Angry Chair

I think we’ll all agree that 2014 was the year Outrage went viral. Everywhere you looked someone was getting angry about something. And it’s not that there weren’t things to get angry about. I won’t go into the sad sordid details of what was terrible about 2014 because you probably lived through it, and the moment I wrote ‘outrage’ your mind flashed to something that may have outraged you. Hell, in the time I started drafting this blog post to actually posting it people got outraged over the Oscar nominations, a female-male rape joke on Broad City and a bunch of other things.

Pictured: 2014

Pictured: 2014

In college I was friendly with a girl. Not romantically, just friendly. Saw her at various shows, saw her around campus. But she always had some cause she was fighting for. Always some injustice to right. And while we could converse about music, and movies, and life stuff she would inevitably steer the conversation around to what she wanted to talk about. Petitions were usually involved, as were invitations to marches and meetings and sit-ins. And while I agreed with her points, and the things she fought for and why she fought for them, it got to the point where I was starting to avoid her because I knew if we crossed paths, and grabbed coffee, soon she would be railing against whatever was outraging her that day. Because her perpetual outrage drove away someone who could have been an ally. It was exhausting to listen to, and probably exhausting to her as well.

Oh, and her outrage? It totally burnt her out. Last I heard she was doing … nothing in particular. Certainly not saving the world.

I *get* that people have things to be outraged about, especially the marginalized. But if all you have is outrage, people will start tuning you out, even if they want to support you, even if they agree with you. Because it’s exhausting for them to always hear your outrage. It’s inevitable – not because people don’t care, but because it’s exhausting hearing someone go on and on endlessly about the things that should make you care.

[Though I will make the somewhat controversial statement that much of the current outrage du jour movement is fueled by narcissism more than any quest for justice; that some people must be a part of the conversation and if that conversation isn’t what they want, will do everything in their power to steer it to territory where they can hold sway]

I call this Outrage fatigue. It’s a very real thing. A self-perpetuating Ouroboros of anger forever swallowing its own tail. It closes down the opportunity to discuss the reasons behind it, and eliminates any chance to change things for the better. I’ve seen innumerable instances where potential allies were turfed out of the cause for making the suggestion that there has to be a better way to solve these problems. I’ve heard people claim that if you’re not as outraged as they are about the cause then you’re on the side of the enemy. That your silence implies consent. Just when a turning point, an understanding could be reached, BOOM. Headshot. Brain matter everywhere.

Comedian Patton Oswalt said something to the effect that the best response to awful things is to not get outraged over them but to laugh at them. To rob them of their power. Naturally he was pilloried for this, because some people take a general observation as a personal attack because they have to remain part of the conversation even when it isn’t about them. But he was 100% right.

To me, the best response to outrage (and in fact a much better use of your energy) is to laugh at it. No matter the righteousness of the cause, no matter how entrenched your opponents are, once you laugh at them you shut them down. Because there’s no response to a good belly laugh. None.

Satire, and humor, can be a much more effective weapon than outrage ever will be. And it can accomplish much more than being angry about things. Because being angry burns you out quicker than anything. I’ve seen people drive themselves to the point of near breakdown because they’re just so tired of being so outraged all the time. They’ve become addicted to the endorphin rush righteous anger delivers. But like any addiction, that “hit” needs to be stronger every time you take it, and soon enough it destroys you. One drink needs to become three, needs to become a dozen. And soon you need that every day.

I’m not saying anger isn’t an appropriate response to bad shit in the world. But what I am saying is that anger has a tendency to drag you down to the level of the people and things you’re angry at.  The internet is pretty much fueled by anger and outrage – Salon.com did an Outrage Calendar that detailed on a day-by-day basis what people were getting angry about. There wasn’t a single day that was blank. Every day was outrage. But looking deeper you see how much of that outrage lasted barely a day. Someone tweeted something others took offence at, the pitchforks and torches came out, apologies were made, accounts deleted, and the mob moved on to the next  thing.

Quick quiz: what were we all outraged about this day a year ago? Without peeking at that Salon calendar. You can’t do it can you. Because in outrage you sweat everything; small stuff, large stuff, and soon enough you’ve become the Boy (or Girl) who cried I’M OUTRAGED, and everyone else has stopped listening.

