Category Archives: Theatre

Do Not Defund the NEA and NEH

NOTE: The following is an open letter I wrote today to the board and staff of the Pickford Film Center, the non-profit organization where I serve as board president.
Dear fellow Board Members, fellow arts supporters, and members of the greater Bellingham community,
The Pickford needs your help. America needs your help. There is some indication from the White House that funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is in jeopardy. We need your help to take action to prevent this, not only for the Pickford’s sake, but for that of all arts organizations who do vital work in their communities around the country. I urge you to do what you can to protect and defend the NEA and NEH, because the arts and humanities are vital to our communities and to our democracy.
It appears that the current administration and congress plan to defund the NEA and NEH for some inscrutable partisan purpose, but the math is simple: these two endowments comprise a truly minuscule portion of the federal budget – each receives approximately $148 million annually. That may sound like a lot, but combined it is only four one-thousandths of one percent of the total federal budget. To put that in perspective, if the annual federal budget were an annual household budget of $50,000, the NEA/NEH portion would be only $2.00.
The expenditure is comparatively minuscule, but the benefit to communities is immense.
For example, since 2014, Pickford Film Center has received close to $20,000 from the NEA through the Washington State Arts Commission to support Doctober, our annual documentary film festival. In 2016, PFC received $7500 from the NEH through Humanities Washington to support Media Literacy workshops. In 2017, Pickford Film Center is currently scheduled to receive $10,000 from the NEA Art Works program to support all of our curated series and festivals.
All of this funding the PFC has received supports programs that are about inquiry, film history, foreign cultures, families, and children. These funds allow Pickford Film Center to bring in diverse films that might not otherwise be seen in this community, keep ticket prices low, raise awareness, and serve our community. They provide a vital link in distinguishing Pickford Film Center as an important service to our community. These funds enable ALL members of our community to participate in film and to have their perspectives broadened. Film has always been one of the most truly democratic art forms we have in this country, and Pickford Film Center exists to provide a forum for celebrating and advancing this aspect of our culture.
So please join me in a couple of three small actions that will help lend support for this vital piece of the federal budget, and feel free to forward this email to other arts supporters you know:
  1. If you can do nothing else, there’s a petition at the White House web site. Please sign it:
  2. Call or Write your congresspeople too, urging them to protect NEA and NEH funding in the federal budget.
  3. No matter what happens, keep supporting the arts and humanities. Whatever it is that you most enjoy, be it the cinema, the ballet, the symphony, the opera, the museum, the theatre … please keep supporting them as an audience member, an advocate, and (if you are able) as a donor. Our democracy depends on it.
Thank you.
Brian Sibley
President, Board of Directors
Pickford Film Center
Bellingham, Washington


How to Silence The Censor and Step Into Creativity

“Do not fear mistakes – there are none.” – Miles Davis

“You shall not pass!” – Gandalf the Grey (to the Balrog, a demon of the ancient world, a foe beyond any of you)


As a creative person, one of the books that most changed my perspective on what creativity means is The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron. I read it probably 20 years ago now, but a number of concepts have stuck with me all of these years.

I was having a conversation this morning with a friend of mine, and Julia’s inspiration revisited me again.

My friend (who is a private person, and shall remain nameless) is an intensely creative person, and is very accomplished academically – he holds a couple of impressive Master’s Degrees. He has an interesting bit of personal mythology: he tends to believe that his nature as an academic means that he’s naturally inclined (trained?) to be somewhat perfectionist about anything he writes. I can certainly understand that. Apart from his extensive work in his graduate programs, his research and his academic writing, he’s been published. So my friend isn’t somebody who is perennially hiding away and refusing to share his creative gifts with the world. But perfectionism, as Julia Cameron explains, “is a refusal to let yourself move ahead. It is a loop – an obsessive, debilitating closed system that causes you to get stuck in the details of what you are writing or painting or making and to lose sight of the whole.”

This morning my friend and I were discussing a political issue and I reminded him that he needed to write about his perspective in it. He and I discuss these issues regularly, but I told him “If it just stays between us, you’re robbing the rest of the world of your point of view.”

