Saturday, January 30, 2010


Why do we strain for greatness? Why do we pile so much pressure on ourselves by insisting on looking at 'the big picture', all the while ignoring the joy of simple, doable tasks?

After all, any great goal attained was done so through a succession of the smallest steps. Large steps happen spontaneously, through great instinct and/or courage. But on a daily basis, it's the smaller ones that bring joy and allow us to move closer to our dreams.

For instance, as I sit at my computer googling, I decide to listen to a french language-learning podcast. Currently I speak french quite well as a second language but am far from fluent. Listening to this podcast on a daily basis will move me closer to one of my cherished dreams: to speak french absolutely fluently. What is this resistance that puts up obstacles to my turning on the podcast?

There is little to be gained at this point in overthinking the resistance; it is enough to know that it exists and its antidote is to take the smallest step to move through it. That step was to turn on Itunes. The next step was to find the podcast. After that, to hit play.


Friday, January 29, 2010


Victoria and I are onto the second season of the Ricky Gervais show Extras.

Say what you will about the man himself; his writing is terrific- human, ruthless, sharp enough to cut paper. There are alot of actors in LA who should see this. I say that in the hope that they watch it and recognise something in themselves that might need working on. Gervais' character's desperation to get 'a line', his tragic need to elevate himself above others through assocations with people he thinks will move him forward is a painful joy to watch.

Mongolian BBQ tonight. Never had it before. I'm fascinated to see what the Mongols like to eat these days.

A friend of mine is opening his own bar. Very inspiring. I came home and said to Victoria how great it was for him to be creating something that he can 'watch grow'. Ah.... to invest in something, to create something and watch it grow... we all need that in our lives. Some people find that experience through having a family, some through art, business... some through many different facets.

I'm coming to the end of A Short History of Nearly Everything. It has made me see the world a little differently. For instance: I noticed a mould that was growing in the corner of my bedroom. Instead of the usual revulsion which would be triggered by the sight of a damp brown entity growing along the bottom of my bedroom wall, I actually was quite fond of it. Little cherub, I thought to myself. After all, its impulse is the same as ours when it's all boiled down- to live, to spread itself around, to prosper. The difference, however, is that I can end of all that with one spray of my anti-mould solution. Which I intend to do the minute I sign off here.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Take That, (not so) Supreme Court

One of my main criticisms of President Obama - maybe my only criticism, as large as it may be - is that he hasn't been prepared to talk the talk, let alone walk the walk. Nobody ever expected any of his initiatives or ideas to be manifested easily, considering the fact that the Congress is almost (excluding Kucinich, Feingold, Grayson and a few others) completely bought by the corporations. But Obama hasn't even been prepared to shoot for the moon in his rhetoric, instead trying to please most and offend none; one only has to look at his play-it-safe small-scale spending on public works projects and his unwillingness to talk aggressively about a single payer healthcare system or even a public option. My logic is simple: when you give the American people great ideas about ways to dramatically improve their lives and challenge the corporations posing as human beings in Congress to bring them to life through legislation, you then have the ability to brand those same people in Congress as the uncaring, greedy puppets that they are if they don't act. This President has to be ruthless and relentless in his desire to achieve his goals through making the public understand who's on their side and who's not.

Up to this point, he hasn't done that nearly enough - or at all. But tonight, during his State of Whatever speech, I was delirious to see him actually call out the Supreme Court to their faces. It was great to watch Samuel Alito, in his malarial denial of the obvious, shake his head and say 'that isn't true' when Obama described the danger of money flooding the electoral process thanks to the loosening - or, should I say, complete abandonment - of corporate election funding
restrictions. To this day, I maintain he should have gone after Joe Master Klansman Wilson in the same spirit when he shouted out 'you lie' during the President's health care address.

So, a tiny victory for those of us who long ago realized that the majority of people in the three branches of government are in the game to maintain the status quo of the megarich and powerful elite. Judge Alito can say what he likes, but his actions, purportedly in favour of 'free speech' and against 'government intrusion', tell us all we need to know. If he really believes his vote, along with the other four anti-democratic 'justices', doesn't continue to stack the deck in favour of huge corporations over the American public, then he truly is a poor, hapless dope. Guess what: he's no dope. He knows exactly what this decision by his court means.