To me the best way to bring people together is through laughter. To make someone understand a different POV, is through laughter. Through comedy, through satire – through art. And I speak from experience, as you’ll see with the inevitable anecdote.

Flashback 1990. I’m in High School, living in a small town in Easter Ontario. A small, conservative town in Easter Ontario. So not the most “progressive” of places. Largely white, Anglo-Saxon protestant. It was actually settled largely by United Empire Loyalists, fleeing the aftermath of the American Revolution. And it retains those roots to this day.

But it was, for the most part, a nice, safe place to grow up. Unless you were different. A visible minority. Or gay. Especially the latter. And the honest truth is as a teenager I was probably a little bit homophobic. Not out of any genuine malice, but because that was the environment I was growing up in. Not at home – my parents were and remain quite  progressive, having grown up during the Civil Rights era. But in the 80s words like “fag” and “queer” and “homo” and “dyke” were insults. The worst acts I performed would have been using those words in a derisive manner.

The reason was because the world was smaller then, more a greenhouse than a garden. We had no internet, no social media. The next town over might as well have been a million miles away. And that was the environment I grew up in.

So what changed my attitudes? Television, and specifically this show:

the-kids-in-the-hall

And this actor:

ST

Who most famously played this character

Buddy

I detailed a couple years ago how Kids in the Hall was an important TV series in my life. I trekked all over Toronto one Saturday just to get my hands on a cassette tape from the band who performed the music for it. I taped every episode, and watched every episode multiple times. It was my generation’s Monty Python, and it changed my life in many ways. Particularly one sketch, which you can watch below.

Needless to say I was blown away. Because here was this actor, who made me laugh every week, basically coming out on nation-wide television.

And you know what? I was okay with it. Because it was my favorite show, because Scott was my favorite performer on that show. So yes, in 2014 speak it made me “check my privilege” not by throwing outrage everywhere, but making me laugh at myself and those attitudes I carried. And not two years later I was in university, at a downtown Toronto campus at the edge of the “Gay Village” of Church Street and College. I had classmates who were gay, the security guard at our residence was transgendered. And I was fine with all of it, because the Kids and Scott had opened my eyes to the world, to made me see it in a different light, and to laugh at the absurdity of judging someone because of their race, gender, and orientation. It made me laugh at myself.

Because what Scott taught me was that there was nothing about gay people that I should fear. Because that’s where prejudice comes from – fear. And outrage comes from an inability to control that fear and anger, to make it your weapon, rather than being consumed by it.

So don’t.

 

 

 

100%

This is the 100th post on my official website.

Frankly I’m amazed I stuck with it this long.  When it was decided I needed to boost my “web presence”, I created this place to do just that. The theory being people interested in hiring me would Google my name, and this website would appear in the search results. They’d then see how brilliant and insightful I was, they’d hire me on the spot and pay me lots of money.  Ergo, I was to use it to promote myself and my work, as all professional writers are supposed to do.

It didn’t quite turn out that way.  Instead I ended up using it to just write about things that interested me, kind of like my Twitter profile became a platform to crack stupid jokes and test material for projects I am writing. Ironically I am very successful at this, having gained more followers on Twitter than I had “friends” on Facebook (which is not the reason I deleted by FB page — though there is a diff. reason for that).  Here I usually blog music, some pop culture, and some promo work, namely my comic book series Mixtape. Some said I was “doing it wrong”, and that this website should exist primarily as self-promo.

But the way I rationalized it, there’s so much self-promo going on in the land of the internet, why not break with that and just write about things that interest me?  I’m never going to get tens of thousands of visitors to this thing, or hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers either, and I’m okay with that, because I’m one of those types prefer quality of interaction over quantity.  Instead of promoting my work, why not write amusing and interesting work, and let people judge it and me based on that work?

So 100 posts in, that means time to reflect, right? So in that spirit, I’m re-posting the most popular, most visited, and all around best posts as decided by clicks on those posts, in descending order. Yes, because I’m too busy/lazy right now to write new content.  But some of you new arrivals may not have dug back that far, so it’s new to you anyway.