He told me something that so many of us creative people all too frequently say. He said “I’m far and away my own worst critic.”

Aren’t we all? My friend has a bad case of perfectionism. And he knows it.

So I wanted to write this post for my friend, but also for all of you. Because you all have creative projects inside of you that need to get out, I just know it. To paraphrase Julia Cameron from her book, “if you don’t share them with the world, you’re ripping the rest of us off.” I’ll tell you what I told my friend. Feel free to substitute your preferred pronouns. Here goes …

So …

You think your work sucks? You think it’s not worth sharing?

You gotta silence The Censor inside your head. Think of it as The Balrog, and yourself as Gandalf. Tell that asshole, “You Shall Not Pass!”

Tell him to shut up. He’s relentless. He’s going to tell you that your work is shit. He’s very loyal that way, because he only really cares about censoring your work. He might even be the most loyal follower you ever have.

As loyal as he is, you just need to tell that asshole to shut the hell up. Seriously.

The Censor does indeed have a purpose, though. He’ll never go away completely, so don’t expect him to. But he needs to be relegated to a minor role. He needs to be dealt with. You have to face him and call him out.

The Censor is like a stalker, hiding in the shadows. He knows your every move. He may even know you better than you know yourself. He anticipates your best countermeasures and will try to head them off.

When you start telling The Censor to shut up, you learn to deal with his nonsense. You learn that all of his censoring bullshit can actually focus you.

The censor basically is telling you that your work sucks, and that you’re going to fail if you put it out there. Because he thinks that failure is your greatest fear.

And this is where you reframe your thinking.

I have learned that stepping into my own creative self means that I must have the courage to fail. I have also found that when I am willing to fail, I rarely do. Seems counterintuitive, but it’s true.

The times when I fear failure are when I am most likely to fall on my face. When I confidently move into a project knowing that it’s probably going to suck, thinking that failure is a very likely possibility, very often I do excellent work. Sometimes facing certain failure is when I do my best creative work.

They say you have to laugh at the devil to defeat it. The Censor is like that. You gotta laugh at him. You gotta stare him in the eyes and say to him, “alright asshole, let’s see what you got. Take your best shot. But you’re not getting by me. You shall not pass.”

You face him head on. You don’t ignore him. You make eye contact, keep your shoulders square, and your head up. It’s intense, but the moment you turn sideways, or look down, or break eye contact … that’s the moment he beats you. He’s an opportunist. He looks for the easy opening. You can’t give him the pleasure.

I said it before, he’s your Censor. He’s incredibly loyal. Like it or not, he’s yours. Every time you step into a creative project, you get a fresh opportunity to square off with him. It’s just the two of you, alone on the bridge, and one of you is going to stay standing.

When you face him, he loses power. But when you look away, he gains power.

So don’t look away from your Censor. Face him. It’s the only way you take away his power. And that’s how you share your creativity with the rest of us, because we’re really excited to see what you’re capable of.

Now get to work!

(The Change Agent is Brian Sibley. Follow him on Twitter @bsibley)

6 Problems Facing the Los Angeles Theatre Community


[DISCLAIMER: This post contains explicit language.]

TL;dr summary: It’s time for fair wages in LA’s 99-seat theatre community. 

“Argue for your limitations, and sure enough they’re yours.” – Richard Bach, American Novelist

MARCH 24, 2015 – There’s a schism happening in the Los Angeles theatre scene. Just Google “LA 99 seat plan” and you’ll be treated to more news and opinion than you care to read. I’m here to offer an outsider’s perspective. I don’t live in California, and I’m not a member of Actors’ Equity Association (the actors’ Union, also known as Equity, or AEA), but I am a lover and follower of theatre. I did get my undergraduate degree in theatre, and I have worked on both sides of the curtain over the years, though I would say that I think my years of DOING theatre are behind me. That said, I have many friends who are working professionals in the performing arts, some are members of AEA. On any controversial issue, sometimes the insider dialogue becomes a feedback loop, an echo chamber. I’m here to offer a different perspective than what I’ve read on this issue. I hope that it will add to the discussion.

