An Expert (Really!)

Is there anything more irksome than an expert in one field who thinks that makes him an expert in all (or any) others? Celebrities who tutor you about global warming, physical chemists who tout nutritional expertise or casting agents who purport to teach acting…unless of course that casting agent happens also to be an accomplished actor, screen writer, producer/director with a profound insight into the craft, the skills and the art of the profession. Oy weh! Whoda done thunk?

I took part yesterday (December 7th) in a Screen Actors’ Guild Conservatory at which John Milton Branton offered concepts, insights and skills in quantity, quality and depth beyond anything I’ve experienced in recent memory. The value of knowledge is invariably context dependent, part of the context being the individual evaluator of course, in this case: me. Again of course 80% of the value is gained by only 20% of the participants in ANY context. I was one of the 20% in this. If given the opportunity, I will partake again and I strongly encourage anyone with the slightest interest in the subject to avail yourself of the same.

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Forget About It

It’s a source of never ending amazement and frustration to me that the clearer my thinking becomes, the more apparent it is that my thinking to date has been been muddled. The truly appalling thing to realize of course, is that tomorrow and the next day and the next, the same phenomenon will recur. The ineluctable conclusion is that my thinking is probably muddled right now, at least in relative terms, but I’m working on it.

When I was standing in the kitchen five minutes ago, I knew just what I was going to write. It was good. The operative word here is “was”, because now it’s gone. I’m not as bad as I once was however, and that reminds me of another subject I find compelling.

I’m rediscovering a skill that fell out of favor in the nineteenth century when pedagogical “experts” decided that memory skills were old fashioned, obsolete and somehow counter-productive. For some odd reason it became fashionable to forget things; better to look them up in a book or perhaps (from their point of view) ask the experts. The “experts” decided that such skills and techniques were neither necessary nor desirable; arguing that that they were somehow antithetical to creative and analytical thinking. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

I don’t particularly like swimming, but I like the results. So when I swim, I do three miles at a crack every second or third day. Going further and doing it less often saves on expense and both travel and dressing time, but as I do lap after lap, my mind wanders to all kinds of things, serving up a variety of thoughts, some of which might be construed as valuable. But it’s hard to write ‘em down under water and distracting to stop anyway. So how to remember them? (And how to keep track of how far I’ve gone?)

Some time last year I stumbled across and read a book, Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer. I was amazed and delighted, not only to learn what was possible in terms of memory, but what was possible for ordinary folks like us, what had been developed back in antiquity and lost or suppressed over the last century.

Before incorporating some of the techniques into my daily life, I could be told a four digit gate code and forget it within a minute. Now, I immediately (almost) associate a pair of two, two digit numbers with a picture that incorporates phonetic sounds I’ve associated with the digits, hold the picture in my mind for a moment and zing! I’ve got it. And that’s only the beginning. I had a walk-on part in a feature film a couple months ago. There were only a few lines, but I can tell you from experience that no matter how many times you simply repeat and run through lines, it’s not nearly as effective as associating the words with pictures. You’d better have the right (and I mean exactly right every time) words come out of your mouth when the director calls “action”.

We’re always being fooled. People tell us things that just aren’t so. We tell ourselves things that just aren’t so. We’ve been told that memorization is a low intelligence skill and we’ve believed it. Bovine feces. It’s a damn handy skill, no matter how disparaged it has been, even if it only means remembering what first class postage is when you have a stack of variously priced stamps ($.46 right now) It’s a skill that makes us more effective and efficient. That sounds plenty smart to me.

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The Things of a Child

When I was a child I wanted to rule the world. Over time, life taught me that I wasn’t clever enough to accomplish that, smart enough to deserve it or strong enough to enforce it. However, I still believed that there were others who were. I no longer do. From where on earth did I get that idea in the first place? Research into human cognition and behavior reveals that we tend to accept as truth that which has simply been repeated often enough, that which we have simply lived with or been around long enough to unconsciously internalize.