Here we go:

10 – HAVING AN AVERAGE WEEKEND

Nostalgia time, as I reflect on a teenaged ritual that sadly only exists in memory.  For me, anyway — I like to think teens today still embark on searches for that special something without doing it from their computer.

9 – GRATITUDE

A.K.A. “The Blog Post I Wish I Didn’t Have To Write” because it was written the day after the passing of Beastie Boy Adam “MCA” Yauch. And yes, it’s a huge loss to music, like losing a Beatle must be to my parents’ generation.

8 – LIVING IN THE SPRAWL

This is actually my personal favorite of anything I’ve written here.  Typically it’s lodged at number 8, but I felt like I channeled something of the sense of longing one gets, growing up in the suburbs, the excitement of downtown and the big city like a siren’s call.  Also, a companion piece of sorts to “Having An Average Weekend.”

7 – MIXTAPE 2013

This one dropped just before Christmas 2012, and details the future of my comic book series Mixtape.  The future is bright.

6 – NO EXCUSES

Written early in April 2012 (less than a month before the passing of Adam Yauch), this was written about another year’s passing since the death of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain … and how the passing of another Grunge era icon is too often forgotten.

5 – THE REAL THING

This was posted to mark the release of Mixtape #1 in April 2012.  Mixtape #2 dropped in December.  I promise the wait between future issues won’t be that long again.  Hopefully.

4 – THE PROMETHEUS MENACE

The title is pretty self explanatory. Note to self: next time I see a really lousy Sci-Fi film, write about it immediately and the hits will follow.

3 – TIRED OF WAKING UP TIRED

The most recent update to this blog was surprisingly one of the most popular.  Maybe because we’ve all had crazy vivid dreams.  Maybe because we never forget the most memorable ones.  But really, it’s probably because there are pictures of booze, and zombies, and cute/funny cats — all thing people are known to enjoy reading about.

2 – T.R.U.E.

My first webcomic.  Hopefully not the last either, as people really seemed to like it.  It was created for a Spanish comics fanzine, their final issue.  This is the English language version, and is totally based on a true story involving Alec Baldwin, Tina Fey, and some CHUDs.

And the most popular post on my website ever …

1. THE OTHER WHITE MEAT (PART 3)

Though you really need to read parts one and two first to get the whole story (the links of which are embedded at the top of part three).  This detailed the 15 year journey of my screenplay “Hell For Breakfast” to the big screen (in New Zealand, anyway) under the name “Fresh Meat.”  A cautionary tale of sorts, but I was surprised to see how popular it was.  I guess other people’s pain is funny.

So that’s the top ten of the first 100.  It doesn’t even include such personal faves such as how Writer’s Block isn’t necessarily a bad thing; or the one about my love and fear of Horror Movies; of how I became a comic book fan.  It doesn’t include the one I penned nearly a year ago, about how I hate celebrating my birthday, but ultimately consider myself fortunate to be able to celebrate one at all.  It doesn’t even touch on my fixation on Degrassi Jr. High and Degrassi High, and the unexpected influence that seminal Canadian teen soap had on Mixtape.

So, if you have some time to kill and want to know more about me, my writing, and how I’ve manage to carve a living out of it, the above are as good a place as any to start.

Now, I think I’ve procrastinated enough, don’t you … ?

 

Ruiner

Things have been going surprisingly well recently.  After a year that saw a good amount of shit thrown my way, it’s reassuring that it’s finishing up better than it began, and that I managed to survive it.  But, every silver lining needs a cloud, so with that in mind, it’s time to let loose on the things that piss me off.  Grab onto your seat and hold on tight.

