Monthly Archives: February 2013

Introducing: Sophia The Great

It’s sort of a special feeling, knowing something must be done. At least, it’s special when you’re able to look at it that way. Remind me that I said this when I’m crying alone in the corner of a darkened room several months from now, because…well, that’s what indie film does to you sometimes. I think? Am I doing this wrong?!

Hah. Enough evasion. I said it a few weeks ago, and now, since I said it, I have to back it up. Though Multiverse is still in post, and despite the fact that just exactly how we’re going to do this (and do it right) is still unknown at this point  — Rebecca and I have started developing our next project. It’s called Sophia The Great, it’s a feature, and we’re making it in an effort to push back at all the things I’ve been throwing in front of The Fury, over the past two months on this site, and probably also over the past several years of my life as well.

So, the obvious question: What’s it about? Well, the script continues to evolve (more on this later), however it’s plenty far enough along for me to at least share the current logline.

A depressed underground blogger, fresh off a bad breakup and increasingly frustrated by a mundane day job, bands together with her friends and starts a podcast in her living room with the goal of identifying and discussing the seven deadly sins of modern American life.

So, the next question: How are we going to do this? Well, we’re working on Multiverse, and hope to be able to gain entrance to a few film festivals once it’s done, and we’ll have Sophia with us in case anyone becomes interested in taking a look at her. We’re also already in the process of seeking additional support in the eventual production of the film, at the same time that we’re working on a plan for getting it made at the micro-budget level if that becomes necessary.

Why are we announcing Sophia The Great now? When all we have is a script and Our Resolve? Well, first, it’s because this is how it starts. All kidding aside, and in full recognition of the fact that much more will be needed in the coming months and years — I believe it has to start here. That’s how it’s worked for me, up till now, at least. I’ve had a very good reason for choosing to make every film I’ve made. I have had good reasons for not making many others. The reasons I have for making this one seem to me the best and biggest yet.

Also, in the spirit of Reaching Out Through The Screen, I want to embrace the power of the internet (where I learned half of what I learned about filmmaking), and of social networks and crowd-sourcing sites in particular, while developing and growing Sophia The Great.

In so many words, I’d like to use this forum (which will remain dedicated primarily to an ongoing discussion of our culture, even if this discussion incrementally overlaps with a discussion of my filmmaking) as an occasional means of communicating our progress and interacting with you (our tiny, foundational audience) as we proceed to serve Sophia. Also, until we have the time and money to give Sophia her own forum, The Furious Romantic Returns will be the place to go to for information on say, the live-reading of the script that we’re going to be conducting in a few weeks.

Hah! So! Here’s the deal. We’re conducting a live-reading in a few weeks. The primary reason for this is to see how our (talky) script plays out when performed by professional actors. The (perhaps obvious) ancillary goal is to see if there’s anything that’s not working quite right, so that any lingering issues can be ironed out before we start sharing the script in any major way. Also, we’re interested in getting some feedback, and a reading is an easy way to do that.

I will be sure to check in on this again after the smoke has cleared, if for no other reason than to report in on the results and the experience so that others may learn from it as well.

Additionally! I have had a wonderful time interacting with other writers and filmmakers on The Twitter over these past several months. It’s been so wonderful, that I would like to officially invite any NYC-area writers and filmmakers who follow me on The Twitter, to send me a DM if you’re interested in attending the reading (it’s on March 10th in Manhattan).

We’ll be holding a few spots open for this purpose. Depending on the level of interest and/or availability, we’ll add more spots if we’re able. Please feel free get in touch if you’re curious about the story, have a fair amount of experience in writing/directing/producing, and don’t mind providing feedback.

Thanks, as always, for reading. Hit me up anytime with questions or comments, and…wish us luck.

What I Liked This Week: 2/23/13

Hello fellow romantics. First, I apologize for failing to slap you with a post earlier this week. There’s something in the crucible but I wasn’t able to give it the time it deserves to get it up to snuff and yet get my necessary minimum of sleep this week.

Here’s what I liked this week. As is often the case, I didn’t like a lot of it. Exactly.

