Reflections on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day


Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. day. In his honor, I just reread one of his many stirring pieces, 'Letter from a Birmingham Jail' in which he addresses criticism about his methods of nonviolent resistance to racial segregation, and also discusses the general topic and concepts of justice & injustice, human freedom, equality, 'good timing', and the problem with so-called 'moderates'.

I read this in college, and reading it once again today, it literally brings tears to my eyes, both for his words and for what we, America and the world, have lost and what might have been had he not been assassinated.

Also, I should mention that though he was a Christian believer, and I'm a secular atheist humanist, his words and message preach a universal message of humanism and justice, and can and should inspire you in all other realms of life and other struggles we face, no matter what your beliefs are. They do for me.

For example, much of what he says about the problem with so-called 'moderates' or 'neutrals' who rationalize away injustice really speaks to me, and his discussion on why we cannot wait (as we are always told to wait), I have always personally applied to women's rights and equality.

The full text of his letter can be found here, but the following below are lines I pulled out that really speak to me:…/Letter_Birmingham.html

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation.

For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant "Never." 

We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied."

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God given rights. 

The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. 

Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, "Wait."

An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.

We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was "legal" and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was "illegal." It was "illegal" to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler's Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers.

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate.

I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season."

Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.

Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection. and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress.

Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

I am thankful, however, that some of our white brothers in the South have grasped the meaning of this social revolution and committed themselves to it. They are still all too few in quantity, but they are big in quality. Some -such as Ralph McGill, Lillian Smith, Harry Golden, James McBride Dabbs, Ann Braden and Sarah Patton Boyle--have written about our struggle in eloquent and prophetic terms.

Others have marched with us down nameless streets of the South. They have languished in filthy, roach infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of policemen who view them as "dirty nigger-lovers." Unlike so many of their moderate brothers and sisters, they have recognized the urgency of the moment and sensed the need for powerful "action" antidotes to combat the disease of segregation.

...time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will.

We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.

Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.

...we need emulate neither the "do nothingism" of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist.

So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?

Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world?

Over the past few years I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends.

Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.

Neither Right Nor Left: why I feel lonely as a liberal secular humanist.

Please note that this essay is an expanded and modified version of my response comment to the superb and must-read essay The Decay of the Left and The Need to Reaffirm Liberalism by Robbie Travers Tom Owolade.

I know what my values are: they are those of secular humanism — freedom of expression, social justice, women’s rights, the pursuit of equality for all, democracy, the pursuit of fair justice and ethics, separation of religion and state, the pursuit and championing of science, art, knowledge, and more — basically, all liberal values I thought were championed by the Left. However, now and more and more, I am not so sure, leading me to feel very alone amongst my peers.

I try to wrestle and deal with the above, by deciding that I have abandoned the whole political spectrum of Left or Right, and I urge others to do so as well. Instead, I say I am “issue-based.” Ask me about a particular issue — be it international politics, domestic politics, free speech, women’s reproductive rights, discrimination in society, guns and violence, poverty and homelessness, religion, etc. — and I will tell you my opinions and views. If you were to then plot these answers onto a graph of the political-spectrum, they would likely mostly cluster around the left. However, other views would not, and I more and more have started to spread out all over this so-called spectrum (or at times, seemingly cannot find a spot to plot it on), because of the very issues and problems highlighted with the current Left. It goes without saying as well, that the secular liberal values I champion aren’t part of the Right-wing, either. Needless to say, voting days are tough.

In the end, it feels lonely. Many times as well, I feel the strong social-pressure to self-censor my views when I know I am about to express the “wrong” or controversial view, especially since I’m in the public eye (somewhat) as a comedian and actor.

I think a huge part of the problem to begin with, is that people are so attached to their chosen, perceived, and proclaimed spot on this so-called political spectrum. This is true for both the Left and Right, and so perhaps it is more a problem with how humans think, and their deeply-rooted need to belong and conform to a group — specifically, whichever they perceive to be the ‘correct’ or ‘cool’ group.

For example, and we’ll talk about leftists here, both because that is the subject of the piece I was first responding to, and also because it is mainly leftists and fellow liberals & humanists I’m addressing; it seems it’s become an important part of someone’s identity — often throughout one’s entire life — to be a ‘leftist’. Therefore, when confronted with a particular issue of debate, their brain goes on a sort of autopilot mode, where instead of truly analyzing a particular issue or question at hand, they enter into “groupthink”: they ask themselves, “What does the Left say is the correct view on this? What do the current Left’s gurus (Chomsky, etc.) say about this?”

