Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Tribe leading youth



Tribe leading young people is harder because youth today don’t trust older generations for handing them a world that is a couple shades away from a piece of shit due to war, exploitation, corrupt, abusive institutions and greed.

The waitress at the local template culture stab bar who got me cognac and coffee (I’m classic in my own way sometimes) the other night was used to having her look do most of the work for her, and presented herself as such. 

She saw me writing prep for this blog post and asked me about it because she noticed I found it more interesting than her, and she took it as a challenge of the moment, until something else became more interesting.  Young women can be like that. 

I told her what this writing was for, and she immediately took up the topic of writing and told me how good she was at long format work in school.  I had to give her some context.  A leader aligns values with education sometimes, when examples alone won’t get past the resistance to growth, or more prevalent, the perception there is nothing to learn anew in an area where one considers themselves expert. 

Whenever somebody tells me how much work they can do, I always counterpoint by asking something regarding qualitative aspects contrary to their assertions about quantitative mastery being the only criterion for expertise.  A lot of people can pump out a lot of work, but quality is what sells, and it sells because it speaks for itself.   

I can say this authoritatively because I have both pumped out a lot of material that was both quality and crap and salable.  Our future as a culture relies on meaning, and that is not measured in gallons or pounds or standard contract sizes, but in individual dreams and personal commitment to those dreams.

By and large the less appealing stuff is the majority of word count.  But I use it as foundation roadwork and also, some of it is salvageable and can be re engineered into a smart play. 

She got the counterpoint and I segued into the opportunity to tell her what I tell a lot of creativity curious people.

It’s the story about graduation requirements for a degree at Princeton University, one of the finest academic institutions in the world.  They require, in order to pick up your degree, to write a 100 page document about something that is not your area of expertise, is not a research project, is not about yourself, and is completely original. 

Why do they do this?  Because they know, like I know - and most of you who are genuine literary artists and performing comics and storytellers will back me up on this – after twenty minutes, you run out of bullshit.  After than, one comes back down from Mount HereIamWorld, and talks like a human.  Anybody who talks about themselves for more than twenty minutes needs professional help or is using you. 

Princeton has the same idea, they just set a written standard instead of a conversational one.  They know how vetting the writing activity can be with respect to real, germane thought and not the impression amalgamation peddled as stream of consciousness output most people crutch through life with. 

Though it should be said the former is often a stepping stone or warm up to the latter.  As the great actress and comedienne Gilda Radner put it, puke first. 

Princeton knows after about 80 pages, even the brightest intellects runs out of bullshit, and you have to actually start both describe something and put reasoning behind it, not just using the tool to dance about pseudo intellectually. 

Like my mother used to say, “A lot of people with brains walk around acting like they got minds.”

After describing this stepping stone to the creative process for anyone in the creative arts, she had a little reality pause.  I noticed it because almost everyone pauses when it comes to real work or original thought.  The people not afraid of real work are the ones you want to work with.

So, to buoy her, I gave her the upside sell which I now give you.  Story work, personal story work, has meaning.  Meaning gives you purpose, reason to live life, focus, energy, joy and passion.  It is way way beyond passion alone, because passion runs out.  Meaning you have to go after with a club and it’s the best barbeque of the soul you’ll ever taste and nourish enlightenment and satisfaction with.

You can have passion a lot of the time about your meaning in life regarding self creation and the manifestation of its purpose, plans, productions, performances and playtime; don’t get me wrong there. 

She liked that and got it easily. 

These days, it seems, people are challenged by the status quo stripping them of identity so they are good little cogs and robots for somebody else’s version of mission or vision, which is just a highly stylized profit strategy most of the time.  You may remember if you are old enough the famous cover of the magazine TIME, which had a baby as the subject of a photo and just over the baby's head was a dollar amount of over a million dollars representing the potential revenue evolving the baby's entire life.  Yeah, on the cover of what was once one of the most important magazines in the world.  

This is how deep greed calculates how much they can exploit you for, and there are a dozen Phd's on Madison Avenue (which ironically runs right behind Wall Street) figuring out right now how to push your buttons and get your money. 

I stopped buying into that idea that a job with somebody else was my mission or vision to align with a long time ago, and you could become aware of that with whoever is selling you vision or mission or values, and evaluate it anew.  

Really, since when does somebody have to buy jeans in order to combat AIDS in African women?  What kind of authentic is that?  It consumption driven authentic.  It's values-by-vendor mentality.  

What has consumption (other than the fact corporate elite dance on dollars because we are in brand culture, and they have won the psychological war of getting you to believe consuming is the most important thing you can do on earth if you want identity, a sense of belonging and a politic). Does a housewife really stand by her brand like a woman used to idealize about standing by her man? 

I think greed would like you to think so.  They need you to believe.

