Archive for June, 2012


Lately, protest movements have come under fire as superfluous and ineffective in stirring up the masses.  It’s more popular these days to become a radical whether your position makes sense or not.  The general public these days seems less and less interested in radicalism.  Two movements in particular strike me as creating a backlash as to what the causes purport to support:  the protest movement known as Occupy Wall Street as well as the archly conservative Republican Tea Party movement.

If you really want to be Radical, stand up for what you truly believe, even if it doesn’t support the status quo, to a position without feeling the need to take to the streets or shout the loudest in order to register your opinions.  Below are a couple ways to stand firm in your opinions without becoming didactic.

  1. If you happen to be gay, go to church anyway, and if you really want to challenge yourself, attend mass at a Catholic church.
  2. Sign up for a marathon or half marathon, and raise money to support the cause of your choice.  The point is to continue to challenge yourself physically, if you are able.  If not, find other ways to challenge yourself.
  3. Leave a bad, completely broken marriage.   Take a leap of faith, and trust that the net will appear.
  4. Pursue your passions, no matter that the odds may indeed be against you.
  5. Keep in contact or attempt to reconnect with those teachers, mentors, and friends who have most affected you.
  6. Leave behind and let go of hurts that have limited you.  Remember the adage:  I have no interest in returning to the past because I’ve already been there.
  7. Love your parents unconditionally; on the flip side, love and support your children unconditionally as well.
  8. Set limits without preaching, all the while showing love through patience.
  9. Read books and limit the amount of mindless television you watch.
  10. Find idols to influence the way you walk with integrity, dignity, and grace through your life.  Make your time on earth matter.
  11. Quit drinking, even if virtually all your friends disagree with your decision.
  12. Turn your liabilities into assets.
  13. Wait for the right person to come along rather than settling for what’s convenient.
  14. Challenge yourself to go somewhere new instead of following familiar paths.  Take a different route on your daily walk.  Go to see a show or an exhibit.

Please let me know the innumerable radical thoughts and ideas I have missed.  As Robert Frost writes, “Two roads diverged in a woods, and I–I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

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There’s an adage floating around:  you can never be too thin, too rich, or too beautiful.  There may indeed be some truth to it, but it doesn’t seem to accurately reflect the world around us.  What about the idea that you can never be too interesting, too witty, too focused on your goals?

Augusten Burroughs new book, “This Is How, Help for the Self,” debates the issue of what it means to be thin.  In his chapter titled, “How To Be Thin,” he states, “For some, the desire to be thin actually is a desire for a more slender body. . .For other people, getting thin is less a desire than a way of life. . .Where the number on the scale each morning is more accurate at predicting whether it will be a good day or a bad one than any horoscope could ever be. . .For these people, thin isn’t really about being slender.”

These people have unrealistic goals and never really achieve what they aim to do, and so are constantly dissatisfied with who they are.  Be where you’re at; focus on the moment at hand, seems good advice.  Begin to like yourself for your sparkling personality whether you’re five or one hundred lbs overweight.  We’ve all seen people poolside who parade in front of everyone else showing us that sheer confidence is attractive.  Confidence draws people in, and makes them want to get to know you.

It’s also good to be centered, balanced, and have realistic goals.  I myself originally wanted to be a dancer, then shifted to wanting to be an actor.  The problem laid in the fact that I couldn’t act.  Now, I’m much more centered in my desire to be a writer.  As Virginia Woolf famously said, “So long as you write what you want to write, that is all that matters.  And whether what you write lasts for hours or for ages, nobody knows.”

I have made a goal for myself that when I come to the end of my life, I will be able to say:  I wrote my truth.  Indeed, I intend to fictionalize my life, picking small, interesting bits and details much like a magpie drawn to shiny bits of ribbon.

Augusten Burroughs was originally named Chris Robison, but changed his moniker in an effort to free himself from his past, and create a new future of his own design.  I have adopted my middle name, Anson, as my last name, to honor my Irish heritage as well as to lay claim to my life and experiences.  I too want to fashion my own life in a way of my own choosing.  As part of this, I quit drinking because I realized it was destroying my creativity.  Ernest Hemingway may have been able to write through the haze of alcohol, but then again, he despaired and killed himself, something I most definitely not want for myself.  To me, taking charge of my life is similar in many ways to a Tom Tom or Garmin GPS leading me on my way.  And when things don’t always work out the way I intend, there is always that feature of GPS:  recalculating.  I make myself accountable and responsible for my own trajectory.  And while I’m at it, let me encourage you to forge ahead and plan your own path.