Barry's got to go on the offensive. I know the climate isn't the same now as it was when FDR changed everything. No, the President doesn't have 76 seats in the Senate. I don't care. The American people want your guts, Mr.President. Give it to them.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Today saw a new world record. No, it wasn't in the 100m, or a downhill run in skiing (barely a sport in my opinion- probably falls into the same dumpster with golf as a leisure activity).

It was in the toughest, most competitive, brain-draining word game in the world:


For anyone not familiar with this game, get on your facebook page and check it out. But beware: you will spend a lot of time battling it out with former friends who are now sworn vocabularic (new word) enemies.

But back to the order of business for today. Victoria had held our household record for the highest single-round score, 199. That had always niggled at me; I've always considered myself superior to her when it came to word games and certainly the prevailing opinion was that, overall, I was a slightly better wordtwister. Certainly my career record and Wordtwist IQ would suggest it.

Those days are officially over. Not only has Victoria routinely beaten me of late, but today, just one day after I rewrote history with a 201 score round score, Victoria has stepped up and played the same round, with a stunning result:

211. That's right. 211.

You must understand, dear reader, that the previous ALL-TIME high score for a round that we had seen was 207. That had seemed stratospheric to both of us. I was elated to crack the 200 and take 1st place between the two of us. Ms Engelmayer has now stepped out and not only topped my score, but climbed the highest mountain of all.

Sometimes when competing you simply have to doff your cap to your opponent. To top it all off, it appears I'm heading toward yet another defeat.

This day shall forever be remembered as the Massacre at 5427.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Saturday Night

What to cook tonight?

I need to expand my repertoire. Here are the meals I have mastered so far:

Spaghetti Bolognese - Passed down by my mother. The best in the world.
Stir Fry - I like to add ramen noodles at the end and mix them in. Delicious.
Grilled Meat - Yep, a steak, or chicken breast, usually marinated.
Salad- I grew up on huge bowls of salad. Victoria's already bored by them though.
Roasts - I did a roast pork loin for christmas which was delicious, if a little overcooked; Queen Vick is terrified by too much pink in pork. Pink in Pork- sounds like a garage band. I also love to do a roast lamb with potatoes that have been lovingly drizzled with the juices from the meat. Yes baby.

Anything else? Not good enough. I need to branch out. Maybe try a curry. Stay tuned.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

24 Part III

Kiefer Sutherland was an absolute gentleman and a whirlwind of creative energy. I've never seen someone have that much creative input into every single shot. He works on set in the same way that Jack Bauer pursues his missions: forceful, smart, intuitive, completely present. Great stuff.

I had a blast and it left me wanting more. I had to wait for a long time and that gave me the chance to stand out in the changing weather and watch an incredible dance of low, high, light and dark clouds making their way across the turbulent sky. Beautiful.

Now I'm exhausted and content. No, I didn't lug steel girders or dig ditches but I showed up ready to play today and that sense of readiness and willingness takes energy, energy I was happy to give.

As far as I was concerned, for those couple of hours of shooting, 24 was my show and I was its lead.

I handed it back to Kiefer when I was done.

24 Part II

It's still raining, which means my scene will be shot today! Still excited. Of course. This is the reason I came to Los Angeles.

Should I improvise, a la Dustin Hoffmann's character in Tootsie, when he gets his chance? Maybe when Jack puts a gun to the back of my head and demands an answer, I should turn on him, force the gun loose, knock him out and take over his mission. Same name, though. Just like James Bond and Doctor Who, Jack Bauer would remain, only with a different face and flaming hair.

Why not, right?

Maybe I'll cut Kiefer a break this time. He's worked hard and drunk harder to get where he is today and he does a fine job in the lead. I'm a believer that there's enough to go round for everyone.

Ok, time to shower and get moving. I need to shake off my anger and despair over the supreme court's latest ruling but more on that later.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


The morning of my fitting for 24. I'm a little nervous, alot excited. I woke this morning with the thought, Life Is An Adventure.

