Here’s to the Manure

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February 21, 2017

“Oh I’m going to write. Every day. Erry Day. Erry Damn Day!” And I did for a while. I fell off the horse. That’s not true. I didn’t fall off the horse. I pulled the horse over to stop for a spell. To grab a drink. Something to eat. And look, there was a comfortable couch, a tv with Netflix and, wait, what … an Xbox One S? I got off the horse and kept choosing to not get on the horse. Day after day after day after day. And the poor horse, just outside, waiting, getting lonely, bored, hungry. Shitting all over the place.

And why? So many reasons. Tired. Lazy. Maybe. Undisciplined. Scared. Scared? Of what, of the horse? There’s that thing, and I’m sure if we were to go through the pages and pages of stuff I’ve written, half written, mused upon there’s a lot of “why do I write .. no one cares. NO ONE CARES.” And that might be true. And that doesn’t matter. All that matters is “do I care?” And I do. So why not do it? Heck, I wish I could lose 15 pounds. I always wish I could lose 15 lbs. But I don’t always do it, I almost never do it. So there. Why? Lazy? Not enough time? Too many other things? Maybe. All excuses really. Maybe it’s this .. I don’t want to do it enough than not do it. I don’t want to do it more than I want to do other things.

So here I am again. Trying again. And that’s ok. To start a habit. To write. And why? Well, yeah, I just wrote it up there, but there’s other reasons. And this one may the best. I just spoke at a high school career day, I spoke to two classrooms full of generally uninterested students. That’s not fair, I don’t know that they were uninterested as students, they didn’t seem to be particularly interested in hearing from an actor they’ve never heard of. But a few did. A few did and that was pretty grand. But I told the students, the kids, the future – our future, that one thing they should all do is write. Write. Erry day. For yourself. Get your ideas on paper or on the screen. Exercise your brain, your imagination. And I believe this, with all my heart. Just as I believe we should all be in therapy, that we should always be kind, that we should engage in some kind of physical activity – I don’t always take my own advice, of course. And as I was saying to the second class, “write, every day, exercise your imagination” I thought – why don’t you? Cause I miss it. I do. I’ve said it time and time again that when I was writing every day, and there have been periods of months, maybe a year at a time, when I wrote something every day, I was better. Like meditation. I want to do it. I need to do it. I don’t always make time. And I don’t have to make the time, I don’t even have to find the time I just have to claim the time for it. Take it away from looking at glimpses of our doomed future on twitter, or flashy pictures of other peoples lives on instagram, or playing as Geralt the Witcher in Witcher III on my xbox. I make these choices to escape through other mediums instead of doubling down, investigating, escaping reality via my own imagination. And sure, playing a video game or watching a movie or tv show is not without the employ of my own imagination, and I won’t vilify the act because I think it has value. But I can and should make time to write. To explore. To exercise the muscle of my mind, my imagination, my heart, my fingers on the keyboard.

So here I am. I’ve wittled out a couple of minutes before I go to my day job. It’s not a lot, buty it’s something. And I’m just tapping away on the keyboard about how I feel, about what I think on this subject. And it’s kind of fun. It’s like talking to myself without the stigma of seeming insane. Having a conversation with myself, allowing me to suss out the “why” and “how comes” and “why nots” of writing.

So here’s to me making a habit of this today. And I’m gonna try and not get caught up in the “should this be a blog?” or “should this have a point?” or “should I be focused on maybe finishing the DEAD DOG PARK outline or the Beatrice story or any other number of things. Right now, or write now I’m going to focus on just tapping out the keys. Get back into it. See what happens. Maybe I’ll finish writing that song I started writing while at the McCarter. I hope I do. Maybe I’ll finish the outline of DEAD DOG PARK just to finish it. Beatrice … I hope so. There’s something about that story that begs me to finish it. Even just for me. Just to see where it goes. How it ends. And you know, that’s the problem. One of the problems. So much focus on how it’s going to end. I abandon a lot of writing because I get caught up in where it may be going, because I don’t see a clear path to an end, it get’s complicated, the ideas obscured. It’s very much that focus on the next instead of the now that fetters me in life and in creative endeavors. Not all the time, mind you, sometimes I can just be in the moment, in the now, to be in the flow of things. To enjoy the messy madness of it all. The beauty of it. The unpredictability of it. The sense of nonsense. The beginnings. The magic of the sprawling mess. I suppose sometimes you have to create the mountain before you can mine the diamonds. That’s awful. That’s something that in my mind seemed profound. But now, just to look at it … “sometimes you have to create the mountain before you can mine the diamonds” … I’m gonna leave it there. It takes manure to grow a flower. Maybe that’s it. Here’s to the manure.

