The Anti-Sinister Plan

Cape Town, USA

As I travel to France this week to promote Les Adventures D’Ultra Chômeur, I’m looking forward to being interviewed as Ultra Chômeur in the French media. So I’m thinking about the character’s message to the people of France, especially the sans emploi.

If you’re like me, you grew up with superhero stories where sinister plans threatened the entire Earth. Perhaps these stories were preparing us for our present reality?

Today we face a global environmental crisis that threatens humanity and the planet. If ever there was a crisis that required all hands on deck, this is it. And yet… millions upon millions of us are unemployed. How could this be?!

Believe it or not, the same sinister plans that produced the environmental crisis also produced the unemployment crisis. Just ask Wonder Mother: The same things that impoverish mothers impoverish Mother Earth.

Separately, both the environmental and unemployment crises serve as mind-blowing indictments of the global economic system—including its total failure to “assign value” to anything that’s actually valuable. But when taken together, we have a real Wonder Twin Powers Activate situation.

The process of transforming our economy (into one that actually works) is already happening, but we need everyone to do their part. Are you ready?

Phase One: Transition of Power

The first step is to take the economic tools and methods used by villains, and use their own devices against them. We won’t stop there, of course, but disempowering villains is an important first step.

Have you ever worked for a villain? If so, you have something in common with Ultra Chômeur, who was once an unwitting villain called The Ultimatum. At Painecorp, he worked with villains including Greed Goblin and The Broker. Our hero is painfully familiar with sinister plans.

To confront the environmental and unemployment crises simultaneously, Ultra Chômeur has devised an Anti-Sinister Plan. It shifts power away from villainy, a system that promotes and even requires villainous actions, and toward heroism – a system that nurtures and expects heroic action. The plan has three main parts.

The Anti-Sinister Plan

1. Green, Awesome Infrastructure and Agriculture (codename GAIA).

Remember the WPA? Think of this as a Green Works Progress Administration, building green energy and green agriculture projects that produce long-term prosperity (as opposed to pathological growth for its own sake). It would be global in scope, but local in administration and execution. Do you have a community garden in your town? Can your city feed itself? Power itself? Manage its natural resources? Get to work.

2. Publicly owned infrastructure banks (to fund GAIA and other projects like school construction).

This isn’t optional. Today, infrastructure projects are financed by the same private banks (DBA The Greed Goblin and The Broker) that threaten the planet and impoverish millions. We must stop these villains from enriching only themselves. Establishing publicly owned infrastructure banks is a key step in reempowering ourselves.

3. Keeping our sense of humor (and other superpowers).

This is precisely where Ultra Chômeur and his allies come in. We need humor to keep our wits about us – and to inoculate ourselves against sinister plans of the future. We need to use our considerable superpowers to transform ourselves into the superheroes our world needs.

Stay tuned for more about the Anti-Sinister Plan. A bientôt and bon courage!

Your License is Hereby Revoked

I just emailed the text below to someone who shall remain nameless. I hope reading it fortifies you.

I take full responsibility for giving you, over the years I’ve known you, license to be disparaging of me and my work.

I originally gave you that license because I met you in my 20s, and you were seemingly in a position to help me.

Time and again, what you’ve given me is denigration based on what would seem a completely unfounded assumption of superiority.

Believe it or not, I’m pretty successful now. I’m a New York Times bestselling author. More importantly, I make great things that people all over the world love—enough to translate into different languages.

Your license to speak discouraging words to me is hereby revoked. I’m sure plenty of people would grant you the same license, but it’s my sincere hope that you’ll find another way to get to the place you want to be.”

I Am Grock

I’m sure most of you have heard the story of the man who, desperately ill, goes to an analyst and tells the doctor that he has lost his desire to live and that he is seriously considering suicide. The doctor listens to this tale of melancholia and then tells the patient that what he needs is a good belly laugh. He advises the unhappy man to go to the circus that night and spend the evening laughing at Grock, the world’s funniest clown. The doctor sums it up, ‘After you have seen Grock, I am sure you will be much happier.’ The patient rises to his feet, looks sadly at the doctor, turns and ambles to the door. As he starts to leave, the doctor says, ‘By the way what is your name?’ The man turns and regards the analyst with sorrowful eyes. ‘I am Grock.'”

—Groucho Marx

The Worst Thing in Life

worldsgreatestdad

About a month ago I started watching World’s Greatest Dad with Robin Williams, but I stopped in the middle because the story was so cringe-inducing. So tonight I watched the rest of the movie. Near the end, Robin has a great line.

I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is ending up with people who make you feel all alone.”

It’s true, isn’t it? You can be surrounded by people and feel horribly alone. Especially when those people become less human by developing a reflexive disdain for anything weird and a violent contempt for people who dare to be weird.

Sadly, “those people” can include ourselves in our weaker moments. I’m guilty. I’ve made people feel lesser-than and unaccepted so I could feel greater-than and more accepted. When I was younger I did it reflexively as an adaptation to our society.

