Love, communist style

people spelling out "L-O-V-E" with their bodies arranged on an atrium floor Several years ago, during the dawn of the Social Media Age, I ran into someone I knew ever-so slightly from the blogging circuit at one of the nerd conferences people on blogging circuits tend to run into each other at. A kind of a celebrity-hero of early Web 2.0, albeit an accessible one.

Many of us were new to the internets back then, but I was also a neophyte in the ways of networking. As I got out from behind my keyboard, along with the introverts, freaks and social misfits I'd been expecting, I also discovered these odd hybrids: pseudo-nerds, or nerd-friendlies, who in their previous, pre-Internet lives had picked up the interpersonal skills I'd somehow managed to avoid acquiring in over 40 years as a human being. These people were upbeat and genial and welcoming, and I always sank gratefully into their company. They knew what to say and what to do; they were able to move through the world with at least outward confidence while putting other people at ease.

So of course I paid attention to the things they did and said, absorbing and parsing constantly: What things did they inquire about? What things did they offer up? How did they introduce mutual acquaintances? Or new topics? Or sustain a conversation? Or exit one?

It was exhausting, but useful.

I began engaging people this way myself, with...unusual results. My heartbeat would speed up. I'd feel dizzy, like the world got wobbly or a haze suddenly descended. It was a little unnerving, sure, but I wrote it off as inexperience, change is hard!, and resolved to try, try again.

Which is where I was at when I finally met my kind-of celebrity/hero: nervous, but trying. Awkward, but trying. I screwed my courage to the sticking point and said "hello." Clearly not one for small talk, he generously put up with my wobbly attempts at it. Until finally, when I had wandered so far of the res of my own groundedness that the room was practically spinning around me, I asked the question that was so foreign to me just the thought of saying it could trigger an out-of-body experience:

"So, (Celebrity-Hero of Web 2.0), tell me: What can I do to help you?"

Whereupon he sighed, rolled his eyes, and said, "Seriously? 'What can I do to help you?' Seriously? This isn't you. What are you doing?"

I froze. And then two things happened.

First, I wanted to disappear. Because I was humiliated and angry and humiliated. This produces in me an urge to make everything go away, starting with myself.

Second, I wanted to throw my arms around his neck and kiss him. Because he was right, and I was free. I never had to ask that stupid fucking question again as long as I lived.

* * * * *

Before the rock-hurling and/or tribal shunning commences, let me make myself very clear: helping is a good thing. I am pro-helping. I help people; you help people; Celebrity-Hero of Web 2.0 helped (and probably still helps) people. We'd better all be helping each other, or every last one of us is doomed.

There's also nothing wrong with asking what you can do to help someone, if that is what it takes for you to really help someone. Asking is a marvelous way to gather useful intelligence with which to shape your loving and generous impulses. I mean, who hasn't gotten a crappy graduation gift from Uncle Fritz, right? Or attended a pot luck with four desserts and no casserole?

Where it gets tricky is when the helping is "helping": asking how you can help as your secret judo way of soliciting it for yourself, or asking when you have zero intention of following through. This is the kind of "helping" that gives helping a bad name, and unfortunately, it's as rampant as hollow, meaningless inquiries into the state of one's health.

Additionally, let me say that the first two people I heard ask me this question meant it. 100%. Short of my asking for a pony or other unrealistic deliverable, they would have agreed and come through (and possibly never asked for anything else, ever.) Both of them are people who are much in the world, who have exceptionally large hearts and energy to match. They are hardy. They are robust. If they have hidden agendas, they're being served with scraps from the main table. It works for them.

I, on the other hand, don't work that way. And by that I mean I seem to shrivel up with too much giving, the same way I do if I have too much social interaction. I have to be judicious in my offers of help if I want to make good on them, which I do, if only because violating Agreement #1 makes me feel so rotten. So I am careful about how I offer help, and to whom, and when. It is not as much as some people would like, and it is even less than that on Twitter.

Do I wish I could do more? Oh, yes.

I also wish that I could be 5'9", eat anything, and sing like Ella Fitzgerald. I don't think those are going to happen anytime soon, either.