Once again, it's all about how we view a given experience. I could easily decide to get anxious about this and worry about being 'good', or proving myself. Fuck that. I was watching that terrible third installment of the awful recent Star Wars saga and I heard Yoda say, 'you must be prepared to let go of what you are most afraid to lose.'

Great advice. Essential, in fact.

So today I'm going to get fitted for a blackwater-ish computer guy. They were very specific about the boots I'm going to be wearing. I find that fascinating, seeing as I'm sitting at a desk the entire time. Not true, actually. I do get knocked out by Mr.Sutherland at the end of the scene. Maybe there's an extreme close-up of my shoes as I hit the deck.

Stand by for the post-shoot entry. And keep this blog to yourself.

Monday, January 18, 2010


Ah... one of the few positives of living in a state of cloudless sunshine all year round is that when it does rain, it seems so exotic.

I'm sitting in my living room listening to the pouring rain battling its way through the trees. On days like this one can sleep forever. I'm one of the lucky ones, however. I have a girlfriend who decided to get up early and leave me with coffee and a perfectly repaired kitchen, left dirty last night after our Golden Globes soiree.

Moments like the one I experienced when I stumbled into the kitchen to discover my loved one's work leave me feeling like I've made it. Hit the jackpot. Lucky.

Awards shows always seem to be benchmarks for me on where I'm at with issues of success and where I'm at with being in Los Angeles, pursuing my career in this crazy business. The phrase that came up for me last night was 'making it'.

Most people come to LA with a paradigm around making it. Hitting the jackpot. What does that term represent for most people? I'd guess fame and fortune. Certainly that was true for me and I didn't even know it. I was driven by an egoic need for large-scale approval and adulation that was guaranteed to cause me suffering. I lived my life out here judging every single moment as either bringing me closer to 'making it' or taking me further away. In that state, people become commodities, objects that have a 'how much can this person help me?' rating. That is a phenomenon one sees constantly out here.

After a period of despair, I woke up one morning and asked myself how I'd feel if my goal was attained- infinite riches, unlimited movie offers pouring in, ten Oscar awards sitting on my mantlepiece. The answer that came was: you'd be happy for a little while, and then you'd feel exactly the same as you do now. That response that came from deep within shocked me but I knew it was true. None of those things, given to me in an instant, would change who I was, and who I was up until that point was someone who looked outside himself for gratifying objects.

Were these objects the reason I started to be creative at a young age? Were they why I so enjoyed being on film sets and acting as a child? Of course not. Somewhere along the way I'd gone a different route, one that seemed to cause more fear and suffering than joy and fulfillment.

That moment was a turning point. Since then I've sought to live a life built on firmer foundations, a way of living that is sustainable and can produce fulfillment and joy on a day-to-day basis.
Let me tell you what making it is for me now. Coffee made and a clean kitchen for one. Loving my girlfriend and family and friends. Embracing all the aspects of creating every day. Being grateful for the fruits that drop from the tree, whatever shape they may take. Understanding that whatever comes to us is a byproduct of how we live our lives.

That's 'making it'. Would I be thrilled to be at the Golden Globes, downing red wine with Meryl and George? Of course! My ambition and desire for commercial success have not dimmed. But at no point am I going to be deluded into thinking a seat at a table means I've 'made it'.

The rain's still falling. Drink it up, LA, and sunshine be damned.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sunday Morning

Yep- I said I would do a daily blog. That was three days ago. Way to follow through.

So here we are in Los Angeles on the day of the Golden Globes. Victoria and I are having some people over to watch them. I want to talk today about 'making it'. Two words, when put together, that make me recoil as if I've just taken in the aromas of a turkish wrestler's jockstrap.

So what is it to 'make it'? Well, I'm well-equipped to answer that question. I was one of the legions of actors that have made the journey to LA to make it. In the ensuing two-and-a-bit years that I've been here my idea of what that means has changed. The original conception caused me much suffering; the current (and I believe permanent) incarnation is healthy and brings me joy.

I came to LA to get fame and fortune. Bottom line. Yes, I loved to act, but if simply acting was enough I could have stayed in New York where I was acting all the time. No, Los Angeles to me meant Oscars and a villa in the hills. I jettisoned relationships that i had fostered over several years to be here. All for this idea of 'making it'.