See the Annenberg School youtube video on Brand Culture to know what I mean.  www.youtube.com/watch?v=7gGS8Q89bXM

Then, as an old school entertainer fortunate enough to have ditched the hack attack shock and awe campaign for authentic creator process, I gave her a piece of mind candy so she would go away feeling swell and I could get back to my blog drafting without her realizing I had for the sake of production, intellectually shooed her away.  Interruption and artistic composition don’t go hand in hand for me and for most, you know.  And where I live, people love to watch over your shoulder behind you to read what is your intellectual property without permission because they can.  

Its that old saying many Californians know and love, "If you want to get rich in California, spy." 

But in order to give her some authentic value alignment to propel her to inspired action as her bit of candy - always my goal in conversations about creativity, I had to do what all creators must have strong skill at, whether internal or external.

I had to observe for a real relate-able. 

So, I watched her without watching her, as women have eyes in the back of their heads as well as an imagination about what they see in regards to themselves when they catch others watching them.  That's not even accounting for the vain things they convince themselves of as to why you are looking at them to begin with.  It is perfectly responsible socially to admire a beautiful woman's outfit, and not be sexually advancing on her.  But they will take it any way they want to. 

I watched every now and then, between paragraphs, until she was engaged with another employee, and was not holding up her customer mask.   They call it the "Politician's Smile."

Then, I saw it.  Clear as day.  Elvis.  She did an Elvis sneer and it was as authentic as it could get. 

She had no idea she did it, I am certain.  These kinds of expressions are usually deeply embedded early on and the person usually does not know they are mugging an authority figure or a love figure from their formative years. 

It’s how to discern the mommy stories from the daddy stories without having to pry.  People simply demonstrate behaviorally.

She probably got it from some authority or love figure older than her who was a fan of the King and the ‘mug’ as we call it in acting, simply embedded deeply, surfacing to this day when her unconscious in near the surface, or more appropriately, her consciousness is not getting in the way of her authenticity, and one observes this mostly during a lull in the action or in a deep laughing reaction.  These are the things comics observe from stage when they are delivering the goods and people are buying. 

You will find mommas look always on the faces of the kids, and sometimes daddy looks.  Moms are much more around during impression forming and imitation forming stages, so they are dominant percentage wise. It is semantically important to note here most of the looks are ones of disappointment.

That’s why I watch kid’s faces for adult expressions they don’t know the meaning of yet, but imitate perfectly whenever they are displeased, because they learned the face of parent displeasure, and the situation that triggered the reaction for the child will more than likely trigger the reaction for the adult as well, and well, that gives you the opportunity not to step in something, because audiences after shows just don't want to talk about thin things. They are a partner in today's entertainment, and want to talk in pseudo entertainment blabbety-blab because it makes them feel sexy when it's trite.  

This is part of the price you pay when walking an authentic path, is discovering the massive complexity and depth of all the inauthentic things.

Then I know what to watch for on mom’s or dad’s face when the adult conversation is about business, and what is at stake might make them happy or sad, depending on how much work they have to do for their money.  Show business is tricky, and you have to have a lot of cards up your sleeve to get a fair deal sometimes.

If only psychiatrist’s wrote more, but even if they did, they would be too heavy handed in the material.  I better not narrowcast ideas, somebody will surely pen ‘The Zeitgeist Monologues.’  And it will go on Broadway before the tragedy of being made into a film. Please don't do the art direction of the set designs in vulvae mauve.  Please. 

As a creator, the work load is not work, but an act of love, and meaningful, so it doesn’t feel like give or take, only give, and gratefully so for many entertainers.

So, she comes back and I give her the kernel of wisdom like this, because frankly, you have to talk to adults like kids sometimes, and kids who want to trust an adult want to know they can be spoken to as an adult, by an adult who remembers what it is like to be a child, and can articulate that. 

Or, has not everyone heard the great quote about the genius prerequisite of keeping the child alive in oneself?

So I say to her, “You know, in show business, we have an old tradition called ‘the cover’.  Its is sort of like one band covering a great song of an old time band.”  She replies, “oh, yeah, I’ve heard of that.” 

“But, in comedic or dramatic performance, when you are on your private time, thus not onstage giving your all, you are pretty much not able to; you are just plain living a person's life.

But someone bugs you for a bit of your act for no money or respect for your offstage time, we have to be generous as performers as we can never afford to alienate fans, so we invented our own little device called the cover and we tell them the ‘well, I’m not exactly prepared right now, but how about a little of this!'  

And we jump into our cover.  Some performers have a song they sing, some dance with the song, some do a scene from a famous movie imitating Marlon Brando in ‘On The Waterfront’ or James Dean in ‘Rebel Without A Cause’.  

I had a friend once in West Hollywood who could screw his face so perfectly into the famous Clint Eastwood character Harry Callahan, that anybody he even went halfway into the mug for - (mugging is what you do with your facial expression to augment on one way or another what you are expressing in totality with your body, gesture, voice, words and eyes in scene, in action, during acting performance) - would instantly feel like a .44 calibre Magnum weapon was very soon going to appear in the hands of a very angry man.  

It scared the bejeezus out of them basically, and they would not only go away, they wouldn't come back for seconds, or a, "Do that one again!"  