Even if they read articles for research — and so many people will readily discuss even the most complicated geopolitical issues, as though they were experts, having read just a few articles (or mayyybe a couple of books, oooh la la) — they often will do so from only the perspective of their groups and gurus. In effect, they have already decided the verdict on the particular issue, so they aren’t truly reading in a way that might cause them to question or doubt their adopted views.

As much as we must try to examine our own biases and search for objectivity and fairness, we must also be careful not to confuse adopting and championing the majority view of the ‘other’ or the perceived ‘downtrodden’, as meaning we have successfully shed our biases and have found objective and true justice.

Additionally, we must speak about history — and here I mean, the lack of its study. I’m truly shocked and saddened by the fact that people seem to show so little interest in really delving and researching into the full and complicated history of certain issues. This is especially true of the entire Israel-Palestine debate and current anti-Zionist movement. The declared Leftist dogma of Israel as an evil, white, Western, colonialist, state is simply not true. I’m sorry its history doesn’t fit into that model — and it often doesn’t for many other issues — but it just doesn’t. At all. That doesn’t stop people from continually hammering the square peg into the round hole and declaring that it fits, regardless. If anyone actually reads and examines the history from many sources, including contemporary sources, data collected at the time, etc., they will begin to see why the current crisis isn’t as simple to solve and discuss as easily and readily as they feel it is. And yes, agreed, certainly not all anti-Zionists are antisemites, but by and large, they have mostly become so for reasons well outlined in the piece above and as well as many others highlighting their Israel-only blinders and double standards.

I, too, cannot understand the Left’s current silence and hypocritical stance on many of the world’s atrocities. If a non-Western state, government, group or religion, is engaged systemic violence, murder, human rights abuses, and discrimination, should it not matter? Should it not matter as much? It seems this is what the Left is indeed saying. Take Syria for example. Iraq. Iran. Saudi Arabia. Pakistan. Bangladesh. Nigeria. China. I wish I didn’t have to say it, but the list does go on and on.

I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree, double-majoring in History and International Studies – The Middle East, and I get that not everyone should be required to do a full degree in a given subject before expressing their views; but that said, I’m shocked by how little research and examining they have done before feeling confident enough to comment and declare their opinions on topics. And once declared, it seems they will rarely change their mind, no matter how much evidence is given to the contrary.

In effect, it seems that most people aren’t seeking the honest truth or justice in a given situation; people seem to be simply asking, “What is the correct, proper, and socially acceptable view to have on this topic, according to the majority opinion or leadership of my chosen group?”

This is dangerous of course, because such people abandon all forms of actual free thinking, and will aggressively squash debate that tries to actually engage in legitimate questioning and discussion. They will then brand any dissenting opinions or even questions with terrible, socially-ostracizing insults, such as ‘racist’, ‘x-or-y-phobic’, etc. — which can have real consequences on a person’s life and career — thus shutting down debate and warding off any future debate.

As for universal values, they don’t believe in any, or even the seeking of those universal values of justice and freedom (as much as that’s even possible). Relativism is instead championed, and this is of course so dangerous, because it means we cannot truly question and fight certain abuses without being branded a sort of “cultural imperialist.”

We must absolutely pursue universal values of justice and we should not turn a blind eye to abuses just because they are accepted by a particular society, or even the very group and people being abused. It shouldn’t have to be restated, but those who are abused are often taught to accept the system of abuse. The same goes for long-held traditions and customs.

Longevity does not make something true or just.

For example, slavery was a longstanding tradition, and many black slaves were taught and therefore adopted the belief that their lot was ordained from god. Had we all believed in cultural relativism at the time, we would have never successfully gotten rid of slavery. People would have argued (as they did) that this was their society’s right and part of their particular system of justice, and those from the ‘outside’ had no business seeking to change their way of life. The same goes for women’s rights both in the past and today — indeed, in recent polls carried out in non-Western countries, many women stated thatthey believe it is their fault and perfectly acceptable to be physically abused by their husbands when they do something wrong.

Of course, none of what I’m saying should be news to the Left. These were supposed to be their values and concerns. I think in truth, many Leftists are hypocritically silent about certain things, because they are feeling a sort of cognitive dissonance.