* * * * *

People love to make a great noise about the importance of hewing to your path. There is a fair amount of literature out there on the noble struggle involved. But rarely do we get into the gruesome details of how doing your own thing will make you feel on a day-to-day basis.

Like crazy, for starters. Alone and crazy. Mean and crazy. Selfish and crazy. Stupid and crazy. Wrong and crazy.1

Part of the reason you feel these things is because people will intimate that you are these things, if they don't say it outright. Most of the time they do this because it makes them feel less crazy, less alone, less mean and selfish and stupid and wrong and fallibly human. On a good day, I can get down with this and even approach something I suspect might be what compassion feels like. On an average day, I rise to the bait, real or implied, and beat myself up. (On a bad day, I attack...and then beat myself up.)

The other part of the reason is the always-on, 24/7, city-that-never-sleeps effect of the Internet. That thing that brought you together with fellow travelers whose existence you only dreamed of before Usenet or or whatever point you plugged into the matrix can also make you feel very alienated from the rest of the world. Here, someone is always up, always happy, always shipping. It's a dangerous place for comparing insides (yours) to outsides (theirs) and subsequent mimicry. It gets loud up in this bee-yotch.

* * * * *

Right now, I am liking this definition of help: love, externalized. Love in motion, love in action. One reason I like it is that it takes help out of the land of tit-for-tat transactions. I grew up with both plenty of love and plenty of help, possibly more than my fair share, but trust me, a strict accounting was kept at all times.

Today, I am having fun, actual FUN, noticing how help flows out and shows up. As free guest rooms and rides to the airport. As secretly-picked-up tabs and comped coffees. As database advice and emotional support, as quiet letters and cheery introductions, as tomatoes and tips, as labor and hilarious jokes. Maybe someone with a very, very high up view could make sense of this strange economy, but down here, it starts to look like magic.

Am I done forever with mutual backscratching? Probably not. I wouldn't even say there's not a place for it, again, my view is myopic and low to the ground.

But I am increasingly in love with the idea of love flowing from each of us according to our abilities, and to each of us according to our needs. This is the kind of help I want to give and to get: love, communist style.

I think it can happen in business. I think it can happen on Facebook. I think it could make for an amazing world to live in, if can let each other let each other.

If I can let myself be myself.

xxx c

This piece was inspired in part by an incredibly helpful and well-written little book by Bindu Wiles about how to write for the Internet. Yes, really. As I read it, I kept saying "Yup" and "Yup" and finally, "Well, I guess now I don't have to write an incredibly helpful book about writing for the Internet; Bindu already done did it." And it's yours for the price of an email address. See? Helpful.

1And I'm not talking about the big things you might be called "crazy" for, like leaving a marriage that isn't working, or quitting a good job to go out on your own, or sailing across the ocean on a sandwich bag. Do something that's big enough and people will at least applaud your audacity while they call you crazy. As with most things, the devil is in the details. Boring, stupid, unseen, important daily details.

Image by schipulites via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Making gatherings better [video]


[Watch "Helpful Networking Thingy" on YouTube; 03:12 minutes]

We had a great time at last week's Biznik event at Jerry's Deli. We pretty much always do, but this time, we introduced a new, fun, sharing-kinda thing that really reinvigorated everyone, provided interesting things to talk about and gave each of us insight not only into each other, but some ways we might improve our lives and businesses moving forward.

I describe one of the tools I used in the video above. Basically, it comes down to this:

  1. Have each attendee to your gathering come with a problem or question they'd like to crowdsource.
  2. Provide some means for them to write the question and collect answers, we used 8.5x11" sheets and markers, and laid them out on a table. I rolled out some kraft paper underneath it all so I could tape the sheets neatly. You could also put giant sheets up on the wall, or use a big whiteboard and take pictures after.

If you're the organizer, it's helpful to seed things with a question or two, or press a willing friend to ask one as well. It will help people get over their initial shyness with the new idea.

If you were one of the attendees and happen to be reading this, please feel free to leave your thoughts about how this worked in the comments.

If you've done something like this and achieved great success with getting people to loosen up right away and share, I'd love to hear your methods.

