve is a more manageable place to begin. We are all busy, and what with work and errands, etc, it is hard to get enough calories in if you make the window too short.
All I know for certain is that I feel a lot better when I eat this way. And, it doesn’t really feel like you are “dieting” per say, because you actually have to be careful to eat enough during the time that you have to eat. So you get to eat! If you want a treat, have a treat. If you are really hungry, eat more. Just eat during your eating window. Like I say, this is a way to bring balance to your diet. It is a natural, healthy limiter, not an absolute “thou shalt not.”
It works for me, but then, in fairness, I am a young, reasonably healthy person who enjoys mixing things up and trying new things. Obviously, talk with your doctor if you are considering any large dietary changes. However, if you want to try this, feel free to message me or leave a comment below. I have only my own experiences from which to extrapolate, but I am always available if you have a comment or question.
I have already rambled substantially, so let us proceed with greater brevity.
My wife and I are trying to eat more meals at home, which means we have been cooking more. This is fun. We enjoy it. You will, too! I recommend poking around YouTube. There are tons of cool cooking channels there with lots of fun and delicious recipes. Two that I enjoy are Jamie Oliver and The Happy Pear.
However, my wife and I have a deal. We cook differently. When I cook, I cook Vegan dishes, and when my wife cooks, she can cook whatever she wants, which typically involves meat or cheese of one kind or another. This helps us maintain a varied and balanced diet. Vegan and vegetarian dishes are a great way to get a lot of vegetables and fruits into your diet all at the same time in tasty ways, instead of relegating them to the status of bland, unappealing, and therefore often uneaten side dishes.
I mention this not to brag that I only have to cook half of the time (that would be unfair), but only to remind you that you don’t have to be all one thing. As humans, we suffer from a tendency to be very “either/or”. Know that you can be multiple things. I like meat, but I don’t eat it all the time. I love vegetables, too. (I think I just love food in general.)
Why not be a vegan or vegetarian one day a week? Or every other day? Or one meal a day? Mix it up! Have fun! Above all, find balance.
Next week, we’ll talk about changes I’ve made in the way I use social media. If that interests you, please join me again next week. If not, go in peace. I mean you no harm!
Months have passed since I last uploaded a blog post. Most of this time was spent in Southern California, where I live now, save for a brief matrimonial excursion to Tennessee, followed by a week’s worth of honeyed moon spent in Virginia, which I am pleased to report, just as the state’s motto would tell you, is indeed “for lovers”.
Let’s all be classy and leave the matter there. Although, if you really would like me to gush about the wedding (the wedding part - calm down), feel free to call me. If you don’t have my number, there may be a reason. Or, I suppose you could message me. Weddings are sacred and lovely things (ours was perfection), but they are only of limited interest to those not directly involved. You can admit it; my feelings are not bruised in any way. You didn’t want to read another long, bloggy, rambly blah-blah-blah about a wonderful wedding.
Instead, I would like to spend the next few weeks discussing a few positive changes I have made to my life in the intervening months, excluding, of course, my marriage, which is, naturally, highly personal and experimentally non-repeatable. It’s not really something you can go out there and replicate with precision, although you are welcome to try. I recommend finding someone who makes you laugh and who challenges you to try and be your best self.
This week, let’s discuss meditation.
Yes, I am now one of those insufferable people who go around saying unbearably Californian things like, “Do you meditate?” It was only a matter of time. I already exercise and try to eat vegetables, etc, so clearly I've sipped the metaphorical Cool-Aid at some point since I moved out here.
But, honestly, I wish I had started meditating years ago. It is exactly as helpful as everyone says it is. Possibly more so. In this day and age of constant information and stress, we all know our brains are overly burdened, exerted, and whelmed. I knew mine was, but for the longest time I didn’t know what to do about it. I didn’t think there was anything I could do...until I finally tried that thing everyone always recommends (meditation) and then - surprise! - it turned out that the thing monks have been doing for millennia actually is helpful.
Who woulda thought?
Meditation doesn’t take as much time as you’d think. Ten to fifteen minutes. Personally, I use an app called Calm, although friends have also recommended an app called Headspace. For a low fee, these apps give you recordings of “guided meditations” where a person with an irrationally soothing voice walks you through the process. Basically, you sit still, close your eyes, and focus on your breath. You train your mind, just a little each day, to control its constant thinking. You learn how to appreciate the moment. It sounds boring, and it just isn’t. Trust me. It’s what your brain is longing for, and it’s what you haven’t been giving it enough of - rest. Not sleep, but a break.