For at least eight hundred thousand years of human species history, we’ve accepted being told what to do, what not to do and being punished if we don’t go along. It worked.  Now it now seems as built into the human psyche as defecating where we squat. But such an explanation no longer serves as an adequate excuse; we no longer need to live that way, though we’re so used to being punished that we even punish ourselves when there’s no one else around. We still debate and fight over who’s going to tell us who should be punished and for what, but isn’t the real point now, not who should be allowed or chosen to do so, but rather if anyone should be allowed to do so at all anymore?  When the subject of the debate is who will make those decisions for us, the debate over whether or not we should be subjugated at all has already been won.  The debate needs to change, to evolve out of the iron age.

Human activity is accomplished by individual free choice, force or fraud, but in spite of the demonstrated superiority of free choice to produce the greatest good for the greatest number, there are still those who assume the right to use force to impose their will and establish an ostensible monopoly to do so by virtue of the fraud that they have such an authority. The bully in the neighborhood, the drunk dad in the back yard, the thug on the street all impose their will, their agenda on another individual by force, offending the ultimate minority, the individual, but they can we walked or run away from. Ironic isn’t it, that government wants to cure bullying by bullying all of us everywhere?  When we debate the nature of government and who should be in it, we’re not discussing persons or government; we’re really discussing little more than the color, shape and size of the club that will be used on our heads, whose heads will feel it, how often it will used and what the new pretense for doing so will be.

I submit that clubs are only justified for self defense, not to force obedience. The Libertarian view espouses non-aggression in all its forms as the ideal of a virtuous society, so government is only a part of the problem. I’ve seen so-called “Libertarians” who want to force their views and agendas on others.  They don’t get it.

Muslim fundamentalists murder children to get to heaven (good luck there!). Christian fundamentalists defended slavery and preach hatred for the unapproved (isn’t love wonderful?). Liberals accuse those who wish to keep what they’ve earned as being greedy, but see no contradiction in using clubs to take it from them by force to spend themselves. Conservatives are perfectly willing to condone the impoverishment, imprisonment and shooting of the unarmed for behavior of which they disapprove.

The ostensible purpose of government is ensure that the inherent rights of the individual (the ultimate minority) are not interfered with. Ironic that government insists on ever more prohibitions and punishments, ever more violence, ever more control.

It may be that before we can change that, we need to learn and experience ourselves, a new second nature knee jerk reaction every time we think we know how someone else should be behave, i.e. to immediately tell ourselves that no matter how much we may disapprove or dislike something, unless it involves the defense of person or property (obviously not theft, murder, rape, destruction of property, interference and unwarranted disruption of privacy etc.), then we really have no business either forcing others ourselves or having someone else force them in our name to do otherwise.

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None of Their Damn Business

I inadvertently heard a so-called “news” story yesterday on the exposure of a prostitution “ring” in Maine where people’s lives are being ruined and it really set me off.

I know, met or have seen countless individuals who by virtue of personality or appearance would go their entire lives without sex were it not for the opportunity to buy it.

People who whore and pimp their way into power and then steal from us to pay for the enforcement of  “laws” they make against which our bill of rights should have protected us (not the least of which is what to do with our bodies) should be shown up and shut down for what they practice: cruel hypocrisy. They remove the rule of law, the protection of contract enforcement and the rights to self defense and litigation from people engaging in activities for which they have a natural right and they do it to enhance their own egos, power and pocketbooks.

Why are not women’s right groups working for the rights of prostitutes, people who harm no one?

Whose damn business is it whether a women gets dinner or the money to either buy it or to buy a dress or pay the rent?

The same idiots who rail against it seem to see nothing wrong with stealing from all of us to pay themselves to prosecute and imprison people who do it.

There are many things that I don’t like which are none of my business. Well they’re none of yours or the government’s either and prostitution is one of them.

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Good Dog!

Due to an allergy problem, I’ve never been able to have a dog, but I’ve known a couple I really liked and I have seen and read how dogs are trained. Being kind of a dog myself, I can confirm that if you want a dog to do something, you reward that something when he does it. If you don’t want a behavior repeated, you ignore or more likely punish that behavior in some way.
For instance: if you don’t want someone to go into or to stay in business, you pile on fees, forms and fines; burden the owner with futa, fica, suta, SIIS, EPA and OSHA; licenses and permits, legal threats and taxes. You make him responsible for all manner of things and remove any authority he has to implement them. You tax his inventory, tax his tools, tax his assets and pile on rules. Oh, and then just for good measure, you make him out to be the cause of all social injustice and “inequality”.
BINGO! Good dog does what his massa say and goes out of business, putting his former employees on the dole, making them beholden to the government.
I’m a good dog, ain’t I?

