Why do I blog?

Even as I attempt to (s)crawl my way back to a more regular writing schedule, the question that has been bugging me since, well, early this year continues to nibble away at the edge of my thoughts, like an annoying rabbit that’s found an extra crunchy lettuce leaf there and won’t leave me alone. Why do I blog? Or tweet or Instagram or put myself out there in any form, really?

Hardly anyone visits my website, and I have the numbers to prove it. I don’t know if anyone reads my tweets, and the dozen friends who regularly “like” my Instagram pics probably don’t justify my diligence – no offence, guys. The one place I am guaranteed a fairly captive audience is Facebook – simply because those people are my friends and family – and I rarely share anything there.

Early this year, I briefly considered closing down my website, Twitter account and Instagram. The only thing that stopped me was the assumption that I would probably want to go back to them at some stage. Today, I can honestly say, I DON’T KNOW WHAT THE HELL I WAS THINKING.

So why do I blog? Or tweet or Instagram or put myself out there in any form? I finally found my answer one morning, and it was so simple I’m stunned that I didn’t figure it out myself. Screenwriter Max Landis, in a reply to /Film, said:

(To understand what they were discussing, read this.)

I’m a writer, pure and simple. And unlike Landis, who gets to derive pleasure from having people read his work because he’s a successful Hollywood screenwriter, I get my kicks from penning coherent sentences that hopefully mean something, and putting them out into the big unknown.

It doesn’t matter if one person reads it or one hundred, I have to hit “publish” because I don’t get the same satisfaction from amassing a private folder full of Word documents. I suppose there’s a narcissistic element to it as well – I always think all writers are at least a little bit narcissistic when it comes to their work.

For so long I’d been trying to figure out what I’m doing here. Am I trying to accomplish something? What’s the point of all this? No one would blame me for shutting it all down to focus on the stuff that I actually get paid for. But something in me always goes, STOP. And I understand that there will come moments when I need this space, these outlets. It won’t be all the time, but when I do, that’s when it’ll really matter.

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These powerful lyrics from Will Smith’s ‘Tell Me Why’ is kind of relevant right now

Read THR’s Actor Roundtable over breakfast this morning and something Will Smith said about Paris reminded me about his song from way back, ‘Tell Me Why’. Responding to a question about the movie Django Unchained, he said:

We can’t look at what happens in Paris [the terrorist attacks] and want to f— somebody up for that. Violence begets violence. So I just couldn’t connect to violence being the answer. Love had to be the answer.

To this day, the first verse of ‘Tell Me Why’ is one of the saddest and most powerful that I’ve ever heard:

September 11th, I woke up about 7am, West Coast time, French toast and my
Turkey bacon, taking my time, awakin’, turning my TV on
To my surprise, saw what everybody in the world saw
Me and my children, images were chillin’
My son said, “Daddy were there people in that building?”
A cold sweat, frozen with a lump in my chest
I heard his question, couldn’t bring my lips to say “Yes” to him
That night at my son’s side, he cried and prayed
For the ones who died in the World Trade
His palms to God, seeds and qualms with God
He just kept on pressin’ me, wanna know why
Then one week later our bombs were dropped
We seein’ them on CNN, they just won’t stop
The infrared images of brutal attack
He said, “Daddy now we killin’ em back”

The first time I heard it, I wasn’t a mum yet and even then I thought that loss of innocence was so heartbreaking. Now that I have a 5yo, I feel not just for what the kid represents in the song, but also for all the kids who were/are being “killed back” in response to what happened.

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Can Justin Bieber make it cool for young people to talk about Jesus?

Justin Bieber is not the first celebrity to talk about Jesus, but he is one of the younger ones, and – like him or hate him – certainly one of the most influential. While the cynic in me did wonder how much of his interview with Complex magazine was coached, it was a stroke of PR genius nonetheless. You have to respect the guy for what he’s doing, even after everything else we’ve seen and heard from him. If this was “Mission: Rehabilitate Justin’s image”, they’ve hit the ball right out of the park.