  • This article from Salon, about how cuts in programs meant to protect our most vulnerable citizens from wage abuses (or the full disbanding of said programs), is leaving more of your fellow American citizens scrambling to get paid for their work. I didn’t like this. This is unconscionable, and it’s a searing reminder of just how wrongheaded and cruel it is to be prioritizing budget cuts and advocating for a smaller government at a time when so many of our citizens are still struggling. Thanks to Jonathan Mills for linking via Twitter.
  • This story, about a Texas city that plans on charging people for the cost of first responders when they get into an auto accident. Because you’re on your fucking own. I don’t like this. It’s almost as bad as making it illegal to feed homeless people. Give us your tired, and your poor, and your hungry, right? Oh, but not that many of your hungry. I loathe this. How do these awful things even become ideas? Well…
  • This article by Paul Buchheit, titled “5 Signs Extreme Wealth Deadens the ‘Empathy’ and ‘Honesty’ Parts of the Brain.” I don’t like this topic (because it’s true, and has deadly consequences) but I like that Mr. Buchheit provides links to scientific studies about it, and then focuses most of his article on evidence and consequences. This is what we are contending with. It accomplished little when you rage against the masters of the machine, fellow furious friends. We have to change the minds of the masters of the machine. Additionally, this MUST be done peaceably. That’s why you won’t see me write a word analyzing the actions of someone like Christopher Dorner.
  • This brilliant video poem, in which a bunch of talented people collaborate as adults to tell (raw) stories about when they were bullied as children, and how it has affected them throughout their lives. That description doesn’t do it justice. I have been bullied and, to be honest, I was a bully a few times during my childhood. This video brought some complicated feelings to the surface when I watched it. Which is fine, because I want to feel empathy and I want honesty. Too often, too many of us miss empathy and honesty, when we shy from our own pain. This is understandable, but we should also understand that pain shied away from doesn’t go away. It curdles and it poisons, over time, if you continue to ignore it. And then, one day, maybe, it takes you over completely. Maybe this is where bullies come from in the first place, huh? If you click on any of these links, click this one.
  • This in-depth Vanity Fair article on the making of Pulp Fiction. Enthralling read that was passed around quite a bit this week already. Definitely worth a read for artists, and/or anyone interested in seeing just how much alchemy has to go right for such a brilliant achievement as this to see the light and day and then flourish.
  • It rained fire on the sun. Remember this video, and think of the sheer awesome power of the universe, and the relative insignificance of man, the next time you’re upset by a person or incident that really, really doesn’t matter. Q: Can you believe so-and-so said this and that? A: Can you believe it rained fire on the sun? Crazy, right?!

Have a good week. Hit me up anytime. Get angry and speak up.

What I Liked This Week: 2/16/13

I didn’t like much this week — until yesterday rolled around.

To tell the truth, I had a sneakily busy week between re-writes, other filmmaking duties, day job, etc. Most of my energy went to all that (and this, which I know you’ve read already).

I burned out a little, to be honest, not only getting it all done but keeping it all together, a task that becomes an increasingly taller order as the beginning of the week bleeds into the middle of the week which invariably (finally), gives way to The End of The Week. But we made it.

I liked quite a bit at The End of The Week. Even if, as is sometimes the case, some of what I liked was more “abstract” than not. Which is fine.

