Category Archives: My Philosophy

Can you see what I see?

It’s a Mystery to Me, Too

Only recently have I come to realize the incredible truth that many of us, as American citizens, are given an amazing opportunity to follow our dreams. You can, quite literally, be whatever you want to be, and even if your wildest aspirations aren’t quite attainable, you still have the opportunity to seek the fulfillment of those desires. Most other people from most of the rest of the world can’t say that, which  may indicate just why they call it the American Dream.

Still, not everything one wishes to do is deemed universally acceptable. Parents still discourage their boys from playing with dolls “designed” for girls, as if there were a fundamental difference between a Ken doll and a G.I.Joe. This example is humorous to me, since you could easily put Ken in Roadblock’s clothes and send him off to fight COBRA, just as easily as you could put Flint in one of Ken’s cardigans and let him take Barbie to the movies. Now that we’ve determined that encouraging imagination in certain forms won’t make your son gay, or your daughter a biker gang groupie, why haven’t we wholly embraced the child’s imagination, for it’s own sake?

Is he on a fiery path towards social awkwardness, or preparing for his future as an amazing father?
Is he on a fiery path towards social awkwardness, or preparing for his future as an amazing father?

When I was young, we were strongly discouraged from misusing firearms. Even on the rare occasion that we had a toy gun in the house, there was no pointing it at the dog, and strict safety rules applied. The reason? We had real guns in the house, and it was important that my brother and I be raised with a masterful understanding of their potentials. But, even in households where Nerf pistols are used to terrorize the cat, are we necessarily teaching those kids to be violent and disregard life? How many youngsters dressed up as cowboys and struck out west to chase outlaws, only to grow up and become movie directors, fast food cashiers, and business accountants?

Until about a month ago, few people had the imagination to create a world where a woman might be president. Here we are, and if no one has done so already, welcome to 2016. In the same time frame, we are also finding the imagination for believing that a reality TV host can be president. I know that this suspended disbelief was forced upon most of us, yet here we are, imagining the possibilities.

presidentkids

Now imagine what wonders the world would hold, if more people let their imaginations run wild all the time…

I’ve done my share of imagining the possibilities, which is the only way anyone can find a clear path to the wonderful world of realization, and have completed many endeavors because of it. My live band, The Alphabet Asylum, is still hard at work on their long awaited second album, but there wouldn’t have even been a first album, if we didn’t hadn’t dreamed it was possible. Twelve years ago, a good friend of mine dared to dream that we could be on TV, and so we produced 42 episodes of a public access sitcom. Fast forward to this year, and we put ten more sitcom episodes under our belt, and released them on YouTube.

I wrote my first feature length screenplay, with more to come, and am now working on a new project, with one of my creativity co-conspirators, a dramatic sci-fi mini series. This all illustrates what imagination and a little drive can accomplish, but what does it have to do with gender roles? I’m glad you asked.

I am also hard at work on my first (serious attempt at) writing a full-length mystery novel. I had originally wanted to put a character from my college creative writing days, a hard-boiled Sam Spade type, into a new book, and got about fifty pages into it before my wife suggested I might find more success by writing a cozy mystery.

I actually read this installment of the popular Stephanie Plum book series. I still can't figure out why they're called "cozies" with all the sex, violence, and crazy old people.
I actually read this installment of the popular Stephanie Plum book series. I still can’t figure out why they’re called “cozies” what with all the sex, violence, and crazy old people.

For those of you who didn’t click the link, a “cozy” is a sub-genre of mystery novels that are almost exclusively written from the first person perspective of a woman. They are also written almost exclusively by women; I can’t actually find a female driven cozy series written by a man. And why not? Are men not interested in writing for this genre, incapable, or is it something that we haven’t yet imagined could happen?

As the roles of men and women bleed together, to more and more become the roles of humanity, who’s to say there won’t be a place for my spunky young female detective? And who’s to say that Hilary won’t keep out of jail long enough to do a wonderful job as president? She obviously had an imagination strong enough to picture herself doing what she was raised to believe was the impossible, otherwise she never would have even tried.

You can only become as big as you can dream, so the sky’s the limit on that imagination. And don’t let anyone tell you it’s not possible…especially Stacy.

The Do it Yourself Conundrum

Napoleon Bonaparte is credited with the expression, “If you want a thing done well, do it yourself.” There’s a paradox attached to this, since he believed it but failed. This begs the question: does doing a thing yourself guarantee that thing is done well enough to succeed?

People would argue that a men like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates are among the most successful people of the modern era. However, is it because they are single-person armies of DIY greatness, or because they knew how to properly manage a large enough group of people that knew what the hell was going on?

That's why he kept his hand in his jacket: he totally forgot to pack warm enough for the Russian offensive.
That’s why he kept his hand in his jacket: he totally forgot to pack warm enough for the Russian offensive.

So, Napoleon wouldn’t listen to anyone, and failed. Gates surrounded himself with brilliant people, and now spends his life giving away money. Is it possible for people to succeed without one another? Trump would probably say yes, but even he’d have to admit that a team could easily defeat one star player.

Not all teams are winners, and you do need strong leadership, that’s what my take away is from this. Michael Jordan couldn’t do it alone, but as a great team leader, he led by example and mentored greatness in others. He also exuded confidence, as proven by his commercial contract with Hanes.