Now, let me rush in here and say this is not a paid endorsement for Calm or Headspace. The makers of these fine apps do not have to pay me, because I have been doing this for several weeks now, and I am enjoying tangible mental benefits. Each morning, I get up - just ten or fifteen minutes before I normally would. I put on the coffee (because, duh). Then, I pull out a chair, I sit, I put headphones on my head, and I take a few minutes to clear my mind before the day really begins.
I always assumed that if I tried to do something that involved closing my eyes in the morning, this would just put me back to sleep. And, I do yawn once or twice. But, the strange thing is it actually wakes me up. I find I am drinking less coffee. Clearing my mind allows me to appreciate the little things I used to overlook, like breakfasts and sunrises and the sound of a song on my car stereo. I am finding it easier to enjoy my job working with children. I am simply more present.
The real kicker for me, though, is that this discipline of training my mind to let go and relax has been helping with my addiction to constant noise. As my wife could tell you, I have always needed to have a sound on. A podcast. An audiobook. Something! This was to drown out my constant stream of thought. This was always racing, it was often negative and self-destructive, and I had no idea how to turn it off. The only thing I knew to do was to drown it out.
But, it turns out your mind is a muscle. You can train it. This is not always easy, but, remember, it doesn’t take that much time out of your day. And, it gets easier as you go, like anything. Think of it as a really, really, relaxing yoga class for your brain. Only, unlike yoga, you don’t even have to move, and it only takes ten to fifteen minutes, instead of an HOUR AND A HALF. Seriously. I love yoga, but whoever decided an HOUR AND A HALF was a reasonable length of time for a class is…probably a better person than me.
What can I say? I am a work in progress, as are we all.
Now go meditate. Or, take a walk. We can all use a break these days. I'll catch you next week.
For the past few months, I have managed (against all odds) to maintain a reasonably steady release rate of one essay or story per week on this, my digital scribble scroll. This production schedule was instituted by me as a personal challenge, seeing as the primary purpose of this blog is to provide me with a contained space in which to compose and then publish my hopefully harmless, ideally amusing writings to a gently tolerant, if mostly unaffected world.
Personal challenges, as anyone who knows me well will tell you, are my bread and butter, or, in the common parlance of our time, my kale and hummus. I find personal challenges remarkably motivating, and so I engage in the practice of challenging myself regularly.
This practice works well for me, because it harnesses my natural strength as an exceptionally dramatic individual. Think of me as a human pendulum. I exist in a world of extremes, vacillating wildly between side one and the other, rarely ever coming to rest in the noble middle, which is the rightful realm of the nominally sane and stable. I am either totally focused or completely distracted. I am all in or all out. Therefore, and somewhat tangentially, I do not multi-task well, which has made my career in musical theatre, wherein one must act, sing, and dance all at once, a ceaseless exercise in both humility and denial.
In short, dramatically difficult deadlines just do it for me. If I had not assigned one for this blog, I would never have finished more than an entry or two. Knowing that I had to publish an interesting essay or story each week has given the past few months positive focus and intention.
And yet, the time has come to ease up on the self-applied pressure. Summer is here, and with the change of season, memories have returned unbidden of the long, lazy summer breaks of my scholastic yesteryear. I yearn to return to those distant, halcyon days. And, too, there is also the small matter of my rapidly approaching nuptials. Surely you cannot have failed to notice my recent proclivity towards constantly referencing “my fiancée” on this blog, or perhaps you have even been irked by a disgusting display of pictorial bliss on a media feed of mine.
In light of both the summer season and my own imminent matrimony, and after some careful thought, I have decided to initiate "summer mode" for this blog. I will occasionally persist in a post here or there as topics come to my mind and the literary itch returns, but I am temporarily removing the mandate that I publish something weekly.
Fret not, fan of mine (he wrote optimistically, praying that at least one existed), the blog will return to a more regular release schedule when the school year begins anew. Probably, it will return even sooner, but I make no promises.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, there is doubtless something important I should be doing, or at the very least, procrastination calls.
Here’s wishing you a dangerously pleasant summer.
This Thursday, I presented my final interactive history presentation of the 2016/2017 school year, and yesterday I attended my company’s end of the year meeting, a celebratory day of reflection. In that selfsame spirit of reflection and celebration, I here present a short depiction of this past year’s noteworthy happenings in the little world of Philip. (If you’d like to let me know about your year, leave a comment below. It’s FREE!)