A good friend of ours who is also an actress once said to me that everything changed for her when she realized a large part of the reason for her being an actress was 'getting picked'. Doing the actual part was fine but was not the central reason for her being at an audition. I fear that for most people who are slaves at the altar of making it, getting picked is at the core of their desire to 'succeed'.

Doing something solely for others' acceptance and approval causes suffering. This has been the gift of Los Angeles up until this point for me. I came here with a faulty paradigm- to be one of the 'chosen' people, the 'lucky' people. I felt completely on the outside looking in, something that was fortified by all the media we take in, the billboards, movies, TV shows and life on the street which repeats what we were taught in school: that you have to get ahead, get to the top, be and have more than your neighbour in order to feel good about yourself.

Things have changed in my world. At some point, reeling from despair, I decided to imagine how I might feel if I had 'made it'. I'm now winning awards, doing movie after movie, surrounded by friends and well-wishers, living in a mansion in the hills.

I knew at that point that I'd still be the same guy. With the same view of the world. All of the things I'd been chasing would lose their novelty value- and I'd be back to square one. Chasing fulfillment in things outside of myself.

I realized that this way of thinking and being wasn't functional. Forget happiness- this was simply a matter of feeling fulfilled, of feeling meaning in my life.

So I dropped it. Let that massive burden of 'making it' fall off my shoulders. My ambition did not wither as I feared it would. My desire to act and to be a creative person didn't shrink; it actually increased. My creative mind was able to fly, freed from this single-minded egoic goal.
If I did indeed find commercial success as an actor, it would come as a by-product of living fully every day, from joy and love for all the aspects of my life, not just the parts that seemed to bring me closer to an imagined nirvana.

Making it is cleaning the kitchen before you go to bed. Taking the time to wrap your arms around the person you love and feeling their heart. Staying home to work on an audition until it's beautiful so that you feel great about the experience regardless of whether or not you get the part. Enjoying great relationships with all kinds of people because it feels good, not because they might be able to help you get ahead.

So, tonight, with my partner who I love and several lovely friends, I will sit down and enjoy the first of many silly awards shows, events that I'd love to be a part of, involving people I will ruthlessly lampoon and who I look forward to working with. Because this is all a big dance, not to be taken too seriously, and anytime any of us want to get on the floor, all we have to do is stand up and start moving to the beat.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


I showed up today with nothing to write about. Zilch. Zippo. Nada. But... I need to write something, as I've promised myself I will write a daily blog for the forseeable future.
Okay. What's happening in the world today? Haiti. Everyone we look people are talking about Haiti. Well.. this seems to be a large scale version of what charity looks like here. Give the bare minimum. Show the requisite amount of concern and compassion. Then forget about the issue.
These countries just rot while we continue to party. I was shocked to hear that nearly all of the island is deforested. Too many people, too few resources. I recommend Thom Hartman's site He's been talking about how all the 'free' trade 'agreements' that the rich countries have been engaged in have continued to destroy any chance of prosperity in that country.

Ok. What else? Mark McGwire. Pathetic. The most destructive lies are the ones we tell ourselves. In the end it doesn't matter who's listening, when we are truly honest with ourselves we can move forward. I'm reminded of the time a teacher I respected told me that I had behaved like a wimp. I was furious; how dare she say that! Not true! She hurt me so deeply! I couldn't possibly be a wimp! I'm a big strong man, etc....

No. Not true. We all have strong moments and wimpy ones. A truly strong person can comfortably admit, 'hey, in that moment, yeah, I was a wimp'. McGwire had his chance to say 'yep, I did steroids to get an edge, I cheated, I had an unfair advantage, the record isn't authentic.' Instead, he invalidated the whole exercise by lying to us and himself. We all know when people are conning us.

Is that it for today? Such a stunning winter's day in Los Angeles! This is the weather everybody speaks of as the reason for living here. It certainly isn't the clean air.

I see possibilities today. Why are some days filled with expectancy while others are dormant, lifeless, grey? I suspect it's how we go to sleep the night before, what we tell ourselves. We all have our own unique narrative and that voice that speaks over the movie of our life can be whatever we want it to be. That's a simultaneously challenging and comforting thought.