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Lessons Learned From A Dying Cat

January 31st, 2014 No comments

It’s not easy watching my beloved cat dying.

The vet said basically to take her home and spoil her, because there’s not much else to do.

But it’s hard to spoil her. She has almost no appetite. She hides a lot, like cats do when they feel vulnerable. And she looks at me when she is out in the open with a look.

She doesn’t really want to be petted, because I think she’s in a tremendous amount of pain. All she really wants is lots of water, changed for fresh water as often as I can do it.

I don’t know what her look means. Does she think I’m going to be able to fix it up? Is she judging me? Or is it just a look?

Small things like her actually eating a few bites of food this morning are miraculous. I was so happy to see that. I just wish I had a magic wand to wave to make it all better.

But here’s the thing. It hurts her to jump, bit she still jumps up to her windowsill. It hurts her to walk, but she still comes out in the apartment hall when I open the door so she can explore her empire. She keeps going through it all.

And that’s what I have not been doing since I learned about it, but why should I not keep doing my equivalent of jumping into windowsills and exploring my empire? Humans have this complex idea that this kind of stuff is unfair, and God knows it is sometimes, but somehow you have to keep going.

I left her at home with her head peeking from behind the bookcase and her eyes almost totally shut, still breathing. Who knows what the next few days will bring.

This is all a mess of writing. I don’t know totally what I’m trying to say. I just had to write this down.

Categories: Philosophy Tags: ,

Bums in Seats

May 28th, 2013 No comments

So I’m sure I’m not the only creative who faces this.

Creatives tend to hang out with the same types. Who all hopefully love to create, because there’s precious little cash in the process. And creatives love to show off their results.

So these busy creatives invite their busy creative friends to come see their shows. Since they are busy, the easiest way to do it is through social media, email, or both.

And there, for me, is the problem. I get embarrassed at sending out emails to people, but I don’t mind sending out low frequency Facebook and Twitter announcements. I do mind setting up an event for one of my products, even though it’s really no more intrusive than sending out an untargeted “Hey, come to my show!” and if I am directly producing, then of course the Facebook event offers some real benefits.

Probably it comes down to distinguishing who in your audience matters to you, who have been through the creative process directly with you, and those who have not, who are just associates, friends or lovers of friends, etc.

But even then. Individuals in these two groups will respond differently. Some don’t mind emails, soke do. Some will find Facebook invites impersonal, others not.

The social fabric is elastic enough that you shouldn’t have to worry about it. Anyone who gets upset over low frequency emails probably isn’t someone you want to hang out with anyway.

I am realising that I am awkward at this, but if one is proud of what one has done, one should be pleased to share it with the world. I also realise I am probably over analysing this.

Categories: Philosophy, Social Media Tags: ,

Subsidizing someone else’s Dream

September 17th, 2012 No comments

(This post is with respect to creative endeavours only. There is a whole wriggly can of worms waiting to be opened if I start talking about normal joe jobs as well.)

I am not an Amanda Palmer fan. Nor do I hate Amanda Palmer. My sum total knowledge surrounding her before this morning was “Partner (or something) of Neil Gaiman who does music stuff. Oh, and Andrew likes her.”

Then, through the magic of the Internet, I came across the kerfuffle around her. Briefly, she did a Kickstarter for an album release, made scads of money, spent said money on album production costs, is now going on tour.

Her tour vision requires classical musicians to help play in each city. Rather than hiring a touring group, or paying for musicians in each city, she is crowd sourcing out for classical players to come rehearse and play for a night in return for beer and possibly a hat passing around. In some cities, like NYC, she is actually paying pros to come in and do the show.

Full story of original request here and open letter from Amanda after a musician responded to that post here.

So where to start? Ordinarily I would be “MOAR PAY FOR ARTISTS”, but Ms. Palmer makes the good point that musicians have the freedom of choice to volunteer or not volunteer. I am guessing she has huge respect in the musical community, so this would be a great opportunity for selected people to play on stage with one of their idols.