They do know the practice and abuse by non-Westerners is wrong, but don’t know what to do about it. It’s easier then to shove the issues aside, repress them, downplay them, and not think and talk about them. They are afraid that speaking out against such things would make them a Western cultural colonialist. Moreover, they worry that such criticism could cause people to abandon some of their important causes. For example, take a look at the relative silence of Leftists regarding, say, the high rate of honour killings in Palestine. In this case, they would feel uneasy about both criticizing a non-Western society, as well as the fear that doing so would make them anti-Palestinian and bring negative attention to the Palestinian people. And of course, the Palestinians are one of the top issues — if not the top one — held most precious by the Left (or so they claim, anyway — their actions show otherwise). Hence the silence regarding Hamas’s atrocities — and I’m not even talking here about attacks on Israelis, but how they run society and treat fellow Palestinians in Gaza. Likewise the Left’s silence regarding virulent homophobia and the abuse of gays in Muslim countries, and the sanctioning of this very abuse by Islamic texts, teachings and imams.

The same goes for the Left’s hypocritical silence, lack of criticism and outright hostility to any criticism regarding the religion of Islam. We handle Islam and its practitioners with kid-gloves in a way that we do not with any other religionand its practitioners. Criticizing, attacking, and mocking Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Bhuddism, Mormonism, Scientology, etc. is all socially acceptable — and rightfully so. But attempt to criticize Islam and you are called a ‘racist’ and ‘Islamophobe.’ I suspect this is due to several reasons: 1) Many of us in the West see Muslims as ‘non-white’ and therefore any valid criticism of the faith makes Leftists uncomfortable for the reasons already highlighted above. 2) Islam is seen by many as an ‘Eastern’ faith, and not only are Eastern religions and traditions romanticized by Westerners, they are not to be criticized by Westerners, because — yep, once again, the ol’ ‘cultural imperialist’ or just simply ‘racist’ card; 3) We have internalized and accepted the very blasphemy laws outlined in Islam that prohibit questioning, criticism, and ridicule. Why? We’re afraid to say it, but it’s because we fear violent repercussions, because doing so has and does lead to attacks by believers.

Recently, for example, I was at a burlesque show. One of the acts featured dancers dressed as nuns, who then undressed; the finale featured the main dancer humping the bible and a wooden cross being rubbed back and forth over her crotch. Everyone cheered and clapped. I fully support their right to do this act, and I fully support almost anything as long as it does not incite to harm and violence; but I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if a dancer did this with the Qur’an and the star & crescent symbol representing Islam — or even just a drawing of them. I don’t think we even have to wonder, and the truth is, we can all predict the likely terrible results. Notwithstanding the probable ensuing violence and threats of violence, fellow proclaimed liberals and secularists would criticize the dancers for needlessly ‘provoking’ and offending Muslims  — the dancers would also be branded ‘racists’ and ‘Islamophobes’.

The irony, as many have mentioned, is that by tiptoeing around Islam quietly, and not treating it the same way we do with other faiths and practices, we actually betray what has been termed the ‘the racism of low expectations’. It is as if the whole world is saying: “Yeah, okay, you Jews/Christians/Mormons/Hindus/etc. can be made fun of and criticized, but I can’t do that with Muslims. Why? Oh, come on, you know why. Because, well, no, don’t make me say it — well, because, um — they’re different, okay? They can’t handle it. They can’t handle being offended. And we can. We’re all grownups and they’re wild children who can’t control themselves. Offend them, and they’ll go apeshit with violence.” This point has been illustrated so well by this now-infamous cartoon by The Onion. Is this double standard not pathetic? Is this not racist to its believers? Is it not the height of condescension and patronizing, colonial behavior and attitudes? Is it not horrendous that we allow this to continue, and turn our back on the very real and brave Muslim reformers as well as ex-Muslims who plead with us to take off the kid-gloves and have real, honest, and open discussions and debate about legitimate problems and concerns with the religion and its doctrines? And yes, we do turn our backs on them every time we are silent or ban them from even speaking.

Cultural relativism is dangerous, harmful, unjust, and has big ramifications especially for immigrant children who are raised in the West, but aren’t allowed the Western freedoms, rights, education, and benefits their passports are supposed to afford them. But in the name of ‘tolerance’ and political correctness, we are silent when it comes to non-Western traditions and customs. How many girls have to be pulled out of school and shipped off to an arranged, coerced marriage before we can even have a conversation about this? How much domestic abuse, honor crimes, honor killings, FGM’s have to be carried out before we can start to talk about them without the fear of being branded a ‘racist’? Do we honestly expect it to just magically disappear if we are quiet about it? Is not offending people worth more than the suffering of our fellow humans? Silence will and has only increased the rates of such abuses.