 

Can’t Afford it, huh?

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Jeff and I grabbed some coffee after our bike ride. The day was beautiful though cold and windy and while we cut short the ride at just about 11 miles, we rewarded ourselves with coffee. We sat outside a VERY BROOKLYN coffee shop (Small. Tin ceiling. Hip art. A glass chandelier. A boors head mounted on the wall. Lots of wood and brass and young beautiful people behind the counter not overly concerned about appearing friendly or helpful) near our bikes, clad in our cycling gear. My iPhone sat on the table, face down, as to not invite distraction. While we were in deep conversation about our respective neurosis or our friends neurosis or the latest episode of “Orphan Black” a woman approached and asked “spare a dollar?” I gave a weak smile and said, “Sorry, I can’t.” Jeff remained silent. She raised an eyebrow and said in our direction but not really at me, “can’t afford it huh?” before walking into the shop.

“Her sneakers are more expensive than mine,” I offered to Jeff. She was dressed in nice clean khakis, a somewhat expensive looking black top, her back-pack seemed new and not cheap and she was wearing pristine Nike Basketball Shoes. Had she been bedraggled, clearly destitute, I’d like to think I would have pried my wallet from my bike shorts and found a dollar in there. I had one, I just paid for a coffee and bagel with cash – and had perhaps $4 in my wallet. And I normally don’t think twice about giving someone money on the street, on the subway. Sometimes I figure a dollar is an easy way to help. But this time I didn’t. This time I decided this person didn’t need my dollar, despite their inquiry suggesting otherwise. Maybe I’m not as generous as I’d like to be.

 

 

 

Ex Machina – O Uncomfortable

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Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 9.40.24 AM

I saw “Ex Machina” the other day. I enjoyed it. A lot. It’s an interesting, compelling, clever, smart, sexy, dark, and unexpected film. It is, in my humble opinion, so very well deserving of the best original screenplay nomination. The movie had a whole lot that interested me and a whole lot that left me uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable.

Surely some of my discomfort springs from the “wow, robots will look like us and take over soon,” realization. My friend Matt was staying with us at the time, he walked in as I was finishing the film. He had seen it before and was a big fan and was similarly discomfited by the notion of a robot takeover.  “Yeah man, it’s scary because, well, like that shit could happen soon.” Then he went into a mini-sermon of sorts about how Boston Dynamics is actually Cyberdyne Systems and Google IS SkyNet. I didn’t argue with him. I don’t know that he’s wrong. I didn’t even get into a discussion about it. If did I might have mentioned that there is an actual company called Cyberdyne that makes robot exoskeletons and that the always friendly and never nefarious United States Government already has a SkyNet program (just want to make sure my blog gets flagged for “crazy conspiracy theories,” it’s good for traffic) and that, of course everyone knows that Google will enslave all of us in the near future. But the whole Terminator, Matrix, humanity ending at the hands of the very technology we created to save us concept wasn’t the most uncomfortable thing about the movie for me. The most uncomfortable thing about the movie for me was Alicia Vikander as Ava. Ava the android. Ava the beautiful android.

Alicia Vikander is  wonderful in the film, she gives a fantastic performance. She was believable as an android, which is a ridiculous statement as I’ve never met an android. But I bought that she was an advance AI android constructed by a mad genius. It doesn’t hurt that she’s incredibly beautiful. And it’s her beauty, in part, that gave me pause. Perhaps it’s the type of beauty or the category of her beauty that gave me pause.  There’s a moment towards the end of the film, and this is a spoiler of sorts, where Ava completes her human disguise, covering up the metallic, roboty pieces of her anatomy with synthetic flesh. We get to watch this transformation, the climax of which is a full view of Ava completely nude. I was struck at how young she seemed. It made me uncomfortable.