  • I liked the Web 2.0. In the ever-shifting, ever-accelerating language of the internet, this term is probably nearing obsolescence (even if it isn’t). I did a bit of searching and didn’t come up immediately with any evidence that the reference is WRONG, but if it is — don’t care! What I mean to say is that I liked seeing clear evidence of the widening use of and acceptance of networked technologies and networking technologies (social networks, CMSs, crowd-sourcing sites, etc.). This week, in particular, a friend reminded me of Tugg, which recently became a partner of Sundance Institute Artist Services, along with VHX (new to me, very interesting) and Vimeo (long-time fan/user). Also, The Black List‘s new site/service entered into a separate agreement with Sundance, which allows writers uploading their scripts into their new system to opt in if they’d like to be considered for the Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab. All this is likable. Lovable, even. And all this news was pumped into my head through The Twitter. My wife thinks Twitter is giving me the migraines.
  • The trailer for Iron Man 3. I hadn’t watched it yet. I watched it. I liked it. I dig Shane Black’s writing (not alone, I know). I loved Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang. I love that Black and Downey Jr. are re-teaming. My heart hopes the film will end up as one of the few memorable second sequels in a long line of less-than-great second sequels. Most second sequels are so bad that I’m avoiding saying “third film” because of the awful stink that often comes to mind when we say that. I liked Back to the Future III.
  • I liked being at a neighborhood cafe last night (working on the new script) and realizing the place was full of smart, interesting, nice people. Not always the case in neighborhood cafes in Brooklyn. This probably happened because it was late on a Friday, and because there weren’t many people hanging out. The only thing more bitter than the house brew in a lot of those places (most of the time) are the entitled/self-obsessed men and women who cram inside to jostle for position in the race to…what? Where you going, people? What are you doing? Chill out and grow up.
  • Magic Mike. Steven Soderbergh’s direction/cinematography is so fantastic, and so fantastically locked-in all the time, that when I watch his films I become alternately invigorated and depressed. This experience was made more interesting while viewing a well-made title about male strippers. The real winner of the night was my wife, who after two hours spent watching the chiseled bodies of Tatum and McConaughey and pals writhe on screen — was then treated to 6 seconds of inspired imitation on my part. Let’s just say you aren’t ready. Also, interesting point of interest for my fellow straight male readers: Magic Mike did not make me gay!

May you have a good week — all the way through.

Why Artists Need to Lead The Charge For Equality and Justice

There’s an ultimate point to most of the posts that I’ve written here so far, apart from what is already outlined on the “What?” and “Why?” pages linked to above. That point? Well…

It should be clear by now to anyone who’s been reading that I am pretty damn fed up with the rampant social injustices that pervade our society here and now. I am even more fed up with the too-major majority of people who refuse to admit just how much is wrong with how we view ourselves, in the face of clear evidence of this injustice (if we do any real viewing at all). And I am completely done remaining silent about all this.

Again, maybe that’s obvious to those of you who have been reading so far. This site offers me, and hopefully you as well, an opportunity to explore some specific examples of what’s wrong with American society, as well as (again, hopefully) some ideas as to what we can do to begin righting what’s wrong. In the same way, though, I’ve also started looking at what I write here as a gauge of where I am at, at any given time in my personal journey to accomplish this as an artist.

Which is all a very long way of saying that I don’t write these missives only as a means of pissing on the fire as the house burns down. Because pissing on a burning house accomplishes nothing. Everything still comes down in the end and if you aren’t careful you might also singe your delicates in the process.

So, why all the hours spent: 1) Identifying the main impediments to social repair and progress (IMHO), 2) Identifying the means and method of delivering what’s needed to initiate such processes, 3) Exploring severe examples of our dysfunction, and, lastly, 4) Advocating a solution.

Well, I’m doing it, as I just said, to check my progress. Also, probably, to keep me sane. Finally, though, I’m injecting myself purposefully into the experiment. I want a record of this to be available, for myself as much as others, in case some part of this works (it will work).

And, when I say “this,” I mean my films, my writing — all of it, from this day forward. I want a trail behind me, as a sort of precaution, for helping me stay honest in a world where honesty is more often avoided and punished than welcomed and appreciated. In a way, ideally (admittedly), I want to keep you honest too.

Sometime soon, I’m going to get around to announcing my next film, which my wife and I are going to drag kicking and screaming into existence, because fuck this.

Two months ago, 20 children were gunned down in an elementary school. Five years before that, the global economy nearly collapsed, due not only to a series of widespread con-jobs perpetrated by immoral power brokers but also the ignorance (however forgivable, in certain respects) on the part of almost everyone, to the delicacy of the increasingly complex (overly complex) connections and compacts that sustain our collective lives. And, since then, and still now, the American cultural dialogue has been overwhelmingly focused on the past and present — even as democracies old and new, worldwide, continue to pass us by in terms of recognizing and advocating equality, securing justice for all citizens, and, quite simply, working to provide a framework for an all-around better life (and a better chance at a good life) for their entire citizenry.