We cannot allow such a two-tier system of justice, and I don’t think the Left even realizes it’s promoting this, but that’s precisely what is happening thanks to their championing of cultural relativism.

We must not be afraid of having uncomfortable discussions and debates. We have been brave enough to do so before, and that is the only way we have been able to achieve the secular and progressive rights we have today. We must not lie, coddle people, and silence and bend the truth simply because it offends people. The price of freedom means that sometimes we are offended. It is simply part of living in a pluralistic, secular, democratic, progressive society. It is also just simply part of being an adult. One of my all-time favorite comedy bits, by Steve Hughes, addresses this brilliantly and hilariously.

The recent push in universities, especially, to censor and ban anyone who might make us feel even remotely ‘uncomfortable’, and challenge our preconceived notions, is frightening and Orwellian. It is also the very antithesis of liberalism and progressivism, despite all justifications and claims to the contrary. Sometimes I feel like I have to literally pinch myself and ask if I didn’t just wake up and walk onto the set of 1984.

We must absolutely not be tolerant of intolerance. Our freedom to practice religion or any way of life cannot and must not trump our human-rights laws. We are allowing them to. We are allowing people to make a mockery of our hard-fought rights and freedoms by turning our language of tolerance and equality on its head.

We must not be afraid to criticize wrongdoing from any group, and we must be as outspoken and critical of abuses wherever we see them.

We must simply express the truth as we see it, no matter where it’s coming from. Therefore, we must not be afraid to express views that may be shared by, gasp, the ‘wrong side’. For example, I find so many Leftists identify themselves more accurately as ‘non-rightwing’; they see themselves more in opposition to something, rather than clearly having views for something. Therefore, they are terrified of sharing a view that the Right might have. I’ll break this down into a simple analogy: if tomorrow, the Left’s most hated duo in recent history, Bush & Cheney, declared, “We absolutely love the color yellow. It’s just so happy and sunny,” a bunch of leftists who loved yellow would be experiencing emotional turmoil, saying, “How could I have been so wrong about yellow? I don’t like yellow, anymore! I like blue!” This example is ridiculous, of course, but I have seen the exact type of ‘logic’ used in debate. Someone will argue a position that might actually be true, but rather than be countered with an argument showing evidence to the contrary, a Leftist will yell, ‘Wow, that’s exactly what the right-wing politician X said! How can you be saying the same thing?!’

Again, I find it scary that so many people seem not to be searching for honest truths, but are mostly concerned with having and especially showing that they have the current, accepted ‘correct’ views — again, as dictated by their leadership and groupthink. I call it the “Leftist K-Mart Package Deal” — you can meet one self-proclaimed Leftist, and literally know everything they think about most issues, such as: Israel is evil and a colonialist state; the West is always wrong and responsible for the evils of the world; Chomsky is to be revered and anything he writes is canon law; if you criticize Islam, you are Islamophobic; the non-Western, developing world is languishing behind the developed Western world due to the West’s actions, and where there are any social, cultural, and governmental problems, it is only because of the actions and legacy of Western colonialism; the Eastern and older societies and religions are to be romanticized and lauded for their ancient wisdom; and so on the ‘package deal’ goes regarding racism, women’s rights, the US government, etc.

Look, I even happen to agree with them on many issues, especially social ones, but each issue was individually examined, and I also continue to examine them and read evidence and research from all sides of the issue. It would therefore be okay for me to change my views on some issues, or even just sit in the muddy waters of ‘grey areas’ and work to figure out a decision — but I feel this isn’t the case for most people, because they are so concerned with keeping their group label. Human beings are/should be more complexed individuals and not as monolithic. Of course, it is entirely possible for someone to examine each issue on its own and still come up with each of the views listed in the above ‘package deal’, but most of the time I find it’s due to a herd mentality rather than individual examination.

It’s also just frankly more interesting and fun, when I meet people who can express an outlying view and engage in honest and lively discussion — and actually consider each idea and admit when a counterargument has made them reconsider their position on a given issue.

The only way society can and has always truly progressed, is when we were able to freely and openly debate, question, reconsider — and mock — our ideas, systems, and beliefs.

Much of the Left seems to be unquestioningly dogmatic about their views. It’s cause for great concern, especially considering the fact that the right-wing is pretty much doing the same thing. As pointed out, the irony is, the Left seems to be adopting the very behaviors and views for which they have traditionally and rightfully criticized the Right.

Where does that leave the rest of us? Those of us who do believe in at least the search for universal values of freedom, progress, justice and ethics?

