Monday, January 30, 2012

Be Good To Yourself

The first time I heard the expression “The Tyranny of Cool” it was about 10 or 11 years ago, during the course of an interview I did with director Guillermo del Toro for

SLW: Going back to The Exorcist, which had an impact on me as a young child, [it] was re-released a few years ago. And now Alien, a movie I saw when I was 12 or 13 and scared me, is currently being re-released on the big screen. What I find somewhat disconcerting with younger, modern audiences now is that they are laughing out loud at these movies, as if they were sheer comedy. Do you think our sense of horror has been diluted by too many spoofs, or what? Are young audiences just jaded now?

GDT: I read an article about 10 years ago called "The Tyranny of Cool". It basically implied that in the 50s there was the beatnik concept of being cool, which meant being against The Man and being laid back and doing your own thing, and not being a puppet of the system -- and sort of tweaked it into being cynical and cold just for the sake of being cynical and cold. I think that we live in a world in which there is an enormous amount of disdain associated with any act that has any emotional content in it. We live in a world where we are afraid to cry, afraid to laugh [with joy], we're afraid to show our tender side or our vulnerable side. And with some reason, because this same world has created an enormous amount of people that are ready to poke, with a very sharp stick, anything soft. And I think that The Exorcist was done in much less cynical times, and it was playing to principals of quote-unquote normalcy and quote-unquote decency that are not applicable anymore. Now it is a much more anarchic time and the audience wants to be not only with the movie, but ahead of the movie in a very post-modern way. I find these interesting times in which to be alive but not necessarily the most rewarding.

Being good is generally considered uncool. And being good to yourself? Well, that’s reserved for granola crunching Wayne Dyer fans, right?

However, one of the very coolest people I know, Ogre, always signs his emails, “Be good to yourself.” Seems simple, but they really are words to live by. The point was driven home this morning by the final affirmation in the one and only “self-help” blog I follow, MARC & ANGEL HACK LIFE. The topic this week is ‘20 Things to Start Doing in Your Relationships’, and throughout the checkpoints of advice (stuff we all know already, but need reminders), the most important one, the relationship with yourself, is ever-present in the text.

I’m the type of person who’s usually good to others, but not always to myself (only through neglect, not abuse). This past week, I made a conscious decision to recalibrate. I’ve been meaning to get back on the diet, been meaning to read more books, been meaning to start various projects, been meaning to do this or that… well, here are a few things I did to be good to myself this past week:

- I talked to my immediate family on the phone (my dad, my mom, brother and sister), and instead of the usual “how’s it going?” banter, we discussed real things about the stuff going on in our lives right now, reminisced a bit, and we expressed our appreciation for one another in specifics.

- I’m not accepting every invite out. I’m letting myself be. But I am doing the things I really want to do; with others, and alone. Mostly alone. This has been a time of reflection, relaxing, resting, running, recalibrating, and researching. I’ve been paying attention to my internal tick-tock (something I seldom have the luxury of doing; but at the moment, I’m on a mini-vacation and have a very minimal schedule to attend to) and am eating when I’m hungry and sleeping when I’m tired. I’ve got only healthy foods on hand (I have not cooked a meal in days, eating mostly fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains… after just a short time, it’s become easy to not even look at the pastries on the coffee cart), and pretty much total quiet so I can fall asleep early and get up late (10 or 11 pm, till 630 or 730 am… the usual is 12 or 1 am till 530 or 6 am).

- Been listening to soothing music and focusing on the positive lyrics. Vintage James Taylor is in heavy rotation right now (Country Roads, You’ve Got A Friend, How Sweet It is To Be Loved By You), as is the soundtrack of my favorite hopeful romantic movie, [500] Days of Summer. That’s not to say I won’t be inching back to the more philosophical, heavy, existential stuff (hello, Don McLean, Bob Dylan, and Jeff Buckley!) very soon, but sometimes one needs a break from listening into the abyss.