As a person who is still younger than he is old — and a person whose life has already been greatly affected by all of the above — I am not okay with this. Are you?

I’ve struggled to “succeed” over the past ten or so years, partially because it’s what you do when you’re an artist, but partially also because I’ve said no. To the status quo. To doing what you’d otherwise have to do, in terms of compromising the honesty required of any worthwhile artistic career or endeavor, in order to make art and also “make money.” I’ve also said no, more times than I can count, to the voice that lives insides many of our heads that seems to constantly whisper: You can’t do it. Fuck that voice, too, while we’re fucking things.

I’ve also said no, as long as I could (because it’s painful, and I just wasn’t ready) to taking a long hard (full) look at the above sad truths of life in America. Why? Because I am and have been a complicit agent in this mess in many ways. Sometimes this was because it seemed necessary to play by certain rules, so that I could strengthen and prepare myself to the point of being adequate to the task of finally jumping into “the good fight.” Sometimes it was because I was afraid. I’m still afraid.

But it doesn’t matter. I’ve been working hard to hone my skills as a filmmaker and a writer for a long time now. I’ll continue to do that, but now that I’ve also come to terms with what has to be done (what we all have to do), I want to lead by example (with help, of course). In the spirit of sharing everything I’ve shared here so far, I also want to outline why I believe more of our artists (as they often do — and many artists more talented than me are already doing this) need to take the lead in the charge for a better America.

First, I believe artists are (as usual — this is nothing new) uniquely positioned to form creative solutions to the issue of sparking a greater cultural dialogue. Most of us, at least those of us who aren’t born fortunate enough to get started early and easily (and many of this type end up excluded from the discussion, at least initially, simply by virtue of being unable to gain the proper perspective on things like inequality and injustice) — we’re desperate. We’re in the strange position of having a lot to say about what’s wrong but also having, at the same time, too small or insignificant a voice (at least until we put in the time and develop the skills necessary to earn the right to a greater say) to make much of a difference. When the work has been done and the skills are far enough along, then we are (or should be) compelled to seek solutions where there were none before, as much as we are able. Of course, as far as our conscience allows us (and this is sometimes possible), we also have the option of chasing success through proven methods. Far too many of those methods, however, require more of a compromise than we should be ready to make. Again — not all. But too many. This is all changing, in any event, because…

Second, we already are forming creative solutions to the issues of the day — with the assistance and support of some smart and forward-thinking entrepreneurs, particularly in the realm of technology and social networking. I won’t be so bold as to lump myself in with some of the artists who have succeeded in taking more control, for themselves and their careers and their work, by turning to the internet to build and sustain an audience (and to deliver directly to that audience with fewer middle-men edging in on either side of the transaction). But, yes, it’s getting better. I believe that. You’ve always had to be good, and to an extent of course you have to continue “doing the work.” Increasingly, however, if you’re good and do the work on your own, you’re able to remain honest and go after the heart of it at the same time that you’re keeping “their” hands off the heart of it. It’s also worth mentioning that such a trail was blazed by countless relatively nameless experimenters and early-adopters who, yes, did it before that much more famous person who just got more press from his or her success story because he or she is famous — which is fine. Just my way of saying thanks to the unsung heroes of the budding framework for artistic self-actualization that we’re beginning to see hit its crest.

Third, we have perspective. Perspective is expensive. Since things are as bad as they are in America, it becomes necessary for the true artist to repeatedly reject everything (or as much of everything as he or she can handle or is able to handle) that cannot be honestly adhered to as we go about attempting to first wrap our heads around the mess, and then work to change it in a meaningful way. I already talked a little about this, but it bears repeating. You can’t fix what you can’t admit is broken — because you haven’t looked at the pieces to see how they fit back together. Whether the true artistic point of view comes first, or whether it only arrives after it causes you to suffer awhile — that’s a chicken and egg question. Like the chicken and egg question, however, there’s a little-discussed real answer to it: it doesn’t matter. Both need the other, in perpetuity, for the question itself to even have any relevance. And art can only be relevant if its perspective is true. It can only succeed in a widespread way if its filtered perspective is an appropriate tonic to the polluted perspective of the day. Artists, real artists, are uniquely qualified to engage with issues of inequality and injustice because, in repeatedly saying no to all things polluted, they become marginalized. And it’s on the margins of life where we always find the human consequences of our societies’ darkest secrets. If that all sounds romantic, it shouldn’t. Also, a caveat: there are many artists out there much braver than me in terms of exemplifying the necessary perspective. But we all do what we can.