Oh, and if you're an entrepreneur in the Los Angeles area, I'd love to meet you at an upcoming event. There's one on February 16th; sign up for Biznik (free!), then you can RSVP to the event.



Book review: Influence

author Robert Cialdini and his book, INFLUENCE

How out-of-date is the library-sale copy of Influence: The Power of Persuasion I finished recently? When my 1984-minted paperback was printed, its subtitle was "The New Psychology of Modern Persuasion." (Italics mine, of course.)

Today, the psychology Robert Cialdini outlines in his now-classic book is so not-new, it's almost shocking to think that anyone could ever have been sucked in by any of examples of Cialdini uses to illustrate the six "Weapons of Influence" he describes. If you're not a small-business owner or one of the bajillions of marketing freaks the social web has spawned, you may not be able to list all of the terms by name, but you sure as hell can recognize them when they're coming at you.

That friendly car salesman who gets you to take a test drive, who goes to the mat with his boss in the back room to get a better deal for you, who confides that the exact model you want is due to come in tomorrow, but only one of them, and only if you sign on the dotted line today? You might not know that he's employing Weapons #1, 5 and 7, a.k.a. "Reciprocation," "Liking," and "Scarcity", but you know he's hustling you.1 His going-to-the-mat b.s. has already been debunked for you in several mainstream Hollywood films. Hell, chances are you've already used the Google to find out exactly how many cars were made with those options, when they shipped, and what the dealer price is.

So why read a 25-year-old book about "modern" persuasion in a postmodern world like ours, populated by savvy, heck, jaded consumers like us?

Because while the book is 25 years old, the techniques themselves are thousands of years older, as old as the first person trying to get the first other person to do something. And whether you are an honest person trying to get your message across or an honest person trying to keep from getting shafted, it behooves you to gain a real understanding of what motivates your fellow human beings, and what's fueling the transactions between us every single day.

And I'm not just talking about learning how to sell sell sell, or, on the other hand, to avoid being sold sold sold. The way we are moved has ramifications in all sorts of interpersonal situations, and there's terrific advice in Influence that will help you do better at everything from buying soap to choosing lovers to raising children. The chapter on Commitment & Consistency alone has more useful information about smart relationships than 99% of the crap targeted to women in the self-help section.

Which brings me to another huge plus for Cialdini's book over most of what's out there purporting to illuminate the darker corners of our souls: it's well-written, and downright enjoyable to read. Somewhere during the chapter on Social Proof, it hit me, with its mix of footnoted and well-researched information, great illustrative stories and (thank you!) wry humor, Cialdini reminded me of not a little of Malcolm Gladwell. Cialdini is far more earnest and not nearly as sophisticated, but then, he was at it a full 10 years before Gladwell. (And, yeah, okay, Gladwell is just a singularly silky and sexy and fabulous wizard with words. You bewitch me, Malcolm!)

I will likely release my ancient copy of Influence back into the wild and pick up a revised version, if only to see how the text has been updated. I'd love to hear Cialdini's take on Bernie Madoff's use of the Weapons of Influence, for instance (although you can read one take on it here.)

But if you are a marketer, or a buyer, or a person who wants to be in a good relationship, or to NOT end up in that oh-so-bewildering place of "how the hell did I get here?", I'd pick up a copy, any copy, old or new, of this fantastic book.


1The six "Weapons of Influence," in the order Cialdini describes them in the book, are: Reciprocation, Commitment & Consistency, Social Proof, Liking, Authority, and Scarcity.

Photo of Robert Cialdini © Jason Petze, used with permission.

Disclosure! Links to the book(s) in the above post are Amazon affiliate links. This means if you click on them and buy something, I receive an affiliate commission. Which I hope you do: while small, it helps keep me in books to review. More on this disclosure stuff at publisher Michael Hyatt's excellent blog, from whence I lifted (and smooshed around a little) this boilerplate text.

Book review: Ill-Equipped for a Life of Sex

cover of ill-equipped for a life of sex & author jennifer lehr

For all of my public candor and truth-excavatin', there are areas I will not touch.

One of them, no pun intended, is sex.