- Have been going on several walks a day (shorter ones with the dog, longer more intense ones solo), and rather than beating myself up for becoming so out of shape (thanks to a foot injury and then the holi-daze [and hollandaise]) I’m realizing it’s not as bad as I thought. I do get winded sooner than I would like, but I noticed this morning I am still passing everyone else by when going up even the steepest hills. My foot twinges a bit, but not too bad and I remember to keep up my maintenance dose of ibuprofen for the inflammation, even when the pain isn’t there to remind me. Although I’m not at the level I was in August (able to run down the trail while skipping rope), at least I am doing *something* -- and I will get there again, definitely!

- I’m letting stuff go. Even though I may be in the “right”, sometimes the fight just isn’t worth the perceived reward. Example: I got a parking ticket a couple of months ago. I read all the signs, paid the meter, and set my alarm on my iPhone to ensure I’d be back in time. Came back, saw it was after 6 pm and therefore OK to park for free. Returned an hour later and there was a parking ticket on my windshield. Received 1 minute after 6. According to the ticket it was a no parking zone. I reread all the signs and so on, decided to fight it, but through a series of misfortunes (a bounced email, a slow snail-mail forward) I -- to quote Don Adams from Get Smart -- “missed it by THIS much!” and not only was my ticket deemed valid, but the fee was doubled. That’s $136 I don’t just have lying around. I was going to fight it again, and maybe I could actually be successful, but then I thought: how much aggravation would that be? What is my time worth? I’d have to drive out of my way to go and take photos of the signs; then I’d have to set an appointment to appear at traffic court; then even if I “won” chances are, the charge reversal from my bank card would be a big hassle or would take weeks. So, I got creative and found a way to earn an extra $120, and did that instead. Yeah, it still sucks the stupid City gets my $136 so unfairly, especially since I spend a lot of tax dollars in Hollywood, but… I let it go.

- Getting creative. I know I will be able to apply only some of the strategies as presented in Your Creative Brain (by Shelley Carson), and I’m not following all the exercises to the letter, but I am still finding the book very inspiring. And, I think I’m actually being creative by NOT following the instructions, but instead finding what works for me and applying it creatively. Now, *that’s* thinking outside the box. Reading the book has helped unlock a few ideas and solved a couple of mysteries… in fact, in the book, Carson mentions talking trash receptacles which say “thank you” when used. She mentions that people often say “you’re welcome” to the machine. She also says that other countries have taken the give-and-take even further. “Trash cans in Shanghai not only thank people for throwing their trash away, they have built in solar compactors for easy trash pickup (they also direct pedestrians to the nearest public restroom, although no one is sure what that has to do with trash disposal).” To me, it seems very obvious! Most people walking around are throwing away food and beverage containers… and what follows eating and drinking? Anyway, I never thought I was much of a divergent thinker (my go-to is the “Reason” brainset, according to my results of the quiz) but I have to say, I was struck by two great (or at least, unexpected), totally unrelated, ideas this morning while reading Your Creative Brain (while relaxed, drinking a cup of coffee outside in the breezy sunshine – I’m sure those were factors, too!). So, that follows the pattern of my second-strongest trait, the “Connective” brainset (one thing leads to another). I’m excited about putting them into motion. One is purely creative (something perfect to put into the script I’m currently writing) and one is creative/practical (how to make some money, doing something I like).

- I’m watching one movie I want to see, every day. Usually, I have to review movies I may not necessarily *want* to see and I don’t have tv cable for mindless channel surfing, so purposefully and mindfully watching a DVD (whether it’s a foreign film I’ve been meaning to watch for months – like, Zulawski’s THE IMPORTANT THING IS, TO LOVE or revisiting an old fave like the lightweight 70s mystery THE LAST OF SHEILA) and actually taking the time to savor it without checking my emails ad infinitum, has been quite good. To myself.

Related links

Interview with Guillermo del Toro (
Ogre (
20 Things to start doing in your relationships (Marc & Angel Hack Life)
James Taylor & Carly Simon – You’ve Got A Friend (YouTube)
Your Creative Brain (

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