The Channukah Carolers — Or, How to Push Past Your Creative Perfectionism and Make a Web-Short.

Happy New Year!! It’s sketchy times we live in! As in, I decided to usher in the holidays and New Year’s with a sketch/web-short mockumentary.

This is all part of me adhering to the new oft-heard mantra, ‘Hey you want creative opportunities and roles? Make ’em yourself!’.

This is actually the second short I’ve created, directed, and acted in (the first has been indefinitely stuck ‘in post’), and like the first, I definitely learned a lot from it.

I gotta tell you, even just doing this short shot up my already extremely-high respect and esteem for any artist who actually creates work — both in the independent world as well as commercial one, but I definitely give more props to those in in the indie world for the simple fact that we have way less resources.

Basically, it’s easy to be cynical and critical of people’s work (and I still am), but the more I do my own stuff, the more supportive and less critical I’ve become to others. It sounds cheesy and even obvious — you know the whole, ‘walk a mile in my shoes before you judge…’ — but I actually thought experience would make me more critical, not less.

Instead, I now think of shows I love, especially ones featuring sketches as just a small “side thing”, and I cannot believe they’re able to pull off as much as they do day in and day out. Sure, they have a huge group of people working on production, writing, costuming, catering, etc, but it still amazes me that they manage to get so much done.

Now onto independent filmmaking and the short I created. As any creator will know, and as I told Felix, my awesome cameraman:

You start off with a grandiose idea of what you want to achieve in a perfect world — if money, time, talent, equipment were limitless — and then as you set out to produce it, reality sets in and you must chip away at it all, and hope that the end product isn’t just one pile of shit.

But here’s the important part: even if it is a pile of shit, you hope and must convince yourself that there’s some twinkle left in that pile of shit that still resembles the original grandiose idea, and you close your eyes and just post it anyway.

And that, kids, is how creative work gets made!

At the end of the day, you must just force yourself to do it, despite your perfectionism, despite the knowledge of “oh, but it could have been so much better” — because yes, it could have if you had more time to write, had more time to edit, didn’t procrastinate as much, had more money, insert a myriad of other reasons; because the truth is, any work can always be better.

So when it’s all said and done, and while wondering why you even liked the project in the first place (I awoke one night saying, “Wait, is this short even funny? I think I thought it was, but now I can’t tell”), you still just gotta take the finished product and put it out there, anyway.

So with that — yes, I’m calling this a pep talk — and in the words of Hamlet to his players, “Go, make you ready.” (Big thanks and shoutout to my acting gurus, Ben Ratner & Loretta Walsh for making us memorize Speak the Speech, which is not only a fantastic piece to live by for actors, but also just good, plain advice for all artists and creators).

So yeah, go forth and create something you too can be proud of — and at the same time sick of or ambivalent about — so that you can get onto the next project!

Oh, but wait:  before moving on, you still have to promote the shit out of the project to the best of your abilities — posting the file, submitting it to sites, asking people to share it (and declaring to yourself that anyone who hasn’t is clearly an enemy of state who hates freedom and is certainly no friend of mine), essentially harassing people to get it seen; otherwise, what was the point of creating it?

Now  all that said, I don’t want you thinking this wasn’t fun — it was, and we had a blast! And I don’t want you to think I’m not proud of it — I am! In fact, I’m super proud of what we accomplished: we shot this, extremely guerrilla style, and in only 5 hours!

For anyone who wants to know the details, here’s a quick sum-up of how it went:

Our first ‘pre-production’ meeting at a cafe was a week prior to the shoot. The four of us included: Felix; Ace, who did sound for this, and who’s also a comedy filmmaker, director, producer in his own right and with whom I just worked as an actor in his own comedy pilot, Twanglers; and Ruven, comedian and my partner in our live-performance sketch duo Schtuptown, sat there at a table Saturday morning and we all agreed, “let’s do an online sketch for the holidays.”

It was supposed to be a very short, simple thing, maybe based on one of my characters I do, and looking back, this is definitely still what we should have done: just keep it simple — and way shorter.

Instead, we chose the complicated full-sketch-almost-full-short-film route (ok, by ‘we’ I mean me).

Casting had to happen super quickly, and at this cafe meeting (Kafka’s — go there, it’s good), when Ruven was saying, “it’s just too soon — let’s do it next year and work on something for February” (I affectionately call Ruven “The Nixer” — he can successfully naysay anything, and all with valid reasons), I found myself saying with unbridled and even downright cocky, dare I say, as is often hurled solely at females, ‘bossy’, optimism:

“I can do it. I’ll have a short script ready tonight. I’ll get the actors. I know tons of them here. They’ll say yes. Our schedules and dayjobs will somehow all synch. I’ll make the costumes in time. I’ll get the songs to them all transliterated and recorded for them to listen to in time.”