Another, believe it or not, is relationships. I am a champion of privacy, wherever possible, and also a big, fat coward: I'm loathe to pull a Truman Capote and end up like Truman Capote (although the middle of his life, in between the gothic horror and lonely, alcoholic demise, does sound interesting.)

These are just two of the reasons I was floored by Jennifer Lehr's 2004 memoir, Ill-Equipped for a Life of Sex. In it, as you might expect from the title, she exposes her many and colorful sexual encounters (in vivid and fascinating detail), from her first kiss (or desire for one) through her mostly sexually-dysfunctional relationship with her eventual husband to her post-marital flirtations and fantasies. If Lehr left anything out, it was neglible: parts of the book read like letters to Penthouse Forum, only realistic. I was shocked not so much by what she did, but that she was writing about it so openly in the same book where she cheerfully and un-self-consciously outlines her relationships with many members of her family, with whom, it would appear, she is still close (and who definitely win the prize for most tolerant family around.)

This, though, is the trick of the book, and the second meaning of the title: it's as much a story of how she got here from there as it is a salacious recounting. What Lehr has done is to write a book, a shockingly intimate book, about intimacy itself, and the role it plays in keeping all kinds of relationships alive. To bare ourselves metaphorically  requires high levels of trust and commitment, often far higher than those required to strip down and get busy, not to mention a slavish devotion to truth.

And over and over, after each screw-up (so to speak), she throws herself once again headlong into the truth. There is her shink, and her next shrink, and her shrink after that. (Geographical and other factors outside of her control necessitate the moves.) There is his shrink, and AA, and their shrink. Shrinks. There is an art project in grad school that leaves her open and vulnerable and ultimately spurned for attempting to get at a truth, which (surprise, surprise) freaks everyone's shit right out. It is so painful at times, watching this earnest struggle to get at the truth, to learn what it is and then learn how to live in it, to communicate with it, one aches for this young woman and her crazy quest.

But this is the same thing that makes it compulsively readable. Well, besides the sex, which is pretty salacious, and the unselfconscious exposure of her very privileged life. (Lehr was financially supported by her family, and in fairly grand style, pretty much until her husband's ship came in.) Again and again, despite the crazy pain involved, she dives into the hard work of scrutinizing her screw-ups for clues as to their genesis, until finally, she comes up with the answers. They are both complex and simple, always boiling down to truth and communication, communication and truth. Many of the reviewers on Amazon say they saw their own life in Lehr's; the rest (and we're talking half and half), dismiss the book as an overly-long, poorly-written exercise in narcissism by a spoiled princess.

Could it be shorter? Yes, by about 100 pages, I reckon. Better-written? In parts, certainly. Hell, there are parts of every post I've ever written that I know could be better-written, usually as I'm writing them.

It's fearless, though, and earnest and heartfelt. And it's a startling expose of the real reasons we both turn away and towards sex in (and out of) relationship. It's about addiction of all kinds, and how it keeps us from true love and connection. It's about how unbe-fucking-lievably hard it is to communicate when the stakes are high. (The story of how John and Jennifer Lehr turn around their relationship is instructive and inspiring.)

So while I wish that maybe she'd had a little more experience with writing before she sat down to tell her story, or an editor who had leaned a little harder on her, I'm grateful to Lehr for sharing it. And very much looking forward to deepening my own commitment to rooting out fraud in my own life...


1She explicitly the details of life with her husband, comic actor John Lehr, or the lack thereof, when it comes to.

Photos: (l) ©ReganBooks, Cover design by Richard Ljoenes; (r) photo of author Jennifer Lehr ©Stephanie Howard

Yo! Disclosure! Links to the books in the post above are Amazon affiliate links. This means if you click on them and buy something, I receive an affiliate commission. Which I hope you do: it helps keep me in books to review. More on this disclosure stuff at publisher Michael Hyatt's excellent blog, from whence I lifted (and smooshed around a little) this boilerplate text.

Say it now or blurt it later


The hardest time to talk about something is when there's a lot at stake.

Like a friendship. Or a client-ship. Or a relationship of any kind. (Or, yes, a lot of money. Not sure about this, because I do not come from Big Money, but I suspect it's hard for them to talk about it, too. Most of the people I know who grew up with Big Money aren't big on talking about much of anything, much less money.)