DOGS

I know, you’re thinking “what kind of monster doesn’t like dogs?”  And honestly, I do like dogs.  I like animals, period; even cats, which I’m not particularly fond of, are fine.  What I don’t like are dogs in the city – this city to be exact.  That’s New York City – and anybody who owns a dog in this city is insane.  No, not you — you’re a perfectly responsible dog owner and an exception to the rule.  You’re Aces, really and should be proud.  But have you seen this place?  Concrete and steel from end to end.  The only greenery you find are in the city parks, all of which are overrun with dogs and their owners.  My favorite park in NYC is the one on Governor’s Island – an oasis of calm off the southern tip of Manhattan – where there are No Dogs Allowed.  It’s bliss.  Frankly, I realize I like dogs too much to want to own one here.  It’s cruel – how many dog owners work 8-10 hours a day, and then commute home to their St. Bernard, which has been cooped up in a shitty 500 square foot studio apartment on the Lower East Side? What does the poor animal do the time their owner’s away?  If it’s my building they bark and howl constantly.  Dogs need a backyard to roam around in, not an open window overlooking the street.  Yes, some people hire a professional “walker” to take their pooches to the park; more often they go with the lowest bidder – in the case of this building and up until recently, a guy in the building who would routinely let the dogs piss in the elevator, which would get into the wiring and put the damn thing out of order.  I live on the ground floor and rarely use the elevator – too bad about the people on the fifth floor who use a walker to get around, huh?  Aside from that, I’ve taken to sleeping with earplugs because I’ve been woken up too many times at five or six in the morning as some jackass takes Rover out to piss in the street and the damn thing barks and yaps all the way there and back again.  So yeah, my dislike of dogs translates more to “dislike of people who own dogs without taking  the animal’s welfare into account” but it doesn’t change the fact that if you own a Dog in Manhattan, you’re an asshole.  And speaking of assholes …

NEIGHBORS

People who know me find it a constant source of amusement that as a notorious misanthrope I choose to live in one of the most densely populated cities on Earth, and not some shack in the woods, miles from the nearest person.  Well what can I say?  I’m an Enigma.  Now living in New York means your nice home with the picket fence and backyard and driveway are unattainable, unless you decide to live in one of the outer Boroughs.  If you live in New York (and apologies to people in Queens and Brooklyn and the Bronx – Manhattan is New York), you live in an apartment, or a condominium.  That means you’re sharing your walls and floors and ceiling with other people.  And by “other people” I mean assholes.  Yes, we’re all guilty of forgetting that we’re not the only person on the fucking planet, and that we sometimes would be better served by showing some consideration for others.  I know this, so why don’t other people?  Up until I reamed him out at 4:30 in the morning, our next door neighbor would BLAST the Meringue music to the point the pictures on the wall and the fixtures in the ceiling would rattle.  4:30 in the morning.  Nice, huh?  He’s since mellowed somewhat (I think building management finally told him he was being evicted if he kept pulling his shit), but a mellow asshole is still an asshole.  There’s also the upstairs neighbors who, if you listen closely enough (i.e. midnight Wednesday and you’re trying to sleep) can hear screw loudly and grunting and groaning.  What’s the big deal? You say … I say this; I’ve seen these people; picture LURCH getting it on with that Snookie thing from that Jersey Show.  If that doesn’t ruin your sleep I don’t know what will.  We all have impossible dreams, as Don Quixote sang; mine is to make so much money I can afford to buy my own goddamn apartment building and evict everyone who lives in it and have the whole thing to myself, forever.  But even then, I know I’d still have to deal with the goddamn …

MOTORCYCLES

A friend is an avid motorcyclist, and yet I know she’s not revving her engine and popping wheelies and roaring up and down a street with a senior’s center and a school and a playground always crammed with kids along the path.  I doubt she and a hundred of her pals spend every summer evening roaring up and down a mixed residential street, setting off car alarms, riding on the sidewalk, and popping wheelies.  I know this because she’s in Toronto, not in New York where with all the predictability of the change in seasons, the motorcycles come.  Contrary to popular opinion, a guy furiously typing to meet his deadline does not find the constant revving of engines and the screech of rubber on asphalt conducive to the process.  I know, I know, “suck it up” right?  And I do indeed “suck it up” because it’s part of life in the big bad city.  But know this; any time I hear about some dirt bag on his dirt bike wiping out on FDR Drive and taking a one-way trip into the concrete abutment, I laugh.  Loud and long.