On the other hand, some of the comments I’ve seen are really nasty toward anyone suggesting getting paid to perform is a good thing. They invoke both the invisible hand of Adam Smith and the cheerful friendliness of Ayn Rand to tell pro-payment people that the arts are changing and almost no one makes a career out of the classical music scene and if they can’t get that, then they should go to a workhouse and decrease the surface population.

(OK, there might have been a BIT of hyperbole in that last paragraph.)

I can only speak from the perspective of a mostly unpaid actor. If Patton Oswalt was coming to town and offering people a chance to improvise a public set with him for beer and thanks, I’d be phoning in sick and elbowing people in the face to get into that audition hall. However, I would not be telling myself I’m doing it for my career. I would be doing it because Patton Oswalt.

(DISCLAIMER: Patton Oswalt might not do improv. Try and stay with me as I acknowledge I hate doing research into celebrity careers.)

People who say I’d be doing it because wow, it’s great exposure and would look good on my resume…I agree with people who have commented on blogs about this that a one shot appearance with a celeb or group of celebs isn’t necessarily going to rocket your career to the stratosphere.

The other thing this does is open a slippery slope. I tweeted back and forth a bit this morning on Twitter with @ProResting. (She helped inspire this blog entry.)

She’s one of my favourite people who tweet, and one of her main interests is how auditions for actors are basically offering no pay. Indeed, there’s a huge number of low/no pay gigs out there. Up to a point, you can tell yourself (and it might be true) that these unpaid gigs are helping you to network and hone your craft.

I don’t want to see what @ProResting has documented already, paying to be in a production. Performing artists live to perform, and the unscrupulous will do what they can to get them to perform while delivering back as little as they can.

AND I DON’T THINK AMANDA PALMER IS UNSCRUPULOUS. She’s offering fairer terms than most unpaid gigs, which is some beer and a lot of respect, and a chance to actually interact with an idol. So if people want to go for that and be on stage with their idol, that’s great. But don’t demonize people who can perform at a professional level and want money for demonstrating that skill. Just because some artists will always work for free doesn’t mean every artist should.

KFC Thoughts

September 16th, 2012 No comments

I take my first bite of the KFC “Zinger”. Advertised as spicy, it tastes more like a piece of fried tender shoe leather that someone at KFC Headquarters showed a picture of a jalapeno peppper to before it got shipped out to my table.

The fries are an equal marvel. Some robot has taken the word “potato”, and then looked it up on Wikipedia. Some virus infected its cooking software and replaced the word “add” with “savagely remove with ammonia and hatred” in the phrase “add flavour”. It then did what it was told and delivered the result in my meal.

The iced tea, on the other hand, is wet, sweet, and cold. Good job, drinks machine!

I eat, and think. When you look at it, we are bags of chemicals other bags of chemicals sell cooked chemicals to for us to consume. Put enough salt and grease on a rock, deep fry it, put it on a bun with some lettuce and an orange goop that I dare not name, call it a “Zinger” sandwich, and some moron will come along and buy it.

I haven’t eaten at KFC in twenty years. What I just did doesn’t counts as eating either.It is the antithesis of eating. It is me telling my body “Hey, I really hate you now for some reason. I know you will get your revenge, but boy, that tasted just like my repressed childhood memories of inadequacy.”

Self-loathing fills my being. I will now destroy myself by ordering and consuming two beef tacos from the Taco Bell here. Farewell, processed food world.

Conditioned to Social Creatives Spam, or, Pavlov’s Tweeps

September 3rd, 2012 No comments

So I’m a very irregular user of Stage32, and a very regular user of Twitter.

Early this morning, I was browsing Twitter and I saw some kerfuffle over a user complaining about their Stage32 account being locked for spam, and the CEO for Stage32 saying they had a “zero spam tolerance”.

So I applauded Stage32, and kept going to bed. Then tonight I logged into my Stage32 profile, and lo, the user who was involved in said kerfuffle had indeed asked to join my network, and I accepted, and there he and I were.

What did he do? Something that thousands upon hundreds of thousands creatives do, which was to send out a YouTube link to their latest project to a lot of people.

I sat there, thought about it, and then removed our network link.