The issue: AEA wants its members to be paid at least minimum wage when they work in AEA-sanctioned productions. Currently, when AEA members work in theaters with fewer than 99 seats, they are paid less than minimum wage, often a LOT less. In many cases, they work only for small daily stipends which could equate to less than $2 per hour for their work.

AEA members will soon vote on a proposal regarding the pay structure for actors who work in Los Angeles’ many 99-seat theatres. On March 25, Ballots will be sent to AEA members in good standing who live in Los Angeles County, and voting ends April 17. Then, the AEA governing council will act on the proposal sometime after April 21. The vote itself is advisory in nature: the council will factor in the results of the vote, in addition to other variables. The vote itself is not binding, but it will inform the outcome.

The vote concerns what’s known colloquially as “The 99-seat Plan,” which is essentially a waiver program allowing producers in theaters with fewer than 99 seats to pay their actors a stipend (a sub-minimum-wage rate) for their work. AEA has decided that this program is out of date, and a change in the structure is in order (Twitter is predictably abuzz…the pro-change folks are using the hashtag #Changefor99, while the folks who like the 99-seat plan as-is are using #ILove99). Enjoy reading the twittersphere’s take on the issue if you like.

This post is not about the mechanics (or the rhetoric) of either side of the debate. Lots of other folks are doing that. This is going to be more of a deconstruction of the state of theatre and the performing arts in general, and more specifically a commentary about how I’ve always felt that actors have been under the sheets (in some cases literally) with the exact people who wish to exploit their labor for far too long. This needs to stop. This 99-seat plan schism would be a good issue around which that relationship could/should have a big public breakup.

As I wrote in an earlier post which a lot of you read, “Theatre is a BUSINESS.” Don’t forget that. Like any business, it requires a workforce. If you’re an actor, you’re part of that workforce, just like every stagehand, stitcher, electrician, scenic carpenter, rigger, sound technician and usher. Without you, The Actor, there is no production. It’s a value equation in a sense: on the one hand theatre work has intrinsic value (a total warm fuzzy). On the other, it is essential labor (which feels like a cold prickly to some folks … “my work is not LABOR, unless you mean labor of LOVE.”)

This leads me to the first of the problems I see:

Problem #1: Actors tend to think of themselves first and foremost as artists, not as workers. Many actors like to believe that they alone are the unique and special person who will elevate the work to legendary status and thereby transcend all things. That’s a noble pursuit, and I don’t begrudge anyone for it. But don’t let it get in the way of you getting paid for the hard work that you do. Most actors will tell you (if they’re being honest) that these small theatres in LA are merely places where they hone their craft and stay fresh. LA is the place for film and TV, and therefore you do live theatre between film and TV gigs primarily to demonstrate that you’re still “castable,” that you’re still working, and to keep your skills sharp. Acting, for most, is a perishable skill. If you don’t use it, it begins to atrophy. Even the best actors in the world still work and study and endeavor to improve their skills. Many great film actors, if you press them hard enough, will tell you that they only do film in order to support their love for theatre. That’s because there’s nothing quite like the feel of a live performance – for both the performer and the audience. When you’re on stage, in front of an audience, it’s unlike anything else. It’s infectious. SOLUTION: Actors, sober up to the notion that you are a labor force first and foremost, and make your peace with this. Recognize that it actually gives you tremendous power.

Problem #2: Under the 99-seat plan, actors are volunteering themselves against their will and best interests. It’s one thing to consciously volunteer your time when it’s your own choice to do the project and you do so on your own terms: a pet project, a charitable cause, occasional work for a nonprofit, or helping out a friend. It’s quite another to be expected to work for free just so a for-profit business can stay in business. If a theatre owner has to use free labor to stay in business, perhaps that person is in the wrong business. Theatre is a business: you sell tickets, and people buy them. If you can’t manage to generate enough sales to support your business, it’s time to step back and re-assess your choices, rework your budget, adjust your pricing, or find a new line of work entirely. If you’re a producer who can’t seem to budget for success without needing free labor, maybe you’re not very good at business. Maybe you should go back to doing community theatre in Boise or Birmingham or Bethesda or wherever you came from before you settled on producing 99-seat theatre in Los Angeles. SOLUTION: Actors, you should only work for free on your own terms. Don’t work for free to advance someone else’s agenda, or to prop up their poorly-run business, or to fatten their wallet unless yours is also being fattened. Better yet, actors: produce your own work and get paid for it. Which leads me to…