This is one of the key reasons why I was so fond of Robin Williams: He consistently and gloriously embraced being weird and—this is key—he related to people in a way that acknowledged their fundamental human dignity. That combination was the antidote he carried around, inoculating people with the glint in his eye.

He recognized that our society had a bogus organization chart, and he elevated those who felt relegated to the bottom, and brought those who perceived themselves to be at the top back down to earth. And he did it all through weirdness, because celebrating weirdness and dignity was what made people feel human again. That was the beauty of it.

After his epiphany about people who make you feel alone, he runs down the hall, eyes alight, grinning and stripping his clothes off to “Under Pressure” and jumps into a swimming pool. Then he befriends his departed son’s one actual friend, and together they go to his strange and wonderful neighbor’s apartment, and they watch Night of The Living Dead, a movie about surviving zombies with aplomb.

We can all become zombies from time to time, but we can also return to our senses and save others. To do that, we need to put on some bells and ennoble ourselves for crying out loud. There are worse things in life.

Terribly Sad

World According to Garp, The - L 1605

No. Robin, no. Your great body of work will seem sadder now. That was my first thought.

My second thought was of handing you a “Ross Perot for President” coffee mug. “Ah” you said, “The first Ferengi to ever run for president.”

And I saw myself as a young man, lying on the floor listening to A Night at the Met—the final bits about your son, which ended so poignantly and perfectly. At the time I was estranged from my own father, and it made me laugh and cry over and over again.

Then I thought of you alone in that big house, sitting there in the stillness. Deciding. You’re not afraid are ya? Fuck it.

That’s what you said when you pranced around in ridiculous, hairy chest-bearing space suits, shepherding me through my childhood with fool’s wisdom—with the world around us so absurdly dark, you lifted our spirits with absurd light.

On Inside the Actor’s Studio, there was a woman who couldn’t stop laughing. This is “a gift” you said. You were the gift. More than a comedian. Or maybe just perfect, and other comedians something less.

How appropriate, to have you stir so many thoughts at once.

When I was in high school, I’d perform standup, drunk and stoned, and my friends would try to help me get laid by telling girls in the audience I was your son. Some of them believed it—but told me I wasn’t as funny. That was sobering.

I remember you crying when Christopher Reeve rolled onto the stage in his wheelchair at the Academy Awards. I imagine you’re together now. Roommates again. Putting on a show in the clouds. Secretly placing a whoopee cushion on God’s chair.

When you told Jon Stewart, “You’re doing the work that needs to be done” I felt better about what I was doing. But you were always doing the work that needed to be done—I remember standing backstage, watching you hold a bottle of water between your legs, spraying the audience like a cat. “Mine! Mine!” You marked us, and we were yours.

When I was a boy, a child of a single mother, I saw The World According to Garp, and I wept when you said, “I never needed a father.”

What does T.S stand for again? Oh yeah. Terribly Sad. Too Smart. Tremendously Shocking. Terrifically Sacrilegious. Torrentially Slaphappy. Torturously Sober. Truthfully Sentimental. Transformatively Sensational.

 

Dramatic Reading of DMV Document

Today I received this email request:

Dear Erich,

I’m participating in a worldwide scavenger hunt this week called GISHWHES which is an annual International scanvenger hunt, hosted by actor Misha Collins. The hunt supports Random Acts, a group that encourages people of all ages to perform their own acts of kindness wherever, and whenever, possible.

The one challenge I’m asking you is a short video:

VIDEO (15 seconds). A NYT best-selling author or Tony-award winning actor or actress doing a dramatic reading of a section of this: http://apps.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/hdbk/right_of_way.htm

If you’re interested and have some time, it would be really great if you could help us out. Please let me know. Again, thanks for your time!

So I opened the DMV site, whipped out my phone, and recorded my dramatic reading. Behold!

Dramatic Reading of DMV Document from Erich Origen on Vimeo.

Master of the Mating Dance

Earlier this week, the first episode of Fossey-Fosse was anointed “Immortal” on Funny or Die.

Today, the new song “Master of The Mating Dance (feat. Caroline Lund)” is available wherever music is sold, including iTunes.

iTunes – Music – Master of the Mating Dance (feat. Caroline Lund) – Single by Fossey-Fosse.

Maybe it’s because making music is new to me, but I find this part of the process thrilling. In this case, my friend Alan Bush sent me the track, I was immediately arrested by it, listened to it over and over again while writing lyrics, hid myself in the bathroom with my laptop and rapped and sang in falsetto, then shared that scratch track with Caroline Lund and Tedd Roundy, and recorded the vocals with engineer extraordinaire Andy Roundy. To have this song at the end of the process is magical. Experience the glory! On repeat, of course.

Joyeux Noël, Ultra Chômeur

Les Adventures D'Ultra Chomeur

Wishing a hearty Joyeux Noël to Ultra Chômeur! I put on some Christmas dance music for you, and if you give it a minute, it’ll start snowing—don’t worry, both the music and the snow are FREE! Forecast says the snow should let up on January 4th. Until then, Happy Holidays to you and yours, mon ami! Continue Reading →