Over the course of this past school year, I presented two hundred and fifty-five interactive history presentations to over seven thousand students. Each of those presentations was two and a half hours long. During them, I talked constantly, all while attempting to hold the attentions of a room full of grade school students. To do so, I used every trick I knew, including funny voices, props, costumes, and the corniest jokes ever conceived by humankind. While doing so, I myself transformed from a person who was reluctant to work with students to a person who draws great meaning from the practice. (For more info about this new teaching job of mine, click HERE.)
To get to these presentations, I drove over seven thousand miles, replacing as I did so three tires on my newly acquired (used) car, its brakes, and (several times) its variously required fluids. I drove more in this past year than I have in all previous years combined, as this was also my first year owning a car. Needless to say, my driving skills have markedly improved, although my fiancée will be the first to say there is still capacious space available in my skill set for further improvements. I am now intimately acquainted with the traffic patterns of Orange County, having also traveled for work to the Central Coast, Central Valley, Imperial Valley, and the Mojave desert. I camped in Joshua Tree and hiked in Yosemite. I even saw the Salton Sea!
This was my first year with a steady, non-acting job. It was my first year having weekends off. It was my first year paying for my own health insurance. It was also my first year paying for my own housing, as I have in the past always worked theatre jobs that provided housing or crashed (briefly) with family and long-suffering friends. This year I signed a lease for a condo with my fiancée, Chelsea, and speaking of Chelsea, this year I proposed to my fiancée Chelsea. Chelsea and I get married in 19 days, and if my last few posts have seemed to focus more and more on Chelsea and I as a couple doing couple things, it is because we are getting married in 19 days, and everything else seems to pale in comparison to that brazenly florid fact.
This upcoming summer is also my first summer in seven years without an acting gig, unless you count getting married as a theatrical event, which I am tempted to do. There are, after all, so many similarities. There will be a rehearsal. There will be an audience in attendance. Chelsea and I will both be in costume. And, we will have lines to say! I may in fact put the wedding down on my theatrical resume, which is currently collecting cobwebs.
Why don’t we leave things there for now. I’ll be back next week with a proper essay.
This will come as no surprise to the older, more experienced members of my readership (you mighty horde of three), but when you are in a relationship, “firsts” - by which I mean the first time you and your beloved do something together - adopt a strange, possibly unearned significance. These moments just feel important. The first time you kiss. The first time you cook together. The first time you go look at pets. These firsts carry weight. They seem in their own small way to foretell how your whole relationship will go in the long run. Whether they actually do or not is, of course, not for me to say. I am neither prophet, wizard, nor weatherman. Telling the future is not my job.
I simply mention this peculiar truth about firsts by way of introduction. This is the story of my fiancėe Chelsea and I’s first shared camping trip. We went to Joshua Tree on Thanksgiving weekend of this past year. Because this was our first camping trip together, it was always going to carry that odd aura of The First Time. So, when I went and actually proposed marriage on Thanksgiving Day, it did very little to calm the thing down in terms of our expectations. This was now our first shared camping trip as a newly engaged couple. Gasoline had met open flame. The whole trip was suddenly catapulted into the STRATOSPHERE OF VERY HIGH EXPECTATIONS, which I believe is the very highest level of our Earth’s atmosphere, the one right before the whole thing just melts away into the vacuum of space. Naturally, when your expectations are up that high, there is no way to go but down.
This is a tale that could easily run long in the telling, so let’s stick to the highlights and primary plot points. There is no need to concern ourselves with specific details of private emotions and personal squabbles. I don’t care to write about that, and you don’t care to read about it. As we discussed last week, my fiancėe and I see the world differently. Chelsea is an optimist, and she loves camping. I am a pessimist, and I am indifferent to camping. Armed with those two character nuggets, I am sure you can paint in all the dialogue yourself.
Let us begin.
I proposed on a Thursday, and we left for Joshua Tree bright and early that Friday, our hopes and our heads held high. We left early so as to claim a camping spot in the park, not knowing at this point that the whole park had been full to the brim for the past two weeks. This was what we found out hours later, after driving around the park for several of those hours, peering at each and every site in the park only to find that each spot was, indeed, well and truly taken.
With our hearts bruised but not yet broken, we left the pristine wilderness of the park and purchased a spot at a campground five miles or so away. Joshua Tree is beautiful. This campground was not. It featured a dusty little man-made lake, a village of camper vans, and a rusty metal sculpture garden. Joshua Tree features fascinating topographical features -- hills, cliffs, and boulders abound. The Joshua trees for which the park is named dot the landscape in memorable fashion. This campground was out in the flat, barren desert. Chelsea, being an optimist, was disheartened. I, having assumed the worst from the first sign of trouble, was disheartened that she was disheartened. Amidst this mood plunge, we proceeded to pitch our tent.
