This blog has been churning through some darker waters of late, dealing with a growing feeling on my part that things just aren't heading in the directions I'd like 'em to in either show business or the world at large.
All of that's subjective, of course, bolstered by my reading of Michael Lewis' astonishing book "The Big Short" which basically explains how all those institutions you were raised to trust and respect are now mostly run by self-absorbed shit-heels.
And for those who avoid books about financial scandals because they appear dense and dry, I'd ask you to remember that Lewis is also the author of "Moneyball" , maybe the most entertaining book ever written about baseball.
Although that's in a neck and neck race with one by Will Pascoe, the bane of everybody who's entered the Infamous Writers Hockey Pool for the last three years.
Anyway, when mulling the collapse of the world economy, watching politicians get away with despicable behavior, oil spills where nobody seems to have considered the risks of the enterprise beforehand and security fences being built to hold back anybody who might want to speak out about any of all this; it's easy to start wondering "What's the point?"
Artists are endlessly afflicted and conflicted with this stuff. Sometimes it creates some of our best work. Unfortunately for those working in the Canadian film and TV businesses, the opportunities to realize that work either aren't there or require the prior filling of government forms.
I get letters all the time from newcomers looking for a handhold in the business from which to hang until they can see the next place to grip in the endless climb. None more poignant than one I got this week…
"Fuck. What do you do? Roll the dice anyway… …if widespread income disparity combined with rampant privilege and entitlement is the new black, does all art worth its salt nowadays have to address those questions in some fashion? Or is that the way it's always been too?"
My answer to all those questions is --- "Yes."
You just keep doing what you do.
It's tragic that Vincent Van Gough never sold a painting during his lifetime. But even if he had sold them all, it wouldn't have put him anywhere near the wealth and life options of anybody who owns even a single one of those canvases now.
But imagine how diminished the world and the human spirit would be if he'd met up with some Flemish life coach who steered him into a more prosperous career in cheese marketing.
Much like Columbian soccer players today, actors and writers in the time of Shakespeare were regularly poisoned, stabbed or burned at the stake if somebody didn't like their work. Now you just end up on "The Listener" or "The Bridge".
You have to just keep doing what you do.
That's why some some supreme being or thousands of years of cross-pollinating DNA put you and what you've got inside in this particular time and place. It's your fate or your starting point. That's the choice. Now embrace it and get back to the work.
I can find no better example of how this operates on a Sunday morning than -- "The Monkees".
For those who missed them the first time around in 1966, "The Monkees" were the first corporately constructed boy band, an attempt to cash in on the British Invasion that earned them the nickname "The Pre-fab Four".
They were okay musicians who would never have gone anywhere on their lonesomes without the money and talent that was put to work combining, bolstering and selling their limited talents. Their first records were actually the product of songwriters Jim Boyce and Bobby Hart with most of the instrumental work being done by studio musicians and members of successful LA bands.
By the time their TV series had died and their only movie had tanked, everyone associated with the group was openly admitting "The Monkees" were merely a platform for everyone involved from producers to songwriters to the band to pursue their disparate career paths.
Nobody involved was happy. Nobody was doing what they wanted to do. But 40 years later, various combinations of the band were still touring and releasing records and still trying to rationalize how they hadn't allowed their lives to become a joke.
The direction of the world has always been determined by whoever makes the most money. And show business is but a small echo of that process.
But that doesn't mean you don't have a place or the chance to do good work.
To some extent, you need to separate yourself from what's swirling around you and just do what it is that you do.
A year into "The Monkees" phenomenon, a young songwriter named Harry Nillson auditioned to be a part of the machine.
Nillson was already a songwriter bouncing around the LA scene. But it would still be a couple of years before his theme for "Midnight Cowboy", "Everybody's Talking At Me" , would shoot him to stardom and Paul McCartney and John Lennon would dub him their favorite American artist.
Nillson met with Monkees' producer Chip Douglas and laid down some tracks that the band might want to record. That audition session has recently been placed on youtube, offering a wonderful insight into a not yet recognized talent.
Among the titles he laid down was a song everybody liked but not enough to buy for the group called "Signs".
Of all the beautiful music Harry Nillson wrote, this might be one of the most beautiful. Yet, it seems he never recorded it himself nor sold it to anybody else.
Oddly enough, it speaks to the very issue of never giving up, never losing hope and continuing to do what you do.
Hang in there. And enjoy your Sunday.