Problem #3: A lack of empowerment among the actor community. A filmmaker named Alex Munoz said recently, “Green light your own project, don’t wait for others to do it.” Film is different, sure. But the sentiment is the same: Actors, you have the power. If a producer wants to profit from your labor without fair compensation, tell him politely to fuck off. We have always been able to produce our own stuff, and find an audience, and tell a story that moves people. For us to buy in to this notion that the producers hold all the cards and that we, as creative artists are privileged to work for them for no pay, just for the honor of “honing our craft” and “keeping theatre alive” then I got news for you, friends: The joke is on you. Again: “Argue for your limitations and surely they’re yours.” I say to the AEA membership, look at how your brethren in the stagehands union would respond to a free labor proposal. If you asked professional stagehands to work for free, they’d laugh and tell you to go fuck yourself. And yet, are not actors every bit as critical to a production? You can no more mount a production without stagehands than you can without actors. So why have actors agreed to work for free for all these years? SOLUTION: Seek out producers who are interested in fair wages. Figure out who they are, and tell people who they are. Support their shows with your ticket dollars. Audition for their shows. Create demand for the people who support fairness, and the unfair practitioners will have to follow, because the audiences will.

Problem #4: The misplaced, yet lingering fear that a failing economy is still wreaking havoc within the Los Angeles Theatre Community. Last time I checked, Los Angeles is in CALIFORNIA. The California economy is quite strong right now (impending water shortages notwithstanding) and it’s not easy for a producer to argue the widespread detriment of theatre in macroeconomic terms. So any arguments about “the economy is weak” are pretty much null and void right now for theatre in Los Angeles. But so many people love to argue for their limitations. So many excuses why “we can’t survive without free labor” happen in every industry. And this is nothing new. It’s called slavery (at worst) or exploitation (at best). And I don’t buy it. So many actors are arguing the producer’s point for them now. It’s staggering.

Furthermore, there’s the persistent mythology that A) making money in the arts is hard, and that B) the only true art is created in poverty. Yeah OK. You’re a “starving artist.” Keep telling yourselves it has to be that way. Again, argue for your limitations, and they’re yours to keep. You’re making it very easy on the producer when you argue his point for him. He’s not going to debate you if you argue that you want to be impoverished. He’ll take it. SOLUTION: Remind producers that California has a strong, vibrant and growing economy, and that they can find a way to afford to pay you a fair wage for your work.

Problem #5: The ILove99 side seem to be arguing this as if it’s a zero-sum game; as if a vote for fair wages will instantly put small theaters out of business. That’s the great thing about American Theatre. You can’t kill it. Nope. It won’t die. It’s like a fucking cockroach. You try to burn it, poison it, or step on it and it just scurries off and finds a new corner to inhabit. It’s fantastic that way. But let’s also remember, theatre (outside of NYC) has in fact already been considerably marginalized in recent years. Attendance is down nationwide over the last generation, absolutely. It’s hard to compete for mass audiences in the age of YouTube-enabled smartphones and the Xbox. But this is not a zero-sum game. Adding fair wages for actors back into the equation need not subtract from somewhere else in the production budget. New, business-savvy producers and artists will crop up who find ways to innovate, to attract paying audiences, because don’t forget: the whole reason we do theatre in the first place is because we all desperately want to make real human connections with each other. There is NOTHING like live performance. There is nothing like the shared experience of an audience. It’s a fundamental part of our humanity to watch someone act out a story for us. This will never die, despite what the technology futurists tell you. SOLUTION: Innovate! And believe in the power of live performance.