Fourth, we need each other. This last reason may be colored slightly by my “chosen” calling as a filmmaker, but still I think it applies across the board. Especially now, when Americans are so much more isolated than every before — and so mistrusting of each other in the ways that count — it’s worth it to think about the value of cooperation and community. Keeping the example going, however: I just recently completed my third film. It’s my best work to date. Do you know why it’s my best work? Partially, it’s because I took everything I learned over the past five years and put it into the production of a five page script. Partially it’s because I recently began descending into a more honest place as a writer and a person. Mostly, though, it’s because I tamped down my fears and anxieties enough to repeatedly ask for more help, more often. And because I worked hard to collaborate more with talented people. Maybe this example speaks more of my own issues with fear, anxiety, egotism, etc. than anything else. However, if you looked at me for most of my life, in most ways you could call me an average American male. Average height. Average build. Grew up middle class in the suburbs. Did well in school, went to college, got a job (because that’s what people do).

Except much of what I came to believe about myself as an average American male ended up being built upon lies. I will continue to be of average height and average build (hooray?). But the middle class? It’s dying. The suburbs — shining example of American social mobility, land of pretty houses and happy childhoods? Well, a lot of those houses got taken away, or were never “owned” by anyone to begin with. Further, there’s a difference between happiness (which is elusive enough as it is in the most basic of terms) and the illusion of happiness. Real happiness doesn’t cost nearly as much as so many of us pay, in human terms, as we pursue it in increasingly problematic ways, and, in language unfortunately appropriate to the time, in exchange for increasingly meager returns.

Much needs to change. The old ways don’t work anymore. We can’t hide from ourselves any longer. The injustices need to stop. Equality, real equality, in all senses of the word, needs to be our primary goal. But things won’t truly begin to get better until most people take an honest look at the state we’re in and agree that it’s bad.

So. Artists. Let’s get to work.

What I Liked This Week: 2/9/13

Something I did not like this week was the migraine that slowly knocked me on my ass last night. But, like many painful things, that particular annoyance eventually passed. The morning brings new vigor.

Sah what did I like this week?

