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Okay, good, thank you. We have your number.

Here's my problem. This is the sort of thing that has set me back in life. I've got the brain-power to be making well into corporate six-figures if I was into that. I've been in Leadership Positions and I do well at it. I know how to get people to work together, but here's where it all falls down.

I feel sorry for people who, based on the usual criteria, really don't deserve my sympathy. What that means is that even though I have occasionally slipped and been purposefully cruel to some people (apologies all around), I generally can't manage to shove people over the side the way I really ought to be able to do. The lifeboat is small and short on supplies. Somebody has to go. I'm stupid enough to think that I don't deserve staying in the boat any more than anybody else does. This is a serious problem. I know that nature is red in tooth and claw. I know that I should revel in whatever advantages I might have over other people. But I can't. I could be relaxing on my yacht somewhere in the Caribbean right now if I wasn't such a pansy dope.

Here's the truth: I feel sorry for GannonGuckert.

Why? Because he's being crucified in public? No, I think he pretty much deserves whatever he gets in that regard. Because pictures of him in his role as a gentlemen's marital aid are everywhere in the blogosphere now? Give me a break. He's the one who put them up. Because he lost his job? This assumes that what he was doing in the White House press room could actually be classified as a job, a dubious assumption at best. Nevertheless, even if it was a job, he wasn't hounded out of it. He quit and then put a statement up on his site -- a plea for undeserved compassion worthy of the most operatic of drama queens -- as soon as the jig was up.

No, he pretty much asked for all of that. What gets me is his seemingly unlimited capacity for self-delusion.

I have a background in theater, but over the years we have grown apart, theater and I, for reasons I won't go into here. Suffice it to say that one of the best and one of the worst things about theater is that it is so... immediate... I guess is the word I'm reaching for. Theater is a living conversation between the living things in the seats and the living things on stage and when it's hitting on all cylinders, it really is magic. Its power is incontrovertible because you are experiencing it live. When it doesn't work, though, that too is incontrovertible. Painfully so.

Over the years, I've seen thousands of actors auditioning. Now, don't get me wrong here. I have nothing but the greatest respect for talented, intelligent, self-aware and skilled actors. For a playwright (which was the primary relationship I had with theater) there is no better script-doctor for a wounded script than a set of really gifted actors. Actors have this wonderful obsession with their characters. It's understandable, of course. They are going to be taking on the persona of this thing that, in the beginning, exists only on the page and so they study every line, every word, every thing the character has to say. They study what the character does. They study what other characters have to say about their character. Good actors end up knowing far more about their characters than the playwright could ever hope to know. The playwright gets to sit back in rehearsals and pretend that he is somehow responsible for all the wonderful details really good actors bring to his characters. It's a great feeling. Sort of like watching your stock portfolio grow without you having to lift a finger.

So, yeah, don't get me wrong. Nothing against actors, in general, here. But the thing is if you've sat in darkened spaces and watched literally thousands of people audition for you, you end up getting an unsurpassed education, whether you like it or not, in the compulsion of some people, notably untalented actors, to delude themselves.

In short, there are times where you can only sit there asking yourself, what in god's name are these people thinking? It's pitiful, really. I mean, don't these people have any friends willing to tell them how indescribably awful they are at this? Can't they see it's utterly hopeless?

Well, no, they can't. That's what's so awful about it. It's literally so painful I can't bear watching it anymore. You just want to have some way to tell them, in the kindest possible way, that they really should learn to more properly assess their gifts.

I don't have to tell you how rare that is, though. People having clues about themselves, I mean.

On the one hand, thank god we can delude ourselves, otherwise nobody would ever come up with things no one has ever seen before. There are plenty of people willing to stand around and deride anything new. So, yeah, thank god there are people who can just ignore that sort of thing. But the thing is, that's not really delusion. That's belief in this new thing you are trying to do. That's good.