Problem #6: There’s an argument being put forward by the producers that “we only want what’s best for you.” This whole “we’re here for the actors” tone is on display in this article. Go ahead. Read it. You know what that tone is? It’s 20 pounds of bullshit in a 10-pound bag. It’s disingenuous. Once again, AEA’s membership has largely been duped into believing that the producers actually want what’s best for the workers. Nope. They want what’s best for their wallets. And that means exploiting cheap labor at every opportunity. Their attitude is “Oh yeah? You want to be paid more than this other actress who will work for free? Then OK fuck you. I’ll ‘hire’ her and pay her nothing. Because she’ll work for free, and free labor equals a future full of theatre opportunities for you.” SOLUTION: Don’t be fooled. Open your eyes. The producer who supports this plan as-is only wants maximum cash at minimum cost. Don’t ever forget that.


So where do we go from here? As I was writing this post, I wrestled with this issue quite a bit. It’s complex, and it’s frustrating at times. And confusing rhetoric is flying all around. Especially troubling are the high number of prominent celebrities who have weighed in on the side of the producers. The playwright Neil LaBute, and a host of actors like Tim Robbins, Jason Alexander, French Stewart and Kirsten Vangsness all seem to believe that professional actors working for free is a good and noble thing and that it should continue. Many of them marched in Los Angeles over this past weekend to protest the change. I had a hard time wrapping my head around that, because A) people like Tim Robbins have come out in support of social causes in the past, and B) AEA has always stood on the side of the labor movement as a whole. Robbins even seems to be suggesting that actors actually WANT to work for free. I scratched my head at that one.

But on the positive side, People like Samuel L. Jackson will be voting “YES” on the proposal. So that’s a good thing. In a recent letter to the AEA membership, he wrote “… fair is fair. Other cities across the country have vibrant intimate theatre communities, while managing to pay actors. Surely LA has as many resources to be mined and cultivated like any other city, and its theatrical producers should be encouraged to do so.”

I agree with Mr. Jackson. If I were an LA-based AEA member, I’d vote YES on this proposal as well. Fair is fair. It’s time.

Thank you for reading.

Four Cheers for Reporters!


The author (in white vest) being interviewed (by Kyle Jordan, professional journalist, with cameraman Stephen LeFranc) during the Deepwater Horizon spill, June 2010. Pensacola, FL.

If you read this blog, you know I’m a PR guy. And today, I am working with a new client. I’ll be providing a spokesperson media training session to three of the firm’s partners next week. I love doing media training for my clients. It’s a lovely marriage of my theatre background and my PR career. In a way, it’s analogous to directing a performance. It’s not a perfect metaphor, but there are similarities. More importantly, this process helps my clients become more effective spokespeople who understand how to help the reporters get what they need, which tends to result in better coverage for my clients and better stories for the journalists. Win-Win.

Anyway, part of the preparation process involves asking the trainees a few questions before the training day in order to gauge their experience, attitude and opinions about reporters. Armed with this knowledge, I am able to make better use of everyone’s time and customize the session to the needs of the individuals I’m training.

One of the questions is:

“What opinions do you have of journalists?”

As I was reviewing this client’s responses today, I asked myself, “How would I answer that?”

It’s quite simple and can be summed up in four points.

  1. I have genuinely liked more than 90 percent of the journalists I’ve worked with in the past 15+ years. They’re kind, curious, polite (but firm), hard-working and professional individuals. As for the other 10 percent: I’ll tell you about them over a beer sometime. They are the exception, not the rule.
  2. As a spokesperson and a PR representative, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve had to end an interview prematurely because of a combative, rude or unprofessional journalist (and I’ve done hundreds of interviews, with reporters from at least a dozen countries around the world).
  3. These journalists have my respect because they’re doing an incredibly demanding job, most of them for very little pay, under the kind of nonnegotiable daily deadlines that would make most of us cringe.
  4. Most reporters have a largely thankless job. But they do it anyway because they believe in telling the story.

In that spirit, I’d like to tip my hat to all the journalists out there who are bravely facing the world with their inquisitive minds, their sharp pencils and their steno pads. I’ve enjoyed working with you (well, 90 percent of you) over the years. And I thank you sincerely for the job that you do. You’re great!