  • The sight of my 10-inch tall terrier, bounding happily through 6 inches of snow. Not only was this ca-yute — my dog is normally frightened of dirt. And sticks. And microwaves. I call it progress.
  • The Paperboy, the latest flick from Lee Daniels, who also directed Precious. Without going too far into the reasons why The Paperboy didn’t perform as well as Precious, suffice it to say that the film — I liked it. I don’t know how many people are likely to agree with me (I could see how it could be hard to like) but I have a few reasons why the flick works for me. First, it’s audacious. Lee Daniels has some big, big balls. There’s no other way to describe the choice to cash in all the cred he earned with Precious to make a film that he might not have been able to make otherwise. Enormous respect (for his enormous balls). Second, the story manages to exist in at least four genres at once. I don’t think it’s very easy to accomplish this (most wouldn’t try!) while still managing to create an entertaining, eminently watchable (IMO) film. Like Perks (from last week’s WILTW) The Paperboy may admittedly end up more palatable to those of us who admit to being at least a little broken. But again, like Perks, it probably first requires that more of us admit brokenness than are willing to, on a day to day basis, before it can do its true “job.” You can’t fix what you won’t acknowledge isn’t working. I liked The Paperboy.
  • This article about the jump in millennial unemployment. I don’t like this. However, I like that someone is paying attention to this. Little made me angrier during the past presidential campaign than claims on the part of the Romney ticket and the Republican party that the President’s policies were alternately killing jobs or failing to create enough jobs. The reasons this made me angry include:
    1. The fact that the President often succeeded during his first term in doing at least something to create jobs and foster growth — in the face of intense Republican opposition that was clearly prioritizing his ouster and the agenda of special interests, instead of the good of the people (who need good jobs, and the opportunity and ability to learn new skills, and higher wages).
    2. The fact that such ridiculousness was and is distracting us from the fact that the economy still sucks (for most Americans, at least), that the limited job growth we’ve seen is largely coming in the form of part-time work, or low-skilled jobs, and comes with low wages — even as corporations continue to perch themselves atop piles of record profits.
    3. The fact that, as the above article alludes to, we’re killing our future. Sorry, scratch that. Our future is being held hostage by a slim minority of rich old people who, in the face of uncertainty they engineered, greedily and obstinately continue to choose to squeeze blood from the stone instead of…maybe…I don’t know…working to expand the economy such as to provide opportunity for the future? But, no. I’m the crazy one (I’m not the crazy one).
  • This article, about a program that introduces teens to the grisly (deadly) consequences of gun violence, as they appear at a North Philadelphia hospital. I actually hate this. I hate that it makes sense to me. Do you know why it makes sense? Because we’ve become that divorced from reality that ideas like this seem necessary. We’ve become divorced from the reality of what goes on everyday in our society, as well as the reality that the solutions to our problems don’t rest in political squabbling, or new or old policies, or through more debate. Definitely, such solutions don’t rest in more restrictions on our privacy and freedom. They rest where they’ve always rested: in education. In knowledge. In reasoned thought and experimentation. You have to start somewhere, in attempting to “solve” any given social issue. Why not start close to the beginning? This is how ugly and sad it is.
  • This column, analyzing the persistence (and growth) of racial resentment in the United States. I don’t actually like this. It makes me feel ashamed, more on behalf of our country than on a personal level. I’m not ashamed on a personal level because I used to be a little bit racist (and a little bit sexist, and a little bit homophobic), and now I’m not. Because all those things are wrong, and antithetical in the completest terms to ideas of equality and freedom.

And if you can’t agree on that, you’re fooling yourself. Stop it.

Thanks, as always, for reading. Hit me up anytime. Have a good week.

Bad Pride, Good Pride

I want to talk for a few minutes about pride. Because I think it’s hurting us. And, contrarily, I also think we need more of it.

By us, I mean (again) the average American. I think pride, more often that not, (though, as with anything, there are exceptions), gets in the way of the sort of work that needs to be done to improve those things that need improving in our society and in our lives, more than it advances this same work.

I’m going to explain why, but, first, the exception. The good side of pride.

Pride is essential. You can’t argue against the necessity of the sort of pride that comes with self-respect, or that rides on the coattails of love (pride for family and friends) or, most important, the pride that feeds you when you’ve got little else. I can testify personally to these sorts of pride. I wouldn’t be standing on my feet today, at least not in the particular way that I need to, without each of these fundamental types of pride.

But I can also testify to the dark side of pride. The kind that, under the “right” circumstances, can tear down or impede the progress made by all other forms of it. Bad pride.

Bad pride is something you put between yourself and the world. It’s related to fear, in that way, except fearfulness can be forgiven a bit, because it’s often reflexive and instinctual, even when it shouldn’t be.

But make no mistake: bad pride is a decision. Especially when used to mask fear or something like it – it’s a choice.

It’s admittedly tricky, trying to figure out whether you’re a user of bad pride. Again, pride itself is a pervasive concept, especially in America, where exceptionalism is the rule. The delineations that separate some of pride’s primary forms, as I’ve just discussed them, aren’t always so apparent – especially because pride is such a potent, powerful, sometimes overwhelming emotion. Of course it’s powerful. We’ve already established how many vastly different sub-emotions can be stuffed inside the word. Self-respect, love, will power – many of these essential human elements can’t subsist without pride.

But bad pride, to me, exists outside the realm of subsistence, of humanity even. It’s more like a suit of armor that we put on to protect us, when we’re frightened. When we don’t understand something. When we fear judgment. Again, this instinct is fine. It’s human. But, sometimes, (too often), we utilize bad pride to protect us from fears that aren’t nearly as rationale or as likely-to-be-founded as we think.