Naturally, this took a whole lot longer than you would want. Pitching a tent always takes longer than you would want. But two things made it particularly frustrating this time. Firstly, the tent we had borrowed from friends was designed to hold 6-8 adults. In turns out that the larger the tent, the more severe the headache it causes. Also, just to warn you, pitching a tent in the desert is inherently worse than pitching it elsewhere. Tent pegs are designed to be driven into dirt that will hold tent pegs.
Sand is not dirt.
I do not recommend pitching a tent in the desert.
But, we did get the stupid thing up in the end.
Fresh from the struggle, we abandoned our campsite for dinner at Pappy & Harriet’s, a delightful joint in Pioneer Town, which is a fabricated Old Western town where they used to shoot Old Hollywood Westerns. It has since been turned into a tourist trap. The wait for a table was lengthy, but we finally got a spot, and the evening passed pleasantly enough. We returned to our camp site with thoughts of building a cheery fire.
Surprise! We couldn’t get the fire started in the dark. I am a pessimist, but this was a blow to my pride specifically. I was a cub scout once, many moons ago, and for some reason this fact made my own inability to get the wood to light somehow personal. Disheartened yet again, we turned in for the night.
Morning brought new frustrations. I’ll spare you details. Let it suffice to say that one of us - I will not specify who - had forgotten to pack a frying pan, and essentially all of the food supplies we had brought with us required that frying pan. I will also clue you in on the fact that you cannot make a frying pan out of aluminum foil. IT DOES NOT WORK. And if you are going to borrow a frying pan from a group of frat boys camped nearby, know that you must wash that pan first.
Rallying from our day’s frustrating start, we headed into the park. To our vast relief, the afternoon went well. Hikes were had, snacks were consumed, and the gorgeous natural beauty of Joshua Tree did much to lift our spirits. We left the park well before sunset, making a quick detour to civilization to buy a frying pan and lighter fluid. I was determined to get a fire started before dark, and Chelsea had plans to fry some pork chops for our dinner.
Surprise! We returned to the campground to find our tent completely collapsed, its fabric whipping about in the brisk wind that was now blowing across the desert. We attempted to put the tent back up, but it rapidly became clear that with the wind picking up the way that it was, our large tent (built for 6-8 people, remember) was essentially a huge sail. The force of the wind in this huge sail just kept pulling the tent pegs out of the sand.
Again, my friends, I must remind you, SAND IS NOT DIRT. Sand and tent pegs do not get along.
Some kind retirees from a camper van nearby attempted to help us, but it soon became crystal clear that this tent was just not going to stay up. With hearts now utterly dashed, we looked around us and realized that the weekend was pretty much a complete bust. There was not enough room in our vehicle to sleep comfortably, and it was decided, after discussion, that we should pack up, fry our pork chops, and at least enjoy dinner before we headed back to civilization.
We had finally gotten the stupid tent folded up (which also takes longer than you’d want), when we turned and saw the storm rolling in over the desert.
There it was, a veritable wall of wind and rain, racing directly our way. It looked like something out of a film.
This understandably hurried our packing. The rain began to pound down around us just as we got the last of our things into the car. The wind was so strong by this point that the tents of other campers, who were still out for the day, were quite literally blowing away across the sand.
In the car on the way home, we reflected that our trip, though on paper a complete failure, and actually been the best case scenario for the set of circumstances we had faced. Our tent was not built for a desert. And, if it was going to collapse, at least it had the decency to do so during the day, when we were not inside it. The whole thing would have been much worse at night. And, if I had been able to get the campfire lit the night before, we never would have come back to camp so soon, in time to break everything down before the rainstorm arrived. Breaking down a campsite in the dark in the middle of a rainstorm would have been so much worse than the frustrations we had had to face.
So, there you have it. Sometimes bad things really do lead to good.
Of course, sometimes they don’t, but then life will insist on being mysterious.
Just promise me you’ll never pitch a tent in sand. We’ll leave it at that.
This past Thursday, my fiancée and I prepared Beef & Broccoli, an Americanized Chinese dish familiar to anyone fond of a so-bad-it’s-good Americanized Chinese takeout place. To be clear, we made a paleo version of Beef & Broccoli, because we are attending a wedding in 35 days (our wedding), and it seems necessary at this point to take drastic dietary steps. We then negated these drastic dietary steps by pouring this paleo Beef & Broccoli over rice, because we like rice. It’s our wedding after all, and we can do what we like.