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Be a Success!

Up until November of 2011, I’d been a dentist for thirty-one years, a professional actor for about six and an Amway IBO for even longer. I’ve been to more success seminars than almost any other ten people and I’ve just about beaten myself to death trying to “succeed”, but I certainly would not characterize the results of my massive and prolonged efforts in any of these pursuits as particularly successful in spite of the acclaim I’ve received from many of my patients, peers and associates. Yet I’ve done more than two dozen movies (not background, speaking parts!), eight TV commercials, a couple dozen TV and cable appearances, stage, convention, radio, corporate and web videos, print and billboard modeling gigs and sponsored over 100 people without profligate spending and have little to show from all of it in the bank. So, what business do I have even discussing the subject if I ain’t rich? Well, if the only people you listen to are the rich ones, you’re as likely as not to hear spurious cause/effect correlations as much as real reasons. “You too can be a success! Do as I have done, and you can have what I have.” Cause and effect, recipes, plans, goals! That’s the ticket!

Is there a formula for success? Will doing the same thing that a successful person says he has done make you a success too? A lot of people seem to think so, but guess what. You can be a failure too trying to do the same thing and the implication is that if you’re not a success, it must be your fault. “You didn’t follow the formula.” Or maybe you didn’t really try. But perfect duplication of what someone else has done and re-creation of the same circumstance are both impossible in any event. As much to the point, there is as much or more ascribable to the phenomena of randomness as there is to any one-to-one cause/effect relationships in the stuff of life. The human brain is not built to deal with either probability or randomness. We see patterns where they don’t exist and miss them where they do. As Nassim Nicholas Taleb points out in his book of the same title, we are all Fooled By Randomness.

Then again, if I had a dollar for every time I’ve read or been told that success has little to do with how much money you make, I would be rich. I’ve gotten tired of hearing it. Those who insist that success has nothing to do with money simply don’t understand what money really is or what it measures. A person’s honest wealth is a function of the amount and quality of the goods and services that he/she has caused to flow to other people and the husbandry thereof. Much as it’s not so much what you possess as what you can find, it’s what you manage to keep as much as what you’ve managed to create.

I’ve searched for years for a profession or occupation that would facilitate the creation of value for others and for which I could be paid for doing what I like and do best: reading, writing and speaking. By gum, this is it. My friend Steve Pavlina has shown me the way. Blogging will facilitate all three.

However that presupposes that I have something that others would want to read or know and I have often wondered if I have 55 years of experience or just the same year 55 times. As it turns out I have a lot of experiences which I’m told a lot of people want to hear about and learn from.

Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned is to never regret anything. Everything we’ve done (even the stupid and cruel things) and everything that’s happened to us (even the stupid and cruel things) have served to make us who we are, truly unique individuals from whom both we ourselves and others can learn. So here are some of those things from me from which you can learn. Please write me back and teach me some of yours as well.

My friends and colleagues ask me all the time how I get so much acting and modeling work while at the same time many of them can be heard saying, “Oh, I wouldn’t work for that.” or “I don’t work for free.”. Here is the reality: I sometimes have a great payday, but often work for free and the fact is if you’re only working very rarely or not at all, then free for you is probably overpaid, because “for free” typically means that as an actor you’re getting a copy of the end product and that would have cost you a bundle to have it done for yourself. If on the other hand you’re so busy that you have to turn work down, you’re underpaid! As an actor you are in a sense a commodity and the value of your services is determined by your availability (supply and demand) and what someone else is willing to pay as a function of how much they value your services. Period.