In the context of this blog, I offer my opinion that bad pride is standing in the way of social progress. I believe, on the part of certain typically older, typically white citizens, that it’s standing in the way of reality. There’s no other way to contextualize the staggering levels of barely-veiled racism, legacy sexism and fear-based selfishness that have burst to the surface of our cultural “dialogue” in recent years, starting with such tragically justified national causes for fear, as exemplified in one way by 9/11 and in another by the dysfunction and injustices revealed by the recession, and reaching a sad crescendo with the election of the country’s first black president, who also happens to disagree with the version of reality currently put forward by some of the rich old white men who own America.

Bad pride has gotten so poisonous, on the part of the more conservative members of our population, that it’s now often weaponized, by those in power way up at the top of our society, such that they can manipulate some of the very victims of their deceit in such a contemptible way as to lead them to help guarantee their own continued imprisonment in an overcranked system that isn’t completely working anymore and which is rigged against many of us. National pride in particular, which was a legitimate badge of honor years ago, on the part of the prideful, has in recent years become that full-blown suit of armor, a protective layer between the reality of the last few lean years and the preceding years of fear-of-attack and pain, and the illusion that everything would be still okay if only our president wasn’t a villainous black man leading a liberal army dead set on trying to take away what makes our country great.

Do you know what happens when something that’s meant to be a symbol (a badge) gets turned into armor (a defensive layer of “impenetrable” material between us and the world)? The first and most obvious thing that happens is that you become actually separated from the world, and all its beauty, along with all the supposed ugliness you’re avoiding. The second thing is that you become slow. Unable to keep up. Because you are weighed down by the burden of your defenses. You better hope you’re satisfied with the way things are, because you’re not getting anywhere new very quickly anytime soon – even if your surroundings later change in ways that aren’t too your liking. The road to a better place starts and ends with our ability to maintain that which preceded us, so that others might follow and help us continue to pave the way forward.

The last things that happens, when bad pride gets bombarded by ideas steeped (no matter how subtly) in hate, is that pride gets turned into something worse than an impediment against progress, as the armor which once was a badge gets melted down in the crucible of anger and repurposed on your behalf by those who stand to benefit directly from the ability of your pride and your hate to keep things the same. In this way, bad pride is made into barbs for perforating both progress and decency.

The strange and difficult thing about all this is that we do need (good) pride if we are ever going to be able to deliver ourselves to a place of justice and freedom.

What do most of us do most days, other than make the (probably automatic) decision to get up, get dressed, and go out into the world, with the goal of trading in our freedom – most basically described as our ability to chose to do “whatever we want” – and do “our job” instead? How many of us can say that it’s as simple as that? Don’t most of us in America, here and now, more often live to work, putting our livelihood ahead of our life, than work to live, putting our life ahead of simple employment – which is supposed to be a means of securing a decent life butis increasingly more like something we just have to do?

What happens to our pride, with our relationship between work and life so unnaturally reversed? What happens when we trade in our right to live – and I’m purposefully borrowing this phrase – for the right to work? Have we forgotten, in all the years of broken promises, of giving a little more, a little more, a little more, of growing increasingly cynical and dejected and beaten each time we give and receive little in return, that we own as much of what we do with our freedom as those who take it in exchange for an increasingly smaller percentage of money?

I would argue that good pride needs to re-enter the equation of our daily lives. I would argue that more citizens are beaten down, or angry or depressed – than are actually, presently, legitimately proud to be a part of the American work force.

For all the mistakes we’ve made as a nation, this was one thing we used to get right. But the reality of the present is staring us in the face, wearing the truly impenetrable armor of fact, of cold, hard statistics. The rich in America are richer than they’ve ever been. They didn’t all get that way only by working. They didn’t all get that way honestly.

So what do we do?

How about we take some responsibility for a situation that, whether we knew it or not while it was developing, we helped create?

How about we talk about these injustices instead of letting the wealthy and their minions continue to push a narrative that says anything else?