As we prepared this dish together, Chelsea refused to allow me to look at the recipe. This was because she said I would over think it. She has, by now, caught on to the fact that I am a man who likes to follow directions. I am the type that assumes directions are there for a reason. Deviation from the directions seems, to me, to be a wantonly foolish move. Who knows where such radical measures may lead? My bride-to-be prefers to “wing it.” In her view - a perfectly plausible one, let me hasten to say - the directions are suggested parameters in which to freestyle. She enters into the business of cookery with a free spirit. For her, the world is open to play.
Our approaches to life, therefore, are intrinsically opposed. As you already surmised, Chelsea is an optimist. She assumes that if she ventures out into unexplored terrain her own wit, moxie, and charm will be there to keep her safe from harm. And, thus far in life, she has been proven (mostly) right. She has plenty of wit, lots of moxie, and a whole lot of charm. Usually her freestyling ends with a positive note. And, as you have already gleaned from the above, I am her opposite. I have a carefully calculated view of the world. I assume that my limitations are significant, and that the Law of Entropy applies to life. To my mind, chaos looms about us like a grim-faced specter, and we must venture forth plans firmly in hand in order to successfully combat this significant foe. Chelsea blithely expects the best, while I glumly assume the worst, being, as I truly am, a pessimist. And, thus far in life, I have (mostly) been proven wrong.
This pessimism has characterized me from a young age. My father once confessed to me that he considers himself responsible for this. It seems that in 4th grade there was a writing contest put on by my school. The writer of the best essay (or whatever the 4th grade equivalent of an “essay” is) would receive a $50 prize, a huge sum to someone in the 4th grade. My father says I wrote my essay in a great flurry of excitement and then walked around for days chattering enthusiastically about what I would do with the money. I seemed convinced of my own literary invincibility. My father grew concerned for me, fearing that defeat might crush my young spirit, and so he sat me down and gently introduced me to the notion that I might not actually win the money but that that was alright. My father said that after this revelation I was noticeably bummed. After I failed to win the money, I was shattered still further. My father feared for years that he had broken me in some way.
Naturally, when my father told me this story, I told him to forget about it. I doubt that that writing contest was the primary cause of my negative mental lens. Personally, I believe this slant in my mentality goes back to the year before, when we moved from Fort Wayne, Indiana, the city of my birth, to Brookston, a small town 2 ½ hours west (though still in Indiana). I remember being tremendously excited to move. It sounded exciting. I had never moved before.
It ended up being a difficult transition. I was slow to make friends at my new school. I can still remember walking around the playground in the third grade, praying to God, because I felt that He was my only friend. (This sounds heartbreaking, but just know, I was a dramatic child. I also remember talking to the school counselor for long sessions for no real reason; it just made me feel special. I felt important, speaking with a counselor. I also remember peddling my bike to the edge of that Hoosier hamlet, only to stop and gaze dramatically out over the cornfields, dreaming of adventure in far off places. It seemed like the sort of thing the young hero in a book would do, and so I did it.)
I was just starting to win friends and influence people – or the 5th grade equivalent of that, at least – when we moved again, this time to Southern Russia. Things were even harder with this second move. Personally, I think that it was this double uprooting that created in me the expectation that life tends to take dark turns for the worst.
But enough of this depressing reminiscence! The point is, I am a pessimist still, though, as I mentioned before, I have mostly been proven wrong. I am constantly shocked to discover that the world floats on despite my fears. I forever expect things to be three times worse than they end up being, even on days when things do go wrongly. I have always defended this pessimism with the following argument:
As you have probably already surmised, this argument is logically sound but self-evidently sad. And, for the record, let me announce that the Beef & Broccoli with which we began this ramble ended up tasting great. It was a little off at first, seeing as we did stray from the recipe, but with a few waves of her riff-tastic wand, Chelsea magicked the dish, allowing us to enjoy a delicious dinner. I am exceedingly fortunate to be life-partnering up with such an opposingly compatible soul. Her positivity and fearlessness draw me out of my shell and compel me towards new experiences. Providing balance, my own desire to plan and my awareness of possible complications have helped as well, allowing us to better weather times of turmoil.