Now, how did I get into acting and how is it relevant to the subject? I am who I am and being who I am, years ago a friend of mine said, “JD, when I make my movie, you’re going to be in it.” Years later, she called. I took the opportunity and got the bug. I took acting lessons, learned the vocabulary, got a good color headshot, went onto Google maps, did a search for agencies and start calling. I got rejections, disconnected numbers, friendly and unfriendly calls and a mix of advice. I went on Craig’s list for auditions and looked for functions where actors congregate. I accepted auditioning as the profession and gigs as the gravy. That’s what the two actually are. Auditions are an opportunity to perform and should never be passed up. When I got cast, I did these five things and got a reputation that got me cast again:

1. Show up early or on time, every time. There are no excuses in this business. If you’re not there, you don’t exist.
2. Be able and willing to take direction. You are an employee. You are being paid to bring a character to life either by someone who has been entrusted with the task of directing, by the person who wrote the screenplay and most importantly by the person or persons who are paying the costs of production. Even if you’re not being “paid” (read money) you are being paid with the product itself and you’d better act like you’re being paid in any event or you never will be.
3. Be competent. You have to be able to deliver the goods. Take classes, workshops, lessons. You owe it to yourself, your colleagues, your employer, your audience.
4. Be prepared. Know your lines, your character. Wear what you’re told to wear.
5. Be the kind of person other people want to be around on a set or backstage. You’re going to be around them a lot, as long as 18 hours in a day. It doesn’t matter how talented you are. If you’re a jerk, people won’t want to work with you again.

There is no formula for guaranteed success, not in acting, dentistry, Amway or even the continuation of life itself. The belief that there is such a thing is an illusion. There is however, a guaranteed formula for failure. Don’t do these or things like them. Don’t be prepared when the opportunity appears. Don’t keep trying and you’re guaranteed to fail. The assertion that a certain or special plan will succeed is an illusion. One can not predict that a specific seed will germinate, but if you throw enough seeds out, watch for one of them to germinate and then give it light and water…well you’ve got a good chance. But in the final analysis, it’s still just a chance. And that’s the fairness of unfairness. Be prepared and keep exposing yourself to opportunity. Take advantage of the law of large numbers. There are plenty of chances out there.

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The Nature of the Beast

There is a line that divides humanity, separating those who would impose their opinions on all by force from those who would not. The most dangerous of the imposers gain the reigns of political power, using smoke, mirrors and lies to do so. The most evil of them do so for the “good of all”. Bunk. No one knows what that really is, because no one can know what that really is. We allow them to seek to and do so at our own peril. Our country’s contemporary contest is between those who have had, have now and want to continue in that power and the single individual who seeks legitimate authority; between those who would be king and the one who would be president. Know the difference and act accordingly.

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Anyone Paying Attention?

Anyone with a functional cerebrum knows that we have a problem in this country and consequently in this world. We have a ruling class who will sell themselves out to anything and anyone in order to maintain what they believe is their control of events. They do not in fact control events any more than the barbarians who destroyed Rome controlled its empire. Their actions generate what are known as unintended (one would hope) consequences. Destruction of our very way of life may well be the result and that is far from control.

Many of them whore themselves to a political correctness that equates a religious philosophy based on irrationality, hatred, intolerance, violence and murder with some mis-guided multi-cultural-ism. They will find themselves on the receiving end of well deserved contempt and condemnation from those whose birthright they threw away while corporate welfare on the right and union boss welfare on the left eat out the substance of those in the middle, fooling them with smoke, mirrors and illusions no more real than those of Las Vegas Magicians. The political performers distract the audience with “fight the evil doers over there”, religious agendas, nuclear enemies, trumped up social injustice and apocalyptic pseudo-science, a war on people which they call a war on drugs, a divide and conquer war on immigrants, each pretending to point out the mote in the others’ eye while the poor rubes in the middle throw away their liberties like hamburger wrappers.

They believe they can support themselves by standing on the backs of others; that their positions of power can be enhanced by squeezing their hosts and demonizing or pandering to minorities (depending on which side of the coin they flip). They can not or will not realize the destructive nature of their agenda until their hosts have been bled to the point where they no longer have the incentive to produce. Then they’ll have to start eating each other.