How about we figure out how to fight back? The sum of mankind’s knowledge is available for cheap on the internet. Your friends and neighbors are in the same boat as you. Even as so many members of “the elite” continue to sit on their spoils, ordering the politicians who are in their pockets to start lighting meaningless fires to distract us from the fact that entire neighborhoods are sinking into the ground, so many of us continue to idle, sinking under the weight of our bad pride, of so much useless armor.

How about we shed all the fucking armor and start talking to each other about what needs to be fixed? How about we start crawling our way back to a place where we can hold our heads up with fucking pride?

What I Liked This Week: 2/2/13

Hello, folks. WILTW is (obviously, at this point) the only juicy little nugget you’re getting this week — apologies, all my spare time has gone into the new script, more on that later — so let’s just get into it and start fresh on Monday. Argh. Monday’s awful. Monday puts ketchup on spaghetti. I won’t be writing anything on Monday. Monday hates writing. And babies. And puppies wrapped in sunshine.

Anyway. Nearly everything I liked this week was nominally entertainment based.

  • The Perks of Being A Wallflower. Probably the best film I saw this year, if only because it accomplishes something that Django Unchained can’t  accomplish as fully, due to limitations of genre and other reasons I won’t get into now because I don’t feel like opening that can. What does Perks accomplish that many films these days, unfortunately, don’t? A few things. It exists in proximity to life-as-it-is. Even though it’s still “a movie.” How does Perks accomplish this? Through unfiltered, unflinching emotional honesty — regardless of costs of discomfort and sadness and pain (life is sometimes uncomfortable and sad and painful!) What else did I love about the flick? The central, crucial role that love, both communal and personal, played in the redemption of its damaged protagonist. Because a lot of us are damaged. We need love. Perks doesn’t dance around either this truth, or the necessity of facing it if you ever want to “feel better.”
  • This episode of WTF with Marc Maron, in which Marc interview Lucinda Williams. First, I just straight geeked out over this, because these are two of my favorite entertainers, talking to each other for an hour in a garage about life, music, personal demons and redemption. Also, as he is wont to do, Maron dug up some of the specific darkness in Lucinda’s backstory — which we all knew had to be there (such beautifully sad and soulful songs as she writes and performs don’t come out from nowhere), and it was enlightening and sobering to hear about some of her specific struggles. The best parts of Maron’s shows (not a secret) are when he and a guest bond, in “real time” in front of listeners, over the revelation of some painful memory or another. This is how part of how we climb back — by finding a place of empathy through mutual sharing of some of those things (no matter what they are, or how dramatic or “commonplace”) that personally haunt or drive us.
  • Treme. The wife and I are only on Season 2 of Treme at the moment (we don’t have cable), but it’s getting very good, and it’s a shame that so few people seem to be watching it outside of “The Wire Faithful.” David Simon is one of the most brilliant minds America has, and the messages he and his cohorts work hard to deliver through such carefully crafted docu-style narratives as The Wire and Treme are crucial ones that would serve us far better if more people paid attention to them and started talking. I go back and forth between feeling sad that more people (from all walks of life, everywhere in America) aren’t watching these shows and grateful that these sort of examples of “fringe popular culture” are at least out there. The thing is: this should be a more popular show. It shouldn’t be fringe (and I admittedly use the term loosely). Treme is a show that, much like The Wire, forces us to take a reasoned, compassionate look at the systemic injustices of the crumbling American bureaucracies that are failing and/or holding back entire communities of citizens — most often those most in need of more (reasoned and compassionate) help and support from the rest of us — even as those in power continue to view those same systems as ‘adequate’.
  • The feeling I had last night, after working for hours and hours to complete a hard-fought, new and better draft of a script that took me about three months to write (to date). Something about this one has me particularly excited. For better or worse, as I was telling my wonderful (and wonderfully supportive) wife-slash-partner-in-crime last night — this one, more than anything else I’ve written, feels like my best work. Even if nothing much changes, now that it’s “done for now,” the fact stands that I’ve changed as result of having written it.

And that’s why we do it. Have a good week.