I just recently cut ties with a program I was volunteering for where, as the only non-paid employee, my natural position should have been in the background. Somehow, I ended up taking lead on developing a project, yet never got any of the things I needed from the “team” to succeed. In the end, when things weren’t being handled properly by the people needed to do the things I could not, all the fingers pointed at me, probably since I was the only one doing anything, and also since I was the only one whose job wouldn’t be affected by a show of poor management.

On the other side of the coin, my web-based sitcom K’s House has just finished shooting, and while we had many, many setbacks, I was completely in charge of production. Even though I have the basic knowledge needed to do everything myself, I left things to the people who were most experienced. The quality of the product will be evidence of this, by contrast to the public access show I produced twelve years ago, where I tried to do every little thing by myself.

“K’s House” premiers May 13th.

Trust becomes the key issue, I think. I trusted others to do their part, and got burned. I’ve worked in groceries, where you have to be very selective about whom to trust, since anything they do wrong will have those aforementioned fingers pointing your way once more, and in a hurry to boot.

Where’s the line? In a world where everyone is out for themselves, where close associates will chuck you right at the street in front of that bus if it means safeguarding their own situation, where strangers are just as apt to steal mail from your porch as give you a dollar for gas, where is that line?  From what I can tell, it moves. A lot. So good luck finding it.

A song about being alone, but they still needed each other to sing it.

Enough Already?

Last night the wife and I had the rare opportunity to host a dinner party, featuring the girlfriend of an acquaintance, who is visiting from Russia. My food-centric friend and I quietly competed for most grandiose offerings, and the table was spread with everything from grass-fed bacon cheeseburgers to asparagus stuffed chicken.

The thing that struck me immediately about our honored house guest, was how well she spoke English; better than the lot of us, I’m afraid, with all of our swearing and missing consonants. Of course, she didn’t get to say much for most of the evening, but then that’s what she gets for dating a chatterbox American actor with obnoxious friends.

When we did allow her to speak at length, the conversation turned to the food, the amount of it, its over-the-top extravagance and variety, and how this seems to be a norm in our country. So many choices, such immense portions, and everything just killing to make us obese, with us dying to get as much of it as we can.

Moscow the Cat is saddened by your decadent, sedentary lifestyle.
Kiev the Cat is saddened by your decadent, sedentary lifestyle.

Since my first career was in grocery management, I had some interesting stories to add the the argument that America was crazy for consumption (not tuberculosis). Since her visit was almost exclusive to the biggest cities in California, I submitted that she got the absolute worst of it. Vacation destinations and BBQ gatherings, where people splurge on purpose, and have to go enormous because what they’re used to is already so much.

She did mention, however, that our mustard isn’t nearly as flavorful as what she’s used to back home.

The question is: when is plenty too much, and when is too much almost a bad joke? Would it take someone from another country, sitting in your living room and pointing at all the food you’re leaving out, to illustrate just how amazing you have it?

Go to the supermarket and count the number of apple choices. Do the same for the tomatoes, potatoes, squash, and citrus fruits. If you live in California, you’ve given up before you’ve finished. We get everything we want anytime we want it, but did you ever stop to consider that you shouldn’t have farm fresh berries year-round?

An cardboard sign I bought from a homeless street vendor in Vegas. He had several signs, but this one seemed the most poignant, buying it from a guy with nothing but strips of cardboard and colored pens.
An handmade sign I bought from a homeless street vendor in Vegas. He had several signs, but this one seemed the most poignant, buying it from a guy with nothing but strips of cardboard and colored pens.

Here’s an interesting article, from Forbes. In it is a graph that shows an Economist study of the socioeconomic state of the top and bottom ten percent of several socially democratic countries. If you look closely, the bottom ten percent in the US seem to have it better than the top ten percent in Russia, where our charming guest is from. If the results posted in the article are to be believed, in a country stereotyped by corrupt fat-cat officials, those top tier individuals live like people in the worst slums in America.

Is it so hard to believe that it can’t possibly be true? Or are we so well off that we’re too high on our mountain top to see the valleys below? Quite frankly, it doesn’t really matter. We can’t make the world an entire ball of American standards; in fact, many places would out right refuse if we could and tried.

It all boils down to our good fortune. We are born here, or immigrated here, and thus enjoy the perks of what our society has created. Yes, it makes us fat, and makes us tactless, and we don’t really concern ourselves with the state of another country’s union, but then, we’re here and nowhere else, so what should it matter?

Happiness is a choice, not bound by circumstance.
Happiness is a choice, not bound by circumstance or surroundings.

Happiness is relative to circumstance. The homeless addict finds joy in the receipt of a half eaten fast food meal. The average American Joe is overjoyed when a new season of his favorite show starts. The same can be said for people in any country, in every condition of life. The young lady who came to visit us would have only had hearsay evidence and her own country’s stereotypes of us, if she hadn’t hopped on a plane and came to see for herself.

I say: live the life that you have, don’t stop trying to better it, and don’t feel bad about it. As for our visitor, it didn’t seem like she had too bad a time, enduring our insanely over-indulgent lifestyle, although it did seem to bother her maybe a little. I’d probably know for sure, if we’d let her get a word in edgewise.

We all knew this song was coming, so stop with the face. Seriously, how bad can it be? Hot chicks in every major city, and rock ‘n roll seems to have found its way there.