Who I Really Am
I don't know about you, but I misrepresent myself on a pretty regular basis. I smile when I'm not happy, I talk to people with whom I don't really want to speak, and I don't share a lot of who I really am with very many people I meet in my daily life. What I think is often not what I say, and what I say is often not what I really think. But, to have any kind of grounding on this earth, everyone needs at least someone with whom they must be comfortable enough to tell the truth all the time. Not just sometimes, not even just most of the time, but all the time. For some people, that someone is a real, living person. For others, that someone is not a living person but is a living presence. For me, that someone is you.
Something for Absolutely Everyone
Of course, you understand that I am not going to tell you absolutely everything. We are all prevented by our circumstances from being competely truthful with anyone, sometimes even ourselves. My goal in this space is to have at least something for absolutely everyone, which means I want to have something just for you, and for you to listen, I think that something will have to be truthful. I realize that trying to have at least something for absolutely everyone is a big goal, an impossible goal perhaps, but I am a person who has big goals, as you will see, in anecdotal form, throughout this narrative. I've had what seems to be something of a charmed life. Because of the unconventional way in which I live my life, I tend to attract interesting people and situations. By chronicling my experiences with some of these people and situations, this space is part of my attempt to figure out exactly why that is and what, if anything, should be done about it.
In The Beginning...
If you're in a hurry, this is not going to be a place in which you'll want to spend much time. If you are used to reading blogs, you may find it odd that the home page is my first post, not my most recent. That is because this space, where you are now, is not meant to be a blog. A blog is a weblog, a chronicle of day to day thought and events. This is a chronicle of thought and events, but it is also an attempt at something else. It is my attempt at a new kind of hybrid creature, a cross between a memoir, a digital living room, and a genre of expression. Some of what you find here is similar to what you might read in the reflection of a life lived, and some is what you would experience if I were hosting you in my home. What takes place in this space I hope to to be like a narrative version of early rap music, with the musical computer an instrument one step up from the turntable because you get to look at things and do other things while you're listening. It is therefore a higher form of entertainment. Like rap, it takes life experience as its education, and aims only to speak only the truth. So, in the tradition that musicologists refer to as call and response, I'll say what I have to say, hopefully you'll respond, I'll play you some music, and, through the wonders of technology, we'll both have a window to the rest of the world while we share our time.
I present the biographical details below more as a means of introduction than because I enjoy talking about myself. In a time where we are allowed and even encouraged to peer into one another's lives without invitation or context, I still believe in getting the story behind the story. These details, then, are my way of presenting the story behind my story. You see, I don't have the kinds of credentials that one normally needs for one's opinion to be taken seriously. Academically, I only have two letters behind my name. Commercially, my personal net worth indicates that I have failed more spectacularly than I have succeeded. Artistically, I have not published for widespread distribution anything that I have created, at least not until now. Somtimes I wish we lived in a world where everyone decided whether or not to listen to anyone else based strictly on what they had to say, but that is not the world I see around me and, even if it were, that would also present some challenges, as we would have no way to identify those who actually meant what they were saying. So, if I have any right to ask that you listen to what I have to say, I have to show you my credentials. With that in mind, the only credentials I have that may be worth anything to you are my experiences.
One important thing before I begin; I am a father who believes that parents have to earn the trust of their children by being truthful with them, and so it's worth noting that, even though there are certain topics I address in this space that other parents might not, one of the most important criteria for every word you'll read here is that it must be fit for reading by my own children. This space is meant to be a source of joy and learning for my children, and I will never post anything here that I would not share with them directly.
Best Job In The World
1. The job I enjoyed most in my life was as a camping safari tour guide in Kenya, sharing the wonders of nature's balance, and experiencing nature's finest, with tourists, journalists and lost souls. On one of the safaris, I witnessed an extremely rare occurrence, a double kill; we watched two cheetahs first kill a gazelle and then, while they were eating, make up their minds to go for something bigger, at which time they chased down and killed a wildebeest.
Reality Live Theatre
2. Long before Sasha Baron Cohen or Reality TV came along, some time in the early 90's, I had a fringe theatre act called the "Crazy Canuck", in which, for paying groups of tourists to London, England, I posed as a regular commuter in the London Underground but did very strange things in the presence of fellow commuters, one of which caused me to be picked up by the police and told never to perform again.
3. I founded, developed, ran, and sold a unique English As A Second Language school for students from many different countries. I developed a course based on a set of idiomatic expressions with grammatical overtones that I called Conversationals, teaching students phrases that nobody else had ever taught them anywhere. The phrases were chosen so that students could begin to express their opinions the way they did in their native languages. According to reports from students and teachers alike, countless classrooms of students were "captivated and spellbound". I remain captivated and spellbound by the power and responsibility that comes with effective use of language.
The Great Unpublished Novel
4. I wrote a 1200-page novel over the course of 6 years, and, after developing a small following among early readers of the manuscript, I destroyed all copies of the manuscript, which I now refer to as my six-year Mandala, a creative process brought to popular attention as the ornate works of sand art that Tibetan monks meticulously create and then destroy immediately upon completion. The title of my book was "Storydancer".