Next week, join me for the tale of Chelsea & I’s ill-fated trip to Joshua Tree, the camping adventure we undertook the weekend after I proposed. (SPOILER ALERT! It did not go well.) Things went poorly, lessons were learned, and it could not have been more perfect. Until then, take care.
I hereby lay out, before my readers and potentially (if improbably) the entirety of the earth, my confessional. This is the story of my first audition, and if you think this is going to be a tale of triumph, you are unspeakably incorrect.
Let me begin this tale of terrible sorrow and ignorant woe with a brief acknowledgment. This was not, strictly speaking, my first audition. That took place in elementary school, when for reasons unknown I won the enviable role of Steve in the kindergarten choir’s musical production of Blue’s Clues. The choir was in kindergarten. I was in 5th grade at the time, specially chosen to portray the role of Steve because, I can only assume, of my prodigious talents, apparent even then to our choir instructor, Mr. Potts. Naturally, I then went on to never perform again until high school, when out of boredom and a sure and certain feeling that I would not make the basketball team, I tried out for the school play.
But, let us leave these tiresome, entirely trivial caveats behind us and cut straight to the heart of our present story. Let us rejoin our hapless hero, me, during my Freshman year of college, when, for reasons that I shall explain in but a moment, I was forced to try out for the fall musical.
Like many a fool before me, I had arrived at my college (Huntington University) without having picked a major. This was, I thought, practical. I would only change my mind, I reasoned, and so it made sense to get things going without the pretense of certainty and feel my way out as I went along. The dean had kindly, therefore, recommended classes based on my high school activities, and had signed me up for not one but two beginning acting classes. This sealed my fate, as it was a requirement for all beginning acting students to audition for ALL of the university’s productions. The first production open to incoming Freshman was, as I am certain you will agree, a vehicle that simply SCREAMED for my involvement – a musical version of Little Women. What could be more perfect for an average sized man such as myself, who had never sung a show tune in his life?
At the time, I considered myself a "funny man," destined to act (if at all) in PLAYS … comedy ones. A serious musical role was not something I aspired to in the slightest. But, class requirements, after all, being class requirements, I dutifully prepared for my audition by not really preparing at all, because I had no idea how you would do that. When told by a concerned observer that I would need to bring sheet music for my musical audition, I responded with an honest, if alarming question, “What is sheet music?”
This should alert you to the depths of my ignorance.
A brief word of explanation might be in order before we proceed to the inevitable unpleasantries. We are not all, it’s true, musical theatre people, and some of us may not be aware of how a standard musical theatre audition is meant to go. Typically, this is the order of events:
Needless to say, I knew nothing about these expectations, and, safe in the fortified city of my own ignorance, I made no extra effort to find out what was truly required of me. I simply prepared in my own quiet, completely incorrect way.
I picked a song I was familiar with (Pure Imagination from the Gene Wilder classic, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory), and I printed out the lyrics…just the lyrics. As I eluded to earlier, sheet music was not something which I knew how to find at the time. I was, it must be said, and in the truest sense of the word, an idiot. I practiced singing my selection, but I did not memorize the lyrics.
The day of my doom dawned dark and early. In my memory, it was a very stormy day. Lightning flashed and thunder rumbled. Tornado watches were in effect, although it may have been a perfectly sunny day – memories are like that. I nervously arrived at the Arts building and paced about with the other auditionees, awaiting my appointed time slot.
Eventually, my name was called, rolling out like the tolling of a far off church bell.
I entered the room and proceeded to desecrate the very foundations of the theatrical art form.
Allow me to list for you my manifold errors:
A few days later, I returned to the site of my shame to gaze morosely on the freshly posted cast list. Imagine my surprise when I saw that I had been CAST. It was a small role, but it was a role. As a willing young man possessed of a beating heart and a mouth capable of forming sounds, I was deemed too valuable of a commodity to be lost by the tiny Huntington University theatre department. That I lacked any knowledge or talent in the realms of music or theatre or musical theatre was a fact that could be remedied in time, or so those charitable professors decided. They needed bodies to fill the stage, and, at the very least, I had a body, if not a very impressive one.
It was only later on, at the end of that school year, that my eventual acting instructor, Jay Duffer (who was a guest director at the time) confided to me that, having seen my first audition, he had thought me to be completely tone deaf.
At the time, he was completely correct.
One final note. That audition was filmed. Someday, I would like to find that DVD, if it still exists. I would like to watch it once, and then I would like to lock it in a box and drop kick that box into the Pacific Ocean. Anyone who tracks the DVD down is welcome to watch the travesty with me.
But only I get to drop kick it into the ocean.