On the other hand, if this thing you are trying to do is stupid, or phony, or derivative, or otherwise just plain awful, well, you have to let go of it. You have to get on to the next thing. And this is where the "liveness" of theater and the ability of people to delude themselves into thinking they are talented becomes such a burden. I can't watch it anymore. It's too immediately awful.

GannonGuckert's life, insofar as we can currently understand it -- which isn't really that far, I will admit, but I think it's far enough -- strikes me as a really bad actor's audition. What made him think he had the gifts to carry this thing off? What made him think that people wouldn't see through what he was trying to pull in those White House press briefings? Couldn't he see how trite and derivative his work was? What made him think people wouldn't, so to speak, check his resume? What made him think that he could actually play this part? Didn't he have any friends willing to tell him he ought to move on until he found something that he was actually good at?

And so it develops that the worst luck GannonGuckert ever had was getting the part he wanted to play.

It isn't his crimes against credibility that get me; it's the self-delusion. God, if only we could see it when we are making mistakes like this. Please, god, save me from this degree of blindness about myself (even though I know you haven't in the past).

And, please, save me from witnessing it in others. It's too awful. It's just too god-damned god-awful for words.

Update: Alex Cohen's comment over on Electrolite serves to remind me of one of my favorite (and one of the most sadly amusing) documents on the web,  "Unskilled and Unaware of It" which has a great deal to say about all of this.


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» "It's the self-delusion." from Electrolite
The Corpuscle (which all of you should be reading) pierces to the heart of the "Gannon"/Guckert affair.... [Read More]


"his role as a gentleman's marital aid"

oh, thank you. Thankyouthankyouthankyou. That's priceless.

I completely empathize with your compassion, and as a New Yorker with plenty of actor and writer friends, I have witnessed exactly the kind of pathetic blind ambition of which you write. I harbor deep-seated fears that my own creative ambitions and self-asessments are merely delusion and pathos.

That said, this guy, Gannon, he had the balls to go out there and do this. I think he's a first-class schmuck. But the beauty of it is he's on TV even more than ever, he's on the Godbox talking and talking and talking. He's getting real hits on his website and don't think he isn't checking his stats compulsively. That's the saving grace about these people. The sheer chutzpah, the brass balls, the legendary ovum to try to pull something off. So what if it goes hairy? He'll get laid as a result of this, and he'll have even more reasons to talk about himself in bars.

I aspire to have such relentless confidence, such overpowering esteem for my own talents. Why not? If only Gannon believes his own lies, isn't he the most important recruit in all of this? If only I could swap my lifelong hand-wringing cringefest for one minute of unadultarated self-exaltation, what a relief it would be!

Speaking of this, I can't wait to see "Downfall"

I think it's at times like this it is helpful to return to the Ancient Wisdoms. Hmm. I find myself doing that a lot lately...

For example: "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"

If getting on T.V. and getting hits on your web site can lead to happiness, then I guess GannonGuckert has found Nirvana. Unfortunately, I can't see this sort of personal fulfillment lasting very long. I like getting plenty of hits on my web site, of course, but the joy is pretty minor and it certainly doesn't last as long as I wish it would, fortunately, inasmuch as that's the sort of thing you can get addicted to... deriving your self-worth by the number of people paying attention to you.

And as for you, young man... :-)

Just do your work. Do it the best you can. Skip the hand-wringing cringefest. If the work is good, people will recognize it. If it isn't good, then just do it for yourself. Do it for whatever joy you find in it for yourself. If anything can make a person's work better, I think that's it.

Spoken like a true corpuscle. You give good advice, and I agree with you on the ancient wisdom thing. I would find little satisfaction in being humiliated on TV, personally. But Gannon, who knows?

Anyway, if you haven't already seen "The Office" from England, and "Unscripted" a new HBO series, I heartily recommend them. They both capture the essence of the self-deluded, utterly meritless character and they are excrutiatingly fun to watch. The Office is about a horribly unfunny middle manager who thinks of himself as the office funny man, and Unscripted is about young, talentless LA actors trying to become stars.

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