Rock of Ages Stumbles

The greatest achievement of the film version of “Rock of Ages” is that it truly celebrates the music of the 80’s.  I found myself thinking, wow, I can’t believe I forgot about that song, but I must admit I expected more from the storyline–it fell as flat as a pancake.

The greatest disappointment centered around Bourbon Room owner, played by Alec Baldwin, and his trusty sidekick, played by Russell Brand.  As a club in trouble and unable to pay back taxes, the storyline was tired and overworked.  Then, (spoiler), Brand declares his love for his boss.  I may myself be gay, but I really don’t think much was added to the drama by introducing a gay relationship for laughs.

Tom Cruise, on the other hand, is quite convincing in his role of aging, drugging rocker Stacee Jaxx.  Cruise talked about his role on the Jay Leno show, and discussed how he prepared for the role by taking intense voice lessons.  Obviously, whoever taught him knew the ins-and-outs of the music business.  It’s quite possible Tom Cruise is the hardest working actor in Hollywood, and he has sustained a career into his late 40’s.  He turns 50 on July 3rd, but nothing stops him or even slows him down.  He did make one rather strange comment on the Leno show.  He said his wife and daughter especially love musicals so they convinced him to make a musical.  To me, “Rock of Ages” is more of a rock opera, and I wouldn’t let me young daughter see the film for many years.  There are quite a few racy, overtly sexual scenes.

Speaking of sexuality, the relationship between the two young, somewhat star-crossed lovers, played by Diego Boneta and Julianne Hough, plods along  This plot point. has ben overdone so that it’s a cliche that they would break about over a misunderstanding, then find a way back into each other’s arms.  Did we really need to see their romance played out right behind the Hollywood sign?  Tres cliche.  Plus, Hough has a really pretty voice, but there’s not enough drive, passion, and husky grit to carry the 80’s music.

For a midnight show, it was a great way to spend the beginning of the weekend, and I have to admist I have already ordered both the movie and musical versions of “Rock of Ages” to compare them.  It should be great music to workout to.

The Two Snow Whites

I’ve recently seen Mirror, Mirror as well as Snow White and the Huntsman and enjoyed both, but for very different reasons. Both stories are a retooling of the classic tale, but Mirror, Mirror sets itself up as a comedy, while Snow White and the Huntsman remains more faithful to the traditional Brothers Grimm fairytale.

Mirror, Mirror stars Julia Roberts as the Wicked Queen with magical powers and features Nathan Lane as her faithful sidekick and errand boy. When Lane’s character fails her, she turns him into a cockroach. This comes off as a gratuitous comedic attempt (if there even is such a thing), and is one of the few aspects of the story which didn’t fully succeed. It reminded me a bit of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban where the Peter Pettigrew character hides as a pet rat named Wormtail. J.K. Rowling utilizes this plot point better than Mirror, Mirror. Most of the rest of the story, however, holds together. Naturally the Queen wants Prince Charming for herself so she whips up a potion, but this backfires when the prince turns becomes a puppy dog, infected with puppy love. I actually liked this aspect of the story, and I also liked the turnaround on the tale whereby Snow White saves the prince instead of the reverse. The role of the dwarves as outlaws and degenerate renegades reestablishes their importance in the tale, so unlike the 1937 Disney movie where the diminutive dwarves are only used as comedic foils for the Wicked Queen. One of the best lines, a line that drives the story is: “It’s important to know when you’ve been beaten.” This adage is turned on its head when Snow White defeats the Wicked Queen. The movie Burlesque echoes this plot point when one performer tells the ingénue and rising star, “Clearly, one of us has underestimated the other.”

In Snow White and the Huntsman, the tale is much more faithful to the very scary aspects of the Brothers Grimm story. One of the dwarves, for instance, is blind, a trope that is often utilized in classic stories to point out that the blind are sometimes the only true seers.

One thing both stories reminded me is that people no longer read as much as they used to. The main way audiences are introduced to classic stories and mythology is through filmic depictions, retold and reimagined. The Huntsman film reminded me of the cinematography of the recent Lord of the Rings trilogy, a broad, sweeping cinematic canvas. Still, in my mind, as a writer, I’m convinced that nothing quite equals the evocative images and use of the imagination when it comes to envisioning stories that are read. I’m quite certain my English and creative writing instructors would agree. My advice: go read books, lots of them, then see the films only as escapist entertainment.