Were the filmmakers making a statement? Maybe they were saying “yes, we as a culture sexualize young women, and we will continue to do that in the future to the detriment of all.” I’d like to believe that. Ava was objectified quite literally, she WAS an object. A robot, created by a man, made to look, to sound, to (we find out) feel, like a woman. A woman created to look like an amalgam of Caleb’s (played by Domhall Gleeson) particular pornography preferences. She was built to appear a “barely legal” woman, to borrow a creepy phrase from the world of pornography (or so I’ve heard).  So perhaps they were making a statement: “we sexualize young women, we fetishize their beauty and youth and innocence, we de-value them as human beings and in the end that will destroy us.” Maybe they were making a larger statement about youth and sex and objectification that I haven’t quite processed yet, but my fear is that they weren’t. My fear is that they cast Alicia because she is in fact beautiful and they saw her as a beautiful, sexual being and didn’t think twice about the fact that she doesn’t appear old enough to vote. Oscar Isaac, who is fantastic as Ava’s creator Nathan, is 37 years old. Domhall, who is lovely as Caleb, is 32. Did the filmmakers not even consider that these characters would be interested in an android who appeared to be 30? 25? Able to by her own beer?

I know, I know. Hollywood has been doing that for ages. And I know, I’m engaged to a brilliant, fantastic, and beautiful woman who is nine years my junior. So maybe I don’t have a leg to stand on here, but I’m just putting it out there. The perceived youth of Ava made me uncomfortable. If that discomfort was intended by the filmmakers I appreciate it. If it was not intended, I fear it. I fear not only for our future. I fear for us now.

 

 

Writing 101, Day Five: Be Brief

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His flight was delayed, he didn’t made it to the house in time. “You were missed, but you weren’t needed,” they assured him, “The movers were great.”

He insisted on going by anyway, he had never seen it when it wasn’t his home. And goodbyes have value.

“You haven’t aged at all,” he thought. The door was locked. He rang the bell on reflex. A simple greeting that faded to silence. He replied with a quiet “goodbye.”

On the brick path he saw it, his dad’s stationary folded into a card. He lifted it up, turned it over, “Joannie” written in a familiar hand.

Teary eyes make for difficult reading, but the message was simple enough:

“You

Are

Everything”

He wanted to keep it for himself. He didn’t have enough to remember her by, some pictures and a Christmas Tree pin he gave her when he was 9. And besides, he thought, “I never had the chance to say goodbye.”

But he looked up at the house that they made into a home. And he thought about them, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health. In sickness.

It wasn’t his note to keep. He’d give it to his dad. Gladly. Tearfully, more than likely, but gladly. She was mom and he missed her dearly. But she was his wife. She was his Joannie. She was his everything.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Calvin and Hobbes Creator Bill Watterson Returns

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This brought me much joy.

Pearls Before Swine

Bill Watterson is the Bigfoot of cartooning.

He is legendary. He is reclusive. And like Bigfoot, there is really only one photo of him in existence. 

Few in the cartooning world have ever spoken to him. Even fewer have ever met him.

In fact, legend has it that when Steven Spielberg called to see if he wanted to make a movie, Bill wouldn’t even take the call.

So it was with little hope of success that I set out to try and meet him last April.

I was traveling through Cleveland on a book tour, and I knew that he lived somewhere in the area. I also knew that he was working with Washington Post cartoonist Nick Galifianakis on a book about Cul de Sac cartoonist Richard Thompson’s art.

So I took a shot and wrote to Nick. And Nick in turn wrote to Watterson.

And the meeting…

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Writing 101: A View

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I’m on the beach, Emerald Island, North Carolina and it’s just before dawn. There’s good and great and sometimes bad in any vacation, but this time, this place is the greatest.  If I plan correctly I can spend the first few moments of my day or the last few minutes of my night conferring with the waves as they crash and roll and run about under an indigo colored, sun-less sky.

