From one Summer to the next. Nearly a year has passed since my last post. Even though returning visitors will notice that a lot has changed on the rest of my website here and I’ve definitely been busy, there just hasn’t been anything worth writing about when compared to the current state of the world.
As I type this on an evening where there are still curfews in several American cities and a pandemic is still claiming the lives of far too many people every day, I realize there isn’t much I can add to the discussion of a still-unfolding national horror show that even The Simpsons predicted 20 years ago. All this bad news and chaos has, more than anything else could have, really put a spotlight on the inequities in our current system and it has stripped away whatever thin veneer people were still using to pretend they were doing OK. Now the truth is out. People everywhere are struggling, and have been for a long, long time. That kind of insecurity breeds fear and clears the stage for enterprising sociopaths to set the fires of Hate burning. The current inferno we’re neck-deep in was as predictable as it is heartbreaking. The hope I’m clinging to is that this will be a real turning point in America. The times are extraordinary and the stakes, at least in my lifetime, have never been higher. …and I honestly don’t know at this point if the good guys will win or not, but it can’t stop any of us from trying. When this veil of horror is finally lifted, we better be ready with some new perspectives.
Be safe everyone. Do whatever it takes to remain hopeful. Take care of each other, and keep working.
So here we are, eleven days into the new year. I got off to a slow start, thanks to that same weird stomach-bug that seems to be crippling everyone else I know too… but these things always pass sooner or later. I’m feeling much better. I’m still piecing together both my plans for the new year and my thoughts about the old.
Like a lot of people, by the time mid-December rolled around, I felt like I was limping to the finish line. The unrelenting horrors I saw (and continue to see) every evening on the news were a stinging slap of reality. Silly me – I thought that once the ugly election cycle was over, we might have a little bit of Peace to wrap up the year. I was wrong. All of the complaints and personal disappointments I might have had during 2012 pale in comparison to an unbalanced madman gunning down a classroom full of children. In some ways it makes me feel like the things I’ve dedicated my allotted time on the planet to doing are, well, kind of frivolous. …but then again, I also think that what is really missing at this time of incivility, horror and outrage that is as indignant as it is usually uninformed is, well… joy.
Sounds a bit weird for an old punk-rocker to say such things. And maybe it is a bit self-serving, since I’m a comedy writer and all, but it is stunning to consider how much of our ‘entertainment’ is based on murder, mayhem and violence. I know, I know… Tales of battles and blood are as old as humanity (ever read The Iliad? or the Bible? … Jerry Brukheimer would kill for source material like that.) I have some friends who are horror writers too, and they’re really good at it. They have legions of well-adjusted readers and fans who just happen to enjoy the macabre. That is awesome. Really.
…but for me, comedy is what we all need. Horror and violence as entertainment is really the choice of people and societies who are lucky enough to not have to deal with real horror and violence in their lives on a daily basis. I get it. People, who are relatively “safe” in real life crave a good scare now and then. I’m just saying that, if you showed up at a refuge camp somewhere (and there are plenty of them on every continent except Antarctica) and you said: “Here’s something that’ll cheer you all up – the entire collection of SAW movies… in high definition!” … the people there would think you’re insane. But if you put up something like, oh Charlie Chaplin… I’m pretty sure that would be more effective. Comedy is universal. Pathos is universal. Torture-porn is for the lucky few who know where they’ll be able to find water tomorrow and who have never seen a limb actually get hacked off. That is really all I’m saying, and I’m probably not saying it as clearly as I had hoped to.
So… onward. 2013. Sounds lucky, doesn’t it?
Personally, 2012 was a weird year. Overall it was much better, personally, professionally and financially than the previous couple of years have been, but there were definitely some down notes too. The closing of my theater (see previous post) has really started to sink in now… now that the holidays are over and everyone is back in town, and I would normally, on a Friday night like this be there – to see new students perform and to casually run into some of the dozens of lovely and creative people I’ve known for so long. But when the central hub (the theater) is no longer there, everyone spins out in their own directions. This is what always happens. This is what I knew would happen. …and yet it is still a difficult adjustment to make. On the other side of the coin, I also had to actively disconnect from a few projects and even a few close friends this year. Painful, but necessary for all sorts of human reasons that I hope will be clear to the people involved someday, sooner or later… but who knows?
Six hundred and thirty-five words into this post and it all seems pretty maudlin. I know. Luckily I also know that not many people are going to read this.
I promise I am looking forward to having a great year in 2013. I don’t make “resolutions” though… I make To-Do lists and I have plenty of new goals for the new year – here are just a few:
1) This week I relaunched my weekly advice blog: Ask A Punk. I admit I felt a little burned out when I put it on ‘hiatus’ last year, but it turns out that I really missed doing it and engaging with the many people who wrote in with questions and comments. I also created an eBook made up of the 1st year of Ask A Punk posts that is (of course) now for sale and compatible with all your ereading devices.
2) I am actively writing on two projects: a comedy feature and an animated cartoon series… by which I mean I’m writing them – no one is paying me for them. Yet.
3) I am finally compiling all of my “punk rock”-related stories and essays into what I’m hoping to turn into a feature length comedy/concert kind of video project.
4) I’m also working on a series of (written) short stories that I’m planning to use as source material for a new podcast – not necessarily all comedy. I’m thinking it might be my own spin on the kind of work that the amazing Joe Frank has done. We’ll see.
5) I’ll be updating this website with some of the cool new features that wordpress has added in recent months, including the long-awaited (and begged for) “upcoming events” calendar… another reason to book some gigs for the new year.
… and of course there are other script ideas (some already outlined,) Animated & youtube projects and other projects in various media that are still vague ideas floating in my head. Time is always the issue… I still have to earn a living after all, and most of the things I’ve mentioned here are, so far anyway, work I’m doing for myself. As I always say: Imagine how hard I would work if I was getting paid to do all this stuff!
So why do it all?
Because I can’t imagine not doing it. Because it helps me figure myself out. Because I don’t need permission to do any of it. Because I decided long ago not to let my hope and joy be stolen by the difficult and troubling times we’re currently living through.
Stay Strong everyone… and stay hopeful too. What have you got to lose?
I’ve spent the past 2 months helping to teach a “level 3” improv class at bang. Improv theater/school here in town. It is no secret (to anyone who has seen me flopping around on-stage lately) that I’ve felt burnt out on performing for a little while… so these past several weeks have been a great reminder that the best way to re-ignite something inside of you is to help ignite it for the first time in someone else. Call it “giving back” call it what you want. All I know is that yet another ol’ cliche is true: I’m learning more from my students than I’m teaching them. Next week is the last class – I’ll be saying ‘thank-you’ an awful lot.
…and by day, the writing continues.