What a heartless prick you are, you are doubtless saying. And I felt that way for a second. But then I remembered the lessons of Scott Stratten (@unmarketing), one of which is mindless blind engagement with people is a bad thing. (Or at least, that’s the way I interpreted one of his lessons.)

I mean, yes, the creative arts are all about banding together against a climate that underfunds, underappreciates, homogenizes. If you want to do work you care about, you have to be strong, and strength is definitely better in numbers.

But that doesn’t mean I’m obligated to retweet or otherwise socially promote stuff from a total stranger who hasn’t done any ground work to show they are interested in my dreams.

But OMYGOD, what if you lose out on a major project because of your antisocial attitude? Well. First of all, the dude was in LA, second of all, he has plenty of colleagues out there who he can contact first (and has probably done some groundwork with first), and finally, I prefer starting my show biz networks personally.

Not that I’m going to be an angry guy on Stage32 blocking and refusing network requests everywhere. But I’m not going to blindly help out someone else’s project.

If that’s selfish…well, my projects take up a lot of my energy too. And I would never want to have them blindly promoted in a quid pro quo type arrangement. So it’s unlikely me and anyone who likes blind scatter promotions would get along well.

But yeah. Pavlov’s Tweeps. Someone you think is in your tribe tweets something and you blindly share it out there. I’m going to apply more critical thinking to ALL my social networking from now on.

Legitimate Stabbing

August 25th, 2012 No comments

The privileged white male can choose not to bleed in the case of a legitimate mugging. Their body knows when a knife piercing their skin is not friendly, and their natural anti-bleeding mechanisms automatically kick in.

This is to distinguish it from illegitimate mugging, which is what happens when one of their offspring drives the Land Rover into a sorority “by mistake”, and is demanding money to pay off your alma mater.

Now you might be saying, “This is preposterous, no one can automatically avoid bleeding when a knife is thrust into them.” This is a commonly held, incorrect viewpoint. The privileged white male has the following automatic defenses from birth:

– does not travel in areas where knife-wielding muggers are found
– automatic bodyguard defense
– Kevlar long johns
– owns big guns

Of course, this does not protect them from accidental legitimate stabbings, or from illegitimate stabbings by members of the same social class, especially when the Kevlar long johns have been removed. In this case, the following defense fires up:

– really good health care

I hope this will satisfy the ridiculous attempts to foment revolution over a simple adjective/noun pair such as “legitimate stabbing”. Tune in next week when I debunk “anti-birther”.

 

Categories: Philosophy Tags: ,

So a Jew walks into a comedy club…

July 11th, 2012 No comments

So a Jew walks into a comedy club where a standup comic is telling jokes. “Jokes about concentration camps are always funny.”

“Excuse me,” says the Jew, “but they aren’t funny at all.”

The standup looks at the Jew for a moment, then says, “Golly, it sounds like he’s already been in five concentration camps.” The Jew looks around and sees everyone in the club is wearing lederhosen and gets uncomfortable and leaves.


So a black guy walks into a comedy club where a standup comic is telling jokes. “Jokes about nigger hangings are always funny.”

“Excuse me,” says the black guy, “but they aren’t funny at all.”

The standup looks at the black guy for a moment, then says, “Golly, it sounds like he’s already been lynched five times.” The black guy looks around and sees everyone in the club is wearing loose white robes and gets uncomfortable and leaves.


So a standup comic walks into a comedy club where a standup comic is telling jokes. “Jokes about standup comics being fucked over by promoters and committing suicide after are always funny.”

“Excuse me,” says the standup comic in the audience, “but they aren’t funny at all.”

The standup comic on stage looks at the standup comic in the audience for a moment, then says, “Golly, it sounds like he’s already been emotionally abused and not paid by at least five promoters.” The standup comic looks around and sees everyone in the club is wearing Armani suits and holding cigarette lighters under contracts and gets uncomfortable and leaves.


The Aristocrats!

What My Cat Taught Me, and, Hop The Pop

June 27th, 2012 No comments

Things are in disarray in my space right now, and the cat platform that used to be by my cat’s favourite window is no longer there.

However, she still finds a way to get up and down from it. Even though it’s a lot harder.