Hats off to reporters! Won’t you please join me? Thank a journalist today!

The Change Agent is Brian Sibley. You can follow him on twitter: @bsibley

9 Ways a Theatre Degree Trumps a Business Degree


Some of you may know this about me, some may not. Despite having spent the last 15 years as a PR & communications professional, my college degree is in theatre. I have never in my life taken a marketing class, or a journalism class, or a business class. Yet, by most measures, I’m enjoying a successful career in business.  “So what?” you ask… read on.

I was having a conversation with my friend Sara this week. She’s an actress. Like most actresses, she also has a Day Job that she works to pay the bills between acting jobs. This is the reality for most working actors in LA, New York and the other major centers of the entertainment industry. She was pointing out to me that she viewed her theatre background as a weakness in her Day Job career field, and that it was holding her back. She asked for my advice.

My advice? There IS no weakness in having a theatre background. There is only strength. Here are just a few skills that a theatre degree gave me that have served me enormously well in business:

  1. You have advanced critical thinking and problem solving skills: taking a script and translating it into a finished production is a colossal exercise in critical thinking. You have to make tremendous inferences and intellectual leaps, and you have to have a keen eye for subtle clues. (believe it or not, this is a skill that very few people have as finely honed as the theatre people I know. That’s why I listed it #1).
  2. You’re calm in a crisis: You’ve been on stage when somebody dropped a line and you had to improvise to keep the show moving with a smile on your face, in front of everyone. Your mic died in the middle of a big solo musical number. You just sang louder and didn’t skip a beat.
  3. You understand deadlines and respect them: Opening Night is non-negotiable. Enough said.
  4. You have an eye on audience perception: You know what will sell tickets and what will not. This is a very transferrable skill, and lots of theatre people underestimate this, because they think of theatre as an ART, and not as a BUSINESS. I frequently say (even to MBA-types) that theatre was absolutely the best business education I could have gotten. While the business majors were buried in their books and discussing theory, we were actually SELLING a PRODUCT to the PUBLIC. Most business majors can get through undergrad (and some MBA programs, even) without ever selling anything. Theater departments are frequently the only academic departments on campus who actually sell anything to the public. Interesting, isn’t it?
  5. You’re courageous: If you can sing “Oklahoma!” in front of 1,200 people, you can do anything.
  6. You’re resourceful: You’ve probably produced “The Fantasticks” in a small town on a $900 budget. You know how to get a lot of value from minimal resources.
  7. You’re a team player: You know that there are truly no small roles, only small actors. The show would fail without everyone giving their best, and even a brilliant performance by a star can be undermined by a poor supporting cast. We work together in theatre and (mostly) leave our egos at the stage door. We truly collaborate.
  8. You’re versatile: You can probably sing, act, dance. But you can also run a sewing machine. And a table saw. And you’ve probably rewired a lighting fixture. You’ve done a sound check. You’re good with a paintbrush. You’re not afraid to get your hands dirty for the benefit of the show. In short, you know how to acquire new skills quickly.
  9. You’re flexible: you’ve worked with some directors who inspired you. Others left you flat, but you did the work anyway. Same goes with your fellow actors, designers and stagehands… some were amazing and supportive, others were horrible and demoralizing to work with (we won’t name names). You have worked with them all. And learned a little something from every one of them.

These are the top reasons I’ve found my theatre degree to be a great background for a business career. What are yours?

(The Change Agent is Brian Sibley. Follow him on Twitter @bsibley)

Blog Tag – I’m “it”!

Anyone ever play Tag? That’s the game where you tag someone, and they become “it” and you chase each other around until someone tags you and you become “it” again and the game continues ad infinitum.

Well this is just like that, except we’re on the Internet, and when you become “it” you have to tell everyone five things about yourself that other folks may not (or, may, actually) know. SO … I’ll tell my five things and if I tag you, then you’re up next. Comment on your own blog, or comment on mine. Whichever works best for you.

I was tagged by Gerald Baron here.