ACTORS

Because this is supposedly a blog about screenwriters who screenwrite, let me alienate a bunch of people in the community and say how much actors can piss me off.  Again, not all actors.  Most of the ones I’ve worked with and dealt with have been aces – one even made suggestions on RoboCop that actually made for a better movie.  Usually, like 99% of the time, they’re there to work, to bring it day after day, and give you everything.  But, there’s that vocal 1% that makes you wonder how they function in normal life; that the virtue of pretending to be someone else for a living gives them a license to be the most annoying dickbags on the planet. 

Case in point – and I bring this up because 15 years is a long enough time – filming my final year project at Ryerson, I mistakenly cast an actor who claimed to be “physical” and “intense” and “able to do his own stunts” on a film heavy on the physical intense stunts.  He was cast, we rolled film, and then he wussed out.  He wouldn’t do the stuff we cast him for.  He had a glass jaw, I bet.  He wouldn’t jump when we asked him to; he wouldn’t perform the way he promised he could.  He complained, a lot, he hit on the female members of the crew… in short he was a disaster.  He was also an idiot to pull the prima donna act because he failed to take into consideration that his character was a) masked for the largest portion of the filming, and b) anybody could wear that mask.  This meant that we put that masks on anyone and everyone who’d wear it, and film them over him, which only got him more mad about it (one of the crew who donned the mask was a girl and she looked tougher in it than he ever did).  My frustration boiled over when our physical, intense actor refused to jump from a platform to the ground below – maybe six feet distance.  He was worried about hurting his ankle, even though everyone on the crew and some of the actors demonstrated the ease of said jump.  Finally I said, okay; give your costume to the camera assistant, he’ll do the jump.  The actor handed over the jacket and the mask, but balked at the pants.  This prompted a command that became legendary at Ryerson in 1995 and is still remembered by people who weren’t even there that day as I bellowed “You either JUMP, or give Alex your PANTS!”  The actor relented and wrapped himself in a smelly sound blanket, the camera assistant Alex did the jump, and we wrapped. So to actors out there great and small; your job is to act, not give grief.  Do the former, skip the latter, and you will never, ever want for work.

PANHANDLERS

I don’t give to charity.  Not money.  Time?  Yes. You need someone to stuff envelopes or help at an event I’ll probably be there.  But I no longer give money to people or organizations because I know it doesn’t make a difference to them or to me.  My wife does, occasionally – rather she did give to one organization recently and guess what happened?  The mail started arriving.  Word got out that she’s a kind, giving, altruistic person and they saw an easy mark.  They call us now looking for donations, and reminded me of a time years ago when I made a mistake in giving to a charity.  In that case they called me again and again, almost monthly as part of their “annual Appeal” forgetting that “Annual” means “once a fucking year, not twelve times).  I do still give money to the Billy Bishop Museum in Owen Sound – the lone exception to this rule – because we have a special relationship; they agree not to bug me, and I agree to donate a fixed sum once a year.  I’ve been doing it for eight years now and that’s the best I’ll do.  What, you ask, does this have to do with panhandling?  They’re kind of the same thing in my book; someone asking you to give money to them, and giving me nothing in return. “But, what about the good feeling that you made a difference?” I’ll go on the record here; your charitable donation doesn’t make a difference.  You know what does make a difference?  Action, on your part.  Go volunteer at a soup kitchen, go volunteer to help a cause you believe in.  Just don’t give them your money because all you’re doing is encouraging them.  Ditto the subway panhandlers – 99% of whom are professional scammers who are going to use your money for booze and drugs. 

Once some guy asked me for money to “buy a coffee.” This was as I was going to buy a coffee for myself so in I went, and got myself a cup, and a cup for him.  On my way out I handed it to him. He then asked me for money. I told him I don’t have money to give him because I just bought him a coffee.  He threw the coffee onto the ground and called me a motherfucker.  That’s why I don’t give to panhandlers. 

And lastly …

EMAIL

People – answer your fucking email.  You just insult the sender and embarrass yourself when you don’t.

Divine Object Of Hatred

This will be a recurring series on this blog and you’ll see why; basically, my reaction to shit that pisses me off.  There is lots of shit that does, believe me, and I plan to tell you all about it.