As a Christian, I know it’s not easy to talk about your faith. I personally prefer the “show, not tell” approach, but sometimes, like in an interview, you’ve just got to come right out and say it I guess. Which is what Bieber did:

I just wanna honestly live like Jesus. Not be Jesus—I could never—I don’t want that to come across weird. He created a pretty awesome template of how to love people and how to be gracious and kind. If you believe it, he died for our sins. Sometimes when I don’t feel like doing something, but I know it’s right, I remember, I’m pretty sure Jesus didn’t feel like going to the cross and dying so that we don’t have to feel what we should have to feel. What Jesus did when he came to the cross was basically say, “You don’t have to feel any of that stuff.” We could take out all of our insecurities, we could take away all of the hurt, all the pain, all the fear, all the trauma. That doesn’t need to be there. So all this healing that you’re trying to do, it’s unnecessary. We have the greatest healer of all and his name is Jesus Christ. And he really heals. This is it. It’s time that we all share our voice. Whatever you believe. Share it. I’m at a point where I’m not going to hold this in. – Justin Bieber

For his interview with Billboard, he went to church. Stephen Colbert talked a lot about his Catholic faith when he first took over The Late Show, which was fascinating to watch and read about. I even wrote about it for my TV column. But as much as I like the guy, he’s probably not the barometer of cool the Gen Z-ers, or even the Millennials, are looking for. Which brings me to my question: can Justin Bieber make it cool for young people to talk about Jesus?

The church gets a bad rap – and many times for good reason. I believe in God and even I don’t like Christians sometimes. To speak up about your faith takes guts when you’re standing in front of the world. Not for those who already wear a “Christian” label like pastors or those in Christian music because then you’re expected to talk about God. But for people like Colbert and Bono from U2 (who I think is amazing) and now Bieber, theirs is a completely different sphere of influence, which makes it so interesting to observe.

People shouldn’t be put off by the discussion of religion or faith – and this goes for all religions. Dialogue, not ignorance, is the way forward. If there’s one thing the world needs right now, it’s a better understanding of one another, not fear of those who are different from us. I’ll be the first to admit that the Christian church has gotten pretty good at playing the “us vs. them” card, which does no one any favours.

But I digress. While I’m definitely more of a Colbert, U2 kind of person, I have to admit that there are some things even Bono cannot do. Maybe, just maybe Bieber is the tipping point the entertainment industry needs so others too will find that it’s really okay to talk about Jesus. We’ll see.

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When I heard about the terrorist attacks in Paris, my first instinct was fear


I’ll admit: when I heard about the terrorist attacks in Paris, my first instinct was fear. Shut down, close ranks, put up (imaginary) walls around me and my loved ones, and do everything in my power to protect them. As if by doing all those things in my head, I would be able to.

Of course that was the whole point of the attacks. Mass murder, yes, but even more effective than that, it aimed to strike fear into the hearts of people all around the world. This is psychological warfare, designed to cause panic, incite distrust and paranoia, and turn people against one another.

As the news sank in, I realised that what we need to do isn’t just #prayforParis, but also for Lebanon, Syria and all the other countries that experience terrorism on a regular, oft unreported basis. Rather than close in on ourselves, we need to be more open and generous than ever, especially towards those with whom we are unfamiliar. Instead of hate, we need to show love, and not just to those who share the same cultural values, religion or skin colour. It sounds cliched, but it really is the best way forward. Love is our only hope if we’re going to stand together against evil – and win.

I have been encouraged by the strength of the Parisians and the solidarity that the world has shown in standing with them. I have also been encouraged by articles reminding us that Paris is hardly the only victim of terrorism, and it’s time we open our eyes to the magnitude of what’s been going on. I do think the world in general has a double standard when it comes to white people dying and non-white people dying, and I agree that the media has been incredibly biased in this respect, but it’s great that we’re talking about it, because that’s how awareness starts and (hopefully) ignorance ends.

If you’re praying for Paris, will you also pray for Beirut, who is still reeling from a series of coordinated suicide bombings? If you’re flying the French flag on your Facebook profile picture, will you also extend that same generosity of thought and compassion to Syrian refugees who are fleeing the very atrocities we are so vocal in condemning? Will you remember the millions of innocents, not just in the Middle East but in countries in Africa and Asia as well, who live our greatest fears every single day?

We cannot stop what has already happened, but we can choose how we react in the aftermath. Whether or not the ripples of hate continue to spread is not up to those terrorists, it is up to us. To allow fear to dictate our prejudices and bigotry is to let the terrorists win, and if there’s one thing we all agree on, it’s that we cannot let that happen.