He was so good at it that I had to bargain with him not to do it with me around because it would make the meal we shared a lot less appetizing, and he threw the quid pro quo on it and next thing I know, I am writing lines for him to give to women he was trying to pick up like, "Baby, I'm this way tonight, but where I am going tomorrow, you might not like what I have to become to get through it."  

This of course was when he was pretending to be a private investigator in the days when everyone was pretending to be something they weren't for the purposes of seduction.  Those days did end, didn't they?  Have I not been talking about the age of authenticism already upon us, and only the early adopters have been listening? 

So by covering, an performer is able to satisfy the insensitive intruder with a modicum of performance without having to muster all their energy for originality – which is what stage performance takes – if you are authentic and sincere, that is – and get on with the christening, or party, or conversation they were having that was an actual interesting interaction before the entertainment-is-a-vending-machine mentality appeared. 

This usually makes people go away, and you can get back to being a normal person, not an entertainer, something that is important in and to your career as a creator.  I think in the status quo they call it life/work balance.

Now, I suppose major talents like Charlize Theron can fire right back with, “Well, I can do something really painful from my role as a crazy serial killer Aileen Wuornos, the prostitute turned serial killer, like maybe..” [male castration (if it is a guy) or (the lesbian love confession scene) if it is a woman].

That scares them just enough - but not too much to be offended; for indeed she will authentically perform her Academy Award winning material, and they are lucky to see it.  They laugh uncomfortably, politely decline and invariably go away.  Nothing like sending the draining people packing, I always say.  But that’s me.  I focus on forward motion, not patronizing reinforcement.  The planet just needs it. 

I mean, how many Dirty Dancing requests did Patrick Swayze have to turn down while battling for his life with cancer? 

If audiences are now part of the conversation and relationship as a result of the age of authenticism arriving, they better god damn well get some manners and sensitivities to them, or otherwise, get out of the business, just sit there and enjoy the show!

Alternatively, I suppose that Helen Hunt, a directing competitor of Charlize’s - in the nicest and most loving possible way, of course, no need for blood on the red carpet, as show business people have been known to say.  It has also been said, "You can't see blood on a red carpet" - might say to the requester something like, “Well, I always liked the scene where my television husband and I had long, meaningful conversations on the couch about our deep and intimate feelings about the world, the future, our love and relationships and what was for dinner – would you like to hear some of that?”

This way, the requester gets bored out of the intrusion, and Helen can get back to the meaningful conversation about the world, creativity, the future, love and relationships and dinner with the actually interesting, non-personal space invasive person she was with before the boor barged in, as the great Bill Hicks would have put it. 

Or Helen will just go back to sitting on a bench in the sun and space out, a very good creativity building exercise I recommend to all.  It will improve your circulation, prevent stress and combat heart disease as well, if you are the kind of person who can sit in one place awhile and not go sketchy about it.

Helen’s approach is an example of the soft touch.  Whether you go boring or psycho, the point is, get the entertainment-is-a-vending-machine mentality out of the picture without offending them so one can get back to personal quality time without endless audience requests.

If you are in a high energy and giving mood, and want to do it, give it all you got; you have to do that for fame anyway.

But as for me, after a long stint of performances, I just want to kick back with a cup of good green tea and a view and breath for long periods between intermittent periods of conversation, but that’s just how the LC chills. 

If the woman present wants non verbal communication, I can do that too, but we don’t have to fuck like minxes on the porch, kitty cat, we can just watch the sunset on the water and appreciate quality time, too, y’know?

So I tell the waitress she should have a cover because people are going to be bothering her all the time and she needs a solid way to please them and send them packing all while keeping an eye on the clock because time is all you get and your time is more important that just about anything, and you want to save energy for the stage, not the street. 

“And guess what the perfect cover of yours is?,” I asked her.

“What?”, she replies, with the tone of a woman who thinks she has heard it before.  “Elvis,” I said. “I watched you talking to that employee a few moments ago and you had the perfect Elvis sneer on just so,”  then I did it for her and I do a decent King, but it is not my go to cover. 

She smiled knowingly and gets it.  “I never heard that one before,” she said.  “That’s because I’m a comic, and I know audience, which is people deep,” I replied.  “Plus, I’m too old for you, so we can talk like humans without agenda.” 

She smiled differently as I peeled back one of her on guard layers with respect, and I planted the seed, “Now, having a cover is a responsibility, not a trick.  You have to really do Elvis.  You got to learn his moves, get his patois of speech, mug him three or four ways perfectly to bookend the impression.  Be able to throw some of your hair into his style with just one hand really fast.  And, you have to memorize some of his obscure songs, not just the classics, because everyone knows ‘I can’t stop falling in love with you.  You have to do ‘Follow That Dream’ or ‘Girls, Girls, Girls!’ if you are a lesbian, and you have to do it credibly.” 

She nodded with a grin from ear to ear. 

“That,” I said, “Is a real cover.”

“What’s yours?”, she asked, with that smile women give you when they are satisfied with the conversation and it is time to do something else.

I covered her. 
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