Of course, life being the perverse sumbitch she is and the Universe having a mighty hearty sense of humor for an inanimate object or an interwoven collection of collectively-animated objects, the time when it's most important to talk about something is when there's a lot at stake.

Only you don't, because, you know, there's a lot at stake, so you hold tight and tell yourself you need to do a little testing with mission control and a little prep work with the editor and maybe call in some outside consultants to reality-check and drum up a strategy, and before you know it, you've got a full-scale storm a-brewin' instead of a little rumbling in a teapot or a Stage-IV melanoma instead of a freckle that looks "off."

Did I mention I'm going to the dentist today? And that I've had a number of dental-related issues over the past several months?As in what comes out of the mouth, so goes what happens inside it. Or somesuch.

It's good to be cognizant of the world outside our skins, and to understand that sometimes, the party of the second part is going through something that's not so much a party as a cruise around a circle of hell, and that maybe our Thing can wait.

On the other hand, we're all grappling with some goddamned thing or another all the time. And when we're not, well, things are so nice, you wouldn't want to go spoiling this Precious Moment, right?

Enh. Five-alarm, crisis situations aside, there's usually room to be made in a day to talk about most anything. Or, if you like, even on a spin around the fifth circle of hell, sometimes you can catch a breeze.

By all means, prep. I lived without an editor for a long time and it wasn't always a good thing. Now I live with one, and a conveniently placed override switch I installed a while back. It's finely calibrated to look for openings, and I'm more finely calibrated to understand how much ground can be covered in an hour, or a half-hour, or ten minutes. I'm also better at getting how to bring something up in a way I can be heard, and I'm like a fucking champion compared to my younger, assholier self when it comes to copping to my part in things. (Hint: cop up front. It's almost always better.)

For the worriers out there, nothing is wrong. This is just life, which is change, and me dealing with it. Like (maybe) an adult, for once. In a way that (maybe) I won't be embarrassed to tell my shrink about when I see her this week for our monthly meetup. (For the record, I'd probably do them more often if she didn't live so far away and the economy wasn't so wacky.)

I'll get through my changing. You'll get through yours. We'll all get through, one way or another.

I've just decided I want to be in the driver's seat more often.

Taking the wheel.

Saying it now...


Image by fisherman's daughter via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Authentic voice, in blue

3 1940s-style singers in red, white & blue outfits You know that thing you do when you're little? Imagining some Kodak Momentâ„¢ of yourself, surrounded by test tubes, curing cancer? Or pirouetting in yards of tulle before a sold-out crowd? Or addressing the Joint Chiefs of Staff, dressed in tulle, while curing cancer?

In just over three weeks, I'm going to be standing up in front of 200 people and talking about talking. I never imagined anything this weird.

I'm guessing that Nina Hartley, famed star of the adult entertainment world, registered nurse and Berkeley-born offspring of practicing Buddhists never at any point in her life up to now imagined she'd wind up in front of a group of people with her clothes on, reading a personal essay that neatly and elegantly made a universal point about connectedness and self-actualization via a vividly detailed description of an explicit sex act involving her hand and someone else's ladyparts.

Compared to Ms. Hartley? I'm a piker in more than one way.

I told almost no one about this particular gig. And not for the obvious reason, that it was a sex-ay affair. (Come on, it was held on the back patio of a sex-toys shop, fer criminy.)

No, I kept mum because, as with most gigs I might advertise, I was concerned about quality.

Perform bit roles in enough shitty nickel theater that you drag your family and friends to and eventually, when the stars fall from your eyes, you get it: everyone has his breaking point, and you don't want your devoted fan base to hit theirs before the event you really need them to turn out for. An evening of erotic anything (barring the one-on-one variety, natch) is not generally what leaps to mind when I think "wildly entertaining", and a slate of writers whom I'd never read and never heard perform doing erotica? Uh...uh-uh.

I'll admit, I'm not widely read in the stuff. I'll also admit that at least part of my trepidation stems from my Midwestern roots. Although thanks to my beloved paternal grandfather, a crazy, arts-lovin' liberal atheist who became more and not less so with age, I did have exposure to a modest variety of printed adult matter, albeit furtively. (At least, I'm pretty sure I kept my tracks covered.)