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Must watch: Misty Copeland gives Jimmy Kimmel and Guillermo a ballet lesson

I’ve been following Misty Copeland‘s story for a while, even though I’m no ballerina and don’t plan to send the kid for ballet lessons. Her truth has transcended the (often) elite and closed-off world of ballet, and she inspires me in ways perhaps I’m not even completely sure of yet. Any story about breaking boundaries, changing perceptions and smashing stereotypes is a tale worth telling. Also, this YouTube video is the funniest and best thing I’ve seen all week.

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About sleep

Of course the kid would rise at 630am on a Saturday, despite having complained every single morning this week that she was too tired to get up for school.

I should have known I was tempting fate when I told a school mum yesterday that I really hope my daughter doesn’t get up at 7am on the weekend.

How dare you voice your hopes and dreams of a sleep-in! I’ll show you worse.

There come many points in every parent’s life when they have to choose between trudging through a day on little sleep or embracing a sleep-deprived day and making the most of it nonetheless.

This morning, I chose the latter. Because it’s the weekend and I’ll be damned if I let the kid ruin it. I’m not saying I’m not on speaking terms with my 5yo, but let’s just say I would like to say very little.

At least until I’ve got more coffee in me.

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Not Quite Book Review: ‘Freedom’ by Jonathan Franzen

Having recently decided it was time to do lots of reading again – real books, not on my computer screen – I picked up Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom during a trip to the library. “You can’t really go wrong with Jonathan Franzen,” was the advice my sister proffered.

A voracious reader once upon a time, and by that I mean 10 years ago, I had allowed life, the computer and too many good television shows to get in the way. Freedom was to be my first splash into non-fiction in a while, and I was ready to savour it.

Luckily so, because “savouring it” is probably the only way to tackle a tome of this magnitude. Not that the coming of age story about Walter Berglund and Patty and their two kids and the rock star best friend and the crazy BFF et al. wasn’t interesting, but I quickly found myself caring less about what they were actually doing, and more captivated by the writing itself. Because – no surprises here – Franzen’s prose reads beautifully.

A couple of weeks after I finally finished the book, I’m hard pressed to recall its ending – weirdly, I can tell you almost everything else about the plot. Instead, what I do remember is being drawn to the descriptions and being delighted by Franzen’s choice of phrases. And I remember being inspired to read – and write – more.

That’s the thing about Franzen for me. While I appreciate and admire his epic multi-generational narratives, and love, love the way he reads, I struggle to remember the details of his stories. I read The Corrections a long time ago, the novel that gave birth to Franzen’s reputation, but unfortunately I can’t remember a single thing about it.

That’s not necessarily a negative. To be read and enjoyed, to have inspired others – these are great achievements for a writer as far as I’m concerned. They are check boxes that I, personally, aspire to tick. And nothing takes away from the fact that Freedom is a very magnificent effort indeed, one that I am glad to have experienced.

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Will Jon Hamm finally take home that elusive Emmy? #Throwback to my TV column on some of the Emmys’ biggest losers

The Emmy Awards are on right now! Here’s my Esquire column from November last year on some of the biggest Emmy losers, including Jon Hamm who has been nominated every single year for Mad Men since the show started in 2007. Will this finally be the year he gets the trophy? Fingers crossed.

Don Draper

The Biggest Losers
More often than not, talent and hard work do not equal success.

Say the word “inequality” in relation to the television industry (or entertainment at large), and the first things that come to mind will probably be the under-representation of ethnic and LGBT minorities in mainstream television shows, or the lack of women in film and television over in Hollywood. But that’s not what I’m going to talk about here. Rather, I want to bring your attention to something really important: the fact that Jon Hamm has been nominated for an Emmy Award seven times, and has never won.

Hamm has been playing Don Draper in Mad Men since 2007, which means he has been nominated every single year since the show started. Granted he is in a category – Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series – that sees some seriously stiff competition; but surely his portrayal of Draper, that effortlessly suave yet inappropriate, often immoral son of a b***h who has inspired so many an entertainment editorial and lifestyle op-ed, deserved at least one win.

Hamm’s only consolation, should he choose to dwell on that, is that he is not alone. Here are three other actors who have also been nominated in the same Emmy category numerous times and come away empty-handed:

1. Martin Sheen, as President Josiah ‘Jed’ Bartlet in The West Wing

My love for The West Wing and its ensemble cast is well known, but I do not stand alone in saying that Sheen, as arguably the most popular television US president in the past 20 years or more, should have won at least once out of the six times he was nominated.