You can draw your own conclusions as to the lesson learned.

Been having fun doing Hop the Pop. I have some plans/dreams for it beyond this blog. Let’s see how they turn out. I hope some people are enjoying reading about that little breakfast joint.

Seth Godin’s Tribe is Bigger than Yours

June 19th, 2012 No comments

If you don’t know or care who Seth Godin is, then you won’t know or care about this blog post. I can instead recommend this site.

So Seth Godin is using Kickstarter to help publish his newest book The Icarus Deception: Why Make Art?

When I first read that, I thought “Seth Godin needs Kickstarter to get a book published?” And then I didn’t think about it too much more until this morning.

Then I thought about it a bit more. And then I decided to write this blog post so I could stop thinking about it.

As part of my 25-year quest to find a better way to make and promote books, I’m launching a hybrid experiment today.

This hybrid experiment, as far as I can tell, is using Kickstarter to build funds to be able to 1) convince a publisher that this book can be produced in a print format, 2) for a $4 donation, to provide a preview e-book edition that goes ka-blam after four days, and 3) offer four people the chance to have their story told in this book if they pick the matching Kickstarter reward level.

Beyond that, there really isn’t much “experiment” to it, as far as I can tell. Offering differing amounts of goodies to people isn’t an experiment, it’s part of the Kickstarter DNA. I’ve backed Kickstarter projects based mainly on the goodies. That’s what people expect of a project created there. Putting people in your book as a goody if they give you the right amount of money, well, that comes more under the heading of “sure fire income”, since Seth is a pretty popular and good writer, and you get to tell your friends about it.

Now, it seems to me, given his track record, Seth Godin can get a publisher to print a book of his without going through all this. On his blog, he claims he can’t.

The publisher (my key to the bookstore) is only willing to go ahead with the rest of the plan if my Kickstarter works. No Kickstarter, no distribution, the stakes are high.

So let’s say I’m an idiot and he is correct. Is this fair?

Well, what is fair? This is still theoretically a society where the free market holds true. And Seth Godin is a master marketer, and this latest project only proves it, and he will sell a lot of these books, and so that will prove this Kickstarter “hybrid experiment” is a brilliant idea.

All it proves is that if someone has a big tribe, then they can do experiments that work out really well for them. But isn’t that true of anyone? I don’t think that Kickstarter will be a magical shortcut to success for a beginning author. That author will have to do all the leg work of convincing the public that they should become part of that author’s tribe and support their work. Said leg work being necessary whether Kickstarter exists or not.

Once this beginning author does all the work and produces quality books that a large number of people want to buy and read, then all of a sudden they won’t really need Kickstarter. Does Stephen King need Kickstarter?

So, this entire campaign leaves an odd taste in my mouth. I wish Mr. Godin every success with it, but to call it (in his case) an ambitious hybrid experiment is a bit much. The only experiment here in my mind is seeing if a big tribe will open up their wallets through another distribution channel. Anything beyond that is just sugar coating what typically happens with a new to market book. And that sugar coating is where I get annoyed a bit.

The Spirit of Play

April 29th, 2012 No comments

Back when I was still taking acting classes, one of my teachers (David Switzer) passed along his explanation of why people were willing to tolerate huge salaries for sports players and Hollywood superstars. In effect, people are paying to watch them play, because as adults, they don’t feel entitled to play. (Sears and Switzer give really good courses, by the way. Unsolicited testimonial.)

Also, by extension, people are allowed to play along with them in a “trickle down” method of playing. Sports fans paint their faces and bellies blue and dress in Viking hats and wave plastic scimitars around, Hollywood fans shriek and cry when they see their favourite star live. [Disclaimer: Obviously I know nothing about the exact way sports fans dress up, but the general theory still holds.]

The strongest players, the ones who we wind up loving, are the low ego players. Their generosity makes us remember what generosity is. We can admire and praise the cold technical skills of the lone superstar, but honestly, we are never going to love that performer with the same level of trust as someone who loves the game above all.

I guess I wrote this to remind myself to seek out opportunities where the game is the important thing. And maybe convince you of the same thing.

Categories: Philosophy Tags: , ,