My favorites were Playboy (when you're 9, you really do like the comics) and R. Crumb comix, something I never really thought about until recently. Neither was for the truly squeamish, but both were artfully conceived and executed, and I'd argue that the Crumb stuff was written in as authentic a voice as can be. I remember the shock of recognition I had watching Crumb, the Terry Zwigoff documentary, for the first time. It was like I stumbled into some wormhole and was living in 1971 and 1994 simultaneously, the likeness was so compelling.

Compare that to the awful stylings, nay, overstylings of most adult entertainment and to me, the source of cringe-inducement becomes wildly obvious: forget the feminist POV; it's just embarrassingly derivative, stagey or stiff, you'll pardon the pun.

Your voice is your voice is your voice; once you know and trust it, it can accompany you anywhere, from tea with the Queen to bottle swigs on the Bowery (the pre-gussied Bowery) and everywhere in between. You can write a memo or a eulogy or a potty-mouthed song (my choice) and it will be you. Should you sing your potty-mouthed song at Windsor Castle? Probably not without being asked. Neither should you hunker down on your middle-aged haunches and start coo-woo-wooing at a toddler just because you've got 45 laps around the planet on the shorty. They're people, people: as The Youngster used to say, "Short, ignorant people." (The BF adds, "who don't pay rent.") And they have bullshit detectors whose calibration has not gone off-kilter from years of smoke being blown around various bits. Never forget that it was a child who pointed out the buck-nekkidness of El Jefe.

I would never have thought that getting up in front of 35 strangers and singing a song about dirty keyword searches would leave me feeling so much better prepared to stand up in front of 200 and talk about Authentic Communication. But of course it did, of course, of course. More than most of my Toastmasters speeches, although they were helpful in their own way.

There was no governor up last Thursday night, and it worked: me, trusting what I had to say, er, sing, and putting it out there.

What are you afraid of? What would happen if you did it anyway?

Or maybe the question is, "What will happen if you don't?"

xxx c

LINK to my performance of "The Dirty Keywords Search Song" at In The Flesh: LA on YouTube (WARNING: Contains language which may be offensive and/or NSFW.)

Image by Mr. Mo-Fo via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Stop! Sucking! Day 13: Stop and take it in

We are an always-on, go-get-'em kind of people these days. Most of us, anyway.

Especially those of us stateside, who lack the perspective that thousands of years of history gives one. We're a restless bunch, we Yanks: kind of sharklike in that always-moving-forward kinda way.

Sometimes, it's good to move forward. As the panel of wildly (at least, by my terms) successful entrepreneurs on the panel at the alumni event I attended tonight largely agreed, in many cases there's no such thing as moving fast enough.

That's true. It's as ridiculous to say "never go at breakneck speed" as it is to have "whoa, Nelly" as your default mode. For the 4000th time since I first noticed it, I'll repeat: everything in moderation, moderation inclusive. I'm glad I did myself damage on a scale that would prohibit my run for the presidency, and not just because I think it's one of the crappiest jobs around. I like that I lived the Debauched Life, however briefly my delicate constitution allowed for it. What's the old saw? Better to ask forgiveness than permission? That in our advanced years, we mostly regret the sins of omission, not commission?

The older I get, the more experiences I have under my belt, the more I realize that the real value, the true skill or gift, lies in a state of relaxed readiness. A lack of attachment to outcome. A goal or a vision that can remain intact even as the game plan shifts. Improvising.

Tonight, I went out to meet a bunch of new people, and ended up speaking mostly to one good friend (you know who you are.) It was heaven, and not just because we were doing it in beautiful surroundings with great snacks and two of my favorite red wines (hello, Cambria Pinot! hello, La Crema!)

It was heaven because it fed my soul. New acquaintances are wonderful, and I hope to meet many more of you in the extremely-not-too-distant future. But old friends are touchstones: important reminders of where we've been, how we've grown and what's involved in getting from one end to the other.

Almost incidentally, as I was walking out of the incredibly posh venue, I realized that the last time I'd been there was with my father, probably five years ago, when he was still alive and while he was still traveling. It's a place that for so many reasons I'd been dreading a return to, and when I did? Nothing but silk.