It’s not about the sun rise, really. The sun is the climax of the event, and there is joy and beauty and triumph and relief when it rises. But it’s those moments before that I savor. When the sky is making it’s transition from pitch-black night to bright-blue day, when all is silent save for the wind and the surf and the worm-getting early birds, where the ocean stretches between infinity and my toes half-buried in the sleeping sand and the clouds drift along at whatever pace that suits them, that’s the when and the where I want to be. To bask in the event of a moment in transition. Waiting for the sun. There’s potent magic there.

sunrise

 

Writing 101: Unlocking the Mind

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Free writing.

Free writing here, for 20 minutes. No, that doesn’t mean that I’m offering my writing, for free, for only 20 minutes. This is a blog, anyone and everyone is free to read my writing, judge my writing, print it up and use it to line their bird cages if they are so inclined. At any time. By free writing for 20 minutes I’m following instructions, taking direction, going back to school in a manner of speaking. Or in a manner of writing I suppose.

Writing 101 starts today and our first assignment: free writing for 20 minutes. Write about anything. Don’t even think about what to write. Just write.

So here I am, typing away, my cracked iPhone to the right of the laptop counting down the minutes and the seconds until this exercise is completed. There’s some pressure there: a ticking clock. Time ticking down until … what? Until I stop writing, look over what I’ve written, make no changes, make no judgment, and publish it on my blog. If I had a following of … well, if I had a following at all perhaps I would pause and consider such action. Consider the intelligence of such an action. Consider publishing, for all my followers to read, a 20 minute, unbridled, stream of consciousness exercise with no purpose, no point, no editing and, perhaps, no value whatsoever. But I have no need to make such considerations. Sure, I have a few “followers,” kind friends and anonymous bloggers who clicked “follow” after reading one of my very few posts. I appreciate them. I appreciate their faith. I appreciate the fact that most if not all of them have likely given up on me, or at least my blog, because I haven’t done much with it. And by saying “I haven’t done much” what I mean is “I haven’t done anything at all.” I’ve thought about doing something. I’ve thought about different posts, essays and articles complex in their hilarity and social insight. Essays and articles that once set down on this digital template would surely change the fate of the world. Or perhaps, at least, change my fate.

I have spent a fair amount of time struggling with ideas or, more specifically, struggling with giving life to the ideas that I have. I have a library of notebooks overflowing with scribbled thoughts and quotes and scenes and questions. And by scribbled I do, in fact, mean scribbled. Much of it is unreadable, indecipherable. Some ideas still have promise, the hint of promise, the possibility of possibility. And there’s something about the taking of the idea and putting it onto paper or onto the screen that is appealing to me – there must be, else why would I have so many books filled with these meager seedlings? Why would I have not one but three blogs. Yes, I believe I have three blogs. There’s this site, there’s a Tumblr site – because it seemed like the thing to do at the time, and there’s a Blogspot site. Each site a neglected child stranded in various ends of the world wide web, each started with hope and promise, each forgotten by their well-meaning but neglectful parent.

It may be too late for me and Blogspot – I fear I have neglected her for too long. She’s bound to be out and about, denying any relation to me at all, wearing too much eye make up and listening to bands that are poorly ripping off The Smiths. As for Tumblr? Well, with all due respect, it’s Tumblr. He doesn’t require much. A couple of funny pictures, some links to someone’s insightful or at least trendy blog, a couple of crazy pet GIF’s, and my Tubmlr site may be able to stand on his own for a while. But as far as this site, a site I signed on because I really thought I’d try focus on some writing, I think I’m going to give it a go. I know I’ve made this promise before, and I won’t blame you for not believing me. But I’m going to really try to use this blog as a platform to take my thoughts and ideas and transform them into something more. A launching pad perhaps? That sounds too bold, too … too … too “get over yourself buddy.” Maybe I can use this site as a nursery or incubator. A place where I can take these ideas and give them a little room to grow. Even if they aren’t quite ready to live in the world on their own as stories or essays or scripts or poems or rants or anything, maybe here I can get into the practice of giving them a chance to thrive.

Look at that, my 20 minutes is over. Truth be told, it’s been over for a couple of minutes. I’m a bit long-winded, in case you haven’t notice. Until next time …