The primary tumor, the first cause, the tool that let them into our home, the rat that carries the disease vector into every segment of our society and economy, the wound in our skin which let in the black plague that threatens the well-being of both host and parasite alike is central control of the money supply. They manage it by telling us that society is too complex now for our primitive brains, the constitution is out of date, liberty is too dangerous and minding our own damn business is loony. They suck us dry and we don’t even know what happened.

Neither thief nor victim seems to be aware of where it’s taking us and only one man in the political arena has championed the cause of sound money, our liberty and the prosperity of our country and that of the world, all of which depend upon our understanding and fixing it.

If I have mention his name, then you’re really asleep.

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Cruelty? To whom?

So now Nevada is going to saddle some poor fools with felony convictions on the first offense for cruelty to animals.  But which animals?  Well, everyone agrees about dogs and cats, right?  How about pigeons and cock-roaches and rattlesnakes?  And what’s cruelty?  Neutering?  Keeping them on a leash?  Stepping on a bug?  And then there are worms on hooks and what about innocent bacteria, mold and viruses just trying to make a living?  Hookworms and malarial parasites are animals too, just looking for a home.  Just who is going to decide who goes to jail and loses everything: a politician, a DA (same thing), a cop?  Better know where they decided to draw the line beforehand.  Of course you could use your imagination or gawd forbid, common sense, for all the good it’ll do.  Once again, it’s all about power, their power to shoot people down like dogs at their discretion (they retain that “right”) and lose the video, beat them senseless, assault, intimidate, impoverish and imprison them for their own protection or in the service of some social mandate.  Oh, and did I mention to maintain the ubiquitous status of hero as they smash down your door without need of a warrant?  Better not have a gun in your hand when they come through the door of your home.  In a free country likes ours, the government is free to do whatever it decides it has a right to do.

All government power comes through the barrel of a gun.  Anything they give you, they stole from the owner.  Anything they impose on you is by way of threatened violence.  Any decision they make is purely on the basis of expanding their power by catering to the opinion of one group or another.  What is so damn hard about understanding this?

Just as water will eventually wear down a rock, so too will the nannies, micro-managers, feel gooders and tyrants eventually wear down those who though they supposedly aspire to the ideals of freedom do not understand what’s happening and do nothing in response to incessant attacks.  The “idealists” among us will impose their “ideals” by political means and enforce them with the ultimate weapon: the state and its police power.  But it doesn’t matter what a need, desire, opinion or ideal is!  If it is met it by stealing from someone, slamming someone into prison, fining or shooting them, then it should be exposed, condemned and resisted.

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Let’s stop being fooled.  For decades the Republican party has been nothing more than the other side of the coin which has sold us down the path to serfdom.  Nixon’s wage/price controls and his enemies list, Reagan’s disastrous war on drugs, Bush Sr.’s New World Order and GW’s so-called Patriot Act. The Democrats get elected and funnel money, influence and power back to those who paid to get them elected.  The Republicans on the other hand funnel money, influence and power back to those who paid to get them elected.  If you can see the difference or in how one or the other of our alleged two parties has even slowed the drive to tyranny, please be sure to let me know.  It’s been like choosing between Hitler and Stalin, the only difference being the color of their bullets.  They all want to jam their agenda down the throats of those who don’t agree and rob us blind to pay for it.
Ron Paul is the first and to my knowledge the only politician in recent memory with a demonstrated life-long record of integrity and loyalty to liberty, to your right and responsibility NOT to agree or to be forced into acquiescence or to force others.  Freedom is not a government which asks itself if something is constitutional and then does whatever it wants and takes from us to pay for it, but is our real freedom to do what each one of us individually chooses while respecting each others’ right to do likewise and without constantly looking over our shoulders.  That’s what liberty means.  Self government is not about electing your masters and it’s not about assaulting, imprisoning, impoverishing and killing in the name of protecting us from ourselves or furthering some social mandate or utopian goal.  In the misplaced zeal to respect minorities, the most significant one has been completely ignored.  That minority is the individual.

If you have any doubts, read what the man (NOT some ghostwriter) has written.  Look at his record, not his TV persona.  Don’t bother with sound bites.  Read his book.  If you lack the willingness or ability to do so, then don’t vote.

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