Don't Give Up Your Day Job
5. I was once told while busking in Ikebukuro Station in Tokyo that I had the "greatest white soul singing voice" the listener, who, granted, was quite drunk, had ever heard. In the next breath, I was told that my guitar playing was so bad that I should put down the guitar and never pick it up again. I now settle for a gig as the sometime lead singer (no guitar!) of an as-yet unnamed acoustic-based band.
"Dude, Why Do You Always Wear Orange?"
6. I have worn an article of orange clothing somewhere on my person every day for the last fifteen years. To my knowledge, none of this orange clothing was ever purchased by me; all pieces were given to me, first as hand-me-downs and then as gifts. In other words, if you ever want to know what to get me, something with orange will usually be a hit. If it played music too, it might just be the best material gift I had ever received.
Pathological Liar In Parliament
7. While in university, I resigned in disgust from the executive of a conservative political party and formed my own protest political party, called Tommy Flannagan's Pathological Liars (named after an 80's Saturday Night Live character), to run in the university model parliament elections. After winning almost 25% of the seats and enduring a public tirade from the Conservative leader for "making a mockery of the event", I formed another party the following year called the Great Thinkers of All Time, resulting in similar electoral success and even more subversive delight.
Frequent Brushes With Death
8. Attempts on my life have been made over the years by two elephants, one crocodile, one black mamba snake, salmonella, malaria, two soldiers with AK-47s, a land-mined stretch of road, and cancer. As far as I can tell, each has been unsuccessful.
9. My wife and I met in Japan, got engaged in Ireland, were married in Australia, and live in Canada. We have three children, whose names mean "Happiness", "Autumn" and "Illumination".
10. I speak five languages besides English, with varying degrees of fluency. One is spoken by only 4 million people in the world. Here is a sample. "O ntumedisetse ho ba lelapa la haho tle."
Japanese Beer Spokesman
11. I became quasi-famous in Japan when a tv news crew covering an event caught me on tape doing an imitation of a famous beer commercial in a rural Japanese dialect.
Wears Heart on Chest
12. I have a large, heart-shaped mole, on my chest, directly over my heart.
Hollow Academic Accomplishment
13. I received what I was told might have been the highest mark in the history of a certain university political philosophy course (97%) on a term essay, riddled with typographical errors, on which most of my classmates had spent months but that I had written entirely in an early morning session a few hours before it was due. The funny thing was that I had written it as a joke, as I completely disagreed with everything I had written, but the professor marking it took it completely seriously.
Inspiration for Inculcation
14. Someone wrote and recorded a song about me, and I can say with relative certainty that it is the only song ever written to contain the lyrical phrase "euphoric inculcation".
To Heaven & Back Down To Earth
15. After experiencing something of an epiphany watching Ladysmith Black Mambazo, a sunset and a subsequent fireworks display through light-refracting glasses on a hilltop overlooking the Glastonbury music festival, I decided to stop eating meat, sell off all of my earthly possessions and wander barefoot around India. This plan fell through about a week later when, after visiting several pawn shops in London, I learned that funds received from the sale of my earthly possessions wouldn't even get me across the English Channel.
Can't Con a Con Man
16. Shortly after September 11, 2001, I started a film production company with a partner whom I came across quite by chance. He was a brilliant, self-described "New Joysey Jew", from Tony Soprano's neighbourhood, with a Masters from Harvard and pictures of himself in Robert Redford's living room. I raised a whole bunch of money from some of my closest friends, sold my two businesses for a fraction of what they were worth, and we used the funds to develop a billion-dollar log line for a completely new kind of film. We both came up against cancer, money troubles, and marital stress during our incredible ride, but I guess it took a harder toll on him than on me. He disappeared one day off the face of the earth, and I haven't seen or heard from him since.
Useful Life Skills
17. I learned how to drink vodka and lose at chess from a pre-glasnost Soviet tank commander and his crew on the Trans-Siberian railway, a two-week train ride from Budapest to Beijing.
Friends in High Places
18. While hitch-hiking in Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan's four main islands, I was picked up by a member of the Yakuza (the Japanese mafia). Anyone familiar with the Yakuza will be pleased to learn that he did have the punch perm and missing pinkie finger that many lower-level soldiers have. We hit it off right away, and he proceeded to take me to some of his favourite places, including a stalactite cave, in which were built many little memorial altars. We built one together to commemorate the great day we were having.
It's Alimentary, My Dear
19. I am known by everyone who has eaten a meal with me for having an appetite of epic proportions. It doesn't hurt that my metabolism has always been so fast that it already has the appetizers digested before dessert has arrived.
No Longer Well Read
20. Up until very recently, I had not read a book for over 15 years, for fear of unduly influencing the development of my own system of thought.
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Monday, December 5, 2011
Who I Really Am