The over-arching point I want to make here is that sometimes the real you is hiding in plain sight. It’s 9:40 and I need to walk and feed the dog and get ready for my part-time gig, so this is the intro paragraph I’m going with. It’s not fantastic. You know this is less than a Professional Writing Portfolio™ than it is a practice in focused rambling, right? Anyway. Let’s forge ahead through this glacial fog.
For a while, now, I've been trying to write without using "I" as much as I used to. For the better part of a decade when I was daily blogging, I'd frame things through that lens (I think this, or, I think that). What that entails is an inflexibility of thought. What I found, even during my most visible blogging years circa 2012-2014, was that people would hold me to those opinions, even if I changed them. I found myself defending ideas that I didn't necessarily believe in fully, solely for the fact that I erroneously believed that those opinions formed who I am. That's not the case. Good criticism is important, but it is an ethereal artform.
Good critics are really hard to come by. Mark Kermode and Roger Ebert come to mind. Mahnola Dargis can be extraordinary, too. But too often in the hands of others criticism lends itself to taking works of art down. At Death & Taxes I felt like the hockey equivalent of a ‘goon’, i.e., someone who’s sole job on the hockey team is to beat the living shit out of the other team’s star player. There are times I still get emails telling me my 2013 opinions on Axl Rose are wrong, and those people are right.
Case in point: A while back in Nashville I tried to start my own music magazine, only to realize that I didn't really give a shit about being a critic anymore. Dig if you will, a picture: I can't really stand The Raconteurs, mostly because I think Jack White has been relying on 'Being Jack Fucking White' for the past fifteen years. The best thing Jeff Tweedy ever did when he was in a rut was take guitar lessons from Tom Verlaine of the band Television, and Jack White could stand to do the same, perhaps from Jeff Tweedy.
See? Not that hard to parse. But to build a fucking empire on that? That's sociopathic. Good criticism is making a masterpiece using only a pair of scissors.
(Long cul-de-sac of a tangent: It's really easy to lob bombs at people from behind a keyboard, as anyone who's been alive in the fucking Trump era knows all too well. I used to use Nickelback, etc, as a punchline for jokes but maybe at age 33 or so I really stopped giving a shit about what I thought about music, because to some (perhaps wayward) people, Nickelback is music. I get it. I'll defend Journey until the ends of the earth, and I know damn well that they have entire sides of LPs full of mediocre music but HOLY SHIT is it worth it when you're driving with the windows down screaming along to 'Wheel In The Sky'.)
I'm a big believer in self-discovery. This is probably the 13th iteration of whoever I am: NorCal Rushmore, Chicago art-school DJ, Los Angeles wannabe actor, post-modern Kerouac-esque hobo for 2 years after dad died, New York hipster Jay Sherman in skinny jeans, attempted Brooklyn media gadfly, struggling LA screenwriter.... fast forward a few more iterations to great husband and excellent dog-dad trying to carve his way out of admittedly quite strong depression. And I think a lot of that depression has to do with ego, and to do with reconciling who I am to who I was. Not to get too hippie, but there are times I wish I could literally hug the other versions of past-Me's and tell them to stop trying to break through, because every single one of them had a core thought of "If only I could achieve this (fame, success, money, recognition of percieved peers, etc), then I would be OK". That thought is wrong. All that hokey stuff about life being a journey is true. You're rarely who you think you are, and if you are the person you think you are, it's time to change, or at least be open to it.
Ten years ago, if you’d told me that in 2019 I’d be married to a Finnish woman, herself a fan of Britney Spears, and our best nights in are watching things like Paddington 2 and Richard Curtis movies, I’d have laughed at you (or probably blogged about it). I was convinced that I would be married to Natalie Portman or Zooey Deschanel. And to be honest, I think a lot about how unhappy I’d be if I’d never changed. There’s a lot of people out there who got bitter because they limited their idea of what success is.
There’s a photo of Faye Dunaway the day after winning her Oscar, and I like it because it shows the rarely seen aftermath of a perceived success. It’s just another thing. Someone still has to clean up the table.