So here goes. My five things. In no particular order —

1) Travel: I have visited all of the 48 contiguous US states. I have never been to Alaska or Hawaii. In fact, I have lived in seven of them (in descending order of time as resident: Colorado, Washington State, Montana, Indiana, New York, Ohio and Massachusetts). If you want to test me, go ahead. I can tell you a story from any of the states I’ve visited. Outside of the US, I’ve been to Canada (does that count?), Spain (twice), Greece, and had a brief layover in the Rome airport (but I don’t count that, usually. Though it is interesting). In spite of all this, I don’t consider myself particularly well-travelled.

2) Theatre: I got my college degree in Drama from The University of Montana. While studying there, a good friend and I founded a summer children’s theatre camp. The Montana economy being what it was at the time, we didn’t want to have to work at McDonald’s, you see. Sadly, the organization no longer exists, but in the memories of the scores of kids who attended during its seven years. I was first introduced to performing in Musicals while attending my high school, Colorado Academy. I played in the chorus of that most ubiquitous of high school musicals, Fiddler on the Roof. Since that time, I have been involved in more than 50 productions. I intend to do some more theatre at some point, though I’m taking a bit of a hiatus for now.

3) Religion: I check the box marked “None”. I’m an atheist. There are no gods, no devils, no heaven, no afterlife. This here and now is all we’ve got. I’d like to use this forum to clear up two common misconceptions about atheists. First of all, “atheist” is a description, not a label. It’s a subtle distinction, I know, but an important one. It describes my views about theology, not a club to which I belong. Which leads me to my second point: The word “atheist” comes from the Greek “atheos” meaning “godless one”. It does not mean that I am out to destroy religion and its followers. Being that America is a predominantly Christian nation, I have many friends and family members who are devoutly religious. I do not share their views and we share a mutual respect. I’m happy to discuss this subject at length with anyone who is interested. Just ask me. As my friend John P. is fond of saying “my religion doesn’t have a problem with other religions. I wish you the best of luck with your faith.”

4) My wife and I met online. We just celebrated our 3rd anniversary. Does that make me an “early adopter”?

5) I once was homeless in New York City. Well, not EXACTLY homeless in a sleeping-on-a-steam-vent sort of way. But my roommate (Phil) and I were evicted from our Manhattan apartment by the NYC Housing Marshal without having any knowledge that it was about to happen. Phil and I were sub-leasing our apartment on East 80th Street from a guy named Alex. Trouble was, Alex wasn’t giving our rent to the landlord. He was putting it in his pocket. For FIVE MONTHS. So she had us evicted. Trouble was, she didn’t know that Alex had even sub-leased to us, and we didn’t know that he hadn’t told her. Phil and I both assumed, because we’re good people, that this Alex character was a decent guy, an honest guy. Well, he wasn’t. So …

So for four days, literally all I had was the clothes I was wearing. I had no address, no clothes, no bed, nothing. Only when we made contact with the landlord and told her our story did she grant permission for us to get all of our stuff out of the City storage facility (which is located in a CHARMING neighborhood in the industrial section of the South Bronx, on a street where the rats do not fear human-kind). After PAYING $500 to get our stuff out of city storage, we had to arrange transportation and sort everything out. When the Marshal and his associates come to clean out your apartment, suffice it to say that they don’t exactly use bubble wrap or label the boxes. I’ll let you use your imagination about the level of chaos that was visited upon us when we unpacked.

After that, I lived on my own until I got married. No more roommates or subleases for me!

6) Okay, I know it was only supposed to be five things … but I couldn’t resist. The sixth thing is that I’ve found out recently that there’s a guy out there who has my same name. But he’s not me. In fact, he’s an author who lives in the UK. His website is here and his blog is here. Check them out. We’ve exchanged a few emails, and he’s commented here on my blog before, and I sincerely hope I get to meet him one day. He seems like a terrific chap.

And now, since I’ve revealed my Five (well, six, actually) Things, I hereby tag the following five (well, six, actually) individuals:

Jake Stanford

Brian Sibley (the other one)

Patrick Van de Wille

Nathan Behan

Matt Fiorillo

Phil Strumpf