2. Hugh Laurie, as Dr Gregory House in House MD

Also nominated six times is Laurie, whose complex, nuanced and no doubt challenging embodiment of Dr House made us love him and hate him many times over throughout the show’s eight season run. Laurie might have hung up that walking stick without winning a single Emmy, but at least he has two Golden Globes to show for it.

3. Michael C. Hall, as Dexter Morgan in Dexter

The idea that television audiences would sympathise with a serial killer, and actually root for his success (read: get away with murdering people week after week) is preposterous. But that’s exactly what Dexter achieved, due in large part to Hall’s understated, subtle portrayal. His five Emmy nominations (and one Golden Globe gong) for his work on Dexter is recognition enough of that, though a win would have been nice.

As for Hamm, with Mad Men commencing the final leg of its run in January 2015, all eyes are on Draper, who, by the way, is widely expected to meet his demise come series’ end. That gives Hamm one last shot at Emmy glory, at least as Don Draper, or risk being forever known as “that guy who keeps losing at the Emmys”. And who knows? An onscreen death just might be the sacrifice needed for him to finally nab that elusive trophy.

Update: Jon Hamm wins his first Emmy! Also, here are the other winners.

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A half-eaten bird’s egg: the story of my daughter’s first crush


My 5yo met me at school pick-up with a half-eaten bird’s egg the other day. It had been given to her by a Grade 2 (I think) boy.

Years from now I’m going to tease her about this boy, whom she played with almost every day for about 2 weeks earlier this year. He started coming up to her after school and just standing around her, and then she started to look for him after school so she could wave bye. She wouldn’t say anything, just wave. It was the cutest thing ever, except she was also my baby girl and so, after a solid week of hearing about him, I told her I wanted to know his name and class. At least.

I needn’t have bothered. Like any summertime fling (okay it was more like autumn), their friendship fizzled out and they stopped playing together. In fact, the kid started ignoring him, even when he would come over to say hi. I was a little mortified by how rude she was being! (Let this be a warning to all future potential suitors.)

I told her she was not allowed to be rude to anyone, and that was that… until this episode that will henceforth be known as “The Half-eaten Bird’s Egg”. As we were walking out of school that afternoon, he ran up to make sure she still had it. I asked him if it was his lunch, and he said yes but it’s okay because he had a few of them. (I hope he didn’t give them all away to different girls because I would not be cool with that.)

This time, the kid didn’t ignore him when he said bye.

• • •

2015 is my Year of Kindness

Continuing on from my last post about the importance of being uncomfortable

I used to write every January about my “theme” for the new year ahead. I didn’t this year because by the time I got around to actually typing out the words, it was June. (And now it’s September.) But I knew my theme – in fact, I’d known it since October or November last year. 2015 is supposed to be my Year of Kindness.

If we would all just make the effort to be kind to other people, it wouldn’t solve all the world’s problems, but it would, to invoke the cliche, “make the world a better place”. It might seem like a small, woefully inadequate thing to give a homeless man a meal or some clothes, especially in light of a global refugee crisis, but maybe it’s better to make a small difference even to one person than to do nothing at all? Maybe the point is not to try and fix everything, it’s that we would all do our best in the little windows of opportunity that we get as we go about our daily lives.

As I’ve discovered, it’s easy to be kind to our friends or people we know and like. It’s easy to be kind in passing to a stranger on the street – someone I can slip a couple of dollars and then forget about as I walk away. It’s really easy to make a donation to a worthy cause. It’s not always easy to reach out to someone in need, a family struggling to get through a tough time or a person who I know needs a listening ear, especially when I know that’s going to take up time and energy and – heaven forbid – cause me inconvenience.

Compassion is a good thing, but it’s only the start. Kindness, doing something, that’s the second step. I was moved when I read about the Germans who welcomed Syrian refugees into their country with open arms, food and clothing. I don’t think the German government, or any other government that has stepped up to the plate to do their part in this crisis, is under any delusions about the long road ahead. I can’t even imagine what it must be like for these refugees or what they’ve gone through. Resettlement of the fleeing and displaced millions is going to be neither convenient, comfortable nor easy, but like I said in my previous post, I think we’re past that point.

I also believe that kindness can be found in many forms, from small acts to grand gestures. We admire great acts of bravery and generosity and goodness because those are the ones we hear about from the media. But really, just because an opportunity comes wrapped in a small package doesn’t make us any less kind or our act any less significant – as long as we take it. That’s something I really wanted to work on this year, and I’m hoping to get better at it.

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