From one planner (just ask The BF) to maybe a bunch of others (there's a reason you're here, right?), keep your plan. Just keep it loosely.

There is beauty in full-steam-ahead. There is beauty in floating adrift.

There is peace in knowing when to do what...

xxx c

UPDATE: My friend, Evelyn Rodriguez, points to a great story about attachment (and the importance of discarding it) involving Krishnamurti.

Image by Ryan Yam via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

To do: #1. Make list

Wherefore, this compulsion to make lists?

I wish I could say it was purely motivated by my lifelong, Virgo-esque pursuit of efficiency, but that thesis was shattered when I found that I derived exactly as much joy in composing a "have done" list as I did a "to do" list.

It's got something to do with order, alright (pun intended); the more chaotic and random life seems, the greater my desire to exert some measure of control. Here are the steps I'm going to take to ensure that: (a) I buy my house before I'm too old to tend the garden I want surrounding it; (b) my cupboards don't have three more jars of duplicate condiments moldering away in them; (c) I have clean underwear next week.

But clearly, the truth goes deeper than that. Because at some point, I can no longer resist the urge to tell the world, or the person next to me, or hell, myself, for that matter, that these are: (1) the best cover songs ever written, (2) my favorite 20 movies, (3) the blogs I think are worth visiting.

And what, or who, is left off: (i.) the best- or worst-dressed lists; (ii) the bazillion incarnations of red or blue lists; (iii) the most-viewed TV shows of last night lists; is as telling as who, or what, makes it on.

For me, lists are a way of getting at the truth, albeit in code. I have an intention to buy a house, therefore I make a list. I have fascination with cover songs, movies and the Internet, so I make a list. I don't have enough time (or courage) to write essays declaring my love, so I make lists.

Of course, I'm not alone in rockin' the list. Lists must be inherently fascinating to most humans or they wouldn't have such a presence on late-night talk shows, Apple's fascistic music delivery system and people's personal websites.

Which reminds me...

To do:

  1. make list of lists I want to make
  2. code lists with links
  3. upload to blog


Binary thinking is so pre-millenial

I've been thinking about change a lot lately. Mostly for intensely personal reasons, but yeah, this little politial fracas that's been consuming us lately factors in.

So first, the "duh": change is never easy. I think normal human beings--lefties and righties, blues and reds, tall peeps and short (ha!)--resist change with every fiber of their beings.

This guy, Mark Hasty, whose blog I just stumbled upon this morning, makes an interesting point about why Bush won this election: basically, that the Republicans speak to the People and Dems don't. He goes on to suggest that a few of us park our liberal asses in a church and see whaddup with the rest of the world. That there is no substitute for the community provided by faith.

Well, yes. And

Did Kerry lose because he doesn't speak the language of the majority of the people in this country? Absolutely. It's not like the man is lacking in the moral values area himself.

But why is The Answer to adopt the language and/or lifestyle of that largest voter bloc? I'm an artist (well, I try, anyway). I know lots of other artists. You wanna talk community? You wanna throw down about faith? About true "Christian" (i.e., loving, inclusive, radical) values? Come spend some time in our church. We call it a theater, but whatever. It's a more loving, inclusive community than any of the Catholic parishes that we belonged to in my youth.

At rehearsal last night for the glorious, celebratory, non-partisan, non-religious holiday show we're putting up this holiday season, there were many sad artists. Because even artists don't like to lose. But a lot of us are already fired up about what we see as the possibility for large-scale change, because that's something artists embrace. We like change. We're scared of it too, sometimes, but it excites us. What's working, what's not? What do we keep, what can we toss?

Do we need to find a way to communicate? To reach out? To reassure that no one wants to take anything from anyone else, but rather to add to, to enhance, to include? Yes, yes--a resounding "YES!!!".

You really want to include every one? Heal the rift? Make this beautiful country the great, glorious place it can be?

Get cracking on a lingua franca: that common language that fosters communication between all people, all parties, speakers of all languages.

We're working on it at the 99-cent show. It's a little nutty, but it just might work.