And what is pissing Brad off today?  Let’s start with the main one and get it out of the way.

People. 

Make that “Fucking people.” 

As a proud member of the species that produced Dr. Stephen Hawking, Leonardo, Michelangelo and the Rennaisance, Drs. Banting and Best, Terry Fox, Ghandi, MLK et al — I can say with authority that those and their ilk are the distinguished exceptions to the rule. 

I’ll admit I’m something of a prickly sort.  I live in NYC, the most densely populated urban area in North America outside Mexico City, despite the fact that the presence of a large number of people tends to drive me nuts.  I like the bustle and excitement of the city — give me densely packed urban over sprawling suburbs any day — but can we do something – anything – about the people I share it with?

The jackholes who tear up and down my street on their motorbikes all weekend long?  The twits blasting their music at all hours of the night (including the upstairs neighbor at 5AM today)?  The idiots blasting their boom-boxes on the subway when I try to get to where I’m going, packed into a cattle car along with my fellow refugees?  The baby factories with the triple-wide stroller tanks they jam through the subway doors and manage to effectively prevent anybody from using said doors until they reach their stop?  Is it any wonder I spend most of the week in my apartment, at my desk, doing everything I can to avoid contact with anyone? 

People are the main reason I don’t go to the movies anymore, outside of the occasional Friday-Saturday-Sunday morning showings.  An early show pretty much guarantees you a paucity of people, and the ones that are there are there because they want to see the movie.  Not to jabber to their friend like the theater’s their fucking living room.  Not to text their fellow idiots, not to constantly flip open their cell, the LED piercing the dark of the theater, always in my line of vision, always a distraction.  The audience is the worst thing about the movies these days – and I could fill a column with everything that’s wrong with movies these days (but not today).  And when you ask these self-involved assholes to please “be quiet” and “please turn your phone off” they call you the asshole.

The common thread to all of the above is one word; “entitlement.” I loathe people with a sense of entitlement. I just can’t get down with the pervasive mentality that people think they deserve more than what they’re willing to make happen for themselves. For a country full of people who get bent out of shape about the “horrors” of socialism there are plenty who think that someone else should be responsible for their life choices and take care of them. You see this from all stripes, and from all walks of life, from the snooty UWS denizen to the low-rent suburbanite, to the guy who cuts you off and yells at you for not watching where you’re going.  They don’t even have the excuse of being a teenager; these are people my age and older!  How is it that, as an adult, I am quite comfortable with dealing with the consequences of my choices?  Why are so many others unable to do likewise?  

The problem starts in childhood; it’s the kids, man.  Yeah, yeah, I know –I’m sure yours are little angels, being raised properly by loving parents, and will go on to make this shithole a better place.  But for far too long, we’ve reorganized our lives around our children and we’re now dealing with the ugly result.  Those turds you put up with at the movies — running around, carrying on and ruining the evening for everyone (when they’re not chattering on their cell-phones or texting each other) are the end result of a lifetime of being coddled by mommy and daddy who swallowed the bunk that their job is to be a friend first and a parent later.  And spare me that “it takes a village” crap, please; why should we, as society, bear the blame for the fact your kids suck?

And yes, there are organizations that wade into the sludge to try and effect change, but seriously, they shouldn’t bother.  It’s a zero sum game.  Take ACORN for example.  ACORN is just like communism. The problem is that, like communism, their principles are too idealistic and they rely on the good nature of humanity. The problem with that is that humans are in the words of my angry friend Sean Armstrong “a buncha fucking fucks.” Don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing wrong with principals.  I live and die by mine.  The problem with principals is they require you to stand by them when it *isn’t* convenient.  You have to stick with them when it’s fucking difficult to do so; when rolling over on them will make your life easier and you still don’t because they’re your goddamn principals.

One of the saddest things about modern society is the refusal of most people to be accountable for their actions and choices. To find excuses for the way they are and use those excuses as crutches. So here’s Uncle Brad’s challenge to humanity.

Be proactive in your own life.

Own up to your own bullshit.

Stop making excuses and either do something about it or shut the fuck up already.

[To be continued, I’m quite sure]