Two asides:

1) Try finding enough Jews in Waspitown/Asiantown-Vancouver for this type of sketch — only three of us in it were, and the other two only knew the last song. Oy, assimilation’s sometimes a bitch, but I digress… ;) But I had fun casting ‘Jewwy-looking’ actors I knew (yay to Romanian or French heritage peeps!), though admittedly, I almost felt a bit Nazi-like doing so (don’t worry, though, I never once got out the calipers).

2) I could also promise all this, because I’ve recently booked a few lucrative commercials and one small role in a major film, so have been on hiatus from dayjobland. In other words: I had more time than the others to work on this, and even then it was stressful and packed. Speaking of which, I plan on making a blogpost about the myth of successfully juggling a dayjob and non-paying/low-paying creative work so look out for that very soon.

Now, back to our meeting and my testimony on the stand, trying to persuade my team to make this short:

“It’ll all happen in time! Just try to be optimistic.” I was almost causing a scene. Of course, that’s not hard to do in Vancouver, where a slightly raised tone in a cafe is very unsightly — cafes are essentially seen as an extension to libraries here, but again, I digress…

“Just trust me! Let’s do this! Yes, shooting in the subway will be fine! Stop worrying!  We’ll do it at the entrance of the station only as plan B if they demand we leave, but why not try it inside the car first?! (Ahem, again Ruven) ;) Stop putting up roadblocks before we actually get to them! C’mon, it’sVancouver! We can take advantage of the people’s small-town, polite passive-aggression, and we may get glared at, but no one will actually tell us anything! You know this! You’ll see!”

See, we indie creators worry a lot (as do non-indie ones, but the worries we face are different). And the truth is, we have to worry since a lot of these concerns are very valid. For example, we have to worry about film permits (we had none); city bylaws; people dropping out at the last minute (hey, you get what you paid for); fears and worries that your name will be attached to something you don’t like, and anxiety that your creative reputation will therefore be permanently destroyed over one bad project or comment or photo, thanks to it being forever available on the interwebs (gotta love the times we live in). I have all of these worries, too.

And looking at the finished product, of course there are tons of things I would change and improve on. But truth be told, I’ve actually been recently inspired by an interview I read with Howie Mandell, where he stated,”There’s always a thousand reasons why not to do something.”

That hit home. Yep, there’s always a reason to say no to something — so say yes.

Even if your fears are valid — and let’s face it: you can always justify them — I’m saying you gotta just push past these thoughts, and do it anyway. Otherwise, you’ll never create anything.

To some extent, I’m surprised it’s me saying all this. Honestly, I’m more of a pessimist at heart, or perhaps now more an optimistic pessimist, and my two sides battle each other all the time. As for neurotic worrying, that’s also definitely one of my top talents (gotta love the Jewish cultural upbringing out east in Brooklyn & Montreal — yep, some stereotypes die hard…).

But hey, maybe a few years out here has finally west-coastified me on some level, and I can push through the doubts and no’s better than I used to. (Yay, assimilation! Finally! I’ve been trying so hard!)

Anyway, that’s it for now.

Some accomplishments and behind-the-scenes fun-facts to note about The Channukah Carolers:

  • Our sketch got posted in Heeb magazine, (for those who don’t know it, it’s sorta like a Jewish Vice — ‘But Vice is already pretty Jewwy’, you say. Yeah, yeah, but this one is especially so).
  • It’s also posted here on Funny Or Die, and has so far gotten zero ‘die’ votes — to be fair, it only has 180 views, so feel free to check it out and give it some more ‘funny’ votes, please and thank you.
  • The funniest part of filming was during the opening scene, when we noted that a homeless guy at the corner was sitting up, his blanket covering him, and was jerking it to ‘Oy Channukah’ — if that isn’t a sign of success and bringing holiday joy to people, then nothing is! We got some footage of it for ‘crowd reactions’, but alas, it didn’t make the cut. Ok, fine, here’s a still and if I knew how to create a gif I would:
  • YouTube analytics shows me that it’s gotten world-wide international views, my favorite ones being in Saudi Arabia.
  • Last but not least, the analytics also show that we’ve earned close to $2 bucks for our nearly 1000 views so far. Note to my team: See? Told ya it’d go viral! ;)